Includes book reviews and bits from writer's journal. For the professional stuff, see website link below left.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reunion Arouses Old Memories, Creates New



(Due to interruption by xmas, not posted until Monday.)

Ruth entered our lives just before Christmas 2002. Our friend Wendy emailed from Thailand, where she was living at the time, to say a delightful young Irish woman she knew was to be visiting Australia and wanted to connect with me, both as Reiki Master and Pagan wise woman.

She turned up, we all clicked instantly, and mutually decided she should board with us rather than looking for other accommodation. A resourceful lass, she soon found waitressing work in the area, and — being pretty, charming, and very nice —attracted the interest of several young men.

She was herself a Reiki Master in Tera Mai Reiki, which was unfamiliar to me. We swapped initiations and training. She stayed several months with us, and joined in our magickal circle.

Then we phoned our friend Ray in Perth to wish him Happy Christmas, only to be told by his parents he had died from a heart condition. They had not known where to contact us.

‘I don’t suppose you want his house?’ they asked.

Ray had always said, ‘There’s a house here if you want it.’ We hadn’t taken him seriously. It transpired that it was built on his parents’ property under conditions which did not allow it to be rented out. Ray had met a woman overseas whom he married, and built the house for her — but the marriage was brief and he lived in it alone until he died. Had we taken him up on his offer, he would have been happy to move in with his parents.

A rent-free home was tempting, now that we understood the situation. Ray’s mother said, ‘I only want someone to water the roses’ in return for the accommodation. Ray had planted a lot, as a hobby, and it was now her job to keep them watered. Adding to the attraction was the fact that my favourite aunty and uncle had moved to Perth many years previously and I had not seen them since. Now they were in their eighties. My aunt had been a ‘second mother’ to me at a time when I badly needed one.

Ruth said, ‘You might never see them again. I really think you should take this opportunity. If I pay you enough rent in advance, you might be able to get cheap flights, and I could look after the house and the cats for you while you’re gone.’

So that’s what we did. Cheap flights there and back meant we would have to stay for three months — time enough to catch up with all the relatives, including various cousins there, and to see if we wanted to move there permanently. As it turned out, we didn’t. We enjoyed Perth very much, got on well with Ray’s parents, and had a lovely catch up with the rellies. We even fluked being there for Writers’ Week, attended all the free sessions, and made a new writer friend we’re still in touch with.

But after all, the lifestyle wasn’t for us. Eventually we missed the east coast and our friends and activities here. Also, we were concerned about security of tenure in Ray’s house if we burned our bridges. His parents suggested putting something in their wills to cover this, but we said, ‘What about your other son? Hadn’t you better ask him his wishes before you do that?’ He was married and living in another suburb, but it turned out that he would like to inherit both houses after his parents’ death, to use one for his home and the other for his business. In fact, when we phoned last year to see if they had survived local bushfires, he was already in residence in Ray’s house, and busy hosing the place. I imagine, as his parents got older, it made sense for him to be on the spot to give them a hand.

After we retuned east, Ruth stayed on a while longer, which gave us time to cement the friendship. She went out briefly with two of her suitors in turn. With the third, things developed into a bit of a romance. He was very keen, but by then she was getting messages from Des, an old boyfriend whom she had actually grown up with in Ireland, begging her to join him in the United States where he was now working. As extra incentive, he said he could get her waitressing work and she could earn very good money in the wealthy resort where he was based. She was torn, but decided that if she didn’t go, she’d never know for sure which man to choose. (That in itself probably indicated that she was lukewarm about the Aussie bloke.)

Once she got there, it was a foregone conclusion. We got emails telling us what a wonderful man Des had become, so thoughtful, so charming, so witty.... The Aussie bloke, an avocado farmer, came round to our place one day to return a book we’d lent him. It was about the author’s spiritual experiences. He said he’d liked it all right until it came to the part where she was communicating with insects to leave her garden crops alone.

‘Only Jesus Christ can do that!’ he said. (Perhaps he had a vested interest in thinking so; the local fruit growers feel they MUST shoot the local birds to protect their crops. What if they were wrong?) I realised this would never have been the right man for Ruth, with her Reiki energy healing and her understanding of nature spirits etc.

She and Des married and now have a daughter, Jasmine, two and a half years old. For the last couple of years they have been living in Vietnam, where Des has been working in construction. This Christmas Ruth decided to bring the family to Australia — closer than Ireland and a lot warmer this time of year. They visited friends in Newcastle, spent some time on the Gold Coast, and are now at Kingscliff, not far from here. They will be in Sydney on New Year’s Eve, watching the fireworks, before flying back to Vietnam.

So, after eight years, we met up again with our lovely friend when she and her husband took us out for lunch on Christmas Eve. We finally met Des, every bit as nice as she said he was, and Jasmine, who was slightly shy and completely delightful. Des told us he was loving Australia and the Aussies — everyone so friendly and helpful.

We went to the Tumbulgum Tavern, which overlooks the water at the confluence of the Tweed and Rous Rivers. We feasted on massive servings of grilled barramundi for Andrew and me, beer battered John Dory for Ruth, and an even huger plate of steak for Des. They said that huge steaks and fresh fish are hard to get in Vietnam.

It was as if we had seen Ruth only yesterday — except that, at 40, I think she is even more beautiful now. It was as if we had seen Des only yesterday too: we were so immediately at ease with each other. They drove us back home and regretfully took their leave as Jasmine needed a rest and they still had to do food shopping for xmas. But with such a strong connection confirmed, somehow we couldn’t feel sad. Besides, they promised to return!





                                                             

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Writng 'Small Stones'

Would you like a 2012 with more colour, more juice, more clarity, more deliciousness?

During January, Kaspa and Fiona Robyn from ‘Writing Our Way Home’ will be encouraging you to pay attention to one thing every day and write it down.

You don’t have to be a writer to take part. You just need to have three minutes spare a day, and a notebook or a blog, and the desire to slow down and fall in love with the world a day at a time.

Do jump here to find out more, and Kaspa and Fiona hope to see you in the river. Here’s how last year’s small-stoners found the experience:

“I have to tell you, readers, I have loved writing a small stone every day for the last 31 days. It’s the most glorious exercise in mindfulness, in pulling yourself into this moment, and if you haven’t tried it yet please give it a go, if only for a week.”
~Rachel Hawes, writer of small stones

“My father was recently put into Hospice care and dealing with the imminent loss and pain and joy of his journey has become sweeter for me because I am paying attention. That is no small thing.”
~Lisa Haight, writer of small stones

“…I keep finding that [writing a small stone] doesn’t eat up time or mental space; on the contrary, time stops and a new space is created.”
~Jean Morris, writer of small stones

“Writing small observations daily was like a spiritual experience for me. I felt happy, joyous and free. I looked forward to my daily meditation. As a result, I feel awakened and alive; and I am truly thankful.”
~Laurie Kolp, writer of small stones

As for me, I've done this before, loved it like mad, and will be doing it again this January, at my Stones for the River blog. You're all invited to read and comment.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Flo has grown

As one would expect. :) She will be turning three in February. In the same month she'll be getting a little brother or sister (and also a new cousin).



We had a lovely visit with her and her parents yesterday, sitting on their extensive verandah, enjoying the trees on their property, and being fed on organic pasta, home-made pesto, and home-grown salad.



The tiger I bought Flo many months ago was a hit. The Universe knows what it's doing, and the timing was just right. Her parents told us she started making Big Cat roaring noises about two days ago! (No, none of them knew what I was bringing.)



She remembered us, although she hadn't seen us in a long time, and chatted to us about things — her necklace, a dead spider, the fairy wings she wore when she was flower girl at a wedding recently.



As for her parents, we all just picked up where we left off, as you do with some friends, and it was as if we'd seen them only the day before.  But we vowed it would not be so long next time!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

We are going to see Flo!



Also her parents, Dean and Tess.

Flo is our Youngest God-daughter. She was born in February 2009 and for some time we saw a lot of her, and of our good friends, her parents. Life circumstances change — e.g. we moved house — and it’s been months now since we visited each other. Last summer, every time we tried to plan it, it would either be a stinking hot day or one that was pouring with rain, and we’d all decide to stay home instead. But tomorrow, finally, it’s happening! We’ve charged up the battery in the camera. The toy tiger I bought her ages ago is ready by the door. And I’m off to bed now to get some sleep, so in the morning I’ll be fresh and ready for the drive.

Here are some pictures from our last visit:


Friday, December 02, 2011

Writer's Journal (exercise): How am I ever going to get out of it?

I would — I bloody would — specify the foot had to fit the slipper, wouldn’t I? Well, she was a pretty girl in that fancy getup she wore to the ball, and my parents seemed so approving. Of course she looked rich, with that carriage and all; that helped. And I was half pissed anyway, the night being so late by the time she made her entrance, and me under pressure about having to choose.

But you know, I’m basically a simple sort of a bloke. I really rather fancied that plump little thing in yellow. Not a great beauty maybe, but she had a wicked sense of humour, a downright nasty streak really — refreshing after all those simpering little tarts. As for Glass Slipper Girl, I don’t think she could string two words together; at least she didn’t say anything to me while we were dancing, not even when I slid my hand down to her bottom just to see how she’d react. She might never have noticed, for all the response I got. Dumb, if you ask me.

So how can I get out of it, is what I want to know. Everyone thinks it’s a match made in heaven. The ceremony has been planned, etc, etc, etc. I’m supposed to send her naughty, plump sister and her other sister and their mother far away out of the kingdom for being mean to old Dummy. If you ask me, there are natural victims and she’s one.

Writer's Journal (exercise): What If Rhett Butler Had Given a Damn?

There would have been no more story if Rhett had given a dam. They would have reconciled and lived happily ever after. Isn’t that what we want, according to Michael R [whose writing course we looked at]?

Well no, not in this case. We leave Scarlett collapsed on her staircase, but with somewhere still to go tomorrow, She’s a resourceful bitch, she’ll figure it out. And besides, I think we all know he really does give a damn, he’s never going to get Scarlett out of his system. But he has to storm off just at that pointy, so the story goes on working in our minds after we leave the cinema or close the book. (Yes, I did both in my time.) Part of the fascination is wondering what Scarlett will get up to next.

Also Rhett has to be a strong character; he can’t just succumb weakly. If he had given a damn, he wouldn’t be the same old swashbuckling, roguish Rhett, Not a very nice person, really. If he had not given a damn, neither would I. As it is, we care very much that Scarlett, having finally seen the light, is left on her own to nut it all out again.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Formal Versifying

I’ve been going through one of my phases of, ‘Who am I kidding? I’m a terribly bad poet!’ I’m told it happens to all of us. My present phase was initially triggered by seeing the movie Camino, which I loved. When someone asked me about it, I began by saying, ‘It was complex.’ It was, and that was one of the things I loved about it. It dealt with a complex situation and didn’t attempt to over-simplify, but to lay out all the complexities for our view. This interested me. For years now I have been aiming for simplicity in my poetry, training myself by practisng haiku and tanka. I realised I’d like to get back to some complexity now.

Then I began looking through this year’s work with the idea of putting together a little collection for xmas presents to family and friends. I was shocked to see how prosey my language has often become. That is not necessarily a side-effect of striving for simplicity, clarity and accessibility — but in my case it’s obviously a danger I have to watch out for. Time for the wheel to turn! I don’t want obscurity, would still like to be clear and accessible, but just ... well ... not so straightforward as to risk dullness and banality.

As I don’t happen to have any complex ideas burning for expression, I decided I’d better try for complexity of form. I find this also leads to heightened language. Restrictions can act as a sort of crucible! If I do enough experimenting with form, perhaps that language will extend to any free verse I might be inspired to create meanwhile.

It’s not an absolutely new thing for me. I have always played with form, whilst preferring free verse and using that most of the time. Now I’m going to focus mainly on form for a while. I don’t know how long — until I get sick of it, I suppose. I’m sure there’ll be some free verse as well, now and then.

The prompts at the wonderful dVerse poetry community are helpful. Some are for specific forms, others suggest particular approaches and techniques which I can use to the same end. I think particularly of a recent prompt on the technique of conflation. The responses to these prompts indicate that there are plenty of others out there who are interested in playing with form, not just me. Some are beginners; some are very accomplished poets indeed. Many of the participants also frequent the (similar) Poets United and imaginary garden with real toads sites.

I was surprised, then, on suggesting to the Free Verse Weekends group on facebook that we might start another group for formal verse, to discover that it is evidently not an activity the excellent poets there usually engage in. (Except for haiku and tanka; many of those same poets are in the facebook Haiku on Friday and Tanka on Tuesday groups as well.) Several expressed themselves willing to give form a go, but I was more looking to see if there was an existing need/desire. Apparently not. So I’ll just continue to play at dVerse etc.