Sunday, June 23, 2019

Origin Series (i): Koort Boodjar-ak (Heart on Country)

Created over six months, this piece is part lamentation, part contemplation. It addresses the ongoing loss of Banksia woodland on the Swan coastal plain around Perth (Whadjuk Noongar Boodja) as well as a strong pull to country. A stylised Cuthbert’s Cross provides the framework for this piece.  Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (634-687) was a Saxon holy man schooled in Irish monastic tradition and known for his love of solitude and nearness to the natural world. 

In mid-2018, during time back on the place of my birth with my family, I revisited a local airport and surrounds. I was saddened to observe how much bushland had been cleared for ‘light industrial purposes’ since my growing up. The cross carries that which is crucified. In this case, the woodlands and the diminishment of Noongar culture which is closely tied to the plants and animals.

Despite this, in the small area of remaining remnant bushland there is still wonderful ecological diversity present. In the scar of a dwutta (Eucalyptus todtiana – coastal blackbutt tree) is found…a heart.  In the arms of the heart a swan and a snake together. Something of the sky and water and something of the ground in intimate gaze.

Koort boodjar-ak,
Heart on country 

Country is still alive!
The old spirits of the land attend
This scene of sorrow, hope and heartfulness

With haste and care
Each accompanied
In their spirit trails,

By a beautiful bird
In repose or
In flight

Each seeing with single eye
Each inviting:
Right relationship with country and with Spirit

Monday, October 30, 2017

Healing Circle (v): Sacred Well

A fifth and final piece in the Healing Circle series.  This one is painted onto a small eight sided coffee table!

Sacred Well

The Master said: There are many who stand round the well but no one to go down into it
(Thomas: 74)

Beauty of Birds gazing, searching you

Depths of Living Water beckon

Come slake your thirst at...

This Well of Life
This Spring of Soul
This Current of Calm.

Yeshua, tired out from his journey was sitting by the well (John 4:6)

Like a wise pilgrim cockatoo
He finds company
And refreshment at the old well

Sip by sip
And when replenished
Can fly.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Healing Circle (iv): Sovereign Hill

A fourth piece to sit alongside the earlier pieces: 'Celtic Cross of Violence and Love (Gentle Spirit of Yeshua Cosmic Christ)', 'The Peacemaker' and 'Sacred Child of the Universe'.

Sovereign Hill
In the night a new dream is given...

Somewhere near Walyalup (Fremantle)
Our family is travelling together

On the Narrow Way surrounded by Wadjela suburbia
We come across a wonder: 'Sovereign Hill'

Three Noongar warriors descend from sacred business
To meet us...

"If you want to live here you must become a Caretaker."

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Healing Circle (iii): Sacred Child of the Universe

A third piece to sit alongside the earlier pieces: 'Celtic Cross of Violence and Love (Gentle Spirit of Yeshua Cosmic Christ)' and 'The Peacemaker'...

Sacred Child of the Universe
She whose name was written
On the shores of this Great South Land, East and West

She who rests in Mother Earth
And in the Hearth of our Home and Hearts

She whose name is written
On the shores of our Milky Way

Dear Daughter, Child of Deep Peace
Child of Stars and of Earth...

Sacred Child of the Universe.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Becoming True Humans: Exploring the Heart of the Matter

I very much appreciated the opportunity to be part of a recent First Nations people and faith leaders gathering at Silver Wattle Quaker Centre that addressed the reality of First Nations sovereignty.

It seems pertinent to ask: what is the heart of the matter?  What follows is an (incomplete) reflection in answer to this that arose during and following the gathering.

During the gathering I was part of sessions that informed participants of recent developments including various nations reclaiming sovereignty.  There was impressive articulation of Australian legal history in relation to First Nations peoples: the compromises, the errors and blatant racism and self-entitlement that went with much colonial and federal law making.   We heard of concerns regarding the Australian government’s Recognise campaign that encourage changes to the Australian constitution to recognise Aboriginal people.  We wondered together as to whether ‘No’ voices can be heard properly and what impact recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the constitution may have on Sovereignty.  Would this assist or compromise the work towards a future of meaningful treaty or treaties between First Nations peoples and newcomers? Indeed we do not yet know what the referendum question is and yet the campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote is on ‘roadshow’ around the country.

All this information was helpful and interesting and without doubt has its time and place particularly when speaking ‘truth to power’.  However this did not feel like the heart of the matter.

I noticed that when one Aunty spoke what was on her heart and mind that I was touched in a different way.  There were certainly hard challenges to both Blackfellas and Whitefellas to become more real about the issues and there were pearls of wisdom. Something in me ‘felt’ her words in my heart and guts. These were not just words to be understood intellectually.  Indeed I cannot remember all the words. But these were wise words that are known within from some deeper place. 

At one stage she spoke profoundly and painfully of the impact on her and her people of the so-called Intervention on the homelands and the dominating, oppressing aggressive force of control. Those beastly peopleI will not call them animals, because the animals are beautiful. 

She went on to speak of the True Human.  This is what is at stake: our collective and individual humanity. And if our humanity is at stake then the land is most certainly in peril. The ‘true human’ does not behave with oppression, dominance and beastliness.

Earlier in the gathering we had met around the Sacred Fire and introduced ourselves.  I was reminded later that in traditional times when another clan or tribe’s land was entered a fire would be lit.  Smoke would rise and those entering the land would wait to be received. Then they would be welcomed and instructed in both lore and language and shown safe passage, stories and business would be shared.  The lighting of a fire in this way seems an outer sign of an inner attitude.  A beatitude. A beautiful attitude. Do we find here humility, patience, respect, trust amongst other human qualities?  Possible signs of the True Human?  Imagine if one of our former prime ministers and accompanying entourage had come to a homeland, prepared a fire and waited to be received.  And then were welcomed and shown how to be in that place.  And after a time, maybe days, an opportunity presented to yarn about important business around a big fire with elders and other tribal people.  And during this time concerns were shared about violence and abuse on that land and the desire to ‘intervene’ was expressed.  What then? What different?

At another moment in the gathering Aunty spoke to the men present.  Do not forget about the women’s role in men’s ceremony…I [as female Elder] hand over the boys to the men for the first part of initiation…when they return I name them…’young men’.  Who is it that does the naming in our day? Women? Men? Blackfellas? Whitefellas?  Are we ready to receive the names that we might be given? Who will name reality in any future treaty?

At another moment Aunty spoke of the Songlines and hunting goannas.  We heard that as the hunt unfolds the hunters sing to the goanna. At some stage in the unfolding drama the goanna recognises that its time is near and it stretches out its neck…and willingly gives its life over to the tribe so they can have life.  It seems the hunt is no mere butchering exercise but the unfolding of a sacred relationship. 

At another moment Aunty spoke of what she had now become.  Later in life with the diminishment of sexual desirability she had been given, in ceremony, the male dimension of lore such that she had become a whole human integrating both feminine and masculine.  And I understand that this is a path for the male Elder too. I could not help but notice the resonance with an often forgotten Whitefella Scripture: In Christ there is neither male nor female.  And in the mostly suppressed Gospel of Mary Magdalene: He is calling us to become fully human.  Do we recognise a sacred depth in the people of the land? Indeed a mastery of the sacred that most in our Whitefella traditions rarely, if ever, reach?

A final observation was the relationship between both Aunty and her granddaughter.  This relationship represented the teaching relationship of lore, land and ceremony. The circles of belonging and culture still in action.  And it was strong and inspiring with an edge of fragility.  How quickly these cultural bonds and lines of communication can be lost…and with dire consequences.  I couldn’t help but comment later that us Whitefellas had lost our circles hundreds of years ago.  Once, we too, would have known where we belonged: to land, tribe, indeed the whole cosmos.  Who teaches us now to come into relationship with the land and the creatures, the Spirit and the cosmos?  We may have fumbled our way along some ‘spiritual journey’ looking for the people who can lead us into right relationship with all that is.  Our spirit craves such knowing.  Can we see the process of acknowledging sovereignty and developing treaty as supporting the discovery and recovery of our circles of belonging…both Whitefellas and Blackfellas? 

At the conclusion of the gathering our Quaker Elder invited us to greet every other person in the room with Namaste…the God in me salutes the God in you…a sacred gesture. When I came to Aunty we held hands for a time and she spoke in language to me.  And then in English: Together we will hold this country together. I could only offer a feeble ‘beautiful’ in response.  But I was moved. And as I packed my bag my throat was caught and tears welled in my eyes at the enormity of this statement and the way it was spoken to me. I am so unprepared for this yet my spirit is strong.  Somewhere in the spacious depths of my being these words run free and then surface and catch me again: Together we will hold this country together.

Together we will hold this country together.

Amen. So be it.
n.b. The Aunty referred to in the above has encouraged me to share this piece with her stories and insights. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sunflowers and the Sacred Circle II

Well, the sunflowers are now out of season but the seeds are still present.

In response to my earlier post 'Sunflowers and the Sacred Circle' my friend and Josephite sister offered the following...

"When I saw your sunflower picture...I remembered these lines by Bruce Dawe, an Australian poet:

Definition of Loving

Thank you for love, no matter what its outcome,
that leads us to the window in the dark,
that adds another otherness to others,
that holds out stars as if they were first diamonds found in a mine that had been long closed down,
that hands out suns and makes us ask each morning:
What else do we need, picnickers in time?

Thank you for love that does not hang on answers,
that says, 'Enough's enough, to love is plenty...'
-by such signs do we know the world exists,
amo ergo sum, thank you for that.

The miles, the years, the lives that lie between
-they always lay there, and they always will,
but look, the loved one spans that dizzy distance
by the act of being, and we lovers turn
our faces steadily thou-wards as a field
of sunflowers like a tracking station turns
charting its meaning by the westering sun.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Healing Circle (ii): The Peacemaker

A companion piece for the 'Celtic Cross of Violence and Love'...

The Peacemaker
 In the holy halo of the Father of All Things

The wisdom of the Single Eye (of Love).

In the regal rich receptivity of Mother Earth

The wisdom of the Forests and Sacred Solitude.

In the night,

A new dream is given…

Cosmos and Earth touch at the edge of Nowhere.

On this Pale Blue Dot, in the Great Expanses of Darkness,

My guide embraces me and points to the heavens:

“This is the Peacemaker”