ode to home

 

Dear home,
How do I sum up four years and seven months with you?

How do I begin to offer thanks
for the safe keeping and comfort
you have brought my kin?

Not only shelter -
a place to rest and work and create in,
nooks to fill with beauty,
stories weaved into the walls
and floors of you,

the sound of a lamb
pattering in the kitchen,
of babies crawling
and hiding in cupboards -
of wind howling
of rain on the tin roof -
the squeak of a child’s fingers
drawing fish on foggy windows
of trucks creeping past loaded with hay,
and the distinctive rattles of the local utes:
that’s Michael we’d say,
that’s Marty, or that’s daddy -

of the ground around you:
the gardens we grew,
what thrived, died,
the trees that survived;
fig, oak, plum, walnut,

pomegranate-
the vegetables you gave us,
flowers too

the pasture around our fence:
so familiar are the bumps and curves
the trees and grasses,
the games we played, dam we circled,
and the time Reu first rode a bike
and the afternoons we spent
carrying dead logs and sticks
for our wigwams one, two and three -

You hold so many moments, memories
firsts, birthdays,
newborn babies,
the school bus,
hundreds of loaves of bread baked,
thousands of eggs packed,
chickens plucked by the shed,
picnics on the grass -

of seasons, of struggle
and beautiful peace,
of drought and flood
bushfire smoke and thick frost
sunshine and full moons
and the stars that take our breath away -

there’s the old grey gum tree we can see when lying in bed,
the one I watch as I hang clothes out to dry,
that I never tire of watching sway in the breeze -
”give me a home among the gum trees” I think,
indeed,

of the people who came:
dear friends and helpful travellers,
strangers needing directions,
each of my siblings -

and all the creatures:
bugs, beetles, bees, mice
cats, snakes, a tiny dog
who chewed holes in our flyscreen -
the moths, butterflies, dragonflies,
grasshoppers, mud daubers,
swallow nests under the eaves,
frogs under the bath tubs,
kangaroos grazing,
echidnas by the road -
the wild geese and the tiny ducks in the dam,
black swans, turtles, yabbie claws too.

that we could lie on the trampoline
and look up through the branches of the big cypress tree
and spot birds resting:
galahs, cockatoos, sparrows,
parrots, magpies, and kookaburras -

I will remember all of these things,
and I will see myself sitting on top of the nearby hills
looking out at the sweeping granite country
farm land, dam, fence, forest, road:
and the sight of that tiny redbrick house with a green roof
where my eyes were always drawn first:
our home -
and remember you.

 

ode to autumn

 

Autumn, she’s a gift to me
(and always my favourite season)
that soft sun,
slow golden unleaving -

she is the mandarin
I’m peeling with my hands
by the back door
(and all the pips I find
under my boys’ beds)
the sound of bees
about the verbena bush

she’s the morning frost,
the late afternoon walks,
sandpit tunnels, the birds
in the trees:
cockatoos, galahs,
magpies, crows, kookaburras,
goshawks, willy wagtails fanning -
and the two black swans
that appeared one morning
in the dam

she’s the velvet ears
of freshly born calves,
the green spear-tips
of daffodil bulbs
the brownest, driest, heat-bleached earth
soaked with longed-for rain
and the burst of bright bright green -

she’s birthdays and busyness
chickens, eggs, children, dishes -
the dance of wants and needs and jobs
the first boxes packed, virus caught,
windows thrust open, weeds pulled -

she’s the steam of morning, midday,
afternoon, late afternoon and evening tea -

she’s the season of letting
what must fall away, go -
of sitting gently with old shadows,
speaking kind words to fresh fears
but finding beauty there -

and oh, in all those golden leaves…

 

Keep a reading journal

 

In 2017 I kept my first reading journal - a very simple drawing of a bookshelf in my personal diary - every time I would finish a book I would add it’s name to the shelf. It was such an easy way to remember what I’d read and I could hardly believe how many books I’d actually got through by the end of the year! It also helped me do a round up of my favourite eight books at the year’s end - which were for 2017:

1. Story of a soul by St. Therese of Liseux
2. Herb of Grace by Elizabeth Goudge
3. Dark Emu: Black Seeds by Bruce Pascoe
4. This House of Grief by Helen Garner
5. Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit
6. The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Fraser-Rowland
7. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
8. Storytelling with Children by Nancy Mellon

I decided to do it again in 2018 but instead of the bookshelf I drew a little front cover for each book and gave them a crude star rating (up to five stars with an extra heart symbol for those especially loved). My favourite eight for 2018:

1. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
2. What the light hides by Mette Jakobsen
3. Island Magic by Elizabeth Goudge
4. Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird
5. Hammer Is The Prayer by Christian Wiman
6. The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
7. Therapeutic Storytelling: 101 Healing Stories for Children for by Susan Perrow
8. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

And now in 2019, I’ve well and truly started my reading journal - this time drawing out the book covers but also leaving enough room to give a star rating AND a short comment. This feels like the best approach yet; I enjoy the challenge of visually depicting the front cover and being able to sum up in a few words the experience of reading it.

How about you? Do you keep a record of the books you’ve read or review them in some way? I have plenty of friends who use Goodreads to rate/review their books, but I much prefer the act of drawing/writing it out hardcopy and in a place like my journal which I use for so many things; daily to-dos, planning, ideas, noting down funny things my kids say, vivid dreams I’ve had, poetry, illustrating. It just seems right to include the books I’m reading in there too. In years to come I want to be able to look back at who I was through my journals; my words and preoccupations.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading at the moment…

 

thirty and four

 

Last month Beren and I celebrated our birthdays - my 30th and his 4th - with a green-themed picnic under the beautiful big oak trees at a local botanical gardens. It was glorious sunny Autumn Sunday. We all had to wear our best green hues, so I wore my pale green 1940s dress that I bought ten years ago to wear on my honeymoon. We had a green layered cake, platters of green fruits and vegetables, green guacamole, green tea shortbread and gingerbread with pale green icing. Friends added to the spread with green crackers, jellies, devilled eggs with parsley, cheeses, green juice and other delights.

We had two birthday cakes between us; one was a butter cake with three layers; vanilla bean, chocolate and green tea “matcha”. Beren couldn’t decided which flavour he wanted which is why we did a layer of each! I decorated the top with rosemary sprigs, verbena leaves, apple stars, pistachios and a sprinkling of matcha powder. The second cake was a tower of my gluten free French-style baked vanilla custards “canelés” which were swiftly devoured!

The big people talked and reclined in the sunshine as the little people ran about the gardens playing and climbing trees. I cannot think of a nicer way to mark my 30th milestone; to be surrounded by old trees, good friends and food!

Beren told me he thought our party was “very good and lovely and green!” Indeed…

 

ode to thirty (and teapots)

 

If years were teapots
and I’d lived thirty
here’s what some would be:


a heavy clay one, purple with golden stars,
I close my eyes and can see it held in my mother’s hands -

a greeny-blue one with a map of the world, and Australia cut off at the handle -

another with swirls and dots, a gift for my tea loving mama,
and years later I would visit the very place in Poland it had been made - 

the Japanese pot painted with dragonflies,
the first that belonged only to me -

a tiny yellow 1950s one with wattle on the lid, enough for two little cups -

there’s the ornate pewter pot, pouring mint tea from height
in all the places we visited in Morocco - 

a beautiful blue and white pot, covered in willow trees
and swallows and mountain side,
carried in my hand luggage to France - 

a brown and green glazed pot Alex found in a paddock covered in earth -

the unbreakable (as yet) enamel pot, pale blue,
which holds tea for guests and sometimes daisies from the garden - 

the stainless steel faithful pot, an enduring wedding present;
who has boiled our water on the stove for nearly ten years -

and the pots I drew in blue ink, one shaped of hair,
another with a garden growing out of it - 

There’s more of course,
so many pots over the years
that filled the cups;
whispers, whimsies,
tears and teabags too - 

The cups of joy, of relief 
post-childbirth sips,
cups of sorrow, farewells, 
new beginnings, regrets -  
the cups of faith
(the runneth over types)
of early mornings,
mid-afternoons,
evenings when everyone is in their beds
(some of the very best)
so many shared with friends,
strangers, kin,
with my husband -
tiny cups of rooibos with my children,

ceylon, oolong, 
lapsang souchong,
bergamot anything,
roasted rice, dandelion roots,
Buddha’s tears,
fresh verbena leaves - 

Ah! If years were teapots 
and I’d lived thirty 
I’d drink to it’s story:
the lessons and the loving,
the pouring out and the filling,
the adventures and the brewing -
Here’s to another thirty... 

 

ode to summer

 

dear summer,
in the morning you feel faraway, gone even
as the cool breeze bites the tops of my ears
and the back hairs of my neck stand up
but by midday
when you're streaming in the windows
drying the clothes on the line
sweating around the brow and underarms
I'm certain you're still here -

You are my least favourite season,
which is not to say
I don't love your brightness,
your blueness, and harvests -
It's just I find you exhausting
your long days of light,
intensity, heat unrelenting,
busyness.

This summer, I have:
watched the pasture turn brown
seen my garden shrivel up
and a black snake slithering, 
been surrounded by bleeding sheep
and cheeping children 
visited my mama and the city of my youth 
dipped my toes in the ocean 
felt sand in my hands
read a lot of books
struggled to sleep
walked with my sisters 
sorted long-forgotten things
let go, and let go, 
and felt excitement for what’s ahead - 

And after all this is said,
the epitome of you 
Is still the first apricot of the season,
that sweet sweet juiciness! 
Summer.

 

let nature

 
 

Let nature
be your life’s coach

Let it work it’s magic
free of charge,
stringless, stingless
any time of day (or night)

Follow it’s seasons:
let them teach you,
challenge and renew you -

Subscribe to it's feed:
the tree rustling
autumn leaving
dusk dancing
twilight twinkle

Consume it’s fresh air
drink in the slow
passing of time:
sun shadowing
ant trailing
weed rambling

Like and like and like

Let it tell you softly
about life and death,
beauty and decay,
respect and plunder
beginnings and endings -
flux, fascination

Let it be wild,
reckless even -
inhospitable,
indomitable
unrelentingly offline -

Perhaps you will feel
changed right away;
a kind of windswept,
barefooted homecoming -

Or maybe like me
it will be a life-long
gathering of gladness:
grounding, skygazing,
dreaming, sorrowful
reminding,
a reckoning too

The Cup

 
 

Your cup is full she said
there’s no space left
for coping,
and the peace for your lips to
gently sip from
(when life ebbs and flows)
is gone -
you’re overflowing,
that overwhelming,
spilling down your chin
and sinking feeling
panicking, reeling,
its not O.K
but its human

can you love yourself just as you are now?
can you cup that cup,
with kindness,
and a tenderness,
like you do your own child
embrace the sad, weary you too?

The year of the chickens

 
yearofthechicken
 

There are three chickens in the yard
I can see them from the kitchen window
scratching in the garden beds,
kicking up bark mulch and dry earth -
they dart at anything that moves
jumps, skips, hops
so efficient are their beaks and claws
for this task of foraging, unearthing

and I think about this year nearly done
perhaps the hardest one for me,
or the most important -
why are important ones the hardest?

I could list the things that gave it shape:
the long days of mothering full time,
of postpartum fatigue, the last breastfeed -
of eggs packed, caneles baked,
story nights with local women,
books read, conflicts had,
farmers markets, chicken sales,
workshops, a school change,
an awful email out of the blue,
the flowers picked with my hands

but really it’s everything in-between
the dreams, the waiting,
curly heads, grubby grins,
shadowy doubts, sorrow stings -
hushed, yelled, wrestled,
wanted, endured, relieved
the yearnings and the forgotten things:
a twelve month unearthing
clawing for something - anything,
holding on and letting go
again and again and again

I could be making resolutions:
you know, those page long aspirations -
goals for what could be,
what I could do better (and not do at all)

But I’d rather stare out the kitchen window
let my fingers become prune-like
in soapy dish water -
and learn from my chicken friends;
to keep scratching at the surface,
feel the sun on my back
make the most of each season -
and choose kindness
again and again and again


Photo of me and the girls / by the wonderful Cat