The World Peace Bell

This post is inspired by a poem by my online friend Na’ama Yehuda – A Bell to Tell

In a dusty country town out in central west NSW, Australia a large peace bell hangs in a pavillion in the town square.   Just how it came to be there is a strange tale of war and peace.

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image from https://visitcowra.com.au/astralias-world-peace-bell

During WW2 Japanese men living in Australia suddenly found themselves arrested and sent to an internment camp at Cowra, NSW.  Although the men were treated fairly under the international law they were naturally very unhappy about their internment.   Around breakfast time on the morning of August 5, 1944 they staged a breakout.   Armed with baseball bats and sharpened kitchen knives they rushed out across the barbed wire surrounding the camp and into the firing line of the Vickers machine guns set up around the perimeter.   Tragically  231 Japanese men lost their lives along with 4 Australian soldiers.   A later enquiry decided many of the Japanese had suicided rather than face the ignominy of re-capture.

The  event and its tragic outcome left a deep mark on Cowra.   Soldiers returning home after the war took it upon themselves to clean up the graves of the Japanese who died at the camp.   The graveyard was later expanded to include the graves of other Japanese who had died in Australia during the war.    It is still the only Japanese War Cemetery in the world.

Since then cultural exchanges and a student exchange program have consolidated peaceful relationships between Cowra and Japan. A Japanese garden has been established and a Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year.  Researching this post I discovered that Festival of International Understanding was held in the town over the weekend just passed.   It included a haiku competition.

In 1992 the Australian World Peace Bell was awarded to Cowra for it’s contribution to world peace.    The World Peace Bell is usually placed in capital cities but Cowra was given the honour because of its long standing commitment to peaceful international relations.

The inscription on the front of the bell reads:-

The Bell Is A Replica Of The Original World Peace Bell Which Is Located In The Inner Court Of The United Nations Headquarters In New York.

Like The Original, This Bell Is Cast From Melted Down Coins And Medals Of Member Countries Of The United Nations In The Hope That World Peace Will Be Realised.

Cowra Was Chosen By The Australian Government As The Site For The Australian World Peace Bell In Recognition Of Its Unique Contribution
To International Understanding, Promotion Of Peace And As A Centre Of World Friendship.

I visited Cowra on a sleepy summer afternoon some years ago.   Not much moved in the heat.   A few visitors milled around the Visitor Centre reading the plagues that told tragic story that had led to the town’s deep and abiding desire to promote peace.   That peace seemed to have settled over the town like a mantle.   I didn’t take any photos.   It didn’t seem appropriate somehow.

While Na’ama Yehuda’s poem led to me recall my visit to Cowra writing this post and checking the facts re-affirmed my belief that peace can be built between nations and between people even when the foundations of that peace are mired in tragedy.

World peace bells
ringing out their message
– love is the answer

Deep listening in the Australian Bush

DEEP LISTENING IN THE AUSTRALIAN BUSH

These are troubled times.

Yesterday my head was full of troubles – and ideas – and opinions – mine/other people’s – all  bubbled like a stew in my mind – achieving nothing – getting kind of toxic or at the least – getting in the way – stopping me being.

I went bush.

Just over 5 minutes drive from my house there is a scrap of remnant bushland – the real stuff – never logged – never farmed.  It’s the kind of bush that is hard to relate to.  No great stands of majestic trees, no tumbling waterfalls or great vistas – instead dry, tangled scrub and spiky native grasses.

I have been told there are grass trees quite some way from the carpark so I set off down the dusty track to find them.

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It was a hot day and even though I was in the bush, 21st century noise still intruded.   I could hear the distant rumble of cars on the highway, a farmer was using heavy machinery in a nearby paddock and jets roared overhead from time to time.

The track wound on and on.  The heat was only just tolerable and I thought of turning back more than once.   Still those grass trees were calling me.   Eventually they began to appear.  Most were some distance off the track and being mindful of both snakes and of disturbing the delicate native plants I didn’t venture closer.

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Grass trees only grow a few centimetres a year.   The largest of the ones I saw yesterday had to be hundreds of years old.   In other parts of Australia grass trees lose the foliage around their trunk.   Tufts of grass grow atop twisting black trunks.   The variety down here doesn’t.   Instead thick clumps of foliage hang down in dark, dense curtains.   The plants look more like presences than vegetation.   Some are almost monstrous,  others are delicate and whimsical.

This bush reserve is managed by a dedicated team of nature lovers. Wooden benches are placed at intervals through the bush.   Just past the grass trees I sat on one to get my energy up before turning back.

Sitting there in the afternoon heat I finally stopped – moving, thinking, feeling scattered – I just was.   From time to time a jet passed by – high and detached.   I could still hear the farmer banging about in the distance.   The traffic was a subliminal murmur occasionally punctuated by the roar of a motorbike or a heavy trunk.   The 21st century is never far away from me these days.    Slowly though, the sounds of the bush asserted themselves.   Birds chirped, leaves whispered together, little critters rustled through the undergrowth.   I watched a bird hopping from branch to branch.  I photographed the abstract patternings of the tangled undergrowth.  Mostly I just sat gathering up the energy to walk back to my car.20190316_144618

My mind slowed down.   No great insights about current events, political ideologies, the massacre in Christchurch, climate change or family dramas came forth.   Instead I simply quietened down.   I grew more peaceful and more attuned to the moment now.   I came back into myself.

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The Australian Aboriginals have a concept called Dadirri – Deep Listening.   They say the answers we all seek are there if we listen deep enough.   If we stop and listen deeply to what another is saying we can begin to understand them.   If we listen to the bush we can learn how to live in harmony with the Earth.   If we listen to our own hearts we can learn how to live peacefully with ourselves.

It was a long walk back to my car.   The grass trees looked different as I approached them from another angle.   I found one close to path that I had overlooked before.    I took some photos and resolved to come again with a better camera.   It will take me a while to learn to photograph this place.   It will take me a while to fully learn the art of deep listening – the rest of my life probably.

The path goes on –IMG_20190316_203330

prompt:  Six word Saturday

 

 

March Madness

A haibun for  https://dversepoets.com/2019/03/04/haibun-monday-march-madness/

Today is the first cool day in ages.  During the past week the temperature have been over 38 degrees Celsius day after day.

Across this southern Australian State bushfires rage.  Not down here on the coast but through the forested hills to the east where I lived for many years.   I hear the names of familiar towns on the News and feel for the people still living there.

Ten years, when I lived there, the fires burned quite close to my home.  The worst day of those fires is seared into my memory.   The sky above my house turned a vile sickly orange and burnt leaves fell on my lawn.   The firefighters warned everyone to watch out for burning embers for the fierce winds were carrying them many, many kilometers from the blaze.    Around 3 in the afternoon I heard on the radio that one of the fire fronts was raging up the mountains towards the TV and radio transmission towers.  There was nothing anyone could do to prevent their destruction.   About twenty minutes later transmission stopped.   Only one television station that used a different transmission tower still worked so for over a week the only TV News we got was focused on the extreme fires that had burnt closer to the state capital.  The area I lived in was barely reported on.   One item that was broadcast though was the rising death toll from all the fires across the state.    The final toll was 173 plus countless animals.

Now, in these current fires, most people are not staying to defend their properties.   They evacuate instead.   I see them weeping on the News when they learn their house has burnt to the ground.  “I have nothing,” they say.  “Nothing but the clothes I stand up in and the car I drove to safety.”   One distraught woman spoke of staying to defend her house for as long as was safe.   She described the fires as sounding like a fire breathing dragon roaring through the bush.

Wild dragon days
torrid heat, blazing fires
– praying for rain

An aerial view of a house exploding in a massive fireball in Tonimbuk in the Bunyip State Forest. An aerial view of a house exploding in a massive fireball in Tonimbuk in the Bunyip State Forest.CREDIT:NINE NEWS

 

 

The light of truth

Yesterday we Australians learnt the Catholic priest, Cardinal Pell has been found guilty of child sex offenses.   The nature of the offenses that convicted him were explained carefully on the TV news.   The evidence presented revealed the man to be extremely perverse.

This morning I saw a News item which claimed some Catholic Priests have been involved in the sexual abuse of nuns.   I have no idea if these claims are true but I hope there are investigations into them around the globe.

A piercing light
revealing hidden abuse
– truth triumphs

unnamed – photo prompt –https://iwriteher.com/2019/02/26/i-write-her-weekly-haiku-challenge-8/

Red Seeds

I saw this photo the other day when I was looking for something else in my archives.  The challenge  https://pilotfishblog.com/2019/02/16/lens-artists-photo-challenge-33-nature/  provides me with an opportunity to post it.

Walking through the Australian bush one summer’s day I came across an area covered in the red seed pods of the wattle trees growing in the vicinity.

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Continuing on with the red theme:- a photo of  red seed pods on sun dried plants in the marginal land behind a beach in southern Victoria, Australia.
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Inner spring

Although it is late summer over here in Oz there is some ancestral part of me that remains connected to the seasons in the northern hemisphere – even after all these generations of Australian born family.

So here I am – betwixt and between seasonal cycles and bio-rhythms.

Seeds within me cry for nurture, for nourishment – the seeds of new dreams – the seeds of ideas – the seeds of creative expression.

The shaman drums
the seeds of new ideas 
spring to mind

003collage made with National Geographic photos

prompt:  https://frankjtassone.com/2019/02/09/haikai-challenge-72-2-9-19-first-spring-gust-haru-ichiban-haiku-senryu-haibun-tanka-haiga-renga