Climate Change Summer

January in Oz and the temperature’s rising.  Hordes of tourists gather on the coast.  The beaches are covered with their gear – surf boards, paddle boards, boogie boards, jet skis, sun shelters, deck chairs, bright towels and clothes.   They say it’s fun.

On the roads cars crawl bumper to bumper through dusty roadworks – highway duplications designed to bring yet more tourists to the coast.  Abutting the roads new housing estates are being constructed for those who desire a permanent sea change.    Shopping malls too.  Today in my neighbourhood residents are advised to seek alternate routes for a mass clearing of trees is taking place on the main road.  The clearing is to make way for another vast shopping mall.

In the mall constructed last year babies bawl and toddlers scream with rage as they are denied the toys and sweets they were showered with at Christmas.

They call it fun,
progress on steroids
– it’s getting hotter.




Towards the new year

So much of my creative energy during this past year has been spent reworking old ideas and finishing up old projects.  I haven’t been able to fully move on from them even though they have ceased to nourish my creative spirit.

Although events in my outer life have shifted I’ve been feeling stuck between the old and new.   Mid year I moved to a cottage in a part of the State I haven’t lived in before.  Although I’ve been out and about seeing new sights I haven’t really engaged with this new environment.  In private moments I find myself wishing I could go to the empty beaches and bush tracks I walked for so long and which are now so far away.

On lonely beaches
drumming in the solstice
– windswept prayers


Such a strange contrary urge for the old area had gone stale for me and doors were closing in my face left, right and centre.   I was totally ready to move on…

yet here I am – still not fully embracing the new.

Yesterday I got utterly sick of doing the same old same old.   During a break in the rain I jumped in my car and drove out to a nearby seaside town.   It is a town rich in history.  The streets are lined with beautiful old Victorian mansions and there is an atmosphere of grace and elegance to the place that is missing in many Australian towns.

Several galleries are dotted along the main street.   I visited one after the other.   In one I saw exquisite prints local artists had created in the printmaking studio behind the gallery.    In another I saw very commercial art that didn’t appeal to me yet was inspiring in its competence.   In the third I came across an exhibition of contemporary landscape painting.  Very small oil paintings in one uniform size lined a long wall of the gallery. The rest of the space contained one large painting, the gallery owner’s desk and a large storage area.

Walking the length of the gallery I stopped in front of each painting.   Because of their small size each little painting invited intimate inspection – a slowing down and taking the longer look.    By the time I retraced my footsteps and left the gallery I felt I’d had a meaningful and soulful conversation with a sensitive, creative soul.

In a reflective mood I returned to my car.   Rain was approaching and the first drops splattered across my windscreen as I drove to a lookout.    There I pulled out the new Smart Phone I got last week.   It was time I figured out how to take photos with it.

IMG_20181215_161456_278  The colours of the rain soaked landscape and unusual shapes of the old buildings captured my imagination.


The visual art I’d just seen had loosened something in my mind and the veil of the old that had been clouding my perception began to lift.   For the first time since moving here I began to get glimpses of how I can live and create in this new environment.

Moonlit solstice
lighting the way forward
– the old year ends




Snow on the Heartbreak Hills

Only two or three times in my life have I seen snow falling.   The last time was when I lived at the base of the Heartbreak Hills – so called for the heartbreak the early settlers experienced when they attempted to farm the barren slopes.

One cold winter’s morning  snow floated down whimsically as I drove up the hill to the university where I was doing the final year of a Visual Arts degree.  Outside my studio it had collected in tiny drifts in the gutters.  The studio was freezing so I went and stood in the rotunda to watch the spectacle instead of working.  The enigmatic man who was either the love of my life or a case of mistaken identity joined me. Snow fell in delicate flurries and landed on the pines that marked the perimeter of the campus.  Beyond them the Heartbreak Hills were transformed into a fantasy of tiered white mounds and indistinct dark shapes.

The art faculty was a weird place at the best of times – dreamers, fantasists and moody malcontents mused and brooded in its shadowy recesses.   In the snow we drifted into the silent voids and white spaces of our own interior landscapes.   Pretty girls danced past disguised as alpine damsels.  The boys beside them were indistinct cyphers in their heavy hooded jackets.   My grumpy supervisor appeared in a WW1 leather flying hat and thick fur lined gloves.   ‘Living in a winter wonderland’ he sang as he skipped into his office.   The enigmatic man beside me assumed a gallant, noble air as he escorted me to lunch in the cafeteria.

The day and the mood suited my purposes perfectly.   The theme of the art I was making was hybridity and the way we in the West think our cultural roots go straight back to ancient Greek when, really, they can be traced to many sources.   My theory work was going well but I was struggling to produce art that reflected this idea.   In the transformation of the physical environment people around me slipped out of context and revealed hidden aspects of their personality.  Soon after lunch the snow stopped falling and I went to my studio to paint.

The snow melted overnight.  The next day everyone reverted back to form and we all got on with our final semester’s work.   By the end of the year I had a body of work that supported my ideas and the enigmatic man had proved himself to be a case of mistaken identity.

Winter mountains –
swirling snow drifts  

– certainties shift

Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash



What I see

Lying in bed I attempt to muster the energy to get up – another day to start and get under way.  Outside the wind blows through the giant ash tree that graces my yard – a flowing continuum of sound.

Last week I read up on the ancient meanings of the ash tree – the World Tree – the axis mundi – the connecting pillar between heaven and earth.

Lying in bed attempting to muster the energy to get up my thoughts turn to the greater world – the terrorist attack in Melbourne last Friday (a crazed Isis supporter killing the popular  restaurateur Sisto Malaspina with a knife – “The 74-year-old man was walking down Bourke Street, just a few hundred metres from the business he had run for more than 40 years, when he was caught up in the horrific attack.”  here) The bushfires in California and the rising death toll – the latest reports of the dire consequences of unchecked climate change – that Facebook Meme of the dead bird with the gut full of plastic  …    my mind reels – convulses …  refuses to focus on any more horror.

Our world is in turmoil.  Yesterday I walked down the main street of town.   The guy ahead of me had on a t-shirt emblazoned with the words – “The end is coming – save yourself”.    Is that the answer?   Do we all retreat to our own personal mindcaves  and focus on is our own survival?   Now more than ever it seems this the time to look deeply within and  find the light, joy and love within our own hearts.    Maybe if we stoke the flames of those inner qualities we can generate hope in positive futures and share that with others.

These grey days –
wind in the ash tree
the only sound




Up to the Angels


As a young child I saw fairies dancing on moonbeams and felt the wings of angels catching me whenever I fell.     As I grew older I put away childish things and moved into the cold hard reality of the light of day where seeing is believing and all else is imagination and fantasy  –

not a comfortable place to be at times – a place where I felt I’d lost something but could not quite recall what.

I became a spiritual seeker and wandered through the years searching –


One day I went to one of those Mind, Body and Spirit Fairs. Tarot readers and psychic healers offered instant answers in exchange for money.  Crystal sellers touted their wares.  Nothing really interested me until I came across a chalkboard notice advertising a free talk on angels.

I filed into the room with a crowd of people. When we were all seated a young woman dressed in a simple cotton dress entered and spoke to us of her encounters with angels. Her manner was so sincere I was intrigued. There was something compelling about her and a deep hush fell over the room.

Without much preamble she said would call angels into the room. ‘You may be aware of a change in atmosphere when they come,’ she said as she closed her eyes.

The silence in the room deepened and the air temperature cooled. I felt a deep peace fill my mind. Around me people exhaled audibly and shoulders visibly relaxed. The woman explained that the angels will come to us when we ask and that they are there to help us. She then gave us the following affirmation:

‘I take the burden of (name your issue) up to the angels and ask for a complete healing.’

I have used these words many times since.  Sometimes my burdens ease.  Sometimes my attitude to them changes.  Some answers come quickly, some take much longer, always though, the first step involves suspending disbelief.

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Serious Clowning


I’ve only been to one circus in my life.   It was when I was a young child.  The whole thing bemused me.  I felt sorry for the animals and I didn’t like the clowns.   While I wouldn’t say I am afraid of them I’ve never really overcome the feeling that clowns have a pathetic, even tragic, quality.
Here’s a haibun I wrote about an encounter I had with a clown as an adult.  This haibun is included in my e-book of haibun that will be released next week.


On a quiet Saturday afternoon a clown in a campervan pulled up in my driveway.   At the time I lived in a lonely house on the edge of a saltmarsh.   It was a place of shifting mists and lengthy silences.  Misfits, artists and ferals lived thereabouts and sometimes came to visit so when the clown jumped out of a campervan I wasn’t all that surprised.

He’d lost his way he said and was late for an engagement at a children’s birthday party.   I gave him directions then, curious, asked where he’d come from.  He told he’d driven down from the city some three hours away.   He’d worn his clown clothes complete with orange floppy wig, red plastic nose and full clown makeup the whole way.   He was a very serious clown and didn’t seem to think there was anything odd about that.

Out of the blue
with no rhyme or reason
– serious clowning