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.


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.


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.


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



The Green Man

I made another spirit doll this week.   It felt incomplete until I saw Sue Vincent’s  prompt  –

Of course!   What my doll needed was a hat.  I made him one from green leather then put him in the fork of a tree to take his photo.


While I was making this doll I was thinking about the mythical figure of the Green Man.  It is perhaps a sign of our times that the Green Man is coming back into our awareness.  The archetype has particular relevance to men as an alternative to toxic masculinity.

I found a really good explanation of what the Green Man represents for men on
“he models a different kind of manhood and strength, one that is based on relationship, caring, and true husbandry or stewardship. He gives us a powerful metaphor and depiction of the Sacred Masculine.”

Writing of the relevance of this model of masculine for our times the author describes the Green Man archetype as “a strong and compassionate masculine who respects the hidden laws of nature and interconnected relationship. In a modern incarnation, he stands for environmental awareness and action; he symbolizes cooperation with nature rather than dominion over it for resources, wealth, and power. In a sense, he is the original eco-warrior.”

I really like these ideas but feel the Green Man has a relevance for us all regardless of gender.   We all embody both masculine and feminine qualities to some degree.  On the website I read:
“As the Goddess makes her return, we must also resurrect the Green Man so that both feminine and masculine are united in a healthy balance of head and heart, intellect and imagination, intuition and reason, force and flow. Cultivating a healthy sense both of our masculine and feminine sides of ourselves is the only way we will ever be able to usher in an era of new balance so desperately needed in our world today. When a healthy masculinity is established both men and women will rejoice. And so too will animals, plants and future generations. The stakes for establishing a Sacred Marriage of the Divine Feminine and Sacred Masculine have never been higher. Our survival hangs in the balance.”

Leave taking

I felt a need to write in response to this prompt. “Describe the circumstances and emotions of your hardest departure from family.”

I had driven over to my dad’s place with my youngest son  It had been several months since dad died.  My brother was sole executor of the Will and had rushed the proceedings through while the rest of us were still coming to terms with what was happening.   He’d somehow managed to buy the place and pay out our shares so the house now was his, not mum and dad’s place.  All that remained was to collect the bits and pieces he’d divvied up as our share of the family possessions.

My brother supervised the loading of my car.   I didn’t really know why I’d even bothered coming over.   It all felt so sordid – so utterly grubby.  All the misunderstandings and miscommunications that had gone down when dad was dying.   All those torrid terrible years when he ranted and raved in the Nursing Home.   His personality had disintegrated as his dementia advanced.   He’d always been a strong and opinionated man.   As his illness progressed it was as if those qualities were distilled down into a loud and implacable rage.    He’d forgotten who I was several years before.

Prior to that my mum had died a slow and tragic death from Parkinson’s disease.    It had broken my dad.     He’d never sorted out her possessions.   Now they were apparently owned by my brother.   Old raincoats and the stained white jumper dad had worn when he went bowling hung in dusty wardrobes with wonky doors alongside what remained of mum’s paintings – the ones that hadn’t sold – the near misses and the failures no one wanted.   Cupboards still housed the chipped plates and scattered remnants of household goods that had been inherited from forgotten ancestors.  Somewhere a few old photos were hidden away in tattered boxes.

Overseeing the loading of my car my brother was bombastic and acted like the Lord of Manor although the house was really just a holiday shack mum and dad had bought on retirement.   As we said goodbye I noticed a greenish mould growing on the shady walls that faced seaward.   My brother’s problem now.

I grabbed a moment and rushed back to the shed on some pretext.   A place of happy memories – dad sorting through his own dad’s old tools and giving my sons some strange object from times past –  the old wooden handles polished from use and brass fittings glowing softly in the dim light.

Suddenly it hit me.   I was not likely to come back.  At least for a good long while. My brother was already staking claims of ownership as he talked of remodeling the downstairs living room.   It was his place now and he wanted to put his stamp on it as he described it in his bullying way.

I raised my camera and photographed the broken chairs hanging from the roof.  I remembered them once standing proud and strong in the family home we’d grown up in.    Like the rest of us they now bore the scars of the difficult years that followed.

old chairs with noise.jpg

That was nearly ten years ago.   Much of the stuff I collected that day proved to be too hard to have around – bad memories of my father’s anger, my mother’s bipolar mood swings.  The few things I’ve hung on to are from my own grandparents.   People my children never knew.   They are curious.   “What was this grandmother’s name?” they ask.   “What was she like?”    An interest in the family tree has emerged.   I recall old photos and family letters.   “We must go there and record these things?” they say.  Tentatively we plan a date later in the year when we will do just that.   Although I see the sense in it and can see that my kids are seeking some kind of closure I’m not looking forward to it.   Sometimes the need for healing takes us to difficult places.

The Secret Place #writephoto

  photo prompt:

Afterwards Miranda could not say what it was that made her walk down that overgrown lane on that overcast and dreary afternoon.    Lately she’d been doing odd and unpredictable things.   It wasn’t so much that she felt lost but more that she felt she’d lost something she could not describe.   On grey days such as this the feeling nagged at her until she gave into it and let her mind wander into extended periods of distracted day dreaming.

That particular day it was only when she reached the tall iron gates down Memory Lane that she realized she’d come this way many times before.   As a young child she was a frequent visitor.  Then the gates had been wide open but now they were only slightly ajar.  When she tried to open them further she found the hinges were rusty.   She had to lean her body weight against the gates to get them to move.  They groaned and clanked in protest but eventually opened enough for her to slip inside.

When she was little the garden beyond the gates was a beautiful meadow filled with sweet smelling flowers.    Back then she came to the place whenever she entered her dream world.  Some nights she would play there from bedtime till dawn for the place always made her feel good.   She’d awaken the next morning refreshed and renewed. Now the garden was entirely overgrown and weed infested.  The few flowers that bloomed were straggly and windswept.

Dismayed by the state of the place Miranda pushed her way through the tangled vegetation to the cottage she suddenly recalled.    It was a delightful place in memory.  Bright airy rooms were filled with wonderful art supplies, toys and intricate music boxes.  The bookshelves were filled with beautiful picture books and the cupboards were stacked with delicious nutritious food.   The furniture was comfortable and intricately patterned rugs lay on the polished wooden floors. Framed paintings and photographs hung upon the wall.


On this return visit she had to fight her way through the brambles to find the cottage.  ‘Who let this place go?’ she wondered.  ‘Whoever is responsible for it had been neglecting it terribly.’

When she finally stood in front of the house she she saw it had fallen into complete disrepair.  Luckily though the roof and windows were still intact.2017-06-23-13-31-12

She remembered that when she visited as a child she would unlock the door with a key she kept on a silver chain round her neck.   Now she saw the key and chain dangling from a hook beside the front door.   Anyone could have entered in her absence.    Hopefully the out of the way location meant no else had found the place.

Unlocking the door she entered with trepidation.   Would the wondrous objects she recalled still be there?   Going from room to room she found most of the toys and musical boxes had vanished.   Instead there was a huge array of electronic equipment – computers and digital devices of every description.   Unable to resist the temptation she turned some on and found they were programmed with Apps and software that would enable to do just about anything she could think of.   The Wifi connection was strong and reliable.

“This set up is better than the one I now have,” she marveled.

Moving on through the building she found everything seemed both familiar and uncanny all at once.   Most of the art supplies had dried up and the books were tattered and piled on the floor in dusty, disorganized heaps.   The rugs had become threadbare.  What little food remained in the cupboards was stale and mouldy.

It was only when she looked at the pictures on the wall that the place started to make a weird and uncomfortable sense. All the artwork displayed was stuff she’d created.    It included a few pieces that were now shoved under her bed and stuff she’d decided was no good.    There were paintings she given away and others she’d destroyed when she was down.   Looking at one she’d given to a second hand shop years ago when she was depressed she saw it was actually quite good.   At the time of disposing of it she’d thought it was hopeless.

It came to her then just what this place was.   This was the House of the Self, the secret, innermost foundation of her being, the Home of her Soul.  In all the years spent raising a family and keeping up with the demands of work she’d forgotten about it.  As she straightened a painting on the wall she realized this was what she’d lost.   It was her own calm inner centre that she’d misplaced.

It was time now to return to it.  The children had grown, her marriage had ended and she’d been made redundant.   Everything she’d worked so hard for was no more.   She received some rewards for her labours but she was worn out and emptied by the effort it had all taken.    Now it was time to reclaim her inner sanctuary, hang that key around her neck again, weed the garden, cut back the brambles and do some much needed repairs on the house.

Looking around the dusty, messy rooms she began to pick up the books, wipe the covers and replace them on the shelves.   Oddly the books were no longer the picture books of her childhood but beautiful art books, contemporary novels and current works of non-fiction.   ‘How to’ craft and technical books on subjects she had always wanted to learn about were featured.

“It’s like some of the things in this place represent the things that would make my life more fulfilling.   Others are tools and information that would it make easier to do my creative work.”   Flicking through a book of contemporary art she muttered to herself:  “I could spend some of my redundancy pay on new art supplies and books.   Some up-to- date technology would be useful too,”   she mused.    “I can’t get back the paintings I destroyed but I can acknowledge that creative expression is a vital part of my life.   I can return to my creative practice and start again.”  Thinking about the dried up art supplies scattered through the house she saw that they represented the way she’d been neglecting to do the things that made her feel truly happy and contented within herself.   The stale food represented the way she hadn’t been looking after her body properly either.

As she thought these things her back, which had been bent and achy, began to straighten.   For the first time in ages she felt she had a purpose.






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 –