Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Perhaps I am not alone in this: I have a yearning to play beautiful music. It swells in my breast. I am a lovelorn Victorian maiden. I feel melancholy, I am filled with anticipation. Will my beloved meet me? ... This longing has been blossoming for years. It has seeded in the heart of a woman who is also unnaturally gifted in the art of resistance. I look with wonder, and some envy, as my partner flows to the piano like a bee to a flower, and sits for hours until a bodily need or wifely demand topples him from his stool. I know there is music in me. I ache with it. At times it pours into my hands. My fingers grow fat with a longing to draw honey from the keyboard. To suckle until the magic moment when that instrument can do nothing else but let-down with the sweetest of milk. I start to see now that we are in relationship, whether refusing or succumbing to the love call. It is mute when I am mute. If we are to make music we need one another: I cannot play without it; it cannot play without me. Tonight I sat down with a book. I played three inversions of two chords again and again and again. I stumbled about, brow furrowed, as the author of my jazz book called on me to start improvising on a five note pentatonic scale. A what? I have begun.

Friday, December 11, 2009

perfect imperfect

A woman I know who potted for many years passed on a gift to me in conversation. She told me about the singing cup - the object that emerges from the kiln so 'just right' that it sings. I've loved having a metaphor for this encounter with perfection. The notion that things are informed by spirit; that they shape up in cooee of an alignment, and sometimes reach that golden mean, at which point some irrepressible harmonics are pinged off. The flip side of this blog - and possibly the motivation for writing it - is that life is mostly messy. Wonky handles and bottoms that don't sit flat. At some level my life has been an uneasy ongoing non-verbalised interchange between me and stuff. I kick off my shoes with abandon, yet part of me wants the shoe family under my bed to line up and sing. I state my intention to make peace with the line in my recently laid carpet, but I still catch my breath at the threshold. I long for the day that my notes, journals, quotes, workshop jottings are ordered, but I routinely add another to the pile of indistinguishable warehouse stationery notebooks. Is there a song too in the muddle .. in the marred vessel that is PM and her world. Leonard Cohen says: "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Perhaps this is my call to forget the perfect offering ...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Digging the dirt

My Pen friend, who is an explorer of things astrological, tells me I have no earth in my mix. I am unsure whether to feel short-changed or special. I am also unclear whether this great whack of other elemental influences leaves me with a compensatory job to do in this life. Would it be soulishly good for me to get more dirt under my fingernails; to fork the compost; to talk to my vegetables. It is true that I am growing to love my garden; I love the way it keeps delivering up new and ever-changing displays of colour and form. My confession is that I have no, and I mean no interest in harvesting food. In an act of compliance with all that I reckon I should (of course) do, I have prepared a plot, with 100 percent contribution from my seaweed hunting, pig poo dumping daughter, and a month or two ago I planted some vegies. Tellingly, I didn't plant the plastic descriptors, and there are some I can't recognise. Now I visit it only occasionally, driven by a sense of duty. I have little hope or expectation of produce. My fingers would far rather be tapping on this key board than dangling in the soil. Am I resisting the opportunity to align more deeply? Would the greening of my thumbs nourish my soul as well as my body? Would I be a better ecofriend? In my piscean way, I would rather float on the questions than dig for the answer.

Friday, November 27, 2009


A person close to me, who is unlikely to ever view this blog, has a magical and unsettling relationship with matter. Things disappear, then reappear. It would be easy to blame this improbable phenomena on faulty perception, due to her many summers. I know better, because I too experience this mystifying reality. The person in question rationalises it, with a feather of mirth and a pendulum weight of conviction, as the work of a thief. It is a family tradition. Her own mother talked of having undergarments stolen by a fellow resident in the old people's home, then was further amazed at the cheek of the woman when she returned them to the same drawer. I laugh, and I don't laugh. I have the sombre knowledge within me that my day will come when antimatter eats even more of my stuff, and I start to attribute it to others, in an effort to make sense of it. My current looseness around existential mysteries means I am able to go with the flow. To accept that things will come and things will go. That the sock, the earring, the keys, are changing their nature, all simply as a manifestation of the inexplicable of life. Physics has reassuringly discovered that all substance is energy. That things would be visible sometimes, and not at others, make sense. Kind of.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's the word?

For almost as long as I can remember, I have have felt an urge for community. And accompanying this pull, for nearly the duration, there has been a hint of shame, or shyness, that it should be so. Surely this was an odd thing. A desire that one confessed to, rather than celebrated. Autonomy, self-efficacy, independence, even inter-dependence - these were healthy aspirations. But the longing for tribal connections ... you grow out of those things, don't you? Well, not me! There - it's out. The truth is that I mourn for something. Something I think we may have lost in the crazy diaspora of the last two of three centuries. I have roots in me; I know this because I feel their ache for the old soil. Locked into this weird and knowing DNA of mine there is a memory, so it seems, for living differently. Living in a smaller, more constant, more familiar and connected world of people. There is an African saying (exact origin unknown) - 'I am because we are'. Perhaps this is a universal truth. I know it each time I re-experience the joy of linking with friends to talk about our lives and share stories. I was delighted recently to learn the word homonomy. I was told it meant the desire for community. Aha. My visceral instinct was now named and tamed. I embraced the terminology and its meaning. More recently still, I've found, or not found, its source. I can't find the word in the dictionary - it's simply not there. So I wrap a blog post around it instead.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just listen

Listen more often to things than to beings. These are the opening lines of a song that my small group of a cappella friends and I have sung, possibly hundreds of times. The song, called Breaths, is inspired by a poem by Senegalese poet Birago Diop and reminds us that the dead are not under the earth; they inhabit the fire, the woman's breast, the rocks, the crowd. And we are to listen. To hear them. I've been giving some thought to this idea of listening. Unlike seeing or tasting, listening, it seems to me, is an act of engagement. Something is 'speaking' from within or without, and as we tune in, so we listen. I 'listened', without conscious intentionality, when I crossed onto Scottish soil for the first time four years ago. Scotland is the cradle and burial ground of all of my ancestors, and I was curious at that sense of a call 'home'. What surprised me was the potency of my response. I felt it in my very cells. Something was speaking to me; I in return was listening. Listening as an act of communication has been further highlighted for me by reading Martin Buber. He writes of the I-Thou dialogue, which is expressed in both spoken and unspoken ways when we truly connect with another. It lies at the heart of the ongoing Divine conversation; it is also, he believes, a way in which we can meet with one another. Can we aspire to listen more deeply and well? Or do we simply allow it to happen? Perhaps I need to forget the questions, and, as the final echoing line of the song says - just listen ... just listen ... just listen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rhythm and blues

The first time my heart pumped too hard I was pregnant with my first child. I was told to take it easy, put my feet up and to come in for regular checks. Twenty years later it happened again. I was out out of rhythm. My challenge: to find my way back to the good beat, where pulse and impulse could slip into slow dance mode. The problem, I suspect, was my inclination to, well, not take it easy. And so I've been returning over the years, in a rather cyclical way, to the question of rhythms. What is the undriven rhythm? I hear the whack of a slow turning skip rope, and see myself, in small scuffed Clark shoes, waiting for my moment - the one where I leap into the gap, then relax into that slow, steady and seemingly endless pattern. Whack, hop, whoosh, one, two, three, whack, hop, whoosh... There would seem to be a clue in there for harnessing - or unharnessing- the heart. Another rhythmical insight came to me when I sought out a new remedy for a troublesome ankle and calf. I booked in for a lymphatic drainage, and, prone on the massage table, learned that this body system had a life of its own under the skin, with a five hourly rhythm. From there my mind has moved onward and outward to consider ever-diminishing rhythms. There's the diurnal rhythm, the one that will soon be calling me to bed. And it strikes me that if seasons are manifest in so many other organic beings, they are very likely having their say in me as well. I'm slowing down. Rhythm - you win!

Friday, November 13, 2009


Sad things catch your throat. I'm not sure where the glad things get you, but I'll have the chance to work on finding out over the next couple of weeks. There's a flower blooming outside my kitchen window. It's blue. Not the blue of granny bonnets or irises or forget-me-nots. It's the blue of water or sky as they start their march through the colour spectrum on a warm day. These mornings I stride out the kitchen door, I slow down, I look. I'm happy. Follow-up message to self: if a thing gets you, take note. Perhaps it's asking to be got. I spent years admiring drifts of blue poppies in the botanical gardens before the slow, slow dawning that maybe this astonishing plant could flourish in my own back yard. My first two plantings wilted and composted before buds could form. This spring, another go. Could this breath-catching blue bloom in my garden? Yes!
p.s. mid- sternum, third rib from the top.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Figure and ground

I'm not hot on languages, as are others in my close orbit, but a non-English word entered my unspoken vocab recently which has opened up my way of seeing. The word is 'va'. It is a Samoan word and is used commonly in the phrase 'le teu la va'. Its meaning: cherish the space. My gleanings and conversations inform me that this is not the space that separates people, (as in 'I need my space!'), but rather, the space that connects them. Not the you, not the me, not the you and me, but the invisibly filled space that connects us into a relationship.  For me a penny has dropped. Like Rubin's image that is both facial profiles and a vase, depending on perception, I have been reminded that there is this non-tangible essential 'other bit' (oh the english language!) that is intrinsic to relationship. As the Samoan tradition reminds us, we are wise to cherish it. 

          Illustion Face or Vase

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Greetings someone, or no-one, or my two dear friends (seasoned bloggers you!) It seems I have passed through the portal. It took three breaths and here I am, filling the text box. One more decision, a flick on the cursor, a click, and I'll be out there. The slow leg of the journey (apart from the months of considering whether I would join the ranks) has been to choose a name. It started half an hour ago. If I were to have a blog, what would I call it? Perhaps oddly, with spring fattening around me, my first visitor is the word deciduous. A good fit, I think. Leaves coming, turning, going and coming again, The cycle of change. I look up and discover the origin of the word is decidere: to fall off or down. No thanks. I rock my right brain (in a hammocky fashion) and let ideas slurp about. Aha. Cadence. Here is rhythm again - albeit a faster one, modulation (warm voices), the sweet resolution of a musical phrase. I'm happy. I flick across to Present participle of cadere: to fall. So be it.