Sunday, December 16, 2012

Best moment this week past

I have two. I can't choose...

I was driving home along a winding coastal road on Monday night. It was nine oclock, but dusk has barely begun. (That's how it is in Dunedin's December.) I noticed a largish bird on the road, about the size of a shag. Instead of taking flight, as I'd expected, it turned directly towards me with its feet planted, raised its head and chest and flapped its wings back and forth at my oncoming vehicle. It was an astonishing and crazy confrontation.  Car versus bird. I planted my foot on the brake, drew breath, and then saw a small baby, all fluff, scuttling past between us. Saved.

The local city choir generously opened its ranks to all-comers for a performance of the Messiah last week. I had attended three practices prior to the grand sing, bumbling my way through complex and unfamiliar sheets of scored music. Some of the established choir faced us at the performance, while we, the add-ons, sat in the front forward-facing seats, with other choir members scattered among us for vocal support. Delightfully in the thick of it, I was able to watch close up as some of older men in the choir seats, when not called on to sing, surrendered themselves to the music. Their eyes were closed, and they appeared to be deeply transported. The music was glorious, but this too was a glimpse into something sublime.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


This blog, somnolent as she has been for some time, got given a snazzy new new name this morning. JB and I were talking about the why and how of this and that, and he suggested taking a cadenza approach. I loved the fizz of it, and when my first thoughts of some exotic dance died away, I realised he was referring to this small creature. It gave me a lift, and here I am again, fossicking; happy there's a place to piece my words together, let my ideas unroll and reveal themselves.

And so to what I learnt on 24/11/12: cadenza is not a dance. It is what happens when the orchestra dies away, leaving space for an unstructured, often improvised solo performance.  (Not even a regular pulse says wikipedia.)

A space there. I'm leaving room for how much I like that. I love both bits - first the thought of what discipline and generosity is called out from those players who lower their bows. Second, the unconstrained joyous outpouring of the one musician, caught in a creative updraft. Such good things to aim for, it seems to me. The capacity to stop; to quieten and allow. And also the courage to soar, and give myself over to the invitation. (Perhaps dance does belong in the definition listings...)  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Unhurried Hands

Last weekend I unwound convulvulous tendrils from my peony plants. I carried out this exercise in liberation with slow fingers, and dare I say it, delicacy. And it struck me - I have changed! I breathe deeper right now as I think about it. Gone - well at least going, going - is the woman who tore at the garden with urgency, and at some level not too far beneath the rim of consciousness, a sense of panic. Entropy was at work, and it was my (hopeless) task to thrash away at its edges.
Watching my fingers at work on Saturday I had a realisation. I, pmm, am, actually, slowing down.
I have a stone in front of me as I write, with the word 'pace' scrawled as neatly as I could manage, in indelible pen. (It's been pointed out to me that same spelling reads (phoneticially) parchay - peace.) The stone has been sitting there for at least a year, from the time I first recognised that this was my key to living well. 2012 became the year of saying no. No quaker meetings. No blog. (Both had been joys). I would think about and be intentional in response to any invitation that wasn't part of my required life package.
Who knows how or why, but I'm starting to get it. And funnily enough, it feels like it's taking on life from down there, at the end of my arms. These marvellous bits of me that connect me to the world are easily recalled to calm. There's hope for the rest of me.

Monday, August 15, 2011


A few months before she died, my sister wrote in her journal about her 'mischievous' body. She was, until that time, very firmly ensconced in it, and it had served her well. She was a deliciously noisy presence, and had a way of winning over most people who entered her life with her generous and honest ebullience. Her body was her trusty vehicle, always, until inexplicably at 55, it started playing up. Serious mischief.

I'm thinking about this because my body is reminding me of its independent status – I hesitate to call the alteration mischievous; I prefer to think of it that the score is subtly altered, and for reasons beyond my ken or control, new notes are sounding. I’m reminded that this multi-trillion celled organism (thank you Raymond) truly is a miracle. It is me and it is not me. With all the focused will in the world, I’m unable to direct the orchestra.

I’m not talking cacophony here, just some bum notes… but I’m interested to note and name some of my responses. First reaction: mad with my body. Grrrowlll. How dare you! Then, on the weekend, tenderness. A desire to talk softly to her. To take her in my arms and treat her with loving kindness. Dissonance is teaching me some things.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nga ra o mua

I have just learnt the Maori phrase for the past. (Thank you jb.) It is nga ra o mua. Translated, it means 'what is in front'. I'll say it again... (it messes deliciously with my brain...) the past is in front of me. Of course I get the logic. My left brain can make sense of it. The past is known, has been seen and can be described, so it lies in front. The future (unseen, unknown) is in the dark, and so lies behind. But while I 'get it' in one small corner, the notion tips me over, unseats me. I think the potency is not only that it challenges my own deeply held (culturally forged) assumption that I'm facing and stepping forward into my future; I'm firing up on it also, because in my inner room not governed by logic, this front word mua says something true about what I've been experiencing.

Perhaps it's a feature of being a particular age - but I notice that my past is rising to meet to me at unexpected junctures. Suddenly I'm connecting with a memory. The sounds, the smells, the feelings take on a shape that asks again for a place in me. Marylinn's recent blog spoke of something similar in her experience. In her post she talks about russian dolls as a way to make sense of those layers of life lived. I love this notion of nested selves - and wonder if one of the 'tasks' of this part of our lived life is about learning to embrace each part that's out of kilter - any doll that's needing renestling.

As part of my training, I remember being taken through a visualisation exercise. As group members, we were invited in our own minds to recall ourselves as a child at a particular age; to picture all that I could of me (it was surprisingly not very difficult) - the hair clip, the ankle length white sox, the buckled shiny shoes, the blue and white waisted frock with its lace trimmed collar... Then our trainer asked us take ourselves as adults into the imaginative frame, to draw the child to ourselves in any way that felt appropriate, and to speak a message from our older self - the one who has lived much of this child's future. It was a powerful, and clearly memorable experience for me and for the others with me. Now as I remember it in light of the theme I'm with today, I start to wonder about the bigger babushka that lies ahead (or behind) in my future. What would her words to me be? They're my words; perhaps I'm getting a sense of them already. I'm listening, Pam.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sharing the load

There's a new move afoot in me. Not visible to the naked eye, but about to be made public(ish) here on my blog. Something has nudged me out of my old moorings, and I'm having an interesting time, playing with new ways to inhabit my own skin. My relationship with my body has always been an on-again off-again affair. Tight as a glove (or a slim pink pump) in my early years when - to the amazement of my family - I even skipped home at seven years old with a silver ballet cup in hand. A few years later I was walking on my hands at will, leaping backward on beams and performing all manner of brave or foolhardy bodily contortions.

After that, well, the body and the being took up a more ambivalent relationship, falling in and out of sync. I'd always held fast to the fantasy that deep down in me there was a wellspring of grace, like a smooth liquid mineral store, just waiting to be released, with the right, um, something. But mostly any flow between me and matter was something that got captured into poems or songs, while the body simply bumbled along. I've had a few goes at connecting us up. There was a period when I greeted all my corporeal bits in a meditative act of gratitude before going to sleep. It was a good thing to do, but for whatever reason, wound down, as other good things begun, have been wont to do. It seems in the end it was a conversation that took place from inside my own head. (I'm reminded of a funny quote from Ken Robinson's tedtalk where he talks about academics who use their bodies to take their heads to meetings...)

New paragraph for the new venture - I'm discovering the focus is starting to shift. I'm not sure what the prompt is, but somehow the conscious node has started to move south, and seems perfectly willing to travel about in this body of mine. I'm intrigued to listen out for what parts of my body might be saying. Some parts are bemused; some are humming; others are silent (where did the voice of my shoulders get to?) There's a a realisation, as I head for 60, that this whole organism of mine/me truly is a temporary garment, and it behooves me to get to know it, from the inside out. It's actually quite a relief.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Moving closer

In the flurry and chaos of my work day yesterday, preparing for a workshop, I came across the footage that I've pasted as a link below. I found it deeply moving, watching elephants in the presence of death. I was struck by their solemn and tender response to the remains - the way they step towards the physicality of death, not away from it. Seeing them fondling the bones - the act seemed both sacred and intimate. Some might say I'm anthropomorphosing here, but the sight of them made me weep.
This morning, preparing to leave my warm cave for the chilly Dunedin outdoors, I donned a jacket which I recently picked up from my sister Annie's home, when I visited for her ashes ceremony in March. In the pocket I found her gloves - doubtless last worn by her own, still achingly familiar hands. With the elephants fresh in my memory, I uncurled them from each other, turned them over, touched them with reverence, pulled them onto my fingers, kissed them...