Includes book reviews and bits from writer's journal. For the professional stuff, see website link below left.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Focusing on Joy — with Startling Effects

Strange things happen when you do one of Satya Robyn's courses! They are quite low-key in the way they're presented — one reason I like them; I so hate gung-ho. They are gentle, seemingly undemanding. The daily emails are wise in a down-to-earth kind of way, with beautiful quotations and illustrations. They are easy to digest, non-threatening. Yet the effects are profound.

The one I am doing this month is about joy. We are encouraged to examine it in various ways, which include noticing what gets in the way of it. Simple practices are suggested. I am only doing two: writing a daily 'small stone' about something that gives me joy if only for a moment, and going for a walk in nature each day. The latter is not difficult where I live, but it's nice to do it mindfully, paying attention.

I think the bits of writing I'm doing are nothing earth-shattering. They are not great literature, and reveal no unusual insights. I post them to my blog and facebook writer's page anyway, but I have been wondering why I bother.

Then yesterday, sitting in the writers' group I have been facilitating with great pleasure for the last seven years, it dawned on me that I have come to the end of that. This is momentous; it has been a huge part of my life. I said nothing, came home and thought about it — only briefly before I noticed how alive the idea of moving on made me feel. I'm ready to embrace the unknown. 

It's not that there's anything wrong with the group; it's great! It's just that my time as facilitator has completed itself. Even good things come to an end. It's not a disaster in any way. Several possible replacements for me are showing up, and I expect to remain friends with people in the group. I am also looking forward to more time for my own writing, and to having freedom from the responsibilities my role has involved. They weren't arduous, in fact were enjoyable, but they were a tie. It seems I'm lightening up. I talk about my decision, and my friends say, 'Well, you sound very happy about it.'

I don't quite know how Satya's course helped precipitate this. Perhaps just by having me pay attention to joy, to how it operates in my life. I suspect the decision has been percolating away subconsciously for some time; the course didn't cause it. But, in heightening my awareness, it did enable me to become conscious of what shape joy might take for me now.


Monday, December 09, 2013

Is This the End of Year Doldrums?

I'm engaged in a month of writing about joy — supposedly. It's a course I'm doing, and so far the daily emails seem to be all about an absence of joy and how to compensate for that. Which is right on target really, as although I still take pleasure in life, true joy is hard to find nowadays.

I'm circling back through the stages of grief, and the depressed stage is here again. I know I'm lucky it's only mild, but even that sucks.

It seems to me the writing suffers for it. I do my 'small stone' dutifully each day, mindfully looking outside myself. It works up to a point, to take me out of myself, but I think the writing lacks verve. 

I even share my blog posts on facebook each day, because I set up a writer's page. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I may have lost rather than gained readers by it, as not everyone on my friends list has subscribed to the page. (On the other hand, maybe the ones who didn't weren't reading my literary endeavours anyway.) In any case, I think the writing this month is pretty banal. I also think my 'poem a day' last month was fairly ordinary to boot. Why would anyone want to keep reading this stuff, I ask myself. I'm grateful that people do, but I wonder how long they can be bothered.

I think it must be time to stop with the prompts and things, and do some serious revision instead. I always promise myself this and then fail to tackle it. I have a chapbook that's been languishing for a year! And so many more possibilities.

I just gave some opinions on a friend's poems for a potential book. She writes wonderfully — but I thought some of this lot weren't up to standard. Maybe it's just my general lack of enthusiasm for anything at the moment. But I was reminded of something Mal Morgan said to me years ago about one of my poems: 'It's not telling me anything new.' Does it matter how well written something is if it doesn't strike the reader as new and fresh? Opinions we can comfortably agree with are for Facebook status updates, not poems. 

Well, it's not wrong to inspire a reader to agreement, but hopefully as an 'Ah!' of delighted recognition, not as something they might easily have said themselves.

Hard to know, perhaps, what readers might consider 'ho-hum'. I guess one way is to keep posting and see what comments I get. 

I think I'm due for a holiday, and luckily I'm getting one fairly soon. Then — new year resolution — no more daily writing for a while, and no more subject prompts either. I might do some form prompts. I like playing around with form. But mostly, time to really revise at last.

I am also wondering about the wisdom of having transferred my writer's journal here to my personal blog. Seemed sensible to reduce the ridiculous number of blogs I keep. But now I am thinking, here is more blah that people won't really care to read, so why am I inflicting it on them? A lot of the time — like now — it's really just me talking to me about what's going on with my writing. Ah well, they can always stop reading, I guess. They're free to choose.

Meanwhile, yes, I think I'm in some kind of doldrums all right.


Monday, December 02, 2013

Importing My Writer's Journal Here

I've been keeping a writer's journal, full of writing exercises (i.e. results thereof) and the occasional reflection on process and/or report on progress. Not, perhaps, of much interest to anyone else, but I've regarded it as semi-public just in case. It was always intended mainly for my own reference. For instance, a lot of writing exercises throw up material which could be useful in those memoirs I'm so slowly creating.

But I have this ridiculous number of blogs, so have decided to merge it with this one, and have labelled all its posts accordingly, as 'writer's journal' and many also as 'writing exercises'. This will enable you to avoid them if you think they'll bore you — or look at them if you wish.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Now I'm Writing Poetry for Children

At least, I hope so. As a former children's librarian, I know that writing for children is one of the hardest things a writer can do. The cardinal rule I learned is that a good children's book is one that adults enjoy too. The great trap in writing for children is to talk down to them. Kids aren't stupid; they can tell, and they hate it. I wouldn't on purpose, but what if I do it unconsciously? I'm not around kids very often these days. I might have forgotten how to talk to them.

But no. The way to talk to kids is to know that they're people. I've always got on well with them for just that reason. 'She meets them at their own level,' a kindergarten teacher said about me once — not so; I assume they are at mine. Children's author Michael Dugan advised that you don't necessarily have to modify your language —  it's the concept you have to get right for the age group. If children understand the concept, he said, they will understand the language.

Two of my poems from years ago, The Day We Lost the Volkswagen and Vagabond, have both been published in anthologies for schoolchildren. They were written for adults and just happen to work for kids too. My late great friend and mentor, the poet Barbara Giles, asked if she could submit them for the first of the anthologies and I agreed. (The second anthology asked permission after seeing it in the first.) Barbara then suggested I try writing for children  — 'at the risk of raising a rival', she said — and gave me the (usually unshared) name of her London editor who dealt with such material. But, what with one thing and another, I never took up her kind suggestion.

A while back, in response to a prompt, a fun thing bubbled up and wrote itself. The Bees' Knees was not specifically written for children either, and adults love it — but I saw that children would probably enjoy it too. And so, with Robert Lee Brewer of Poetic Asides hosting his usual November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge right now, I decided to try for a book of verse for children. Already it's scary, at only two days in! But if I don't try, I might not fail but neither can I succeed.

It's uncharted territory. For sure children like rhyme and metre, but will they also respond to free verse? I hope so! My first poem of the series insisted on being written that way. The second topic lent itself to rhyme, and I managed a sort of rough four-beat rhythm.

And what age group am I aiming for? Who knows? But if it has to appeal to adults too, then perhaps I won't worry too much about that. Perhaps it can have broad appeal.

Many years ago now, I participated in a poetry reading in Hobart when I was visiting. The organisers graciously gave me the spot after the star, Gwen Harwood, who read something so brilliant and beautiful that the only way I could think of to follow it successfully was to change the mood entirely and do a punchy performance piece. I chose The Volkswagen. Afterwards a father brought his young daughter up to ask for my autograph. She was very excited because her teacher used one of the school anthologies it was in, and she loved it. A great moment for me — and it showed me that the publishers were right: the poem did work for kids. (She was maybe seven.)

I don't have to put all 30 poems in a chapbook, of course. I can't imagine that all of them will be good enough. On the other hand, as I don't seriously expect to win, I could add more poems to it if I like, and make it something bigger than a chapbook. I certainly should include the three I've mentioned above.

This leaves aside questions of where and how to find a publisher and market for such a volume. But first, let's see if I even have what it takes. I'm about to find out. Wish me luck, folks!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ha Ha, I'm Famous!

Sherry at Poets United just interviewed me for the 'Life of a Poet' series. Read it here. As well as asking searching questions about my poetic history, she drew me out on the subject of witchcraft and also about my love story with Andrew.

Dietary Change — an exciting (to me) decision

Decided to go vegan. I'm practically there anyway. Just have to drop eggs, fish and chicken, which in fact I eat only occasionally. Also I already eat fresh organic as much as possible.  A while ago I thought seafood would be a wrench — but with the oceans now so polluted, it's a great deal less appealing.

My body has stopped tolerating dairy, fatty foods, and sugars including honey and most fruits. I feel better than I had in years and am losing weight at a steady, gradual pace. I am drinking green tea and herbal teas; no more coffee, can't stand the taste these days.

When I was drinking coffee, I drank it black for at least four decades. For other purposes I have used oat milk for years, as Andrew could not have dairy. We were always semi-vegetarian anyway, eating mostly legumes and tofu for protein, and a lot of nuts. I have been on a Calcium supplement for ages, and will be adding Vitamin B, particularly B12.

So this really is only a small step.

But the health reasons are secondary in this decision. I was just reminded of how cruel the slaughter industries are, and that even eating eggs and dairy is responsible for the torture of living creatures. Have never felt all that comfortable with the killing anyway, in cases where it is not strictly necessary. I do not NEED animal protein for my survival.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Daily Practice

Natalie (Goldberg, my favourite writer for writers) says (in The True Secret of Writing, her most beautiful book to date):

"There are many ways to meditate. Whatever opens us, softens the heart, makes us alive to this human world and helps us to bear it is our path."

I do sit and meditate in the usual way, most days, at some point. Ideally it's early in the day, and now that the weather is rapidly warming up, that will have to be the case if I want to do it outside. I love to do that, in my cherished back yard surrounded by greenery. Meditating indoors just doesn't feel the same.

Journalling afterwards opens me too. But today I wasn't early enough. Already it's getting too warm out here to be quite comfortable. 

I was up early as usual, thanks to the cats. They wanted breakfast at 5, but I told them to wait and turned over to snooze. They're very good. They stopped miaowing and cuddled up next to me on the bed until I roused again at 6. After I fed them I went out and watered the garden, thankful that we have no water restrictions here and that it's a quiet cul-de-sac where I can go outside in my pyjamas and it doesn't matter. Usually no-one sees me at all, and if they did, it still wouldn't matter. 

I am still in them. That's part of the trouble, part of the discomfort. I need to shower early these warm mornings, and get into a sarong if I'm staying home, a caftan if I'm going out. The nights are still a little cool — though I removed two blankets last night and packed them away — and my tween-seasons PJs are soon too warm as the day goes on.

Still, it's pleasant here. I began this habit of meditating and journalling last year, when Andrew was already booked into respite care for a fortnight, as part of the 'Writing As Spiritual Practice' course. It began the week before he went in. I continued through that fortnight and after he came home. Coincidentally the final day of the course was the same day he ended up in hospital and never came home again.

I interrupted this writing to check on the dates. That led to re-reading some of those journal entries, which made me cry. But it is salutary to remind myself of those times, when life was so very difficult for us both. I don't know how we got through it all so well, but we did. We were both extremely brave, I perceive, rising to the immense challenges, fairly good-tempered most of the time in the face of it all, and sustained by our love.  

And yes — as I keep coming back to — it could not have gone on. The timing was right.

It was also wonderful timing for me to take that course — to meditate, journal, and engage with my spirit. These practices helped me in that saddest of times, and since. Thank you, Universe. I am well looked after.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

At Sunset

I'm sitting on my front veranda for a change. It's nearly sunset, and the back yard is already too shadowy to see well to write, with its surrounding trees and overhanging roof.

This spot in the front is where Andrew often used to sit, but not the same chair. After he died, I had time to notice how rusted that one had become from being out in the weather. I've replaced it with a nice, solid wooden one I found in a hard rubbish collection. The wood was already weather-worn to grey when I found it, but not broken or crumbling. It's more comfortable than the old chair was. 

I've been out all afternoon, and went for my evening walk after I got home, so now my feet are relaxing in my fluffy purple slippers.

The cats have come out to join me. They like lying on the front steps, with or without human company. I, too, enjoy surveying the street from on high. This is a slightly sloping block; the ones either side are flatter. Mine is the only house built up off the ground. It's like the house I grew up in, in Launceston, one storey in front, two at the back. But here it's the other way around: the high part is in front, overlooking the street. What is under it, though, is just the space under the house, where tradesmen can crawl to check phone lines and drains, and where a very shy, quiet possum lives. The house in Launceston, on a steeper block, had rooms downstairs, giving onto the huge back lawn and beyond that my father's veggie garden.

When I went down the hill just now for my walk, a kid was playing a recorder inside one of the houses, practising for homework. How many Aussie kids are doing that after school tonight, in how many suburbs all over the country? I like the sound. It takes me back to my little brother practising his, and then to my sons piping away on theirs. They had the music, my brother and my sons. It skipped me, but I still like to listen.

The crickets have started up. The mountains opposite have gone from indigo to dark grey-blue. There's a faint, thin line of pink light along their tops, barely distinguishable from the whitening sky into which it fades. A notice comes up on my iPad: I have updates for the evening edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. Time to go in.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Walking and Breathing

I set out for my walk half an hour ago, and relished the clean air which my lungs took in so effortlessly. At the end of the day, it was pleasantly cool yet with a hint of sunlight: the air of early Spring. What a delight, this sensation, this easy act of drawing in breath. 

Somehow everything settled down into place. Past, present and future came together. I recalled Andrew and me arriving in the Caldera 19 years ago, full of anticipation; our joy in the surroundings, the lifestyle, the people we met. How well we settled in! How easily and sweetly it all happened. How boundless was our joie de vivre.

It certainly was the right place for us, then and ever after. He'd always been a city boy, but small town life suited him too, as much as it did me, who grew up that way. Being here was never boring for us. How could it be, with such a thriving community of creatives, healers and spiritual folk; and such powerful natural beauty everywhere? 

We were more adventurous then than later, particularly him. We used to go all over the place -- up to Nerang to meet with the creator of a new energy clearing product; down to Lismore for a night of theatre, or to the Gold Coast Art Centre or Brisbane's South Bank; to Byron Bay and Mullumbimby to shop, as well as Tweed Heads and Coolangatta. We had two favourite restaurants in Coolangatta, and another favourite in Kingscliff. We attended the Brisbane Writers' Festival and the one at Byron Bay. We belonged to two different library systems at the same time. We saw great musicals and art exhibitions. We swam. We walked in the bush. He climbed Mt Warning. 

Somehow, walking this evening and breathing in Spring, things came full circle for me in a strange kind of way. I felt all over again the rightness of our coming here to live. It was as if the air carried it into me, reminding me -- no, taking me back to that beginning and reconnecting me to it. Even though I am now alone, it is still the right place for me to be. And I know we played out our lives together here in a good way, with more delight and excitement than we would have found in Melbourne (though we did all right there too).

So many couples retire to this part of the world and then find themselves isolated and lonely without their familiar surroundings and established support systems. It wasn't like that for us. But of course, those others retire to Surfer's Paradise and the like, not to daggy little old country towns. We came to this small community and found so many new friends that now, 19 years later, I find people I know everywhere I go. I'm always bumping into people to hug!

And I go on in this community as connected to Andrew, in other people's perception as well as my own. When people ask how I am these days, they mean, 'How are you coping since losing him?' They are glad I'm doing OK, and they remember all his good years, and us as a couple. It's nice to know I am not the only carrier of those memories.

I am on my own but not alone.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Meditation with Lizard

I'm late to meditate today. Luckily I am well-trained, not to empty my mind but to step back and be the observer of it — and to stay in meditation mode despite extraneous noises. It's a loud, busy afternoon in this usually quiet corner of the suburb. The man over the side fence is coughing, someone nearby is slamming a door, a bird is shrieking repeatedly. 

I meditate anyway, observing all this dispassionately, and observing my thoughts when they wander away from focusing on my breath. (Yes, I have a mantra, but after decades of use it has become stale. Instead of taking me deeper, it allows the monkey mind to become very active. So I am using a different focus now.) I observe how calm and happy I feel, and have been feeling all day.

That's so good, I think. I am able to have the sense that Andrew is nearby and not be upset by it but just think of him as being 'in the next room', as they say. Then, as soon as I contemplate his closeness in spirit, I start to cry about his physical absence. This always happens. Better not to become too conscious of him, even in happy ways. Better to let such awareness be a background to my life. I observe these thoughts and reactions and bring my attention back to my breath. I feel calm and happy once more.

When I come out of meditation, the bird shrieks and there's a sudden flurry. I see what I think is a coocal bird flying onto a branch. But then it stays so still for so long, I realise it must be one of the big lizards that live around here. It's light brown and banded, and must be at least as long as my arm — perhaps a Monitor, or a very big Water Dragon. It lies along the branch, and I take a number of photos with my iPad, hoping it will show up in them — it's so well camouflaged. [Later: No, it doesn't, even after editing the photos to try for greater clarity.] After a while I begin to wonder if it's really a branch and I'm deceiving myself. Maybe it was a bird, that flew through the branches and away. I stay in my meditation chair to write. If I shift to my writing table I won't see, if it is indeed a lizard and it moves.

I look up, and it's gone! I didn't see or hear it disappear. Clearly it was a lizard; the branch looks very different now. While I stare, it takes a sudden hop along a lower branch. I see it in that moment, big tail swaying slightly as it jumps, then it is hidden behind a thick clump of leaves. OK, I move to my writing table. 

Then I realise it's time to stop writing; to take in the washing; to go for my late afternoon walk. I lead a quiet, ordinary life. I relish it.




















Perfectly camouflaged lizard on branch, approx. centre. 
You might just be able to make it out.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pleasing Myself
















I dreamed we would sit out here together, him and me, in our peaceful back yard. If we ever did, it wasn't often. Maybe once or twice, early on — since moving here at the start of 2010. But that's why there are two chairs. Now there is only one small coffee table between them; there used to be a long, low one in front and the chairs were side by side. I think we did do it, once or twice.

He needed to get some sun, for his Vitamin D, after he started resting indoors so much of the time. The back yard is shaded. For a dutiful 20 minutes he would sit out on the front verandah instead — a tiny space at the top of the steps. There was room for one chair, which either one of us used if we were out there singly. If we were both there, I gave him the chair and I sat on the top step, my back against the railing. Usually the two cats would join us, each taking one of the lower steps.

Now the cats and I are sad, but adjusting. They do still join me if I sit out the front, but seldom when I'm here out the back in the mornings, meditating. Mornings are sleep time for them, after breakfast. They wake up at lunch time, and may then decide to make their stately way outside.

In the summer, which is coming fast, I'll be glad this back yard is well shaded. I sit here alone — as I did, too, when he was alive and keeping to his bed — and relish the beauty. 

Yet I feel wistful that we never got to sit out here together very much, with cuppas and books, companionably. Nor did we, come to think of it, at other houses. We thought we'd do so at our second Pottsville home; it had a lovely back verandah with garden. But we had neighbours who, despite being nice people and good neighbours, used to converse mostly by yelling, and couldn't get the idea of toning it down. It was fine when we were indoors, but sure ruined pleasant times on our verandah!

And in the other homes, I would as like as not use my verandah-sitting for free writing, as I'm doing now — well, not quite as now; I used a paper notebook and a pen (iPads had not been invented) — while he would be at his desk, working on his computer, writing too. 

'You are both very driven people,' our psychologist once observed — not judgmentally, but as descriptive fact. Yes, we were: always driven by the urge to write, to network, to advance spiritually, to heal and empower others, to leave the world better than we found it — all those things, but above all the writing. And of course I still am.

I don't now experience it as bring driven, however. It's just what I do. Now that I am on my own, it's not quite so hard to squeeze it into the time available. Also I am more relaxed about it now, and about everything. A year after his death, I am still recovering from the stress and work of those last years. My body and psyche have slowed right down. And I finally have the realisation that I don't have to rush and push and bust a gut. If I don't write a poem today, I might write one tomorrow. Heck, I'm so prolific, I've got hundreds of poems already written. I never have to write another. I shall, though, when I feel like it. The only urgency will be the poem's demand to be created.

Life has become about enjoying myself, doing what I like. I have long held to the 'follow your joy [bliss/excitement]' rule for living. Now I am even freer to do that. 

This principle guides me well.

Coming Back

I haven't posted here very much over the last coupla years. First I was immersed in caring for my husband, who became less and less able to look after himself — losing mobility and also developing (thankfully mild) Alzheimer's. I created a special blog to record that journey, Shifting Fog. After he died (a year ago) I blogged about my new journey in The Widowhood Chronicles. And now, a year later, I have finalised that blog too.

I may well have more to say about being widowed, but it's no longer new to me and I think all the revelations have been covered. So I am bringing myself back here, to my first blog at this profile. The others can remain as archives, and I do plan to turn The Widowhood Chronicles into a book — perhaps not with that name.

My poetry blogs have continued during this period, and I have recently amalgamated most of them into the main one, The Passionate Crone. The only one that is still separate is Stones for the River, which is specifically for 'mindful writing', mostly but not necessarily in verse.

And there are a few others — a writer's journal, a memoir, Andrew's old blogs which I now manage and have plans for....  SnakyPoet, though, is my all-purpose personal blog, for the stuff that won't fit into a facebook status update or a tweet. I hope you're still interested, dear readers!


Monday, September 09, 2013

The Barbarians Are at the Gates

In fact, they're inside them and running the country.

Australia has a new government. Can you tell that I didn't vote for them?

In fact I didn't vote for the previous government either — I voted Green. But the Greens don't have enough support to form a government, and the government that's just been kicked out had somewhat better policies — most of them, anyway — than the one that's just been elected.

It's enough to make me question (if only for a moment) the sacred principle of compulsory voting.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Career: Writer – Author






I am sitting in a courtyard at Crystal Creek Primary School, at a small table with a display of materials to do with writing — books for writers; books by me and Andrew; samples of zines and other cheaply produced, self-published books; handouts about writing; my Kobo e-reader; paper and pens and an invitation to write a few lines on something they like and why they like it; some pocket-size notebooks (the paper kind); and me writing on my iPad. I am wearing my Austin International Poetry Festival T-shirt, that I got when I was a featured reader there in 2006.

Behind and around me are tables with a pilot, a welfare worker, a naturopath, a credit union representative, someone from Southern Cross University, and others too distant for me to read their labels. Mine is Writer – Author. Some teacher has written a little blurb to say that this requires things like good powers of observation, good grammar and correct spelling. 

A few minutes ago, after we got set up, hordes of kids and a few parents and teachers poured from the main building. The noise level now is high.  

And that was the last I wrote for a while. I haven't been inundated but several kids and quite a few parents who write have had a chat. I'm giving the parents the hand-outs too, and also my card. 

Lots of kids are now carrying balloons bearing the name of a local real estate agent. One tiny girl dressed as a fairy asked me, 'Can I have a bag?' She didn't seem too cast down when I said I didn't have any, just fluttered off to find someone who did.

My 'write a few lines' thing isn't madly popular. The little kids are keener than the older ones to have a go.  The last one wrote with great confidence something I can't decipher!

Some come out of curiosity, or because their teachers or parents told them to. The real writers are glad to talk about what they like to write. Few have questions, other than to ask what I've written. I find myself saying over and over that the beauty of being a writer is that you can have another job if you like and still be a writer as well. The girl who lives across the road from me, a student here, who invited me to come, wants to be a vet and to write as well. One of the boys I met today loves to write stories (not just for school) and wants to be a mechanic.

I am gently subverting the notion that one's English must be perfect in order to be a writer. 'Good grammar is great,' I say, 'And being able to spell. But if you can't, don't worry — that's what editors are for.' And if they hesitate at the blank page, I say, 'I'm not a schoolteacher. Write whatever you like.' This invariably produces a grin and a moving pen.

The organisers gave all the careers people a small bottle of water and a piece of fruit. I chose a mandarin — a bit messy, as it turned out. We also received a Certificate of Appreciation, in a plastic bag which I was able to use for my rubbish instead.

Lots of people have been taking photos, some of them apparently for the press. I asked a passing mum, at the beginning, if she'd snap me. (See above.) 

A father whose daughter has a vocation for writing asked if I'd be interested in taking part in the writers' section of the big Ukitopia festival at Uki in November. I am. I gave him my card.

And again I became too busy to write. Now I'm home after the event. What a delightful morning! The children were polite, friendly, natural. All the teachers looked happy and spoke warmly. They laid on morning tea for us afterwards and I found out over a cuppa and biscuit that it wasn't just Crystal Creek school, though that's where it was held; they had combined with five of the other tiny schools round about. Judging by the demeanour of the teachers, small classes must be very fulfilling.

When Andrew and I first moved to this unit at the beginning of 2010, two little girls across the road, from different families, took a shine to us. They liked our cats, who liked them too. Then they created a 'street newspaper' by hand, wrote all the content themselves, and delivered it to every letterbox. This excited us — particularly ex-journalist Andrew — and we started talking to them about writing. (Theirs was very good.) Consequently, last week the mother of one little girl, who teaches at a Murwillumbah school, invited me to judge the students' poetry competition; and this week the other little girl invited me to today's event. And out of that comes the Ukitopia invitation, which might involve running a writing workshop, giving a poetry performance, or both. 





I didn't get enough writings to create a booklet, as I had ideas of doing. These are what I got:

Harrison wrote down the outline of a novel he wants to write: 'A man who lost his family, and when he went on a cruise the ship got bombed and he wakes up in an abandoned island.'

Sarah wrote the start of a story: 'Across the moonlit meadows a sleek figure watched upon a herd of wild brumbies.'

The littlest girls drew hearts on their pages, under their words. Aurora said she wanted to be a vet, Bree noted that she was at the careers day, and I'm still not sure what Ruby said. 

Lauren wrote, 'I like writing stories about fairie tales and making people feel they are in the story, and they feel they are on an amazing journey.' 

Matilda wrote, 'I like to write because it makes me feel happy and free.' 

Lily wrote, 'I <3 to read because I can also write my own books and when you have read a lot of books you know what to write about.' 

Brahminy wrote, 'I like writing about imaginative stories because it makes you feel light and happy. And I <3 to read.' 

[The hearts in the last two entries were drawn the right way up, but I don't have a way of doing that in my blog.] 


And finally Hayley, who invited me, wrote, 'I feel happy when I am writing. All I need is imagination.'



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Waiting


I am a little early for my blood test. I do one errand, then decide to sit in the sun with my iPad. I walk past the bench outside the Post Office. I don’t want to sit in a street; I want to be in the park, in nature. Then I register that the street is full of trees, planted at regular intervals. I am so used this in our little town that I no longer notice. We are never far from nature. Nevertheless I go and sit in the park. I'll have an abundance of it!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Writer's Journal: Dithering

l always do this. When it's journalling with pen and paper, I get into an awful tizz about what notebook and which pen, and whether to number the pages. I make one decision, then I change it, then I change it back....

Now it's the same with writing and blogging the memoir (or is it autobiography?). I decided to close the memoir blog and move everything to my personal blog. I think it felt too 'out there' to have a blog called 'Living a Psychic Life' and to contemplate recounting some of my more - er -esoteric experiences. I announced the change at both blogs, and delayed taking down the memoir one so as to give readers a chance to catch up with what was happening.

Then my best friend said she wanted more 'juice' in these stories, so I thought, 'OK, darn it, go for broke.' I reinstated the memoir blog, re-titling it, 'Living a Magickal Life'. I also realised I'd have to be writing longer posts. There's a widespread theory that long blog posts don't work. There's also recent research which suggests that's a fallacy. But anyway, I gave the blog a new layout where people see only a paragraph of each post and can click if they want to read the lot.

I felt pleased with myself. Then Best Friend casually added, 'I'd save the juicier ones for the book.' Oh yes — book. My goodness, that's making it startlingly real! It occurred to me she was right, for commercial reasons. If I want to sell a book, no good giving everything away for free in a blog first.

So now what do I do? Change things back? (But I LIKE my new blog layout and title.) Keep the new one, but just post selected excerpts? (I'll look like a fool. I announced I was going to let it all hang out.) Make a new announcement, explaining the new situation? (Ye gods, how many chop-and-change announcements in quick succession can my readers stand?)

Oh, I could dither for days now!


Thursday, August 08, 2013

Sudden Change of Plans — Altering, Not Deleting Psychic Memoir Blog

I consulted with a trusted writer/witch/Reiki Master friend about my latest piece of autobiography, on consorting with dragons — chickening out of posting it yet for fear of people's reactions. The following exchange ensued:

Her:

I love it, but then, that's me.
I'd like you to slow down your memoir pieces, give me more concrete detail.  
EG:  what size were the dragons in your mind?  Appearance - Chinese or Celtic or other?  All I know are their colours.  How did the energy around your house change?  What was Andrew's reaction when you first summoned them? What conversations did you have with them, if any?
You've given me a great outline but no juice.
(If you have Clive James' Unreliable Memoirs, go read the early chapters of that to see how he works in detail so you can see him come screaming off that billycart train)
Did anyone else sense the dragons?  What were the dragons' reactions to various people who visited your houses?
Btw, your dragon and unicorn poem so belongs with this excerpt.

You might want to have a think about who you're writing this for.  Is it family and friends?  General audience?  Specialised magickal audience?  That will change what detail you include, how much explanation, etc.

In your section about becoming a Reiki Master, for instance, I have no real picture of Bill, or Ann.  I need characters. (In Eat, Pray, Love, the characters Gilbert builds are very real for the reader, and we have a stake in what happens to them, their triumphs and falls)

So, SHOW ME the dragons.  SHOW ME the world you inhabit and the people around you, and how the dragons slid into place, or not.  Now that Andrew is gone, for instance, is his protective dragon still with you?
For that matter, what was Andrew at heart?  Another dragon?  If not, what?  How did your dragon self get on with other creatures?


Me:


I guess my audience is the people who, over the years, have asked me to please write about this stuff — most of whom were at least interested in magick and energy. In which case, I can probably stop worrying about being perceived as a nutter or a liar. 

Andrew was an angel. I should write a whole piece about that.

Ta; good questions.

I've never read the Unreliable Memoirs, nor Eat, Pray, Love (though saw the movie). It must be time I did.

And, having freed myself from the restrictions of the Life Writing Group's 1500-word limit, I must also free myself from considerations of keeping blog posts short. Might be time to set up the blog in a different style.

You have been a big help. xxxxxx


The upshot of all this:

I'll keep the posting to my memoir blog, and rename it to be 'magickal' rather than merely 'psychic'. (But the posts that got transferred here can stay here too.)

I'll try a layout that gives brief intros to longer posts.

In the writing, I'll go for broke!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Writer's Journal: Scared of Being Weird

I left the Life Writing group. It was a long way to drive, and doing it weekly was costing too much in time and petrol.

And there was another reason. I was about to get into the really weird stuff about my psychic life, things that I usually don't talk about at all. If I say these things, my mind assures me, people will be convinced I'm a total nutter. They'll stop taking seriously anything I say.

Well, I have nearly finished a long chapter about dragons. People imagine dragons to be non-existent. How can I possibly put it out there that not only do they exist, some hang around with me? That they can travel inter-dimensionally (like fairies)? That the ones I know live on a far planet in another dimension, close to a planet where angels live? That I myself originated there (long, long ago) and was once a dragon? 

Preposterous! Madness, or merely fiction? That might be the kindest reaction I would get. Yet if I don't include this stuff, what a cop-out. That would be a memoir that merely scratched the surface — albeit that surface is already out of the ordinary. Interested people have been asking for years that I write this memoir. Having finally committed to do it, I think I must be truthful. So I'll write it, and then worry about how it might be received.

The next question is whether to blog it now or keep it private until I have a whole book. But I am posting this — albeit to a blog which is not read by many, has hardly any followers and receives no comments. To post anything at all, anywhere at all, is daring. 


Saturday, August 03, 2013

A Psychic Memoir?

I did start one, with its very own blog. Eight posts later, I have brought it all over here into this blog instead, and have given each of those posts the subtitle 'Autobiography excerpt'. I found myself wanting to write about bits of my life not directly related to being psychic.

Where will it all end up? Lots of different memoirs? One whopping great autobiography? Who knows? Best I just write it first, and then figure out what to do with it. Meanwhile I am still labelling the psychic reminiscences with the tag 'psychic memoir' — so if that's what most interests you, it hasn't disappeared.

Happy reading, folks!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Best Friend Visits ... Maybe ... Yes!


Seeing Byron Bay was on her bucket list. She flew there from Melbourne on Thursday. On Friday morning I saw a post on Facebook declaring that she was about to walk to the lighthouse. Friday is my busiest day, but I found a minute to text her: 'The lighthouse is a bloody long walk. Get vehicular access.' She replied that she had now realised that, and had hired a car for the day.

At dinner time I got another message, to say that she had got lost on her way back to where she was staying, and been badly scared on dark, unfamiliar country roads. She eventually found her way back, but the stress had brought on her fibromyalgia and she wasn't going to be going anywhere tomorrow (i.e. today, Saturday). I was supposed to go get her and take her to The Crystal Castle, which is beautiful. She was to spend the weekend with me, then go back to Byron, meet up with other friends and see more sights. 

Last I heard, she was seriously contemplating going home instead. She says she will have to assess herself day by day. 

'BB sucks,' she texted. I agreed that it does. Once it was delightful; now it has traffic jams. I stay away from it as much as possible. I guess it would still be good if you wanted a surfing holiday. But we are having a cold, wet winter. Surely not even the tourists would be swimming at present.

I have suggested that I fetch her for a quiet day with me instead, and we see the Castle on Sunday if at all. I hope she managed a good night's rest. I await her phone call.

Later:

She has shakes and aches today, so texted an apology and will have a quiet time sitting on the beach or browsing in bookshops, not talking to anyone. 

Perhaps this is the holiday she really needs, rather than sight-seeing.and socialising. (I know how busy she is in Melbourne, with many responsibilities.)

As for me, I've seen both her and the Castle quite recently, so I can be philosophical. I've had a lovely, lazy morning instead, which I probably needed too, enjoying poetry and coffee. Soon I am off to see local friends in their art studio in town (The Sauce Studio) and pick up my new Tupperware which they took delivery of for me.

We shall see what tomorrow brings.

Later still:

She's feeling much better, and tomorrow will bring a visit from her to my place for the day. We'll have a good catch up, talk Tarot and Reiki, and generally have a great time. She has found another friend to go to Crystal Castle with on Wednesday.  It's all perfect.  *Smile*.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

That's Telling Him!

Not a nice thing to happen to my friend, but oh, what a corker of an insult/threat she came up with when stressed. 

She posted on facebook:

Think I'm going to be ill. Trapped on a tram full of footy fans. Creepy old man groped me all the way from Flinders St to the MCG*, pushed me over as he got off and called me a '....ing ugly c...'. Pushed to my limits, I yelled: "Touch me once more and I'll break your fingers, rip them off, stuff them up your filthy arse, kick start you and ride you all the way to the MCG, you dirty old sleeze." He didn't think I was talking to him. Ugh. Hot shower when I get home, and a cry on hubby.

Revolting circumstances to be extremely deplored; friend's word power to be highly celebrated. (Yes, she is a writer.)

*Melbourne Cricket Ground, home of football as well as cricket

Sunday, July 14, 2013

shifting the paradigm and telling the truth- wife and mother


(who gave me permission to share it, as I am so impressed by what she says)

I love my son and I am grateful for the experience of mothering, but it must not define me. I am glad that I was so young (23) and that it was such a surprise (a good choice for me) because I was never under the illusion that motherhood or the marriage to his father would complete me.  I'm grateful for the women who truly desired and became really good moms (I know many).  I'm also glad to hear from women who own NOT desiring motherhood, regardless of the fantasy that is pushed on women from the moment they are born.  I'm incredibly grateful that today, men and women can more easily dismiss fantasy based conditioning and define our own paths, fulfill our truly unique purposes. We can love and have fun, choose intense life long commitments or not~ I suppose the choices were always there, but it was considered deviant to stray from "norm".  I hope that as a culture we continue to be more accepting of a variety of life choices.

People who push the concept of all women desiring motherhood and marriage are pushing a fantasy that has little to do with the reality of parenting. Yes, mothering is rewarding and has it's joys, but fantasy pushers neglect to mention the unspeakable pain mothers experience when a child is very sick or dies. The unspeakable frustration when a child grows up to be the antithesis of what the mother thought she was guiding the child to. What worry is like from a mothers POV. What mothering does to selfhood. How many little girls playing with dolls, toy kitchens and other "girl toys" are aware that the most convenient way to control a woman is through a threat (real or imagined) to her child? Do those little girls know what guilt is? That a man can be a politician, director, bus driver, toll taker, anthropologist, minister and no one asks, "but who is taking care of your children?", yet a mother is asked that often. She may be the primary bread winner AND the primary caregiver, all the while being tossed a heap of guilt and being paid less. Once upon a time, an excuse people gave for women being paid less was that the man was the primary financial supporter of the household. We know that is not the case anymore and we know that all humans are worthy of equal pay for equal work- but we still don't have that, do we? I connect that lack of equal pay to the "marriage and baby" fantasy girls are force fed. The story told in film & TV is that women are trapping men, but let's be honest, men tend to make out better than women in the marriage dept. Married men suddenly have a built in support system while married women suddenly de rail their ambitions to support his. Marriage is too often like a trap for women, especially once they have children. While it's pretty uncommon and probably looked down upon for a man to consider his life's purpose being a support system for his wife's dreams and goals -women are still being fed the notion that it is noble to make one's life purpose supporting their husbands dreams and goals. I've witnessed many women who momentarily succumbed to the 'supporting your husband will fulfill you' fantasy, wake up and flea from it or find themselves dismissed after years of service with little to show for the work they did that was not considered "work". I'm gratefully aware that there are more healthy relationships now than ever before- relationships that truly live in the moment and are beneficial to each partner equally. I believe honest storytelling can help shift relationships and allow the vision of equal partners supporting each others life purposes, to come to fruition.

Parenting is an enormous life altering experience that can be quite fulfilling, but it is not necessary for a fulfilled life. People who claim they don't or wont change when they become parents are probably frightfully bad parents.  Men who play the role of assistant to mom, are not really living up to the role of father as best they can and as would be most appreciated by the children.  In my experience, motherhood has been a great teacher; I have experienced great joy and extreme worry thanks to this role. I had no idea what sacrifice meant previous to parenthood. Thank goodness I was and still am one who allows art to come through me; mothering is not my only purpose in this life.  Still, parenting changed my perception, the art that comes through and the order of my priorities.  Parenting changed how I function and so did my career, my friendships and the communities I belong to. It's usually when a child behaves in a way we wish they wouldn't that we experience the realization ~I am my child's teacher, but I am not my child's only teacher.  That knowledge is easier to digest when the choice of mothering is part of a life's fulfillment, not all of it.

I WISH more women and men who claim they yearn for parenthood would FOSTER humans. Would BABYSIT at a shelter while mom is in a therapy session. Would become a Big Sister or Brother. If you are authentically wishing you were a parent, please volunteer your time and energy to make a child's life better. Being in a paid positon to teach doesn't prepare you as much as committing as a volunteer who cares for children does. If you say you ache to be a parent and you're not doing something to improve the life of a child already here, I suspect you are probably succumbing to a mass fantasy and deep down, you don't really want a child in your life.  Those who say, "I would, but I don't have the time/money/etc." are lying to themselves.  If you really wish to have a child in your life, you can make time and find a way to help any one of the millions of children ACHING to be cared about.  It doesn't cost a penny to hold a crack addicted baby in the NICU. It doesn't cost you more than a cup of coffee at Starbucks to get your ass to a shelter and volunteer. So stop the lies, stop propagating the fantasy of "I wish I was married to a rich man or perfect women and could have children with her/him". Children of rich men and seemingly perfect women can grow up to be addicts, criminals, they too are born with challenges and develop challenges. You don't have to wait for a fantasy to come to life- you can be there for a child now.

The fantasy of a perfect married life and your perfect little children is as real as the prince waking a dead girl in the forest with a kiss.  You don't really want to be that sleeping beauty and you don't really want to be that prince.  Get over that lie and go on to nurture what you really care about.  Yes, fall in love, but don't let that love define you. If you have children, a job, a career, don't let any one of those things define you. Your desire in life can be what you truly, deeply desire and create in that space inside that is beyond conditioning.

We can live beyond fantasy and fulfill our unique life's purpose.

This essay was written by a woman who did not grow up dreaming of a wedding, who does not like shopping, is not the competitive type- prefers collaboration, doesn't get "catty", is straight, enjoys really good sex,  spiritual community and very good friends and family,  is counted on by many, is a leader, works in a male dominated, creative industry in positions that are primarily held by men, is the lead character in her story, not the supporting character in others stories and encourages others to live their greatest purpose. This essay was written by a woman who consciously makes an effort to come from love ~everyday.

Monday, July 08, 2013

How Personal Do You Get In Your Poetry?

I've just been participating in an interesting discussion on this topic, instituted by Brian Miller at dVerse Poets Pub. As usual, Brian raises questions which make me think, and I make discoveries about myself. This is what I said this time, in part responding to things others said:


Fascinating to read everyone’s responses! As for me, it must be clear to anyone who reads my stuff that I’m essentially a confessional poet, letting it all hang out.

I think there are two issues here: what do you write, and what do you post? In the writing, I am committed to being truthful – my truth, the truth of my feelings and observations; not necessarily the same thing as objective fact. When it comes to the possibility of hurting or embarrassing someone, I can choose to refrain from posting something to my blog, or even from submitting to a lit mag or anthology (though that would have less chance of being seen by the wrong eyes, so I might risk it). But I think the original writing must be authentic.

That being said, I do sometimes write fiction in verse too, which I guess can be confusing for readers. And I sometimes write of myself in the third person, as a literary experiment rather than a disguise. What I think I am doing is creating art – so it would be ideal if the poems could be received as themselves, as works of art, without reference to the personal (except insofar as they strike chords in readers relating to their own experiences). That is probably impossible, though, in the blogosphere where we get to know the people along with their poetry – and it’s nice to get the personal comments too. I just have to accept the necessity of sometimes explaining: ‘That’s not about me’.

I don’t think there is any word or subject that is not fair game for poetry. But I do think they must be used for good reason – because the word is the absolutely right one in that context; or the subject is one which demands that you write of it.

People have different ideas on religion and politics. I write from my personal truth in those matters too. I don’t set out to offend anyone, but if anyone is offended simply because I express opinions different from theirs, well as far as I’m concerned that’s their problem.

Above all, I bow to the demands of the poem.



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How Do You Title a Poem?

Brian Miller, over at dVerse Poets Pub, raised this question, which led to an interesting discussion. This is my take on it:

For me titles are among the most difficult pieces of writing. I usually find them last – except when prompts from some sources suggest them at the outset.

I used to leave some pieces untitled if nothing suitable occurred to me, but then John Hewitt at PoeWar Writer's Resource Center insisted poems should always be titled, to help oneself and more importantly the reader identify, recall and locate them. He said, if all else fails use the first line as title. So now I do, and agree it’s preferable to having numerous pieces called ‘Untitled’. Sometimes, using half the first line is effective.

I have found that very general titles don’t work well. It’s not much use calling something ‘Autumn’ or ‘Bird’; it doesn’t identify the particular poem sufficiently. Even Keats said ‘Ode to Autumn’. I was guilty of a lot of very general titles when younger. If you’re prolific like me, you can find yourself using the same general title several times over for different pieces; not a great idea. (Also, such vague titles are pretty boring, aren't they?)

I agree with those who say that you don’t want to give away the whole poem in the title.

What do you think, dear readers?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Magician — Autobiography excerpt

In 1981 I ran poetry workshops in Pentridge Prison, Melbourne, on behalf of the Poets Union, at the request of prisoner poets. We put together an anthology, with editorial decisions shared among all participants. One prisoner in the workshop was transferred to Geelong Prison. This was before emails; the only way I could get his input without delay was to go and see him. There were poetry workshops in Geelong Prison too. I contacted the guy running them and got permission from him and the Prison to attend one.

Afterwards I had time to spare before my train back to Melbourne. I went into a café near the station and there, sitting at a table, was an old neighbour I hadn't seen for nine years. Reg and his wife had lived a few doors down from Bill and me when we all had young children. Norma and I used to babysit for each other, and we used to attend each other's barbecues and parties. Then we all moved and lost touch.

Still shaking off the prison atmosphere, I hesitated, then went over and said hello. He invited me to sit down. He was there a few days for work, but it turned out he now lived quite close to Bill and me again. He and Norma had divorced and she'd remarried. 

The business he'd had went broke. His partner, in charge of the finances, had been raking off investors' money. He eventually absconded, leaving Reg to face fraud charges. No-one believed he hadn't been in on it, though he was fighting poverty by then. He defended himself because he couldn't afford a lawyer, and succeeded in getting all but one charge dropped. For that one, he did 15 months in gaol. He was determined to clear his name of that too, but meanwhile he needed to try and earn a living. It was hard to get work at his age, after a gap that was difficult to explain. He finally landed a sales rep job. Norma stuck by him while he was inside, but the stress contributed to the breakdown of their marriage soon after he got out.

He confided that his life had undergone huge changes since then. He'd been studying Hermetic magic in some books he'd come across, and began practising it in a big way. He told me that as a child he'd been clairvoyant, but later put it aside to concentrate on things like work and family — and also because people either ridiculed it or got scared of it. I was fascinated of course. (At that time my own psychic abilities were still suppressed, for similar reasons.) I told him what I was doing in Geelong, and asked if he'd picked up anything about that. He said, 'I could tell that you'd come from somewhere very sad.' 

Apart from mentioning the encounter to Bill that night as a matter of interest, I thought no more about it. Then he dropped in at our place one day when, he said, he was passing, and we made him a cuppa and had a bit of a catch up.

He was unemployed. The sales rep job hadn't worked out. For the next few years he kept landing similar jobs and losing them again. In his sixties by then, he was dyeing his hair and lying about his age. 

He took to dropping round a lot. He was lonely. If Bill was home, they talked about blokey stuff. That was before Bill's great awakening. He was still sceptical about anything extrasensory. But if it was just me, Reg spoke freely about his occult interests. We had long conversations over coffee at my kitchen table. He taught me a lot about metaphysical matters. It just seemed that we were yarning. It was only later I realised what an education he gave me.

Then I began having strange experiences — dreams which seemed significant, unexplained sounds and smells, and a spooky sense of unseen people being present. It started happening quite suddenly, and a lot. And I had a clairvoyant visiting me! One day, unable to keep it to myself any longer, I blurted out, 'Reg, who came to see me last night?' 

He reached across the table and said, 'Give us your hand.' He closed his eyes and started telling me what he was getting, until I realised he was describing my dear Nana, who died when I was four. 'What does she want?' I asked. He shut his eyes again with a questioning look on his face, then said, 'Just saying hello.'

Over the next weeks he was able to identify other nightly visitors as people in my life who had died; my stepfather, for instance. He had no way of knowing anything about these people, but described them so accurately that I had no trouble recognising them — even demonstrating my stepfather's funny walk.  

I didn't understand why I was getting all these visitations from dead people, but Reg said that when he dropped in the first time, his guides had told him to come and see me. He thought the Powers That Be must want me to become aware of other realities for some reason, but he didn't know what the reason could be. Then one of the poets in prison, whom I'd grown very close to, committed suicide. I thought the guys I met were so nice, they couldn't have done anything serious. But he was serving a long sentence and he'd just been told it would not be reduced. He was 24.

I was only his tutor. I found out, like most people, by opening the newspaper one Saturday morning as I sat down with my coffee. Not only grief but shock. But by then I had plenty of indication that the soul does live on after death. I simply couldn't doubt it. Now all the stuff that had been happening made sense. The tragic waste of a life would have been even more devastating if I'd believed there was only this life. I felt the Universe was looking after me by giving me so much evidence otherwise, protecting me from complete despair. It was then that I acquired the concept of a benevolent Universe that would always take care of me.

As for magic, I once witnessed Reg call down fire by an effort of will. There was a document I wanted to burn, but it was on thick card and wouldn't catch alight. Reg took it from me, held it over the sink, and exerted visible effort. His face screwed up and his shoulder muscles tightened. Suddenly the thing burst into flame, he dropped it into the sink and it burned fast. I was standing right next to him; there was no trickery. 

He tried to help us through some financial difficulties. 'Get Bill to take out a Tattslotto ticket with these numbers,' he  said. But Bill, sceptical, and agreeing only to humour me, got sidetracked and didn't put the ticket on. When the winning numbers were announced, he was so cross with himself that he swore and kicked his desk, which was the nearest object. Reg was disgusted. 'Do you know what it takes for the Guys Upstairs to orchestrate something like that?' he asked me. He never repeated the attempt.

He predicted that Azaria Chamberlain's matinee jacket would be found and her parents cleared of murder, years before it happened. And he told me I would study some kind of Oriental discipline that would change my life. He couldn't quite get the name of it, but said he could see the letters e and i, and another that might be h or k. I know now: Reiki. And he saw me moving to a tropical climate: lots of palm trees. I’ve been in the sub-tropics two decades now, and every house I’ve lived in here has had palms. Reg didn't live long enough to see any of these predictions come true.

He used to put his hands on our old dog, claiming that she wasn't well and he was healing her. We didn't see any symptoms, but I now believe he prolonged her life many months. It was only after he died that she succumbed to a blood disease which the vet said she'd apparently had a long time, which usually proved fatal in a much shorter period.  

Reg died of cancer in 1984. He was ready to go. Despite the magic, his last years were sad, with the loss of family life, working life and much of his self-respect. He never fulfilled his ambition to clear his name of the charge on which he was convicted. 

When I do psychic readings, it feels natural to hold the client's hand and shut my eyes, as Reg did. And it was he who communicated with Bill after death, somehow causing Bill to become a psychic and a healer overnight, as if passing on his own gifts as a goodbye present.

Note:  This post is part of my magickal memoirs, which may be found in full at their own blog.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Learning Reiki I — Autobiography excerpt

Note: Reiki I is the first level of Reiki training, the basic method of hands-on healing.

In 1984 I had a reading from a famous clairvoyant called Mario Schoenmaker. Mario believed in reincarnation. He described a scenario in which, in my last life, I tried to help some dying people. 

'So in this life,' he added, almost casually, 'If you wanted to, you could heal with your hands,'

That wasn't a thing I had any idea of taking up. I already had my vocation: I was a poet.

Some years later, in a personal development course, I got chatting to the woman sitting next to me.

'You seem a bit tense,' she said. 'I think I can help you. I'm a massage therapist. Let me give you my card.'

It seemed like a great idea, and I became a customer. I didn't make regular appointments, just rang her up whenever I felt especially tense, weeks or sometimes months apart. I'd never had a massage before. I found it blissful, and very relaxing. I was a busy mother of young children, and working part-time. It was about the only 'me time' I had. I usually dozed off.

One day she said, 

'I've just learned this new thing called Reiki. It's not a vigorous massage. It's more like a gentle laying on of hands. Do you mind if I try it on you?' As far as I was concerned, she could try anything on me. She was good!

I blissed out as usual and didn't really notice what technique she was using. It felt great; that's all that registered. 

Some months later she said,

'I've just learnt Reiki II, the advanced course. Is it OK if I try that on you?'

'Sure,' I said, and once again registered little of the actual treatment, only how wonderful I felt afterwards. It had such an effect that I never again felt so tense that I needed to consult her. However, because I wasn't going on a regular basis, I didn't notice that until much later. Anyway, that's how I came to believe that Reiki was a type of massage. I now know it works very well in conjunction with massage and many other therapies, so practitioners of various kinds add it to their qualifications. 

Abalone diving is a young man's game. Bill retired and we moved to the country east of Melbourne, to a tiny place called Three Bridges, near Yarra Junction and Warburton. That was where we were living when I saw Beth Gray's Reiki seminars advertised. I got a huge, irrational hit: 'That's for you!' It was easy to then rationalise it: it was just after I started wishing for something Bill and I could both learn to help him with his spiritual healing gifts. 

Bill wasn't hard to persuade. I think he must have been tired of feeling drained after doing healings, and the thought of me being able to give him a nice massage afterwards was enticing. Also he had recently managed to put my back out while attempting to relieve an ache. A friend who did massage had to make an urgent visit to put it right. The idea of getting some actual training must have started to seem good too. 

The time and money for us to do the course became available with almost miraculous ease. 'It's as if the Universe opened up for us,' I said.

Beth Gray was an American Reiki Master who visited Australia twice a year to teach in all the capital cities and some large country centres. (There were no Australian Reiki Masters then, though Beth was in the process of training some.) Our course was in Melbourne, over a weekend. There was a free introductory session on the Friday night, for people to find out about Reiki and see if they wanted to do it. We didn't see why we needed to drive all the way from Three Bridges for that. We were already enrolled in the course, and we knew what Reiki was - a form of massage, right? 

So we turned up on the Saturday morning, and found ourselves in a room of about 60 students and maybe 10 assistants. Beth was short, vibrant and glamorous, with beautifully coiffed grey hair, a stylish suit and scarf, high heels, bright lipstick, and long red nails. I found out later she was nearly 70. She looked 50. 

She asked a few of us to share why we wanted to learn Reiki, and then asked some of the assistants to tell us what Reiki had done for them. We heard of healings that sounded like miracles. Then she led us in a meditation. That was cool; Bill and I had done meditation before. We still didn't really understand what we were getting into.

Then we had to stay in our quiet, meditative state while the assistants ushered us, 10 at a time, to a small room to receive what Beth called a 'fine tuning'. Each group would be gone a little while, then they'd come back into the main room. Meanwhile the assistants rearranged their empty seats to form long rows, one chair behind another, where people were directed to sit when they returned.

As instructed, I was still in a meditative state as I lined up outside the little room for the fine tuning. When we went in, we sat on chairs side by side in front of Beth. She instructed us to keep our eyes closed until told to open them. She said we would feel her doing things to our heads and our hands, but on no account to open our eyes. The procedure, she told us, was sacred and secret.

She wore a little bracelet of bells which tinkled softly as she moved. She told us later that she got it in the Philippines where, before she knew about Reiki, she trained with the spiritual healers. She said she wore it as a reminder to stay humble, knowing that she was not really the healer but merely a channel, a pipeline for the healing energy. It was nice to hear the little bells as Beth moved along the line. There was something sweet and reassuring in the sound. I'm sure all Reiki Masters who ever had a fine tuning from Beth dreamed of one day wearing just such a bracelet when working with their own students. I for one never found my bracelet.

At one point, I felt her stop in front of me, then she took my hands in hers. I was so startled that my eyes flew open involuntarily, and I found myself staring into the face, not of Beth but her chief assistant, Denise Crundall, whom she was training as a Reiki Master. Denise and I stared at each other wordlessly a moment, then I recollected myself and shut my eyes again. 

When we went back into the main room and sat one behind the other, we were shown how to put our hands on the shoulders of the person in front of us. We must leave them in place, we were told. If it became uncomfortable because our muscles weren't used to the position, we must 'push through' the discomfort.

Then I got the shock of my life, in more ways than one. My hands suddenly felt as though little electric currents were running through them. 'Oh,' I thought, 'This is something other than massage.' Later I came to know this phenomenon as the hands 'switching on'. Reiki is activated by touch I guess if we'd attended the Friday night talk that would have been made clear. I expect it would have been explained as scientifically as possible. But ever since that startling experience, I have privately felt that Reiki is magic.

After a while I noticed that Bill's hands on my shoulders felt warm and soothing. When everyone was back in the room, sitting in their 'Reiki trains', as these lines of people with hands on shoulders were called, Beth started going up and down the lines, feeling everyone's hands and asking us all the same two questions: 'How do your hands feel?' and, 'How do the hands on your shoulders feel?' We learned that different people perceive the energy in different ways. It has something to do with one's own individual energy, and something to do with how much need of healing there is in the body under the hands.

Over the weekend we received three more fine turnings. Beth explained that the energy is passed on in 25% increments because 100% all at once would be too much to cope with. We got lots of practice working on each other on Reiki tables (which are similar to massage tables) and experiencing at first hand our aches, pains, tiredness etc. leaving us. An even greater thrill was being able to do that for others, as they reported in wonderment.

After presenting our certificates, Beth told us she would be back in six months to teach Reiki II, the technique for healing 'in absence'. With that, we'd be able to give Reiki to anyone in the world, without having to be with them in person. More magic! I could hardly wait.

Note:  This post is part of my magickal memoirs, which may be found in full at their own blog.