Travelling With Bukowski

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I always travel with a book. Sometimes several.

But this trip I decided to load e-books on my kindle, as well as a few audio books, and bring just a journal instead, to save space.

It worked for a while.

And then suddenly it didn’t.

 

In a bookshop in Manila I found the English Language section. They stocked a broad and eclectic range, and the books were mostly cheap paperbacks with impossibly thin pages and thin covers and several of every copy, impenetrable in their plastic wrapping.

I excavated a thin poetry book that was hidden behind new editions of recent best-sellers. The protective cover was gone; the small book was so well read that the cover was creased almost in two and every page was soiled and marked. Like all of the travellers before me I stopped and dipped between its pages for a moment. The world stood still as words fell around me like rain.

I dug around the shelves some more and then I found it. A volume of Charles Bukowski’s poetry. The cover was soft with wear. It was well read and loved already. It felt good in my hand, like I belonged to it, and it to me. I couldn’t bring myself to open it. I just held it tight, and stood in front of the shelves a little longer, pretending that I might choose something else. Wondering if I could take it home.

I couldn’t see for tears.

Once, long ago, I took a journey to another far-away place and forgot to take a book with me. I was living in the Kimberley then. The remote Australian outback. A terrible place to be without a book.

Not long after I arrived a group of American tourists camped at the station. It was their last adventure before they caught a plane to Darwin and then home. On the morning of their departure they dumped whatever they didn’t need, to lighten their luggage.

Later that morning I watched a cleaner empty the trash from the men’s toilet. Among the papers and bottles and debris I saw a book fly into the bin. Before I could stop myself I ran from the office and snatched it up. I didn’t even stop to read the cover. It was a book, and I was a junky starved of words.

I wiped it clean with a corner of my shirt and carried it home triumphant.

This same book.

For days back in that wilderness place I couldn’t even open it. I just read the cover over and over. The title said ‘You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense – Charles Bukowski.’

I felt like Bukowski was talking to me. I knew and he knew.

And as I chose and read a single poem, rationing them to every other day, I came to know that poets exist to sing breath back into our bodies when we can no longer breathe for ourselves.

I lost that precious book when we moved from the Kimberley. But now we have found each other again.

I read one randomly selected poem aloud each day, to entertain Ben and to nurture myself. It’s like travelling with an old friend.

It’s like coming home.

 

Dreams That Come True

NicoleSwingset

“You are the magical fairy that makes things happen in your life. Don’t wait for someone else to make your dreams come true.”
~ Natalie Rivener

 

I’m launching my Year of ME Planner – 2016 tonight, and tomorrow it will go live here on my blog.

In reflection, it’s the continuation of my great self-publishing tradition. When I was at kindergarten I insisted that the teachers help me make my first book. It was art day, and all the other kids were doing pictures for the fridge. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to write a book. Only problem? Couldn’t write enough bigger words yet. My kindergarten teacher was coerced to do the writing as I dictated the story, which went with my elaborate texta pictures. To her endless credit she then stapled all of the pages into a small book which become The Princess. A book I still own, from a humble print-run of one.

I’ve wanted to write since my earliest memories.

My next published book, authored solely and publicly by me (an important note because I have ghost-written several books for paying clients about such diverse things as gardening and grave digging) is also self-published, and isn’t a book at all, but a Planner with a purpose.

I hadn’t thought about this project as a book. It was just 287 pages and 60 000 odd words, a few magical carrots and some charming illustrations by my dear friend Sally. Begun as a concept in mid-October and worked on in stolen moments while my friend died and my world was busy and upside-down and totally dishevelled. It seemed like madness but the day I thought about giving up, the Universe sent me a strong message to keep going.

I printed out the first proper copy of my Planner last night. Then I punched holes along one edge and placed a comb binder on it. As I lifted it up and felt the weight of it,  I was suddenly as proud as my five year-old self had been of The Princess.

“Look, Ben,” I declared as I danced around the lounge-room with the Planner in my hands. “I made a book.” And I did!

Soon it can be your book too. The book of your life. Unfolding in front of you in ways that make your soul sing.

Here’s me in my pyjamas, with my finished Planner. Unglamorous, I know, and totally unsuitable as a publicity shot. Jarmies, so so sleepy face, gardening hands, no make-up or fancying. But real. And happy.  Also, who ever looked photo-ready straight after birthing something? I don’t care. Happy!

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And here’s my baby. Yay!

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Only a month ago this was just a wild idea that I floated with my business mentoring girlfriends. Lots of sustainable madness later, and with the help of several good friends, here it is. Done. When your soul’s on fire with an idea that you can’t let go, best get onto making it happen.

What will you make happen in 2016? I can’t wait to find out what magic is in you, waiting to be birthed into the world. 🙂

PS – Look, Mum, I made a book, with a title inspired by you! <3

 

Romance Novels and Heroin

“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”
~ Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

When I was growing up heroin (the opiate) was the drug of choice for those who wanted to escape their life and forget for a while. At school we were taught about the evils of addiction, and the shameful weakness of the addict. To let ourselves fall to heroin? Goodness, that was never going to happen.

And then there are romance novels.

Romance novels?

You might ask what they have to do with addictive drugs.

Everything, really. Romance novels are heroin for the mind. Cheap, nasty, bad for you. A weakness. I never read one.  They are genre fiction, and at school and university this kind of story, that kind of writer, were frowned upon. I trusted my teachers and lecturers. I stayed away.

Now I am grown up, and I have a mind capable of critical thinking and analysis. I am also a grown up with an overflowing plate. Family dramas, terminal illnesses, clients needing major support, and in my psychic work recently some truly shocking and upsetting things that I can never quite shield myself from feeling and thinking about long after the work is done.

I am not the kind of girl to go shoot up some heroin. Or drink myself into a stupor. Or take ice or valium. Those things are never going to be adequate solutions to life’s pain and problems.

But romance novels? Genre fiction? Yes. Yes to them. Yes to losing myself in another world for a time. Yes to worlds that allow me to escape, to live vicariously, to really feel my emotions, and for, dare I say it, positive resolution and happy endings.

To all the romance and genre fiction writers out there I say thank you. You’re the best feel-good drug I know for helping me escape for a while and come back to life calmer, more rested and more ready to face the world.

The best thing about your kind of drug? I have you beside my bed, I have bookshelves full of you, and a kindle app loaded and ready to go should I need a quick fix.

I get it now. There’s a reason you’re so popular. You deliver on your promise.

And that feels oh-so-good.

Unexpected Treasures from the #Writers Festival

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“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” ~ Anne Lamott

 

Byron Bay Writers Festival 2014 has been my first writers festival, and I am certain it shall not be my last.

All I had really planned was to go sit at the feet of some memoirists, in the hope that I might glean some tips for the agonies I am currently going through in writing my own.

But oh, I got so much more…

I have wept more than my fair share of tears as brave writers have bared their souls in conversation, as well as on the page. I have been inspired, uplifted, encouraged. I have laughed til more tears rolled down my face. I have been reminded of my humanity.

I have experienced breakthroughs in both the craft of writing, and in my personal journey. For isn’t every story a way for us to better understand ourselves and this thing we call ‘life’.

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I have also met some wonderful people, and reconnected with friends I have not seen for an age.

Each time I have sat in a tent, or in the sunshine, or at a shady lunchtime table I have asked my fellow festival goers a simple question: Are you a writer, or an enthusiastic reader? The answers have been unexpected, endearing and enlightening.

I’ll share my favourite, from yesterday.

I met an elderly woman over lunch. She was grey-haired and rail thin, dressed in a warm grey coat, red shoes and a felt hat adorned with bright red flowers. I asked my question.

“Oh,” she said. “I’m a reader. Books are my life!”

I pressed her for more detail and found that she was a widow and librarian who looked after an ailing mother and a disabled adult daughter. All of her life this woman had read literature, until one day, quite by accident she was introduced to a crime novel. It was a humorous light read, and she found herself devouring it, and then skulking off to find more by the same author. Eventually crime became her favourite genre. She reads all kinds of crime now. Such is her addiction that she has an iPad with several e-readers on it so that she may read on the bus on the way to work, or over a sandwich in the park at lunch. And each night, she told me, she goes home to the detective waiting for her on her pillow. A hard-cover book is her reward at the end of a long day.

Why crime, I asked her.

For the feeling of control, she told me. For the sense of satisfaction that there can be justice in the world, and that ordinary people in the pursuit of that justice can be brave and clever and powerful. Detectives and pathologists were a lot like librarians, the old lady told me. They investigate, research, connect to others with knowledge and track down information and answers with great dedication.

She leaned closer and shared her last secret in my ear. “I’ll never travel, dear. Not with my situation. But when I read my books I am transported. I have walked the gritty streets of Chicago, travelled the romantic canals of Venice, suffered the heat of Africa, and travelled through time.” She winked at me. “I’ve even had love affairs…”

Image from Adazing

Image from Adazing

Day 22 – Gratitude Challenge

Image from thepunch.com.au

“Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale of all.”

~ Hans Christian Andersen

 

“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
~ Barry Lopez, in Crow and Weasel

 

Stories are powerful things, and they come in many forms; books, movies, songs, poems, plays, ballets and operas, and even through letters and conversations.

In my life, I have been deeply influenced by stories that held a special message for me, or that helped me understand something important.  Stories have inspired, humbled, awed and entertained me.

Have you ever stayed up way beyond bedtime because you just couldn’t put your book down?  Have you ever felt sad and lonely when you got to the end of a book, or a series, and realised that you wouldn’t get to spend any more time with the characters?

Image from fineartamerica.com

Is there a song, or a record/CD that you’ve played over and over again because of how it made you feel?

Have you ever watched a movie that affected you deeply, or even changed your life?

Are there stories from your past that you remember fondly even now?

Is there a TV show or series that feels like an old friend to you?

Image from pascal.d.umn.edu

Today, lets give thanks for the storytellers, and the many, many (often unseen!) people who help to bring those stories to us – the music producers, the animators, the scriptwriters and authors, the publishers and agents and book sellers, the backup singers and session musos (musicians), to name a few.

Stories are a rich Blessing in our lives.

Counting Our Blessings and Using our Gratitude Rock

If you need a detailed reminder of our daily process, you can review it here in Day 1 of the Gratitude Challenge.

  1. List five Blessings in your journal, explaining why you are grateful for each one.
  2. Count your Blessings off on your fingers, summoning positive emotion and saying Thank You from your heart for each one.
  3. Tonight before you go to sleep, hold your Gratitude Rock and affirm I am richly Blessed. I have an Abundance of Good in my life. Visualise one thing you have been grateful for today. Swell that positive energy up in your heart like a beautiful golden light, and give a heart-felt Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to the Universe, then imagine a tiny shower of golden light travelling from your heart into your Gratitude Rock.
  4. Still holding your Gratitude Rock, bless your fellow travellers on this Gratitude Journey by sending them golden light, and saying Thank you.  I Bless You.  I intend for you Love, Miracles and Abundance. Know that as you are saying this for them, they are also saying this for you. Feel that connection and gratitude and know that there is real love and support for you here. Place your rock back beside your bed, and go to sleep, cocooned in this good energy.

If all you do each day is these first four steps, know that is enough.

Would you like to explore this energy of gratitude more? If so, why not join me for today’s additional gratitude challenge.

Story Time!

Today, give yourself permission to immerse yourself in a story.  Perhaps you might watch a movie, or a DVD.

Maybe you could spend some time reading a book.

You could close your eyes and listen to your favourite album, letting the lyrics create worlds in your head.

Or your could meet up with someone (parents and grandparents can be great for this!) and have them talk about travel, or their childhood, or something that you haven’t heard before or would like to hear again.

Our whole life is a story, and stories are the language that connect us, heart to heart. When we meet someone we share of ourselves by sharing our stories. When we share our life with someone we create stories together. When we die, the stories others tell or remember about us is what keeps us alive in their hearts.

Image from solidgoldcreativity.com

Today, celebrate stories, and give thanks for them. Thank you for the gift of stories in my life!

All of this appreciation and gratitude around stories might even inspire you to create one of your own…

Bless ♥ xx

Image from flickr.com

In Defence of Fairies

The Forest Fairy – Image by Josephine Wall

Nothing can be truer than fairy wisdom.  It is as true as sunbeams.  ~Douglas Jerrold

Those of you who know me will also know that I believe in fairies.  In fact, you’ll know that I count a fairy as one of my dearest friends.

I found myself in an odd position on the weekend. I’m writing a novel with fairies as some of the main characters. And someone I hold in esteem told me that writing about fairies was not only unimaginative, but that children were no longer interested in such things.

Hmmm, I thought to myself.  I know I’m not a child but I’m interested in fairies.  And many of my friends and clients are too.  In fact, whenever I write about fairies I get flooded with enquiries about them, and how people might get to know one or attract one into their garden.

As this learned person talked to me, I felt myself becoming sadder and sadder.  Not only because they were so disparaging of fairies and all things magical (which is of course, the world I live in, although they did not know that), but because I believe fairies deserve to be known, and appreciated, and dare I say it, loved…

Not that fairies care.  They shall go on happily, regardless of us.  But we, we are the poorer for not knowing of them and the work they do in the natural world.

And if there is no room for magic in our lives, and for the ability to believe in things we cannot understand, if there is no room for wonder, well then, what is the point of life?

Image from paganspace.net

What does Happiness look like to you?

In our age of overwork, stress, social isolation, time pressure and exhaustion, it is increasingly important to know what fills you back up again, what makes you smile, what brings joy and happiness into your life.

What does happiness look like to you?  If you don’t know, make it your mission to find out, and then make a list to put on your refrigerator, mirror, or somewhere you can be often reminded of these things and their importance in your life.

This is some of what happiness looks like to me:

♥ Browsing in bookshops, and finding some new treasure to take home.

Shakespeare and Company Bookshop, Paris. Image from stylestudio.blogspot.com

♥ A shared meal with friends

Image from rhinoafrica.com

♥ Going to the movies to see something on the big screen

Image by Robert Pearce

♥ Wandering through the markets

Bangalow Markets – fourth Sunday of every month!

♥ Travelling to new places and soaking up the atmosphere

Bangkok floating markets – Thailand

♥ Losing myself in a book

Image from imbookingit.com

♥ Hugs

Image from mdjunction.com

♥ Time in nature

Heaven’s in my backyard!

♥ Swimming in the ocean

Beach – Byron Bay!

♥ A cup of tea with friends

Carly-Jay Metcalfe and Gordon Greber

♥ Working on my book

Cafe writing – my favourite kind of breakfast!

♥ Snuggling up in bed with the one I love – or family cuddles

Charlie and Bert – actively guarding the house!

♥ Baking, and sharing my creations with others!

Brownies and a cuppa on the veranda

Life’s too short not to include lots of the things you love.  Happiness is a choice. Remember to enjoy the journey.  Much love to you ♥ xx

Imagination Land

There’s a place I like to set sail for, a favoured destination for short or extended trips…   I call it Imagination Land.

I first discovered this land as a small child, when my parents read stories to me.  Their words came to life, making worlds in my head. Characters became friends. Long after the story ended I found myself going back to those worlds, revisiting the story and putting myself into that land alongside the other characters.

Soon I realised that I could make up my own stories.

Fuzzy-felt boards, crayons and lego provided endless hours of pleasure as I created farms, hospitals, circus scenes, crazy hairdressing salons, fairy lands, castles full of funky princesses and dragons, libraries and outer space adventures.

Now I am grown. For a time, as a young adult, I forgot that this magical place existed. My bags were filled with textbooks. My mind was used for concrete and factual thinking. My feet were on the ladder.  My mouth was full of sand.

I rediscovered the power of Imagination Land during years of illness, where I was confined to bed. Even from my bed I could use my imagination to be at sea, captaining my own ship, or dancing on a starlit night in my finery with some handsome prince. I could imagine me well.  I could imagine me happy.  I could imagine me a different life, a better life…

Books reignited something within me.  Stories still had the ability to transport me to other worlds and other lives.  They stretched me and gave me wings. I devoured them as hungrily as a drowning man gasps for air.

Soon I found that there was a well within me, unvisited since childhood, that was brimming with words. This is my Imagination Land.  A land of infinite possibility and wonder. A place where life and magic combine in unexpected ways. It’s a place I dip my toes before I write. It’s the place where I meet my muse. Here there are fairies and pirates and dreams. Here there are strong women and lighthouses and drought-torn farms. Here there are heroes and villains and mysteries forgotten by time.  I hope that one day my words can bring you here too, so you might share this magic. ♥