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.

 

Rain, Words and Silence

Bohdi

“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.”
~ Robert Frost

 

It was raining in the city. Raining and I couldn’t sleep, my head so full of thoughts and my body so tight with pain.

Now I’m home, home at my farm, it’s sometime before dawn even thinks of pushing her first rays over the horizon, and the dark bowl of sky above me is raining cold bright drops fresh as tears. I’m still not sleeping, but I’m peaceful. The pain hums in my belly and my veins but I can drift away on my thoughts to someplace else, and I’m such a seasoned traveller on this night-train now that it’s no imposition. In its own way it’s liberating. I choose to see it like that, anyway.

The beauty of this sacred morning space is achingly, breathtakingly silence-making. No words can capture the majesty, nor fill the space inside me.

Can a poem be composed entirely of stillness?

 

Inside our little farmhouse Ben and the dogs are sleeping. My mala beads are laced through my fingers still, prayers lingering upon them. The fire crackles and hisses in the quiet as the tiny twigs and branches I have placed on the ashy embers smoke and dance their way to life.

 

All night in my not-sleeping space I’ve been thinking about my memoir. I have carried it with me all of this year, and it’s been more an agony than a labour of love.

In the long quiet rain-filled hours that went before this one I finally understood where it has all gone wrong. There are too many words and not enough space. I made it all too busy so I could hide in the pages like some dark shadow-bird. So that you wouldn’t see me. So that you wouldn’t judge me.

It’s in the quiet moments and the emptiness that all the magic happened. In those places I am stripped bare but I was ashamed for you to see me naked. In these past few hours I came to understand it all differently. If you can truly see me, it’s only because you recognise that same place in you. Why was I so afraid to take you there with me?

 

I’m okay, and I’ll be okay.

And so, my friend, will you.

Sending all my love your way, bejewelled with tiny raindrops bright as tears and the scent of woodsmoke and damp good earth.

Nicole xoxo

 

“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.”
~ Kahlil Gibran

2013-08-19 05.53.50

The Gifts of Silence

Colours of Silence - Image from www.betterphotography.in

Colours of Silence – Image from Silent Shiva

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers,  grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” ~ Mother Teresa

Silence gifts us time to think.

Silence gifts us room to grow.

kirill-platonkin-silence-is-important

Silence gifts us space to heal.

Silence restores us to ourselves.

Image from www.keithpp.wordpress.com

Image from www.keithpp.wordpress.com

Silence allows the deepest of rests.

Silence encourages inner connection.

Silence is a space waiting to be filled with emotion, ideas and inspiration.

Silence is a place of wisdom and great energy, once we learn to open to its beauty.

Silence is the language of the Divine.

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

Drought, Poetry and Roses

Image by Nick Moir

Today’s post is inspired by a flower – a single rose blooming in my garden. Bless that rose, and all she means to me…

A few years ago we weathered eight years of the most horrendous drought. Our farm in the Lockyer Valley was baked brown, and it seemed surreal to be without water up there, and then to come back to Brisbane (an hour’s drive, door to door) where the pop-up sprinklers in the neighbours’ lawns spilled gallons of water into the gutters each night and everyone took twenty minute showers.

It took a few years before it affected Brisbane, but soon water restrictions became a way of life. As the drought took hold, the restrictions became harsher. At the farm, in town, gardens withered, trees died, wildlife dissapeared.

It was one of the hardest and most dispiriting times of our lives.  Friends walked off properties held by their families for generations, depression and suicides were rife in our farming community. There was no water to be had.  No feed to be had.  They were desperate times.

The moisture, the very life of the land, was sucked away, and all we were left with was dust.

This poem describes one hot, miserable summer morning at our farm:

DROUGHT BIRDS

Dawn breaks grave quiet

There is no chorus,

no cicada buzz or insect hum.

The sky is empty but for sun.

The dying here is silent,

swaddled in summer’s thick blanket

of heat and dust.

Drought birds perch in spindly-limbed trees

their white coats stained rust

chests puffed to give a futile impression

of longevity.

They gasp shallow rents

of earth-baked air,

song long forgotten in their misery.

Hard to gulp down,

this breath which desiccates the living

from the inside out.

Slowly bodies become hollow fragile things,

skin a ragged quilt of lice

and dirty feathers.

Drought birds.

They cling to the memory of wing.

If you reached out and touched one

it would crumble to nothing in your fingers

and blow away on the wind.

Drought birds litter empty waterholes

carcasses light as a dream.

Everything changes. Eventually the rains came. And with them, one small miracle.

Our Brisbane house was built in 1937. Down each side of the house they planted roses. Some of the original plants had survived all those years.  But the drought killed them off, one by one, these old darlings.

Or so I thought.  After a summer of soaking rain, one gnarled old stump shot up a single strong water shoot.  Within a fortnight it bloomed – one magnificent red rose.

Now, whenever this old rose blooms, I am back there in the hardest of times, and simultaeneously I am reminded of hope.  Everything changes, and life has a bitter-sweet beauty I would not trade for all the ease in the world.

Of course since then, we’ve had floods.  And once again the Lockyer Valley took a beating. I wrote about it here – Musings on Melancholy – my own little ‘Lost In Translation’ Moment. In the end we sold our farm and moved away. It was the right thing to do. I’m sure you’ll understand. Now we are nestled in gentle coastal country that is always green, always lush. It has rejuvenated us in a way that only nature can.

Seasons come and go, inspire poetry, life moves on, roses bloom, hope springs eternal. ♥

Everyone has a story to tell…

In these days of emails, tweets and text messages we can spend our days constantly communicating, but not really sharing at that deeper level of connection.

One of my favourite forms of communication is a fairly old-fashioned one.  It involves conversation and cups of tea. Yesterday, my dear friend Carly-Jay Metcalfe, a poet and writer, came visiting with me as we sat in the kitchen of my neighbour, Gordon Greber, and heard some of his story.

Gordon is 85, nearing 86. He’s lived what he considers to be an ordinary life but as times change, what he has done and how he has lived is no longer ordinary. He has been a timber cutter, and cut sugar cane by hand and hauled it on his shoulder before the time of mechanical harvesters.  He’s been a fencer, a truck driver, a dairy man, a farmer.

As a young boy he left primary school when war broke out to work on a family banana farm, thus cutting dramatically short his formal education.

But Gordon, like many old bushies I have known, has a keen interest in the world around him.  Life has been his teacher. As we sit drinking strong tea and nibbling at the scones I have brought he gently unfolds his life before us.

There was plenty of hardship and cruelty in his childhood, followed by unending years of brutal physical labour in a range of jobs that took him far from where he was born, before he came full circle in 1954 and bought the farm he lives on today, not so far from his birthplace. That was the beginning of even more work, as he took a run-down and overgrown dairy farm and turned it into a home, and a productive enterprise.  He often worked several jobs, starting before sun-up and finishing well after sun-down in order to pay the bills. It took a huge toll on his health, but Gordon is uncomplaining. That was how life was back then, he said.  You had to work hard to get ahead. If you wanted a different life for your own family, that was just what you did.

I love watching Carly’s face as Gordon regales her with yarns about battles with brown snakes, friends killed in trucking accidents, crippling droughts and floods that tore families and farms apart. Gordon is so modest; his amazing stories told with humility and self- deprecation.

Carly’s drinking it in, and I see the writer in her storing it away.  Fodder for the mill. I know I will see echoes of this man’s life in her poetry, her novella, her fiction.

They part as firm friends, and I take one last photograph of them, Carly’s small hand pressed up against Gordon’s large one.  Both of them are battlers – with courage and grace by the bucketful. (More about Carly’s life-long journey with cystic fibrosis and a double lung transplant here) They have met life head on, and not given an inch. I wipe away a tear as they hug. Both cut from the same fabric, although they are not related and are generations apart.

Each of us has a story to tell, something to share, something to teach.  I hope that you can find some time to sit down with someone soon, and get to know each other a little better over a cuppa or a cold drink.  We are a tribe of storytellers – we need to hear them and share them.  It connects us.  It makes us whole. ♥

How to Nurture your Creativity

“Why sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!” The Queen, from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

There is a winged dragon waiting at the edge of your conscious mind, and her name is Creativity.  If you climb into the jewelled saddle, and nudge her with your heels she shall take you to a place deep within you.  There is a sacred pool bubbling up from this place and the magical quality of this water helps us to visualise, believe in and create impossible things. Creativity, Imagination Land and the Realms of Possibility are all available to us if we learn to nurture the part of us that would take the journey, and the part which feeds the sacred pool…

I have found the following things to be useful in feeding my creative self.  They are all about engaging with life; learning, experiencing and observing:

  1. Festivals.  Festivals are fabulous!  Music festivals, food festivals, folk festivals, writers festivals, medieval festivals, travel extravaganzas, bridal expos, garden exhibitions, rural shows, trade fairs…  Festivals showcase ideas, beliefs, products and services, and they are filled with passionate people sharing their knowledge and gifts.  
  2. Walks in nature – so many things to see.  Interesting leaves, delicate flowers, animals busy in their own environments, the smell of a summer morning or  a winter’s night, the hoot of an owl, the baying of a dog, a neighbour’s cat perched on a fence – baleful as a tiger.
  3. Markets – farmers’ markets for tables groaning with fresh produce, craft markets for interesting bonnets, jumpers and bangles, car boot and antique sales for all manner of treasures.  
  4. Books – to read, to look up random bits, to instruct, to look at pictures, to give you a magical carpet ride to a place you’ve never been. You can even get talking books to listen to on the bus, or in the car.
  5. Music – not just the stuff you usually listen to, but other people’s music too.  Ask friends for recommendations.  Trawl youtube. CDs, MP3s, records. Even try the radio.  I found this little treasure on facebook.    
  6. Films – late-night foreign movies on tv, DVDs and pizza on a Saturday night, choc-top and the latest releases at the cinema, film festivals (see tip #1), movies for children, sub-titled treasures, golden oldies, footage of you and your family from your childhood, or your parents/grandparents lives.
  7. Outings and expeditions – These need to be able to be done in one day or less.  Choose from picnics, drives, catching random buses or trains, going to places that have always been on your ‘must visit’ list – such as vineyards, art galleries, temples, new shopping malls, cafe you read about in the paper, Christmas lights etc.
  8. Travel – half the fun here is planning.  Get brochures, search the web, speak to travel agents and friends.  Then once you’re there drink it all in. All the culture, the foreignness, the food, the smells, the colour of the sky. Take photos. Capture memories. Bring home an awful souvenir or an outlandish tale.
  9. Lessons  – Stretch yourself with something new.  Guitar, Hindi, water skiing, belly dancing, sushi making, yoga, watercolour, macrame pot holders 101, computing, swordsmanship, barista course, novel writing.
  10. Cloud busting – lie back on the grass, or in a hammock and bust the clouds with your mind.  What shapes do you see?
  11. Poetry readings and other live performance – hearing an artist share their own work is always powerful.
  12. Journal – a safe space for pouring your imaginings onto paper.  I’ve just written a free seven day course on how to journal here.
  13. Live with curiosity – curiosity and creativity go hand in hand.   
  14. Talk to people – they’ll tell you the most amazing things. People everywhere are happy to share their stories and experiences, mostly for a smile, and the joy of being heard.
  15. Make things with your hands – there is a magical flow between our hearts, our imaginations and our hands. Often this process unblocks something that is seemingly unrelated.  A pottery session gives you ideas for your novel, chopping vegetables for soup informs a painting design growing inside you. Make pasta, knead dough, paint an old cupboard, dig in the garden, bead a necklace, repair a bicycle, braid your hair, pick flowers for the table, hug someone!