Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or did you hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful.
Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or trouble’s an ounce’
Or trouble is what you make it,
And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?
You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what’s that!
Come up with a smiling face,
It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there ~ that’s disgrace.
The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts;
It’s how did you fight ~ and why?
And though you be done to death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he’s slow or spry,
It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,
But only how did you die?
Edmund Vance Cooke.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
A poem about trees by Herman Hesse
‘For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts… Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.‘
I have been acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain and back in rain.
I have out-walked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away in interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street.
But not to call me back or say goodbye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right
I have been acquainted with the night.
Under the anger, under the fear, under the despair, under the broken heartedness, there is a radiance that has never been harmed, that has never been lost, that is the truth of who one is.
“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste
Speak your truth quietly and clearly
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labours and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.”
Max Ehrman in Desiderata
“That we find a crystal or a poppy beautiful means that we are less alone, that we are more deeply inserted into existence than the course of a single life would lead us to believe” J Berger.
John Peter Berger was an English art critic, novelist, painter and poet. His novel G. won the 1972 Booker Prize, and his essay on art criticism Ways of Seeing, written as an accompaniment to the BBC series of the same name, is often used as a university text.
Some wisdom from Leonard Cohen ~
“The feeling of having had some mandate to fulfil….and being unable to fulfil it….and coming to understand that the real mandate was not to fulfil it….that the deeper courage was to stand guiltless in the predicament in which you find yourself.”
“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope,
for hope would be hope for the wrong thing;
wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing;
there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”
In my attempt to interpret T.S.Elliot, I was unsuccessful in my struggle to break through the vague sense I had that this was a Soul who perhaps never did find that deep and enduring peace that we all hope for.
Whilst it is true that he finally did experience what might be seen as peace and contentment in his second marriage to the woman he considered to be the Love of his life, I am speaking of an even deeper level than that…..Because it is the case that the quest to find that peace is a solitary pursuit, and can only be accomplished by one’s own self.
Anyone who has read Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Pilgrimage’ will know what I am speaking of.
Back to Trevor Jenkins….who chooses to live as a homeless man, because he wants to do what he believes Jesus wants him to do….and that is, to sell all and follow. He tells me that most recently, he has undergone a transformational change, and is not the man he was several years ago (lovely though that man was, I assure you).
Now whatever you may feel about that, you would agree that it is the heart intent that gets one to the desired destination, rather than the ‘method’ that one chooses to follow.
Two paintings only this time, because I believe I got it in two. Without pre-judging, what turned up on the canvas, much to my surprise, was what I can only describe as a ‘Jesus flavour’….which both mystifies and delights me, as I had not set out to make it happen. Simply fell into the pure bliss of painting this lovely man.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
In that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always…
A condition of complete simplicity
Costing no less than everything
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
There is very little action going on in the studio at this point in time, however I have been doing a lot of ‘mulling’, which I have almost an addiction to.
…And so I thought I would share with you a few of my daughter Naomi’s description of life in the Outback (Australia), taken from her blog,
The North Bank http://thenorthbanktc.blogspot.com/
COMING HOME. January, 2012.
Coming home is no small feat. I’d been in Melbourne for five weeks all up and the three hour morning flight to Alice Springs doesn’t quite get me half way. Heading north through the ranges out of Alice with a five hundred kilometre drive ahead, I was tired and I just wanted to get home. Why do I do this? I’d set out at five in the morning and I wouldn’t be home until after eight in the evening. Why do I live so far away?
But as I drove in silence, kilometre after long kilometre it happened as it always does. There is something about this arid landscape that seems to rejuvenate me. The red soil. The vast open space. The quietness of it all. And that dry heat.
It had been hot for a day or two in Melbourne, but it was the kind of heat that invades your personal space. Coats you. Smothers you. Up here its different. It penetrates you right to the bone. It hits your skin and sinks right in, becoming part of you. It rises up from the earth and in some kind of primal way connects you to the landscape that surrounds you.
I pulled over at the half way mark for a pee. Stepping out of the cool air conditioned four wheel drive it hit me like the heat from the oven when you open the door, the rich baking aromas rushing up to meet you. Most people hate it of course, the heat. That’s why they visit in winter, wearing their shorts and t-shirts while the locals rug up. Living out here isn’t for everyone… but I love it, heat and all.
Pulling in to town as the sun set, I couldn’t help but smile. Home. The dirt and dust coating everything. The long grass in the not quite kept yards. The group of aboriginal women sitting cross-legged on the footpath, another not far away passed out on the grass. The bloody camp dogs that roam the streets…
and the heat……Home.
A painting I did some years ago, and I titled this one The Long Wait…which reflects my state of being over the past eighteen months or so. A complete void, as far as any sort of creative pursuit is concerned, and it is painful! However isn’t it the case that these are the very episodes of life that present themselves as an opportunity for growth….if we both recognise….and accept. Easy to say, hard to do….but then again, you are stuck anyway, and so the general rule is to call a halt to the fruitless struggle to fight one’s way out of the net, and simply…. listen.
And so I have done a lot of listening, and I have learnt a deeper level of quiet trust. A “knowing”, that goes beyond the need for “the answer”.
And so, out of the blue, one of my favourite human beings sent me a little video of his latest exploits…..and I sensed that my long wait had at last read its final chapter.
Trevor Jenkins, the so called Rubbish Warrior, a homeless man who I had had the privilege of painting some years before. In the video I “read” a soul who had himself allowed Transformation to visit him, and I realised that I was beholding an entirely different soul to the one I had encountered several years before, beautiful though that Soul has always been.
I am inspired to try and capture this on canvas, and it has only been made possible for me to do that because of the generosity of the film maker who has given me permission to paint from his video stills.
Vijay Daniels, who is a Lecturer at Charles Darwin University, who has created several films, some of which can be viewed on YouTube. i.e. ‘Paper Elephant’ and ‘Sarah Sarah’ .
Thursday, 26 January 2012 http://thenorthbanktc.blogspot.com/
It’s Australia Day today. It’s a day when half of Tennant celebrates while the other half mourns. Knowing where to stand on a day like today can be tricky, so I tend to stand alone. From the top of One Tank Hill you can look down over our town, not quite nestled in the foothills of the Honeymoon Ranges.
Most people go there to see Tennant from a distance and be convinced for a few deceptive moments that harmony lives here. I go there to see Tennant as it really is – an island, standing alone in a vast ocean of spinifex and red dirt.
On a clear day you can see right to the edge of the earth, to the gentle curving horizon from up there. Standing in the silence, it’s easy to believe that the world outside is too far removed to reach you. That if you stretch out your hand, nothing will touch it. That no one can reach in and touch you.
Its a view with the power to evoke a primal fear, revealing to you just how small and vulnerable you really are. The hot dry air sweeping up from the ancient plains below, carries with it that palpable uneasiness those first European settlers left behind – disconnected from their homeland, feeling alone in a harsh and unforgiving landscape, an uncertain future ahead of them.
Its also a view, that if you let it, can draw you into its protective embrace. It promises to hold at bay the world outside, unable to cross that vast and seemingly endless emptiness. Standing there, its easy to understand how forty thousand years of living here could lull you into a false sense of security. Make you believe you were safe from that inevitable invasion.
This is the original Australia. This view. This landscape. This isolation. Out here you can touch our past, connect with the land that has shaped us, made us who we are. Its easy in these times of high speed connectivity to forget that we are all islanders, that we are in this together. But stand up there, alone on One Tank Hill, and that landscape will remind you who we really are.
Monday, 23 January 2012
They say Australia was built off the sheep’s back. Not Tennant. We were built off the back of a beer truck. It’s not the first thing you notice when you come to town. But spend enough time here and eventually you will realise there’s no creek in Tennant Creek.
The locals call it the Seven Mile, and for very practical reason. The highway crosses Tennant Creek about eleven kilometres, or seven miles in the old money, north of town where the old stone telegraph station still stands. It wasn’t the only building on the creek in those early days. This is golden country. Settled by pastoralists drawn by the swaying golden grasses, and desperate men gambling their last hope on the promise of endless golden riches hidden in that deep red earth.
Like all men working hard in the relentless heat and dust, our founding fathers were thirsty. It was a thirst that could only be quenched by that other kind of gold. Liquid gold they called it. Beer. It must have been a fateful day, that day the beer truck broke down just seven miles short of its destination.
Now, if you believe local legend, our founding fathers were also a resourceful lot. If the beer couldn’t come to town, then town would simply come to the beer. Today Tennant Creek still stands seven miles south of the crossing, the pub in the main street a fitting monument to that truck’s final resting place.
Gold, in all its forms, seems woven into the very fabric of this place. That first lucky strike wave passed, as it did in so many Australian towns, though men, seemingly less desperate now, still search for the next big find. The swaying golden pastures feed a thriving beef industry, and that liquid gold flows freely, though mostly through our blood too often spilled on the red earth in an angry drunken haze.
What do we do, in a place so intimately connected to the very thing that tears so many of us apart? How do we extract ourselves from our history, our blood? Someone please tell me – how do we quench that thirst that wasn’t earned through hot and dusty toil?
The North Bank http://thenorthbanktc.blogspot.com/
Sunday, 19 February 2012
It is who I am
I’m sure it’s not commonplace to find yourself driving through the outback with a stranger from Majorca in the passenger seat. But then again, what is commonplace out here? She was standing alone on the side of the highway about a hundred kilometres south of town, thumb pointing boldly up at the end of her outstretched arm. I didn’t really want company – I prefer to drive alone – but I couldn’t just leave her there. People die out here.
And I don’t mean the Falconio-murder-mystery strain of death that feeds hungry media packs and sends a hint of a shiver prickling down your neck each time you pass where they say he died. That is, of course, a risk that sits awkwardly in the back of your mind. One exposing conversation with a weathered local sitting alone at the Barrow Creek pub is enough to lend an uncomfortable plausibility to the Joanne Lees story.
But there’s another kind of death to be found on the side of the highway. A far more insidious killer.
They had forecast a hot day as usual. Forty-two in the shade, but there isn’t much of that out there exposed on the side of the highway where the temperature can push fifty. Standing on the burnt earth, the tops of your feet sting as the sun penetrates through even the thickest of boot leather while the heat rising from the ground beneath easily breaches your protective rubber soles, slowly baking your feet right through. The radiant heat of the bitumen hints that the molten lava at the centre of the earth bubbles not as far beneath the surface as you might think.
In that kind of dry heat it doesn’t take long to dehydrate. You slowly lose your senses as sun stroke sets in and irrational thought overrides all survival instinct. From there it’s only a few short steps to a foolish decision, followed by a stumble into permanent unconsciousness which sneaks up behind and snatches you unaware. No, I couldn’t just leave her there.
Her English wasn’t great and it didn’t even occur to me to insult her with my limited knowledge of Spanish. “Tengo cuatro hermanos” was unlikely to be of particular interest to her anyway. Her sentences were punctuated with phrases that must have been in Spanish, because they sure didn’t sound like any kind of English I recognised. But despite that, through something close to a miracle guided by charades and expressive hand gestures, we connected. Two people from opposites ends of the earth, hurtling down an empty desert highway, sharing culture and passion in broken English.
“I am Majorcan” she would announce from time to time. “It is who I am.”
“It doesn’t matter where I live. In Australia I could be happy, I could live well… but in my gut I would always be Majorcan.” She spoke of her island home surrounded by the crystal clear blue Mediterranean Sea as some sort of paradise. She had a passion for their food that transcended indulgence and a ‘foodies’ pretention. It was a passion that comes from the heart, not the head and it connects them to their homeland, their culture, to life itself in a way that I’m sure I will never truly understand.
“Yes… I am Majorcan.”
Looking through the window at desert passing by, scrub, red earth and hot rock, I saw my own Majorca. That I can understand. That feeling of totally belonging to a place. That no matter where you are, a piece of you is always there. I was not born here in this desert. My ancestral connections lay in a foreign land I have never seen. But I belong here. Where ever I go and no matter how I live, this place comes with me in my gut. The sea of deep red earth that laps against the spinifex covered rocky outcrops is, in its own unique way, my paradise. It is my own Majorca.
Out on our usual Tuesday bush walk and my attention was particularly drawn to the all the little plant souls who were struggling courageously in this extreme Central Australian climate to grow where their particular seed had fallen. Some having landed in more favourable locations, whilst others were going to have to pull out all stops in order both to survive, and to reproduce themselves into the next generation of their particular species.
As is always the case, we have the opportunity to see parallels to our own humanity mirrored in the face of Nature….and so it occurred to me that we are likewise seeds that have fallen on diverse ground….seeds that have no say in where we have been asked to grow….and how it is invariably the case that we so readily leap to judge that one individual is more fortunate or relevant than the other.
I guess these ponderings had their roots in my recent attempt to capture the essence of this well respected Mathematician, Physicist and Philosopher, Dr Wolfgang Smith, the founder of the Philos-Sophia Initiative Foundation, who carries with much dignity and grace the weight of his particular life purpose. And yes, I did indeed fall into the trap of comparing his life to that of mine, and seeing his purpose as being far superior to my own
This man is singular in his intent to re-instate the God factor into a scientific world that has for too long turned its back on The Source…..Whilst I, by contrast, have the luxury of dedicating the final years of my time on this planet to a life of stillness and reflection.
As the image continued to emerge, it became more and more evident that here is a Soul who, although carrying a weighty purpose, nevertheless exudes a quiet confidence….Indeed a steadfast ‘knowing’ that he stands on firm ground, anticipating that sufficient of the seeds he sows will fall on fertile ground and ultimately bear fruit….and who therefore does not waver from the path that he has been asked to walk. Awesome.
And so back to the little plants in the bush. I have concluded that it does not pay for us to judge another’s path as being ‘better’, or more fruitful than our own; but instead have the courage to grow where we have been planted. Content and confident in being the particular aspect of Love that we most surely are.
Trevor Jenkins. Rubbish Warrior.
” The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say,
Sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”
Let me introduce a very special human being who you may or may not have heard of. One of our very own Central Australian, much loved, much honoured and respected Special Persons. Dick Kimber.
Briefly, this lovely man is celebrated for his services to the community through research projects and the recording of information of national interest in the areas of history, anthropology, Aboriginal art, ecology and land management practices in Central Australia. Google is full of him, if you would like to delve further. A very interesting character indeed, and a life fully lived ☺️
Such beautiful energies that radiate pure Goodness…..and I couldn’t resist it. Just had to try and capture those energies on canvas