Wednesday, January 23, 2013

after the storm

the thunderclap was so loud that
we, standing
under the verandah to see the
rain slam down in sheets,
jumped a mile
and ran
back inside
scaring the cats and dog
who were perhaps already
by thunder louder than any thunder in the history of

if there is a such a thing.

if such a history exists it isn't in a book somewhere but
written in memory alone

for all or one of us to
pull out some day far in the
future or tomorrow
and say
remember that storm? the one where
we jumped and ran and laughed
so hard? where we were scared a little but
at least we
were together?

and after the storm
which rolled and

after we waited in light so
dim it felt like night

after the sun came back and power too,
all the lamps and clocks
dancing on with a click

I walked through the

and under a just-washed sky

to see and take note of the wet
and the life,

to look at
all the small bright things.

Monday, January 21, 2013

tell-tale signs

You know you're at a folk festival when…

• so many people have beards this long you stop counting them after you get to 10.

(At first I thought I'd keep a tally of super-long beards, medium-length beards, and plain old scruffy faces… 
but then I forgot and watched the music instead :) )

• People fill a hall to hear a man with a voice and a loop pedal sing about water bears.

(…and did you know water bears can survive in a vacuum? 
…and can survive a hundred years without food or water? Fascinating!)

(…and here's a video clip of the singer, Mal Webb singing about water bears at another festival—very silly!
This song comes with the tiniest of language warnings. My girl didn't even notice it, which never happens.)

• The program for a single day 
is two pages long, 
is this packed, 
and lists a Woodie Guthrie theme concert.

• Chinese Lion Dancers 
steal your friend's shoe
(just because they can).

• Stalls sell everything 
from henna tattoos to hare krishna vegetarian curries
to sno-cones.

(my girl's first sno-cone!…and last. Too sweet and too melty!)

• The performance sheds are decorated with chandeliers.

• A woman from this band plays violin while sitting on a man's shoulders. Wild!


• Bagpipes happen.

• A man plays with a ball on the grass
and makes it look super cool…

(…which my boy would have loved to see, but this day was the beginning of 
a week-long jazz camp adventure, with his dad. Very cool.)

• Hay is everywhere.

• You see a whole lot of violins…

• …  and even more accordions!

Most of all, 
you see a lot of happy faces like these

and you're awfully glad you came. 


Thursday, January 17, 2013

in this we are all connected

Our ginger cat made the strangest sound tonight…while squatting over our brand new day-to-a-page diary where we've just begun to write the many, many things we have planned for the coming homeschool year. You see, Term One is about to begin, and all the kids' classes are about to get going. Circus class and Band and Piano Lessons and Tennis are in their flashy shorts, some jogging in place, packed with the others at the starting line, their toes against the paint. People in this house are getting pretty excited about that.

"Woah," we said. (About the cat noise, I mean, not about the classes, although I know they will be fun)

Then, "Ohhh…"

And we whisked the cat to the floor and watched as he upchucked all over the tiles.

Afterwards, he repositioned himself and went for Puke Number Two. And then he just kind of sat there, in that post-upchuck daze we all know (don't we?) and really, really don't like.

I said, "Huh. I bet you feel better now, buddy."

I am sure he did, poor guy. But then…my husband and I looked at each other. This was the special moment one of us got to put their hand up. Who'd be so brave?

Well, my husband, the hero, went for it. He grabbed the paper towels, and with a swift and practiced motion, began to unroll great reams of paper for the Mighty Clean-Up.

But! Then!

With the swift and practiced thinking of a lifelong environmentalist, I said, "Hey. Why don't we just use the dustpan instead? And maybe the litter scooper thingy? That should work."

(In real life, I called it the Poop Scooper. But I wouldn't like to cheapen this blog by calling it that here).

My husband was fine with that. With a swift and relieved motion, he put the paper towels down, stepped (far) away from the puke, and let me do my Save The Planet One Paper Towel At A Time thing.

It was so easy, two swipes with the scooper and dustpan, and a quick scrub of the floor with dishwashing detergent and the job was done. Voila. And the roll of paper towels lived to see another day.

Which got me to thinking!

About how easy it is to grab a paper towel to wipe a mess instead of a sponge you'd then have to rinse or a dustpan you'd have to go and clean.

How easy it is to throw wet clothes in a dryer instead of stepping out to the line to dry them in the sun.

How disposable things are, mobile phones and television sets, junky toys and all those bottles, cans, jars and plastic tubs. How easy they are to buy, and replace, and buy, and replace.

And that got me to thinking some more…

about where everything, all these Things, come from. And how we are connected to them—sometimes only distantly, invisibly, but still and always, connected.

How a paper towel comes from a tree, a lot like that one on the street or in your back yard or the one in the Amazon Basin that helps you breathe.

How the sun is always there, constantly shooting down heat like a dare devil, blasting wild uv rays on our skin, and absorbing moisture magically from clothes without a second thought. How easy it is to use this Great Ball of Fire, the thing that gives us sunshine and makes the daisies bloom.

How someone made that phone, the phone we all seem to carry these days. In a factory, somewhere, someone with worries and wants put the pieces together.

And someone operating a machine somewhere created that glass bottle.

And that bottle, well, it came in part from sand, shaped and turned somehow into glass…

and that sand came from years of shells or rocks, rubbing against one another in a simple silence.

And we walk on beaches and trust those beaches will always have that sand, those timeless tiny rocks, that, if you're lucky (and the sand is fine and white enough), will squeak under your toes as you walk.

It is all connected.

Bottles and sand…connected.

Cute kittens and cute lambs… connected.

Canned tuna and those mega-fishing trawlers…connected.

Plastic and pollution…connected.

Trees and paper…connected.

Choices and consequences…connected.

Sometimes it makes you want to sit down and take a moment,

once you see the tiny lines,

the spider threads that interweave between you and me and him and her and it and that and those.

When you see how each action, each choice you make contributes to that web.

It's dazzling. And it's beautiful.

And it's scary and it's sad.

But once you see,

it's hopeful, too.

Because the Earth is an extraordinary, living thing…and we are part of the Earth.

We are the living web. The trees and lambs and daisies and rocks and the vibrating worries of a woman on the other side of the world?

Connected, incredibly to you, as you sit here, reading these words. And to me, as I write them and breathe the air we share.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Juggler

My son adores juggling, so I thought I'd post some videos! Grab your popcorn, sit back and enjoy!

In this video, taken in June last year, he had only been juggling for two months…

Here he is, a month later, juggling to jazz master Michael Brecker…

Here is a routine he worked on for a performance at the end of the year. Look at all that hair!

And, now he is working on playing jazz piano while juggling!

Thank you, and I hope you enjoyed the show! :)

This just in!

A video taken just minutes ago… drums meets kazoo meets juggling meets jazz. Very cool :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

growing Compassion

When I was a girl, about 12, I remember standing at the bus stop, waiting for the school bus with my sister, and stamping on the ants.

"Stop!" she said. "What did those ants do to you?"

Of course the ants had done nothing, but there was a quiet thrill in me, to have so much power. Tiny ants; what was the point of them?

A couple of years later, a friend of mine at his birthday party put a ring of some kind of gasoline around a group of ants on the sidewalk. Then he lit it on fire. It was a small fire, but all his friends and I crowded around to see the ants in a panic, feeling the wall of heat, with nowhere to go, no protection, no possibility of escape.

I don't remember feeling anything much other than perhaps this wasn't a fair fight. This was a step up from stamping. I don't remember watching for long. I think, at some point, I walked away. At least, my 40-plus-year-old self hopes I did.

Then my sister became vegetarian. I was fourteen. Being vegetarian in the 80's was very different to today. We would go out to dinner and the waiter would be stumped, totally unable to fathom what my sister could eat. My relatives would have big family dinners and serve ham salad, telling my sister she could just pick out the meat. As a university student, I would eat big t-bone steaks in front of her at family get togethers.

I ate meat without a thought. I killed spiders without a thought. I felt distant from other animals, and to be perfectly honest, I think I felt better than them. I remember thinking, "It's okay to eat chickens, because they are stupid." (Not actually true, it turns out). I felt the same about fish. I was a bit wobblier thinking about cows as they were so gentle and placid-looking. As for pigs, rumour had it they were smart, but I put that out of my mind to eat them.

My sister, in the meantime, remained vegetarian, never wavering, raising her kids as vegetarians, and quietly, slowly influencing me with her steadfast refusal to eat meat.

Some years ago, we had a problem with some mice. It was an infestation; a bunch of mice had found our house and decided to move in. We could hear them, scrabbling about contentedly in the walls, and sometimes popping, darting, dashing into our house to look for grub. We were told to bait them, so that's what we did. One day soon after, I remember finding a sick, scared mouse in our house. It could hardly move. I can't write or describe what I did to dispose of that mouse, but I will never forget it. That mouse was terrified. It felt shocking to kill it.

By this time, I was the mother of two kids as well as the carer of a dog, a cat, chickens, fish, birds. I cuddled my cat, walked and talked with my dog, watched as our two birds tried to have babies. The chickens would run to us when we dug in the garden, looking for worms. The hens shouted to let us, anyone, know they'd just! laid! an egg! My kids and I adored our pets.

Then about four years ago, I saw a friend's cat get run over.

I saw the whole thing from beginning to end. And I thought: I can't do this any more. Separate myself.

I went vegetarian then. I lasted about nine months. But no-one else went with me, and I'd just been diagnosed as wheat intolerant, and I couldn't think of what to eat. It seemed suddenly so hard. So I returned to eating meat, but I had to consciously switch off my mind when I went to buy steak or sausages or chicken at the shops, when I faced the shelves and fridges filled with meat. Switch off, don't think, don't think. Once it was at home, it became just another food, in its packet. It was easier to eat when it was just stuff in a packet. Nothing more.

Three years ago, around February, we went on a camping trip, to sand fly territory. Those sand flies were crazy. They'd bite you the minute they saw you, no introductions, no hovering about just to say hello. My son was really, really scared of them. On our last day, we were driving away from the camp site, and a sand fly came in through the window. There was shouting and panic.

We pulled over the car and I grabbed a tissue box and thwack! I got that fly. Job done. I turned back to face the front. My husband began to drive. I heard a sound and looked over to see my son and he was crying so hard. Face collapsed, weeping.

Why? I asked.

Because, because…

Oh, sweetheart. Because I killed the sand fly?

Yes, Mum. Yes.

That's when I realised how deep compassion could go.

Four months later we became vegetarian. A year and a half after that, we became vegan.

And our compassion, our "sympathetic concern for the suffering of others," has grown and grown and grown.

We have read, seen, discussed, learned so much. We are more aware these days, not just of animal welfare issues, but of global and environmental, political and human rights issues. We talk about everything, and our eyes are wide, wide open.

It's like we opened some door, and in came this sense of the World, all around. Our "Selves" stopped mattering so much. Now we talk of giving more, not needing as much, of wanting to speak out about the things we care about, making a difference, small or large. We talk of being the change we want to see in the world. We try, daily, to BE the change.

This might all have happened whether we became vegan or not. I know some extraordinarily compassionate people who eat animal products. I know people who are mindful and seeking to make positive changes in the world who also hold barbeques and eat chicken curry.

For us though, our choice to become a vegetarian family, and then vegans, was our door to compassion, opening.

And it's so bright and clear in here!

Sometimes it's a bit too bright, too clear. Sometimes there's too much knowledge, because once you look…you see that real suffering is all around.

But for us, whatever sadness that knowledge brings,

is countered with hopeful, positive acts.

Like my husband removing, the other night (and over the course of two more nights) more than 30 teeny tiny baby spiders from our house.

Spider by spider by spider…!

And my son learning to cook tofu scramble this week, making breakfast for himself and his dad…

And my husband (not a pet lover) speaking to the dog and cats with a whole new voice, a whole new language…

And all of us sitting and smiling over dinners that taste so very, very Good.

Peace and love and hope coming out to you all! 

I hope you feel it, because it's big and growing,
and there's so much to share. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

the magic of Being

Somewhere along the way
to Getting and Staying Better,
I began to live.

I began to exist
in the moment,
for the present,
noticing the small seconds ticking by,
the way my breath went out, came in, went out, came in.

I found myself taking moments,
where my hands would settle at my sides
and I would notice

a cloud drifting
the sun on my skin
a slow blink
the sink of soft sand as I stepped forward
a spoon in a pot, stirring
the purr of a cat
the curl of a wave
a bird in a tree, dipping its small beak into blossoms
a snoring dog, legs twitching as he ran in his dreams
a wooden floor on bare feet
children talking
children laughing.

I found I spent more time making eye contact
saying thank you
saying thank you
saying thank you.

I noticed the power of a hug. How two can become one, and how—whether it's a friend, a child, the love of your life—a hug can realign your spirit into Better in the space of 2-10 seconds (the approximate length of a regular hug, not counting those long hugs on couches with a beloved child on your lap, still smelling of sleep, their hair tousled and tickling).

On this path to Being Better,
I have
woken up.

And my favourite feeling?

The feeling when you notice,
you are still here.

You get to be alive
on this breathing, feeling earth.

You get to share and give and care and love and breathe,
for as long as you are here.

The feeling
is miraculous and divine.

It hits me,
each and every day now.

In the smallest moments, and in the large,
in the moments I share with others,
in the things I get to give
and in the slow sweet seconds I spend
on my own.

I feel it,
and tears come to my eyes, all the time,
all the time.

I am so

there is
so much peace.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

a date!

I'm going on a date tonight with my beautiful girl!

We're going up to the Big Smoke

tourism australia

and into this famous House
where we will sit in this famous room


to hear gorgeous music being played by these two beautiful women
(aka: the group known as First Aid Kit).

On our date there'll also be sorbet eating (dairy-free and scrumptious!), book browsing, view watching, bus taking, lots of walking, and much talk talk talking.

Ah…I can't wait!

as promised…
pictures of cats will turn up more frequently in this blog
along with pictures of my beautiful kids (of course), and my husband,
who is crazy and sweet and mine.


Thanks so much for the lovely wishes about my last/first post!

It's wonderful to find you here :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

a beautiful beginning…

Happy New Year!

It's raining as I write this, on the second day of the first month of a new year. Everything feels fresh and promising, while at the same time, there's a comfort to sitting here in my known space, my kids pottering around me, the cat licking herself, the chink of my husband's spoon against his cereal bowl…

It's a new year and a new beginning…and it's a comfortable, well-worn life, all at once. There's something truly beautiful about seeing the Old and the New sitting with each other, nodding across the way, eyes crinkling into smiles.

I haven't been here for a while, and it's been a busy, happy time. We have had so many adventures, exciting discoveries, disappointments, triumphs. In the meantime, life has sauntered and roared by…terrible and beautiful things have happened all around the world. I've watched, cried with grief and joy, laughed, and accepted.

A year ago, I was incredibly sick and impossibly sad. Today…my whole Self feels clear, aware, peaceful, mindful, joyful. At least, on most days. :)

Last year—the enormous and incredible 2012—was my year for getting better and staying better. Over the course of the year, my mantra became "BE BETTER."

I wrote it on a piece of paper early on, and stuck it to my wall
—where I have looked at it, thought it, lived it, every day since.

What does "Be Better" actually mean? Well, it has so many meanings. Wild and lovely layers of meaning.

It's not just about being, and staying healthy, although that is one huge, important aspect.

It's also about:

Doing good things. Doing mindful and caring things. Being compassionate and choosing kindness above all else. Choosing a path towards light and positivity, making choices that lift yourself and others up.

It also, for me, means being a vegan.
Being an animal advocate.
Being a pacifist.
Being a human rights defender.
Being an environmentalist.
Believing that the voiceless matter.

"Be Better," for my kids and husband, means all these things too. It also means that in our homeschooling path, we have chosen a type of learning that is sometimes labelled "natural learning," "child-led learning," and "unschooling." But for us, the way we homeschool is simply "Life." I used to worry about what homeschool label we fit under. Now, we just do. We read, we explore, and we create. We learn. Every day is different. Our homeschooling days feel organic, flowing, both simple and complicated, and they fit us perfectly.

So there you have it.

If you wanted to put us in a Box, a big BE BETTER box, this is what you'd find!

And I suppose all these things I've listed are what make us up, but we are so much more than these parts, too. And we are always discovering something new about ourselves, every day. So "Be Better" is also about being open. Discovering. Letting in the New and the Scary and the Unknown. It is about letting in the world and not being afraid to live.

I guess my "Be Better" can be summed up by these three words:

1. Respect (always. Never stop for a second),
2. Love (always. Never stop for a second), and
3. Learning.

Always. Never stop for a second!

It's that simple?

For me, it is.

And that means the title that's been waiting all this time to sit at the top of this space of mine
has finally arrived!

And I get a chance, on this brand new year, to reintroduce myself, make a new space,

and have a fresh beginning.

Where joy can bound out, along with my simple tales of the day, and pictures of cats, and snippets and beauty…
and I can share my BE BETTER with you…

with a smile this big
and hope this large
and love this kind
and peace flowing.

This is who I am. This is who we are.

It is so lovely to meet you!