Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sometimes it's just nice…

Sometimes it's nice just to take a walk, you know?

And say hello to the trees.

It's nice to find wombat holes tucked into glades…

and see that the sky is an uninterrupted blue.

It's nice to look over water with sun glinting off it…

and find mushrooms as big as your hand! 

It's nice to stand by beautiful things…

and notice the wild, reaching…

and see a boy,
in his Element.

It's nice to run…

and dig…

and walk by water…

and jump into holes left just for you.

It's nice to notice

the colour of clouds…

to sit
in the moment your porridge is done

and listen to the simple tick
of the clock
and your own, quiet breathing.

It's so nice to take time
to be together,

to take note…

isn't it?

And so very nice 
to smile!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

guns, love, winter, and braces

We tried to go walking by the beach yesterday between thunderstorms, and got lashed by our first grey autumn rain. The sea frothed and surfers leaped into the waves, and the clouds made a mushy mess of the sky. We couldn't help but laugh, the four of us, striding in that wet, together.

And they caught the Boston bomber yesterday and people were alternately weeping and cheering in the streets.

My son ate his thousandth cup of soup last night. He is into day five of braces. They hurt, they hurt, they hurt. I would gladly take his pain and live it, if I could. But I can't, so all I can do is lie beside him at night and tell him stories at 3am, as I did on night one, when he couldn't sleep for pain. Sometimes that's all you have—your stories, your love, your closeness.

I have entered a debate on gun control, it seems, in this blog. I suppose if you bring up a subject, you engage. So I guess I am engaged. But only so far as it's healthy for me, and my family to engage…At some point I move away to make soup, to sit with my son and watch movies on the couch with him and give him pain relief. Last night the four of us played Pictionary at the dining table, our heads bent over the paper, and we laughed 'til we cried. I move away from the debate, but also move closer…to send good wishes and peace to those who feel differently from me.

Both sides of the gun control debate have solid statistics at hand to argue their point. They have history to back them, and essays and quotes from famous people. Both sides have real-life stories, tragedies, heart-wrenching and affirming tales to support their side. With a debate like this comes strong emotion. And strident rhetoric. And tears. With a debate like this, with every decision and news story, you have weeping and cheering…in the streets, on couches, by hospital beds. With a debate like this, there can be no winner. You just have lives, affected.

So I am sending love to those affected by violence. In Boston. In Syria. In my own home town. I am sending my beliefs out into the ether. I believe in conversation and community. I believe that we can be collective guardians of the world. I don't believe things are "bad" or "good" or that "evil" exists. I don't believe in "us" and "them." I think violence comes through a chain of choices and circumstance, people let down, led astray, feeling there are no other options. I believe violence can be met by a wall of peace.

I believe the focus of society should be on creating the most compassionate community. I don't think we have to be docile or passive: I think we can be alive and alight with our kindness, our empathy, our passion for non-violence. I believe we can sit on buses and be conscientious objectors. We can stand at microphones and have dreams that inspire nations. We can listen to and help those who are frustrated and unwell. We can be inspired by those who seek and have sought Peace. Love. Equality. Understanding. We can sing, and speak out, and protect our children—we can change the world.

I am a pacifist. I am a mother. I am an informed, gentle, global citizen. I am happy to debate, but I  know where I would debate, if I could choose. Not in a town hall at a podium, with notes in my hand. I wouldn't stand or sit opposite my opposition, shaking my fist. I would rather not be behind the computer, writing words to people who don't agree with me, but instead sitting together—mother beside mother, person beside person—at a kitchen table, or side by side on the couch. I would have our hands curled around cups of tea. I would have us talking and listening. Talking, and listening.

Sun is out today. I think we're going to the local markets; they're held at a little school that overlooks the sea. Music is always playing. We will be together. The sea will probably be an impossible, perfect  blue.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

peace to all

Hasn't it been a strange and imperfect week?

You look at the newspaper and it's heartbreaking—ranging from difficult to impossible—all around, in country after country.

And you sit with your boy as he struggles through pain and you feel it as though it's your pain.

And you're tired and you'd like life to be simple, but it isn't.

And the laundry pile is huge.

I was sitting on the edge of my bed this morning, thinking, "Today isn't going to be easy."

Once upon a time, I would lie down on days like these, and let the hard take over.

I looked at the sky and the trees and heard the birds. Sky was a cloudless blue. Trees were green and wild. Birds were talking, telling each other stories.

And I got up.

Today I got up and took some laundry downstairs and that was a small, good thing.

Today, my son, who just got braces yesterday morning and was up all night in pain, just put on some Miles Davis. I'm writing to the music that makes my son happy.

Today I read a blog post where the person suggested we focus on being kind. Being patient. Breathing deeply. Yes, I thought.

I've had some strange times this week, interacting and, for the first time, debating/respectfully disagreeing with people online. I am usually very agreeable on social media, so this felt new for me: kind of fiery and peaceful at the same time. The people I have "debated" with I respect hugely, and I have not wanted to seem argumentative. But I have wanted to share an alternative view: my view, my truth.

I am finding that I'd like to speak, and speak, and speak my truth more. And, of course, let people speak theirs in turn.

Already I write about animal suffering a little on this blog, but not often. I "like" things that relate to animal rights on Facebook, and every now and then, I share information I feel is important to read. But there are more things I care about. Things I am quiet about because I don't want to push an "agenda" or have this blog become political or be about "causes." But what I care about, and the change I want to see in the world, really matters to me. People are making huge changes happen in the world by speaking out. Why don't I, more?

For some reason I've been thinking about Gandhi a lot recently. What would he do? What would he say in the face of the NRA's agenda, and bombings in the US and drone attacks in Pakistan, in the face of factory farming, hunting in National Parks, of people living lives of judgement and hate… all things I find difficult to bear?

I believe he would speak, and speak, and speak, his truth.

He would BE the change he wished to see in the world.

So this is the change I wish to see in the world. The change I try to live daily:

People putting kindness and compassion above all.

People living in, and accepting, equality.

People prioritising peace, and the lives of others, over "centuries-old rights" and "this is how things have always been."

People seeking non-violent solutions for conflict.

People protecting the voiceless.

It's not how a lot of the world is right now, but I keep hoping. And getting up in spite of things. I keep choosing kindness, compassion, positivity. And writing my truth.

Here I sit, on this day that's turning out to be not so hard after all…with a cat on my lap, listening to jazz. It's just started to rain and I can hear it pick-pocking the verandah roof outside.

I will write words I care about. I will feel sadness and confusion for the people of Boston. I will feel joy that marriage equality has been recognised in New Zealand. I will mourn another bombing in Iraq in the days leading up to their election. I will be baffled and deeply disappointed by the Senate choosing not to change gun laws in the US. I will march against live export when Animals Australia brings the rally to the city of Sydney. I will hug my children.

I will get up in a minute and put the laundry on. Give my son some more pain relief. Make him some more soup. Listen to the rain.

And send, as always, love and peace, to all.

People in the public gallery of the New Zealand Parliament, 
singing the Maori love song "Pokarekare Ana" 
moments after same-sex marriage legislation was passed. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

SPAM: a collection of poems

The doctor's wife

I like what I see so now i'm following you.

Place a bowl of pot pourri on your window sill, so breezes can 
waft the scents around.

Theгe's a fine line between the all-natural sorts of snoring that should 
cause no worries, and the 
consistently habitual type of snoring that 
goes out of control.

When your discs realign, 
pressure is removed from your nerves and 
you will probably feel plenty of relief from lumbar pain.

Also there still may be timing or emotional issues that hold you apart—
this may not be your only Soul-Mate. 
I'm uniquely qualified to say so because I was a doctor's wife in the 60's.

Your ex

A woman could undoubtedly go 
away your ex 
domicile through morning, 
self-confident in your girl manifestation,
 find out through mid-day teas, 
my significant other become tricked.

Exactly. How?

The former individual is equitable of 
more session lessons for the uncastrated case. 
Like if something goes unsuitable, how region can they bank?

Unquestionably unwell

Unwell unquestionably come more 
formerly again since 
exactly the same nearly very often 
inside case 
you shield this increase.

Tough love  

This may sound strange. 
These websites have already been in 
existence for several years. 
Your conversations are mostly small talk.


Oh my goodness! 
Awesome article dude!
 Gгeat deliverу. 
Ѕoliԁ argumentѕ. 
Kеep up thе grеat wоrκ.


(ps: Thank you, dear commenters of all kinds, 
for the laughter, support, and inspiration you have given me over the years. Much love to you!)

Monday, April 8, 2013

if music be the food of love…

My husband had a really big concert on the weekend.

Every year, he puts together a big band of young people to play with a famous jazz musician (or two, three, or more!). I've written about this band before, here, but that was almost three years ago! Time for a retell, I think. :) Every year, these kids and young adults get together on the day of the performance (for their one and only rehearsal!), get given sheet music they haven't seen before, plus a t-shirt to wear on the night, and get shown where to sit. They rehearse, hard, for 6 hours, then come back that night to perform. It's incredibly exciting for a lot of these kids—there's nothing like it in the area. I suspect there might be nothing like it in the country.

Now, when I say a big band, I mean, a really really REALLY big band. It is made up of 150 people. 150! Yes. All those young people work together to create a concert, led by a man with huge vision and energy (my amazing husband, who is helped by lovely, tireless colleagues), all of them running on sheer exuberance, talent, and courage. Some kids have only been playing for a year, and they sit beside people who are in their last year of highschool (even early university), and somehow, it works.

The only things they're asked to do? To have fun. To either play (or look like they're playing!). And to go for it.

My husband came up with this idea about 7 years ago, and his wonderful Conservatorium of Music has put on six Megaband shows so far. I've designed the t-shirt for every concert, and my son has played four times. We've had jazz, funk, and latin greats all come to play as guest artists, and on Friday night, we had 900 people come to watch. It's a thing now. Like, a real THING, something you might imagine kids remembering when they grow up…like, how maybe they got their guitar or music or drum sticks signed by this awesome musician, or how maybe that was the first time they ever properly performed and they were so nervous but they did it, and this maybe was the beginning of them realising they wanted to be a musician.

This lovely night has become part of our mutual history now, part of my family's and my town's story. It makes up some of the colours, the woven pattern of our place here. What a beautiful thing for people to be part (and proud) of.

For me, however, my favourite part of the night was a small and perfect thing. Something that felt so personal, but was shared with over a thousand other people. And afterwards, I felt all weepy with pride.

You see, my husband directed the band wearing Converse sneakers.

Second-hand ones, at that.

He wore a gorgeous black suit, crisp white shirt, grey tie, and these grey canvas "classic" Chuck Taylors. He bought them from the op-shop the other day, scrubbed them clean, and wore them to this "big deal" event. And the lack of black leather 'dress shoes' was noticeable—so much so that one of our two famous guest artists called my husband on it.

The guest who is a friend of my husband's, made a joke about my husband's tennis shoes. He suggested maybe my husband forgot to change shoes, and perhaps my husband needed to borrow his again, like that time four years ago (when my husband actually forgot to bring his own).

That got a good laugh, and then my husband good-humouredly went to the microphone and said something to this effect:

"These aren't just tennis shoes, man. These are Converse all-stars. These were made with no animal products."

Applause rippled through the audience, rose like a quiet wave through the theatre.

"So don't be givin' me grief 'bout my shoes no mo'."

And he grinned at the famous jazz man, who grinned back, and my husband turned to the band and began conducting the next piece, and the famous jazz man began to play something beautiful.

And while the night wasn't—at all—about animals or about ethics or choices or beliefs, the night, for me, became in that moment about something bigger than music, bigger than us sitting here, bigger than 150 kids having the time of their lives. It became about standing up for, reaching up towards, something that is as big as spirit, and as deep.

When my husband could have said nothing, he spoke for living things that do not sing or play or have a voice as we do, but feel as we do. He spoke for creatures who might have loved to listen to the music as we did, and been lifted by that music into joy.

Friday, April 5, 2013

a slave to passion: the unschooling way

We started the school year this February…with a timetable.

Yes, you're reading that right! We free and unfettered "life learners," we long-term unschooly types, tried a timetable on for size this term.

Oh, it was so pretty.

I dolled things up by changing the font, using different colours and text sizes, fitting things into coloured boxes, all in the attempt to make the Scheduled Learning Opportunities look enticing and fun.

I printed it out and put it in a plastic sleeve where we oohed and aahed over it. It looked so fancy, so polished, so Sensible and Straight.

And I had high hopes for it, in the beginning. This timetable thing was how I was finally going to fit all the government expectations and requirements into the week, squeeze them in like step-sisters' toes into our glass slipper.

You see, at the beginning of the school year, I suddenly got hit by a fit of the Have To's. The Shoulds, the It's Got to Look Like This'es. My son was going into year 8 this year, and two days before term began, I suddenly thought, "Woah! This is serious! Better start "Doing" high school, then!" I forgot we'd been perfectly happily "Doing" high school all last year, without the sense of squishiness, without feeling the subjects crowding into the week like mad concert goers rushing the stage.

So, I tried to fit all the Stuff—the language, technology, science, maths, literacy, history, geography, all the boxes you're supposed to tick every single week—in around the kids' passions. But these things were bullies…or at least, by attempting to change who we are and how we learn, I turned these Required Subjects into bullies…because they shoved my son's juggling practice to the far reaches of the day. Half an hour in the mornings, maybe. Perhaps an hour or two on a Wednesday, if he was lucky. He had evenings, which I thought were enough, working on his passion before bedtime.

But the problem with (and the beauty of) passion is, it's all consuming. It is your greatest love, your escape; your saviour and your finest hour.

Go without the thing you love for long, and it's torment. You aren't yourself. Everything feels wrong, feels wobbly, like you're not in the right skin, the right life.

I know this, because without my own passion, I get lost. When I'm not writing, everything feels a bit (or a lot) off kilter. There are times I can mask the feeling with more exercise. Magnesium supplements. Extra sleep. And with mindfulness exercises…where I take note, gladly, that I am well and get to hang out with my kids all day.

But if I forget to write, or get so busy tweaking a schedule that doesn't fit—"facilitating learning experiences exactly between the hours of 9 and 12 on a Monday, and 10 to 1 on a Tuesday, etc, etc"—that my writing time shrinks to nearly nothing, then after a time, it feels like a limb is missing.

The last few weeks, I've begun to truly prioritise my writing. Brought my computer everywhere I've gone. Grabbed every spare minute to write, write, write. I've written in the mornings while the kids eat their breakfast, written while they've pottered away at their projects, begun to put my writer self first. I've written 20,000 words over the past month, and it feels beautiful.

And as I've raised my passion up, valued it, prioritised it…well, our timetable has, sort of, um, fallen away.

What has this done to my newly-organised homeschool family? Well, the kids have gone back to learning, exploring, creating, discovering, just as they have been, quite organically (with us as a team, following ideas, suggestions, and desires), for four homeschooling years.

And as for my son's juggling, it is setting up home in centre stage.

The other day, you see, my son showed me yet another Youtube juggling video—one of the hundreds, literally, he has watched over the past year.

He said to me, "Mum, this guy [pointing to the teenager doing mad tricks…] practices juggling for three hours a day, seven days a week."

I said, "Really???" and he said, "Yes."

"Huh. Would you want to do that???"


He was so quiet, sitting there at the computer, looking at me with these eyes—the only word to describe what I saw there, was 'Hunger.'

He didn't just want to throw objects into the air for every waking minute of every day. He needed to. He was unmoored without it.

Something clicked. So this is what passion looks like when it's outside your own body.

We talked for ages about how to make this love an actual, honest to goodness priority. He had his circus classes, yes, but needed practice time too—hours and hours. And practice space—he needed tall ceilings. He needed time to watch videos, to make videos, to think about juggling, to breathe in circus arts like oxygen.

So we're doing it. Going for it, jumping into the deep.

We've set up open training at his circus space. Two hours here, three hours there, almost every day of the week. I've talked with his teachers and they've told me what he needs, to get into university to study circus arts. They're setting higher goals, harder tasks, because they take this thing seriously. They will take it seriously for as long as it's my son's dream. I've even booked my boy into ballet class—he can't wait to start.

I've rewritten a timetable he might never see. Great swathes of the day are filled with the words, "Circus Training." Our classes—art, tennis, writers workshop, music and more music—are marked down too. But the "Official Stuff?" The boxes filled with labels like "maths"? Gone. I've rewritten the timetable…for me. Now that it's been written, with all the right bits in, I'm not sure, honestly, if I'll look at it again.

Passion is valid, vital, alive. It's okay…it really is…if it is everything and all the other Stuff fits and flows around it. I've read articles about unschooling and kids having consuming passions and how this all can work…and I am finding my way again.

Which brings us to today.

My son made juggling videos, all day. He filmed his training yesterday, edited and formatted the movie, added text and music. Together we created a Youtube account for him. He worked his way around the site for hours, adding a profile pic, creating a cover image for his Youtube channel, subscribing to his favourite jugglers. He uploaded his first ever Youtube video. Hurrah! And then…he went and made another.