Monthly Archives: September 2019

Offering Endless Variety of Nothing

It was Grand Final Day and crowds were packing the MCG. This is the day everything seems to stop in Melbourne and the city takes on the feeling of being a ghost town as people gather in venues to watch the match. It is the day of bar-b-ques and general partying.

Not being vaguely interested in football,  the big match or for that matter being in a crowd, I was feeling a little restless.

Sensing my need for broad open spaces on land where there is a whole lot of nothing, Akari (my beloved Mazda 3) rattled her wheels and said she was up for one of our mystery tours. So, without stopping to gather any supplies, the Lappies (my two Finnish Laphaunds) and I set off on one of our expeditions.

We headed west from Castlemaine, through Maldon, stopping briefly for a sniff run at Eddington and then on beyond Dunolly to Bealiba.

The area around Bealiba was originally known as Cochrane’s, after John and James Cochrane, who took up a pastoral run in 1853. When gold was discovered in 1855-56 the area was known as Cochrane’s Diggings, but the surveyor who laid out the township in 1862 adopted the name of the pastoral run, ‘Bealaba’, later Bealiba. It is thought that the name is derived from Aboriginal words meaning red gum creek.

Once a hub for those seeking gold today Bealiba is a quiet little town. With nothing open to visit, I was content to go to the historic cemetery where one is inevitably confronted with the grief that people who lived in this harsh place endured. As the headstone I photographed testifies, the mortality rate amongst infants was very high. The loss endured by John and Mary Jones is hard to imagine.

Glancing at the petrol gauge Akari and I agreed that it was best to head towards St Arnaud. The drive from Bealiba to this gracious old town seemed to take forever and Akari and I muttered to one another about the folly of deciding to wander about in a part of the world where there is hardly a car to be seen. But we pressed on, relieved to finally reach our destination and stop to refuel, for me to savour coffee and a packet of mixed sandwiches. As I looked at the beautifully manicured park across the road I did think that next time we spontaneously decided to head bush I might pack my picnic basket.

Logan, with its endless variety of absolutely nothing, represents outstanding paucity of value for the tourist dollar. Situated in an area that boasts some superb scenic, high speed, touring roads with extremely low traffic density this is a shabby scrap of dying history

So journey to Logan and relive the shocking hardship of those wretched souls who opened up this land for reasons that no historian has ever been able to fathom.

All roads lead to the Logan Pub.

Sourced from Logan Pub Website – a delightful must read.

As we left St Arnaud I contemplated how far it was to get back to Castlemaine. It was a pleasant surprise to stumble upon the Logan Pub in The Scrub a hotel which promotes itself as offering old fashioned hospitality. The hotel’s quirky website informs us that Logan, a rustic and historically significant hamlet in North Central Victoria, offers the genuine tourist a wealth of valuable experiences.

The perfect place to wait and meet Godot I wondered?

Over a lemon-lime and bitters and a bag of potato crisps, I stopped to chat with the bartender (look carefully you will find him in the photo I took) and took in my surroundings. I mentally noted the assorted items that were hanging from the roof and adorning the shelves. Nearby the huge screen revealed that the big match had started and an array of country folk began to materialize to watch it. I was happy to slip quietly away and head home via Tarnagulla.

A day spent in a land where there is supposedly nothing revealed that there is always something. There never was nothing in the beginning and it turns out that there is something very special in a part of the world that proclaims to be a place where there is a whole lot of nothing.

Footnote: This post is taken from a journal entry. I am offering an intensive journal writing course at the Castlemaine Community House beginning on October 16th. An online version is available at Trains of Thought but only subscribers can view this. Feel free to contact me for more details.

Trains of Thought

Source: chevalfineart.com

Trains of Thought is the private blog that subscribers who want to engage in The Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing course can join. This site will house resources and prompts. This is one sample post. Members of Bancroft Manor are eligible to participate. You do not have to join the Manor House. To engage simply choose what you can afford to pay ($20, $30 or $40) using your own currency. Payment can be made via Paypal using the address heatherblakey@fastmail dot fm (obviously you need to insert a dot to use this address)

“As the oak tree lies hidden in the depths of the acorn, so the wholeness of the human personality with its fullness of spiritual and creative capacities lies hidden in the depths of the human being silently waiting for its opportunity to emerge.” — Ira Progoff, Depth Psychology and Modern Man

What Progoff created in the Intensive Journal is a process of writing that enables a person’s deep inner wisdom to become conscious and a source of guidance in their journal writing and in the conduct of our lives. He wanted to give people a tool that was practical and of use in whatever setting a person might be.

I have had my copy of At A Journal Workshop for over twenty years and regularly turned to it when I am working with people who have signed up for the writing courses I regularly offer. Although I have a well-marked copy of this classic book about journal writing I have never undertaken the course. However, I am tempted to go to Eremos in Sydney in November to complete a two-day course.

After writing about the atmosphere of a journal workshop Progoff introduces what he calls the Period Log as a way to begin the work of drawing our life into focus. He talks about beginning with the Now but explains that the Now is not limited to an immediate instant.

When I consider the Now I am reminded of a session with my ‘therapist’ (journal) where we discussed my perception of how much the landscape of the internet has changed since I ran the Soul Food Cafe. I went on to explore, in stream-of-consciousness, how I am no longer sure where or whether I fit in. My period log provides the space where I can record these insights in a succinct, objective entry. I also included a sketch of myself looking from the outside, in wonder at the overcrowded urban cities that have sprung up in cyber-space. I also note aspects of a recurring dream where I cannot find my way in an urban environment.

After completing an exercise like this in a class setting I often ask participants to identify a character and, using material from their entry, write a scene in the first person. After completing an exercise which involved going inside a sea shell Jannali used her observations to complete a piece.

When searching the internet I found  Ed Levin sharing entries from his period log. It is worth exploring Levin’s blog to see how he has been working in an online setting.

A book I strongly recommend that participants examine is ‘A Life Of One’s Own’ by Joanna Field (Marion Milner). In my mind, this is like the Period Log Progoff speaks of. Check out the review at Brain Pickings to learn more about this amazing existential experiment, much beloved by W.H. Auden. After writing this Milner went on to fill her ninety-eight years with a life of uncommon contentment, informed by her learnings from this intensive seven-year self-examination.

Remember that the Present Period will vary with each individual. It may:

  • reach back three years since a car accident
  • go back even further to the time when you walked away from life as you knew it
  • simply be a few weeks after meeting a new friend
  • the period after moving house
  • be about the period after beginning a new job
  • be after an epiphany

Before beginning to undertake an entry in your journal learn about Entrance Meditations.

The Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing

“I looked at other journals, notably those of Dostoevsky and Anaïs Nin, and I could see that, for them, the journal was a vehicle that led to greater creativity. But I found that a good many other journals were just diaries: without a project to be done, people’s diaries just went around in circles.”
Ira Progoff

“Sometimes I fantasise about throwing my suitcase into the car, taking off down the highway, sucking up that white line like spaghetti and running away from it all road-movie-style. Sometimes I am on my own escaping my current life and indulging the exquisite loneliness of solitary travel” writes Elly Varrenti. Personally, I am happy to pack my bags and go within Bancroft Manor via my journal. When I am in the room of my own at Bancroft I am more likely to grapple with projects that I am working on.

Everyone has a life and that life must be his or her great work of art. There’s an underground stream of images and recollections within each of us. The stream is nothing more or less than our interior life. When we enter it, we ride it to a place where it wants to go. It is within this interior world that we can come to identify who we really are and what our big project is to be.

Cast aside any preconceived ideas you may have about journal writing. Take the quantum leap! Select a journal, pack a creative medicine bag and prepare to go deep within.

Intensive journal writing is quite different from diary writing. There are many good reasons to make the commitment to find sanctuary and to work within a  journal. Keeping a journal provides you with the opportunity to

  • make it a habit to work with your personal creative partner
  • establish a playground for your right brain
  • exercise all your senses and draw from the well of unconsciousness
  • resolve writer’s block
  • position yourself in the now
  • appreciate how creative you actually are
  • identify where you fit into the wheel of life.

This journalling course will help almost anyone who wishes to go deep within and explore his or her life as a work of art. Everyone ends up with a journal full of stories and recollections and often surprising new insights about the most fascinating mystery of all: themselves and their relation to the world around them. To engage you don’t need to be a mystic or perceive yourself to be incredibly creative. All you need is a life!

Check some samples of Intensive Journal Writing activities.

If you are interested in engaging in this course you can make enquiries at the Castlemaine Community House. Alternatively, you can contact heatherblakey@fastmail dot fm to subscribe and join Trains of Thought, a site containing resources and prompts. Contact Heather Blakey for details.