Mother, mother, what ill-bred aunt
Of what disfigured and unsightly
Cousin did you unwisely keep
Unasked to my christening, that she Sent these ladies in her stead
With heads like darning-eggs to nod
And nod and not at foot and head
And at the left side of my crib?
-Disquieting Muses 1957 Sylvia Plath
Back in the day, when I first began running writing classes, I used to invoke the Muse by setting up an altar, burning sage and having everyone actually imagine they could hear the rustling of gowns as the muses came to join us. Ask anyone who participated at that time and they will leave you in no doubt that the Muses were responsive. These wild women were overjoyed to be invited, having felt that they had been all but forgotten for centuries.
At this same time, I was establishing the Soul Food Cafe and one of the early sections I built was The House of the Muse. As a part of this feature, I gathered a collection of hymns to the muse. Then, when my late husband and I travelled throughout Europe for six months the absolute highlight was finally reaching Delphi, Mount Olympus and other sanctuaries in Greece. At Delphi, I called upon the Delphic Oracle and all but plunged myself in the famed waters of Castalia. I bought back bottles filled with water from the Castalian Spring, decanted the magical water into smaller bottles and gave these to those willing to anoint themselves and experience a heightened sense of creativity.
Time has passed and I have never forgotten these big-hearted muses who were so responsive to my call for support. Perhaps it was these heavenly spirits who gently reminded me that there is a whole cast of female mystics who would willingly give their time to massage the creativity of those who feel that it has waned a bit.
Little wonder that, seemingly by chance, I came into possession of Mirabai Starr’s ‘Wild Mercy – Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Female Mystics’. It is the perfect text to introduce early in my Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing Class.
To learn more about what we did in this class and to engage online you need to subscribe to Trains of Thought. To get the key to Trains of Thought choose the amount you are able to afford (no more than $40 in your currency), pay heatherblakey@fastmail dot fm via PayPal and contact her with details of your WordPress account. It is very easy to acquire an account with WordPress and you may choose to keep your intensive journal online in a private blog. Once you have subscribed, email me your WordPress account email and I will add you to the site. This is intended to become a collaborative blog and you will be able to post and comment.
It is time for play. The more bizarre, left field, unexpected and apparently ridiculous the better. This may not feel safe or appropriate at first. That is okay. That is good actually. It is a sign that you are breaking with your self-imposed conventions. It is time to move beyond them now because a bigger life adventure is calling you.
Sacred Rebels – Alana Fairchild
This is a time when we can unleash and play with the Sacred Fool. The fool is a great rebel, able to thwart conventions and tell the truth without restraint.
Our journals provide a safe space to let the fool, who does not give a hoot about what the mind is saying, have free reign. In an intensive journal writing class, we do not have to worry about being socially acceptable or what others may think of us when we sit outside reading children’s books to the trees.
The day time class provides the opportunity for us to sling our creative medicine bags, filled with supplies, over our shoulders and wander around Castlemaine. For example, in order to position ourselves in the now, we may take time to visit the nearby collectible place and see what items demand to be given a voice within our journals. We may sit outside the nearby coffee house, visit the art gallery and step inside artwork, check out what is going on at the Railway Station or just wander down some streets and see what endless variety of nothing turns out to provide a rich vein of gold.
For details check out the Castlemaine Community House. Alternatively, if you are interested in joining a small evening group in a private home, contact me for details.
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.
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.
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.
The appearance of Lizard is a reminder to create a space for dreaming. In her book, “Visioning Ten Steps to Designing the Life of your Dreams”, Lucia Capacchione talks about setting up a creativity gym, a place to exercise your imagination and vision. Dedicating a specific area can pose problems but as Capacchione points out, if you have a free table anywhere in the house, you have the makings of a portable studio.
Over the summer, while my son was here, we had a clearance in the ‘shed’ that was storing things that needed to be sorted and cleared. He did a great job and I now have a big table set up where I can spread out and be as messy as I like and vision what the transformations I have in mind for this space will actually look like. I want to take time to romance the creative spirit and to test run and see how much I use this space before upgrading in any way!
Tomorrow I am having wire mesh placed strategically so that the shed begins to disappear under a swathe of green!
Create your dreaming space today and share any images of what you have created!
The kangaroo is a marsupial, meaning the female possesses a frontal pouch where her prematurely birthed offspring complete their development outside the womb. Watch this video and you will see how the infant must instinctively ascend their mother’s belly and crawl into the nurturing pouch.
The lesson of Kangaroo is to make space for intuition. It is time to enhance our natural instincts and allow them to guide us. When we let our intuition guide us our over-analyzing tendencies diminish. When we learn this lesson, movement becomes freer and fortunate synchronicity increases.
Making Space for Intuition: Try These
♣ Sitting in sacred silence and meditation in the morning to connect with your inner world. As Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.” In the mornings, I enjoy sitting at the kitchen table in the sunlight, eating my breakfast mindfully and in silence. Along with meditation, these two things help to attune to my intuition before my day begins.
♣ Scheduling in gaps of time where you don’t make any plans, but follow your intuition. Sundays are my days for this. I like to do whatever I feel intuitively guided to do that day and really try to not making any plans. I love sleeping in when it feels right or rising early when the energy in my body gets me up.
♣ Dialogue with your Soul, asking for her needs, desires, what it wants to experience today. Listen intently. Be curious. Ask questions.
♣ Take your time back from being busy to creating intentionally. Review your commitments and check in to see if they align or you’re just doing them out of obligation.
♣ Drive without music. Rather than filling it up with music or talk radio listening to everyone else blare messages into your head (oh and I love driving and singing so it’s definitely not a bad thing), at least once a week turn it all off. Make your car an intuitive spaceship.
♣ Write to liberate your Soul. Give your thoughts some wings and journal freely, with no agenda, everything that’s on your mind.
♣ Creating the space for your intuition allows her to show up and shine. How can you make room to hear your inner voice? What ways can you begin letting your intuition guide you each day?
Known for their strength and agility, at full speed, the adult Grey can reach 40 mph and can jump a distance of approximately 25 feet in one hop and about 9 feet high. The tendons in their large back legs stretch and then snap back, providing lift-off. When travelling great distances, as momentum builds, the kangaroo expends less and less energy through the use of these special tendons instead of using muscle. Their breathing is also very efficient.
In mimicking Kangaroo’s forward momentum skills and in remembering to take a breath during times of stress, we can learn how to progress and achieve our goals quickly, and our stamina during will be greatly enhanced as we leap over any obstacles in our way.
Kangaroo prompts us to simply use the knowledge from our past to keep us from repeating mistakes, but will never allow us to live in the past. They teach that it is best to look ahead and to keep moving forward toward our hopes and dreams.
Today I was called upon to drive up to Dog Rocks on nearby Mount Alexander to still-observe. The call was quite insistent! I considered finding a space closer to home but the voice calling me would not be silenced.
Dog Rocks are near the peak of Mt Alexander. They comprise of huge, picturesque granite outcrops. Over the years, they’ve become a favourite stopover landmark for bushwalkers and a popular spot for climbers and artists. Rock climbers were working the main area so I clambered into a quieter space, hoping that a ‘significant’ creature would make its presence felt. However, only the Australian Blowflies buzzed noisily around me as I examined a vulva like a passageway leading through an outcrop.
I quickly decided that blowflies are far from insignificant. They do make their presence felt! Blowflies have been deemed to be vehicles of death, decay and destruction; envoys of evil, sin and pestilence by the Christians. However, some African tribes celebrate a Fly-god, with the fly revered as an embodiment of the soul. As such flies are never killed.
I have been guilty of being homicidal with blowflies but I was rehabilitated after vomiting repeatedly when cleaning up a mass of dead flies seven years ago. Now I quietly encourage them to leave the premises; refrain from having toxic sprays in the house.
As I contemplated the blowflies I thought of the small house fly who has quite literally been the ‘fly on the wall’over recent days! This small creature has been persistently invading my space, eavesdropping, circling around my fingers as I type, soaking up knowledge, urging me to develop my senses and become more observant.
Let’s face it! It is almost impossible to dissuade flies from persistently swarming about us when we are outdoors. The presence of flies affirms the quick and abrupt changes in my thoughts, emotions and endeavours. Rapid changes in all aspects of my life are currently taking place and the ever-persistent fly is reminding me not to give up. It is persistence which will enable me to reach goals and bear fruit sooner than later.
Even if it means annoying others or being selfish for a while I do have the ability to accomplish my goals. My current goals are to trust the process and complete the final year of my Masters of Social Work; spend 52 weeks learning from Australian birds and animals. Still hunting is a part of the 52 week process! I am carefully recording my observations.
As I sat at Dog Rocks I noted the call of the Kookaburra and the footfall of rock climbers clambering to find places to test their skills. But it was the brown butterflies who danced around me and who led me to find a small magic circle, formed by ancient granite.
Butterfly seemed to be asking me to go on with the clearance I have been facing, embrace changes in my environment and to work with my emotional body. The energy supporting a physical transformation of energy was all about me. It is time to release any expectations and simply allow change to flow through and around me.
One of the earliest documented accounts of a possum skin cloak is from Governor Macquarie. In his journal on 10 May 1815 (Bathurst), he recounts that three Wiradjuri warriors, led by Windradyne, visited him and gifts were exchanged. Macquarie gave Windradyne a tomahawk and a piece of yellow cloth; in return, he received a possum skin cloak.
One example of cloak-making from this region is held in the Smithsonian Institute (Washington, DC, USA). Known as the Hunter River Cloak, it was collected during an expedition in the mid 1800s by American explorer Charles Wilkes. It features four rows of six rectangular pelts sewn on the back, edge to edge, with very fine overhand stitching of corded sinew. The fur has been left on and the skin side is completely covered with large diamond-shaped designs made by scraping up a thin layer of the skin so that it stands up in a little curl.3
Traditionally, cloaks were used for ceremonial purposes: in dance, drumming, initiation rites and also in daily life. They were primarily worn as a means of protection from winter conditions, but also used as a shelter from heat and wet weather and to carry babies and small children.
A local example of how valuable the cloaks were in trade is suggested by stories of the Darkinjung nation trading them with inland tribes in exchange for spears and woomeras. In the Dandenong region of Victoria, the trade value of a cloak was said to be worth a greenstone axe. They were also given as peace and marriage offerings.
Possum skin cloaks were created for individuals when they were born and were added to throughout their lives. The intricate designs and ochre decorations were either made by the individual or by others, depending on the design and the purpose for which they were being added.
This practice reminded of a gift that I was given when I visited the Isle of Ancestors. The Isle of Ancestors is a part of the Lemurian Archipelego, a fantasy world that I created during the hey days of the Soul Food Cafe. It is well worth a visit! Travellers have left rich stories of their meeting with their ancestors at this revered island.
At a point when I was feeling quite low I hitched a ride with the Ferrywoman and visited the sanctuary on the Isle of Ancestors. It was a moving experience as I met all my grandmothers. Before insisting that I return to the world I had come from, they gave me was a cloak filled with raven feathers to wear and provide comfort whenever I felt low.
This cloak held the life stories of the ancestors who walked before me and upon whose shoulders I now stand.
In her iconic book ‘Women Who Run With The Wolves’ Clarissa Pinkola Estes talks extensively about the importance of Soulskins. In her chapter, Homing: Returning to Oneself she talks about how women who have lost their pelt, lose their protections, their warmth, their early warning system and most devastatingly, their instinctual sight.
Possum urges us to see our life as being built upon the foundation of our ancestors; to wrap ourselves within a cloak and find anchorage with our ancestors.
Possum urges the creative to take the time to use some of the ways suggested in the linked articles or to make a metaphorical coat to record the journey. Actively taking tangible steps to honour our ancestors provides a foundation upon which great things can be initiated.
Personally, I found that I viewed my potential differently when I pulled the cloak I had been given out of the cupboard and celebrated wearing it on a daily basis.
Musk Lorikeets are endemic to (only found in) south-eastern Australia, being widespread in eastern New South Wales, all regions of Victoria and in the south-east of South Australia. They are found in tall, open, dry forest and woodlands, dominated by eucalypts and are usually found in the canopy. They are also seen in suburban areas, parks and street trees. They roost or loaf in tall trees away from their feeding sites.
Musk Lorikeets are considered nomadic, following the flowering or fruiting of food trees and they travel widely for food. One might say that the Musk Lorikeet likes to coddiwomple! To Coddiwomple is to travel with no fixed destination. Coddiwomple is just one of at least six words that habitual travellers need.
In 2001 my late husband and I travelled for six months throughout the United Kingdom, Western Europe and Scandinavia with no fixed destination and no forward bookings. Our theory was that if we did not have a destination or a specific address to find we could not get lost. It was an amazing journey and we never slept in the car we had hired. We always found a bed for the night. We didn’t realise it at the time but we were Coddiwompling! To Coddiwomple is To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination. The Coddiwomple family are constantly travelling with no fixed destination. After he died and I sold the family home I had no real destination in mind. I let fate guide me to my current home in Central Victoria.
Believe it or not, you do not have to leave home to coddiwomple. Travellers who joined me in Lemuria had no fixed purpose and no fixed destination. They were virtual travellers who slipped through the portal and let the Enchantress decide where the next adventure lay!
These days my main coddiwompling is with my little Mazda 3, Akari! She and I love to go out on mystery tours! I let her randomly decide where we are going. Yesterday I went coddiwompling out into the natural habitat of some of the wildlife that also makes its way into my backyard.
Lorikeets are full of silliness and humour, and they are also inquisitive about their surroundings. These comical birds remind the writer and artist to be expressive and bring colour, humour and light into their work. Lorikeet has drawn me to examine Expressive Arts. Expressive Arts and Art Therapy are creative therapies. The concept of expressive art resonates for me because it honours the process, rather than the final product.
With the arrival of Lorikett I decided that this 52-week project is an expressive art project. I am unashamedly doing this for myself. Committing to 52 weeks is huge and it represents a major shift for me to be genuinely creating FOR MYSELF and FOR THE CREATIVE SPIRIT. I do not actually care if many people engage or follow what I am doing! I am interested in observing and researching the process of being responsive to and feeding the creative spirit.
Draw something HUGE. Getting your body involved and moving around can help release emotion as you’re drawing.
Use color blocks. Colors often come with a lot of emotions attached. Choose several paint chips to work with and collage, paint and glue until you’ve created a colorful masterpiece.
Let yourself be free. Don’t allow yourself to judge your work. If you think your paintings are too tight and controlled, this collection of tips and techniques to try should help you work in a looser style.
I am sure you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books, where you’re chased by a tiger. You can escape it by leaping into the ocean 50 feet below (go to page 48) or face the tiger with your homemade slingshot (go to page 128).
Akari (my Mazda 3) loves driving through roads with avenues of white-trunked eucalypts. Side roads beckon! It is hard for her to resist them. However, while she could be talked into some sophisticated adventuring, Akari is no risk taker. For the moment she finds it is exciting enough to explore hidden valleys and go down unmade roads that are not only reserved for four-wheel drives.
Akari and I were out messing about today and we wandered along out of the way, an unmade bush road called Providence Gully Road. When we turned off the road, along another unmade road, to head towards civilisation, we came upon this rather dramatic entrance to a property. We thought this might be just the setting to write your own adventure.
The gate is open!
You take the time talk to all the bones and heads that are decorating the gate to learn more about what really lies within.
Thinking that Baba Yaga may live here and give you the creative fire you decide to ignore all the DO NOT ENTER signs and step through the portal into this private world.
Because you are so imaginative you think of something else!
Melissa Pilakowski puts forward a fun version of writing your own adventure using Hamlet as a kick starter.
Henry Lawson’s The Drover’s Wife is an Australian classic that depicts life for the early Australian pioneers. McCubbin’s monumental painting The pioneer reflects the self-conscious nationalism of the years immediately following Federation. Each panel is ‘read’ to link the progress of toil on this land across time.
The first panel shows a pioneering couple in their new bush environment: the man is lighting a fire to boil the billy, while the woman contemplates their future life. The second panel shows the couple several years later: the woman holds a baby, land has been cleared and a small house has been built. In the final panel a bushman discovers a grave, and in the background a city begins to emerge. It is uncertain who has died and whether the male figure is the pioneer, his son or a stranger. By presenting his painting across three panels – the triptych format for traditional religious art – McCubbin elevated the status of the pioneer within Australian art history.
The pioneers who came to Central Victoria are honoured in various ways. Less marks the lives of those people who lived on the land that was not actually empty when Europeans first arrived.
In memory of Fryerstown Pioneers
This installation, at the Vaughan Cemetery, was gifted by the artist in memory of her pioneering ancestors who, like couple, sacrificed so much and contributed to shaping the township of Vaughan. She also pays respect to the Dja Daj Warring, the first people who lived here.
Workers and players have earned their repose. Soon on their names all in vain we shall call, For even the grandest old landmarks must fall. Just a warm hand-clasp ere one disappears— These are the last of the old pioneers. John Sandes
Sandy Creek Road
Sandy Creek road
Sandy Creek Road
Sandy Creek Road
Turn off the Castlemaine to Maldon road onto the gravel Sandy Creek road and follow the old Cobb & Co route, past the old hotel, where they stopped for a break and drive on towards Welshman’s Reef through Box-ironbark country.
Welshmans Reef is a former gold mining town 15 km west of Castlemaine and 110 km north-west of Melbourne. The name presumably came about from a Welshman discovering the gold-bearing reef: there were numerous Welsh and Methodist settlers at neighbouring townships such as Fryerstown and Vaughan.
West of Welshmans Reef there were the Loddon flats, which enabled miners to diversify into farming. A school was opened in 1877. The place was seldom more than a hamlet and its peak pre-twenty-first-century census population of 215 persons was in 1915. In 1956 the Cairn Curran Reservoir was completed, inundating much of the river flats.
As you approach the hamlet a sign points to the old Sandy Creek Cemetery, a cemetery that was closed in 1956. Many pioneers who came seeking gold lie here. Noting our arrival a large mob of kangaroos took off, bounding across the creek.
The sight of so many small white, numbered markers, combined with the fact that there were only a few headstones, took my breath away. Memorials placed by descendants revealed that this is a place to honour the pioneers who came here.
Formerly Sandy Creek Cemetery. No burials here since 1952
In an age of so much homogenised space, so much shoddy, cramped, dimly lit, low ceilinged space, these resting places offer a fresh way of interpreting and understanding space. In an era suffused by television and video games, fluorescent lighting and plastic floors, air conditioning and badly built houses these memorials demonstrate the poetry of space and love.
from forward to ‘The Poetics of Space’ written by John R Stilgoe
Infant! A simple, yet beautiful water memorial that incorporates an angel in the water feature.
If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.
All inhabited space bears the essence of home.
Inexplicably, driving with Akari out to Moliagul, photographing an old thunder box (outdoor toilet) and a long abandoned house, filled me with the urge to wander further with my dogs sniff mapping. It made me think of swagmen and the much loved Waltzing Matilda.
Once a jolly swagman camped by a Billabong
Under the shade of a Coolabah tree
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?”
Down come a jumbuck to drink at the water hole
Up jumped a swagman and grabbed him in glee
And he sang as he stowed him away in his tucker bag
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.”
Up rode the Squatter a riding his thoroughbred
Up rode the Trooper–one, two, three
“Where’s that jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag?”
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.”
But the swagman he up and jumped in the water hole
Drowning himself by the Coolabah tree,
And his ghost may be heard as it sings in the Billabong,
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?”
–from “Waltzing Matilda” by Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson, 1895.
“Advance Australia Fair” was proclaimed as Australia’s national anthem, replacing “God Save the Queen,” on 19 April 1984. If you ask an average Australian to sing the national anthem chances are that they will recite only the opening lines. However, if you ask an average Australian to sing “Waltzing Matilda” it is almost certain that they will sing about the swagman  who stole a jumbuck  and fled from the troopers  with some flourish.
“Waltzing Matilda,” Australia’s unofficial anthem, is known and loved all over the world and, arguably stands alongside” The Star-Spangled Banner” or ” La Marseillaise” as a song capable of arousing deep national pride. The strains of “Waltzing Matilda” consistently bring a tear to the eyes of Australians far from home, Australians who, like the late Peter Allen, still like to call Australia home.
Where did the song originate? Why do Australians find “Waltzing Matilda” so unutterably poignant? What do the words mean? Why are Australians moved by the escapades of a petty criminal?
‘Waltzing Matilda’ is credited to Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson (1864 -1941). Banjo Paterson was a lawyer by profession and lived and worked in Sydney Australia. Although Paterson was a city slicker who hailed from the urban fringes of Australia, he was, like so many of his ilk, enchanted by the Australian bush and outback. Paterson is purported to have been travelling with his fiancée in central Queensland, about 1,500 km north of Sydney when he wrote the song. The couple are said to have spent a few weeks at Dagworth Station, a vast outback station near Winton in Queensland. It was at Dagworth that Paterson is said to have met Christina MacPherson, whose brother managed the station at the time. One yarn  suggests that it was Christina who inspired Banjo with a whimsical, dreamy rendition of the tune ‘Craigeelee’, a score which provided the basis for ‘Waltzing Matilda’
The expression ‘waltzing matilda’ is believed to have German origins. Handolf, near Adelaide was just one of the many German settlements that sprang up in Australia once free immigrants began to arrive and German expressions quickly made their way into the vocabulary. It is almost certain that the title of Paterson’s ballad came from the expression Auf die Waltz gehen, that means to take to the road. The term harks back to the Middle Ages when apprentices were required by their master to visit other masters before their release could be secured. Later a ‘matilda’ was given to female camp followers who accompanied soldiers during the Thirty Year War in Europe and was common place during World War One.In the context of the song ‘Waltzing Matilda’ the ‘matilda’ was a pack that swagmen carried, filled with things tho keep them warm at night. To waltz with matilda literally meant to travel, to dance from place to place in search of work, with one’s belongings wrapped in a grey blanket. 
Paterson, like most Australians who lived in the cities, was fascinated by stories of the hostile, arid outback. Deaths in the outback were well publicized. Deaths on the track were a common occurrence and it is likely that the fate of travelers would have been a subject of conversation of an evening while Paterson was at Dagworth. Stories of those that perished would have been told along the bush telegraph, shared over dinner, acting as a cautionary tale for the foolhardy. For example, one story that drifted down the bush telegraph told of the fate of Seymour Hamilton, a nineteen-year-old, two years out from England. He left Tinga Tinagans for Coongie but never arrived. Subsequent searches found his packsaddle and swag. He was believed to have died of thirst and, when his bones were finally found, they had been scattered and gnawed by dingoes.
Another formative influence on Paterson may have been the story of an incident that actually occurred at Dagworth. an incident on the property that must have become known to him during his stay. On 1 September 1894, a mere four months earlier, shearers had set the Dagworth woolshed ablaze, cremating a hundred sheep. MacPherson and three police troopers had pursued the shearers. 
It is almost certain that Banjo Paterson threaded together events such as these when he conjured up “Waltzing Matilda”. But why has the story endured? How has “Waltzing Matilda” made its way into the Australian psyche?
Modern Australians may live predominantly in urban zones but this does not lessen the call of the outback, the lure of the bush, or lessen their need to hear yarns of pioneering ancestors who left Old England’s shore, picked up lumps of gold  and went on to build a nation on the back of the sheep. Australian stories and art that have endured are invariably set in the bush and involve the triumph of the underdog.
The setting of “Waltzing Matilda” is enough to fuel a deep yearning within Australians to escape from the concrete cities of the urban fringes. To travel the outback, with my swag all on my shoulder, to witness the stark beauty and isolation of this most ancient of lands, to lie beneath the Southern Cross, to smell the unique perfume of the eucalypt, is a dream, a quest that sends thousands of wanderers towards the red centre each year, in search of just such a place. To lie while the billy  boils, to dream by a billabong , under the shade of a Coolabah tree is akin to finding the eternal Garden of Eden.
Moreover, “Waltzing Matilda” builds support for the underdog and creates a hero out of a gutsy, destitute man. The hapless swagman in this story was one of thousands of unemployed men who tramped around the Australian bush during the mid nineteen eighties, usually coming to sheep stations at sunset to ask for supper and a bed, when it was too late to work. (Sometimes called a Sundowner because they arrived at sundown when it was too late to be expected to work.)
We can only speculate, but it is more than likely that, having been refused supper or a bed, the swagman of “Waltzing Matilda” fame, camped for the night by a billabong, under the shade of a Coolabah tree  meditating upon where his next meal was to come from. The squatter and troopers, who swooped down upon this swaggie, demanding that he give up the jumbuck, represent despised wealth and authority. It is no coincidence that the Squatter is riding a thoroughbred horse and that he brings not one, but three troopers to help retrieve his stock. The swagman’s defiance touches a deep anti-authoritarian archetype that springs from the days of the Eureka Stockade, The First Fleet, the Rum Corps and the personal history of those early convicts who were transported to Australia for petty crimes.
The early Australian settlement was confined within the curves of the Blue Mountains and as the settlement grew, free settlers arrived explorers sought new land for grazing. People ‘squatted’ on patches of land, grazed their animals, grew their crops and built their houses and fences. In good quality grazing country squatters claimed vast areas and became wealthy. The term ‘squattocracy’, a term blended from the word ‘squatter’ came to be associated with ‘aristocracy’. The police worked with them to maintain law and order and to protect their holdings. Consequently, squatters were an object of resentment.
The pastoralist/squatter’s reluctance to mete out food, his need to protect his flock is understandable given the swarms of penniless, badly clothed men wandering discontentedly from hut to hut and station to station, but the crime of the swagman in this story seems petty! A hungry, destitute man, down on his luck, steals one sheep on a sheep station with a flock of thousands. This is hardly a hanging offence, any more than stealing a loaf of bread warranted transportation.
Apart from the anti-authoritarian overtones there is no doubt that “Waltzing Matilda” romanticizes the larrikin quality of the jolly swaggie, jumping with glee. Who can resist this rascal’s charm? A character, unique, fiercely independent, the swagman is not to be patronized. It is his free spirit that sends him to a watery death and haunts Australians as his ghost may be heard, singing in the Billabong. The swagman, like Joan of Arc, never dies. They cut out Joan’s heart and thought that this was the end of her but she lives on. Similarly the ghostly figure of the unnamed Swagman has eternal life, representing a freedom of movement and thought that many Australians now take for granted.
At day’s end, “Waltzing Matilda” is poignant because of the combination of characteristics that sum up so much of Australian spirit and life. “Waltzing Matilda” reminds us of our ancestral history, defines nationhood and fills Australians with a sense of pride that the country was built by people who had been deemed dregs, but who were courageous and innovative and built something from nothing. The ghost of the swagman may be found in the faces of the pioneers who settled the Never Never; in the eyes of the hardened shearing unionist who paved the way for Unionism in Australia; within the defiance of the Anzac storming the beaches of Gallipoli; in the stride of the Bondi life-saver and in the face of the determined protestor thumbing his nose at government officials and bureaucracy.
Australians will never fully accept “Advance Australia Fair” as their national anthem because it is the song of a city-based intellectual, full of stilted language that paints Australians as something they are not. Australians will always respond to “Waltzing Matilda” because “Waltzing Matilda” has moved from being a bush ballad to a creation myth, a yarn told in a language now almost as unfamiliar as Latin, a glorious romantic tale that helps to identify and separate Australia and Australians from every other country, every other people on the globe.
 A gentleman of the road, an itinerant roaming country roads, a drifter, a tramp, a hobo. Carried his few belongings slung in a cloth, which was called by a wide variety of names, including ‘swag’, ‘shiralee’ and ‘bluey’.
 A sheep: aboriginal word meaning white cloud.
 A cavalry soldier, or perhaps a mounted militia-man or policeman.
 an Australian story.
 From the Web site: About Waltzing Matilda, Senani Ponnamperuma, 1996, 1997.
 From the Web site: About Waltzing Matilda, Senani Ponnamperuma, 1996, 1997.
 This is in reference to the Gold Rush which saw an influx of gold seekers to towns like Ballarat.
 A can or small kettle used to boil water for tea.
A storyboard helps you: Define the parameters of a story within available resources and time Organize and focus a story Figure out what medium to use for each part of the story
After the loss of her daughter one can only speculate that the loss of her son in the Great War led to her death of this Moliagul mother
A particularly poignant stone records the death of a mother after child birth, along with the baby, another infant and 5 year old twins
The two young children who lie here, Annie and Henry Clifton, died in a fire in Spring Gully.
The grave of Elizabeth Escott and her daughter Fanny lies in bushland on the east side of the road to Fryerstown. When Elizabeth’s husband died, she left England with her eleven children to make a new life in Australia. She was one of many who were beaten by the hardships of life on the diggings. Fanny was sixteen when she died of consumption at Blacksmith’s Gully in 1856, and Elizabeth died six months later. Another daughter, Mary, had died in 1855.
The more I travelled, the more I found windows to the past. The grave of Elizabeth Escott and her daughter Fanny lies in bushland on the east side of the road to Fryerstown. When Elizabeth’s husband died, she left England with her eleven children to make a new life in Australia. She was one of many who were beaten by the hardships of life on the diggings. Fanny was sixteen when she died of consumption at Blacksmith’s Gully in 1856, and Elizabeth died six months later. Another daughter, Mary, had died in 1855.
Margaret and Stephen Symons, of Moliagal, suffered the pain of losing their eight year old daughter in 1895. But it is likely that, the loss of their beloved son to the 1918 war, broke Margaret’s heart. She died in the same year.
There are many activities that can stem from a visit to a cemetery
On a recent trip to Penang, my daughter and I found the Historic Protestant Cemetery captivating. I am happy to simply create a post about this hauntingly beautiful cemetery. However, going to this cemetery could kick start a whole lot of other creative activities, including further research into Penang’s amazing history.
Definition: a mystery tour is a short journey that people make for pleasure without knowing where they are going
Akari, my 2008 Mazda 3, specialises in magical mystery tours that feed the soul and the creative spirit. Akari knows all about duende, that raw, tempestuous creative energy that flamenco guitarists, gypsies and dancers are familiar with. Her inclusive tours take in all aspects of Central Victoria including: geology, the environment, culture, flora, fauna and history.
A mystery tour is all about anticipation! Those who come on one of Akari’s tours, especially visitors from other countries, are always surprised when Akari takes them to some out of the way place that reveals a different perspective of Australia. They are always inspired !
Today, with the smell of spring in the air, my dogs and I went out on an artistic date with Akari.
Maldon at base of Tarrangower
This abandoned cottage lies beyond the Maldon Cemetery.
Pack the thermos and put together a picnic basket. Head out and spot some interesting mailboxes. You might even leave a piece of found art for the owners to find and know that you have called by.
After the loss of her daughter one can only speculate that the loss of her son in the Great War led to her death of this Moliagul mother
Moliagul. An infant sister!
Nature repurposes this old abandoned home in Moliagul, where finding the Welcome Stranger heralded the gold rush.
Moliagul abandoned home
The old thunder box in Moliagul is an icon of another time.
In Art Heals: How Creativity Heals The Soul, Shane McNiff says that ‘photography can help us become more aware of our environments. When we walk with a camera searching for images… this process helps us look more closely and deeply at our surroundings.” There is no doubt that the camera has the capacity to hold moments of our perception and help us to see the possibilities for perceptual awareness.
I took the time to receive the benefits of aesthetic contemplation and to look attentively. My perceptions were not all captured by the iPhone! Moliagul is almost a ghost town now yet it proudly boasts being the site where the Welcome Stranger Gold Nugget, found here by John Deason, changed Australian History. Moliagul also has an amazing monument to John Flynn who pioneered the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service in Cloncurry, Queensland (later to be renamed the Royal Flying Doctor Service). At one time he was the headmaster at the small iconic school I stopped to photograph.
This meditation brings a new energy and creativity into my life. The fruits of Waiting For Godot over the past three months are beginning to ripen. There are so many things I can do with the images I collected on this ‘tour’ with Akari! I look forward to a rich harvest.
Mcniff, S 2004, Art Heals: How Creativity Cures The Soul, Shambala, Boston
“The mailman, if he’s extra tired, would pass them in his sleep, It’s safest to address the note to ‘Care of Conroy’s sheep’, For five and twenty thousand head can scarcely go astray, You write to ‘Care of Conroy’s sheep along the Castlereagh’.” A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson, “The Travelling Post Office” The Bulletin, 10 March 1894
Most countries tend to have standardized mailboxes with uniform colours. Japan makes them original. They have things like Kawai and mascots with amazing boxes, customized according to their location.
One of the first things that people see when they visit you at your house is the mailbox. Not every one is satisfied with the standard variety of boxes available in the hardware store. Mailboxes can be turned into amazing front yard decorations. Building creative affairs does not require large investment. All you need is an imagination galore which is free.
If you are not up to making a unique mailbox you can kill time mailbox spotting. Sunday drives may not be in fashion now but humour me. I thought of my parents as I drove around back roads looking for letterboxes with character.
When we were kids we were fairly easily entertained. I grew up in Gippsland and have memories of the long trip to the city. To keep us occupied my mother had us play various versions of “I Spy With My Little Eye’ or we identified the makes of cars passing by. Now, sadly, children are occupied with a device and there is less conversation.
On our Sunday drives, up and down laneways and byways, we took in all kinds of detail; checking out what improvements people were making to their places. Having delivered bread to outlying farms with a horse and bread cart, Dad knew the region well and people had all sorts of unusual boxes to leave the bread in.
Pack the thermos and put together a picnic basket. Head out and spot some interesting mailboxes. You might even leave a piece of found art for the owners to find and know that you have called by.
A collection of found letterboxes! Well! They were not actually lost! They were found in backroads around Castlemaine and beyond. While no addresses are shown, if your letter box appears here and you would rather it not be shown, I will remove the image.
Like these sisters, you could always go on a bike ride and look for unique mail boxes. Aim to see as many unusual letter boxes as possible, take lots of photos and keep a sketch book filled with fun ideas for front yard art. Decide which is your favourite! Believe me! It is quite addictive to do this.
Share some photos in the comment box here or on Facebook. Head to an Office Works, print the best photos quite cheaply and randomly post them in more traditional letterboxes, like this one, to remind people just what a statement they could be making with their letterbox.
Painting, sculpting, dancing, making music, and all the other artistic pursuits have benefits that go far beyond pure enjoyment or cultural creation — these activities can also strengthen your brain and improve your mood.
Since the inception of emailing and texts mail boxes around the globe have lain empty, gathering bills and cobwebs, lamenting the lost art of letter writing, waiting for Godot to come, deposit something and make them loved again.
The therapeutic benefits of unsent mail are quite well known. They are a powerful journalling tool! When running courses I promoted letter writing as a way of firming ideas for a novel or script. I also had participants write formal letters to themselves and posted them weeks after they were written. When my 35-year-old son moved to Berlin and was taking time to settle to his new life I took to writing to him and including silly drawings and fun stickers. He enjoyed the looks on the faces of people in cafes when he said that he was writing a letter to his mother.
A Brisbane postman makes fake letters for a dog. Pippa the dog always runs towards Martin Studer, a postman from Brisbane, whenever she sees him – she loves getting mail! In fact, the pooch enjoys it so much, the postman even writes tiny letters especially for her. He does not want to upset the good girl. “Sometimes, Pippa comes out for the daily delivery but there’s no mail for her to collect,” Studer writes on Facebook. “So I have to improvise.”
“I’ve been on Pippa’s run for the last 2-3 years,” Studer told Bored Panda. “I have always written something to her. She LOVES the postie. It really makes her day when we come by.”
I totally understand how Pippa feels. I have vivid memories of the letters, resplendent with foreign stamps arriving. I had friends in America and Canada and still have a small skunk brooch that my Canadian pen pal sent me. Much later, when I was running Soul Food, some participants sent parcels and they were greeted with delight.
“I got to thinking maybe I could tell an epistolary short story on my break. It will be a challenge since I don’t have access to Photoshop, my favored tool of visual creations. I may have to go old school with pen and paint. And then there’s the question: from whom shall the correspondence come, to whom shall they go, and what story shall it tell?”
And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms Maya Angelou
On a quiet country back road, near the Newstead General Cemetery, lie two burial markers of interest. One is simply called Chinese Ground.
The Chinese were not welcome on the Australian goldfields. They were thorough workers, often picking meticulously through the discarded tailings or abandoned mines of other diggers. They were viewed with suspicion as few spoke English, and they were regarded as idol-worshippers. Chinese mining methods used more water than European methods, and such practices were not appreciated in a country known for its heat and droughts. Furthermore, few of them traded their gold in the towns, preferring to store it up and return to China with their wealth. The colony of Victoria was the first to introduce Anti-Chinese immigration legislation, imposing a poll tax of £10 per head for each Chinese person arriving in Victorian ports in 1855. Within a few years all other colonial governments had enacted similar laws to restrict the number of people from China entering the colonies. This did not stop the Chinese from arriving in droves and spreading out to goldfields in New South Wales and Victoria.
Tensions came to a head on 30 June 1861 in NSW at Lambing Flat. It is estimated that around 3 000 European diggers banded together in a rowdy gang called a “roll up” and, armed with picks, whips, knives, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon, converged on the Chinese camp. Chinese tents and equipment were destroyed, gold plundered, and dozens of the men themselves had their pigtails, or ‘queues’, cut off – a matter of great dishonour for them – or worse, they were scalped. An unknown number of Chinese were murdered: although the official death toll for Chinese was given as two, eyewitness accounts suggest between 30 and 40 were killed, and several hundred more injured.
Given that an angry group of European and American miners met in Bendigo in 1854 and declared that a “general and unanimous rising should take place… for the purpose of driving the Chinese off the goldfield” it is not hard to imagine that the Chinese here in this region suffered similarly.
The other stone, not far from the isolated Catholic Ground is inscribed with the words “A tribute to those who lay beneath may they have found peace”. After substantial rainfall this part of the world is truly beautiful. With only the sound of nearby grazing sheep I think it is a good place to lie and rest.
I have no particular talent! I am only passionately curious Einstein
In 1912 the Gowar township was gazetted, but little came of it.
Gowar is a rural locality 7 km south-east of Maldon. It was known as Muckleford North until 1880, but one hundred years later Muckleford North has probably become the name more often used. It is thought that Gowar derived from an Aboriginal word meaning big hill.
There were minor gold rushes at Muckleford but nothing permanent eventuated. The Muckleford Creek, however, was a source of permanent water for agriculture, the nearest such source for Maldon. A school for Gowar was opened in the early 1870s and closed in 1908. The stone ruin remains.
Gowar was described in the 1903 Australian handbook:
Any evidence of the town has long gone! All that remains are these ruins!
My shipmates and I liked the sea lions, and envied their lives. They were all either fat or dead; there was no half way. By day they played in the shallows, alone or together, greeting each other and us with great noises of joy, or they took a turn offshore and body-surfed in the breakers, exultant… Everyone joked, often, that when he “came back” he would just as soon do it all over again as a sea lion. Annie Dillard
I have thought of that if I am called upon to do it all over again I would ask to be a lappie, beamed down to a home where I would be taken out three times a day to run, frolic joyfully and sniff map. But I do understand why Dillard, upon returning to the Galapagos, realised that, rather than returning as a sea lion she would come back as a palo santo tree, standing on the weather side of the island. Standing there she could be “a perfect witness”, able to simply look, be mute, wave her arms a lot and be a source of holy wood.
If I do return it will be a bit like returning after having lived with fairies! Nothing will be as it is now! Everything changes! But that is nothing new! I have not always lived alone with lapphunds! I reinvented myself when multiple deaths changed the world I had known. Perhaps I will come back in a very different form. I might come as an iconic Boab Tree and silently dispense creative bush medicine to those who understand. Of course, unless I end up in some kind of alternative universe, that will not shield me from the loss and grief so much a part of life on this planet.
Who will you be and how will you live if you do come back for another round on planet earth?
Old tree Giant towering You Who saw the rise Of ancient suns, Chris Magadaza
I would like to learn or remember how to live. I come to Troll Corner not so much to learn how to live as to learn from this giant yellow box, long separated from any kin. Friends estimate this old man’s age age at around 600 but I am not sure if this is true.
600 years ago the Chachapoyas, a tall, fair-haired, light-skinned race had one of the more advanced ancient civilisations in the South America. Adept at fighting, they commanded a large kingdom from the year 800 to 1500 that stretched across the Andes.
Joan of Arc was born 600 years ago. Six centuries is a long time to continue to mark the birth of a girl who, according to her family and friends, knew little more than spinning and watching over her father’s flocks.
Everyone in Fiji lived close to the sea from the time of first settlement 3,100 years ago until about 600 years ago —when, suddenly, everything changed profoundly. According to scientists Fiji has experienced climate change at least once. Within a couple of generations, most coastal settlements in Fiji appear to have been abandoned in favor of new ones in upland, inland locations.
Little is written about what was happening here 600 years ago! Many have suggested that this was the ’empty country’ and that the great southern country lay sleeping while the world turned. This is not a very likely scenario! The indigenous people who loved this ancient land have something quite different to say.
It is winter in this quiet corner of the world but the birds still sing and dance here.
Here at troll corner this proud tree stands a silent witness to ancient dawns! If I sit here, Waiting for Godot, gently encouraging this tree to talk, I might learn about who passed by 600 years ago. I don’t expect the tree to speak in the way I speak, or describe its long life in the traditional way. But I know it has stored much knowledge about the past within its bark and roots.
This old yellow box has nothing to say to me about the insanity of the gold fever that bought hoards here and even less about the people who lived in the nearby ruins. But maybe, if I come visiting often enough, he might just reveal something about how to live alone through times of loss and change.
A working dog is a canine working animal, i.e., a type of dog that is not merely a pet but learns and performs tasks to assist and/or entertain its human companions, or a breed of such origin. In Australia and New Zealand, a working dog is one which has been trained to work livestock, irrespective of its breeding. Truffle hunting dogs, for example, are worth their weight in gold to modern farmers. Some dogs in this district make themselves useful sniffing out truffles.
This lot are reputed to be skilled at herding reindeer but with few reindeer in these parts they do not have to work – unless you count maintaining vigilant watch of property boundaries as work. No one gets onto the property without me knowing and they do provide companionship and even comfort when they perceive it is needed!
However most of the time these spoiled fluffy hounds get to lounge around, killing time, barking at anything that moves. Alternatively they wait, not always patiently, for their human hunter gatherer to take them out or, preferably, bring back the food.