Posted in Art and Healing, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Aussie Birds and Animals, Back Yard Bird Life, Contemplative Practice, Heather Blakey

Valuing One’s Unique Identity

Over 52 weeks I will be learning all about how to live and work creatively. My teachers are Aussie birds and animals. It is week one and the creative force has produced the Superb Blue Wren to provide some lessons!

“The Arrernte word Awelye, from Central Australia, describes the interrelationship of everything; plant, animal, earth and language. Aboriginal knowledge about plants, animals, non-living things, spirit, economy, aesthetics, kin, responsibility and journeying bind types of information with one another.

In other words, everything informs us about everything else and nothing can be considered in isolation. By contrast, non-indigenous knowledge structures involve hierarchical and increasing separation of information into ever smaller parts for detailed examination. Aboriginal knowledge stems from the practical experience of natural resources. Like all people that live with and close to the land, they have developed an understanding of the interrelationships between ecological functions and broader patterns in climate and geophysical features. Understanding and learning the signals of change is indicative of the depth of knowledge that Aboriginal people have achieved.

Totems are a significant symbol of Aboriginal people’s inextricable link to the land. Aboriginal people gave recognition to the power of the plant and animal spirits by wearing skins and masks of ceremonial paint, and by mimicking, singing praise and dedicating prayers to specific plants and animals.

They painted and engraved them in caves, rock overhangs and on rock platforms, on bark and burial trees and asked Mirrirul4 to guide them to plant and animal foods and to bless the spirit of the plant or animal that was killed. These acts allowed people to remain linked to the plant and animal guides and to accept the power they offer in lessons, in life, and in death. It reminded people that all animals are our sisters, brothers, and cousins and most importantly our teachers and our friends.” Source:  Murni Dhungang Jirrar Living in the Illawarra

The Ngarrindjeri people of the Murray River and Coorong regions called the Blue Fairy-Wren, waatji pulyeri, meaning “little one of the waatji (lignum) bush”, and the Gunai called it deeydgun, meaning “little bird with long tail”.  Both it and the variegated fairywren were known as muruduwin to the local Eora and Darug inhabitants of the Sydney basin.

This Aboriginal Dreaming story about waatji pulyeri (blue fairy-wren) reminds us that while we are all interconnected we each have unique characteristics. It also cautions the creative of the dangers of engaging in competitions to prove one’s worth! We are reminded that individuality is a very important part of our identity. Blue Wren’s story tells the creative that they do not need to engage in a competition. They only have to be their unique self!

 

Posted in Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Aussie Birds and Animals, Back Yard Bird Life, Contemplative Practice, Heather Blakey, Superb Blue Fairy-Wren, Superb Blue Wren, Wild Play

Singing Over Our Creative Eggs

Over 52 weeks I will be learning all about how to live and work creatively. My teachers are Aussie birds and animals. It is week one and the creative force has produced the Superb Blue Wren to provide some lessons!

Mothers usually set about teaching their offspring the moment they’re born. But the females of this  Australian bird can’t wait that long. Researchers discovered, by accident, while recording at fairy-wren domed nests, that female fairy-wren were singing to their eggs.

The females of superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) start singing to their unhatched eggs in order to teach the embryo a “password,” a single unique note, which nestlings must later incorporate into their begging calls in order to get fed. This trick allows fairy-wren parents to distinguish between their own offspring and those of cuckoo species that invade their nests. The females also teach the pass-note to their mates. This has the potential of opening up new lines of inquiry into prenatal learning systems.

In her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes talks about singing over the bones to feed the creative spirit. As an artistic midwife I am familiar with the creative birthing process, but until the blue wren flitted into my world I had not thought of encouraging creatives to “sing over their eggs’

Posted in Art and Healing, Artistic Midwife, Contemplative Practice, Heather Blakey, Superb Blue Fairy-Wren, Wild Play

What is your Creative Niche?

Over 52 weeks I will be learning all about how to live and work creatively. My teachers are Aussie birds and animals. It is week one and the creative force has produced the Superb Blue Wren to provide some lessons!

Superb-fairy-wren

Andrew Katsis, who spent two years of a Masters studying the fairy-wren, reveals that there is much more to this striking bird than meets the eye. He explains that they live in cooperative family groups (in which sons – but not daughters – hang around to help raise their younger siblings), learn vocalisations from their mother while still inside the egg, and boast perhaps the highest rate of adultery in the bird kingdom.

One intriguing finding of a Geelong study was that being more exploratory affected a bird’s survival chances. Fast- explorers were less likely to be present in the population a year later, most likely because they had died. The researchers speculated that fast- explorers are perhaps less wary of potential threats and more likely to stray into the sights of predators.

One cannot help but ask why this variation exist at all?  You might think that natural selection would quickly weed out all the fast- explorers? This is a question the research group are working on. One possible explanation is that birds with different personalities facilitate each other by performing different social roles (known as social niche specialisation). Fast- explorers may be filling a separate social niche that achieves equal reproductive fitness despite their shorter lifespan.

Today the fairy-wren encourages us to consider how we work, to consider our creative niche specialisation! Fairy-wren asks us to consider how we pace ourselves? Fast- exploring animals tend to form routines more quickly, and therefore thrive in consistent environments. Slow- exploring animals are better able to respond to changes in their environment, which may be beneficial in a fluctuating habitat.

Take the time to consider your social niche specialisation and the routine that works best for you!

Posted in Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Aussie Birds and Animals, Back Yard Bird Life, Heather Blakey, Superb Blue Wren, Wild Play

A Sensory Aussie Bird Garden

When I bought my home in Castlemaine, seven years ago, the backyard had a few established plants but it was a harsh, unwelcoming environment. A new home was being built directly behind me and, being on a rise, my new deck overlooked theirs. I laughed and told them not to worry because I would soon obscure the view. I announced that soon there would be a woodland out there. Everyone was sceptical, but the woodland has materialized, and it is the home to many birds. I have created a green corridor!

Adjoining neighbours have both thanked me for creating this leafy space because they have both noticed the appearance of the superb fairy blue wrens, a bird that as ‘Birds Backyards’ says, needs protecting.

It is not actually easy being blue because the wren has to spend a lot of time watching for predators. However, the superb Blue Wren is at home where ever they are. They are charismatic songbirds who live in groups. They move about jauntily foraging for insects and larvae while maintaining their territories and use the energy of their little community to protect their territory and be aware of any danger. They teach you in how to be resourceful, let go and use flexibility when faced with intrusion or find opposition in life. They ask you, is it time to shift the way you are thinking and allow a change of perspective. (Source: Peacespace)

The Twelve Days of Christmas featuring Australian birds and animals is just one of my ways of helping Aussie birds and animals! Over the coming year, I am planning to spend more time playing, observing and raising awareness of the wisdom they have to offer the creative person.

Over 52 weeks I will be learning all about how to live and work creatively. My teachers are  Aussie birds and animals. This week the creative force has produced the Superb Blue Wren to provide some lessons!

What can you do to help native bird life?

Posted in Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Dak Bungalows, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Self Portraiture

Towards a New Shore

Turtle symbolizes both new beginnings and endings. It is the ending of something that allows space for something new to arise. This ending may be an outer circumstance or a change or shift that occurs within ourselves. There may be a sense of loss or even grief over what has passed and yet it is through the energy of Turtle who is very long-lived and thus very wise, that we can come to understand why something did need to leave our lives. Turtle can help lead us to that space where we can finally move on, to let go of what has been, celebrate it for the gifts it gave us and finally to turn and head for a new shore.

I found it no surprise that as 2018 dawned Green Turtles swam into my life to affirm that a shift has taken place and it is time to leave the past behind.

These drawings depict some aspects of who I have been. I have been an Enchantress, Sibyl Riversleigh and Ebony Wilder, the Riversleigh housekeeper who comes out as a pirate, and leads adventures around the Lemurian Archipelago. I have been the spirit of a volcano, an Abbess presiding over the Lemurian Abbey and the keeper of the alluvial mine.

Now I am simply Heather, artistic midwife, purveyor of creative stimuli! I am happy to travel alone but delighted to find companions as I travel. It is not particularly important where I finally come ashore.

I am reminded of the much-loved poem, Ithaka! It is the journey that is important. For now, I am looking at where I am right now. From a creative point of view, right now I have established a virtual base in an Artistic Almshouse and I am doing some Dak Bungalow hopping.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Posted in Art and Healing, Contemplative Practice, Sensory Gardening

Sensory Healing Garden

According to the definition provided by Hussein, a sensory garden is a garden where all components are carefully designed to provide maximum sensory stimulation (2011). The aim of these gardens is to heighten our awareness of our interaction with nature through our senses. This definition of a sensory garden encompasses awareness of all aspects of the garden, both vegetative and hardscape elements. The hardscape elements to be included in therapeutic gardens, including sensory gardens, are as important as the vegetative elements because they become an integral part of the overall experience. For example, paths, walls, seating and signage all allow access, inclusivity and interactivity within the garden.
From Therapeutic Gardens

Since moving to this home in 2010 I have worked intuitively, using my senses, to create two quite distinct gardens. The front garden has elements of what Nana would have planted in her 1960’s garden while the exposed, harsh backyard has been transformed into a woodland that attracts a rich variety of birdlife.

Posted in Akari Mystery Tours, Akari Write Your Own Adventure, Cemetery Explorers, Central Victoria Goldfields History, Contemplative Practice, Faded Central Victoria, Forgotten Central Victoria, Just Killing Time, Killing Time, Mystery Art Making Writing Tours, Nature Fix, Resilience

Akari Writes Her Own Adventures

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.

OR

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.

OR

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.

 

 

Posted in Art and Healing, Contemplative Practice, Killing Time, Resilience, Winter Frost in Castlemaine

The Etcher’s Secret

Last night, or maybe it was early this morning, Jack Frost, the master etcher, made an ice etching for me, leaving it, for me to find, in a metal bucket on my deck. “All who see it are astounded and think it must be the work of spirits”. In awe I  asked the master etcher “What is your secret?”

The Woodcarver

Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The Prince of Lu said to the master carver:
“What is your secret?”

Khing replied: “I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
On trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.

After three days fasting,
I had forgotten gain and success.
After five days
I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.

“By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell stand.

“Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
and begin.

“If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

“What happened?
My own collected thought
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;
From this live encounter came the work
Which you ascribe to the spirits.”

– Chuang Tzu
from The Way of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton

Posted in Akari Mystery Tours, Art and Healing, Cemetery Explorers, Central Victoria Goldfields History, Contemplative Practice, Interpreting Spaces, It is ALL about US and Our Life in Castlemaine, Killing Time, Mystery Art Making Writing Tours, Nature Fix, Time's Killing Me

The Past Dwells Here

An entire past comes to dwell here!
Gaston Bachelard ‘Poetics of Space’

In the summer of 2011, on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula on Scotland’s west coast, excavations revealed the only known Viking boat burial to be excavated on the British mainland in modern times. The vessel survived in the form of more than 200 rivets, many in their original location, and indicated a small clinker boat. It contained a sword, an axe, a spear, a ladle, an Irish bronze ring-pin and the bronze rim of a drinking horn. These items indicate that it was a remarkably rich Viking boat burial of a warrior. Positioned beside the warship Roskilde 6, the Ardnamurchan boat burial represents the final journey of a Viking warrior, sailing into the afterlife. Source: A History of the Viking World

An African proverb says that ‘when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground’.

Here at the Glenlyon Cemetery there may not be a rich treasury of artefacts, but rich memories lie here. One grave holds an image, perhaps created by the lad who died, forever young, who is mourned by his family.

Another tombstone in the Sutton Grange Cemetery includes images of a young lad skiing. A photo of his beloved dog watches over him. Nearby the crystals, of ‘a woman with a gentle soul’ are mingled among the stones of a beautiful modern memorial.

It is may not be as fashionable to spend time in cemeteries now but a graveyard can be  a great place to explore local history and genealogy, take a peaceful seasonal walk and contemplate the pasts that lie there.

It is also a great place to meditate, make art and enjoy a flask of coffee!

Posted in Art and Healing, Cemetery Explorers, Interpreting Spaces, Just Killing Time, Killing Time, Mystery Art Making Writing Tours, Rock Art

Interpreting Spaces

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

 

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.
Gaston Bachelard

Posted in Akari Mystery Tours, Art and Healing, Forgotten Central Victoria, Mystery Art Making Writing Tours

Peeking at Abandoned/Overlooked Central Victoria

Sometimes, when Akari asks ‘where does that road go?’ we go to places where there is nothing, yet there is everything. Places are never really empty!

Abandoned Places

Lost Baringhup

33 Abandoned Places in Australia

Decay Down Under

Inside Australia’s Ghost Towns

Abandoned Places Photography of Mark Hassed

Beautiful Abandoned Places

Posted in Akari Mystery Tours, Archie, Neeks and Me, Art and Healing, Cemetery Explorers, Contemplative Practice, Finnish Lapphunds, It is ALL about US, Just Killing Time, Mount Tarrengower, Mystery Art Making Writing Tours, Nature Fix, Resilience, Sniff Mappers are Us, Time's Killing Me

Akari’s Mystery Tour

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.

 

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

Posted in Cemetery Explorers, Central Victoria Goldfields History, Contemplative Practice, Fryerstown Cemetery, It is ALL about US and Our Life in Castlemaine, Mystery Art Making Writing Tours, Resilience, Victorian Gold Rush 1850

Harsh Times on the Goldfields

Life in the 1850’s in Hobart Town was not easy. Like my great grandfather it is  likely that this family were drawn to the Victorian goldfields, from Hobart, lured by the prospect of finding gold and making a fortune.

Disease was rife upon the goldfields, where poor sanitation meant that refuse and excrement were liable to end up in the rivers that supplied drinking water for those on the diggings. Dysentery, typhus and other contagious diseases were all represented. The monotonous diet of mutton and damper did not help the health of diggers, and it is probable that many people, especially during the first years of a rush, were deficient in essential nutrients and vitamins. Common colds could be lethal; because of the combination of lack of sanitation and poor diet, miners lacked the necessary antibodies to fight off disease. With a weak immune system, a cold could quickly develop into pneumonia.

Within a week something of plague proportions wiped out Elizabeth Smart and her children. It is hard to imagine how Elizabeth Smart’s husband managed the grief of the loss of  his wife and children within such a short time . The experience of life on the goldfields was different for all who arrived, but few, as this tombstone reveals, had it easy. This husband and father had it tough.

Sacred To The Memory Of
Elizabeth Smart
Native of Hobart Town
Who Died July 5th 1864
Aged 26 Years
Also
Salena Smart
Who Died July 5th 1864
Aged 5 Years
Also
Henry Smart
Who Died July 8th 1864
Aged 5 Years
Also
Elizabeth Smart
Who Died July 10th 1864
Aged 14 Days

Weep not for me my husband dear 
I am not dead but sleeping here
Weep not for me but pity take
And love my children for my sake

Posted in Chinese on the Australian Goldfields, Contemplative Practice, It is ALL about US, Sniff Mappers are Us, Sniff Mapping

Chinese Cemetery Vaughan Springs

In 1861, there were more than 24,000 Chinese immigrants on the Victorian goldfields of Ararat, Ballarat, Beechworth, Bendigo, Castlemaine and Maryborough. 

Vaughan Springs was once a large gold rush town called “the Junction”. Many Chinese miners moved there in 1854 and searched for alluvial gold in areas that had been abandoned by the Europeans. They established market gardens and Vaughan became an important stopover.

The Chinese diggers moved from goldfield to goldfield within NSW and across the border. Constantly on the move, their presence and experience are evidenced mainly from the observations and interpretation of Anglo-Australians, from archaeological digs and from objects saved by families and community members. There are few written accounts and sources from a Chinese perspective. The Chinese attracted particular attention and local newspapers were quick to comment on their distinctive features, clothes, languages and habits — especially their tendency to travel en masse — their methods of transport, their diligence, tirelessness and productivity.

Any admiration of their work ethic was offset by envy and resentment when times got hard. The Chinese were often scapegoated by disgruntled Anglo diggers as seen in the violent anti-Chinese riots at Turon (1853), Meroo (1854) Rocky River (1856) Tambaroora (1858) Lambing Flat, Kiandra and Nundle (1860 and 1861) and Tingha tin fields (1870). They were seen initially as oddities, later as rivals and then as threats to white Australia.

Today the small Chinese Cemetery on a rise above the mineral springs is very different to the waste land created by the gold rush. Now it is a quiet, tranquil place for those who were not taken home to China, but who now rest here. Likewise, Castlemaine Cemetery has a very beautiful grove for the Chinese who died on the goldfields.