Posted in Ancestral Medicine, Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Epigenetic Inheritance, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Romancing the Creative Spirit, Self Compassion, Soul Food Cafe

Make Descansos to Honour Ancestors

Traditionally Descansos (Spanish for ‘place of rest’) marked
the place of loss. Often we pray that the one who has died will rest in peace. In truth, it is those that are left behind that face the challenge of resting peacefully. Descansos is also a way to mark a loss and a space to find peace.

I first learned about the concept of Descansos when I read Clarissa Pinkola Estes ‘Women Who Run With Wolves’. Estés writes that there is a time in our lives, usually in midlife when a woman has to make a decision – possibly the most the important psychic decision of her future life – about whether to be bitter or not”. 

Estes describes how when you travel in Old Mexico, New Mexico, southern Colorado, Arizona, or parts of the South, you will see little white crosses by the roadside. These are descansos, resting places. The concept of marking resting places is not confined to the United States or Mexico. They may be found in Greece, Italy and many other countries, including Australia.

When I photographed these wayside memorials I was actually thinking about other ways to mark and lay to rest other important moments in our life. Over eleven years ago I applied the concept of Descansos to mark the loss of my husband to cancer.

Now I am thinking that making visual maps and marking the moments that changed lives, be they major or relatively minor events, has a lot of potential as a part of a project to honour ancestors. Clearly, if we have lived a long time our bodies have accumulated a lot of debris but the science of epigenetics also suggests that we are also carrying ‘the sins of our’ forebears. We can make descansos by taking a look, not only within our lives but in the lives of our ancestors. We can take the time to carefully mark the small deaths and the big deaths.

On a big sheet mark with crosses the places where even before infancy events impacted on your life. For example, the premature death of my maternal grandmother impacted not only on my mother but reverberated and significantly affected my life. Mark the roads not taken, the ambushes, betrayals and deaths. Mark the places which should have been mourned and consider spending time noting what has seemingly been forgotten, but which like the spirit of Joan of Arc lives on.

Making Descansos:

Imogen Crest

Posted in Artistic Midwife, Czech Republic, Expressive Arts, Heather Blakey, Prague 2018, Prague Markets, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Romancing the Creative Spirit, Travelling Solo, Wild Play

The Art of Overseas Gift Shopping

1950’s Bohemian Crystal Beads and Brooch

Wiki How, which claims to explain how to do almost anything, actually has an interesting page about how to buy Souveniers and Gifts Overseas! Needless to say, I only found this page as I prepared to write this post.

Happily, I only intended to buy a couple of gifts while away, but I must admit that, as I walked up along the streets towards the Old Town Square in Prague, I felt despondent! I was not impressed with the tacky tourist offerings. I was looking for posters but instead saw cheap teatowels, postcards, magnets and assorted junk that I wouldn’t even buy for our ‘who can choose the tackiest, ugliest Christmas present’ contest.

Map of Zizkov

As my day for departure drew closer and I had no more success in the villages we visited,  I had all but given up! Then, as if by magic, (well Google actually) I found out about Bohemian Retro. Even with a map in hand, I had trouble navigating my way to this small vintage store which turned out to be only a few streets away from my Airbnb! Believe it or not, when I staggered into Palac Acropolis Retro (which includes a bar and restaurant) to ask for directions, I found the owners of Bohemian Retro having their lunch. I decided that lunch was actually a very good idea and enjoyed an authentic Czech meal served with the most amazing mashed potato of all things – all for little more than five Australian dollars.

On their web page, Bohemian Retro include snippets from the press that they have clearly enjoyed. One fan writes that

If you want to be cheered up, feel welcomed, find something unique and totally in your price range, and walk out feeling better than you did when you arrived – then definitely come here and visit Becky

In fact I don’t even know why I’m raving about this place because it just means you might go and buy something that I’ve been eyeing .. But there are always some surprises waiting so be sure to visit and take a look!

As a Buy Nothing New, vintage shop, charity shop fan, I was certainly cheered up as I rummaged through the piles of goodies. Bohemian Retro is the kind of place I take people on mystery writing tours because the goods have so many stories to tell.

Ultimately it was the 1950’s  Bohemian Crystal bead necklaces that were affordable and not from the heavily branded company with stores up and down the alleyways of popular tourist villages, which caught my eye – along with some delightful brooches.

Completely satisfied with my selections, carefully placed into lovely old jewellery boxes at no extra expense, I treated myself to a tiny hand-stitched wall hanging to pin with a host of other things I have on pinboards, located, believe it or not, in my toilet. Ask my friends! Complete with fairy lights it is quite a gallery there now!

On my final day in Prague, inspired by my success at Bohemian Retro, I intended to visit a charity store I discovered was within walking distance from my apartment.  Alas, it was closed, as was the Poster studio I had found out about. But back at the market, I managed to pick up some cool second-hand books! Another time I will be better prepared and I will have researched and identified precisely where to go.

Posted in Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Artistic Almshouse, Bohemia, Czech Republic, Expressive Arts, Heather Blakey, Interpreting Spaces, Kuta Hora Sedlec Ossuary, Prague 2018, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Romancing the Creative Spirit, Travelling Solo

Solo Traveller – iPhone Story Starters

During my seven days in the Czech Republic, to quote Thoreau, I chose to ‘live deliberately’, mindfully and with intention. For most of the time in Prague, I stayed clear of the primary tourist haunts. However, I took the advice dispensed by sites like Solo Traveller and booked two tours that took me out to villages in the Bohemian countryside.

I stepped on to the tour buses with an open mind, prepared to relinquish my abhorrence of guided tours for two single day trips. Needless to say, I found kindred spirits on board and we shared many laughs, sat over lunch and had fascinating conversations that I will not forget. One of my companions was with a group of architects who had been given a ‘Victoria and Albert’ style ticket to Prague to enrich their understanding of architecture. Martha, like me, was taking photographs of details rather than broad sweeping vistas!

Each photograph here tells a story, brings back memories of day trips I will never forget, largely because I mindfully planned and navigated them by myself.

Posted in A Donkey and A Raven, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Contemplative Practice, Pencil Drawings, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Self Compassion, Still-observing, Wild Play

In the Beginning

Life While-You-Wait.
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.

The seed I planted, when I began working on the idea of what I would do while I was Waiting for Godot, was planted back in November 2014. At that time I established a small visual journal and undertook to draw a donkey, with a raven companion, each day. Like me, they were waiting for Godot to provide some inspiration. I maintained the practice for three months, adding clippings and poems by poets such as Mary Oliver to my journal.

Then I got distracted! I enrolled to do a Masters of Social Work at Monash  University and my notebook, pencils and the idea lay idle.

But things have a way of growing by delay and after a daunting first semester last year I actively established this site. A series of creative projects have brought me back to my notebook. I was surprised by how a sense of fun dripped out of my drawings.

I have begun to draw again, in conjunction with the still-hunting that Ted Andrews inspired me to undertake! I do not need to know where any of this is going! All I know is that the creative spirit is growing as vigorously as Jack’s beanstalk.

Posted in Lemurian Adventures, Mystery Art Making Writing Tours, Self Portraiture

An Inner World Revealed

This is a collection of drawings I did while I was travelling, with a host of companions,   in Lemuria. Many of these are self-portraits!  Over a five year period,  while my late husband was battling cancer, and often confined to bed, I spent my nights drawing, Looking at these drawing now I can see that I managed to capture the inner world that sustained me during those long years. After walking away from my life in the city, and reinventing myself, my pencils have lain idle! They served me well! Today I give thanks to them, and to all those who fearlessly travelled those Lemurian roads with my multiple personalities!
Heather Blakey
Pencil Drawings – Enhanced in Photoshop! 2005 – 2010

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, Cemetery Explorers, Contemplative Practice, Elphingstone Cemetery, Nature Fix

Idyllic Bush Resting Place

Bush songs devised by ordinary, everyday people are a record of the people’s experiences of living, surviving and dying in the bush, as well as the colourful slang of bush life.

 

Today, on my way back from meeting a friend at Malmsbury for lunch, I saw a sign, that I had never noticed before, pointing to the Elphinstone Cemetery. It was quite a trek, along an unsealed road, to find this well maintained old cemetery. At the time when it was established in Elphinstone, there would have been more bush to be seen. Today you pass by properties on acreage!

What is it about ‘the bush’ that is so special to Australians? The bush has an iconic status in Australian life and features strongly in any debate about national identity, especially as expressed in Australian literature, painting, popular music, films and foods.

The bush was something that was uniquely Australian and very different to the European landscapes familiar to many new immigrants. The bush was revered as a source of national ideals by the likes of Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. Romanticising the bush in this way was a big step forward for Australians in their steps towards self-identity. The legacy is a folklore rich in the spirit of the bush.

Many Australian myths and legends have emanated from the bush. Early bushranging – ranging or living off the land – was sometimes seen as a preferred option to the harsh conditions experienced by convicts in chains. Later bushrangers such as Jack Donohue, Ben Hall and Ned Kelly were seen as rebellious figures associated with bush life. Their bushmanship was legendary as well as necessary. Source: The Australian Bush

Posted in Akari Mystery Tours, Art and Healing, Cemetery Explorers, Djadjawurrung People, Just Killing Time, Killing Time, Resilience, Vaughan Springs Cemetery, Victorian Gold Rush 1850

Honouring The Pioneers

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.

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.

Posted in Akari Mystery Tours, Art and Healing, Bandit, Contemplative Practice, Interpreting Spaces, Nature Fix, Yandoit

The Perfect Hideaway

Now that I am the age I am I totally get why my parents enjoyed their Sunday drives. Mum would fill the cake tin, make a flask of tea and out we would go. Mum and Dad regularly explored the rabbit warren of our immediate world in Gippsland. Now, like them, I have become addicted to wandering, just having a look see. You never know what you will see if you just open your eyes and look. You never know what you will conjure unless  you are prepared to dream.

 

Even though MIDNITE was seventeen, he wasn’t very bright. So when his father died, his five animal friends decided to look after him. Khat, the Siamese, suggested he became a bushranger, and his horse, Red Ned, offered to help. But it wasn’t very easy, especially when Trooper O’Grady kept putting him in prison.

So it was just as well that in the end he found GOLD!

Midnite, by Randolph Stow, is a brilliant good-humoured and amusing history of the exploits of Captain Midnite and his five good animal friends who lived in a hidden valley!

Australian Bushrangers like Captain Midnite, or Captain Starlight, as depicted in the classic Robbery Under Arms were fond of hiding places in out of the way valleys like this one beyond Yandoit. I am not likely to take up bush ranging but if I found some GOLD I would look for a place, tucked in a very private little valley, just like this, and create an art sanctuary for wandering creatives.

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