Saturday, April 21, 2007

just add water

Saturday Cuppa: Pear and ginger tea

My whole life has been punctuated with the nourishing element of water. I was reminded of this last night when I watched the video of my first daughter's waterbirth at home, by candle light.

The earliest, conscious memories I have of water are from about the age of four. Living in Brisbane, Australia, where it is often humid, we had a swimming pool which I was forever jumping into. My mum's first memory of me with water was seeing my little body sinking to the bottom of the pool! It still sends a shiver down her spine.

We later moved up the road to a larger house with a huge oval swimming pool and a very large passion fruit vine, (heaven, in one back yard). I spent hours eating those perfect sub-tropical fruits straight from the vine, and swimming.

And then there was Dead Horse Creek, a little dam in our suburb of Woodridge, where I'd hang out with my older siblings and their friends as they swung off a rope into the pond. I'll probably never know why it was called Dead Horse Creek, but I'm hoping there weren't any dead horses in there!

This probably sounds really disgusting, but I absolutely LOVED it when it rained and I could sit in the gutter of our street and let the water wash over me. The single biggest thing I miss about Australia is the tin roofs and the melodic sound of rain beating down.

At six, my parents moved from the city to Freestone, a small farming community about 15 minutes drive from the town of Warwick, on Queensland's Darling Downs. Here, on our 700 acre property of fields and mountains, was the most beautiful spring-fed creek. As children, we walked the length of it, from the small, yet deep, dam at the base of the waterfall, and up along the creek's winding path of granite rock, high into the hills. Hidden from the world by densely growing eucalyptus trees and wattle bushes, my childhood was played out in freedom, fun and fantasy along the base of our mountain where the creek flowed.

We cooked food over a fire fed from twigs and dried leaves while listening to the water gurgle over the rocks. On horseback, my friend Cherry and I went high into the mountain range and camped under the stars. As if time has stood still, I can still smell the exquisite scent of the wild lemon tree at the creek's edge.

My brothers and I often tried to make rafts to carry us along the creek, but our most popular device was actually wearing thick padded winter coats underneath raincoats and floating on the creek during a flood. Not so much floating as rocketing! Oh my, it was so much fun!! Deathly dangerous, no doubt, but thoughts like that didn't enter our heads. This gave me an appetite for white water rafting later on when I was in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand.

We made mini dams from rocks and tried to change the direction of the water. It could only ever be temporary as water is such a powerful force.

Blood sucking leeches were an occupational hazard whenever we jumped into the dam!

I can still taste the perfect, cool mountain water which I drank straight from the creek. People don't do that these days, do they? Well, at least not before sending the water off to be analysed in a laboratory. We never had to worry about farmers dumping toxic material into the water as at that time there was no-one upstream from us.

The 'waterhole' dam at the base of the waterfall was my favourite because it was tucked away by trees, hugged by maiden hair ferns, and hugged by hills, but we also had man-made dams on the property which were always brown and mucky from the soil at its base. In one part of the land, the soil was rich red and in another area, as black as a red belly black snake. We'd ride our horses, bare back, into these dams and have mud fights. We weren't precious about keeping clean. Always, always, always would we arrive home, completely filthy. The smiles on our faces probably overrode the heaviness in my mother's heart when she realised how much washing she had to do. Now I'm a mother myself, I can see it was probably worth the price of having your children disappear for hours on end.

Most parts of our garden were on a hill so we put a really long strip of plastic down, added a few drops of washing-up liquid, and a hose. We called it the 'slip and slide'. I can only begin to imagine the fun my own girls would have with such an adventure in their back garden.

The all time favourite, though, was the old tractor tyre, inner tube removed, hung long ways by rope from the majestic Pepperina tree in the front garden. The sides of the tyre were held apart by a piece of wood, so we could fit a child in either side. Filled with warm, soapy water, the fun began when another child would push the tyre against the tree and we'd get soaked with water. Activities like this, or playing in the circular horse troughs, kept us amused for hours.

When I used to wag school (Aussie equivalent of playing truant) my favourite place to go was down by the weir of the Condamine River. I didn't need to 'do' anything there, I just sat, watching the water flow by me.

I first wrote poetry when a family friend took me fishing one weekend. He and his sons fished, and I sat at the edge of the bank writing in my head and capturing how I felt about everything around me ~ the flies, water, wildflowers, gathering storm clouds…

Near Warwick is Leslie Dam, a huge lake popular for water sports, particularly water skiing. My favourite was canoeing. It was here we were brought for one of our school camps ~ the highlight of my school years. Another camp was elsewhere, I've no idea where, just that I completely trashed my favourite pair of shorts, sliding down a waterfall. And it was worth every last cotton thread! It had a 45 degree slope, was covered in moss, and made the best slippery-slide ever. The teachers couldn't drag me away.

At 16, I left home and moved to South Australia, and again, my favourite memories include water. Sitting high on a grassy hill in a friend's hot tub ~ no lights, no houses for miles, and then, in the distance, at midnight, a train etched along the horizon of a distant hill. It was eerie and yet so beautiful.

Camping in the bush was a favourite source of adventure for me…off with friends and sleeping bags for a weekend, swimming in dams, remote gorges, or the great Murray River; using old tyres to float on, as we lazed in the sun. Somehow water transformed day to day life.

Christmas by the beach in 40 degree Celsius heat isn't necessarily something a Northern Hemisphere person might associate with the Holy Season, but there really is something festive about loads of watermelon and sea water.

In New Zealand, a lover took me to a secret hide-away, where a hot spring touched the cool water of the mighty Waikato river, and together, under starlight and a full moon, we melted into the warm water. Two naked bodies, alone on Earth, surrounded by nothing by native New Zealand trees and bush. I tell you, no girl needs wine and chocolate when she's had an experience like that ~ the ultimate in romance!

On a remote South Australian shoreline, my friend Amy and I sat amidst large rocks, waves spraying against us by a brewing storm, to watch seals swimming in the moonlight. There are moments in life which simply stay etched in your memory forever, moments which no amount of money can buy.

Pennysylvania, USA. In my mid 20s, I went to the States to Amy's homeland. The day was spent trekking through barren, ploughed fields, caught deep in conversation with a best friend, making memories. New Year's Eve ~ sitting outside in a steamy hot tub with friends, snow flakes dancing in the New Year and landing on my shoulders. Steam and ice…

Giving birth in water was a natural place for me to welcome my love-child Earthside. I'd devoured spiritual and esoteric literature on the incoming soul's need for a gentle transition to gravity. I confessed to my midwife that I longed to give birth with dolphins as midwives ~ somewhere in a sheltered bay. The birth pool was too small. I needed space. I needed nature. I compromised by swimming with dolphins in pregnancy off New Zealand's north coast.

Instead of thinking I was crazy, my midwife understood and gave me a video to watch of Russian women giving birth alongside dolphins!

My mother's story of her Magic Bath led me to write my first children's story ~ Oma's Magic Bath. From her little hand made hut in the Tasmanian mountains, she would fetch water from the creek to tip into the outside bath. It was perched off the ground a couple of feet and she would light a fire underneath to warm the water. When it was hot enough, she'd step in, hot chocolate in hand, and soak, soak, soak. Watched only by tall trees, birds, stars, my mother had a luxury most of us never experience.

Last weekend my girls were playing down the road in our local beck (creek)..splashing and squealing. On the bank, the bluebells out a month early!!, chatting with friends, one of which is a lady in her 70s, we shared childhood memories of water. She smiled the whole time and said that her childhood was full of playing in water, and how different it is for most children today, stuck in houses, glued to tv, mobile phone or computers. Parents are scared of their children going outside. She's right, of course. Many parents do live in fear of the unknown and their children pay the price.

I've often found when my girls were antsy and needed calming that I simply had to 'just add water' and the outcome would always improve. Sometimes it was just a bowl and a cup, other times it was a bucket of water in the garden. It's never needed to be vast quantities of water, just something to 'feel'. Eliza's spent her last few bath times with a bowl (half a coconut shell) to which she's attached match sticks for oars, and been amused for ages. Walnut shells are often a favourite with children too.

Last Saturday we picnicked at Talkin Tarn and then Paul took the girls out rowing on the tarn for a while. Such a simple pleasure, yet that half hour of connecting with water, with nature, was so nourishing to the soul.

Walking by the ocean, negative ions washing away stress, proves so healing for many people. People flock to the beach in summer, but funnily, I've always enjoyed being there in the depths of winter, on a wild, windy day, a lone figure upon the shoreline, ambling to the sound of seagulls.

I have come to see that water needs to be free-flowing in my life and when I again find a piece of Earth to guardian, it is with the hope it has a creek passing through with which to paddle my feet.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Our growing companions

Saturday Cuppa: Ginger and Lemongrass, for clarity

In search of my mother's garden I found my own
~ Alice Walker

I don't know if there is anything that compares to the pleasure of smelling your newborn baby, or being wrapped in the tender arms of your soul-mate all night long; but having my hands in fertile soil, letting it fall loosely between my fingers as I sieve it tenderly before planting seeds, comes a pretty close second.

Transformed by Spring sunshine, I feel the emergence of my second self as I sit amongst the new green shoots all desperately reaching towards the light. When the sun shines, being in the house feels like a prison, the garden feels like heaven. I want to spend every waking moment soaking in the sunshine, playing amongst the plants, listening to bird song. The rest of life can take a running jump when I'm pottering outside.

As a child, I learnt about the art of companion planting from Mrs Green Fingers ~ aka my mum! Thirty odd years ago, to even suggest such a thing as companion planting would have raised eyebrows. Mum had no qualms about planting garlic alongside her roses. She often planted the same species of tree in groups of 'three' so they had company. Bless her! My mother always planted according to the phases and signs of the moon. It's no exaggeration to say her garden truly looked like paradise, while the gardens of the neighbouring properties often looked barren.

The young girl in the house of her mother is like a seed in fertile ground
~ Monique Wittig

In my garden I avoid mono planting…no long rows of lettuce, but patches of them, with marigolds and strawberries tucked in between and all around. And it's all very well having a herb garden, but dill and fennel are arch enemies…so dill gets to camp in the potato bed and they love each other to bits! And they're both happy if broad beans want a ménage à trois. Carrots and onions snuggle side by side, while tomatoes and basil do their thing. Although I have vegetable beds, the truth is everything is a mix 'n' match game. Herbs, flowers, fruits, berries and vegetables live in harmony, growing alongside, and above and below each other, with their needs catered for as best as I humanly can. The truth is, some prefer more light than others, some need damper soil for their roots while other plants like pretty crap soil! More often than not, one plant will protect another from insects by its scent.

Humans could learn a lot from plants ~ especially plants grown in harmony through companion planting.

In my search for like-minded people with whom to share my life, I often question the need for similarity and diversity. It is instinctive to flourish when we're well supported. For some of us, that support inevitably comes from being around similar people, and yet others need the variety, the stimulation, the duality of something a little different. Some plants seek shade or shelter and just as melons and pumpkins thrive in the shade of sweetcorn, so do some shy people thrive in the apparent shadow of a sunflower. Perhaps, though, the sunflower is all the more tall for the shadow at its feet?

Regardless of our particular preferences, what we all seek is harmony. It seems a strange irony then, that many people in our culture have never truly experienced such harmony. I'm often amazed when I go to town just how rudely couples speak to each other. And this is their beloved? I wouldn't want to be their enemy!

Harmony is something we learn about in the womb. Our mother's energy feeds us every second of our gestation. Is it a food of love, nurturing, happiness and joy or is mother in a constant state of anxiety? Is she fighting with father, numbed out in front of tv or having an affair because she's bored with our dad?

When we emerge Earthside, fresh from Divinity's Arms, thank God we have the veil drawn over our tender being, because I think almost all of us would opt out of this journey we call Life before we take our first breath. How often is a baby truly welcomed into this world in a way which befits her Divine Heritage? Instead, more than a quarter of babies are cut from their dark, warm, water womb and pulled, without warning, into bright lights and gravity. We wipe their eyes, jab them with Vitamin K, swaddle them in harsh fabrics, pop them on scales because the world will end if we don’t weigh them!!, and something as innately bonding, harmonious and loving as being in mother's arms somehow doesn't register as important. If this is our welcome to Earth, as played out in most modern day births, then how do we expect people to live in a state of Grace, of harmony and love?

And if the newly arrived soul thought birth was bad, toddlerhood isn't much better, at least not in our culture. The number of little arms I've seen nearly ripped out of sockets because a parent didn't know how to 'deal' with a tantrum is more evidence of disharmony. My kids had tantrums too, don’t get me wrong. I learnt, though, that they serve a purpose, other than to wind mum or dad up like a spring coil!

Toddlers don't need fluorescent lights, they don’t need to be taken shopping when they're tired, they don't need to have their needs put last. Toddlers aren't designed to sit patiently in cafés while parents sit for hours over coffee anymore than they're cut out to stand in a bank queue.
Pretty simply really, but it can take a while for adults to realise this, if they ever do.

If a toddler needs to get on the ground and scream and wave limbs around, then, from my experience, the best thing a parent can do is TOTALLY ignore everyone who is staring and let the child tantrum. It'll all be out of their system and harmony will return.

What often happens, however, is the parent becomes a monster, physically shakes the life out of junior, gives them chocolate or some other processed food to shut them up, not realising a bunch of white sugar and e-numbers is a perfect ingredient to raise the decibels ..and the potential for harmonious resolution is replaced by fury, anger and disrespect.

Is it any wonder, then, that children grow up into adults who don't know how to listen, how to be, how to share, how to honour, how to respect? When I see a parent yelling at a child or a man yelling at his partner or vice- versa in a way which doesn't honour either of them, I'm always transported back a generation.

Nobody grows up with lack of respect for another human unless those values weren't modelled in childhood. Please, don't ever shrug your shoulders and say "I'm just a mother". There is no sadder phrase. The future of humanity relies on mothers. Can't you feel how important and necessary good mothering is for shaping the next generation?

The plants in my garden live in harmony, supporting each other while having their needs met. How are YOU supported in life? Do you support someone else? Does it nurture both of you?
We can not be wholly fruitful and abundant if the basic needs of love, trust, harmony and kindness aren't met. Wiggle your bum over a little, find another patch of soil to grow yourself in, seek shade if you need it or reach towards the sun. Dampen those roots and reach up those leaves to the Light. You, your babies and children depend on your wise growing choices. Unlike the plants in my garden which rely on me for their growing conditions, you are entirely responsible for your growing environment and the companions your keep.

What the daughter does, the mother did.
Jewish proverb.

In one's family, respect and listening are the source of harmony

Saturday, April 07, 2007

chocolate and crucifixion

Saturday Cuppa: Peppermint Tea

I've woken to a perfect Spring morning, a cloudless sky, radiant sunshine, an incy-wincy breeze ~ brought back Earthside from blissful dreams by thousands of birds rejoicing in the new day. Lambs baaa-ing since before first light.

I often wonder about lambs, and their ability to make the human heart sing by their endless playfulness. Where does this spontaneous delight to jump up and down come from, their head or heart? And, unlike other animals, how does it prepare them for adult life? Kittens scrag each other in preparation for hunting. Children imitate adults in their play, but lambs? I don't know how often, if ever, I've seen adult sheep frolic around the way lambs do.

Here in the beautiful Eden Valley, lambs and daffodils define Spring. Lambs, unlike daffodils, have a bittersweet passage on Earth. Their destiny is to mingle with mint sauce for two seconds of sensation on man's palate. I hope the joy they bring to my heart, and that of others, gives some meaning and purpose to their sweet, short lives. The downside of Spring is when I hear lambs separated from their mothers. At the farm neighbouring our garden, every sheep bleats non-stop. I can't bear their 'screams' of separation when my fellow mammals are put on the truck for market. Will humanity ever look back upon the way animals are treated and question their own evolution?

Tomorrow's Easter Sunday, so I thought I'd share a metaphysical piece I wrote for The Mother magazine a couple of years ago based on New Thought teachings.

The passing of winter ~ Crucifixion and resurrection

Easter, a weekend marked by eggs, bunny rabbits, mountains of chocolate and the crucifix. Have you ever wondered why Easter is never on a set date, as with the anniversary of any other historical event? Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the full moon in Aries. The sun's entry into Aries begins on the 21st day of March and signals the beginning of Spring. Sometime between March 21st and April 25th, the moon will form an opposition to the sun. It is precisely because of this moveable date that one should question the commonly accepted interpretation of Easter.

The Sun, as viewed from Earth, when heading north, makes a cross (+) with the equator which is an invisible line created by man. Mystics believe this to be the crucifix that 'man might live'. What is so symbolic about the Sun's movement in this way? Nature is awakening! Winter's sleep is over. IF this was about the anniversary of the life and death of a man called Jesus then the date would be fixed. The scriptural meanings are revealed when we interpret them as the psychological dramas which they represent, and are present in every human being.

It is our 'awareness of being' which is crucified. The cross we bear is determined by how we perceive ourselves. Every single time we belittle ourselves, or don't believe in our true, Divine nature, we crucify ourselves. And resurrection occurs EVERY time we 'arise' from these negative misconceptions. We can not resurrect without first going through the crucifixion process.

Good Friday, therefore, should be a time not for mourning, but for celebration. Your 'awareness' of being is what is calling to be resurrected.

The most powerful words we can ever utter or think, are I AM. It is vital, for our own well-being, that we always follow these words with something positive. To say: I AM tired or I AM fed up or I AM annoyed or I AM broke is a crucifixion. It is limiting and holds you back from your true potential. By all means say "My body is tired", for example, because the 'real' you is not your body. This way you wouldn't be affirming that your unlimited self is tired, just the vehicle that you happen to be using.

To be nailed upon the cross is to be nailed (held down) by your feelings. Negativity holds us down ~ it literally nails us to the cross. Our feelings shape our life.

To resurrect, to be liberated, we have to allow our awareness to come into being through our imagination. We have to SEE ourselves as the best we can be. What will bring you to such a place?

Try this:
"I AM loving."
"I AM joyful."
"I AM wonderful!"
"I AM abundant."
"I AM cheerful!"
"I AM peaceful."

It is only when we always imagine the best for our selves, and let our vision take form in our lives, that we truly understand the message of Easter.

OK, sermon over, you can crack into your chocolate now.

We're off to have a picnic on the banks of the beautiful Eden River and allow ourselves to be wrapped in the Arms of this beautiful day. Enjoy this magical weather!