For those who have far to travel…

                                            

 

If you could see

the journey whole

you might never

undertake it;

might never dare

the first step

that propels you

from the place

you have known

toward the place

you know not.

 

Call it

one of the mercies

of the road:

that we see it

only by stages

as it opens

before us,

as it comes into

our keeping

step by

single step.

 

There is nothing

for it

but to go

and by our going

take the vows

the pilgrim takes:

 

to be faithful to

the next step;

to rely on more

than the map;

to heed the signposts

of intuition and dream;

to follow the star

that only you

will recognize;

 

to keep an open eye

for the wonders that

attend the path;

to press on

beyond distractions

beyond fatigue

beyond what would

tempt you

from the way.

 

There are vows

that only you

will know;

the secret promises

for your particular path

and the new ones

you will need to make

when the road

is revealed

by turns

you could not

have foreseen.

 

Keep them, break them,

make them again:

each promise becomes

part of the path;

each choice creates

the road

that will take you

to the place

where at last

you will kneel

 

to offer the gift

most needed—

the gift that only you

can give—

before turning to go

home by

another way.

 

Jan L. Richardson, The Painted Prayerbook.

 

That was sent to me recently. A treasured gift. I hope you like it too.

There is nothing for it but to go…

Oh yes.

Oh my! My debut!

No, I haven’t written a graphic novel!

That is the cover of the current Wheeler Centre programme. For those of you who don’t live in Melbourne, I’m sorry. The Wheeler is our home of all things wordy and wonderful. Its director, Michael Williams, described it the other night as Melbourne’s secular church. I’ll go with that. It’s a temple to ideas. And the news is that I am going to occupy one small corner of it for one evening.

Each month, the Wheeler hosts an hour of talk and reading by three or four “debut” writers. These gatherings are called Debut Mondays. I went last Monday and heard an anthology of writers read with generosity and tenderness from their new books. I loved it. And in April, I’m making my Debut!

Wipe that grin off your face! I’m going out to buy a white dress and a tussie-mussie and you can’t stop me!

If you are in town on April 16th, I’d love you to drop by between 6.15pm and 7.15pm. I’ll be at The Moat, the Wheeler’s exquisite cafe/bar in Little Lonsdale Street, under the State Library. It’s an inviting space, with delicious treats and books abounding. Afterwards they stay open for nosh, wines and coffees, so if you can come along, it would be great to have company and friendly faces. Also reading will be Romy Ash and Bruce Scates.

If you want to see more details you can visit the Wheeler website at:

http://wheelercentre.com/calendar/program/debut-mondays/

Or if you are drooling over their hard-copy brochure, Debut Mondays are on page 30. I’m the one with the goony grin in the bottom right corner.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a debutante writer in possession of an invitation from the Wheeler Centre, must be in want of nothing.

With apologies to Ms Austen.

Yippeeeee!!!

 

May it happen for you…

This morning there’s a lot of chat on the airwaves about the upcoming election in Queensland. What it will mean at state level. Nationally. Who might be vanquished. Whose career is on a knife’s edge…

And so it goes.

Results and consequences will come soon enough. For now, the green is thriving and my legs can carry me out along a path in the relative quiet of my thoughts.

I’ll take a poem with me for company. It’s an old friend, invoked many times for many reasons, in all seasons. It will be good for today. Maybe it will serve you, too.

 

            Sometimes

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,

From bad to worse.  Some years, muscadel

Faces down frost; green thrives, the crops don’t fail,

Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

 

A people sometimes will step back from war;

Elect an honest man; decide they care

Enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.

Some men become what they were born for.

 

Sometimes our best efforts do not go

Amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.

The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow

That seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

 

Sheenagh Pugh

 

Yes, yes. May it happen for you.

Gracias. Grazie. Merci…

…Thank you…

To the exceptionally talented Trisha Garner, who designed the cover of SINNING ACROSS SPAIN. I’m told that she and the tireless but tasteful Cathy Smith at MUP worked their way through about ten iterations of it in order to reach the final version for which I am so grateful.

You can see the front cover in detail by clicking on CONTACT in the bar above, and while I don’t have the technosmarts to figure out how to upload the full back cover with text and other graphics, I can put the photo up here so you can see it in close-up.

And the photo credit? Yours truly!

Mind you, I’d hate to give the impression from the cover images that the road was all blue skies and sunshine. That would be too hilarious! So to prove there were other kinds of days, here is one more from my files…

I got a million of THEM!

But at least the rain stopped pelting so I could take that one.

Anyway, I’ve learned there are many more components to a physical book than I’d ever imagined.

So thank you Trish. I celebrate your gifts.

 

A mini-camino. A quasi-meseta.

This last weekend, I let myself walk along the hills of the Great Dividing Trail in central Victoria. Old goldfields country. Some of the path cuts through spindly eucalypt forests, where echidnas were probing the dry clay for just one more ant. Some of the path passes rolling hills and farmlands, waiting now for the autumn rains…

                              Along the Great Dividing Trail

As I walked, I kept experiencing that weird “two places in one moment” feeling. It’s not déjà vu, and it’s not in any way a premonition. It’s just a sense that I am in two landscapes simultaneously.

It often happens to me when I walk.

At the weekend, I was beside those fields you can see in the photo up above, and I was also out on the meseta in northern Spain. Dry clear air. A wind at my back. Golden light. And the memory of how, when I actually walked the meseta, I had felt myself to be in Australia as I plodded.

It was a kind of double palimpsesto. Layers underwriting layers of experience. Layers overwriting layers of memory. Odd, but reassuring. And in Spain, a land where there are so many stories underfoot, from so many centuries of questing souls, maybe it is to be expected.

There are stories carved and hacked into the earth here, too. There are songs that sing low on the whispers of breezes that find me between tree trunks.

We are opposites, Spain and Australia, in so many ways. But we are also mirrors.

My heart seeks the similarities. So do my eyes.

Look at this and see if you don’t too…

                                                               My meseta

Walk well, wherever you are. And keep your ears peeled for stories.

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Walking words

Verses overhead in Córdoba

On Monday just gone, I went into the ABC’s radio studios in Melbourne to record for a programme called Poetica. It’s my favourite show on Radio National, and so I was thrilled when they accepted a script from me about the poems that inspired me to make the walk, and the ones that came to me along the road. It was a chance to honour the writers who were my salve, my comfort, my spur and my guides.

I was overcome once again by the way the right words found me when I was in trouble or afraid.

All along the road, they would wing their way to me – poems from all times and places, in all languages. On walls and in bars. In emails from home. From fellow walkers. Even some of my very own, written for me with care and generosity.

So from time to time, I think I will post a poem here. It will be another way of honouring their gifts to me, and something for you to share.

This one came to me early on, and helped me to stare down some very gnarly demons who were insisting I would never make it. That I was not ready, not able, not strong/stable/fluent/brave enough…

The voices may have been right. I probably wasn’t ready.

But if I had waited until I was, I might never have gone.

And this poem helped me to step out.

It’s by Rainer Maria Rilke. Another who loved Spain.

 

A WALK

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,

Going far ahead of the road I have begun.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;

It has its inner light, even from a distance­–

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,

into something else, which, hardly sensing it, we already are,

a gesture waves us on, answering our own wave…

but what we feel is the wind in our face.

 

And I can still feel that wind. I still see those hills…