Gardeners often talk of their state of mind. Gardening relaxes them. It changes their mood or perspective. It makes them feel differently about their lives. Although we often imagine that moods and states of mind are attributes of an individual, these experiences of gardening suggest that states of mind are a matter of ecology or sociology rather than individual psychology. The changed state of mind befalls the gardener; it emerges from their relation with the garden.
Indeed, just to take this thought a step further, maybe this is what is important about gardens. They are special places where people learn that what is innermost is also outside them. This is how they learn how they fit in a broader world that includes them but doesn’t belong to them. Continue reading A gardening state of mind→
In our garden there are seven plantation pink sasanqua camellias along the back fence, five dark pink hiryu camellias down the side fences, and there is one prostrate hiryu which will eventually reach across the pond. We planted most of the plantation pinks over 25 years ago, telling ourselves that we’d prune them every year. These trees are now up to ten metres high, taller than the peppercorn tree, the Chinese pistache and the jacaranda which complete the canopy. Each has a trunk circumference of 60 centimetres. Continue reading Camellias→
Sometimes from far away
They sign to me;
A violet smiles from the dim verge of darkness,
A raindrop hangs beckoning on the eaves,
And once, in long wet grass,
A young bird looked at me. Kathleen Raine, ‘Exile‘
Last Friday I took my Aunty Sheila to L’Arche for Spiritual Soup. Spiritual Soup is a gathering that takes place once a month at one of three L’Arche Houses in Sydney. Core members, assistants, coordinators, family and friends come together to share a simple dinner of soup and bread before adjoining to a quiet place in the house to celebrate the community’s solidarity through prayer, song and educational activities that core members are able to participate in. Continue reading A Visit to L’Arche→
When my father-in-law died, after many years of sickness and many months in hospital, his wallet was in the drawer of the bedside cabinet. And in this wallet was a photo of his two daughters. Aged around 5 and 3, their hair in ribbons and pigtails, Anita and Ina are sitting side by side on a bench in a Sydney park, their feet unable to reach the ground. Continue reading A Photo in a Wallet→
The Ethics of Prenatal Screening
Prenatal testing has become a standard part of antenatal care in Australia. At about 12 weeks pregnant women are offered a relatively simple, elective scan which, combined with a blood test, can screen for common chromosomal disorders such as Down Syndrome. Although this screening test is elective few women choose not to have the nuchal translucency ultrasound. Even fewer decide to continue a pregnancy after chromosomal abnormalities have been detected. Recent Victorian studies suggest that the abortion rate for Down Syndrome is something like 95%.
My father has recently died; and my mother died 10 years ago. So, my siblings and I are now engaged in the process of ‘going through’, ‘sorting out’ our parents’ belongings. I have trouble finding the right way to describe this activity, emotionally complex as it is, for we are now having to make decisions about things that have had significance in our parents’ and our past shared lives. It is a difficult and painful process, but one that brings with it moments too of lightness, surprise and joy. One way or another, this experience feels meaningful. Continue reading Belongings, Adelaide, June 2015→
I have just returned from a month-long holiday in Sicily and Crete. What I felt there, over and over, was the awe-inspiring presence of time. It was in the landscape of 400 year-old dry-stone walling; it was in a Greek theatre in a field of poppies; it was in streets with layers of civilizations visible in the walls of buildings. Continue reading Time, Crete and Sicily, April – May 2015→
I know you are suffering. You tell me that you feel broken, exhausted. Your horizons are diminished. You feel as though you have lost a better self and have no way to regain it. In spite of the specialists, the doctors, herbalists, clinicians, the diets and disciplinary regimes, a cure eludes you. You are beginning to despair. I can hear the anguish in your voice, the distress on your face, when we speak about your condition. You are suffering.
At times you see your illness as the cause of your suffering. It is the insurmountable obstacle that prevents you from realising your true, happier, self. At others, you blame yourself for not being able to accept your condition and forge a life within it. You see your suffering as a sign of failure: your great and perpetual failure to be happy. As if happiness was an achievement. As if us non-sufferers were somehow better at living than you. Continue reading Letter to a friend→