Monthly Archives: December 2019

Sparks will fly #49 #safe

The twin experience of being held and holding on has been a theme of many posts over the years, and yet again this week I had those moments. Most poignantly through exquisite facilitation and being asked to recall a moment from childhood that had been a peak experience. I was shocked to find myself holding an imaginary child in my arms before realising it was the memory of holding my baby brother on his arrival home from hospital.  A moment where I took my older sibling and big sister status to a new level.  To tumbled back through the more than 40 years since that day was a deeply heartbreaking moment too as I then recalled moments when we had been alone together when he was dying just over a year ago.  I held his hand, sang him songs from childhood and recalled memories from our shared experience of the hearth and heart. I have found it hard to get past the other griefs to get to mourn him and it was a real blessing to have the memory of holding come to me with clarity and direction. The experience opened a door.

There was much to be thankful for in coming to this moment of holding. I was in a sacred place when this memory arrived, a place that linked his love of teaching and learning in indigenous communities so there was another link to him there. As the Sydney skies darkened and ash floated in the air, the haze of the smoke and the sun silhouetted in orange, I mourned him.  I gave thanks for the memory being delivered where I felt safe. Safety being the pre-condition for vulnerability.

Creating a safe space enables a container for bold and brave actions and words. The place where this memory arrived has, and continues to be, such a container for the last 60 years. Crossing the threshold that morning as I entered the property I honoured it as a sacred place of rest, refuge, reflection, learning and listening. As I move in a few weeks, I am being drawn into what makes a safe place, a container to hold me, my memories, future conversations to hold and be held. How place helps and hinders, creates nooks and crannies, where little and big new ideas can form, memories cherished and beginnings, endings and everything in between can be forged.

For many years the safe places where intimate and challenging conversations took place were in the car, on a red couch, around the kitchen table and in bed.  Those conversations are dead. New red couches have been bought, a new kitchen table and new bed too they are in a waiting place getting to arrive, just as I am too. I am trusting they will hold this pilgrim and sojourners to midwife the emerging sparks creating a new fire. Crossing the threshold to this new home will be an act of trust, and opening the door will be accepting the invitation to walk through it as fully as I can.


Sparks will fly #48 #decolonisation

I am going through a decolonisation of sorts. It started when I realised I had been colonised. Something like the Portuguese leaving Mozambique when they rolled out of the country, they poured concrete down the stairwells so people couldn’t use them anymore, blew up the roads and bridges behind them, left a path of destruction as they evacuated before the peace keepers came in to hold the space as the country re-organised itself, healed from trauma, held elections and tried to get back on track. Immediately after the destruction the country had the lowest GDP on the planet and land mines were everywhere. When I visited in 1994 when the results of the first elections were pending. it seemed every person in every village had lost a limb.

I have been a bit like Mozambique. A path of destruction was left by the one I loved, and there are still land mines going off when I least expect it, and while no limbs have been lost, there have been multiple wounds to the heart and head.  But I have held my own election, and while the votes are being counted, I am making provisions for a declaration of independence.  It has already started by reverting to my family name more than a year ago now, selling the site we lived in and divesting myself of personal possessions. De-colonisation requires cleaning up and noticing what has been taken, reclaiming and renaming. I had got to my own lowest GDP in the days and now am rebuilding my stocks.  Colour and movement are on the horizon.

This experience of decolonisation at a personal level is giving me new understanding of what is required at a macro level. Everything from re-naming streets and buildings and places to reverting to language and building narratives of both resistance and resilience. Listening to griefologist Rosemary Kudnarto Wanganeen this week I learnt about her views on having to go into the pain of a patriarchal and coloniser mindset and understand the experience of victimhood first as a necessary prerequisite to healing. As she acknowledged, this is a tough but necessary step in the journey to liberation. It requires a dismantling, an unlearning, and moving to practices that support learning, understanding, personal psychological work and acts of solidarity. She takes an historical overview from the time of the Roman Empire and it resonates in both the private and public spheres. This is an orientation to trauma and liberation to enable the past, present and future to co-exist. The inner journey is the only way out.

As a nation we have plenty of work to do to go deep, as we try and right the wrongs of the past and that too is going to have to be a journey inward. To own our past and face our history is going to be painful and we will need to be held by the wise and the broken, the healers and the healed, by the ones who can sit in the fire and stand in solidarity. I am trying to tune into the voices of these leaders – as I firmly believe my inner journey to healing is in the mix too. Aboriginal activist Lilla Watson articulated what Aboriginal activists groups in the 70s were saying:

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.

But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

My hunch is this statement works just as well for us as individuals as we look in the mirror and experience a shift in our inner work once internal co-existence settles into the synapses. We can’t erase what has been done, but perhaps we can reclaim it as a lever for liberation. Then maybe some new sparks will fly.


Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash