A story about life, covid and feathered messengers.
FUNK- I was mired in a Covid funk. Not a dark dreadful depression, unable to rise from bed but more a Jane Austin-esque melancholia, taken to wandering waif like around the house, restless. Quite unwilling and unable to settle at a task and prone to outbursts of sighing, followed by more waif like wandering. A ghost unable to find rest.
Just 4 weeks earlier I had storytelling work, preschools, weddings and storytelling nights as well as other exciting projects lined up- a full length performance with musician, a collaborations with another teller and an international conference to organize, more than enough to keep me occupied as my husband travelled back to Sweden for an indefinite stay with his family.
Then Covid came…. the work, the projects evaporated, sigh. And then my husband was going, wasn’t going, was going, wasn’t going, was going wasn’t going.. then he went. Sigh FUNK
Of course, I knew many people were far worse off than me. I had a roof over my head, food to eat, government benefits… yet sigh, FUNKED I felt. The only thing that relieved my funk was anger. A battle raged within.
“Write something!”, “sigh no”
“Practice something!”, “sigh no”
Perform something on line!” “sigh no”
“DO ANYTHING!!!” “sigh, it’s all too hard” FUNKED
Funk and anger, anger and funk
Finally, one day, anger took me in hand for a brisk walk, determined to force funk from my body. I can’t say that I was enjoying the walk for it felt like a doomed enforced march. As I strode past the lantana tangled mangroves that bordered the sports field, a flash of blue brought caught my eye.
An electric blue male Fairy Wren, he popped his head of the bush out and gave me a proper chiding “peep peep peep”. Then his small mouse brown mate appeared, and she flicked her tail at me with such attitude. I stood astounded. What brave hearts they were to accost a woman mired in funk. Captivated, I watched and listened. Their peeps came to me Consider the birds of the air…
So I considered the birds, these birds. I considered the size of their brave hearts, the dimensions of the veins and arteries that carried the blood to their hearts, so impossibly small, and yet so perfect. My own heart marveled and warmed in response, and for a few hours my covid funk took flight
Alas, at home, Funk’s icy fingers closed around my heart once more;
“Will I work again, won't I work again”’
“Will Ulf come home, won't Ulf come home” And then Anger kicked in,
Write something!” “sigh, no”.
“Practice something!” “sigh, no”.
Perform something on line!” “sigh, no”.
“DO ANYTHING!!!” “sigh but it’s all too hard, sigh” FUNKED
Another day, another forced march day, this day not one pair but two pairs of fairy wrens accosted me They darted across my path, to sit in the bushes either side and admonish... “Peep Peep Consider the birds of the air…”. Quick as they appeared, they disappeared back into the bushes… not before leaving me with a warm heart and the memory of a folktale, the King of the Birds.
“Once, long, long ago, the birds of the earth decided that they should appoint a King, a bird to rule over all of them. But who to choose, how to choose?
“The largest” suggested the ostrich, “the wisest” offered the owl, “the loudest” laughed the kookaburra, “the most lovely voice” sung the nightingale, “the most beautiful” preened the peacock, “the most prolific” twittered thousands of sparrows. After much squawking, squeaking, peeping, twittering, trilling, ringing and cooing calling, cackling and warbling, they decided that the bird which flew the highest and closest to the sun, should be King.
The birds took to the air on mass, fluttering, flapping, flying up and up. Humming, whirring, whooping, higher and higher above the earth they flew, like a floating ceiling. Then, one by one, the smallest first, began to drop away, they could go no higher. One by one they gathered on the ground necks craned as they watched the sky till only the eagle flew, the long slow powerful beats of his wings propelled him higher and higher, closer and closer to the sun. The birds watched in awe. At last the eagle could climb no higher when, from under the eagle’s feathers leapt a wren.
A tiny wren, that spent its life hiding in the bushes and scrub, never daring to leave the protective brambles, leapt into the air above the eagle and bathed in the sun’s radiance, “Peep Peep Peep”
None were more surprised than the eagle himself. The wren had taken an enormous risk, he had trusted that the eagle, as an emissary of spirit would not eat him to hide his defeat. The eagle, in turn, recognised the wren’s cleverness and bravery.
The two birds thoroughly spent, flew back to the earth, the eagle taking care to keep below the wren to catch him should he falter. Exhausted the eagle and the little wren landed and before all the great winged gathering, Eagle declared wren to be king of the birds.
Funny that the story should pop into my head, it’s not a story that I have ever told. Consider the birds of the air.
Hmmm, were the birds trying to tell me something?
I was happy to walk the next day and as I did, I listened to a podcast about the ancient Chinese poet Cold Mountain. Along the walk I was met by not one, not two but 4 pairs of fairy wrens, “PEEP PEEP PEEP”. I said “I am, I am considering the birds of the air” and they bopped and nodded in approval. As I headed across the empty oval, I thought, if the birds are really bringing me messages then surely, they would have pooped on my head by now?
My podcast in my ear launched into a poem recital;
“a thousand sparrows descend on my empty courtyard, they swarm around me, trying to murder me with their racket"
At that moment a thousand crazy correllas descended on my empty oval, they swarmed around me, deafening me with their racket, then something heavy and warm hit my head. Bird funk. I look over to the lantana and the assembles wrens were peeping their little heads off in glee.
Their message now as plain as the poop in my hair.
Consider the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor reap nor gather into barns. They trust their needs will be met.
The little wren who spent most of his life close in the protective scrub feeling small, courageously trusted in the eagle, the emissary of spirit, and became king
All that was needed was a brave heart and trust in the spirit of life. Yes, I had a roof over my head, there was food on the table, for now that was enough. If covid kept my husband and I apart for some time, I would still be alright, more than alright, everything was going to be fine.
I arrived home to find two rainbow lorikeets making love on my verandah. Ha! Perhaps Ulf and I will be together sooner I expected, happy "sigh”
An Interview with Sandra from "Less Stuff , More Meaning" Wedding Guide.
It’s an absolute privilege welcoming Lindy and Ulf, Heart to Heart Storytelling, to our community of eco-ethical vendors. Theirs is a unique talent, enriched by their wisdom, environmental activism and quite simply, heart. I won’t go on, as Lindy and Ulf have explained the meaning of storytelling as part of your wedding experience, better than I ever could.
Storytelling celebrants, sounds intriguing…how did that come about?
Ulf and I were storytellers first, we had both been telling stories separately and together for about a decade and when my daughter and her partner asked us to marry them, it seemed a natural progression and another meaningful way to share our storytelling skills. So, while I (Lindy) am the legal celebrant, Ulf works with me to create & perform the ceremonies.
So why tell stories?
Aside from doing what we love and loving what we do, storytelling brings meaning & connection. In our fast-paced technical world, information is googled then forgotten, relationships may be ‘virtual’ rather than human, and we are bombarded with sounds, images and consumerism. Even our important life events such as weddings & funerals are quick, cookie cutter affairs, often with more thought for the catering & decorations, than the ceremonies. Yet people are searching for meaning in their lives and there is an innate hunger for connection and the warmth of community.
And ever since there have been words, there has been storytelling, storytelling is our oldest art form. Stories just makes sense to humans, we live stories, we share stories and we understand stories. In storytelling we find the commonalities of our humanity rather than differences. Storytelling provides the nourishment that our souls long for. Stories told eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart, gift us the sense of sacredness, the feeling of belonging and recreation of community connectiveness.
We have seen audiences deeply touched by our stories. One woman thanked Ulf for his honest, heartbreaking story of his first wife’s death. She said his story had open her eyes to the beauty that lies within the most difficult of times. A young gay man, with tears in his eyes said the creation myth we shared during a wedding ceremony made him feel truly recognised & valued. While others have wondered at the profound wisdom of simple folk tales for today’s problems. In stories, we have cried at the beauty of life, laughed at its absurdity and been inspired by the hero’s journey.
Whatever the story, and whoever our audience, whether sharing stories at a community event, a school or during a wedding ceremony, we never ceased to be amazed at the profundity of storytelling to open & connect hearts, to share wisdom, give meaning and sacredness back to modern life.
How does the inclusion of stories into a wedding ceremony add more richness to the experience?
We love to tell the story of the couple, how they met, what they love about each other, the obstacles overcome, dreams for the future, the funny stories, and the ‘ahhhhhhh’ moments. It’s these stories which we can all relate too and be inspired by… it’s the stories people remember long after the wedding cake is eaten.
Sharing family stories or cultural tales can assist the coming together of two families in understanding and appreciation for each other and their traditions. These tales can also link the past to the present and future, gifting people the security of continuity and connection, while myths and religious stories can add layers depth and meaning with their ancient metaphors.
Tell us your story! How did two storytellers meet and fall in love?
Well that’s a long story, and we are storytellers… but I’ll make a long story short; in 2014 we both attended “Storytelling as Performance Art” at the International School of Storytelling in the UK. I fell in love with Ulf when I heard his first story, a lovely, whimsical Swedish fairytale. And Ulf fell in love with me, on our long barefoot walks through the golden summer meadows. He asked me to marry him on the last day of the 5 week course. We were married in Australia 4 months later. Our very own fairytale!
We’d love to hear about your daughter’s wedding…what was the experience like for you as a celebrant?
The first time I practiced their ceremony, I cried and cried, so I had to practice quite a bit to get through without the tears flowing. It was such a celebration of love but more than that it was a celebration of their rainbow community.
I will always cherish the time that I spent with Jessie and Hayley before the wedding, talking with them, listening to their stories, and learning about how they deal with conflict, and their hopes, dreams and plans for the future. The whole process of co-creating the ceremony with them was an honour and a privilege.
Jessie and Hayley were open to any ideas about the ceremony and they were keen for stories to play an important part. When Ulf and I came across a creation myth which beautifully explains why there are men who love men, and women who love women, and men and women who love one another, we felt is was a great basis for the ceremony, Jess and Hayley loved it too. We also told the story of their meeting & adventures, some embarrassing moments and the magical ones. The ceremony was rich with laughter and tears (I did hold it together) and it was an absolute reflection of those two beautifully unique women.
How have you seen storytelling engage a sense of community and connectedness?
I co-founded a community storytelling café, Long Story Short, in 2013, where we invite storytellers and people with a story to tell to come and share their stories. We are now in our 5th year and when people arrive, they come as strangers but after hearing and sharing stories they leave as friends, as community. One storyteller, who shared her life story as a transgender woman described Long Story Short as ‘heaven on earth’ for the love and acceptance she experienced with our audience. And that’s how it is every month, through stories we find and share the bonds of our common humanity.
What would you like to see more of in weddings?
To borrow your words, less stuff and more meaning! The last 5 weddings I have been involved in have been community affairs.There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child, well I believe it is should also be a village to create a wedding.
Give every guest a job; big, small, something that suits their talents. Get artists painting signs, musicians on the music, Aunty Flo can collect jars for table decorations. Begin a year or 6 months in advance and make a list of everything that needs doing and assign people to tasks. People love to be asked, besides sharing stories, inviting others to help on your special day creates a strong sense of community.
Your ceremony sets the intention for your married life. So, spend more time on considering intentions and meaning. Be creative with your ceremony, weave in those intentions and meaning, focus more on the internal than the external decorations. A ceremony rich in meaning is a strong foundation for a life time together.
Don’t aim for perfection. Mistakes and disaster do occur, accept them with grace and allow magic to arise.
And share more stories…. Definitely more stories at weddings!
Apart from wedding ceremonies, how else can storytelling benefit us?
Storytelling is experiencing a worldwide revival in many fields, business, heath & wellbeing, education and environment. Ulf first fell in love with storytelling as he witnessed it’s ability to build strong communities.
My first interest in storytelling was as a powerful way to reconnect people with the natural world. While you can tell people facts about why they should look after the environment, facts don’t make them care. But a well told story evokes empathy and fosters the sense of stewardship.
What other services do you offer?
Stories, stories, stories, for all ages and occasions. We share stories with schools, preschools & libraries, at music & environmental festivals. You’ll find us at children’s birthday parties, on storytelling bush walks, and keep a look out for our storytelling in local parks. Of course, we believe that any life event deserves a story or two. If you have a venue or an occasion we have a story to fit!
What’s your favourite story and why?
OOOOOhhh, tough question! I can’t go past the story Ulf told when I fell in love with him, Astrid Lingren’s ‘May My Linden Tree Play’. Ulf also still loves that one. But we do experience a love affair with whatever story we are working on… if we didn’t, we couldn’t tell it!
What can couples expect when they book you for their wedding?
Quite a few cups of tea, (herbal or bog standard) and questions to start with. We want to know all about you. We want to hear your stories, we want to know what makes you tick and how you click as a couple. Unrushed, unhurried, lets get to know each other so we can co-create a ceremony that shares the beautifully unique stories of you.
And finally, how do you (Ulf) feel about being a Roald Dahl look-alike? 😉
Ulf: Well Roald says “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, as long as somebody loves you” and that’s good enough for me.
Lindy: Roald also says “It’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle, if you aren’t twinkly yourself” and I think Ulf’s eyes are very twinkly indeed.
And here is more of Lindy’s daughters wedding to enjoy! Images thanks to Ben Wyeth Photography for capturing Jessie and Hayley’s gorgeous day.
Heart to Heart Storytelling are based on the Central Coast, NSW, and available for travel worldwide.
At last our Government has recognised that all love is equal, and now it will also be recognised as legal. Ulf and I had the honour of performing a handfasting ceremony for my daughter Jessie and her partner Hayley a few days before the announcement. (love has it's own timetable) These two wonderful women celebrated their love, their commitment to love one-another always in front of family & friends. And we found the perfect story to tell at their ceremony which speaks about the awesome power of love.
Love is Love is Love
Lindy: And soon we will celebrate the day, when all love is recognised as equal and legal. For Love is love is love… and heaven knows, the world needs more love. A very wise man Plato once said;
Humans have never understood the power of Love, for if they had they would surely have built noble temples and altars and offered solemn sacrifices; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done, since Love is our best friend, our helper, and the healer of the ills which prevent us from being happy.
Plato said that to understand the power of Love, we must understand that our original human nature was not like it is now, Plato tells a very different creation story…
A Very Different Creation Story
Ulf: In the beginning human beings were not singular beings as we are today but a fusion of two beings into one- each of these ancient beings had two sets of arms, two sets of legs, and two faces looking in opposite directions. So of course there were not just two sexes man and woman… There were three manwithman, womanwithman & womanwithwoman. The unified beings of two men were called the Children of the Sun, the second unified being of man and woman, were called the Children of the Moon and the third unified beings of two women called the Children of the Earth.
The power of these original unified human beings was great. So great that the Gods themselves felt threatened. So they looked for a way to end the humans' power without totally destroying them.
Mighty Zeus cast down his thunderbolt and split these unified-beings in two. Alas, not only reducing their power but rendering them incomplete, so that for evermore each half would long and search for their missing part. … And if by chance they found one another again they would throw their arms about one another, desperately trying, to be one united being again.
The Ancient Desire
This ancient desire is imbued in all of us. Today We still seek to return to our original double nature, reuniting two into one, and thus healing the state of humankind. Each of us when separated, having one side only, is always seeking our other half.
Those whose original nature lies with the Children of the Sun, are men who are drawn to other men. Those from the Children of the Moon, are men and women drawn to one another. And those from the Children of the Earth are women who love other women.
And when one of us meets our other half, we are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other's sight even for a moment. We pass our whole lives together, desiring that we should be melted into one, to spend our lives as one person instead of two, and so that after our death there will be one departed soul instead of two; this is the very expression of our ancient need.
For our human nature was whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called Love.
Congratulations and much love to the beautiful couple.
PS: We'll do the legal stuff after the honeymoon
This is a story of life, death, everything in between and what comes after. It is the story of Warren Zevon, American singer song writer, death expert and me.
I was studying for my arts degree at Newcastle University in2005. I had just begun the subject “the sociology of death dying and human mortality” when I suffered a loss. It wasn’t the death of a loved one but the death of a significant relationship.
I had fallen in love with a gifted psychic. As well as my partner, he was my teacher in all things supernatural. And he was a great teacher and soon I experienced my first clear physic vision. Sadly, he not such a great boyfriend, as my vision was of him in bed with another woman. Our short but intense love affair was over, dead. Have you ever felt your heart ripped out of your chest and stomped on?
Death, Dying & Human Mortality
Well it was in this state I dragged myself to my “Death, Dying and Human Mortality” class, grieving for every bit of my frail human mortality. My class was to pursue individual major studies on some aspect of death dying and human mortality… Fellow classmates were enthusiastically picking their topics; suicide poetry, roadside memorials and death rites were a few. I however, was concentrating on getting out of bed and trying to eat.
Then I met the late great Warren Zevon. My brother-in-law Jack, gave me a cd, Warren Zevon’s “The Wind”. I played it…and I played it and played it. Here was a musician who understood loss. Warren Zevon wrote and recorded The Wind, his 15th cd as he was dying.
Warren wrote and sang songs of goodbye, of regrets, and of his thoughts on impending death. The songs touched a chord deep within, they gave me comfort. I remember after every song, shutting my eyes and taking a moment to say “thank you Warren”. Not only did I find comfort… but a subject for my major study; Warren Zevon.
Werewolves of London
Now I don’t imagine too of you would be familiar with the name Warren Zevon, but you might remember his hit song “Werewolves of London”, and he wrote hits recorded by many other artists. Warren was credited by his peers as one of America’s greatest ever singer song writers.
With a renewed sense of purpose, I set about researching the life, times and death of Warren Zevon. I listened to his songs, all 15 albums over and over, day in day out, much to the dismay of my children who despaired at my taste of music and state of mind. As I researched, I realised that it wasn’t just his last cd that was an exposition on death but in fact more than half the songs in his 15-album career concerned death. On every album cover and every poster Warren had the picture of a cigarette smoking skull. Irreverent, sardonic, poignant and thought provoking, Warren explored every manner of death, dying and human mortality through his songs.
Warren grew up with death. One of the first stories his grandmother told him was how his birth had almost killed his mother. Warren’s father was a Russian gangster with a history of violence, who courted death daily. And hanging on the lounge room wall was a portrait of Warren’s uncle and name sake, a dead war hero.
Poor Poor Pitiful Me
Warren, a classically trained musician, embraced rock and roll music and the rock and roll lifestyle of excess. Warren attempted to emulate his uncle by dying a young hero, a young rock and roll hero. Besides drugs and booze, Warren also played Russian roulette with real bullets. At this stage of my break up I could empathise with his death wish, “Poor, poor pitiful me. Poor, poor pitiful me, poor, poor pitiful me!” - that song particularly resonated with my post break up mood.
After a few albums and some years, of exploring violence, excess and death, Warren didn’t die, he went to rehab. Warren’s songs then reflected his ongoing fight with alcohol and drugs while I battled my own post relationship demons, with songs like “Accidently like a Martyr. The hurt gets worse and the heart gets harder”
Themes of death and dying continued to inform Warren Zevon’s songs. As the reckless years of his youth and addiction passed warren’s songs began to reflect his concern in broader social issues such as death by war, pollution, domestic violence and the breakdown of society. At this time of my post breakup blues the song the song that resonated was “Splendid isolation, I don’t need no-one, Splendid Isolation”
Life'll Kill Ya
When Warren turned fifty his thoughts turned to sickness, decrepitude and decay. His 14th album “Life’ll Kill Ya” was a hilarious, slightly scary and somewhat disturbing look at old age and dying. Out of all the ways to die, Warren said it was sickness and doctors that scared him the most.
Ironically it was Warren’s song “My Shit’s Fuck Up” about a belated trip to the doctor, which proved prophetically and fatally correct.
"Well, I went to the doctor
I said, "I'm feeling kind of rough"
"Let me break it to you, son"
Your shit's fucked up."
I said, "my shit's fucked up?"
Well, I don't see how-"
He said, "The shit that used to work-
It won't work now."
At warren’s first visit to a doctor in twenty years he was given the diagnosis, inoperable lung cancer, three months to live. Well and truly fucked, with a death sentence hanging over his head Warren set out to write and record his last album to say a few goodbyes and share his final thoughts on death and dying.
Home alone one night, I sat on the wooden floor in front of the TV and watched the documentary of the making of Warren Zevon’s final album The Wind. It follows Warren’s struggles to write and record the album as the cancer ravaged his body. The first song he wrote for the album “Keep me in your heart for a while” was the last one he recorded. Too sick to record in the studio, he recorded it at home on the lounge surrounded by his family and the paraphernalia of death.
Shadows are fallin' and I'm runnin' out of breath
Keep me in your heart for a while
If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for a while
When you get up in the mornin' and you see that crazy sun
Keep me in your heart for a while
There's a train leavin' nightly called "When All is Said and Done"
Keep me in your heart for a while
Sometimes when you're doin' simple things around the house
Maybe you'll think of me and smile
You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for a while
Hold me in your thoughts
Take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes
Keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you
Engine driver's headed north up to Pleasant Stream
Keep me in your heart for a while
These wheels keep turnin' but they're runnin' out of steam
Keep me in your heart for a while
My tears flowed, and as they did, several shells sitting on the TV flew off then landed in my lap, then some ethereal fingers caressed my cheek …. Warren.
The weeks passed in Death Dying and human mortality, I continued listening to his songs, researching, writing and discussing my project in class, all the time comforted by his presence.
As I handed in my finished project, Warren Zevon. Songs of Finitude, I thought it only right to acknowledge Warren’s presence and influence throughout the entire project. So, with some trepidation I raised the spectre of supernatural with my lecturer “Warren Zevon has been helping me” I said, to which my lecturer replied “Oh yes, he was standing by your left shoulder every class.”
Sometime later I received MY grade, a high distinction, but it wasn’t about the grade because it wasn’t just an academic study, it wasn’t even a study about dying. Warren sung me from grief and loss, to love and life. And he taught me, death isn’t the end, there are no ends, just verses in the exquisite, eternal, song of life… and that song is love.
And my project, well that was a collaboration of love between Warren Zevon, American singer song writer, friend and me.
Songs By Warren Zevon.
1 thousand, 2 thousand, 3 thousand, 4 thousand, 5 thousand, 6 thousand.
It was Easter 1980, I was 19, married with a 1-year old baby and spending the holiday parachute training with 60 young officers from the Duntroon Military College in the ACT.
Some of you might wonder, what a tender young mother of 19 was doing parachuting with 60 soldiers. But the question I was asking myself was, how did I end up a 19 year old mother living in Canberra?
Not that I regretted motherhood for a second, but it just hadn’t been my plan….my plan was to buy a kombi van, drive north to join a commune in Hippy central tropical Nimbin, tie dye, make soap and live in bare feet. But there I was in cold Canberra, our seat of government, as far away from Nimbin you can get in climate and ideology, knee deep in nappies, and wearing two pairs of sox and boots. My plan in tatters, my sense of identity shattered and my self-esteem flattened… that’s why I was lining up in the ranks of our defense forces finest young men, taking a leap of faith…to restore my faith in me.
Every year the local skydiving club hosted the royal Australian army’s Duntroon officer cadets’ compulsory recreational parachute training camp. And that was the weekend I signed up for training. Our Instructor was Major Andrew Harris of the S.A.S, the special armed services- our elite trained killers, the toughest of the tough, the bravest of the brave and in major Harris’s case the macho-est of the macho.
One of the first things he taught us was the PLF, the parachute landing fall. In those days, we only had round parachutes and they came down hard and fast. So, to avoid breaking bones you had to land with your feet and legs together at a slight angle then roll onto your thighs and hips to help distribute the shock. Major Harris had us jumping off the back of an army truck to practice. However, It was painfully obvious that I couldn’t do a PLF to save my life.
The 1 thousand, 2 thousand was our parachute drill. 1 thousand you arched your back, arms and legs out to fall stably, 2 thousand look and grab ripcord, 3 thousand pull rip cord, 4 thousand roll slightly to see if parachute deployed, 5 thousand grip reserve ripcord and 6 thousand pull reserve rip cord. The drill I had, I still have it, what I didn’t have was the strength to open a reserve parachute. My partner repacked the reserve chutes yearly and he often ran me thru the drill on the ground with a reserve chute which needed repacking but I in all the years I skydived I never managed to open one reserve chute on the ground.
Despite my lack of grunt power and the injuries I sustained just falling of the back of a truck, I was allowed to jump (Remember this was 1980 before health & safety seemed important.)
The day of our first jump dawned, a chilly Canberra morning, crunchy frost under foot and air so crisp you could almost snap it. My nerves were so tight you could have snapped me! I wasn’t alone, the soldiers’ fear shrouded the drop zone like fog.
Time to kit up, leg straps check, chest straps check, helmet check, “all right soldier in the plane”. I waddled over to the plane looking more like a turtle than a burly soldier. My fears crowded into the plane with my fears, I thought this could be the last time I see my daughter. But as the plane ascended into the crisp blue sky a calmness descended on me.
Jump Run: Go
On the first jump run, Major Harris ordered power down, the plane backed off its speed and he sent the first soldier out. Hand over hand with military precision, the young soldier climbed out and hung off the plane’s strut. The Major yelled “go” but the soldier hung on, The Major screamed “go”, still the soldier clung to the plane, Major Harris roared “GO”, and still the stricken soldier hung on for dear life. In a change of strategy Major Harris called to the pilot for “power on” and the reluctant paratrooper was blown away.
Second jump run and my turn. “Power off, all right girlie out you go” Unlike the soldier before I was slow and clumsy climbing out but when Major Harris ordered go, I went! 1 thousand 2 thousand three.....my chute opened…. I enjoyed a few minutes of euphoria till I come back to earth with a thud…. I jumped up, waved to the crowd and smiled… then made my way to the hospital to check for fractures… luckily there were none just a massively bruised pride.
While most skydivers claim they lose their fear after a number of jumps, I never did. Though I continued skydiving for many years, while I was on the ground there was fear, I would always think, this could be the last time I see my children but once in the air, I was ready for that leap. Luckily during those years I graduated to the modern and softer landing square parachute….which was a great relief as I never mastered the parachute landing fall…and I still hadn’t managed to open a reserve chute.
One hot summer’s day when the heat was rising off the tarmac in shimmering waves at the Australian National Skydiving Championships, I was jumping out of an old propellered DC3 with 49 other skydivers. This many skydivers in the air at one time posed all new dangers. You could be hit by someone in freefall and killed. You could open your parachute, be hit by someone in freefall and killed or you could open your parachute and slam into someone else who has just opened their parachute and killed. But 50 of us took that leap of faith.
Do Or Die
We exited the plane at 15,000 feet, giving us over a minute’s freefall in which we were to perform numerous formations. At 3000ft we broke contact and I headed for a clear space to open my chute. At 2000 feet I pulled my ripcord…nothing, I tried again, nothing-terminal velocity, seconds to impact and time stopped. I remember thinking “SHIT this is it, do or die” (my military training), The emergency drill kicked in, I took hold of the emergency ripcord in both hands and pulled.
My emergency chute had an interesting history. It was secondhand and known locally as the “eighth of an inch chute”. You see its previous owner, deceased, had neglected to pull the emergency ripcord all the way out. Accident investigators found that a mere eight of an inch stood between his life and death.
I pulled again and again…. The chute snapped open. Somehow, I had found the strength.
I guess it would be true to say that all my parachute jumps had been physical leaps of faith…and though there was fear, it doesn’t compare to the fear that comes with life’s metaphorical leaps of faith, starting relationships, ending relationships, changing jobs, moving home. In comparison skydiving is easy, make the decision then leap. No time to wonder did I make the right decision, no time for regrets, definitely no turning back and once you leap, the outcome is known within minutes, or if you are unlucky seconds.
But metaphorical leaps take so much longer to land. They allow so much time for agonizing and that’s when the fear really kicks in. Did I make the right decision/ the wrong decision, what if it goes wrong, what if what if what if… time stops as the what ifs immobilize you…. And with the metaphorical leaps you can even turn around and scramble back on the airplane and continue on as before, safe and sound… but long plane rides though safe n sound eventually feel confined and uncomfortable…..and at some time you are forced to stretch your legs…. just like life sometimes forces you to stretch.
My Soul Called GO
I recently made the biggest metaphorical leap of my life… but when my soul called GO, I went. The fear was overwhelming. The “what ifs” and “what have I done’s” plunged me into free fall. Not a nice stable free fall but a messy out of control flailing decent-terminal velocity, seconds to impact, then, grace and courage unfolded like an emergency chute. And I landed that leap when I married my new Swedish husband Ulf. And now we take another leap of faith as we look for a country to call home but happily that leap of faith is a tandem leap.
The Journey Begins
This journey began in 2011 when I googled the International School of Storytelling, UK. When the photo of Emerson College appeared on the screen my heart burst into song. I didn’t know how or why, but I knew I was going there; my GPS had been set.
But I wasn’t to take the quickest route there and the school said they were not taking students outside of the EU. But I persisted and encouraged by my terminally ill mum, I embarked on an email campaign stating all the credible and incredible reasons why I should be allowed to attend.
After 2 years, on Christmas eve 2013, I was finally accepted into their flagship course “Storytelling as Performance Art” and excitedly I booked my flights and accommodation. But then I received an email from head teacher and master storyteller Ashley Ramsden, “if you haven’t booked don’t, this isn’t a suitable course for you because you don’t have the prerequisite of attending earlier courses, “too late coming ready or not”, I replied. Ashley said the pixies must addled his brain when he rubber-stamped my application.
So, with my late mum’s blessing (and eventually Ashley’s) and with the funds from mum’s estate, I flew to England. It was midsummer, and perhaps it was the pixies again or midsummer madness but I was filled with joy, dancing through the summer country, singing to the fairies. There was a deep sense of coming home.
In the storytelling class of eight, there were eight nationalities, a blonde Columbian, a small Geordie Jew, a young Japanese warrior, an Irish pirate queen, a Danish Valkyrie, a Mexican goddess and a tall serious Swedish storyteller.
Beware of the Woods
In those first days, I was walking everywhere barefoot to connect with the English soil and I soon noticed there was another barefoot enthusiast in the group, Ulf. The rather shy Swedish storyteller, eventually asked if he could walk with me and as we climbed over the stile and headed into the woods- I remember hearing a little voice saying, “Danger! If you go into the woods with that man, things will never be the same ever again” but I wasn’t some naive fairy tale character!
Our first walk was a two-hour barefoot stroll meandering through the woods and down the hidden paths of the summer country. The second was a three hour hike over hills and dales and through paddocks of stinging nettles. The third walk was an epic four-hour barefoot journey with a much needed “stop revive survive” at my first real old English pub.
It did appear at times that Ulf didn’t always know exactly where we were, or where we were going, but some-how he always managed to get us home…. eventually. On these glorious twilight walks we exchanged stories and discovered a beautiful soul connection.
While Ulf introduced me to the enchanted countryside, English pubs and East Sussex Best Bitter, I introduced Ulf to the pixies, and the pixies to Ulf
Walks, Pixies and Work
Of course, it wasn’t all walks and pixies, there was hard work, as we each had to present an hour plus long performance for the public at the end of the course. It was confronting, difficult and oh so wonderful. Ulf and I rehearsed together, Ulf brought his wisdom and experience and I provided the pixies. The weeks flew by and our friendship grew.
After the hectic final week of performances, in the last days of the course, I had time to reflect on my 5 weeks at Emerson. The learning, the striving, the walking, the journey and the wonderful man. I couldn’t imagine not seeing that tall whimsical Swedish storyteller again. We both sensed that together, we held the potential for something wonderful.
On our final walk, a five-hour trek through fading golds of summer harvest, Ulf surprised the two of us saying… “I think it would be good idea if you married me”.
However, the next day Ulf left the college for Sweden, without my answer. I was in shock. My stomach was churning and churning, my thoughts were turning and turning, my heart was yearning and yearning and my big toe was throbbing and throbbing as almost tore the top of it when I was packing.
By the time I picked up my hire car from London… I was a mess, I didn’t know what to do, I wasn’t sure of my feelings… all I knew was that I needed to go to Findhorn in the north of Scotland. It was another irresistible urge, the same global pixie signal(GPS) which led me to Emerson. I didn’t know how or why but I set the hire car’s GPS for Scotland and drove.
I discovered European cars have the indicators on the opposite side of the steering wheel. I was already confused and this just compounded it. I spent that first day driving, flicking on the wipers every time I indicated and indicating when it rained
Scotland-the Long Way
And I had to indicate a hell of a lot, on the first day I drove 5 hours and ended up only an hour or so from London. In my defense, I was still in shock; from my mangled toe and the unexpected marriage proposal. I was in a strange country, I had no idea what direction I was going, or where I was…. But it did seem like I was driving a long way without getting very far.
When I pulled into a small petrol station and asked the young attendant if I was heading in the right direction for Scotland, her face might have given me a clue that something wasn’t quite right. I mean I had heard that English roads were narrow and quaint but every road??? All the way to Scotland??? I was ready to murder my GPS as she said for the 366th time in a posh English voice “In one hundred yards enter the roundabout and take the second exit.”
It was a slow trip to Scotland, an incredibly slow trip to Scotland. If I had been in a better state of mind I might have enjoyed the scenery, if I had been in a better state of mind I might have thought to check the car’s GPS settings. Even glimpses of large straight motorways in the distance just added to my confusion.
My hire car’s GPS reflected my emotional state…
Fairy Godmothers do Exist in Findhorn
At last I arrived in Findhorn, spiritual home of the Scottish wee folk, only to find everything booked out. Well, I did what all tired stressed out tourists do; chucked a temper tantrum, I jumped up and down; “Pixies, if you want me here, give me a place to stay now or I leave” and then “poof”, a woman appeared and said, “Are you looking for a room, I have a room”. Obviously, Scottish fairy godmothers do exist.
Sheepishly I followed to her beautiful B &B and the first thing I noticed on her wall was a photo of the Blue Mountains, then she told me about her connection to Australia and how she met a Swedish man on a short course and married him…and that’s when I heard my GPS giggle.
Findhorn is a magical place. Every time I felt overwhelmed by emotions I’d walk outside, and tree or a rock would call for me sit and rest. I even found my ancestors in a graveyard on the banks of the Findhorn river and I sat with David and Margaret and poured out my heart. They listened as only great great, great, great grandparents can. My ancestors and beautiful landscape of Findhorn calmed my mind and let me know my heart; I reconnected with my internal GPS; my Global Pixie Signal and it was calling for a complete change of direction.
Could I, would I really leave my old comfortable life in Australia for a new life with a man from the other side of the planet, who I‘d only known for 5 weeks?
You can ignore your GPS’ instructions…. but if you do she will tell you to do a U-turn at the first opportunity, and if you don’t do the U-turn she will simply recalculate the route to get you where she wants to take you. So, I went with my Global Pixie Signal. She had bought me to the joy of Emerson College in England, and then to the peace of Findhorn in Scotland and now she was guiding me Sweden and marriage.
New Setting on the GPS
So, with the new destination on my internal GPS, I took some time to check the settings on my hire car’s GPS…yes it had been preset to avoid all major roads and motor ways so I reset it too and “poof” the motorways magically appeared. I drove down the motorway back to Heathrow and caught the plane to Sweden. And we married 4 months later.
I highly recommend following your own Global Pixie Signal. You can take the direct route or the scenic route, it doesn’t matter. Only on the scenic route be prepared for roundabouts, lots of roundabouts but both routes will get you to the same place eventually. And keep a look out for your GPS’ “POI’s” or “places of interest” Because there just may be a “Person Of Importance” there, and he’s sure to be pure pixie magic.
The Forest of Fairytales
The Swedish forest, so very different from our leathery blue grey bush here with its brash cacophony of cicadas, cockatoos and kookaburras. The Swedish forest is dark, soft and hushed. Tall spruce and pine stretch into the sky like ancient battlements… beech and birch leaves glow green and gold in the shadows, blueberry bushes droop with plump ripe fruit and soft moss muffles all footsteps.
Dark soft hushed, the forest of fairytales ….
It was just such a forest I found myself living on the edge of this year. The forest was just metres from the back door of the folk school where my new Swedish a husband and I lived. I wasn’t surprised when local news reported wolves in our area, as I fully expected to see little red riding hood skipping through the trees at any moment.
A 5km circular walking track wound its way around the forest from our door down past a lonely lake and back again. Some days I would walk the path, content to tred barefoot where countless others had gone before but sometimes I stood on the edge of that forest… and it called me to explore its mysterious dark depths. And so, like Little Red, I was lured from the well-worn path.
Bigger on the Inside
The path which circumnavigated the forest was only 5 kilometers long, so that meant the forest was… I don’t know, smallish? (I studied humanities not mathematics) And indeed some days it seemed very small. The forest called and I would step off the path onto the royal green carpet of moss before me. I would wade through the blueberries bushes into the dark cathedral of trees. Somedays, I could walk through the forest and be out the other side in just ten minutes but other days, I would wander over verdant hills & through shaded valleys, lost for hours. You see this forest was bigger on the inside.
I have always loved walking in nature, connecting with the trees and the elemental forces. However, in Sweden, walking in nature moved to a whole new level. I enrolled in my friend Caroline’s online course “Walking with Heart” and it focused on opening to childlike wonder, engaging the senses, and allowing gratitude to flow.
How do you open to childlike wonder? You experience everything as if for the first time, seeing it, smelling it feeling it, touching it appreciating it, talking to it and yes, listening for the replies. You explore everything through the rose tinted magnifying glasses of possibilities. It’s being mindful of the magic and the miracles in nature. And with this wonder, I experienced the forest through my heart.
One day I was following a trail of golden chanterelle mushrooms and they led me to a valley I had never seen before. With my golden treasure spilling from my arms I sat within a stone circle that unknown hands had formed. Tiny forest frogs no bigger than my thumbnail leapt for their lives as I, the giant walked through their Lilliput land.
Connecting heart to heart
Another day when the forest called I went looking for the stone circle again but instead found the ruins of an ancient building. I sat on the lichen decorated wall plucking ripe blueberries and popping them in my mouth. I closed my eyes and imagined who might the ancient builders been, Vikings perhaps? I sensed a presence, the ancient stonemason? I opened my eyes, a deer and her fawn stood before me, for a long moment her deep brown eyes looked into mine. And in that time, it felt we had connected heart to heart, and I was welcomed there.
Of course, there were days when I forgot the childlike wonder, and I walked through the forest like I was bustling down a city street. I would circumnavigate the forest and realised that I hadn’t seen a single tree. One evening, I’d been bulldozing through the forest, when I stopped and realised... I was laughing at myself when I saw a flash of light in a tree. Intrigued I wandered over and stood at the base of the tall pine. The tree showered me head to my feet in peace and from the earth joy snaked from my toes to my head. Then I heard grunting and snorting from the thicket in front, Wild Boar, more dangerous than wolves, so the Swedes say. Part of me screamed RUN! But the other part said Chill, its fine, you are welcome here. And I stood with the tree as two wild boar snuffled by.
I loved the generosity and bounty of the forest. To take a basket and gather berries, wild berries, rosehips and mushrooms was an absolute delight. The sitting and gathering invoked a sense of timelessness in me and awoke an inner ancient feminine flame. I began cooking and baking with a joy I have never experienced before or since. I baked bread, made rosehip soup and cooked blueberry jam & blueberry sauce, baked blueberry cakes and blueberry crumbles, all with the sense of wonder that the forest had freely gifted me all her bounty.
Early in September, the beeches leaves hung like golden hearts from the trees. It was the day after my mum’s birthday and two years since she died. She would have loved the forest and I wished that she could walk with me. I stood there in the dappled sunlight and shut my eyes. Instantly I was transported back to garden of my childhood under the massive eucalyptus that shaded the backyard, with the comforting sound of mum in the kitchen, mum was so near. When I opened my eyes, I felt her, right there beside me laughing.
Walking to Bliss
We wandered, whither the wind took us deeper into the forest. I told her all that had happened, about married life with my new Swedish husband, about the magical Swedish forest. And while we walked and laughed, I over-flowed with happiness, in a state of bliss. As we came to a rise in the forest, we stopped, I felt the invitation, the pull… here was a threshold. I felt the beckoning to step across, to lose myself. To lose myself… in oblivion? Oneness, nothingness or was it everythingness?
Perhaps I wasn’t ready to let go of my body, perhaps I wasn’t ready to let go of my identity. Perhaps I wanted to linger longer with mum. Perhaps it was an invitation to the great spiritual awakening. Perhaps it was a doorway to the elemental worlds. I don’t know for sure but I do know I spent the best day ever with my mum in that Swedish forest. And who knows, maybe one day, I will wander again whither the wind blows and that doorway will again open, and maybe, just maybe this time I’ll step through.
Did you do anything to commemorate your 40th birthday? I marked my 40th with few small acts of rebellion. You see at 18, I was married with a daughter, at 23 I had 2 daughters and by 30, three daughters….much too busy to rebel back then. So on my 40th birthday I rebelled with a divorce, a tattoo and a nose piercing, … and when I looked in the mirror at the nose stud I knew I was thumbing my nose at the men in my life, an ex-husband and a father who couldn’t love me... (they both really disliked tattoos but they especially hated nose piercings)
My ex-husband said he loved me, he seemed to love beer and pubs a hell of lot more than me. And my father? Well, perhaps he was a product of his generation... but not the father of my dreams. I longed for a father that would play games. A father that would hug and kiss me, a father who would tell me stories and say “I love you, Lindy”. A father who just wanted to spend time with me.
But dad was not a father to play tickles or ball, dad was not a father to chat or talk, or kiss and hug and hangout. He was a good man, he provided for his family, he was of sober habits except on Anzac day, when perhaps he remembered things he wanted to forget. Yes, dad was good man, but he just didn’t have much of a relationship with children. Mum reasoned that dad had never actually been a child himself. An illness had robbed him of his childhood, while his brother was playing sport, dad was cloistered at home. Mum reckoned dad grew straight from toddler to adult with all haste and seriousness.
Not Much of a Talker
Dad was great with babies and quite good with toddlers but after that? He just didn’t know how to play or talk with children. Our conversations were limited to he “good evening Lindy” when he came home from work and “good night Lindy” when I went to bed. Dad never came to watch me play softball or perform in plays, and Dad didn’t come on family holidays because he didn’t like the beach, surf, camping and I thought, perhaps he just didn’t like me.
I only remember two conversations, one about tomatoes, and one when I was 39 and I told dad I was getting a divorce… “good" he said, "I never liked the bastard anyway”.
Dad had a massive stroke a few years later, and the whole family, my mum 2 sisters and brother our kids spent the next 4 days in the hospital with him. Luckily for dad he was unconscious because he would have hated the noise. And dad’s funeral was huge, they had to rig up a video link to the church hall because the church was over flowing. So many people I didn't know stood up and told wonderful stories about my father and I learnt more about him in that hour than my whole of life. it seemed everyone knew him, but me.
Dad, On a Beach?
I was a little surprised when, one day when a clairvoyant told me my father wanted to talk to me, I was a little skeptical, dad talk to me? And then she said, dad suggested I should imagine myself on a beach, beside a campfire and he would come and talk to me. My dad, on a beach, a campfire, talking with me? I knew the woman was a charlatan because she definitely wasn’t channeling my father
Still, the thought of having a heart to heart with dad was tempting….so that night, I lay in bed I breathing deeply and allowed my thoughts to drift down to the beach in front of the campfire. And the fire fanned my memories.
I was about 4 or 5, very young. I had been sick in bed for a couple of days. I don’t remember what I had, but I was in mum and dad’s bed during the day, so it must have been a real illness because mum didn’t let you in their bed if she thought you were malingering. Dad came home that night and with his usual “Good evening, Lindy” but then he sat on the bed and gave me a small parcel. Inside was a small blue plastic bambi standing on a pedestal. Elastic held the jointed dear together and dad showed me how to press the bottom of the pedestal to make bambi nod, bow and even dance. I loved it
I woke the next morning to the precious memory of dad’s gift. When I looked in the bathroom mirror I saw that my nose stud was half out of my nose, up till then, not one stud had ever fallen out. They are so tiny that if it falls out they are impossible to find. I poked it back in without thought, but all day I felt the warm glow of dad’s gift.
The second night, I drifted to the beach to meet my father. Again my memories were ignited by the campfire, this time my memories were of food. We were catching the train, mum my sisters brother and I, into Sydney to meet dad for dinner at the Cahil’s restaurant at the base of the Centrepoint Tower… … it was a family restaurant that had something for everyone, a carvery, Chinese, seafood and my favourite, Chicken in a Basket. There was something very exotic when i was eight, about eating fried chicken and chips out of a basket instead of a plate.
After dinner we stopped at Daryl Lee’s sweet shop and dad bought us each a small jar of boiled lollies, Bo Peeps which we ate on the way home. I gave dad my black aniseed ones to eat because I didn’t like those. Then the memories flowed to I Christmas. Dad made the Christmas pudding and hid sixpences in them and though I hated Christmas pudding, dad always made sure a sixpence or two found its way to me.
I woke feeling nourished by my memories. When I went to the bathroom and again I noticed my nose stud was hanging out. “Funny” I thought, that’s two days in a row, then I pushed it back in and continued my day, filling full with memories.
The third night I again breathed myself onto the beach in front of the campfire, as the embers glowed, the memories flowed. I was 12 or 13 and I at beside dad in church for the Sunday service, at the keyboard of the grand pipe organ. As dad played the organ, the choir and the congregation sang, and my heart soared for he played the hymn, the Cat Stevens version of Morning has Broken. He must have known it was my favourite.
When morning broke, I woke with the song on my lips and the warmth of dad’s music in my heart. Then looking in the bathroom mirror I saw my nose stud was gone. I checked my bed, not there, I looked on the floor, nowhere to be seen. I jumped in the shower thinking about the nose stud and what it represented, a thumbing of the nose against the men who could not love me, and I wondered if dad, had somehow put an ghostly finger up my nose and pushed it out, to make some sort of point? In the shower I asked “So dad, is that everything you wanted to say, are we good now?”
The Language of Love
As I walked into my shag piled bedroom, one beam of light shone through the window lighting up a few dancing motes of dust and that one beam of light fell on the tiniest silver sliver in that deep forest of shag pile… my nose stud and I finally understood. Dad loved me. My father didn’t speak my language of love with the words & stories I longed to hear, or the hugs and kisses I desired, or the games I wanted to play but his love had always been there; expressed simply and quietly with a small blue bambi, a few sixpences and a Cat Stevens’ song.
While pondering stories for the "Out of the Frying Pan", I decided that there were three things that catapult me out of the pan into the fire... opinions, actions or lack there of, and emotions. The following story is about the frying pan of opinions;
A few years ago, I was invited to guest on a US radio show “Spiritually Raw”. It was after the release of my first book “The Elf that Flew” and somehow, they had heard about my claims that I had been visited by the fairy folk.
I was invited on the show to talk about my different meeting with the gnomes, fairies and elves.
I was rather scared about the prospect of being on radio and especially as I was going to be interviewed at 3 in the morning, not my finest hour for being charming, quick witted and engaging. I was expecting to find myself in the frying pan but it was in fact a very pleasant experience the hosts were lovely and seemed sincere in their appreciation of my experience. It went so well, they invited me back for the Friday panel program!
Of course, I agreed, they were obviously keen on fairy folk themselves… so again I rose at the witching hour to prepare myself to be charming and engaging once more…. However, it wasn’t so much of a pleasant panel party but the Spanish inquisition! I was out of the that frying pan in to the fire, or the firing line!
Straight to Hell
The panel consisted of a scientist, a southern fundamentalist Christian and a psychiatrist. The Christian woman said I was trafficking with the devil. I replied That I had felt nothing but loving intentions from the fairy folk and she countered with “the fairies were the devil’s minions sent to seduce me and lead me straight to hell”.
The scientist argued that there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of fairy folk. I said there was no scientific evidence of love either…. But he said it’s all woo woo and make believe
While the psychiatrist claimed, I was clearly delusional, I assured him I was in my right mind and perhaps my mind was more open to unseen forces than his. “Yes, drugs will do that to you” he said
I had my opinions and they had their opinions… I was a delusional Satan worshipping nincompoop!
I knew I would never convert them nor they me. We were never going to agree.
I had remained calm under fire, I didn’t yell or scream, during the inquisition, and I thought I had been rather magnanimous with my compassion for them and their sad narrow minds…
But I realised while writing this, I wasn’t being magnanimous I was SMUG and just as narrow minded and righteous as I perceived them to be. After all, I was right and they were wrong!
Pondering the Frying Pan
And so I’ve been pondering opinions & frying pans How often do my opinions land me in the proverbial frying pan…. And when I defend or fight for my opinions, I find myself jumping out of the frying pan straight into the fire like over enthusiastic popcorn…
But when I find people who share my opinion, we share the same frying pan, my tribe of beans, gently simmering together, and we like a little bit of fire under us, a little heat from another tribes’ opinions, because then we can rub up against each other in our frying pan and bubble and spit in our righteous indignation.
And why do I get so hot and bothered about my opinions or other’s opinions? Do I hold so tightly to my opinions because my sense of identity is tied up with them? Could I let go of being a green leftie tree hugging hippie fairy lover and embrace being a pragmatic right wing conservative industrialist?
I didn’t study science, medicine or theology, I studied English literature and the poet William Blake said, “Without contraries there can be no forward motion” Maybe every opinion must have its contrary its, opposite. Perhaps opinions can’t exist in isolation… perhaps as Blake suggested all our opinions are driving the evolution of humanity.
All in the Pan Together
What if we are all in the frying pan together, and life is the fire...and we can make like popcorn and individually shoot out of the pan into the fire to be burnt up …. Or we can be like a big pan of chili con carne… we can all just rub up and down against each other sometimes simmering sometimes bubbling. We are the beans and our opinions the spice and of course, a good chili con carne needs many different spices to give it its zing.
So, next time I get hot and bothered about opinions, maybe I will remember the delicious spiciness of chili con carne. If there is no spice it’s not chili, it’s just boring beans, and if there’s no opinions then it’s a bland stagnant world.
Perhaps all we can do is hold our opinions a little less tightly….
But hey that’s just my opinion and I might just be a delusional Satan worshipping nincompoop who talks to fairies.
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival
A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor
Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they be a group of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of furniture
Still treat each guest honourably,
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight
The dark thought, the shame the malice
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in
be grateful for whoever comes
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond. (The Essential Rumi. Translation by Coleman Barks)
There was a knock at my door, I was awaiting delivery of my new desk, the place I would write my stories, it was due before nine am. The smell of Saturday mornings Bacon and eggs filled the air. I answered the door cup of tea in hand…. It wasn’t my desk but Enthusiasm who bounded in upsetting my tea. He must have been sculling shots of espresso because he was bouncing all over the place… he’d heard about my creative hub and was eager to lend a hand.
Nine am, ten am, eleven am… After three hours, Enthusiasm packed up and left passing Impatience on her way in… she paced the kitchen for an hour and then exclaimed that she couldn’t wait around all day…
Finally, at one pm the delivery van arrived with Surprise. We were expecting a large grand desk, one befitting the masterpieces awaiting to be written -not a flat box! I must have left the front door open, for as I opened the box and found the instructions and an allen key, Frustration strode in. He even kicked the box when we saw that English was not the first language of whoever wrote the instructions..
Just then Hope floated in… and Enthusiasm came back. “I think we can do this” said Hope, “We can do this” affirmed Enthusiasm.… A slots into B, affix b to c, then screw to d. It was going together beautifully till Frustration could not find piece F. Hope said “it must be here somewhere” and Enthusiasm searched and searched, but F was missing.
Enthusiasm and Hope fled as Frustration kicked the box again… Pessimism wandered in to see how the project was going. “I knew it wouldn’t be built…it’s hopeless” he lamented.
Then Steely Determination rocked up like a super hero, he had tools and he knew how to use them. None of the other pieces of the desk were coded but Steely Determination said it was just a matter of trial and error and Patience…who was a late arrival.
By 6 pm Steely Determination was done…. Oh, the desk was still in pieces but Steely packed up his tools and admitted Defeat… Defeat just looked at the desk and said “what’s the point, you probably would not have written anything anyway” Pessimism nodded half-heartedly in agreement. Frustration kicked the box again and again and….
Bang bang bang at the door- “Oh god its Anger…. Don’t let him in” said Worry who’d crept in the back door… “He always causes a scene…what will the neighbours say? Let’s just pretend we’re not here and maybe he’ll go away” Anger banged and yelled for a good hour well, an awful hour really.
Then all was quiet…. I gazed at my unfinished desk… there was a soft slow knock and a crowd of Sorrows shuffled in, they bought chocolate, tissues and a DVD Beaches. They moved all the furniture and crowded into the lounge room. We ate chocolate, watched the movie, sang “You are the wind beneath my wings” and cried.
In the morning I wandered groggily to the kitchen for my cup of tea but the houseful of Sorrows had drunk it all. I really need my morning tea, I turned to yell at the Sorrows kicking my toe on the half-finished desk as Anger pounded on the door again…. The crowd of Sorrows were still sighing in the lounge room as Anger burst in the front door ranting and raving. I threw open the back door “here’s your hat, what’s the hurry” and shuffled him straight to the back door… but Anger was having none of it. Anger pushed his way into the lounge room and you’ve never seen a cluster of Sorrows scatter so swiftly. Again, I motioned to the backdoor and said “here’s your hat, thanks for dropping by…”
THWACK! Anger picked up a pillow and hit me, thwack! That’s was it, I snapped! Dish towel in hand and I snapped at Anger, Thwack snap thwack snap like a sword fight thwack snap thwack snap all over the house, no quarter giver no quarter taken, up the stairs, thwack snap, down the stairs, it descended into an ugly undignified brawl, gouging, pinching, biting, till we both fell exhausted on the lounge…
And that’s where Joy found us… and we laughed and laughed and laughed.
Then Calm strolled in with a book of poetry, an allen key and F, the missing piece of desk. And he read,
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival
A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor
Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they be a crowd of Sorrows, a crush of Worries, a bench of Judgements, a melee of Chaos, a fright of Fears, a disgust of Dissatisfactions,
or a pomposity of Arrogance
Don’t open the front door just to push them out the back door
Serve them tea and cake,
Wear party hats
Play games and listen lightly to their concerns
be grateful for whoever comes
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
After I wrote Rumi and the Flat Pack, I began experiencing more of those "momentary awarenesses". The very next day, dealings with the Immigration Department soured my mood. As I stopped to contemplate my feelings, I saw a crowd of little cartoon figures, their hair standing on end, all waving their hands in the air, they were a collective of Chaos. A door to my solar plexus then opened wide and the melee of Chaos ran in, straight onto my see saw (teeter totter) of equilibrium. One end to other they ran, up and down, up and down. I laughed and watched their antics... soon they ran out of puff and dispersed.
I happened to tell a friend, who had heard my story, about my meeting with the melee of Chaos. She decided that would try to welcome her Depression but she said she would open the back door first, so Depression would not stay long. And that's when I realised, on the spiritual path we are told to accept our feeling, and we try, but our reason for accepting them is to get rid of them asap! We treat them like the unwanted, inappropriate house guest. We don't really welcome them, we certainly don't entertain them, we put up with them, throw tea and cake at them, to get them back out the door expediently. So that's when I added to the story "I threw open the back door 'here’s your hat, what’s the hurry' and shuffled Anger straight to the back door… but Anger was having none of it. Anger pushed his way into the lounge room and you’ve never seen a cluster of Sorrows scatter so swiftly. Again, I motioned to the backdoor and said 'here’s your hat, thanks for dropping by'…” I Know I have never truly welcomed Anger with the view to an extended stay.
Yes, my melee of Chaos disappeared after I entertained them (Or they entertained me), but if my intention was purely to get rid of the feeling asap then doubtless, they would still be running up and down, upsetting my see saw of equilibrium.(stubborn little buggers) For the first time I truly welcomed uncomfortable feelings and I would have been fine even if they hung around longer.
Since then, all my feelings have taken on personas. Frequent guests are, Mr Arrogance, he is an English gentleman in a suit, bowler hat, monocle with a long pointy nose. Mrs Impatience, also an upper class person who expects and demand that everything be done her way on her schedule. There Insecurity, a lonely little girl, in a ratty tee-shirt with "please Like Me" emblazoned on the front and Frustration is a tattooed biker without his bike. Miss Resentment is a beauty queen with a crown, septre and sash, while her cousin, clutching an academy award is Ms Martyr.
I am opening the door and welcoming them all. I invite then to sit in the best comfy recliner and put their feet up, I serve then tea or beer and we talk, play, wrestle and wear party hats. There is no time limit on their stay.
Do I like them all? No, but I am developing an affection, empathy and gratitude for each and everyone.
This being human is a guest house...
A heart to heart blog on life, spirituality, storytelling & stories.