Sweet Ginger Beer & A Tall Ship

Telling stories through a bottle

sweet pressed ginger beer and a tall ship

sailing through the heart lines

of a dozen young girls, listening

while the elders talk amongst themselves

ignoring the requirement to teach the uninitiated

our daughters, imagining a timeless connection to this island

grow up restlessly in cycles of desire

plastic bottle on the foreshore

washed up inside the spirit home of our present day

recycling on the way home

another evening out


The Boy with the Aztec Eyes

Narrative therapy, remember?
From the heart
Shaman Girl
Check the story on your phone
Dream some more
Don’t be scared, Maybe
Watch him, Probably
I want you to sing…
Any day now
Any day now
I shall be released
They tell you you aren’t enough
To keep you enslaved
So don’t edit
Stay focused
Take it easy
You are all you need to be
And then some

Fear and the Initiate

What is it about initiation that requires a state of fear to emerge? This is in addition to the exhiliration and the wonderment of excavating the layers of pain that have accumulated over a lifetime.  In anthropology, it is a central question in the vast literature on initiations across myriad cultures – are initiations by necesity violent and disruptive? Violence itself requires clarification here.  Yes, many initiations contain elements of physical violence, but there is also the violence of rupture in the psyche as the old ways of being are dismantled and the initiate is cast into a state of confusion.

This is where I am.  Stranded in the West, the place of purification and release, writing chapter after chapter of a life story which becomes more detailed and demanding even as the time I have to write it shrinks.  Aren’t initiates supposed to be unfettered by family obligations and parenting responsibilities? What does undertaking the deep work of examining your life in this kind of detail mean when you are NOT the ideal neophyte? To be plain, how do you do it?  Right now, I’m blundering about bludgeoning my way through without much finesse or clarity.  I snatch writing time.  I wonder how on earth I will finish my thesis, or write my way out the west when the baby is sick, school pick up is now and the laundry won’t do itself.

I see and read the wonderful work of other mothers, with more children than me, and I feel a little envious of their composure and connection to a deep well of joyful conversation with the Creative that right now seems to be elusive.

I recognise a pain story here.  The one I tell about how other people have the answers and resources, not me.  I feel this one tugging on my arm now.  A shadow that whispers if it’s not perfect it’s not worth doing, and leaves me floundering in the messy uncompleted.

In between, I scan the skies for signs and melody.   Anything to give some indication that it’s worth continuing.

And here’s the rub.  There is no choice but to continue.  And I mean that.  Signs or no signs, when you’re this deep in the woods, you kind of have to just get on with it.  Sigh!  And there’s me hoping for some dazzling sideshow of brilliance and recognition to keep me going.  Entering the Wheel of Initiation on the high of a quasi-miraculous series of lucid dreams means its hard to let go of wanting those fireworks to keep going off.

Anyway.  I’m glad I wrote this.  Gave myself the permission to write.  To be here now.  Sitting in the dark, tapping this piece into my phone for a quick upload.  Hanging in there, fearful and without the razzle dazzle.  Somehow going forward.  Inch by inch.  The state of fear is a messenger.  It tells me to watch out for those inner saboteurs who would gladly kill my fledging process because there is not enough acclaim or tangible reward in sight.  It reminds me that sometimes its necessary to keep your head down, crack a joke and get on with it.  Cheeky smile intact.  Judgement put on ice.  And if I really need a sign, just look up.  There it is, on the left side of Waterloo Bridge, crossing to the North Bank.  Fight the Nothingness.  Big Ben chimes eleven, and I’m done.


Staying Means Leaving

Staying  (Part 1)


I find I am distracted


By nappies and sudocream

Wiping, and a rash

That keeps the baby awake

And me, too

Still.  We stay.

Accepting all offers of help

When we are wise

While pretending self-sufficiency; claiming island status

When we are not

Staying too long

The well runs to dust

And my soul gets brittle and bitter

Dried from the inside out

Stretched thin and incapable

To sustain the demands of nourishing

Staying too long

I break in half

Running headless and….heedless

Repeating the endless mistake of this gendered body

Staying (Part 2)

Staying, in truth

Means leaving


The periodic return

That makes life…. fresh

Brightly sustaining and Always New

Staying is the dive down

To the ocean floor

A depth that oils our skin

Shines our hair

Restores our lustre

Till we,

Plump and glowing

Emerge out the surf to bask

Bellies round and glistening,

In the sun


This poem was inspired by a return to Chapter 9 in Women Who Run With the Wolves.  This book is a true gift, one to return to again and again, as different parts of it resonate with different parts of the life course.  I remember being particularly captivated by the lessons of Skeleton Woman and Chapter 5 when I first read it nearly 10 years ago.  Since then other stories have emerged; responding to and enabling reflection on whatever stage of life I’m at.  It’s a magical book in this way, a shifting landscape that is travelled through time and time again in order to learn the topography and access the lessons offered by it.

In Chapter 9, “Homing: Returning to Oneself”, Clarissa Pinkola Estes deftly weaves together an Inuit story of a seal woman who becomes the wife of a human man, but must return to her seal skin pelt and the depths of the sea in order to live, with the psychic needs of women to periodically ‘return’ to their soul home; the space that sustains and nourishes them.  Though this is a lesson that is important for men, as is much of Women Who Run With the Wolves; there is something about the story that urgently addresses itself to women’s acculturation as ‘nourishers’, frequently at the expense of thier own health and happiness: a sacrifice which receives much affirmation from a wider culture that labels this nurturing martyrdom as the natural behaviour of good women.  It is nothing of the sort.  Neither natural, nor nourishing.  In order to, ‘live among humans in a resourceful manner’ (1992: 265), women must nourish their own ‘wildish nature’.  It is a dialectic; a perpetual movement between the outer and inner worlds.

The pelt in this story is not so much an article as the representation of a feeling state and a state of being – one that is cohesive, soulful, and of the wildish female nature.  When a woman is in this state, she feels entirely in and of herself instead of out of herself and wondering if she is doing right, acting right, thinking well.  Though this state of being “in one’s self” is one she occasionally loses tough with, the time she has previously spent there sustains her while she is about her work in the world.  The return to the wildish state periodically is what replenishes her psychic reserves for her projects, family, relationship and creative life in the topside world.

Eventually every woman away from her soul-home tires.  This is as it should be.  Then she seeks her skin again in order to revive her sense of self and soul, in order to restore her deep-eyed and oceanic knowing. (1992:265)

How do you know when it is time to “Return”?  Pinkola Estes links this to being adequately initiated.  The fully initiated adult woman knows when she is required to leave and do this work of replenishment. She does not permit her reserves of energy to be stolen from.  She gives of them freely, and restores them when she needs to.  Uninitiated, or incompletely initiated, women, are stolen from again and again because they do not realise the requirements of a healthy soul.

Again and again I find myself at the point of dried out exhaustion.  But I am getting better at seeing it coming.  I was there last night.  Utterly used up by the myriad demands of the life I have made.  I was trying to sleep because I need to rest in order to keep giving.  This kind of self-talk is always a dead give away that the rest you are giving yourself is not the right kind because it remains connected to an external   requirement to keep giving without replenishing.  I got up.  Fetched some frozen yoghurt and watched an episode of The Wire.  No judgement here!  I have no doubt that the ways in which I replenish myself will shift and change, but last night some dessert and a damn good story did the trick.


Dropping the Rules

We were late this morning.  My daughter did not want to go to school.  Can’t say I blame her.  We all need a day off now and again from our routines, what’s tricky is making the judgement call about whether its time to push through the blocks, or drop the habitual.

I dropped the habitual.  In a way.  I didn’t scream or shout, or lose my rag.  I used gentle persuasion mixed with empathy, some firmness and a relaxing of the normal rules of getting ready in the morning on a school day.  We can always return to the rules, they’re not going anywhere.  Returning is part of what makes things work and move sometimes, as Julie Tallard reminded me in her ‘Musings for Writers and Poets’ newsletter this week.  It is a dogmatic clinging to the rules that can kill off their relevance.  We have rules for the sake of creating rhythm and knowing where we stand, not for the sake of having rules in and of themselves.

Now eager to go to school, she raced ahead down the stairs to open the front door.  And promptly locked herself outside.  It was horrible for her, she was terrified.  Being four years old and locked out of the house is a huge experience.  She got lots of hugs and reassurance once I got to her.  My listening ears, as opposed to my rushing head.  Because  now we were late for school and I had to make the choice to drop the front and obey the rule that we must be on time at all costs because otherwise we will lose face with the school.  I got real; lucid if you will.  We practice punctuality to create an orderly and centred life, not to impress upon others our good behaviour.  And when things happen, we are required to respond to them one way or another.  Because stuff comes up; deviations do occur.

In my initiation practice right now (read the ‘About’ section for more on this), I am being asked to question what rules I am following when I do things, and whether those rules actually serve what is required at that moment.  I’ve been feeling down about the whole initiation thing recently, a bit lost in the woods (funny that!), even woke up this morning with a hollow feeling in my stomach, like what and where am I going with all this?  But the practice gave me the tools this morning to drop the rules that needed to be dropped.  To create a different kind of outcome  for myself and the people I am looking after right now.

We walked to school gently, we did not rush.  We talked about how being late is sometimes really OK, because things can happen.  And when I explained, the school were fine.  No big deal.  I took her to her class myself.    Afterwards I went to a cafe and had mushrooms on toast and a cup of tea while the baby had a sleep in his buggy.  In the commotion of the morning I had forgotten my phone, so I wrote this post in my notebook.  I was myself made to slow down; not multi-task in the way I can when I have my smart phone to hand.  I observed the resistance I felt; how being busy can be a shield from being present with yourself as you are right now.

Anyway, happy February 29th.  It really is a day to do things differently.