Showing posts from August, 2011

travel log. coming home.

the final days of the bus tour were spent in the nation's capital and new york city. visiting sacred sites for the people of the USA was interesting, but I felt I was there out of interest, or respect for the nation in which I was visiting, not because it was particularly meaningful for me.
so it was interesting to note the revered place in history and in the heart of this nation that John F Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Martin Luther King Jr have. As I write that, I note these are all men. King is supposed to be having a memorial to him unveiled in Washington DC today, but there is a hurricane along the east of the country, and I haven't heard if the unveiling is still going ahead. I am imagining it will be postponed.
I was intrigued by the statue of Lincoln, which is imposing if not intimidating in its size, but which has one hand clenched in a fist symbolising his resolve to abolish slavery and one open reflecting his love for his people. I think the two …

travel log. juxtaposition.

my last post was just after having visited Niagara Falls, which provided one of the most memorable moments of the trip. many of the other memorable moments have been meaningful spiritually or emotionally or intellectually. this one was raw physicality. we took a boat out to the falls, and it gets right up close to the bottom of the Canadian horseshoe falls, so that firstly you feel and look as though you're in the rain, and secondly you feel the power of that water tumbling over the edge. it is awesome. I kept taking pictures in a feeble attempt to capture the moment, but you can't, this is one of those times in life where, really, you just had to be there. having experienced this, I couldn't believe that the waiter serving us in the Hard Rock Cafe has lived there for 20 years and never been out on the boat, never had that experience. we urged him to do it.

this awe and joy was followed by an experience of shame and discomfort. on the way to Washington, D.C., we travelled …

travel log. too busy to write.

we have had very full days with this bus tour, and I can't remember where I left off my travel log. I am writing from the bus as we begin a long day travelling from Niagara Falls to Washington D.C.
There are some stories and poems and essays brewing from this month of study leave. Stories of travel, discovery, and points of difference and similarity between humans from different places. Poems of seeking and seeing, imagining, doors and windows into new worlds and new perspectives. Essays exploring the place of story in our healed wholeness, the arts, the Divine.
I saw, in Ottawa, an exhibition of Carravaggio paintings and works of artists he inspired and influenced. What I saw, my responses, my questions, formed themselves into lines for poems as i wrote in my notebook, security guards looking on.
As our guide tells stories of the native people of these places, not only do they resonate with the stories of Australia's First Peoples (at times, Simona could have been talking …

travel log. bus tour day one - nyc to boston, or making new friends

my last night in Asheville, friends and I had icecream from the nibble nook at ridgecrest conference centre and were heading off in search of a racoon Leigh had dubbed 'Rocky' when we encountered this little creature. my first american squirrel. We didn't see Rocky, so I left asheville a little disappointed (my favourite toy for a while as a kid was a racoon, and I was eagerly anticipating a chance to see one in real life).

we drove from boston to new york today on the first leg of the 9 day guided bus tour of new england, quebec, ontario and washington d.c. I should perhaps begin the story with the delayed flight out of dallas that was already going to have me arrive quite late in new york city, but which ended up having me finally crawl into bed at 2am, knowing my alarm was going to wake me up again at 6.30 am. I didn't sleep much, for anticipation, fear of sleeping too long and missing the bus, and that level of exhaustion that means you actually can't switch …

travel log. biblical storytellers' gathering. snapshots.

As I sit on a rocking chair on the balcony outside the coffee shop, looking out at the forest home of black bears and rattle snakes, I begin to reflect on the past four days that have been the 2011 biblical storyteller's international festival gathering.
And while it is predominantly a gathering for the USA network, it is an international event, with tellers from Canada, the UK, Australia and Italy, and quite a focus on the international storytelling mission of the network and members of the network with other organisations, into places like the Gambia, Papua New Guinea and South East Asia. Later this year, the first festival gathering for Canada will be held, which is a cause for some excitement, as is a gathering for 140 pastors and their partners in Cambodia, made possible by considerable fundraising efforts of the network in the USA. For the network in Australia, we are excited by emerging partnerships with Indigenous Australian storytellers and storytellers in Indonesia, an…

travel log. weather report.

woke up Thursday morning to this beautiful sight of mist over the mountains.
the weather here is muggy, not humid and sticky like a queensland summer, but enough to feel a warm damp weight in the air.
Friday afternoon we had blue skies, before evening rain that moved the 'olympic games' inside, and today thunder promised a storm that blew over with no further ado.

travel log. asheville to ridgecrest. 10 august.

it pains me to say it but I did get up and cross the road to the golden arches for breakfast this morning. they'd been advertising a pineapple and mango smoothy on the tv when i was in dallas my first night here, and I wanted to try it. Also, didn't want an expensive breakfast in the restaurant again, nice as it was my first morning here. The walk across the road also gave me a chance to take photos of my hotel. The top one is the main hotel, the bottom, the manor house, in which I stayed.
I had the same taxi driver who took me to Biltmore yesterday, who shared with me some poetry he had mentioned on the first drive, exploring his ideas about God. He seemed grateful for the opportunity to talk with someone open to such questions and exploring, and I was glad to have been able to offer him the gift of attentive listening. His reaction surprised me, but it shouldn't have - this is what I talk about so often, the transformative and healing and hope restoring effect of being …

tavel log. Asheville.

art and beauty sure form the theme of my american adventure. today was a day to wander, some free space between the glen workshop and the storytellers' festival gathering.
breakfast was in the red stag - the hotel's restaurant - I sat alone at a table enjoying the classical music and some poetry (Besty Sholl), and my pineapple juice, poached eggs on english muffin and coffee.
guest services called me a cab, though with a bit of a mix up out front, they had to call again ... so I sat enjoying the jazz music and art in the lobby.
the taxi was taking me to biltmore estate, the largest house in america apparently. built in the last years of the 19th century, this home is inspired by art and beauty everywhere you look. the ground level rooms all lead off a sunken winter garden, bringing nature's beauty inside and showcasing it year round. the detailing in the rooms on walls, frames, pictures, furniture and furnishings is almost too much to take in all at once. there's a p…

travel log. Santa Fe to Asheville.

I got up this morning at 4.30 am, dressed, packed my room up, slid the evaluation forms under the door of one of the staff members because I'd forgotten to give it to them yesterday, dropped my key in and went to wait for the bus as black began to turn to dark blue. I had a moment or two of concern that the bus I had confirmed yesterday wasn't going to show, but it did, 10 minutes late, and I was on my way, with only the moths to see me off. Actually I was grateful of that, because one alternative was for a brown bear to witness my departure, and that would have been frightening for us both.
Two hours later I was at Albuquerque airport, checked in, bag checked through to Asheville in an act of supreme trust when I wasn't sure I had any, and then the waiting. I found some breakfast - tried one of these 'biscuits' they have here; like our scones, but more crumbly (biscuits are cookies here, at least the sweet ones - ah language).
Landing in Dallas, you could feel t…

travel log. Santa Fe. 7 August.

It's the last day of a full rich week. I want to go and do some 'laundry' (australian = washing), but I can't move from the cafeteria. There has been a lingering, or a desire to linger, to not finish, to postpone saying goodbye since the workshop yesterday.
I have made friends here that I hope will remain friends for a long time. I'm already planning to fly into LA or San Francisco on my next trip to the US, so I can drop in on two of them who live in California!
As I try to reflect on this week, I feel as though there is much that I won't really discover or understand until I get home, after some distance has been made between me and the experience. But to have had this week, this space, to attend to the poet, the poems, the poetry - has been profound, moving, transformative. Perhaps I will aim to come back - I'm not sure of anything like this in Australia, the southern hemisphere. I will look, or perhaps create ... I told the president of Image that now…

travel log. Santa Fe. 6 August. part two - a whim and a party.

after we finally left the classroom, having given Betsy some chocolates from our Santa Fe adventure on Thursday, and got her to sign books, we eventually made it to lunch in the cafeteria, where most of the group sat together, still lingering.
With a free afternoon before us, we let the conversations flow, and revelled in the opportunity that few of us get to simply sit and chat - about life, faith, things frivolous and things profound. Gradually people drifted away from the table, and Ghost Ranch came up - two of our number were planning to stay there for a night before leaving New Mexico. Tim and I hadn't been there before, and Sheryl said, I have a car, I could take you there - let's go, I would love it! We thought we would love it too, so we went. What a delightful whim that was. The colours of the earth along the way - the mountains rising like layered icecream cakes, just as Sheryl had described them. This is Georgia O'Keefe country - celebrated American artist. Gho…

Travel log. Santa Fe. 6 August. part one - the poetry

Final day of workshops, and none of us wanted to leave. One of the group posed the question - what has been the greatest gift from this week (or something along those lines), and for many of us it has been simply the space to be, to be poets, to be together.
For me, the workshops in particular, have given me the challenge to give more attention to my poems. To not be so complacent, letting them emerge in one burst of creativity and then not polishing them, not making them the best they can be. It's a bit of a cop out, to leave the poems in their form of the moment, and I must stop it.
We shared some more of the poems from our exercises during the week, too, and people really found the words that Betsy had given us take us to some deep and profound places. Here's a couple more of mine. I think I will work with them and polish them, but with these exercises, it's kinda cool to see where they begin.
One was to have two words, a 'God-made' thing and a human made thi…

Travel log. Santa Fe. 5 August.

Friday. The exhaustion from yesterday's excursion into Santa Fe made my eyes heavy all morning, but as we talked about the poems I was struck by the tenuous balance a poet must aim for with the details that are needed in order to communicate the meaning of the poem, and the way that too many details can distract, weigh the poem down. Being a poet is hard!

Our workshop group went to Maria's for lunch. they make the strongest margharitas in the world. I was tipsy on ONE all afternoon!

I chose the least hot thing on the menu, and still was able to enjoy one of the restaurant's oldest recipes, tried and true, and delicious. Was great to spend this time away from the classroom together, and get to know each other in a different context. This really has been a wonderful group of people with whom to share poetry, the craft, and the beauty.

In the evening we had a reading from the two poets leading workshops, Robert Cording and Besty Sholl. If you get a chance to read their work…

travel log. Santa Fe. 4 August.

we had a free day, and I spent it with four other young women from my poetry group. we walked into the town, taking about an hour, stopping for photos of gates and doors of various intriguing designs in the characteristic terra cotta walls of the houses here. all the buildings here.
when we reached the town, our first stop was one of the chocolate makers listed on a chocolate trail we had planned to follow. Kakawa, if you're ever in Santa Fe, is well worth the visit, for its warm chocolate drinks, iced chocolate drinks, and chocolate itself. we tasted various drinks, then sat for a bit and chatted and read poetry and felt very much like poets.
from here, we headed further towards the centre of town and stopped at the Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi. I wandered around as an outsider, which for a person of the Christian faith tradition felt odd, even though this is a Catholic church and I am Protestant. I felt very much like an observer, not a potential worshipper in th…

travel log. Santa Fe. 3 August.

shall I tell you a bit about the workshops, since that is what I am here for?
We've been workshopping the work of two poets for an hour each each day. The feedback has been generous and respectful, affirming and encouraging. For instance, with mine on Monday, I appreciated with my poem 'Surrender' the varying responses to my use of solidises (forward slashes / ). People wondered if, on the page, the slashes impeded the reading of the poem; were reminded of the use of slashes in prose when quoting poetry, marking line breaks; thought it made it look like / sound like a song, flowing, resembling the river in the poem which was seen to be like a song (I loved this response, because the river was a metaphor for God and I also like to think of God as a song); and observed that the solidises seemed like steps to them, like the steps spoken of in the poem, adding to the fluidity, meaning, mirroring the river's tumbling. How amazing, because for most of this, I hadn't eve…

travel log. Santa Fe. 2 August continued.

I went for a short wander around the campus a bit this afternoon. was good to stretch my legs a little, and it made me feel the calmness and presence that I now have here in this strange new world. I asked a man passing by to take a photo of me with the college in the background. He said yes, then his phone rang and he had to take it, missed it, then got the message and had to listen to it, then finally took the picture! bit more of a saga than it needed to be, which was a trend to the early part of my american adventure I was hoping had passed ...

we listened to Melissa Pritchard read an essay that was so profound, so beautiful, I almost cried again. still emotionally fragile it would seem. Pritchard is a journalist, essayist and fiction writer. This essay was an exploration of her grief at her mother's passing, also describing her time on writers' retreat in Scotland just after her mother had died. She also told us a bit of the story of the Afghan Women's Writing Projec…

travel log. Santa Fe. 2 August.

I am feeling a lot better today. at last. my bag still isn't here, but i have borrowed a phone charger, called Qantas, and discovered that it has cleared customs and been assigned a Fed Ex number and should be here tomorrow. It is a surprising relief to simply know it is on its way, to have a more definite idea of when to expect it to get here. Again, an example of how difficult the not knowing places are.
I am getting to know people a bit more, with conversations moving beyond who are you to acually talking about church and faith and life.
it is a gorgeous day again today. I don't think I have mentioned it, but the weather is delightful. warm days, thunderstorms, cool evenings. apart from, or perhaps despite, the pressure on your lungs making it painful to even ascend a flight of stairs, I am really enjoying this place.

Our workshops are making me think that I am not being thoughtful enough, or in line with our theme, attentive enough, to my poems, putting them here on the…

travel log. Santa Fe. 1 August. Evening.

I forgot that I was the reader for worship tonight! Luckily erin noticed my name on the front of the bulletin (that's US for order of service), so I had time to check what I was doing and read through it a few times. Was a poem called 'Stone'. I was a bit nervous, which was unusual for me, usually I'm nervous until I get up and speak, but this time the nerves didn't settle. People seemed to appreciate the reading, from what they said after. We read the psalm and a prayer as 'choirs', and it felt quite odd to be surrounded by a room full of American accents; mine sounded odd amidst them.
When we sang, I started to cry - had to let the people sing for me. The beauty of community.

My bag still has not joined me in Santa Fe. I am quite lost without it. My phone and computer batteries are both out of juice - I have put a note on the board asking if anyone has chargers I can borrow. I feel quite cut off, disconnected from home, not being able to check in. Perha…

travel log. Santa Fe. 1 August. keynote address.

Robert Cording gave the keynote address this evening, exploring attentiveness, weaving around the idea that we (humanity) have seen Eden, but Eden is now mostly obscured from our view (from George Herbert), and that seeing is impossible without love (Ruskin: love as an exercise in overcoming oneself for the sake of the other). Drawing on an Old Testament / Jewish understanding of creation stories, we live in a good - not a perfect - world. (resonating for me with the book I'm currently reading: Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity) This is a world that we know, a world that we don't know, a world about which we know more than we can say. When we don't love the world enough, we overlook the world - we don't see it.
I liked Cording's thought that it really is courtesy to know the names of the trees and flowers and birds outside our door. But there is so much more to a thing, as with a person, than a name: and when we think we understand something, we cease …

travel log. Santa Fe. 1 August.

It is kind of hard being here on my own. I feel like such an outsider. And I am surprised at how unused I am to being in a place where no one knows me, especially a gathering like this, a Christian gathering. Australia, the Uniting church, must be a small place indeed; I can go to events all over the country and still look around the room and expect to see a familiar face. Here, not at all. I look around the room, expectant, but then remember - you don't know anyone. No one you know will walk through that door just because you look again five minutes later. so it's hard; people aren't seeking me out, to talk to me. they're friendly enough, and I've had some good conversations, but they're not easy, free-flowing conversations you have with friends, or even acquaintances and colleagues in the church.

I was awake from 2am to 5am: jet lag. I suppose I will crash at some point later today. I want to go for a walk during this long break between lunch and the afterno…

travel log. Santa Fe. 31 July.

I have arrived in Santa Fe at last! Flying over Texas, it looks so flat; from the air it seems as though there aren't even any undulations, just flat flat fields with circular plantings for miles and miles. Oh, and I was enjoying this view from first class!! no wonder the ticket cost so much more! must have been all the travel agent could get, but I did enjoy it!
Driving through New Mexico from Albuquerque the landscape had changed to hills and near desert. All the buildings looked the same, all made of mud. I don't know why I was so surprised by this, that all the houses should look old and made of mud.
My bag has not preceded me. It may not join me until tomorrow.

Saint John's College is a small campus, set in the hills surrounded by pine trees. There seem to be a few people arriving for the week. Are all of them here for The Glen, or are there other programs, I wonder?

I am finding all the new, unknown, unfamiliar things overwhelming. With all the delays from Adelai…