Tag Archives: recovery

Epicormic growth

It is three years today since my life, and those of so many others, changed forever.  Anniversaries provide us with an opportunity to reflect. We remember the 173 people who lost their lives. We remember the homes, livelihoods, communities and ecosystems lost or irrevocably changed. We remember our anguish, uncertainty, fear and grief. We remember the love and support of people both local and distant. We remember the heroes both sung and unsung. We acknowledge that there will always be a ‘before’ and an ‘after’. We reflect on our lives following the fires. Our journeys, if you will.

Look at the trees. They are recovering but they are not unscathed. The land is healing: at its own pace, in its own time.

Today is a gentle day. It is cool. The sky is overcast. The wind temperate. A good day for growth and healing.

 

Epicormic growth

From a distance
we appear unchanged
as the timeless hills
shaped over millennia
impervious to disaster

Travel nearer
witness our charred trunks
framing new vistas
silent eucalypts
we stand testament

Near death
we hold our losses close
our stasis perilous (if we stand still…)
survival uncertain
without leaves we cannot capture light

Tiny silver-green shoots
erupt from blackened bark
our epicormic growth
unfurls impatiently

Soon the burnt land
is greenly festooned
our striving growth
a parody of what is familiar

With time
our branches strengthen
we approximate normality
those silver sentinels seen from afar
our reminder
our loss

Our eternal optimism
our growth, our saviour

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Unravelling

With this poem I hope to express one aspect of therapeutic writing – ordering and processing the grief, pain and loss. The action of writing it out creates meaning, allowing a deeper understanding which, for me, brings a sense of calm empowerment. However, one friend’s take on this was that I sounded like a victim – the blanket like Linus’. Quite the opposite of how I feel and what I want to convey. Please let me know what you think.

Unravelling

With this pen I write
words course onto the page
ink the colour of my veins
curlicues, serifs, pen-strokes all
untangling

Marks on the page
created by hand
each thought a neurone
extending from cortex though fingers
unscrambling

Ball of string within my chest
dissembled, tangled
its mess binding
heart, lungs and mind
unravelling

Words set free
dance upon the page
transformed, a salve
comforting blanket of
woven twine

Today I’m off to another Express Yourself Writing Workshop with Arnold Zable. Five hours of quarantined time to write, talk about writing and to listen to the experiences and writing of others. Best hop in the shower…

Into the light

The lights came to us on Saturday night. Through misting rain, a procession of children brought luminous joy to a cattle shed in Whittlesea. The lanterns, hand-crafted by children from two primary schools, glowed gently, accompanied by the song of young children. A star-shaped lantern guided the children across the oval to converge at the entrance to the shed, where a beguiling shadow puppet performance unfolded in the rain. My sons’ excited faces were infused with the pride of achievement and a sense of belonging; my vision blurred by a mother’s tears. Awaiting us in the shed was a masterful exhibition – a journey through pain and loss into the light. Works echoing three time periods – before, the moment of change, after – were arranged to allow for viewers to undertake a personal journey through the exhibition. Paths of black wood-chips, white salt and earth brown twisted between the exhibits. Works in fabric, natural materials, pottery and of fire-altered materials demonstrated the depth of talent in the community and the therapeutic nature of the creative process. Symbolism was evident in many of the works, benefiting from repeated viewings. A ceramic made by one of the schoolchildren depicted a blackened tree and the words ‘What happens now?’. Indeed, what does happen now? For many the recovery journey has only just begun – we remain fragile, sensitive to small perturbations. Our resilience is reduced, our defences weakened.

Gathered in the shed were people willing to share – bushfire survivors, supporters both professional and voluntary. The mood was buoyant, festive even, but respectful and considered. I was there to do a job: to read one of my poems to an audience for the first time. I had not rehearsed other than read the poem aloud at the dining room table a couple of times. Was I nervous? A little, but also proudly excited just like my five year old who held my hand and stood with me on the stage. I introduced myself, explaining the amazing writing journey I have taken over these last three months and of the support given to me by the ‘Conversations’ group and the ‘Express Yourself’ workshops. When I said I had written thirty poems in that time excited whoops echoed about the shed (thanks Jesse!). And so I read my poem ‘Home’. Slowly, savouring each word, I spoke it aloud and sent it into the crowd. My first poem – both written and performed – and one that I no longer find has much power over me when I read it on the page. But spoken aloud to an audience with shared experience it seemed to have life, power anew, and I left the stage elated, proud and with a new sense of identity. I have survived. My life has meaning, purpose – a future of new experience beckons. Art and community give us meaning. Through them we heal. My creative journey is just beginning.

My sincere thanks to Meme and Stefanie for including me in the program. And to my support crew – Stacey, Grant, Jesse, Leanne, Sebastian and Jeremy.