Sunday, November 18, 2012

zen and arts at Ancient Ground zendo

Kodoji  (Ancient Ground zendo) the Sydney Zen Centre’s rural retreat centre, is a beautiful place. If you don’t believe me, check out this link:
How could people not find something in this quiet valley to get their creative mojo working? On the weekend of 27th and 28th October, a fertile mixture of adults, children, four-leggeds and nationalities came together in the Macdonald valley to work with zen students, textile artist Gail McCall, ceramicist Janet Selby, and me. 

(transl. from Spanish)

Great white trunk
green tiny leaves
old tree 
Abigail Lutzen

Usually it is just dedicated time that is needed in this busy world to make a satisfying piece of art or a poem, but on our arts ‘treat’, there was also great food and good company: good conversation, jokes, ponderings, observations. This ‘treat’ was not catered, and in true self-reliant zen fashion, we all pitched in with dishes and foods that we had made at home. All the jobs were handled in the same way. The result? great generosity. The meals were fabulous. Over the weekend we had periods of zazen ( meditation) interspersed with hands-on art and poetry.

Gail McCall (see the first workshop, which involved decorating and then dyeing a silk scarf with onion skins and natural materials. The children were so excited to see what would emerge from the sopping wet bundle which came out of the dye vat.
Janet Selby ( see gave us all a lump of clay in the afternoon, and made the link to the fertile earth of the mind when it is quiet. Again, the kids were totally involved in making a small ceramic sculpture. Later in the night, Janet was moved by......

Full moon on the hillside
    shares a yarn
    with the forest

The next morning I took everybody on a ginko - a haiku walk. Gracie the dog was in her element! I led everyone back down the road, my plan being to take them deeper up the valley towards the national park.

Bad weeds!

but the bees
think otherwise

Helen Sanderson also wrote about the dandelions:

small suns waving
on grey day.

But first of all we made a detour to the creek. Some weeks ago while I was on the spring zen retreat, I wrote this:

These sandbanks tell
"A mighty river once!" -
little brown stream

Now, some weeks later and not much rain, the creek was even lower.
Helen wrote:

Creek wanders,
A tiny flow,
Rippling the sky.

I was interested to notice how slowly visual artists walk, on a ginko. They are looking at everything!

The mud that was left either side made for a fascinating record of what had passed by. I wrote:

A goanna

inscribed ‘S’
in the muddy creekbed

Imogen Coote, who is about nine years old, wrote this:

Dog trampling through the river
ruining animal tracks
having a fantastic time

And Gilly Coote wrote this:

black hole,

waggy tail -
look out, wombats!


Ants on wet mud
invisible tracks.

I finally managed to drag them away from the creek. We wandered up the road where the Blue Gums grow, with their "gran tronco blanco", to quote Abigail,  and the high sandbanks from a major flood a century ago. 

Janet wrote this and illustrated it:

Defiant bracken

  between the car tracks
     - old road

 I wrote:

Can I avoid
stepping on
tiny white daisies?


Children run
along bush track
with singing stick


Haiku has always co-existed with art. Buson, the great nineteenth century poet, was also a renowned painter. A 'haiga' is a painting that images haiku. These haiga above, were unsolicited - they arose naturally from the artists who came on the weekend.

And Helen has the last word: "It helps you see, to do this poetry".

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Linden Yatra - October 13

We began our Saturday of silent walking quite early. The Sydney contingent were quite surprised at the emptiness of the roads -- and made it to Linden station in record time.  Yes,  I said ‘empty’ and ‘Sydney roads’ in the same sentence - odd, different, unusual! And it was not 4 a.m.
I took the group of yatra walkers up the road to King’s cave. This is  a marvellous occupation cave with plenty of space, and a spring at one end.

the birds whose claws
sank in the mud

Before white arrival, the Aboriginal people of the area ( Darug or Darkinjing) would have used this cave over and over again. Many artefacts have been found here. We know the general story of gradual disappearance of tribespeople and a traditional way of life. The cave was then used by the King’s Own Regiment, who were a kind of police force keeping an eye on the new road out to Bathurst (Cox’s road). They built up a retaining wall to extend the level  floor area. One can imagine that horses and men would have sheltered here. Our group picked up some of the rubbish left by more recent visitors - not artefacts that enhanced the ambience of this place - lit by morning light, birds singing. 

We walked silently up onto the ridge at Linden and walked a little more than was strictly necessary, along an old section of Cox’s road. Then we had the pleasure of taking our shoes off for barefoot walking.

That ant
no shoes on
like me

We began the descent into a valley. The Boronia floribunda was out in flower, full strength.

In a field
of sweet boronia
heavenly slow steps

Down in the valley, there were waratahs in flower. I felt though, that there were less of them than I had seen when I first came here, the previous year. Had someone been lopping off, and making off with, our NSW state emblem? This happens  to waratahs all the time in the urban fringe. So sad.

At the pool we  luxuriated in sun, sand, morning tea, and  a lovely flow from the waterfall.

 There had been a day of wild weather in Sydney the day before, good for the streams. No-one was quite game enough for a swim, though Joanne waded in speculatively - it was cold! And then we walked.

I led the group out of that valley  and to a rock on  the crest of a hill, where we paused to take stock of our walking practice. This rock was decorated with Boronia and other flowering things. We ate lunch there and most of us had a good doze in the sun - like lizards. This is the time to enjoy the sun  - before it turns into a November monster.
Then I led everybody down to the next creek. I could not find the axe-grinding grooves which I’d seen there, on my last visit.
 Beside this creek is another little beach, and by now the group was feeling more confident and creative. We stayed here quite a while enjoying what it had to offer. I decided to walk up and down the creek concentrating only on what was entering  my ears. Wrote this ..

Frog call
bird voice
stream song - alive!

 The yatra ended at Hazelbrook. Somebody said it had been like a holiday. And for me, the leader, it was great to be walking with this group of people, and sharing their enjoyment of silence and that particular landscape. Thank you everyone.
In 2013 I will again lead yatras in autumn and spring. I'll keep you posted about the dates and details.

Yes, mindful walking in the mountains - not like this...


 Want to see this Wiley cartoon more clearly? Try this link...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Zen Art retreat -Spring in Kodoji!

At Kodoji 26 -28 October 2012

Haiku, Walking, Clay, Silk Dyeing.


I will take people for a haiku walk (ginko) in the valley and teach them to write a haiku.
Janet Selby will be offering a Clay and Meditation workshop.
Gail McCall will show us how to dye a Shibori silk scarf with gum leaves, onion skins.


Zazen and kinhin (sitting and walking meditation) morning and evening, making art most of the day, eating vegetarian meals, resting. Beginners to Zen practice and interested children are most welcome. Breakfasts and morning and afternoon teas will be provided, participants bring food to be shared.

Kodoji, or Ancient Ground Temple, is the Sydney Zen Centre’s retreat centre in the Upper Macdonald Valley, about two hours north-west of Sydney, via Wisemans Ferry and St Albans. Kodoji Temple sits in a beautiful valley called Gorricks Run, surrounded by high sandstone cliffs and deep wilderness. There is only limited indoor accommodation and it is generally expected that participants will pitch their own tents.

Cost $80 members of Sydney Zen Centre, $100 non-members, $55 children


Sunday dawned warm and sunny for the Elders to walk out along Lawson ridge. Boronia floribunda was flowering  along the rocky spines of the hills - how divine is that scent? Years ago I lived near Armidale and went out for a walk one day, in the bush on the farm we lived on. I encountered this plant in flower, and the sensational scent. I didn’t know what it was at that time. Surely one could put up with many trials in life, if you could fill your nostrils with that fragrance every spring?
There were other delights:  Caroline saw a skink on the rock platform - the rock under our bare feet felt warm and alive -  in the swamp I saw a large dragonfly - and the quail which flew away from me on Monday, was back on the track again, in the same place. These are all the simple things of being alive, in this place, at this time, that bring joy to me and others.

In the far valley
a black cockatoo calls,
“Where are you?”

Yes, what is in front of you right now?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I’ve been going on some wonderful walks lately. In August I walked with the Upper Blue Mountains Bushwalking Club to Blackman’s Crown near Cullen Bullen. I wrote this:

Under this lookout
shale mining tunnels -
we stand on honeycomb

But somehow I don’t think it’s quite right. Maybe it’s one of those haiku that needs to be expanded? What do you think?

I think this stands on its own:

At last she’s laughing -
gropes for a foothold
falls towards a tree

After a wonderful walk along the tops of the Crown, viewing Capertee valley and all the country to south, west and  north, we headed back to the vehicles which were parked beside the Castlereagh highway.

Bits of smashed-up car -
a violet flower
twines along the cutting


I took a lovely walk through Empire Pass in Lawson,with two friends. I wrote a haiku about the wind, but it needs expanding. Here’s an attempt at growing a poem from a haiku.

The power-lines groan
with September wind -
a tiny bird cheeps -
We small organic things
eat sandwiches beside a waterfall,
wonder about wattle

way above our heads
a high-voltage tussle.

Not long afterwards, I walked up Donkey Mountain of which I’ve heard so much.

Conversation -
and I walk into a wall -

There are all kinds of nooks and crannies on this stand-alone mountain - it’s like Korowal, in the Kedumba valley.

Pole-dancing vine
twines up another vine
in the “green room”.

OCTOBER - Elders’ yatra

Sunday dawned warm and sunny for the Elders to walk out along Lawson ridge. Boronia floribunda was flowering  along the rocky spines of the hills - how divine is that scent? Years ago I lived near Armidale and went out for a walk one day, in the bush on the farm we lived on. That day I encountered this plant in flower, and the sensational scent. I didn’t know what it was at that time. Surely one could put up with many trials in life, if you could fill your nostrils with that fragrance every spring?
There were other delights:  Caroline saw a skink on the rock platform - the rock under our bare feet felt warm and alive -  in the swamp I saw a large dragonfly - and the quail which flew away from me on Monday, was back on the track again, in the same place. These are all the simple things of being alive, in this place, at this time, that bring joy to me and others.

In the far valley
a black cockatoo calls,
“Where are you?”

Yes, what is in front of you right now?

My friend Kate - always a great companion when I need to do a reccie.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

walking with Dulumunmun

On Sunday the fifth of August  I took a walk with Uncle Max Dulumunmun, an elder of the Yuin tribe, at Bundeena south of Sydney. About twenty-eight of us were there to learn from him and get a sense of what this stunningly beautiful spot may have meant to the first Australians. It is just inside Port Hacking, with Cronulla just across  the water and the city towers floating in the distance like a film set. I have been on a number of culture days with Uncle Max. He is a bridge between whitefella and blackfella.

We walked down to a beach. An interpretive sign said that we were on Tharawal country and the name given to the area was Jibbon. The Tharawal would have had this harbour and the river to fish in. An observer with the First Fleet described the dexterity with which Bennelong’s wife  would fish from a canoe in Sydney harbour. She would have a fire going in the canoe and cook the fish as she went.

Up the beach, Uncle Max showed us the remains of shells poking from the sand. This was a place for eating shellfish, but not just any shellfish. He explained that a group would study the shells left behind in the midden by a previous group, and avoid collecting that particular food resource. In this way, ‘Jibbon’ and all its diversity was cared for.

A few watercraft were anchored in the bay; we walked along the beach and up onto the headland. There was a watercourse there, where Dulumunmun continued his teaching about respect. He always tells us that we must ask for permission before using a plant or picking a fruit, and I have adopted this practice in my garden at home. It’s quite interesting asking the mandarin tree whether it is ready to give up its fruit. If it isn’t ready to let go, the peel tears around the ‘bellybutton’ of the mandarin, so then it must be eaten straight away. We sat in the sun while he showed, with the help of Lee and Mel, how to respectfully gather water. I didn’t quite understand some aspects.

A pile of dead wood was another  reason to pause and really think. “What do you call this?” , Uncle Max asked.  “Dead branches, ” I answered. Wrong! They have stored in them all the energy that Grandfather sun once poured into them. I love his teaching about Grandfather. Once, at Kodoji, we all went out into the morning sun with him, faced Grandfather sun and  expressed gratitude for our life, for life. This is a wonderful practice to do every day - and especially if you’re feeling sour and bitter about something. For a while I practiced it every morning. And later on, walking out at Mt. Bindo which is a very high place in Gundungurra country, I wrote this:

A lick of orange
from grandfather sun
on the dozing mountain

Some places, Uncle Max said, should be left untouched. Yes. Just left alone to unfold the way they’re going to, and not seen through the prism of utility. We walked on up the headland into the bush and he led us to a very large sandstone rock shelf. I found axe grinding grooves there, with another faint marking which seemed symbolic but may have been nothing. But the main engravings which he showed us were a great variety -  sea creatures, beings, kangaroos. There are hundreds of rock  drawings like this, right across the Sydney basin, he said. In the Royal National park, where we were, many of them are buried under plants. We went to a stingray. The way it was aligned showed that it had come from Port Hacking and it was making its journey in a southeasterly direction. There was also a jellyfish and an orca. Uncle Max referred to humans’ relationship with orcas ( he called them ‘mooji’), similiar to man and dog.  The mooji would round up whales and bring them into shallow waters where aboriginal people could then spear them.  I have heard of this happening in Eden, NSW.

Do you see the fin at the top of this mooji? There appeared to be at least two whales here, two stone whales. One of them had a hairbelt around his middle. This makes it related to us, to humans, since this was a decoration of Aboriginal people. And beside it was a dillybag. That whale also was heading out to sea, to the south-east and perhaps Tasmania? I’ve walked with Uncle Max elsewhere in the Royal, seen another whale like this with a hairbelt. Uncle Max said then that whales regurgitate the law for humans, when they beach. I do not understand this.

When the whaling ship Britannia neared Sydney harbour in 1791, this is what the captain, Thomas Melville saw:
''Within three leagues of the shore, we saw sperm whales in great plenty. We sailed through different shoals of them from 12 o'clock in the day till sunset, all round the horizon as far as I could see from the masthead.” He wrote this letter to his company in England. He wrote, “ In fact, I saw very great prospects in making our fishery upon this coast and establishing a fishery here.'' The whaling industry did establish itself in Sydney and within a decade or two, decimated the right whale population. It then switched attention to the humpback. Within three decades the industry was nearly finished.  

We stopped for lunch on this rock. I was a bit bothered that some people did not heed where their feet were treading, and added a little bit of wear to the engravings by standing on them. This is not a good thing to do, as these carvings are no longer being renewed in the old way, where they received TLC when people gathered near them for story and ceremony.

When we walked back along the beach, there were more boats in the bay. Two little figures sat high up on a top deck, masters of their conveyance.

We went next to  the Burnum Burnum reserve on the Woronora river. Near the entrance to the park is a plaque, and on it is his declaration which he made in 1988, on the cliffs of Dover. It begins:

 “I, Burnum Burnum of the Wurundjeri Tribe, do hereby take possession of England on behalf of the Aboriginal Crown of Australia.…”

And so it goes on, in conqueror style.

Uncle Max took us to the grandmother trees - angophoras. Because  these trees guard or mark birthing rocks, they are womens’ places and therefore are not his business. I like this idea of ‘grandmother’ and ‘grandfather’ - to think that they are my ancestors, they are related to my being. It is true on a level other than the literal.

If you’d like to see Lee Nutter’s photos of Uncle Max, there are 8 on his Flickr website:

Dulumunmun is leading another walk soon. 
SUNDAY  28th October…. From 9.30am till 3.30pm in KURINGAI NATIONAL PARK

Bookings now are open for this. Limited numbers.Cost $90

You can contact Caroline Josephs for all the details on

Get in quick because this walk may book out. A group of us walked up Gulaga, on the south coast, with Uncle Max some years ago. I wrote this, using the Gundungurra word for "wedgetail eagle':

drawing sky circles
above the farmlands

Thursday, August 16, 2012

October yatras - mid-mountains

Now that the Olympics are over, the weather is calling us away from the TV: " Come outside! Enjoy the outdoors!" 

Golden wattle - 
a medal for survivors
of that cold winter

A yatra is a chance to practise mindfulness of the body. You will be walking in the tracks of mountains Aboriginal people. Here are the dates.

Sunday October 7:

Elders' yatra for those with physical limitations. We will walk in Lawson, Blue Mountains,  for about 1 - 2 hours, along easy gradients. There will be opportunities for seated meditation, and barefoot walking. I will tailor this walk according to health. About half a day.

Saturday October 13:

This yatra, for middlin' levels of fitness, involves about 5 hours of walking, boronia at full aromatic throttle, a waterfall and cave, and the above.  This walk begins at Linden and ends at Hazelbrook. A full day.

Cost: $20 plus dana (gift)

Some haiku - some walks

I did a most marvellous walk from Otford lookout south of Sydney, along the edge of the escarpment. There was a turnoff to a beach called Werrong, so I thought, "Why not?" I had been gazing down the steep cliffs to the sea surging below, to the container ships anchored offshore from Wollongong, to the shacks at a small beach. Well! It was a nice track, went past a lagoon, came to a stream....

As still as a rock
the body on the nudist beach
is sandstone brown


In July I walked with friends from Perry's Lookdown, into the Grose valley. Before we began the descent, a white-eared honeyeater sat out on a twig, three hundred metres above the valley, and sang thrillingly. Down in the valley, I was delighted to find a 'Bleeding heart', Omalanthus populifolia, one of Australia's very few deciduous trees.  Some of its heart-shaped leaves were red and about to drop, or dropped. It was growing in a creek flowing into the Grose.
We walked out at quite a pace, but I wrote this:

Buff cliffs
reflected in the river - 
dappled, flowing


My garden is always changing....

winter bee
cruises slowly - 
fourteen peach blossoms


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Winter yatras

The gale had nearly huffed itself out by the time Saturday came around, but there was still a morning ruffling of the air as though it was indignant and offended. It was cold and we knew we were alive. We were the hardy souls who had not lost our power overnight or been blown off the road.
 Strangely, the group did not initially want to take their shoes off and walk the cold stone on a lookout rock. I kept a fairly steady pace in to North Lawson swamp, where there was an old tree trunk in the sun, in the lee.  It was a lovely seat for meditators who wanted to sit for a while.  I crashed around trying to find a better way out of the swamp , but it was dagger hakea at every step, so  we negotiated the eroded old track. Constant rain has made it a slippery gutter with a hakea fringe.
There was a little sun at morning tea on the road; here's proof!

Honeyeaters sang and flitted about. Then a group of yellow-tailed cockatoos flew across, like the whales of the skies, calling laconically. I always think of this as good fortune.

We set off again, aware of the whole body moving. And what was moving when we stopped?
This reminds me of a story about Hui-neng, the sixth zen ancestor after bodhidharma.
"Two monks were arguing about the temple flag waving in the wind. One said, "The flag moves." The other said, "The wind moves." They argued back and forth but could not agree. The Sixth Ancestor said, "Gentlemen! It is not the wind that moves; it is not the flag that moves; it is your mind that moves." The two monks were struck with awe." ("THE GATELESS BARRIER: The Wu-men  Kuan (Mumonkan)" translated with commentary by Robert Aitken)

 We had lunch at this beautiful rock further along Lawson ridge. A blast from the south meant that meditating at height was not comfortable. We ate lunch tucked into a rocky shelter, in the lee of the hill.

Our return along the ridge was peppered with stops to meditate on any handy log or bank. And the wind picked up.

Blasts of cold air - 
the trees furious - 
warm body moving 

 But warmly wrapped, by the end of the day everyone was willing to give barefoot walking a go.Here is Renee, experiencing it.

I unwrapped my feet: they were like the pale white grubs in the soil which, when unearthed, shrink and curl away in alarm. My feet had that reaction, but each surprising step was rich with the graininess of the rock, its shocking cold, its uneven shape and the shifting closely observed view of its axe-grinding grooves and wind- carved shapes. And then there was the moss: so soft, so cold and wet, bright green, little patches of this simple ancient plant making a decent living up here, in the cold air and winter light and wind.

  Maybe in the warm weather a group can return here to fully explore this rock with it's axe grinding grooves and view to the west.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Yatra in Lawson - coming up

I'm really looking forward to leading the yatra next weekend in north Lawson. I've been remembering some of the walks I've already taken there, and the haikus I've written. The archaeologist and beloved local, Father Eugene Stockton says that the mid-mountains are the negotiated territory for indigenous peoples, the place where tribes came together and meetings and ceremony took place.

The sacred mountain
sits with us too
not so far away

I've done quite a few walks in the area now. This walk /bike ride took place in spring.

In a cloud
of yellow petals and
his unkind words

 I did a reccie here with my friend Kate in late summer this year. The constant rain of summer had made huge potholes, rampant growth, soggy ground, brilliant flowers,   ... and..

Hundreds of frogs
croak an ode
to La Nina
My thanks to Kate, Maria, and Sue for being my buddie while I look around for the best routes.

A very suitable shape of puddle for a reccie on Australia Day

Straya day song
by lyrebirds and treecreepers - 
"Rain? What rain?"

  I also wrote this haiku on a reccie with Kate, and I put it on the flyer because it illustrates what a yatra is all about:

Drunken old trig
a pile of stones 
steadying it

When we pay attention to each step, or bring our attention back to the simple actions of the body moving along a track, it is like placing a stone around that trig. It is steadying. We are not so caught up by the endless stream of  thoughts and feelings. Sometimes when we're very caught up in that stream, it is like being drunk - pulled off balance, swaying. When we inhabit the present fully with whatever is in it, even if it is hurtful words, that is living fully. We're not captured by a desire to fantasize something nicer, for instance. So as those humble feet of ours on Saturday connect with the earth, we'll build a more solid foundation for living an authentic life.

Dana - the Practise of Generosity to Support the Dharma Teachings

In the Buddhist tradition, it is felt the dharma teachings of wisdom and compassion are of such great value that one cannot put a price on it, it can not be bought or sold in the market place, it is priceless. The teachings of liberation have been passed down through the generations by this ancient practice of dana: receiving and transmitting these teachings as a gift.

But the teachers do not charge a fee, the teachings are given freely. When we hear these teachings we are touched and moved, and the feelings of appreciation and gratitude naturally express themselves in the act of generosity by offering dana to the teacher, thus circulating and completing the gift. This natural response marks our entry into the economy of gift, where buying and selling are replaced by giving and receiving, and where the defining relationship is one of spiritual friendship. The act of giving is a declaration of mutual respect. Giver and receiver recognise they share the same fundamental values and concerns.

The gift takes us beyond the limitations of our normal self-interest and opens us to a life of mutual care, called good friendship (kalyana mitta) by the Buddha. The practice of generosity is considered to be one of the highest virtues in the Buddhist tradition, as within every act of generosity, there is also the act of relinquishment, thus cultivating the spirit of letting go.

Any gift is greatly appreciated and will help to continue to nurture the dharma in Australia and beyond. May the virtue of your gift be a support for you and for all beings to attain freedom and liberation … the complete cessation of suffering.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

poem on Youtube - haiku from Sunday

Here's a clip of my performance at the " Friend in Hand" pub, in Glebe, last month, in the open mike section. " Word in Hand" is a really great night of live poetry. Many thanks to Jack Peck, the MC, for organizing the video record of the night, and for putting together this video for me. My link:

Jack is in the process of putting "Word in Hand " up on Youtube and on a community TV station, I'll keep you posted on this development. 

The news from Europe was very cheerful last week, and as usual ABC Sydney morning news began with the shootings that had occurred overnight. Went for a walk on Sunday at Blackheath - the Burra Korain ridge I believe? We were learning navigation, how to find our way in the bush. You do not put breadcrumbs down if you want to get back home safely. No, you use a map and compass.
Wrote this:

Biting winter wind
takes a big mouthful
of world-weariness

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cringefest at MONA

In April I was in Tasmania, and I wanted to visit  MONA  (Museum of Old and New Art), the exciting new gallery in Hobart.  And Rachel Edwards had had a brilliant idea: let's stage a Cringefest at the MONA markets! I readily went along with the idea of reading from ...old, only old...writings. Normally one wants to present the best, the shiniest, and maybe the newest of what one has written. But this would be like peering into the bowels of the machine: where did this stuff come from? And in that sense it was a great complement to MONA, half of which seems to be underground.
So we delved into our journals and diaries from yesteryear. Oh dear, oh dear. Did I really write that?

 This market was to be the last one, and I was bowled over by the variety of stalls,  the quality of goods, stalls such as "Conversations on Death And Dying", the taiko drummers who performed in the plaza...inside this pink Mickey  Mouse somebody was offering Japanese tea ceremony. Naturally I  wanted to partake. It was superb, and the first tea ceremony I have ever done.

 Paige Turner ( Rachel) and her friend Miss Wimple ran a "Recylclibrary", where people could simply take any book that was on offer. They are asked to donate books too, either to the Recyclibary when it pops up, or to Fullers Bookshop in Hobart. The patrons of this library were exceedingly pleased by the generosity of this arrangement!

Later on, we cringe poets and writers decided the moment had come for the full monty. We took to the stage, clutching our tattered old notebooks, pages spilling from overfull pages of ramblings. I am tempted to say that there is a catharsis for the audience at a Cringefest, where they are presented with the lurid, the hideous, the overblown emotions of the teenage writer....and they are reminded, "I too, once thought like that , and I'm awfully glad that I didn't write about it!"

  Above, Tasman's mother ( Tasman in the green t-shirt awaits his moment of humiliation) agonises over her housemates in her journal. I'm not sure what Paige Turner, in pink, shared with the audience but it was bound to be profound!
                                                                I really gave full vent to my criticisms of my siblings at age 13, and here the world at last is receiving a  poem about shoes written age 12! It was great fun, and the atmosphere of the market allowed for experiments like this to have an outing. Go MONA!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tangdimmaa - Northwest Tasmania

I've just been for a beautiful walk in the Northwest of Tassie, at Tangdimmaa or Rocky Cape. It is near Stanley, west of the town of Wynyard. The day was still, and warm, and the sea like satin. The sea is so clear there, and because there are no ocean swells running from Bass Strait, only the gentlest murmurs fall onto shore.

 The vegetation is heath. Many plants looked similiar to our Blue Mountains plants, but on a small tough scale - even the snake that we saw was about 9 inches in length. The Rar.rer.loi.he.ner people lived here. I wrote this:

The old -
at the cave-site
bleached white midden

And also:

Crickets softly call
autumn's breath....

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Katikati’s haiku pathway

New Zealand may be a damp place, but its public artworks in places like Katikati make Australia’s Big bananas and their ilk look like civic design by Year 2. I took myself off at Christmas-time to the eastern coast of the north island to visit this town, near Tauranga, so that I could walk its haiku pathway with Marianne. The town is renowned for murals, and we found all kinds of other artworks. In front of the info centre where we called in to ask for directions, a man was sitting on a park bench reading a newspaper. Only his face was bronze -coloured, the rest of him in white metal clothes. Beside him was a small terrier with a ball, undistractable in metal.

According to the interpretive sign we read later, the haiku pathway was the brainchild of Catherine Mair. It follows the Uretara stream (why are there streams in NZ, not creeks? Does a creek vanish in dry times? Streams however are constant here.) The stream allowed the Irish to land and settle here ( not sure what happened to the Maori). This is her haiku, carved into a large river boulder:

nearly tripping me
round my feet
the monarch butterfly

The info centre lady directed us behind the library, past the mosaic work flourishing around the childrens’ play equipment. The first haiku stone was on the corner of the library and it was carved in a beautiful italic script. Marianne especially liked the second one we came across. She’s just completed the Hollyford track in Fiordland, with her walking companions, but is left with a soreness in her foot.
We limped down the stairs towards the stream, she with her aching foot and me with my tender knee. We had our raincoats on for the drizzle that threatened. We came to an open park area, with a concrete path winding along beside the stream and the haiku boulders at strategic intervals. Willow trees were scattered here and there. At the crook of the stream, ducks paddled, looked at us and began to climb out and up the bank. Their hopefulness gave way to caution, and they retreated back into the water. Another duck in the distance made a “V” swimming towards them.

All the haiku on the stones have been previously published, and were chosen from collections.William J Higginson was at the bottom of the stairs - the editor of so many collections.

I loved this. It’s a haiku with much resonance - not easily understood. Those were my favourites on the walk. You could come back to them at a later date and revolve them in your mind. We wandered along reading the haiku. In some places the stones were blank, and had simply been arranged into beautiful arrangements. It brought to mind a story I read about zen master Shunryu Suzuki, the founder of San Francisco Zen Centre. In transplanting zen from Japan to the U.S. he also brought a very fine aesthetic - he sweated and laboured over the particular placement of a stone at Tassajara zen centre.

Marianne and I compared notes: did we like this one or that one? She found a haiku spread on one line, about a heron flying along the water, too anorexic. But I rather liked the image. Further along haiku bricks had been set into the path. These were haiku that had been chosen from a competition. It was good to be able to make a comparison with those that had been through a double layer of selection. Some of them, such as :

‘conversion -
the ray of sun strikes
between the goal posts’

is too obscure for me, because I don’t know enough about rugby, the national passion. We talked about this. Is there a wry comment about something here, that I am missing? But does it matter that I don’t get it? Thousands of aficionados of the game will. We talked about what ‘conversion’ means. My apologies to the poet of this witty haiku if I have not quite got your wording. My camera ran out of poop, and also I could not read your name on the brick.

We came to a place where there was a mounting for a bridge. This might be the spot where a rather lovely little pedestrian bridge had been, removed because structural flaws were found in it recently. the bridge would have taken you to the other side of the stream where the pathway continued towards the highway. We wandered on, reading the paving stone haiku and the boulder haiku, delighted by the stone which faced the housing development on the other side of the stream:

on the farmlands
new homes
slowly rising

Patricia Prime NZ

It sums up a whole complex of things in 10 syllables. Fantastic. I thought I could see across the stream into one of these comfortable houses, through the tinted glass to someone at a kitchen bench.

We found another undernourished haiku all in one line. Marianne said, “If I had a kid in my class who wrote that, I would think about it overnight and come up with a line for it in the morning”. For my money, the haiku that sets the scene but not too specifically, and then leaves a lingering haze in my mind, which is not quite in focus, is the best. It conveys mujo, impermanence, and how provisional things are - like the bridge, and the names of authors on haiku bricks. But this one

“A breeze and then my mind wanders on”

(a poet from the US, apologies sir, I didn’t write your name or haiku down correctly.)
is vague but commits what I consider to be a haiku sin. It is rather too self-conscious. There is great awareness of consciousness but little of nature.

We had by now walked through town, crossed Highway 2, walked past another mural being put up and the seal carved from a huge lump of wood with a chainsaw, and back down to the stream. The path here blends haiku with a bird walk.The beginnings of it have both haiku stones and sculptures - to my delight, the first sculpture was the karearea or native falcon, life-size, and there was an interpretive sign. They are ‘acutely threatened”, and can do 230kms per hr, when hunting. They take birds, but also rats, rabbits, mice. My haiku, for what its worth:

A hawk surveys
the path and stream
for smaller pickings

Here’s a link to the website for the pathway:

We didn’t see it all. It is something you could return to, and wander and ponder. There are benches placed everywhere too, for picnics and just sitting and gazing. In the distance the Kaimai mountains were wreathed in cloud. Here is a haiku by one of the best (in my opinion) Australian haiku poets, Janice Bostok, who sadly passed away last year:

sleeping horse -
angled bones lean
into the summer sun