Friday, November 1, 2013

Fire day

the view from my back gate for ten days

WEDNESDAY 23 October

The front page of the “Daily Terror” ( also known as the "Daily Telegraph") screamed:
I woke up and decided I would stay with my house.

Year ago my neighbour J. had to scramble out of her house in Springwood, with two little boys, when she, English-born, had not been here very long. She reminded me to park the car in the driveway facing outwards.

I consulted my lists, the “To Do" list and the ”Evac” list.  My neighbours Geoff and Leonie wanted to know what I was going to do, and I told them my plan, to evacuate to the safe house if the fire jumped to the south side of the highway. They had only been in the Mountains eighteen months, when they had to face down a fire in Faulconbridge. Geoff showed me the workings of his pump, gave me a feel for the kick-back of the jet of water.

I got down to the hardware store after picking up a face-mask which my friend Maria offered me, and by then the wind was picking up.  Some expert in human behaviour said on the radio that you shouldn’t try to rush. Hmmm – wonder how many fires he’s been through. 

the wind
like a tattoo'd bikie on

People were pouring in and out of the place, piles of hoses, cheap buckets, joiners.... fire and water were the theme of the day.  Extra staff  had been roped in from right across Sydney; inside the store the air was calm but the atmosphere frantic. L., P.’s partner was taking cotton-headed mops to the cash register ( put them in a bucket of water and splosh them on spot fires). The staff were great in this pandemonium, but outside, in the whirling wind, a little huddle of staff in their red polo shirts gathered round, presumably to make some decisions about their plan, should the fire make its way up a valley and threaten the store.

I was disappointed to learn that the pumps hadn’t arrived as yet, and further, that the petrol pumps were spoken for already, two of them by the Rural Fire Service and I wouldn’t want to gazump them - our heroes and heroines! The pumps were coming in from Queensland, I guess there were none left in New South Wales. 

Yellow Rock
Phew! My sister in New Zealand said she would shout me the pump. There were all kinds of variables which I had to understand and decide on, quickly. Valves. Length of hose. Width of hose. Diesel or petrol. All the goggles were sold out, I bought new plugs for the bathroom where the bath was full of water but leaking. Dribble, dribble, the military would never accept such slapdash weaponry. The checkout woman took my phone numbers, and I was up the ladder pulling plastic guard out of the front gutter when they called me to tell me the pumps had arrived. 
I was down there in a flash; I could take a petrol pump! A guy with a tattoo of the southern cross on his arm, and an earring in one ear, patiently helped me work through the variables. I consulted with  my plumber on the phone, paid for the pump on the plastic fantastic, and then the guy loaded this big heavy mother into my station wagon.
 When I got it home, Geoff came over to unload it. “Ah, a Briggs Stratton”, he said approvingly, of the motor.  He put it together while I sandbagged my downpipes and filled  the gutters up with water, using a device of his invention. You hook it over your gutter at one end, and at the other end connect it to your hose:  one person can do it without up-and-down-ladder exercise, and hose-control-with-brick.
 The wind was really strong by now, and hot. It was pointless wishing I had simpler gutters, and less than five of them.  While I was doing this I was also filling up the containers around my yard with water, including the Otto bins, and putting sacks in them. 

Backyard armoury
For a few seconds I looked up at the magpie nest. It was swaying around in the wind with a parent bird on it. Sitting tight, in the fork of a gum tree,  I bet it was also reviewing its decisions, in its birdy way,  like whether this was a good safe place to have built a nest?

 The ladder blown down
onto the lavender bush -
a rush of its sweat

When I heard the roar of the pump, I felt triumphant.  Geoff showed me how it worked, and   trained me in the use of the hose. By now he was wearing his overall. Mine was still in the box of emergency clothing. On my list I’d reminded myself “ Put on emergency clothing”.

I kept tabs on the direction the smoke was blowing, if it began to blow our way it could mean ember attack. Spot fires starting in the garden or under the roofing can blow up very fast into a big fire. From Geoff and Leonie’s back yard, I noticed a helicopter almost standing still as it struggled to make headway against the wind. A text arrived on my mobile phone telling me that the fire in Faulconbridge had been upgraded from “Watch and be alert” to “Emergency, take cover if fire approaches ..”. I already knew this because the thundering of choppers and wailing sirens and planes had ramped up to another level.  

Wind makes it dangerous and difficult for the airborne strategy. When water is dumped in a high wind it disperses, it’s just a helicopter-generated high waterfall, useless for hitting a target. I found out later that two Erickson air-cranes  which can suck up 9000 litres of water at a time, were used that day.  We lease them; they cost $1.5 million for 12 weeks. Someone described them as huge metal dragonflies hovering over water. Days later I saw them working the dam at the golf club.

Springwood fires seen from the Great Western highway, Linden

Geoff helped me haul a heavy kauri table into the house, from the back verandah, and then I was spent. Lunch, tune in to the latest news, and a couple more messages to people who were worried about me, and then I hit the sack. By the time I woke up, the wind had died down. Helicopters - a gentle buzz. Is it really nearly over? I still hadn’t done everything I wanted to do. Massive relief. Hurray! who can I celebrate with? Maria offered a glass of wine and duck for dinner. After checking in with J., I headed on down to Maria's place in a car stuffed full of my irreplaceables. And I didn’t need to back out of the driveway! The car was pointed “out”. 

 THURSDAY 24 October

Nervous exhaustion. Couldn’t stand listening to the radio any more.
I decided to say ‘thank you’ to every single emergency worker I ran across.
At the hairdressers, I heard this story about Winmalee:
Two older people are in their home on Thursday, when the wife says to the husband ( who is quite fragile):
 Wife: “That’s funny, the azalea bush is on fire”.
Husband: “We’ve gotta get out of here!”
Wife manages to get him out of the house, into the car, backs out of the driveway just in time to see the house explode.
A pilot has been killed in the fires on the south coast.

L - R : Mt. Banks, Mt. Hay, Mt. Tomah.
The fire in Bell - Bilpin  area, called the State Mine fire, started by the army at Lithgow 

Up on Linden ridge, a boil of smoke over by Mt. Banks, Mt. Wilson, Mt. Tomah - like a witches brew boiling up something dreadful. A family of glossy black cockatoos  - with their one juvenile, scrawk their gentle scrawks to each other up in a tree. They are an endangered species, having a limited diet of Allocasuarina. As I stood having a conversation with Tony Lennon who is an artist, the smoke on Mt. Banks got darker and more purposeful. He’s worried, he’s lived here for twenty-odd years and seen the fire sitting in the Grose valley over there, like a malevolent dragon just waiting for the right conditions to roar along and up the side valleys to the houses. He told me a story about a couple - who sold their house in Singles Ridge Rd and moved elsewhere. The house they sold is now gone, burned.

He told me that many people in his neighborhood evacuated, and that he must cut down a dead tree near his house by himself.

 Friday 25 October

My yoga teacher Linda, from Winmalee, only has her house  because her son was at home when the fire hit. He fought the fire by himself, injuring his eye, and then some people who were trying to get to their home in Yellow Rock stopped to help. When they could move through, they did so, and he was by himself again. Linda could not speak to her son for seven hours. He’s seventeen, and in the middle of his Higher School Certificate, can’t concentrate any more.

 the Springwood fires seen from Linden

Talking to people on the main street of Springwood, I heard that Greg Hunt the new Environment Minister, denied the connection between climate change and fires, by referring to Wikipedia. Not a very reliable source, since anyone can post an article to Wiki. Wikipedia has since taken the article down from its site.

 I lost my car keys and spent two hours finding them again. On the way to the police station I saw Annie’s husband. They’re safe; their house was fine. 

A massive effort was put into saving homes and lives. In the future, will this be sustainable? Our local fire chief said that he had never seen the like of these fires ( personal communication). Will more firefighters lose their lives as these events gain momentum from a heating planet? Sunday 17 November is National day of Climate Action. If you go to the GetUp! website you'll find an event closest to you.

The fire which burnt down my friends' house, the Winmalee fire, was started by power lines. Variously, I've heard that branches fell on the lines - or that the lines blew together in the wind and sparked. Either way, from start to finish, that fire took only 15 minutes to reach the end of Yellow Rock. (It takes about 10 minutes to drive there from Winmalee.) The fire then took about 2 hours to burn everything down. If you want to see a video of the aftermath of the Buena Vista fire, it's on Youtube:

A mate in the RFS was working on the State Mine fire. He told me that during the course of a shift, the fire, which had a huge front, covered 26 kilometres. I'll find out how long a shift is for you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bushfires in October...p.s. to good news

An engraving on Linden ridge

THURSDAY 17 October

Normal day, only it was hot and there was a fire out Lithgow way. It has hardly rained since June. I plodded around in the garden, listening to the radio. The wind was strong, and  swinging around like a drunk fighter, lunging and unsteadily weaving. Someone rang 702 and said that a fire had started at Thomson Ave, Springwood. I thought of Annie, living in a corro house designed by Glenn Murcutt, over there. Reports began to come in, of the fire burning like crazy, houses burning. I went to see my neighbour, Geoff. I looked in the direction of the smoke, north, which had been looking like soft cauliflowers the colour of sandstone and noticed now, a new black plume. 

This is the view from the back of my place

“I hope that isn’t the bus depot”, I said.  I now think  that this might have have been the houses beginning to burn. Was she responding to my email?  Sue rang. She was in W.A. There was nothing she could do, she said. I didn’t know it, but in her street, forty-five houses  were being reduced to rubble. 

I was somewhat worried for myself and my house, and so were my friends and family, who were ringing up. I put a hose into my 4,500 litre water tank and filled it up,  rushed off to yoga, needing to calm down.

chop the smoky day
into jagged pieces

The Greens deputy leader, Adam Bandt, made the link on Twitter between the science of climate change and the fires, pointing out that it’s only October. “We need to have a discussion about it”.

FRIDAY 18 October

I went to Friday morning zazen with the Blue Mountains zen group. That was wonderful. We laughed a lot.

The Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, took a whack at Adam Bandt, saying he’s just being a political animal. And a draft of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report due out next year, leaked to the media, says climate change will increase the likelihood of bushfires in Australia.

I was on the phone nearly all day, and listening in to the radio, and worrying about Will and Sue’s house. I needed a way of transporting myself into Buena Vista Rd, Winmalee to see whether it was still standing - the police had initially closed the road off, live wires, possibly bodies in the ruins. 
Will rang - their house was gone. This wasn’t quite disasterville, as their possessions were in storage while they rented their house and took a work-and-play trip around Australia. Their tenants were away.
By now I was beginning to see the flaws in my own bushfire preparations. I would prefer that the same thing not happen to my house.

In the smoky haze
of peoples’ houses

In the late afternoon I went for a walk with a friend. Walk and talk - we tried walking silently but thoughts and feelings were just bubbling up. She had been through a fire at her old home. That fire started when some army guys thought they’d have a campfire on a windy day. It moved very fast, but she (with toddler) and a few firies, saved the house.

By this time the police were letting people in to the fire-affected areas, and I was ready, it was late afternoon. Buena Vista runs off Singles Ridge Rd, Winmalee, and there were many cars parked at the intersection with Hawkesbury Rd. Police were monitoring traffic into Singles Ridge Rd, guys in all kinds of different uniforms were standing around, bushfire trucks were coming down Hawkesbury Rd, their faces looked tired. 

As I walked  down Singles Ridge Rd, remembering walking up it with Sue, I began to see what had happened. A pile of bricks and rubble, with a guy picking through it, told me a small brick house had stood there. On the corner of Buena Vista, a shed remained, but not the large house it had belonged to. I could smell sausages on the air,  and sure enough, there was a little contraption with a sausage sizzle emanating from it, and people standing around talking, having cups of tea or coffee, unwinding, letting the gas out.  This was the Salvation Army, straight on the scene, ready and prepared. I saw a  neighbour of mine there who is a Salvo, giving a hand, offering support.

I walked on. The scene was  not a “ beautiful view” but one of devastation. 

On the side of the street that slips down into a gully, which was the side Will and Sue were on, one house after another was a pile of ruins. Was their house still standing? Our mutual friends had gone there earlier. They’d said they weren’t sure whether it was gone or not.
Cars were cruising along the street. I did this myself, after the ‘94 fires in Warrimoo. I drove my children around Cross St, to see what it was like. It made it real, life in the mountains.

I hurried on, passing media crews in orange pants, running generators and interviewing people - emergency workers /firies looking sweaty and tired, “Thank you”   - groups of people walking along the street - the sinking sun glowing orange like a ’67 pop art poster. When houses burn down, what you see is the brick stumps, sticking up like the hopeful shoots of some bizarre fire-germinated plant, surrounded by a melee of tin, grey burned chaff, bricks, tin or tiles, the occasional vaguely recognisable shape, like a screen.

I got to Will and Sue’s carport, still standing. Beyond it was a collapsed mass of corrugated iron, the bull-nosed verandah roofing -  under which we had once eaten an evening meal of barramundi. In that house my dog had run around, I’d eaten many dinners and drunk glasses of wine, we’d laughed and conversed, I’d been involved in their family life, I’d played my ukelele - this garden, I’d watered and admired.  I stood and cried.

The curved stairs down to the front door, the ‘welcome’ plaque still intact on the intact front wall, the garden all charred. The side path a mess of broken glass, building material, bricks fallen down, and a locked gate preventing an inspection of the garden. On one side the neighbours’ house was still standing but on the other, everything was gone. Across the street, also, a house gone. I walked on around the loop and most of the houses were rubble. I met a woman I vaguely knew, and she said, “Are you alright?”. We’d been in a choir together once. She was walking with a young woman, who told me she’d been in her house - still standing -where the Salvo’s had parked their mobile kitchen. My ex-choir pal said, of this house,
“ I was in their kitchen visiting, when suddenly we were just surrounded by fire”
Walking back up the street, I saw a group of four women. The were walking towards a wreck of a house. A woman began to cry, her friend had her arm around her. “Remember when we used to joke about all the junk around the place, and how you should get rid of it?” the friend offered.

Will’s attitude is: it’s just a house. And I’ve heard this sentiment expressed over and over again. I know climate change is making  this kind of event more likely and more intense. But I take the risk, like many of us, because we love living in the Blue Mountains. What I don’t love, is politicians dithering over global warming, like the officers on the Titanic telling us that no icebergs exist in this part of the ocean or if they do we’ll melt them with a candle. Our planet is hot and cranky. It is showing us that, in no uncertain terms. 

196 homes burned down - no lives were lost here. 

SATURDAY 19 October

Yoga, aaah! Lots of inversions to calm the agitated mind. How can I help?

 The Salvo's told me that what they really need apart from the mattress I have to offer, is clothing, food and toiletries. I told them I’d try to find a ute so that they don’t have to come and pick up the mattress. 193 homes have been burned down in the Blue Mountains, they’re busy enough. There was an air of agitation in Springwood this morning as I walked around the main street, getting my usual Saturday purchases.

As I pulled into my driveway I noticed my neighbour’s trailer, hooked up to their 4 WD. Aha! I tell her about my Salvos plan and she promises to fit it in somehow.

In the afternoon I heard this story. A woman lost her husband several months ago to cancer. They had two boys, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, and a dog. Before he died, he said to his sons, “If you miss me, just hug the dog”. But this woman, who lived in Winmalee, was not lucky. Her house, with the dog trapped inside, burned down.

SUNDAY 20 October

Sunday morning I walked down my street to the lookout.

The smoke
a muffler
of morning birdsong

Chat with neighbours, Tony offered me a car in case of an emergency, while mine is at the mender's. Then Geoff popped over, he was ready now for the Salvo's run. Great, that makes it easy. I threw the boxes together with supplies for bereft people, we hauled the mattress into the trailer, and off we went. At the new Salvo's store which opened in Springwood a month or two ago,  there were two guys  talking to the manager. “You can help out there with all the mattresses and boxes of clothes that will come in, ” she says. They whipped the mattress off the trailer, place my boxes alongside, and told us that they don’t work there, but are local and  wanted to help out.

Was this the day that our Prime Minister decided to be a firie for the day? He’s always been an RFS volunteer locally. But it strikes me that the Captain of the ship should remain on deck - and not think he has to go below decks and help stoke the boilers. To change the analogy, surely you want a leader to see the forest, rather than the trees?

MONDAY 21 October
Although hot, today has been strangely free of very much helicopter sound, and the two tones of sirens, urgent and very urgent.  I watched the magpie in her nest, and she or he, seemed thirsty. When it’s very hot birds hold their beaks open,  I don’t know why. I made a drinking trough for the small birds the other day. It is an ikebana bowl, set on top of a large and somewhat broken plastic pot for a plant, set under a shrub so as to give the birds a feeling of safety. They’ve been drinking from it.  

I think I can hear tiny cheepings from the magpie nest. The flights back and forth with worms held in the beak, are as relentless as those of the helicopters plying between water sources like dams, and fire fronts. I found another large pot and upended it, put on top of it a shallow but heavy  aluminium pot, which my friend Patrick gave me once. It had been a kitchen item of his mother’s. I placed this somewhere conspicuous. I figure that magpies are bold birds, and don’t need protective foliage.

TUESDAY 22 October

Dire warnings for the following day - there will be strong winds, and the fires are not contained. I checked in with my friends in Boland Ave. Rob is not worried - points out that the BOM website gives the winds at 35 - 50 km max, that the Rural Fire Service website gives the wind as gusting to 100 km/hr. Therefore there is confusion and no-one knows what they’re talking about! Finally, I got my car back.

Nevertheless, I decided to go to a public meeting at Warrimoo. When I got closer,  scores of people were walking towards the community hall. Hundreds of people were gathered on the grass outside the hall, and the firies were standing on the concrete path outside it, above them. I climbed up a concrete retaining wall so I could hear what was being said, as the RFS chief had no amplification of any sort. He had to holler.

“If this fire decides to take a run thru the Grose,”he said, “it could be at the Nepean river in a few hours. “ People put up their hands and asked questions. It was hard to hear, and every time he answered there was a buzz of conversation which increased the inaudibility quotient. ”If you’re not prepared, not fit, and can’t stand heat, then leave - and leave early, before 9 am”. 
“If you can run around a football oval five times with your full fire protection gear on, then stay with your house.” 
“Have those conversations tonight about what your fire plan is.”

I went to see a girlfriend. She offered me her house as a relatively safe house, should the fire reach the south side. It’s brick, two- storied, is several houses back from the bush, has concrete in the back yard - unlike mine which backs onto bush ( lovely!), is small, low and fibro, with a back garden dotted with various  fruit and deciduous trees (delightful!) , and is in the flame zone. I then went to see Woody who works at the local hardware store, to ask whether they had a stock of water pumps in yet - he thought, yes, they’re coming in tomorrow. If the firies make a huge demand on the reticulated water supply, it could dry up for me, and my 4,500 litres of water could only be used by someone with a pump. Something happened in Winmalee, and suddenly there was no water for the firies.


There are actions we can take to address the root cause of this catastrophe. Here are my suggestions.

The new Federal government plans to repeal the carbon price and associated good things, like the Clean Energy Fund.

Malcolm Turnbull, who suggested an emissions trading scheme when in opposition, must man up to his deluded colleagues. To give him strength, phone him on:

Electorate Office: 9327 - 3988

Greg Hunt is one such (Environment Minister).

Greg Hunt's email address :

Electorate Office: 03 5979-3188

Canberra: 02 6277-7290

Sunday, November 17 is the National Day of Climate Action

Everywhere: is an organisation that promotes divesting from the fossil fuel industry, much as people have withdrawn their investment in the tobacco, gambling, pornography, and armaments industries.  See their website for further info.


P.S. to good news
Coalpac, the company that wanted to mine the Gardens of Stone area, has gone into administration.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fire .... and some good news

Winmalee - Yellow Rock area, Blue Mountains

I live in Springwood, in the Blue Mountains. Many years ago, I wrote this:

The sound of sirens
winding up the dry ridgetops:
bushfire season

That season has arrived already  - it's only October, supposedly spring.

Here are the haiku I've jotted down, in the midst of the worst bushfires for a long time.

chop the smoky day
into jagged pieces

So far, we've lost 193 houses, but no human lives. Last Thursday the house of my friends Will and Sue who lived in Buena Vista Parade, Winmalee, burned down. They are safe.

In the smoky haze
of people's houses

Sunday morning:

Morning birdsong
drifts up
through the smoke

This is some of the damage in Buena Vista Parade - Friday evening - some houses.


The NSW Department of Planning has recommended that the Coalpac open-cut mine near Lithgow should be rejected because of the damage it will do to the natural beauty of the area. This is great news, but the fight to save the Gardens of Stone is not over.
You could explain to NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard and Environment Minister Robyn Parker that to properly safeguard the Gardens of Stone they should take steps to reserve the area under the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

October yatras

The day of  easy elders’ yatra in Sun Valley was pretty warm, but still and sunny. We enjoyed trees, a creek, the sandy road, the ruins of a swimming pool built in the creek and enjoyed by the Warrimoo community in days gone by....and in that creek

Ducks surprised
shock me with their beating
purple wings

There are a great many birds down in that valley, of all varieties.

The bellbird’s beak
opens bright orange -

My boobook owl though, had found other sleeping quarters - nothing but a pile of poo on the rocks below a ledge,  to show where it often likes to roost.

By contrast, the middlin’ yatra the next day, on King’s tableland at Wentworth Falls, was windy. My car was playing up, hiccuping mysteriously. 

A 747 of wind
forces car-thoughts
off the cliff

My favourite plant was in flower, Boronia floribunda. The wind dashed these plants around so that the air was filled with their scent.

 We found this little chap's skeleton in an overhang -

The cicadas, Yellow Mondays,  were making an incredible racket. You wouldn’t want to be in earshot, if you had a hangover. They’ve crawled out of the ground, and out of their nymph stage of life, a few weeks early this year.

 Dazed cicadas
the wind too strong for them
crash to the ground

Walking in these conditions was a struggle. But there was a good lesson in it. As David said afterwards, reflecting on the day, “You’ve just got to take things as they come”.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lichen, ant, frog and whipbird


When  I walked into the Kedumba valley in winter with my companion, I wrote one decent haiku about the kangaroos. I scribbled a lot of other things  in my notebook, including this:

old wire, fenceposts
lichen lazes on it

We’d seen the Maxwell’s farmhouse with its hand-milled timbers. There were more signs of life on the land on the road going down the valley.  I’ve just waited and then moved the words  around  a bit, like you’d move stones to form a pleasing pattern, maybe those stones that were beside the river.

Such effort

old fenceposts and wire –

lichen lazes on it


Recently I led a group of walkers from the Blue Mountains Conservation Society out to a ridge on King’s Tableland overlooking the Burragorang valley. What a view! These walkers are botanically literate. In flower we saw waratahs (below), Conospermum, two types of Daviesia, Dillwynia, Pomaderris, Patersonia (iris), Gompholobium, Scaevola, Pultenaea, and Comesperma.

 When I was out doing the reconnoitre, before the walk, I wrote this haiku:

Round sandy doorway

on the quiet road –

hullo ant!

Spring – frantic activity in the plant, bird and human world. In my garden, I’ve been doing my fire preparations, which means tidying things up, chucking out junk, trimming, pruning, mulching. Hmmm – that tank is leaning like the tower of Pisa and no longer meets the downspout. Time to drain it out and rebuild the tower of pallets which it stands on. After some days of refilling the watering cans over and over again, I could take the tank down off the stand, but there was still something inside ….’scuse me, Basho, I just have to sample your best-known haiku…

The empty tank

a frog jumps out –



I went for a walk with my zen companions, up Jack's track near St. Albans. We began the walk in the Macdonald valley (below), and the track followed a creek upwards. In that darkish creek cool, a whipbird was audible and unusually, visible. I once described their call, in another poem, as being like" a bullet through honey". I have since learned that there are two birds that make up what sounds to us like one call. A second bird makes the whipcrack at the end. So it is a duet, a conversation. But on this smokey Saturday morning, the bird was alone. I wrote:

Talks to itself -
makes up a
whipbird haiku

And they were way better than mine!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Biame in autumn"


 On the autumn yatra I gave people the opportunity to write or draw for a little while.  I scribbled down the beginnings of a poem, and this is what it turned into. I had been thinking about Biame. 

Biame created the earth and the Law for human society, but then went to live in the sky.  Dearly loved local archaeologist Eugene Stockton cites Tony Swain's article on Biame  and says that " the cult of Baiame(sic) was a religious innovation in reaction to the first settlement of Sydney". *

Last year, in December, I went to visit a cave painting of Biame, which is at Milbrodale to the east of Mt. Yengo. This is a mountain sacred to the Darkinjung people, and is at the centre of a network of sacred sites, flat on top, like Mt. Colong, Mt. Wilson, Mt. Tomah. It's a powerful image half way up a hillside, and overlooking a beautiful valley ( with a coalmine now in the distance). My rather fuzzy photos were taken in the evening. 

  Biame in autumn

Did Biame step off
into the sky above Mt. Hay
where a honeyeater flits feverishly
across the blue, so late to migrate,
did he let go of earthly concerns
such as what the white ghosts want,
and why it is so warm?

The sky god doesn’t see the sky as a problem.

wings up as though he’s leaping
into a pool glinting with stars
and a feathery half-moon,
the trees whisper in the wings’ downbeats
his giant feet push down
squash the mountain’s head
and he’s away
like that burn-off smoke
which drifts northwards to the place
where the honeyeaters have gone.

* "Blue Mountains Dreaming: the Aboriginal Heritage" 2nd ed. Edited by Eugene Stockton and John Merriman 2009 p. 238

Friday, August 23, 2013

Festival of Walking - yatras and other walks

I’m running several walks in October, here are the details below.

Yatra for middlin’ levels of fitness

Sunday October 13

7:50 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. approx.

 A yatra (‘pilgrimage’ - Sanskrit) gives you a chance to be fully present as you walk in nature with mindful attention given to each step. They are days of silent meditative walking, meditation in country, and some interpretation. It is a great chance to be fully in your life, step by step, moment by moment. This walk is on King’s Tableland, Wentworth Falls.

Cost per person:
$20 + dana (gift)

Walk length:
about 8 km; ascent/descent about 200 mtrs

Walk duration:
5 hours

Walk difficulty:
Grade 3

Final date for bookings October 8 
 ( to be made through the Festival of Walking,

Elders’ Yatra

Date: Saturday October 12

Time: 8:30 or 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The elders’ yatra is designed for those in the irony years, where bodies weaken even as wisdom grows. It  is also suitable for those with health issues that would normally prevent them from going on a “bushwalk”. The walk is very gentle,  and about 2 to 3 hours long along gentle gradients, in Sun Valley. We will also be doing seated meditation. The whole programme, which includes the drive to the trackhead and eating lunch together, lasts for 4 or 5 hours.

Cost: $20 to cover basic expenses + dana (gift)
Final date for bookings:
October 7
 ( to be made through the Festival of Walking,

Lawson Haiku Ginko

Sunday October 6

Start and end times:
8:30a.m., or 9:30 a.m. Ben Roberts café, Blind St. , to 2p.m. approx.

One of the world’s shortest literary forms, haiku are pure zen. The way of haiku encourages clear seeing of what is. The day begins with zen meditation (optional) and then I will map the basics at our host cafe, Ben Roberts. After refreshments we’ll take a (ginko) haiku walk in Lawson’s splendid big backyard ( including Adelina Falls), then share what we encounter, written and unwritten, over juice in the cafe. What might you write? Finally we’ll eat lunch together. Fully catered, book in before October 3  ( to be made through the Festival of Walking,

 Cost per person:
$100 ( conc. avail.)

 Finish point:
Lunch at Ben Roberts café.

Walk length:
3 km

Walk duration:
1 1/2 hours

Walk difficulty:
GRade 1-2

Poetry Stroll for Singles

Saturday October 5

9:30 a.m. to around 12:30 p.m.

A chance for singles to mingle in a low key way, and walk together along Leura’s fine old tracks. We’ll start from one of Leura’s best lookouts and walk along the cliffline. There are waterfalls, cliffs, stunning views of the Jamison valley and I will recite some of the world’s great poems along the way. We will finish with a catered picnic lunch in the Cascades park, one of the original parks designed for tourists - amenities provided. 

Cost per person:

Walk length:
3 km approx.

Walk duration:
2 1/4 hours approx.

Walk difficulty:
Grade 1
Book before October 3 ( for catering purposes)
 ( to be made through the Festival of Walking,

What people need to bring:
1 litre water, sunhat, sensible walking shoes (no heels) and clothing for the conditions. If cold, dress warm!

The lyrebird calls / in yet another voice / for his lady mate                                       DL