Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Elders' Autumn Yatra Prep

My injury-induced life on the sofa gave me a good opportunity recently to be an elder. It was a house-bound mindfulness retreat. Every time I had to hoist myself up, become vertical again and feed myself or do  the minimal work of caring for myself, the walking ( with crutches) was totally focussed. I thought very carefully about where I was heading to in the house, and what I might need to take with me. I wore a soft bright woven bag( which was given to me by a young man from Papua New Guinea) around my neck , like a kind of pouch, and in this I carried all the things I needed, like the telephones, diary, pen. My walk to the kitchen might involve a detour to the music system, and then the  phone cradle - then turn the jug on, find all the necessaries for tea - make a cup of tea in the camping cup with lid, put it  into the pouch and crutch with supreme mindfulness back to the sofa. Wow! What a journey!

Walking into the garden was fraught with difficulty, as the grass grew long, and the crutches tangled on things. But, what a delight to be under the sky! And also I was motivated by my tomatoes.

I’ve now dispensed with the crutches and am mobile enough to take small bushwalks, of the sort that Elders can enjoy. So I’ll lead a mindful walk, a yatra, for the elders, with a heightened sense of the difficulties for the not-very-mobile-or-fit. I’ll lead the yatra on Saturday the 4th of May. It will be a silent walk for mindful practise, observing, and using all the senses. I’ll keep you posted on further details about the location of the yatra, closer to the time. I intend to find a place in the mid- or lower mountains.


I had the absolute pleasure of walking with Kate last Friday, on a level fire trail beside a creek shaded by tall bluegums. I managed it even though it was a hot day!  In the middle of the valley are some caves once occupied by the Darug people. Tucked high up in a crevice was a southern boobook owl. This is the first time I’ve ever seen one. He’s quite a small chap to have such a big resonant voice at night: “hoo hoo...boo hok....boo book..”. Oftentimes they’ve flown into or near my garden at night, and I’ve seen a dark outline, sitting on a branch, waiting for the next insect meal to fly past. His plumage was brown and tan streaks and flecks. This is why I love living where I do, quite apart from the great people who live in the Blue Mountains - these meetings with the extraordinary biodiversity which we all (humans) are connected to.By staying quiet a group is much more likely to have these kind of unexpected meetings too.

I observed the fungi coming out for autumn - even though it is a very hot autumn. This is their time, and so fungi make a perfect kigo, or season word, to alert the reader of a haiku to what time of year we're talking about.  These fungi delighted Kate and I on an earlier autumn reconnoitre, in 2011, on King's Tableland.


I’ve been musing on walks I’ve taken in autumns past. In 2008 at just about exactly this date, I walked with my archaeologically talented friends Will and Sue, in Darkinjing country. We followed a track for  a while then crashed and bashed around to see what we could see. Near a creek, in the sandstone hill, they found some overhangs which would have been delightful in bad weather, or as a place to sleep. The flakes of stone on the floor of the shelter were of chert, which is the stone that can be worked into a handy sharp implement. I wrote this:

Did the toolmaker
also listen to bellbirds
in this cool shelter?

In 2007, I was in Braidwood, teaching haiku at the Two Fires Festival. I took the group down to walk beside the creek.

I wrote this haiku:

Hot autumn day -
a dragonfly
cruises the creek

And this senryu:

A slow combat -
willows versus
the landcare group 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

from "Hutnews" March 2006

Autumn haiku

Haiku poems ( short moments of nature) often make a reference to the season. In Japan the references are all part of a cultural understanding – everyone knows that cherry blossoms refer to spring – or that water refers to summer. But what about here? My walks with the Interpretives in the Conservation Society greatly added to my knowledge of what is going on , in the Blue Mountains, at what season. The very first time I joined the walkers, it was autumn and we explored Murphy’s track behind the Hydro Majestic hotel at Medlow Bath. I wrote this:

Down the “black’s ladder”
sliding muddily past
purple-blue fungi

A black’s ladder is a place in an apparently unclimbable rockface that has been known to the aboriginal inhabitants for thousands of generations - it may have a tree trunk ladder to assist in climbing.
 In late summer, the walkers went on the rainforest walk in Coachwood Glen. The dianella was fruiting, and to my somewhat European sensibility, fruit equals autumn.

Deep Purple berry
yet so bland!
only just sweet

Being an environmentalist also means ” nature lover”.  What is the balance between scientific knowing (to which there are limits) and other ways of knowing?

Not knowing its name
we can only admire
the yellow flower

All over the world autumn is the time of fungi. This haiku was written near Bathurst – my friend has a lot of feral goats on his property ( and they tasted delicious).

Up the goat highway
little black pellets and
shrivelled fungi

But what is particular to Australia is the burn-off (though it could also refer to spring).

Small fires
all along the hill –
smoke streaming skywards