Category Archives: Country

Of Each Other

Camaraderie – Word of the Day

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Westonia Mine 2013 viewing deck. Afternoon of the weekend road trip and Jon’s bucks weekend full of dinners, toasts, rock climbing, campfire, BBQ, late nights and more, a great time of camaraderie, a veritable esprit de corps. It was one of those weekends where conversations were both surface and deep, fun and meaningful. We were so relaxed and enjoying each other’s company, as it should be. There were no rules, no expectations, but we all managed to get along fine, even joking at each other’s expense on occasion, because, as we acknowledged, no one is perfect.

Camaraderie doesn’t just pop out of a packet (if it did it would be on the market by now), it comes as a result of humour, tears, anger, intimacy, trust, love and more. Camaraderie is the result of raw life, people learning to be with each other, learning about the other. Great feats can result from camaraderie because there is a strength in it that enables us to excell. But more than that, there is a tenacity too, there are many stories of people who survived amazing trials and struggles and who credit their friendships as the reason they got through. Stories of surviving the Holocaust, war, the Killing Fields, famines, earthquakes, cyclones … not just because certain ones were strong individuals (and they were) but also because they had networks, circles, friendships that enabled them to get through.

Simon and Garfunkle sang “I Am A Rock”, although on the surface it seems to be glorifying indivduality, the last words are ironic “And a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.” In that song there’s a sadness about lost friendship, the rebuttal of friends in preference for painless solitude, neutrality, yet gaining a particular loneliness and isolation. The poet John Donne wrote in the seventeenth century:

No Man Is An Island

No Man is an island,
entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or thy own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore necer send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

 A sensational poem that speaks today (despite its masculine language), that no one can exist as singular, no one can flourish alone. The last line (which Ernest Hemmingway borrowed as a title for a book) simply means that the bells toll to announce a death, and at the same time they also announce that a part of us has died as a result, such is the connectivity of all living things. Camaraderie is honouring a natural connectivity, a vitality, of human thrive and flourish. We are stronger for it, less arrogant, more rounded, appreciated, accepted and accepting, given voice, given place. Identity is not lost in camaraderie, it is sharpened, matured. I often dream of a world where that connectivity would be the true mark of humanity.

A distant bell chimes
you have gone through the dark vale
but you are my cloak

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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It’s A Moiety World

Moiety – Word of the Day

Australian First Nations

There are over 500 Australian Indigenous Nations, as you can see from the map, they have particular areas with distinct boundaries. The nations are formed from clan groups which have their own language and kinship system which is either patrilineal (descent is related to and traced through the father/male line) or matrilineal (descent is related to and traced through the mother/female line). Clan groups are formed from family groups.

There are three levels of kinship in indigenous society: moiety, totem, and skin names.

The term moiety comes from the Latin, meaning half. In moiety systems everything in the universe is in two halves, each a mirror of the other, and the universe only makes sense if these two halves come together. Moieties are patrilineal or matrilineal, so determined by either your father or mother, these are the two halves. People of the same moiety are siblings and cannot marry, they must marry people from the other moiety, and thus the two halves are brought together.

Kinship

That, of course, is a simplistic outline of what the word means, but it belies a complexity of culture that is rich in every way in real life. Whereas white culture has negatively impacted indigenous culture, it is not true in reverse. In fact, we have only just begun to learn from our First Nation people’s how we might better treat each other and the land, given that ecological relationships are so fragile here.

In indigenous culture they have retained something very precious, something we have almost completely lost, the ability of moiety systems to be support systems. If you have a row with mum or dad, you can go to another significant relative within the clan group and debrief, chill out, stay awhile till the heat dissipates and the possibility of return arises. My experience of working with young white people in family conflict is they either go it alone, maybe with a few friends, or sadly, on the streets. Indigenous youth generally look for family. What is important in this is that  while we revere the independence of white youth, we miss the wisdom of healing and wholeness as the moiety or halves work together for unity. No system is perfect, but some have stronger, lasting principles that have lasted thousands of years, like our indigenous peoples. It has now become critical in youth work to build resilience for our youth in trouble, but I think the foundation of resilience is clearly the clan, though, for me, that doesn’t equate to family per se, but rather to those relationships important to our vitality and flourishing. We should never be in survival, but two halves always meeting and making the universe right.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Broken Mornings Restore

Broken

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Morning had broken. Post sunrise at Augusta. You can see the plume of smoke on the horizon from the controlled burn. This was the day before the storm across the southern half of the state last week, which is traditionaly the break of season. We now move from autumn to winter.

With every sunrise I think of that old hymn ‘Morning Has Broken’ and it has stuck in my mind ever since I heard Cat Stevens popularize it. Stevens included it on his 1971 album ‘Teaser and the Firecat.’ As a single it charted at number 6 in the US according to Billboard, and number 9 in the UK. It was on the radio for weeks. The wonderful piano that makes it so great was devised by Rick Wakeman in conjunction with Stevens.

I like to take time to watch the sunrise, sunset, the stars, the change in the sky, just to soak up the moments. In another sense, the sky and all its gifts are part of the rhythm of life. The sun’s movements are the bookends of each day, but also a reminder that each day is enough in itself, that to live is to live in the moment and not in any other day. The irony is, that if we do live in the moment, we build a capacity, a strength that helps protect us from breaking. Living in the moment is letting go, nurturing grattitude, accepting the elements of the day, reaching out to others, sharing love, touching the joy that is somewhere in us and perhaps needs intentionally drawing out. Besides, worrying never changes the outcome anyway!

I believe that each new day is a new opportunity, a new experience, and a new horizon, by which we have a fresh start and new opportunities to explore. And, as the song says, each new day begins, like the first one. There is a rhythm of life, it is a gift, it is faithful, it is there for us to be in.

Two of my favourite quotes about living in the now:

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” Maya Angelou

And of course the song – an earworm for your day 🙂

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Twisted

via Photo Challenge: Twisted

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Taken near Denmark W.A. Twisted and bent by the winds, this gnarled tree shows tenacity and determination. I hope to follow its example 🙂

let's twist again
the wind crafts and molds
like it did last year

©Paul Cannon (with apologies to Chubby Checker)

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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The Thin Place

via Daily Prompt: Thin

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Photo: My thin places are the bush: A walk trail near Bridgetown.

The ancient Celts believed that there were places one could go where people and the spirit world could touch. The Celtic influence on Christianity was such that this belief carried over, that the veil between heaven and earth was thin or transparent. The barrier between human and the divine were almost non-existent. For the ancient Celts these places were mostly forrest groves, but in other cultures they are rivers, billabongs, monoliths, mountain-tops, caves and more.

Not the same, but related in some aspects, the Australian Indigenous peoples created songlines, which trace the creation of the land, the fauna and lore, by ancestral spirits. Indigenous Australians used the songlines as navigation paths, for social connection, cultural knowledge – especially coming to know the flora and fauna, the availability of water, the types of seasons, and how it all came to be. Songlines are places to touch the past and the present.

My thin places are in the bush, these are liminal, threshold places, where the mind transcends the ordinary, where the soul is restored, where the heart is lifted, and the eyes are filled.

Thin places might be Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, Uluru, Chartres Cathedral, the Pyramids, the Himalayas, the stars, meditation, music, art, and more, places or experiences of place that awaken the soul to something more, something outside the self, something veiled but near. Whether or not this is a spiritual experience or a transcendence of some other kind, thin places are restorative, they are places of contemplation, places of beauty, awe, play, rest, and renewal. We all need thin places, we will know them differently, but we will know them. They are treasures to fill the soul.

John O’Donohue wrote: “When you begin to sense that your imagination is the place where you are most divine, you feel called to clean out of your mind all the worn and shabby furniture of thought. You wish to refurbish yourself with living thought so that you can begin to see.”

Paul,

pvcann.com

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There’s Nothing Slight About The Moon

via Daily Prompt: Slight

 

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The moon slightly above Uluru, late afternoon.

“The full moon  – the mandala of the sky” (Tom Robbins)

“The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.” (Ming Dao Deng)

The recent blue moon drew crowds outdoors to have a look, as did the blood moon before that. Eclipses are a particular draw card. I think many people look up when they go out at night, they like to see the stars, but I think everyone likes to catch a glimpse of the moon. The moon draws us just like it draws the tides. There is nothing slight about the moon.

We desired the moon, we had to conquer it, and so we went there. We’ve serenaded the moon in song, and we’ve painted it in poems, we’ve seen it’s dark side (but not our own).

But, following Ming Dao Deng, I love the mindful moon. It is a beacon in the night, the sun has not abandoned it, it is not alone, it works with the sun and the stars to light the night, just enough for us not to feel alone either. Deng’s description of this faithful sentinel is of course a metaphor for life. The moon contributes to life, it doesn’t take, it isn’t greedy, it isn’t egotistical. Instead, the moon is gentle, proof that just being is sufficient for us to shine. By its faithfulness to being its true self, the moon retains its power, it is never diminished in any way, yet it is always giving.

If only we were to take that example, and be, just like the moon, gentle, faithful, calm, cooperative, and reflective. And in our being, draw others. Imagine that! To be light for others in their darkest nights, to shine hope in to the world, to remind the world that our light reflects something deeper, that our life is gentle, giving, inviting. In our true self we are ever undiminished, shining (“Like the moon, and the stars, and the sun” John Lennon) as gift to the world.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Skewed View

via Daily Prompt: Skewed

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The gorge at Tjukurla last July. A precious water hole for the community here since time began, for the white explorers like Ernest Giles an age ago, and now more a wonderful place to visit, as we all did.

When white settlers arrived on the shores of Australia, they immediately began to move into the interior, exploring for possible farm lands, minerals, and for building community. Immediate impressions were bleak, explorers often commenting on the harshness of the bush, the lack of water, the heat in summer, overall, the bush was perceived as harsh and dangerous. Some, like the Burke and Wills expedition (1860) from Melbourne to Carpentaria, saw all but one of the seven team members perish.

But if you read Australia’s expedition history you quickly discover that, though Australia’s bush is indeed a harsh environ, human error accounts for most of the deaths of exploreers. Their perception of the bush skewed the reality. The proof of this is that for milennia Australia’s indigenous people thrived in these very inerior spaces. Spaces like Tjukurla where water, wildlife and vegetation, were available, and so it was possible to live in these spaces, if you but understood the how of these spaces. Australian Aboriginal people knew how, over centuries of experience they knew what to do and how to do it. For them the land was not hostile but friend, not harsh, but purposeful. Theirs was a life living in seasonal rhythm, in harmony with the elements, with respect for all life, with intimate knowledge. They understood the feel of the land, its formation and power. They only took what was necessary for all, their ethic was shared space.

If only we’d bothered to look with their eyes and heart, if only we’d taken time to understand. A perception of harshness leads to negative response, distrust leads to disrespect, a disregard for the vast yet fragile environ. Ownership individualises every experience and leads to conquest, even of each other, and nothing is shared, only despair.

Aboriginal life is testimony to how skewed white understanding of the land and community has been.

Fortunately the tide has begun to turn and we are learning from our indigenous their ways of valuing nature and community, ways that will enable us to battle global warming, climate change and all that is ill in our land. They lived without us for milenia, they didn’t need us, but we sure do need them.

The gorge at Tjurkula is proof that the bush is tough, but yet yielding, in the midst of hard granite, sandstone, and dry earth lies precious and life-giving water. The water sustains wildlife and plants, and gives life to all.

I sometimes see that that is how we are meant to be, life giving into our world.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

 

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Tides

via Daily Prompt: Tide

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The tide coming in at the Wilson Inlet, Denmark, Western Australia.

Rachel Carson, to whom we all owe a debt of thanks for her tireless work in advocating for the protection of nature, once said: “The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities … If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called “The Tides.” An autobiographical  poem that speaks of despair (the loss of his wife) and the rediscovery of joy (the tide upbore – lifted him up) as the tide lifts him from despair.

"The Tides" Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

I saw the long line of the vacant shore,
The sea-weed and the shells upon the sand,
And the brown rocks left bare on every hand,
As if the ebbing tide would flow no more.
Then heard I, more distinctly than before,
The ocean breathe and its great breast expand,
And hurrying came on the defenceless land
The insurgent waters with tumultuous roar.
All thought and feeling and desire, I said,
Love,laughter, and the exultant joy of song
Have ebbed from me forever! Suddenly o'er me
They swept again from their deep ocean bed,
And in a tumult of delight, and strong
As youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.

But none ever so bleak as Matthew Arnold’s famous poem “Dover Beach.” A poem that is thought to be four very loosely connected sonnets about change. The third stanza tells how the tide is representative of the institution of the Chrisitan Church, that it is fading lifke the receding tide.

From "Dover Beach" Matthew Arnold, stanza three:

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and rounded earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Arnold would have been a contemporary of Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote “God is dead.” (“The Gay Science” 1882) The way I read Nietzsche, is the way I read Arnold, they are simply pointing out that the institution of religion was dying, and the idea of God (the Medieval, the Christendom, God) was dying. For me that has been a positive, the old had to die for the new to come to life. Just as the tide goes out, it also, with equal regularity comes in again. this is its natural rhythm. Religion as a political power elite has been receding for some time, thankfully, and spirituality and mindfulness have entered that space. The absurd God of tribalism and petty moral values has died, thankfully, and a new sense of the divine has enetered, a more communal and relational divine.

So, in the end, I really resonate with Longfellow’s last line from “The Tides” –  “And in a tumult of delight, and strong as youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.”  The tides of Arnold and Nietzche simply wash away the dross of what ails religion, while the tide of Longfellow indicates hope in a season of loss and grief in an uplifting tumult of delight.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Unlikely

via Photo Challenge: Unlikely

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Nothing is impossible! But it is unlikely that this old jalopy will run again. Besides, it has earned a long rest after decades of hard work out in the bush.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Notable, Remarkable

via Daily Prompt: Notable

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Warren Macdonald, still climbing.

In April 1997 Warren Macdonald was in the midst of a long sojourn in the Whitsundays. Macdonald, an experienced bushwalker and avid climber set out to climb Mt. Bowen on Hinchinbrook Island. He teamed with another climber Geert Van Keulen, a man he didn’t know, had only just met.

They set out on April 9 (1997). Mt. Bowen is 1,121 mtrs, and though short, it is a tough climb with rain, mud, streams, loose stones and boulders, and the humidity. They climbed for some time, eight and a half hours,  and made camp, but they hadn’t reached the summit.

In the dark,  Warren went out to “take a leak” and then things took a turn. He went out to a ledge across a stream and tried to accommodate the rock, as he positioned himself there was a rock slide and he became pinned, a large wedge of granite had fallen across his leg, the crack he had heard was the breaking of his pelvis. He screamed for Geert, and so the long proces of getting help began. Geert could not budge the rock. and so, the next morning he set off to get help. It took him eleven hours to get down. When Geert arrived at the lagoon he was exhausted, and there was no one to contact, so he made camp and decided to set out the next morning.

Warren Macdonald was rescued, and then went through a very lengthy rehab, losing both his legs above the knee.

What is inspiring is his tenacity, courage, and strength in adversity. He never gave up, sure, he doubted, and lost his cool at times, but he stuck with getting on with life. He worked hard with specilaists in prosthetics and as a result was able to have specially designed prosthetics that enabled him to climb again. He would be the first to say he didn’t do it on his own, doctors and specialists yes, but also family and friends, love and support also helped get him through.

Macdonald has climbed Cradle Mountain in Tasmania using a modified wheelchair, later he climbed Federation Peak (also in Tasmania), Mt. Kilimajaro in Tanzania (being the first double above the knee amputee to to achieve the summit), El Capitan in Nevada, and the Weeping Wall in Alberta. He has also become a motivational speaker.

In one of his talks he says “It’s not about climbing mountains” and in one sense he means that his life is not just about conquering mountains, and in another sense he means that mountains represent many things.

We all have mountains to climb, sometimes we have the emotional or physical equivalent of be being pinned by a granite rock miles from help. And here we are, we’re still here to talk about it, we have survived! We will continue climbing life’s tracks. There will be other trials, and there will be trials for those around us, we can be our own coach and we will undoubtedly be called upon to coach others. Together we can make it. That old saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is true enough in my experience, but I also think it takes a village to survive. We need each other. Warren Macdonald had Geert, hopefully we have our Geert or Geerts when we are pinned down, but also our own inner strength to call on too. And hopefully we are Geert for others.

Living the daily
pinned by granite mountain
I arise by love

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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