Canberra road trip day 1 by Colleen Keating


The Ngunnawal Peoples  on whose lands we stand
welcome you to this special place,
and ask that you acknowledge, respect and appreciate
its story and sacred beauty.

Saturday 27th March 2021

Our road trip to Canberra

As the mist lifts
we see such blue sky
and the air so clean after the wash of rain.

Autumn gnaws at the edges
summer wilts
giving way like one accepts
the turn of age
when one can no longer fight it.

Expansive open country –
gentled nodding brûlée tones of grass
trees, cattle, green hills round and soft
birds, billabongs all brimming full now.

Lake George its waters a shimmering mirage
in the distance the wind-farms green and clean
once called an eyesore.

Our picnic break –
a postcard country scene
the magpies still with us
and chirping of tiny birds
dozens of them
flitting from tree to tree
my research calls them Eastern Yellow Robins
and their flitting about
is on the wing for insects.


Standing before the portrait of Julia Gillard
I know I have arrived in Canberra
and excitedly
walking freely around
Parliament House
for me the centre of of my greatest ideals.

The fun frame is gone
set up with the sign . . .
‘Future first female Prime Minister’
now times have moved on. . . the ceiling broken
but in such a harsh and tormented way.

Hospitality at The House
freiendly and helpful at every turn.
made our walk relaxed
over the glass bridge to the senate chambers
over the glass bridge to the the lower house
looking out over into the court yards
checked the red maple –
the ‘budget tree’
which has a while to go to turn a flaming red.
and stopped at the Terrace cafe
for coffee and lunch.

A ritual visit to the Aboriginal Embassy
its sacred fire that always burns
stirs our  hearts
with the cleansing aroma of its smoke
are the cries
on signs and banners.

And into Old Parliament House
for an exhibition –
best political cartoons of 2020
hawaiian shirts and hoses
blackened trees, orphaned koalas
give way to spiky balls and masks
masks of many types!
cartoons of fires,Trump, pandemic, closing the gap
black lives matter
I can’t breath
iso, sano, toilet paper frenzies.
masks and not masks
sport rorts, pork barreling, dirty coal or not
Cathy Wilcox the Cartoonist of the year
with the year of a dog’s breakfast –
dog eats dog,  top dogs, sly dogs, people thrown to the dogs
panic buying, curves on graphs and on ourselves
finishing with sending 2020 firmly back
to the dog house where it belongs.


Then to our booked motel
in the treey suburb of Forrest
where the summer is gripping to hold on
as the fierce maiden of autumn
determidly shows her face.

We relax after an awesome
reassuring day in our nation’s capital.


Love Gough Whitlams’s  hands open.                                                                                                 Lego
He is the only one with a free and open stance.

Canberra road trip day 2 by Colleen Keating


Sunday 28th March 2021

The Untold Story

At Canberra the air tingles with a vitality
that is breathtaking. We meet the proprietor
on our way out
and stand by our motel room
talking of this moment –

the morning breathes a sigh of fruitfulness
whispers, here I am at my best.
It tastes of autumn crispness.
It feels mild and mellow
and so day two begins.

Thank goodness for google maps –
with her instructions
it takes 7 minutes to loop
around and over the bridge
and out to The National Museum of Australia.

The entrance walk
is now a procession of wildflowers
grevillea, banksia, eucalypt, bottlebrush.
a symbolic landscape Garden of Dreams
exploring ideas of place and country.

And what a great experience we were in for
The story of an untold story –
our nations’ origin story
and how differently it is remembered
by its two peoples.

Exposure of the lie of the bible story
taught to all Australian children
about ‘the discovery ‘ of this land
is nakedly bare.
We meet a young Indigenous man
who explains the exhibition and we enter –
flip back into first contact and re-experience
as if time absorbs us in its arms
carries us  into an other worldy experience.
and three hours were gone
when we exited back into the light

The Untold Stories of Cook and the First Australians
reaffirms and articulates our thoughts
for so many others  will be a transformative experience.
To our right side was the journey on the Endeavour
maps, telescopes, sextants, levellers, ropes and pressed plants
to the left was how it effected First Peoples
as they followed the journey on land
from the southern most point Pt.Hicks
to Possession Island in the far north
their story carved onto a message stick
and passed by runners, sometimes by smoke signals,
bull roarers, conch shells
the mirror-message,
reflected from shiny mother of pearl shells.
How inspiring for the future of our country
to see the true words of Cook and  Banks
from their  original journals
alongside the thoughts and ideas of First Peoples
who witnessed the passage from land.

How interesting to see together the two painting
of the raising of the Union Jack–
original painting at Botany Bay in mid 19th century
and under it the commissioned painting to white-wash the story.
(in it the fearful black people are gone
and a black servant dressed in suit and waist coat
serves drinks to the group of men raising the flag.
Could the white-washers of that day
ever conceive they could be exposed?

Our picnic today
was in the Garden of Australian Dreams
on the banks of the Lake Burleigh Griffith
outside the National Museum.

Then off to the National Library
one of my favourite venues
with its 16 marvellous stained glass windows
and the three precious French tapestries in the foyer.

Here the Ellis Rowan, The Bird of Paradise  exhibition
was remarkable
every painting unique
stunning in colour and flow
and just beautiful to see.

I had read the story of her life,
painting wildflowers
(interested because of my research on Olive Pink
another woman plant illustrator)
and this was a new addition
that she took on<
with financial support from several groups close to 70
a wonder woman set off for the wilds of New Guinea

All her life she fought for her rights –
told she could not paint landscape she painted still life
then told they could not be judged in the competition
even fought the art gallery to buy her work
(which they did for 5,000 pounds in 1923 after she had passed (1922)
and the same year they bought the original Captain Cook journal
also for 5,000 pounds.

Back to our motel very tired<
but full of enthusiasm and very happy
about an enjoyable day
as Mary Oliver says
“O what is that beautiful thing
that just happened? “






One caption of the exhibition.

‘The story of the 1770 voyage of the Endeavour lies at the very core of the Australian nation.

James Cook, the Endeavour’s captain, is celebrated as a peerless seaman and a remarkable leader whose voyage transformed European knowledge of the world.

But the land Cook charted – strange and ‘new’ to Eupropean  eyes was an ancient continent, home to First Peoples whose history stretches back more than 65,000 years. Until now, their voices have been missing from the Endeavour story.

In this year, the 250th anniversary of the voyage, it is fitting to experience the other side of the story and here we enjoy the story from the sea to the land and from the land to the sea, and embrace the shared history of this country.’

Canberra road trip day 3 by Colleen Keating

Monday 29th March  2021

Our road trip to Canberra

A new day needs birds, clouds and flowers
to begins and here we have all threee
magpies are singing in the eucalypts
we have been reading angels wings
into the whispy clouds for the past few days
and we have sunflowers

A frenzy of sunflowers.
signs everywhere in town
cars are painted in them
canvas seats are printed in them
and we are here to see
one special painting the Sunflowers by Van Gogh
on loan from London
so our day begins
it to opem

We are by accident in the members line
first to go in
we pass as members
show our phones for our tickets and we are in.
Botticelli to Van Gogh with many great artists –

Turner’s painting of the escape
from the cyclops in the story of Odysseus
stunning with the sunsetting
across the water
as only Turner can do
and next to him
Claude with his painting Seaport
The perspective with the tones of creams and browns was rich
and in same school as Turner
picks up the golden sunset and reflection
Renoir with the Blue Lady at the Opera,
Constable,Francesco de Goya, and Monet’s bridge and Waterlilies.
the developmental movement of art and artists over the centuries
from the static Botticelli who paints  movement by developing the story
in windows to Monet with his bridge and water lilies
and finally the Sunflowers
We enjoyed Geraldine Doogues audio on our phones
and at the completion we still had enough energy
to experience a second exhibition
Know My Name , Women in Art from 1900

many Indigenous womens names and paintings of the Seven Sisters,
women who are not well know,
Fiona Hall, Roselic Gascoigne, Cossington,
Preston Olley, Janet Laurence Anne Ferran

and then we reward  ourselves with a sumptuous lunch
on the Portrait Gallery Terrace
Michael had the fish, catch of the day
and I had the wild fig and feta salad
with toasted a bed of rocket

then to Australian Love stories, 200 stories
exploring love affection friendship
unrequited, obsessive, scandalous and creative
Lovely to see some of our favourite couples
Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward
(who fell in love during making the film Thorn Birds),
Stan Grant and Tracey Holmes,
Bob Hawke and Blanche, Jimmy and Jane Barnes
Nick and Susie Cave, Namatjira,Oodgeroo Nunnuccal
Barbara Blackman and Judith Wright
Before we go back to our car

we pop back into The Aboriginal Memorial
comprising 200 hollow logs represents a forest of souls
‘like a large war cemetery, a war memorial
for all those Aboriginal people
who died defending their country’

Then to the James Turrell installation.

Within without 2010

some stunning photos of light and water
back to our car
afternoon tea by the lake\



and to the motel


Canberra road trip day 4 by Colleen Keating




Tuesday 30th March 2021

Walk among trees

There is a sense of energy
when one walks amongst trees
that are grown to be there

We love to hear their music
and today we will walk amongst and picnic near trees
that are welcome and growing with affirmation.
for we are visiting the Aboretum
and the tree is the  humans  best friends on earth
says the poet
physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Firstly we pop back to the National Library
for a new exhibition
Rivers: Lifeblood of Australia .
Hardly worth the trip, very disappointing.
It is based on a book about
ten main rivers.

Australia the driest inhabited continent
covered in evidence of water,
rivers, creeks washes and wetlands.

The paradox is due to the ephemeral nature of the water.
Over the millennia the First peoples survived
in both the driest and wettest of places
living with plenty and scarcity
by living with the environment
moving, adapting listening learning.

Europeans brought with them a different mindset
one formed from the northern hemisphere
They sought to shape the environment
to serve their existing cultural,
social and economic
ideas and support a growing population
dames,reservoirs,tunnels,pumps and more dams
are their answer.

and then to the Arboretum
where we watch the progress each visit.of this project
100 forests of 100 trees each from around the world


And home to Sydney.

HILDEGARD WINS: Society of Women Writers by Colleen Keating

Hildegard wins.  This is for Hildegard of Bingen.  I was very excited to see the full page spread in Women’s Ink journal of  The Society of Women Writers

Two wins for her .

Thank you to  the judge Margaret Bradstock for judging  Hildegard’s poetic journey the winner as poetry book

Thank you to the judge Judith O’Connor  for judging Hildegard  the winner as non-fiction book.

These wins are for Hildegard of Bingen and her story may her spirit spread across our land.


White Pebbles Haiku Group Autumn Meeting

White Pebbles Haiku Group Autumn Meeting

March 13th 2021

On our arrival for catch-up and coffee we were slightly daunted by a brief downpour. This obligingly ceased precisely at our regular ginko set-off time of 10:30. The glossy leaves of cloud-shaped bushes, neatly trimmed, glistened with small raindrops; and white crocuses lined one edge of the pathway. Jotting and silence prevailed, apart from waterfall tumble and the voice of a very young child telling her mother how much she loved the word ‘igneous’,  her favourite type of rock.

left to right: Colleen Keating, Gail Hennessy, Beverley George, Kent Robinson, Marilyn Humbert, Gwen Bitti
Photograph courtesy of Deb Robinson


Our guideline for the ginko was to write two haiku, or ideas for them, one based on something we saw that intrigued us with its colour and a second based on sound. Then to draft a haibun, or possibilities for one.

Ginko concluded, we met up at the round table, delighted to be together in the same space. We shared recently published haiku and the two new ones we had penned on colour and sound. Then it was time to explore the haibun genre.

Marilyn Humbert, who had provided haibun guidelines by email well prior to our meeting, and who was the recent guest editor of the online publication Drifting Sands Haibun – a journal of Haibun and Tanka Prose” Issue 7 2021, led the workshop.  Marilyn guided and encouraged the sharing of haibun contributed by those present, and one sent by a valued member unable to attend on the day.  Appreciative comments have arrived since from everyone!

At lunch we enjoyed the additional company of three spouses before exploring the Regional Gallery’s exhibitions of stunning photographs of Antarctica, and, by contrast, an intriguing and diverse display of birds’ nests.

White Pebbles’ members uncomplainingly drive from beyond the Central Coast to be present (e.g. Bathurst, Newcastle and Sydney) and are rewarded by the enriching experience the venue offers: a well-maintained and authentic Japanese garden; an expertly curated art gallery, a café with indoor and outdoor seating; and an imaginatively stocked gift shop run by helpful volunteers.  So whatever the weather it is a satisfying venue at which to share haiku and good company. Smiles all round.

Beverley George
White Pebbles Haiku Group

Guest Speaker at the Moolooboola FAW Group

A Workshop on Writing and publishing Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey

for the Moolooboola FAW Writers Group President Renowned and award winning John Egan


Thanks John. It is lovely to be here. John speaks enthusiastically of his Moolooboola group and I believe, I hope my story will motivate and inspire you all on your writing journeys.

Firstly this is my book, Hildegard of Bingen.  It can be called a verse novel as the story is written in the poetic form . A tricky thing to do as you are aiming to be lyrical and poetic and at the same time driving a story line.

John asked me to tell you something about Hildegard.  the woman who inspired me. 


Most people know Hildegard through her music. In 2019  on ABC FM in a vote of the top 100 composers of the Western Musical oeuvre, Hildegard as Composer came 33rd ahead of  many of the full known male names in music. 

Hildegard was a fiery woman and a polymath. (someone of wide knowledge and learning – much done by absorption)

She was born in 1098 just on the turn of the century and she lived  most of her 82 years in the 12th century dying in 1179 . It was a vibrant time of expansion and often called a Renaissance because they had come out of the so called Dark Ages. and in the next few centuries, powerful women were often burnt as witches/heretics at the the stake. She was a 12th mystic, prophet, musician , poet, writer, artist, herbalist and healer and a Benedictine nun where  she lived the Benedictan way of daily prayer, work and  study .

From the time she was 6 she had heard the voice of God speaking to her in visions.  This concerned her parents.  And as she was their tenth and last child they tithed her to God. They thought this life safer for her.  They put her into the care of a wealthy young holy woman called Jutta and  together they entered an anchorage  (a room adjoining a chapel in a male monastery.)   Jutta’s family were wealthy patrons of the monastery and so they were welcome there. Anchorites brought in revenue, food and produce as they had a window to the world to talk and counsel pilgrims. 

Other women joined them and it expanded to a convent and when Jutta died Hildegard became the Magistra . Hildegard felt God was asking her to write down what she saw  and heard she went to the Abbott in charge and said God called her to write her visions. He refused her permission. 

As her wisdom developed she felt confined and began to stand up to the Abbott.  She was kept silent and repressed until she couldn’t take the patriarchy any more. She got very sick and only because he thought her death would be on him  he gave her permission to write and gave her a scribe . . a young monk called Volmar 

She wrote  ‘When I was 42 years and 7 months a burning light of tremendous brightness came down from Heaven and poured directly into my mind. It set my entire heart and being on fire, just as the sun that warms all around it by the strength of its rays. 

Hildegard went on to write :
3 theological books,
the first morality play,
two medical books
77 liturgical songs
3 biographies and volumes of correspondence to Popes, Kings, Emperors and many others.  

Every step of the way she had to overcome the repression of the Church, restriction of being a woman and patriarchy . When she decided to take her women to begin their own women’s abbey the men stopped them for ages as they were used to the women doing the gardening, making the medicines  and doing the counselling and attracting the pilgrims which all bought in the money to the monastery. Even when they left they refused to release the women’s dowries which was another struggle. 

Hildegard never gave  up  . . .  biding  her time and moving forward. She planned a way to move her  now 20 sisters to a new place down on the Rhine River  where she built her Abbey creating a place for housing 100 sisters, with an infirmary, hospice, herbarium and apotheke, a scriptorium, for scribing books remember there is no printing press as yet so every word , every note of every song had to be scribed. introduced her sister to running water  verifying her healthy life style.  SShe not only wrote but took on preaching tours up and down the Rhine

Building a second convent on the other side of the Rhine, her sisters caring for the people there and they were loved. Hildegard visited them weekly by row boat.

 Her music, her writings on caring for earth and environment,  health and well being and healing speak to us today very powerfully .  She was one of the first to call the earth mother  and she said we need to care for her as she nurtures  and nourishes us. 


My interest in Hildegard began in 1996 when I picked up an illustrated book of her life and work. 

As I came to know her more it became a passionate pursuit. 

On a sabbatical in 1998 I went in search of her. This meant physically a lone pilgrimage to her country, her land along the Rhine River in Germany. I walked in her foot steps sat in the ruins of  the monastery where she lived for forty years and I found myself listening.

I wrote a poem  of that journey which  was shortlisted and commended  in the Mary Gilmore Poetry Competition Women Speak for W omen.

That could’ve been it . Then  after I retired, I saw a 3 week Benedictine retreat to be given in English in her country, Germany and live in her spirit.  That is the  daily three pillars  of prayer, work and study. So this  motivated a new urge in me to write more.


I began taking a few poems of her early life to Norm’s writing group. and to the Women Writers Network  at the NSW Writers Centre. At Norm’s group some enjoyed them but generally they got panned.  John always wrote encouraging things. Told me not to listen to the whingers.  Decima kept me going

However  from that I learnt a lot . First person present tense even past tense was not working and could not be sustained. My  usual type of poetry without punctuation looked weak for a verse novel. Allelua. 

I learnt a lot and found moving into third person present worked. And using punctuation made it more accessible.

In the afternoon Women Writers Network, many looked forward to my next poem and that kept me on a roll.  Some were actually outwardly excited when I had a new poem about her. They all came to love this woman. 

So they energised me to write  . . .all of us wanting the next piece. I felt  I was bringing this 12th century woman  into the present day.  But even with that a heck of a lot of research was needed. 

Sometimes I would think of the season and research the birds migrations nests winds and what the river was up to and the herbs and vegetations -vineyards etc. and research more and read and read put her music on and then the rest happened as I put pen to paper and so often the seasons mirrored her moods.   That was an acclamation of one of the judges . How the landscape became a metaphor so often for her journey.  


At this stage they were poems but then I did a one day workshop with Jan Cornell. Busting out your novel. I think it was called.  She got us to map out what was inside us .

This was practical. It needed a title, it needed a cover . It needed direction,  story line, chapters .  We used butcher paper  . . some of you might’ve tried this, even cut pictures out of magazines .  to get characters . It was a fun day.  I went home and put it all in the drawer.  But as I looked back I had done something special that day.   An intention was there. There was a new seed planted.

I had drawn a cover with the title 

Hildegard of Bingen by Colleen Keating.

In a way it was using the secret.

What is ‘The Secret’? “The Secret” is simply the “law of attraction.” Essentially, the law of attraction states that whatever consumes your thoughts is what you will eventually get in life.

I visualised Hildegard in a book, my book .

And over the next few years she unfolded into a wild and woolly first draft.

read pg 57 


All of you as writers are familiar with the draft.

It is advised, recommended to put aside the first draft for a few weeks.  Then,  4 things  need attention. 




Thread of themes


So Michael and I packed up and set off for Bingen .This time I had Michael with me an enthusiastic offsider. He loved Hildegard and as we walked in her footsteps his step was very light. It happened to be late Autumn which gave me a whole different perspective 

from summer and spring  of my last journeys. different but no less beautiful. 

This time I knew German scholars of Hildegard to meet with and be guided by .

This pause was incredibly helpful process.

Firstly there was time away from the draft. 

Then in Bingen each evening we talked about getting a bird’s eye view and  refined the vision as we discovered the close up.


The character each needs to be given a lot of thought . Each needed an arc of development . Each need to be themselves not pawns I push to make the story I want.  Volmar had to develop from a shy monk to be a maturing academic chosen for his ability in the scriptorium and he had to connect soulfully with the young girl Hildegard who was excited about everything. Sometimes the character of Hildegard reminded me of  a 12th century Alice in Alice in Wonderland, curiouser and curiouser and often Scarlett O’’Hara in Gone with the Wind – fully alive and impatient to be about life  with her arc in her maturity determined she will never be hungry again.  And her close antagonist  Abbot Kuno who like many acted out the patriarchy of the church.

Read young Hildegard First writings   p87/88


When I was writing the first draft,  as many of you know you are so immersed in detail and events that,as the writer , sometimes  you don’t have the space to look at the big picture. That was fine . 

For the journey is the journey. The road has been slowly making itself as I write.   I can ask myself if I chose the less worn fork in the road, or whether I should have taken that particular scenic route, or just pressed on over the mountain. 

It’s a bit like the Irish joke about asking directions: ‘Well, I wouldn’t start from here’.

It was at that point I felt it needed to begin at a later stage in her life. I chose a very painful pivot forming a Prologue and then flashing was able to flash back. Many have like that idea. I’ll read you the first poem.   Read page 17.

After that I follow thru to the inevitable end so that after you have been on her journey  I want you to sit silently in her honour at the end with hopefully a tear in your eye for the beauty of this life. One who stood up for women with

courage even as  the odds were against her she never took a backward step. 



You can see from my readings the interweaving of dialogue 

In the second draft you will find scenes that can be put into dialogue. Often it pulls the reader into the experience, it quickens the pace of the scene,  gives variety, portrays characters more into reality. My hint for success is to read it aloud over and over .

Always aloud. If possible record and play back all the time getting it a dramatic and as real as possible. Iphones make this easy. 

p 198/199 on A visit from the Canon of Mainz.


 Now it was needed to find the themes that thread through the story and note if they have been sustained. 

For Hildegard this included 

  1. her music, singing
  2. her healing  – plants  well being 
  3. environment, mother earth  nature  greening
  4. her writing,  mandalas
  5. her belief in the ability of women
  6. Veriditas  – greening power,  vital green life in a plant moistness, verdancy vitality, growth, greenness, fecundity, lushness .
  7. Suppressed from writing, from setting up her own Abbey.  They kept hold of her  dowries. they used all the tactics to make the women fail. 
  8. They silenced her music in the last year of her life  because she refused to do what they wanted .   She taught her women to find the song inside her heart and have the power inside themselves while she wrote a treatise on music  . . . how it was the song of the angels and sang in Heaven and the only one that would silence it belongs to the devil and Hildegard played on the fear and superstition of the day  and they gave her back her power and she died peacefully


There were many well written and very interesting specimens writings shared.

John Egan thanked me for coming and Muchael for abeing there to support me and we received a wonderful bottle of Shiraz which Michael and I look forward to enjoying.



The Society of Women Writers NSW by Colleen Keating

Proud to be called Winner today

The Society of Women Writers NSW.

The stars of the Society’s Biennial Book Awards take a bow. The poet Collen Keating received the highest accolades with two wins for her 20 year journey writing the verse novel – ‘Hildegard of Bingen’ – Winner, Poetry, Society of Women Writers (NSW) Awards 2020; Winner, Non-fiction, Society of Women Writers (NSW) Awards 2020 – published by the boutique award winning literary publisher Ginninderra Pess

Society of Women Writers NSSociety W Inc

At the Society’s Biennial Book Awards, the poetry was judged by eminent poet, writer, reviewer, academic and critic Margaret Bradstock. The Poetry collections were outstanding with the 20 year journey writing ‘Hildegard of Bingen’ as the winner.
‘What an oeuvre! What a superb and elaborate work! These nine books of poems by Australian poet Colleen Keating tell Hildegard’s story in a stunning way. The reader feels put into the landscape and ambience of Hildegard’s medieval cloistered world. Thus I highly recommend reading, tasting and meditating on this poetic journey with Hildegard of Bingen.’ – Dr Annette Esser, Founder and President of the Scivias Institute for Art and Spirituality, Germany.
The shortlist was Pip Griffin’s ‘Margaret Caro’
Collen Keating’s ‘Desert Patterns’.
Tricia Dearborn’s ‘Autobiochemistry’.
What an outstanding list of poets!