To be and let be: seeking a way to negotiate with nature by Colleen Keating

Waitara Creek

when the sun broke through 

after the storm 

the grass plants   ferns and  palms 

here in the understory of the  bush

lit up like fairy lights 

and the dappled shadows

swayed gently

bringing the path alive

a whole different world 

to the moody  grey-green

mystery of just before

all the time

there was work going on 

frogs acrocking in the wet

whip birds were chatting 

and a few other birds high in the canopy

were exchanging news

how interesting it would be to interpret

many lizards and water dragons 

out sunning themselves 

popped away with a rustle

as I stepped quietly along

brusk turkeys  wander along

 

white butterflies flitted and feed

amongst the flowering weeds

bees were busy 

and the creek was gurgling

along in the background 

enjoying its fast bountiful flow

the track follows the Waitara Creek 

lined with second generation

 amazing patchy coachwood trees

then our of the valley

with its mystery and intrigue  

climbing out to the open woodlands 

where if you look up

 

you can see a crimson rosella

but also  the encroachment

of suburban sprawl  

high in the trees birds were  busy 

but the inevitable  had happened 

in the understory bush retreat

where i discovered the fairy wren before

the bush was gone

birds were silent

the inevitable planned  back-burn

necessary

for the fire risk

when the dry heat of summer sets in

has taken the bush retreat of the little birds

devastated i stand and ponder –

how can we find a way to be and let be?

Lockdown walk No. 20 Waiting for godwits by Colleen Keating

 

 

w

Waiting for godwits

Today we had a picnic near the broad walk

overlooking a sanctuary for water birds

we have been waiting for godwits 

the bar-tail godwits

with their long curved beaks to arrive

special visitors from the Arctic for their breeding 

the furtherest distance of  migration 

we wiled away time observing water birds

sea gulls  shear waters  egrets  spoonbills  pelicans

plovers their five chicks

learning to forage in the sea grasses 

many species of ducks

their ducklings  tucked away

some grazing on the wrack and sea grasses

some gazing  about peacefully 

and we too gazed peacefully

suddenly the plovers were seriously distressed

birds honked, quacked, squawked as they filled the air 

and i looked out to see a dog

wildly flying across the shallows

chasing the fleeing birds 

disturbing the wrack and sea grass

with its food of crustaceans and other insects 

it chased after any bird that landed again 

galloped like a horse backwards and forwards 

a man watched on 

the still mirrored lake was  shattered 

the sanctuary was ripped apart

splashed up

churned like a miniature tsunami 

finally the man whistled

got on his bike and the big brown dog

 sloshed out of the lake followed him

I stared at him leaving . I was distressed.

i was shattered like the lake

 broken like a vase into a thousand pieces 

so powerless  close to tears 

my mind   my whole being 

needed to be picked up 

gently mended  

my tutor of course to restore calm

the lake 

and  the birds

List of my Lockdown Walks during July, August, September, October, November

 

 

      List of Lockdown walks on  my blog

                    during the months

July, August, Septemeber, October, November

 
1.  Getting to  know local inhabitants
 2. North Beach/Lake 
 3. Crackneck  Lookout to Shelley Beach
 4.A track less worn
 5. Full moon beach walk
 6. Colours of early spring
 7. Bedazzled by patterns of nature
 8. Enjoying the birds
 9. Saltwater Creek Boardwalk
10. Undercliff rock platform
11. Sensory Gardens on Tuggerah Lake
12. Spring today
13. out to the trig station and back
14. Full of surprises
15. Finding beauty and pathos
16. Finding inner solitude in days of uncertainty 
17.Loosing our Marbles
18. Rock-hopping and tide-pooling
19. A bird pilgrimage.

20. Waiting for Godwits

Lockdown walk No 19. A bird pilgrimage by Colleen Keating

Bird pilgrimage

they walk the lake fringe
amidst its shore’s rehabitation

the susurrus of the lapping tide
a gentle background rhythm

to the chatter of a willy–wag tail
and magpie warble

they listen
after the whoo-crack of the whip bird

laugh together
when the female doesn’t answers her cheepcheep

they take a less worn track
through a forest of swamp oaks

come upon a landcare effort
at planting a stand of banksia
now wild with flickers of candle-fire

he was the first to spot
the honeyeater curled on a candle cone

she was the first to hear fairy wrens
chirping in the bristly heath

he spots the first one dart
low across dun grasses
so quick only visible swaying
is her first view and then she sees them

she says they are a burst of cobalt sky
he says blue shot in a shiny black cloak

and admires the aegis for the harem of
smaller brown females

 

they find an open grassy spot
warm curved encounter with
trunks of swamp oaks
upon which to lean their backs

little did they know
they had chosen the home

of a butcher bird family
who flew down to join their picnic

she listens to their song
he observes variance of colour

males, females, juveniles
and their glossy beaks

when they both struggle up to walk back
their attention returns to the lake

she admires the elegance of the black swans
he notices how the pelican looks so stately

she points out the swans’ flounce
as they bottom-up to feed
in the sea grasses
he admires the spoonbills way of grazing

 

seeing a large darter
with black wings hanging out
he calls it Dracula of the lake

she calls him a shag on the rock
and they both laugh

 

when cormorants dive
it becomes fun to guess
their resurface spots

they both sign with delight
at the family of ducklings passing
chaperoned so closely by mum and dad duck
he quotes Wordsworh’s ninth sonnet
“who put budding courage to the test”
i just stand in wonder

he points out a white–faced heron
she notices a few more
and a white egret

together they admire the elegance
of the herons stalking in the sea grasses
mindfully step by step

reminded of conscious walking
heads high
backs straight
they walk slowly home
hand in hand
to the willy–wag tail chitter

IMG_9118

Lockdown walk No. 17, Loosing our Marbles by Colleen Keating

Photo: from our calendar  The night We Lost Our Marbles by  Michael Leunig, a modern day prophet, where I understand ‘prophet’ to be one who challenges us to remember our core values.

Loosing our marbles

“We not only listen to the birds but find ourselves talking  to them.”

Turning the calendar has its own monthly ritual.
Our Leunig calendar always gives us a surprise
often prophetic for our time.
Turning to October was no exception.
It gave us a laugh.

We resonated. It looked how we felt
on our walks in lockdown
birds, fish, flowers moon our companions.

It was while sitting against
the trunk of a swamp oak
on a lockdown walk
we found ourselves both talking aloud
to the Pied Butcher Birds
that had flown down to join us.

A family of seven
some with the distinctive black bib
some more tawny and freckkly
which according to Morcombo –
our Bird Bible –
is the juvenile and poetically
pale rufous-buff.

They hopped around
inquisitive about us relaxing
in their territory.

Besides watching them
dart for insects on the open grass
we enjoyed a choir on a branch above
its musical four-note sequence
lilting flute-like deep and mellow.

The laugh was on us.
listening to the birds
believing they were communicating with us
thinking we were understanding
and talking back to them

Are we happily loosing our marbles?

Now we talk to every bird that comes to meet us –
the willy wag tails  our companions on the way
the tiny wrens we chirping
and sometimes catch their splash of blue
the magpies that warble along our track
their carolling a rings from high
to low, deep and  always  tidings of joy.

We love the lake birds
find the  haunts of the white-faced herons
watch their monk like shoulders
ponder quietly as if pretending to pray
but actually with the great white egret
stalking to prey.
If our spoonbills call in
with their bevy of ducks
we become very effusive


and enjoy the plovers
telling us to be aware of their eggs
and their young.
We wait for the whip birds to sing
listen and laugh with its song of reply.

Loosing our marbles figuratively
gives us permission
to be immersed in their world
like the cartoon of the two
smiling contentedly
surrounded by nature.

Humbly we know we are a very small
and incidental part of their world
yet secretivly a little part
likes to think they are communication with us.
and loosing our marbles stays figurative.

 

 

Life isn’t measured 

by the number of breaths we take 

but by the moments 

that take our breath away

Treasure every day

 

 

Lockdown walk No. 16: Finding inner solitude in days of uncertainity

 

dappled light
filters through swamp oaks ~
a cathedral  moment
as a tiding of magpies  
fills it with song

 

 

 

Finding inner solitude today in these final days of lockdown after 112 days of retreat from the world.

June 23rd we knew Lockdown was in inevitable and so we stopped at our small apartment in the coastal town The Entrance, which gave us the feeling of being on a retreat rather than being at home, rather than a holiday, because we could not travel further than 5km. Now it has been 16 weeks of  searching for inner solitude. My tanka above was not  the one chosen for the Eucalypt 31 but it speaks of our days here.It sums up the days of walks  the birds our only companions and the ‘being’  rather then the ‘doing’as the frameworks of meeting with family, friends, writing groups, art gallery, concerts, gatherings for launches and celebrations even funerals, fell away.

What are we left with we older ones who are not homeschooling. holding down  jobs, working from home and keeping spirits of children high.? 

Then I found the perfection of the sonnet by Longfellow speaks brilliantly of my sentiment. 
Emily Dickinson grapples with the same in her brilliant way.

Like Dickinson, Longfellow finds that the one-to-one confrontation occurs best in nature:

And now for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My Cathedral

Like two cathedral towers these stately pines
Uplift their fretted summits tipped with cones;
The arch beneath them is not built with stones,
Not Art but Nature traced these lovely lines,
And carved this graceful arabesque of vines;
No organ but the wind here sighs and moans,
No sepulchre conceals a martyr’s bones.
No marble bishop on his tomb reclines.
Enter! the pavement, carpeted with leaves,
Gives back a softened echo to thy tread!
Listen! the choir is singing; all the birds,
In leafy galleries beneath the eaves,
Are singing! listen, ere the sound be fled,
And learn there may be worship without words.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, (1807–82), American poet
– is known for ‘The Wreck of the Hesperus’ and ‘The Village Blacksmith’ (both 1841) and The Song of Hiawatha (1855).

And now my  brilliant  friend  Emily Dickinson

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —  324 or 326

by Emily Dickinson

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —

I keep it, staying at Home —
With a Bobolink for a Chorister —
And an Orchard, for a Dome —
Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice —
I just wear my Wings —
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton — sings.
God preaches, a noted Clergyman —
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last —
I’m going, all along.

 

In the above photo
my cathedral is not of stately pines
but of vibrant grass trees and banksia
old river gums, iron barks and acacias
ancients rocks carved from wind and sea
and whispers of spirit under every footprint I take
and when I listen the choir in my cathedral
is full of the healing and comforting sounds of home

Colleen Keating

 

 

 

Lockdown Walk No. 15, Drama, beauty and pathos by Colleen Keating

 

Like any good story, musical  or opera this lockdown walk is filled with drama,  beauty and pathos. Each one or all can be included in any such moment or  experience.

DRAMA         Copulation

When we sat for lunch at Karagi Point
on the north side of the lake
the native miners
put on a a gregarious noisy performance.

It was a frenzied communal event.
The song was of soft low frequency
(compared with their warning and feeding calls).

The female flew down
onto a warm sandy patch of ground
spreading out her grey wings
in a splayed fashion. . .
called a bowed-wing display
her wings arched, head pointing down
tiny pattern of yellow exposed.

Michael suggested she was having a sand bath
until he read up google and we realised
we were witnessing its copulation ritual.

The chatter of miners flying
low from tree to tree
and then the mating and necking on a low branch
kept us entralled

The music was our lunchtime concert.
It was constant and persistent
with shades of  play and play and drama.

Some people dislike the native miner
(sometimes called the noisy miner and the garrulous honey eater)
for their songs but for me
it is a joy to the ear and the spirit.

BEAUTY           Nankeen Kestrels performance

The sudden awareness of catching
the first glimpse of the ocean
over the rim of the sand dunes
and its aqua-marines of blue and green
brings us alive.

Like the shock of jumping into cold water
we catch our breath in amazement
declare ourselves
thalassophiles over and over again.

We find our familiar table
to have a cup of tea
and sit as poets contemplating.

As if on queue it comes
out of the cloudless sky
circles out and around –
the air its partner
in a Vaughan Williams dance.

Closer and at our eye level
with its tail to us
it hovers
the air its magic rug.

It slender wings open wide
fanned tail quivers
in its perfection of
buff and tawny brown lines.

Quivering excitedly
it drops
a daunting direct drop
into the grassy dune
reappears, poises on a fence post
and then takes off
not even leaving an air brush on the sky

What just happened?
An  extraordinary gift.
We hardly remember breathing
entralled by its drama and beauty.
We know it didnt come  for us
but it was something of ours to behold
a brightness we could marvel about

and who can explain ‘coincedence’
or ‘serendipity’
and the tawny kestrel coming just now , just here.

we had slowed down,

were open,

were present

and it was there.

 

After lunch we walked to investigate the fenced off area
all ready to welcome the flights of Little Tern that migrate
from Japan to breed in the summer .
Thrilled to see the signs: educational and warning and the CCTV

PATHOS     A graceful pilot under threat

it makes a heroic journey
to find warm sand-dunes to breed

it risks lonely blue wipeout
baffles wild winds and storm

it traces a memory it does not have
until it flies to remember it

alone and together
it lifts off

navigates with the pull of the moon
and hummed magnetic tones of earth

it is endangered in this civilised world
how good to find

our council has fenced off an area
leaving drift wood and sea grass

to welcome the little terns
this summer.

 

Lockdown Walk No 14, Full of surprises by Colleen Keating

A Walk full of surprises

Surprise No. 1   A phenomenon

 

The sign list wild flowers
as ground cover
along our dune walk
planted to hold the earth
from a hungry ocean
eating away the beach
threatening buildings
built too close to the edge.

From the headland the ocean
spreads innocently today
like a dark silk quilt
slightly ruffled with silver lines
by a gentle breeze.

Along our track
we marvel at the array of gazanias
yellow to orange to deep tangerine
as if an artist had come with her brush
painting petals with dots and lines
extra patterns for variety.

Pig face, pink to purple
bursts brightly, its showy array
taking our attention and with
bees and butterflies we delight
in its sunny face.

The blue fan dune flower
goes unnoticed . . .

till we notice it.

We sight our first.
Thinking this was a lone plant
and we were lucky.
Down on my knees
I make a fuss
admiring its delicate blue fanned petals.

Then a phenomenon occurrs.

We start to see it dotted amongst
the ground cover of gazanias and pig face
everywhere.

How excited to find this phenomenon
has a name
Frequency illusion *

which states
once a thing or idea or word finds your attention
your mind tends to see if often.

* Frequency Illusion first noted as Baader Meinhof Phenomenon
It’s the difference between something actually happening a lot and
something you’re starting to detect a lot. When your awareness
of something increases  leads you to believe it’s actually happening more, even if that’s not the case..

Surprise No 2      The coming and the going

(after The Snake,  D.H. Lawrence)

 

A heron came to my walking track
on an early spring day
and I on a hike to enjoy the heathy dune and beach
on a dry balmy-scented path lined with bushy banksia trees

I came along the track
and must wait
must stand and wait for there it was
on the path
before me.

It had dropped down
on slender stilted legs spyed kikuyu grass
at the edge and remaining stealthy-still
fully focused on the unseeable in the grass
and with pickax precision struck
lifted its neck tall
gobbled back its prey
its long slender throat lumpy in its impulsion.

Silently.

Someone was before me on my walking-track
and I, like a second comer, waiting.

It stretched its neck after eating as herons do
and looked my way as herons do
and tucked away a leg
pondering on one leg
mused a moment
and refocused fully engrossed
being like a taichi master of mindfulness
on this spring day in mid September
during my hour of exercise
out from a pandemic lockdown.

This is where I differ from DH Lawrence
the voice of my education had no sense
to do it harm. Of course I had no fear
like one might with a yellow snake.

i liked being close to it and wanted it to stay
just for awhile to admire
its silvery blue-grey down
its fine white lined face.

This was my chance encounter
and like Lawrence’s next thought
it delighted me.
I too have to confess how I like it
How glad I was it had dropped down onto
my sandy path
like a guest, come in quiet, to feed in the grass
to depart peaceful, pacified and thankless
into the blue clean air.

Was it perversity that i longed to talk to it?
Was it humility to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured. . .
that we should meet here on this path on this day.

It fed enough
lifted its head dreamily
as if sniffing the scent of the lake once again
stretched its whole body into full height
and looked around like a god or goddess
unseeing into the air. My still statue did not deter
as it slowly, very slowly drew its body in,
legs like the wheels of a plane tucked under
wings with the lightness of an angel
lifted into the air
becoming a white air brush of the sky.

And I was thankful for my education
in being aware that this creature
is one with all of nature
and we are part of the whole
to be in reverence before it
and to be astonished.

I regret it had gone as if in exile
for i feel I am the one in exile
in demanding  this my track
my habitat
my world before its rights
and so foolish to think it my heron.
For it seemed like a king or queen
and in a world of enlightenment
crowned sacred
i shared a moment with one of the angels of life
and i have reason to be gratefull:
for the presence of grace.

Surprise No 3      Out of the blue

from the lookout
on the sand dune
sea and sky all blue

the tawny winged Kestrel
hovers into the wind
as if a show for us
its perfect audiance
and as if curious
flies over us
and i too afraid to look up
for fear of being pooped on

it circles around us
as if a grand performance
then stock-still on the air
focused below
it pins its wings
as if pegged back
drops down
swiftly with harpoon speed
into the foliage, feeds and returns
to play on the wing.

 

Tanka

dune walk 
clumps of gazanias
colour my day 
with all the moods
of the rainbow

 

 

Celebrating Hildegard of Bingen: Count down to her Anniversary 17th September.

The Story of a Young Pilgrim

in search of Hildegard of Bingen

by Colleen Keating

I take a train out of Bingen
through the Rhine Valley
on this  summers day
trek up a steep hill
relieved to find an old sign klosterruine
which points to a verdant track
into a cool shady grove

here remnants of the twelfth century monastery
moss-mottled stone walls
mostly buried by vines
and embedded tree roots
is Hildegard’s world

standing in this moment
with the outlines of another world
time is shapeless
the divide of centuries a blur

only my mind’s eye can see
a spirited young woman
flourishing herb gardens

she prepares salves and tonics
attends the sick
listens to the breeze
and finds God in the hills above her

the earth is our mother she would sing
revere and care for her
if we exploit and savage her
she will be out off balance
and the price will be high

then silence for nine hundred years

I lean against the wall marked Hildegard’s cloister
in the lush shade of an almond tree
hanging fruit voluptuous now
is falling to emptiness
the void
the nothingness
how human to fear the waiting
for fullness to return

scattered around me
are rotting almond fruits
flies enjoying their feast
the decay fodder for the soil

my eyes scan for her presence

a maiden hair fern
grooved into a crumbling niche
catches my eye
delicate and tenacious
I feel a quickening
like a first flutter of new life

too often the fragile the intimate whisper
the lightness of touch
the flicker of a sanctuary lamp
like the breath are portals and easily missed

I ponder the rise and fall of my breathing
listen to the rhythmic heart beat
hear veriditas chants in the crumbling walls

veriditas murmurs hildegard

hildegard is here
I do not flinch i expect her

nothing like the grey statue at the abbey
holding the orb and feather

her presence is intimate
light glows luminous
her arms full of herbs from the garden
and her muddy hand-made sandals
make me laugh

by Colleen Keating

Commended in Society of Women Writers Poetry Award. Giving women a voice. 2017

Lockdown Walk No 13 Out to the trig station and back

Out to the Trig station and back  

the coddled clouds 
were part of a gentle day
their feather touch
calming
even the horizon misty 
a moist lightness on the sea air

the path soft and established 
with sandstone built sides 
the only reason we have hesitated 
before
is the steep gradients of ups and downs
today it seemed right to tackle 

I expected wildflowers at their best
a past memory was a gathering
of flannel flowers 

we met a back-burn
dry acrid smell
black ashen ground 

the air tasted acerbic
it harshened my breath 
agony of  past summer fires
miniture here 
reminded me of loss   
of absence  

yes nature survives fire 
yes banksia uses heat to propagate
yes it can prevent wild-fire destruction

but here I stood before empiness
my mind spinning

will the flannel flowers return?
will the flying duck orchids 
break this hard dry barren place?

all I can say
I grasped for answers
only when I got past this area
did they come
in colours and patterns
resilience and belief in renewal