Soft Gaze by Colleen & Michael Keating


Soft Gaze our new Picaro Press book has just been released. Thank you to  Brenda Eldridge and Stephen Matthews at Ginninderra Press.. This is our second collaborative effort and we found our poetry blended very well to create this beautiful collection.

We are proud of the cover we have titled  ‘still and still moving‘ a photograph taken by our daughter, Jessica.   As she walked on the beach , she  observed the sand designs on the ebbing tide. One needs attention and the art of  soft gazing to  see this phenomena and  once seen of course  it is never unseen. One can never walk again on the beach and not watch for  the intricate designs the sand and water makes at their edge.   Thanks Jessica.

The dedication reads:
For our children and their partners –
the role models for our grandchildren.

Michael’s poem  gives the title to the collection

Soft Gaze
by Michael Keating

On this rim of the Pacific
an alfresco café fills and empties
swirls with chatter and laughter.
I allow my thoughts to drift.

On the rumpled velvet water
a canoeist eases into view
captures centre stage
then fades out of sight.

Folded against a cloud-gripped sky
the ocean is polished, gunmetal grey.
Pale pockets quilt the surface
where the sun probes to burn through.

The horizon arcs –
a tightrope where a coal bulker crosses.
A sharp scurry of seagulls
reframes my attention.

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

Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey by Colleen Keating wins two prestigious awards


Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey has won two awards at the Society of Women Writers NSW Biennial  Book Awards at The State Library NSW on Wednesday 10th February 2020.

SWW Poetry Book Award 2020
SWW Non-fiction Book Award  2020

In the acceptance speech  Colleen Keating said:

This is for Hildegard. This is for women.  This is for those who have been silent, lost,  or suppressed down the ages  of 2000 years and more, of women who are being rediscovered to bring a balance back into the voice of history.

This is for our environment and our earth. Hildegard called  earth our Mother and reminds us to care for her as we would our mother. Our air, our rivers our soil,  our forests must be nurtured for they nourish us as a mother does.

This is for our well being. Hildegard reminds us that  nature and music are natural spirit given healers.  Hildegard has returned 900 years aftern her death and it is no accident she is speaking to people  in this 21st century at this time all over the world. We need her wisdom more than ever.

Thank to all for this awards. Thanks to the shortlisted poets and especially Pip as runner-up.  Jan Conway, President of the SWW  and the committee.

Special thanks to Stephen Matthews AOM and Ginninderra Press for affirming my work and beliveing in Hildegard and publishing my verse

My friend and supporter,  acclaimed poet, Pip Griffin renowned for her verse novel  –  the journey of a Chinese Buddhist nun ani lin,  was runner-up and highly commended  for the SWW Poetry Book Award for her evocative  poetic journey:

                    Margaret Caro
the extraordinary life of a pioneering dentist
        New Zealand 1848-1938

as the judge, highly acclaimed poet Margaret Bradstock wrote,

“Both Hildegard of Bingen and Margaret Caro are sustained narrative collections of poems celebrating the lives of strong, single-minded and deeply religious heroines, one an anchorite, visionary and ultimately abbess during the Middle Ages, the other a New Zealand dentist at the turn of the nineteenth century.
Through judicious poetic description the writers Colleen Keating and Pip Griffith respectively, are able to enliven their stories and engage the interest of the reader. Over several hundred pages of verse, this is no mean feat.  Griffin records her protagonist’s account in first-person stanzas, as a kind of poetic ventriloquy, allowing us entry to her thoughts and feelings, italicised conversation and quotations counterpointing this perspective. By contrast, Keating as poet tells Hildegard’s story, but interpolates the anchorites’s spoken words and unspoken musings in italics.”

Congratulations Pip .


Colleen Keating is Winner of two SWW Book Awards

Colleen Keating is Winner of two SWW  Book Awards

Colleen Keating is the winner of two awards. Her recently published Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey, has taken out two awards at The Society of Women Writers NSW Biennial Book Awards. This was held at the State Library of NSW on Wednesday 10th February 2021.

SWW Poetry Book Award  2020
SWW Non-fiction Book Award

The judge for the Poetry section, highly acclaimed poet  Margaret Bradstock  wrote:

‘Keating plays with language, uses nouns as verbs, creative imagistic parallels to enhance emotional states. Poetic descriptions such as ,

‘The Rhineland moon/ edges the icy road or dawn-crackle of ice . . .erratic shivers of the horses/with huff of dragon smoke ‘ ,

to quote just a couple, vividly evoke the scenarios the poet wishes us to experience. . . it was Keating’ employment of figurative language, of subtle metaphor that determined Hildegard of Bingen to be the winning title. ‘

The judge for the non-fiction section,  renowned writer and editor for reviews at Women’s Ink, Judith O’Connor wrote:

How wonderful and fitting that Colleen has chosen the poetic form. Her narrative and style never miss a beat – almost racy at times, bounding along with passion and action against a backdrop of the beauty of nature as seen through Hildegard’s eyes. Lines like,

‘Her body knows what she wants
… as honey birds know
the most succulent flower
and geese
instinctively migrate (p.51)

The book speaks with the voice of a writer truely inspired, immersed, seeped in the knowledge and spiritual understanding of this far-away woman who lived to a remarkable 82 years of age. Colleen takes us on the outer, physical journey of Hildegard’s life but also the rich and spiritual inner journey. Harsh at times but always compelling.”


Thank to all for this awards. Thanks to the shortlisted poets and especially Pip as runner-up.  Jan Conway, President of the SWW  and the committee.

Special thanks to Stephen Matthews AOM and Ginninderra Press for affirming my work and beliveing in Hildegard and publishing my verse


Ungraspable a poem by Colleen Keating



it happened with the turn of tide
on a shallow sandy shoal
now it had beached dry

hot air sharp as spears
summer sun
glistening on its silver grey skin

blue spots shimmered across its flank
as it flapped intermittently
like a large bird with a broken wing

our carefree stroll along the beach
here was a life and death matter

the world was silent
only the waves measuring time
like a tolling bell

a young stingray lay before us
like a sacrificial lamb
eyes open as if pleading

using our bucket we splashed
water over its fretting skin
like cooling a fever

until it was still
then we noticed the hook
embedded in its flesh

we got down on our knees
my grandson and i
as if to reassure this creature

there was a tenderness
a hole of helplessness

a lifesaver brought a spade –
i was sorry it could not be pushed back
to sigh one last time amidst the waves

later the piled up hill of sand
was still there
Is that where he is? my grandson asked

it was time to take his little hand
and walk to the edge of the ocean
listen to its rill whoose back and forth

see its gifts of shells and spinning stones
watch the gulls whirl in the thrill of life
feel the ungraspable cycle of give and take

by Colleen Keating


A Stingray story  with Mum, Grandma ,Edison and Darcy

(Written while we were holidaying at the Dolphin House)

It happened in the dark of night
on The Entrance beach
and in the morning
it made us all so sad.

It happened at high tide
and we found it as we were rambling
along the edge of the waves
playing happily with pieces of Neptunes Necklace

and looking for all sort of shells the high tide had left behind.
It was Mum and Grandma and us two boys Edison and Darcy.

We were jumping in the waves and running up on the sand
and then we saw it
a large grey and blue blob lying helplessly on the sand
it was a large greyish stingray
beached, left behind when the tide went out


It couldn’t breath air because it doesn’t have lungs.
It has gills like fish and breathes its air through the water
Mum thought she saw it take a last gulp.
It was too heavy to push back in the sea.
It lay there before us all .
It looked so beautiful in the sunlight.

It was grey with beautiful blue marking
and sad eyes and open gills.

We all patted it and were surprised at it soft sticky skin.
and remembered the Torpedo Rays in Octanauts.

We stood helplessly by, till a lifesaver came
He turned it over and it became an even sadder story

because it had a fishing hook embedded in its blobby flesh .

We felt so mad about people who don’t look after our sea because all the sea creatures are so endangered by plastics and pollution.

Back at home we looked up fun fact about Stingrays
and it was good to learn some interesting things.


Fun Facts about Stingrays

1 They are one of the beautiful creatures of the sea as they move along in the water. 

2 They have no bones in their body – their skeleton is made up of flexible cartilage (the bendy stuff that your ears and nose are made of

3 Baby stingray are hatched from eggs that are held within the body of the mother 

4 They use a super set of electric senses to search for food. Their eyes are on the top side of their body   and their mouth and gills are found underneath so in murky water this electromagnetic sense is especially useful for searching for prey.

5 they like to live by themselves  and only come together for breeding . 

6 They protect themselves with venomous spines or barbs in their tail

7 They feed on fish clams and shrimp

8 Sadly they are now a threatened species .Overfishing, habitat loss and climate change are the major threats 


Thank you Edison for allowing me to use your drawing in this story.

Juukan Gorge, A Tragic Milestone in Australian History by Colleen Keating

a new mea culpa

 Sorry Day May 24th 2020 

if ever there was a day to grieve
so flattened by a melancholy action
that it makes you want
to close off your mind in disbelief
hold your aching heart
indeed cage your heart with steel

a day the healing song is silent
and your eyes weep red dust
when you had watched the first episode
of Operation Buffalo about the arrogance of Maralinga
and excused it
as happening before we were enlightened
and the ghost of Terra Nullius
still plagued our history books
when your mind is still etched by the ignorance
of the Taliban’s Palmyra destruction of ancient Buddhas

you realise that Australian miners have just blown up
with approval
rock shelters at Juukan Gorge
a 46,000 year cache of bones and tools
from before the last Ice Age
cutting connection with ancestors and heritage
of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama people
making Indigenous people of this country
walk in desolation
voices still unheard
and another piece of the soul of our nation
is blasted away
all in the name of profit

well today is just that day


We Australians still live in ignorance of the legacy of our first peoples and this land we live on.

It is the most ancient land on the planet.

The Indigenous people of this continent are the oldest people on the planet and carry memory of a wisdom we have forgotten to listen to.

Even if we try to listen its whisper is muted by the  loud noise of  Greed who yells profit over and over that  we make expediently from the earth. We forget

the ancient wisdom

“Only after the last tree has been cut down,
only after the last river has been poisoned
only after the last fish has been caught  . . .
only then will you realise that . . .
money cannot be eatten

We must stand up and speak out that this type of destruction never happens again.

Imagine if someone threatened the Lascaux, Palaeolthic Cave in France
or if someone touched Angor Wat in Cambodia,
the Roman Colosseum in Italy,
the Istanbul Bascilica in Turkey.

Remeber the world’s collective grief
watching 12th century Notre Dame burn
and remember the loss when the Barniyan Valley stone Buddhas
were blown up by the Taliban . This is the loss we have
and yet it is still not fully felt by Rio Tinto Iron Ore Compny or the Governement.
Shame, shame, shame.

Note the Taliban did not win completey, for the Buddhas shines again
in the towering cutouts in the mountainside
where they stood for centuries . . .they are back thanks to 3-D projection.

Above one of the illuminations. Thanks to modern technology.

What can we retrieve of the Aborigine heritage of our own First Peoples. ?

No modern technology can bring back this loss

Wild Moment: Thomas Keating-Jones, Published by John Muir Trust

A wintery hike on the Downs inspired nine year old Thomas to write An Ice Poem.

An Ice Poem

Glittering, glistening glass gleams and glides across the top of the frozen pond.
Mother nature’s classical music singing as it slides
Like stained-glass, the shattered shards  catch all the colours
It cracks, twinkling across the top of the ice…the ice…the ice…
It twinkles. jingles, like magic on the air.
Shining cracks appear wherever your foot rests on the shelf edge,
Chasing air bubbles, full of life,  out of their frozen prison.
It’s the top of the hill.
It’s the top of our world.

Thomas Keating-Jones, age 9 (with help from Eleanor Keating-Jones)

Thomas K-J ice pond 2

So proud to find my grandson and grand-daughter writing their thoughts about their wintery days on their nearby Downs while on a short exercise time from their strict lock-down

Welcome to Wild Inside – a fortnightly window to inspiration, activities  and a little bit of joy and wildness close to home.

We are incredibly lucky to have some great hikes on our doorstep. This poem celebrates the ice covered pond at the top of the Downs!


Praise by Rumi: A new dawn and hope for the planet.



Every war and every conflict
between human beings has happened
because of some disagreement about names.

It is such an unnecessary foolishness,
because just beyond the arguing
there is a long table of companionship
set and waiting for us to sit down.

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured into a huge basin.

All religions, all this singing, one song.
The differences are just illusion and vanity.

Sunlight looks a little different
on this wall than it does on that wall
and a lot different on this other one,
but it is still the same light.

We have borrowed these clothes,
these time-and-space personalities,
from a light, and when we praise,
we are pouring them back in.

by Rumi


The Ocean Wonder by Jacinta Van Eyk


The Ocean Wonder


Waves crashing on Keating Beach.                      

The bright sun cuts through

the dark grey clouds.

The water sparkles on top

of the shimmering rocks.

The dolphins leap peacefully

over the crashing waves.

All morning butterflies flutter                                      

past our window.

All different people walking, riding, running .

The ocean wonder is so


by Jacinta    8 years old








written while on holidays at The Dolphin House, Central Coast

Fare thee well 2020 Looking back looking forward

                                                  Looking back or looking forward

I just picked out a few dates from my journal to remember the year we leave behind . . .

25th March 

Everything is moving so quickly . It is unbelievable our world can change so quickly. I say our beautiful world of concerts and art galleries and libraries and all the enriching culture events and venues of our lives are closing .  But something in me feeling nature is exhausted and lashing out like a cornered scorpion with the sting of its tail. It is saying how else can i save the planet . . . here i bring you to your knees be afraid very afraid . . go home hide away  for nature shows us when we bring it to its knees it takes last resorts. 

Cruise ships are floating out at sea and governments don’t know how to handle them 

The cruise ship Ruby Princess is the symbol of the worst of them  Of course our dream cruise  feels like a nightmare now  and thank goodness it was not planned till late April. 

How quickly our writing has become Poetry from out my window or short walk around the block.


The inconceivable terror has arrived 

not in the form of a hurtling comet, 

not in the form of mutual nuclear annihilation

although that is still on the cards

it comes in the form of a microscopic bug

an invisible bot

it is impossible to see

like how one is unable to look at the sun

although it is shown for our imagination 

as fiery-red  spiring ball hurtling towards us 

covered in spikes that look like treacherous hooks

to catch us.

it needs us 

it cannot survive without us

it awaits on every surface

yet it is a whimp at the feel of soapy water

it dissipates like fairy floss at antibacterial whips

but thrives in us if it happens to get us.

and so we hide away

it is an unwelcome guest

it makes fear and panic go viral 

news fake and real spread 

before it around the world

faster than it can go itself

fear bursts out of its skin 

like the entrails of an giant red kangaroo

spewed on the road 

the vultures already there for the carrion 

guns sales shoot up 

panic buying


trust and faith a thin line on a far horizon 

we huddle away

bunker down

4th April

Then we woke to its new name Covid -19 

like one gets a nick name when you become on familiar terms 

yet this name didn’t make me feel any more friendly to it.

Looking for answers it is hard to find them 

when we can’t identify the questions

yet we grapple with one big questions 

how are we so powerless

before a microscopic bug 

how can something so small transport everything

we thought  important to being irrelevant 

 can transform the world in weeks.

Were we really not prepared for this. 

Was this really not beyond the realm of possibility 

we have been living 

as if everything bends around human will.

the economic markets revolve around us 

we believe it iw one directional progress 

we have been living as if we are immortal 


now we will have to learn to live the ways things really are

that we are deeply, profoundly vulnerable

that we live in constant interdependence 

and that all of the myths that we are caught  in 

that life is one directional 

that the markets revolve around us

and that there is always someone else to blame 

these myths are falling away as we write


Looking back or looking forward:  Our choice!

Our rabbits from Watership Down may be looking back to the destruction of their homeland or they may be looking forward to the image of a new homeland, a new potential, a new possibility, a new vision.

  Our rabbits have been travelling a challenging road of loss and pain and heartache which has intensified in recent months.  As those of us ‘on the road less travelled’ choose to come together in heart, mind and spirit, if not in ‘body’ and physical contact we are connected with our focus, commitment, dedication and taking spiritual responsibility for our role in the world.

The sky ahead promises unconditional love and promise of better times with more love, gratitude, forgiveness and a sense of oneness as we make our choices, to align with hope, promise and the creative power within every one of us to build a world of love, a world where we can rise above the anger, greed, resentment, bitterness, blame, shame, guilt and fear.

Love and blessings to us all we embrace and nurture ourselves, our visions and highest ideals, dispelling darkness and despair in our hearts and minds. This is Mother Earth is healing and so are we.


The year is coming to a close 

i have a whole dictionary of new words

some newly coined and some a hybrid of words .

It is a year that has changed us all .. A year of tragedy for many with to date 82 million people contacting the virus  19 and half million  USA alone with 330,000 who have died . It has shown up the inequality of our world . and sadly it is being manipulated to be a pink pandemic with women and the underprivileged most disadvantaged.  


Pressing forward is the resilience that Hildegard taught us . She was walled in as a young girl in an anchorage ,  she burst forth loving the garden and herbs and veriditas of nature. She was silenced from writing by Abbott Kuno and she found a way to get permission to write , then he silenced her from preaching, but she overcame that . She left the monastery leading 21 woman some not too sure  to begin her own Abbey with warnings she was forbidden to take her dowries  or have a priest for sacraments. She worked till those directives were changed . She completed her first theological treatise after ten years and built her Abbey on the Rhine gathering up to 100 women with their many gifts . She was invited to preach all along the Rhine.  Patriarchy  never gave up on trying  to silence her and once again they found a reason to do so on her disobedience for not exhuming a person she buried . She wrote and spoke and warned the men only the devil silences the musical sound whose harmony is heavenly and they quickly changed and exonerated  her. She won as a result of their fear of the wrath of God and  superstition .


  This year,

  Yes, even this year

   Has drawn to its close.



                                  Fare thee well 2020.