Unearthing Heaven in Music





“Hildegard’s music is not easy. It is demanding with the breath…there are even a couple of songs that have two and a half octave ranges, which is extreme for music. In our day, we don’t even have most music like that.” ~ Linn Maxwell on Saint Hildegard’s music

This poem is set in Hildegard of Bingen’s new Abbey at Rupertsberg near the town of Bingen at the junction of the Nahr River and the Rhine in 1151. It is before her new Church is completed and before her sisters sing in flowing silk robes their Opera Ordo Virtutum  written by Hildegard (believed to be the first opera written by a woman in History. This poem is an extract from my up and coming writing on Hildegard of Bingen: A Poet Journey




                                                          Unearthing Heaven in Music
Unearthing Heaven in Music

Seamless fold of seasons
Not so seamless, human endeavour.
Life is still comfortless,
harsh, rough.

Hildegard is invigorated
by harmonies of sound,
sees music in the dawn,
dance of light on the hills,
in the caress of the wind,
shape of the clouds
sound of the entwining rivers,
the patter of rain
chatter of verdant tendrils of vine.

Music sings in her mind
fills her writing
defines her day.

In giving voice to her poetry
Hildegard bursts into song.
Words of Divine Light,
sounds from the heavenly spheres,
O fleeting soul, be strong.
Clothe yourself in the armour of light.
You are surrounded
with the embrace of divine mysteries.

She sees creation, a symphony
of joy and jubilation,
a great chorus
of the cosmos itself.
She sings with her sisters.
Her sisters sing with her.
Singing softens their tired
discouraged hearts
like blossoms soften stone walls.
In the garden with her sisters around her
she draws lines with a stick on the earth
dots out the shift of sounds,
and with the stick as a baton and pointer
she teaches them her new music.
Their eyes shine.
Her antiphons and canticles
enrich the Divine Office.
Richardis leads, her voice ethereal,
the sister join, words and rhythms soar,
breathless notes, thin higher and higher.

The unfinished church
embraces their song,
a new heaven and new earth.


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Viriditas and Hildegard of Bingen



1.Hildegard of Bingen with her  tablet to write while listening to the Divine Light  



Colleen Keating at Disibodenberg where Hildegard lived for 42 years. (1112 -1150)





Photo of Veriditas  taken by Elizabeth Keating-Jones

I watched an aerial view of the destruction of forests and bush in Queensland recently, yes in 2018, we are still destroying forests here in Australia. I thought of the natural habitats, animals loosing their homes and the birds’ nests falling and the wildflowers and moss and tiny orchids now gone and the bare vulnerable earth left to be washed into erosion gullies and then the droughts, because the forest canopy has been destroyed and the earth no longer sustaining the people. And I thought how relevant are Hildegard of Bingen’s words from the 12th century across the ages to us today in this age of climate change and greed and with the loss of so much wilderness and natural habitats.

Hildegard has a word veriditas that was a touchstone of her spirituality. It is said to be coined from two words green and truth.
For Hildegard this was the greening power, the animating life force manifest in the natural world that infuses all creation with moisture and vitality.
She talks of the “exquisite greening of grass and trees,   of earth’s lush greening.
She says all of creation and humanity is “showered with greening refreshment, the vitality to bear fruit”

Clearly for Hildegard creativity and greening power are intimately connected.
To her, the divine was manifest in every leaf and blade of grass. Hildegard saw the manifestation of the Creator in every flower, every stone. For her creation revealed the face of the creator.

Hildegard celebrates the sacred in nature.

I am the breeze that nurtures all things green,
I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.
I am the rain coming from the dew
that causes the grasses to laugh
with joy of life

For all of us who know and love Hildegard of Bingen,
let us be aware, awake and alert to bring lush greenness to the shrivelled and dried and wilted, to our earth and all its people. It only needs one more to sway the scales to change the critical mass of people who say,  leave our trees, our rivers, our forests, our air alone. This tiny blue sphere we live on is our home . . protect and love it.

Hildegard says,  we are here to cultivate the earthly and thereby create the heavenly. We do this in all of our creating . . . music, art, poetry, sculpture, bush walking, hobbies and culture.
The tragedy of drying up and ignoring the greening power is that nothing is created.

Colleen and Michael at Disibodenberg at Hildegard’s Kapelle


Two Sets of Footprints by Michael Keating and Colleen Keating


by Michael and Colleen on autumn  beach walk


CK            on the horizon
shelf of thick cloud
dawn lingers

MK            edge of the ocean
elements in balance
cone of awareness

CK                autumnal sun
catches the wet sand
our mirrored world

MK             gulls saunter
pattern the sand
we ease past

CK            olive-green seagrass
buzzes with insects
fresh from the ocean

MK             warm touch of sun
gossamer seaweed
dart of swallows

CK               the blue-grey heron
forages alone
we curve around

MK              photographers in position
board riders at play
wait for the moment

CK              near the headland
hang gliders colour the sky
autumnal breeze

MK            step through this autumn morning
extras on stage
accept our transience

CK               with incoming tide
two sets of footprints
are gone



no footprint





Even in the darkest of times there is always hope

there is always possibility of a new day.

Words that speak of justice, that work towards peace,

that give  hope lifts all of us and we are then  truly human.





when i hear words like this
there appears to be new texture
even bird song seems elevated

when i hear words like these
it occurs to me the dawn has an aureate glow
that the ocean sings in celebration

a heart on mute   beats again
on pause   wings again

from heart to heart like music in a round
into every dark corner like sparrows in a thorn bush
people will feel the chalice of humanity again
that is their gift to the world

Fire on Water

Fire on Water  is the first section in my new poetry book of the same title.

The first poem I dedicated to Michael .

The first photo is of our wedding day Saturday 24th September 1973.

The second photo is  breakfast Saturday 24th September 2018 45th Anniversary.







for Michael

caught by the gossamer of the moment

wrapped in seductive arms
we yarned and sang ate marshmallows
danced soaked in laughing rains and played
with rainbows frolicked naked in the sea
loved setting suns drank wine to the moon
thought this is forever

and dared a skerrick of doubt to creep in

Canterbury Cathedral




Thomas Keating-Jones  . . . Poet










The Glimmering Windows

The windows are bright and colourful
You can make out the story
following the pictures that you find.

Details show the past is there.
The candles flicker
when you put in your prayer.

It is ready to keep it
and send it to God.




The Prayer song


Thomas Keating-Jones


The people are singing,

the whole cathedral is filled
with beautiful music and prayers.

It stopped me .
My body could hear
the beautiful notes that they sing.

It caught my ear
and I started singing
without even knowing
that I was joining in

a prayer song.





People have been coming on pilgrimages to Canterbury for centuries and today’ our adventure was a pilgrimage, well a drive and picnic to see Canterbury Cathedral with the family. It is of course famous for the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer and referenced by Charles Dickens and then Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot to name a few.

It is one of the oldest and most famous  Christian structures in England. Foundered in 597 AD  and rebuilt and blessed in 1070 AD. It was originaly a Benedictine monastic community. Its architecture is breath-taking.

A pivotal moment in its history was the murder of Thomas Becket,  Archbishop to Henry 2nd He received 4 stabs to the back by 4 knights of  the King,  just after dawn at the first Mass  of the day 29th December 1170,



To continue my pilgrimage with Hildegard of Bingen and my continuing research for my book . . . It was in 1170 that Hildegard received word in Bingen of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket . She heard of his holiness and courage and his murder via artisans travelling for work. It energised her to rise up for one last missionary journey and travel to Cologne to lecture once more against greed and corruption and power of the Church.

Sound familiar ?

What’s changed?

Hildegard has given her life to make us listen and see. She was in her 70 ‘s and  her body was tired but she set out one last time to warn people to listen to the Light .  For me the Canterbury cloisters being around 12th century caught my attention because the cloisters of Hildegard’s Church were destroyed in the Thirty Year War in the 14th century and over the centuries little is left to imagine.



Now I kneel at the altar where the murder took place and reflect on this sculpture of suffering above. The black metal fluted cross and the swords hanging from the wounds and shadowed on the wall behind is very compelling.

Below the altar in the paved stones is the word Thomas.

Today it is appropriate to have my grandson Thomas sitting on the paved stone near me with his fingers curving through the printed words  Thomas.




We together light a candle and Thomas closes his eyes and prays. I didn’t try to eavesdrop his whispered mumbling, except his last words came louder  and thank you for the world . Amen “ 



An Adventure to Sheffield Park

Sheffield Park 1 IMG_9423

“I am so glad that I live in a world where there are Octobers” Anne of Green Gables.

After a great Prague experience we are back in England with the Keating-Jones family in Sussex about 2 hours south of London. And today an autumnal walk and picnic to a stunning place that is not too far from Elizabeth’s home called Sheffield Park. It is beautifully cared for National Trust .

The garden is just coming into its own with dazzling displays of colour reflecting in the lake and shinning views around every bend.

Thomas at school so only Elizabeth and  and little Miss Eleanor was with Michael and me.  Our daring  little Miss Eleanor turning 2 on Sunday  (October 2017)

Sheffield 5 Sheffield 4 Sheffield 2 IMG_9261 Sheffield 3


sissinghurst 5

Sissinghurst Castle and garden created by Sir Harold Nicholson and the famous Vita Sackville-West, (famous as a poet and writer in her own right and intimate friend to Virginia Woolf, and inspiration for Orlando) .

It is one of the most idolised gardens in England, set out in a self- assured and inspirational manner. It is a joy to walk around. Even nearly a century later Vita Sackville-West ‘garden is featured regularly on twitter.

There is a delicacy to the plan and plantings, striking juxtapositions of colours, a gathering of shades of purples to the summer garden of reds and golds and of course the famous white flowered gardens .

This is a garden with a surprise around every corner .

Secret gardens everywhere and little miss Eleanor leads us curiously around.

Thanks to the National Trust for there love and care of this garden .

sissinghurst 4 Sissinghurst 1 Sissinghurst 2 Sissinghurst 3

Reflection on Launch


book on petals jacarandas out our window

Fire on Water was launched on Sunday at the NSW Writers Centre by the Internationally renowned poet Beverley George with the symbolic cut of a teal blue ribbon tied around the books.

Out the window the Jacaranda trees like purple rain gave us a spectacular show all afternoon.

‘always surprise
as i listen
to the easy drift of jacaranda blossoms
settling to a hush ‘

It was an afternoon of poetry reading, friendship, sharing nibbles and a drink, with Cello music played by Nigel Parry giving a touch of the transcendent to the occasion.

cello playing A happy dayjacaranda and book

Launch of Fire on Water

col at launch
COLLEEN’S    Thank you speech at the  launch of Fire on Water
Beverley, thank-you for launching this new and beautiful book and for your affirming words. I appreciate your belief in writing and in poetry and for affirming me.
You are amazing with your generosity . I wonder at you. No one would believe the dedication

you have to writers and writing.beverley at launch

I appreciate you all being here for the launch

So many happy warm smiling faces.
As you can imagine I am thrilled this new book has come to fruition.
I love the book. It has a good feel and I am very proud of it.
I like to think , as Mary Oliver says it allows each poem to sit on its page and breathe
And I like its spaciousness .

I thank the publisher Ginninderra Press for this effort.
Especially Stephen Matthews for his friendly and helpful encouragement .

Most of you are aware writing is a lonely trek, a long haul, a footslog, an odyssey. Sometimes lost in the bush, sometimes all at sea, sometimes desert-dry, sometimes energising but mostly a solitary and gruelling task and as a writing community we appreciate that, and it is good to be here together to celebrate writing.

Getting published is an interesting process and a wonderful journey. Many of you have been a part of that and I appreciate you all.

Especially thanks to Michael for his encouragement, patience and support . And my daughters and their families for their support today.


girls at launch grandkids at launch


And my fellow writers and fellow poets .
To Sue and the women writers group and especially Decima I deeply appreciate your friendship, affirmation and critiquing. We are a good team.
To Norm and the Wednesday evening poets for your critique thanks . my time with you is invaluable
and to Ron and the U3A poetry appreciation group at Eastwood thanks for being here .
Finally to Helen and Nigel Parry for being here and for the beautiful cello music which has added a touch of the transcendence to the day.
In Romeo and Juliet some of you might remember Romeo’s amazed outcry

“It is the East and Juliet is the sun”

I see the creative world as the east, and the hope, the beauty the beloved as the sun
for us as Australians, you and I have the intimate feeling for the way every morning firey light rises and blazes against the dark and conquers the ocean,
it is the fire that rises from water.
Fire on Water is a miracle in itself but for me in my title poem, the second miracle is that we are alive here and now.

and so the poem fire on water pg 20

A poetic mind, writer and/or reader
is lively and inquiring, compassionate, curious, angry, full of music,
full of feeling.
and this poem that won first place in a 2016 competition in Positive Word
I feel is a touchstone for this
wood pigeon p115

and the anger like blood that spills from the pen pg 50
out of sight out of mind pg 80

and finally to me poetry is also about taking wings and I hope it plants a seed for your everyday to take wings
taking wings pg 107

And now I give the mic to Michael to read Waiting pg 18. and then to Jo to read her selection of poems. Thank you all once again for being here