Saturday, July 21, 2007


Sometimes at early morn and late evening a golden light spreads across the river valley. A shining luxurious glow hangs among the trees, gilding the branches, the leaves, and the watery avenue that is the Brisbane River. The mangrove leaves turn a bright lime green, the dew sparkles up the spiders' webs and the tree trunks gleam. It has hardly rained for months here, yet the sight of the glowing light reminds me of the light shed by the rainbow. I miss that. In the golden (de)light there is also a hint of that multi-coloured ribbon that spans the sky and a memory of the 'pot of gold' I once saw when the rainbow dropped straight into the forest of Mt Cootha. What a magical place. Sometimes the light comes just before it rains, but now, although there is the touch of light, no grey clouds form and no rain appears.

Parched. The land. The water seems to play tricks and gives the impression that there is no drought. The river rises and falls with the tides, and today, you can see that the tide is way way out. The banks of Sandy Creek are wide viscous chocolate filled with the breathing holes from crustaceans or other water creatures, and the upsidedown rootlets of the mangroves. Ducks waddle in the creek's brown water, stirring up the mud. The yellow light catches the swirling earth as it spirals beneath the ducks' feet, while the people walking their dogs and jogging are captured - and held - within the glow.

This is what you see when you go riverwalking in Brisbane. Riverwalking is also the title of the nature writer and philosopher, Kathleen Dean Moore. She is a marvellous writer. Her books Riverwalking and Pine Island Paradox are wonderfully evocative texts. They reveal her love of flowing places and her sensitivity and care for the land and her family. She is one of a handful of my favourite nature writers - Terry Tempest Williams, Richard Nelson, Barry Lopez, Scott Russell Sanders, Linda Hogan, as well as the writings reflected in the gorgeous journal Orion. I relish their words and their ability to harness the feelings exhibited by the natural world as if you, the reader, are also walking in their footsteps.

The other writer who has the same effect on me is the glorious poet Mary Oliver. The tapestry of her words stir the heart and compel the reader, me, to tell others of the generosity of her thread. Here is The Swan by Mary Oliver.

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

If you would like to make a comment or add your own wonderful poem, click on Comments below.

Monday, July 16, 2007

In Search of Rain

Each day as I wake and look out at the sky and see its bright blueness and its clarity I wonder from whence cometh the rain. While parts of the country are still water-logged after heavy downpours and floods, here we cherish each drop, recycle the grey water onto the garden, bathe in less than a small bucket, and think about and pray for rain. Sometimes there are sights of grey skies, perhaps a hint of being overcast, but nothing or very little of the watery drop transpires.

The image of this tiny new branch with its luscious crimson and copper leaves emerged from the small eucalypt after the last rainfall a couple of weeks ago. It flushed the river and brought life-giving oxygen to the water. The river needs another bath.

Worshiping water, the water that flows in the river, through the ocean, in our bodies, through the blood, sweat, tears, urine and amniotic fluid, connects us to the lifeblood of the planet, to the element of 'Divine Water' (Arvigo & Epstein, 2003), to the gushing salty liquid that rises and falls on the tides of the river.

Rosita Arvigo and Nadine Epstein have written a generous homage to the Divine Water through their book called Spiritual Bathing: Healing Rituals and Traditions from Around the World (2003). Water is worshipped by many cultures still, and through the book gods and goddesses swim through mythologies, creation stories, religious histories, and is woven through rituals that revere the liquid bliss.

In the book they explore the spiritual significance of water rituals through ancient and modern religious practices, from Egyptian to Mayan, from Judaism to Islam, from Scandinavia to Africa. Cleansing rituals, rituals of purification, for protection or prosperity; water-based practices for scrying, healing and contemplation.

The spirit of water bubbles through the beautiful images, with the authors commenting: 'A spiritual bath usually combines water, prayer and ritual - and sometimes includes plants - to wash away the negative effects of ....[and here they list a stream of emotions such as 'anger, fear, grief and trauma, and a broken heart'](2003:3).

The earth, like the human, needs a spiritual bath, and the ground needs to be watered with 'aspersions' (meaning 'To scatter and sprinkle with water', 2003:2).

If you would like to make a comment, please click on 'Comments' below.

Arvigo R & Epstein N, 2003, Spiritual Bathing: Healing Rituals and Traditions from Around the World, Berkeley & Toronto, Celestial Arts.