Contributing to the Community

I saw a doco about a man who paints on walls.. he painted in Vanuatu and there he contributed to the community. He painted a wall in a very obscure place – far from the tourist walks. He paints big walls in big cities, but this small contribution warmed his heart and here he understood the value of small.

I know a lady her name is Barb – she lives in South Freo.. she is the Queen of her street and she contributes to her community. She welcomes all the newcomers and corrects the spelling on the street signs. She makes a difference.

Sometimes we think we have to do great things – but in fact it is the ‘small things’ that add up to all the community faces joined together in a kaleidoscope of connection.
The street gardens, the soup kitchens, the one who simply refuses the plastic bag and so awakens the check out person to the possibility of a sustainable land. Making a difference.

People say to me.. ‘Oh you are so amazing.. you give up so much to go to India to do your work there.’ And me.. I shrug my shoulders and I am grateful that I am recognised for what I do.. for if I was not .. I would be not telling the truth.. but I know that what I do is no more than what you also do in your own way as you walk in beauty in this world.

For this is what the game is.. what the aim is ..
what the purpose is..
simply to walk in beauty as we do our daily life.

So India.. what is that about for me?
How can I tell you the joys it brings, the difficulty it is to be there sometimes, the special moments – the smile of the old lady where I buy my evening banana – the stares of those who wonder what on earth this old lady is doing in their land.

I often ask myself:  “What am I doing here?”
And the answer is that here is my heart. A split heart I have. One heart – part of it… is embedded deep in my family and my lover and my friends in Fremantle Australia.. but the other part .. somehow an older part – is in India.

I board the plane – leaving from Perth – stop over usually in Kuala Lumpur.. not there yet.. but when the next flight comes – and we are heading to Bangalore – at least half of the passengers are Indian.. and suddenly I am feeling almost home. Home to this place where I don’t even speak the language.. home to this place where I need to change my dress entirely to fit – home to this place – this place of simplicity and complexity and a culture far from my own.

Touch down.. I am back – the smells wash over me, the sound, the chaos, and the knowing that I am home. I haggle with the taxi driver, and I get ripped off anyway because that is par for the course on your first night in India. Ah the over night hotel… fortunately I know this one and it is reasonably clean.. I sleep – I wake to Indian breakfast – spicy dosa and milky tea. And the journey begins.

I will spend the day with my friend in Bangalore -she will feed me delicious food, thinking as she does I must be half starved after being away from proper Indian food for so long.. and tonight board the overnight bus to Hubli.. my place of choice. A dusty and noisy three tier town as they call it.. meaning simply .. ‘not too developed!’ Here are the ‘boys’ I work with .. a very male oriented office.. the NGO .. not for profit – working with farmers .. helping them harvest rainwater to ensure they can remain on their land for another season provided there is some monsoonal rains this year.

It is uncertain times – those who talk of global warming being a myth do not live in rural India. There is no question of it here. Where changing weather patterns are bringing disaster to families – to whole villages left without any water to drink in the long hot dry season. Creating a migration equivalent to those of war torn lands.. a migration to the city in search of elusive jobs.

But that is another story – and yes it is the story I follow with my work – but the day to day of my life in Hubli is that of connection with the young men who are dedicated to this work. The work of the water.

We joke, we laugh, we chatter and we drink chai and in between we write budgets and discuss heatedly how things should or could be done. I try to step back out of my bossy western ways and listen and fit my thoughts together with those of the Indian way.

Sometimes it works, sometimes I help, sometimes the western way tempered with some patience – adds some value and sometimes I have to step right back and re- look at the way I am .. at my impatience and sense of ego! For sometimes that is really what it is.. “I am the one who is working here.. I am the one who can focus and get things done.. you lot simply mess around and don’t really know what you are doing .. and read the paper and talk endlessly on the phone.. but I am the one who is working” … ha ha ha ha…

Yes Shazar .. and they are the ones who started all this.. who know because they are the ones who lived in the village .. who understand what it is to have no water.. who know how it is to be unable to send their children to school for lack of the money for a notebook and pencil. They are the ones who understand the value of community ..
not you..

You who come from the land of more is better – the land where often people will walk past you on the street with their noses down – not a glance for the ‘stranger’. And so once again I step back into my ‘box’ breathe – and thank the forces who have brought me to this land again – for I have been here many lives – but this life it is the time to learn again what is humility – what is gratitude, what is giving, what is true generosity, for this is what India has to share with me.

And finally to understand the value of the small things that are scattered throughout the day stitching this life together to make a difference.

 

The Universe is a Friendly Place

Yes I hear you say.. not always.. and you would be right.  But tonight as I came home to my room in Hubli, this was really true for me.  I had been for my first acupuncture treatment – since my last series back in October.

Dr Anand Varma.. what a gem he is.. I wrote of him before .. when I just found him.. and I am back now after such a great result with my knees.. this time I am offering him my cranky neck to have a go at!!  He can stick all the acupuncture needles he likes into me.. I fully trust his long experience and his steady hands.

Today I walked into the clinic and each and every one of the staff welcomed me with big smiles and open hearts.  I felt like a special guest.. I think everyone who goes there gets the special guest treatment ..

I sat down next to a young girl who seems to have cerebral palsy..there with her mother – she is about 12 years old – can’t walk very well but her smile breaks open the heart.  She is in my group.. that is the ones who are scheduled for the 6pm session.  Then after some time on the hard waiting room bench, we were called upstairs.  She and I shared the same cubicle.  The over head fan was on .. as I climbed up onto the high bench and settled in.. waiting for the needles.  Hari Krishna Hari Rama played – over and over the mesmerising chant.. and I was transported.

Finally Dr Varma arrived – replete with new smart phone and all my details and my charts on it to be consulted there and then.  He proudly told me his son advised him on the best way to get set up .. and its working very well.  I joked.. ha I can’t lie to you any more.. its all there at your fingertips.

And so the needles went in.. Hari Krishna continued to play – and I lay back and relaxed.

Half and hour later the nurse came and freed me and my new friend, the young girl on the bench next to me.  I floated out.  And wandered up the laneway in the gathering dusk to find myself an ‘auto’ (rickshaw) – there he was .. and as I started to tell the driver where I wanted to go he cut me off laughing and with a stream of Kannada that I only guessed at – I realised he was the same man who brought me on Friday for my first appointment.

I relaxed in the back of the auto.. feeling safe, feeling cared for, feeling blessed.  This Universe I am in right now .. feels like such a friendly place.  I am incredibly lucky. And I know so many are not .. but for now I simply feel very grateful that I am surrounded by friendly people – I am cared for and I am loved.

 

The Way It Is

I’m not going to say ‘only in India’.. but sometimes that phrase does feel appropriate and today.. well – I had interesting experiences at the carpentry shop!

We are in a big town called Nizamabad – staying at a lodge right in the middle of the market area.  The Deshpande Foundation conference is happening day after tomorrow .. and we have come for that.  I am happy – we have found a lodge which is not only cheap but also clean.  Joy.

So today after lunch downstairs – which got invaded by 12 Indian Ladies having a ‘kitty party’ and making an incredible racket while playing some sort of bingo type numbers game – we headed off through the street markets.  We were on our way to  supervise the building of a wooden model of the bore well recharge process.

The carpenter shop was a small structure filled up with bits of wood, and rough sawdusty chunks of shavings.  Out the front partially on the street lay the beginning of our ‘model’.

I asked Sikandar – ‘Do you have a drawing’ – he looked at me and grinned and said “Yes” but I immediatley knew the drawing was in his head!  He said pointing to the young man who was busy chiselling out a chunk from a board – “I transferred it to his head”.   And so he had.. and the model continued to grow.

I was given a chair and perched there between the shop and the fairly potent drain – played on my phone and watched proceedings.  The ubiquitous chai came – delivered by a small man who when I smiled and thanked him, broke open into a beautiful reply smile.

I caught that one in my head.. not on my camera!

But now its getting too hot.. the sun is sinking and the rays are full into the shop now – so .. the head guy picks up two of the hand made chairs – carts them across the road to a space – plonks them down and invites me and Sikandar to sit there.. across the street in the shade.

The perfect spot to view proceedings.  We sit there watching the passing parade who by the way are also watching us.  The weird foreign lady and her companion – sitting as though in their living room by the side of the busy road.

And the model grew and a couple of hours later it was declared complete and  a success.  Drawings or no drawings – it turned out the way it was planned.  Sikandar and I headed off to find me a new pair of sandals… another story.. for another day.

 

The Gemini Full Moon

Its time.. time to begin getting ready to leave for my next sojourn in India.  And tonight the moon is full and my friend the Cosmic Queen in her infinitely precise words for the astrological times advised:   “Call in the vision of your best possible life, situation – outcome – write!” So I did – at first considering it was time to write my vision yet again.. to write my goals, my purpose – my real reason for being.   Oh such a huge task.

But hiding in the back of my mind, just out of sight,  lay some advice I had received earlier today from Alberto Villoldo – and when I looked again there it was:  “The shaman doesn’t look for meaning in life, but brings meaning to every situation.  She stops looking for truth and instead brings truth to every encounter.”

Ah.. and so like the beautiful night cactus the vision unfolds.  What is vision but the ability to see – the depth of the vision – the width – the far seeing vision – all are dependent on the place of quietness in the being.

And when the being is very quiet – the vision reaches far.

So quietly – I allow the pencil to slip over the page of my journal – allow the words to flow as they will.   “What do I do to bring meaning to every situation?”  Does that mean I stop seeking the big ‘why‘? Perhaps that is the ‘why’ – to create the sacred in each act. To bring that which is holy to the smallest thing, being or doing.

So as I go this time to India – it is to meet each person on the way with love and respect.  As it is also here – in this time as each day we have been standing together protecting and protesting against the imminent destruction of our beloved Beeliar wetlands for an unnecessary and ugly highway.

It is about creating miracles with non violence – with forgiveness – calmness and peace.   But first the peace must be within each of us.

I have been worried:  “Will it all work out .. why am I going, why not just stay here – where life appears to be relatively easy.”  And now comes the answer:  Do you think you instigated this?  Do you really think you are in control?  You are not! Let it go.  Control is no where.  Let go and let God.  And yes – plan – let the plan unfold .. vision – allow the words to flow – the information to arrive – but you are not the controller.

You are simply the instrument of the Divine.  Be that. There is no need to be anything else.

So this then is the vision. To let go and  integrate the Divine fully into my Being – so that I can live that which is my purpose.  To create the sacred in each and every moment of this life I am so very privileged to live.

The mind may still become disturbed as it does.. it may ‘worry’ it may become caught in the whirlpools of loneliness – fear, alienation, concern for small things – but I can return now to this that I know – the mind is not me – for I am of the Divine.

My Mother Left a Scar on My Soul

My mother left a scar on my soul. Can you see it? If you look closely – you may.  If you knew her you might hear her in my laugh – or glimpse a shadow of her being in the turn of my head. The scarring was oh so painful as it was made but now this scar is simply a beautiful mark on my soul.

Her being was special.. yes I hear you say.. ‘all mother’s beings are special’.  But no – you did not know mine. She was my mother.. and then she was gone.
A short time we spent together – only a few years – almost 14 in total – but the blink of an eye compared to a lifetime.

In that 14 years she shared so much. Her love of beauty, her eye for photography, her hand in baking .. she cooked.. oh how how she cooked – while multitasking the day through – she washed and baked and made bread and cooked roasts and quartered the mutton to a tee.

The ‘killer’ (meat in the form of a dead sheep) was brought in by my father every few days depending on the number of ‘men’ she was feeding at the time.
On the Murchison River – some would say the outback – this was not your lamb chops all neatly packaged, your roast leg – already for baking and carving.. no the whole sheep simply stripped of its insides and its wooly hide.

The rest was up to Mum – to get it suitably divided and ready for the kero fridge. Every last piece of that sheep was prepared with a loving hand and provided to the family and the workers in as many different ways as she could dream up that they would accept and eat. Soups, stews, brains, liver fry, shanks – roast on Sunday .. the list went on.

Amy Gweneth Robinson

But let it not be thought that my Mother was just a cook. For she was a stalwart woman – bearer of five children, the backbone of a sheep station – without her my father would never have survived the ‘bush’.

And who was she to me that she has left this exquisite scar on my soul. When I remember her – the first thing that comes to my mind is her fragrance.. the smell of her – that smell that was the last thing that was tangible after she left. I would bury my face into her night clothes and her dressing gown still behind the bedroom door .. and the memory of her would wash over me with the strength of a huge wave ..

but now .. as time has passed – I think of her infrequently – she is around that I know – I feel her laughter at times – and I feel her hand in my own as I too understand the art of the cooking pots and the fire. This she taught me along with the ‘correspondence schooling’ she gave – me perched on the kitchen cupboards reciting my times table while she beat the loaves of bread into submission with her floury arms.

‘Seven eights are fifty six’ I recited time and time again as the loaves and buns were formed on the bench beside me.

And then there was the day when the long black snake slithered into the kitchen .. wove its way into the cupboard and disappeared behind the huge old AGA cooker we had. Mum was not faint of heart .. a snake of any kind in the bush meant watch out.. she took a kettle of boiling water and poured it down the back of the stove.. the snake was not seen again.. we breathed and went back to the times table.

Women in those days in the outback were a special breed. They had to be. Mum was one of the best. She could turn her hand to all things household, she understood how to stitch up a gash in a bleeding dog caught on the barb wired fence, she knew how to grow a vegetable garden that flourished in the harsh land – her chickens gave eggs, she managed the weekly mail truck and the delivery of perishables that otherwise we would never see.

There were I am sure, many things she did that I never knew of – but I always remember her hand soothing my head as she applied calomine lotion to my chicken pox spots in the middle of the night – all those small things that told me how much I was loved.

I don’t know if she knew she would be only with us for a short while – but it seems she did because she gave herself so fully and completely to loving us kids – like she had to supply us with enough to go on with once she was gone.

And now.. what of the scar?  It was raw and unbelievably tearing of my soul for a very long time.   Scars are like that .. they hurt .. and then they heal.   Sometimes breaking open again until one day they are simply a mark – a remembrance – something we will never lose.

I don’t want to lose that scar for in the scar is the sweetness and the depth and the understanding that I was loved. and through that love I myself learned to love.

Thank you my wonderful and beautiful Mother ..
for you gave me life and you gave me love and in that love you gave me the continuation of the understanding of love..
so I too can pass that on..
this is your legacy –
a legacy of the infinity of love.