The Heart of the Owl

The Heart of the Owl

 I hung a photograph on a wall in my home recently.  Oddly enough it wasn’t a photograph that I had captured.  It was taken by a dear friend.

When I first laid eyes on the image some months ago it spoke to me.  The words were not clearly audible, but I knew that in a matter of time the message would be deciphered, and the words would resound.

The moment came in the early hours, late last year.  Words filled my head and my heart and moved my soul.   I heard the words with such clarity I knew action needed to be taken and I felt I was ready.

I made a bold choice to walk a different path and with a sense of calm and reason I uttered three words “I’ve had enough.”

Those words said, a mixture of emotions ran through me and actions unravelled, some clumsily and some with absolute precision.  Then it struck me, all but one action had been taken.  I needed to hang that photograph.

I had been waiting for the right signs to guide me to the moment, and to the place it I would install it.  It did take time, but it eventually made its way from the corner of my home office, facing inwards, to a wall of my choosing, facing anyone who may have the privilege to gaze upon it.

It was through salty tears that I realised where I would hang it and when.  I was sad because this moment was as much about loss as it was about new beginnings.  I was leaving behind aspects of a life I wore like a comfy cashmere wrap and other aspects which ripped out my heart and eroded my very being.  With that sadness also came a sense of liberation and at that moment my tears stopped and I smiled.

Years of care, commitment, duty and responsibility have etched lines on my face and left scars, some virtual and others very real on my body, as it enters its 50th year.

I am a nurturer.  I am known to be reliable and down-to-earth.  I am acutely aware of the feelings of others, often to the detriment of my own.  I am comforted by order and structure and will more likely avoid confrontation and conflict than invoke it. Being kind, loving and compassionate comes naturally as does acceptance.

Let me tell you about the image.  It speaks to me and of promises I have made.  They are promises I have made to myself and to others.  When I look at the photograph I don’t just see…. I hear, I feel, I taste, and a heady scent consumes me.

I see wisdom and desire.  Not desire in the passionate sense, it is more profound than that.  If adoration, devotion, care and respect each had a sound, a note…. I would hear beautiful music. I do hear beautiful music.  Above all though, I feel.  I feel unconditional love, but it is of a love lost.  Each of those notes, if you will, now come together to create a striking sonata.

The image I have carefully fixed in place is that of an owl. A masked owl.  For me though, my mask has been ripped off, not peeled away but torn and discarded.

The Masquerade is over, my heart and soul are laid bare.

I am now writing the last few paragraphs of a chapter in my life which I knew had to draw to a close.

I have given, and I have received.  I have loved, and I have lost.  I am richer, stronger, at peace and above all, I am calm.

The owl has a downward pose.  It is respectful, as am I. Its eyes almost closed, yet open enough to acknowledge its surrounds and as if to pay tribute.  Its delicate plumage is so very intricate. A heart frames its features.  My heart forms a frame around memories I have created, and it beats for memories yet to be.  So many yet to be created.

There is no colour, there need not be, this moment is purely black and white. Ebony and ivory, a raven’s feathers falling on virgin snow, the plumage from a Pacific Gull washed onto a pristine beach.

It is black and white.

The heart of the owl.

This image  is subject to Copyright and is used with the permission of Annette Marner.

 

The Breakwater (first published February 2016)

Introduction: 

The Narungga people have always lived on Yorke Peninsula. Their country extends as far north as Port Broughton and east to the Hummock Ranges. Their neighbours were the Kaurna of the Adelaide Plains and the Nukunu to the North, with whom the Narungga would meet for trade and ceremony. Their expertise at fishing was admired by many of the early European settlers.

The first European settlers in this area were Joseph (Curley Joe) Simms and his wife Blanche who arrived in the early 1860’s.  The area known to the early Europeans as Glencoe was later, and still is, known as Simms Cove.

Curley Joe began fishing at the time copper was discovered on the Yorke Peninsula and in the families that arrived, Curley Joe had a ready market.  All seven of Joe’s sons became fishers (he and Blanche had 11 children).  Over the next many generations numerous Simms’ boats were commissioned and when not at work were anchored in Simms Cove.

For those of you reading this piece and have seen my photography captured in the place I refer to as ‘my sanctuary’ would be familiar with an iconic part of the Simms Cove-Moonta Bay landscape.  It is known as the breakwater.

This remnant timber has fascinated me for years so I set out to learn more.

I took the time to sit and listen to a remarkable local and extraordinary man, a descendent of Curley Joe, Ben Simms.

Ben is in his 84th year.  Ben has been many things in his life, a writer, a poet and a horse trainer but it is his affinity with the sea and fishing which is striking.

I was compelled to write these words after spending an afternoon in Ben’s company.  These words are my take on the ‘Sentinels’ at the bottom of the cliff at Simms Cove –  the remnant timber, the Breakwater.

These words are written from the perspective of a tree, a tree destined for life beyond its native forest, and are dedicated to Ben.

The Breakwater 

I grew from a seed and put down my roots in nutrient-rich heavy, clay soil.   I grew tall and straight and stood shoulder to shoulder in a forest of my kin.  My home, my sanctuary is on the eastern seaboard of Australia.

I am already 200 years old and I am the keeper of secrets.

It is spring and I’m adorned with a flourish of rich creamy flowers, native bees work busily in my canopy. I hear the crack of a stock whip in the distance as the cloven hooves of bullocks’ crash through the understory. The bullocky calmly encourages his team of beasts to ‘walk-on’ but not with a word but rather with nurturing actions.  A small band of sinewy, keen-eyed men mark my brethren for felling and I am targeted too.

I feel the bite of the saw rip deep into my bark and my flesh.  My scent, my blood, the smell of what they describe as turpentine is heavy on the ether as my leaves are crushed.  It is matter of some time until my remnants and broken spirit is heaved onto the flatbed dray and my journey begins.  “Walk-on”, the bullocky gestures.

I am a tree – I am supposed to stand sentinel for the term of my life but I am now moving. I am being moved.  I am moved.

Days later I reach a harbour, it’s bustling.  Hemp lines hold a cargo vessel alongside a makeshift wharf. The loading begins.

I am manhandled into the hold and wedged between my kin – we are heading to South Australia.  The journey around the rugged coastline is uneventful.  Spring turns into summer.

The activity at this port of Wallaroo is lively and hurried.  Steamers and majestic sail boats sit high on the tide.  The construction of a wharf is underway and farther down the coast, the construction of a jetty. The year is 1872 and the port is Moonta Bay.

I am surplus to requirements…or am I?  Have I been hand-picked to provide a safe haven for a fishing fleet?  Is this my destiny?

My length has been reduced now and I’m rolled, hauled and then suspended over a cliff and painstakingly lowered to a sandy resting place below.  Fishers are now also lumberjacks and engineers, they start to design a haven, a breakwater.  They get to work.  I am to be the centre piece.  There are more than thirty pieces of my kin now implanted in a watery bed.  I listen to the fishers and workmen as they recount their embellished tales.

I am the keeper of secrets.  With every passing day I add more to my vast chapters of knowledge and understanding.

I have served my purpose well and I have now seen many seasons. The tides ebb and flow, the ferocious sou-westerly gales gnash at my very being but I remain steadfast.

On calm clear nights I bear witness to the intensity of the celestial landscape.  I see black velvet scattered with precious gemstones.  Diamonds, rubies and large magellanic cloud are suspended in the vastness of space.  The Southern Cross pointed out by alpha and beta Centauri hangs.  I wonder how many navigators have gazed upon the crux – a welcome escort to those seeking direction or comfort.

I have afforded shelter to the Challa, the Rum-Runner and many other vessels over the years.   From time to time cutters, anchored in the deeper cooler water off-shore renew their rigging and chain.  The heavy chain, now compromised by the elements of salt and water are brought to my watery forest.

I am wrapped in chain and for a moment in time I am connected to my fellow sentinels.  It is said this is to add strength to my purpose.  I disagree. The sea soon erodes the chain and it disperses into the sea, fragmented and broken.  I remain steadfast.

I have been a bystander as skippers and deckhands, their backs braking and muscles burning with the sheer weight of their bounty finally get their prized catch to the top of the cliff.  Their catch is destined for market and so the next part of the journey begins for fish and fisher.

I am the keeper of secrets – I dare not tell a soul.

Young lovers meet at dusk at the base of the cliffs when the tide is near high.  The lovers embrace and collide with passion, they are alone.  They believe there are no witnesses to their unbridled desire.

I am the keeper of secrets – I dare not tell a soul.

I am weary; my years now number more than I care to count.  I’m weathered, I’m windswept but my surface is smooth.  No splinters, no shards which might catch and rip at a cloth.  A pacific gull, not long past its juvenile years, extends its wings and stretches.  As it does, its talons dig into me so it can maintain a steady balance.

I feel no pain but I do feel pleasure.  I feel the connection with another living creature.  It is comforting and gives me comfort to know that the majestic seabird picked me to perch upon.

You may think I am dead remnant timber soon to be lost to a watery grave but I am alive.

I live in a sanctuary and I offer sanctuary. I am part of an irreplaceable history but importantly I am very much part of the future.

I am the keeper of secrets.

Yellow Roses – my thoughts on Estate Planning (first published August 2016)

My choice is roses. Yellow roses; many beautiful yellow roses, some in bud and some in full bloom; but all cast adrift on the sea by family and friends.

The timing is uncertain and so it should be; but the place is definite.  This celebration and commemoration must take place in my sanctuary and it must be at sunset.  I am writing about my explicit wishes for a farewell upon my death.

Do you have a valid Will?  If you do, when was it last updated?  Does it reflect your wishes and does your family know and understand and will they respect those wishes?

This subject may be confronting for some but it need not be.  I’ve recently made the time to update a suite of important legal documents because my personal circumstances have changed.

I’ve updated my Will, my Enduring Power of Attorney and an Advance Care Directive.   There is another document I have completed and I will come to that.

Whilst this subject is very personal, I don’t have any reservations in sharing my thoughts.  Perhaps it’s because I am more comfortable and confident in my choices and decisions than I have ever been because I accept, with pragmatism, that from the day we are born we are on a trajectory towards death.

In the contest of life I have chosen to be proactive in so many ways.  It is cathartic on a spiritual and emotional level but it also makes sense on a practical level.

So what have I done? First and foremost I have sought and gained the trust of people I love and respect.  I’ve entrusted special people in my life with a very important responsibility.  I have asked them to act confidently on my behalf, in the event that I cannot.  I have legally appointed those chosen to act for me through the mechanism of an Enduring Power of Attorney.  I have also asked them to execute my Will following my death.  Importantly, they have accepted this responsibility without reservation.

I have also updated an existing advance care directive.  This has enabled me to determine what I want to happen in relation to certain personal areas of my life.  This relates to my health care, residential and accommodation arrangements, and other personal affairs.

In South Australia from 1 July 2014 the Advance Care Directives Act 2013 (SA) came into operation. This allows a person to:

  • set out values and wishes to guide decisions about their future healthcare and other personal matters
  • set out what, if any, particular healthcare they refuse and in what circumstances and
  • appoint one or more substitute decision-makers.

More here: http://www.lawhandbook.sa.gov.au/ch02s02.php

In terms of my Will – my instructions are also explicit.  In South Australia, it is important to note that if you die without a valid and up to date Will or without a Will altogether then you will have died ‘intestate’. This means that South Australian laws will determine how your estate will be distributed.

Just a few examples of what might happen are:

  • Any real estate you own may be sold instead of being left to a loved one.
  • Special personal items, such medals of service may not be given to the family member of your choice.
  • Your grandchildren may not receive the benefits of your estate.

The ‘other document’ I referenced and what I consider being the most delicate and personal decision I have made is that I have decided to be a body donor.

Put simply, in the event of my death and if my remains are deemed to be acceptable for donation, I have chosen to donate my body to the Adelaide Medical School Body Donation Program.

My reasons are many and each carefully considered.  This is not a decision I have taken lightly but it is my decision nonetheless. Importantly I have made this choice known to my family and they accept it (at least they are telling me that now).

In reviewing the information provided to me by the University of Adelaide, School of Medicine I read, “Donating your body to science is one of the greatest gifts one can give to make a lasting contribution to the education and training of our current & future health professionals and to advance science through research.”  I am pragmatic, I am a free-thinker and I agree.

More here: https://health.adelaide.edu.au/medicine/facilities/body-donation/

A recent conversation I listened to between Richard Fidler and Dr Walter Wood also informed my decision and I truly believe it is the right one.  If you are interested you can listen here:http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2016/04/14/4443060.htm

So, if you care about your death as much as you do your life; and you feel strongly about your wishes being respected and honoured, then plan now and let your wishes be known.  Make your wishes legal.  There are many law firms and legal practitioners well placed to provide sound and cost effective advice.  The cost to your family may be far greater if no plans are in place.

This blog does not constitute advice but rather I am sharing my personal opinion about the importance of estate planning.  I hope these words spark a conversation with your family or loved ones and that you consider seeking professional legal advice for your own peace of mind and that of your family.

In closing, if you have a preference to be cremated rather than buried or for a Beethoven, Mahler, Rachmaninov or Sibelius symphony to be played at your funeral service make that known too.  Your loved ones may just choose for you and my guess is that it may not reflect your very personal preference.

For me it is roses…lots of yellow roses….and for my cremated remains to be returned to nature and the sea with a beautiful symphony upon the ether, at sunset; and in my sanctuary.

Welcome

Hello, nice to see you…

While you are here, take your time to sift through theses pages where I have written about issues which move me.  Many things inspire and motivate me, more often than not it is people and it is places.

I believe strongly that without our environment there is no economy. I am  proponent Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp, I advocate for stronger regional communities through regional development and I am a proud supporter of Australia becoming a Republic.

I  believe that securing our food and water into the future is not something we should hope for but rather something we should strive for and that we should allow science and research to drive innovation and economic growth.

I often retreat to the sanctuary, my sanctuary, of the beach at Moonta Bay to find peace and equilibrium.

My frown lines are borne out of concern and sometimes fear and sadness; and my ample laughter lines are from living, loving and being hopeful.

Dianah