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I spent the first few days of November in the peaceful surrounds of Lake Kanuga in North Carolina at Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb Camp. This inclusive, communal and creative gathering is now an annual must-be-there event for me. I always return home refreshed, encouraged and full of new insights, ideas and skills.

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morning-on-lake-kanugalabyrinth-at-kanuga_fotorPoet, Glenis Redmond, shared her powerful words which now, more than ever, will be needed to jolt us out of systemic injustices that exist across the world.
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Jonathan Santos sang songs of ancestors and breaking through.

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Before I fall asleep in the second lot of jet lag I’ve experienced in the past week, I wanted to post this slide show of my last few days ‘at camp’.  More details will emerge of the amazing poets, artists and musicians with whom I had the great privilege of sharing the experience. There is so much magic to absorb and I’m grateful for the creative juices that are firing away inside of me right now.

Thank you to the amazing Cary Cooper for foreshadowing ‘exactly how I hoped it would be’ on Day One.

Lake Lanier, GAYes, dear ones, I am at camp. Only there are no tents or sleep outs or enforced tramping through the woods. There is lots of play and much connection going on though.

Just over a week after returning from the big road adventure, I turned my sights east with Lake Lanier, Georgia, USA as the final destination.

It’s a short wander to the shore of the lake from my room and on my first day walk, I encountered squirrels and chipmunks foraging around the forest floor preparing for the oncoming winter.

The fungi tend to stay put when someone with a camera crunches leaves underfoot, so I ask you to imagine small fast furry creatures as you enjoy these eukaryotic organisms. I may get lucky with the fauna on Saturday when I join others for a lunchtime photo walk.

Fungi - Lake Lanier 2Fungi - Lake Lanier 1Other camp activities today yielded much joy. These generous women ran a writing workshop that in itself was worth the effort of travelling all this way. Meet Susan Piver, Jen Louden and Patti Digh.

Writing workshop 3 October 2013Tonight, I plucked up the courage to read some of my writing to fellow campers. No big deal? I’m here to tell you it was, as I was among a fine company of writers and a warm accepting audience.

Poet Maya Stein read from her work whetting my appetite further for her session tomorrow. I think I may have to transport a few muses home with me on the plane.

I am writing!

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This is soda bread. Made with my very own hands. The secret is using yoghurt (or buttermilk) not yeast.

It must be consumed soon after its emergence from the oven so that the pleasure of its creation holds on a continuous and rising plane until the eating.

The recipe came via River Cottage – particularly the Three Go Mad series where Ruby Wax created her very own version.

This is a poem by Maya Stein.

I first read it on Patti Digh’s blog a couple of years ago. And again, last night, in Patti’s book Creative is a Verb.  I hope that it might bring to you a memory of hands sticky with dough as other apparently more important things call for your attention.

irreverant baking

I should be upstairs with the others, drumming up ways

to heal the world, save the animals, pray for water

in a far-off continent, devote the remainders of my days

to a catalog of restorations. But this morning, it was the matter

of scones that drew my gaze, and my feet remained

planted in the kitchen. One must never ignore the instinct

to create, is what I told myself, and soon the counter was stained

with flour, my hands sticky with dough, the house inked

with the smell of blueberry possibility, and I knew I was not wrong.

This was my prayer, my act of healing, my offering, my song.

Maya Stein

I have joined a book club. Patti Digh, the host of this online community of readers, has chosen 12 books with the theme “Women’s Voices”.

One of the books for 2013 is Terry Tempest Williams’ When Women Were Birds – Fifty-Four Variations on Voice.  I shan’t preempt any discussion of this powerful memoir but this book and this mantra via Viv McWaters – Start before you’re ready – have pushed me to begin this ‘something’ that moves beyond my other more purpose-built blogs about facilitation, Australia’s social history and travel.

The opening of Ms Williams’ book left a significant impression on me.

I am fifty-four years old, the age my mother was when she died. This is what I remember. We were lying on her bed with a mohair blanket covering us. I was rubbing her back, feeling each vertebra with my fingers as a rung on a ladder. It was January, and the ruthless clamp of cold bore down on us outside. Yet inside, Mother’s tenderness and clarity of mind carried its own warmth. She was dying in the same way she was living, consciously. 

“I am leaving you all my journals,” she said, facing the shuttered window as I continued rubbing her back. “But you must promise me that you will not look at them until after I am gone.”

I gave her my word. And then she told me where they were. I didn’t know my mother kept journals. 

A week later she died. That night, there was a full moon encircled by ice crystals.

On the next full moon I found myself alone in the family home. I kept expecting Mother to appear. Her absence became her presence. It was the right time to read her journals. They were exactly where she said they would be: three shelves of beautiful clothbound books; some floral, some paisley, others in solid colours. The spines of each were perfectly aligned against the lip of the shelves. I opened the first journal. It was empty. I opened the second journal.  It was empty. I opened the third. It, too, was empty, as was the fourth, the fifth, the sixth – shelf after shelf after shelf, all my mother’s journals were blank.

Williams explores what it means to have a voice and the choices we make about using that voice.

I will never be able to say what is in my heart, because words fail us, because it is in our nature to protect, because there are times when what is public and what is private must be discerned.

I’m wondering what will emerge and hoping I can find a voice that gets the balance between public and private right.