Spring cleaning

Posted on 12 September, the first of the two haiku presented here was my attempt at reconstructing the verse I believed I had written on 08 September, on a piece of paper I had subsequently misplaced. Having now (on 13 September) rediscovered the original, I am amused to see how poorly my memory had served me.

Brushed by tree branches
the moon, clear and bright, escapes
the billowing clouds.

Brushed by tree branches
another full moon, bright and
clear among the clouds.

(11 September 2014)

Giving up the past

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

A little piece I wrote back in 2010 – Sanitation? … or sanitization? – has been receiving a bit of attention from blog-readers in recent times, so I took another look at it myself … and it seems quite an appropriate topic for the season of Lent (which began last Wednesday (05 March).

Responding to a comment on the original post, I explained that “The between-the-lines inferences and implications of my post [had] to do, on the one hand, with destroying incriminating evidence, hiding my inner life … and, on the other hand, with holding on to mementos and souvenirs, and maintaining a record of things I [wanted] to remember.”

A bit cryptic – to say the least.

In the original post, I quoted something from A. Whitney Brown: “The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down.” (A. Whitney Brown, in The Big Picture)

What I didn’t make clear, in that 2010 post, is that what happened in the past is still in the past – nothing of the event itself is actually happening now. In effect, all that’s happening now is that a voice in my head is reading aloud what got written down in the past, and maybe reminding me about the wrong I have done and the good I have not done … and maybe I’m cringing, feeling guilty.

An act of contrition is one thing; getting rid of the rubbish is another. But this is not a lenten sermon, so back to the crux of the matter: “Giving up the past”.

In my experience, the inclination to clutter is often the outcome of either of two impulses: at one extreme is the Proustian urge to document everything (see note 1 below); at the other end of the scale, I hang on to things I cannot find the inner resources to attend to, process, or deal with.

Of late, I’ve been managing pretty much all the day-to-day chores and commitments, but there is a persistent residue that is harder to shift. A high percentage of that stuff still clutters my living-space; the remainder clutters my mind and my heart. The physical clutter is the manifestation of inner states, and its persistence is invariably anchored in the past.

The prophet Isaiah – who, by the way, had some worthwhile things to say about fasting and repentance (see Note 2 below) – said: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18, NIV). Whilst digging around on the interweb, I found a nice paraphrase: “When your past calls, let it go to voice-mail. It has nothing new to say.”

So I have plenty of work to do – giving up my past, and putting out the psychological and emotional trash.


1/ Proust, who claims to have no memory, keeps track of everything. His letters (there are several thousand) provide a running inventory of his bodily functions – letters to his mother providing an update of his respiratory condition, letters to his doctor listing the details of his menu, little notes handed to his housekeeper every morning reporting the number of times he coughed the night before. (Rebecca Comay, in Proust’s Remains)  

2/ The symbolism of the familiar Ash Wednesday ritual – a cross smeared on the forehead using the ashes of palms gathered up after the Palm Sunday procession – connects back to repentance practices in Old Testament times – see Isaiah 58, for example. 

Yet to be proven

Loose : a wild history (cover)

Loose : a wild history (cover)

‘I want to get published!’ my heart cries out.

‘But you can’t!’ my mind says.

‘How long will it take them to recognise my genius?’ my heart says.

‘Probably for the rest of your life,’ my mind says. ‘But then why do you bother? Books are not important. Life itself is.’

‘But I want to get published because I am good and I am better than most published authors here in this country!’ my heart cries out again.

‘Well, that has yet to be proven,’ my mind says.

(Ouyang Yu, in Loose : A wild history)


Ouyang Yu. 2012. Loose : A wild history. Adelaide, SA: Wakefield Press.

“The novel combines fiction with non-fiction, poetry with literary criticism, diary with life writing, with multiple stories weaving in between, told from different points of view by different characters.” (Wakefield Press)

See my previous post on the topic of Ouyang Yu: https://xties.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/on-new-years-eve/

String of stars

string of stars (08 Jan 2013)

string of stars (08 Jan 2013)



On the morning of Monday 07 January (the day after Epiphany), I packed away the eight candles (five turquoise and three silver) that had decorated my dining table since Christmas Eve. Then I got out a sheet of brown paper and ironed away the few drips of wax on the star-studded black cloth on which the candles had stood. The only thing left to deal with was the string of nine stars that had lain on the cloth in front of the candles.

Having unpacked this lovely piece especially for Christmas 2012 – I hadn’t seen it for more than a year – I really didn’t want to pack it away again. And then I noticed, in the window-frame, two little hooks.

And the rest, as they say, is history. And one picture is worth ever so many words.

PS: A confession … I could find no record of the artist’s name, so I needed to do a little Google research until I found what I needed.

Here’s a link to a page on a site put up (several years ago, I’d say) by the New Zealand Society of Artists in Glass, which includes an image (dated 2007) of the String of 9 Stars by Jenny McLeod.

Jenny has her own website: http://www.jmcleodglass.co.nz/, and she has recently begun to keep a blog: http://www.jennymcleodglass.blogspot.co.nz/

Handling stress

charcoal and diamond

as seen on Facebook, 13 September 2012


A diamond is just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well.

Trite though it be, this compact little gem seems very apt at present. My father – 88 in a few days – is trying to avoid having to go to hospital. My daughter, on the other hand, has recently made several attempts on her own life …


…….. In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, ‘ since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ‘ patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

(from That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection by Gerard Manley Hopkins)

The game’s the thing

(And here the faithful waver, the faithless fable and miss).  (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Sitting down, today,
to write straight out, unthinking …
I couldn’t finish.

Funny, isn’t it,
how easy it is sometimes …
no trouble at all.

The Hopkins line — from his wonderful poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland (1918) — came to mind, earlier today, as I sat staring at the haiku I couldn’t complete:

Illusion buckles,
teeters, trembles, topples, falls …

There are games we have no possibility of winning … but we still enjoy to play, don’t we?