Today I Remember 2#

I have been adding a few more things to my research memoir blog. Feel free to go and see what’s happening over there. Some of these ideas are for development into longer pieces, or a different kind of piece.  Identity and second generation migrant themes are emerging again.

Following the Crow Song

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Where were you born?
I am often asked that.
What country please?

And if I say Papua New Guinea
the next question is Where?

And I have the village name ready,
‘Maipa Vilage’
and a story about the yellow face paint of the bush mekeo
but no real picture of where it is?
See I left there when I was two.

Sometimes people then want to insist
but you want to go back
don’t you
to understand who you really are
and the next question
is why haven’t you done it yet?

So I try to explain my Papua New Guinea is
my mother’s Papua New Guinea
in snatches of motu
and village language
never deciphered.

My Papua New Guinea walks
around dressed in my mother’s life
which is itself dressed
in experiences of a new land.

She is sometimes Papua New Guinea
missionary raised girl
and other times she…

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Walking the past in the present

Time is a culturally bound construct. We may, based on what culture we are born into, think we move chronologically, but in many cultures we carry the memory and ancestors with us in stories, songs and myths and a belief in the presence of spirits.

The past walks with present and the present with the future.

We can use our memory, past, wisdom to assist the present if only we pay attention to it.

In writing of lands I have lived and traveled through in an organic and intuitive process I find connections that make a spiral, even a circle, rather than a straight line.

Whilst we physically can’t change the past our understanding of it can dramatically change based on the patterns we find there.

I like the idea of spirals more than circles because in a spiral you can progress even as you seem to circle back to where you once were, but you are still moving forward.

**

My Papua New Guinea is not a physical memory of a landscape or extended family members, but is carried in the life and story of my mother and precious photographs from an anthropologist.

It is walking beside my brother in a grass skirt with a shell necklace; it is in the culture dance groups my mother starts for her nearby grandchildren and other Pacific friends.  They combine forces as there are not many from any of their cultures living in Tasmania.

I think of my mother listening to the songs of Papua New Guinea, of the Maipa Fakai, and Maipa Angapu, whilst learning the new songs of Tasmania.  I wonder if she has PNG soul bones or Tasmanian ones now and would she only discover how she truly felt if she left Tasmania to live in another space.

**

What is it to be Tasmanian raised? What is it to have her soul bones? I am proud that my generation is the one that saved her wild rivers and saw her become more than the apple (orchard) isle.

She has come to embrace herself as a tourist destination and yet still struggles with the highest unemployment in the country and is still making peace with her Indigenous inhabitants.

She is a place of beauty, but which many young people leave for opportunity, but which others feel they can never leave.  She reminds me of the Cassowary Coast.  She reminds me of the struggles of people on the Sunshine and Gold Coast, who are also trying to stop development that affects the natural beauty of their areas.

Why can’t we have opportunity and soulful nature’s  beauty in one package – is it at all possible to have the package together?

(c) June Perkins, word and images

Writing and Creativity Rituals

 

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Looking for the light – June Perkins

My quest for stillness continues and part of the journey is to find a ritual that will help my daily creativity.  

I am at a workshop in Sydney with an Indigenous Canadian, and she is talking to me about ritual and centering when one engages in any creative act, be it dancing, writing, poetry.  She asks us to do physical things as part of this ritual.   I need to take more deep breaths before and during my writing.  I woke in the night last night, took deep breaths as if I was just about to run  a long race.

I am centering myself before I write like a martial artist doing exercises to keep fit.  To do this I am having a break from social media, which is becoming far too distracting.   I need to be in that space less, but when there be ever caring and gracious and find the pools of light that settle and sing to me that they will be the power in my day.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand and I want my family to spend more time with each other and less on our computers and facebook.  I love the sociability of the online but sometimes I don’t want to spend all day with hundreds of friends in a mind space, I want to  be with my family and friends in physical space, or to surrender to the Divine and just pray.  Yet what are these spaces when we look to the inner realities.

I am thinking about the book Sifting the Dust, and all the stories that Marjorie Rose shared there.  I can’t even write about it just yet, as I am sifting through it like Marjorie sifted through the challenges of fear and the power of love.

Blogs help writers like me sift their –  stories, identity,  landscapes, memories, inner, dreams and outer realities and communities –  for stories.  Books like Marjorie’s encourage me to look for how each of us even though connected to a world of family and friends, and faith, must also make individual journeys to walk with the Divine.

I am recalling a lady called Agatha, with Corgi dogs, who used to drive one of my brothers and I when were children to camps and our family stayed at her beach house sometimes and had a basket full of simple old fashioned toys and the beach to walk along.  When we walked along the beach we drew with sticks in the sand, and I remember drawing a large clock face.

I am opening letters that meant a lot when they arrived, including one from Agatha who wanted me to visit her  and yet I was unable to go and see her and that makes me sad now to think I didn’t see her on her island home, although  I heard lots of stories.  They were of a kind woman who helped with baby sitting and educating children and was gracious to everyone on the island.  I met her son once and wonder if he knows how kind his mother was to so many people like me.  I wonder if those letters are still somewhere.  I think of special letters that are like giving wings, and how sometimes I receive emails like that.  Sometimes I might even print them and place them on the wall.

I am thinking of taking the I out of more of my sentences.

The other morning I told my husband about three stories and unpacked them.  They had been dormant in my head waiting to have just the right amount of conflict, narrative drive and underlying mythology to make their way into being.  They are ready to be written and I must answer that call.  I had been thinking about them even whilst they weren’t making it onto the page,it was amazing to see when another big project was finished how my mind was freed to go on new creative journeys.

I am sorting and collating photographs for illustrations for books that are almost complete.  I want a jump out at me photographs, or collages with layers to interpret like you do with short intense poems that can mean much more than could be said in volumes of words.  I like textured abstracts that seem to me to speak of the things we can’t represent in images or easily in words.

Abstracts speak to me of spiritual realities. Abstracts allow me to take a deep breath and write of the power of spiritual insight.

 

(c) June Perkins

 

 

 

Diving into creativity, changing perspectives

 

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Abstracting Nature’s Reflections – June Perkins

At the moment I am working on three short stories;  one about homelessness, another racism of the insidious subtle kind, and the last one introduces and captures a deep thinker trapped  in his falling apart (but maybe he can put it back together) country life.

But these themes whilst they appear deep and meaningful are carried by compelling characters who don’t speak like philosophers but like everyday people with particular lingo/slang/dialogue that is real and natural.

As I create each story I am thinking extensively about the voice of the narrator and which narrative point of view will work the best.  One story has me writing from several characters’ perspectives,  something like in Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.

I find that shifting the point of view in my stories is deeply challenging as I have to jump inside the head of a racist for art, and that character  is letting me know she has many redeeming features, and the possibility for growth and change as much as any other in a tale of broken friendship.  Yet the empathy is discomforting and I still want the character to change and grow but I am not sure if she can.  I don’t want to judge this character, and yet I could be biased in the fate I give to her and not let her be organic and make sense if emotion gets the better of me.

One piece about homelessness is very poetic and seems to like being a piece of flash fiction, or it could become a performance poetry piece.   I’ve opted for a third person narrator seeing a scene, but I may well experiment with it more, as that might lead to some new discoveries about that scene.  As I write it I keep thinking of Elizabethan songs with crows in them, only my story has a different species of bird.

Often I use photographs to inspire my writing, and in the same way I like to abstract an image as the one above in this blog,  I think about how to abstract characters – make something straightforward more ambiguous, questioning and creative, create characters that ripple and flow into and around the river of existence.

I have no idea yet, what age each story will suit, and whether they will lengthen or shorten.  All I know is that the characters want to leap off the page and speak to a wider audience.  I don’t want to put them on my blog, but  into competitions or publications, maybe some might even join together and create a novel, yet I do want my blog readers to know a bit about the journey of these characters as they come into being.

I worried that when I moved to the city, my inspirational muse of nature might cause me to close up in my longing to write and photograph.  Instead my memory of the country becomes more vivid and has something to contrast against.  The country becomes a place to move into as a storehouse of experiences and characters to consider representing.  The city is vivid too, as it is all around me.  It is strange and unsettling to hear sirens everyday instead of twice a year.

I still keep up the life writing.  The city sparks memories of times I was a student in the city and those stories become clearer as I travel again on trains.  Yet, there is a freedom in creating fiction that calls ever more strongly.

(c) June Perkins

More paper please

paper

It was so Dickension – the moment I headed off to the paper supply office at my school.

I had gone back into the public system after being in a small alternative school and this was my journey back into the mainstream system.

I was on what was called the ‘free list’ which meant our family was now so poor I was eligible for free paper.

The office shop lady gave me her usual once over disdainful look and said ‘And why do you need more paper so soon? Weren’t you here a short while ago’

After causing her usual amount of discomfort through a quick draw ‘you sure you need this paper’ stare.  She handed it to me anyway, but I went away wondering how to write smaller and squeeze more into less space.

It wasn’t my fault I had so much to write for my assignments.

I was doing well with my book reports, social science and English projects and poetry.  ‘More paper please,’ was all I could say.

I just kept going back for paper and writing more stories.

Our year 6 teacher was a former football coach and he believed in applying all his footy coaching tricks to his students. He liked to coach us in life. We ran laps of the school every day to stimulate our intellect by having our bodies fit. I remember doing ten laps I was that keen to have my brain work well.

He was imaginative, and had us deck our whole classroom out as an Egyptian scene, complete with pyramid to read in. I wrote poetry about Egypt as we were studying Ancient history and performed it at the school assembly.  This was one of my highlights of year 6.

He encouraged us to make our assignments well presented in terms of how they looked, as well as the content.  This was the year I learnt how to use pencil shavings to colour my paper.  It was the year I mastered my cod cursive handwriting and went up  4 years in spelling age.  As a treat if we did well  in class or finished work early we could go and collect a mind puzzle from the school office and then solve it for the rest of class.

I collected many fun puzzle times.

One of my proudest moments was winning a big maths puzzle, that was set for the upper grades.  It was a number find I think.  I won a Rubics cube, back when they first came out.

Year 6 was an amazing school year, and although that office lady and I never saw eye to eye, I began to realise that there was a power in being able to write, speak and present words.

I had many opportunities, but was unable to afford school camp.  Instead my memory is of two other girls from that year staying back from camp also, and we had to plan an interstate trip we would make with travel brochures.  We had to do all the costings and list the places we would visit.  I miscalculated some of my travel time, and was told I would be booked for speeding, but apart from that my assignment was sound.

At the time I had never been across the Tasman, to what Tasmanians call the mainland.  Yet my Mum came from a far away land, Papua New Guinea and I had come out from PNG when I was under two.  I didn’t know about travelling anywhere but Tasmania.

There were many other adventures and wisdoms learnt in year 6, but most important of all it was definitely a time I came to see the power of the written and spoken word.

I didn’t know that the future would hold many travels and I would make some the journeys in that assignment.  Yet, even though I adore the power of the written word I often wonder –

How much of the eternal spirit can we capture on mortal paper?

 (c) June Perkins