Saturday, November 8, 2008

Workshop at Ventana del Soul

On April 17th (2006) I emailed Andrew:

Dearest A

Here is my latest gig report:

Last night I presented a writing workshop at a place called Ventana del Soul. Several of the people who turned up for it were in their twenties, there was one young, shy girl in her teens (a definite Indigo child, rather similar to X in energy though not so brash and wild), and a few somewhat older women.

Thom was in charge - well I was, but he was hosting it. And the three lovely young men who run the café that sends bagels to the homeless were there too. Some of the youngsters were poets I heard at the Hideout, that very energetic venue I enjoyed so much.

Well, we had great fun! This was not an occasion for The Dress; I turned up in a cherry red Forrest Fest t-shirt received from Connie since coming here ... not that it would have mattered what I wore. Thom had told me to trot out lots of exercises, everything I knew. I didn't quite include everything in only 2 hours, but we did lots. It was joyous and deep and magickal and hilarious. People wrote all sorts of great stuff and were
thrilled with what they got. Raw material for lots of new poems! Many pieces were already poems. I incorporated some of the stuff I'd done the day before at Interplay, slightly altered for a writing context. Everyone hugged me goodbye and gave me lots of thanks. Some who couldn't get there till late because of work and things were very sorry after the event to have missed any of it.

A, who is the mother of the Indigo girl, thanked me for helping her daughter to express herself. The girl did have difficulty at first, but ended up sharing much of what she wrote (in the most beautiful, naturally husky voice).

I sold one book and got $6 in my tip jar. Just as well I am having such a ball! And being looked after in terms of food, transport and accommodation by generous hosts. When I exclaimed to Thom about people's generosity, he said, 'Well, you're our guest. And it's a measure of who you are. People like you.' He added that these will be friends for life; I already know that. He said he's met here the nicest, best people anywhere, and I can believe him (though I myself do know some pretty good ones at home too!).

Since leaving for Texas I have been able to be very much in the moment most of the time. It's interesting. I think that accounts for a lot of my success and the warm encounters.

This afternoon I am participating as her guest in a workshop Dorsey is running on Voice Dialogue. I think it will dovetail rather nicely with our Reiki II lessons which we finished yesterday.

And so the adventure continues. Thom reminds me there is still more to come! Though I am also starting to do the countdown to going home, being about at the halfway point right now.

Well, don't know how often I'll be able to do reports from now on; will do the best I can.

Time for breakfast now!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jacob's Well

Ah, I did mean to finish this record of my visit to Texas while it was still only two years ago! Life gallops on apace; see my SnakyPoet blog. But, to resume ...

Back in Austin, after Anne kindly drove me all the way 'home' again to Neil and Dorsey's, I spent most of the afternoon of Saturday April 15th catching Wendy up with the details of Reiki I, hand positions and things like that which are difficult to teach 'in absence'. I had attuned her and Thom 'in absence' while I was still in Australia. Like many people, they were content to have only Reiki I, which gives the ability for basic hands-on treatments. 'Your medicine kit in your hands,' my Reiki Master used to say.

In the late afternoon Wendy left and I began teaching Dorsey Reiki II, the technique for healing in absence. Neil joined us part of the time, as my assistant and also to refresh his own Reiki II skills, as it was a long time ago that he learnt – about the same time I did, from the same teacher!

Then came Sunday, a fun day. Here's my email to Andrew:

'Well, today turned out to be a play day! Patricia Fiske phoned this morning to invite me to brunch. She said there was also a party up at Jacob's Well that she wanted to take me to. Dorsey said it would be good for her to shift the Reiki II lessons to tomorrow, so off we went. Neil came to brunch, and Thom was awaiting us there too, at Maria's Taco Express, a funky joint which the locals love. They also all love Maria, a feisty Argentinian who alas was not there today.

'Thom brought me Texas boots – slightly too large but I wouldn't want them to be much smaller, and I can wear thicker socks with them.

'Patricia is 79, a lady full of laughter. We were sitting under trees. She was wearing a long white summer dress with open neck and low back. A young man from the table behind us said to her, "There's a leaf falling down your dress," and proceeded to reach down the back neckline to retrieve it. She leaned back in her chair and said, in those caressing Southern tones I have mentioned people having, "Darlin', you just reach as far as you like." How I envied her aplomb! Turned out he was a massage therapist, so she and I both got a great free shoulder rub in response to her flirtatiousness.

'She says she thinks elderly women – who are considered past all that – should try to re-educate people. She mentioned a young man friend of hers whom she finds very attractive, who has no such notions about her and wants to talk to her about his girlfriend. "You should have seen what latched on to me after Celebration Circle," I said, describing a gorgeous young man who did exactly that. "Put his arms around me and told me he loved me – but it was my wisdom he wanted." She said that in circumstances like that, she usually says (and you must imagine this very drawled and sexy, with a hint of laughter), "Watch it darlin', I've got a very short fuse." I'm taking lessons!

Jacob's Well is a way out of town, a natural watering hole set in paddocks and a bit of woodland. The property is available for hire, and this weekend it was hired by Body Choir, to celebrate one member's birthday. Patricia is in the choir, though hasn't been often lately because of knee trouble.There must have been about 150 people there. It's a dance group, and they work with Gabrielle Roth's rhythms. They were essentially hippies, though maybe weekend hippies. Patricia explained that some are really well off, others living in trailers – and it just doesn't matter. Many were in the medical professions, others artists of various kinds. They clearly love dancing. And there was lots of music happening spontaneously all over the place – guitars, drums, singing.

'I had a look at the well – deep and beautiful water in rock walls, with a surrounding creek – but didn't do the tricky climb down for a swim. We talked to interesting, welcoming people, drank wine, feasted, and participated in something called Interplay which was improvisation with movement, sounds, words and stories. Great stuff! I entered into it wholeheartedly and had a real ball. Also, I have been wishing to be able to do improv, so here was the Universe granting my request yet again.

'We tore ourselves away after dinner. Most people were camping overnight – and the owner of the property, David Bear, an old friend of Patricia's, would have given us free rooms in his house – but we both have commitments here [Austin] tomorrow. Went back to Patricia's a while and had a wine by the pool with her neighbour Kate and Kate's boyfriend Noel. Kate has made her home, at the back of Patricia's, available to me and another visiting poet, Agnes Meadows [from England]. I have an embarrassmdent of riches in places to stay, and chauffeurs for the Festival. I am staying at Austin Motel for the Festival nights: Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Anne Schneider, my hostess in Kerrville, will get me to some of my gigs; Patricia to others. Then back to Kate's for the few days between Festival and Lamesa.

'I may not have much access to computer/email after I leave here. But I want to go over there, and to find time to give Patricia some solid Reikis.

'Nearly dropping with tiredness.

'Luv & xxx'

Posting this blog now, I am remembering a lovely young woman in the party at Jacob's Well, who presented me with a heart-shaped grey stone as I was leaving, as a souvenir of the area. I still have it among my treasures, and smile at the recollections whenever I see it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kerrville: 2 – Sweet, peaceful days

My time in Kerrville was the most delightful interlude. I fell in love with this pretty hill town. In my short time there I made some lovely friends whom I'll never forget.

I emailed Andrew: 'I must tell you about this man who has quite stolen my heart. His name is Mark, he is a close friend and neighbour of Harry and Anne, as is his wife Linda, whom I met and fell in love with first. She's a very artistic and also very down to earth lass from Ohio. Mark's a gentle giant with a soft, lazy voice. Oh boy is he loaded with charm!!! And oh boy am I a total sucker for it!!! After his first conversation welcoming me to Texas and saying all sorts of sweet things in that caressing voice, I asked Linda (whom he had an arm around at the same time), "Is this that Southern charm I've heard so much about?" She laughed and said, "It's what the rest of America thinks is the reason Texans wear boots." I looked puzzled. She explained: "Because the shit's so high." Anne and Harry tell me – which I can see – that in Mark's case, he does it laughing at himself, and actually does mean the sentiments of goodwill. ... I lap it all up like a schoolgirl."

Actually they were a devoted couple with eyes only for each other. Mark loved to play guitar and they both sang. 'Awesome voice' I emailed Andrew about Linda. She was also a well-known scrimshaw artist with commissions from all over the country. Scrimshaw is a traditional craft of etching on ivory or bone, carving a drawing and then rubbing paint in. Here are some links to Linda's beautiful work.

Mark and Linda have a building and renovating business. One night they took us to dinner in an old former railway station (no rail line any more), which they had rescued and restored with great authenticity after others had nearly wrecked it by turning it into a very ugly hamburger joint. Then they sold it to the present owners who run it as a beautiful restaurant. I had some lovely visits to their home too, just a few doors down from Anne and Harry's.

Then there was Donna. We clicked when we sat beside each other at the Poetry on the Patio night, and again during the mask workshop. She and her husband took me out one day to visit some of the surrounding places, including Enchanted Rock, the second largest monolith in world, next to Australia's Uluru. This was a magickal place of pink granite, the shape of which put me in mind of the top of Uluru.

As we approached it, it seemed to me large in width rather than height. It's nowhere near as high as Uluru, a sandstone formation which, Wikipedia tells us, 'stands 348 metres (1,142 feet) high (863 m/2,831 ft above sea level) with most of its bulk below the ground, and measures 9.4 km (5.8 miles) in circumference.'

But it's high enough! An official description says: 'The (Enchanted) Rock is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground, 1825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres. It is one of the largest batholiths (underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) in the United States.'

It had a very otherworldly feeling, and indeed there are legends of spooky goings-on there, nevertheless its atmosphere seemed to me peaceful and friendly. We didn't climb it, which would have been strenuous I think, and we didn't allow enough time in any case, but it was very special to stand at the base, in an area of desert-like wilderness (a State Natural Area), drinking in the timeless peace. I loved the colour, too! Uluru turns many wonderful colours in changing light, but when you get up close to it the rock is black. Enchanted Rock is actually pink.

Before I left Kerrville, Donna, who has a deep interest in Native American culture, gave me two wonderful books: Who Speaks for Wolf, a learning story, and The Walking People, an oral history – precious volumes I would not even have known of otherwise, with much to teach people of any culture today.

There was Paula aforementioned, of the herbs and animals, who came for a picnic lunch by the river with Anne and me one day, and brought me more herbs and some tiny roses. We talked as if we had always known each other.

There was 'the other Ann Schneider', Harry's first wife. That was long ago, and now they relate like old friends, comfortably. She invited us to dinner while I was there, and we sat on her balcony watching the sunset and the almost-full moon.

There was Sally, an Englishwoman by birth, Anne's best friend, whom I saw more of during the Austin poetry festival a little later on, and who came to Australia last year to visit her brother who lives not too far away from us! They came to lunch at our place and I felt I was able to return a little of the wonderful hospitality I experienced in Texas.

Among her many talents, Anne is a Tai Chi teacher, and I attended one of her weekly classes that happened while I was there. She's a good teacher, not intimidating like those I had in the far past. I was surprised how quickly I picked it up again, after doing only a few classes 30-odd years before. I got all enthusiastic and told Andrew we must look for somewhere near home to do it – but that hasn't happened, and in fact I don't know of any classes nearby.

The next day Anne took me for a drive to a part of the countryside I hadn't looked at before. We sat and talked by the river, on an area of big, flat stones. I was excited to catch a glimpse of some deer over the other side, drinking. Alas, they hid themselves before I could take this picture:



She also showed me the local 'Stonehenge' built by a friend of the astronaut Alan Shepherd on Shepherd's land, in fulfilment of a vision Shepherd had while vieiwng the earth from space. There are a couple of Easter Island statues too. By no means as big as the originals, and certainly not constructed in the same way or from the same materials, but fun, and impressive in its own way. It made us smile to see tiny birds flitting in and out the structures.


Early Thursday evening I emailed Andrew: 'I just came from Uni talk/reading to small, lovely group of students and their vibrant teacher. Had great time. Some of Anne's friends who wanted to hear me again came too. Now out to dinner with a witch who did the workshop and wants to talk more. Back to Austin early tomorrow.'

The 'vibrant teacher' was Kathleen Hudson of Schreiner University. Kathleen is a fascinating woman with a great interest in Texas history and music, and is involved in innovative educational programs. Her official bio says that 'she founded the Texas Heritage Music Foundation in 1987 out of a commitment that stories and songs make a difference in the world.' She is in the English Dept. at Schreiner. The students were all poets too. It was a pleasantly informal gathering. I read them some pieces, they asked me a lot of questions, and to my great delight they also shared their work with me.

The witch, relatively new to Texas, was amused that in the Lone Star State she kept seeing our sacred symbol, the pentacle (a five-pointed star in a circle)!

She lived on a
6-acre property on what used to be an old ranch. Her place was surrounded by woodlands with lots of deer, and after dinner we stood at her fence watching them in the dark, throwing grain from a bucket to try and coax them near. Some did come fairly close, but they were skittish and shy, made sudden darts and then dashed away.

'We had a great night,' I emailed Andrew next day, 'Eating, as usual, very good food and drinking Australian wines (which are very highly regarded here, and most people try to get them in preference to any other kind).

'As I was going to bed I found myself having a bit of a weep at leaving Kerrville, where I have found true friendships that will last for life.

'This morning I cried a bit more as I packed. I walked down the few doors to Linda and Mark's and found them sitting out in their back yard over breakfast, watching the squirrels. They had just been talking about me, and were going to walk up to Anne and Harry's to say goodbye. Instead, they sat me down and gave me coffee and orange juice even though I'd already breakfasted, and I gave them a couple of goodbye gifts (Aussie coins to Mark, as he is fascinated by our animals). We had fond hugs and tender kisses. Then back to the Schneiders' to load up and give Harry a big hug goodbye. He said he was glad I came.'