Tag Archive: delight


A man struts

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A man struts
the ramp to the platform
pausing here and there
to strike glamour-pose
between gyrating dance moves
and smooth hip-swinging
and off-key singing.
I smile, everyone smiles.
What a Monday morning.
What a beautiful morning.

Talitha Fraser

fragments in the dreaming

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fragments in the dreaming

skittish across the landscape of my mind

some disparate thoughts slow

go side by side mismatched  a way

sometimes they chase each other

along and around – chasing, racing

and I am there with my

reins of reason to draw them in

I seek rest, a blank unknowing

and have instead this kaleidoscope

of people, stories, ideas, words

I seek to, and do, resist it

but sometimes, rarely, I join the

Dance and explore a terrain

both fearsome and wondrous

Talitha Fraser

unexpected

219

You are
expected and yet
unexpected
the Deliverer of
spontaneous delight
and sacred ordinary things
Yours is the light
that wreathes my life
in flowers and
shows me how
to See

Talitha Fraser

offwego[A short paper presented to the Spiritual Reading Group 21 July 2015 on Michael Leunig]

So… Leunig… one of the questions he is most often asked and is always baffled by, is what does a particular cartoon mean? “People will say, ‘I don’t know what it means but I like it.’ Leunig replies… “I don’t know either but I like it too. I’m not trying to say anything but I hope it awakens something in you.”

Michael Leunig was raised listening to Oscar Wilde stories on the radio. He read Enid Blyton, Biggles and Childrens Encyclopaedias… he went to Sunday  school and always said he found it, “not full of God but full of stories.” It was lyrical and what was lyrical made him happy – Leunig heard Psalms and asked of himself “What can I do like that?”

Though born in East Melbourne in 1945, Leunig grew up in Footscray going to Footscray North Primary School and Maribyrnong High School. Many of Leunigs friends, and many of his teachers when he grew up in the 1950s were war refugees or were the children of people from Germany, Russia, Poland. It was a very industrial area –ammunitions factory with machine guns firing, meat works, cannery… it smelt awful and drained into the river… for Leunig this wasn’t bleak but held lots of peace and space. Not a lot of nature around, but then you appreciate and give more significance to what you have… a duck and the moon.

A duck bought from the market while doing the family shop imprinted on Leunig following him around everywhere, coming home from school he’d turn the corner and the duck would see him and come running. So he always got ducks after that considering them playful and good-humoured and innocent with those rounded beaks.

A formative misadventure at eight years, occurred while playing at the rubbish tip Leunig stepped up to his thighs in hot coals and wires – receiving horrible and incredibly painful burns with fear of gangrene and amputation – for five months he couldn’t walk and had long periods of feeling cut off from others and lost.

From paper boy to making sausages at butchers on Barkley St, Leunig didn’t do well at school, repeating his last year, and came to work in the meatworks himself. This was great thinking time and Leunig advocates manual work that keeps your hands moving and your mind free. He said: “Working in such places either toughens or sensitises you” and it sensitised Leunig… he became a humanist (is now nearly vegan) and finely honed his earthy working class sense of humour. Leunig was conscripted for the Vietnam war in 1965 – he was going to fight it, a conscientious objector, but was rejected regardless when found to be deaf in one ear.

In Curly Stories, Leunig talks about it “Being an advantage to grow up without art consciousness… nothing to aspire to but things to find and create”. Homeschooling his own four children would have allowed him to foster a similar environment for them believing “Natural ideas exist within children… their play should be “utterly free” and they must be allowed to be bored – they feel free to explore and discover and the world is new to them and there’s this sense of wonder” Leunig refers to childrens ability to ‘blank out’ looking at a teapot spout or light through a window being present to what is right in front of them, commenting: “The loss of that beauty is appalling… how do I address that as a communicator? How can I express what everyone is feeling?” The prophet expresses the grief of the people. The artist expresses what is repressed.

maxresdefaultWalking out of his 3rd year at Swinburne Film and Television School, it was 1969 when Leunig first began to work as a political cartoonist at Newsday, while the factories might have taught him to use humour – intellectual, witty, cynical – to deflect serious things, Leunig says “I was sung sentimental songs. Part of my first language. Fluent in that emotional language” His Grandma used to tell him: ‘All the world is bad, except for you and me, but even you’re a little strange.’ …perhaps this is where we meet The Creature… The Holy Fool– scribbled in the margins since school – amusing to his slightly hungover Editor, with a teapot on his head and riding a duck into the sunset, the image was put to print. Subhuman, primal, foetal, without gender. Leunig is somehow able to speak to our soul. To take small things and make them large, domestic things and make them sacred. For his own discipline he talks about the paradox of art theory – rules to follow, teachers to emulate >> how this stifles creativity. It’s about earning money, systematic success, built for efficiency, for velocity but you lose much, Leunig believes: “[You] cannot love or appreciate beauty at speed. How do you talk about it in ways that are unsuppressed and real? Might make a bridge with love, make a sandwich with love – it’s passed on to others. Love is what we go to bed thinking about.”the kiss by leunig

Since his first book in 1974, Leunig has produced 23 more – books of newspaper columns, poetry and prayer in addition to his prints, paintings and drawings. Leunig shares intimacy with us, personal and confessional – e.g. The Kiss. We are invited into the privacy of his love life, his soul searching… Leunig makes the private public. He takes the small dark fearful things and brings them out where we can look at them “crying with the angels for a world that is different – this is not fatalistic but hopeful”. Perhaps it is because he has offered his own soul first that we are willing to listen to him expound on many themes:

>> loneliness >> the 9 to 5 grind >> war >> sex >> consumption >> love >> god >> media >> religion >> politics

It was being asked to contribute a cartoon to a new paper in 1989, The Age, that Leunig started writing prayers to the horror of his friends… Rather than born-again Christian Leunig’s interpretation lay in the realm of John Keats’s “negative capability”, a word for the unsayable and profound in life. He wanted to say the words publicly as another way of addressing the problems of our time, of our society, of our psyche, of people’s personal suffering {1998} His friends reactions sort of egged Leunig on, wanting to see how much he could push believing that “until a man discovers his emotional life and his gentle, vulnerable side, until he gives it expression, he never will find his women or his soul, and until he does find his soul he will be tortured and depressed and miserable underneath a fair bit of bullshit”.

From Archbishops to Presidents, the Opera House, Australian Chamber Orchestra, National Theatre in London to clay figure animations for SBS and remote communities in northern and central Australia – Leunig has Gone Places and Done Things. Declared a national living treasure by the National Trust in 1999 and awarded honorary degrees by 3 universities for his unique contribution to Australian culture.

094The ‘war on terror’ following 9/11 was a watershed moment in Leunig’s cartooning work where, opposing the war and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, he was at odds with many editors, commentators and members of Australian society – there became less gentle and lyrical themes and he stopped drawing the whimsical characters Mr Curly and Vasco Pyjama as often although the duck and the moon have still faithfully remained. Adding curls arose out of Leunig’s desire to communicate that “What makes you feel so alone and strange is in fact normal. There’s a lot of curliness in life and you can have a homecoming – there is a place for you and for that aloneness, that eccentricity, and there’s a fulfilment of it eventually, it’s no longer the cause of your outcastness. So that’s the curl. It’s the curious, unique self and, if you find that, you find the connection to the whole world because the world is curious and unique and authentic at its best level.” You might say the war, not understanding how people can fight other people this way, has been a breach to Leunigs sense of connection to Australian society and thereby rest of the world.

These days, Michael Leunig has 3 small dogs but no ducks. He enjoys talking to strangers and going to bed at night. He is a devout nature lover and spends his time between the solitude of the bush in Northern Victoria and a home in Melbourne where he enjoys walking in the local park, morning coffee in the café, chamber music in the concert hall, and attending to work in his studio .

When asked: “What is the meaning of life?” Leunig replied: “For humans as for all the plants and creatures: know yourself, grow yourself, feel yourself, heal yourself, be yourself, express yourself”… “I want to be a voice of liberation”. Leunig speaks not only for the wealthy or the poor but both, not only those armed and those without weapons but both, not only the pretty people or only the ugly people but both – he enjoys this inconsistency and variety. As Barry Humphries says “through the vein of his compassion and humanity and his humour – illuminating many a darkling theme”

Like Jesus with his parables and questions – Leunig doesn’t present us with solutions or easy answers but an invitation. He sees his vocation as cracking what is stoic and cold in society – to make us feel anger, grief, joy, sadness… Leunig believes we have something to discover in the wrongness… “Live without ‘knowing’, in mystery. Find things. Unlearn. Get lost. Get primal, getinfantile. When you have lost all hope – start to play. You have nothing to lose. Stay with it and don’t take it too seriously…”

I hope maybe it awakens something in you.”

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038

 

  • Puts recommended reading lists in the back of his books – framed withn broader context.  Uses quotes and stories
  • Writes out of an experiential way of living
    • find God in place and memory
    • apprehend not truth about God but truth of God.

Six ideas about John O’Donahue’s writing:

  1. Circular ideas/prose.  Has one main theme with smaller ones around it like a celtic knot “eye of imagination follows a circle” not logical/rational/linear > miss the gift.  Risk/openness of circular way subverts this.  Won’t bear the scrutiny of reason.
  2. Not interested in reason but contemplation.  Always a movement away from itself.  Series of non-sequiturs. Read a little then pause and reflect.  Not along >>> but down. Quarter mile long, fathoms deep. “the eternal is at home within you”
  3. Contemplative world waits on the edge of things/imagination (light/dark, edge/centre). Realm of invisible. “Hidden 7th chapter” is silent and hidden within ourselves > a longing never stilled. “invests every action with possibility and pathos…” Prayer is an invisible world and contemplative.

Listen in the abyss of nothingness
for the whisper of the beautiful

4. Made up of these elements: body/landscape/transcience/memory. Body (trust/belonging); landscape (location, know and approach things and people); transcience (always passing away); memory (body, place and passing held together where our vanished lives remain alive – selective transfiguration)

5. Encourages us to break open and unpack internal and external landscapes e.g. root words. Break open familiar and see afresh. When we’re locked/blocked > impoverished. Remove the wall you have put between yourself and the light.

6. Seeks to find blessing. Invocation- calling forth… Calls for change and transformation.

Beannacht

Summer 12-13 058On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss gets into you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

when the canvas frays
in the curach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the the protection of the anscestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

 

A philosopy of Ducas

“The longing of a people is caught in the web of their language. Dreams and memories are stored there. A language in the inner landscape where a people can belong. When you destroy a people’s language through colonisation or through the more subtle, toxic colonisation of consumerism, you fracture their belonging and leave them in limbo.  It is fascinating how a language fashions so naturally the experience of a people into a philosophy of life. Sometimes one word holds centuries of experience; like a prism you can turn it to different angles and it breaks and gathers the light of longing in different ways… the phrase ‘ag fillead ar do ducas‘ means returning to your native place and also the resdicovery of who you are.  The return home is also the retrieval and reawakening of a hidden and forgotten treasury of identity and soul.  To come home to where you belong is to come into your own, to become what you are, to awaken and develop your latent spiritual heritage… Ducas also refers to a person’s deepest nature. It probes beneath the surface images and impressions of a life and reaches into that which flows naturally from the deepest well in the clay of the soul. It refers in this sense to the whole intuitive and quickness of longing in us that tells us immediately how to think and act; we call this instinct… You belong to your ducas; your ducas is your belonging. In each individual there is a roster of longing that nothing can suppress.”

Summer 12-13 052

 

The Stranger (Eternal Echoes)

“It is impossible to be on the earth and avoid awakening.  Everything that happens within and around you calls your heart to awaken.  As the density of night gives way to the bright song of the dawn, so your soul continually coaxes you to give way to the light and awaken.  Longing is the voice of your soul; it constantly calls you to be fully present in your life: to live to the full the one life given to you.  Rilke said to the young poet: ‘Live everything’. You are here on earth now, yet you forget so easily. You have travelled a great distance to get here.  The dream of your life has been dreamed from eternity. You belong within a great embrace which urges you to have the courage to honour the immensity that sleeps in your heart.  When you learn to listen to and trust the wisdom of your soul’s longing, you will awaken to the invitation of graced belonging that inhabits the generous depths of your destiny.”

Summer 12-13 133

MATINS

I.

Somewhere, out at the edges, the night
Is turning and the waves of darkness
Begin to brighten the shore of dawn.
The heavy dark falls back to earth
And the freed air goes wild with light,
The heart fills with fresh, bright breath
And thoughts stir to give birth to colour.
II.
I arise today
In the name of Silence
Womb of the Word,
In the name of Stillness
Home of Belonging,
In the name of the Solitude
Of the Soul and the Earth.

I arise today

Summer 12-13 160
Blessed by all things,
Wings of breath,
Delight of eyes,
Wonder of whisper,
Intimacy of touch,
Eternity of soul,
Urgency of thought,
Miracle of health,
Embrace of God.
May I live this day
Compassionate of heart,
Gentle in word,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.

 

Rose Valley Falls

003the valley is in shadow
and the water here
runs silver like liquid mercury
a shining wealth
this flowing, life giving
life force commuting the very stones to its course
there is much that can be learned from water
diamonds, starlight pouring from the moss
catching and releasing in the same moment
paying forward what is received
shining in the shadows
hope unlooked for

Talitha Fraser

Butterfly in the garden…

04.01.15

You

reaching hand

You take, shape, mold me
You hold the raw material tenderly
and say ‘..this has potential’
I am a child.
I am underfoot and in the way.
I cannot stay within the lines
but I am so eager to help
You cannot resist me.
I am kind of cute and You
delight in my delight.
Surely this will be slower, more work,
not turn out quite as You intended
Surely this will be perfect.

Talitha Fraser

 

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