Tenebrae

tenebrae – Latin for ‘darkness’ or ‘shadows’

‘Wit’s End Bay’ by Charles Wysocki

I have been missing in action on my blog for a while. Here’s why. The past five months have been tough on our Blue Mountains community. Over the summer we confronted the most extensive bushfires in our memory. Before we could even imagine how to recover from those, the coronavirus pandemic dealt its bewildering blows. With each event we have had to hang on to daily news briefings to figure out what decisions needed to made next. I lost count of the number of times either event has been described as ‘unprecedented’.

The consequences of each event are far reaching and the fact that they happened back-to-back for the Blue Mountains has deepened the impact. We’re still reeling, as a community, but also individually. Like many others, I have been juggling family, home, work and study commitments in the midst of these extreme events. To be honest it has been challenging.

Call it writer’s block if you like but what I have learned about myself during this time is that when I am in ‘survival mode’ the Creative Writer part of me shuts down and hides in a bunker so deep and dark that I can’t find her. I feel so much disappointment and frustration about this.

Leading up to Easter I sensed she was finally, slowly emerging and I wrote this poem.

Tenebrae

No more words

Tear down lecterns
Shut off screens
Board up mouths

Give up
sighs
platitudes
consolations

Hush them all

Be still
as comforts are
snuffed out

Silent
as shadows
shroud

Let wicks
go cold

Enter the tomb
within

Be empty

Wait

©Belle Perry 2020

When I was in high school I read The Plague by Albert Camus and memories of it resurfaced over the past few weeks. Coincidentally I discovered this brilliant article by writer and philosopher, Alain de Botton: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-camus-plague.html

Bushfires and coronavirus may leave us feeling fearful, overwhelmed and exhausted. It is warranted and to be expected. It is difficult to sit with such feelings and I suspect many of us are navigating them daily.

What I take from Camus’ novel is that in the face of the absurdity of suffering, kindness to one another is the best and only answer. As Alain de Botton explains more eloquently,

“Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.”

Let’s continue to support each other with soft and grateful hearts through these ‘tenebrae’ times.

A World of Stories

World Refugee Day 20 June Refugee Week 16 -22 June 2019

In 2014, I went to a launch in Wentworth Falls for a book called A Country Too Far. It is a compilation of stories about asylum seekers edited by Rosie Scott and Tom Keneally, published in 2013 by Penguin Group. Tom Keneally is famous for his novel Schindler’s Ark that won the Booker Prize in 1982 and was later made into the Academy Award winning film, Schindler’s List.

In his opening address at the launch, Tom Keneally observed that after travelling all over Australia promoting the book, he found the Blue Mountains community to be by far the most compassionate and supportive of refugees. This was very heartening.

The Blue Mountains community has been concerned about refugees for some time. In 2001 The Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group Inc (BMRSG) formed, never imagining that they would still be needed almost two decades later. They describe themselves thus:

… a diverse group of ordinary Australians from all sides of politics. The organisation has no specific affiliations. We are united by the vision of an openhearted Australia where people seeking refuge and asylum are treated with justice and compassion.

BMRSG is a registered charity and all its members are volunteers. They support asylum seekers and refugees in a variety of ways that are outlined on their website: https://www.bmrsg.org.au/

Also, in 2004 the City of Blue Mountains declared itself to be a ‘Refugee Welcome Zone’ indicating a commitment in spirit to welcome refugees into the community.

The theme for Refugee Week 2019 is ‘A World of Stories’. The refugee experience can be difficult to imagine but stories are powerful in overcoming this. The following books may be helpful:

  • In the Sea There are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda, published in 2010 by Baldini Castoldi Dalai Editore
  • No Friend but the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani, published in 2018 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
  • Room on Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple, published in 2018 by Scholastic Australia
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan, published in 2006 by Hodder Children’s Books
  • The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do, published in 2010 by Allen & Unwin
  • The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman, published in 2008 by Insight Publications
  • Walking Free by Dr Munjed Al Muderis, published in 2014 by Allen & Unwin
  • Ziba Came on a Boat by Liz Lofthouse, published in 2007 by Kane/Miller Book Publishers

My own involvement with refugees began in 2007. It began with kindness from a stranger and then learning about their story of seeking refuge. This led to a firm and life-changing friendship between us. Ever since then my life has been enriched with more such stories and friendships. I am so grateful.

Unfortunately, the situation for asylum seekers and refugees both in Australia and worldwide remains dire. The stats are here: https://www.unhcr.org/en-au/figures-at-a-glance.html

So much is needed: workable solutions, effective teamwork, more understanding, compassion and justice.

I was quietly thrilled after the formalities of the book launch in Wentworth Falls to meet Tom Keneally. We had a warm chat and then he signed my book: ‘In hope, Tom Keneally 2014‘.

I also write this in hope.

#WithRefugees

Simple Living

Live simply so that others can simply live.

The origin of this quote is unconfirmed but it is often attributed it to Mahatma Gandhi. Nevertheless, the phrase is profound and it helps to unpack what ‘simple living’ is all about.

For me simple living is a lifestyle that considers not only my own well-being but the well-being of others. ‘Others’ includes present and future humans, plants, animals and the planet we share.

Several books have influenced my commitment to simple living but the first one to get right under my skin was Affluenza by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss published in 2005 by Allen and Unwin. It doesn’t hold back in describing the ugly reality of a world obsessed with consumerism.

It compelled me to think more carefully about what I actually need and how I can be a more responsible consumer. It launched me into developing habits around living sustainably, living with less and when buying, choosing fairtrade, ethical and environmentally friendly products.

Simple living can seem daunting at times. We are often time poor and new habits can be hard to form when we are swimming against the tide. But the reward in living simply is deep and lasting. Its foundation is kindness and thankfulness and these two virtues go far to improve our relationships, enhance our health and bring us peace of mind.

Simple living is a ongoing journey and it has taken me on a few steep learning curves. In no way do I claim to be an expert or a success. All I hope to do is work on my own simple living each day and inspire others to do the same. Together we can make a difference.