When Inspiration Strikes – Write

 

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I’ve often mentioned how lucky I am.  How blessed and privileged, to be working in community houses and teaching people who want to write, and who love words as passionately as I do.

Today, with mid-winter cold and rain creating a day where staying in bed, or hugging the fireplace seemed a good move unless a better option arose, I  cheerfully organised myself for work.

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As a teacher,  you are not supposed to have favourites, but my class on Wednesday morning is pure delight. Ages range from the early 30s to 87 years and each decade in-between.

Our cultural backgrounds and life experience encompass  Armenia, Egypt, Israel, Scotland, Ireland, England and Australia.

Professions: nurse, teacher, event manager, administration, retail, hospitality, lollipop lady, cleaner, small business owner, musician, author, artist, police officer, disability speaker, estate agent, receptionist…

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Life experience: mother, wife, widow, divorcee, never married, single. Some siblings, some knew parents, some brought up by grandparents, some have been in care…

There are travellers, happy-at-home, armchair travellers, ex-military, and those with a bucket list of places to see – exotic and mundane.

We have Post-grads, those whose education was cut short or limited, a Bachelor of Theology, Catholics, Protestants, atheists, agnostics, spiritualists, non-believers, secular Jews, Buddhists…

 

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Wednesday mornings rich with stories, good writing, fun, and laughter. And today was no exception with one of the students, Donna reading a wonderful piece, “Hatitude My Life in Hats” – an earlier version available online.

With Donna’s permission, I’ve started taking photographs because she brightens up the class with her style, stories, and indeed always a fashionable hat!

Her story today eliciting spontaneous applause!

When I opened my curtains this morning, I smiled, despite the rain dancing on the driveway and street, adding that extra swish as cars raced past.

I smiled because my beautiful bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae)is healthy and blooming, I smiled because it is great to be alive.

And because like  most mornings, Mr or Mrs Magpie visited to sing an aria or two. However, recently the magpies have been upstaged by an extremely vocal Noisy Miner.

So vocal, that my lovely daughter MJ has considered avicide.

I am more forgiving – and Tuesday evening being bin night, my sleep was already disturbed  by the growling and clattering of the garbage truck at 6.00 am, so the off-beat duet didn’t cause me to frown.

Because we all share this small planet Earth, we have to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. That is not just a dream, but a necessity.

Dalai Lama, Tibetan spiritual leader.

And by the time I arrived at Godfrey Street, Bentleigh, via foot, train, bus, and foot (Bentleigh Station not due to reopen until the end of the month) the rain had stopped and I could enjoy the short walk through the garden and appreciate the love and care enveloping the house.

 

Number Nine Godfrey Street

Mairi Neil 2016

The garden a delight from someone’s green fingers
A profusion of pastel colours glistening
While sunshine smiles and fickle autumn spits rain.
I watch visitors stream inside the nondescript house
Their footsteps echoing on shaded verandah.
Walkers scrape and stroller wheels squeak.
A magpie trills in dinner-suited elegance,
Preening glossy feathers and strutting the footpath
As if ushering passersby to enter stage right ––
The Isadora scarf or Hitchcock cigar missing.

A young woman, nursing a toddler on her hip,
Grins a welcome to the elderly gent who
Clutches his chessboard and secret moves.
Their families farewelled to independence,
Seniors care for themselves in exercise classes.
Small talk in craft sessions produces big results.
Delightful aromas drift from the kitchen ––
Homemade pumpkin soup, sweet chocolate cookies,
Spicy curries –– recipes shared with curiosity and love
Sauced with tales from distant lands.

Oil paintings and pastel drawings, the fruit
Of nurtured local artists decorate the walls
This house celebrates learning, laughter, and leisure …
Friendships bubble and overflow to the neighbourhood
No need to cruise the retail choices of Centre Road,
Sup lonely cafe lattes amid chattering conversations
Or sit mesmerised by mobile screens
A house in Godfrey Street plants seeds
And grows friendships; welcomes newcomers,
Encourages indigenous and immigrant to bloom.

In the house singsong voices of children tinkle
While mellow murmurings of writers’ words
Capture imagination, life experience, and wisdom.
Pens scratch notepads as the sewing group
Across the hall coax machines to whirr into life,
Garments appear patterned by creativity
Wordsmiths spin sentences for pleasure
Every room thrums and hums as
People connect, care and communicate
Their commitment to lifelong learning

I accept the magpie’s invitation
Submit to being ‘led up the garden path’
To follow a thirty-year trail and discover
Like the vibrant blossoms in the garden
Community and harmony flourishes
At Number Nine Godfrey Street.

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Winter Is for The Birds!

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Today, in class at Bentleigh as we were busy writing our masterpieces, I had to stop and draw my students’ attention to a Noisy Miner balancing on the stem of an orange Grevillea supping the nectar. A few moments before we’d been entertained by his amazing vocals, but to see him up close and concentrating on his lunch, unaware of our scrutiny, was delightful. However, others don’t share my adulation because they can cause havoc and the introduced species are certainly ‘pirates’ when it comes to claiming territory and food.

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When I spent Christmas in Canada with my oldest daughter, I missed birdsong, and indeed seeing birds. Our feathered friends had literally all flown south to escape winter – and who can blame them for that – especially since the winter of 2013 was Toronto’s worst for many years!

The valiant birds remaining scrounged what they could, excited if someone slipped on the ice and spilt coffee, or dropped their chips! Needless to say, it was the ‘rats of the sky’, pigeons, or resourceful sparrows I saw – no exotic or beautiful species – just ordinary unspectacular birds.

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Although, I don’t think any bird is ordinary and have been fascinated by their behaviour, their resilience, and their many talents for  years. They often appear in my poetry and stories, they are such an essential part of my life, and the life on our planet. I can’t stand seeing birds in cages and must admit Hitchcock’s The Birds, seen as a child has made me wary of too close encounters, but from a respectful distance birds never cease to amaze and earn my admiration.

Marauding Mimics
Mairi Neil

They appear on my lawn,
Like four pirates of old,
Strutting, aggressive,
Noisy and bold.

Fixing beady eyes
On a treasure trove
They push a bit here –
Then give a shove.

They’ve come to this land
from across the sea
The climate they love
And thrive with glee.

They raid and they steal
Do what pirates do best
The Common (Indian) Myna
Has become quite a pest.

Silence Is Golden
Mairi Neil

Darkness outside
says the sun is asleep
We’re snuggled together
In sleep – peacefully deep.

Until there’s a sound
A persistent ‘peep peep’.

Slumber disturbed
Thoughts in disarray
I try to identify the noise
heralding the day.

The sound,
interrupting deep sleep
a soft
persistent
penetrating
‘peep peep’

The sound doesn’t stop
There’s a rhythm too
Like a fairy cobbler
Mending a fairy shoe.

A sound interrupting deep sleep
a soft ‘peep peep’

‘It’s coming from outside,’
A husky comment from you
‘Or is it the smoke detector –
replacement batteries due?’

A sound interrupting deep sleep
a persistent peep peep

‘It can’t be a bird,’ you say,
‘dawn’s still breaking.
If a feathered friend
it needs a darn good shaking.’

That sound interrupting deep sleep
a penetrating ‘peep peep’

There are habits and rules
For bird behaviour and song
the paramount one being
Song must wait ’til dawn.

That sound, interrupting deep sleep
a soft
persistent
penetrating
‘peep peep’

Days turned into weeks
night’s passing disturbed –
our discovery – the noise
most definitely a bird!

An ornithologist confirmed
when the world is still dark
‘peep peep’ is the calling card
of the cheeky Mudlark.

‘Peep Peep’

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Winter’s Song
Mairi Neil

It’s winter time,
The nights are long.
Oh, how I ache
For joyful birdsong.

The winter sun’s glow
Absent of heat
Stirs memories of snow,
Rain, hail and sleet.

It’s winter time
The nights are cold
Oh, how I love
Flames bright and bold.

Melbourne’s winter
Cold, it’s the coldest day
Smog-bound, fogbound
Peasouper grey.

It’s winter time
The night’s are drear
Oh, come on Spring
I want you near.

Blustery August blows
July’s temperatures warm
The stirrings of Spring
As new life forms.

It’s winter time
The nights are long
Oh, how I ache
For joyful birdsong.

This winter Melbourne has broken a few records apparently – it certainly has been a cold one – roll on spring and, I never thought I’d say it, the wattlebirds feasting on my Grevillea!

Winter Blues!
Mairi Neil

Today, it felt like winter
Cold air penetrated winter woollies
Chilled the bones
Numbed the fingers and toes
Froze ears and nose.

The grey aluminium sky
Promised rain and then
Sent it in buckets and sheets
Hailstones the size of golfballs
Cats and dogs scurried to safety.

Torrential rain pounded the windows
Bounced off the pavements
Saturating surrounds until
Puddles became pools, water
Thrown into the air by passing cars.

The wind howled at these waves
Wrestled with trees, snapped their branches
Shifted roof tiles; rattled windows
Blew under doors, lifted carpets
Whistled down hallways.

Gusts grabbed the rainwater
Dashed it against walls
Determined to inflict maximum damage
Outbursts escalated as Mother Nature’s
Children fought and grumbled

People struggled to stay upright
Umbrellas flapped inside out
Windscreen wipers seized up
And gutters not knowing whether
To drown or smother debris
Came to a standstill.

Today winter threw a tantrum and won.

Haiku by Mairi Neil

Cliff top turbulence
An explosion of feathers
Gulls blown out to sea

Pelican perches
Atop electricity pole
Fishing boats bring lunch

Pelicans leave pier
aerial acrobatics
Sightseers enjoy the show

Do birds play a part in your writing, or give you inspiration?