THE CODA by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

Bondi summer eves

The tide moves further from the beach

the husk of a waning year remains

the evenings slow, the whales breach

you'll see your family soon again.

There is a buzzing in the air

a joint delight that's earned and true 

you've grown and stretched, you've wept, you've reached

discovered things that make you, you.

 

CASTLE IN THE SAND by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

little homes

For a while it feels like heaven

but only for a while

you roll around in love and you live in its denial

until the threads unravel

like wool left in the sun

you pick at them yourself until you pull out every one

your castle tumbles over

strewn along the sand

the string-bark drawbridge broken

the shell adorning damned

'where from here?'

you wonder,

this isn't what you planned -

a desolate heart broken

sodden on the sand.

 

Time passes you in silence

so still, you wonder why

then you feel a deep vibration

a far off rumbling sky

the crabs they start a-walking

(or 'a-siding' you could say)

into their crabby hollows

where they work and toil away

you can't see it from the surface but they're strengthening the sand

building deep foundations from which Kingdoms can be manned.

 

After a time the rumbling becomes loud, and louder still

the sea birds flap about and squawk

their cries becoming shrill

a clap of thunder hits the beach

as waves crash on the sand

water mixed with burly mess

engulfs the wretched land

glinting rain falls from the clouds

and hits the ground below

the broken castle washes forth

you watch the wreckage go.

 

When the storm is over and the quiet has returned

a lightness sits upon your heart

a knowledge that you've learned

the castle that you lived in here

not so long ago

was built on things that don't stand strong

when battered to-and-fro.

 

As crabs do

they re-emerge

under a starry sky

they've found for you a place at last

sturdy, warm and dry

a giant shell, great husk of life

one to call your own

a place for love and care amid

the shifting sands, a home.

 

~

LONGINGS by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

the search for honey

Sometimes when I'm next to you

I can feel you smile

A warmth that flows from skin to skin

and lingers for a while

 

with me your smile I'll carry for

a while or two or so

but over time this smile fades

I don't know where it goes

 

perhaps it leaves for someone else 

or dissipates in me

either way I mourn the loss

somewhat shamefully 

I wonder if I drove it to retreat with injury

or if my deepest longings do not wish it to be free?

~

HYDRA by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

hydra

Dreams of Hydra in my eye

full with fruit of years gone by

of warmth that wraps around your feet

the mother sun,

a welcome heat

faces crack with salty grin

the harbour breathes boats out and in

day after day, they putt away

and then come back with fish to eat. 

 

You slip into the velvet, blue

your restful sister yearns for you

gone are the days 

gone are the ways

where people sat with naught to do

alive in stillness, vast and full

a place for thinking, being, listening,

learning, dreaming, teaching, living

Hydra brings it back to you.

 

At night, a quiet, broad and deep

of solitude and earthy sleep

broke only by the donkey's bray

circus of stars, aeons away

and in the turning afternoon

cicadas hum a song in tune 

the rhythm's slow, the form is free

while they stay shaded in their tree.

 

Before the evening settles in

the beads of sweat cling on your skin

after a day of salt and bliss 

urchins on the mantlepiece

reminders of a week so true

walking with him

beside the blue

one day you'll visit here again

Hydra, a gentleman and friend.

~

 

DREAM SEQUENCE by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 2.52.02 pm.png

Drip, drip… drip, drip.

Little sounds everywhere

all a suddy you're aware

of creaks and cranks throughout the night

of bumps that wake you up in fright

a skitter on the floorboard starts

a mental theatre, in two parts:

 

Act One houses moonlight through

the open window, there’s a clue!

but still you're in a placid sleep

dreaming of a lake so deep

fish swimming slowly down below

to fathoms where the strange things grow…

 

and then from blackness comes a shape

your dreaming mouth does drop and gape

a tentacle of brilliant hue,

of fleshy pink and mouldy blue!

comes winding upwards through the dark

it grabs your foot, and with a start –

 

up you sit in bed – the shock!

the frame like a canoe does rock

as though you're travelling on the tide

your foot (you check) is safe inside

you breathe anew and look around

you're safe at home, so lie back down

and slowly once again you go

into the moonlit shadows, lo!

 

"Behold Act Two!", Luna cries

while she lounges in the sky

a champion of eerie sport

this nightmare watchman loves her work

touching eyelids closed and calm

you've welcomed her, in all her charm

until you feel a hint of fear

for you don't really know her, dear.

 

She finds her way beneath your eyes 

and side-long by your dream she flies

until you're moving head-to-head

you turn and notice what you dread

she's changed the course on which you fly

The Place of Plenty passes by

she leads you into craggy hills 

where darkness clings to rock and tree

the sounds, the scents

they disappear

instead come shadows, wraiths of fear 

they circle round you, faceless, cold 

this isn't where you want to be.

 

They wrap you up just like a fly

wriggles in a web to die

and all the while she gazes down

an ancient rock with gleaming crown

this is, for her, a nightly feast

she preys on dreamers in their peace

'That's it!' you cry, with raspy voice,

'dreamers dream, this is my choice!'

Luna looks on with a frown

you're free to go, you've won this round

 

you breaststroke upward to the sky

watching whisps of cloud pass by

the shadows fade, and light flows in

your body rests on pillows white

a breeze is rippling on your skin

but cloud-made quilts, they wrap you tight

you sigh a sigh of sheer relief

you conquered Luna's Land of Grief!

your eyelids open slow to see

moonbeams on the old gum tree.

~

 

AN OCEAN ODE by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

You’ll always find friends in the sea

blush-coloured fish in filigree

a countryside hidden from view

to folks who walk and talk as though

they understand the endless deep

the place that breathes while we sleep

the place from which we came to be

where life began, where things are free.

 

I heard whispers, old and true

that spoke of birth and growth in blue

they mentioned springs of conscious life

the start of colour, laughter, strife.

 

Then, in time, the plastic came

the water rose and warmed in pain

the colour drained from gardens few

so we continued, as we do,

till now past riches are bone white

creatures dart and dive in plight

this place will never be the same

if we can’t learn to love again

 

and love we will, when we can see

that life itself comes from the sea

rolling fabrics, lofty hills

Earth’s palace swathed in emerald hue,

gilded waves with morning trills

and shards of sunlight sprinkle through

 

they glitter down upon the tide

and dance across the seahorse hide  

to vibrant gardens underneath

our comrade, the old coral reef.

~

SOUTH by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

South of the city feels like home

a land where fewer people roam

away from buildings in the sky

a place where flocks of spoonbills fly


the bell bird’s song sounds all day long

amid the leaves and living throng

you’ll find some time to hear the breeze

spreading gossip through the trees


and when you’re by the inlet blue

the dappled sun shares stories too

tales of the fish below

and knowledge of how oysters grow


this wisdom travels from the deep

to mountains where old memories sleep

between the two lies rolling green

the lushest country ever seen


a countryside robust and true

but delicate as morning dew

the health of which, as all things do,

depends on folks like me and you.


~

MARIGOLD by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

A little drawing I did of Coleridge's Xanadu for my nephew, Dougie the Doog.

A little drawing I did of Coleridge's Xanadu for my nephew, Dougie the Doog.

We wonder if with ageing comes

a grace and wisdom far beyond

the measures of our childhood brain

which giggled sun, cried tears of rain

within that mind grew trees of gold, and endless mountains - aeons old

it played with faeries clothed in folded leaves with buttons marigold

the curving hills of Xanadu, the place of plenty, known to few

where played a music felt right through

I won't forget that place, will you?

~

POEM FOR A FLOWER by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

Snippet of Laura Jones's 'Poppies 2012, oil on linen, 70 x 86 cm'

Snippet of Laura Jones's 'Poppies 2012, oil on linen, 70 x 86 cm'

Have you watched a flower grow?

have you watched from seed through sow?

watch the petals tumble out

watch them as they fan about

dancers on a ballroom stage

they move with grace and calm embrace

see the colours change from pink

to red with burns of orange ink

marvel as it stretches tall

toward the iridescent ball

the mighty sun, bringer of life!

god of love and war and strife!

 


Bringer of death its role as well

do not forget life comes in two

from night to day, from me to you

harmony can only be

when two things balance equally

like petals on a rose with thorns

or gentle deer with savage horns

 


and when the flower dies,

it will

don’t lament, there’s beauty still

beauty in the curling leaves,

fading colours

hungry bees

for life is growth and death and change

from clover through to mountain range

we are the stars, we are the sea

and when we die we are all three

the sun, the deep and all between

that dying flower is our Queen


watch her grow from birth to death

her beauty lies in changing breath.

~

DAYDREAM by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

Photo by Scott Wilson @scottwilsonimagery

Photo by Scott Wilson @scottwilsonimagery

They tie a rope to a piece of coral 10 meters below and you start to breathe. Big, wave-like breaths into your belly so that they roll up and out of you. Just focus on that. Just focus on that... But then your little toes wiggle in the flippers - a reminder that you still have to paddle to stay up in the air - not time to head down there yet.

"Okay, Ash, give it a crack" says Scott. He and Woody can melt down to 40 meters and stay there for minutes at a time - crawling around on the coral below like octopus(es/i/whatever) - patient, slow and curious. It's epic to watch. Ash takes her breath and dips her head below her feet, grabbing hold of the rope. We watch her place one hand in front of the other over and over until she decides she needs to turn around. About 7 meters... Damn good for a first try according to the boys.

We all take turns at this for some time. Ash has smashed the 10 meters by now, she's lived here by the water for years and shrugs her shoulders in quiet content when we all congratulate her. My turn. She's done it now so I bloody can too I reckon, but I've never been good at staying calm.

So breathe. GiGi's a doctor and she says the body can survive on one good breathe for up to 5 minutes before you're actually in trouble. Funny though, it's not knowing the science that gets you down there, it's not thinking much at all.

I roll over and down with a torso full of air and start to pull myself along. The deeper you get the more you slim out as the particles compress. Right over left, repeat. It's further down than you think. I close my eyes and think about the humpback whales we'll swim with this week. Whales! Right over left, repeat. By now I'm at around 7 meters, I open my eyes and I decide to do it. I'm doing it. If I run out of air on the way up Scott and Woody can help me. Time feels kind of strange down here, marked out by small accomplishments rather than a constant drum. Is that how time feels normally? I don't know, point is it was different.

I realise I'm holding onto the coral, I'm there, suspended upside down at the depth of a tall town-house. It's not the deepest depth in the world but it's further than I've ever gone without an air tank. I close my eyes and all I feel is a deep sway. After a few moments that feel like a deep pause I roll back over and lock eyes with Scott. He's down there with me and throws me an underwater shaka as I grab the rope to head up. I do a little slow-mo boogie and then look up at the surface. It's a way up but I take my time. I start my ascent and the closer to the surface I get the more I start to feel that jolt in my diaphragm that tells me I need air. They told me to push it aside though so I do... I don't worry this time. Up n' up I go, all the while thinking only that I like it down there and I can't wait to go back. 

OH! FOR OPERA! by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

Some may see The Opera as an outdated pastime...a relic of the aristocracy and a boring waffle of what sounds like wobbly yelling. I recently went to Opera Australia's 60th Anniversary Gala, as a lucky guest of my cousins, and it really hit me hard. 

I find myself constantly worried about the planet and about human action, longing for a breath in the midst of so much villainy (to take those beautiful words from Szymon's 'Golden'). For once, I was invigorated, revived and hopeful. Humans really are amazing creatures... So conscious, so powerful. All we need to do is try!

WORKPLACE ECOSYSTEMS by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

Most of us are part of some kind of workplace...it's a necessary part of living today, but it's also pretty odd. Have you ever found yourself confronted by the pecking order or by the nuances of how you all communicate?

I've been chatting with friends recently who are burgeoning high-flyers...'yuppies' if you will. Hammering away at the base of a looming column of concrete bureaucracy. My worst nightmare but an admirable display of determination and patience. Anyway, within these conversations there's much yammering about superiors' treatment of juniors, the lack of ethical culture, and of course the perks of those long wine-filled lunches (so it's not all bad). 

Gets me thinking though, surely a shift in perspective would benefit even the most skeptical of groups, the big business folk. This is not to say that all my friends and people who work in the corporate world are disconnected with the process of life, rather that the structure of many a corporation eggs on the perspective of disconnect, rather than of cooperation and flux. We're in this together and surely the best way to flourish is to utilise that. I'm not 'business savvy Sonya' but if workplaces approached their internal workings from the perspective that they're an ecosystem rather than just a hierarchy, there'd be less politics and more productivity. 

A GIDDY MORNING! by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

I went kayaking in the wetlands outside Esperance…it was whimsical and full of peace so I wrote a ridiculous poem:

Oh! To kayak in the breeze,

With wild birds and twisted trees,

The swallows diving from on high,

Under the misty morning sky.

Oh! To kayak in the sun,

What better way to have some fun?

The spoonbills would agree I’m sure,

I only wish to do it more!

CHAOS by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

Like the Greek myths of old, storms are reminiscent of the orderless jumble of energy, growth and destruction that was said to have been present directly after the birth of the Universe. Whilst I don’t agree with the nitty gritty of this myth, I do think the nature of chaos is something significant that we can consider.

In the past year Australia has seen some weather that rivals any I’ve witnessed in my life so far: beaches gutted like dead fish by the wind; waves literally bursting with force and intent, charging the harbours, bays and inlets that make up much of the coast; people and animals drowned.

In line with the thoughts of the presocratic philosophers, namely Heraclitus, everything is constantly in flux. Harmony in this process of flux comes from the meeting and binding of opposites. In other words, calm and peace are the products of balance. In the same way that having a balanced diet and sleep cycle keeps you functioning well, having balance in the environment allows for peaceful days and smooth processes of growth and decay.

When a storm with such destructive power hits, it must be a sign of discord. Surely the growing imbalances in the cosmos (as a result of our personal and wide spread action) will only create more discord around us. If this continues, it logically follows that more destructive events will follow. No matter how small we think our impact is, we are in flux and we are flux, so let’s try to bring in a bit of balance!

WRINKLES & WISDOM by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

Have you ever noticed the points where gum tree trunks become the trees’ arms? I’ve been looking at them recently. They form in the same way our own skin does. Wrinkled, care-worn and characterful. In a funny way recognising that similarity has made me consider our connection to trees as a whole.

A great friend of mine, Sammy, has spent time in China in the past few years, writing for The China Daily. On her return she spoke of how many of the Chinese regard trees with reverence. They literally hug them when they spend their lunch times in the city parks.

I have begun letting my hands brush the limbs of trees as I walk by them and I often find myself pausing to look more closely. Many are stoic, giants of our world and their impact is solely good. What a thing to exist, what a thing to be humbled by!

LITTLE WORLDS by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

I dawdled down to the oyster shed around 7am the other day and found myself looking at dew drops that had formed on leaves in the early morning tingle. The droplets were sturdy and fragile, transparent and colourful. After a decent gawk I realised I could even catch glimpses of my face staring back at me. It made me think – those tiny worlds form and dissipate in the morning light, only present for what we perceive to be a pretty fleeting instant in time. But that’s just the thing, that’s how we perceive it. Would an ant or a butterfly, alive for just a matter of weeks, have a another concept (in our understanding) of time and movement? Of growth, decay and all that is flux? These little droplets are transient existences, just like our own and just like all things. They are still, however, existences, that surely affect other lives too. Think of an ant moving along a leaf to find food and water – holy smokes – this droplet is an oasis! Packed full of organic molecules, food and hydration, this bead of liquid could be the holy grail for our little ant friend.

I suppose the point is this: consideration. All animals (including us) perceive the world in different ways. There are even differences between humans, when has the way you see the world been exactly and completely in line with someone elses view? It is partly because of these differences that we have so much beauty and variation around us – variation in thought, action, growth and decay. Awareness of these different perspectives is so very important, as they contribute to the change and flux that is us and is all around us. What we perceive as the important parts of our world are not always the focus of someone or something else’s. I dare say I’ll consider this when I’m next walking through any environment. Our understanding is not the only understanding and is certainly not always the most important. It is a part of a changing whole.

 

DAPPLED DREAMING by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

IMG_7237.jpg

A while ago I went to my aunt’s place on the least populated stretch of the eastern coastline of Australia. First, because it’s my favourite place on the planet and second, because I was keen to help her and her partner out with some oyster farming. Boom! 

We took the boat out onto the lake one day to fetch some oyster slats and decided to pop around to paradise for a swim. After a dip in the channel I lay under the coastal mahogany trees and gazed upwards as the sunlight tiptoed through the branches and onto my skin. There is only natural sound there and it engulfs you: lapping water; the breeze in trees; cicadas; soldier crabs marching; crickets; frogs; birds; even the creaks of old wooden branches that have seen too much salt and sun.

My eyes were fixed on nothing. I was staring upwards in a daze, the sounds around me swirling in my head. A tangible thought did cross my mind, however, and it was one that I am glad for. I realised that the more I ‘stared’ – the more my eyes weren’t focused on a particular locus – the more I was aware of the flowing movement of everything around me.

I was aware of the tide running outwards in the very bottom corners of my vision, I could see the pattern the breeze made in the leaves above, I saw the light gently hitting my prickling skin, I knew that the sunlight bouncing off the water was reflecting the soft, moving patterns on the branches of the trees above.

As we took the boat home I tried this thought of mine out again and stared across the water, focusing on nothing. Again it worked. I could see the different patterns of the tides and eddies on the lake, all moving together. I could see the lively movement of the wind on the water’s surface, I knew how strong the breeze was and where it was coming from, I could see a bird flying low across the water, I knew when a fish jumped up ahead.

It was hard, my eyes aren’t used to that and I kept falling back into focusing on one point and had to try and make myself revert back into this staring state once again. It made me think – our understanding of ourselves, of the world and of our part in it is so singular, so self-oriented – to the point where we see things (anything outside what we consider to be ourselves) as singular, individual things too, rather than seeing a flowing whole.

My aunt once talked to me about fishing with some of the Aboriginal people she knew, she spoke of how they could see things she couldn’t, how they knew when an octopus or fish was under the water because they truly knew how to look. Their understanding of the self is that they are truly part of the cosmos, not just selves on a planet within it. It is this understanding that enables them to see things differently. When they look out at a forest they don’t look at each tree and bird singly, they see a whole, moving world. Of course they can focus on things when they want or need to, however, their natural state is to see flux, and be part of that.

I have decided to keep trying my little staring trick. People always remark when they see a friend staring…as if it were a useless, unengaged thing to be doing. I think that it's the opposite of that. Maybe viewing things in this way is a far more raw and beneficial way to see the world and in turn feel ones position as a part of it.

What a sparkling little day!