A couple of days ago I set out for my walk - the one I try to take every day regardless of the weather. My preferred route is a big loop from our house, down past the river, around the nearby paddocks and back again. As I started walking down the slope from our driveway I noticed how cold it was. The wind was blowing, ravenous for exposed skin. Without thinking I plunged my hands into the deep pockets of my coat and was instantly comforted.
Pockets are everywhere, in our garments yes, but also in our digital and spiritual and material lives, in the world around us. Pockets of sunshine falling on the pasture. Pockets in the ground where wombats sleep and rabbits hide. Pockets of cold water in a lagoon. Pockets concealing. Pockets of minerals weaving through ancient rocks. Pockets of words we lick shut or tear open. Pockets of community, of inclusion and understanding. Pockets of wild flowers growing without tending. Pockets of faith, of doubt. Pockets of leafy green in the city. A pocket of sleeping baby slung across the chest. The pockets we sew into a dress because we can. Pockets of hope.
At the beginning of the year I decided to stop using instagram and facebook after years of daily use. When asked what life feels like without them (and the hours I spent there each day) I will say that it isn't some hugely noticeable difference, mourned absence or elated smugness - but rather a sense of regaining little pockets of time throughout the day. Pockets of stillness, pockets of boredom, pockets of creativity, pockets of nothing-much-going-on, pockets of moving my body, pockets of prayer, pockets of thought, pockets of contentment. When before my attention and data was systematically obtained and pocketed by a big tech company, now I wonder how I could ever forgo all those little spaces of life I've reclaimed myself in.
"Technology has radically altered our relationship to space and consequently accelerated and diminished our experience. It evicts us from presence and makes the mind ever more homeless. In all mystical and literary traditions space provides distance and room.”
-John O'Donohue, "Spirituality and the art of real presence"
Space provides distance and room. Is it possible that using digital technology can both allow for and reduce the space for an inner life? It would be overly simplistic and untruthful of me to say the six years I spent on instagram were all bad, distracting and diminishing. Likewise if I said it was all positive, empowering and nourishing. It was always a both and. After years of trying to strike a balance I was comfortable with, I came to the conclusion that I could choose to go, and in going I could invest creative and social energy elsewhere - into other pockets. Like here, writing this newsletter, or making time to walk and talk to other parents as I collect my boys from school, penning that overdue letter or calling a dear friend.
The womb is the first pocket we know, the one we all come from. The pocket that holds us safe; in which we grow and become ourselves. Our planet is enveloped in a pocket of atmospheric gases that keeps it warm and cool, habitable. We must treasure and protect it. One day we will return to a pocket of sorts, a space in the earth, or in which we burn, and are scattered in the air, upon the water, consumed by soil - the stuff of us - returning. A star is a pocket of gas, still burning, giving light, becoming light itself.
- Read these poems
The Marriage We Carried in Our Pockets by Doug Ramspeck
Pockets by Howard Nemrov
A sock is a pocket for your toes by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon
- Explore the pockets of your life
Look for the pockets in your favourite garments. Re-read a special letter or card you have saved. Go for a walk in nature and notice the pockets of sunshine that fall through the clouds or the evidence of animal burrows in the ground or caves carved into the rocks. Make time for pockets of stillness in your day in which you can pause from the busyness - from the phone checking, from working - to just be still for a moment. You could try closing your eyes, and with your feet flat on the ground and your arms resting gently beside you, take five slow breaths - inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
- Write a short letter
To a friend or relative you haven't seen or connected with in a while. It could be a postcard with words of thanksgiving for their presence in your life, or a question you'd like to ask them or sharing about a book you recently read with a memorable quote. So often I put off the act of writing a letter because I don't think I'll find the right words or have the time to write a long enough letter - as though the length of it will say something about how much care I have for them more than the act itself.
- Contemplate these verses in Psalm 139:
For you created my innermost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Meatballs with Eggplant, Mozzarella and Tomato
One pot dishes are so good! This is delicious by itself or spooned over freshly cooked pasta or rice.
For the meatballs:
700g beef mince (veal or pork would work well too)
2 large eggs
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with clean hands. Shape into large balls and set aside.
For the sauce:
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
750ml tomato passata/puree
Gently fry onion in butter in a large heavy-based pot or fry pan. Reduce heat and add meatballs tossing gently to brown each side. Pour in tomato puree. Cover and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes.
1 medium sized eggplant or 1/2 a large one
handful of fresh basil or parsley leaves
Salt thin slices of fresh eggplant for 1 hour, wash and dry completely. Heat a skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil (ghee works well too). Fry eggplant slices until golden. Place slices on top of meatballs with thick slices of mozzarella cheese and plenty of fresh basil sprigs.
The Whole Beet Dip
This is an absolutely delicious, earthy dip using the whole of the beet - root, stalk and leaves - and is a perfect accompaniment to meat like kangaroo or beef . It is also wonderful scooped up with crackers and carrot sticks.
1 large beetroot (leaves, stalks, root), washed thoroughly
1 garlic clove, minced
handful flatleaf parsley, minced
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup thick, unsweetened greek style yoghurt or labneh
Peel and grate beetroot, chop finely leaves and stalks. In a small frying pan gently sauté beetroot with a tablespoon of olive oil. Once softened, add crushed garlic and continue to stir until completely cooked (you may need to add a little boiling water if it gets too dry). Set aside to cool in a mixing bowl. Add parsley, lemon juice, spice and sea salt. Using a stick blender - blend beetroot mixture until it resembles a paste. Stir in yoghurt and season with extra salt or lemon juice to taste. Serve in a bowl with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Should keep for up to a week in the fridge in a well sealed container (not that it will last that long!)
Rhubarb + Strawberry Jam
This is my favourite kind of jam. I love the sweetness and fragrance of the strawberries alongside the tart and distinctive flavour of the rhubarb. The rhubarb also helps to thicken the jam.
2 cups fresh rhubarb stalks, chopped in cubes
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, quartered
2 cups white sugar
juice of one lemon
In a medium-sized saucepan combine all the ingredients and stir on a low-heat until boiling. Pour into clean glass jars or container and store in the fridge.
brings a kind of grieving
at the shortness of the season
that savoured space
between summer heat
and winter freezing
a colourful unleaving
autumn unlike any
I can remember:
shrouded in smoke,
washed hands, news reel
and the sounds of
home are amplified;
silent, ear splitting sounds
blurry edged video calls -
we’ve grown older
sowed, and let go
and let go and let go
Autumn like no other
and painted like every other:
ash gold, oak brown,
gum grey, clover green,
marked with blood,
with loss and love.