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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 4, December 2013


Gerry Jacobson
Canberra, Capital Territory, Australia

The Wheel of the Year

is the coldest month . . .
grey mornings . . .
from the bus I see
the first flowering tree

It’s minus 5 this morning and riding the bike there’s significant wind-chill. My hands stay cold even through the gloves. Uphill to yoga class in Campbell, breathing hard. My reward is to salute the sun with mantra, and also the practice of trataka: candle gazing.

swooping downhill
clutching the handlebars
cold air
and sweeping curves
time flashing past

Coming back to country. The granite hills of Namadgi. A winter’s day on the Ridge of Stone with the Wednesday walkers. It’s great to reconnect with friends I haven’t seen for a while. We push through thick regrowth, aftermath of the terrible 2003 bushfires. But the rock outcrops are bliss, and the moves still come to me, though my body creaks.

grateful this day
for roughness
of granite . . .
friction of boots
the sense of freedom

I walk up Red Hill alone in the mist. Grey shadows. Trees dripping. Unseen magpies carolling. I’m startled by golden wattle in bloom. Higher up, ravens caw. Climbing above them to the summit ridge, I sit on a rock, swig water.

looking out
over our city
shrouded in fog
what . . . oh, what
can it be hiding?

Roll out of bed and down to the village for an early coffee. Along Weston Street the blinding light of the rising sun. It’s the spring equinox when the sun rises directly along this street. Griffin’s sacred geometry of Canberra. A shiver of apprehension, going into the six hot months. Cloudless sky. After two wetter years are we slipping back into drought?

no rain
in September
and the weather
forecast is fine . . .
what does ‘fine’ mean?

I dread going to the hairdresser at this time of year. T pinions me in the chair, then boasts his tomatoes. They’re already in flower, sure to be ripe before Christmas. I cringe. Mine are a packet of seeds, and I still haven’t worked out where to plant them. Oh yes, and he’s already eating his snow peas.

hangs heavy in my garden
the fragrance of lilac
overwhelms me

We are the highest people in Australia today. Rae and me. Up and over Mt Stillwell and north into the Ramshead Range. Out on the rock and snow once more. Spring comes late at 2000 m, there are still huge snow drifts. As the drifts melt the alpine marsh marigold Caltha introlaba appears in the damp patches, in full flower. We stand and stare. Shelter in a grassy hollow, share our sardines, watch clouds billow over the Main Range.

all around me
shadows lengthen
this moment
sunlight still lingers
on the distant ranges

Salt spray and the southerly blows me along the cliffs from Coogee to Bronte. The sea shimmers silver in morning sunlight. From Tamarama to Bondi the sculptures— bold and witty, intriguing and mysterious— stand out against the rocks, the sea, the sky. One hundred and twenty of them line the track. Surf’s too rough for me today so a dip in the Icebergs’ pool, waves breaking over it.

first swim
of the summer
slipping inside
the cold green beautiful
body of the sea

Summer solstice. Our town glitters in brittle sunshine. On the surface all is calm, all is bright. Schools have closed, traffic lessens. One by one the cafes close for summer break. Is there an underlay? The town winding down. The sadness of year’s ending. The tyranny of distance. Feeling vulnerable . . . on the edge of tears.

for Christmas drinks
with the neighbours . . .
living close together
but a long way apart

Bubbles rise in my pale ale. I’m warm, secure. Alone in the heart of my home town. It’s a timeless afternoon at Tosolinis. People sit chatting, eating, drinking. Canberra hangs suspended between Christmas and New Year, between last year and the year to come.

the wheel
of the year turns us
slow cooking
occasional basting
we shall be done by autumn

It’s 40 degrees here today. I go off at 6 am on the bike to water veggies in the community garden. Rae waters our home garden. High temperatures forecast for a week to come. And the town surrounded by grasslands, now tinder dry.

dome of heat
shiver of fear
a dragon
breathing fire and smoke—
our country burns

Pilgrimage to the mountain wildflowers. Up in the Brindabella Ranges with naturalist Ian F and others. Snowgum woodland around 1600 – 1800 m. Hot day, even at that altitude. But we see 45 species in flower. Our floral emblem is everywhere: the royal bluebell Wahlenbergia gloriosa.

alpine daisies
in the tussock
bread and cheese
under the snowgum
shared with a million flies

Late summer bakes the Limestone Plains. In the garden, harvesting zucchini, leeks, potatoes, silverbeet, senposai. Planting garlic, broad beans, peas for the spring. In the kitchen, cooking Green Earth soups. Whining chainsaws at Hill Corner. The box elder, that sheltered us for forty years, fell in a storm, tried to kill us. Gone now. A mountain of mulch on the nature strip. I reach for the wheelbarrow.

the summer crop
now gone to seed
the autumn
crop is coming on—
my poetry

Canberra glows in the days of golden light. Sunday afternoon concert then we cycle home around the lake. Sun is setting and the sky is wide. Reach the village. A beer and some Chinese. No bike lights so we walk our bikes up Hutchins Street towards home. It’s 8 pm and Orion is setting. Summer is leaving us.

golden leaves
drop off the gingko tree
one by one
the days of my life
pass into history

It turns chilly. Log fires in the evenings. Brilliant gold of Japanese ash in Hill Corner. Warm brown glow of pin oaks in Hutchins Street. And in my life, also, the days of golden light. Let go of the stresses of work and parenting. Let go of the stress of performance. Into contemplative mode where the priorities become clearer—grandchildren, poetry, friends, walking, dance . . . Facebook?

mulching leaves
composting memories
half hidden
in morning mist
and smoke haze

Celebrating the 4th of June. Anniversary of heart surgery. Nine years of extra life! Celebrating the gift of poetry, the wonder of pilgrimage, the great joy of grandchildren. Celebrating with song tonight, friends who sing are coming round for a folk session. A ton of firewood, a gallon of mulled wine. We’ll fathom the bowl!

from the hilltop
I watch clouds moving
rain showers
sweeping the land—
joy overflowing

Author’s note: The tanka ‘God’ was first published in Moonset 5: 2, 2009; ‘the wheel’ and ‘golden leaves’ in Simply Haiku, Winter 2010; ‘alpine daisies’ in Grevillea and Wonga Vine, Eucalypt, Pearl Beach, 2011; ‘mulching leaves’ in Ribbons, 8:2, 2012.



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