Caroline Yabsley
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Conversations with trees

26 July 2020

Come back, said the trees.
Time for you to make this place your home again.

But I’m not ready, I said.
Not fully healed yet.

You’ve had 6 months to rest in Mollymook.
We need you here.
Remember our agreement:
We help each other.

But how will I find strength to be of use to you.

We will help you. Trust us.

But you don’t look like proper trees anymore.
Just burnt furry branches on a trunk.
Look what Fire did to you!

We are still strong, they said.
Trust us.

~

But I still feel the pain, I said,
So strong in my heart.
It’s stronger when I come here to you and this place.
Let me heal some more first.

The way to heal, said the trees,
Is to feel ALL the pain.
Not numb it by being absent .
Don’t be afraid.
You’re ready for this now.

Well...yes....,I said.
But, the trees in Mollymook are so full.
Such full canopies,
Moving gracefully in the breeze.

Come sit beneath us, they said,
And be still and listen.
Look up at our funny furry branches
Where our canopies once were
And will be again.
Be still, and listen.
You’ll find we are talking to you yet.
And look at the home your Beloved is preparing for you
Here amongst us, your trees.

~

So I sit beneath the trees.
And yes, I can still hear them talking to me.
I easily find stillness
Beneath their funny furry branches

I find I can grieve for the trees,
And praise their resilience.
And I can grieve for myself,
Praising my own resilience.
And I simply praise my Beloved

I’ll be home again soon.

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The Next Step...

12 August 2020

You said I could do it,
“Just feel ALL the pain”.
But I can’t bear to look,
I want to hide again.
In Mollymook,
Again I’ll pretend,
None of this fire stuff happened.

But I have returned,
Come back to my Place.
To you, my strange furry trees,
Still burnt from the fire.

I love your energy,
Growing new leaves.
I hear your new voice.
As you find your new way
I will help as I can.

But today’s drive up the hill -
Past where I once walked
Enjoying your shade-
Showed the damage
To the forest so wide

It’s past my ability to care.
I’m consumed again with despair.
Would that I could hide once more
Behind Mollymook’s veil.

Instead I listen within,
Feel the scale of this chaotic charred mess
A swirling, nauseating, overwhelm
A burn in the belly
I can’t comprehend.

“Stop fighting your feelings” you say
“ confusion’s OK
Like being dumped by a wave in the surf
Let the tumbling happen.
Let the burn burn”

“Feel the comfort
As you emerge
Then be still,
Let the next step find you,
Not you it”

Let the next step find you,
Not you it.

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Is it wrong to do this?

5 December 2020

I came across this photo a few days ago, of the loungeroom we lost to the fire almost 12 months ago. When our whole house was taken. Stuff we have collected over the years, some of it as junk which we painstakingly restored and kept in our lives for over 40 years, other stuff passed on to us by relatives who have left us.

I know it’s just stuff, but the meaning behind that stuff is hard to let go of.

And I’m finding it hard to flick past the picture. As New Years Eve approaches, the first anniversary of the fire that took it all, I’m finding it harder to say I’m over it and I’m moving on. I’ve grieved and cried so much this year, I was sure it was done. But this picture grabbed at me. Perhaps it’s not finished yet. I’m going to stay with this picture for a bit then. Try to understand why I can’t flick past it.

I’ve done a lot of learning this year about grieving and emotions, from varying sources. I’ve learned that if you stay with what you are genuinely feeling in the moment, a wave of emotion being experienced will last just 16 seconds. The felt experience then moves on to something else. “But what if that wave is an urge to cry and I’m with other people and it’s inappropriate to cry”, I ask. Well, as I’m told, that’s just a cultural constraint. If I don’t allow the crying to happen, the emotion gets buried and entangled with other buried emotions and the feeling will last much longer than 16 seconds. And cloud my perception of the real world.

So if, as the anniversary approaches, I’m with you and you see me suddenly crying, don’t be too concerned. Don’t try to comfort me or stop me. Just give me the space to experience what I’m experiencing in that moment. Perhaps just stay with what you’re feeling in response to me. And hopefully it will only last 16 seconds. And then we can move on.

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In the flow

11 December 2020

I don’t know why
I cry.
I’m only grateful
When I can

I thought I was happy
But am I now sad
I can’t really tell
I only know it feels so good
To be in the crying flow.

When I need to cry and can’t
It simply hurts.
Letting the crying happen
Is a skill with worth.

I don’t know why
I laugh,
I’m just so very grateful
When I can.

The sensation of joy
Feels so good
I would keep it forever
If I could

But I know..
That feeling of joy
Will flow on too
Making space for
Something new.

Gotta let it all flow out
Gotta let it all flow out
Clear the decks
For something new
Gotta let it flow.

Making space
For the person I will be
The person I am becoming
Waiting there for me

Gotta let it flow.

(Note to self.....have to learn to stop stopping the crying.)

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Another wave

28 December 2020

It comes upon me
With a gush
Without warning.

One minute content,
Enjoying a read.
And then suddenly it’s there.

A warm upwelling
From deep in my chest,
Up to my throat and eyes.

I know this feeling now
It’s become a good friend,
I can allow it to remain.

I feel my shoulders relax,
And the prolonged crying out breath
And the emotion.

I’ve learned to treasure
This sensation
That allows the emotion to flow.

Sometimes there are tears,
Sometimes there are none.
And in 16 seconds it passes.

An opportunity to reflect again,
On the enormity of that day
When Fire took our Innocence away.

When we all learned
That our existence here
Is truly.....conditional.

Our planet is changing.
We know this now.
Can we keep up with the change.

Each episode of tears is a gift,
A training to open my heart,
And be what is required of me.

So bring on the tears
Let me see what’s there
Let my soul learn from this.

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New Roots

13 January 2021

That moment when I turned
From saving the house
To walking away.
How could I choose that so lightly!

The fire had threatened
For three whole hours
You fought so valiantly
Go easy on yourself.

The roof was on fire
The roof window was twisting
“What’s happening to me”
It said to you.

You knew it was game over
Your life was more precious
Don’t be so hard
On yourself.

I do know that logic
But that’s just too easy
There’s something more
I have to explore.

In walking away
I severed my roots
To my place on this Earth
Where She keeps me most safe.

From my home and my connection
To all that I am
From my Earthly belonging
I walked away.

The circumstances don’t matter.
I made that choice.
Something in that moment
Has changed me forever.

Would that I could know
That something a bit more.
That I could put down
New roots.

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Cool breeze

17 January 2021

Stuck in a time warp
The fires, ages ago now
Where can I feel home.

Where can I bring friends
When it rains or it’s too cold.
Very cramped inside.

Cool breeze on my skin
“I see you feel much anger.
It is safe with me."

“..I will not judge you
Why don’t you just let it rip.
Soon feel much better.”

Cool breeze on my skin
“Now you can pause, and you’ll see
Your home is in me.”

Cool breeze on my skin
Reminds me I am alive
Time to create more.

Positive thinking
Leaves me feeling much lighter
So much to love here.

Acknowledge the dark
It needs to be expressed too
Then look for the light.

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I hear you

24 January 2021

I hear you
I hear your anger
You’ve been raging at me
But I haven’t wanted to hear you.
I feel you

I feel your anger
Raging in my solar plexus
How can I not feel it, for heavens sake!
But I haven’t wanted to acknowledge it.

You’re angry at me
For turning away from the house
And letting it burn

You’re angry at me
For turning away from you.
You whose existence required
All those material possessions.

All the treasures, large and small
That evoked memories.
Memories,
That kept you alive.

Shall we look at some of them now.
The Bunnykin plates and cups
Our babies learned to eat from
You would never allow me to discard

The old old lounge suite
You stopped me from selling
So instead we restored it
And I became grateful we had.

The tablecloth my grandmother embroidered
Remained in our possession too
Despite the fact we never used it
It comforted you, knowing it was there.

And there is so much more,
No wonder you’re hurting
Without all these reminders
You think you cannot exist.

I admit I’ve been dishonourable
Believing I can just grieve, then forget.
I’d been ashamed of who I was
Thankful the fire took you away.

I can feel from the ease in my chest now
This is what you’ve been wanting from me.
To be honoured, remembered, and included,
In the new person I am coming to be.

No relaxation, massage or meditation
Can free me from the pain.
But when I listen to you

I feel easy again.
Even though we’ve had tough times
Walked through many dark valleys
Experiences I would rather forget
I see they’re important for you.

For this is who we are.

************

I see now where this is heading.

I will include you, consult you,
As we build our new home
Acquire new possessions.
Reflecting the you and me of me.

And hopefully
You will release your grip
On my solar plexus,
And let me sleep at night.

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Reconnecting to Mother Earth

4 February 2021

I thought I could do it
On my own.
“Just cry a lot.
Let yourself grieve”.

The anniversary will come.
Yes, a catharsis.
You’ll feel much better though
After New Year’s Eve.

Awake New Years morning,
What’s this new feeling....
What’s this sensation.....
I just don’t like it.

......dispossession....
That’s the closest name I can give.
I’ve been severed from Mother Earth
My roots have been cut, by that fire.

By the decision I took
To walk away,
From my burning home.

Still can’t sleep,
Now there are nightmares too.
And panic attacks by day
What to do.

Can’t function,
Forget things,
Walk around in circles,
What should I do.

You know what to do...
Help is there, waiting.
Reach out for them
Let them in.

This is a full time job now,
It’s serious now.
We’ve gone to the next level.
Listen, you know what to do.

Whatever it takes.
Whatever works.
And don’t feel guilty
About taking the rest you need.

Talking therapy,
Shaking therapy,
Spiritual therapy,
Bodywork therapy.

Exercise,
Swim,
Rest and laugh with Nature,
Make music.

And sleep when you can.
During the night if you can,
Or late in the morning,
Or the afternoon.

Don’t listen to the voice
That says you should achieve more.
You are like a baby again
With what, for you, is in store

For its a full time job
To build new roots.
To reconnect to Mother Earth
Takes time, patience, and love for yourself.

And the reward will be yours
To enjoy for yourself
And to enjoy with others.

A gentle solid connection
A feeling of belonging,
In a way you’ve never felt before.
The love of Mother Earth.

Now rest……

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Fires near me.

1 April 2021

Out of control fire, you say.
3 km away, you say

My body responds, and tightens
The way it did back then,
Last fires.

Go outside and look

But it’s cold, and damp,
My mind says.
No wind.
No smoke.

Can’t be fire!

Don’t care, says my body
I feel the fear

Only trouble is
I don’t have the courage I had last time.
It was all used up, last time
I can’t respond again, as I did.

It turns out....
There is no fire!

Try to sleep.
Dream once again
Of fire.

This time I am the fire
Trying to find my way into a house
Round and round the house
No way in.

Fire gives up.
I wake up
Again.

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Last night's false alarm.

2 April 2021

“Can’t find the courage,
I had last time”

The feeling that accompanies that thought,
Expressed last night,
When we thought we had
An out of control bushfire.

Or, rather,
The feeling that precedes the formulation of the thought,
Is what still haunts me.

An unwillingness, inability,
To dig deep
Find the fortitude
To enter the fray
Of defending from fire again.

Can’t even contemplate
A situation so extraordinary
As being monstered by fires
For so long.

Last time,
The fire plan helped.
Kept us sane,
Kept us calm,
Enabled us to do what was necessary.

We need to prepare another,
But up till now,
Have been unwilling or unable,
Too numb,
To go there again.

This coming winter
We must prepare
For fire next summer.
Start with a written plan.

Small steps.

Consider a cool burn,
With our neighbours.

Yes, practical steps,
But also small steps
To prepare, train, the mind,
Make it strong again.

Wish me luck!