The prickly Heart of Art

My wild artist heart revels in the prickly world around me. It’s full of possibilities, rich experiences and is open to individual interpretation.

A botanist would say this seed pod is the fruit of a casuarina tree. A wildlife ecologist talks about certain mammal species that are dependent on this habitat. Ornithologists may speak of Calyptorhynchus banksii, the red-tailed black cockatoos that break open the hard pods with their powerful beaks and discard the chewed husks on the forest floor.

I say it is all of the above, dusted with fresh ochre, nurtured by decay and cradled by afterlife. I know these things as well as the ants that conspire against the rain by fortifying their mounds with turret-like sculptures. Or the migratory birds that herald spring with darting streaks on watercolour sky.

The casuarina seed

Photo copyright Jeni McMillan

The Portal of Creativity

Portals and passages says the woman on my screen.

I am listening to a talk on depression and spirituality… just because. I listen as I sit on my bed, knowing that the words are true but find it hard to budge myself from a dark internal process that has sucked up a few days of my life. It appears that depression causes atrophy in the cortex. Now that sounds pretty grim. Here I am ruminating in my own shit while simultaneously creating more of the fetid mess. I know I’m feeling crap but really, is it that bad? I hear the woman say that there is hope, even though the word has temporarily slipped from my vocabulary. I guess that means yes. But her talk is compelling so I lean toward the dulcet tones. Her next words resonate in my core. When spirituality is embraced, the cortex grows thick as tree. If depression is on one side of a door then spirituality is on the other.

Imagine the door as a metaphor for creativity. On one side of the creative process there is doubt, dislocation and damnation. But once the handle turns and the portal is open, there is another world… παράδεισος.


Photo: Jeni McMillan

Follow the Moon

The new moon is beckoning. Time to let the energy flow and create something.

Tonight El Eco and I are going to the french film festival to see La famille Belier, a movie that made me laugh and cry in equal measure, only a week ago. It was so good that I’m going back for another emotional roller-coaster and a boysenberry choc-top with my housemate. Now this could be seen as part of the intense period of procrastination that I seem to have fallen into, but I prefer to see it as french practice. I am living in an english-speaking country so keeping my french honed to a comprehensible standard is hard work. I have to regularly listen to radio France Culture, Facebook chat with mes amis and watch beautifully-crafted European movies. Life is tough! All this effort so I can return to the south of France and follow my dreams. Not that I’m not dreaming in this wild country called Australia. There’s no point in putting life on hold.

Note to self: Follow the new slither of light and chase the stars. Grab the moonlight and create. And when procrastination strikes, eat ice-cream and see a good movie with a friend.


Follow the Moon, Oil on Canvas, 30×30 cm, copyright Jeni McMillan


I need a bit of grounding. There are too many projects in my head. My manuscript needs a re-edit and a willing publisher. I’m sure that I could find the time if I stopped blogging … but who needs less fun in their life? There’s two unfinished paintings cluttering the hallway, a dining table littered with ceramic pieces and our lounge-room looks like the Lost and Found section at CDG airport. Major mess partout. The french have a beautiful description for my disarray… c’est un bordel!


And that’s not counting the other housemates contributions to general chaos. Did I mention we are interviewing another person for the spare room? It’s the only clean spot in the house.

So I’m ready for another venture on the mountain. I’m sure that everything will fall into place after a wander amongst the wildlife. Go commune with Nature whispers the warm wind of autumn. I’m ready, I respond without hesitation. Procrastination has a place in every creative life and besides, there’s comfort in dirt.

Ground dweller

Housemate love

This is not the moment to write. I should be catching up on some well-needed zeds if I am going to rendezvous on the top of the mountain with New Housemate at the crack of dawn. I’m not attempting the 100 kilometer power-walk over 36 hours that Newbie H has been in training for during the past few weeks but I volunteered for a bush bash to meet her on the summit with a few cup cakes and a smile. It’s the least I can do to.  Good housemates are worth the effort.

We’re a pretty cohesive bunch. While Jewelpunk is swimming with the turtles in Hawaii for a month and New Housemate divides her time between work, baking cupcakes, boyfriend care and walking rediculously long distances, El Eco and I have been keeping the home fires burning.

Tonight El Eco and I hit the annual ‘Party at the Shops’ event and caught up with old friends. It was a fun night but I am the living proof that a small-framed woman should not drink two beers and a glass of wine in a relatively short period of time. I attempted to carry an easel home on my bike and came to grief adjusting my lights. What should have been a simple task resulted in cuts and abrasions and a bruised ego.

So cheers to housemates. You bring joy, good company, comfort and challenges into my life. Now I’d better set the alarm and get some sleep. Goodnight.


We stand together…

This planet is amazing. It’s backpacking around the solar system with a tilt of 23.5 degrees and now we’re in the throes of seasonal change. In Australia the street trees are dropping gold on the ground and the natives are hunkering down for the impending cold, while my friends in the northern hemisphere are emerging from winter depression to celebrate the first faint rays of sun.

But I’m contemplating a subject that’s neither warm or fuzzy, the Big R of Racism, so perhaps you’ll skip off to the next blog or check your apps. There’s no shame in that. However, I am staying here for now, in my autumnal moment of introspection, as the Prime Minister of Australia makes unashamedly racist comments about aboriginal people. I love this country in all her seasons but I’m ashamed to be Australian. Us white-skinned Anglo-Saxon types have dominated the land and the original inhabitants since Captain Cook claimed the east coast in 1770 and unleashed 245 years of colonization. I could begin with some statistics, hard-hitting facts about aboriginal dispossession, massacres, poverty and deaths in custody and move on to the recent claim by our PM, Tony Abbott, that aboriginal people on remote communities are making a ‘lifestyle choice’ … but I doubt if readers would last the distance.

So let’s celebrate the sun and watch the moon. Let’s stand together for compassion, tolerance and understanding as the earth tilts on her axis and ushers in change.

‘We Stand against the Nuclear Dump’, Oil on canvas, 90cm x 90cm, copyright Jeni McMillan


Women who run with the Wolves


Clarissa Pinkola Esté got it right. In 1992 she wrote ‘wildlife and wild women are both endangered species’. She clarifies this by writing ‘The spiritual lands of Wild Woman have, throughout history, been plundered or burnt, dens bulldozed, and natural cycles forced into unnatural rhythms to please others’. Her book Women who run with the Wolves is an inspirational read, perhaps more so as we move further from our wilding and lose more of our wilderness.

For many, contact with nature has become little more than a comfortable David Attenborough moment on the couch. Survival is racing deadlines and hunting for coffee. Contact with our internal landscape is filtered by doubt and fear. I want more. I want to feel sun on my back, wind on my belly and dirt between my toes. I desire freedom to think and create and the courage to believe that wisdom comes in the guise of the crone. When I have shed my skin and trust that in life there is death and rebirth, I can truly run with the wolves and howl at the moon.

Photography by Jeni McMillan