Part-time Goddess of the Garden

by Honey Clarke

Purple Quote blank large

The Chooks  by Honey Clarke

The Chooks
by Honey Clarke

I’m feeling frightfully bucolic right now. A bit like Ceres, goddess of crops tripping sylph-like through the fields, triggering all she touches into life. Winter in the Crater is the best time of the year for vegie greens and my vegies are a vision to behold. Gardening holds such power for change.

Please don’t think that I’m one of those green thumbs, who plants by the moon, grows an abundance of flowers and harvests pumpkins as huge as my head. In summer Mother Nature rides rough shod over me with her ride-on mower and I manage to save some things in her wake. But in winter, when bugs head north and possums seem to have plenty I am Goddess of the Garden.

It wasn’t always so. My turning point came in the 1990s when I had to start a garden from scratch and I discovered Gardening Australia. Here before me was garden porn for the desperate and undeserving. All the things I fantasized about apparently were there at my fingertips.

Sketch of Honey planting seed

Sketch of Honey planting seed

It was revolutionary how little was needed to make life come anew. I followed blindly. When Jane propagated I snipped tips off everything. Col saved seeds; I saved seeds too. Oh and I knew what Peter meant as he sniffed his compost, threatening to put it on his muesli. Truly, it was so “bloomin’ ” marvelous. The miracle of life in seed or sprig meant whole worlds opened up for me.

Okay my “tip-pruning” took on an unhealthy twist. My kids groaned as I drove twice around the roundabouts looking at new plants and they threatened they’d leave if I whipped out my secateurs one more time at the MacDonald’s drive-thru. In the end, our house block that was once a triumph of clay ended up a lovely garden and my zealotry tempered with time.

Plenty of people realize the power of the plant. Stories of generosity flourish including: fruit and vegetable swaps where garden wisdom is exchanged as well; towns where they help the homeless by swapping vegetables for collecting waste; community gardens that burst with produce and vibrant community, and movements like Landshare where those with land share their spaces with those who haven’t any, to grow food. How powerful is that!

So there are times in summer when it’s cheaper to buy a box of tomatoes than to grow one, but the thrill of that little green shoot promises so much. I’m following the footsteps of those who have come before me and planting possibilities for the season to come.


Honey Clarke

Honey Clarke

Honey Clarke lives on the side of a mountain in an extinct crater lake with her partner, the Rock Doctor. She’s an artist, writer and teacher who encapsulates the essence of life in the quick strokes of paint or pen. Honey has two grown up kids and seven grandchildren. She is part-owner in a bamboo farm. She would like to say her hobbies are kite-surfing and abseiling but that would be a lie. Instead she reads, swims, travels, paints and blogs as much as possible. Honey’s blog is Honeyclarkeart. To inquire about Honey Clarke’s art, books or illustraoins contact her at:

Other posts by Honey include: Some Grandmas are Wild Things

Gemma Sisia has a big dream to fight poverty through education.

Gemma Sisia has a big dream to fight poverty through education.


The charity that she and the Rock Doctor champion is St Judes in Tanzania, a brilliant school educating kids out of poverty.



Photo Source: Honey Clarke’s Blog and St Jude’s Website.



How Lilly Pilly Jam can Change Your Life

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Lilly Pilly Jam

In her inspirational article, Living with Purpose, NYT, Paula Span cited research that shows that our health benefits from contributing to and being connected with our community.

What better way to be connected than by contributing to a Fruit and Veg Swap.

semaphore fruit and veg swapThe idea grew out of the Australia wide Share and Save initiative, which aims to reduce waste by allowing locals to share, borrow, swap or access food, clothes, plants and other useful items.

Samantha Dunn with the Food swappers at the Upwey Grassroots Market  crdunn blogFruit and Veg Swaps can now be found in suburbs around the country. Including the Semaphore Fruit and Veg Swap, SA (LEFT), and the Upwey Grassroots Market, Victoria (BELOW) markets have sprung up around Australia

According to the Henley Fruit and Veg Swap, SA (BELOW):

‘The swap is informal and simple, and works on one main principle: people give whatever surplus home-grown produce they don’t need and can freely give, and they take whatever they can definitely use.’

Henley Fruit and Veg swapParticipants swap produce, stories, recipes and gardening tips. You can find the recipe for Lilly-Pilly Jelly here and here. I didn’t even know you could eat Lilly-Pillies.

Lilly Pilly Jelly   littlebitofthyme blog.




It just sounds a lot more fun than picking over damaged fruit listening to PA price checks at the local supermarket.

 PHOTO SOURCE: Semaphore fruit and veg swap BLOG, crdunn blog, Henley Fruit and Veg Swap blog and alittlebitofthyme blog.


Last Child in the Woods

Sibylesque Last Child in the woods
REVIEW by Kerry Cue


Last Child in the Woods:

Saving our children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Richard Louv

Atlantic Books, 2005



We are the generations, who roamed free. We rode our bikes unsupervised. Explored the neighbourhood. Played in the street. We poked around creeks, ditches, anthills and gum tree forests. We built tree houses and forts. Or, if we were city dwellers, we played on building sites, on vacant blocks and in playgrounds fitted with cold-steel swings and maypoles that could crack a head or take out a tooth.

Our grandchildren live indoors.

children_nature_3    yesilist websiteIn Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv meticulously records the relocation of children out of nature and into lounge rooms where they are exposed to the ‘one-way experience of television and other electronic media’.


‘For some young people nature is so abstract – the ozone layer, a faraway rainforest- that it exists beyond the senses.’

‘Neither children nor wild life have been of much concern to urban planners in recent decades … public spaces have become increasingly domesticated, flat, lawyered, and boring’. In Pennsylvania three brothers, aged eight, ten and twelve, were forced to tear down their tree house in the backyard because they didn’t have a building permit!

According to Louv, it is not just the loss of interaction with nature that is of concern, but also the total loss of sensory experiences. At a time when child obesity, ADHD and other disorders are rife, we deprive children of the ‘physical exercise and emotional stretching that children enjoy in unorganized play’.

KidsNature_1  playlsi web‘The young don’t demand dramatic adventures or vacations in Africa. They need only a taste, a sight, a sound, a touch … to reconnect that receding world of the senses’.

Parents are often too busy to even think about nature. But we know what it is like to explore the neighbourhood. We can take our grandchildren into natural environments to pick up a rock, a stick or, simply, dig for earthworms in the garden. How Lilly Pilly Jam can save your life shows one way of involving grandchildren in both gardening and community activities.

There are many ways we can take them outdoors and show them the amazing reality beyond their digital screens.

Sibylesque Sibyl Approved Maroon

PHOTO SOURCE: yesilist and playlsi websites



The grief of an empty nest

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Empty Nest Quote

Kate Legge Life Matters ABCIn her article, The bittersweet silence of an empty nest, The Australian (9 JUN 2014), Kate Legge openly and honestly describes the feeling of loss she experienced when her children finally left home.

‘The upheaval I felt at this shift in family rhythms surprised me’ wrote Kate. A working mother she just assumed that the stay-at-home mothers would feel the wrench of a childless-home more than a busy journalist, who loves her work. This was not the case.

Kate, who explained in the article that she had negotiated menopause without much ‘psychological disruption’, was surprised at the grief she felt when her children left. There is no one instance of sadness. ‘The pangs simply come upon me. I know I’m not alone.’

Sibylesque Empty Room Hammershoi

So much quiet wisdom can be gleaned from Kate’s writing. Those of us who have been or still are working mothers, often assume that we can schedule our days, our emotions, our lives. This is not, of course, how emotions work. We want our children to grow up and become independent adults. Yet we feel the loss of the touch, the smell, the voice, the face, the laughter and the coat on the chair, the shoes in the hall and even the dirty plates in the sink belonging to an adult child. And we feel this loss at a deep mammalian level. We grieve. No amount of logic can counter this mammalian response. We grieve.

I think Kate puts this best:

‘The anguish that wraps its arms around me stems from accepting that a wonderful period of my life is over.’

We, THE SIBYLS, declare Kate Legge an Honorary Sibyl for her openness and willingness to share her inner feelings, thoughts and wisdom.


Kate Legge NovelThe Marriage ClubKate Legge is a Walkley award winning journalist who writes for The Austraian. She has published two novels. The Unexpected Elements Of Love and The Marriage Club.




The Portrait of the Mother by the Artist

by Kerry Cue

sibylesque Old Age Quote

Rembrandt's Mother Reading (c. 1629) when she was 60 years old

Rembrandt’s Mother Reading (c. 1629) . Cornelia was 60 years old.

In her book, How to Age (The school of Life, 2014) Anne Karpf writes about the imagery of old age as a ‘hideous ruin’. Sociologist Mike Featherstone called such imagery ‘a pornography of old age’. And don’t we know it. We are surrounded by such images daily including the shriveled and stooped portrails of old geezers and crones in comics, birthday cards, cartoons, advertisements, horror movies, sitcoms, TV crime series and more. And don’t forget the witches in literature from Macbeth to the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It is the aim of Sibylesque to provide the postive balance to this negativity. You can find such imagery at The Sibyls Salute: Jennette Williams.

The artist, however, runs into a dilemma when painting their own mother. Should they be sympathetic or realistic? Even artists can portray their own elderly mothers as ‘hideous ruins’. This was especially cruel as often their mother sat for the portrait when the artist’s model failed to appear. The painting that made Whistler famous resulted when the model didn’t show. (Below). The end result, however, was sympathetic. I will not dwell on the cruel images except for this sketch one sketch by Durer. I feel he was being very harsh on his own mother.

Drurer’s mother at 63 years of age. She had by this time experienced 18 pregnancies.

Durer’s mother at 63 years of age. She had by this time experienced 18 pregnancies.

Durer was not always so unforgiving in his portrayals of his mother. Here is an earlier oil painting by Durer of his mother. As one friend pointed out, Durer’s mother has a look on her face that suggests she’s thinking ‘Go on. Get on with it.’

Durer's Portrait of His mother,1490. She was 39 years old.

Durer’s Portrait of His mother,1490. Barbara was     39 years old.

Aging is often portrayed in modern media as some kind of failure. This is the price paid for living in a youth culture, I guess. Old age, however, can be presented with love and empathy and the result is an image, as Karpf notes, of dignity and beauty. Here are the portraits of artist’s mothers with their ages included:

Paul Cezanne The Artist's Mother c. 1866  when his mother was  52 years old.

Paul Cezanne The Artist’s Mother c. 1866. Anne was       52 years old.

Whistlers Mother,  1871. Painted when she was  67 ld.years o

Whistler’s Mother, 1871. Painted when she was 67 years old.

This painting by Whistler was a tribute to his mother. Here is a photograph of Anna Matilda Whistler.

Anna Matilda Whistler, ld.1850. She was 50 years o

Anna Matilda Whistler, 1850. She was 50 years old.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec portrait of his mother,  Countess Adele Zoe de Toulouse Lautrec, 1883. She was  42 years old.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec portrait of his mother, Countess Adele Zoe de Toulouse Lautrec, 1883.   She was       42 years old.

Van Gogh  Portrait of the mother of the artist, 1888. Anna was 69 years old.

Van Gogh Portrait of the mother of the artist, 1888. Anna was 69 years old.

Picasso's mother, 1896. Maria was 41 years old.

Picasso’s mother,1896. Maria was 41 years old.

Juan Gris, mother,  1912. At least Picasso painted his mother before Cubism etc.

Juan Gris, mother, 1912.  At least Picasso painted his mother before Cubism etc.

Lucian Freud, The Painters Mother,1983 .  Lucie was 77 years old.

Lucian Freud, The Painters Mother,1983 . Lucie was 77 years old.

Photo source: If it’s hip, it’s here blog.


Sense of Purpose

 by Kerry Cue

Living with purpose quotePaula SpanLiving with Purpose, (New York Times, 3 JUN 2014) written by The New Old Age columnist Paula Span (left) is a significant article, which provides both insight and inspiration on the subject of aging well. The conclusion summarised in the article and backed by extensive research, applies equally to all age groups.

A sense of purpose has many health benefits. It contributes to ‘satisfaction and happiness, better physical functioning and even better sleep.’

‘They want to make a contribution’ explained Dr Patricia Boyle, Rush University, Chicago, who conducted a longitudinal study of 1,000 elderly subjects. ‘They want to feel a apart of something that extends beyond themselves.” A sense of purpose can come from mentoring as well as passing on memories and experience to the young.

Sibyls Emblem Red Frescoe

This is, of course, the reason the Sibylesque blog came into being. Why not become a Sibyl? What memories, experience or words of wisdom would you like to pass onto the young, or not so young?

 We, THE SIBYLS, declare Paula Span an Honorary Sibyl for her generosity of spirit in sharing her personal stories, insight and wisdom.

When the Times Comes coverPaula Span is journalist with extensive experience writing for The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. She is also the author of When the Times Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share their Struggles and Solutions. You can learn more about Paula at her website.

Photo source: Paula Span’s website.


There is a link between Wisdom and Age, but, maybe, not the one you think.

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Barry Schwartz Quote

We know as we age that we are, indeed, much wiser than in our youth, but can we really justify this assumption? In their book The Art of Wisdom and the Psychology of How We Use Categories, Frames, and Stories to Make Sense of the World, Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe give some insights into art of acquiring wisdom. (You will find a review at Brainpickings.)

Sibylesque   Christine de Pizan  Book of Queens

Dancing around the notes on a page applied specifically to rules.

 ‘A wise person knows when and how to make the exception to every rule… A wise person knows how to improvise… Real-world problems are often ambiguous and ill-defined and the context is always changing’.

Barry Schwartz gave a good example of this applied wisdom in his TED lecture on Our Loss of Wisdom.

In this lecture Schwartz lists the Job Description of a hospital janitor. This job description lists tasks but does not mention a patient as if a hospital janitor cleaned in a parallel universe devoid of human life. Yet the janitors that showed wisdom did not follow the letter of the law. One janitor knew not to vacuum in a visitor’s room at one point because a patient’s family was sleeping there. Another janitor did not mop a floor because a patient was taking their first tentative steps around their room following an operation.

This is wisdom. It is also something we Sibyls understand. People are different. No two life-situations are the same. Combine the two and there are many possibilities. But here is the catch. You must be creative and flexible, otherwise, your response to any situation will be RIGID, predictable, but not necessarily wise.

 You must also be old. Why? Here is Barry Schwartz again:

 “A wise person is an experienced person. Practical wisdom is a craft and craftsmen are trained by having the right experiences. People learn how to be brave, said Aristotle, by doing brave things. So, too, with honesty, justice, loyalty, caring, listening, and counselling.”

The Erythraean Sibyl  Beauvais Cathedral SibylesqueMy book, Forgotten Wisdom, begins with the words ‘Certainty ended for me on 2nd March, 1995. I was 42 years old’. My forties were the miserable years. They began with learning that my mother was dying of cancer at 66 years of age and continued through a long illness with one child, a sick spouse and, torturously, writing humorous articles for a living.

Yet, talking to my daughter the other day, I realised for the first time that I’m thankful for those 8 years of misery. At the time, I would have paid anything not to live through those years. But now, I wouldn’t give them back. They formed me. Up until that point, the life choices I had made– university courses, husband, children – had materialised. I thought I was in control of life. Then I wasn’t. Now I’m less arrogant, more sympathetic, less rigid, more open and less judgemental.

Am I wise? Wiser, perhaps. At least, I know this: The birth of wisdom follows the death of certainty.

So wisdom is a craft and you need a broad range of experience in life – joy and misery, triumph and disappointment, fear and acceptance, pain and endurance – to hone this craft.

For more Wisdom of The Sibyls see Jennette Williams on the beauty of the older women, Mary Beard on silencing women in the public forum and Doris Brett for a journey through stroke, love and recovery.

Perhaps, the Sibyl’s anthem should be:

Bring on the music of life. Let’s dance.


Help! I’m turning into Miss Havisham!

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Dust Quote

Ghosts of Things Past!

The piano belonged to my mother, Kath Meehan. When my daughter asked this question almost 20 years ago, I laughed. The piano was indeed dusty. My mother had a ‘minimalist’ attitude to housework. I had the good fortune to have a childhood blessed by a mother who spent far more time playing the piano (She played in a local dance band for 25 years), than dusting it. If she wasn’t playing the piano, she was bush walking, bird watching, silk screen painting, or playing music for the disabled.

Miss Favisham   Carminesuperiore

When my mother died not long after my daughter’s dusty piano observations, we five – very different – kids wanted some scrap of a eulogy put on her tombstone. We unanimously agreed on ‘A life of music and laughter’.

Of late, however, dust has been invading my house. No more or less than usual, I guess, but it accumulates because I don’t notice it. I need my reading glasses to see the dust. This makes me a little fearful that I am turning into Dicken’s Miss Havisham. Will I discover a decaying wedding cake when I put on my glasses? It almost seems possible.

Nevertheless, whenever I unexpectedly discover the furniture peppered with motes of dust, I laugh because I’m taken back to the world of my childhood.

A time of music and laughter.

Photo source: Carminesuperiore Bolg