A Rambling Wild Gardener

25 07 2019

Good heavens. Thanks to  Boynton I have only just discovered the Soul Food Cafe. What a fine site. What an innovative use of the internet to developing the historical becoming of Australian culture. Finding such sites is like following trails through the desert of cyberspace with other weblogs providing a series of maps of the country.

Then perchance, coming across soakages in the sandhill country, or a waterhole along a trail: Soul Food cafe is one such waterhole. Do take time out to replenish there. That is what waterholes are for—soul food. Many a time I’ve wandered the trails at night looking for a watering hole that pointed the way to the promised land. Around the waterhole, we sit under the night sky and reflect about the country, express our feelings about what is happening on this earth, and start telling our stories.
Junk for Code

Roger McKindley Iron Garden – Antares Newstead

The maker of waterholes? A web publisher? A writer? An assemblage artist? People never fully understand what I am talking about when they ask me to explain my creative work. Until recently I wasn’t really sure where I fitted into the wheel of those who work with the Expressive Arts.

Roger McKindley from neighbouring Newstead has no such problem explaining who he is. Found objects are sited creatively in the space where he lives and works, to form unique and entrancing patterns and images. The whole space is a kind of installation, where visitors are free to roam and explore – finding themselves by turns entertained, beguiled, uplifted and moved.

A qualified landscape gardener of many years’ experience, a stone worker and self-taught artist and sculptor, Roger has over the past 20 years, created Art Gardens wherever he has lived and has participated in numerous community and art events. He says that “reverence is everything. I feel humbled by the objects that I find… or is it that they find me?”

I have visited McKindley’s garden many times and love everything about his iron garden. This is a garden in constant flux, as objects are arranged and re-arranged to suit its creator. Nothing is extraneous. Roger finds beauty in all the objects he finds and the things that others discard – he brings these objects together into an enlivened and creative whole.

Perhaps tonight Roger McKindley is helping me explain the wild garden I initially created in the form of Soul Food and have continued to adapt through the use of countless interconnecting, collaborative WordPress sites. Like McKindley I am humbled by how objects and ideas find their way to me.

I garden! I forage, find and assemble fragments. Like McKindley I have reverence for the things that I find. Perhaps the best example of my foraging and assemblage lies within a series of features I made over a period of seven years.

I think one of my first Advent Calendars was what drew such praise from Junk for Code. It celebrated Australian culture and drew an enormous readership.

A wonderful Advent gift came from Heather at Soul Food Cafe, who prepared a virtual Advent Calendar, with one ‘door’ to be opened every day through to Dec 26. Like everything at Soul Food, this is a labour of love packed with good writing, thoughts and ideas both for making this a rewarding and fruitful time and especially for navigating the sometimes stormy and difficult waters of the holiday season.
Cassandra Pages

Made in Australia Advent Calendar

Design by Greg Blakey. Assembled by Heather Blakey 2003.

Perhaps you will gather together your art and writing supplies, pack a picnic, camp by a billabong (Australian waterhole) and spend some time exploring the bits and pieces that were gathered and assembled here.

It All Began Here

25 07 2019

‘Pitbulls I Have Known’ was one of the prompts that I offered students in my writing classes. Initially, they worked in their notebooks but as time passed we published using Bravenet. Then, as I worked the Soul Food Cafe, I found ways to publish their work and extend their readership. 

I was working as a Secondary School Teacher in a northern, former technical school as an English teacher when I began to introduce my students to the internet.

The guiding principle behind the work that I was doing as a specialist teacher of writing was that if my students wanted to become polished writers then they had to gain experience and practice the art. I also believed that if we used internet forums such as the now-defunct Bravenet, I would provide extra incentive for them to write.

To establish a daily writing practice, at the beginning of each year, I encouraged students in my English classes to create a special notebook to store their words. Most years students filled at least two notebooks.

One of my favourite exercises was to spend the first session covering the book.  I liked to get students to design a door that expressed their personality. “Are you like a fly-wire screen door, a big heavy front door with a solid doorknocker, a cathedral door?” I asked. I bought plenty of art supplies into class and we also made use of those lovely brightly coloured kinder squares and pages from glossy magazines to create a collage.

Once we had our notebooks established we make a commitment to write each day and we always counted the words we managed to get down on the page. The aim was to get as many words as possible in twenty minutes and to try to get more each session. I always provided quirky starters, students would read selected pieces to the class and we discussed how particular prompts drew out a lot of writing. It was exhilarating when students actually clapped in response to particular readings.

It was the redrafted responses to some of these starters which students published on Bravenet. This was the time when the internet was brand new and my students were very excited to see their work go live and to be able to show their work off to their parents and friends. I went on to publish the prompts and their work in the Student Lounge at the Soul Food Cafe. 

Consider covering a notebook with a door that represents your personality, follow links into the Way Back Machine which photographed this part of the site. Perhaps you will try some of these exercises.

Pitbulls by Jeff Hogan
From participating student folios

Lunch money! At school it was a valuable resource like gold was to gold miners, clients were to lawyers and at least one trip a year to somewhere in the world was to my grandmother. However, with all these things, there was something to steal these resources. Other gold miners, lawyers, deaths in the family and, with lunch money, school bullies.

The school bully at our school was James Mortimer Rela. He was rich, had a family who didnít give a damn and he received everything he wanted, and if he didn’t, he stole it. Like the time when he was eight, he nicked a womenís handbag so he could buy a racing car. Or the time when he was eleven when he stole a computer game from the library. The librarian, an overweight and elderly male, could never catch him. But the one I will never forget was when he shoved me into a video stand at an electronics store. While everyone was helping me up, he walked out with a brand new, shiny Playstation 2.

You might ask why I never stand up to him. The reason is, his weight, speed and strength. He weighed a good one hundred and sixty pounds. He could run the four hundred meters and never get tired as well as being able to lift up his own body weight, and more if he tried harder. He was as indestructible as a tank, as powerful as a nuclear explosion. But then one day I had an idea.

The one thing James could never resist was to take lunch money. He could make fifty dollars a day and not even have a job. And almost always he would spend the money on the canteens most valuable, edible cuisine, the Mister Feaster. It was ten dollars though, but it would have all youíre eating needs. Chocolate, sandwich, fried rice, soft drink, hot chips and more. It cost a pretty penny but it was worth it and James would always get it. However, James also had a fear. Pit bulls. Large, fierce, ugly, mean, slobbering, Pit bulldogs. That’s what James called them. My plan was hideous but it just might work.

It was photo day. I came into the canteen with a ten-dollar note in my hand. All the people in my class gave up fifty cents each to put into my plan. I walked right past James gang. There were a lot of teachers around getting their photos taken so they could do nothing but stare. I went up and ordered the Mister Feaster. Once I received it I slipped on the ĎMister Dumb Jokes sleeping potion, I sat right near the gang. The teacher’s left and James struck. He picked me up and threw me into the garbage. He then started eating and soon afterwards he had zonked out. A group of nine kids helped me carry James away and towards the pitbull cage.

James never returned to my school after that. The shock when he woke up and found himself surrounded by pit bulls made him think he shouldnít come to school anymore. As a celebration, everyone ordered the Mister Feaster and ate it in a piece. No James came and took it away. However, I didn’t end up going to the party. I was suspended for throwing James to the Pit bull’s but I will always remember that experience.

Through the Magnetic Doorway – A Story about Soul Food Cafe

23 07 2019

Soul Food Cafe is a magically creative and inspiring web site, so much so that a simple link and a few words don’t do it justice. Its creator, Heather Blakey, and I began an email discussion about how making a website can be a creative calling. The story of how her site came to be was so inspiring, I asked her to share it with you.
K.M. Porterfield

As a child, under southern skies, my days were spent in imaginary worlds, soaked in mythos, reading, writing and riding on the back of the winged Pegasus. It was during those hours of solitary dreaming, within the safety of my private universe, that the seeds of the cyber writing sanctuary, The Soul Food Café, were sown.

The Soul Food Cafe as it exists today is a product of imagineering, born of a creative dreaming and dogged persistence. The fantasy world of Soul Food emerged as I strove to prove that it is enough to simply write. It sprang from a mission to make writing accessible to all who desire to write, from a need to break down the myth that the only real writer is the published author.

I entered the New World of cyberspace when I pulled up my sleeves and applied the technology that computer geeks had invented. When I applied their tools to promote writing I observed an alchemical shift. The web became a calling and I created the kind of community that computer people like to talk of, but which is, in reality, as rare as hens teeth.

As time has passed The Soul Food Café has gained a life of its own. It has become a true oasis in a desert, a place where the tired and thirsty come to drink of the creative waters, sing their personal songs and, in so doing, re-invent themselves. The Soul Food Cafe has become a sanctuary, a delicious, divine release from reality, a place where the weary and the thirsty can feast upon myth and nourish creativity.

Within these magic, virtual, walls lie an atmospheric haven where fragile, sometimes timid writers can publish, share their knowledge, express their deepest fears and reclaim their imagination. Within the fantasy world of Lemuria there is fellowship, yet, for so many, this world feels like it has been created especially for them, tailored to meet their individual needs, built so they can live out their private mythology in a private garden of Eden.

How did this transpire? At what moment did I transcend my dream and create a vibrant, safe, creative cyber community where the creative congregate?

I transcended my dream and began to live my vision at the moment when I claimed the Raven as a totem. Throughout time the Raven has carried the medicine of magic. Today the Raven is the courier that carries energy flow from my keyboard to the world beyond. It is the Raven who guides and directs me, who has named me and provided direction for my web design. Astride cyber waves, we carry energy, seek energy, make links to rich powerhouses, tap gently on chamber doors and tempt more and more of the thirsty to come for a glimpse of the silken magic, mythos, ambience and mood that is so much a part of the Soul Food Cafe.

I transcended my dream when I reached within the deep loam of a powerful creative force known variously as Duende, Pakaramdam, Nommo, Mana, The Dreaming, or the Muse. I surpassed my wildest expectations when I felt the heat of this creative force conspire to build a magnetic doorway, whose energy draws kindred spirits to enter, seemingly by chance.

These days I look in wonder at what Soul Food is becoming. I now choose to soak myself in mythos, write, read and ride the wings of a blue-black, iridescent bird amid a flock. There is plenty of space out here in this exciting cyber world! You too can clamber astride the wings of this magical bird and share the fellowship. You too can reclaim your dreams within the safe, non-judgmental environment of Soul Food and, in so doing, actively live out your wildest creative vision.

Heather Blakey
Published 2005


Like Alice They Followed The Rabbit

23 07 2019

“Alice is bored sitting on the riverbank with her sister, who is reading a book. Suddenly she sees a white rabbit, wearing a coat and carrying a watch, run past, lamenting running late. She follows it down a rabbit hole and falls very slowly down a tunnel lined with curious objects. She lands in a long hallway lined with locked doors. She finds a little key sitting on a glass table. Behind a curtain on the wall, she finds a tiny door that opens with the key and leads into a beautiful garden. The door, however, is too small for Alice to fit through. “

By Natalie Rak

When Alice followed the rabbit down the hole into Wonderland she found a fantasy world populated by peculiar and anthropomorphic creatures. When some people stumbled upon The Soul Food Cafe they discovered that the Cafe was actually a ‘front’ disguising an entrance to the fantasy world of Lemuria.

The Soul Food Cafe was bought into the world by Imagineer, Heather Blakey. In its heyday, between 2004-10, Soul Food attracted over a million visitors a year. The majority of visitors never did notice the little key sitting on the glass table near the bookshelf. They never realised that the key triggered a mechanism designed to open the bookshelf, filled with the works of people like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell.

However, some intuitively knew that there must be a key that would open a portal. They persisted and found their way down the spiral staircase, crawled through the tunnels that meandered underneath the Cafe and eventually arrived in the Cave of the Enchantress.  Enchanteur (one of Heather Blakey’s alter egos) remains, to this day, an ageless Lemurian Priestess. She gave pilgrims a small bag filled with talismans, told them they must never relinquish the bag and magicked them into Lemuria.

When they recovered from the shock of being teleported into a new, thinly populated world, most of these pilgrims found themselves at Duwamish Bay. They invariably stayed at the Duwamish Inn, ate and drank heartily and full of trust joined a Gypsy caravan and wandered semi aimlessly around Lemuria with a host of donkeys.

Time moved on, the world of the internet changed. Travellers were drawn to the lights of Facebook, Heather Blakey’s life had been turned upside down and she needed to go away and reinvent herself. The world of Enchanteur drifted, like Avalon, into the mists. With Enchanteur gone, Soul Food has lain silent for over a decade and the door to Lemuria has been closed.

True wealth is not measured in money or status or power. It is measured in the legacy we leave behind for those we love and those we inspire.
Cesar Chavez

Over the past decade, Heather Blakey has successfully reinvented herself and recently graduated as a Masters of Social Work. During her final placement, inspired by the children at Winters Flat Primary School, she messaged Enchanteur. Imagine her delight when she heard the rustle of E’s gown and the giggles of her entourage. Everyone agreed that it is important to find a way to celebrate and preserve the memory of those heady days when Enchanteur was in full flight.

If you love the expressive arts and understand their power to heal you can try to launch yourself through the cobweb filled back passage that leads into the vast halls and vaults of Soul Food. Heather and E have at least 101 stories to tell about Soul Food’s origins and the glory days of Lemuria.

An Inner World Revealed

23 07 2019

It was this drawing of Enchanteur, with her dream seeds, that was a turning point. I decided that while my drawings may not have been technically perfect they had a distinct message.

When I work with participants, encouraging them to draw upon material from their interior world, I never suggest that what comes forth will be able to be chronologically dated. These posts are in no particular, linear order.

Soul Food was never presented in an orderly fashion. It was drawn largely from my rich inner world and I am still amazed that so many people navigated their way through its meandering passages, rummaged as they would in some overstocked second-hand book shop to find treasures.

Today as I work I have vivid recollections of my husband, who was battling cancer, watching TV, flicking from channel to channel while I sat drawing. Unlike many people, I had never drawn but, inspired by some material Anita Marie Moscoso had been writing I decided to draw what rose as a result of reading her work.

My husband, who could produce almost photographic replicas with his drawings refrained from pointing out my technical frailties and I persisted. Rather than write I drew something every night, depicted what was happening as I led people through the portal into the world of Lemuria, a world I had learned about from the writings of my great grandfather who explored vast tracts of South Western Queensland in the 1860s.

The post I have reblogged from While Waiting for Godot contains a selection of images that were used to depict the journey that the Enchantress led through the portal into Lemuria.

While Waiting For Godot

This is a collection of drawings I did while I was travelling, with a host of companions,   in Lemuria. Many of these are self-portraits!  Over a five year period,  while my late husband was battling cancer, and often confined to bed, I spent my nights drawing, Looking at these drawing now I can see that I managed to capture the inner world that sustained me during those long years. After walking away from my life in the city, and reinventing myself, my pencils have lain idle! They served me well! Today I give thanks to them, and to all those who fearlessly travelled those Lemurian roads with my multiple personalities!
Heather Blakey
Pencil Drawings – Enhanced in Photoshop! 2005 – 2010

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The Chocolate Box

22 07 2019

I was beyond elated to discover Soul Food Cafe, an unbelievable mecca for writers and other creative folks. I don’t know when I’ve ever been so taken aback by seeing so much juicy, HELPFUL information on a single Web site. Take a look at the Navigation Signposts on the left side of the home page and then go where your intuition steers you…you can’t go wrong! One of my favourite sections was the material for journal keepers which, I’ll mention, includes prompts and tools that are equally effective for art journalers.
Artella 2003

HOW did I NOT find this site BEFORE? Not only is it about journaling, Muses, and creativity, but it’s practical, well-written, and has stuff on VISUAL JOURNALS!! There is, literally, enough stuff here to keep you busy until your favourite pen has gone the way of the Dodo. A MUST SEE site of 2003, in our not-so-humble-royal opinion.
IN(ner) QUESTION 2003

One of the first, very popular, features at the Soul Food Cafe was the Chocolate Box.

The early promotion called upon artists, dreamers, dancers, mythologists and Imagineers to nourish their creative spirit by taking a chocolate from the box.  It pointed out that this strictly non-fat box of chocolates is packed full of projects and material to help creatives return to that wondrous childhood kingdom where imagination and creativity reigned supreme.

The special fillings focused on celebrating childhood joy, spontaneity and imagination. For example, one chocolate takes you to a Box of Wonderment. It is easy to navigate the Chocolate Box. Each chocolate has a hyperlink that takes you to a specific activity.

Chocolate Box Memory Leonie Bryant August 2005

Sitting in my warm cosy room, I opened my delicious box of chocolates. My mind drifted back to life on the farm in the Mallee in Northern Victoria.

My fondest memories are of the derelict old buildings around the farm. My favourite was the stables which were used to house the draft horses who pulled the machinery around the paddocks. The building was made of split posts with a thatched roof of straw. The empty troughs lined the walls and the old harnesses and bridles hung from the posts. I can remember climbing onto the roof and jumping off onto the heaps of earth behind the stables. I can almost smell the aroma of the rotted straw and grease as I sit here.

The other derelict building I remember is the pigsty, as above. The picture here is of a painting done by my sister when she returned there in the ’80s. As you can see, the shelter for the pigs is almost intact, although the drifting sands from the drought have covered most of the surrounding fence.

Despite the fact that I had 3 sisters and a brother, I can only remember playing by myself. Strange! The home held many difficulties for all of us. As I reflect now, I can see the resourcefulness of the little girl who nurtured herself helping her rise above those difficulties.

The Chocolate Box by Simone Crowther August 2005

I wake up and there is a jewelled box at the end of my bed. The jewels glisten in sea colours of violet, blue, green and aquamarine; eels and fish entwine in the silver work. I open the box and therein incongruously lay chocolates!

Rich dark chocolates, milk chocolate, chocolate truffles, nut encrusted chocolates and white chocolates. I puck a white chocolate and memories swirl before me, memories that form the core of me. I find myself in a tiny airless attic with a trunk in front of me. I know of this trunk from the enchantress as the trunk of wonderment.

I open it and there at the bottom is a faded photograph of myself as a frail, pale girl, almost albino in my lack of colour with a voluminous mass of white blond hair that made me look like a mop on a stick. Such a miserable girl bowed beneath the hatred of a Poe-faced family. I remember her sadly. She was the sacrifice, I made to survive. I laid her in a chest, a stout wooden box, the size of a child’s coffin and hid her (in the cave of an old formidable she-bear who takes in all such orphans) in a netherworld of my own depths because she was sick beyond my healing. She lies there still, swathed in a few precious scraps of sun shot nature, dreams and hidden ambitions, waiting… So wan, pale and sick almost to death but lo’ she breathes, so precious!

I have been digging for that soul, to wake it up, revive it, breathe life energy back into it. I lay a honey comb as good will for the bear. A token of my recognition of the sweetness of life, my love and commitment. I take her childish form from the bear.

I call to her, coax her with soft words. It is safe to come out and be loved, joined with my body, joined with the present. It is safe to breathe deeply, to laugh, to dare, to dance wildly. It is safe to weep for old pain and dissolve old wounds.

I place her sleeping form over my shoulder and dig my way back up to the daylight world.

She is a splinter of my soul, a long forgotten part of me that had to lie hidden from the searching claws of my family.

She is a precious, precious thing. A part of me that wasn’t safe to express. She is the forbidden, the wild, the magick and also the vulnerable flame of youth, of life lived passionately. She is white like the moon and her fragility is deceptive for she holds tremendous power. She is my Persephone, my playful, puckish spirit that had to lie in the underworld but now returns to be my soul’s delight.

She lay like a spiritual seed and now she can grow like an immense silver-hot tree that casts both light and shadow.

I have let the moon out from my box. She is both the daughter and the mother of me.

She rests now, breathing deeply, rapidly gaining strength.

She is hungry and I feed her little scraps of meet. This is no vegetarian soul but a huntress with wolf’s tail, canine teeth and claws.