A Soul Food Order

For a period of time there was a quite unique order inhabitating the Lemurian Abbey, as envisioned by Heather Blakey, creator of the Soul Food Cafe. These were the early days of blogging, long before Facebook and other Social Networking Sites began to dominate the landscape. Barbara Banta was a founding member of this order. She has maintained a cell at the Abbey.

I’d expected to find perhaps only the foundation or an outline of a building, but to my amazement I saw a huge gray stone monastery reaching into the heavens and spreading out in all directions.

Heather greeted me in a flowing blue gown and made me welcome despite the fact that I was dressed in forest green sweats, trailed by a black and white cat and carrying a large bird cage. I nervously explained that Oreo had practically insisted on accompanying me, since he felt a vital part of my writing after our trip down the manhole and, I babbled on that, I had to bring Tookey since it was impossible to find anyone who could feed a neurotic, menopausal Amazon anything other than an extremely long stalk of celery. Heather has evidently had strange encounters with nervous novices before because she never lost her elegant composure, although I did notice she insisted on walking on the side opposite Tookey’s cage after the bird reached out and tried to grab her sleeve.

My first impression of the place is that it’s so complex and maze-like I’ll never be able to find my way back to my room if I leave it. Well, this is from someone who gets lost in a revolving door. It’s also one reason I’m already glad I brought Oreo. Once I feed him, he’ll remember where he belongs and lead me back if I get confused.

My room truly is a cell, very small, and minimally furnished. The length of the bed is the length of the room. An old fashioned pitcher and wash basin just fit the table that holds them. I have a writing desk and straight back chair and, high up in one rough stone wall, a small window lets in the light.

I wanted to ask Heather about the strange rumors I’d heard about lemurs and an alchemist’s tower. I wondered how many others had come and who and where they were, but she didn’t linger, just told me to have a good night and that we’d talk more tomorrow.

She turned as she was about to leave and asked, “You did bring the supplies you need for your projects, didn’t you?”

I held up my journal and pen and pointed to the canvas tote bag I’d placed on the bed. “I have some things in there for my altered book, but I’ve never made one before and I don’t know if I’ve brought the right stuff.”

“You’ll soon find in the Abbey that you have everything you need. Sweet dreams, ” she added.

When she was gone, I put my tote full of art supplies on the chair and laid my journal and pens on the desk. I had arrived at Lemurian Abbey in broad daylight and been shown to my cell. In the few minutes Heather and I had been speaking the day seemed to have ended. Light from a sickle moon was pouring milky white beams through my window and I was longing for sleep. Was I suffering from jet-lag? Was I on NJ time or Australian Time. I was so tired I couldn’t even recall if it was winter or summer.

I noticed a metal hook protruding from the corner of the wall near my writing desk and hung up Tookey’s cage. She was fast asleep. Turning down the blankets, I snuggled into bed with Oreo curled at my side. Tomorrow I would begin. “I have everything I need,” I murmured over and over until I fell into a contented sleep.

Barbara Banta
Order of Soul Food

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Purveyor of Creative Stimuli

I used to pride myself in being a purveyor of creative stimuli! Feedback from those who trawled through Soul Food supported my claim that I was quite good at triggering creative responses by providing a smorgasbord of tempting fragments.

Here is one I used to love to use with students. I would insist that there was complete silence and then I would take them through this guided imagery. After we completed the imagery exercise, the students would write what they saw in their imagination and then share their writing with other students. The experience was always exhilarating and there were times when the class spontaneously broke into applause.  I was always impressed by how insightful my students were.

You are walking down a road…. As you are walking, you see a house. Look at it. Notice its details…. Walk towards it. What do you notice about it?…. You start to walk around the house, looking at it as you walk…. Now you are halfway around. Notice the details of the house as you continue to walk around it…. Now you come back to where you were when you started…. As you walked around the house, you noticed a way to get in. Now go into the house…. What do you see?…. Explore the house, what’s inside?…. As you were exploring, you noticed a secret door leading to a secret room. Go inside that room. What do you see?…. Now leave the secret room and go back into the main part of the house…. Now leave the house. As you are walking away from it, you look back at it one more time…. You are back on the road once again, walking.

It was sessions like this that led to a collection of prompts being housed at Soul Food.

A Flashback

ShineI have been foraging around through archived material at Soul Food and stumbled upon a magazine I created in 2004. This Anthology was compiled to showcase student writing at LaTrobe Secondary College and some of the Primary Schools that surrounded it.

LaTrobe Secondary College closed a number of years ago but this copy remains, a reminder of something that was produced in its final years. It also records work undertaken with the feeder primary schools in the area.

Looking back I am in awe of what we achieved, but perhaps more in awe of the fact that long lost links can still be traced, as can the crazy interview I did as a part of  the highly successful Pop Art Fiction project.

Containing Memory

The sleepy basket girl
walks through the pink Lemurian mist
each early morning,
singing out, in a sweet alto voice,
“Dreams for sale!
Look in my basket,
full of pretty dreams!
Pick any one you like!
Only cost you a quick kindness,
don’t cost nothin’ to look!
Old dreams, new dreams,
anything you can dream of!
Anything can happen today
in the City of Ladies!
Come on, now, my dears,
you beautiful Lemurian dreamers,
Try one of my fresh dreams right now –
today could be amazing!
And where she walks she leaves a magic trail
of pink and purple glittering pixie dust,
a few sand dollars, some pretty shells,
the heavy, sweet scent of longing
for what could have been,
and just a hint of what may yet be
by Kerry Vincent (c) 2008

Ball

The thing about the story of the hero, as Ursula Le Guin points out in The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, is that it is ‘his’ story and not ours. More worryingly, we have primarily heard about “the sticks and spear sand swords, the things to bash and poke and hit with, the long, hard things and in the process stories about the minutiae of daily life have been lost.

One of the special things about the work that was done within Lemuria was that it grew to become a place filled with stories about people rather than stories about great battles. In this environment you could write, quite simply, as Kerry Vincent did, about glittering pixie dust, pretty shells, sand dollars and the scent of longing.

If it is human to fill baskets, and every other imaginable container, with things that you want, or want to remember, and then, leave them and pull these things out when you need them then, like Le Guin, I am human.

As my ball grows, it will become like an intricately woven net that captures moments in time.When unwoven, at some time, it might be found to contain little more than a note, a photo, a pebble. To many these things may appear worthless, and the ball may be discarded as a bundle of rags.

No matter!

What matters is that I know what memories, potential stories to be told, lie within it.