Category Archives: the butterfly effect

How to fix a broken fence …


There is an undercurrent in the media at the moment.

It goes something like this.

Muslims will be applauded if they:

  1. Condemn all terror attacks and
  2. Promote peace and unity

But the moment a Muslim goes a step further and tries to explore the reasons behind fundamentalism and terrorism, they are howled down. In the western press at least.

It’s got me thinking about the importance of having a voice. Whether it’s in a relationship, a family, a workplace or a community. Everyone needs to feel that they have a voice.

Have you ever been in a situation where you don’t have a voice? When someone has shut you down? Silenced you?

How did you feel?

Hurt? Resentful?

I am thinking back to conversations we’ve had with the kids when, as parents, we’ve made mistakes, jumped to conclusions, made accusations or spoken out of line and found ourselves in the uncomfortable position of apologising – to them.

A little seismic shift occurs. The kids suddenly see you as human. As fallible. But I think they also respect the fact that from your position of parental power, you are big enough to say “I was wrong. And I’m sorry.” And perhaps most importantly they know that they have a voice. And that is has been heard.

The flip side of this is when you don’t listen, when you stubbornly hold your position and say …

“Go to your room!”
“But I just …”
“I don’t want to hear it. Go to your room!”

Try this on …

“Shut up and be a good Muslim and go back to your suburb.”
“But I just want to talk about why I think this is happening …”
“No. We don’t want to hear it.”

Silenced. Hurt. Resentful.

Is that really the result we want?

garden 1

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the West has a less than glowing history in many corners of the world and if Obama and Turnbull et al really want to find a political, humanitarian solution to the current mess they have to acknowledge the mistakes of the past and apologise for the hurts inflicted.

Imagine you run into your neighbour’s fence with your car. Big damage.

I asked a friend today how would she set out to fix it.

“Well I’d pay for the damage.”

But I said, “No. How would you begin the process of fixing it?”

“Well I’d walk across to the neighbours, I’d apologise profusely and I’d set out to make it right. Then I’d pay for the damage.”



garden 2

The most moving moment for Steve and I this week was the press conference in Western Australia with the first of the Syrian refugees finding sanctuary in Australia. A mechanic and his wife and five children. I have no doubt the PR machine had them polished and shined to within an inch of their lives. Their pictures taken. The littlies smiling. But even despite all of that, we looked at each other and said “Imagine having been on the run or in a camp in Jordan for four years and finally, finally you know your children are going to sleep safely tonight, and they will be able to go to school and you have a chance for a new start. A good life.”

And the tears welled up.

We visited Syria in 2010, five months before it went to hell. The people were overwhelmingly friendly and welcoming. We have watched it unravel for the past five years. The Syria we experienced is no more.

The father’s last words were: “All the respect. All the respect to Australia. Thank you again.”


Respect for your voice.

Respect for mine.

18 months ago we pulled down our broken front fence and replaced it with a garden. I wrote about it here. We extended the little verandah so we could have a table and chairs out the front. Like so many Australians our focus has always been in the backyard but I can’t tell you the pleasure we’ve had bringing this little area to life, from funking up some chairs from the tip shop to planting Provencal thyme and lavenders and a curving box hedge. Last night, just on dark, I sat out there with a cup of tea and got chatting to a young guy who was walking the street, trying to settle his adorable 11 month old son who was unwell. Five years they’ve lived five doors away and last night was the first time we’d met.

marg's watercolour in the style of Edna Walling

stephen hogan sculpture letterbox


abstract shadows and light

When we’re frightened our natural response is to close in on ourselves. But I think now more than ever we need to be reaching out.

Please don’t be afraid of robust conversations.

Please don’t be frightened of different.

Different clothes. Different faces. Different ideas. Different opinions.

Different is wonderful.

Different is what makes this planet so mind blowingly beautiful.

Open your doors. Open your hearts. And make room for the voices.

There are stories that need to be told.

Stories that need to be heard.

From both sides of that broken fence.



I’d be grateful if you’d share this one.  xo


Beautiful, bright young things


My picture was in the paper this morning.

I look so happy. So does every face around me. Beautiful, bright young things.

But it’s all so confusing. They are saying I am dead. But I can’t be dead. I look so happy.

I am trying to understand what is happening. They say young men with guns started shooting at the concert. Why would they want to do that? What did I ever do to them? Why couldn’t they have talked to us? I would have listened. I would have tried to understand.

I am in a lounge room filled with tears. Faces filled with fear and confusion. A mother has lost her son. Her boy. Her precious boy who took a gun to a nightclub and then blew himself up. People are talking to her, at her, but she can’t hear them. She can’t see them. She is lost. And she has lost her boy.

I am in my bedroom and Mum is sitting on my bed. She looks so sad. I bend down in front of her and say “Mum it’s me,” hoping to make her smile. But she can’t hear me. She can’t see me. There are photos of me, of us, strewn across the bed and fallen to the floor. And silent tears leak down her cheeks. She is lost.

And I realise, it is true.

She has lost her precious girl.

Don’t talk to me about hate. Don’t talk to me about refugees and borders and war and violence. Don’t talk to me about politics.

Talk to my mother. And his mother. Gather all the mothers. From Paris, Beirut, Kenya, Syria ….

Put them in a room filled with tears.

And watch. And wait.

The mothers, who are lost, are the only ones who will find a way through this mess you have created.

They, who have lost, will show you what power really looks like, the power of love.

And maybe, just maybe, those mothers with nothing left to lose, will find a way to show you that peace and forgiveness are possible.

“Mum?” I say quietly. “Mum? Will you do that for me?”



Photo from here.


Someone’s son

dawn service

In the early morning darkness, on the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, my friend leaned across and whispered with teary eyes “It just hit me that all these boys, were about your boy’s age.”

And I stood there feeling a whole new wave of cold.

somebody's sons

They were someone’s son.

Every one.

Someone’s son.

My beautiful boy’s age.


flowers and boer war memorial

“…They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow…”

fallen leaves

fallen leaves

Steady and aglow.

poppies and courthouse

In 1934 Atatürk wrote a tribute to the Anzacs killed at Gallipoli:

Those heroes that shed their blood
and lost their lives …
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies
and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
here in this country of ours …
You, the mothers
who sent their sons from faraway countries,
wipe away your tears;
your sons are now lying in our bosom
and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
become our sons as well.

We remember Gallipoli. The Turks remember Çannakale.

The mothers just remember their boys.

Then. As now.

Their beautiful boys.

Steady and aglow.


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