Are you a Morning Lark or a Night Owl?


Tell me, do you sparkle in the morning?  In other words, are you a morning person, otherwise known as a Lark?

Or are you like me, an Owl, or ‘afternoon/night person? If so, please join me in the campaign for equality with those oh-so-smug morning people, who roll their eyes when you ask not to be disturbed before 9am. Don’t you just hate it, when friends say, with an air of virtue: ‘I’ve been up since 5.30am, it’s the only way to get things done’. Well, I vehemently disagree. I’m usually up till midnight, finishing a chapter (whether one I’m writing, or one I’m reading) while they’re snoring their heads off. For years, I’ve suffered discrimination from morning people. Just what is that worm they’re so eager to catch?

Like so many other Owls (including, may I say, such luminaries as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Gustave Flaubert) my brain slips into gear by midday, and I’m at my best when most ‘normal’ (i.e. morning) souls are sensibly turning in for their eight hours. Useless to tell them I’d rather meet for a catchup in the afternoon rather than at sparrow’s fart. Anyway, our world being geared for the early risers, all respectable cafes in my neck of the woods are well and truly closed after 3pm.

‘I’m not a morning person’, posts Australian writer Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies, Truly Madly Deeply).’ I’d be fine if a maid glided in with my breakfast on a tray, drew back the curtainand asked if there was anything else madam required. Then I could gently ease myself into each new day, rather than having it slammed against my forehead with all its bright, shiny light.’ ( At last a fellow not-morning person! And one whose nocturnal body clock has done nothing to stop the flow of her highly successful novels. As Liane suggests, we night owls may have noble blood, just like the Princess and who slept so lightly that she could feel a pea underneath a mountain of matresses. Now we noble night owls can thumb our noses at those holier- than-thou  early birders.

Other famous night-people include Barack Obama, Fidel Castro, Winston Churchill and Bob Dylan.

Although morning types may achieve more socially and academically, night owls tend to perform better on measures of memory, processing speed and cognitive ability, even when they have to perform those tasks in the morning. Night-time people are also more open to new experiences and seek them out more. They may be more creative. And contrary to the maxim (‘healthy, wealthy and wise’), one study showed that night owls are as healthy and wise as morning types – and a little bit wealthier!



Darwin in the BuildUp

Bliss in the Pool

We stepped off the plane on Boxing Day into what felt like a sauna, turned up to the max. In an instant our clothes were soaking wet, our mouths dry. The short walk to our waiting car took our breath away. ‘The Wet’s late this year,’ said my lovely daughter, a Darwinite for the last twenty years, ‘so it’s still the Buildup. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.’ I silently prayed that our housesit had aircon in every room, and started disrobing in the car.


Thank goodness for the Pool

Thankfully our Rapid Creek house does have aircon,  at least in the bedroom. Otherwise it would be impossible to sleep. There are ceiling fans going all day, a wide balcony also equipped with fans, and best of all, a pool, into which I plunge (once fully dressed) whenever I reach boiling point. Continue reading “Darwin in the BuildUp”

Fun at Ubud Writers’ Festival

Balmy October in Bali. Rice paddies, lotus ponds, brilliant flowers, smiling people. Add to this mix the company of Writers from near and far, talks by such luminaries as Robert Dessaix, and workshops including one from Josephine Wilson, the winner of this year’s Miles Franklin Award,  and you have the perfect recipe for body and mind bliss.

I’ve wanted to go to this Festival for years, in fact each time I’ve been in Darwin which is just across the water from Bali. But the timing was never quite right. This year, with the collusion of my two daughters, I bit the bullet, so to speak, and booked our flights six months ahead. Which was just as well; in spite of the imminent eruption of  volcano, we book nerds descended on Bali in sweaty droves. Luckily Mt Warung didn’t belch it’s lava while we were in Ubud, and as far as I know, it still hasn’t. Here’s a picture of the volcano behaving itself at sunset:


Robert Dessaix’s session on his new book ‘The Pleasures of Leisure’, was a highlight. His dry wit, a la Oscar Wilde, had the audience rapt. Some gems which have stayed with me: Idling is an art in itself, not to be confused with time-wasting. Far from feeling guilty for doing nothing, to be idle is a perfectly legitimate pastime. And never say you’re Busy as an excuse when asked to a boring event (busy-ness is a mark of failure, an inability to be free). Far better to simply say you simply don’t want to attend ( Politely, of course).

For me, the greatest pleasure of the Festival was the company of my daughters. Feisty, funny, fabulous, and unashamedly hedonistic, they were the perfect antidote to their mother’s somewhat dour outlook on life. My daughters and I managed to work towards perfection in our Idling practice. Robert Dessaix would be proud! We three had sundowners on the terrace of our beautiful cottage, surrounded by lush green rice fields and exotic statues, and each night planned our next adventure. There were shopping sprees, yoga Bali style, massages, and delicious food.


Catching up with Marieke Hardy at her ‘Women of Letters’ session was  another highlight. We’d last met at the Darwin Writers’ Festival five years ago, when I was a volunteer, helping to set up  an earlier version of Women of Letters. ‘Let’s do this again in another five years!’ Marieke said.





The Joys and Perils of the Writing Life

The Joys and Perils of the Writing Life

So here I am, as Abraham said to the Lord when offering up his son for sacrifice. “Here I Am” is the title of a wonderful new book by Jonathan Safran Foer, a monumental work close to 1000 pages, exploring themes of cultural identity, fidelity and betrayal, the ephemeral nature of love, families functional and dysfunctional, and what makes them so.

As for me myself and I, this post is in the nature of an apology to you, my readers, for my untoward absence. SInce I last posted back in April, life has overtaken me. There’s been illness, convalescence, slow recovery, as well as the joys of grandchildrens’ birthdays. and celebrations of their achievements, some sojourns in beautiful Darwin, home of my daughters and grandsons, and the minutiae of everyday life.

On the writing side, I’ve been hard  at work on my new novel, ‘A Difficult Daughter’, and preparing my first novel. ‘Capriccio’, for publication. This entailed a major rewrite, mostly in appeasement to Faber and Faber, publishers of the works of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, and the Hughes Estate. Like Jonathan Bate, I fell foul of the Estate when requesting permission to quote thirteen lines of Hughes’s poetry, fully expecting dispensation for such a small amount of material. The lines I quoted were used to introduce chapters, each of which was given the title of one of the ‘Capriccio’ poems by Hughes. Titles, I know, are not subject to copyright. However, to be on the safe side, I have removed every syllable of Hughes’s poetry, and, in order to comply with the other request by the Estate, changed the name of  every character. The astute reader will no doubt recognise my novel, “Capriccio”, as the tragic story of Assia Gutmann Wevill, the lover of Ted Hughes, who came between Hughes, and his wife, Sylvia Plath.  My novel ends with one of Assia’s poems (quoted with permission of her sister, Celia Chaikin), a final clue to the true identity of my protagonist.

Now for the Joy of the writing life: my company of writers, the Randwick Writers Group, continues to flourish, with all four of us preparing to submit novels or memoirs to publishers. Without my fellow-writers, I would never have achieved the completion of one novel and the development of another. Their constructive feedback, wise insights, consistent encouragement, and friendship, has been the motivating force which keeps me going.

In Darwin, I was lucky to join the talented playwright Sandra Thibodeaux for her weekly writers’ workshop, which helped me develop ideas for ‘A Difficult Daughter’, my novel-in-progress. Then there was the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May, the Jewish Writers’ Festival in August, and only last weekend, the St Aubin’s Writers’ Festival. More on this bucolic festival in my next post!

Yoga and Kabbalah

 The kabbalistic tree of life and the Ten Sefirot  

There are many similarities between the Jewish mysticism of the Kabbalah, and other Eastern philosophies.

In kabbalistic lore,there are ten Energy Centres (Sefirot), which correspond to parts of the earthly body. They are, in descending order, Keter (the crown), Chokhmah (wisdom), Binah (intuition, understanding), Chesed (mercy) or Gedulah (greatness), Gevurah (strength), Tiferet (glory), Netzach (victory), Hod (majesty), Yesod (foundation) and Malkut (sovereignty).

The ten Sefirot include both masculine and feminine qualities. Kabbalah pays a great deal of attention to the feminine aspects of the spiritual world. Focussing on a particular centre is said to greatly enhance the physical, emotional, and spiritual life.

The ten Sefirot are usually represented as in the diagram above. This diagram is commonly known as the Tree of the Sefirot, or the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. There is great significance to the position of these various attributes and their interconnectedness. The Sefirot connect with everything in the universe. Thus they are both a reflection of the individual’s spiritual life, and that of the whole of humanity.

Sages have spent millennia discussing these spiritual pathways, so I dare not presume a fuller explanation, after only two years of Kabbalistic study! This post is a very simplified comparison of the Energy Centres in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and the Chakras in Yoga Philosophy.

Energy Centres in Yoga 

Similarly to Jewish mysticism, Yoga is informed by the Hindu religion. The  energy centres in yoga are called chakras, and bear a remarkable resemblance to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. In ascending order, they are:

The Muladhara,  situated at the base of the spine, which governs your family ties and feelings of survival, belonging, and guardedness.

Svadhisthana, in the pelvic region,  corresponds with  the reproductive and sexual organs, and represents fluidity, creativity, and fertility.

Manipura in the solar plexus,governsself-esteem and confidence to take action and be productive.

Anahata, or the heart chakra, heals past wounds by reopening your heart, learning to love unconditionally, and forming healthy relationships.

Vishuddha,corresponds to the throat region. When this chakra is open and stimulated, the voice moves through space to help communicate emotions.

The crown chakra (Sahasrara), connects to beauty itself and the spiritual realm.  It is not located in the body but actually hovers above the crown of the head. When it’s closed, happiness seems  come from the outside. Working on this chakra helps you to feel free in any situation.

Meditating on the chakras is  said to be a powerful way to reach self-fulfilment.

There are countless more parallels between Judaic, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious and philosophical systems of belief. Do you know of others?


   Kabbalah and Creativity


The Kabbalah teaches that space is essential to creativity. In the 16th century, Shabtai Sheftel Horowitz, an Eastern European sage, wrote: ‘Before the Creation of the World, the Infinite One withdrew itself into its essence, from itself to itself within itself. It left an empty space within its essence, in which it could   emanate and create.’ (©Orna Triguboff).

I have been attending a series of talks by Rabbi Orna Triguboff, in which we study a text fro the Kabbalah in detail. Each session is enlightening, adding to the knowledge and wisdom scholars have given us for centuries. Kabbalistic scholars describe two energy channels: the left side for logic and understanding, and the right for spirituality, the ‘spark’ of an idea. These two sides merge in the centre, so that both logical thought and spiritual energy give birth to the creative process. In other words, according to ancient wisdom, we need both ‘inspiration and perspiration’ to produce a creative work. Neither pure, raw, imagery, or carefully structured thought are enough alone; an artist, writer or musician needs both. The meeting in the middle is where the final work is manifested.


Continue reading ”   Kabbalah and Creativity”


creativity1As most who practice the creative arts know, creativity comes from a place deep within the soul. To reach that place, we need to make space in our lives, and in our minds. As a writer, I can immediately relate to this concept, knowing that I have to make space, both physical and mental, before being able to access the imagination, or the ‘unconscious,’ the source of dreams and fantasies. A clear period of time and an uncluttered space are essentials for creativity. In today’s busy world this is no easy task.

Strategies for creating space include clearing one’s desk, emptying the day of other commitments, and turning off the phone. Other methods are the practice of meditation to clear the mind, and freeing oneself of the ‘baggage’ of the everyday world. (Leave the dishes in the sink!)


There are so many obstacles to creativity. In my case a spell in hospital and subsequent recovery time all but sapped my creative energy, after the assault on my brain from anaesthetic and  Which is why you, my dear readers, haven’t heard from me for so long. Now, two months down the track, my energy is slowly returning. With it is a stirring of that mysterious force that can put me in another realm where the laws of everyday survival, metamorphise into a  freedom and release, where creative writing, painting, or musical composition can take place.

Creativity is defined by Wikipedia as ‘a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition, or a joke) or a physical object (such as an invention, a literary work, or a painting).’ (Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia).

Where does this elusive ‘phenomenon’ come from? Some say only certain individuals can access their creativity. Others believe it resides only in the right side of the brain – a theory of dubious scientific substance. More on this in the next post.

Watching my grandchildren effortlessly produce an intricate. original drawing, or playing a musical instrument, it seems to me that perhaps we are all born with this uncanny ability, but somewhere along the way, we lose the clear joy and freedom so evident in those early years. Where do you think creativity comes from? I’d love to hear your views.