Lilly’s Funeral


” Cupcakes are a funny thing to serve at a Funeral. I mean I get serving them at the Wake, ” Tovia Sims said to her co-worker at View Ridge Lane Funeral Home and Cemetery Sheena Ainsley ” but during the Funeral itself?”

Sheena handed a cupcake to an elderly woman in a long fur trimmed coat,” Everyone is going to be munching on cupcakes and getting crumbs all over everything during the entire service. And do you know who is going to have to vacuum this all up?”

They continued to somberly hand out more cupcakes out as the family and friends of the recently departed entered the chapel in a long quiet line.

Tovia placed her empty box under the table where the guest book was was and she pulled out another. ” Uh. The Groundskeepers?”

” Guess again.”

” I did not go to Mortuary College to end up serving freaking cupcakes at a funeral and then having to hoover the mess up after the service. Jesus. Who’s idea was this anyway?”

” It was Lilly’s.” Sheena pointed to the portrait sitting on the table next to the guest book.

Tovia nodded. ” She was warped.”

” She was rich. These cupcakes are trimmed with edible gold and I kid you not, and flavored with vanilla beans that only grow on one island in the entire world. These things are like a thousand dollars each. And they were baked by Lilly’s favorite baker in Lilly’s own kitchen which is also stocked with foods from the most remote places on the planet. People have died bringing fruits  to Lilly’s that ended up in her morning  bowl of oatmeal.”

” Thousand Dollar cupcakes.” Tovia pushed the last empty box under the table with her foot.

” Yep.”

When they heard the music in the chapel start ,they checked the doors, the halls and then quietly and carefully closed the doors to the chapel.

” She must have loved her family a lot to do this for them.” Tovia whispered. ” Feeding them thousand dollar cupcakes and probably leaving them a boat load of cash.”

” I heard she left it all to her cat.” Sheena said

” Oh sure. Like that’s going to happen. ”

” She really loved that cat. I saw it when  went to her house to do the removal. It’s the coolest cat you’v ever seen. It has two faces, he’s an honest to goodness Janus cat named Kolchak and  he’s almost 20  years old.  She was offered millions for it, more then once, but she turned it down.”

” I’ll bet they find a way to get Kolchak’s money and more cupcakes” Tovia shook her head.

Did I tell you her cat had it’s own Nanny? Her name is Mavis. She speaks three languages” Sheena whispered.

The two Funeral Directors stared at the picture of Lilly- it wasn’t an old picture. It was a new picture. Lilly was standing in front of a large shelf filled with bottles- they were in all shapes and if you looked very closely you could see the labels.

” Hey. Look at these…” Sheena tapped on the picture.

The two women looked from the pictures to the cupcake boxes and then they practically knocked each other over as they ran and pulled the chapel doors open.

Lilly’s guests turned and with their mouths full of Lilly’s special cupcakes mixed with vanilla beans that only grow on one island in the entire world, decorated with edible gold and frosted with the finest purest butter cream frosting ever made by human hands and full arsenic from Lilly’s special little bottles.



Tapping At Our Chamber Door – Begin A Raven Project

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— Only this, and nothing more.”
Edgar Allen Poe

Raven has come tapping at the chamber door, urging everyone to include her in some writing or art.

When I work with young children I always introduce myself as a word magician who has the power to draw writing from each of them. One of my favourite activities is to produce some Animal Oracle Cards and Edgar Allen’s famous poem, particularly emphasising the idea of a raven having come tapping at our chamber door.

As I chat with them, as we listen to a reading of Poe’s ‘The Raven’  I suggest that everyone begin to draw, to write down words, identify feelings and  consider sketching a raven.

My students at LaTrobe Secondary College really loved it when we gathered up our workbooks and went outside to observe the raven colony that called the school grounds home, watching, looking for leftovers from lunch.

While they were outside I told them to set up a vocabulary page in their workbook,

metallic black feathers
raucous, mischievous
Suspicious and confident beasts 
Steadily on jagged wings 
Feathers black against a burning sky
Spread your wings and ride the wind 
Feathers spread wide, leaning into the wind, beak raised to the sky. 

to draw an abandoned site and to imagine that it is inhabited by a murder of ravens.

At the completion of all of this activity, I ask students to share some of the words that have appeared on what were blank pages. Then I ask them what the magic trick was. They invariably say that the secret was that they were given an idea to work with.

We discuss how we might build upon a base idea.

  • gather pictures and taking photographs
  • keep sketching and build-up material before trying to write anything substantial.
  • browse through the internet, research and find out about the symbolism of birds and the symbolism of the raven in particular.
  • read about the Raven in mythology. For example, in the ‘Seven Ravens’ the little girl is prepared to endure a challenging pilgrimage to find her brothers.
  • read the landmark gothic tale, The Birds, by Daphne du Maurier or watch the movie version. In this chilling tale the bird’s revolt against humankind. The story later became a Hitchcock movie – dated maybe, but still a good movie.
  • keep adding to a vocabulary page.
  • play with magnetic poetry to form some more ideas.

Having done all of this we write freely for twenty minutes making sure not to worry if the initial piece is incoherent or full of grammatical errors for this is only the beginning of the process. There are many more decisions to be made!


Raven and Donkey Dansing With Death by Heather Blakey 2018

Perhaps you will, like me, be happy to find expression and make a statement by drawing. Or you might choose to take a series of photographs.

Maybe you will end up creating a graphic novel, write a play, make a video of reading a poem or whatever. The possibilities are endless.


Make Descansos to Mark the Macabre

I  first learned about the concept of Descansos when I read Clarissa Pinkola Estes ‘Women Who Run With Wolves’.

Estes describes how when you travel in Old Mexico, New Mexico, southern Colorado, Arizona, or parts of the South, you will see little white crosses by the roadside. These are descansos, resting places. The concept of marking resting places is not confined to the United States or Mexico. They may be found in Greece, Italy and many other countries, including Australia.

Recently I photographed this small cross that so clearly marks a spot for someone. It is not in a cemetery but in a reserve which memorializes the gold rush in this region. As I took the photograph I was actually thinking about the very dark side of the Victorian Goldfields that have been so well documented by Goldfields Guide – Exploring the Victorian Goldfields. I  considered ways to mark, document and lay to rest some of the important moments in the history  of this region in Victoria that so many choose to forget.

It may sound macabre but it can be cathartic to mark, with crosses, events that have impacted your life or, for that matter, macabre world events which have changed the course of history.

Metaphorically perch yourself high in a pine tree, in a place where you can see the whole picture. Mark things which still need to be mourned and consider spending time noting what has seemingly been forgotten, but which like the spirit of Joan of Arc lives on. For example, indigenous Australians are well aware of the trauma of colonisation but those of us whose ancestors were forcibly bought to this country in chains can forget what they were forced to endure and how those events changed the course of history for everyone involved.

Working with Descansos

Descansos and the Lunar Eclipse

Alexander Khan

Therapeutic Power of Macabre Art

Refrigerator Magnet Advertised on Etsy

Art and art therapy is part of the technique of visualization, a technique which is actually a form of meditation. When undertaking visualization you may simply make something up. However, another form of visualization is to spend an extended period of time simply looking at an image, taking in all the detail and seeing what you want or need to see within.

Viewing any and all expressive art can have an amazing effect on your health. Consider how you felt the last time you walked through a gallery and perused the art. Reflect on how different pieces gave you different feelings? Did some of the dark and macabre art actually seem most appropriate at the time?

Everyone feels something different when they view a piece of expressive art, and it’s likely that your feelings are different than those of the person that made the art as well. It’s not really what the artist believed to be the point of the piece, but rather it is about what it does for you.

The fridge magnet shown here appeared on Etsy. This expressive face may, like the famous ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch depicts feelings we are not always encouraged to feel. Perhaps it sums up how you have felt at times, or how a character you are working with feels.

Take yourself to a gallery or check out some macabre art online and meditate upon the emotions depicted. Who knows! A character you are working with may gain depth as a result of this simple exercise.

The Swim Reaper

The Grim Reaper:
Artist: José Guadalupe Posada

Myths and horror stories are written about him

songs are written about him

we dress up like him for Halloween.

Times have changed and now The Grim Reaper is, in a twist, saving instead of collecting  lives in New Zealand.

The Grim One is now know as the Swim Reaper and he is warning people that if  you play dumb- you’re done and he off you go with our friend in black.

These are modern times, so it works out that the Swim Reaper is now an Instagram star and you can catch him in a more casual

setting instead of the more formal ones we see in art galleries and cemeteries.

I’ve always believed that a good story will grow legs and run on it’s own. It’s the reality of what happens when we write stories or music- some of these interpretations fall short of the original and some go beyond.

The Grim Reaper has been the Grim Reaper has been a fixture in many cultures to many people for a very long time.

That may have changed a bit in this case, and that is not such a bad thing.

For Your Condsideration


A Macabre Tale by the wonderful Tom Waits for your edification and inspiration




What’s he building in there?
What the hell is he building in there?
He has subscriptions to those magazines
He never waves when he goes by
He’s hiding something from the rest of us
He’s all to himself; I think I know why…
He took down the tire swing from the Peppertree
He has no children of his own, you see
He has no dog
And he has no friends and his lawn is dying
And what about all those packages he sends?
What’s he building in there?
With that hook light on the stairs
What’s he building in there?
I’ll tell you one thing: he’s not building a playhouse for the children
What’s he building in there?

Now what’s that sound from underneath the door?
He’s pounding nails into a hardwood floor
And I swear to God I heard someone moaning low
And I keep seeing the blue light of a T.V. show
He has a router and a table saw
And you won’t believe what Mr. Sticha saw
There’s poison underneath the sink, of course
But there’s also enough formaldehyde to choke a horse
What’s he building in there?
What the hell is he building in there?
I heard he has an ex-wife
In some place called Mayors Income, Tennessee
And he used to have a consulting business in Indonesia
But what’s he building in there?