Peter Volkofsky | Author & Life Coach

Peter Volkofsky is an author, spoken word poet and life coach. In 2017, Peter published his thriller Mia's Magic Wand. In 2015 he published Beautiful Quest as an Ark House imprint. Peter has been married to his wife Penelope for thirty-three years and together they have reared seven children.

Catalytic (cat•a•lyt•ic)

(adj.) a process that precipitates an event

The Vision

Individuals and teams reaching their goals.

PETE'S BLOG

2 Comments3 Minutes

Temple of Light

It's night and I've wandered into a big space of glaring white fluorescence with number one daughter. She's lugged her year-twelve art project here to be left alone with it. But I'm allowed, cause I'm the Dad, looking and wondering at this gigantic mobile of photos behind glass, held from the ceiling by fishing line. Hanging with it is a kind of interpretive shadow: the life-sized silhouette of a young woman, painted onto a see-through curtain.

My daughter talks to me for a bit, then, as if I'm not there, disappears into artist universe; tweaking and nuancing the bits of glass and fabric. Meanwhile, I'm trapped in that father's wonder at his daughter-becoming-a-beautiful woman who's already gliding—I suspect—through time and space into a world of infinite love while her creation wavers above a hard floor, which I can feel under my feet.

Finally, the assembling and dissembling is done and she's gotten all the pieces hanging together. It's a real thing now, mirroring what's happening in her own young soul as she also becomes more real in the only way that anything does: via the fires of loving, cherishing, guarding, wrestling and the breaking-of-the-heart. And I'm so lucky to be here, flowing alongside her, with her, enjoying the music of a voice that speaks of hopes and dreams to be poured out in the only way they can.

And now, that voice walks across the room, hidden inside those mysterious hints of joy we call skin and bone, eyes and lips, laughter and jokes, stories and songs—all dancing around words. Thus, and so we talk, inside this temple of dazzling light, near a curtain of glass that dangles like bits of galaxy.

And now, that voice walks across the room and smiles at me and I’m sure a day will come when we both shall see and taste first-hand the joy and love we’ve tasted here, forever and ever.

'Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.'
― J.R.R. Tolkien

 

0 Comments4 Minutes

What Were You Thinking?

It's not every day you get to have a journalist sit at your family dinner table and record the conversation. But that is what is going on. I'm okay with it and I hope my wife and children are. The fact is, I like this guy, we all agreed to this—actually, teeth a bit on edge there, I'm not sure I fully cleared it with my wife and family. Oh well. Either way, he's definitely not the stereotype sensationalist.

As his day with us and our community goes on, he manages to ask plenty of good questions and causes me to reflect on what it really means to live my life around that mysterious way of knowing and being known, which Christians refer to as agape. Tom Wright explains that 'God's knowing creates the context for human knowing; and the result is not a knowing such as one might have of a detached object ( a tree, say, or a distant star). The result, to say it again, is love, agape.' *

Before I tell you what happens next, I should explain that the early believers borrowed the word 'agape' from the Greeks who were using it in a broad way of a deep sense of goodwill from one human being towards another. The word was co-opted—and filled out—by the early followers of Jesus, to try get across the deeper vision of God's unconditional, sacrificial love towards all human kind. Jesus taught that agape love enters the heart and soul via the Holy Spirit; seeing every human being as a living, breathing icon of God (yes, an inadequate and broken icon but still to be taken seriously) and attempting to respond accordingly.

The second caveat to consider is that, in the modern/postmodern era, agape is often translated as 'charity', but that word is misleading. GK Chesterton explains the problem in the following statement. 'It is true that there's a thing crudely called charity, which means charity to the deserving poor; but charity to the deserving is not charity at all, but justice. It is the undeserving who require it, and the ideal either does not exist at all, or exists wholly for them.' ** 

So, getting back to our story. It's now late in the day and the journalist is on his way. Following him out to his car, I hope to ask what I think of as a 'mouthful question'.

'Can I ask you a question?' I say.

'Sure,' he says.

'So, speaking hypothetically, if it turns out there's a higher power that loves you deeply, and is hoping to come to a place with you where you would be happy to be found by it; would you be up for that?'

'Definitely,' he says as he walks to his car.

I can tell he meant what he said. But the question I'm now left pondering is...

'What were each of us thinking this kind of love would look like?'

 

*NT Wright, Paul and The Faithfulness of God, books III & IV (SPCK, 36 Causton St. London, 2013 ) p.1361

**GK Chesterton, Heretics

0 Comments2 Minutes

Coming Home Late

It's late-ish. A candle burns and I'm flaked on the lounge. Simon and Garfunkel sing, 'wishing to be homeward bound'. Fortunately, I am at home and my love isn't waiting silently, she's singing along. I wonder what it would be like to be at home but not really: like an intruder? I know that one; been caught out there. Like that time when I visited my old boyhood home, but it visited back at me. The place had been sold years before.

It’s a hot day. Driving along hard red gravel, through dense scrub, I come to the big purple ridge. Going straight past the house, I camp around the back of the dam: something I've never done in my life. It feels wrong.

Lost in thought, I walk along the shore and then head towards the dam wall—a long hill of white crushed rock—in the direction of the old homestead. On the way up, my legs are heavy and that wall of white seems like plasticine or quicksand or something. A wave actually, a big slow wave coming for me. Menacing. Like I'm not supposed to be here; stumbling in where I don't belong—a poacher—coming in through the back door when I ought to have at least had the courtesy to knock on the front door.

Yes, I've transgressed, but it's too late now. The hill of white keeps rolling: liquid memories engulfing me. I'm stabbed with longing, with happiness—and a deep sobbing: trespassing on the sacred ground of a boy who's just been for a swim, caught some yabbies and is about to go up to the house. But the boy doesn't want to go over that hill of white to the house. That's not his home, this is his home—here at the dam with the water, the birds, the blue sky and the yabbies: forever and ever.

It's coming clearer. There is no homestead any more. I know that! It was burnt to the ground years ago, man. Yes, but there's still a home here: a home that’s just slapped me and wanted to know where I've been all this time!

0 Comments6 Minutes

The Chief

You're all grown up now—and guess what? The planets have lined up, it's a blue moon and pigs are flying: you're out of uniform, inside school property and on your way to the principal's office! Even those walking the other way seem to know—and out of respect and concern—look away. How did this happen?

This is the room you spent years staying away from. The principal's office (any staff member’s office for that matter) not uncommonly meant pain of some sort, except (perhaps) when you were in year twelve, but that's another story.

'Good to see you back here again,' she says, shaking my hand.

I hesitate. Did she just say, What are you doing back here? or did I hear wrong? I heard wrong, she actually said, Good to see you back here again, and she's shaking my hand.

'Thank you,' I say, with a smile.

To be fair, I’ve had great school principals, and these days, I prefer to think of a school principal as the chieftain of the village. This is because the schools I work in look more and more like villages and the teachers and principals are expected to not only teach but to be virtual social workers, medical officers, carers, fundraisers, political lobbyists and crowd controllers.

My second ever principal for example: let's just use the word 'chief' from here on. There’s six of us on the school roll: me, two of my brothers and three girls from next door. Each school day the chief—a retired lady teacher—and the girls, drive the nine and a half kilometres to our sheep station and we have classes in what used to be an old cookhouse. At recess we are given carnation milk to drink and play girl-irritating-games on the ironstone gravel.

Occasionally, Dad pulls the pin on classes and announces that there will be no school today because there’s some sheep to muster or shear. For us boys that translates into, ‘Probably will be some goats to chase, or pig shooting on Dad’s old truck and/or those amazing mutton, cheese and tomato sandwiches (with pepper) made by the shearer’s cook for smoko!’

Then there’s our first school chief: the one who kind of ‘baptises’ me into learning. She’s our mum, a graduate art teacher from Sydney Teachers’ College: so passionate about learning that—even though she’s wheelchair-bound by Motor Neurone—she’s determined to get our education happening.

As a year-two boy, watching her struggling to speak, to write and to teach us, I’m in awe, I know something huge is going down. This chief is the same woman whose hair I sometimes ‘have to’ brush, or whose cup I hold to her mouth so she can drink.

But it doesn’t stop there. In a mysterious paradox, my mum’s pain gives (and still gives) her a unique authority to be a light in the hurting world—not through the clever ways of impersonal ‘darkness wisdom’: she’s already been offered that cup in Africa and turned it down.

What she insists on making clear to us is that the love and light in her comes from a ‘lover of her soul’ called Jesus. How can I not take her seriously? But does this fact not make her pain even more disturbing? Like a good teacher, she does not go there with us; she will not push us into the information overload of what we are not ready for, but gives us as much as we need for now.

Further down this dark, disturbing and even beautiful road—after my mum has left this world—my adult mind explores further. My conclusion is that yes, there’s a beautiful and dangerous mystery at the centre of the universe, and as my first chief would have asserted, it’s not some passive, half-interested deity. It’s a free, personal (and beyond personal) spirit of joy who’s not trapped in time, space or matter—and yet is intimate with us in the person of Jesus.

And now I’m a boy again with my brothers, our hats on and water bottles in hand—about to go out and chip burrs—watching mum as she pushes herself up on her elbows to speak: in what you might call the ex-cathedra posture (with the full authority of office), or you might say, out of the cathedral she’s sitting in…

‘Just remember,’ she says, taking a breath. ‘Jesus said that wherever two or three of you are gathered in my name, I’m there with you.’

 

2 Comments5 Minutes

Dad Music

I'm six and half years old, a nuggety kid who can ride a bike faster than my brothers, except for my older brother, who sometimes beats me—actually he almost always beats me. But that's okay cause my dad rides a horse in the sunshine. It's a great grey animal that's lean and hard and chomps on swede turnips so loud its teeth echo like a drum, so I keep passing it turnips over the fence. I might as well, cause I hate them, but the horse loves them and I so love that sound.  It's like the music of my dad's deep-set eyes that tell me God is good, even though—and Dad will never live long enough to find this out—I was badly hurt by a stranger a year ago. It happened when Dad was busy praying and trying to get mum healed, which he almost did, I think. He's pretty good, even with things like that.

But more of Dad. He also has a big hat that shades the world; a lean body, a tanned face and a woollen tie, which I love the texture of and always want to touch, but never do. They're so full of happiness, that lean body, tanned face and woollen tie—like all three of them are a trinity that can do anything. Then there's his mischievous grin, which says I'm a great prize he's won— so let's dance a little!

I'm ten now and we're chasing wild sheep in a thing called a Landrover through sixteen thousand acres of scrub: those trees are really flying. The sheep slow down and now it's my turn. Out the door, onto the push bike and into the scrub, bringing the sheep back to the wool-shed. Only one problem: my bike's lost a wheel and Dad's driving off into that ocean seaweed of bush. But it's okay, we've got it sorted, Dad and me can do anything! Even make a bike ride and laugh under a blue sky.

I'm seventeen now and travelling fast in a Belmont ute on a long road of red gravel embedded in bitumen: me, Dad and my two brothers, squeezed across a bench seat in a January cooker for one hundred and sixty kilometres, between the red soil mulga block and the black soil saltbush block. Dad's quieter now. I try not to look into his eyes so much. But he's done pretty good, so far, I think. Like, mum's passing was tough, we all know that, and so was the drought: especially that one where he almost lost everything. I never really knew that; he didn't actually say that to me.

And right now, he's smiling and pointing at a puddle of mud and a green tinge of grass on the side of the road, and laughing at those wedge-tailed eagles at a piece of road-kill, walking awkwardly away to let us pass: as if we are simply a nuisance at their dinner table, which I suppose we are. And we hate and we love this trip—Dad and us like sardines—but it's on the way to becoming one of my forever and ever trips: the famous Byrock to Bre.

Time has passed again and I'm at a big old cathedral talking about Dad. The floodgates of grief are opening. The pall bearers are here. I'm walking out, and on the way, an awe-struck looking man with a weather-beaten face is taking me aside and speaking of Dad like he was the greatest priest he had ever met, like Dad—without even trying—had caused him to think that God loves him and that God is beautiful.