International Day of Happiness

 

I did not know this until today.  In 2012 the UN endorsed the 20th March as Happiness Day or International Day of Happiness.  Unknowingly, I had endorsed this principle in my own life but as a few minutes in every 24 hours.  I have spent years cultivating a mind framework that nourishes my spirit in a way that I find happiness every day in some form or another.  I’ve searched and finally found the right guidance and tools, for me, to achieve this.

I had never owned a camera until a few years ago.  I did not understand the technicalities of light, shutter speed, etc.  I still don’t.  Digital cameras have made taking a picture easier and I am still a novice.  What I did not need to learn, was already in me.  I am an instinctive and intuitive photographer.  And, there have been many, many moments that still bring joy to me.

Let me share with you a few.

I had finished work in Esperance and wanted to catch one last look at the surf at West Beach.  It was a gloomy, overcast day.  Weather is often changeable in Esperance.  Not to enjoy the fifty shades of blue in the waters in this area, can be a disappointment.  On this evening, cresting Twilight Beach Road, I saw the sun set beyond.  It was fleeting but a moment of pure magic.

I have learned not to be arrogant in my attempts to photograph grand landscapes.  Like the kind one finds up north in the Kimberley region.  The vast, immense land is humbling.  This is ancient land.  Sacred ground.  I did make a feeble attempt or two but now acknowledge my limitations as a photographer.  A return to the region will be to hone my skills.

I have discovered delight at my feet when walking the sands of Cable Beach in Broome and among the clear pools of the mangroves of Cygnet Bay, some 200 km north of Broome.  The carpet of French knot embroidery left behind in the sand by tiny crabs is worth discovering.  It is always a surprise because they appear magically.  Or not.  They remind me of my school days when mastering the intricacies of a French knot was a special achievement and once learnt, I found reason to embroider them repeatedly.  They are my favourite stitch to embroider.  Finding a boab tree in sand always make me smile.  They are a tree that I love (and more on them in another post).

I have also found delight in photographing seagulls.  I love their stance, their profile, their attitude.  They portray, perfectly, a line from the book ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’, “To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is, you must begin by knowing you have already arrived”.  Seagulls walk like they have arrived!  I’ve learned, over time, visualisation is powerful.  To think you are happy, makes being happy effortless.

My camera has taught me to appreciate the austere land of sheep country in the Midwest, as much as the brilliance of a sunset on Cable Beach, Broome.  The beauty of a passionfruit flower that morphs into a fruit, eagerly sought for its tangy sweetness, when shrivelled and beautiful no more.  It makes me an optimist.

When home I have found things that catch my eye in the garden.  The rainbow lorikeets visit every day.  The mulberry tree, when in fruit, is a favourite stop over for them.  At other times, they forage the new leaves off other trees.  Or the early morning sun light filtered through a leaf gives me new perspective.

With a house that has been under renovations for two years, frequent travel helps me cope with the chaos better than if I was living at home full time.  In the areas where the renovations have been completed, I still despaired.  Then, I discovered the art of declutter, the Japanese Kon Mari Method.  It has changed my life.  The philosophy is a simple one.  Keep what brings you joy.  I started using the method in the kitchen pantry first.  Months on, it is exactly as I organised it.  That is quite a feat in itself.  With young adults who come and go, this is even more remarkable.  I apply the Kon Mari Method to memories, too.  I keep what brings me joy.  It has created a treasure trove for happy hunting and worth foraging on days when the sunlight dims.

I make the effort to nurture friendships that are meaningful to me.  In these days of technology, this is not hard to do.  I have re-established contact with friends from my early primary school years.  Time has stood still for those friendships.  We laugh and talk with the ease like having played in the school yard yesterday.

I am nurturing to those who, I feel, need my understanding far beyond what I thought I was capable of.  Being genuinely empathic of their journey is the best part of me I can give them.  Their recovery to a happier state is an accompanied journey, and I am happy to be a fellow traveller with them.

Others have walked away from me with questions unanswered.  I have come to believe they are taking their own journey towards happiness when they did.

My faith is important to me.  It is an intrinsic part of my thinking and way of being.  I don’t preach it.  I am not skilled at it, so I practice it.  I live it.  It works for me.  Everyday.

On this day when we celebrate happiness, may you find, as the saying goes, happiness is not a destination, but a journey.  I am enjoying mine. And, happy travels to you, until we meet again.

As always,

a dawn bird

 

The Silvereye

 

I heard them long before I saw them.  They are noisy in the scrub that border the shores of Jurien Bay in the north to Esperance in the south east.  Curious I attempted to identify the source of the incessant tweet.  Once spotted, they were more difficult to photograph.  A sudden movement only signalled their departure.  Trying to get them in focus only to lose them again was frustrating.  They blend in beautifully with their surroundings and almost impossible to see.  Those of you who have tried to photograph tiny silvereye will know the patience and persistence needed to achieve the outcome.

The olive green silvereye found in the West is tiny.  As a species they are known to fly great distances yet weigh just 10 gm.  What they lack in weight, they make up in their uniqueness.  Their expressions are serious, almost comical.  Their feathers, coloration and claws are exquisite.  They have taught me to stop, look and listen while bush walking.  Beauty comes in smaller packages too amid the grandeur of landscape.

On a trip to Esperance earlier in the year, much to my surprise, I found one silvereye singing heartily in the open where the scrub had been destroyed by a bushfire.  Alone, the vulnerability of her exposure did not dampen her early morning spirit.  The song remained the same.

And, so it is with people too.  The song remains the same.

As always,

a dawn bird

 

Narratives

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The tradition of narrative goes back thousands of years.  People have told the story of their times in art, symbols and in words.

‘Architectural’, ‘organic’ are buzzwords that describe shape, and are appropriate descriptions of this sea artwork too. For me, this art of nature is also a book.  With embedded shells and barnacles, on every inch is etched a story from long ago.  It has been a silent witness to the ebb and flow of tides and the ferocity of tropical storms that come and go, but for how long, is something I do not know. It lies on the beach, offering a seat to the sea, shorebirds and people. It is beautiful. It is immoveable. It is tactile. It is a tangible reminder of life, in its many forms. I visit this rock every time I visit Cable Beach, Broome. It has never looked as beautiful as it was the first time I saw it, yet my pulse quickens and my gaze softens every time I cast my eyes on it.  If you have ever fallen in love, you would know this feeling.

A pilgrimage here is a must for me whenever I visit Broome.  It is a point of reference. I have experienced child-like joy on this beach. I have experienced renewal.  Trust.  Friendship.  Disappointment. Uncertainty.  Some visits also made me incredibly pensive. But, without exception, my visits cemented my resolve to be more human.

I have photographed this platform many, many times, erroneously thinking, it is going to give me more than it already does. It is an old friend sharing its wisdom, without judgment. It encourages me to stop and think. Time, like life, is precious, and, also like love, it is infinite. The only parameters placed on both, are the ones we impose, usually through fear and sometimes, memory. When I look at this rock structure, defined it may be in shape, but it has no parameters. It is open to all experiences. The very essence of this makes it vulnerable to the elements.  Yet, it also has a strength that draws me to it repeatedly.  I am drawn to people like this too.  Vulnerable people who, in my eyes, are also strong.  Some would describe me in the same way.

After some intense searching, I found the format for living and, some years ago, I chose to live life this way.  Open to new experiences, receptive to challenges, vulnerable.  It was my definition of living life on my terms.  Conventional it may not be for some, but it is my choice to do it my way.  I have few ties but they are secure.  They anchor me when the wind gusts are strong. At other times, I float freely with a gentle tug every now and then that reminds me I am tethered, if I need to be.

I’m determined to find time in my schedule to visit this rock some time soon. And, when I do, I’ll leave some part of my life story with it, too.

Until then,

As always,

a dawn bird

 

The Pacific Gull

 

As part of my self-care I look for things to nourish my spirit every day.  In Esperance, this is not difficult to do.  A few steps, across the road from my hotel, I stop at a secluded area along the shoreline where the seagulls and Pacific Gulls were waking.  On approach I’m surprised to see how big the latter birds are, in comparison to the sleek silver seagulls.

With me for an audience one Gull saunters off into the Bay with an easy step.  Delight wreaths my face with a smile but there’s more to come.  One backward glance at me and it’s cue show time.

He swims out and turns around to face me.  He flicks his wings and shakes them.  I have seen this movement before in athletes.  I take a deep breath with him before he dives.  A perfect dive.  Without a camera, I am sure I would have clapped spontaneously.  He emerges, and I’m prepared to place money on it, he is smiling ‘ta da’, with a mollusc in his big, beautiful beak.  He carries it to shore, like an offering, drops it on the sand, a few feet away from me.  He takes one peck and he’s off for more.  Comfortable in my presence, he is now showing off as he returns to Esperance Bay repeatedly.  I am enthralled.  I have spent hours on the beaches that edge this big State of Western Australia photographing seagulls, but have never observed this behaviour before.

A shared moment, now shared with you.

As always,

a dawn bird

Lake Warden, Esperance, Western Australia

 

I hear the first birdsong at 5.29, half an hour after I wake.  I dress in the dark only to find a chill in the air outdoors and no warmth in my suitcase.  Autumn has arrived in Esperance, unlike Perth, where it is sweltering.  Undeterred, I drive off under a sullen sky to Lake Warden.  Pink Lake is pink no more but Lake Warden is slowly changing hue instead.  Depending on who you ask, it is either due to a specific algae or it is a bacterium.  The depth of colour is unpredictable, sometimes more vivid from the air, but muddy at ground level.  Expecting the unexpected is a gamble I take whenever I visit.

At Lake Warden I seek out the banksia grove and scrub land knowing they are teeming with native birds.  But, finding a spectacular daybreak is an unexpected find.

Nowhere to be seen, I can hear tiny birds but they are maddeningly elusive.  So I aim my camera at the three magpies atop a banksia tree, singing.  The Three Tenors of the trees.  The red wattlebirds sing out loud, giving it everything they’ve got, their bodies tensed into an arched bow.  The beautiful black, white and yellow New Holland honeyeaters erupt vertically from the tops of the trees, like fireworks.  There are other birdsongs too.  I will take my time getting to know them over the next few visits.

As I drive down the road I catch a glimpse of something moving alongside my car.  It is a kestrel, engaged in a slow dance with a sudden gust of wind.  It bobs down slowly, soars vertically, flaps his wings for a few seconds while stationary, and then descends, floating alongside me.  I follow it to a tree, long dead but still there, like a memory.  My camera lens finds the lake shimmering under a spotlight where the sun has pierced soft spots.  Through the sieved clouds I see spills of sunlight in pink, lavender, silver, blue and white on a mirror lake.  I sit there quietly, mesmerized, a captive of the kestrel, the sunrise and the Lake.

My alarm goes off.  The kestrel hears it too.  It’s time to leave.  Reluctantly, I do too.   But not before a final picture of the sun rising high above the Lake, setting aglow everything in its path.

This was a magic carpet ride at dawn at Lake Warden, in the south east of Western Australia.

Hope there was enough space for you to climb aboard too.

As always,

a dawn bird

 

 

Esperance

 

I’m leaving home today and do so with great anticipation.  I’m off to Esperance again.  The word Esperance, roughly translated from French means hope, or a positive expectation.  In a busy month, these trips are just that.  The thought of a visit to this part of the world anchors me amid the disruption of frequent travel.

I love visiting this little town of some 10,000 people who enjoy a magnificent coastline.  It is a country of farmlands and fishing.  A place where locals enjoy their home by early morning walks along The Esplanade, surfing the waters of West Beach with dolphins, or walking their Shetland ponies in bushland.  Proud of their lifestyle, they share their home generously, too, with others.  But it takes a while to be considered local.  I’m told, the minimum is 25 years.  Every time I leave town, I leave with a firmer resolve to make an attempt to qualify.

My visits run to a routine.  I arrive after a bumpy flight on a small plane and land at one of the windiest airports in the Southern Hemisphere.  The airport is small and isolated.  The drive to town is about 22 km along roads that run parallel to farmlands.  At night, with only headlights to navigate the dark, I am even more cautious of encountering a kangaroo or fox.  After a busy work schedule, I find time at dawn and at dusk to visit the beach or bush, to unwind with my camera.  It is not a perk.  It is an absolute must for self-care.  My work is emotionally demanding.  Self-care is a new concept to me but one I embrace wholeheartedly.  I don’t need to do much in this town to nurture my spirit.  It is that kind of town.  Coming over a crest, I am overcome with awe at my first glimpse of West Beach.  Every time.  The drive along Twilight Beach Road quickens my pulse.  It is nothing short of breathtaking.  Turning away from the blues of the ocean is never an easy task, but made easier by birds or small animals in the scrub.  Early one morning I found the cutest tiny black and white rabbits at Observatory Point.  Startled by my presence, they were too quick to photograph.  But, now I know they are there, the challenge is on!

Like a relationship, I am getting to know each aspect of this town slowly, and delight in what I find.  It has everything that makes my heart sing.  Spectacular coastline, and wildlife.  It has the best of beach and bush.  It is a place where grandeur is not only framed on a large scale, it is also in miniature frames.  Birdlife is everywhere – on water, in the air, in the bushland.  I have learnt to be cautious about snakes.  Watching dolphins enjoy their swim with surfers at West Beach is a must see.  Not just for the spectacle but for the joy in people’s faces as they observe the interaction.  I am convinced the dolphins delight in their company as much as the surfers.  I have yet to see whales frolic in the bays but hear they visit frequently during migration.  The banksia cones are gorgeous and I never tire photographing them.  My love for this town is obvious but will be even more so in the coming months when I post a series of photographs.

Just over 700 km southeast of Perth, the world is as it should be.  Beautiful.  Inviting.  Welcoming.  Peaceful.  Rugged.  Untouched.  I am a visitor to this world.

As visitor I am respectful of the environment as it is home to the locals.  Which leaves me with a thought.  We are all visitors to Planet Earth.  If we considered the planet in the same way, that is, it is home to us and the home of other people, would our attitudes change?  Would we live mindfully?  Would we live differently?

I’ll leave you with this thought until I return …

As always

a dawn bird

 

 

Billabong

 

I love saying the word billabong.  It bounces and rolls in my mouth like a hard boiled lolly.  A billabong is a pond, a stagnant body of water left behind when a river or creek deviates away.  Some call it a ‘dead river’.  A misnomer!  There is nothing further from the truth.

Banjo Paterson in his poem, Waltzing Matilda, evoking imagery with simplicity wrote, “Once a jolly swagman, sat by the billabong, under the shade of a Coolibah tree …”, and forever associated the solitary traveller in Australia, with a billabong.  So, it is not surprising when I travel, my eyes scan the landscape for one.  I know there will be some other creature seeking life there too.  Billabongs are not always in the outback.  They are along highways too.  Wildlife there is different.  More often, I see a solitary white heron, stretching its neck elegantly to posture.  But, it was rare for me on one trip to find a billabong that so epitomises the spirit of a country I call home.

On the outskirts of Derby, Western Australia, near a place of historical importance (which I will write about later), it was a delight to find this billabong at dusk.  Wallabies, raptors, water birds and the magnificent brolgas ended their day quietly while the black cockatoo, with the splendid red tail feather, broke the silence occasionally with a loud squawk.  It was a surreal moment often seen in the paintings of Australian masters.

About 2300 km south of the billabong, along the coast, I woke to a similar surreal moment this morning.  Once shadows broke free from the darkness of an autumn morning, the magpies sang in chorus.  The tiny Willy Wagtail, not to be outdone, chirped along with its familiar sweet tweet.  The kookaburras, reluctant to share, kept their call rolling deep within them, never shattering the morning silence with their distinctive laughter.

And, once again, I am observer.

I am, as always,

a dawn bird