The Return

The wetlands down the road are alive and teeming with life.  Like a ship in harbour, the beautiful black swans honk loudly to announce their arrival.  The wood ducks are an exquisite still life.  The Pacific black ducks are playful, skimming the water and skidding to a halt.  The ibis group together and add a white smudge to the gold and verdant landscape.  The solitary spoonbill is yet to arrive.  The corellas, dozens of them, watch with the disdain of those who do not appreciate adventure.  They fly from gum tree to gum tree in noisy groups.  The white heron and little pied cormorant have overstayed their welcome at the pond across the lake.  They are continually harassed by the crows to move on.  Yesterday, I watched the heron fly, landing precariously, on the poinciana trees that circle the pond.  At one point it alighted just above me.  The little pied cormorant and white heron are standing their ground but they will return to the lake, eventually.  This I know to be true.  Nature likes order.

My son’s engagement party was the fun event he and his fiancée hoped it would be.  It was easier for me to spend the night at my daughter’s home, than come home to an empty house.  I woke early, as usual, and wandered around.  She and her partner have turned their house into a home.  Her tell tale touches are everywhere.  An avid sports and comic books fan, so are his.  They have managed a perfect blend of ying and yang.  She and I had breakfast together and then shopped for a short time before she brought me home.  She introduced me to the tea shop where she buys her blends.  She no longer drinks coffee but enjoys teas and kombucha.  As designated driver, I noticed she nursed a glass of chilled water all night at the party.  She says has survived her teens and twenties and is of the firm belief, all roads have led her to be the person she now is.  Her laughter is sudden and as joyous as a peal of bells.  Little does she know, she has returned home to us, curious, adventurous, fun loving.  She has returned to be the child she always was.

The events of this week made me realise, time is precious.  Like sand in the hour glass, there is an urgent momentum that comes towards the end.  I have been reluctant to share my photograph with people for many reasons.  But, on the night of the party, impulsively, I took a photograph of myself and shared it with family and friends I have not seen in over 30 years.  Their comments have been interesting to read.  The long hair of my youth was cropped in the 1980s when life had more priority than blow drying my hair.  The slender frame expanded to give my children their first home.  Growing up in the deflected light of my beautiful mother and well loved and popular sister, I now have found my own place under the sun.  I have a voice.  I have a profession that fulfils me.  I have worked hard to be the person I have always wanted to be.  In doing so, I have returned, like my daughter, to the child I was.  Imaginative, creative, quiet, thoughtful, reflective, contented, but always knowing the process of being who one wants to be, is fluid.  It is a work in progress.  Unfortunately, I have family who misinterpret this as discontent and view the chrysalis with the disdain of the corellas.

If eyes are the windows of the soul, may those who meet me, like what they see.

Have a great weekend and until next time,

As always,

a dawn bird

Quality of Life

There is some truth in the old saying, take time to smell the roses.  It’s about quality of life.  Subjective it may be, but necessary.

As a single mother I had a demanding job while being a mother to two little children, and studying part time.  The only time I had to study was in the early hours of the morning between 4 am and 7 am.  I had four weeks paid holidays a year.  Every day of those holidays went into studying for exams or writing up a major assignment.  I learnt in those early days it was necessary to centre myself.  If I didn’t, the welfare of children was at stake.  It was a steep learning curve.  In hindsight, I made mistakes along the way.  My children have been quick to erase them with their resilience and good humour.  Challenging it may have been, but my journey with the children in those early years seems to have been too short.

The last few days have been grey with steady drizzle.  The roses are ready to shed their petals.  There is a fragility to them.  A drop of rain seems to weigh them down.  They reflect how I feel.

It is my son’s engagement party tonight.  I can’t help but feel emotional.  He proposed to his fiancee several months ago.  She is a jewellery maker.  He, on the other hand, knows nothing about jewellery.  So naturally he asked me what kind of ring he should buy.  I told him, the best he could afford.  He gave her a platinum and emerald cut diamond ring.  He used some of his savings.  He did not want to start a new life in debt.  He proposed to her on an empty stage.  Unknown to her, there were about 60 friends and family in the darkened theatre.  He wanted every one of us to be there to share in the moment.  Public it may have been, but what he said to her remains private between the two of them.  It was his moment of quality.

My children are with good people.  Each of them have found someone compatible.  Someone they can share life with.  Someone with similar values.  Someone who loves them.  It almost feels selfish to ask for more.

As busy people and my frequent travel, we meet as a family over dinner every few weeks.  Sometimes, longer.  Yet, when we do, the atmosphere is happy and loud.  They share their lives with each other with enthusiasm.  These are quality moments and they actively seek them out.  My son once promised me, quite spontaneously, should anything happen to me, he would ensure the tradition of these dinners would continue.  Far from feeling affronted by his candour, I was elated.

My son’s promise is like the recent rain.  Unexpected.  Enlivening a tired garden, where beautiful things will continue to grow.

If nothing else, I hope I have taught my children of the value of quality over quantity.  Judging from the choices they are making in their life, perhaps, I have.

Until next time …

As always,

a dawn bird

Sometimes, a girl has to shine …


I feel I am the only woman on earth who hates shopping.  I should clarify that.  It is shopping for clothes in the city that I hate.  Time is precious to me.  Traffic, parking, browsing around shops I consider is an absolute waste of time.  Although, I do enjoy shopping in kitchenware and stationery stores.  Put me in a gourmet shop and I’ll happily zone out for hours.  I can do the same in an antiques shop.

I have spent the last few days avoiding the inevitable.  I have a significant family event on the weekend.  Buying a new outfit has been studiously avoided and almost last on the priority list.  I am running out of time so I have allocated two hours to this today.

Shopping for clothes regionally is fun.  I have got to know shop owners and they greet me by name when I walk in.  They know I’m going to buy something.  There is no overload of tonnes of synthetic clothing made overseas in mass production with a price tag of hundreds.  It is regionally where I find the fabrics I love.  For years I have worn only merino wool, cashmere, cotton, silk, linen and bamboo.  Natural fabrics that breathe.  They feel good against the skin.  And, you can find them more easily regionally where shops have a small selection to browse plus the bonus of a chat and a warm smile.  It is trade done the old fashioned way.  Somewhat like the shop in The Waltons.

Over the last year, my style of dressing has evolved after my son made an interesting observation.  He said I dressed as if I don’t want people to know I’m there.  In part what he observed is true.  Working with people who experience sensory overload I prefer not to wear bright colours, jewellery, make up or perfume.  It is distracting for them and sometimes, even distressing.  So wearing clothes for work that are muted and non-descript has become the norm.

I took my son’s observations on board and, true to my profession, decided to experiment because there are windows of opportunity to dress differently.  Now when I travel, I wear clothes in orange, turquoise, emerald green, yellow, and pink.  I wear sandals that sparkle with bling.  I make a statement. I am alive.  I am here.  It is an interesting experiment.  I’ve found more people chat socially with me at airports.  Cabin crew have asked me where I buy my pashminas.  And, the security ladies comment on my pendants or sandals!  I once got stopped at an airport where the security lady casually commented she had the same style of trousers as I was wearing.  Then she quietly asked me where I bought them because she liked the colour!  I am visible again!

I’ve come to realize, like the plain, ordinary seagull, there are times when a girl needs to shine.

So … I’m off to find something that sparkles on a cold, blustery Perth day.  I am a focused shopper.  I intend to find it in the allocated two hours.

Until next time,

As always

a dawn bird





On the beach my eye searches for simplicity.  The lone shell among thousands.  A footprint amid a stampede.  It helps me focus.

My aim was to do the same this week.  With an unrelenting schedule of catch up at home for the next few days, the only way out was to create a list of priorities.  It soon became a pleasure in itself to do so.  With time quarantined for each task, I have de-cluttered the work schedule and worked through steadily.

Emails are answered within a time frame.  Reports are being completed by priority.  Phone calls are being fielded within a set time.  Bills are being paid during the time allocated to them.  It is an effective way to work.  It is less stressful as well.

I would regard working hard as one of my strengths.  If it needs doing, I’ll do it.  Finding a rhythm, as old as the sea, has not been easy.  But, I’m getting there …

May your week be productive and joyful.

May you too seek simplicity, and, importantly …. find it.

As always

a dawn bird


The Peaceful Dove


I was a little girl when I first met him.  He was my uncle by marriage.  He was new in town and met my father first.  On a train, I believe.  He was tired of a single life and wanted to settle down.  My father told him he would introduce him to someone and whipped out a photograph of five young women.  U/E pointed out to one and said “I’d like to meet her!”  My father reassured him he would introduce them later that night, because, “that’s my wife!”  U/Ed eventually married my mother’s younger sister.  Devout and quiet, it was always thought she would become a nun.  But, she married a man who was larger than life and loved every inch of it.

A Major in the Army, U/Ed and my aunt went on to have three children in quick succession.  It was the Indo-China War of the 1960s when he left them behind, the last one being an infant in arms.  His helicopter was shot down and he was the lone survivor.  He was lying in snow for several days, waiting for help.  He died just when it was within sight.  He was in his thirties.  I remember my mother wailing when we heard he was missing in action.  The news of his death a few days later made her almost catatonic with grief.  It was a time of confusion for little children.

He died a week before President Kennedy.  Like the world, my mother spun out of control.  But, my aunt, the recent widow, had the strength and grace to write a letter of condolence to Kennedy’s widow.  She received a letter from the White House which she framed and hung on the wall, near the picture of the young husband she just lost.  His absence in her life is still evident.  A great-grandmother now, she only wears colours that symbolise mourning, white, black and blue.  She prays for peace.

Before I married, I lived for many years with a Polish widow who went through the horrors of World War II.  A young mother of three, she finally migrated to Australia in the 1950s via the Siberian concentration camps, with her surviving child.  Her husband never returned home from a trip to town.  Crammed into a cattle wagon, she had to leave her father on a railway station because the authorities considered him too old to work.  She lost a young brother in the skies above Poland.  Her two youngest children died of typhus.  She never danced the polka again.  I know this because she would share stories with me about the woman she was.  She died some years ago.  She is at peace.  But I know, she, too, prayed for peace.

Other than cowering in the dark during the Indo-China War, my experience of war is removed.  Yet, it has left an indelible mark on me.  ‘Warriors’ in the name of any religion make me wary.   They make me pray for peace.

I believe in a world of peace.  I also believe, it comes from within.  I have come to learn, those left behind, believe it too.

Peace and love, from …

a dawn bird



Today is ANZAC Day.  A day of remembrance.  A day to honour those who served their country so others may live in peace.

The bugle has called this morning, in cities and small regional country towns.  The local cenotaph is the landmark where people would have met to mourn their incalculable loss and honour the fallen.

War touches us in many ways.  And, when it does, it is indelible.

There are many symbols in the world today.  Some invoke fear.  But the fragile poppy is poignant.  It symbolises remembrance and hope.  Neither can be underestimated today.

We live in a different world now.  We live with pictures and words.  And, they can be powerful.

The reach of war is shorter.  It is no longer about borders.  It is about ideology.  And, therein lies hope.

If we think differently, we act differently and if we act differently, we are different people.

It is within us to be the change the world needs.

Lest we forget, they died so we may live in peace.

Until next time …

As always,

a dawn bird

I woke to a garden of roses …

I woke to a garden of roses.  Refreshed from recent rain, there is a final flash of colour before the grey of winter sets in.  I spent some time photographing the roses.  There are hundreds in the front garden.  I thought these pictures were the best.  I don’t feel deserving of them.  I rarely take care of them, but they are forgiving, and bloom relentlessly.

I am on a mission to seek a level of perfection.  Not perfectionism.  But perfection.  The kind that gives me contentment and peace.  In nature it comes from order.  I am trying to mirror the same.

I spent most of the morning de-cluttering the home.  It is more spacious with a new energy now.  There is a certain satisfaction that comes from getting rid of things, and sometimes, feelings, too.

I recall as a young child when I lost a school book, my father would say, “If there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place, you would not lose anything”.  He was so right.  I’m combining his thinking with the ‘Kon Mari’ method for de-cluttering.   The results are astounding.  I started with my pantry.  It is exactly as I arranged it some months ago.  Soon my whole home will be the way I want it.

It can’t happen too soon!

Have a wonderful weekend!

As always

a dawn bird







I recall, my mother, like mothers do, gave a lot of advice to her children.  The one piece of advice I am getting more practiced at, is a simple one.  When I left home she said, “You will have friends but take time to know who your well wishers are.” It takes a special skill to do this and acquiring it does not come easy to those who value honesty underpins all relationships, be it family, friendship or business.  Business is easy to define.  But how do we define family and friendship?

I recently noticed someone on social media had nearly two thousand friends.  Why?  Does a click of a button define friendship?  Blood and longevity are unreliable measures.  A more reliable one is a sense of emotional safety.  I know I have been drawn to others because I have felt safe with them.  Their age, physical appearance, poor health or contrariness, their standing in life, does not matter because I value their company.  It is that simple for me. So my social network is a small one.  It is the way I like it.

There is one friend who means a lot to me.  We met in 1978 when she was my supervisor.  She turns 81 this week.  Her voice is exactly the same as it was when I first met her.  She has been my confidante, my friend, my mother, my sister, my therapist, my noisiest cheerleader.  She is my emotional touchstone.  I have not seen her in years but we talk by phone and our friendship is nurtured by these moments.  I still keep in touch with other friends I worked with in the late 1970s.  We may not meet often because life gets in the way, but we share a warmth that can only be generated by common memories.  We always wish well for each other.  I am due to have dinner with two other friends this week.  I haven’t seen them for a while.  The anticipation floods me with warmth.  I am looking forward to some good old fashioned catch up.

I have other people in my life who set off a silent alarm in me.  I have no words for why this happens.  The discomfort of wariness is a good indicator when I let my guard down.  There have been times when I have shared my good news with them and have received nothing but a negative slant on every aspect of the event.  During times of anxiety they have fostered more, through silence.  I recall another friend who visited my first new home.  It was during the early 1980s when single women found it difficult to get a home loan.  I was thrilled with my achievement of being an owner of a custom built home.  She walked around without a word and then stated the hook for the dishcloth was in the wrong place in the kitchen.  I never invited her to my home again.  As Maya Angelou said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

At times of unease I turn to another friend who calls it the way it is.  He says what I need to say but find it difficult to articulate.  He gives me the vocabulary for the feeling.  It helps me process and sift the wheat from the chaff.

These are not all my friends.  I do have more!  But, for now, they help me tell my story.

So it is not surprising I am guided by the philosophy, life is always about quality not quantity.  Friendship is as fragile, and as beautiful, as a leaf suspended in space.  Whether or not someone enhances my experience of life, is an important determinant for me.  It is the gate that allows it to open again or remain firmly closed.  I have a simple explanation for this.

At my age, the journey has shortened.  Nearly at summit, I travel light.  For the rest of my journey, I am only willing to accept fellow travellers who encourage me to take the next step safely and steady me when it falters.  It is how I define being emotionally safe with others.  It is in the voice of those who gently but firmly guide you away from exploitative situations saying, “tomorrow will be a better day” and you believe them.  Importantly, they believe it too.

They are special people.  They do not define their relationship with you by being there prominently when you crumble.  They define it by noticing the cracks and leading you away discreetly before the world implodes around you. They show they value you and your emotional safety.

They are not always family.  Not always friends.  They are what my mother would call, well-wishers.

Until next time,

As always,

a dawn bird

Letter to Julia

I bought the house, your home, not long ago.  I viewed it with a critical eye.  Well built, with renovations I planned to make it contemporary.  I am familiar with the trends of the real estate market.  My plan was to get off at the next high.  I made a list as I walked around the property for the first time.  Was that an ornamental fruit tree?  Useless!  It had to go.  That straggly tall bush was tagged for mulching, so also the trees with a footpath that led to nowhere.  In its place would be a garden with formal lines.  French Provincial was the template, to reflect the plan indoors.  Box hedges would divide spaces neatly.  Topiary plants would stand tall in stone pots like sentinels.  A wooden deck, outdoor kitchen and swimming pool would replace the area where unwanted foliage once grew.  The list completed, I stamped the plans “Mine”!

Before the ink dried, the ornamental tree glowed with exquisite lanterns and soon rained mulberries on the cherubs.  The green trees turned white and laid down a carpet of jasmine.  The straggly tall bush, the Crepe Myrtle, morphed into a Vegas showgirl with plumes of bright pink.  A star!  Her appearance on centre stage is brief.  The roses, after their climb, sagged with delight.  The blue plumbago behind the shed bloomed incessantly, saying seasons be damned!  The honeysuckle vine crept along the perimeter protectively and one day, while in its perfumed embrace, the afternoon sea breeze whispered, “Yes, all yours” and I was humbled.

Single and an empty nester, you sold it.  Single and an empty nester, I bought it.  Your house is slowly becoming my home.  I am yet to unpack, so the rooms are still empty of furniture but overflow with potential.  There are rooms earmarked with hope, creativity, largesse, hospitality, laughter and, dare I say, one with an impossible dream.  The study is over crowded and where reality takes up most space.  It is also a room that gives me a beautiful glimpse of your vision.  It overlooks the roses.

I no longer want a formal garden with lines drawn with clinical precision.  I want one that reflects life … joyful, unpredictable, adaptable, forgiving of trial and error.  I want asymmetry.  I want incongruity.  I think I am achieving this.  It is now my ragtag garden where a Cape Gooseberry bush grows wild.  A few statues delight the eye.  I found the statue in Kalgoorlie.  She is ‘Waiting for Jasmine’.  The chilled cherubs give me pause to stop and reflect.  The path to nowhere is now well worn.  Autumn is colourful.  Spring appears in the air first.

I am getting to know the garden you left behind through the seasons.  Each time I return from my trips, I walk around and look for a surprise.  I am never disappointed.

It is Earth Day today.  It is only fitting I acknowledge your spirit in my garden.  I am a realistic.  I cannot save the planet.  But, I have realised by nurturing your vision, I am contributing in a small way.  The garden has become my sanctuary, shared with the rainbow lorikeets and other garden visitors.

The garden you planted brings joy to my friends across the world too.  It is no longer your place, nor mine.  It is communal.  It is ours.  It reflects the message of today.  This is Earth, Our Planet.

My son has a favourite tee shirt with a slogan that says, ‘Look after the planet.  It’s where I keep all my stuff’.  The garden you have left behind is where I leave mine.  I now travel lighter.

Through your vision, you left behind the unsolicited gifts of anticipation and optimism.  It came from your gardener heart.  They now nestle in mine.

As always,

a dawn bird







An oasis is a place in the desert that has water and is fertile.  The rigid foam that secure flowers in an arrangement is also called an oasis.  So is that quiet place in one’s mind that is fertile, and anchors one’s spirit.  Ordinarily none of these would describe the place I am headed to.  But, I admit to being proved wrong.

I am going to mining country again.  Checking the temperature is part of preparation.  It promises to be 400 C on both days, 20 degrees higher than home.  Karratha is approximately 1500 km north of Perth.  The hotel, some two years old, seems to have been developed at the end of the mining boom.  It is located a short distance from the centre of town and is surrounded by rugged outcrops of rocks and spinifex.

After sleeping well I find, the sun is two hours away, so I get some work done and then wait for it with a coffee.  At first light I step outside my chilled room.  Waking to frangipanis and warmth is a delicious feeling.  Inside the perimeter of the hotel is an oasis.  The frangipanis and yellow trumpet flowers catch the sun, as they do my eye.  The ixora, in pink, white, orange and red are planted generously around the property, interspersed with delicate coral bush, now in flower.

The birds arrive around 7 am.  They must know when the garden has been watered.  They fly between boughs of leaves and bathe in the droplets caused by movement.  The smaller white plumed honeyeaters are feeding without much noise, until I open my door.  My presence agitates them.  They protest, but remain focused on their routine.  So do the brown honey eaters.  Slightly larger they are unable to balance on the delicate coral bush, so they feed off the flowers that lie on the gravel, weighted down from moisture.  Soon a flock of tiny zebra finch arrive.  They swarm and cluster on the lawn in groups of 10-30.  Almost comical, their birdcall sounds like a vintage doll.  The kind you tip over and it wails.

Once done, the birds chase each other incessantly.  Their playfulness is joyous.  They delight in brief encounters.  As do I when a honeyeater, with a yolk yellow head lands on the light in front of me.  Then bigger honeyeaters arrive.  Their beaks are longer and sharper.  Their profile is predatory.  I know people like this and like the birds, I have learnt to keep them at a distance.

The work day has its challenges, mostly from heat and constant air conditioning.  A drive to the local jetty is a welcomed break.  Icky mud skippers carpet the shore.  A sea eagle watches from vantage point.  They are an unattractive meal option even to him.  Foraging at the shore, a small wader goes about life as known to it.  The landscape around the jetty is stark and natural.  It is as much an oasis as the garden I’ve come to love.

My return home is a relief from heat.  The sun is setting to my right.  Fiery bright, it mellows with time.  Melting into the horizon it leaves a horizontal rainbow of indigo, blue, yellow, persimmon and black.

My job involves being observant.  Sometimes, I take in more than I say.  I have developed a sense, too, about people.  It is a feeling that has no vocabulary.  Observing without judgment is an acquired skill.  There is an natural quality to this type of observation.  I did not attend university to learn this.  I did it as a child.

Until next time, as always

a dawn bird



In gold country

Kalgoorlie-Boulder is about 600 km east-northeast of Perth.  The flight is short.  No more than an hour, often less.  The delays to get in the air, usually longer.

I rush to Perth Airport only to find the check in machines were not working properly.  There was just one frazzled staff member to manage over 100 passengers.  But we boarded on time.

I had an aisle seat in the last row.  The passenger next to me was morbidly obese for his young age.  He sat, tense, with arms gathering his girth away from my seat.  I sensed the sympathetic looks from other passengers as they walked towards me.  The engines start whining.  Ten minutes later we are exactly where we were.  The pilot reports there’s a problem with a light and they need an engineer to check it out.  We sit in a hot plane on the tarmac for 51 minutes, the flight itself is 55.  As we take off the young man relaxes.  Soon we are joined at the shoulder, arm, hip and thigh.

I am always fully booked when working regionally.  My appointments run back to back.  I cherish my lunch hour.  My colleagues have grown accustomed to my need for ‘alone time’.  They know I’m out with my camera.  It centres me mid day and gives me the mental energy I need for the rest of the afternoon.

From a visitor’s perspective there is not much to do in Kalgoorlie.  It is a testosterone filled town of miners.  They are big and burly.  At least, most of them.  They are also family men, working hard for their living.  The town is built alongside the gargantuan maw of the gold open pit mine.  The logic of this escapes me.  The people work hard here.  And, they play hard too.

I believe there must be more bars here than anywhere else I have been in mining country.  In the main part of town they are placed at the four corners of an intersection.  You can stumble out of one bar, cross the road and quench that insatiable thirst at another.  From my observations, people rarely do this.  They favour certain bars.  Or, perhaps the ‘skimpy girls’, whose presence is written in chalk on a blackboard placed strategically on the pavement.  The names, always exotic, change frequently.  I hear some miners sit at the airport bar late Friday to check if their favourite girl has arrived in town that week.  It is the charm of this place, as much as it is not.

But, I love the architecture of this town.  Established in the late 1800s during the gold rush, many of the buildings still have the structure of those days.  The streets are wide.  There is a sense of the Wild, Wild, West.  And, of course, being Australia, there are gum trees and bird life.  The birds are difficult to photograph so I often spend my lunch break in an arboretum and photograph the gum blossoms.  Some species of gum trees are straggly and ordinary with huge branches that hang like hair extensions.  But, close up, the gum nuts, the leaves, the blossoms, are exquisite.

It has taken me all my life to realise this.  I have been looking in the wrong places for gold.  In this town, it grows on trees.

I’m off again north … until next time,

As always,

a dawn bird


The Observer

I was disappointed to leave Perth in a bigger plane.  We flew higher and faster.  I missed seeing the sun set over the ocean.  I arrived in Geraldton just after.  The mottled sky promised rain.

Next day I woke to thunder rolling in an arc above me.  Vibrations travel the length of my spine.  A flash of blinding light is the pinprick to the cloud balloon.  At predawn I stay in bed listening to Nature’s rhythm and fine tune mine for the day.

The ‘city’ precinct is edged by the sea, and today it is grey as the sky above it.  Warm, light rain beats down steadily.  After an hour of report writing, I’m restless and yearn to be outdoors.  The only protected area is the small covered strip outside the hotel room. I hear the first birdsong at 6:19 am.  The magpie lark calls with an insistence so I follow it outside.  Synthetic lawn (an abhorrence!) cushions my footsteps.  The yellow-faced honeyeater, similar to what I saw in Karratha, stops long enough to confirm it is exquisite but swift in flight.  My pics are blurry, but you get the idea.

When my day ends I take a short break at Bluff Point where the Chapman River meets Champion Bay.  A pelican lands on a tree stump with the grace and precision of an airliner.  It grooms itself with agility.  A final stretch completes the vanity.  To my right a giant white heron lands, just as gracefully.  It extends until taut.  Now poised and elegant, with astonishing speed, it plunges into the water on the opposite side of where it was looking.  It certainly fooled me, and, no doubt the fish it pulled out of the river.  It walks the edge of the river bank for a while beguiling me with its unadorned beauty.  I find these moments in nature therapeutic.  I don’t just see them.  I experience them.

My childhood home had a garden once.  The gardener tended to the lawn and flowers while squatting.  I remember his once bright coloured turban, wrapped tight with a loose flap hanging over his shoulder.  He wore his simple clothing with an air of dignity.  He painted half bricks, dipping them in white wash and edged the flower-beds for symmetry.  He was proud of his handiwork.  But, fearing snakes, my mother had the lawn and gardens removed when my brother was a toddler.  They were replaced with a cement platform.  The gardener lost his job.  A few fruit trees provided some green to the starkness.  I can still remember the smell of the leaves of the custard apple tree as vividly as I remember the feel of cold, sanitized cement under my feet.

I was a child with imagination.  Fairies and goblins lived at the foot of the garden.  The mother fairies rested in hammocks of lace, while baby fairies smiled in their sleep nearby.  Fathers held on to dragonflies, releasing them when young ones with sparkle in their wings climbed aboard, grandmothers walked in measured steps, their wings fluttered in slow motion, while grandfathers snoozed, neatly folded in half.  After the cement was poured, the fairies left.  Years later Joni Mitchell sang, “they paved paradise …” about my front yard.

Having lost the garden, one of my favourite things to do was to climb the guava tree over the water tank.  Sometimes, I read my Enid Blyton books up there.  At other times, I lay stomach down on a sprawling branch, limbs hanging limp and pretended I was a leopard.  I watched the home help scrub with coconut husks and ash the brass water vessels that shone like gold from the effort.  The women gossiped and laughed with ease while precious water trickled to just under the rim.   They helped lift the vessels on each other’s heads and swayed home in careful steps, from the weight of it.  I climbed down the tree into teen years.  They were less joyous.

As a child I was an observer.  My eye perceived beauty in ordinary experiences.

Some things never change.  So, I remain …

As always,

a dawn bird



Remains of the Day

I woke to sadness this week.  The realisation I would have been celebrating 30 years of marriage, hung over me like the grey sky.  I lay in bed briefly thinking about this and then drew the blinds open.  To find a broken white picket fence outside my hotel room was intensely symbolic.  The irony!  I had to share the moment with a friend.

I cannot remember the date of my divorce.  I should have processed the events of that time but chose not to.  Survival had the higher priority.  I recall not telling anyone about my marriage breakup until 18 months later when my boss wanted me to go interstate for a week’s training and I had to decline.  He was stunned he had not picked up on any distress.  He asked me a simple question, “Why didn’t you tell me?”  I realised in that moment, because had I disclosed it in words, my situation would be reality.  And, the reality was horrendous and continued to be for many years.

I have had to work hard to establish myself in a career that provides well for me and my children.  Life would have been easier had I the backup of a financial settlement.  But, I would have paid the price in acrimony and the children may not had enjoyed the good relationship they have with their father.  On a personal level, drawing a line with dignity was of paramount importance for me.  And, like the character played by Anthony Hopkins in ‘The Remains of the Day’, it came with a price.

Despite the law being favourable to mothers with young children, I walked away with nothing but the wealth of holding the hands of my children for the next twenty years.  I believe to this day, I had the better deal.  But, I admit to a moment of confusion and resentment this week.  A rare moment for me.  Perhaps it is because of a busy month on the road, which can be lonely, while someone else is enjoying the benefits of companionship.

Seated on the broken picket fence was the omnipresent Willy Wagtail.  Almost sensing my mood, he looked at me disapprovingly, then dropped lightly to the ground and strikes a pose.  The movement distracted me from my thoughts.  The juxtaposition of black, white and gold centred me again.  The rain had kept me trapped indoors but I could still see something beautiful.  The circumstances of the moment seemed so relevant to my life.

Outside the street was lined with trees that I love.  The flowers are halfway between a hibiscus and poppy.  They bud in yellow, burst open like the mid day sun, before turning peach when losing their bloom.

While photographing them, one dropped to the ground with a plop.  It landed with dignity.  On its feet.  Still clothed in a voluminous gown of diaphanous folds.

For some, life can be like that.

Until next time …

As always,

a dawn bird



Woody Lake, Esperance

I returned to Perth to a garden full of roses.  It rained while I was away.

A minor storm has lasted all night.  I woke to find the flowers decimated and rose petals scattered everywhere.  As I write, thunder rolls above me like a marble.  Evenly.  From one end of the horizon to the other.  The rumble, the ominous warning, is a stark contrast to where I have spent the last three days.

The weather in Esperance can be unpredictable.  During this trip the cloud formations were unusual.  A bright orange cloud, as far as the eye could see, hung low.  It resembled the inside of a Violet Crumble.  At lunch time, a solar halo, was spectacular.  Maybe they appear frequently here, just like double rainbows do, as I seemed to be the only person looking at it.

I woke to the sounds of the waves.  The Bay is across the road.  It glistens in the dark.  Within a half hour period, I cover a radius of 10 kms with urgency.  Lake Warden, Woody Lake and the Bay being the first ports of call.  I also go up to the Rotary Hill Lookout to get a picture of town and the iconic jetty.  Unfortunately, Tanker Jetty, some 80 years old, is due to be demolished.  It is unsafe and restoration costs are prohibitive.  Regular maintenance may have helped preserve history.  Since learning this I view the Jetty with great sadness.  It is still beautiful and serene so I enjoy its presence in my life for whatever time left.

Lake Warden delights with puddles of pink just before dawn.  I spend only a few minutes here and then to Woody Lake.  The birdlife here is a treat.  Usually there is a flotilla of several hundred black swans and huge pelicans on the Lake.  This trip I am surprised by the appearance of an Australian white ibis.  It is magnificent as it steps into a pool of shimmering gold.  A white faced heron flies in and perches on a tree.  With an air of aloofness, it deliberately ignores everyone.  The kestrel was nowhere to be seen but has looked at me with curiosity previously.  The seagulls are always cheeky.  They are like gate crashers at a party.  Hell bent on fun where they should not be!  I can’t help but enjoy their antics.

I’m glad I made time for me in Esperance.  I have brought home some of those memories to enjoy while I am in a twilight zone.  I have a lot of work in the coming two months and then will have to ride out the vagaries of bean counting for the coming year.  Past experience tells me, all is well.  But, there are times the stress of uncertainty is unsettling.  Then, I remind myself, I am human.

I’m off to the Mid-west today.  I’m looking forward to watching the sun set over the ocean, as we fly low for an hour.

Until my return … as always,

a dawn bird


The Granddaughter

This is a belated post.  Yesterday, I was sitting at a small café in a tiny farming town of Kellerberrin, Western Australia.  I have passed this way many times but there is nothing much here, so stopping was a perceived waste of travel time.

Previously, I had noticed a small café with its stark black and white signage, “Coffee Food Catering” and a few plastic chairs out front.  Not exactly the most alluring of signs.  Plastic strips hanging above the door frame, caught the breeze noisily.  The welcome out front is typical of an Australian ‘corner shop’ in a small town.  There are no fast food outlets here.  I assumed it was small shop well used by truck drivers.  One day, in desperation for early coffee, I stopped by.  To my amazement I had entered into an Aladdin’s Cave of gourmet delights.  All locally sourced and home made.  Starting a conversation with the owner was easy.  A love of food does this among strangers.

In the early 1980s the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Perth.  I was doing some banking in the city and got caught up in the crowd.  While waiting for the city to return to normal, an Indian lady next to me started a conversation.  “I know you, child”, she says to me, thoughtfully.  “What’s your name?”  (Those of you familiar with the Aunty Maggy videos on You Tube, this style of conversation among strangers, will resonate).  After a few exchanges, none of which satisfied her curiosity, she asked, “Are you related to Isidore Coelho”, peering into my face, searchingly.  I told her I was his granddaughter.  With a voice filled with emotion, she told me, she had looked at his picture for years, almost every day.  It is at the front of ‘The Chef’.  She stated, “You look like him!”

‘The Chef’, she went on to tell me, was part of the bridal trappings for Goan and Mangalorean brides.  Prior to settling in Perth, her husband was a Captain in the Indian Navy.  She took the book around the world.  A prized possession.  Her kitchen bible.  It was part of India she was unwilling to renounce.

I am unsure if I look like my grandfather, but I have inherited his passion for writing.  I am happiest when my fingers are flying over the keyboard.  Sometimes, they go faster than my thoughts.  I have also inherited his love for good food and I love to cook as well.  Although I’m not sure whether he spent time in a kitchen.

It is only fitting that I remember him now as it is his birth anniversary this week.

Isidore Coelho, the author, needs no introduction to those who know his work.  But few knew the man, because he was private and humble.  To us, his family, he was remarkable.  He was the only grandparent I knew, and, for only a few short years.

Among other office jobs, he worked as a Morse Coder during the British Raj in India.  He never reached the heights he should have because of the way of the times.  So his intelligence and creativity found better expression in writing and authorship.

A prolific writer, he was published in several languages in India.  Long before computers, he wrote with a fountain pen on foolscap paper.  I recall, a ‘nib’ and inkwell, too.  A memory of him hunched over a desk, writing, is a favourite one, and etched deep.  It was where he died, doing what he loved best.

A widower, he mourned the loss of his beloved Sabina, for the rest of his days.  They had five surviving children and had lost the sixth, a young son, Stanley, a teenager, to illness.  Stanley was a brilliant student.  His full potential forever lost.  It was a grief my grandfather carried in his very being.  I’m sure it cut him in half some days.  On others, it made him ten feet taller.  But at all times, my grandfather wrote.  And, he wrote.  And, he wrote.

Although my grandmother and Stanley died long before I was born, it is my first memory of watching someone experiencing loss.  I take after my grandfather.  I tend to carry loss within me.  I rarely cry tears.  Except, in words.

The name Isidore Coelho evokes cooking from the heart.  His book is part of kitchen lore for many.  Author of ‘The Chef’, little did he know his book would be prized by new brides and taken to far corners of the world.  Little did he know with the advent of the internet, ‘The Chef’ would still be sought, and invoke chatter among strangers for decades after his earthly journey ended.

Today, I am ten feet tall because I am his descendant.

Little did he know, this would be possible.

As always,

a dawn bird