Holidays

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I have been in a work frenzy, task focused and meeting deadlines, with all goals leading to having the month of June off.  Well, mostly off, with the exception of two work trips.  My plan is to start the new financial year with a clean slate and new goals to achieve.

My home has been under intermittent renovations for the past two years.  The floors are finally going to be laid.  It means the dust is contained and I can start unpacking my furniture and make this large house into a home.  The thought of nesting is exciting and energising.  My children have been waiting with bated breath to see the final outcome.  Much like me.  This home has been a dream.  It is now my reality.  Over twenty years ago when the parcel of land near the lake was released, due to circumstances beyond my control, I ended up living about half a kilometre away.  I was a visitor to this part of the suburb.  Now, it is home.  The difference in the environment around both homes in astounding.  My current home has butterflies in the garden.  Birdlife is prolific.  I am walking distance to the lake.  It has set a new benchmark.  Now, when browsing through real estate, a home for retirement, the criteria have been defined by my current home.

I have planned to be somewhere else for a few days in June.  Putting up my feet is top of the agenda!  The last time I felt so relaxed was over a year ago.  I was in Exmouth, a beautiful place north of Perth.  I recall the afternoon this picture was taken.  My room overlooked the water, there was birdlife everywhere.  It was hot.  Less than a month later the town was slammed by a cyclone with winds of 180km/hr that destroyed the infrastructure.  At the time, it was hard to believe the road to this idyllic place could be left in ruins.  But, the location makes the town vulnerable to cyclones.  The locals ride them out.  They just hold on through the eye of the storm.  Some people do this well.

The toss up of the warmth of Broome or the chilly, lush green of the south-west is the only dilemma at the moment.  A chalet, warm fireplace, good wine and cheese. books and writing is the drawcard for the south.  I am always hopeful, too, I will get to photograph the elusive fairy blue wren.  They are exquisite.  Then, there’s Broome.  Beautiful Broome.  Empty beach with muted pastel sky in the morning and fiery skies and chilled cider at sunset.  It is one of the few places where I really relax.

Having reflected on my choices, it is quite possible, I may visit both places!

May the choices you make today, bring you joy.

As always,

a dawn bird

Sorry

 

Today is National Sorry Day in Australia.  A day set aside by government to express a national apology for previous policies.  Policies that took children away from Aboriginal families, thinking it was better for the children, now known as The Stolen Generation.  The aftermath on generations to follow has been complex and, undeniably, tragic.

I am reading Stan Grant’s book ‘Talking to my Country’.  Part Aboriginal, he is a respected Australian journalist.  His book is as richly eloquent as is his heritage.  Yet, I’m uncomfortable as I turn page after page.

When I first came to Australia I was struck by its young history, ignorant of the fact, the First People of this land were here thousands of years ago.  I am sorry for my ignorance.

My travel takes me to many parts of Western Australia.  It strikes me how difficult it must have been for the pioneers and the hardship they would have endured to settle in a strange land.  It is only when I have travelled north, to the Kimberley region, when I have truly appreciated the culture of the Aboriginal people.  The land is ancient.  It demands respect.

The enormous landscape of the north makes one feel small but not in a belittling way.  It speaks to one in volumes.  It speaks to one in silence.

It is what you find in the long pauses of those who try and share with you what it was like for their ancestors.  The disconnection.  The reunification.  The despair.  The loss of kin.

Some voids are never filled by the word, sorry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presence

I have become accustomed to the birdlife in my neighbourhood while writing.  The corellas move around the tops of gum trees to the grass below, in noisy hordes.  The rainbow lorikeet fly in pairs almost squealing in excitement, as they do.  The crows are loud with their mournful caw caaw cawwwww.  I know the bigger water birds are overhead, headed to or from the lake, by the flapping of their wings.  The wattlebirds have a staccato call.  The kookaburra’s laughter often stays rumbling in his throat and is let out more often in summer.  The magpie larks sound as highly strung as they look.  The Australian magpie’s call comes from deep within and eventually finds its way through the curve of its body.  The honeyeaters have a sweet, tiny call.  The Willy Wagtail’s call sounds like a pocketful of change being jingled. But yesterday, mid-morning, while working at my desk I was distracted by a bird call I had not heard before.   This bird call sounded distressed.

I looked out the window to find a chick, a honeyeater.  Seated at the top of the wall, it chirped and looked around anxiously.  The mother was busy feeding on the aphids off the roses nearby below, just out of sight.  Too intent on her feeding, she ignored the call.  Surprisingly, the Willy Wagtail who dominates the ground below, flew up to the top of the wall.  It did not flash its tail as it does frequently.  It just sat near the tiny bird, scanning.  The chick stopped calling and settled into silence.  They sat together for several minutes until the mother noticed the duo and joined them.  The Willy Wagtail then flew below to flash his tail.  There was nothing aggressive or opportunistic about the usually territorial Wagtail.  His presence was a calming influence on the tiny bird.

I believe what I witnessed yesterday was a genuine attempt to soothe a chick in distress.  Effectively, too.  The Willy Wagtail usually moves continually.  But in the moment, he sat calmly.  “I am with you”, his presence seemed to say.

It made me reflect on my circumstances at the moment.  Waiting for guaranteed work is stressful.  It leaves me vulnerable.  The only certainty in my life is my faith.  My personal understanding of faith, is accepting God’s presence in my life.  It is working with the full knowledge my path has been earmarked for me.  All I need to do is make good choices.  When I find it difficult to cope with uncertainty in day to day matters, my eyes fall on the small magnet on the fridge that says, “I am with you” Matt 28:20.  And, like that tiny vulnerable bird on the wall, I am calm again.

May you find a calming presence in your life today.

As always,

a dawn bird

 

 

Perception

Friday was a perfect autumn day.  Clear skies, mild weather.  The Pacific black ducks glided on the pond.  The roses in my garden bloomed summer.  I found the straggly slender tree in my garden that erupts, seemingly overnight with a canopy of delicate white flowers, had also bloomed.  They are the only hint of autumn in my garden.  Magnificent in flower, the tree looks weak and weedy at other times of the year.  I’ve come to love it.  The tree makes me look skywards.  It was the kind of day when you scoff at the weather report “A big storm is coming”, “one of the big cells to hit” (apparently we get five of these a year), “secure boats and outdoor furniture”, the usual drill.  Like I said, it was a perfect day, so it was hard to see beyond it.  By evening, the sky scowled with clouds.  I have never seen such massive, dark clouds over Perth.  They gathered over the ocean first, like an army, cloud after cloud, battalion after battalion, until the horizon was a mass of black.  By the early hours of Saturday, the storm slammed the city, in fact, most of the lower half of the State.  When you consider Western Australia covers a third of Australia, that’s a big storm!

Alone while the storm raged, I cowered with a blanket and cuppa for comfort.  The house creaked, the roof rattled, the palm trees squeaked and groaned.  There was just one flash of lightening.  No thunder.  Just wind and rain.  Lots of it.  It came in waves with just silence to cushion the next onslaught.  Then I heard the crash.  I went around the home checking.  No damage.  Looked outside and saw the common fence had collapsed.  Luckily my neighbours were away or their car would have been damaged.  I surveyed the damage alone and soon found I had quiet company.  The little honeyeater from the back garden joined me.  Also scanning the sky, I could have sworn, she looked concerned too.  Hours later my neighbours returned.  I advised them I could not reach the insurance folks and I was leaving home again for work.  Her husband reassured me not to worry.  He would call around for quotes and take care of the matter while I was away.  I always thought they were good people.  They showed me yesterday, they are.

It is in moments like this when I feel the sting of being on my own.  It is also in moments like this, I am proved wrong.  It reminds me of The Leaning Tree, an iconic tourist landmark, somewhere between Greenough and Geraldton, in the mid-west of the State.  In these parts there are many trees that grow leaning at an angle due to the winds that come from the ocean.  The Leaning Tree is special, bent, but not broken, this massive tree continued to grow horizontally across the land.  Just alongside the highway, it is a good place to stop and pause.  Reflect.

I’ve come to learn, at breaking point, it is at that juncture, perceived to be the weakest, the most vulnerable, when strength, growth, is the finest.  To make it happen, perception, is the catalyst.

Until next time,

As always

a dawn bird

 

 

 

Joy

Several hundred kilometres to the south east of home, I drove along a back road in the country early one morning.  I was careful as it had rained the night before.  A little rain on once dry roads is dangerous.  A movement caught my eye.  Just a tiny, imperceptible movement.  Thinking it was a drop of rain on a puddle of water I stopped.  Hoping to catch it in motion, I got my camera ready and was delighted when I zoomed in.

A group of yellow rumped thornbills, aka ‘button bums’ were bathing in the puddle.  They were oblivious to the world beyond.  They are prolific in this region but incredibly difficult to see in the shrub.  To find them in the open and not afraid of my presence was a feeling of sheer joy.  Watching them, even more so.  They immersed themselves wholeheartedly in the water.  Except for one.  She leaned in cautiously, legs stiffened and at an angle, hoping for a small dip.  Leaning too far, she fell into the water.  Once experiencing the pleasure, she joined her group in play.

I’ve had a very focused week of catch up.  I’ve also had to reflect on the past and now.  As a mother with very young children, work and study, I managed to get it all done, including getting children to extracurricular activities after school.  I’m not sure how I did it but a 24 hour day was elastic.  I did not see life as weeks, months and years.  I lived a day at a time.  Although other tasks were completed, my thesis never seemed to finish.  I woke to it.  I slept by it.  I had a phrase written on a Post It sticker and stuck on the computer:  “A thesis is written a word at a time”.  It helped and guided me.  Writing was not difficult.  Getting a 100,000 word thesis into a 50,000 word document, was.  It consumed me for years, but I found joy in the doing and completion.  It was mission accomplished, when it was.

For twenty years, I have somehow been able to create joy in what I do, even when it is work.  Making a list of tasks and working through brings satisfaction.  I never have a completed ‘to do’ list but I prioritise tasks for the day so I am productive every day.  I sleep better with that knowledge.  Somehow, the play, the joy, comes from the process of listing.  The task itself can be tedious, but the pleasure is in the completion and checking it off the list. Once done, I enjoy my time outdoors with my camera.  There is a behavioural science basis to this.  It works well for me.

I have passed these behavioural strategies to my children without knowing it.  Staying overnight at my daughter’s home, I found a list on her table.  A neat list of tasks, crossed off as she completed them.  Like the little yellow rumped thornbill she is now fully immersed.

Today, I have experienced joy by reflecting on the meaning of this, in my world.  May you, too, experience joy in your world.

Until next time,

As always,

a dawn bird

You gotta have faith

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Standing on Willare Bridge, between Derby and Broome, in the far north west, some 2000 km away from Perth, I watched a wild bull swim across the Fitzroy River.  The area is known for crocodiles.  Perhaps, it was his previous experiences that gave him confidence in his ability to get to the other side.  And, he did.  I’ve reflected on this picture many times since December last year.  It resonates on a deeper level.

As I mentioned in the previous post, there was a time when I lived in a world of uncertainty.  Financial uncertainty is never an easy thing to manage, especially when you have children who are dependent on you.  I had nothing to keep body and soul together except my faith.  I recall a time when I had just enough petrol in the car to either get me to university or to my part time work.  I hated missing lectures but if I didn’t get to work, I would not get paid, so, reluctantly, work it was that day.  Deep in decision-making I walked from my front door to my car in the driveway and to my right, from the corner of my eye I saw something flutter in the breeze.  I ignored it.  Unlocking my car I thought, if my children were with me I would expect them to pick up the garbage and put it into the bin.  My father always said, personal integrity is what you do, when no one is looking.  I retraced my steps to the rose bush and to my amazement, fluttering in the breeze was a $50 bill.

On another occasion I was seated in a noisy cafe at the skating rink while my children were enjoying a small birthday party.  Just the two of them and four friends.  I could not afford anything more than the price for the smallest group.  Trying to study while they squealed with delight every time they whizzed by I felt sadness that I could not give them more.  I had spent most of my budget that week on the party and wondered how I would budget for the coming few days until I got paid again.  I felt a tap on my shoulder and the manager returned the money I paid him, saying the children were having such a good time, he wanted to give me the party for free.

There were many, many instances like this in those years.  I have no explanation except to say, I had implicit faith, I and the children would be okay.  And, we are.  We have crossed over to the other side.

Now my faith gets tested and strengthened in different ways.  My work is dependent on decision making of others.  The last two months have been an uncomfortable time.  I will always find work because of my profession.  But it’s the work I love doing is what I have been fretting about.  I’ve had to remind myself in those moments of uneasy … you gotta have faith.

I woke to a wide, pink sky this morning and felt a frisson of excitement.  I woke to the knowledge, all is well.

May it be so in your world too.

As always,

a dawn bird

 

 

 

Rock bottom, where best things happen

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“And so rock-bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life”. JK Rowling

I confess to never having read a Harry Potter book.  Nor do I have any desire to do so.  However, the quote by the author, JK Rowling, reflecting on her life as a single mother at the time before the book hit the world, resonates deeply.

In the early 1990s we moved into a new home with two young children, one still an infant.  I took a significant salary cut (a quarter of my annual salary to be exact) just so I could work 10 minutes from home instead of a 45 minute commute.  Less than two years later my marriage ended.  I found myself in a state of panic.  I had mortgage commitments at a time when I lost my job due to a restructure.  I also started a degree and did not want to walk away from my studies.  At this time of my life, academically, I focused on one essay, one assignment at a time.  On a personal level, I focused on my life in 15 minute segments.  If I could get through that short window of time and be functional, I could push forward to the next.  I had no choice.  The children were dependent on me on a day to day basis.

So far, my story is not special in any way.  It is the same as millions of women who find themselves in a similar situation.

On reflection, during pause, I have had to face some truths.  My son, the infant in the story, insists on this.  So, this blog is for him.

Somewhere within me was a dream that remained intact when all else had shattered.  I needed to know I had something to contribute that would be valued more than I was not.  So strong was my desire that the universe conspired to deliver it.  Through a convoluted set of circumstances, my path crossed that of a young professor who encouraged me to write, creatively and academically.  Always in the background, now, writing became my lifeline.

Before long, second year into undergraduate studies I was published in professional journals.  The following year I was invited to present a paper at a conference in the USA.  I had poetry published, by invitation, in an anthology.  I did poetry readings around Perth.  I was an active member of writing groups.  Then tragedy struck again.  The young professor, my mentor, was killed in a freak accident, just before I was invited into the postgraduate program.  So I did what I do best.  I carried his legacy, his research, into the next phase of my academic journey.  It was the best way to honour his memory and his presence in my life.

I completed my postgraduate studies at a time when I was at my most fragile.  Yet, when I look back, I was at my strongest and most resilient.  It confirmed for me, I could rise to a challenge.  I rebuilt my life.

I am not wealthy as JK Rowling.  Nor am I beautiful.  But, like JK Rowling, I am successful in my own right.  I am strong.  I am resourceful.  I am resilient.  I have a good heart and spirit.

I allow no one to mess with those truths.  Not even myself.

May you, too, find some truths within you, that are undeniable.

Until then,

As always,

a dawn bird