The year that was


Another year has flown past.  Too quickly.  This is the year I’ve come to realise, this is my life.

It has been a year of triumphs and a year of disappointments.  I’ve enjoyed the intensity and challenges inherent in frequent travel.  The excitement of visiting new places, working with new teams and the comfort of the familiar, the teams and colleagues I’ve worked with over the years.  On the home front, the house is taking shape and is slowly becoming a reflection of how I want to live.  It is becoming a sanctuary.  My business has expanded and I move to a new office soon to accommodate the expansion.  From next year I’ll be working in the south west of the State more frequently.  Renowned for the lifestyle of quality produce, fine wines, cheeses, flora, fauna, coast and surf, I’m thrilled at the prospect of more photography opportunities.

I’ve been able to hang on to hope that my contracts would be renewed.  After nearly 11 months of almost unbearable patience, not only have they been renewed, but then some!  If at all possible, it promises to be a busier year.  I’ve had the courage to accept work in a new area, one that requires more learning and upskilling.  I’ve accepted it because it was an offer that found its way to me in the most circuitous manner.  It has presented itself for a reason.

As I mentioned previously, it has also been a year of disappointments.  It is my steadfast Faith that underpins what I am most grateful for.  It is the courage to take risks, make mistakes, learn from the experiences, and allow myself to sit with the discomfort that comes from poor decision making and judgement, instead of deflecting it.  I’ve found this kind of living has a sequence.  Embracing it I’ve found, if you listen closely enough, there is music in the momentum of change.  A rhythm.

It’s called life.

Here’s to yours. May you find courage to take risks. May you find mistakes are opportunities to learn, to heal, to grow.  It is in the chaos of discomfort we find the best teachers, and if are open to the experience, we find it is the best learning environment. When we emerge from this, not only do we discover the best that is within us, we are able to share it with others.

May your heart seek and find what it’s looking for in the coming year.

As always

a dawn bird

A Gift

Recently on impulse my daughter S, her boyfriend M and I drove to the south west region of Western Australia one Sunday to spend the day.  A 600 km return trip.  It felt like a week long holiday!

We started our day with early morning breakfast at Koombana Bay in Bunbury where dolphins visit on a regular basis.  Then to Margaret River, our premier wine and surf country.  We visited The Berry Farm and delighted in the Splendid Blue Wrens as they fed off M’s hand, then a leisurely bush walk through a raptor sanctuary before a late lunch at a boutique brewery then headed back home laden with beautiful olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cheeses, chocolates, fruits and wine.

As we walked in light rain, soon there were no derogatory comments about my photography but rather a keen interest in what we were observing.  An ordinary ‘blow’ fly, now still and jewel like, a Western corella, high up in the gum trees, a tawny frogmouth, perfectly blended with the bark of the tree stump, the stony faced barn owl, caught in a moment of mirth.  Before long, S and M were drawing my attention to birds, flowers and trees.  Fully engaged with the environment, their senses on alert, they would shhhh each other, “listen!”.  At the end of the walk S turned around and said to me, “For my birthday next year, if you are looking for a nice present, I would love a good camera”.  M chimed in with plans of where they could visit, look for special landscapes, research flora and fauna and they would have their weekends sorted out.  Listening to them made my heart soar!

To hear my high spirited daughter suddenly find nature has something special to offer, was revealing a new side to her.

In that moment I knew we understood each other.  It was a joyful gift to give and receive.

Until next time,

As always,

a dawn bird

What Christmas means to me

As a child in India, besides being snap frozen at Midnight Mass, Christmas had special meaning.  It was a celebration that came from, and with, heart.

As December approached, Christian households would be a hive of activity.  Nibbles were made specifically at this time of year with the intention of sharing. It was “Burra Din” (roughly translated Big Day or Revered Day). A day of celebration for Christians who opened their hearts and homes to neighbours and visitors regardless of their religious beliefs or station in life. It was an accepted practice of inclusivity.

Although we had fruit trees in the garden, in the month before, my mother would buy kilograms of best guavas from Allahabad. They came by train in a cane basket, buried in straw.  After all the preparation of peeling and coring the fruit, a huge cauldron of pink lava would bubble for hours, stirred constantly by a 3 ft wooden paddle while the cook dodged the angry splatter. When ready, the lava would be spread on to greased plates and allowed to cool, then cut into diamond shapes.  The end result was the delicious fudge, known as guava cheese, that never lasted long enough. The beautiful ruby jelly, made from the seeds and some pulp, was enjoyed at breakfast for several months. The making of the crispy kulkuls, fashioned in a similar way to gnocchi except it is a sweet pastry version, was an excuse for adults and children to sit in a circle and chatter.  The rich fruit cake, all homemade, and when complimented, mother would smile enigmatically, her recipe jealously guarded.  All joyfully prepared.  The ginger biscuits, nankhatai (a buttery shortbread biscuit with cinnamon and nutmeg), and yellow and pink ribbon cake came from Joe’s Bakery in Nagpur, my mother’s ancestral home. My mother made chocolates with green peppermint centres that were shared sparingly, as greedy children discreetly protested, one was never enough!

Gift giving was not the norm in later years but when I was younger, the thrill of yet another doll or tea set lasted the whole year.  Regardless of age, we were given one pair of new shoes, handmade by the Chinese shoemaker Ten Sing (who eventually migrated to Canada and did well there) and several sets of new clothing for the holiday season.  It was accepted practice to wear new outfits to every occasion in the days between Christmas and New Year.  And, there were plenty of occasions at the club and visiting friends and neighbours.  In the lead up to this, we poured over catalogues borrowed from our neighbour, Aunty E, for design ideas for our dresses. The two tailors in town, both Muslim, were in hot demand. One, “Fatty Tailor”, always over estimated how much material was needed and his Bebe and multitude of children were seen after Christmas sporting new clothing, in the same material as us! Santa arrived one evening at the club for the Children’s Christmas Party, wearing a plastic face. His presence in our life, was limited. At home, my mother gave new saris to the women and new shirts to the men who were our home help. There was always a steady stream of postmen who arrived for their annual tip.  Often, there were new faces in old uniforms!  But my parents’ generosity did not discriminate.  I still remember the joy of the practices that embodied the spirit of “Burra Din”.

My Christmas has not changed much. Our home is a hive of activity. I prefer to do the grocery shopping and cooking by myself. I shop with love. I cook with even more love. A laden table brings it’s own joy.  Each year I try my hand at new ways of including amuse bouche but the dessert of dried apricot ice cream is a must, much like the guava cheese from childhood.  I know from the aroma of apricots and Cointreau being cooked, it is Christmas Eve.  This is the year I discovered Pimms!  If I were to describe it in a word …. refreshing.  The perfect drink on a hot Christmas day.

Our main gift giving is the positive, loving presence in each other’s life during the year. We are reminded a Holy Family was created by the birth of a child. So I’m always grateful at this time of year to the children’s father, for the gift of motherhood and family.

I’ve learnt over the years, humble beginnings do not preclude being family, the brightest light in the darkest night is the star that shines above the place we call home, and that the softest warmth is in the breath of those who are loved by us, and love us in return.

And, so this was Christmas, until next year.  I hope your celebrations were as joyous as those in our home.

As always,

a dawn bird

Merry Christmas!


It’s Christmas morning!  I have been up since before dawn planning the schedule for the day.  Although young adults, my children still look forward to the day with child like excitement, as do I.

This year it is dinner at my home.  My children are eating lunch elsewhere.  They promise to arrive hungry for their evening meal!  We have not had Christmas dinner at my home before so I’m excited about the table setting.  Tea lights, candles, fresh flowers, etc, etc.  It has also given me more hours to cook!

I first bought Christmas decorations in 1985 at Harrods when we were living in the UK for several months.  I still have them.  But, for some strange twist of fate we could not find them in the garage and I had to buy a new tree and decorations.  My young adults will squeal with delight when they walk in the front door, as they are not expecting to see a tree!  I feel blessed to have children who still delight in the ordinary.  It’s an important quality to nurture, I feel.

It has already warmed up.  I can hear my neighbours and their children splashing and laughing in the pool.  This is Christmas in Australia.

May your Christmas be a day filled with the love and laughter of family, friends and neighbours.


As always,

a dawn bird

The full moon


For some, the full moon is symbolic of becoming whole again. For some, it is a symbol of madness. I’ve known people in the mental health and emergency services swear they are busier, when there is a full moon.

From childhood I have always scanned the sky for the full moon.  In my new home I have woken at night only to find the kitchen flooded in light from the full moon outside the window.  Almost like a prop light.  Magical companionship!  The full moon, for me, is a symbol of oneness.  Of connectedness.

This picture was taken at Gantheaume Point in Broome on a night of celebration.  It was the night of the Floating Lanterns during the Shinju Matsuri Festival.  Originally the lighted lanterns were meant to honour the memory of those pearlers who were lost at sea.  Over time, it has become symbolic of peace.  Of friendship.  Of love.  Of gratitude.  It is a touching ceremony that takes place at dusk.

A non-swimmer I was too anxious to walk into the sea, so a stranger walked my lantern into deeper waters.  In the womblike embrace of warm briny waters, I was one with my parents.  I had come to honour their memory.  To farewell them.  But I was at their knee, a child again, learning.  I did so silently while watching the lantern silhouetted against fading light, until it blended with hundreds of other lanterns.  Soon all messages of peace, friendship, love and gratitude were one.  A collective message sent out to sea with hope it will return with the tides.

I turned around to walk to the shore and saw the moon.  It was one of those magic moments.  It illuminated the truth I needed to see.

I am who I am.

Until next time

As always,

a dawn bird




Big Swamp, again

Many years ago I had a friend who travelled frequently.  I was curious how quickly he adapted to the places he visited for work.  The trick he shared was simple.  Create the familiar.  I’ve found this to be good advice.  Where ever I travel, I attempt to create the familiar.  My recent trip to the south west region of Western Australia was fraught with work and unresolved business.  So, I sought the familiar.  Surprisingly, I still find the familiar, novel.  There is so much about Mother Nature I don’t know.  For example, I thought spring time is when new birds hatch.  Now I understand some birds hatch young several times a year.

Seeking the familiar, early one morning I headed off to Big Swamp, in Bunbury.  The New Holland Honeyeaters, striking birds, with a ray of sunshine in their wings, were feeding or watching others feed.  I love these birds!  I spent an hour walking the boardwalk and footpaths when I saw, what I thought was a small banksia cone float by.    I zoomed in to find the Eurasian Coot had some new chicks.  So new, they were almost translucent.  I watched the mother herd them away from open water and towards the safety of the grassy overhang.  They were a complete surprise to see!  After a while I treaded lightly, searching for the Splendid Blue Wren that I had seen in this area before.  My efforts were futile this time.  I started to head to the car when I heard a tiny tweet, as imperceptible as practiced deceit.  The morning sun glinted on blue just for a second.  Deep in the thicket was the beautiful wren and female.  She is less flamboyant in dull grey and rust but her eye is a gorgeous pale blue.  Too quick for gazing, catching this on the camera was a delight!  They are exquisitely tiny birds.

The mother Willy Wagtail was comfortable in her beautifully constructed nest.  I have a special affinity with this bird.  A few years ago on a day when everything went wrong, I sat on my sofa, too paralysed with distress to move.  A Willy Wagtail never left my sight.  It came up to the door.  It flew up on the patio roof.  It looked at me with curiosity from the other side of the glass window.  But it never left my home  It kept me company all day. It was such a powerful companionship that I broke free from the inertia of distress.  Now, where ever I travel or when I bush walk, the first bird I see is the Willy Wagtail.  I may be biased but it has the sweetest call.  It reminds me I’m not alone.

I have taken the month off to get ready for the new year that promises to bring surprises and more travel.  Right now, I’m enjoying the familiar of home.  I don’t get to do this very much or very often.  Like the Willy Wagtail, I’m nesting for a while.

Until next time,

As always,

a dawn bird


It’s summer!


It’s the first week of summer!

There was a time when I flinched at the thought. Heat, frenetic shoppers of junk impatient at check out queues and bad tempered drivers competing for limited parking bays, loomed larger than life. I have mellowed.

Despite the heat, summer means Christmas baking and cooking. Mango, melons, peaches, plums, grapes and berries flood weekend markets. Tomatoes are redder.  Cucumbers greener.  And, one of my favourite fruits, the cherries arrive mid December!  I’m headed to the Cherry Festival this year!  Best of all, the taste of fruit and vegetables is not dulled by cold storage.

Feeling comfortable in linen and bamboo clothing is a welcomed experience. Watering the garden by hand is a peaceful, mindful activity.

Morning arrives earlier. The sun, reluctant to set, leaves later. Walks along a frilled shore masks the intent of exercise.  Sea sounds are joyous when waves meet the shore.

But most of all, contemplative in the space where the year comes to an end, I am happy in memory and look forward to making new ones.

Until next time

As always,

a dawn bird