Where have all the mangoes gone?

 

thumb_IMG_1956_1024.jpgIn October I spent some time in the Kimberley region.  Still early in season, the mangoes were delicious.  They tasted like they had just come off the tree, not stored in cold storage.  So perfect, I had to take a picture!  I feasted on them and looked forward to the mango season later in the year further south.  Come December, I could not help but ask, where have all the mangoes gone?  The ones that appeared in the supermarket were tasteless and obviously stored, bruised and turned to mush, within a day.

As I had not cooked for so many months before Christmas I found myself wandering around the supermarket lost in the unfamiliarity of the once familiar.  The colour of the pasta sauces, the curry pastes, just like the mangoes in the supermarket, all looked paler and did not taste the same as I recalled from a year ago.  When mentioning this to the young adults, they stated, they avoid processed food as much as they can.  “Make your own paste and sauces, Mum”, was the challenge they set.  I attempted to defend my reluctance by saying I was time poor, but then …

I found myself telling them about kitchen memories from childhood ….

The cook would spend a few minutes in the morning with my mother who gave her the menu for the day.  Although the cook knew the recipes well, ritual like, she would go over them with my mother who, unlike me, had unlimited patience with her.  A woman would arrive early at the kitchen door with a cane basket of crisp vegetables, covered with a damp cloth.  The usual bartering would take place as the cook haggled the price down because of the amount of soil that still clung to the carrots or beets.  Then, she would set off to the market carrying a cloth bag and return with fresh corriander, chillies, ginger and garlic.  Having a fridge, a luxury in those days in a Third World country, the cook would never have thought to store them.  They had to be fresh!  The butcher would arrive mid-morning.  A Muslim man, he wore a tunic and a lungi (a sarong type of garment).  At the back of his bicycle a wooden box of chipped ice, carrying meat.  A hand held weighing scale of wooden bar with metal plates hanging off string, a knot in the middle for balance, and an eye for accuracy completed the transaction with honesty.  By late morning the cook would set herself up over the grinding stone, a heavy slab of pocked stone with a smooth hand held oval grinder that she slid back and forth crushing everything between the stones.  The aroma of fresh herbs and freshly roasted spices remain with me to this day.  A sprinkle of water or perhaps vinegar (if it was vindaloo) giving her a brief respite between slides.  Then she washed the stones clean and started cooking at noon.  This was her daily schedule.

I found myself over the holidays attempting to make my own pastes and delighting in the process.  My efforts made easier with just about every grinder, blender and mill, you can think of.  My son has been a willing and happy taster to everything that appears on the plate.  In a short month my shopping habits have changed dramatically.

It makes me wonder … had it not been for the mangoes ….

Until next time

As always,

a dawn bird

 

The Outback Therapist

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The first thing I noticed about him was his walk.  It was quick and confident, like he knew where he was going and why.  A natural leader, he was the driver.

I sat in the back seat and listened to his conversations with strangers about life, loss and love.  It was easy to trust him, to take his word as truth, his integrity holding up a mirror to mine.  There was something in his laid back “G’day!” the first time we met, but I didn’t know it would give me the softest place to land.

For months I had walked regularly and climbed stairs at every opportunity in preparation for this hike.  We arrived at a designated area by 4WD.  We stretched our legs, limbered up, then walked through spiky spinifex and scrambled over low lying rocks to view ancient indigenous rock art.  He climbed first and hand-over-hand yanked those of us willing and importantly able to climb to the next level.  I looked down to the small billabong below, the view was magnificent from above.  I had set myself a goal and felt I had achieved it.  Little did I know, I was to accomplish much more.

DSCN9339.jpgLike any art, it is all about perspective and interpretation.

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So we wander around this ancient gallery, heads tilted, cameras angled, sharing our spin.

Then came the descent, an incidental team building exercise of trust.  He descends first.  We follow with him guiding each step, his voice, a command.  “Keep your left foot steady, then lower the right.  There’s a foothold there.  That’s it!  That’s it!  Don’t.  Look.  Down.  Trust me!  If you don’t, we both fall”.  In that moment, step by step, walking backwards blindly, I became surefooted again.

Later he goes before with a helper to the place where we would camp overnight near the river.  We travel with the woman he loves.  It is her turn to trust, having done this before.  She follows the tracks the men left hours earlier, now slight indentations in tall grass.  When unsure, he guides her through the crackle of satellite phone.

We couldn’t be more remote.

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Known for the inherent dangers in this beautiful but unforgiving part of the world, we were immersed in the sights and sounds of the outback.

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And, yet, I never felt safer.

He walked ahead of me down the grassy path to show me how a bush toilet works.  I was dressed in protective clothing, he in open sandals, feet exposed.  Mesmerized with fear, I tell myself, this is a walk in the park for him.  He had once worked with crocodiles.  But I can’t help remembering the huge monitor lizard we had allowed to pass us earlier.

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Soon he notices the hesitancy in my footsteps every time I heard something rustling.  He stops.  We listen.  He senses my vulnerability.  He says, “Stomp your feet hard when you walk.  If you hear something, it is moving away, trying to escape from you.  Just remember you are bigger than it“.  I carry his bush wisdom in the palm of my heart.  Months later, my footsteps audible, I’m walking a new path.

In the city my career success is visible in productivity.  Alone in the bush hut the first night, illuminated by inner light, there was nothing to shield me from my invisible reality.  So I faced a harsh truth eye to eye.

I had allowed a significant loss to surreptitiously define me.  Shattered by it, in a strange way, it was also a lifeline.  It reminded me, life would and could, go on.  And, it did.  It was a point of reference and came with a high price.  It silenced the real me.  In the darkness I made the move from the void, to where I yearned to be.  Next morning I shared my work with fellow writers, face to face, as me not pseudonym, for the first time in 17 years.

He was unaware of what he had encountered in the first “G’day”, but then, nor did I.  On reflection, I realize he was able to wrestle something deep within me that I was unable, or perhaps unwilling to access, but he did unwittingly, emerging from the experience, head and limbs intact.

And, I returned home, a new me.

Until next time,

As always,

a dawn bird

 

 

 

 

Life is a playground … or prison

My frequent travel draws interest.  And, not always in a good way.  For me, it only brings to the fore what I know to be true.  A business person who travels frequently is working too hard but airline crew are doing a job.  It is all about perception.

I’ve learned over time, it is not what you say, but how you say it that makes a difference.  The art and science inherent in all human interactions is a craft, including the self-talk we generate for ourselves.

At one time my visits to Kalgoorlie were visits related to work.  Although I am always busy here, staff respect my need for ‘down time’ and I get a whole hour for lunch!  There’s more to see and experience in his historic town.  I’ve grown to anticipate my trips here.

In this harsh mining town I find the colour pink in the most unexpected places.

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Softness in the prickly scrub.

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I’ve found gold does not always glitter.

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Nor is it always buried in the ground.

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And, when you find it, it makes you smile wider than a novice prospector.

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Enjoying what you do in life takes shape in perception.  It depends which side of the thin line you see yourself standing.

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You are either in a playground.  Or a prison.  The line is always there.  So is choice.

I’m off to play.

Until next time,

As always

a dawn bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early birds

After a full eight hours sleep, I’ve been working steadily for three hours this morning.  I’m making progress and it feels good.  The backlog, fingers crossed, will be cleared this weekend before I’m back in the air again.

I worked with a team about a year ago, just for a couple of days, for professional development.  There were some practices I liked very much and I found myself committing to working in a similar manner.  I’m still fine tuning my style to adapt to my circumstances.  I’m getting there because I have a receptive colleague who sees the value in working the same way.  We are developing an efficient and effective collaboration.

Finding the right supervisors in 2017 was similar to having  parents with sound values.  It has given me an excellent foundation to build on as I progress through my career, as I become more discerning of pitfalls and opportunities.  One of the changes I had to make was getting a portion of work done and then allocating some time for mindfulness.  This schedule allows one’s brain to function at a higher and more effective level.  Previously, I would plough away until the job was completed.  It was tedious and there was no joy at completion.  I may have known this on one level, but never put it to practice as consciously as I do now.  The results are gold.

During my first trip for the year, this time to the Midwest, I found I did not need to move from my desk.  I could be mindful where I was.  And, where I was, made me productive.  Spending five days in a hotel room it also gave me a chance to observe bird behaviour more closely, the room being a natural hide.

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The honeyeaters, various species, arrived on cue at sunrise and shared the space with me intermittently, almost as if they knew I was taking a break.

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On the last day, the cyclone up north was making its presence felt further south.  I woke to an overcast sky with an imperceptible sea breeze (unusual for Geraldton).  The birds were silent and seemed to conserve their energy.  I knew the birds were there and looked closely.  My persistence became the mindfulness ritual.  In the afternoon I finally caught sight of the white faced New Holland honeyeater snuggled deep in foliage.

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If you have ever observed these birds you would know how active they are.  Photographing them seated in rest is rare.

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So to catch one having ‘a nana nap’, well, that was a thrill for me!

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‘Photobombing’ became the norm for the other honeyeaters, who fluffed up their feathers and …

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and peered, vying for attention.

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When they left, I found even a Midwest fly can be beautiful, with a glint of gold and wings of lace.

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The science behind mindfulness may be more recent but the art goes back centuries.  Put simply, it is nourishing one’s body and mind by being in the moment, in a non judgemental manner.  You stay with the moment, good or bad.  The photographs reflect, time and again, I experience more good moments, than bad.

An early riser since high school, being productive at an early hour, was always the aim.  Now I’ve learned there is a time for work, a time for play, a time to eat and a time for rest. Like the early birds, I practice this.

Put simply, if you dare enter, Nature is a classroom.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three women at a beach

We were at the water’s edge, I, further away, she about to cross over.  We saw it.  A fin!  I walked up to her.  We asked the other, “Did you see that?” then laughed, definitely a dolphin!  The water safe again she told me she had always wanted to visit this beach. She dreamed it would be the honeymoon that brought them here.  This year she was done kissing frogs.  She decided, she could wait no longer, the beach was hers, for now this weekend.

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Unlike her, I had visited the beach many times.  This time, I came seeking simplicity in things discarded.

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And to find intent in every footprint.

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I walked away from the water.  It was 6:30 am.  The sun had crept higher in the sky.  The walk back was slower.  The sea had left pearls at my feet.  Distracted, I didn’t notice her.

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About my age, but younger than me, she was seated on the concrete steps near the cafe.  We exchanged a polite smile, the kind you exchange between strangers.  “Beautiful morning”, she greeted, then lifted one thigh slightly, brushed the sand off the step and created an obvious space for me.  I sat down.  She had been watching me, thinking I was a tourist, the camera adding to her perception.  I told her, despite my numerous visits, this beach is as beguiling as the first time I stepped foot on it.  Lean and with a tan of wide open spaces, I thought she was a local.  It opened a dialogue between us.

She was from the Eastern States.  She was going to avoid this town, known for the beach and little else.  She had made a last minute decision to spend the weekend here, the next stop being too far away to drive in a day.

Together we watched the young woman in the surf while enjoying a few minutes of comfortable silence.  The woman beside me exhaled deeply, and, still staring out to sea began to talk, for the first time in months and didn’t know why she was sharing with me.  She told me travelling around Australia in a campervan was a retirement dream for her and her husband.  After a marriage of 35 years he walked away.  To start a new life, in a new home was futile at her age.  The finances did not add up.  Once the shock and distress had subsided, something else kicked in.  She completed a short mechanics course at TAFE, bought a campervan and had travelled the Top End on her own.  She was going to complete the trip.  If she had nothing left, she still had the dream.  In the deepest creases of her face and in the blue of her eyes, I found mine.

My goals this year include travelling to those places I thought I would only go accompanied.  The women taught me I could do it on my own.  So I will.  The regret of not doing it would be harder to live with, than not having someone to do it with.

I don’t believe in chance encounters.  At times people inspire us to be stronger and at other times, we are stronger and more powerful for walking away.  Our journey may be solitary but we are not alone.

I had returned to this beach one weekend to reclaim meaning in all that I do and found a beautiful truth.

All paths taken are meant to be.

May our paths cross again.  Until then,

As always,

a dawn bird

 

 

‘Influencer’

The term ‘social influencer’ is an interesting one.  Some have made a profession of it.  Back in the day, my mother saw it differently.  “If you see someone with a good habit, emulate them, if someone has a bad habit, learn how to avoid doing the same.  And, remember, you are that person for someone else”, she would say.  She was not talking about being ‘a social influencer’ or celebrity in all its forms.  Without realising it, she was asking her children to be observant and mindful about being human.

There are others who influence  people through their chosen work.  Sandesh Kadur, is that person for me.  Some years ago, switching channels, I stumbled across a National Geographic documentary.  It was on the Western Ghats (along the west coast of India).  I was bewitched by Kadur’s cinematography.  I then learned he is an internationally acclaimed wildlife photographer, who also promotes conservation.  Soon after I bought my first camera.  I have never looked at the world the same way again.

Kadur has taught me to look for the extraordinary in the ordinary.  I don’t  ‘instagram’ my photographs.  Partly because I’m not tech savvy with the camera!  I aim and shoot.  I know nothing about filters, lens and settings!  I’ve found I enjoy seeing things as they are.  The tiny feather of a Silvereye, the spikes of green grass.  Ordinary things one can miss, I’m drawn to instinctively.

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One of my favourite places in the South West is Big Swamp in Bunbury.  I hear the alarm call of the swamp hen when I park my car and long before I see them.  I had taken this picture some months ago and only realised last night, I had photographed a mother and chick near their nesting area.

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I notice flowers in the garden.  Any garden.  I have become inquisitive and curious.  I want to see detail.  I want to see how nature ‘packs’ and ‘unpacks’.

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I’m enthralled by perfection evident in nature, even when there is no one but a solitary traveller to see the beauty in fields.

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I’ve found flowers appearing magically in a bowl in my kitchen.

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I’ve found a raging bushfire is followed by carpets of delicate wildflowers.  So I wait for nature to heal, as I know it will.  This one I found in Yalgorup National Park a few months after a fire destroyed the town of Yalgoo.  Like nature, people, too, are healing.  Some have returned, determined to make a new start.  Resilience is a beautiful thing.  Like the wildflower, delicate and breathtaking to observe.

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I’ve discovered the tiny swallow starts her day by facing the sun.  So I do too.

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And, the exquisite New Holland honeyeater will stand her ground, even if she is perched precariously.  A lesson learned.

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To paraphrase my mother, what you say and do, matters.  Know your power.  Know where it is strengthened, where it is diminished.

Kadur opened a door.  I walked in.  Join me.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

Back to basics

One of the highlights of 2017 was a holiday in the Kimberley region where I stayed at a cattle station in the outback.  In a word, it was ‘rustic’.  I wanted to get back to basics.  I wanted things to be stripped and pared down.  No fancy white linen.  No fancy toiletries.  No room service.  No frothy coffee.  No tiny pats of butter.  No strawberry jam in miniature pots.

I woke to billy tea boiling over a drum.  The sliced bread found a place near it.  The toast, charred and smokey, never tasted so good.  The butter scooped from a shared container.  I did not need reminders to keep my water bottle filled.  The rain water was pure and sweet.

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We camped one night on the banks of the King River.  The full moon high in the sky.

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So beautiful, I had to have a closer look.  I rested easier under her benevolent eye.

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At dusk someone saw the crocodile and casually mentioned, “There’s one out there!”.  Excited, we asked, “where?”, “where?” until the red glint in torch light silenced us.  The men reassured us the crocodile would not be climbing up the embankment to the tents.  I needed more convincing!

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The fire roared and danced like a dragon at Chinese New Year.  Dinner was simple and delicious.  The talk intense, and, just as delicious.  I was with strangers.  Yet, I was with kindred spirits.  I was home.  This, family.

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My love affair with the boab tree intensified under a persimmon tinted sky.  My gaze lingered.  Reluctant to say goodnight, I took it to bed with me.

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I woke to sunrise.  Each alone, yet, still together.

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The King River glistened, as did the ranges beyond.

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The trees along the bank, carried birdsong across the river.

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The beautiful kapok trees were in bloom everywhere I looked.  I love these flowers!  Oh! those Kimberley hues!

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The challenge, for me, was walking in tall grass to the ‘thunderbox’, some several hundred meters away in the bush, with blue ribbons for signposts.

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There was just one rule.  If the toilet roll was missing, wait your turn!

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Someone fished for breakfast, to add to the bacon and eggs.

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Patience was rewarded.

DSCN9074.jpgA piece of precious barramundi cooked simply in butter, salt and pepper, shared carefully, like manna, found its place on our plates.  I knew at that moment, I would never order barramundi in a restaurant again.  Fresh from the river, it was the sweetest fish I’ve ever eaten.

Most surprising of all, once I overcame my fear of walking in tall grass (this being snake and big lizard country), I found delicate, tiny flowers blooming in the harshest country.

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Getting back to basics, I learned, all things are possible.  Even for a city girl, like me.

Until next time,

As always,

a dawn bird