The last few months were challenging on many levels … loss of extended family and childhood friends, COVID and a flare up of RA. A perfect storm that knocked me off my feet. Fatigued, each day seemed less productive than the day before.
I woke one morning and while in the kitchen I noticed a silent shadow fly over the backyard. Too big and too silent for the usual birds, I knew it was a kookaburra. It perked me right up!
Kookaburras are carnivorous birds. They are large. They are silent when hunting for food and are highly successful at finding it. They are undeterred by the presence of another and their focus, unwavering, is amazing.
It took me a little time to find him, so beautifully camouflaged was he.
When, as if on cue, …
… adjusted his profile and gave me a brief moment to adjust my focus …
and alighted, the moment, a ray of sunshine.
I went indoors energised. I reflected on the last few months and found the three triggers I need to avoid to manage my RA … stress, dehydration and lack of sleep. All triggers within my power to avoid, the thought in itself, gave me the impetus I needed to slowly regain my functioning self. I am nearly there.
Nature is healing. I know this to be true. I find companionship and solitude that is healing beyond anything else. It is my daily elixir.
I had an unsettling thought the other morning during reflection.
I estimated I had fewer years ahead of me, than behind me. It was a sobering moment. How quickly youth flitted by, seemingly, without care.
I wondered what if we consciously lived with an awareness that we are given finite time on earth. How would we use it. How would we value it. How would we cherish it. This was not a morbid thought but rather, a thought that invigorated me.
With some guilt I had to admit, I have wasted many years. Did not value time and I regret not cherishing moments that I should have.
The choice was mine. I could have stayed in that moment, stagnant. Or. I could reach over and relive time again. I reached over. Flipped the timer over and found a certain joy within.
How much time we have is not important. It is what we choose to do with it.
The choice I make is easy. I want more oneness with nature. More silence that speaks volumes. More stillness. More movement.
The inertia I’ve been feeling from constant work shifted today. I have booked my first holiday in more than two years. The anticipation and joy of a week in the South West, even though the weather is not great at the moment, is exhilarating. I’ll have soggy boots, and camera in hand. I will be happy and at peace again.
May you choose to savour time. It is a gift that cannot be returned.
My frequent travel around the State has been curtailed. Once our hard borders were opened, COVID-19 numbers went up placing stress on the health system. Where possible, we were asked to provide a health service by remote means by one agency, the other agency allows us to travel. But despite some travel opportunities, I feel trapped in the city and would much prefer be out and about doing what I love most in regional and remote areas.
When in regional areas, there are many paths I take on a daily basis. Some are unfamiliar and much sought out by me where I allow myself to be guided by tall timber, the occasional splash of colour, a screen of lacy fern. These walks are invigorating because the unfamiliar is consciously made familiar. I bring those experiences home with me and savour them in silence. The lookout over Esperance Bay is a favourite. I watched in sadness as the historic wooden jetty was dismantled and replaced with a steel one. I would love to walk across the jetty one day, but for now, it just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. Nor have I had the heart to take a picture of it.
But there is one journey that is soothing, and helps me fall asleep on nights when rest is elusive. I’m not sure if the geography is accurate but the landscape is imprinted deep in the recesses of memory and where the child in me feels at home.
I get off the train after a gruelling overnight journey of 19 hours from the coast to inland. Fight my way through the sea of red uniformed “coolies” (luggage helpers). I would get into a rickshaw, and it would have been rare to tell him where I wanted to go. He would know me from my tender years, knee high. We would turn right, passing the home where the Ds lived. Mr D and his big booming voice. We go past Miss G’s School. A double storied pale yellow building with enclosed garden where I attended kindergarten. I recall eating my first red apple here. Then past Empire Theatre (the home of great movies and stolen first kisses!) and headed towards the bungalows where military families lived. We would turn left and then right along the football oval and some government building (water corporation I recall) then to the tigadda (a three way junction) where the petrol station stood. Two brothers owned the petrol station, one married to a German lady. I listened in awe to their children speak fluently in German and English. If I turned right I’m headed to Fourth Bridge where my mother’s best friend lived. No visit today, so I continue straight. The farmers on the right are always ploughing the fields in their market gardens, their wives selling something in baskets roadside. Then past the bungalows on the left where Dr D lived in one of them. He was our family doctor and lived in a white and green bungalow, his daughter, my sister’s classmate and friend. He would always ask my mother what her opinion was on what ailed us and she would respond with such conviction. “Well, doctor, I think it’s her tonsils!” We would pass the gate to the home where the B family lived before entering the long driveway flanked by guava, mango, berose, jamun and tamarind trees. In summer, macaque monkeys would show off by hanging high in the trees by one limb. We would throw fruit at them. They threw it back at us! We would shriek with fear and delight! We would cut diagonally past the humble home where the M family lived. She was a bedridden widow who raised two children on her own. My childhood home is last in a row of three. White building, grey roof, green trim with a big green hedge.
When I arrive home I see Jet, the black labrador, snoozing and sprawled out in the front room. It is at this point I escape into dreams and start the journey again the next day.
I was raised in an environment where neighbours were family. More than fifty years have passed when some left home and carved out new lives overseas. We are still family. We are still young. We still keep in touch.
It’s been just over 47 years since I took this route home. I have written this to preserve my childhood steps, should I forget one day. My only regret is, I don’t have any photographs, just what I can conjure up in words. Somehow, for the most part, this seems to be enough.
Although I cannot start my day without a few minutes of inner reflection, nor can I end my day without a list of my priorities for the next day, there are some reflections I just don’t see as important in my life. One of them is keeping an eye on my finances. Checking my expenses falls in the same category as keeping a food diary. Any diet that starts with a food diary is a diet I have never attempted, yet the concept is the same as inner reflection. One has to stop and think.
Due to my frequent travel the only money I carry is my credit card and a few extra cash dollars for emergency. The only time I check my expenses is once every three months when I pay my taxes in advance and have to reconcile my business expenses for the accountant. The task is an easy one. I skim through the credit card statement, delete my personal expenses and reconcile the business expenses. I have done this for years on automatic mode.
Since the opening of the State borders, my regional travel has been largely restricted and it was easier to notice some unusual transactions on my card. In one instance $700 and in another case, for a direct debit that I stopped months ago and now totaling several hundred dollars. It was easier to cancel my card and start again. The recoup from the bank was also easier than anticipated. But I felt a sense of violation and the experience of this shifted something in me. It gave me a sense of ownership. A sense of responsibility. I decided to monitor my monthly expenditure, even though the only statements I had was the previous three months. Browsing through the pages made me sit back and re-evaluate my behaviour.
I have discovered the joys of online shopping a bit later than others. The travel restrictions being key. Oh how I love it! I can avoid crowds and not get stressed when someone sneezes next to me or put myself through the stressors of finding a good parking spot close to the entrance of the shopping centre. I also love cooking so gourmet shops and the grocery shops are favourite haunts that I love to browse through, perhaps, more than shopping centres. So it is not surprising most of my personal expenditure is food and clothes. Both expenses over the past three months were eye watering and to be honest, wasteful.
In the past month I experimented. I’m a good cook but I’m never satisfied with the Indian meals I make even though others enjoy them. For me, there is always something lacking. I’m a ‘crack a jar open’ curry cook! With more time on my hands I set myself a task. I would cook only Indian and Italian meals for a month. I would not buy any pre-made Indian pastes, which at $15 a jar, for each meal, is an expensive item. I went to You Tube and found some recipes and started cooking fresh from scratch and making my own pastes and sauces. I cooked up a storm one Sunday and found I had enough frozen meals for the whole month. My total bill for food was only a third of what I would usually spend. Did this revelation change my behaviour? Absolutely!
The other night a storm was brewing. It was cold and windy and I had a sudden urge to buy some Chinese take away for dinner. I realised I had not eaten Chinese food in years but it is one of those cuisines that once you think about it, you crave it. I looked at the menu of the local Chinese restaurant. $18 for a small fried rice! $24 for a noodle dish. No Way! I went to my freezer and found something delicious. The fact that I changed my behaviour, was a feeling, even more delicious.
In the last two weeks I have spent less than $30 on groceries, mostly milk and the occasional loaf of sourdough bread. Normally it would not be uncommon for me to have spent a couple of hundred dollars in the same time period and then waste most of the food I had bought. I am mindful of what I need and consume. With plenty of shelves empty in the supermarket, it is easier to get used to buying less. The knowledge that I have food in the freezer is a huge deterrent to buying more groceries. I have a sense of abundance at any given time of the day.
Now about clothes. My Achilles heel. As an impressionable child I can remember reading an article about Jackie O shopping for shoes in Italy. She liked a pair and then bought it in all the colours that were available. But then, she was married to a shipping magnate. Sadly, I have done the same but fooled myself into thinking it is okay to do this because I hate shopping! So I turned my gaze to the wardrobe and have ruthlessly culled it, giving away shoes and clothing I have never worn. Segmenting the clothes into sections for work and leisure made it easier to see what I have and what I need or don’t need. For example, that smaller size pair of jeans … is a dream … is a want. Hanging on to it was not motivational. It did not bring me joy! It had to go. Now when I browse online, I have the same feeling as I do with food in the freezer. A feeling of abundance. I have what I need.
Sometimes, behaviour is not that complex. It can be as stark as black and white. May you see this too and may you find abundance, in less.
I stood still knee deep in the recesses of memory uncomprehending The sense of loss of what was once me My life flashed before my eyes at the edge of shore, my steps faltered unprepared for the darkness that shrouded me the nights grew shorter, the days longer when from the emptiness I heard a voice say life is finite, each moment precious waste not and you will see the sun sets, to rise again and each wave returns to shore, faithfully next day from a glowing ember, I emerged No longer seared and took a step towards the voice, now stronger, that said I am here I am she.
The skydiver opens the door And steps into the sky Never knowing whether she will live or die Until a gust of wind fills her canopy Lifting her higher so she can see From the cold space of one The view of reality
The sky, sea and wind conspire To keep her there For as long as it takes to repair the spiritual tear Because they know What is seen, cannot be unseen
When the time is right from that ascended space They lower her to earth On the gift of wings From the Universe
So she adjusts her sights and alights Gently bracing for the thud When feet hit the ground and gathers momentum in the freedom she has found
As she takes those first faltering steps, and then runs.
It was my last trip to the town for the year. I had been at loggerheads with the hotel management to give me a room off the car park all year. Not that I was asking for an upgrade but for convenience and to reduce the discomfort in my hands while wheeling a suitcase. So like I said, it was the last trip and to my surprise, the hotel gave me a whole suite instead, on the ground floor. The suite has a living area with TV, dining area with adjoining small kitchen, one queen bedroom with TV, and a bathroom with spa. Way too generous for my needs for a two night stay. It has a bank of sliding doors along one whole wall that open to the footpath leading to the office at one end and the car park to the other. It does get some foot traffic early morning and at the end of the day but the luxury of space overrides that. The bedroom has a huge sliding door that opens up to the small patio overlooking the garden and pool. I love this room because, depending on the time of year, the honey eaters sing noisily almost all night in the gum trees just outside the patio. They are so noisy that a hotel guest once asked management could they please turn the birdsong off at night, thinking it was piped through the hotel! True!
I arrived on Sunday night, my usual time and it is one of the few nights in the month I don’t work. I kick back, dinner in hand and watch some Sunday evening TV, usually 60 Minutes, shower and go to bed. I’ve been having organic sour cherry juice every day that has not only helped my rheumatoid arthritis but helps me enjoy a deep, restful sleep. So it was unusual for me to be woken up, wide awake around 1:30 am. nSomething woke me but what? I lay in bed listening, my eyes scanning the dark. My senses on high alert, barely breathing, just silent in silence. Once my heart stopped racing, I decided to go to the bathroom and then settle back into bed. In the dark, I did not flush the toilet, fearing I would wake the sleeping miners who stay at this hotel and go to work early. I washed my hands and as I moved towards the bedroom, I froze. I heard the sliding door of the bedroom move inch by inch and then the imperceptible click of the door latch. Not knowing if the door was being opened or closed, my mind raced back to my arrival at the room, hours earlier, late evening. Yes I had followed my usual drill of checking all doors and windows were locked. It gave me a sense of security. The drill is reflex for me as soon as I enter a hotel room and my actions empowered me. I walked across towards the sliding door and turned the patio light on. I peered through a crack in the curtains and I saw him, pressed hard against the wall in the corner of the patio. I knew he was there, dressed in dark clothing and a baseball cap but he didn’t know I was behind the curtains. I flung the curtains wide open. It startled him! He ran, stumbling over the patio furniture and disappeared into the grounds. I phoned the police who came 30 minutes later and took a statement. After they left I sat on the sofa for a few hours and at dawn, I went back to the bedroom, opened the curtains wide and snuggled in and slept for another couple of hours indifferent to being visible to the miners who were leaving for work.
I checked TripAdvisor and to my amazement found the same thing had happened to a couple about six months earlier. They reported he was in the room even though they were certain they had locked their door. They woke to find him rummaging through their belongings. How can that be, I wondered. Was he in the closet? (I check that too, by the way!). But if he was in their closet why was he trying the sliding door? Was there a way he could open those doors I wondered. When home I started looking at security tips for hotel rooms and to my dismay found security can be breached quite easily, depending on the door design but there are many tips and hacks, too, how to ensure one is safe as can be.
The lesson I learnt is this, one can be as careful as one can be, but if someone is going to break in and steal, no matter how hard you make it, they will find a way.
To see a waterlily afloat in a pond can take one’s breath away by the sheer beauty of it but to see a carpet of waterlilies, thousands of them, floating in a billabong in the outback, is a memorable experience.
This is Marlgu Billabong in the far northwest of Western Australia in the Kimberley Region. It teems with wildlife (saltwater crocodiles, fish, snakes), waterbirds, and raptors. I saw them all! To experience this oasis in the outback, is not a once in a lifetime experience. It is a place of return.
The waterlily symbolises joy, happiness, … a new spirit. I was never the same after my trip to the region.
Some believe a waterlily is a star that fell from the sky and became a flower (www.pansymaiden.com) which is such a lovely thought and one I’ll leave for you today.
When dawn broke I awoke, yet again, to a dark sky Stood at the threshold Unconvinced There was a galaxy up high Unnoticed, Venus shone bright Until she caught my eye That planet, a star Faithful friend in the darkest hour She appeared, silent Predictable Reliably undeterred to convince me In the darkest of nights I may be blinded by what I cannot see But that’s okay I don’t need a galaxy To brighten my day I need to seek that lone star, Venus, within That will brighten the way
a dawn bird
As a child I would look at the sky and search for the “morning star” or “evening star”. I did not know I was searching for Venus.
Sometimes, in life, we search for the brightest things, never realising what they really are, except we are drawn to them because they bedazzle us.
Over the years, I have found, when we search outwards, we dim the light within.
May you find your light within and may it shine brightest, in the darkest hour.