Chore or choice


I recall many years ago attending a weekend health retreat at a place that was primarily for cancer patients and their family.  The retreat would open to the general public once a year and I jumped at the opportunity to go there.  We were warned there would be no caffeine, sugar or salt in the meals.  My knees buckled at the thought but it was just a weekend, I would survive, I told myself.  The weekend changed my diet for months.  I could not eat fast foods (too salty), caffeine gave me an unpleasant buzz and sugar made me feel ill.

Last year my goal was to be a mindful consumer of food.  I wondered if the label had a paragraph of ingredients, was it really healthy to consume on a regular basis?  This led to mindful shopping.  I do love zoning out in a supermarket but have found I need bare essentials only.  I take out the recycle bin every 4-6 weeks.  I’m not consuming that much!

Having made major adjustments to daily living, I’ve set a personal goal this year.  It is an undeniable truth I lead a stressful life.  Making sure I spend some time in mindful moments comes easily to me now.  I am healthy on a psychological level but I have neglected my physical health.  So this year I’m going to be kind and nurturing to my body.

To achieve this goal I had to think what that actually means.  With competing priorities, this part was the hardest and quite confronting.  It required me to do what does not come naturally to me.  I had to give myself a higher priority.  So I thought I’d start like I did on the health retreat and try this over a weekend.

I seem to have chosen the hottest weekend to detox and nurture myself.  In some ways, a blessing in disguise.   Lots of fluid is the order of the day.

It has taken a lot of planning to get to this point.  With a fridge that is often bare was a good place to start.  I could choose what I needed.  It has taken away the stress of choice of what I should not be consuming over the next two days.

This morning I made a jug of green tea, and added lime, orange and grapefruit and a handful of crushed mint leaves, and filled it with ice.  Delicious!  It will be gone before lunch.

Late last night I made a pot of clear vegetable soup.  I could have easily used kitchen appliances to slice and dice vegetables.  But I enjoyed the manual task.  It seemed to be a nurturing gesture.  Despite being a warm morning, my body craved the soup instead of coffee.  I knew the soup was full of nutrition.

Making changes comes down to perception.  It is a chore or is it a choice.  Choice is more self-directed, and a powerful motivator.  A chore is generally imposed by someone else or circumstances.  Having made this distinction, I can’t wait for the next weekend!

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird






Ballerinas, in the bush

I had never thought to look for wild orchids in Helms Arboretum, Esperance.  I usually park here for a few minutes when I visit the town to enjoy the parrots in the tall gum trees and to catch a few minutes alone.  But having read a blog recommended by Tracy (Reflections of an Untidy Mind), I walked around instead of staying in my car.

Wild orchids love debris of leaves and fallen logs.  So do snakes.  Dugites look like fallen twigs.  They are deadly and agile.  Spring time is their time.  Maybe that explains why I have never walked around here before.  But I was prepared this time for bush walking and dressed in my best protective gear.  I stepped off the plane to here.

DSCN7548.jpgTo the novice, this is just rubble.  Not me.  My heart raced as I walked around.  I anticipated seeing some wild orchids, just as the blog had published.DSCN7108.jpgSoon I found the first orchids.  DSCN7303.jpgTiny bulbs.  I had never seen orchid bulbs before.DSCN7305.jpgThe donkey orchids bloomed, stained like tortoise shells, in their hundreds.DSCN7279.jpgAmong the grass there were spider orchids.DSCN7269.jpgOh! so graceful in bud!DSCN7268.jpgWhen blooming, they danced around, ta da ing their way across grass and rubble.DSCN7275.jpgTheir heart, exquisite.DSCN7124.jpgSome bloomed in trios, each more graceful than their neighbour, in still posture.DSCN7337.jpgI headed over to the Lookout where there is a steep gradient over granite rock to bush land below.  I’ve found white sugar orchids here before, so I went looking.  I wasn’t disappointed!DSCN7549.jpgThere were some that were stronger in colour.  Each detail so perfect in dusk light.DSCN7355.jpgOthers, tinted white.DSCN7360.jpgAnd others, deep in the bush, barely pink.

I have no other words to describe these orchids, other than ballerinas, because they dance so gracefully, in the breeze.

They lit up my heart, eyes and mind.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

PS Thank you Tracy!





In spring, my steps are slow

Yesterday I spent the first three early hours of the day in Foxes Lair in Narrogin.  I barely walked two kilometers as there was so much to see.DSCN9972.jpgThe Lair was a florist shop.  There are thousands of flowers and different species every few steps.  Instead of rubber necking, I decided to explore one side of the track before exploring the other.   I also decided to look for the smaller flowers that the eye can barely see.DSCN9998.jpgI found tiny purple tassle flowers.DSCN9949.jpgBlue lechenaultia blooming in some corners.DSCN7060.jpgWhile others responded more slowly to sunlight.  Blue and purple flowers are more difficult to see in dense bushland where white, pink and yellow are dominant colours in spring.DSCN7079.jpgI spent a lot of time with the exquisitely tiny paper everlasting flowers.  They are barely visible to the naked eye.DSCN7090.jpgThey love the sun and open at first rays before one’s eyes.DSCN7092.jpgHow cute is this?DSCN7089I loved the white flowers too, interspersed among the pinks.DSCN9992The tiny pink fairy orchids were scattered here and there.DSCN7084.jpgThe sundew were less frequently seen this month.  I love these flowers.DSCN9953.jpgThe hakea tassle flowers were frosting large bushes, white with pink tips.DSCN9990.jpgI found this beautiful white orchid, demurely blooming behind a log.DSCN7029.jpgI thought this was moss but it looks like a succulent of some kind.DSCN9979.jpgThis was the only pimelea I found during my walk.  Beautiful!DSCN7036.jpgI heard a squawk above my head, only to find a young redcap parrot, all ruffled to greet the day.DSCN7056.jpgWhile another young parrot groomed nearby.DSCN7051.jpgOn the ground, the red breasted robin kept me company.

I’m now off to the Great Southern region and when I return, I hope to have, more of the same.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird



Mindful milestone

Where did the first half of the year go?  I know I was productive but what did I actually do, is harder to quantify.  What is easier to reflect on is the milestones I achieved, mindfully.

To eat fast food is convenient.  It is promoted as such and we come to believe it.  Tired and hungry is where I’m most vulnerable, so dropping my suitcase and heading out for a ‘quick meal in car’, became a place of comfort.  It is more than six months since I last ate a fast food burger, and longer, for the spicy, flame grilled chicken, that I love.  In the last month or more I have changed my habits and take a bag to the supermarket.  So what did I achieve?

Psychologically I’ve achieved a sense of being.  I make choices.  No, I make better choices.  Thoughtful choices.  Choices that matter to me, community and environment.  I am healthier and have more energy.  My use of plastic has reduced drastically.

I’ve become more aware of other issues too.  There are more vegetables and fruits in people’s trolleys.  Young mothers write blogs on how to eat healthy.  As people become more knowledgeable about the food they consume, the marketing ramps up.  Suddenly, there are mini bottles of fizzy drinks for an affordable $2.  There are fast food specials, buy the biggest size for an extra $1.  On the other side, there is a sure but subtle push by health professionals who ‘entertain’ evening viewers, by providing real facts.  The science behind the reward system in the brain is convincing.  And there’s no better feeling than testing it.

First I worked out the moments where I’m most vulnerable.  Coming home from a trip is definitely one of them.  So I’ve made sure I have meals in the freezer and in the taxi ride home I visualise the meal, steaming hot and fragrant, on a beautiful plate.  I quickly freshen up while the meal is warming.  I’m home!  My brain fires up again.  Rewarded!  Yesterday I got lost in a suburb where you don’t want to get lost.  Flustered by the experience it was well past lunch time.  I saw fast food ahead of me and tried to reason with myself.  I won’t eat a burger but a small packet of fries, those hot, crunchy, salty fries would appease the gnawing hunger and reduce the stress I experienced.  I quickly switched my brain into reflecting on a talk I watched on how a particular type of potato is grown, harvested and sold to the public to consume.  I made a choice to bypass the “bouquet” of fries.  I came home and ate a delicious steaming bowl of roasted garlic and cauliflower homemade soup.  Better choice!  Instant multiple rewards embedded in discipline, impulse control, mindful waiting, healthy decision making for body and wallet!

I’ve started keeping my reusable shopping bags in the car and pack one in my suitcase at all times.  If I forget the bags when I enter the supermarket, it’s just a short walk back to the car park to get them.  (Incidental gain in exercise!).  The confined space of the bags limits my impulse shopping.  I buy what I need.  I fill my water bottle at home.  I’ve put my recycle bin out only a few times in the last few months, largely because I have bought very little that needs to be thrown out.  I’ve washed my glass coffee jars to reuse in the pantry.  I didn’t buy a lot of processed foods before anyway, but now, there’s even less.

I recall a time when we had one large plastic bin (that I found so hard to carry to the kerb), and it influenced my shopping habits.  Then came the wheelie bin (convenience) and later the recycle bin (environmentally friendly).  It was easier to consume more and roll my rubbish out.  I bought plastic, it could always be thrown in the recycle bin.  Conscience calmed.  So is this a chicken and egg scenario?

There are some obvious benefits to my health and the environment but how does all this impact community.  The burden that is placed on health care as people get older is a dialogue just starting to become more audible.  The wider cost to community is spelt out in statistics.  Most of the issues that older people present with are lifestyle issues.  But I’ve seen change.  I can recall years ago, it was acceptable to have someone smoking at a desk nearby.  Then people were asked to go outside to designated areas to smoke.  Now, it is rare to find anyone is those areas.  Yes, there is hope, for more change.

I hadn’t really processed this about myself.  I’ve never smoked but I’ve eaten a lot of unhealthy foods over the years.  I did not appreciate the science and biochemistry that makes my body work at optimum.  Yes, knowledge is power.  I used a simple analogy and it changed my thinking.  I wouldn’t stop road side and put sand into my gas tank if it was running low.  I wait to buy the fuel my car needs or I pre-plan what I need for distance driving.  So now I reward my body with the best fuel at the right time and place.

dscn6888Those who know me, know I love the philosophy of Marie Kondo, the Japanese declutter queen.  She says, “People cannot change their tidying habits without changing their thinking”.  This is true.   Change can be achieved, mindfully.  It fits in with three simple words that guide me:  “Think.  Do.  Be”.  There is no wisdom here.  Just the principles that guide the complex science of behaviour modification.dscn6880The results speak for themselves!

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird




I’ve had the luxury of being home for several days.  It’s given me the opportunity to catch up on reports and also chores.  With a house under renovation, living in disarray and dust has been nothing less than a challenge.  But, I’m home.  Truly home.  Because life is evolving to be something more peaceful and joyful.

I’ve adapted to frequent travel by making where ever I am, home.  I’ve learned by staying to routine and order reduces stress.  I also know there are some places the food is excellent and in others, terrible.  In the past I would forget and ended up with a dinner I could barely eat.  Now if I order the same meal once a month in the same town, I know it’s guaranteed to be a winner, so I look forward to my eggplant parmigiana in Kalgoorlie!  Being tidy and orderly with my belongings means I don’t leave anything behind.  I keep keys, jewellery, sunglasses in one designated spot.  I carry all my files in one zipped bag.  What I take out, goes back in when finished.  I have a set of clothes I use only when I travel so I don’t have to browse through my closet before each trip.  (It’s cut out the agony of indecision!).  Experiencing a sense of orderliness in a chaotic schedule has been a lifesaver.  I’ve become accustomed to this way of life.  It has reduced stress significantly.  I wondered if I could use the same philosophy on making healthy choices by setting boundaries on what to eat and when.

On reflection of my habits, I realised how external factors influence our decision making on a daily basis.

Marketing is, curiously, an unseen power that influences our daily life.  It can be insidious.  At one time we walked into a petrol station, paid for the fuel and left.  Then came the hot snacks and soft drinks.  ‘Convenience’ was promoted.  Now it is difficult to find a petrol station without a major cafe or fast food restaurant attached to it.  The Live Lighter ad is one that has influenced my thinking about choice over convenience.  For those not familiar with it, a young man walks into the petrol station and glances at the hot snacks and energy drinks, while the message about ‘toxic fat’ is visually presented with yellow shimmering fat encasing gut and heart, becomes a deterrent.  He pays for fuel and leaves.  My lifestyle often mimics that of long distance truck drivers.  I sit around a lot.  Yes, a lot.  In cars, in planes, in offices.  Some days the only walking I do is between the taxi rank and terminal.  My snacks are healthy in the car – water, fresh fruit, walnuts, but I would grab a hot snack, usually in a petrol station, when I could because I didn’t know when I would eat again.  But I’ve made a change.  I carry a cooler bag packed with a sandwich.  Now I can walk into the petrol station and walk out having paid for fuel only.  Oddly enough, the comfort of knowing I’m carrying food, doesn’t make me hungry!

I was watching a David Attenborough documentary the other day about birds making their nests.  They only use what they need.  Why don’t we?  I’m ashamed to say in clearing my walk in pantry, I found I had four slow cookers of various brands, each promoting a new feature.  Yes, it would appear, I fell for the marketing!  In my closet I found a pair of skinny jeans that I loved wearing but they no longer fit and, importantly.  I’m not fitting into them any time soon.  Yes, I love them.  But giving them away would bring joy to someone else who finds them in the second hand shop, at a much cheaper price and nearly brand new.  It’s in the charity bag.

I’m nesting.  Using and keeping only what I need.  It’s a good feeling.  And, just like a bird sitting in a nest sends out a clear message.  Yes, nesting can only mean one thing.  New life.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird


Power of people

via Daily Prompt: Mentor

The word mentor is an interesting one.  It embodies learning, sharing, guidance, trust between two parties.  It is a powerful interaction that can enhance and maintain change.  There are different types of mentoring roles but all, essentially, have the same foundation.  This is how I see them.

It is a professional requirement for me to have peer supervision.  I meet with someone regularly.  I knew her when I was a student.  I trusted her immediately.  I felt ‘safe’ when guided by her.  It is mentoring at its best.

My adult son has returned to university.  He hopes to work in a clinical setting.  We meet regularly to discuss his assignments and practica experiences.  I’ve noticed his comments and views have changed from student to clinician, over the months.  The dynamics between us over breakfast, too, has changed from mother and son, to people who work with vulnerable people.  Without realising it, our chats have become a mentoring session.  He’s learning how to be.  The experience has been reciprocal.

They say education is knowledge.  It does not always come from books.  We learn so much from each other.  Sometimes this is good but not always.  For example, in the workplace, take collegial relationships.  People can take knowledge gleaned over a coffee and use it as a weapon in their attempts to score a point or undermine through the process of ‘gaslighting’.  This speaks of their own psychopathy and says nothing about the other.  Then there is the collegiality of blogging.  A community of powerful agents of change, but one needs to learn how to be discerning, about what to take on board.

In the animal world it is called imprinting.  When the young learns to trust another animal, person or object.  Ducks do this so well!  I’ve seen this mother cross my path without a backward glance.  She knew her ducklings would follow her to safety.

So why is it so easy for humans to misread signals and messages?

DSCN9789.jpgI learn from educational programs.  Is sugar good for you?  The insidious nature of it should stop us in our tracks.  If we stopped supporting the fast food industry, will we be healthier?  Can we reduce the use of plastics?  How do we combat pollution?  For me, these TV shows have become an unwitting mentor to living life with meaning.  I recall years ago when someone stood up and was counted.  We now have labels that identifies food from source countries.  The ones that say ‘some imported ingredients’, the percentage never identified, I leave those well alone.  I don’t see any reason for fresh food to be transported from across the world, when it is available a few kms down the road.

My dream is one day these programs that educate us about what we put into our body impacts it, and what we put out in the world impacts the environment, is promoted as vigorously as a catfight on a cooking show or disagreements among music judges.

I have hope though.

The message of big corporation has been loud and sexy.  As our lives got busier, they promoted convenience and speed.  We lost our way, somehow.  But, there is a path back.  We reclaim power.  For example, when technology was being promoted as ‘stay connected’ I had a simple rule for my family at meal time.  If they touched their mobile phone, even to photograph, they paid the whole dinner bill.  It applied to their dates too.  It worked a charm!  We had conversations at dinner.  We stayed connected without a phone in sight.  This tradition continues to date.

The key is to learn to fine tune our ear towards messages that matter.  Using the f word as noun, pronoun, adjective, verb and adverb, is not communication.  There is no message within it.  It is the glitter of celebrity that no longer shines.

Without knowing the word, my mother promoted mindful living and making conscious choices.  It was imprinting.  I did it instinctively.  Then I lost my way.  Blame it on the din of loud messages.  Now I’ve come full circle.

Returning to living mindfully has had incidental benefits.  I hear messages more clearly and importantly, I understand the intent of the other.

I’m living life more fully.  My wish is that you do too.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird




Change, for the better?

via Daily Prompt: Tide

I’ve written posts and shared photographs of Broome, Western Australia before.  Some 2000+ kms north of Perth it is renowned for the rugged coastal beauty.  Sipping a cold one at Cable Beach at sunset watching tourists enjoying a camel ride is the norm in the evenings.  Few venture further.  The Kimberley region in Western Australia is beautiful, vast country, but expensive to visit and/or explore.

Some 200+ kms further north of Broome is Cape Leveque, Cygnet Bay, Lombadina, Beagle Bay and other beautiful coastal places.  To access them is part of the beauty of the region.DSCN6084.jpgThe road out of Broome is initially a sealed one.  Then comes the fun part!DSCN6068.jpgAbout 90kms of unsealed road.  I’ve driven up here with others on four occasions in different weather conditions.  It has always been an adventure!DSCN6080.jpgSometimes one drives through deeply gutted and mousse like pindan (red) earth.DSCN6056.jpgAt other times one eats dust.DSCN6081.jpgThe road etiquette is pretty easy to adapt to.  Ride the ridge to allow oncoming traffic pass safely.

I love this journey!  Although the area is gorgeous, it is the trip that is a highlight for me.  The gamble whether it will be dusty and bone crunching due to corrugation or dicey because of the damp, just adds to the enjoyment.

After years of political promises, the sealing of the road has begun.  There are clearly two camps because of this.  Those who see accessibility improving the lives of people in remote communities and those who fear the impact of increased tourism. The argument that folks are stranded in the wet season, as the only way in and out for supplies or emergency is small plane holds some ground.

To write this post and reminisce with affection, I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve.  But I do know to embrace change is a double edged sword.  It almost always comes at a price.

I mentioned in my previous post about using a credit card less frequently.  It was prompted by my early experiences of working in Australia in the 1970s.  One of my first jobs was working in a major hospital.  I recall every fortnight two men would walk down the corridors, one holding a small metal box, the other, a key.  They would visit department after department handing out out fortnightly pay packets in notes and coins.  I would go home that evening to my tiny bedsit in the city, write out my budget for the fortnight (rent, utilities, food, personal expenses, savings and holiday savings) and live within the framework of my means.  I had no debts. And, I went on overseas holidays twice a year.

Then came the transition of salary going into our bank accounts.  The men, no doubt, lost their jobs or were deployed elsewhere.  Soon after came the ATMs and the restrictions of over the counter banking.  Where have all those rows of bank tellers gone?  Our unique signature has given way to PayWave or passwords.  Soon, cash will be gone, too.

Before it does … I’m going back to my earlier framework of living with cash.  I’m claiming back my power.

This is how I choose to ride out the tide of change.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird



Switched on

via Daily Prompt: Abrupt

Last night I watched a documentary on Elsa the Lioness.  I was given the first edition of the book Born Free as a young girl.  I was captivated by the story and fell madly in love with George Adamson! Then I discovered Jacques Cousteau.  When kids were talking about favourite people they would have around for dinner, and were dreaming about rock stars, my interests were conservationists.  I admired their spirit of adventure.  Of living life differently.  Their fierce commitment to Nature.  They were conservationists, but I didn’t know the meaning of the word.  Until now.

I’m now switched on.  The change in thinking was abrupt.  I’ve come to realise we don’t have to hear the message in ad breaks.  We live the message.  Like Adamson and Cousteau did.

On a recent trip to Jurien Bay I woke to watch dawn break at the beach and took it all in.  The message of plastic pollution of the oceans foremost in memory.  I wondered how I could make a difference.  Could I live more mindfully?  I realised, shopping is all about planning.  When I went home I packed a few shopping bags in the boot and was ready for another grocery trip.  I took only two cooler bags to the store and placed my shopping straight into them.  To my surprise, I was shopping mindfully.  I bought only what I could fit in.  The impulse buying was placed back on the shelf.  I checked out and found I had spent way less money than I normally would for a weekly trip.  Importantly, I had not used any single use plastic bags.  The change was so easy to put into practice.

I wondered if I could try the same strategy with money.  I use my credit card all the same and rarely use cash.  It has been a helpful strategy for business accounts.  But when reflecting on it, I realised, I have to keep receipts whether I use cash or credit card.  So why not use cash?  Now when I travel, I take just what I need in cash with my card as back up.  What a difference I’ve made in a month!  Money is the tangible proof of hard work.  When one has cash in hand, one builds a relationship with it and makes it hard to part from it.  The credit card is impersonal.

My only regret today is that I wish my learning took place earlier.  DSCN9838.jpgI often despair watching children with hand held devices.  Immersed in technology, they miss the world around them.  So when I saw a young boy wetting a line on the beach, Pacific Seagull by his side, it made me smile.  He could have been sitting in the hotel room playing video games.  But he was out here at dawn, because he enjoyed the experience of what he was doing.  He didn’t catch any fish.  It was just the enjoyment of anticipation and being near the sea.  He had a relationship with the environment.  There is hope ….DSCN9844.jpgI look at the ocean differently.  The responsibility for keeping it pristine lies with each of us.  The answer to a complex question ‘What can I do?” lies within the question.  It starts with “I …”.DSCN9861.jpgI look at the debris left behind by the tides each day.  It’s the kind that makes me happy. Like watching a child fishing at the beach, it also makes me hopeful.

The debris left by the human tide will one day, change.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird