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






Three generations


When I had a daughter I realised, to raise her, I needed to know myself.  To know myself I needed to know my mother.  And to know her was to, if not know, but understand her mother.  By peeling away the layers, I am in the present.

My grandmother Elizabeth, known as Bess, was 30 years younger than my grandfather.  A teenager when she married him, a widower with a small son.  My grandparents went on to have nine children and raised ten, the first always considered one of theirs.  We, the next generation, became aware of this history only in our teens.  It enthralled me.

I never knew Bess.  She died long before I was born but her memory lives in pictures and oral history.  She had a beautiful smile that captivated my grandfather, and a wonderful laugh that echoes in my daughter.  I’m told this but can’t be sure of it, Bess is always unsmiling in family photographs.  From the heart of old Goa, Bess spoke one language, Portuguese, in a lilting voice.  Family always recalled her “haughtiness” but, more than likely, she couldn’t communicate in the language of the region once she moved north.  She had her own tonga, a single horse drawn carriage, the transport of the time before cars.  She rode in it to church every day, a distance of less than a kilometre.  After Mass she arrived at the gates of the sprawling ancestral home.  To her own congregation at the gate, she dispensed a few coins, before she retired into the cavernous house.  Alone, a mother of many.  She died young following complications after the amputation of her leg from diabetes.

My grandfather had extensive business interests in mining and property.  With her husband away a lot, Bess was wealthy and bored.  She was a modern woman of her time.  Loneliness her company, she indulged in what she thought were the finer things in life.  My mother in a moment of indiscretion disclosed why her oldest sister never married and became the surrogate mother to them all.  With an army of home help for an infantry of children, my mother never knew a mother’s touch.  Among the gaggle of children, my mother tried to be “the good child”, hoping this strategy would be rewarded.  By all accounts, it didn’t.

My mother’s journey was similar in some ways to Bess.  My father was 12 years older than her, a gap considered too wide in her day.  My father adored her.  Fortune smiled at them later in life, so he indulged her every whim.  And, my mother found what she had been searching for in him.  We had an army of home help.  So I never knew a mother’s touch.  Unlike my mother, in a sibship of three, I was the infantry of one.  I rebelled every step of the way.  Fiercely independent and determined to shun the values of my heritage, I vowed on a daily basis, I would leave the home to travel the world.  A view that made my father chuckle and my mother collapse in a heap.  These are the memories of me when I was about six.  As the years went on, I misstepped into and out of my birth culture with regularity, and admittedly, sometimes got lost.  I defended my right to these stumbles by insisting, this was my life after all.

I did not escape the family cookie cutter when making a life choice.  Despite protests from my extended family, I married a man much older than myself.  The only difference, I was committed to breaking away from tradition.  I was never going to be like my mother.  But like many others, I found there is no compass to navigate being a parent.  Just history.  And, if not mindful, most likely to repeat itself.

Fast forward to the present.  I meet with my adult children on a regular basis.  We talk.  We laugh.  We share a life of family.  We are on the other side.  I respect my children for the young adults they have become.  It wasn’t always like this.

My daughter is like the young me.  Feisty and flinty when challenged, in her teen years, sharp edges would ignite a blaze.  Like me in my youth, the fire did not keep the home warm.  I had tried to rein my daughter in.  The other day my son reflected softly, “Big mistake!”

Bess had five daughters, three of whom had daughters, too.  Those five granddaughters went on to have daughters.  Of those four great granddaughters, Elizabeth is a memory in name.

And so the cycle began …


Unfurled from tangled roots

Life, a demarcation zone

The nebulous line of separation

drawn by heart-eye alone

in that no man’s land

all is forgiven

the writing on the wall fades

the toxic ground is pristine

the slate cleaned,

history rewritten

well, not quite …

a dawn bird

The Mona Lisa smile

Today is the anniversary of my mother’s passing.  A day of reflection and unease for me.  I adored my father.  As a child, as far as I was concerned, my mother was a distant other parent.  This preference lit a fuse whenever our paths crossed.  The wire sizzled but never extinguished itself even though my father died decades before her passing.  As I’ve grown older the memory of the dynamics between mother and daughter is a haunting presence in my life.  She was a perfect woman to all who met her.  To a child, she was an  impossible role model.

To my surprise today I found I had observed her closely.  I see her in a different light. DSCN8692.jpgIf you’ve taken the time to observe a blade of grass after rain, you’ll know what I mean.  You see details, magnified.  The ordinary, made beautiful.  You may even wonder, how did I miss that?  That’s where I am today.

My mother’s family history is rich as it is complex.  I’ve written about it in another post.  The ties that bound the ten siblings were elusive but impossible to sever.  They argued with passion.  They loved each other the same way.  How did we, the next generation, emerge from that family kiln unscathed, remains a mystery to me.  I haven’t seen some cousins for over 35 years.  Yet, we talk like we saw each other yesterday.

I’ve been home for a few days, making my house a home.  I got a corner here or there looking exactly like I want it to.  I’ve even dared to buy indoor plants.  Perhaps subconsciously I’m planning to be home more often.  I’m nesting briefly.

My mother’s home, my home, was so different.  Her touch was different to mine, yet, our yearning for creating a home is one.  I remember our lounge room once had heavy raw silk curtains in a rich cream with burnished orange cushions to contrast.  It was luxurious to the touch and eye.  I’ll never understand how she managed to keep our grubby fingers away from her prized lounge room.   As for me?  I’m especially happy with my ‘organic’ cabinet with my collection of emu eggs, shells, rocks and painted boab nuts.  They are symbolic of my journey and distance travelled.

I stepped away from the mirror I was wiping down.  How did I get here flashed through my mind.  As I did, I caught a glimpse of my mother, in my smile.

The familiarity startled me. The smile was not mine, nor my mother’s smile.

It was a Mona Lisa smile.

Maybe some things are meant to remain a mystery.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird




















I missed it!

It seems another year has ended in a blink.  I’ve travelled endlessly in 2018.  I’ve tried several times to look at my schedule to count the trips and given up by the time I got to March.  The number no longer matters, but the fun I’ve had, does.

So when on to a good thing why Segway off course.  There’s more of the same in the coming months, so move aside, or watch this space, as I segue into 2019.

thumb_IMG_3873_1024.jpgI’m planning more adventures.DSCN9591.jpgAnd will travel winding roads with destination in mind.DSCN6407.jpgI will spend time seaside in the company of seagulls.DSCN5774.jpgI will seek wisdom in silence.thumb_IMG_3928_1024.jpgAnd enjoy working with purpose.  Head down …. you know the drill.DSC_0570.jpgI will learn a sunset is always perfect, and like life, never marred by the unexpected. DSCN4654.jpgAnd like waves, transiency is also beautiful.thumb_IMG_3869_1024.jpgI will take time to watch in awe …thumb_IMG_3870_1024.jpgThe palette I am given each day.thumb_IMG_3950_1024.jpgI will look for the unexpected in whimsy, maybe even throw caution to the wind and let walls once built strong crumble, to let ‘Barry’ in!thumb_IMG_3868_1024.jpg“All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind” (Khalil Gibran)

Cheers!  May we meet in the New Year to dine again in blogosphere.

Until then my warmest wishes to you and your loved ones for 2019.

As always

a dawn bird


New Norcia

New Norcia in the Wheatbelt is a small town about 1.5 hour drive from home.  It is Australia’s only monastic town established in 1847.  I drive past it on the way to Moora where I work once every couple of months.  A new highway bypasses the town.  The bypass is a series of sweeping chicanes and although a freight route for road trains, this part of the highway is a pretty fun drive.DSC_0119.jpgThe monastery has several buildings including a small church, all built in Spanish influenced architecture.  I stayed here once overnight.  It was quite an experience!  I drove up the drive way, the building before me resonated of Tara, so naturally the  phrase, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!” looped in my head.

My room was tiny and sparse.  (I’m not sure why I had higher expectations, this is a Benedictine monastery after all!)  The toilet was down the corridor.  I was terrified at night!  I was convinced shadows were shapes, ghostly shapes.  The stuff of nightmares!  It brought out every child’s fear in me.  I had to walk down and back with just a small torch to light my path.DSC_0139.jpgI’ve returned several times here to visit.  I love the little church where I spend a quiet moment or two.DSC_0125.jpgThere were two large boarding schools here, now hired out for events.DSC_0136.jpgThe monks live behind the ornate gate.  They often run retreats.  I’d like to attend one some day.  As a child I enjoyed a weekend silent retreat once a year that we had at school.  On reflection, I have enjoyed moments of silence all my life.  I’ve just realised this.

About 30 years ago the little church was robbed during daylight.  Twenty five post Renaissance paintings were stolen and recovered later, damaged, before they were shipped off to Asia.  This small town and monastery rallied.  They started up a cottage industry selling olive oil and wood fired bread.  The bread is no longer their business, having been sold to a bigger bakery in Perth.  The olive oil is expensive but it is fruity and the real deal.

New Norcia is smack in Wheatbelt country, open beige fields, dust and heat.  The incongruity of this oasis here never fails, yet there is a familiarity that draws me to it.  The architecture is similar to the school I went to in my early childhood, so I try and visit whenever time permits.

It’s time to end my day, so until next time

As always

a dawn bird