Category Archives: Quotes

Boots Under The Bridge.

Yesterday, was all blue skies and glorious, golden sunshine when Geoff and I headed down to Sydney’s Kirribilli, lured away by the magnificent views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the harbour itself. This is the third post inspired by this trip. So, might I suggest that if you can get yourself down to Kirribilli (or your local equivalent), your efforts could be well re-worded.

Geoff and I photo bombing the view from Kirribilli towards the city and the Opera House.

After lunch, we walked down Broughton Street towards the harbour. After undergoing some nasty tests on my lungs and responding badly, I was naturally concerned about the steep decent and whether I could make it back up. Indeed, as we marched enthusiastically down the hill, Geoff even voiced these concerns: “what goes down, has to climb backup,” he said.

However, “oh me of little breath” powered ahead just like the the “Little Engine that Could”. I’ve done that: “I think I can. I think I can. I know I can” up many a hill or flight of stairs before. I might be turning blue and gasping for air, but you can’t “carpe diem seize day” from the couch. You need to have a go! Besides, (and I didn’t tell him this), he could always go and fetch the car. After all, even the best of generals has a “Plan B”. On the other hand, giving up before you try is, of course, an automatic fail.

kirribilli-map.gif
Above: Map of Kirribilli. The boots were on the corner of Fitzroy and Alfred Streets half way down on the left hand side of the map.

While we were walking back up the hill via Alfred Street, I spotted a random pair of black workman’s boots sitting on the corner of Alfred and Fitzroy Streets just back from the curb.

Now, if you’re someone who is focused and gets straight to the point, you’ll probably find my reflections on this pair of boots quite random. Or, you’ll even accuse me of over-thinking things again. However, on the other hand, it could equally be a virtue to find meaning and purpose in seemingly insignificant little things – especially in a place overshadowed by two of the great modern architectural wonders of the world, and one of the world’s most beautiful harbours.

The work boots’ neighbours are pretty impressive, making it hard to keep up with the Joneses.

Moreover, being “creative”, I couldn’t help thinking about how these worn, ordinary work boots must feel glancing up at the magnificent steel arches and towering granite pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge? Then, as if they didn’t already have a massive inferiority complex, across the harbour there’s the Sydney Opera House with her magnificent white sails glowing in the sunlight at the very top end of town! It must be hard for those work boots to feel that meaning and purpose aren’t just confined to the big wigs, and the flashy, strutting peacocks of life. That an old, discarded pair of work boots couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to say. Moreover, you can also understand how people feel like that way too.

However, it wasn’t just their simple ordinariness which attracted my attention to the boots, and you’ve no doubt noticed this yourself. They’re round the wrong way, back-to-front. Mixed up. Odd. So, if you were mad enough to try to step inside these boots and see what it was like to walk in their shoes, your legs would be heading off at cross-purposes and you’d fall smack – face down on the pavement.

By the way, there’s also another reason why I probably noticed the boots. I’ve had to learn to walk again twice. In my mid-20’s, I found out I’d been born with a harbour inside my head, and I was a lot more than “anxious”. Indeed, when the hydrocephalus was at its worst before I had a shunt put in to relieve the pressure, leaving a pair of boots around the wrong way would’ve been the very least of my problems. I have definitely tried walking in a wonky pair of boots that made no sense to anyone including myself. I also know what it is to be THE STRANGER, and not just someone unfamiliar.

So, how are we supposed to respond to these boots? Do we look at those boots and judge?

For many, it would be just too tempting to simply rearrange them. Make them right, just like you’d re-adjust a crooked picture frame until it was straight. However, I didn’t rearrange the boots and much to my later annoyance, I didn’t move the dead leaves out of the shot either. Moreover, if we’re really getting stuck into straightening things up and going for all out perfection, I wish I’d had my digital SLR camera with me instead of my phone. I am a photographic snob from way back. I also wished I’d got down lower for the shot. However, the boots were right on the curb and I didn’t want to risk being runover on Fitzroy Street just to take a photo. (That’s a first).

In addition to thinking about how the worn-out, back-to-front work boot people of this world feel in the shadow of greatness, these boots also made me think of how we respond to the apparent rejects and oddballs we come across through life. Do we as individuals (rather than the “royal we” where we can hide) offer them shelter and invite them in? Or, do we lock them out by whatever means is at our disposal be it a glance, a door, harsh words, a diagnosis, prescription drugs or a prison cell?

There’s a lot of bridge maintenance going on at the moment, so maybe the boots belong to someone working here?

However, when you give these boots a second glance, they’re scuffed, but they’re not worn out. They’ve been positioned carefully beside the road as a pair, even if they are back-to-front. Anybody could just walk up to those boots and set them straight. It wouldn’t take much, although perhaps you might be worried that who ever left them there, is watching. That they might misconstrue your good intentions and attack. You might also pop back down and speak to the supervisor on the work site beneath the bridge and see if anyone’s lost their boots. Reuniting the boots with their owner would be a noble thing. Indeed, perhaps those boots aren’t so unloved after all. Their owner might just be careless…or a teenager.

Who knows?

However, that’s the point, isn’t it?! No one knows anyone else’s story without asking AND without listening. You can’ t even judge a pair of back-to-front boots by their cover, let alone a person.

I have been reminded over and over again about the capacity of people to show love and even self-sacrifice to a stranger, especially someone in need. I have had a couple of spectacular falls in public places well away from home. Both times, I was using my walking stick so it was clear I had mobility issues. Both times, I’d hurt myself quite badly and had nasty grazes on my knee, was bleeding and needing a plaster. Last year, I had a nasty fall outside a nearby school. Passers-by, were quick to stop and render assistance, along with the inevitable question about an ambulance. A man headed off to his car and returned with a medical kit. Gave me saline to clean it, and the big sticking plaster. You know… the only big one which comes with the medical kit. Meanwhile, a teacher returned with ice and drove me down to McDonalds where I was meeting a friend. They were so kind!!

Yet, at the same time, the so-called weirdo who might not put their boots together in quite the right way, probably gets a much harder time of it. Indeed, it’s not just the strangers who reject them, but their nearest and dearest. The people who know them. Or, more to the point, don’t want to know them – the rejects. Somehow, we need to ensure there’s a place for them. A place for them in our families, our schools, our Churches, our streets. We don’t need to lock them up. They don’t need to self-medicate because they feel unloved, misunderstood, outcast. Love might not be enough to save everyone from genetics, society, bad luck or themselves, but it certainly goes a long way.

There’s still so much life left in these back-to-front workman’s boots, and I really hope they’re not still sitting there beside the road. That someone has taken them home.

Meanwhile, our son has invited “the boys” over tomorrow afternoon. He has no idea how many are coming, but I’ve made a pavlova, Mars Bar Slice and figure we can order pizza. After all, home is where the heart is and where real connections are forged.

What are your thoughts on the boots under the bridge? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

First Swim for 2021!

“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.”

–John F. Kennedy

Courage comes in many forms. My breathing has been a bit strained lately, but I went for my first beach swim in over 12 months this afternoon. No glasses on, I was also literally blind as a bat, and I took Geoff down with me in case of all emergencies. None ensued.

Just out of the water – Ocean Beach NSW – January 2021.

By the way, Geoff didn’t go in. He’s a sailor, and for him “swimming is a fail”.

“The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides, and in its depths it has its pearls too.”

–Vincent Van Gogh

I have a love-hate relationship with swimming, which is hard to understand when you look at our beautiful beach, which is only 10 minutes walk away. Many would sell their right kidney to be able to spend their life at our beautiful local beach and be able to immerse themselves in that crystal clear, salty water which is sparkling in the luscious Summer sun. Then, there’s me who doesn’t like getting wet. Indeed, Geoff was in stitches watching me take eternity to even get my ankles wet. He did an impressive impersonation, which looked embarrassingly like an old lady and not a very gutsy one at that. However, it takes more than that to embarrass me. I might’ve been emerging from my “swim” with only the tip of my ponytail wet, but I did get wet.

Moreover, just to show off just a little, I found my way back to my towel. I swear I did, even though Geoff had seen me emerge from the water and had walked down to greet me.

My brother and I at Avoca Beach around 1979 aged 10.

Going to the beach brings back many treasured memories. While I didn’t live near the beach growing up, we drove down to Sydney’s Northern Beaches for day trips and rented a beach house for a week most years up at Wamberal or Avoca on the NSW Central Coast just North of Sydney, and not far from where we currently live. The waves could be pretty strong and I remember holding onto mostly my mother’s hand and feeling almost invincible. Holding onto Mum or Dad’s hand somehow seemed to save me from anything back then.

Our kids have only ever lived in our current home, and so they’ve always lived a stone’s throw from the beach. We’ve had some wonderful times going swimming, walking the dogs, having picnics with friends. It’s been really beneficial living right near the beach during covid with all that space and air around us, and not much in the way of crowds most of the time. It’s also been a real lifesaver.

Do you like swimming? Do you go to the beach? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Our son at Broken Head, near Byron Bay, January 2011.
I absolutely loved the absolute joy beaming out of my daughter’s smile in this photo taken in Byron Bay January 2011 about to turn five and go to big school.

Cloud Chasing… Pearl Beach, NSW.

“How sweet to be a cloud floating in the blue.”

A.A. Milne.

My walking efforts continued on Thursday, and when my friend Roland and I arrived at Pearl Beach, there was this lone, ginormous cumulus cloud out on the horizon looking like a pavlova on steroids or a freshly picked cauliflower still as white as snow.

If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud formations.

-Charles M. Schulz

It was absolutely magical, and like something out of a proverbial fairy tale. A castle in the sky, or perhaps a well-camouflaged spaceship and the aliens had really landed. I didn’t know, and I didn’t care.

Fluffy Cloud Pearl Beach

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

– Maya Angelou

Moreover, I didn’t want to know the science behind it either, and why this one massive cloud was out there dominating the skyscape when so much of it was a blue canvas. I just wanted to revel in its beauty through the lens, and make sure I had some truly worthy images reflecting its spectacular magnificence.

Of course, you don’t need me to tell you there’s something truly amazing about clouds. Who doesn’t feel enchanted watching them drift slowly across the sky on a windless day, or changing shapes and metamorphosing in the wind?

Clouds Pearl Beach pano dolphin

Doesn’t this just look magnificent?!

“The clouds,- the only birds that never sleep.”

Then, of course, there’s a photographer’s frustration when a blanket of cloud cover blocks out the light dulling a magnificent landscape and killing the shot. I’ve also been known to go cloud chasing with my camera in tow, and that’s landed me in some dangerous strife.

Indeed, a few years ago, I got caught up in a nasty hail storm photographing huge, foreboding black clouds down at our local beach. Absolutely terrified, I was left sheltering in our car facing directly into the storm and my windscreen was the first point of contact. I am really surprised it didn’t smash, and I felt like Ziggy stuck out in space in his tin can waiting for that storm to clear. Indeed, I arrived home to find our back roof had smashed open, and had been peppered with hail bullet holes and the rain was pouring into our office. Moreover, much to my acute embarrassment, my son was on the phone to emergency reporting Mummy missing in the storm and the roof caved in. Humph, just like storm chasing, cloud chasing has its perils and I’m now a lot more cautious, although as this photo reveals, I haven’t lost my love of photographing freakishly big clouds, even if they’re usually a warning of same kind of trouble and a time to go home, not to set up the lens.

Yacht in the clouds

This tiny yacht is completely dwarfed by the cloud.

“Behind the cloud, the sun is still shining.”

-Abraham Lincoln.

Has this time of the coronavirus where we’ve had to shelter away from each other, increased your interactions with nature? Have you been going for more walks or appreciating the outdoors in some other way, perhaps through gardening? As usual, I’d love to hear your stories. For me, it’s stories which make the world go round, and I’ll leave he financial side of things to the economists.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

Midnight With the Philosopher’s Journal.

Well after midnight the night before last, a melancholy spirit crept into the house via the backdoor, and  joined me, my cup of decaf tea and row of Cadbury Hazelnut chocolate.  Zac, our gorgeous Border Collie x was sleeping across my lap nursing my keyboard,  while the rest of the house slept (or at least pretended to be asleep). In hindsight, I half wonder whether Zac was there to protect me from such spirits late at night, in the same way he guards the house from more physical threats. After all, when you put things in perspective, we often need more protection from ourselves than an intruder.

Anyway, as some of you would be aware, I’ve been researching and writing a collection of short  bios of Australians serving in France during WWI. I won’t just say soldiers, because my latest addition is Bill the Bantam Bugler, a bantam rooster who joined the 13th Battalion 12th reinforcements in camp at Liverpool in Sydney. Not one to be left behind,  he boarded the Suevic on the 22nd December along with the intrepid  Maud Butler and travelled to Egypt, before arriving in France.As it turned out, Billy the Bantam found his own battlefields in farmyards across France where he became the all-conquering Australian Napoleon of the chicken run. No rooster was too big for this little guy bursting with fight.

It was while I was researching Billy, that I came across a series of journals put out by the NSW Red Cross during the war. These journals have been a treasure trove of snippets, taking me off in all sorts of directions.

As you might’ve gathered by now, my research proceeds in anything but a straight, linear path and darts off on multitudinous detours. These are okay. Indeed, you could well consider them “the scenic route”. However, being in unchartered territory, I also need to develop strategies for finding my way back to the main road, or I’ll never get this finished.

Anyway, in the August 1916 edition, I found a quote which has taken me off on a completely different journey, forging a new main road straight through the bush. It reads:

“Never to tire, never to grow cold; to be patient, sympathetic, tender; to

look for the budding flower and the opening heart; to hope always; like

God, to love always–this is duty.”

Henri-Frederic Amiel

Amiel's journal

I’d never heard of this Swiss philosopher before, or  his famous journal: The Journal Intime. That’s now changed, and I spent the rest of the night reading through the most profound, gripping quotes, which I thought you might also appreciate. These all come from his journal:

“I am a spectator, so to speak, of the molecular whirlwind which men call individual life; I am conscious of an incessant metamorphosis, an irresistible movement of existence, which is going on within me — and this phenomenology of myself serves as a window opened upon the mystery of the world.”

“He who floats with the current, who does not guide himself according to higher principles, who has no ideal, no convictions–such a man is a mere article of the world’s furniture–a thing moved, instead of a living and moving being–an echo, not a voice. The man who has no inner life is the slave of his surroundings, as the barometer is the obedient servant of the air at rest, and the weathercock the humble servant of the air in motion.”

“A bubble of air in the blood, a drop of water in the brain, and a man is out of gear, his machine falls to pieces, his thought vanishes, the world disappears from him like a dream at morning. On what a spider thread is hung our individual existence!”

“Our true history is scarcely ever deciphered by others. The chief part of the drama is a monologue, or rather an intimate debate between God, our conscience, and ourselves. Tears, grieves, depressions, disappointments, irritations, good and evil thoughts, decisions, uncertainties, deliberations –all these belong to our secret, and are almost all incommunicable and intransmissible, even when we try to speak of them, and even when we write them down.”

“Composition is a process of combination, in which thought puts together complementary truths, and talent fuses into harmony the most contrary qualities of style. So that there is no composition without effort, without pain even, as in all bringing forth. The reward is the giving birth to something living–something, that is to say, which, by a kind of magic, makes a living unity out of such opposed attributes as orderliness and spontaneity, thought and imagination, solidity and charm.”

“He who is silent is forgotten; he who does not advance falls back; he who stops is overwhelmed; out distanced, crushed; he who ceases to grow becomes smaller; he who leaves off, gives up; the condition of standing still is the beginning of the end.”

I particularly loved this quote with it’s note of pure melancholy, and social isolation:

“I can find no words for what I feel. My consciousness is withdrawn into itself; I hear my heart beating, and my life passing. It seems to me that I have become a statue on the banks of the river of time, that I am the spectator of some mystery, and shall issue from it old, or no longer capable of age.”

As I read this,  I pictured myself as Michelangelo’s Statue of David standing beside the River Neckar in Heidelberg where I lived many years ago. Or, perhaps, I was seeing Amiel, and I’ll recast myself as the Venus de Milo, which I saw in the Louvre on the same trip.

Perhaps, many of us are also feeling like that powerless, detached, isolated statue on the river bank. We’re simply watching as our loved ones, income, jobs, businesses, savings are all being swept away by the river’s flow, and there’s nothing we can do to hold them back. In so many ways, we are powerless. Or, our capacity to respond and “fix” the impact has been greatly reduced, and this doesn’t sit well in our mindset of “Just do it”, “Make it happen”, or “you can be anything you want”.

Where are we to turn?

My Dad used to say that doing something tough “put hairs on your chest”, which I wasn’t keen on as a girl, but I now understand that he was talking about building grit and resilience. Whatever doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. He also said: “life wasn’t meant to be easy.” However, he didn’t use the full quote:

“Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”

― George Bernard Shaw

Anyway, getting back to what brought me into my melancholy zone of reflection the other night. Australia is now at the point of legitimately easing social distancing restrictions. While this is seemingly great news, for me personally its implications are mixed. Being at high risk myself, I need to work out what all of this means for me. Being in more of a melancholy mood at the time, I could see myself being left behind at home, while the rest of the country was out partying. Indeed, I even saw myself as that child stuck inside peering out while all the other children are playing. My hands and face are pressed hard up against the window watching all the others play and there’s such a deep, unfathomable heartache. A never-ending but very private cry.  In hindsight, it’s pretty clear that my thoughts galloped ahead of themselves.  We’re not at the point of coming out yet here in NSW, and I might not be left behind. The spread is being very well contained and might be all but wiped out.

With my chronic health and lung issues, these universal restrictions have not only been a lifesaver, for once we’re all in the same boat. Before they came about, with my husband working in a known hot spot and the kids being at school, we were expecting that I’d need to evacuate both from the community and from our family as well. Australia’s initial infection rates were heading along a similar trajectory to Italy and we had no reason back then to believe Australia would largely dodge the bullet. Consequently, we bought a camper to house me away from the family in our backyard. That’s how serious it was. Now, Australia’s in an entirely different position where we’ve almost eradicated the virus, but we’re not there yet.  New cases are still appearing, including a new cluster in Victoria. Restrictions haven’t eased much as yet. However, we will now be able to visit my parents for Mother’s Day tomorrow with the kids. That’s two and adults and dependent kids. That’s all that’s allowed, although school is going back one day a week, but we’re holding back at the moment. I don’t know how it’s going to look in a few weeks. So, I could well have freaked myself out without reason. Our State Premier is taking a very cautious approach. I might not get left behind.

Anyway, in the meantime, I was pleased to hang out with Amiel for a few hours, which has now extended into reading his journal, which is accessible online here and I strongly recommend reading the introduction as well:  Journal Intime

I am trying not to get too caught up what many of us know as “the dark side of the moon”. However, I also feel it’s important to acknowledge that it’s there. That it’s okay to indulge in it for a time, but like my many research detours, we shouldn’t linger too long and always endeavour to get back to the main road. Or, even return via the scenic and take a more uplifting route if we can.

I would love to encourage you to read Amiel’s journal with me and stay tuned for further posts. I already have a few up my sleeve.

How are you getting through the coronacrisis? Are you okay? Or, have you also had times of feeling melancholy, afraid or just confused? Even just having shops, Church, dance studio, schools, parks, museums and art galleries closed is throwing us out of kilter, and we’re not dealing with the worst of it.

It’s important to let these feelings out and share where we’re at. We don’t need to hide our grief away. Those of us well away from the epicentres, have big shoulders and are able to help carry the weight of your grief. It belongs to us all. You don’t need to bear it alone. Thankfully, the Internet is enabling us all to connect despite layer up on layer of border closures, shut downs and precautions and we can spread the love around like lashings of butter on hot toast.

From my place to your place, hang in there and we hope you’re doing okay.

Love,

Rowena

PS A big thank you to all my blogging buddies who’ve been through lock down with me! I truly appreciate our friendship!!!

Amsterdam – A-Z Challenge

“My experience in Amsterdam is that cyclists ride where the hell they like and aim in a state of rage at all pedestrians while ringing their bell loudly, the concept of avoiding people being foreign to them.”

-Terry Pratchett

Welcome to my first post for the 2020  Blogging from A to Z April Challenge where my theme for this year is…The A-Z of Places I’ve Been. It’s a photographic travel series to help cheer us up in the current climate. Overall, it focuses on a backpacking trip I took through Europe in 1992 as a 22 year of university graduate and also throws in  Australian stopovers and more.

 

So, let’s touch down in Amsterdam!

Amsterdam buildings

Welcome to Amsterdam.

Back in April 1992, my best friend Lisa and I touched down at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, finally setting our feet on European soil after one heck of a long flight from Sydney via Bangkok. We were grinning from ear to ear like proverbial Cheshire cats.

Our arrival was not without its comedy. As we climbed up the stairs to our hotel room, my backpack was so heavy, that it pulled me backwards down the stairs. You have to laugh, and that’s before I tell you that we spent our entire time in Amsterdam perpetually lost. If we were supposed to turn left, we went right. We had no idea where we were going, and even caught the wrong tram back to the hostel and found ourselves in some scary territory.

Amsterdam barge on canal

We had just graduated from Sydney University and were 22 years olds with Europe at our feet and a 12 month open ticket. We were finally free agents, and could do whatever we liked. That is, as long as it didn’t involve money. Not knowing how long our money had to last, we made the most of the complimentary breakfast at our hotel, and loaded our bags up with bread rolls and little packets of butter and jam. These were lunch for two days and could’ve been used as missiles in the end!

Orange Stollen

Orange Stollen to commemorate Amsterdam’s Orange Festival

It just so happened that our stay in Amsterdam coincided with Amsterdam’s Orange Festival, which was officially known as Koninginnedag, or Queen’s Day which celebrated Queen Beatrix’s Birthday back in the day. All of Amsterdam and beyond, was squeezed into the streets and the place was absolutely packed with everyone and everything decked out in orange. I even spotted some Orange Stolen in a bakery window.

However, while we were caught up in all the revelry and absorbing it all through the lens, my wallet was stolen out of my bum bag. This sent us off to the police station and a reverses charges call back home to Mum and Dad along with major egg on face, which was only compounded less than a week later when I’d lost my passport in Cologne, Germany.

While we really enjoyed meeting other backpackers from all around the world and chatting in cafes, keeping our eyes peeled for wayward bicycles and being flocked by thousands of pigeons in the square like something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s: The Birds, there were two places which really stood out.

1024px-Amsterdam_(NL),_Anne-Frank-Huis_--_2015_--_7185

Photo: Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “Amsterdam (NL), Anne-Frank-Huis — 2015 — 7185” / CC BY-SA 4.0

“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes

rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t

abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I

cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people

are truly good at heart.”

-Anne Frank

Firstly, I couldn’t wait to see Anne Frank’s House. Like millions around the world, I’d read her diary as a teenager and in what always feel like an extremely personal and unique tribute, as a 13 year old, I started addressing my own diary to “Dear Anne” and I told her everything. Strangely, I can barely remember going there now. However, I did write a tribute to our connection a few years ago: A Lifesaving Journey With Anne Frank. I also visited an exhibition at the Sydney Jewish Museum, which focused on her father,  Otto Frank.

My other great love in Amsterdam, was the Van Gogh Museum. Now, I actually have some great news. Although the museum is currently closed, the online shop is still open. So, if you are suffering from shopping withdrawal, here’s your chance: The Van Gogh Museum Shop. I almost broke out in a rash checking out all these wonderful goodies. However, I’ve restrained myself so far. I’m trying to view lock down as opportunity to pay off my credit card and return to ground zero.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our virtual fly-by tour of Amsterdam.

If you’ve been to Amsterdam or even live there, I’d love to hear from you in the comments and I’d also love to hear from others taking part in the A-Z Challenge.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Survivors of The Storm.

“Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it.”

Hunter S. Thompson

Last night, thunder rumbled, lightening flashed and a certain little black dog (AKA Lady) had jumped up on my lap, a blithering mess. She’s terrified of storms. The rain was pelting down and a quick dash out to the back room which had leaked like a sieve a few weeks ago, confirmed my husband’s repairs had worked. It was watertight and we could at least breathe a sigh of relief on that front.

“I pass my life in preventing the storm from blowing down the tent, and I drive in the pegs as fast as they are pulled up.”

Abraham Lincoln

Meanwhile, I was pleased I’d gone back to photograph the teepees which had sprung up on the beach over the weekend, because they had a snowflake’s chance in hell of surviving the storm. (see my last post). I had hoped to get back down in the morning to photograph them under better light, but there was no chance they’d survive this storm and the ravages of the angry waves. Disappointing, but photography is like fishing and you also have the ones which get away.

“A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.”

John Muir

DSC_8906

Oh me of little faith! Somehow two of the teepees which were evidently made of much stronger stuff, were still standing. They’d survived and I was pretty stoked to have a third chance to photograph them, this time in much better light. Indeed, the sky and ocean were a brilliant blue and the beach was sparkling at its postcard best.

DSC_8907

So, after writing about transience and the force of the storm last night, now I’m addressing survival. What does it take to survive and still be standing (at least metaphorically speaking) at the end of the day? Is it luck? Resilience? God’s on your side? Or, good planning? We’re a scouting family and there’s a strong case for being “prepared”. In the case of the teepees, strong construction won the day. When it comes to myself and protecting my fragile lungs, I take 1000mg if Vitamin C on a good day and 3000 on a bad one. I also go for a “daily” walk, although “daily” could be interpreted more along the lines of “intermittent”. Of course, my intentions are good but life seems to grab me by the short and curlys and the sun sets on yet another day with a swag of things undone. After all, more humble humans like yours truly, can’t tick all of the boxes all of the time and some days I’m just glad to tick “still here”.

Perhaps, I’m just more human than most…

DSC_8903

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

Indeed, perhaps you like me will relate to this addition I came across on the beach this morning. Of course, it’s open to interpretation. On one hand, you could say it it was a retake of Stonehenge in Australian driftwood. You could also say that it’s something that’s gone splat. I’ll leave it up to you.

ocean beach

An ordinary Summer’s day.

Anyway, it was really wonderful just to walk along the beach in the glorious sunshine after last night’s storm, which was barely visible on the beach. The storm had passed.

It was another day…

DSC_8922

I hope you’ve enjoyed walking along the beach with me. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
Best wishes,

Rowena

Walking Along Teepee Beach…Australia.

With the start of the new school year a few weeks ago, I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of going for a walk after I drop the kids at school in the morning. Despite being a night owl, I am finding that when I get something done first thing, it actually happens. It doesn’t just drift off into the never never once the day gets underway and distraction reigns.
Unfortunately, habit and routine aren’t my strengths, but I’ve made peace with that. Decided that walking sometimes is good too, and that any walk is better than nothing. Perhaps, this is being too kind and I ought to show myself more tough love. Pull my socks up. Be mean and nasty. “Hey you good for nothing lazy slob of a slacker, get moving”. Or, words to that effect. I could also try reminding myself of just how beautiful the beach is, and how I could be pacing round a concrete jungle instead. “Get a grip, Snowflake!”

DSC_8858

A sea gull looking for a new home perhaps…

Anyway, this morning I made it back down to the beach and was in for quite a surprise. I spotted a series of wooden teepees dotted along the length of the beach. Some very well-constructed deluxe versions which you could almost call home, and others which were more along the lines of stick sculptures. These had no structural integrity at all, and it wouldn’t even take the Big Bad Wolf to huff and puff and blow the place down. Indeed, it might only take a seagull perched in the wrong spot.

DSC_8863

More of a stick sculpture than a dwelling place. 

I’ve never seen a teepee of any sort on any beach before. These were rather primitive structures,  been made out of stuff on the beach.  I was rather impressed with the construction techniques of the more luxurious dwellings and actually found a Dad building one with with his two daughters this afternoon. They didn’t know who’d built the other teepees, and how the building frenzy came about, but I’ll eventually find out. We live on a peninsula and there are NO secrets.

I didn’t have my camera with me this morning, and drove back home to pick it up. I had planned to head straight back before the sun intensified. However, a cup of tea later and inertia had set in and it took a cattle prod to get me back again this afternoon. Indeed, I could hear a wee small voice telling me to wait til tomorrow morning when the light would be better. However, I knew the transience of the beach. There’s usually nothing left in the morning.

Brandi Carlile

DSC_8897b
Yet, as you walk along the beach with your eyes wide open taking in all the infinitesimal details, you can appreciate a sense of history. That just like the human face tells a story with its array of freckles, lines, wrinkles scars and baby-soft skin, the detritus on the beach also tells a tale. As far as our beach was concerned today, the sand was almost buried in detritus from the recent bush fires, storms and floods. Massive ribbons of seaweed had been uprooted from the sea, and there were also huge branches and multitudinous sticks (which surely must be heaven for the local dogs). Many of the sticks and branches were charcoaled,  a legacy of the recent bush fires, and there were also traces of charcoal in the strand lines along the beach.However, in layperson’s terms, the beach was a mess and I could see the council sending down the tractor. This was no job for a rake or broom.

“When the wild wave meets the calm beach, when anger reaches tranquillity, anger disappears, serenity triumphs, the wave experiences enlightenment!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

However, another storm hit tonight and I doubt the teepees will still be there in the morning. Indeed, I’m sure the hungry, greedy sea has devoured the lot and when I go back tomorrow, they’ll be gone and the remains of tonight’s meal will be left behind instead. Golly! I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but he doesn’t even clean his plate!

“As we feel the whispering vibrations of the sea and hover on the waves of the present, we realize that each moment flows into an unknown destination. Everything melts down into a new mystery since ‘now’ will never come back, and ‘tomorrow’ is uncharted territory. (“Voices of the sea”)”
― Erik Pevernagie

DSC_8883

“No permanence is ours; we are a wave
That flows to fit whatever form it finds”
― Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game

I guess the only saving grace is that the teepees  lasted longer than a sandcastle and after tonight’s storm, there will be plenty of materials to go and build some more.
Best wishes,
Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 10th February, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I should preempt today’s coffee share with a few “Glub! Glub! Glubs” because after surviving extreme bush fires and choking smoke, we’re now experiencing damaging heavy rain and winds and flooding. Indeed, you don’t even need to live near a river to be affected and today our daughter had a day off school because a tree had fallen across power lines and the school was also flooded. Her older brother wasn’t impressed. He had to go to school.  As far as the impact on us is concerned, our back room which is one of those atmospheric indoor-outdoor rooms with Laserlite to let in the balmy light, leaked like a sieve. This is the third time we’ve had to virtually everything out of the room. The last two times, hail had peppered holes through the roof like machine  gun fire. This time there were numerous gaps for no explained reason and my husband superhero that is, had to get up on the roof armed with goodness knows what goopy sealand stuff and paint to seal it up. I told my son that’s what his job will be when he grows up. Something tells me our daughter will never get up there in her pointe shoes and she’ll need to find equality in other areas, especially something which doesn’t involve removing spiders from the house!

Without any further ado, I’d better check whether you’d like tea, coffee, hot chocolate or some other beverage of choice. I thought you might like to join me and dig into one of these biscuit sandwiches I found at a cafe in Newtown, Sydney today. It was absolutely scrumptiously divine  with rich butter cream in between two chocolate biscuits dipped in sprinkles for a bit of festive colour and crunch. Wow! I feel like getting straight back on the train for more, except the trains were out today after the storm so I’ll have to exercise some uncharacteristic patience.  Meanwhile, I’ve sitting next to a chunky caramel kit kat. Have you tried one of these? I’m a recent convert and they’re sooo good!

So how are you and what have you been up to?

King Street Newtown historic

Last Monday, I met up my friend Stephen who was part of a group of friends I had in my early 20s and we’d largely lost touch I got married and moved a little North to the Central Coast, which is part of Greater Sydney. We met up at Sydney’s Central Station and caught the train to Newtown which is 4 kms South-West of the CBD. Traditionally, it’s had a large student population and was rather grungy and bohemian. However, now it’s become highly expensive and let’s just say the place has had a face lift. Stephen and I found a cafe where I found the biscuit and walked down King Street onto City Road past Sydney University. .

 

We had planned to go to a lecture but I’d mixed up the date and we were a month early. So, we went out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant off Broadway, called the Holy Duck. It was wonderful and we had a cocktail each. To be more about our adventure, click HERE

My adventures researching the stories of WWI to gain a better understanding of our family’s involvement and what happened in general continues. This project has been like jumping off a cliff clutching an octopus. I just keep ploughing deeper and deeper with no idea where the next soldier’s letter will take me. It’s been a real confirmation of that old proverb…”everybody has a story”. It’s interesting rebuilding the story of WWI through the eyes of the little people. Privates who had no say in what happened and were simply flotsam and jetsam ordered around by top brass or shot at by the enemy. However, they still had concerns of their own like the rest of us and reading through y husband’s Great Uncle Ralph’s diary, right before the Battle of Amiens which proved to be a critical turning point in the war, he’s writing about not getting mail for awhile with the underlying implication that he was missing home. Or, perhaps there was a certain someone we don’t know about who he was missing in a special way. That said, he does express hope that the war will soon be over: “Let us hope that Providence will be kind to us this stunt and enable us to make a move that will go a long way towards winding up this ghastly business.”

The new school year kicked off a week ago. Getting the family and the house ready for this is to be a logistical nightmare. Now that I’ve been studying more of the logistical side of managing a war, I realize the operations side of the household has been sadly lacking. That love isn’t enough to get the troops moving. We need to get all that boring stuff which feminism and equality was supposed to do away with, done. Speaking of this reminds me that I’m intending to have a talk with the kids about equality. How’s this for a bumper slogan…”Equality begins at home”.

Anyway, the start of the new school year, is always when the rubber hits the road with my new year’s resolutions. After all, it’s virtually impossible to stick to just about any resolution during the January holiday period in Australia. We’ve all gone troppo. So, now I’m trying to get into the routine of going for a walk after I drop the kids at school in the morning. I managed to pull it off on the first two mornings. However, on the third, I ran into a friend and went for a talk instead. Since, then I made up for a few walks almost reaching 10,000 steps on my rip to Newtown, although I don’t done much walking since. It’s been raining. Yes, I know it hasn’t necessarily rained all day everyday but it hasn’t exactly been inspiring and like most of us with our best-intentioned resolutions, I’ve fallen off the wagon.

My other resolution is to try to do at least 30 minutes of daily violin practice. This has been rather hit and miss as well. Some nights, I forget. Others, I’ve been too busy and others I simply can’t be bothered.

So, perhaps I need to add reading motivational books to to list of resolutions.

Yet, all the same, there’s another school of motivational thought which is geared well towards limping and impaled failures. That’s the idea that something is better than nothing and not to let a mediocre effort convert to giving up. That the person who cuts back the number of cigarettes is still making progress even if they haven’t quit. That it’s better off to be an imperfect vegan who cuts back their consumption of plastics and fossil fuels than making no change at all. That our instance on perfection, can inherently cause us too fail. I get that. Yet, at the same time, I still want to tick all the boxes. Get everything right.

I know we’re almost heading into March, but how have you been going with your resolutions? Are you still chipping away at them? Or, have you moved on altogether?

Anyway, I thought I’d give us a few motivational quotes to spur us on…

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent” – Calvin Coolidge

“If you fall behind, run faster. Never give up, never surrender, and rise up against the odds.” – Jesse Jackson

“Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. And don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.” -Richard M. Nixon

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” ―Harriet Beecher Stowe

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”– Elbert Hubbard

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”

–Robert Collier (1885-1950), American self-help author

 

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”Confucius

 

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”F. Scott Fitzgerald.

 

Well, I’m not sure whether all those quotes are enough to get me away from my writing to clean up the incredible mess from last night’s storm and leaking roof, but they were encouraging. Indeed, they actually pose a strong argument for ignoring the mess and just keep researching and writing until the book’s done. If only! However, something tells me that could be rather catastrophic on too many fronts. Better have a look at Plan B.

This has been a return to writing for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Who Was the Diggingest Dog?

This is what we woke up to this morning… a monumental crater in our backyard. A crater so big, you could almost park a Mini inside it, and we weren’t happy!

Well, you might think we’d been struck by a meteorite. Indeed, given the smattering of holes around the backyard, a meteorite shower.  However, this particular hole is much larger and deeper than the rest and might even be considered impressive. Meanwhile, thanks to all these holes and the grey, sandy soil, our backyard resembles a moonscape and there’s barely a blade of grass in sight.  It looks pretty desolate to be honest and I don’t really go out there unless I have to.

As soon as you step foot in our backyard, the cause of these holes is obvious. It’s our three dogs… Lady and the “pups” Rosie and Zac. However, this hole was most likely the work of one dog, and the other two are innocent. However, how do we find out who done it when we don’t have the forensic resources of the FBI, Scotland Yard or NSW Police at our disposal? We obviously won’t get far by interrogating the dogs. Moreover, each dog is very good at feigning innocence. So, I guess this all means the guilty dog has got away with it. Committed the perfect crime.

Above: Lady is adamant it wasn’t her…”I’m an absolute angel.”

Pity that, because I really would like to have a backyard, which hasn’t literally gone to the dogs. Last night, this question raised it’s ugly head again when I had the chance to nip over to London via the blog and was able to check out  Geoff Le Pard’s backyard. His garden not only has flowers. It also has that lush green expanse otherwise known as “a lawn”. A lawn is a luxury. Yet, Geoff also has has a dog.

“Get close to grass and you’ll see a star.”

― Dejan Stojanovic, The Sun Watches the Sun

How does this man manage to have a perfect backyard and an incredible almost glowing green lawn when he also has a dog? How is it so? Does Geoff have direct access to Flora, the Roman goddess associated with flowers and Spring? Or, is it just a case that God has blessed the gardens of England and cursed the gardens of Australia, or even the backyard of this Australian in particular? It’s not that I feel like I have a target painted on my back. However, sometimes I do feel the man upstairs has made my journey that bit more difficult than most, and I could well throw “gratitude” to the wind. Indeed,  I could walk straight up to God and ask him straight out: “Please explain”.

Many of you won’t understand what I mean by “please explain”. It’s a phrase made famous here in Australia by our controversial Federal politician Pauline Hanson. While I might not like Pauline Hanson or her politics, the phrase has stuck moving into common usage, often with comic effect.

family zoom

Our Family

Mind you, I can’t really blame God for the state of our backyard and in many ways, the dogs aren’t to blame either. Having the perfect backyard, the perfect house aren’t achievable at the moment with two kids, three dogs, sailing and dance activities, work and chronic health. It’s relationships which matter, although I will confess that’s not as easy as it sounds and fueling relationships over the longer term isn’t easy. There’s a big difference I guess between where we aspire to be and where we’re at. That’s what it means to be human.

How is your garden going? Do you manage to have dogs and a decent garden? What’s your magic secret?

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I found this beautiful quotes which related so well to our battles to grow grass in our backyard of beach sand:

“The children had had an argument once about whether there was more grass in the world or more sand, and Roger said that of course there must be more sand because of under the sea; in every ocean all over the world there would be sand, if you looked deep down. But there could be grass too, argued Deborah, a waving grass, a grass that nobody had ever seen, and the colour of that ocean grass would be darker than any grass on the surface of the world, in fields or prairies or people’s gardens in America. It would be taller than tress and it would move like corn in the wind. (“The Pool”
― Daphne du Maurier, Echoes from the Macabre: Selected Stories

Making Up Friends…Charles Dickens Quote.

“It is the fate of most men who mingle with the

world, and attain even the prime of life, to

make many real friends, and lose them in the

course of nature. It is the fate of all authors or

chroniclers to create imaginary friends, and

lose them in the course of art. Nor is this the

full extent of their misfortunes; for they are

required to furnish an account of them

besides.”

― Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

For those of you who have written novels, how have you felt when you’ve reached the end and your relationship with your characters is over? Or, worse still, when you’ve killed off one of your favourites?

I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena