Tag Archives: Change

M- Meander River, Tasmania.

Welcome to the Meander River for Day 12 of our Alphabetical Tour of Tasmania during the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

The Meander River is true to name as it flows from its source high up in Great Western Tiers Mountain Range via towns like Meander and Deloraine, until it flows into the South Esk River at Hadspen. From source to mouth, the Meander is joined by fourteen tributaries including the Liffey River and descends 930 metres (3,050 ft) over its 112-kilometre (70 mi) course.[1]

Meander at weir

The Meander River, Deloraine.

“Many a calm river begins as a turbulent waterfall, yet none hurtles and foams all the way to the sea.”

Mikhail Lermontov

As you may recall, we’ve spent the past few days hiding out in Launceston with friends. So, today we only have a short drive from Launceston to Deloraine where we’ll meet up with the Meander River. After all our driving, you’ll be pleased to hear this will be a quick 41 minute trip covering 52.3km (not that I’m being precise and hanging on each and every second. I promise that you won’t need to bring a stopwatch.)

As an alternative to driving, I did consult with my in-house, Tasmanian white-water kayaking expert about the possibilities of kayaking from Launceston to Deloraine. After all, we’ve been driving everywhere and it would be good to get out there on the water, especially when we were there in January (far too cold now heading into Winter!) While he didn’t discount kayaking completely, we agreed you’ll be reported to Missing Persons long before you reach Deloraine, and even the most intrepid adventurers will be offering their rescuers profuse thanks. “You’d be exhausted!!” Not only is there the not insignificant matter of the River’s never-ending twists and turns, there are also white water rapids to overcome.

Train

Train Parked.

So, I guess that means we’ve all agreed to drive and we’ll meet up at the Train Park in West Parade, Deloraine.

Rivers intrigue me. Much of the time, they seem so benign and it’s only in times of drought or flood, that we generally stare beyond their obvious facades probing for answers to life’s imponderable questions. Rivers can run deep, and yet they’re so reflective in a purely superficial sense. I love taking photos of reflections dancing over the river’s facade, especially when there’s just the slightest ripple through the image just to remind you, that it is indeed a reflection and not the thing itself.

Indeed, reading through numerous newspaper headlines through the last 150 years or more, I’ve sandwiched together Meander’s ever-changing tides…

DELORAINE. The Meander River has overflowed its banks, causing a very heavy flood…MEANDER RIVER FROZEN OVER.DELORAINE. Wednesday. The Meander River at Deloraine was frozen over this morning from bank to bank. The frost was the severest ever known in the district…After it is taken in to the Deloraine water scheme, it is treated with chlorine to kill bacteria … to make it safe to drink. (Continued on P2) MEANDER RIVER POLLUTED Continued from Page 1. HIGH E COLI…The recent rises in the Meander River have greatly assisted anglers, and large catches have been reported. All Ash were In good condition, A number of platypuses have been seen near the Deloraine…DELORAINE FISHING STARTS – The river fishing season started yesterday, and the banks of the Meander River were lined with fishing enthusiasts, all endeavouring to catch the first fish of the season…LOBSTER IN TROUT. – Mr. L.D. Cameron, of Deloraine, caught a large brown trout weighing 2¾lbs. in the Meander river below the weir on Tuesday. Its stomach contained a 3-inch freshwater lobster. Lobsters have not been seen in the river at Deloraine for a number of years…

I guess this just confirms what Heraclitus said:

“You cannot step into the same river twice.”

Meanwhile, as we peer deep into the Meander our hopes are not dashed. Our son finally manages to spot a platypus with its bill sticking out of the water. Being a mammal, the Platypus must return to the surface to breathe but it still needs to get spotted and they’re notoriously shy.

Me being me, there is only one thing more important than seeing a platypus in the wild for the very first time in my life. That’s right. That’s taking THE photo.

Black Swan

This black swan made for a much better photograph than the elusive platypus.

 

Of course, we all know that if I was wanting to photograph a platypus, I’d be much better off going to the zoo. However, as you would appreciate, a photo taken out in the wild out trumps a zoo photo any day, even if you can’t see the subject.

Mind you, it seems that Geoff has seen quite a few platipus in the wild. Geoff’s aunt who used to live at North Scottsdale, used to have a resident No-Name platypus living in their creek. Geoff’s even seen this platypus walking across their gravel driveway around dusk heading off hunting downstream.

So, when I catch up with Mum and Dad for Easter lunch, I’ll definitely be adding: “No Platypus Encounters” to my list of childhood grievances. I’m still not sure whether not going camping as a family, counts as a minus or a plus.

kids with Ro

The kids and I crossing the Meander River at Deloraine.

What do you think? Are you a camper, glamper or up there in your ivory hotel? And…does the presence or deadly snakes and spiders in Tasmania influence your decision at all?

I look forward to hearing from you!

xx Rowena

 

The End Of An Era…

“This is the way the world ends.

Not with a bang, but a whimper.”

-T.S. Eliot

Today, both of my children left the school we have called home for the last seven years. This has been a very emotional time for me as well as I’ve been quite involved at the school and have done the publicity for 6 years. However, I’ve not only written press releases, I’ve also been the school photographer. I haven’t simply photographed the kids like some fly on the wall from a distance. I usually talk to them. Encourage them to smile and come out of themselves so I’m definitely no stranger up there myself. I’ll really miss the kids and truly appreciate what an honour it’s been to get to know them in this much more personal way.

Next year, our son starts high school, so he’s definitely reached a point of no return. He is out of the nest and will soon be grappling with his new, much expanded universe. Our daughter, on the other hand, still has two more years of primary school to go but has been accepted into a selective primary school. Her new school is a 45 minutes drive away or an hour train and bus ride. This may prove too much but we’ll see how it goes.

While our daughter left the school quietly , exiting stage left largely unnoticed, Year Six left with more than the usual bang.

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Kindergarten children hold hands forming the arch for the tunnel.

 

 

It’s a school tradition for all the kids to form a tunnel or guard of honour  and the Year 6s move through. As Mister explained, this can be quite tricky because the Kindergarten kids are half their height. So, he found himself ducking, weaving and crawling through,  which I’m sure just added to the fun. There were many tears as the kids went through and I’m surprised I didn’t cry myself but filming and photographing the action probably distracted me. Besides, I still don’t think it’s sunk in that we’ve left. That a whole new road has opened up. Make that two roads.

As luck would have it, a severe storm hit Sydney yesterday. In what was a very Jane Austen moment, not long before the tunnel was due, the heavens opened up. Rain bucketed down. Lightening flashed. Thunder, which had been rumbling most of the day, suddenly cracked with a vengeance. Although this sounds bad enough, we’d actually been spared the worst. Parts of Southern Sydney were hit by a tornado rated as an F2 (strong for Australia).

So, rather than leaving school with a whimper, Year 6 of 2015 went out with a bang…and a flash!

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To be perfectly honest, I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like next year when the three of us won’t be heading off to school together. If my car was a horse, I wouldn’t even need to steer. The car well and truly knows the way and it wouldn’t surprise me if we somehow end up there by accident on the first day next year: “We’re back!”

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Last night, we had the “Year 6 Farewell”, which was the grand finale for year. The theme was 1970s hippie/surfie. Each student designed their own record cover, and there were some fabulous designs there…loads of rainbow-coloured texta. There was also a vinyl record for each child with their photo from Kindergarten (their first year at school) on one side and Year 6 on the other side. These were hung with fishing line from the roof of the hall and looked very impressive en masse. One of the parents made a Kombi photo booth, which looked fantastic. Parents were allowed in to take photos at the start and were shooed out for most of it and return for the final proceedings. A video has appeared of the teachers doing the Nutbush on the school’s Facebook page. They’re a great bunch of dancers.

 

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Mister on Record.

 

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Mister and Geoff at the Farewell.

As hard as it is to leave the school, change is a part of life and we all know what happens to still water. It stagnates. We have to keep moving.

Quite often we have no idea where we’re heading and are just fumbling around in the dark. Most of the time, things eventually become clear.

So, as much as I’d like to stay put and keep keeping on, we’re off.

We are done! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc3LGzNEkL0

By the way, thought you might be interested in a poem I wrote about when Mister started school: The Acorn https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/the-acorn/

Will you or your family be experiencing any fresh starts in the New Year? Please share!

xx Rowena

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Palm Beach Perspectives, Sydney, Australia.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

-Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor (161-180 CE)

Known as Summer Bay to lovers of the TV Drama series Home & Away and “Palmy” to those in the know, generation after generation have made the long drive up to Palm Beach often returning with sand-encrusted butts, sunburn and shocking tempers in a stinking hot car full of flies. Of course, that’s turning the clock back to the inimitable 70s when going to Palm Beach for us, meant piling into the family’s beloved HG Holden which had painfully hot upholstery and no air-conditioning. Ouch!

Palm Beach is located 41 kilometres North of Sydney’s CBD. However, I can assure you that if you’re catching the legendary L90 bus, welcome to eternity. Indeed, the journey takes around 2 hours. If you were traveling in Europe, you could well have traversed a few countries in that time. Moreover, bus is the only form of public transport. At least historically speaking, trains have been resisted.

On the other hand, if you are coming from the Central Coast, Palm Beach is only a stone’s throw away. You can catch the Palm Beach Ferry from either Ettalong or Wagstaff, which is an absolutely stunning 30 minute trip. When that gorgeous Australian sun is illuminating the ocean like a magical diamond carpet and the wind isn’t too strong, you’re in absolute paradise. On the other hand, when there’s heavy rain, strong winds, the ferry is heaving up and down through what feels like treacherous surf and you’re about to throw up; you feel like you deserve a bravery award once you reach the other side. Yes, at times like that, you even wonder if you’re about to become a modern version of the Swiss Family Robinson or remake Gilligan’s Island. Melodrama aside, the crew are very adept and the ferry is cancelled during particularly rough weather.

Palm Beach is an absolute kaleidoscope of perspectives, like any place, once you scratch beneath the surface. Obviously, creating that sort of mosaic, isn’t possible here so I’ll stick to the bigger picture, providing more of a broad-sweeping overview which a few “local” insights.

Geographically-speaking, Palm Beach has two quite opposite perspectives: the surf beach and Pittwater. The beach equals waves and swimming while Pittwater is “flat” and better suited for sailing, kayaking and other water sports.

Palm Beach- surf side

Palm Beach- surf side

Starting off with the surf beach, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that the sand is deep gold in colour. The next thing, is the surf. At the Southern end, the waves are relatively gentle and you have “kiddies’ corner”  where families with young kids hang out. There’s also an ocean pool where you can swim laps. The beach then stretches around towards the Northern end with it’s famous surfing breaks and culminates with the Palm Beach Lighthouse, which lies perched on top of the headland like a crown. If you are fit and energetic, you can walk up to the Lighthouse. I haven’t been up there for years and I’ve heard the path has improved but it used to be more of a climb than a walk.

The majority of swimmers are clustered “in between the flags”. The red and yellow flags mark where it’s safest to swim and is patrolled by the Surf Lifesavers. So, if you find yourself getting into difficulty, you can easily be spotted and rescued. I can assure you that as a teenager, my friends and I did consider needing a bit of CPR but never actually implemented these plans. We were all “talk”. That is, except when it came to talking to the lifesavers. These Adonises were in a league all of their own.

In a scene reminiscent of hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top of bread and butter (fairy bread),the crowds pour into Palmy from Christmas through to the Australia Day weekend at the end of January, which signals the return to school and the end of the precious Summer holidays. Then, the masses jostle for a precious rectangle of sand to park their towel on the hot,hot sand under the scorchingly hot Australian sun.

Although people living overseas have asked me about the hole in the ozone over Australia, it doesn’t look like all the sunbakers roasting themselves into early-onset melanoma have heard anything about it. When we were young, we used to to cover ourselves in baby oil or get sprayed on the beach by coconut oil, which was the height of sophistication back in the 70s and 80s. There was no such thing as a “fake tan” back then. Just sunburn, peeling skin, freckles and the odd genetic mutant who could actually pull off a tan.

Many years ago now, I used to hang out on the beach where designer sunnies were de rigeur and it certainly wasn’t the sort of place you’d turn up with hairy legs and arm pits which could fuel a forest fire. You didn’t just practice “the strut” at Palmy either. You had to have that down pat beforehand so Palm Beach could be your catwalk. Even better, if you also had the fingernails to eliminate your competition!

Geoff arriving home from a sail.

Geoff arriving home from a sail.

While the beachfront is renowned for flashing incredible wealth in a subtle, understated way and very much being “a scene”, the Pittwater side of Palm Beach is like it’s alter ego and incredibly down to earth  Understandably, there generally isn’t that fashion element you get over at the surf beach. Getting covered in sand and mud, we save our good clothes for back home or dining out and only wear our glad rags out there. It’s water shoes, wet suits, swimmers, grungy t-shirts and thick smears of sunscreen and broad-brimmed hats.

Although my tour of Palm Beach is rapidly drawing to a close, there are still two places I’d like you to visit.

Here I am enjoying a deep-fried prawn from the Fisherman's Basket.

Here I am enjoying a deep-fried prawn from the Fisherman’s Basket.

Firstly, there’s the infamous Palm Beach fish and chips shop, which has gone by various names over the years. It’s located on the Pittwater side, just across from the ferry wharf. People come from all around Sydney and the Central Coast to feast on these fish and chips, which surely must be among Sydney’s best?!! You can either eat-in or take them across the road and eat them in the park while checking out the sailing.

Secondly, there’s Alf’s Bait Shop in “Summer Bay”. Personally, there’s such an incredible cringe factor and like Neighbours, Home & Away is best exported but the show has been a fabulous ambassador and no doubt sold Australia to thousands of tourists. Palm Beach really does look incredible. That said, they usually present a glamorized, postcard perspective. After all, it does rain in Palm Beach and it isn’t always sun and blue skies!

However, while so far I’ve given you what pretty much reads as the glamour tour of Palm Beach, I can’t help feeling that Palm Beach is a little over-rated, especially given the cost of real estate. Even though it is part of Sydney, Palm Beach is actually very isolated and lacks most of what I would class “essential services”. There are no proper supermarkets and you have a ten minute drive into Avalon, which can extend to 20 in traffic. It is impossible to find a parking spot, which has meant that we’ve gone down for fish and chips and have driven off. I don’t want to knock down paradise and put up a parking lot. However, you do need to eat and get out of the house. That is also made difficult by the very narrow, twisting roads which lack adequate footpaths/ Indeed, in spots being a pedestrian is almost asking to get run over. As I was walking back from the bus stop the other day, I really felt like I needed to breathe in to distance myself from passing traffic.

Consequently, you can feel a little trapped and claustrophobic on the “insular peninsula”…especially when we have stunning beaches back home which are close to the shops, train and bus at such a fraction of the cost of real estate here.

Actually, thinking about Palm Beach’s location, it’s almost like someone was playing pin-the-tail on the donkey and stuck the pin almost off the side of the map. Even though it’s located in Sydney and not in the outback, it does feel strangely isolated both from services and people. So many of the houses are empty.

I am a bit down on Palm Beach at the moment because my Dad has sold the house here and we’re moving on, which is a serious wrench.

So rather than writing home about all the things I love about the place, I am also trying to remind myself of all the other equally beautiful places elsewhere and think about the flip side of the travel experience. For the last few years, we’ve immersed ourselves here but perhaps now it’s time to explore further afield and explore with a broader brush. When it comes to the Pittwater side of Palm Beach,it feels like we’ve explored each and every single hair on its head…especially when I’ve photographed it in such incredibly, minute detail and it feels like I know each single hair on its head, even though we’re still finding new critters.

So, soon I will be seeing our time in Palm Beach from another perspective…the past. I don’t need to leave it behind completely. After all, it’s only a short 30 minute ferry ride away but we planted roots here even if they’re uprooted and not severed completely, it still hurts and I feel a bit lost and disorientated. That said, once school goes back next week and we’re back to the grind at home, it will be a different story.

We’ll be home.

This has been P for Palm Beach Perspectives for the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. How are you going with the challenge? Thank goodness, it is Sunday tomorrow and we have a break!

xx Rowena

The Acorn

You walked through
the school gate with hesitation:
a blank page with your name scrawled
crookedly in the corner.

An acorn planted in fertile soil,
you germinated.
Bursting through that constricting shell
too small for you to grow,
you poked through the soft earth,
a tender shoot reaching for the sun.

As your shoots headed for the sun,
your roots tunneled deep
towards the very centre of the earth
soaking up the spring rains
and you flourished.
Anchored to the ground,
reaching for the sky,
you were firmly planted.

At least,
that was in my dreams.
Sadly, even a fruitful journey
is full of storms and contradictions
and even blue skies burn.

I watched your leaves
change colour with the seasons;
their illuminated palette glowing
like stained-glass windows
backlit by the glorious sun
and bare sticks persevering
through another winter’s chill.

I shielded your tender stems
against those howling, winter winds
and quenched your insatiable thirst
all summer long.

At first,
I always held on tight,
holding your hand,
paving the way
trying to teach you
everything I knew.

But then…
little by little,
I let go…
just enough
for you to grow.
For I knew one day
you would have to stand alone.

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II
I don’t know who played
cruel tricks with the clock
and even meddled
with the very hands of time
but you’re no longer a sapling.
You’ve become a tree,
even growing acorns of your own
and I don’t know where
all those years have gone
or how to get them back.

Oak Tree, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Oak Tree, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Anchored to the soil
through your enormous trunk,
your mighty branches now
stretch right across the sky
with strength, persistence and endurance,
through sunshine and rain,
providing homes to the multitudes.
Birds build their nests
singing great morning choruses
as ants march up and down
carrying bulging loads with great intent.
Children build cubby houses
climbing towards the sun
laughing and having fun
while you smile proud,
oozing with life and love.

I am so proud
of all you’ve become!

III

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Now, it is I who needs
your strength
as my leaves change colour
falling to the ground.
Slowly but surely,
the colours wear away
until only the veins remain
and you are helping me
across the road instead.

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I don’t want to go
but we each reach
the end of this road.
and as the cycle goes on,
the oaks need to leave room
for the acorns to grow.

IV

You entered the gate a boy…
a blank page
with your name
scrawled crookedly
in the corner
but now you’ve emerged…

a man.

On 17th December, 2009 I wrote the very first version of this poem. It was the day after our son finished his first year at school and he was still only 5 years old. I had been struck by how far he had come in that year. When he arrived, all he could do was scrawl his name in the corner of a big, blank sheet of paper but by the end of that year, he was writing tentative sentences and was reading quite well, even if sitting still and concentration weren’t his thing.

I have reworked the poem many times since then and have even extensively reworked it today.

Mother & Son played by actors Ruth Cracknell & Garry McDonald.

Mother & Son played by actors Ruth Cracknell & Garry McDonald.

The relationship between mother and son weaves its way throughout the poem, which reminds of of a favourite show: Mother & Son, staring Ruth Cracknell and Garry McDonald. I don’t kno whether you’d describe it as a comedy or a tragedy but Mum in the story has dementia and Garry McDonald plays her middle-aged divorced son who is still living with Mum but probably not by choice.

Mother & Son
: “The Funeral” clip: http://aso.gov.au/titles/tv/mother-and-son-funeral/clip1/

Time has certainly flown past. He is now 11 years old and is in Year 6…his last year at Primary School. Next year, he’ll be passing through a different gate when he goes off to High School. His journey hasn’t progressed as smoothly as the fairly idealistic path depicted in the poem and life hasn’t been smooth sailing but he is finding real maturity now and growing up inside as well as in terms of height. We are very proud of him!!

This poem remains a work in progress and I wonder if it will ever be finished.

However, I wanted to share it with you.

Moreover, today is 1st April and the beginning of the Blogging From A-Z Challenge which takes place in April each year. This is the first time I’ve participated and I’m a little bit daunted about tackling the technical side of it all but sometimes, you just have to hurl yourself straight off a cliff and keep running!!

Love & Best wishes,
Rowena

I am participating in the A-Z Challenge.

I am participating in the A-Z Challenge.

A wet and misty day in paradise.

A wet and misty day in paradise.

 

Looking very much like a scene from a Northern winter, it's summer in Sydney...not quite your postcard perspective!!

Looking very much like a scene from a Northern winter, it’s summer in Sydney…not quite your postcard perspective!!

Happy Australia Day 2015! It’s overcast, wet and even the cricket has been delayed.

Just in case you didn’t check out yesterday’s post, this was yesterday:

Mister still roasting as a very hot Australian sun sets.

Mister still roasting as a very hot Australian sun sets.

 

People often tell you that tomorrow is another day and most of the time I’ve politely nodded while feeling highly sceptical, cynical and plain unconvinced. How could my entire world change completely overnight like waving a magic wand? Surely, there would just be more and more of the same and one day surely follows another. Why would it change?

Well, overnight, we have seen an absolute change in the weather here in Sydney. Yesterday, there was blue sky and the sun was blazing overhead like an oven. I’ve always meant to actually test whether you can actually fry an egg out on the raod on days like that but eggs are rather messy and I always seem to forget. I’m sure someone somewhere has tried and can tell me if it works but that would somehow spoil the magic.

While our last day in paradise has been spent indoors, I was watching a few yachts sail past and even a couple of what I could only call zealous kayakers paddle by and then I realised that they were out there carpe diem seiziing the day despite the rain. I didn’t know whether that was a good thing or just blind obsession but as much as I love going out in the kayak, I don’t like that sensation of having wet raindrops patter again your skin. It’s sort of creepy…as in scraping fingertails down a chalkboard kind of creepy. No, I’ll stay inside.

That said, I am considering a swim in the pool. It was so balmy warm last night. You see, it has solar heating and we haven’t adjusted the settings so it was like swimming in a balmy soup. Yes, it’s going to need a good dose of something when we leave. Unfortunately, at those temperatures it’s going to become amoeba soup.

We will be heading back home tonight. Tomorrow, will be our last day of school holidays where we will be quickly trying to adjust our body clocks to the inevitable early mornings and trying to get all our ducks lined up for the real new year.

At least, I’ve made a list.

Sadly, something tells me that we’ll be relieved just to pull up at school on time with hair done, shoes on and something in the lunchbox. We are still struggling to implement our scouting motto: “Be Prepared”!!

By the way, I still have the boot on my broken foot as we start the new school year and the operatic cough is starting to look like I’ve had whooping cough. While this might excuse me from being wondrously organised for the start of the new school year, that isn’t going to help the kids get a good start or perhaps aiming well beyond our station…actually, get ahead.

Wish us luck!! We really, really need it!!

xx Rowena

Old Self…New Year: Beware of the Big Bad Wolf!

If you, like me, decided NOT to make any  resolutions at all on NYE, you could also be in for a rude shock. Just because you objected, that doesn’t mean those resolutions won’t come running after you. Now, that NYE is almost a full week behind us and we’ve almost been lulled into a dream, it’s just the right time for the Big Bad Wolf to come knocking on your door when you least expect it:

“Little pig. Little pig! Let me in”.

That’s right. The Big Bad Wolf will huff, puff and blow your house down. That is, if you refuse to respond and open the door to constructive change.

I have to admit that I’d seen the Big Bad Wolf out on the horizon but thought I’d got a step ahead by taking up the One Word Challenge: http://myoneword.org/.

Love...my word for 2015.

Love…my word for 2015.

Indeed, you might have read that I have chosen “Love” as my word for 2015https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/new-year-my-one-word-for-2015-and-why-i-cant-leave-2014-behind/

“Love” seemed the only choice for me after the week of horror which took place just before Christmas. After all that hate in one week along with the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 earlier in the year, I really felt we all needed to come together in love to cleanse our world of hate.

In order to do this, we somehow needed to learn to “love our neighbour as ourselves”.

Not just our neighbour either.

We also need to treat our nearest and dearest the way we would like to be treated. Or, better still, by having the empathy to treat them the way they would like to be treated. This is so much more than a platitude. I take this word extremely seriously and see this as no warm, fuzzy, soft option. Indeed, the decision, the commitment, to love is a serious undertaking and also involves a word that I’m seriously not good at…”patience”. I failed patience a long, long time ago.

It also involves stopping, which is another concept I’m not that good at. Stop writing and being busy and spend some quality time with those I love…so easy in theory but surprisingly difficult in practice. We all lead busy lives but eventually that excuse wears thin.

With love as my over-arching word for 2015, I already knew that I had my work cut out for me. That love was a sufficient challenge, goal, personal development project for 2015.

Ha! Like so many of us who make plans and goals, these soon get dashed on the rocks. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t given up on love. It’s just that resolutions for the New Year are slowly but surely finding me and they’re being very insistent. I don’t think I have any choice about doing any of this. It’s sink or swim time and of course, I and the rest of the family are wanting to swim. We don’t want to drown.

So once again, I’m left quoting John Lennon:

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

So while New Year’s Eve has been and gone, we are still on school holidays in Australia and my real NYE will be the 27th January…the night before the kids go back to school. By then, I’ll have to overcome my sins of the past 12 months. I must… especially if I love my kids and I truly want them to reach their true potential. Grow up into themselves, without being stunted. I want my kids to grow up into mighty oaks or even eucalypts… not being constantly cut back and cut back into some imprisoned bonsai which never grows up to reach the sun!

Our daughter growing into a mighty eucalypt or "gum" tree.

Our daughter growing into a mighty eucalypt or “gum” tree.

Sure, I was pretty crook last year. You know my story  or can read it here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/about/.

While I can justifiably blame the chemo for screwing up my already challenged organisation, I can only blame chemo for so long before I need to act. Do something. As I said, we don’t want to sink…especially in a sea of miscellaneous paperwork and school notes. We want to swim. Be in  the race…not drown.

Improving my health is another non-negotiable this year. This really is something I can’t mess around with.

Now, I’m needing to develop the infrastructure or scaffolding to keep us on track until the chemo brain wears off. These are the sort of tedious changes that eventually get thrust upon you when there is no other choice ie when the Big Bad Wolf has all but gobbled up the sweet little pig.

So while I am also making big plans for my writing, my blog and work in 2015, I’ve also been force to accept these New Year’s nasties:

  1. Develop a detailed schedule and routine to improve organisation and arrive on time.
  2. Keep better track of upcoming events using diary, planner and wall chart.
  3. Lose 10 kilos. This will improve my breathing, reduce the worsening heartburn and improve my general health.
  4. Exercise 3 x per week. This reduces the risk of a respiratory infection…the greatest risk to my health. It will also help to keep me mobile and improve muscle strength.
  5. Declutter the house for an hour a day. I cleaned my desk up recently and I felt so much better. Need to extend those open spaces.

Despite my best intentions, this list of nasties seems to be growing too.

Of course, it goes without saying that I will still be writing, writing, writing. “Working” on my blog and even though my camera is suffering from chronic over-use, I can’t see it sitting home alone either!!

Out Taking Photos

Out Taking Photos

That said, even though I’ve taken these resolutions onboard under duress, that doesn’t mean I have to love them…even if that’s my word for 2015.

Even this ambitious little pig who is building her house out of brick, has to be prepared.

How are things looking for you in the New Year ahead? If you are struggling with it all, how about you listen to this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPtlSF4TlJE

Try

Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone’s bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
[1]

 

All the best with the best laid plans of mice and men and of course, it goes without saying, beware of the Big Bad Wolf!

xx Rowena

[1] Writer(s): Michael Busbee, Michael Ford Busbee, Benjamin West
Copyright: BMG Platinum Songs Us, Hello I Love You Music, Legitimate Efforts Music, Jam Writers Group

 

 

Lady’s Tour of Historic Morpeth

After picking up our new dog, Lady, from Raymond Terrace this morning, we drove over to the historic town of Morpeth, which is located on the Hunter River near Maitland. I adore Morpeth with its old historic buildings and streets so wide you could turn a bullock train around back in the day. As a serious lover of history, I’m not a great one for living in the present.

Walking the dog in Morpeth.

Walking the dog in Morpeth.

Even though Morpeth is only a couple of hour’s drive away from home, I don’t seem to get there very often. I think it has been two years since my last epic visit. If you haven’t been to Morpeth, you are really missing out. In terms of architecture, Morpeth is something of a time capsule dating back to the mid 1800s with rugged cobbled footpaths and colonial buildings with broad verandahs. There is even an original slab bark hut dating back to the 1830s which has been restored. In a sense you could also describe Morpeth as a shopper’s paradise but it’s not some trashy shopping mall but more of an experience with Miss Lilly’s Lollyshop, Morpeth Sourdough, ginger beer numerous cafes, old wares shops and irresistible boutiques. You can read about my previous trips to Morpeth here:

As much as I love visiting Morpeth and almost sent us broke on one particular trip when it seemed like I almost bought up the place, our visit today was about spending time exploring together and having our first adventure with Lady.

With a name like Lady, you would half expect her to be traveling to Morpeth in coach perched up on a plush, velvet cushion. However, she is a Lady, not the Queen and yet I still picture her doing the royal wave. Well, she would if she could. I don’t believe dogs can wave but there’s always someone keen to prove me wrong!!

It was really exciting to take Lady for her first walk but it was truly memorable to take her for her first walk in Morpeth, watching her run over the cobblestones with the kids. My daughter seems to have claimed Lady as her dog at this stage and she loved running along with her. Our original dog, Bilbo, is a big dog and a bit too much for her to take on  her own for a walk. Lady is the perfect size for Miss. I think Miss also likes the fact Lady is a girl dog. As an 8 years old, boys are mostly annoying pests!

You call that a cow? Lady, checks out the metal cow at Grazer's Cafe, Morpeth.

You call that a cow? Lady, checks out the metal cow at Grazer’s Cafe, Morpeth.

While Lady wasn’t too happy being tied up outside Miss Lilly’s Lollyshop, we were able to have lunch with Lady at a local cafe called Grazers, which has a cute cow theme. Lady comes from a farm with real cows so I don’t know what she thought when we photographed her next to a metal cow sculpture. I could almost hear her calling out through the obvious confusion: “Please explain!” While she might have been a bit baffled by the metal cow, there was no confusion over the kids’ ,meat pies. We had been warned that Lady can really jump and she was particularly keen on the kids’ meat pies. A dog is a dog, after all!

I've never met a dog who doesn't like a meat pie!

I’ve never met a dog who doesn’t like a meat pie!

Lady was also quite a traffic stopper as well. Being a Monday, there weren’t that many people out in Morpeth and most of the shops were shut but a few passers-by stopped for a pat and a chat. Lady is so friendly and affectionate wagging her tail and nuzzling up to everyone she meets. She almost seems to manufacture happiness itself and I can’t help feeling she’s exactly what our family needs…a breath of fresh air.

Pausing at the pansy patch.

Pausing at the pansy patch.

The historic bridge crossing the Hunter River is one of Morpeth’s main landmarks. We walked down a very steep set of stairs to walk beside the riverbank where Miss managed to find a bunch of prickles and blackberries but after just a scratch, she manged to extricate herself unscathed with a few directions from Mum. Mister loved exploring the river bank and lay down in the grass in the shade. It’s now spring and it was quite a warm, sunny day where a bit of shade went a long way.

Relaxing in an antique bathtub outside Campbell's Store, a Morpeth icon.

Relaxing in an antique bathtub outside Campbell’s Store, a Morpeth icon.

We had so much fun!!

Yet, as much as I love Morpeth, I also wanted to get home before dark and we still had to introduce the two dogs. It was time for the next chapter to begin. Would they be anther Romeo and Juliet? Time would tell.

Driving back home from Morpeth was a bit more complicated than I’d hoped. Morpeth is out past Maitland, which out on the New England Highway and it seems out this way all roads lead to Newcastle, whereas I was wanting Sydney. Somehow, I kept missing the turn off and I was driving back and forwards between Hexham and the Newcastle suburb of Beresfield. We ended up going back and forwards and even tried a back way only to find ourselves back on the road heading north. We weren’t lost. I knew we were facing the wrong way and heading for Brisbane listed wasn’t a good thing. I just couldn’t join up the dots and find our way out. Personally, I found the signs quite inadequate. Being a huge city, Sydney deserves a big sign not some kind of footnote while the Hunter Valley Vineyards has a huge, rather distracting sign.

As we arrived closer to home, I started briefing the kids on the all important new arrival. Or to be more particular, how we were going to introduce Lady to Bilbo. While Bilbo isn’t quite an old dog, he is very set on his ways and he’s quite wary of strangers. He’s an excellent guard dog and doorbell. We always know when someone’s turned up. The plan was to introduce the dogs in neutral territory out the front and hope for the best. I’m no dog expert but I knew this was going to take time and at least a bit of massaging. As much as I thought Bilbo might like a girlfriend and had been told about his new “friend”, as far as he was concerned, nobody had consulted his opinion and like all foreign bodies, Bilbo would no doubt want Lady out. At the same time, Bilbo had been warming up to other dogs at the beach and I thought he was ready to take the step step.

Well, as ready as he was going to be.

Getting the Chop

There comes a time when even the most stubborn and resistant soul finally sees the light.

About 8 years ago, my hairdressing friend first broached the subject of cutting my hair short. Experiencing severe chest pain, chronic shortness of breath and blackouts, I almost leaped out of the chair and was well and truly doing the Harold Holt down the street and was halfway home when she finally caught up with me wielding her snippers, of course.

Instantly, I knew how the three blind mice felt being chased by that mad farmer’s wife with the knife. She wasn’t about to cut off my ponytail. No way! It was me…an inextricable part of myself and all that I am.  I had beautiful long, dark hair…my crowning glory. I’d be naked without my hair…denuded. There was no way on this earth that I was ever going to cut my hair short and she wasn’t going to do it either!

No doubt, my  friend observed these tell tale signs of shock as I gasped and struggled to regain my composure. However, this only fuelled her determination: “When a woman turns 40, she needs to cut her hair.” I don’t recall her exact words but she also mentioned something about needing to lift your face, which along with all your other body parts, was also heading permanently south.

While this all seemed like very sound advice, I was still a youthful 36 at the time and all this talk seemed very premature. Turning forty was a very, very distant shore.

My hair stayed put.

Although I’m what you would describe as “deep”, even I have to concede that your hair is more than just a superficial mat stuck  on top of your head. To some extent, it reflects your personality, values and beliefs and if you have ever known anybody outside the hairdressing fraternity who changes their hair colour like the rest of us change their underwear, it can also be quite  an effective litmus test on the mental health front as well. When people make big changes in their life, it is no coincidence that they often change their hair. High school teachers often pick a new style as the first sign of coming “trouble”.

I turned 40 and somehow managed to dodge the snippers, although my hair was shorter and for some reason had also gone wavy if not outright curly. That was a bit of a surprise  as I’d always had close to dead straight hair. There were no complaints, however. I was mystified but delighted.

No doubt there are some who are confused but the way I see the world, there are short-haired people and long haired people just like there are cat and dog people and a firm line in between.

That makes me a long-haired person. I’ve had long hair virtually all my life aside from a very bad hair stage  at school in the mid-eighties where some kind of madness hit and I emerged from the hairdresser with a permed bob with an undercut. I thought I was the personification of cool until my hair bleached in  the sun and turned orange. Then things went from bad to catastrophic as heartache followed heartache and in bouts of teenaged angst, I cut my hair shorter and shorter in acts of cathartic release.

My hair has never been permed or short ever again!

However,  I recently I developed pneumonia and getting my hair dry was a real hassle. All
of a sudden all that hair felt like a burden, an unwanted nuisance and it had to go. I walked into the hairdresser, walked out with my new short hair and I haven’t looked back. I feel quite liberated.

There was just one thing about my new hair that blew me away.

It was straight. Talk about a blast from the past. I couldn’t wait to get home to fluff it up again.

Short was fine but I’m too quirky to be straight.

PS The kids had quite surprise when I picked them up from school with my new short, straight hair. Mister really didn’t like it and practically said it was yuck and Miss was initially quite positive but has since said that she couldn’t find me and has concerns about how to find me after school now. This new hair isn’t Mummy yet. Geoff is also getting used to it.

The new hair amidst the chaos of Christmas morning

The new hair amidst the chaos of Christmas morning

Adventures of a Backyard Dog

Last weekend, our dog joined us on a huge adventure. It was his very first holiday and his first sleep over.

Bilbo is a rather large and often somnolent Border Collie.  What I’d describe as a “backyard dog”. With my mobility issues, walks are infrequent but he often goes out for local trips in the car. So you see, he leads a fairly quiet, simple life and his world is about the size of a large pocket handkerchief.

That was until last weekend.

View of Careel Bay and local racing pigeons.

Palm Beach looking towards Careel Bay and some local racing pigeons.

Bilbo hasn’t been away from home overnight before. Whenever we go away, he usually stays home and is looked after by the beautiful Jess. However, last weekend we were only going across the water to Palm Beach (albeit via a circuitous route through Sydney) so we decided to take him along. I was really looking forward to taking him with us and thought he’d love exploring new worlds, expanding his horizons.

Bilbo is 6 years old. That’s middle-aged in dog years, even it’s still very young in human years (42 being  the new 21!!) That makes him not quite an old dog but certainly no pup. That being the case, I wondered how he would respond to his big adventure. Would he love his new found freedom and new horizons or would he be thrilled to get back to the familiar comforts of home?

We were soon to find out.

The fun all began when Bilbo saw me packing the suitcases. I didn’t need a degree in dog psychology to see that he was starting to panic. As far as he was concerned, the suitcases meant we were about to disappear and he’d be home alone- albeit with the gorgeous Jess who spoils him rotten. It was bad news. The end of the world!

So while I’m loading the car, he decided to be proactive and loaded himself. I tried to explain to him that he was actually coming with us this time and took him back inside. No use. He was straight back out to the car again with the next load. I was reminded of a song by Mental As Anything If You Leave Me. It has the great line: if you leave me, can I come too?

That’s always appealed to me too!

Anyway, soon the dog is happy. He’s in the car with the rest of us and all the bags. Don’t know what thoughts were going through his mind. He was probably just relieved that he wasn’t being left behind. Bilbo had the luxury of sitting up the front. We had all our bedding in the back with the kids and as much as I love my dog, I didn’t want our bedding contaminated by any dog germs. Dooners and dog smells definitely don’t mix!

Bilbo’s fun was only beginning. You see, Bilbo has only ever been in the car at about 50-60KPH and he’s only ever been a ten minute drive away from home. The trip to Palm Beach started out with a good hour’s drive to Sydney down the freeway at 110KPH. As much as you might think that a dog would enjoy all that speed, we’re talking about a backyard dog here. This was double our local speed limit and he looked decidedly uncomfortable. He wasn’t quite clinging to his seat by his claws but he definitely looked like this drive was taking him well beyond his comfort zone. He was leaning over towards me for reassurance. The trusty car had morphed into something like a rocket and it was going way too fast!! Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!

We arrived at my parents’ place and this was his first taste of dogs not being allowed inside the house. Glaring through the back door, Bilbo was looking mortally wounded. Stabbed in the heart. He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed inside along with the rest of us.  After all, he still hasn’t worked out that he’s a dog yet. He still firmly believes that he’s human…our third child…the baby of the family!

We picked up Geoff and continued up to Palm Beach. Bilbo was really confused by this point. He was still sitting in the front but was now beside Geoff. I was now in the back with the kids. Geoff always puts Bilbo in the back and the dog seemed quite confused. Why was Mum sitting in the back and he was sitting in the front?

Arrival at Palm Beach meant Bilbo “the inside dog” was now an “outside dog”. This was definitely a significant change of status…a serious retrograde step. Nobody had warned him about that when he’d signed up for this holiday. Not that he’d actually signed up for anything. He’d just jumped in the car. Now, he had no idea where he was or how he’d got there but his food bowl and his water bowl had somehow made the journey with him. It was almost business as usual but not quite.

A dog doesn’t need to understand every twist and turn in life and is just supposed to accept what is. Somebody forgot to tell Bilbo. Bilbo persistently tried to come inside. He just wanted to be with us…especially in such a foreign environment.

Where was his bed?

I think he found a sheltered spot under the balcony.

Father & Son take on the high seas.

Father & Son take on the high seas.

First thing Saturday, Mister and Geoff took the kayak out for a paddle at high tide.

Mad dog

Crazed dog

Come back!!!!!

Come back!!!!!

That’s when things really started heating up for Bilbo. He’s a very protective dog and he really doesn’t like us getting in the water and feels compelled to save us. The only trouble is that he won’t get in the water himself. He might get his paws wet but that’s about it. He’s certainly not a swimmer. So you can just imagine what Bilbo was like when Mister and Geoff took off on the kayak. He was beside himself with worry whimpering and running all over the place. He’d run down the slipway and get to the very end and just when his paws were about to get wet, he’d stop. He really wanted to rescue them and bring them back but he just couldn’t bring himself to jump in. I could sense the stress in his body. Every single nerve and muscle was switched onto high alert. He was ready to pounce and yet he couldn’t. Miss and I tried to reassure the crazy mutt. To be honest, Miss wasn’t faring much better. She didn’t want to go out in the kayak and also has a bit of a fear of the sea.

Dog on board

Dog on board

Well, you wouldn’t believe it because after Mister got off the Kayak, somehow the dog, despite all his phobias and fears, climbed onto the kayak. Before we knew it, Geoff was paddling out with Bilbo on board. It was hilarious to watch at first, especially after writing my poem The Surfer’s Dog. In my wildest dreams, I’d never expected Bilbo to climb on board a kayak, especially after being such a nervous wreck!!

Perhaps, he’d wanted to go out there all along. He wasn’t afraid. Perhaps, he was crying out: “Wait for me! My turn!”

Trying not to rock the boat.

Trying not to rock the boat.

Somehow, I don’t think so. Perhaps, he just had a momentary lapse when he climbed onboard.  He was happy to climb on but once he realised he was no longer on terra firma and the thing started to rock a little, he wanted out. The poor dog! Instead of trying to jump out, he actually lay down and dug his claws into Geoff. When it came to getting off, his fear seriously intensified. I have never seen him so frightened. He dug his claws in and clung to the kayak like glue and wouldn’t budge. He was visibly shaking like a leaf. It was pretty intense but short lived. It became very evident that Bilbo had bitten off more than he bargained for with that adventure. He was very pleased to be back on dry land.

That said, he did show a bit of interest in having another ride in the kayak on Sunday and Geoff thinks he might even have another go.

After all that excitement, you would think that Bilbo would have had enough adventure for one day. That he had well and truly exceeded his quota of character-building adventures for a life time. However, Bilbo had other plans.

We all decided to go out in the kayaks. Mister was paddling in a single kayak and Geoff and I were paddling in the “banana boat” bathtub kayak and we had Miss in the front.

Bilbo had been a bit unsettled to say the least with us in the kayaks and so we decided to secure him safely in the backyard. We didn’t think anything of it. Bilbo is a pretty mild-mannered dog and he’s never tried to escape before. The kids will be playing out the front and the front door will be wide open but Bilbo just lies there with his claws curling over the doorstep staying put. He’s busting to join in but he doesn’t. He’s a very good dog! We can trust him and he’s usually much better behaved than the kids!

Well, we hadn’t factored in the panic. The sheer terror Bilbo felt when he saw all four of us take off.  He had to come and save us. The only trouble was, at least as far as he was concerned, that he needed to get in the water and he still couldn’t muster up the courage. He was stuck on the shore feeling useless and very overwhelmed.

We had paddled past the mangroves over to the Careel  Bay Marina and were heading back when we spotted a Border Collie running haphazardly on the shore about 10 houses away from home. We didn’t realise that it was Bilbo straight away because he was at home and as I said, he’s never escaped before. He’s a really good dog. But once he saw that we’d seen him, there was a very definite look of recognition. It was him, after all! Bilbo had escaped.

When we arrived home, we discovered that Bilbo had chewed solidly on the wooden gate and had even pulled off four planks. There were nails sticking out and all sorts. He’d all but demolished Dad’s gate. He’d gone ballistic!!

This is how all big adventures come to a screaming halt. When you go too far, you get brought back into line.

Bilbo was in time out.

Geoff was off to the hardware store.

Neither was happy.

Bilbo wasn't invited sailing!

Bilbo wasn’t invited sailing!

Fortunately, it was a long weekend and Bilbo had a chance to redeem himself.

I don’t know how Bilbo felt about his big weekend away. It’s not always easy when all your Christmases come at once and it was a huge change for a backyard dog to suddenly explore the world and even the high seas. He had fun but I kind of suspect there was also a sense of there’s “no place like home”. Driving home, he looked particularly comfortable curled up in the back seat in between the kids. The three of them were sound asleep. Bilbo also slept in the next morning and I can’t help wondering how much nervous energy he’d expended on our weekend away. He was pooped!

Yet, something tells me that when the suitcases come out next time, Bilbo will be back in the car ready to join us on our next big adventure.

See! You really can teach an old dog new tricks, after all!

The sun sets on a perfect weekend.

The sun sets on a perfect weekend.