Well, you’re in luck. This week I can offer you some banana cake mini muffins with luscious passionfruit icing, which I whipped up for a picnic with some friends, but it was too hot to go out and so we’re forced to eat them ourselves. Hey, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
How was your week? I hope it went well.
My husband Geoff has just finished two weeks of annual leave, and heads back to work tomorrow and the kids head back to school on Friday for the start of another year. I feel we’re better prepared for the start of this school year. However, the unfortunate key to this improved organization has been staying at home and not going away on holidays. I’m not sure that the end justifies the means, but we’re blaming covid for staying home. After all, you can blame covid for just about anything atm, except having a good time.
However, the aim of the game is find ways of creating joy, pleasure, excitement in the midst of whatever covid or any other significant problem throws across our path. So, while driving about 500 kms in a day transporting our daughter from one camp to another, Geoff and I headed into Newcastle for lunch and caught up with my cousin and family, which included her 3 year old and new baby (I got a cuddle!!)
Said daughter, didn’t like camp and so I picked her up a day early, but not without warning her we weren’t coming straight home. We were going on a detour via beautiful Norah Head, with its iconic lighthouse which I decided was having to be a surrogate for our anticipated trip to the Byron Bay Lighthouse, where we usually indulge in an ice cream cone and if we’re lucky, watch the dolphins diving through the waves down below.
That’s the thing about lighthouses. They’re usually stuck on top of very steep rocky precipice overlooking some particularly rough and powerful surf not to mention rocky reef outcrops which would do nasty things to ships especially in the night. So, all of this makes for spectacular scenery and stunning photos, even better if you can chuck in a sunrise, sunset or a stormy sky. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to pull any of those rabbits out of the hat, but at lease it wasn’t dull grey overcast and we had sunshine, blue skies and it was postcard perfect.
If you’d like to read more about our Norah Head experience, you can check out my previous post.
I was due to go out on a picnic with friends today. However, it was 35 degrees celsius and incredibly sunny and I ended up falling asleep. Exciting, I know, but it was like being under a griller out there and it really felt too much, especially as the heat or perhaps it’s the humidity which is causing troubles with my breathing. It’s annoying because one minute you’re on top of things and the next, they’re on top of you and you really didn’t see it coming.
Speaking of sudden changes, a friend of ours had a stroke yesterday, and one minute he was seemingly okay and the next his face was dropping and he couldn’t move one side of his body. I’ve had some serious health issues myself where my body hasn’t done what it’s supposed to, so I have at least some insight into what it’s like when the tried and tested doesn’t do what it’s always done before. We ended up driving his wife to the hospital to drop off some things, and while she was there, we ducked down to the Gosford waterfront and were struck by the stunning city lights against the night sky. It was a moment of much needed peace and beauty at a troubling time.
Anyway, I’d better head off because it’s well past bed time.
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” ― Henry David Thoreau
Covid is no longer just a thing belonging to 2020. Rather, it’s leaped out of the bag, looked back at us dumbfounded humans and chirped: “Catch me if you can!” Unfortunately, at this point in time, Covid has the upper hand and has taken off down the street before we’ve even put our joggers on, let alone done up our shoe laces. It is affecting everybody differently in all sorts of ways, and it seems quite trite to complain about not being able to travel when much of the planet is chronically ill and so many people have died and they are sorely missed.
Yet, at the same time, what about us in the land of the living? What are we supposed to do? Do we still carpe diem seize the day to our very utmost within the limitations we are personally experiencing? Or, perhaps we even break the rules, and there have been some spectacular examples of this in the news. Or, do we retreat?
Retreat, at least in my mind, is different to giving up, and is a legitimate response to covid, especially if you’re living in a country where it’s rampant, and even more so if you’re in a high risk category. My approach varies, mostly in accordance with the infection rates. I’m trying to be flexible, but one thing we did take a hard stance on was travel. We’d planned to visit Geoff’s sister and family near Byron Bay, which is about a 10 hour drive away. We usually go up once a year. However, right when we needed to make a decision, the numbers were starting to rumble, and since we didn’t have to go right now, we decided to put it off.
However, this hasn’t stopped our friends from travelling. Or, from posting their holiday snaps on Facebook. I’m not going to lie. It hurts. I also wanted to have fun, good times and swing from the chandelier. Moreover, just to add salt to the wound, we’ve spent most of Geoff’s two weeks of annual leave doing jobs around the house. Yes, they’re long overdue, and some would argue that improving the house and giving us a great start to the year might be worth more than a fancy holiday. Moreover, it is strangely satisfying to be dropping car loads of stuff at the charity shop, instead of going shopping and bringing a car load home. Yet, at the same time, there’s that old phrase:
“All work and all play
makes Jack a dull boy”.
Yes, I was definitely losing my shimmer, and needed to claim it back.
Well, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. We have dependents. Yesterday, we drove dependent from camp no 1 to camp number 2. Afterwards, we went on a detour to Newcastle to go out for lunch together, and then on to catch up with my cousin and family, we covered about 500kms.
However, although we were moving and we were in the car and covered quite a distance, that’s not what I consider travel. It was more what I would call “work”, “duty”, “obligation” even though we made the most of the long drive and added in some fun for ourselves.
We hadn’t even left Newcastle to drive home, when our daughter rang from camp and said she wanted to come home. She’s been on this camp before. She doesn’t get homesick, but she is a teenager, and it appears she had outgrown the camp. We left her there overnight, and I ended up driving up today and picking her up a day early. It made no real difference to me. However, I wasn’t just going to drive an hour up and then drive an hour straight back. I warned her we were going on a detour to Norah Head. She’s used to me and my detours which usually involve food and photography.
Norah Head was probably about a 30 minutes drive South from the camp, and in my head, I decided it was going to be our surrogate for missing out on our trip to Byron Bay. You see, Byron Bay has a light house and Norah Head has a lighthouse, and while it might not have been a perfect correlation, I could almost make it fit.
As it turned out, visiting the lighthouse at Norah Head actually had a lot of advantages over visiting the light house at Byron Bay. It was much, much closer to home and only an hour’s drive away. it’s much less crowded. Lastly, we could easily get a parking spot, and parking was free…Win! Win! Win!
However, Norah Head isn’t just about the light house for me. It’s also about the memories. I first went to Norah Head as a very young child with my family, and I had a vague memory of have gone to the lighthouse before when I went up to Norah Head for a slumber party when I was 12 at my friend’s place. That was repeated the following year, and we slid down the sand dunes on big green garbage bags, and also had her birthday cake in the dunes. It was such a special thing to go on a holiday with friends when I was 12, and I’ve never forgotten it.
I returned to Norah Head about 10 years ago for the first time since school, and couldn’t find the sand dunes anywhere. I wanted to show them to the kids. However, it turned out they’d regenerated the dunes and they were now hiding under thick scrub and even rather tall paperbark trees. It was hard to understand how they could’ve grown so tall in such a short time. I popped back about 6 months ago and wandered around taking photos. It still had that special sense of magic and all those memories.
Anyway, today I wasn’t on my own. It was me and my girl and we kicked off our adventure with lunch at the Surfside Cafe.
Then, we drove round to the lighthouse. Although the lighthouse itself is very striking and had strong appeal, I was actually more drawn towards simply watching the mighty waves surging into the rocks which such incredible power. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
We actually spotted a couple getting married on the rocks down below surrounded by their attendants and family. The waves weren’t quite breathing down their necks, but they were close enough, and from certain angles through the lens, they certainly seemed precarious enough.
Next, we retraced our steps and walked down a long and very steep flight of stairs to the rockpool. I wondered whether I’d be able to make it back up. However, being able to get up Neil’s stairs encouraged me, and I thought if I just took my time and had a few breaks, I’d be right. Well, I wasn’t quite right and my heart was racing but I made it, and it was certainly worth the effort. It was really quite festive down on the beach and there was so much colour what with the coloured beach umbrellas, assorted swimming costumes, towels etc. It was beautifully sunny as well and the sky was an intoxicating bright blue and it was like one of Ken Done’s beach paintings, and boy was I glad to be amongst it!! Yahoo!
I hadn’t been back to the rockpool since I was there as a 12 year old snorkelling with my friends, and as I followed the beach around, I had no idea that I’d come across the most wonderful view of the lighthouse. An angle I hadn’t seen before and it was rather breath-taking. I’m sure you’ve had that experience yourself where there’s a place you really love, but you know it from that postcard perspective, but then you see it from an entirely different angle, and it’s like it’s been reborn. Moreover, when you’re really into photography like me, these fresh perspectives are even more valued. It’s like you’re seeing this place for the very first time and your gobsmacked with awe and wonder.
I could’ve stayed there for hours, except my passenger was getting tired and needed to get home, but not without picking up my Danish pastries from the bakery.
Clearly, I highly recommend you check out Norah Head some time, which as we all know, is not all that easy atm, but in the meantime, at least you can enjoy my photos.
After taking our son on a long, epic drive last week, I was reminded of the walks we used to go on when he was just knee-high to a grasshopper. I know it’s such a cliché, but I’m still amazed how much time’s flown under the bridge. That with the click of my fingers, he’s now turned 16 and at the end of next year, he’ll be out of school and on the cusp of adulthood. Where did all that time go? I don’t know. However, paradoxically as we headed forward on our journey North, I was taken back to those very special early walks together. Walks with me and my boy.
Ironically, what I remember most about our walks together, is how I’d be tugging on his small hand trying to get him moving, while he was enthralled by some random “treasure” he’d discovered on our path. Of course, I tried to slow my pace down to appreciate that lump of gravel, or rusty bottle top through his eyes instead of my own. However, there were understandably times when my patience grew thin. I just want to go, and he’d become equally immovable. However, back then I had one thing in my favour. When all else failed, I could pick him up and cart him off, even if he wasn’t happy.
I can’t do that anymore either.
Anyway, our son has decided to go into sound engineering when he leaves school, and he’s already getting good experience helping out at Church. That’s why he needed the lift. He’d been offered further training and the opportunity to help out at a funeral at our main Church campus an hour’s drive away.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t mad keen on driving him up there. Indeed, I’m sure you can read my mind: “What the???? Can’t you catch the train? A bus? Fly on your broomstick?” Moreover, when all of those avenues failed, there was the added annoyance of having to fill in a few hours before driving him home. Indeed, it was looking like much of my day was going up in smoke with the barest slither remaining. Not that I was counting. Or, that I minded. I am his mother. If I can love him to the moon and back, surely I could drive him there as well?!!
Humph! I’m not so sure that was part of the contract.
Rather, it was looking like the perfect time to play the dying swan. Get his father to drive him. However, Geoff is working from home, not doing long distance parent taxi duties. So, for better or worse, I had to rise to the challenge.
Meanwhile, alongside this protesting siren of complaint, was gratitude, relief and a sincere desire to do whatever it takes to help our son to find his feet and get his career established. I mean that too. Whatever it takes, especially when he’s so keen and he has an equally keen mentor volunteering to train him up. With our local theatres closed down due to covid, Church is one of the few venues where he can get some experience. Indeed, as we all know, it’s a hard world out there. No one’s knocking on your door to give you a start. You have to go hunting. Go all out. Eat humble pie by the kilo, just to have a chance of getting a toe through the door.
However, instead of being an onerous ordeal, our trip turned into an adventure, and reminded me:
“Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”
― George Bernard Shaw
That’s exactly how our drive together panned out. We had an hour each way to chat, but then there were some complications. For those of you who know me well, you won’t be surprised to hear that we experienced some navigational difficulties. However, this time I blame my son. I was pretty sure we were meant to take the next exit, but he was insistent. Moreover, although I know he is “often wrong but never in doubt”, he has a much better sense of direction. So, I bowed to his expertise. Indeed, I carefully followed his directions to turn right at the roundabout, and drove along until it was clear we were in the wrong place, even if we weren’t officially “lost”. I must admit that my heart rate started to increase a little at this point. I mentioned heading back to the freeway to take the next exit. However, he was quite confident. Knew there was a Bunnings Hardware Store on the left coming up and a shopping centre. Sure enough, he was right, and good enough with his sense of direction to redirect us. Meanwhile, in the end it turned out that we were both right. Both exits worked.
When we pulled up, I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do for the next few hours. However, one of the guys showed me a local map and I spotted that Norah Head was nearby. Now, I was set. With my camera in the car, I set off to revisit Norah Head and the lighthouse where I’d been as a young child with my family and on a couple of slumber parties as a teenager with friends. By now, I was actually quite excited and grateful for my big day out. You could even say I was happy!
Just to top off my day, I bought myself a beautiful new skirt and a tray full of red Salvias which I’ve planted out the front. I ate a pie in a park surrounded by lush green trees and ocean views feeling pretty chuffed our day was going so well.
After walking around the lighthouse (which you can read about here), I was back to pick him up. I was even given a tour of the sound desk by his mentor, who had no idea just how untechnical I am and how I even struggle to operate out TV. However, I did gain at least a cursory view of the thing which makes our son tick, and is going to be a big part of his future. That was pretty special. After all, being understood has always been very important to me, but the flipside of that is to understand. Put yourself into someone else’s shoes even when they don’t fit particularly well, and go for a walk.
Or, perhaps even go for a long drive.
That certainly worked for us!
Has our day out brought back any memories for you? Do you have something you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
“Turning, she looked across the bay, and there, sure enough, coming regularly across the waves first two quick strokes and then one long steady stroke, was the light of the Lighthouse. It had been lit.” ― Virginia Woolf
As a poet, photographer and philosopher, I had to jolt myself while looking at my photos of the Norah Head Lighthouse. Force myself to remember that lighthouses were actually constructed to serve a practical, potentially lifesaving purpose. They weren’t just plonked on top of dramatic, rugged headlands in splendid isolation for me to explore and express my creativity. Moreover, during this time of covid, social distancing and even lock down, this lighthouse doesn’t exist just so I can project our collective sense of isolation onto this “concrete tower painted white” (as it was described when it was opened in 1903).
“A fallen lighthouse is more dangerous than a reef.”
Navjot Singh Sidhu
However, these practical realities still haven’t stopped me from delving deep into my imagination and my soul, to marvel at the dramatic beauty of its glowing whiteness backdropped by the azure blue sea on a charmed sunny day.
It also didn’t stop me from confronting the realities of the here and now. The front door of the lighthouse, which could well have been there for over 115 years, has now been slapped with a Covid notice, and the lighthouse is closed for tours. Welcome to 2020.
Of course, I couldn’t help wondering how the lighthouse feels about being all locked up, and whether the ghost within is enjoying its solitude, or perhaps it’s craving human forms? Not that I really believe in ghosts. However, if you’re going to talk about a lighthouse, especially one which has witnessed shipwrecks and the tragic loss of life, it’s okay to let your imagination wander. You can put on your storytelling hat, and nothing really needs to make a lot of sense or stand up in a court of law.
I first came to the Norah Head Lighthouse when I was a little girl about six years old when we were staying nearby at The Entrance. Being so young, I didn’t have strong memories of it. However, when I was 13, I returned to Norah Head to attend a friend’s slumber party. I immediately recognized the lighthouse. Lighthouses are like that. They stay with you forever. Leave a lasting impression.
I attended two birthday slumber parties at Norah Head for my friend, and they still retain their magic after all these years. At that age, you rarely go away with anyone but your own immediate family. However, there we were just our group of friends, and without that sense of omnipresent parental supervision either. I remember snorkelling in the rockpool and seeing little fish. I also remember having my friend’s birthday cake up in the sand dunes, and sliding down the sand dunes on large green garbage bags. It was so very simple, and yet so much fun.
However, when I went back to Norah Head with my kids about 10 years ago, the sand dunes were nowhere to be found. Indeed, when I inquired about them at a local shop, they were quite a mystery. You see, the dunes had been rejuvenated and by this stage, were hidden beneath six foot paperbark trees and thick vegetation. Although this was good for the environment, I have to admit I was rather disappointed. I wanted to slide down those dunes again and take my kids with me. Moreover, I particularly didn’t want to be that old, that I’d developed my own tales about “life back in the olden days”.
Anyway, getting back to the lighthouse, I’m not going to delve too deeply into its construction and design of the Norah Head Lighthouse. All of that’s only a quick Google search away. However, I wanted to share this little story I came across from Christmas 1945 where a journalist explored what it was like to spend Christmas at the Norah Head Lighthouse:
Lighthouse Wasn’t Lonely
Although Norah Head lighthouse is in a comparatively isolated position, about 20 miles south of Newcastle, its staff had anything but a lonely Christmas. The head keeper’s wife (Mrs. J. H. Fisher), who said: “It couldn’t be lonely here-it’s absolutely beautiful,” entertained a party of guests from Sydney. A number of fishermen and holiday-makers are camped on the head land and fishing catches are reported to be good. Supplies brought in from the small village of Norahville, 20 minutes’ walk from the light house, ensured a typical Christmas dinner for the lighthouse staff. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), Wednesday 26 December 1945, page 2
I also thought you’d enjoy this aerial perspective from 1953, even if it is in black & white:
While the lighthouse itself is a stunning attraction, the dramatic views from the headland are amazing and stretch in all directions. I was particularly captivated by the waves smashing onto the rock platform down below, more than reinforcing the need for a lighthouse here, at least historically speaking. This photo gives you a good idea of the forces down below:
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our tour around Norah Head Lighthouse. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on a blogshare called Thursday Doors, but I thought my trip to the Norah Head Lighthouse made for a good contribution.
Hosted by Norm Frampton, “Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time). “