Tag Archives: surfing

Walking Through The Mist

Each and every day starts out as a blank canvas and you never know what it is going to bring.

Yesterday, our town was covered in a very thick blanket of fog, clouds which have fallen to the ground and it was so atmospheric.

Such a gift!

xx Rowena

Byron Bay… Setting My Rainbow Feet Free.

Although I wouldn’t describe myself as stuffy, there’s something in the air at Byron Bay that makes me so relaxed that I almost fall apart. It’s the most fabulous feeling that I wish I could pump it into the air and make everyone all over the world feel that magic.

If you know Byron Bay at all, even just by reputation, you could cynically agree that there’s definitely something in the air. Something that you smoke. That’s why Byron Bay has that unique ambiance. However, I didn’t even sense a whiff of the stuff. I’m  talking about its natural beauty and how the sun, sky and sea gradually become white, powdery sand, green palms, jungle, green pastures dotted with cows or perhaps macadamia and coffee plantations until the earth meets the sky via those jagged blue hills.

The magic of Byron Bay is more than just going to the beach. Having a swim. This is something I actually take for granted and I live right near a beach and walk my dogs along the beach most mornings.

No, there’s something else. Something special which I don’t think anyone can truly name or understand which makes Byron Bay so special.

It just is.

Although I’ve shared some beautiful photos of Byron Bay, I thought this series of photos of my feet at the beach really captures how Byron Bay set me free. Indeed, as I relaxed I felt so liberated. That the layers of stress just peeled away, liberating the butterfly from her stiff and stuffy chrysalis to finally spread her wings and fly towards the sun.

The new arrival...shoes still on.

The new arrival…shoes still on.

What you won’t appreciate simply by looking at this photo is that these shoes have practically been glued to my feet since I broke my foot last December. I had to wear a boot for about 3 months and then the physio told me it was joggers and I certainly haven’t worn any heels. Just the of pair of boots and now that Summer’s almost here, a pair of sandals. You could say I’ve been playing it safe but my feet have appreciated the extra support.

So my journey starts off with my feet in laced-up joggers…a bit over-dressed for the beach.

Especially when you don’t want to get your shoes wet.

Feet in the sand.

Feet in the sand.

Now that you’ve actually seen my feet, I trust you’ve noticed and admired my rainbow nail polish….thanks to my daughter. It’s become a bit of a holiday thing where she paints our nails rainbow colours. That’s been my choice more than hers. Seeing my rainbow toe nails makes me smile and when I had my foot in the boot, I caught quite a few people smiling at them. I’d just smile at them and say: “My daughter did it”. Oh how they sighed!

Mother & Daughter Feet: Not big feet and little feet anymore!

Mother & Daughter Feet: Not big feet and little feet anymore! Her feet are definitely catching up!

Rainbow Toes

Getting my feet wet.

Rainbow feet scudding through white powder.

Rainbow feet scudding through white powder.

As you can see, the shoes came off. I rolled up my cuffs and at least got my feet wet. While there were people swimming, it was still a bit cold for us. I managed to brave getting my feet wet and that was about it. Yet, I still have fun!

Have you ever been to Byron Bay? Any stories to share?

Take care and I hope you’re having a great week!

xx Rowena

PS: I just strayed across this excellent post about existence versus truly living, which contrasts free-range and battery hens. A great read: http://betterlifecoachingblog.com/2015/10/16/free-range-hens-a-story-about-existing-or-living/

Xtreme Sports

If you were in a crowded room and you had to pick the person into xtreme sports, you’d never choose this wobbly woman with the walking stick but perhaps it’s my broken wings which turns even a humble walk into an agonising fall, resulting in an X-ray and a broken foot.

Being more at home in a cafe with my cappuccino and chocolate cake swimming in luscious sauce than bungy jumping or climbing Mt Everest in anything other than the metaphorical sense, I was plucked out of my chocolate sauce and landed smack bang in an adventure camp, with Muscular Dystrophy NSW in  2012. This was the beginning of the end.

I went down this water slide twice, after almost blowing my brains out the first time down when water blasted up my nose.

I went down this water slide twice, after almost blowing my brains out the first time down when water blasted up my nose.

For me, even being away from the known and predictable at home with my mobility issues wasn’t easy but being with people who knew and understood my limitations provided me with the safety net to launch myself way beyond my comfort zone and take on what really were xtreme challenges and yet, it just felt like going with the flow at the time.

Camel Riding. This was more challenging than expected.

Camel Riding. This was more challenging than expected.

This confidence was greatly aided, too, by the unofficial MDNSW Mantra “find a way”. Just because your disability or chronic health condition might prevent you from participating in an activity in a conventional way, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Here I am riding the quad bike. Of all the activities, this one took me most out of my comfort zone.

Here I am riding the quad bike. Of all the activities, this one took me most out of my comfort zone.

Trying out the quicksand. It felt really weird gripping onto my leg and it took a bit of  assistance to get out.

Trying out the quicksand. It felt really weird gripping onto my leg and it took a bit of assistance to get out.

Sandboarding, Stockton Dunes.

Sandboarding, Stockton Dunes.

Going parasailing changed the colour of my day. It's the closest I've ever come to feeling as free as a bird.

Going parasailing changed the colour of my day. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to feeling as free as a bird.

Ready for Take Off!!

Ready for Take Off!!

A year later, I did a second adventure camp and this time, I was thrilled to have a go at surfing. This was quite a big deal riddled with challenges before you even considered trying to stand up. There was finding a wet suit big enough to fit and then managing to squeeze into it, which isn’t easy when you have muscle weakness. Then, there was carrying my board down to the beach. Actually, I did get assistance and later ended up being able to drag the thing along the beach. Not very cool but I was stoked!! Although I didn’t get anywhere near standing up, I did manage to start in a kneeling position. That was as good as it got but I was certainly living the dream!!

Not so cool...lugging my surfboard.

Not so cool…lugging my surfboard.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

From here my next big leap into the wild world of xtreme sports was skiing. This was where I was really taking myself way beyond my comfort zone!! There I was perched at the top of the Village 8, peering over the edge of what felt like an almighty precipice…a sheer cliff dropping down, down, down towards Perisher village, which looked like more than hundreds and thousands sprinkled on buttered bread. If I was ever swallowed up by my own fear, this was it and instead of gliding smoothly down the slopes, I soon fell over. Was gasping for breath. Indeed, I was consumed by pure panic. I mean just because you’re doing an xtreme sports that doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. It means you’re brave, courageous…or perhaps just a fool going where angels fear to tread.

You try wielding a paddle with a great big Border Collie in your face! Geoff said Bilbo was actually lying across him when he took Bilbo out.

You try wielding a paddle with a great big Border Collie in your face! Geoff said Bilbo was actually lying across him when he took Bilbo out.

Not content to stop there, I undertook what might have been the most xtreme sport of them all…going kayaking with two dogs on board. When I undertook all those activities with MDNSW, I had a solid, well-trained team behind me who could leap to my rescue, if necessary. Take it from me, it has been necessary… especially for the more xtreme challenge of walking along a footpath with all its inherent dangers. Anyway, when you’re trying to paddle with 35 kilos of terrified Border Collie quite literally in your face and 20 kilos of naughty Border Cavalier perched on the very edge of the kayak with her tail dangling in the water about to topple it any second, there is no safety net. We’re just going to fall. Fortunately, being an inter-tidal zone, it’s not very deep and despite the shenanigans of my fellow passengers, we managed to stay afloat. See more here: https://wordpress.com/post/35828219/6564/

However, there is another side to all these incredible achievements. You see, although I’ve been able to pull these off against all sorts of odds, I have struggled and indeed failed at times to manage the simple, every day stuff. Indeed, since I had chemo for 7 sessions over Christmas  2013-2014, my sense of time has been completely wiped out. I have no idea and now manage with the help of routines plastered on cupboard doors, alarm clocks, buzzers and indeed, multiple screw ups. It completely dumbfounds me how I can achieve the extraordinary and yet completely fail the ordinary. However, it’s unsolvable questions like this which ultimately fuel my writing and keep me off the streets.

xx Rowena

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

Byron Bay: Australia’s Alternative Paradise.

As  soon as you exit the Pacific Highway and take the Byron Bay exit, throw your watch out the window and prepare to slow down. You’re now on Byron Bay time. Not only that, you’re about to enter another world where it’s more or less assumed that you’re at least somewhat lateral, alternative, creatively inspired or just plain mad. Well, not quite everyone. Byron Bay is no longer the hippy mecca it once was but despite the yuppie blow-ins, it’s retained much of it’s original character. You might just need to look further afield to find it.

Byron is all about taking the road less traveled...the alternative route. Check out my kids exploring the grass off the well-beaten track.

Byron is all about taking the road less traveled…the alternative route. Check out my kids exploring the grass off the well-beaten track.

Dolphins viewed from Cape Byron Lighthouse.

Dolphins viewed from Cape Byron Lighthouse.

Whale Spout near Julian Rocks, Byron Bay.

Whale Spout near Julian Rocks, Byron Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

As we have family living in the Byron Bay hinterland, we tend to head up to Byron at least once a year and Cape Byron Lighthouse has become something of a yardstick of our kids’ growth over the years as I force them through another round of photos against it’s glowing white fascade. You really do need a good pair of sunnies out there.

Family Photo 2nd July 2010 outside Byron Bay Lighthouse

Family Photo 2nd July 2010 outside Byron Bay Lighthouse

Determination!

Determination!

We always stop for an ice cream at the lighthouse and it's always a race to see whether the kids can finish it before it melts.

We always stop for an ice cream at the lighthouse and it’s always a race to see whether the kids can finish it before it melts.

 

Of

Byron Bay looking North to Mt Warning.

Byron Bay looking North to Mt Warning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of  course, Byron i also renowned for it’s many gorgeous beaches and great surf. However, rather than giving you a picture postcard view of Byron Bay, in keeping with the spirit of Byron, I thought I’d share some of the ephemeral sights we’ve uncovered over the years. You see, when it comes to Byron Bay, anything is possible and you certainly don’t need a permit to be a little different.

Starting off at the beach, we came across a sand sculptor who was building the most amazing creations in the sand. He created this fire breathing dragon, which I’ve photographed here. You’ll notice he’s having a cup of tea and that’s my Royal Albert teacup which I photographed around Byron Bay on a few visits. I’m not ashamed of stepping out beyon dthe flow myself.

 

We met a guy who is a world class sandcastle builder and I offered his dragon a cup of tea.

We met a guy who is a world class sandcastle builder and I offered his dragon a cup of tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also stumbled across this medley of musos and dancers who met up around sunset each evening just as the Rainbow Lorrikeets were churping away in the Norfolk Pine Trees beside the beach.  They sure showed me you’re never too old to boogie!

We stumbled across this random group of whatsy-me-call-its: dancers, musos and hangers on which meets around sunset at the Northern end of the beach. They sure showed me you're never too old to boogie!

Musicians and dancers, Byron Bay at sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

Crepes at the Beach: January, 2011.

Crepes at the Beach: January, 2011.

In January 2011, we had a wonderful surprise when a  group of French backpackers set themselves up just off the beach doing a roaring trade selling crepes…just like you’d see on a footpath in Paris. We felt absolutely spoilt indulging in scrumptious Nutella crepes or lemon and sugar after emerging from the surf. As you could imagine, this thriving little enterprise was operating without Council approval or any form of insurance. That is Byron Bay.

As much as we love the beach, the sun demands respect and so we stay off the beach much of the day. One of our other favourite hangouts in Byron Bay is the park beside the railway. This park has the most fabulous climbing tree, which is a type of fig. It got damaged in a storm I believe and it’s fallen over and now grows along the ground like a caterpillar. This makes for fabulous climbing, especially for really little kids who can reach the branches.

This tree has become something of a magic wishing tree and every time we go there, somebody has stuck something different in the branches and we can’t wait to see what’s there. We’re only talking about simple things like ribbons tied in the branches, a milk crate suspended by a rope but on one visit we came across a very touching artistic tribute by a grieving mother whose son had died in the park and she wants to help young people feel good about htemselves and help all of us feel more love.

Mister in our climbing tree in the Railway Park. Every time we go there, something else is hanging there or decorating the tree. It seems like a magic wishing tree although there's a rough side to the park here with drinking etc. We need to choose our moments wisely when we take the kids.

Mister in our climbing tree in the Railway Park. Every time we go there, something else is hanging there or decorating the tree. It seems like a magic wishing tree although there’s a rough side to the park here with drinking etc. We need to choose our moments wisely when we take the kids.

She decorated the climbing tree with bright yellow flowers and painted the park benches with all sorts of messgaes and graphics. I was still wandering around with my tea cup and photographed it wioth her artworks.

 

Tea Cup in the Railway Park, 2011.

Tea Cup in the Railway Park, 2011.

A heart broken mother whose son died in this park wrote these messages on the park benches.

 

Unfortunately, even paradise has it’s underbelly and Byron Bay is no exception. Unfortunately, our beloved park attracts some heavy drinkers who can get quite narky and obviously, this isn’t a suitable environment for the kids. I’ve also heard that there are quite a few rapes.

Thje photo below was taken at the old railway station where I’ve sure homeless people must doss down. Sadly, Byron Bay isn’t just all beautiful beaches, peace, love and serenity.

Sadly, Byron Bay isn't just all beautiful beaches, peace, love and serenity.

On a more poitive note, of course, no tour of Byron Bay is complete without going Kombi spotting. Back in the day, Kombis were all lined up prked along the beachfront with boards on their backs. You can still spot Kombis around town these days but they are obviously thinning out. Here’s one I spotted by the railway station:

In it's heyday, Byron Bay was Kombi paradise with rows of Kombis parked beside the each with boards on top.

In it’s heyday, Byron Bay was Kombi paradise with rows of Kombis parked beside the each with boards on top.

This is by no means a comprehenive tour of Byron Bay. I haven’t evn covered Byron Bay’s famous markets, which sell the very best chocolate donuts that ever walked this planet. They’re more of a cross between a jam donut and a chocolate croissant and just thinking about them is making me feel like getting in the car and driving  North.

While it’s a bit of a thing to climb Mt Warning or to the lighthouse to watch the sunrise, we are better equiped for watching the sunset and this is the prfect way to exit Byron Bay.

The Sun Set Byron Bay

The Sun Set Byron Bay

This is my second contribution to the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Bis for Byron Bay.

xx Rowena

I am participating in the A-Z Challenge.

I am participating in the A-Z Challenge.

 

The Sun Sets on 2014

Sun Set Byron Bay looking towards Mt Warning. Byron Bay is the Most Eastern Point of Australia and will be the first place in Australia to see the sun rise on the New Year. It has to be one of the most relaxing places on earth.

 

Surfing the Dream

Have you ever had an experience where your feet somehow walk ahead of you? That you suddenly wake up and you don’t know how you’ve got there? That something which has slowly been percolating away at the back of your mind has suddenly jumped out in front of you like a kangaroo in the headlights and bam. You’ve suddenly hit your dream head-on and almost had a fatality. You’re in shock. You just can’t believe how all your ducks have suddenly lined up all at the same time. How is this so? It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any more sense that when bad things happen to good people. There are just mysteries in this life…questions which are never going to be answered.

Coincidence is one of these great mysteries.

For the last few weeks, I have been working pretty flat out on my poem The Surfer’s Dog. This poem was inspired by a dog I saw at Whale Beach in Sydney something like 20 years ago. I photographed this particular dog lying on the beach staring out to sea watching his master. He seemed to be waiting and waiting for hours just lying there in the sun. He didn’t go to sleep or move a muscle. He just lay there waiting patiently for his master to return. He had such loyalty, devotion. His master was his entire world. I remember ebullient excitement when his master eventually emerged from the surf and then they walked along the beach together back to the car. The dog was in heaven.

That dog has stayed with me. He was the epitome of loyalty, devotion and love and yet I wouldn’t advocate putting your life on hold like that or revolving your life around someone else either. Phrases like “get a life” come to mind. He was an adorable but quite a lone figure on the beach…almost like a ghost…as he waited for his master to come back.

The Surfer's Dog...hardly a glamorous breed but tough.

The Surfer’s Dog…hardly a glamorous breed but tough.

Surfer’s dogs have always seemed a breed of their own…rough and tough and certainly not at all fluffy. Perhaps, they might have a touch of kelpie or working dog but certainly nothing glamorous. I’ve certainly never seen a surfer with a fluffy, white dog like the one in the My Dog commercial.

Whale Beach, Sydney

Whale Beach, Sydney

Last October, I went back to Whale Beach for the first time in about ten years. It was a strange experience because in so many ways, time had stood still. Nothing much had changed. In particular, I noticed that the surfers were still out there in the surf bobbing up and down like seals and it just seemed like they have always been there. They’ve never left. They were caught up in some kind of time warp. It was like they weren’t real…more iconic.

That inspired my poem: Surfing Through the Hourglass, which is still a work in progress but I’ve posted it as part of this story.

In the original version of the poem, the surfer’s dog was more of an image…an icon rather than being a real dog. The dog has been there so long that he’s become part of the spirit of the place.

Then I came up with a stanza about who feeds the dog. How does it eat? I mentioned that to Geoff and he said that if there was a dog on the beach people would be feeding it. As a result, the surfer’s dog became more of a community dog. I thought about him being a bit like a barperson who listens to everyone’s problems…a friend to all and yet at the same time, the surfer’s dog only has one master.

At this point, I was pretty sure that I’d finished the poem but I took it in with me for a final proof when I was having my regular blood transfusion of Immunoglobulin. These transfusions take about 4 hours so it’s a great time for me to write and catch up on some reading. Well, The Surfer’s Dog took another U-Turn. Instead of just passively waiting for his master to return, he was now wanting to learn how to surf. However, because he’s never seen a dog surfing before, he chickens out. He’s afraid. Doesn’t want to make a fool of himself. He has his pride. He is the surfer’s dog.

By the time I’d reached this stage of the poem, I was living and breathing The Surfer’s Dog. I was editing and re-editing the poem for hours each day and the surfer’s dog was my constant companion.

Then about a week ago, I had another revelation about the poem. I was the surfer’s dog. I have desperately wanted to learn how to surf most of my life. To me, surfing has always been the epitome of freedom and that sort of merges with my dream of taking off in a kombi. I realise now that my mythical Kombi has always had a surfboard strapped onto the roof and we’re heading up to Byron Bay. I can already feel my hair blowing in the wind,the sand between my toes and the waves calling me.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf but I’ve only been surfing once about 20 years ago and I’ve never forgotten just how amazing that felt. A friend of mine had come down to my parents’ beach house at Whale Beach and had brought his board along. I only went on it once. I didn’t stand up. I just lay on it and caught my first wave….my one and only wave. I still remember how good that felt…the exhilaration, the power of the wave. It was just amazing!! I could have surfed for the rest of my life. Yet, for some strange reason, I never went surfing again. The surfboard rider and I were supposedly “just good friends” and we all know what that means so there were no more surfing lessons from him. We lived just across the road from a legendary surfing beach and yet we had no surfboards. It all seems a bit insane now. After all, what is a beach house for????

So there I was a week ago having spent hours and hours and hours living and breathing as the surfer’s dog sitting on the beach inside his scruffy, sand-encrusted coat when I realised that I desperately wanted to surf. That I’d always desperately wanted to surf and here I was 43 years old and 20 plus years later and I’d done nothing whatsoever about it. The eyes of my heart had been opened. The scales had been lifted and I could finally see things clearly. I had to learn how to surf…especially as I only live 700 metres from the beach now. I’ve been living here for 11 years and I haven’t even tried out the kids’ boogie boards. It really does paint me as a bit of a sod.

It was time to get moving!

The morning after this great revelation, I left for an Adventure Camp at Nelson Bay with Muscular Dystrophy NSW. They support me with my auto-immune disease as it affects my muscles. We were just settling into camp when I looked at the program. What was the first thing on the program…learn to surf! I couldn’t believe it! It’s taken me more than 20 years to realise just how much I wanted to surf and then hey presto I’m going to surfing lessons the very next morning.

I was so stoked but I was also gobsmacked. My dream had been hand-delivered to me on a silver platter. I couldn’t believe it!! It was all a bit surreal and too much of a coincidence.

It was meant to be!

I was going surfing. Me… the middle-aged mother with the dodgy muscles was actually going surfing! It was so bizarre especially after working on that poem so intensely.

I was reminded of a quote by Oscar Wilde: Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.

Yet, before I experienced the exhilaration of actually surfing, I still needed to clear a few minor, major hurdles.

Firstly, I had to squeeze into my wet suit. These things might look fabulous on a very fit, young body but I had serious trouble getting into mine. They seem to be two sizes too small and it’s pretty tricky squeezing all this whale blubber into such a confined space. My balance isn’t the best so I also needed a bit of assistance to climb in and it really did feel like I was climbing inside some kind of very thick and inflexible second skin. This was when I found out why surfers strut. Wet suits are so stiff, you’re moving like a robot!

Sadly, even in my tight, constricting wet suit, I didn’t perfect the strut. I was still me.

The second thing they leave out of the surfing brochures is just how much a surfboard weighs and you can’t just stick them on a luggage trolley and pull them down the beach. No, to be a true blue ultra cool surfie dude, you need to have your surfboard casually tucked under your arm like a piece of cardboard. Ha! Surfboards are heavy. I guess that’s how surfers develop all those lovely, well-developed muscles. My muscles don’t work that well so I had to settle for assistance. One of the carers very kindly carried my board down to the beach. Once there, I lugged the thing awkwardly by the neck while the poor tail dragged along through the sand. I had no poise or grace whatsoever…and certainly no strut!

Surfie Chick...ha!

Surfie Chick…ha!

But so what if I didn’t look cool?!!  I didn’t care! I was too blissed out living my dream to care about the mechanics. I just wanted to surf! The surfer’s dog was finally going to catch a wave.

Wait! Before we actually hit the surf, we had a surfing lesson on the sand. This lesson just took us through the basics of surfing like the parts of the board and attaching the leg rope to your stronger leg. I took special note of the leg rope and was determined not to trip over it!!

Then, off we went.

Wow! I caught a few waves. It was awesome.

Then it was time to really get stuck into it. We were back out on the sand learning how to stand up. This was getting serious. Could I do it? Could I actually stand up? I wasn’t holding my breath although it would have been out of this world to pull it off and rather amusing. Mummy learning to surf at my age…ha!

Standing up was proving seriously difficult. As I mentioned before, I have muscle weakness. Moving from sitting to standing isn’t a quick, seamless manoeuvre on land. It takes time, thought, effort. The instructor was quite encouraging suggesting that the water might help to lubricate the board and make it easier but I wasn’t convinced. I had a go in the surf and nothing budged. But the instructor wasn’t to be deterred. I started off in a kneel and then tried to manoeuvre my feet to get me up but they wouldn’t move either. My movements were just too slow and awkward. I’d need a good hour to laboriously move all my body parts into the right positions and by then the wave would be history.

Standing up wasn’t going to happen at camp but I didn’t dismiss it as a never ever. I might just need a bit of practice. As much as you need to push yourself to reach a dream, you also need to know when to stop and defer things to another day.

Surfing was hard work and had what Beatrix Potter would describe as a soporific effect. I went back to our cabin for a snooze.

Instead of waking up feeling like an iron woman the next morning, I felt like quite the geriatric. Almost every muscle ached but it was worth it!!! Rowie had finally caught some waves.

Wahoo! I was finally surfing my dream.

Now, perhaps there’s even hope for the surfer’s dog!

Check out these very cool surfing dogs…

19th April, 2013

Poem: Surfing in the Hour Glass

 

Sometimes,

I wonder

whether surfers live forever,

eternally riding the golden wave…

caught up

in some kind of perpetual motion,

the constant, rhythmic  rolling of the sea?

I don’t know.

Summer, autumn, winter and spring

and even when the ocean’s wild with rage,

they’re always surfing.

Season after season,

year after year,

merging into an eternal wave.

Timeless,

iconic,

they’re perched

on the very edge of the world…

wave,

after wave

after wave,

thirsting for the big one.

I’m sure the very same surfers

were here last year

and even decades past.

They all look pretty much the same.

Dream the same dreams

although the girls are also out there now

no longer content just watching

the iron men from the beach.

They also want a piece of the action!

The car park has also changed.

Most of the kombis have rusted

and have gone to hippy heaven,

although their spirits still live on.

Yet,

there’s still this timelessness,

as though the sand has somehow

by-passed the hour glass.

Time has stood still,

so very, very still

and is barely breathing at all.

For the surfers are still out there

burning under the blazing, summer sun.

Perched on their boards

like a pod of bobbing seals,

they’re waiting.

Waiting.

Still waiting

for the perfect wave.

Breathing in and out in time

with the great, deep lungs of the sea.

They are almost one.

DSC_7967

Meanwhile,

a lone dog lies

waiting on the beach…

perpetually waiting

with patient devotion.

His loving eyes glued

only to his master.

He never complains.

Doesn’t count the minutes,

hours, days and decades

and just wags his tail

happy and content

whenever Dad returns.

After all, a surfer’s dog

is a breed of its own.

I can’t help wondering whether

the poor dog’s ever been fed.

Wave after wave,

comes and goes

and he’s seemingly been parked

on the beach forever

like an abandoned wreck.

He hasn’t budged.

No one’s even offered him a bone.

He’s just waiting,

almost hibernating in the summer sun.

Waiting for the wave,

which never seems to come.

Waiting for the wave,

which will bring his master home.

Poem: The Surfer’s Dog

A darkened silhouette camps

down on the beach

shadowed by the rising sun.

Perched on the sand

like an antipodean sphinx,

he’s almost been there

since The Dreaming.

It’s the surfer’s dog.

He’s salty and sandy

with a wet, scraggly coat.

There’s a streak of pink zink

on his nose.

More Scruffy than Fluffy,

he knows he’s not pretty

but he’s just fine.

At least, he’s not

a backyard dog!

Oh no!

A surfer’s dog is a breed

all of its own!

 

Hibernating on the beach

in the hot, Australian sun,

his breathing’s slowed down.

Almost slowed down to a stop.

He barely moves from his spot.

Waiting…still waiting for his master!

He might have been waiting

but a dog’s still a dog.

Even the surfer’s dog will be

your best friend for a feed.

He’s heard many sad songs.

Has given advice

and has just been

a good place to lean.

Yet, as much as he listens

and can be a great mate,

his heart only belongs

to his master.

Nobody knows quite how long

he’s been waiting.

The beach is somehow beyond time

and the sun simply rises and sets.

Time comes and goes with the tides.

But the surfer’s dog’s always been there

He’s now become part of the place.

A real champion,

he never complains.

You don’t even hear

a soft whimper.

He’s not afraid of

being left on his own.

He knows that his master

always comes home.

2.

Whenever I’ve gone to the beach,

the surfer’s dog has always been there.

Lying on the beach in the distance,

he’s almost a part of the sand.

Yet, as much as I felt like I knew him,

that I’d heard the song in his heart

we were really only just strangers.

I didn’t know what he thought.

But today for some reason unknown,

I sat down beside him and stopped.

Threw him a stick.

Gave him a pat.

We sat watching the waves roll by.

It was then that I finally heard it.

Heard the song playing in his heart.

A song with a beat of its own

and a dream which set him apart.

While other dogs just bark at the postman

or might chase the neighbourhood cat,

he wants to learn how to surf.

Ride the waves for himself.

Yet,

as much as the waves

might roar in his heart,

as much as he lives

for his dream,

the surfer’s dog

is stuck in his tracks.

Paralysed.

Stonkered, it seems.

He can dream all he likes

but a dog’s still a dog.

Dogs do not surf.

They only wait on the beach,

defending their turf.

Who’s he to challenge

the great status quo?

The way it’s always been?

He might have his dreams

but a dog’s still a dog.

No dog likes to be

laughed at, it seems.

Oh no! A dog has his pride.

He’s the surfer’s dog

and a surfer’s dog

never, ever cries!

Yet,

fear hasn’t stopped him

from dreaming.

He knows one day

that he’ll be brave.

That one day he’ll strut into the water

and will finally catch that big wave.

3.

The sun had almost reached midday

when his master finally returned.

He emerged from the surf strong and tall,

strutting down the beach with his board.

A tanned, Australian Adonis,

he sparkled like diamonds in the sun.

No need to whistle or call to his dog.

The dog was already gone.

Running, leaping, almost flying

wagging his tail non-stop,

the dog was right by his side.

I’ve never seen such love…

such devotion.

Yet,

I felt a little bit sad

as the dog’s surfing dreams

had all gone.

A dog’s dreams might be transient.

They ebb and flow with the tides.

But the surfer and his dog…

they will live forever.

Their love will never, ever die.

Rowena