Tag Archives: Thoreau

Climbing Cape Byron Lighthouse

Sometimes serendipity works for us and everything lines up. Yet, there are those other times when everything falls apart and something is clearly not meant to be…no matter how hard to try to push, shove or force it to happen. Sometimes, the reason becomes apparent and something even better is waiting just around the corner.

View Halfway up the lighthouse.

View Halfway up the lighthouse.

Monday, we drove to Cape Byron Lighthouse at Byron Bay but couldn’t get a park and ventured further afield. Tuesday we returned. Not only to get a park but also to find out that for the first time in over 20 years, we were able to go on a tour of the lighthouse and actually go inside, climb the stairs and stand on the balcony surveying Australia’s most Easterly point from higher up. Lighthouse tours are only available on Tuesdays and Thursdays so yesterday’s disappointment was today’s tribulation.

The view on the way up the lighthouse.

The view on the way up the lighthouse.

Ever since watching Dead Poet’s Society where John Keating played by Robin Williams gets the kids to stand on their desks and see the familiar from a new, fresh perspective and gain a whole fresh insight into the everyday, commonplace world around them.

“Just when you think you know something, you have to look at in another way. Even though it may seem silly or wrong, you must try.”

John Keating, Dead Poet’s Society.

The view of the walking track from the top of the lighthouse.

The view of the walking track from the top of the lighthouse.

So, as we started climbing up winding spiral staircase, I was mesmerised, captivated both by the scenes I captured through the windows on the way up but also that sense of following in the lighthouse keeper’s footsteps and stepping way back in time. I love history and I was almost getting high living and breathing it as we climbed those stairs.

The lighthouse stairs looking up.

The lighthouse stairs looking up.

A spiral staircase is a rarity and I only recently heard about Coco Chanel’s famous spiral staircase which was lined with mirrors and apparently she could stand at the top and see it all.

Naturally, the lighthouse staircase lacked all of that glamour but it did have brass railings, which were brightly polished back in the day. Children were not to touch them at all and smudge them with their fingerprints.

The lighthouse door opened up to such an incredible view!

The lighthouse door opened up to such an incredible view!

While it was wonderful climbing up the stairs and looking out the windows along the way taking photos, I almost held my breath as the guide opened the door with its shiny brass knob for us to step outside onto the balcony. This has always been a forbidden zone and now we were finally about to be let out. I couldn’t wait.

Guess who?

Guess who?

Perhaps, this great excitement explains my clumsiness. As I moved to step through the door, I tripped over my walking stick and went flying through the door and into the balcony wall, no doubt giving the guide a serious heart attack. Mister was right next to me and apparently I freaked him out. On my way down, I apparently grabbed him and he thought the pair of us were about to fly over the edge to our deaths. After all, neither of us is very good at flying.

Actually, Geoff, who as I’ve mentioned before, never lets my love of the story conflict with the facts, said that I apparently pushed him over when I fell. Not as spectacular as flying over the edge together but I did give him a fright.

Mummy can be a liability but I hope I’m proof that a liability can also be an asset!

Geoff and the kids at the top of Cape Byron Lighthouse.

Geoff and the kids at the top of Cape Byron Lighthouse.

The 360 degree views from the top of the lighthouse were absolutely breathtaking incredible. I was sprouting more superlatives than a real estate advertisement! ! Beaches stretching North and South and the incredible might and power of the Pacific Ocean to the East and Byron Bay and it’s hinterland including jagged Mt Warning to the West. I could have stayed up there forever and who knows, perhaps the sea gulls could have fed me instead!

Okay! I know I’m dreaming!

Looking down the spiral staircase. Quite striking but not quite Chanel.

Looking down the spiral staircase. Quite striking but not quite Chanel.

After our walk up to the lighthouse, Geoff and the kids followed the walking track down to Australia’s most Easterly point and onto the beach. It’s a pretty steep walk down and I didn’t think I’d make it back up so I stayed up the top by the lighthouse watching tourists photograph fleeting, pixel-sized flashes of passing whales who seriously must laugh at all the tourists snapping away at little more than bare ocean. Been there done that!

Aerial; view of the lighthouse keeper's cottages from the top of the lighthouse.

Aerial; view of the lighthouse keeper’s cottages from the top of the lighthouse.

I also just happened to mention snakes to a few tourists too. After all, I get no royalty cheque from the Australian Tourism Commission and sharing tales of Australian wildlife is simply being a good host!

The waves pounding the shore....Byron Bay Lighthouse.

The waves pounding the shore….Byron Bay Lighthouse.

That was when I noticed a bride and groom posing for photos on the first lookout down on the track. From where I was standing up the top, I was looking straight at the steep, rugged escarpment and after all our trials and tribulations since the happiest day of our lives, I couldn’t help but think that this rugged road was a good reflection of some of the times ahead. That marriage, life, is not always about experiencing the smooth, easy road but going cross-country and blazing your own trail through the wilderness and all that entails.

I also wondered what it would look like if her veil was blown away in the wind and landed on the rocks? What would it mean?

Hence, I started scribbling down my poem: Beyond the Veil, which you can read here:https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/poem-beyond-the-veil/

The kids at Australia's Most Easterly Point, Cape Byron.

The kids at Australia’s Most Easterly Point, Cape Byron.

Eventually, the rest of the family returned and we were off for more ice cream…a serious family tradition at the light house. By the way, we’re not talking mass produced stuff either but ice cream cones. My favourite flavour is Mango Macadamia which puts you right on location close to the Queensland border in a tropical paradise.

No matter how many times I visit the Cape Byron Lighthouse, it never loses its sense of wonder, it’s beauty and a strange sense of permanence in an environment were the waves and sand are ever changing.

“I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam,
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain

Kahlil Gibran- Sand & Foam

xx Rowena

In Pursuit of Character: The Proust Questionnaire

Although I’ve spent many years trying to refine and improve my own character, attempting of course, to become more virtuous, this journey is more about the pursuit of character development. How to develop complex and meaningful characters in our writing.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
Helen Keller

Or, in the case of the Book Project, creating myself as a character which is authentic and yet will inevitably end up being some kind of fiction.

I'm a veteran journal writer.

I’m a veteran journal writer.

I dipped my toe into these incredibly deep waters as I wrote about myself on my train trip to Sydney, trying to view myself through the eyes of the other passengers, who are of course, complete strangers:

Me, Myself & I: Writing A Complex Character Profile https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/me-myself-i-writing-a-complex-character-profile/

This proved quite useful but was obviously very superficial and based on how I looked, my actions.

I mean, perhaps this said a lot more about me than I’d like to believe. After all, as we’re observing others, we feel quite invisible and yet we could equally be the subjects of their study. They could indeed be writing about us. Did you ever think of that?

Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.
Henry Ford

The train trip home proved more insightful, confirming indeed that I was protagonist and antagonist rolled into one, as my creative diversions made me late for my medical appointment: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/surry-hills-to-gore-hill-sydney-a-hill-climbing-odyssey/

To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.
P. G. Wodehouse

Anyway, some time ago, I heard about the Proust Questionnaire and decided to work my way through this in the same way I worked the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge…one set topic per day and by the end of the month, I had knocked over quite a lot of writing. I was rather surprised…and impressed. If you had asked me to write that many words in a month, I would’ve balked. Of course, all those words came at a price and I was viewed as something of a ghost on the home front that month but I was thrilled to pull it off. After all, it showed me that I was truly capable of writing longer works (and indeed completing the book project if only I could get started!).

Writing to a set topic everyday was quite a change for me. After all, I have unwittingly always been a “panster”, not a planner when I write. I’d never heard much about terms like “protagonist”, “antagonist”. I just had my thesaurus. Besides, if you are a good story teller, these things are what makes a good story, whether you give them formal titles or not.


While all this creative spontaneity might work for a shorter work, I am thinking that more planning and structure is required to pull of the Book Project. Much of the book concerns what happened but I am wanting to fully develop the text by having fully developed characters and a strong sense of place as well. These have turned out to be much more complex than I thought because how I see myself is no doubt quite different to how others see me. Moreover, each different observer, has their own viewpoint and perspective. While it is very tempting at this point to say it’s all just too hard and to just create a fiction, I am going to persevere.

writer at work...Perisher 2012.

writer at work…Perisher 2012.

Indeed, it has become something of a challenge.

After all, anybody can make up a character. It’s quite another thing to capture what is in a way that strangers can fully understand. Strangers who, by the way, live all around the world and might not quite appreciate some Australianisms.

“Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.”
― Henry David Thoreau

In order to pursue character development further, I have decided to turn to the Proust Questionnaire like so many other writers have done before me. Author Marcel Proust didn’t actually invent this questionnaire. Rather, such questionnaires were popular in the day and his friend Antoinette asked him this list of questions. It was a way of getting to know your friends and your self better, which translates well into developing the back story for your characters across a range of creative pursuits such as writing, painting acting.

Here’s the list as it appeared at The Writing Practice: http://thewritepractice.com/proust-questionnaire/:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What is your greatest fear?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?
What is your greatest extravagance?
What is your current state of mind?
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Which living person do you most despise?
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
When and where were you happiest?
Which talent would you most like to have?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Where would you most like to live?
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
What is your favorite occupation?
What is your most marked characteristic?
What do you most value in your friends?
Who are your favorite writers?
Who is your hero of fiction?
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Who are your heroes in real life?
What are your favorite names?
What is it that you most dislike?
What is your greatest regret?
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?

There are 35 questions, which makes it roughly one question every day for just over a month. It might take me a few days to tackle the more challenging questions, while on other days, I might make it through a few. While I do want to get through this in a disciplined and focused manner, I don’t want to rush it and gloss over the weightier issues just to adhere to a schedule. I am doing this to learn, create, extend and understand myself better, which could well benefit from a better focus on the clock but won’t be governed by it…if that makes sense.

My shadow in Surry Hills

My shadow in Surry Hills

I now invite you to join me on this journey either writing about yourself as a character or to answer the questions through the eyes of a character you are working on. Feel free to respond in the comments section or to write your own posts, which can be linked through in the comments as well.

So, Who are you? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WseRJMQf1U

This is going to be a very intriguing and challenging journey.

xx Rowena

PS I recommend you read this post by Ula at Broccoli Addict: 5 Questions Before You Write Your First Draft https://broccoliaddict.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/5-questions-before-you-write-the-first-draft/

The Beginning: Five Photos Five Stories

My journey of a million photos began with a humble Kodak Instamatic camera.

Before Dr Phil redefined all of life’s great milestones as “defining moments”, my mother escorted me and my box full of coins into the local photography shop to buy my very first camera.

A far cry from my current Nikon SLR, my pride and joy was a Kodak Instamatic 56X. These were manufactured from 1972-1977 . It was Simple Simon to operate and all I had to do was press the silver button on top and manually wind the film on. That’s right speaking of film, it used a 126 film cartridge you shoved up its backside. Oh yes! The flash was a disposable plug-in flash cube so it was something reserved for special occasions.

“To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.”

Ansel Adams

Of course, any thought of being able to see your photos in the back of your camera before you paid to have them printed weren’t even considered. Rather, the cartridge was dropped off at the local pharmacy where it was sent off to Kodak for processing while you waited…at least overnight.. I still remember tearing open those packets of precious snaps with such excitement and love.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

Henry David Thoreau

Although my precious photos might have been blurry and I’d inadvertantly chopped off subjects’ heads, stuck fingers over the lens and ended up with way to many photos of Baby Alive, the dog and my brother who was fond of showing off, they were still precious…my photos!

“Photography helps people to see.”

Berenice Abbot

While I’m no Ansell Adams, photography is a passion and so often my way of viewing and capturing both the world around me and the poetry within.

I was nominated by Geoff Le Pard fromTanGental for the Five Photos Five Stories blog Share: http://geofflepard.com/2015/06/10/five-photos-five-stories-day-two/

I was nominated to take part in this photo challenge by Ali Issac, who takes the most beautiful images and always has a story to tell about them. I would like to nominate Rowena at BeyondtheFlow, to take up this photo challenge baton.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

I have decided to nominate Kath Unsworth from Miniscule Moments whose illustrations and photos are breathtaking and really worth a look: http://kathunsworth.com/

Do you have any special photographic beginnings you would like to share?

xx Rowena