Tag Archives: Umina Beach

Weekend Coffee Share – 26th May, 2020

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I’m not going to lie to you. The weather today is absolutely appalling. That’s not just because I’m some wussy Australian who can’t handle  the rain…or the cold.

Well, maybe I am.

However, it’s beyond my control. My DNA’s been reprogrammed by the heat and rain is such a rare thing here at times, that I almost don’t know what it is when I see it.

Moreover, I’m not alone in this either. Lady, our Border Collie x Kelpie wanted to go outside tonight but as soon as she stuck her nose out and saw the rain, she changed her mind.

Well, we had some big news here. Last Monday schools here in NSW were literally ordered back full time by the Minister for Education , just like a frigging dictator. There’s been little thought or accommodation for people in high risk categories. We’ve simply been told that zoom won’t continue. Unless you provide medical documentation, your child will be marked absent and consult your school principal. As you can see, it really annoyed me, and put me in a really dreadful position of having to choose between my kids’ education and potentially my own survival. However, the incidence of the virus here in Australia is seemingly so low, that I do think and hope that the risk is minimal.

So, we’ve had to get the household adjusted and prepared for back to school. It’s all been made much easier by having Geoff working from home. He’s showing no sign of needing to go back to working in the office, which is great.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to get our for some exercise. I can’t quite recall whether it’s only been the one walk. However, last week I went on a wonderful walk   to the Mt Ettalong Lookout which is about 10 minutes drive from home and on the way from Umina Beach to Patonga. From the road, it’s pretty unassuming. So much so, that it’s simply known as “the water tower walk” locally. However, it has breathtaking coastal views over natural rock lookouts and you almost feel like an intrepid explorer looking over the headland out to sea. I also loved the trees and wildflowers, which really came alive to me. I call myself a tree gazer. I find so many shapes and forms in their exquisite boughs and branches and I was there right on magic hour right before sunset when the magic was at its best. You can read more about it HERE.

Matchsticks

What with the whole Covid 19 situation, I’ve found myself in a fairly reflective mood at times. In fact, I’ve caught myself going through my misery list a few times. You know that list of losses and everything that’s gone wrong and been totally unfair. Well, I pulled myself up on it and decided to reflect on the first six months of 2020, through the framework of Acknowledgement & Gratitude. Acknowledgement recognizes those disappointments and setbacks without dwelling on them. You’re just visiting, and in the case of the Monopoly board you’re not going away to jail and staying there. I was quite surprised that my gratitudes outnumbered and also outweighed my acknowledgements by more than two to one. Indeed, that proved to be a very useful exercise and I encourage you to check it out here: Acknowledgement & Gratitude- 2020 Revisited.

I also got back into flash fiction this week, contributing to Friday Fictioneers. My flash this week as: Inside-Outside.

So, how are things going over in your neck of the woods? I hope they’re going well and you’re all keeping safe.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Stunning Water Tower Walk: Pearl Beach, Australia.

It’s hard to believe this breathtaking bushwalk is simply known locally as “the Water Tower Walk”. That sounds so plain Jane and understated. I’m not even sure there’s a sign, although it’s probably on the map.  That said, you either have to be local and in the know…or lost…to find it!

Rowena Mt Ettalong Walk

Here I am snuggled into the bushes with my Nikon photographing the view.

Yet, this walk is literally awesome, packed with knockout views, especially for the contemplative soul. Moreover, you never know what you’re going to stumble across on  the wildlife front. Much to our surprise,we’ve actually seen an echidna, which we didn’t even know were living in our local area. We’ve also seen a flock of stunning black cockatoos, although I only heard them this time.

Since we’re in varying stages of being cooped up in lock down like a flock of old chooks, I thought I’d invite you on a virtual bush walk. This way, you can ease into my shoes and hopefully get a sense of the magic.

However, before we get started, I’d better give you some directions. As it turns out, a quick Google search for a map actually told me its official name is : The Mt Ettalong Lookout Walk and its official address is 135 Patonga Dr, Pearl Beach NSW 2256. Well, that’s all well and good if you want to write it a letter. However, if  you’re in the car and looking out the window, you just need to look out on your left for the water tower. Take it from me, you can miss it and if you reach the Pearl Beach turn off, you’ve gone too far. The water tower is camouflaged in the scrub.

BTW, to help you get your bearings, I thought I’d better remind you our seasons are upside down for most of you. That means, we’re heading into Winter here in Australia. Now, I’m constantly running out of frigging daylight, because I stay up too late and miss half the day. So, this will tell you that we’re arriving about half an hour before sunset when the light is at its magic best, although there were definitely spots  where the light was gone, and needed the morning sun.

Track Mt Ettalong Lookout

From the road, this half hour walk appears pretty understated. There’s just the water tower and a bit of bush. Definitely no multi-story car park, luxury hotel or other travesties you expect anywhere worth visiting. Just nature. However, walk further down the track, and you’ll soon see stunning water glimpses through the gum trees  on your right.

Mt Ettalong Lookout through trees

Further along, you’ll see a little track across to a series of natural rock lookouts. By the way, there are no safety railings to spoil the view, until you reach the lookout at the end. So, you need to watch your step and be careful. Otherwise, it will be you being rescued and appearing on the 6.00 pm news…or worse!

“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the

ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on

underwater,you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the

ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and

staring at the outside of the tent.”

― Dave Barry

DSC_9617

The View from the first lookout over Pearl beach and across to Lion Island and Broken Bay.

 

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a

drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be

missing something.”

― Mother Teresa

String of Pearls 2

Pearl Beach viewed from the Mt Ettalong Walk. During these times of social distancing, I’feeling particularly struck by images of the lone individual., as captured in this photograph, which would improve in the morning light. 

Alongside the view, you’ll also spot a few wildflowers. If I came here more regularly, I’d have a better idea of what to expect. However, since I only come here randomly once a year or so, it’s always a bit of a lucky dip. This time I spotted a star-shaped purple flower which I couldn’t identify, as well as the stunning Fushia Heath (Epacris longiflora). There was also a touch of wattle, and some Banksia seed pods still clinging tenaciously to the branches with others being trodden under foot.

Tree beside the path

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”

― Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam

You could come here just for the ocean views, and be in heaven. However, the trees were almost equally magnificent. Please don’t mistake me for a tree hugger. I’m more of a tree gazer, photographer and philosopher. I’m currently reading Julie Baird’s sensational book: Phosphoressence. She’s introduced me to the Japanese concept of “forest bathing”, or shinrin yoku. Unconsciously, that’s what I was doing on this walk, although I’ll take the liberty of translating it into the Aussie vernacular and call it “Bush Bathing”. Mind you, that’s something you need to approach with extreme caution in a more literal sense in the Australian bush. There are not only the legendary snakes and spiders you’ve no doubt heard about. The leaves on many of these plants have adapted to rough conditions and are tough, scratchy and even vicious. So, they’re clearly not something to embrace in a literal, physical sense and most definitely not naked. Indeed, this could well explain Australians’ bizarre toilet paper hoarding fetish during the coronacrisis. There was no way we were turning to our native flora as an alternative.

tree

 

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

― William Shakespeare

Anyway, back to the trees. They were absolutely breathtaking, and I often struggle to understand how a simple tree could be so majestic and awe-inspiring. Meanwhile, I almost felt the size of an ant, dwarfed by this kaleidoscope of twisting, turning branches back-lit by the setting sun.  Their arms are reaching up into the omnipresent sky like a classroom full of kindergarten kids, where each of them has the answer to the question and desperately want to be picked. Moreover, being on top of a headland, these trees have wrestled with the wind and their branches have warped and twisted into an array of chaotic, misshapen forms, and I can almost hear the music playing, enchanting the branches to dance.  Of course, the effects of the late afternoon sun known as “the magic hour” by we photographers,  further illuminates their magnificent splendour. Gazing through my lens, I zoom in and absorb it all. It’s food for my soul.

DSC_9723

A jumble of branches.

Or, perhaps I’ve just been in lock down for far too long, and I’ve almost forgotten that the sky is blue. Or, that the sky exists outside at all, and hasn’t become a ceiling. That carpet hasn’t suddenly replaced the grass, and the world isn’t a square box after all.

I wish I could actually take you on this mesmerising journey in person with me. However, I’ve done my best to try to record it for you and, as I said, to ease you into my shoes. So, when I wasn’t standing stationary sticking my camera up a gum tree or gazing like stout Cortez across the sea, you would hear my footsteps rhythmically crunching over a carpet of crushed rocks and decaying detritus left, right, left, right. The track was uncharacteristically damp, because we’ve actually been getting some rain lately, and there’s a slighty musty smell of decaying leaves infused with eucalyptus, that scent we know as “Australia”.After all, this is our scent, our fragrance, even our deodorant. (Actually, we don’t go that far with the eucalyptus. Or, at least I don’t. Cough lollies are my limit.)

DSC_9685

As you can see, this spot is almost pure nature. Nothing’s been planted in neat little rows like peas in a pod. Rather, there’s raw, chaotic diversity and a freedom of spirit without pretence. I felt a million miles away from home, and any thought of covid 19 which has been stalking all of humanity around the entire globe. After all, there was no need for social distance. It was just me, myself and I, the birds, the trees, the awesome profound views across this vast stretch of water, the enormity of huge timeless boulders all  around me as well as the dramatic drop over the edge. This doesn’t quite count as a cliff, but if you fell down there, you might never get up, especially if no one knows you’re there.

DSC_9755

However, regardless of how deeply I was “bathing” in these scenes and senses, reality was always going to stick it’s ugly head in.  With the setting sun, came responsibilities. Dinner wasn’t about to cook itself and fly magically onto the table. Moreover, I also had a zoom meeting to attend. Indeed, it was going to be rush, rush, hustle bustle when I got home.

DSC_9793

However, at least I’d got out. Spread my wings. Broadened my horizons. Finally, done some exercise. Moreover, once the Palm Beach Lighthouse was lit and the street lights were coming on, it was time for me to go home. After all, even a child knows they need to be home before sunset.

Matchsticks

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed our virtual walk. Have you been out on any special walks recently? Or, do you have a favourite walk which you would like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Meanwhile, I hope that you are well, and keeping safe both from the virus but also all of its associated stress and the effects of isolation, job loss and just sense of things being turned upside down and inside out.

Best wishes,

Rowena

U – Umina Beach, Australia…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for this year’s Blogging From A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’re off to Umina Beach, which isn’t very far away for me at all. It’s actually only 700 metres down the road.

Indeed, Umina Beach is home. Geoff and I moved up here almost 20 years ago to buy our first home. Despite what we thought would be a quick renovate and flip, we’re still here. In fact, we haven’t finished those renovations, and what we did manage to get done back at the beginning, needs to be re-done. After all, fixing up a fixer-upper is a lot like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. By the time you finally reach the finish, you need to  start painting at the beginning again.

Zac at the beach

Zac at the beach a few weeks ago.

Geoff and I didn’t plan to leave Sydney, or even buy a place in Umina Beach. We’d started looking around real estate in Sydney, but came up to Umina Beach to visit our niece and this place was for sale two streets away. This massive decision was all very spontaneous, although you could also say it was meant to be. However, as we’ve found out, this decision was a lot more far-reaching than deciding where to camp for the night. Although Sydney’s only an hour down the road and Geoff commutes there for work, it’s not the same as actually living there.  It’s taken me quite a long time to call Umina Beach home, and I still consider myself a Sydney person. This region is considered part of Greater Sydney. However, when I was alone at home with the new baby and Geoff was commuting to Sydney and away most of the day, I really felt that distance. However, through getting involved in Church, playgroups and community action groups, that started to change. By the time the kids started school and I was also working part-time for a local IT company, I felt a lot more settled. Through living there, we’ve managed our mortgage on one income, without being enslaved to the mighty mortgage which is the norm in Sydney. It’s naturally a lot more relaxing around here with the beach at one end of the street and flat, inland water suitable for sailing and kayaking down another. Can’t complain about that!

 

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, NSW.

So, after that rather lengthy introduction, you must be wondering if we’re ever going to make it to the beach. My apologies. I can take all of this a bit for granted what with living here all the time. However, before we hit the beach, I need to make a quick distinction between the name of the place and the names of the beaches around here. The place is called Umina Beach, but the beach itself is divided into Ocean Beach, which is just down from our place, and Umina Beach to the West. However, it’s all one expanse of golden sand and a fabulous place to go for a walk. There’s even a designated dog beach.

Nippers Running

Our son racing at Nippers, a junior form of life saving. 

In so many ways, the beach is our cultural hub and a true blue melting pot where lifesavers, swimmers, walkers, dogs, kids and seagulls all congregate, exercise and relax. We’ve taken the kids down to the beach from the time they were born, and held them into the frolicking waves, until they were old enough to hold their hands and eventually join Nippers, along with many of the other local kids on a Sunday morning. Now, our daughter goes down to the beach with her friends and Geoff and our son prefer sailing. I have done some swimming, but am better known as walker and dog walker, although there can also be a bit of talk with that as well.

The set of photos above were taken in November 2007 celebrating Geoff’s Birthday.

Our beach has had some rough times over the years. Rough storms have removed tonnes of sand, ripped out rows of native trees and extensive remediation works have been undertaken to halt the damage. The road around the beach front was even closed off for awhile there, as there were concerns it too could fall in the drink. I don’t think this situation has really stabilised but it might’ve improved.

Geoff & Rowena

Just off Umina Beach, there’s the Umina Precinct Park, which as a dream come true for the local action group I belonged to when the kids were small. Back then, even getting a local park with a fence seemed like an impossible pipe dream. However, council came onboard and the project snowballed into a regional park and tourist attraction. This was well beyond our wildest dreams, and I should remember this when a situation seems hopeless. Never give up!

Flamin Ron the World’s Hottest Chilli Pie on TV

However,  every town has to have its personality. It’s claim to fame. For Umina Beach, this comes in the form of pastry chef, Ron Bruns from the Bremen Patisserie and his infamous pie… the Flamin Ron, the world’s hottest chilli pie. While I know Ron quite well and love his almond croissants and bee sting cake, I’ve never even considered dipping my little finger into one of these pies, let alone tried to eat one. In case you’re wondering whether this pie is as ruthlessly hot as it claims, you actually need to sign a legal waiver beforehand. So, that’s warning enough for me. However, despite local horror stories, there are still mighty warriors willing to take on the Flamin Ron challenge blow the consequences. This includes Richard, who tells a wonderful  tale

Woy Woy Air Strip

Woy Woy Air Strip extending down to Umina Beach with Lion Island right in front of the runway. 

While I was putting together this post, I did some historical research, hoping to find some historical detail of interest. After all, if you’ve been following me throughout this series, you’ll know how much I love jumping into my time machine, travelling back in time beyond the present day. It’s somewhat well-known around here that there used to be an air strip through town. I couldn’t have told you exactly where it was. However, that’s what Google’s for and the old newspapers.

This brings us to the Woy Woy Airstrip, which was built during WWII along with an aerodrome. The runway extended from Woy Woy down in a straight line along what’s now Trafalgar Avenue into Umina Beach, ending about a street away from our place. During WWII, the air strip was even used by US bombers. You can read more about it here  at All Things Woy. 

Tiger_Moth

Imagine this crashing into your roof. Luckily, no one was home when a Tiger Moth crashed into a Umina home in 1950. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

However, our street wasn’t always a street away from trouble. On the 4th November, 1950 long a few life times before we moved in, a Tiger Moth plane crash landed into a house at the end of the street. Of course, 70 years down the track, having a Tiger Moth crash land in your street sounds particularly exciting (especially after being in lock down for at least 6 weeks!!), although I should also point out that the pilot was injured. The plane crashed into the roof, and as the pilot wandered out in a dazed state, he fell 15ft  off the roof. Fortunately, residents Mr and Mrs Henson were away visiting their daughter in Sydney at the time. The plane crashed right on dinner time, and it’s almost certain they would have been killed. So, there’s something more I learned on my travels during the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

Couple Ocean Beach best

Sunset at the beach

Well, it’s now time to leave Umina Beach behind and get a bit of shut eye before our adventures start up again in the morning. Indeed, I might need to stay home for awhile after all this travel is over. What I would give to sleep in my own bed again, instead of tramping along the road from hotel to hotel.

Oh, that’s right. I haven’t been anywhere at all. It’s just me, myself and I stuck inside these same four walls along with Geoff, two teenagers and three dogs.

Humph! We’re definitely in need of a holiday!!

How are you holding up in isolation? Where would you like to go? My list is just getting longer and longer. However, due to my health, my movements are particularly restricted. So, right now even being able to walk into a local shop to buy some chocolate has become an impossible dream. That said, I’m certainly not going without. Hoarding chocolate hasn’t become a crime.

Take care & stay safe!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Tough Questions About Self-Isolation.

There’s no doubt that here in Australia we’re poised on the edge of a precipice. It’s now a question of how long the corona-crisis will last, and how we can best protect ourselves and our communities.When it comes to this, the anticipated duration makes quite a difference, because you prepare for a marathon in quite a different way than a sprint. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re in for a marathon. So, perhaps isolation in its severest form, is something only to be pursued when there is no choice.

The message has been very clear that social distancing is the obvious response to the Coronavirus. Moreover, it’s a no-brainer for people like me with rotten lungs and compromised immunity. However, what that self-isolation entails is somewhat semantic and more a matter of isolating from people. In other words, you don’t necessarily need to stay locked up in your box at home to be isolated. You could be on a boat. Walk well away from people or go and camp out in the bush. Indeed, I saw quite a few different ways of being outside yet self-isolating while I was down at the beach.

 

So, although I’m largely self-isolated at home, the main reason I decided to go for a walk along the beach was to exercise my lungs and try to build up some strength and resilience. My lungs are quite weak at the moment just from my regular lung condition, but they do improve with exercise which clears them out a bit (even though it makes me cough like a trooper). After all, I need to be in the very best health I can muster in case I catch this thing and being under the weather beforehand, I’m playing a losing battle.

Fortunately, our local beach, especially late in the day, is relatively unoccupied. This is quite a contrast to Sydney’s Bondi Beach which was packed on Friday and Saturday with idiot Australians just begging to catch the damn thing. Indeed, as you may have heard, Bondi Beach was shut down on Saturday as a preventative measure. If people aren’t going to think, then law enforcement needs to do the thinking for them.

DSC_8987

Even parts of our beach were looking over-populated. I walked the other direction which was sparsely occupied. 

At our beach today, there were still a few people down between the flags. So, I drove down to a more remote access point where I could stay within my protective bubble of space. No patting dogs or talking to dog walkers and thank goodness I only saw one friend a few metres away who well understood that I could only wave and keep moving. This was all very out of character for me, because I’m usually an absolute social butterfly given half a chance. I had to hide myself away.

DSC_8989

Idyllic and away from the crowds.

I was pleased I went, and immediately felt the psychological benefits. While being locked away inside much of the last couple of weeks has felt okay when I’m there, I felt so liberated to be at the beach again and out of the house.  Indeed, basking in the sunshine, inhaling the sea air and watching the ocean, I felt a surprising sense of exhilaration and well-being. A certainty that this was good for me and to keep looking for safe ways of getting outside, especially at the moment. We live a bit outside of Sydney and while this provides no certainties, it does provide more secluded exit points.

At the same time, I understand that leaving the house at all, goes against the strictest interpretation of advice.  However, if you’re only in self-imposed isolation, there’s no reason why you can’t go bush. You just need to hope you don’t start a movement.  After all, it’s people and public places which are the problem, not the trees.

Of course, once the virus spreads further, I will be bunkered down like a soldier in their trench, except I won’t be throwing any missiles, pineapple bombs or other incendaries over at the enemy. I certainly won’t be hopping over my trench pursuing it with my rifle and bayonet drawn either (been doing too much WWI research). Rather, my strategy is focused on withdrawal and getting myself as fit as possible by eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg, taking my vitamins and getting what exercise I can.

Family photo

Family photo taken 18 months ago.

Unfortunately, my greatest threat is my family. While my husband is now working from home, my son has been home with a cold and our daughter is still going to school and seeing a few trusted friends. She has been self-isolating from the family for some time. So, unless whatever she has can escape under her door like some bubonic slime, we’ll be safe. I’m sure if you have teens you’ll know exactly what I mean. Anyway, as you might have read in my previous post, that’s why we bought a caravan so we can isolate within our family.

I don’t know what the way forward will look like, but for the time being it looks like we need to pull together by staying apart.

How are you and your communities getting on? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes and blessings for protection,

Rowena

 

Survivors of The Storm.

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

Hunter S. Thompson

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

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

Abraham Lincoln

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

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

John Muir

DSC_8906

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

DSC_8907

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

Perhaps, I’m just more human than most…

DSC_8903

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

-Vincent Van Gogh

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

ocean beach

An ordinary Summer’s day.

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

It was another day…

DSC_8922

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

Rowena

Walking Along Teepee Beach…Australia.

With the start of the new school year a few weeks ago, I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of going for a walk after I drop the kids at school in the morning. Despite being a night owl, I am finding that when I get something done first thing, it actually happens. It doesn’t just drift off into the never never once the day gets underway and distraction reigns.
Unfortunately, habit and routine aren’t my strengths, but I’ve made peace with that. Decided that walking sometimes is good too, and that any walk is better than nothing. Perhaps, this is being too kind and I ought to show myself more tough love. Pull my socks up. Be mean and nasty. “Hey you good for nothing lazy slob of a slacker, get moving”. Or, words to that effect. I could also try reminding myself of just how beautiful the beach is, and how I could be pacing round a concrete jungle instead. “Get a grip, Snowflake!”
DSC_8858

A sea gull looking for a new home perhaps…

Anyway, this morning I made it back down to the beach and was in for quite a surprise. I spotted a series of wooden teepees dotted along the length of the beach. Some very well-constructed deluxe versions which you could almost call home, and others which were more along the lines of stick sculptures. These had no structural integrity at all, and it wouldn’t even take the Big Bad Wolf to huff and puff and blow the place down. Indeed, it might only take a seagull perched in the wrong spot.
DSC_8863

More of a stick sculpture than a dwelling place. 

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

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

Brandi Carlile

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

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

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

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

DSC_8883

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

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

 

Winter Walk Along the beach…

“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”

– Sarah Kay

It’s a tough life living near the beach here on Australia’s East coast just North of Sydney. Although the mercury might plummet to single figures, it doesn’t stay there for long and the sun can be absolutely glorious. Indeed, during the last week, it’s been perfect.

DSC_5071

Umina Beach, NSW.

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.”

Rumi

After spending a few days indoors with our daughter competing in the local dance eisteddfod and our son performing in the annual Scout and Guides’ Gang Show, I was busting to get outside, spread my wings and soak up that balmy sunshine.

DSC_5074

Even seaweed on the beach can take on a magnificent beauty and I loved its jagged shadow.

These photos were taken over two beach walks this week. On Friday I went by myself for some much needed solitude. Not necessarily that sitting on a rock all by myself type of solitude, but definitely not having to worry about dogs pooping or lunging at other dogs who for reasons unexplained seem to press the growl button not an enthusiastic wag of the tail. I didn’t have to wait for anyone else to get dressed or find a missing shoe either. Rather, I could simply get in my car and go.

DSC_5060

A lone photographer on the beach…

“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”

Rumi

As much as I simply love going to the beach enjoying it at face value, at times I also push myself to squeeze in a beach walk to de-stress, raise my heart rate or improve my overall well-being.

DSC_5098

Today, our daughter asked if she could come with me, which was great because she’s competed in a dance eisteddfod during the week and has her grade six ballet exam in three weeks and more phenomenal stress there, along with the final preparations. Getting out of the house, out of the studio and onto the beach and expanding your horizons across the vastness of ocean which extends off as far as New Zealand or even South America. Isn’t that incredible!

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”

Helen Keller

I love photographing shadows down on the beach. They’re so intriguing and distort as the sun nears toward sunset which is when I usually manage to get there. Shadows are also mysterious, enigmatic, and alluring. They’re not just something you accidentally capture in your photo which needs to be Photoshopped out. The other thing about these shadows, is that for users of real cameras and not phones posing as cameras, shadows are our take on the selfie. otherwise, I still need to stop a complete stranger to take our photo and I don’t feel entirely happy about handing my camera over especially when I take my glasses off and I couldn’t even see them make a run for it.

“A human being is only breath and shadow.”

-Sophocles

Another favourite subject of my beach photography is the seagull. Although I’ve probably overloaded my hard drive with seagull photos, I keep taking them. As annoying as they are, I love seagulls.

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”

-Rumi

When you take a closer look at these photos, you’ll see that our beach is surrounded by bush and is relatively untouched and natural. You can walk down the beach during the week and only run into a few dog walkers and virtually have the entire stretch of beach to yourself even in Summer. It makes me wonder why anyone would ever compete to find enough space to stretch out their towel among the multitudes.

Anyway, reality bites and I’d better get dinner into the pie machine and onto the table. It’s a cruel world, but Masterchef finals week starts in ten minutes so I’d better get a move on.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Beach Invaders…Ocean Beach, Australia.

The beach was literally littered with seaweed on my walk today. This was so exceptional, that I had to give this photo a post all of its own.

I’ve seen underwater forests of kelp down off the Victorian coast around the famous surf spot, Bell’s Beach. The carp you see on the beach down there is huge and rather luscious lying there in the sun casting magnificent shadows on the sand. These were still beautiful but their eye-catching appeal was seeing hundreds of seaweed clumps scattered on a usually bare beach.

Back soon for the rest of the walk.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Surviving the Australian Sun…

Perhaps, you’ve heard that Australia is currently experiencing a dire heatwave. Indeed, it’s been coloured-in bright red on the weather maps, and threatening temperatures of over 40 degrees and everything but hell fire and brimstone.  Well, that’s if you believe the weather reports. However, where we live the reality has been much closer to 30 degrees, and dare I say, an English Summer.

DSC_1111

Arriving at Ocean Beach.

While there are those sun-seeking Australians who head straight for the beach when the temperatures soar, these days I prefer more of a hibernation approach and only hit the beach around sunset. Moreover, although I considered getting into my swimmers and going for a swim, I opted for a “photographic walk” instead. In case you’ve never been on one of these, a photographic walk is taken peering through the lens and is a rather stop-start experience. Nothing that’s going to raise your heart-rate. Rather the aim of this exercise is to stimulate your creative juices. It works wonders for me and I always see in a much more focused and intense way exploring the world through my camera lens, than my own eyes. Moreover, I don’t like getting wet. I know that might sound rather hypocritical after teasing my dog for not getting his paws wet. However, at least I’ll dip my toe in and once I’m wet, I love it.

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach looking out towards Lion Island and Palm Beach headland.

Besides, I also wanted to explore the beach and all it’s nuances through the lens. Our local beach has copped a beating over the last five years. Or, is it more of a case that that our coastline is a rugged wilderness at the mercy of storms, tides and shifting sands and any semblance of smooth calm is nothing more than a postcard illusion? After all, the ocean isn’t a swimming pool, is it!  It can’t be contained.

DSC_1060.JPG

Fishing

That’s part of the ocean’s rugged beauty. That every day, even every minute, it’s different…an ephemeral force of nature. The people on the beach are also ever-changing. Ocean Beach with its Surf Lifesaving Club, is usually a swimming beach with fishing usually based around the point at Ettalong. However, the fishers were out in force when I was there yesterday.

Couple Ocean Beach best

Love at Ocean Beach

Indeed, they weren’t the only ones. I’m sure it won’t come as any great surprise that we get overrun during Summer by this supposedly great force known as “tourism”, but could be better termed “an invasion”. This also justifies a hibernation approach, and the benefits of sunbaking inside at home with a good book and the air-conditioning on. Indeed, you could call it enlightened self-preservation.

Rowena Shadow with wave

The closest I can get to a selfie with my SLR…self portrait at Ocean Beach.

Yet, I still had this unmet urge to carpe diem seize the day and actually make it to the beach on such a beautiful day. How boring to simply stay at home and let it float by without having lived it. Been a part of it.

As soon as I hit the beach, my mojo returned and as my toes sunk into the sand, my eyes were darting left and right scouring the sand and waves for something different, striking or eye-catching. Some days, that something hits me right in the face such as finding a group of Tibetan monks going surfing. We’ve also found the wreckage of a small boat and rows of trees yanked out of the dunes by the roots by a callous storm. There’s always something, even the fleeting watermarks in the sand.

Lines in the sand

Have you ever traced the watermarks in the sand and wondered where they came from? Where they’re going? Or, what they’re trying to say? Instead, I’ve watched my castles fall down and cursed the ocean for washing my efforts away.

However, my first impression was that there was nothing special and the beach was looking pretty ordinary, especially as the waves were flat. However, I found my eye drawn into the watermarks along the sand, which seem to tell a story of goodness knows what or where. Something beyond my human understanding.

DSC_1073

Perhaps, the seagulls were also discussing the mysterious secrets contained in a grain of sand.

Once you attune your eyes to appreciate grains of sand, your awareness of your surroundings becomes much more sensitive and acute. Even the common sea gull appeared extraordinary. Had character. Or, perhaps it was the extraordinary golden light which wove its magic? Certainly, this magic had certainly captivated the clouds. They were absolutely magnificent. It was a perfect sky.

Sunburnt Sunset Ocean Beach

Even the clouds were on fire.

DSC_1103.JPG

How have you been spending the Christmas break? I’d love to hear from you. 2018 is about to pass through the hour glass and I guess I’d better start thinking about some resolutions for the New Year before 2019 also washes out into the ocean.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Waiting Out The Storm…

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Nelson Mandela

Yesterday, my daughter and I were caught in a horrific, violent hail storm down the street at the local shops and we were absolutely terrified.  With six sleeps til Christmas and desperately trying to find something, anything for our 14 year old son, we’d trawled through almost every local shop, and were heading back for the car when the storm hit with unanticipated fury. By the time we realized how dangerous it was, it was too late. My daughter was telling me to walk faster, the same way I must’ve done when she was smaller. However, due to muscle weakness in my legs, I couldn’t. I could only go at my own pace. She might’ve only been a step or two ahead, but then she decided to cross the road at the pedestrian crossing, and that was when the hail started to fall. I have an performance enhancement device in my skull (otherwise known as a shunt) and I couldn’t chance it been hit by a hailstone, quite aside from the fact that hail can even kill your average Joe. Well, it’s probably more likely to kill your average Joe teenager, because I saw a few of them running across the road during the storm. Anyway, this all meant that my daughter was across the road by herself, while the sky was throwing a massive tantrum and pelting hail like an angry toddler. Although she’s now 12 and in high school, I knew she was terrified and wanted me with her but it was too dangerous. Fortunately the owner of the $2.00 shop took her under her wing and brought her inside.

As a writer, I know how to dramatize a story, inflating and colouring in the facts in lurid technicolour to ramp things up. However, this storm didn’t need embellishment. It’s terrifying violence and the deafening din of thousands of hailstones beating against the tin roofs of the local shops, spoke for themselves. Indeed, it reverberated through you like the sound of a thousand timpanis all beating at once.  The hail was really pelting down too, seemingly angry and lashing out at the earth. These hail stones ranged in size from about 3cms to tennis balls size around 8cm and some were even shaped like a cauliflower. At 5cm diameter, hail travels at 115kph and at 8cm it’s travelling at 175kph. So when you think about what all of that was doing to my heart rate along with being concerned about my daughter, our son at home and how the car was faring out in the open, a few Italian musical terms come to mind…accelerando, affrettando, prestissimo and forte! Forte! Forte!

Yet, right along the street, there were people photographing the storm with their phones, the same way we also photograph bush fires dazzled by the exquisite beauty of the flames, experiencing the intensity of nature’s fury and also that sense of hovering right on the very brink of destruction. That as much as we might want to turn our back and run, it lures us in…especially anyone passionate about photography or film. We’re in without even considering the cost.

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

– Vincent Van Gogh

dog in the storm

Taken just before the 2015 hail storm hit. Not a good time to walk the dog! It wasn’t one of ours.

This little black duck might’ve got caught out photographing a hail storm at our local beach a few years ago, and a massive rain storm in between. I don’t do this anymore. Well, not on purpose. This time I was simply caught out.

Anyway, naturally the hail stopped and it was safe for me to cross the road, collect my daughter and drive home. This is in the middle of a hot Australian Summer and yet here we were in a magical Winter wonderland. It was an early white Christmas.

However, this has turned into more of a Christmas subtraction for a lot of people, than a Christmas gift. We arrived home to find the roof of the office had been peppered with holes and the rain was getting in. It was nowhere near as bad as the last destructive hail storm three years ago where a tree also fell down. However, the rain was getting in and computers and paperwork were at risk. The car didn’t fare too well either. While we have friends with broken windows or a windscreen, our car is covered in pock marks, especially the bonnet. We’ve only had this car for a few weeks after I drove into a concrete divider in the hospital car park and that car was written off. It seems like I’m not having a good run with cars, although I wasn’t driving this one and the important thing is, that we’re all safe.

Hail2

I must admit that I’ve felt very shaken up by this storm. When you think about the effects of a relaxing massage, this was more like a jack hammer and quite the reverse. I also felt very unsafe walking through the heavy rain and my legs felt quite inadequate and like they couldn’t grip and I was wearing ice skates. I slept through much of today and really didn’t feel like getting out of bed. It felt safe. Fortunately, I didn’t need to go out and I just stayed home to chill out and clean up. It was my daughter’s first day of school holidays and our son’s had a few extra days. Not a great start, and we’ve been trying to see The Grinch. Maybe, tomorrow.

DSC_0942

“Remember, the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability.”

Ho Chi Minh

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

Frederick Douglass

After every storm the sun will smile; for every problem there is a solution, and the soul’s indefeasible duty is to be of good cheer.

William R. Alger

Yet, reading through motivational quotes about storms, I realize that they’re a necessary part of life. That they don’t last forever, and it wasn’t long before the sun came out. However, there’s no denying the damage. You can point to the sun, the rainbow, but you can also point out the smashed windows, terrified people and animals and you can’t just wave a magic wand and it all disappears without a trace. Yet, every time you survive either a physical or psychological storm, you’re better equipped to deal with and overcome the next one. You have experience and you also have this much valued thing called resilience. You don’t get that by sitting in your armchair and watching the storms pass by on TV or your phone.

DSC_0947.JPG

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

Rabindranath Tagore

DSC_0955

Sunset after the storm viewed through our Norfolk Pine tree.

How do you feel about storms, both of the weather and psychological variety?

Well, it’s well past my bedtime so it’s time to stop philosophizing and start snoozing.

Best wishes,

Rowena