Tag Archives: Umina Beach

Belated Weekend Coffee Share… 25th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s now Monday night here, so I hope you’ve have a great weekend . Although I’m turning up rather late this week, hopefully a few stragglers would still like to join me and keep the coffee and conversation flowing.

How was your week? Do you have any stories you’d like to share?

Well, I had a busy week and much of it was rather annoying because it involved medical appointments. I had one in Sydney, one locally with my GP and was back to the GP for an iron infusion on Friday, which will hopefully turn me into Popeye the Sailor Woman in a few weeks’ time once it’s take effect. These medical appointments weren’t such a big deal, and it was more a case of one appointment generating another and then they seem to breed like rabbits for a bit. However, fortunately they largely retreat back into their hidey holes much of the time these days and only reach this kind of frequency very occasionally.

After my doctor’s appointment on Monday, I headed down to Kirribilli for a coffee and set myself up with my notebook and started randomly writing. I love downloading my soul in pen on paper like this in a rustic old cafe, and it also feels so good for the soul to get all that stuff out as well.

Last week, the kids’ school held their annual Variety Concert over two nights. Our daughter danced on Tuesday night and our son was on lights the first night and backstage the next. What with having to drop him back and forth, my daughter and I also decided to watch the second concert as well. I’m really glad we did, not only because the acts were so good and we enjoyed some incredible entertainment, but also because I hope by being there, we might’ve encouraged some young performers. It’s very rare that you ever hear anything about being a “talented audience”. I’ve personally put in many years learning the piano, ballet and the violin, but no one even sat me down and encouraged me to learn how to be a productive member of the audience and be more than just a bum on a seat. Of course, my mother taught me not to crinkle lolly wrappers and not to cough, go to the toilet or talk during a performance and these days we also need to ensure we switch our omnipresent phones to silent. However, these things are more about the etiquette of being in the audience, rather than really getting into it. You can applaud with gusto and enthusiasm. Smile. Better still, you can compliment the performer afterwards, ideally pointing to something specific so they know you mean it and you payed attention. You see, while the performer’s talent might seem very obvious to you and that you might expect them to be egotistical and full of themselves, quite often I find the reverse is quite true. That many highly talented performers are perfectionists. Perfectionism is a state which can never be reached, and so far too many live with an agonising sense of their weaknesses and mistakes, rather than their incredible abilities to take everyone around them on a magical flight to someplace else, or even deeper within their soul.

Anyway, I digress. I am rather prone to philosophizing, and I guess sharing philosophical ideas over coffee is nothing new.

While I don’t really see getting around my local area as “travelling” per se, the beauty about blogging with people from all around the world, is that my own backyard become exotic. My backyard to travelling to you.

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Our local Beach during Winter.

Anyway, last Saturday Geoff’s sister from Queensland came down for a visit along with her son who has been living in Canada or the US for over 15 years. So, we met up with them at a local cafe and then decided he should see more of his own country before he heads back and took him for a drive to Patonga, which is located on the Hawkesbury River about 15 minutes drive away through the bush and round some fairly twisty bends. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to Patonga, and I’ve really get to ask myself why I don’t get out and see more of the local environment when I’m surrounded by glorious beaches, stunning coastal views and the great Aussie bush. I guess, like for most of us, life gets in the way. There always seems to be so much to get done and so much of that really isn’t exciting either. It’s little more than crossing stuff off the list, but I know from past experience that ignoring it only makes it worse.

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Fishing Boats at Patonga.

Well, I guess it’s time to wrap things up here. I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit and I look forward to popping round and touching base with you as well.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Accidents, Blessings &Tibetan Monks at our Australian Beach.

It’s no wonder I “over-think” things. Strange things keep happening and I’m trying to work out whether it’s chance, coincidence or destiny. That’s why I like the word serendipity because it seems to covers that ambiguity. It was “meant to be”, and yet it was also brought about by chance.

Moreover, I should also add that it’s up to you whether you grasp that serendipitous moment (that is, if there is such a word) and run with it or let it slip through your hands into the wind where it could well be grasped by someone more daring.

Before I get to the audaciousness of the woman with the long camera lens (I tell you I’ve lost count of how many doors a long lens has opened for me over the years but it’s certainly been more influential than the sword!!)

As I said, before I get to the audaciousness of the woman with the long lens, let me just tell you that before I was strutting my stuff down at the beach and flashing my lens around, yours truly had a nasty fall. Not of the figurative kind but of the real, painful and ouchy kind. I’d ducked down to get my daughter a loaf of bread and for no reason whatsoever, my ankle flipped over, gave way and I landed smack onto the concrete.

As I’m lying there, pain receptors all over my body are flashing red and my  brain is doing this desperate mantra: “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” Meanwhile, inside I feel this desperate, crushing sadness. It’s almost been 2 years since my last fall where I broke my foot in equally pathetic circumstances and yes, I was feeling sorry for myself. I was wanting someone to rescue me and give me a hand up. I might have been at our local shops and I know a lot of people around here, but there was no one in sight. As much as it’s embarrassing to have a fall, it’s also a relief to have help getting up and some loving, caring stranger ask if you’re okay and bless you with the touch of human kindness.

However, as I said, there was no one in sight.

So, I picked myself off the ground and hobbled with my sprained ankle on one leg and my grazed knee on the other, looking like a mutant John Wayne. Bought my bread. Said hello to a friend (without mentioning my accident) and drove home.

Life as a parent…there is no off switch.

The kids were going to their first surf lesson this morning. I’d been really been looking forward to watching them, but now I was wondering how I was going to walk along the beach. I was angry with my foot. Angry with life.

By the way, as far as I’m concerned, it’s alright to ask: “Why me?” at these times.  It’s just not good to dwell on it.

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The kids learning to surf.

Anyway, I made it onto the sand and was taking a few photos of the kids and listening to their surf instructor, when I noticed a group of Tibetan monks wearing flowing robes on the beach. Immediately, instinctively even, my photographic eyes were starting to switch.

Obviously, a group of Tibetan monks in robes stood out on an Australian beach. We’re about 90 minutes  North of Sydney and not what you’d call a multi-cultural area. It’s bikinis, board shorts and surf board territory around here.

Now, I have seen some interesting sights on the beach, and more often, I’ve been an “interesting” sight myself (what with taking photos of things at the beach…tea cups, Eeyore, kids etc ). However, Tibetan monks on an Australian beach is a first.

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Our son taking to the waves.

So being the helicopter parent that I am, I totally switched off from my kids’ surf lesson and started chasing these poor monks up and down the beach with my camera instead. Actually, unlike my kids they were there to be photographed, were only too happy to meet and greet and they also did a meditation to bless our beach.

However, these monks weren’t just there to look at the waves. Apparently, they’re going surfing. They’ll be having a surf lesson and I later saw them wearing wet suits and life jackets, although we left before they had a go. The TV station was there and an official photographer with a much bigger lens than mine. They were conducting interviews, filming and taking photos. However, I was able to mention  1000 Voices for Compassion  and my blog. I also found out that they’re coming back in November for a series of talks in Gosford. I’ll be there!

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The Monks have changed into beach gear and life vests ready for a surf.

It was remarkable timing running into these Gyutan monks from Tibet after my disheartening fall this morning. It gave me such a such a sense of yin and yang. There was the physical pain, shock and disappointment of the fall followed by the excitement of seeing the monks but also feeling touched by meeting them and being reminded about peace and the goodness of God and the need to look up instead of down.

Perhaps, I was meant to learn to trust God. That even when I fall and feel incredibly alone, that God is still there with me and carrying me forward to something better. And I know that if we didn’t have the rain, we’d never appreciate the sun and the plants would never grow.

That said, getting hurt still hurts.

“Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

— Nathaniel Hawthorne

As you may recall, I’ve mentioned  in various posts before, about how I see better when I’m looking through my camera lens. That I see things I miss with my own eyes.  Well, photographing and meeting these monks was confirmation and I really appreciated these added insights.

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The Monks blessing the Beach as their feet get wet.

It turns out the monks haven’t had much, if any, exposure to the beach and, for example, didn’t know that the water would be salty. I noticed that they flinched as the waves rolled over these feet. Perhaps, the water was cold but I saw this as an unfamiliarity with the waves.

However, while they were meditating and the very same water whooshed over their feet, they stood completely still. They didn’t flinch.

That touched me. That gave me an insight into the depths of their meditation and its power. That it’s something deep and very real. Not only that, I would love to reach that level of peace in myself…especially in stressful situation. It was such a powerful testimony.

“We must begin our search for meaning when things are going well. A tree with strong roots can withstand the most violent storm, but the tree can’t grow roots just as the storm appears on the horizon.”

Dr Howard Cutler: “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” (which was co-written by the Dalai Lama.) […]

So, after photographing and meeting these inspirational monks, I was back to Parenthood 2.0. Watching the end of their surf lesson and taking them to Maccas for lunch on the way home…a special holiday treat.

Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, we have a way to go too!

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By the way, you may be interested in a previous post I wrote where I reviewed The Pursuit of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard Carter. You can check it out here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/the-dalai-lama-and-the-psychiatrist-converse/

xx Rowena

PS Tonight my husband was catching the train home from work when he spotted our dear neighbours returning prematurely from the trip. They’re in their mid-80s and the wife had had a nasty fall and had spent the night in hospital. I received a phone call on my “death bed” and the next thing I was driving to the station picking them up and helping her back into the house… past their tribe of about 8 duckling and a single parent who were missing them terribly along with their “pet” magpie. It felt nice to be useful and to be able to help them and be part of community instead of sitting on the edge! This couple have been a bit like grandparents to our family and today it was our turn to look out for them instead.

Recovery…After the Storm.

When I was trapped inside my tin can with hail pelting against the car and it looked like the windscreen could smash any minute,  it was hard to believe that the sun would ever come out again and life would go on…seemingly without a second thought about what had happened. What we’d been through.

After all, shouldn’t time pause after any kind of storm or catastrophe? Allow you to actually catch your breath and process things a bit before you have to go back out there again?

You’ve got to be kidding!

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Moreover, once the sun comes out and the mess has been cleared up and damage patched, it’s like the storm never even happened. It must have been some kind of myth, a nightmarish dream or perhaps even something you watched on TV.

Yet, there’s that gut wrenching angst in your stomach. You might have locked the doors and barred the windows and going back out there again might even be more than you can face…even though the sun is shining.

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The Approaching Storm.

While it’s important to know that recovery and healing are possible, it’s equally important to know that it can take time. That while some of us appreciate sharing our storms with our friends, be they local or online but others need to go into their cave to somehow put their house in order and work their way through it.

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After the last storm: Bilbo wasn’t too sure about the beach disappearing!

Somehow, however, there does need to be a way for the hurting, no matter how long after the event, to say: “I am not okay”. They might not need sympathy or any assistance but equally, they might also need a hand to seek professional help. Someone to go with them or to suggest a name or somewhere to go. Or, just someone to go on a walk and have a chat.

Or, indeed, just borrow your dog for a bit.

Flowers in Martin Place at 9.30am on Tuesday.

Floral Tributes in Martin Place Following the Sydney Siege.

We live in the world of the 3 day news cycle and soon Paris will be replaced by other headlines. Indeed, my hailstorm which also took place on Friday 13th has already been overshadowed, before the mess has even gone.I still feel a bit edgy but feel better after getting out today. Indeed when it comes to processing trauma, in Sydney we are rapidly approaching the first anniversary of the Lindt Cafe Siege held in Martin Place.

Much worse has occurred around the world since then but that doesn’t discount what those hostages went through, how the families of our dead still grieve and how the horrors in Paris must have reactivated all of this. reverberating through their bones. I send them my love and my prayers. I hope they’re okay.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that long after all sign of the storm is gone, that inner battle can remain and we need to tread carefully around each others’ souls, bathing each other in compassion and understanding. This can be our contribution, no matter how small, to our aching world.

I just came across some inspirational quotes relating to sadness in response to Paris over at On the Vergehttp://onthevergewithshareenmansfield.com/2015/11/14/3-day-quote-challenge-sadness/

Love and God’s richest blessings!

xx Rowena and family

PS Thank you to our local lifeguard who ducked out of his tent for this photo. Otherwise, he’d be wearing his shirt ie sun protection.

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Surviving the Storm at Ocean Beach.

Everybody perceives the world through their own lens and reacts in  their own way. While those who like to be prepared and take precautions might check the weather bureau when they see a storm front, I grabbed my camera jumped in the car heading to the beach to get the shot. One hell of a storm was brewing with a towering bank of deep purple clouds contrasting with perfect blue sky, creating a photographic opportunity too good to miss. I jumped in the car and drove down to the beach as fast as I could within the speed limit and without hitting any of the gazillion ducks and their offspring, which have taken over the streets.

The Lifeguard's board wasn't much chop for taking on this almighty storm.

The Lifeguard’s board wasn’t much chop for taking on this almighty storm.

Once I was down on the beach in photography mode, seeing the world through 6x 4, I was so focused on  capturing those shots that I didn’t even question whether those clouds were harbingers of doom. That those kind of clouds, the really spectacular ones, mean business…a severe storm and it’s not the sort of thing you want to get caught up in.

Not a good time to walk the dog! It wasn't one of ours.

Not a good time to walk the dog! It wasn’t one of ours.

I was still on the beach when large, heavy raindrops started plopping down in quick succession. With no time to wait, I headed back to the car. By this stage, the wind had whipped up and was sweeping up the track. The wind was getting strong. No sooner than I’d made it back to the car, when hail started pelting down sounding like machine gun fire. It was truly terrifying especially as I watched in horror as the hail belted against the windscreen and I wondered just how strong that glass was. Was it going to smash. With the storm hitting the beach front right in front of me and being completely unprotected, the car really took a beating and I hoped it was all going to be okay.

I also made a mental note…no more storm chasing. This was the second time I’d been caught in a storm with my camera and after a surfer was struck by lightening recently, I now know that I need to take these storms a lot more seriously. Photos are not worth dying for!

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Mister showing off the hail.

Another not so minor detail involved the kids. They’d decided to stay home. We’re only minutes from the beach so not a big deal except there I was bailed up in the car with hail the size of golf balls battering down while they were at home. It was too treacherous to drive and I was naturally wanting to get back and so decided to chance it and drove home through the hail…quite a feat for such a nervous driver.

The streets and gardens were covered in 5-10 centimetres of thick hail. It’s the closest we’ve ever come to having snow and it would’ve been incredibly fun for the kids, if these same “golf balls” hadn’t smashed multiple holes in our back roof. While the Laserlite is great for letting the sun through, it had become brittle and bam.

The roof was leaking like a sieve.

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Mister was on the phone to Emergency when I finally made it through the door, totally drenched. The kids took me out the back, to what we call; “The Green Room”. My desk is positioned against a huge window overlooking the garden and my keyboard was literally swimming. The file cards I’ve actually been using for “The Book Project”, had also gone for a swim and my Paris diary, which has survived 22 years including being carted around Europe in my backpack, was also a tad wet.Photo albums, computer equipment and more clutter than you could ever imagine, all getting drench in the line of fire.

I called Emergency back and called the State Emergency Service. They;re the incredible volunteers who risk their own personal safety to put tarps over leaking roofs in the middle of awful storms without being paid a cent. We ended up with 4 SES volunteers out in the yard with one up the ladder or on the roof. Such relief, especially as Geoff was at work and Mister was wanting to be the hero. Get up on the roof and fix the holes himself.

Another point I haven’t mentioned, is that having all that water inside and slippery surfaces is treacherous for people with mobility issues. I fall easily enough without assistance and after breaking my foot in a fairly basic fall, I’m also conscious that such falls aren’t a laughing matter!

Rescue.

Rescue.

I’m proud of our efforts coping under such adverse conditions. We really were thrown in the deep end and had to think about how to best overcome the leaks. I pulled out the shower curtain and used it to cover the book shelf, which was still dry but I didn’t want to take any chances. We put a tarp over my desk once we’d cleared everything off. My daughter, who was incarnating her Cub Scout leader, was sorting out where to put the umpteen containers we required to catch the drips. She did a great job. Mister also did well. He was very concerned about how other people we going and I had to keep reminding him that we’d lost our roof and had our own crisis. It was great, however, to see his community-mindedness.

Thank goodness for the State Emergency Service!

Thank goodness for the State Emergency Service!

Thank goodness Geoff arrived home while the SES was here and he was able to dig out some sheets of iron sheeting to stick over the top. They screwed it down and put sandbags and boards on top to hold it down and even applied some silicone to plug the gaps.

We are so incredibly grateful.

After going through all of this…being stuck in the hail storm, the damage to the roof and all that rain in the house and having to move all that stuff and the damage…I have some incredible photos…and a couple of containers of hail in our freezer and a lot of hard work ahead.

xx Rowena

Beach Bandaid.

Almost everyday, I take the dogs for a walk at “Dog Beach”. It’s a section of beach between Ocean Beach and Ettalong Beaches where dogs can run off the lead. Not only do the dogs run off the lead but so do the humans.
Somehow having a dog breaks down most of those social barriers and we almost all chat to each other and at least know the dogs by name.

Dog Beach: my daughter inscribed this with a stick in the sand.

Dog Beach: my daughter inscribed this with a stick in the sand.

I am quite surprised by the array of dogs which wag their tails, growl, run, chase balls dog along the beach but it’s like Sam the Old English Sheepdog and his mate Hamish, the Lassie Collie really call this stretch of sand home and the rest of us just come and go. They are such character dogs and you don’t see those breeds often in Australia and I’ve never seen them together before so they really stand out. They have such long, adorable coats, that they’re not the sorts of dogs you usually see at the beach either.

I used to have a Lassie as a child and we had an Old English Sheepdog before Bilbo. He was a rescue dog and much of the time we had him, I must admit, we felt like we needed to be rescued what with the flying slobber and his food thieving ways. He’d steal food off the kitchen bench and swallow it bag and all. As if that was crazy enough, he’d run round and round in circles during a storm, huffing and puffing like a freaked out canine locomotive. His name was “Loopy” before we got him and although we changed it to a more dignified “Rufus”, it didn’t change the nature of the dog!

Anyway, if you’ve been following the misfortunes of the beach since “The Storm”, then you’ll know it took a beating. Trees had been ripped out by the roots and scattered like matchsticks by the violent surf along the beach and the place was looking like a war zone.

Here’s a link to a post written during the storm:https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/22/a-drowned-rat-in-the-sydney-storm/

Then there was Walking Along the Storm Ravaged Beach: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/walking-along-the-storm-ravaged-beach/

I even wrote a poem: Beach Storm:https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/beach-storm/

A vagrant tree branch on the beach after the storms.

A vagrant tree branch on the beach after the storms.

Well, now it looks like a building site. Part of the beach is blocked off with a row of roadworks cones and there’s a roadworks sign in the middle of the beach and often you can see the bulldozer at work moving mountains of sand to try to save the road. Sandbags have been ordered but this situation is very complex and like any ecosystem, there are things you don’t even consider which are somehow part of the picture and there is so much to consider.

Umina Beach just after the storm in April.

Umina Beach just after the storm in April.

That said, you would be surprised how many engineering experts know exactly what to do down at the beach. Everyone has an opinion. No doubt, even the dogs who have turned all the council paraphernalia as yet another “telegraph pole”.

Isn’t it funny how the less you know the more certain you are? Sometimes, we joke about our son who is only 11 but still has his opinions: “Often wrong but never in doubt”. His peers are much the same so it’s nothing personal. Yet, how many adults are much the same? After all, it would be reassuring to have those certainties but a complex problem is a complex problem and usually ends up needing a multi-disciplinary approach to take in at least most of the angles. There is definitely no quick fix!

So, in the meantime, our beach hovers in a kind of life support but it is receiving intensive care and a lot of love.

We wish it a speedy recovery!

xx Rowena

The Rainbow That Got Away!

Photography is like fishing.

There is always that perfect shot that “got away”. That idyllic moment you, for whatever reason, missed.

A few days ago, as I was driving home after the dropping the kids at school, I noticed the most intensely coloured rainbow arching over the beach. I absolutely adore rainbows and experiencing a sort of visual lust peculiar to mad photographers, I felt that tell-tale pitter-patter in my heart which was rapidly crescendoing into a frenzied explosion.

The colours were so intense but although I was completely intoxicated and absorbed by this stunning rainbow, my camera was at home and we all know about the fleetingness of rainbows and how quickly they slip through your fingers. After all, they don’t want to get caught…not even in 6×4.

Not to be deterred, I raced home and picked up the camera and the dogs.

Of course, by the time I returned, the rainbow was gone.

Indeed, it looked like it had never even been there at all. It had vanished without a trace.

Yet, there was still so much to photograph. The sky was a foreboding dark grey with a trail of pure white clouds scudding across and incredibly moody. Storm water had carved an impressive estuary through the sand and the beach had a raw, powerful energy and felt a little wild.

Bilbo fogging up the windscreen with angst while I photograph the rainbow.

Bilbo fogging up the windscreen with angst while I photograph the rainbow.

While I ran around taking shots, the dogs were still in the car as they’re not allowed on this section of the beach.

They weren’t happy!

While I was disappointed at missing the rainbow shots, I was philosophical about it all. Sometimes, you are just meant to feast on such things with your eyes instead of trying to recreate perfection and somehow lose the magic in the translation.

Jonathon Livingstone Seagull Opted to Walk in the Rain.

Jonathon Livingstone Seagull Opted to Walk in the Rain.

I called it a day and started driving home when I noticed the sun starting to force it’s way through the rain clouds with a determined, golden haze. My hopes raised a little. Sun and rain equals rainbows and as I turned into my street and threw a passing glance back at the beach, the rainbow was back.

Yes!!

The elusive rainbow finally captured over Lion Island.

The elusive rainbow finally captured over Lion Island.

One very quick U-turn later and the dogs and I were moving like greased lightening, albeit under the speed limit…of course!!

The rainbow was arched right over the top of Lion Island, which was shrouded in a foggy haze. Serenely beautiful, it was a veritable fairyland with an ethereal beauty!

Wow!

After I’d taken my shots, the sea gulls, which had parked themselves along the beach captured my attention. Perhaps, they were also admiring the rainbow. I don’t know. A few of them suddenly started taking off, so very much like planes on a runway and the seemingly ordinary took on a new serenity at that moment. They reminded me of Noah’s dove…except the rain hadn’t stopped!

Jonathon Livingston Seagull Finds His Wings!

Jonathon Livingston Seagull Finds His Wings!

Indeed, it’s still going and while it hasn’t snowed here, it’s snowed heavily in places which are usually lucky to receive a dusting.

So, you could say we’re needing a rainbow at the moment and I would love to escape to rainbow island if only there wasn’t the perpetuate battle between sun and rain.

Of course, in my idea of the perfect paradise, there is only sun!

xx Rowena

The Morning After…a Walk Along the Beach.

“You see but your shadow when you turn your back to the sun.

Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Last night, as we watched the full moon rise over a sprawling landscape of twinkling lights, I felt such a mixture of hope and dread, like you do when, for whatever reason, you become intensely conscious transience. As much as you desperately try to hold onto the known, the familiar, the beloved; you know your efforts are futile. Change is in the wind and you’re losing your grip. Like that mysterious world at the top of Enid Blyton’s: The Magic Faraway Tree, you don’t know what’s coming next. Whether it’s better or worse, or just different. All you know is that you can’t turn back. That door is shut. Indeed, it’s so firmly shut it’s like that world never even existed and has escaped to the realms of dreams, legend…fantasy even.

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
Forever.

Kahlil Gibran, Sand & Foam

Even though I’ve conquered many hurdles, especially in relation to my health, I’m definitely no Captain Courageous. Oh no! I can withdraw inside my cocoon just as much as the next person but I’m also starting to figure out what works for me and that if I don’t want to wallow in the mud, there are things I can do to lift myself out.

When you lose something precious, it is all too easy to forget what you still have. What is left. It’s understandable that I’m upset about losing our escape hatch at Palm Beach but we actually live 700 metres away from the beach, an absolutely smashing beach. Umina Beach fronts onto Broken Bay, just North of Sydney and has a postcard view of Lion Island, Pittwater and across to Palm Beach. Indeed, I can even wave to the Palm Beach Lighthouse and I swear that sometimes it even waves back.

Walking, I find, is also very good for clearing out the soul and after several weeks of rain, the sun returned yesterday and gave another encore performance today. Knowing that Winter is just around the corner, I’m grabbing these sunny days with both feet and getting out to the beach…carpe diem: seize the day!

Wally the Wandering Wombat and Ernie at the beach. But where's Bert?

Wally the Wandering Wombat and Ernie at the beach. But where’s Bert?

So after school drop off this morning, I went down to Umina Beach not only for a walk but to do a photo shoot.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been involved in a project to promote awareness of my auto-immune disease which involves photographing Wally the Wombat whose wanderings from the UK and around Australia are being well-documented. Dermatomyositis can affect children as well so I headed off to the beach to photograph Wally with Ernie from Sesame Street.

Memorial to the lives lost in the Christchurch Earthquake. On the 3rd anniversary of the earthquake, a single red carnation on each chair in remembrance of all those who died. Photo: Joyce Majendie

Memorial to the lives lost in the Christchurch Earthquake. On the 3rd anniversary of the earthquake, a single red carnation on each chair in remembrance of all those who died. Photo: Joyce Majendie

I also took along a cane chair.

I am currently putting together a farewell to Palm Beach series based on the image of the empty chair. The empty chair has been used to symbolise loss and grief in various works and Geoff Le Pard reminded me of that when he told me about a memorial to the victims of the Christchurch earthquakes called 185 Empty White Chairs with a chair to represent each person who died in the quake. I Googled it and was quite moved by the memorial and loved how they’ve used such an eclectic array of chairs, including a wheelchair, which have all been painted white. It was very evocative.

Vincent Van Gogh:

Vincent Van Gogh: “Van Gogh’s Chair 1888”

So here’s to new beginnings…I think! That and being thankful for all that we do have, even at timesof loss and transition when it’s so easy to forget.

xx Rowena

Umina Beach looking across to Lion Island and Palm Beach.

Umina Beach looking across to Lion Island and Palm Beach.

Chair and foam

Chair and foam

The tide shows no respect for what's been left upon the shore.

The tide shows no respect for what’s been left upon the shore.

After the Sydney Storm

After three days of terrifying,cyclonic winds and drenching rain, the sun came out today almost making a mockery of our ordeal. Indeed, as I feel that warm sunshine filtering through the blinds, it’s more of a case of what storm? There isn’t even a puff of wind.If I was feeling more energetic, I’d awaken my rusty vocal chords and belt out: “Oh What A Beautiful Morning”. My Dad used to sing that on long drives in yet another embarrassing Dad moment.

However, while the storm has cleared, the scars remain. Our front window is still taped up and while Geoff has salvaged the clothes line from the fallen tree, there’s still a huge pile of branches in the yard. Tracks down to our local beach have been sealed off and calls have gone out to help with the clean-up.

Ocean Beach, Umina after the storm.

Ocean Beach, Umina after the storm. That’s Lion Island in the middle of the frame and Palm Beach is the headland on the left.

With the sun shining, winds gone and clear skies, my concerns about the kids going to school this morning were gone as were my concerns about driving them there. That, however, didn’t stop Mister from putting up incredible resistance. It’s the first day back after the Easter holidays and we’ve established nothing even approaching a routine. This morning, it was simply a case of getting them there. That’s all.

The storm has still left me rattled and has brought out some troubling old war wounds. Like those phantom pains experienced by an amputee, these memories still haunt me. Yes, you get on with it but that doesn’t mean the ghosts aren’t real. Moreover, I’m sure denial only makes them worse. Then, they start to play up and vie for your attention with all sorts of desperate antics. As much as I really don’t want to say hello and validate their existence, this seems to be the path of least resistance.

And so we move forward. Not strong, all-conquering heroes but fully human…shaken, not stirred.

For all of you who might have lost houses or loved ones during the storm, we send you our love.

Have you been through any spectacular storms? How did you feel afterwards? Please share your stories!

xx Rowena

PS I am participating in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge and this is a postscript to S is for Sydney Storms.

A Drowned Rat in the Sydney Storm

Welcome to our nightmare.

We have spent the last three days being battered by cyclonic winds and extremely heavy rain. While we didn’t lose power, we’ve had a tree fall on the clothes line. The roofing in the back room started a quest for freedom and Geoff was up on the roof battening down the hatches. A glass panel also broke in the louver windows out the front and he had to stick up a sheet of plastic to keep the rain out. We also went through a staggering cast of towels, which soaked up water flowing in underneath the front door. For awhile there, my computer was even being protected by a beach towel draped over the top like a tent.

Geoff was up the ladder at the height of the storm fixing the roof.

Geoff was up the ladder at the height of the storm fixing the roof.

If you want to get a taste for it and walk in our shoes then:

1) Get a fire hose.Turn it onto full bore.

2) Add an industrial-strength turbo fan.

3) Throw in a bucket of beach sand.

4) Turn these all on at once and stand in front.

5) Have a blast!

Fallen tree branch down the street.

Fallen tree branch down the street.

That describes the physical impact.

However, there’s also the psychological impact…the fear. that deep-seated, incredible fear. The wind is whirling and howling outside with such terrifying force and the house is rattling, shaking and flapping and rain’s getting in places it’s never been before. After all, we live in a house not a leaky sieve! The force of the wind was so strong that I had to push the front door shut to close it. I am still shaking inside, not wanting to venture out and just wanting to wrap myself up in a huge doona and hibernate in the house like a bear. Actually, digging a deep cave underneath the house (something like a tornado shelter)  sounds even better!

Ocean Beach, Umina. The surf here is usually fairly calm so this churning mass is quite exceptional!

Ocean Beach, Umina. The surf here is usually fairly calm so this churning mass is quite exceptional!

That said, we ventured out yesterday afternoon to take some photos around town in between blows. There were fallen trees all over the place and streets and footpaths had been turned into instant duck ponds. At a local park, the shade sail had been savagely torn and was flapping around like a lunatic.Rows of bins had been blown around and were lying beside the road like rows of fallen soldiers. Indeed, our garbage truck had turned up right at the height of the storm and Geoff was out there holding it up so the track’s huge metal arm could lift it up and empty the waste. My goodness. Even that was an ordeal!

I'd do anything for a photo- including venturing out into the rain but Geoff was the wind beneath my wings.

I’d do anything for a photo- including venturing out into the rain but Geoff was the wind beneath my wings.

Just in case you think my penchant for hyperbole has gone into overdrive and my aversion to rain has clouded my judgement, the winds were gusting at up to 135 kph and in places 200 mm of rain fell in less than 24 hours. It was so bad that the kids’ school has been closed for two days. This has never happened before. Business in the area has virtually come to a stand still as well due to blackouts and fallen trees. It’s become something of a war zone.

Rubbish bins thrown around beside the road.

Rubbish bins thrown around beside the road. The sand has been swept in from the beach across the road.

I’m still shaking. Tomorrow, the kids are due back at school and I just don’t know. It doesn’t feel safe. After going through all of this, it’s only natural to want to keep my chicks safe in the nest. Right now, even stepping out the front door still feels terrifying. Dangerous.

Local bins.

Local bins.

Joked to a friend on the eve of the storm that I’d never survive in a cold climate.That I’d be stuck in the house for 9 months of the year. I mean…I even struggle with heavy rain. It’s my kryptonite. However, this was no ordinary rain storm. Even the authorities ordered people to stay indoors and only undertake essential travel. That’s more than rain phobia. It’s a severe storm.

Shade sail torn to shreds at the local park.

Shade sail torn to shreds at the local park.

After going through all of this and feeling rather ragged, avoidance is a luxury I don’t have. School’s open tomorrow and I need to get the show back on the road. Throw myself back out the door and put the rattles to rest.

Geoff out in the storm at Ocean Beach.

Geoff out in the storm at Ocean Beach.

It’s all very well to know the importance of confronting your fears and how this actually causes them to shrivel up and die but you still need to take up the challenge. Those aren’t somebody else’s shoes that I need to step into but my own. I’ve conquered mountains but now I simply have to do is step out the door but won’t be easy. That said given the usual morning chaos, I’ll probably be too rushed to even think about fear. Switched to autopilot, I’ll simply do it.

After all, a little bit of rain is hardly the end of the world!

Flags flapping in the storm.

Flags flapping in the storm.

This has been S for Sydney Storm for the Blogging from A-Z Challenge.

xx Rowena