less is more…

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I even moved on my crown and sceptre.

I even relinquished my crown and sceptre.

The words in the title have never been more true to me than now. The idea of ‘less is more’ goes back farther than most people commonly think, but for the most part, we attribute the concept to architect and furniture designer, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969). He was trying to help people understand how simplicity and clarity lead to good design.

I’ve just been through the first two phases of trying to achieve more simplicity and clarity in my life…by clearing clutter.

Simple.

And yet not.

I didn’t want to ditch my husband, or get a dog, but something needed to change. At the time I even wondered if I wanted to leave Alice Springs and start a new adventure. It didn’t feel like a mid-life crisis, more like a renewal of purpose and consolidation. When I began my 365 photo challenge in January, I fell in love all over again with the Alice, so I knew leaving here wasn’t the answer.

Even before that, I had started following a blog written by Courtney Carver, Be More With Less.  Her advice made sense so I allowed it to inspire me toward the goal of lightening my load.

Courtney says–Having more stuff doesn’t make you more of yourself.

The useful ‘stuff’ is just what we use to illuminate our path, to show ourselves to ourselves. It doesn’t make us more, it just shows us who we already are, or can be. The other stuff is just in the way, and drags us down, holds us back.

To my friends, and any untrained eye, my home looked perfectly organised and showed no evidence of needing to be de-cluttered. I had/have a spare room with nothing in it but what a guest would need. I had empty shelves and plenty of room for more things; but still, I wanted less. To my inner eye, my life was cluttered. I was blocked…creatively…energetically. You see, physical clutter is but an outward sign of what is going on inside us. If we cannot mentally leave the past and move forward, we will also have trouble getting rid of things in our environment. We think of ‘clutter’ as mostly a condition of modern times, though I can recall quite a few old barns and sheds from my childhood that seemed full to bursting! It is greatly enhanced by affluence, to be sure, but it is also reflected in individuals who have a poverty of spirit, or fear that life won’t provide for them.

So, where did I start? Mental preparation was the first phase of the process:

  • I bought only minimal things to add to the load, and when I did, I adopted the practice of getting rid of something when something new came over the threshold
  • I inspired myself; reading about Feng Shui, clearing energies, organisation
  • I took mental note every time I opened a drawer or cupboard, paying attention to what I used and what remained untouched.
  • I evaluated which activities meant the most to me, and therefor the tools that I would need to pursue those activities.
Vestiges.

Vestiges.

In the heat of summer, I struggle to have enough energy to do the basics, so I always knew the task of physical clearing would have to wait for cooler days. Two weeks ago we got a cool precursor, followed by one last-hot-blast of summer. That was my cue. Phase Two–the ‘purge’, began. Things came flying out of cupboards and shelves. I became a fiend for a cluttered drawer, unrelenting to old papers. Soon, I had only a small path leading to the computer in my office, lined either side with once valued items from my life. I no longer felt attachment for them. I had assimilated what they had to give me, and now it was time to move on.

And then, suddenly, I stalled. Stuck in the mucky energy again, I was unable to figure out prices and organise things to sell or give away. Enter: Two. Good. Friends. They ‘double-teamed’ me, one helping with pricing and organising, the other helping with the nuts and bolts of tables, cash/coinage and advice. The day one friend showed up to help price things, she brought with her a little book…Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston. Only four days to lawn sale time–I read it cover to cover in 24 hours. Even though I had read much of what it contained in other sources, I’ve never seen it all in one concise, helpful place. Along with my friends’ help, the book renewed my resolve and helped me push ahead.

(If you think Feng Shui sounds too much like superstition, or good design, to award credence, then try to accept that the end result, ridding oneself of clutter, makes things work and look better!)

Kingston, who coaches people to help them clear the clutter from their lives, has much wisdom on the topic, but perhaps the observation that most affected me was this:

“…when we feel moved to collect a particular thing, or even when we ‘accidentally’ end up with such a collection, what we are in fact doing is responding to an intuitive need to gather a particular type of essence that we need for our own personal growth. It’s a specific frequency that we need to bring into ourselves at that time, and this is entirely valid. But life is constantly changing and moving, and we actually only need to collect that essence for as long as it takes us to spiritually integrate it into our life. Then we can move our focus on to something new.”

Letting go in order to move on, keeps us learning and discovering. It allows me to enjoy the things I have kept, that are still meaningful. I see them more clearly, not filtered through other things–or worse, stored away in a cupboard never to be seen. As I’ve cleared space, things previously stored away have come to light so that I can use them. And some were no longer of value, the way old thoughts that no longer serve us, can be let go. Mostly ‘things’ have never been that important to me. I left nearly all of it when I migrated to Australia 32 years ago. But of course, I enjoy beauty, and certain objects with emotional attachment remain. For me, it’s not about having nothing, it’s about choosing which things deserve my energy, and even renew me.

I know this– have known it for a long time.

We are all a work in progress. Sometimes the progress is slow, but it is still progress. Phase three of the transformation will be to continue the purge. I still have more things to shed. Even if scales don’t reflect it, I am lighter and more vibrant, without the weight of the ‘stuff’–that is the more of the less.

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less colour, more appreciation of the lovely shape of this little jug

traveling on my stomach…again…

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For our recent trip to Victor Harbor in South Australia, I booked accommodation online. We have been tremendously lucky with this method, though it could be that our extensive travels over the decades have given us a traveller’s intuition that helps.

Our main criteria is accommodation with at least a queen size bed, its own toilet and shower, and close proximity to either the area we most want to visit, or to transportation that is near by. The Anchorage suited all of those requirements, plus had the added pleasure of a sea view, which is also desirable if one is traveling from the desert for a brief ‘sea change’. As it turned out, it also had a really wonderful little café/restaurant under the same roof.

The Anchorage is one of the last, if not the last, remaining ‘guest houses’ in the Victor Harbor area, said to have once boasted nearly 30 guest houses. I’m sure if all of them had been as comfortable as the Anchorage more of them would still remain. Our room was upstairs with a view overlooking the Bowls Club and the sea, with a lovely long veranda from which to view. For those uninitiated, Bowls here in Australia is similar to Boules in France, and Bocce in Italy. I have played it a few times and if you are with a group, not too competitive (or gossipy), it can be quite fun.

Our room was on a corner, and had a small lounge and TV area with a bedroom separate and en suite toilet/shower as well. But there were no cupboards. Instead, we found hooks on the wall, and hangers on which we hung our few belongings. Very old school! The staff are as friendly as the stairs are steep, and there is no lift, so if you have dodgy knees, best to stay elsewhere, or see if they have a ground floor room.

But the star of the place is the café. Honestly. The best eggs benedict I’ve ever eaten, even if the menu did read ‘$2 for added spinach for the hippies’. I can never find enough vegetables when I’m traveling, so if that makes me a hippie to order the spinach, then guilty as charged! The slow cooked lamb was amazing, as was the free-range chicken. But…Honey…the egg and bacon roll was worthy of an award! It was also worthy of two people to eat it, but my hubby had to be brave and go for it alone! Of the eight available meals to eat while in Victor Harbor, six were eaten there. No need to look elsewhere! We only ate elsewhere during lunches when we were off exploring, and nothing compared in quality. They even roast their own coffee and it was delicious. It’s not often I would return to stay at a hotel or pub, primarily for their food, but the heritage listed Anchorage is at the top of my list.

Oh, Fleurieu!

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Aaaahhhhh–deep exhale. Here’s me, freshly showered (FYI),mostly recovered from the head cold, and in front of the computer with no urgent tasks to drag me away. Now I can share with you some of the photos from our recent trip to the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.

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River Torrens, Adelaide, near Adelaide Oval

We flew to Adelaide to visit with our daughter, and to attend a day of World Cup Cricket at the beautiful Adelaide Oval. Very tired, I left early and was rewarded with the golden light just before sunset, as I walked the half an hour back to the hotel. Though I missed Australia’s victory at the cricket, I was further rewarded by a bit of extra sleep, having given myself some much needed ‘wind down’ time.

The next day we picked up our rental car and had a leisurely drive to Victor Harbor, about an hour and a half or two hours south of Adelaide. We stayed at the Anchorage, the last of the original ale houses in Victor Harbor, but I will share that with you as a separate post as there is too much to include in this post.

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Indigenous, mosaic lookout over Victor Harbor

Aptly named, we used the Anchorage as our base, and each day set off in a different direction to explore wineries or coastal areas. We love this kind of travel. Don doesn’t mind the driving and he is very generous about stopping when I see a photo that must be taken, providing it is not on the edge of a rocky cliff and there is somewhere to pull over!

Port Elliott is on Horseshoe Harbour, the original port along this part of the coast. It had its heyday in the mid-1850’s. Then suddenly it was abandoned for the more accessible Victor Harbor* in 1856, after severe weather caused several serious maritime incidents. Horseshoe Harbour was truly a highlight of the trip. Why? I’m not sure, but everyone we have talked to who has visited there has waxed lyrical about the place! First of all there was a place to buy fresh fish and chips—always a good start. The Flying Fish Café was full to capacity, which usually means the food is good. It was, though not the absolute best I’ve ever had, but the view was as good as any I’ve seen!

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Horseshoe Bay

After lunch, we sat on a bench, wishing we had brought a blanket and a book, so that we could emulate other couples lost in their books with the sea lapping in the background. It was an absolutely perfect day, and hardly a person on the beach, save a family with two young children who reinforced the idea that a ratio of one adult to one child is only barely adequate. Very funny. The local Surf Lifesaving Club was located nearby, as any iconic Aussie Beach would boast. There were young people eyeing each other and parading back and forth to size up the competition! So peaceful and perfect–a little jewel suspended in pale sapphire, forever in my mind.

Another memorable moment happened because of a photograph that almost didn’t get taken. We stopped at a lookout, not far from Yankalilla (don’t you just love the name?). It was the place at which the HMAS Hobart was sunk after it had been decommissioned from the Navy. It is used as a diving reef, and very good, by all accounts. A worker with a strong Irish accent was cleaning up the viewing area in preparation for ANZAC day. They are expecting families of those who had served on the Hobart to come and pay respects on April 25th for the 100th anniversary of our involvement at Gallipoli and in WWI.

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beach near Yankalilla, with beach house and rainwater tanks

The Irish worker wanted to have a bit of a chat, and gave us the benefit of his knowledge of the place. Much as I love a good Irish accent, we began to doubt if we would get away before sunset, and it was not even lunch time yet. Fortunately his phone rang, and we took our chance to escape. You have to appreciate a well timed phone call. At the very last second, something sparked my photo intuition to snap the scene above. I’m so happy I did. It is one of my favourite photos of the trip…and, again, I’m not certain why. Perhaps it is just that it looks so Australian, and I do love traveling in Australia. Oh, Fleurieu, I wish we had you to discover all over again.

xx Ardys

(*You will notice the name Victor Harbor spelled thusly, because that is mostly how they spell it, though we did see a couple of signs that used the ‘u’ version of the word, as did other ‘harbours’ we visited. I guess it’s a local thing and you just have to roll with it!) 

it’s an Instameet!

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Perhaps you know the quote attributed to John Lennon: ‘Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.’ It kind of explains why my break from blogging has been a bit longer than anticipated. Our time away was very good, but the small amount of spare time I had was used to relax, and I knew you wouldn’t mind! On our second day away I received a surprise invitation to something I had only recently even heard of, and never attended…an ‘Instameet’.

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camera man and participants–it made the weekend ABC news!!

As you know, I am engaged in a 365photochallenge. It involves taking a photo each day and posting it on Instagram @amosthemagicdog. Many of my photos have been picked up, with permission, by some of the Northern Territory tourism Instagram and Twitter accounts, as have many photos of others here in Central Australia. Through the efforts of @NTOutbackAus an Instameet was organised here in Alice Springs. It was to thank those of us who contribute to promoting our love for the place in which we live. It was also a chance for us to meet each other, as well as a few professional photographers who travel the country contributing from everywhere.

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The lads and their drone

The problem for me was the Instameet happened only about 5 hours after our plane was to land from our trip. As you know there are always many things to get back into place when arriving home from time away, groceries, unpacking, washing of clothes, etc. Part of me really wanted to go along to this unique opportunity, but the introvert in me, that person who hates crowds and gatherings, sat on my shoulder saying “you can get out of it, you have an excuse”…

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Andrew Langford takes a break from playing the didgeridoo

At 6pm atop Anzac Hill it was still very hot, 38C (100F) but I went along and found a bit of shade, and shook a few hands. Much to my surprise, some of the Instagram buddies, whose work I have enjoyed, were there and it was fun to meet them. Our hosts had provided local foods and some special guests from the local Desert Wildlife Park. In the background local performer, Andrew Langford, played the didgeridoo, which added to the very Central Australian feel of the event. People who happened along to view the sunset were intrigued, if not a little intimidated by the activities! There were even a couple of enterprising men with a drone! And then of course there were all those cameras! Who wouldn’t be a little intimidated? I’d guess about 20 or so photographers and contributors showed up, in addition to the Wildlife Park Rangers, the promotional people and other support staff. When will I learn these things are seldom as daunting as I imagine?

This, among other things, is part of the ‘adventure’ of my 365photochallenge.

 

(The day after the Instameet I came down with a heavy head cold which has kept me from the computer, but I have managed to struggle through the photo challenge. I will update you soon on that and our travels.)

 

 

light chaser and the moon

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Many of you will remember, I am a light chaser. I almost never sleep well when the full moon is in phase. This means I’m up early–‘sparrow fart’ we call it here. This morning was no different, so off I went in search of the majesty that flows when the moon is full.

I didn’t intend to chase it over hill and dale and around the outcrops, but it is a kind of drunkenness that overcomes me when I am chasing the light. So I jogged, at times, through rocks, prickles and spiky grasses to get every bit of light I could into my lens.

Here is the chase…

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6:18am, the chase begins outside our front door

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from a nearby rocky outcrop, the moon and Mt Gillen

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playing hide and seek

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Saying farewell until next time, as it dips behind Mt Gillen

And I will say ‘farewell’ for a few days, perhaps 10 or so, depending on internet connections, as we take a short break from our beautiful Alice.

in my kitchen, March 2015

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Firstly, and most importantly, thank you to Celia for hosting our monthly kitchen get together! And to so many who read and commented with wit and wisdom about my kitchen and garden adventures last month, thank you as well! There were many helpful suggestions and I will update you quickly.

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what the well accessorised fruit is wearing this summer

limes on mosaic table

limes on mosaic table

Grasshoppers are still around, but have mostly moved out of the courtyard where most of my edibles are grown. There are still many around, but these later ones at least have a sense of style and colour!

It is lime time. We’ve had to empty the tree because the mealy bug has moved in and we needed to treat that. The limes are delicious this year and I wish I could send you all some. It has been a bad summer for growing a lot of things; insects we don’t normally have, in proportions we don’t normally have, and either too wet or too hot for a number of things. Welcome to Australia.

lady bug IMK!

lady bug IMK!

On the last day of February, I walked into my kitchen to find this lovely little creature poised on the edge of the kitchen bench. After taking her portrait, I gently assisted her to a nice fresh, green basil leaf that has regenerated after the grasshoppers cleaned most of them off!

The efforts to save my Bay Tree seem successful. I gave it a hit of Seasol once I could see it was shooting new leaves, and it has come on beautifully. I’m still scraping the occasional bit of scale, but once the weather cools I will treat it again, and that should take care of things.

new growth on bay tree

new growth on bay tree

The cast iron pan has gone for a test trial to Aunt B’s kitchen, where we have deduced the trouble is definitely operator error on my part (never was much doubt), and we will endeavour to correct that. Stay tuned!

I’ve been having some delicious breakfasts, and main course salads continue a favourite while the weather is still quite warm.

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homegrown chili, the thing grasshoppers won’t eat!

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bacon, lettuce and tomato salad with green dressing (I know this would be wonderful with Celia’s sourdough croutons!)

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leftover stuffed mushrooms with egg and cherry tomatoes for brekky

I’m currently on a broccolini* binge. I have it in omelettes for breakfast, or steamed for lunch and dinner with a variety of modifications from bacon to cheddar or Parmigiano Reggiano. I’m sorry I can’t be biased, I love it all.IMG_6212

Here is a recent discovery of something clever that actually works; a way to remove shell from hard boiled eggs. I usually use free range eggs, as fresh as I can get them, which means they can be difficult from which to remove the shells when hard boiled. But if you place them in a jar of water, and shake gently, but enough to crack the shell all over, 5 seconds or so, the shells will actually come off pretty easily. I shook one harder, just to see what would happen, and it peeled alright, but took a layer of egg with it! So, the shaking will be a trial and error thing depending on your own strength and style!! Do let me know if you find it useful, I certainly do!

approximate ratio of egg to jar to water

approximate ratio of egg to jar to water

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shake, shake, shake, shake it off!!

works as well as anything I have ever seen.

works as well as anything I have ever seen.

oops, don't shake too hard

oops, don’t shake too hard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though insect plagues and heat have ravaged my courtyard garden, I still enjoy looking out my kitchen window at it each day. The light is ever changing and inspiring. Wishing you light and lovely-ness in your month coming.

*Since one of the comments below alludes to the origins of broccolini I thought I would look it up to find some additional information for you. Here is what Wikipedia says:

Broccolini (original Japanese: ブロッコリーニ[1]) is a green vegetable similar to broccoli but with smaller florets and longer, thin stalks. Often misidentified as young broccoli, it is a hybrid of broccoli and kai-lan, both cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea. It was originally developed by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan, in 1993 as “aspabroc”.

The entire vegetable is consumable, including the occasional yellow flower. Common cooking methods include sauteeing, steaming, boiling, and stir frying. In Japan, it is highly popular as a spring vegetable, and usually eaten steamed. Its flavor is sweet, with notes of both broccoli and asparagus,[2] although it is not closely related to the latter.

The above is what I was led to believe were the origins, but it is useful to double check these things. Happy eating :)

a ‘no news’ week

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We have a saying around our house, ‘no news is good news’. Probably, you have used it too. We say it to reassure ourselves that when things are quiet, it is preferable to the bad news one so often receives. In recent months we’ve had quite a few bits of sad news, involving serious illness or death among family and friends. I tell you that so that you will know that my writing today is not so much written in response to events, but with an appreciation of their absence!

Deep, collective sigh of relief. Thank you.

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another technology and composition achievement

In between the mundane, everyday events unfolding, I’ve noticed that the photography challenge has filled substantial space in my small amount of spare energy. I didn’t really know what to expect from the exercise. Only 60 days into it, I’ve already been very surprised a couple of times at opportunities and outcomes.

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urban sunrise from my kitchen window

At the moment of taking a photo, I’m never completely confident that I’ve ‘got it’, though sometimes I am reasonably certain. Later, in the relaxed scrutiny of the shots, I decide…most are not quite there; misplaced focus, perspective could have been better, missed the right light, didn’t frame things very well. So much can, and does, go wrong.

I am an amateur and I have an iPhone as a camera, what can I expect?

But that would not be the most helpful perspective. I have a camera and a brain and the will to seek, so, what can I expect? Certainly not any of the very best photos that happened this week! I ventured out each day inviting the magic to happen, and having faith in my skills that I could handle it. But this week was as if I had an invisible, omnipotent assistant helping me in ways I still cannot fathom.

Early in the week, I had a technical breakthrough with regard to manual focus. I had been struggling for nearly a year with certain lighting situations and upon reviewing my technique, I discovered a tiny, but vital, error.

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technique breakthrough photo of wildflower

What a great life lesson, eh? When things aren’t working, have another look.

You know the saying ‘luck is preparation meeting opportunity’? Never has this wisdom been more evident to me than this week. Twice, opportunities presented themselves with wildlife shots I’ve been trying to capture for two years. The first, two Port Lincoln Parrots perched in a tree that had all its leaves eaten by grasshoppers. There were two amazing things that happened with this one, firstly, that the parrots who are quite skittish, actually seemed to pause an extra couple of moments before flying off, and secondly, that the grasshoppers had denuded the tree. If the leaves were still on the tree, the parrots would not have been nearly visible enough to be worth a photograph!

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Port Lincoln Parrots in tree denuded by grasshoppers!

The second wildlife photo that was a benchmark for me was one I’ve been trying to get for two summers. Dragonflies frequent our courtyard because of the water. I have tried and tried to photograph them but to no avail. They are even more skittish than the birds. I read that when photographing animals if you move very slowly and then stop in increments they will feel less threatened. And that is how I approached this dragonfly, as he perched on an onion stalk. I am learning the wisdom of quiet, and patience. But also I am seeing the results of an iPhone Photography course I took online last year.

The most important lesson of the course? Practice, practice, practice.

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dragon fly in my courtyard

And finally, finishing a spectacular week, came this morning’s sight at sunrise. It lasted only about a minute and had I not gone for my walk, I would have missed it.

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pieces of rainbow at sunrise, Alice Springs

So there you have it, a ‘no news’ week, filled with tiny moments of grace.

 

My photo of the week may seem very underwhelming to you. But it evokes in me the moment I saw it at 5.15 in the morning. I wandered sleepily to the kitchen and turned on the light, and there, precisely laid on the counter next to the fridge and underneath the cereal cupboard, were the implements my husband would use to prepare his breakfast. The bowl, the spoon, and the knife with which he cuts the strawberries he enjoys on his cereal. The night before, after I had gone to bed, he had emptied the dishwasher, and had thoughtfully placed the items he would need in their place of use the next morning. It is the stuff relationships are made of; the little things sadly missed when someone is no longer there one day. He is not always this precise about things, but he is a very thoughtful, purpose filled person, and this was a tiny snapshot representing that part of him.

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breakfast setting

(The photo was edited using an app called Waterlogue, that I am learning to use.)

 

seeing death with new eyes

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(19) skull of a wallaby–circle of life

I see dead things. Please don’t freak out; I’m not going to make you look at anything gruesome… I hope. It’s not that I go looking for them, I just see things on my walks. It seems to me a privilege to live so close to nature that she shares these with me. Fascinating. I remember seeing an early painting by Édouard Manet in a small gallery in Paris. It depicted a dead rabbit, so clearly I’m not the first person to be captivated by this concept. At the time I wondered about his interest in that subject. Now I understand. There is beauty in it. To paint or photograph or draw carcasses, which many artists do to this day, helps us learn. Of course it helps us learn to draw and paint and compose images, but it also teaches us about the life cycle and that death, of course, is a part of it.

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Face of deceased hopping mouse.

Our wet spell in early January caused growth in vegetation and fauna that has been both interesting, and highly annoying. Birds have gorged themselves on grasshoppers and insects. Mice have been abundant because the seed and grasses have been abundant, and probably the snakes have adjusted accordingly, though thankfully, I have no visual proof of that!

In this ripened, hot part of summer, one shuts the drapes and blinds in an effort to close out the radiant heat and help the air conditioning cope. Even cloistered inside, the white noise of cicada ‘song’ seeps into my subconscious, and puts me on edge. It seems to underscore the heat and somehow makes the days seem even hotter. Cicadas are dropping from the trees now and their carcasses litter the ground, providing banquets for the gazillion, or so, ants.

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Cicada carcass edited using Waterlogue app

(32) deceased galahs as found

(32) deceased galahs as found

But it was a true mystery the morning I walked to the back of the golf course and saw three dead galahs in quite demonstrative positions, as if an angry, but very precise, golfer had swung and surprised all three in a single felled swipe!

Another time, years ago, I captured the image below of a dying Galah. It moved me greatly, as it quietly waited for death. I know it was dying because a short while later when I went to check it, it was over on its side and ‘gone’. So dignified.

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Dying Galah beside the road.

(39) deceased butterfly, edited with Waterlogue app

(39) deceased butterfly, edited with Waterlogue app

All of the images are taken ‘as found’. I do not ‘arrange’ the scene, only alter my perspective through the lens. After taking these unusual photos, I decided to see if I could make some beautiful compositions from them. It seems to me it elevates the creatures’ ordinary passing to dignified images, perhaps even, immortal ones. What I see is that they show a variety of demises, much the same, but different, as our human endings. They are perhaps not as beautiful as Manet’s painting, but something worth seeing, nevertheless.

 

 

Photo of the Week:

(23) simplicity at dawn

(23) simplicity at dawn

My pick of the week of all the photos I’ve taken is one (below) that will look familiar, but is different. I showed you a very similar one last week (left) that I had taken a couple of weeks ago. There is something so peaceful and simple about it. But a few days ago as, again, I walked up the driveway for my morning saunter, I looked up and behold!! Not only a bird in almost the same place, but that sliver of moon on the wane. So, a photo I had thought was so rare I would never probably see it again, has revisited me, but with the added special touch of a silver sliver, smiling down. The next morning, there was neither a moon or a bird. I had truly captured a special moment in time…with my iPhone!!

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early bird and sliver moon

 

hello #200

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(28) my favourite tree at sunrise, edited in Distressed FX App

Here we go…. post #200 for ardysez. I started this blog three and a half years ago, as an experiment. I could never have predicted it would lead me where it has.

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(37) face of a Golden Drummer cicada

This is the joy in trying new things.

 

It is partly why I decided to try something a little different this year, 2015.

I have heard that if you make just one small change in your life it can make a huge difference. While there is not a lot wrong with my life, I have certainly struggled with direction and purpose since our daughter flew the nest. My husband is ensconced in his research and is very successfully publishing papers and presenting at conferences. I’m very grateful and happy for him. But my own creative endeavours have languished at times, for lack of motivation and inspiration.

tiny-mushroom

(13) tiny mushroom in blades of grass

On New Year’s Day, an article appeared from the Internet ethers, extolling the value of  a 365 day photo challenge. I’m very anti-new-year-resolutions, and even though this seems like one, it is more a ‘coincidence of date’, than a result of it. I had been pondering for a while some new purpose to which I could apply my interest in photography and creativity. I know, from other challenges that if one does not have the motivations well thought out, it is seldom successful. In those moments of weakness, what will be the reasons that propel me forward?

  • Improve photography composition and narratives
  • Learn new apps for editing and sharing photos
  • Record my year with a photo that represents some aspect of each day
  • Adventure (in my own very modest way–I’m not a skydiver!)

    (41) local wants to borrow the Advocate newspaper

    (41) local wants to borrow the Advocate newspaper

The only ‘rule’ that I adhere to, other than my own guidelines, is the one that says each day I must take a photo. That does not mean I can take ten photos one day, and use them for the next ten days. Every day I must take a new photo. The metadata on the photo will rat me out!! Here are my guidelines:

  • Take a new photo every day
  • The photo should be of reasonable quality (my discretion!)
  • I will post it on Instagram (if you care to follow, my Instagram name: amosthemagicdog)
  • All photos are taken with my iPhone
  • My only reasons for stopping are; if I feel I’m starting to hate taking photos; or if my iPhone breaks–perish the thought of either!

It is no small thing, to take a reasonable quality photo every single day. What if I am sick? What if I have an uninspired day? What if a well-meaning friend tells me all that is wrong with this idea? (which has already happened!)

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. –Marcel Proust

(3)

(3) birds on wires– this was my eventually successful photo from numerous attempts over the passed year, having taken over a hundred different shots.

This is my modest voyage of discovery, documented by taking a photo every day for a year. Some days will be uninspiring, and yes, it will be hard to take a photo on those days, but that is where the growth lies. Yes, on dull days, the photo may reflect the lack of inspiration, but isn’t that one of Life’s lessons too? We must have the low points to see the heights.

dead butterfly on road--before editing

dead butterfly on road–before editing

(39)

(39) dead butterfly after editing in Waterlogue App

Most days I arise and go for a walk. Because I am motivating myself to ‘see with new eyes’ I want to find ever more ways to view the same scenes, whether it is the minutia of a day or the dramatic moments. This may resolve itself in the taking of the photo itself, or in the editing. I have already experienced days where late in the afternoon I had no ‘photo of the day’ yet. When this happens, I am reminded of all Life can show us, especially when we least expect it, but we have willing eyes. Without fail, something special has appeared, begging to be photographed.

(7)

(7)

My plan is to write about some of my experiences, and learning along the 365photochallenge way, and perhaps to elaborate weekly on some aspect of the photos or circumstances surrounding them. As I write this post, I am in day 42.

Thank you to all who regularly read my musings. My humble goal is simply, to not bore you! I appreciate all your comments and marvel at the world wide web, the blogosphere and the Universe.

in my kitchen – Feb 2015

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grasshopper-alice-springs

Anyone for fried grasshoppers?

This fig leaf was lunch for the grasshoppers, and they are still hungry!!

This fig leaf was lunch for the grasshoppers, and they are still hungry!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, thank you to everyone who commiserated and encouraged me in my time of loss of Kitchen Mojo last month. I’m happy to say it has nearly returned to normal. That is to say I’m having the usual number of failures rather than the dismal number I was having this time last month! It has been a battlefield here. We had a very wet start to January, followed by an invasion of thousands, and thousands of grasshoppers. They have nearly devoured my favourite herbs, citrus leaves, curry leaves and even my sapling fig trees. I don’t like to use poisons on my edible plants, for obvious reasons, so I have very reluctantly employed the ‘compression method’ my husband taught me.

Ick. But effective.

Well, let’s put it this way, I’m losing the battle more slowly than I was previously.

 

Bay Tree - BEFORE

Bay Tree – BEFORE

IMG_4935

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next, and ongoing, battle was a bad infestation of scale insect on my 10 yr old Bay tree. Because of our heat here I couldn’t just spray with white oil and let it do the job. White oil will kill the plant at temps above 30C. So I had to strip all the leaves from the tree that had scale on them, while leaving the newer growth to help it recover. Then I had to spray the branches and trunk with the white oil, leave it under cover and out of direct sun for two days, then gently spray with soapy water and use a soft brush to wash it off. So far, it has worked. I am checking the leaves every few days and scraping the occasional scale off and tiny new leaves are appearing. When winter comes I will be able to spray it again.

 

soup-beans-cornbread

Ham and bean soup with corn bread

Meanwhile, in the kitchen we’ve enjoyed a few nice meals inspired by the cool temps that came with the rain event. Leftover ham bone from Christmas made a delicious, savoury cannellini bean soup, along with corn bread made in my new cast iron pan. The cast iron pan is another battle I’m slowly losing, but I have not given up.

 

buckwheat-pancakes-fruit

Buckwheat pancakes with fresh blueberries, peaches, apricots, walnuts and Greek yogurt (inspired by our own Bizzy Lizzy here)

The seasonal fruit has been delicious this year, with or without buckwheat pancakes!

peach-australian

Australian grown peach

fig-macro

If there is a more gorgeous fruit than a fig, I’d like to see it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lamb-bacon

Lamb Mignon created by Milner Meats, Alice Springs

A wonderful new find from our butcher is ‘lamb mignon’. They use fillet or backstrap pieces and wrap it in bacon (their own) and skewer it for cooking on the barbecue/grill. Delicious.

 

 

 

 

IMG_6184I’ve been experimenting with some salads that are substantial meals in themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

chilli-seeds-cabbage

finely shredded chilli and cabbages and crushed mustard and fennel seeds

chilli-cole-slaw

Chilli Cole Slaw

 

 

 

And, finally, my creation of the month, as declared by my husband, is Chilli Cole Slaw. We have some medium/mild yellow chillies growing and so far the grasshoppers haven’t developed a taste for them, so I have plenty to use. I finely shaved two colours of cabbage, added the finely sliced pieces of chilli, then… wait for it… the magic ingredients… about ½ tsp each, mustard seed and fennel seed, finely ground in my tiny mortar and pestle. For a lighter than normal dressing I used organic, Greek yogurt, thinned with a little apple cider vinegar, whatever sweetener you like, and a bit of salt. The dressing should have a sweet/sour taste which offsets the chilli nicely. I used about 1/3 C for 3 C of shredded cabbage, but adjust it to your own liking.

 

 

Happy February everyone. May there be no grasshopper plague in your lives!  Be sure to call around to Celia’s place at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial to see what’s happening in the kitchens around the world!

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