the Red Centre is dripping with change

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Normally dry Todd River in morning sunlight

Whenever I am asked what the climate is like in Alice, I answer that the temperatures range from -4 or -5C overnight in the winter to 40C+(104F) daytime highs in the summer. They usually respond with “Wow, that is hot” and it is the customary inside joke to reply “But it’s a dry heat”. At the moment, I really can’t say that without a huge caveat that we had 50% more rain than normal last year and it appears the pattern is continuing. The humidity and heat seep to my inner workings like rust into a motor, and nearly stop me. What doesn’t happen in the mornings before about 11am, seldom gets done until after a protracted siesta. (It is 6am and I am listening to rain as I write this)

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can you see the green tinge on the ranges?

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Don at work at the dining table with visitor and her joey looking in

Of course the local environment and our garden have responded to the wetter conditions, but not always in the ways we might have expected. The Ranges and outcrops are decidedly tinged with green, looking more like Ireland or Scotland than Central Australia. Wildlife is behaving somewhat differently, too. Usually when we have enough rain to boost the food sources in the scrub near town, the wallabies and kangaroos retreat from town to the bush and we don’t see them until things dry out again. This summer we’ve seen fairly regular appearances of them, one even stopping to have a look before breakfast earlier this week. My husband was working at the dining table and quietly called me to come have a look. I can usually tell by the quality of his voice if I need to grab my phone for a photo, and sure enough that was the case. A short while after this wallaby visited, a larger one, with joey under its own power, bounded up the steps and through the breezeway. They often use it as a ‘cut through’ to the scrub that is only one row of houses behind us. It was an entertaining way to start the day.

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After the rain, droplets glisten like jewels

Curiously, a small family of dingos has established itself nearby as well. It has happened previously, and is of some consternation to locals as the dingos become fairly immune to urban life. Local domestic dogs have been taken and I have personally been stalked on my morning walks. The Rangers try to capture and relocate them when possible, but it can take a while. On a recent morning walk there were two dead and disemboweled wallabies near the path, and the following day another one. Very unsettling–and just possibly, the reason for the mums and their joeys to be moved in from out bush, if there has been a dingo population explosion–but I’m just speculating.

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Bearded Dragon lizard (about 35cm/14″) long

Bearded dragon lizards have also made their presence known in larger than usual numbers this year. Found this poor fellow recently deceased along the walking path this morning. We have one in particular at our place that suns itself on the grassy knoll in front of the dining windows. (behind where the wallaby appeared) We watch with great interest how brave he is. One morning he seemed doomed, fending off five butcher birds that had him trapped. He prevailed, snapping back and outwitting them.

The native flora in the area has blossomed profusely, providing stunning photography subjects, as well as exceptionally stunning hay fever. Fortunately mine is mostly controlled with lubricating eyedrops and my husband has a nasal spray that he uses so that we can both sleep at night.

Because the cloud and rain kept the earlier summer months cooler than normal, many flowering plants came on later than usual. Our citrus trees have suffered the most, the lime having only about a dozen fruits and the lemon tree which is normally prolific, not a single fruit. Puzzling. Both trees are about 15 years old and, except for the first year, have never missed a year without more than enough fruit for us and the neighbours.

In the darkest hours, the Outer Kingdom is filled with a din of crickets punctuated by the clicking of burrowing frogs that have come to the surface for their short life cycle. Spiders have nearly taken over outside, spanning incredible distances that I can’t help but admire…from afar. Every morning on my walk I have to carry a stick to clear the webs in front of me. Walking into spider webs is very unpleasant. I’ve seen grown men react worse than me. Ants frantically try to find dryer ground in between bouts of rain. Last summer we had the giant grasshoppers, but this is the summer of the teeny tiny ones. Their hundreds are no less damaging, devouring the tasty green parts of fig leaves with incredible precision. I live in hope of one year having figs on this, my third attempt of growing fig trees in 25 years. There has also been an explosion of that most charming of insects, the lady bug. I have had a dozen or more inside the house, which I have gently transported to the Outer Kingdom again. In fact, just now, when taking a break from writing I walked to the kitchen, and there was another one ensconced on a piece of plastic wrap! 

I can’t help but think if I lived in a big city and the weather was significantly different, I may have missed all the changes taking place. But here, it is in our faces, and mostly we like it that way…as long as it isn’t attached to a web.

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Spencer’s Burrowing Frog posing for a portrait

gone, with a whinge…

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The days of thin eyebrows are gone. Back in the day, no one mentioned that eventually the tweezed ones would not grow back. Being young, I doubt I would have listened, regardless. Having slavishly plucked to appease fashion demands of the latter part of last century, mine are decidedly thin, from lack of regrowth. But on the negative side, they have creatively developed some extremely long and wire-y disciples that vie for attention.fullsizeoutput_3902

I now ‘trim’ the brows—my tweezing efforts have had to move to the lower portion of the face. Can’t science develop a directional flow beam-a-ma-bob that will show the hairs where they are needed? Herein lies your millions, all you millennials. Of course it may not be needed, those of us who over-tweezed may be long gone, having gradually faded to nothing, one hair at a time.

And while the upper eye area has an overgrowth of select hairs, the lower lid has the reverse. Gradually the lower lashes are disappearing. A small dab of liner pencil where I never used to need it, helps it look less sparse. Meanwhile, the upper lashes which were always rather short and light on the tips have been given a surprising boost in recent years. The diagnosis of glaucoma, which requires eye drops, is the reason. On my first visit the young female doctor (I may have shoes as old as she was) tried to reassure me as the tears gathered in my eyes, “Don’t worry, it may never get any worse than now, and just wait until you see what long dark lashes you will develop as a side-effect from the drops.” Yes, exactly, at 60+ what I really, really want is long dark lashes. It was little comfort at the time, but eventually I grew to embrace this little gift, as I saw the results. More importantly, after two years the glaucoma has not worsened.

The young doctor forgot to mention a quirky little fact, if she even knew— that every now and then, all the longest lashes will fall out…within close timing of each other… gone. There are odd gaps through the lash line, that probably no one but me notices. It is slightly alarming at the time as I ponder–what happens if they never come back at all? I’m unable to answer myself when I pose these deep questions.

Leonid Brezhnev in the Federal Republic of Germany 1978These were the thoughts going through my mind this morning as I groomed and cosmetically enhanced my face. Smoke and mirrors, friends, smoke and mirrors…There are other things that have disappeared, like my waistline, hair colour and the once smooth texture of my fingernails. Gone, gone, gone. Perhaps you think I place too much emphasis on my appearance, but I kind of liked the face I was finally getting used to. I know, I know, it is part of the deterioration of ageing and has nothing to do with one’s inner beauty. Really, I’m okay with that…I’m just not ready to have the eyebrows of comrade Brezhnev.

Inspired by WordPress Daily Post: Gone

resilient…

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fallen ginkgo leaves and raindrops

I have been scrolling. In passed decades we might have said ‘thumbing’ through photos taken during the passed year, trying to select the images that most represent my mindset and aesthetic. In doing so I was reminded of a Japanese term that when I first saw it went immediately to the ‘knowing’ centre of me.

Wabi-sabi.

Previously, I hadn’t put a name to my habit of looking for the perfection of the imperfect. Another piece to an infinite puzzle revealed. And then today, as I contemplated WordPress’s word of the day I felt another irregular little piece click into place.

Resilient.

The nature of all things to blossom, deteriorate and still reveal their beauty is pure resilience. It fills me with hope and steadies my wobbles. We creatures of nature are incredibly resilient. We will continue to be so, imperfectly perfect and into a new year and beyond.

a path diverging…

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fullsizeoutput_38d3Here, in the heart of Australia I stopped. Three days before Christmas I sat on a bench with a path converging in front of me and a sunrise that was the harbinger of rain for Christmas. Lots of rain. We welcome rain, in the arid lands, whenever it chooses to anoint us. I sat on this bench feeling grateful that my family was home and for all the goodness Life has brought us.

My path has never been very predictable, and I have liked it that way. Life has presented many more amazing twists and turns than I could imagine. I have regretted nothing that has appeared at my feet…on the path. Now, living half a world from where I began life, it seems like there was nothing else I could have done.

Three days ago I saw this path converging. Today I see it was a divergence with a brief intersection only. Our family is gone, necessarily leaving space between the two paths once again. As we parted, it was the reopening of an old wound, a raw and painful aching in the solar plexus, for something you can no longer have. Time, and writing about it temporarily cover over the longing, anticipating a future time when our paths will briefly converge again.

Inspired by the WordPress theme: Path

a list of lists…

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img_3709A couple of posts back I gave my book report for 2016 and invited those who were so inclined to give us their recommendations as well. It was probably a busy time of year to try to encourage participation, so I’ve compiled the short list of recommended reading and also found a couple of other lists you might want to click through once the demands of the holidays settle down.

First, the selections recommended by my lovely readers:

The Good People by Hannah Kent, a novel set in Ireland in the 1820s, it is disturbing and unsettling at times. Nance is the healer, witch doctor herbalist and the one with the ‘gift’ or knowledge, who lives very much on the edge of society. Her life and her healing intertwines with the villagers and with the bigoted local priest.

Hannah Kent is an award winning Australian author. Her research, finding the historical ‘voice’ and detail into County Kerry is remarkable, as is the prose.

(As an aside, I noticed that Amazon’s Audible program has added ‘The Good People’ to its list of books you can listen to, if you are so inclined. I wasn’t sure I would like listening to books but I’m very much enjoying it. Audible had a free, for the first month, selection which I tried, after which I subscribed for $14.95 (AUD) per month, for which I receive one selection or one credit. It is cheaper than buying the audible version outright. Also, if you buy the Kindle book as well as the audio version of the same book, you can switch back and forth between reading and listening and it cleverly picks up wherever you have left off of the other one.)

fullsizeoutput_38e6The Second selection recommended by one of our community:

The Invention of Nature: Alexander Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf. It is a biography of Alexander Humboldt, an amazing scientist who lived in the late 1700s. He was fascinated by everything, which enabled him to understand connections in the environment. He was the first to articulate the concept of ecology, and realised that changes in one part of the environment would have profound effects elsewhere. He influenced many scientists and thinkers, including Darwin. Humboldt’s name is not very familiar now, but he has influenced our modern understanding of our world, including the impacts of climate change.

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Here is a post by James Clear, with a lot of lists for all kinds of reading, featuring over 100 books. I think this will hold us for a while, don’t you?

However, if we are still not hitting your reading ‘sweet spot’, my friend Celi from thekitchensgarden  has compiled her yearly book list based on recommendations from her readers as well.

And finally, I’m very partial to a good photo, as well as some good reading, so here is a link to view Time’s selection of the most influential photos . No doubt you will have one or two you would like to add to this list, but these will get you started…

…my very best wishes to you for the coming new year.xximg_3710

what Christmas looks like at my house

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I have been particularly grumpy about Christmas this year. There is much hype and expectation, particularly heaped on women at this time of year, and it is hard to avoid. It has been said Christmas (as we currently celebrate it) would not happen were it not for women. Does that also mean we have the power to change it, if we want to? I think maybe it does.

One of the most annoying parts for me is, most of the tradition centres around Northern Hemisphere, and cold climate practices. In case you aren’t aware of it, it is 100F/38C here in my part of Australia at the moment. Aussies have done their best to move away from the hot cooked foods of our ancestors, but with other things we are not so evolved.

I understand why the tradition of Santa (Kris Kringle) has been perpetuated, but really, that hot, fur trimmed suit and the whole snow thing could take a rest, don’t you think?

Our family livelihood was growing Christmas trees. It was hard work for all of us. Sometimes we actually worked in the fields, trimming and harvesting them. Sometimes we were the support crew for those who did. I can tell you, the spindly, half dead tree I saw in the grocery store this week, presumably the last of a very small selection, bore no resemblance to a tree grown in Southern Ohio, where my brother still grows and sells trees.

In an effort to try and decipher the basis of my grumbles this year, I decided to see if doing things a bit differently might help. Traditions carried over from another life and another land, may just not be the most useful in current times.

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party lights amongst my natural treasures

Our daughter and her fiancé will be here for a few days and in an effort to keep my head from spinning right off my body, I asked her if she would mind if I didn’t put up a tree and decorations. She readily said it wasn’t necessary. Bless her. The next thing I did was put hubby on notice, that his useful presence would be required to help with various small chores, among them cooking on the grill.

What to do about the baking? Baking is a hot activity, even in an air conditioned house. I got a window of opportunity two weeks ago when we had a cool, rainy spell, so I quickly decided I would have enough time and energy for one thing and what would that be?? Our daughter always asks for the White Fruitcake and Pecan Sandies. Choose one. I can’t make the Sandies gluten free, but I can make the fruitcake gluten free, so that was the one I chose. Selfish of me, perhaps, but who needs the stress of cooking and being around food you can’t eat yourself?

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White Fruit Cake (Gluten free version)

As it happened, another gluten free recipe from my friend Francesca’s blog Almost Italian, came across my inbox in a very timely manner. It looked simple and like it would be the perfect replacement for Sandies. And it is.so.delicious. Baking only takes 15 minutes in a slow oven so even I could accommodate that on a 100F/38C day like yesterday.

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Almond, Cherry and Chocolate Biscotti

The whole sending cards thing was a no brainer, and a no-doer. That ship has sailed.

Gifts are minimal and either consumable, as in edible or use-up-able, or in the case of our daughter and her fiancé things that will help them in their life. Hubby and I have each other’s Presence and that is all we need.

So in a nutshell, here are my five changes toward a lower stress Christmas:

  • No Christmas decorations, only a small nod to festivity via some party lights and found objects from my morning walks
  • Ask for help and keep the cooking simple and on the grill, if possible
  • Bake less, enjoy it more
  • Don’t send Christmas cards unless you love doing it
  • Give gifts that will enhance the other person’s life, not to give you a thrill when they open it

Keeping things simpler has given me a lighter heart. There are no prizes for baking the most, shopping the most, sending the most cards, or having the biggest display of decorations. Presence is the best gift to give everyone, including yourself. Wishing you and yours the best of whatever you want for yourselves.

img_3590PS. Here is the proof I do own an apron, and a sense of humour as well! x

living dangerously…

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If ever you are feeling particularly murderous and audacious, but wanting to bake all at the same time, here is what you do.

  1. Take a perfectly nice recipe that calls for a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice.
  2. Substitute blood oranges (because that is what you have on hand) for the regular kind.
  3. Hand squeeze them with a citrus juicer. (Warning: murderous tendency may either be heightened or diminished by the visceral act of hand-squeezing blood oranges.)

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    the blood and the orange

     

4. When you are nearly finished look down at what you are wearing.

If it is a pure white linen shirt …you are really living on the edge, so go for it. If the shirt looks like something from CSI, take it out and shred it and get some stress release. Better still, burn it. As we know, that leaves fewer clues. If you escaped without a drop on your shirt, as soon as you finish baking, go buy a lottery ticket.

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the syrup over warm biscuits, don’t they look deceptively good? HA!

I was all set, in fact had already written this post to include the recipe, when horror of horrors, the resulting biscuits/cookies were no good! The taste was okay, but nothing to rave about, but the problem was they upset both my husband and my digestion! Now, I’m normally sensitive, so not so surprising for me. But my husband has an iron gut and can eat just about anything. The biscuits were gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free, a good start, one would think. But it just goes to show, anything can be problematic.

To be honest, I often have problems with refined sugar alternatives. Honey and maple syrup both have free fructose in them in sufficient quantities to upset me if I consume too much. And while I can usually get away with small amounts of citrus fruit, the juice is much more concentrated with fructans as well. I’m just guessing here, but I’ve necessarily become a pretty good detective. In the end, I had all my luck up front with this recipe, as you can see from my pristine white linen shirt. How did that happen???? No need for the lottery tickets, it was obvious my luck had run out when I ate one of the biscuits. They were a bit fussy to make, too, and while I was curious enough to try them, I have simpler recipes that I will share with you some time when I’ve recovered my composure.

Enjoy your day.

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white linen shirt, that escaped bloody oranges

book report for 2016

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Naked Lady native lily

Hands up, all of you who ever had to write a book report in school. Yes, that would be most of us. I didn’t hate them, but I certainly could never foresee that I would be writing them voluntarily one day. As I mentioned in the previous post, I have a couple more books to share with you. I won’t say ‘recommend’, because I seldom do that with movies or books or music, given that we all have such varied tastes. I just like to make you aware of things and leave it to you to decide for yourself.

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Crepe Myrtle after the rain

Early this year I learned that Elizabeth Gilbert had written a new book called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear . I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Her books have been quite varied, rather than all in one genre, the way many writers work. I recently heard her discuss this on a podcast, and it made great sense. She figures ‘I’ve done that‘ and so she doesn’t need to keep writing the same type of book repeatedly. In Big Magic, Elizabeth writes about the nature of creativity and in particular her own, which takes the form of writing. She expresses her experience in a way I had never previously considered. In particular she writes about a concept that I thought might be unique to her, but since reading it have also heard a very similar view expressed by conductor and composer, Alice Parker*. Elizabeth Gilbert feels the energy of an idea or project presents itself to a person who can express it on a level we humans can experience. But if you are not ready, or do not take up the expression of the idea, it will move on to someone else who will do it. It’s not nearly as magical as it sounds, and yet it is. The way she explains it seems perfectly plausible to me, but I am a believer that energy is everything. I’m not a writer per se, but I have followed a creative life since I can remember, and certainly ideas appear in my mind and if I don’t pursue them, I have seen them expressed by others. I’m sure there are other explanations for this phenomena but Elizabeth’s is expressed as clearly as something like creativity can be.

I found Big Magic very much to my liking, and I was sad when it finished. It is a book I will read again in the not too distant future, which I don’t often do.

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trapped droplet on grevillea leaf

I’m trepidatious about presenting this next book, because initially, it didn’t blow me away. It was much more of a slow burn.  It is very highly rated on Amazon, but a lot of things I don’t like are highly rated in many places. I found the book from a blog post that published a list of ‘books that you may not have heard of, but you should read’. I wish I had saved the post or knew where I’d read it because even Mr Google can no longer help me find it.

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Grevillea with droplets

The Surrender Experiment: my journey into Life’s perfection  by Michael Singer is one of my top books for this year because it changed my life. The funny thing is, I nearly put it aside after about a quarter of the way into it. It is an autobiography, and frankly, I’d never heard of the author. What hooked me was my curiosity to know what happened. I’m hopelessly interested in why people make certain decisions in life.

It’s easy to read, but very factual and maybe a little dry–sorry Michael. What makes it remarkable, though, is Michael’s life. He comes from an ordinary beginning, has no specific aspirations, but a great work ethic, if that makes any sense. It turns out Michael was very instrumental in the early development of computers and software, and you know what that means, he made a packet of money. None of that was what motivated him, however, and that was what interested me. The changes this book inspired for me, were twofold.

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after the rain

First, it inspired me to meditate again, but more importantly, to see it from a different perspective than ever before. It is not a book about meditation at all, though he is a lifelong meditator and it is integral to the story. Somehow, I saw in his story, the reason to meditate is for the practice itself. The quiet, the calm, the awareness of the moment. We have all heard about the benefits of meditation, but that is not why it is a valuable practice. It is valuable because through stilling our mind, we uncover our own wisdom.

The second concept Michael modelled is ‘to do what is in front of you’. That was his work. What is presented to us in the form of life events, is Life saying…’here, this is what will give you the experience you need right now‘. What valuable lessons to receive from a book.

In the previous post I told you about the third book I found most worthwhile from my year of reading, so I will only mention it briefly again, Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. Truly, I would find it hard to say which of these books was my very favourite. There were takeaway lessons for me from all of them. That is something I crave when I read. I want something to take with me, to carry me forward to the next part of life and the next book.

If you want to share your favourite book from 2016, or from any year, for that matter, leave the title in the comments below and I will compile a list of them and publish them in an upcoming post. Include a small review as well if you want to, or just the title is fine.

(photos were taken during this wet week in Alice)

*Alice Parker is a 91 year old choral director, composer and writer. A new podcast series which I recently started listening to called On Being with Krista Tippett introduced me to Alice. If you are a lover of choral music or interested in creative process this is a very interesting interviewFull disclosure; this podcast has an underlying spiritual theme and so does the interview.

the lessons of pain…

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Cactus blossom

I’ve been absent from blogging for a couple of weeks. Sometimes Life just needs to act itself out. And then suddenly everything jumps back in its own box and things are a bit controlled again. Sort of.

I’ve been seeing a new man. A physical therapist. After over a year of undiagnosed difficulties in my hip and groin and trying a myriad of things from personal trainer to chiropractor and masseuse, the problem gradually worsened. Had I listened to the small voice in my head which said ‘go to the physical therapist’, I would have saved myself some money and some angst. But sometimes we just can’t get out of our own way. I’m not sure if I was afraid of what the problem might be, or if I knew it involved work to fix it and I really didn’t want more work in my life. Whatever.

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spent Cactus blossom

I read all the time. I always have a book on the go. In recent years I have posted the list of books I’ve read throughout the year. This year I thought I would do it differently. I thought I would write a post only about the books I really loved. The list is short. *Spoiler alert* I’m about to reveal one of the three books now, so the list just got shorter for that future post.

The book is one of those rare finds I wish I could discover all over again. It is like reading a very long letter from your best friend–that is, if your best friend is brutally honest and a very good writer. The book reveals a difficult past and how the author set about changing the results of that past. It is so honest and confronting and insightful and beautifully written, it is almost hard to believe.

The book is called Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle-Melton.

I don’t want to spoil the experience for you, should you decide to read her memoir. But I want to make you aware, in case you want a good book for the eventual downtime you might have after Christmas is over.

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ivy in tree in South Australia

After a life filled with running away from her pain and hiding in sex, booze and dysfunction, Glennon had one of a number of crises that started to heal her. She writes about the pain of sitting in a ‘hot yoga’ class, because she didn’t know where else to go. The instructor asked around the room ‘what were the intentions of each participant?’ When it was her turn, aware that she had made a terrible mistake coming to hot yoga when her hot emotions were at a peak, she squeezed out the words ‘my intention is just to stay on this mat and make it through whatever is about to happen without running out of here’. She didn’t want to run away from the pain any more. Those words stuck with me. Several times this week I have been challenged by things I did not want to deal with. Glennon’s words hovered in my ear,  and were transformed by my brain into shorthand that I understood–‘stay on the mat’.

Sometimes, staying with things is hard. But the pain in our lives is there to teach us. To run away means you miss that lesson. This week the Universe has quietly bestowed upon me lessons I have been running from for some time. They were not nearly as painful once I decided to ‘stay on the mat’ and feel what they had to show me. The malfunction of my hip is enormously improved. I learned that expertise and efficiency are no match for humanity and energy. I was reminded that the Universe is, in equal portions, brutal and compassionate. And I learned that staying on the mat doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

Light Chaser, out.

5 questions to ponder…

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Sarah, from The Practical Mystic , wrote a thought provoking post a couple of days ago. She often inspires me and I have responded to her, with a post that answers the questions she asked. Would you like to do the same? I don’t usually structure my blog this way, but thought it might be fun. You can write your answer to one or all of these questions and post it in the comments section below, or create an entire post including a link back to my post, and then leave your link in the comments section of this blog, so that others can find you. We might get to know each other a little better. Or you can do none of the above and just enjoy reading.

What is your favourite childhood memory?

When I was about 8 years old, my Dad saw that I was trying to draw a lady’s face. He was in his work clothes, either going to or coming from the farm but he sat down and showed me how to draw a face. He didn’t know how to draw, but he knew more than I did. Mum and I were always close and I have many memories of her patiently passing along many skills. Dad worked long hours and didn’t often have time to give to us, one-on-one, so this memory stands out for me, and I return to it often.

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remembering…

How old would you be if you did not know how old you are?

I like how I am now. (just as well isn’t it?) It happens I am 63. Despite the vagaries of an ageing body, I love how I feel mentally and spiritually at this stage in my life. The whole of my life has led me to now.

If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?

In the words of Elmer Fudd, ‘Be bwave widdoe wabbit’                                                                            (spell checker is going nuts…)

What is your favourite quote?

Quote from poet Antonio Machado

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Honey Bee on native daisy, Olive Pink Botanic Garden

Last night as I was sleeping

I dreamt—marvellous error!—

that I had a beehive

here inside my heart.

And the golden bees

were making white combs

and sweet honey

from my old failures.

What is your current 3 word memoir?

Surrender to yourself.