Are you OK?

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fullsizeoutput_3e75I’ve hit a speed bump; a creative block, perhaps–but not a snag that hangs me up completely. I have a slowing down of creative flow. Consistently crowding out the writing and drawing, is the growing presence of other obligations. No matter that I have reduced Christmas to a minuscule event, no cards, only gift is for our daughter, no baking except the normal once every couple of weeks event, I don’t seem to be able to have the time, or perhaps it’s the mental energy, for creative pursuits at the moment. Last week I wrote and wrote, in excess of 10 hours, with no satisfying result. You may have noticed you didn’t hear from me. I have a deal with myself. If I’m not able to produce a piece worthy of your time, I won’t publish. I know you won’t begrudge me the indulgence of not putting that pressure on myself.

The unending stream of Christmas hype on TV, online and in the shops is overwhelming. It is no wonder this is a difficult time of year for many people. If you are a person who loves Christmas and all of the busy-ness of it, lucky you. I was once obliging, working myself to a frazzle with shopping, decorating and baking. I am no longer in that place. It is no wonder incidents of depression, domestic violence and self harm are higher this time of year. In my case it is just the ‘overwhelm button’ that prevents life from resuming its normal service.

‘RUOK’ is both a suicide prevention charity and a national day here in Australia. The national day was in September, but it seems to me a reminder now wouldn’t hurt. We are encouraged to engage people with this single question, ‘Are you okay (RUOK)? in hopes we can make a difference, somehow, some way. There have been plenty of times when I should have probably asked this question and didn’t. I’m always wary of people feeling like I’m prying or invading their privacy. But I’m also pretty sensitive to body language and verbal cues so I do often ask people how they are going? I wait for an answer, and sometimes ask again if it seems warranted.

IMG_0439The weather here had been unusually wet and so I had been using the alternate walking route, turning left out of the driveway. I’m a bit foggy some mornings and I don’t think so clearly at 5.30am, just put one foot in front of the other to get myself going. Somewhere along the 40 minute walk I usually wake up and by the time I’ve had coffee shortly thereafter, I’m hitting on all cylinders.

On this particular morning I turned left and walked about 3 minutes. I had passed an unusual feather laying in the road, and decided to go back and pick it up. As I tucked it safely in my pocket I realised the road and surrounds were quite dry again, and that my favourite route–in the opposite direction, would probably be dry enough for me to not get ‘bogged’*. I continued walking back toward my house, passing the driveway from which I would have turned right, had I been taking this route originally.

Once passed the driveway I noticed some movement up ahead. Eventually I realised it was a neighbour, bent over and working in her ‘landcare for wildlife’ patch of ground. It is actually a second, and vacant, lot next door to the house she and her husband built from homemade mud bricks. She has toiled for years, removing buffel grass, and other introduced species, so that the native flora would thrive. This, in turn, made it a haven for native animals and she had regular visits from wallabies, lizards and many different birds.

She and her husband had invited us for a little barbecue when we first moved to our house across the road 17 years ago. But it wasn’t like we’d moved from another town and knew no one, we had a circle of friends established. We became friendly neighbours, but nothing more. To be perfectly honest, I found them exhausting. He was very self absorbed and she talked a million miles an hour and had no ‘off switch’, so when we had our little neighbourly visits I always had to plan an exit strategy. I hasten to add, this is as much about my own limitations as is about any behaviours they might have. Being an introvert, I often feel very overwhelmed by people and so I need to feel that I can cope with the situation.

I wore my earphones and was listening to a podcast, but cheerily waved and called out ‘Good morning, Karen’(not her real name) as I approached. She jumped to attention and the verbal shower began. First she had me smell a native plant that is good for colds, then she jumped into a sad fact about her son who had been very ill all year with back surgery and recovery, then she was back talking about the landcare for wildlife, then about a small wallaby that sheltered from the storm on her veranda, then things took a deeper turn. I mentioned it had been a long time since I’d seen her around and she said her son was in Melbourne and she had been going back and forth seeing him.IMG_0504

I recalled our last substantial conversation over a year ago, almost two years now. Her husband had left and moved interstate with a young woman he’d been having an affair with for several years, so Karen had told me. She had been shell shocked on that occasion and recalled it briefly in light of the fact that her son had not seen anything of his father during his year of treatment. I was suddenly aware she was wiping tears from her face. Unprompted, she said, ‘I’m not crying, it’s just the weather’. I gave her a hug. Her body was tight and stiff and she scarcely stopped talking as she related the story of losing many family members early in her life, not speaking to certain other family members due to their extreme judgement of her life choices, and finally drawing breath, she said ‘it’s hard when you are different to everyone else’. There it hung, in the humid, warm, silent air of the early morning. More tears. It was not the weather.

I listened for about 15 minutes and finally she said with a slight smile ‘I needed this, I was feeling a bit down this morning’. And I felt it was okay to move on. At least she would know that someone nearby knew her plight. Sometimes just knowing that someone will listen is enough. And sometimes we take the wrong turn out of the driveway, only to find it was the other way we were supposed to go.

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I hope you are all OK. xx

* ‘bogged’ is an Australian term meaning ‘stuck’, usually in mud.

be brave…

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IMG_9593This year has not been all beer and skittles. Okay, there were a few pints of Guinness while we were in Ireland, but definitely no skittles. Of course, travel is only life being lived in a place other than home, so we can expect some challenges along the way.

My story begins five years ago. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer the year previously and it was my first year check up. The surgeon, with whom I had developed an immediate bond and trust, advised me to have a breast MRI as well as the high resolution mammogram. She told me at the time she only recommended this when she felt it was warranted due to the unpleasant nature of the test. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t detail it too much, but suffice it to say, she was right about the unpleasantness of the test. During the first MRI I had a panic attack. That was a first in my life. A panic attack feels like your body and brain have become disconnected from each other and are in a desperate struggle to gain back control; you can’t breathe deeply enough and you need to come out of your skin, all the while your brain struggles to make sense of it.

I knew from a friend of mine who had experienced panic attacks after having a detached retina, that they could come back at seemingly random moments in the future. I didn’t dwell on this idea, thinking that the main challenge would be for me to just return for subsequent, yearly MRI tests. That was a challenge, and thank goodness for Valium! A low dose taken only half an hour before the test, reduced the anxiety enough to establish steady breathing and relative calm. The rest I could overcome.

It never occurred to me that I would be on a tour through the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina when the next panic attack would happen three years later! It was a large-ish tour group, which, despite the cool autumn weather, made me warm. We had finished viewing the top floors and headed to the basement…through a tiny, curved and enclosed stone staircase, with no visible end. Three steps down the narrow staircase and instantly I knew, it was not a good idea. Not wanting to go into full panic mode I looked behind me. Fortunately there was no one, so I tapped my husband on the shoulder and told him I would be waiting for him outside when he finished.

When he emerged, half an hour later, I was sitting at a table with a drink and only the memory of the horrible feeling remained. He said he was sure he could take me down to the basement to see the servants’ quarters by entering the exit, since there was no one else coming out at the time. In we went. Sure enough, it was interesting and I was fine.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. –Eleanor Roosevelt

The next time the panic welled up in me was almost exactly a year later, also in a large-ish group, standing in a queue waiting to ascend the Space Needle tower in Seattle, Washington. We were there with another couple and we had already been up the tower the previous evening, but the tickets we held allowed a second visit. The consensus among the other three was a desire to see the view in the daylight, and so we would go again.  (I am not a fan of high vantage points, usually preferring earthier details and experiences. I am also not a fan of crowds. At. All. That said, most of the time I do these things because I don’t want to retreat into a life of fear.)fullsizeoutput_3e6c

IMG_0490About half an hour into waiting I felt my old nemesis welling up inside me. It is not simply a feeling of  discomfort, it is an irrational terror that threatens to overwhelm. Knowing we still had a long ride up in a lift/elevator ahead of us, and also having already seen the view in gorgeous evening light, I said quietly to the group, ‘I will be waiting at a table over in the adjacent park area when you are finished.’ I’m not sure they understood but they kindly did not try to convince me to stay, nor did they make me feel badly after the fact.

During our self-drive holiday along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland this October, we came upon the Doolin Caves. We had the time to visit and it was a highly recommended stop, so we did. The only caves I’d previously visited were  in locations you could access from a more or less horizontal plane, and a wide opening, but just below ground level. They were not via a single door entry point, 210 steps in descent, (about 90 metres) down into the earth, through some very narrow passages…facts which I did not learn until we had paid for our tickets. I know.

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Part of the Wild Atlantic Way coast near Doolin Caves

Did I say I prefer earthier details and experiences? Yes, I think I did…

I firmly believe that the Universe conspires its energies to create the lessons that will help us move forward in life. I was on the cusp of my next lesson. Gathering courage, while trying to remain calm, I awaited the start of the tour. There were only eight members in the group, thankfully. I convinced myself, if necessary I could come back to the top. Under instruction we all donned bright yellow or white hard hats. I tried to distract my anxious brain by listening to the entertaining banter of the guide. He explained to us how the men who discovered the cavern crawled through narrow passages about 500 metres to get into it the first time. Somehow that didn’t have the reassuring effect I was hoping for. Still, as we slowly descended, I tried to focus as he built our anticipation for what we were to see at the end.

About halfway down the descent, despite the cool temperature, my palms began to sweat. I found myself taking deep breaths while continually repeating in my head ‘you can do this, you can do this.’ At about this point I pushed hard through the urge to turn and rush up the stairs. In my mind I knew I was not really in any immediate danger. Finally, we arrived at the main cave. It opened out before us, revealing the largest stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. It was 28 feet long and it was a jewel. It was a difficult lighting situation and so briefly I forgot my fear as I tried to recall skills to get decent photos with my iPhone (my only camera).

We carefully picked our way through a couple of other smaller caves. And then, what goes down, must come up! Only 210 steps to freedom. Legs, don’t fail me now!

Once in the open air again, I felt the enormity of my achievement. It wasn’t, of course, seeing the biggest stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. The big accomplishment was facing my fear. I don’t know if this is the last experience when I will have to face this particular fear, but knowing I got through this one will empower me in future.

In the words of Elmer Fudd:

Be bwave widdoe wabbit.

(I’ll have another Guinness please!)

 

(If you or someone you know has panic attacks, I feel my experience of testing the waters in modified and less threatening circumstances has been key to dealing with this challenge. Also, try to surround yourself with loving people who will not judge or embarrass you if you experience an episode in their presence. xx)

The blossoming.

IMG_6940“Progress is incremental for us, both as individual creative beings and together as a society and civilisation. The flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst. It’s just that culturally, we are not interested in the tedium of the blossoming.”  —Debbie Millman

 

I thought you might like to know how my break, and my blossoming is going. The break has gone fast, the blossoming a bit more slowly.

A few people have asked if I missed writing the blog…well yes, and no. I’ve missed expressing myself with words. And I missed touching base with you, though I have managed to keep up with some of you by other means. I realised, when I was considering taking a break, it felt like I needed to just live my life for a while without looking for stories or wisdom about which to write. It is the old story of the well running dry.

A week or two ago I was listening to a podcast and heard:

You can’t connect the dots by looking forward, only by looking back.

That made sense to me. So, I began connecting some dots. And then within a day or two I read something Joseph Campbell wrote:

If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.

Do you see that these quotations speak to the opposite ends of the spectrum–the getting of the wisdom, and the invocation of wisdom as we seek our way? Or maybe you see it differently–do tell me!

So I have been reading and listening and walking, cooking, painting, photographing, traveling, learning and yes, even a small amount of writing. I have been filling up my vessel with life. Whenever you wonder where your wisdom or ideas come from, allow life to wash over you and seep into your being. The seeping is important. Seeping takes time.

One day, six months ago, a friend had received a bouquet of tulips the day before she had to go away. She wouldn’t be able to enjoy them so she asked if I would like them. The light that shone on and through the tulips in subsequent days was beautiful. I couldn’t resist photographing it. At first the petals grew more translucent and opened wide, then little by little, petal by petal, they began to deteriorate and fall away. Still the light shone each day and I gave myself over to photographing their demise. It wasn’t tedious, it was beautiful. It was life.

Author, William Gibson, has a succinctly descriptive term, “personal micro-culture”, by which he means all the things you surround yourself with—people, books, and any kind of ideological input.

So this has been part of my personal micro-culture, the nourishment for my blossoming. I have returned to blog again and share thoughts with you, and hope you will share your thoughts with me too.

xx Ardys

the murky truth…

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clouds reflected in the receding Todd River

I took this photo earlier this week. It is the clouds, reflected in the Todd River, after the last lot of rain had stopped. Well, nearly–we had a little shower again yesterday morning despite my phone app insisting all was ‘clear’ and there was ‘0%’ chance of rain. Meh.

As I was studying the photo, I realised that its reflection was mirroring my own, ongoing lack of clarity. Often when we are about to burst forth into a new skin, things can be cloudy…lack focus. Sometimes, I have noticed, I need to leave one thing behind before the new one makes itself known. Step off the precipice and see what rises to meet me.

This is not a sudden decision, it has been rolling around in my mind for months, but the time seems right to take action. I have loved blogging for the last five and a half years, and am so appreciative to those of you who have read, liked or commented. Having never taken an extended break, now, with things seeming a bit murky, the time seems right. In approaching this decision I tried to think which would make more sense to you, to just drift away, or to tell you that I’m taking an extended break. So now you know what I have decided to do.

Be well.

xx Ardys

 

the howls and the quiet…

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the arid lands have a distinct tropical look now

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the changes in Alice due to wetter than normal weather. The Todd River has flowed three times in 2017 already. Of course what is ‘wet’ weather for us would be normal for others–everything being relevant. By now, we have nearly reached half of our average annual rainfall, and we are only a month into the year!

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Headline in last week’s Advocate

Previously, I speculated on the fact that there might have been a rise in the population of Dingoes. I would rather not have been right. Below is a very compromised photo of the Dingo that stalked me. That I had presence of mind enough to even take the photo is fairly surprising. I am not well known for my acts of bravery. Last week an article in our local newspaper told of an ‘explosion’ of Dingoes in Central Australia this season. My speculations were vindicated. Locals are being warned to keep their pets on leashes, which they are supposed to do anyway, but some don’t. The Rangers are trying to trap the Dingoes and release them out bush. I woke one Saturday morning about 5.30am to the sound of Dingo howls very near our house! It was at least two, and likely three, of them, judging from the pitch of the various howls. It was somewhat melodic but quite unsettling, at the same time. I tried to go outside to hear where they might be, because it was still too dark to easily see. But they stopped as soon as I opened the door and I couldn’t get a fix on them. But close. I’m certain.

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Dingo watching

It reminds me of the coyotes that have become very comfortable living near humans in the USA. A few times when we have visited in recent years I have heard them howling at night. In southern Ohio we never saw or heard them when I was growing up, but we do now.

Things change.

Something that never changes is the quiet upon returning home from our travels. How soothing is our environment here–unless the neighbour is using his leaf blower or building a fence with an angle grinder… I also enjoy many of nature’s sounds when at home–although some, not so much. It is a cool rainy morning, and just now the window beside me is open. After weeks of piercing cicada song, I relax (perhaps rejoice is a better word) at the absence. The overnight rain has temporarily stilled them. Their sound is called ‘song’ but is more like white noise, and when it is gone you suddenly realise what quiet is again. There is very light patter of rain on the metal roof, and the somewhat strident call of a Magpie-Lark in the distance. No motors or human noises, save the gentle swish of the ceiling fan above me.

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clouds low on the MacDonnell Ranges this morning

Just after hearing the chorus of howls a week or so ago, I walked and listened to a podcast which has given me new appreciation of the quiet. The interview was with Gordon Hempton, an ‘acoustic ecologist’. (yes, it is a thing!) Woven throughout this quiet interview are many of the recordings he has made over the years. He tries to find places of ‘silence’, which in his world means ‘quiet’—without human sounds, only nature. I think he must not have visited Australia yet, because here you can experience a quiet that speaks. I was listening to the interview and sound recordings through earphones in the early morning, before most of us are making our human noises. At times I wasn’t sure if I was hearing local birds calling and waves crashing (not likely, but still, it has been a wet summer…) or his recordings. It was quite remarkable.

Both sounds and silence speak volumes. Listen.

(The above link is from the website so that you can listen to the interview on your computer, but if you are a podcast listener, ‘The Last Quiet Places‘ can be found by searching through your podcast app for ‘On Being’ with Krista Tippett, and then either the title, or Gordon Hempton)

when you know better, do better…

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Our country is like an old house, and old houses need fixing, and more fixing –Isabel Wilkerson (from podcast ‘On Being’ with Krista Tippett*)

As you will recall, I usually post a list of my favourite books at the end of each year. This one just couldn’t wait. Because we can’t wait. Our world needs every day possible to do better. The Warmth of Other Suns by Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Isabel Wilkerson is the best work of non-fiction I have ever read. The story she tells is one of a country within a country and how its people struggled, and still struggle, to be recognised as equal. But in this day of mass migrations it is also a universal story. Isabel researched this book for 10 years and then spent 5 years writing it. The quality and care of her efforts are evident. The historic fabric of one of America’s most underreported stories is woven from carefully transcribed anecdotal telling, research and statistics so deftly threaded throughout, it reads like a novel. All 622 pages of it.

The Warmth of Other Suns is one of those books I did not want to end, but not because it paints a pretty picture of life in the US between 1915 and 1975. I didn’t want it to end because it was a fascinating revelation—a third of which happened during the first 20 years of my life. If you think you know this story, you probably don’t. I am very sorry to say, I was completely oblivious to what is now called The Great Migration. Since it was so underreported, my ignorance is partially understandable. The Great Migration is the epic story of how over six million black people living in the south of the United States, moved north and west during a period of about 60 years, trying to escape the extreme segregation of the south. ‘Jim Crow‘, as the segregationist regime was called, disallowed colored people to walk on the sidewalk alongside white people, to sit in the same seats on public transport, to buy the same real estate, indeed any real estate at all…and worse.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC,--cloudy skies but light on the horizon

Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC,–cloudy skies but light on the horizon

Growing up in rural southern Ohio is also partly why the movement was not in my consciousness. Ohio was geographically part of the North. It boasted a very effective ‘underground railroad’ which spirited runaway slaves to safety, but later on would deny migrating southern blacks the same opportunities migrants from Europe enjoyed. I may have missed the movement, but I was not oblivious to the undercurrent of prejudice that still existed when I was growing up. You may pose the question in your mind, as I did, but weren’t the blacks treated equally after their emancipation at the end of the Civil War in 1865? Not only was this not the case, but the situation worsened for most so-called emancipated ‘colored people’ as they were called in those days. Even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many states took another ten years to invoke a version of equality.  The truth of this will vary, depending upon who you speak to, much as the extermination of Jews has at times been a point of contention for holocaust deniers. This book has such depth, there can be no doubt of the terrible injustice  done to people who had purposely, and gainfully, been introduced to the US, in some cases by tearing them away from their families in Africa, and bringing them to enslavement.

But it is even more than that.

 Migrating is never just about migration—it is about freedom    —Isabel Wilkerson

Isabel Wilkerson tells the story of speaking at a book signing and looking up to see a little old Greek lady with an armload of copies of her book for her to sign. The Greek lady said “You have told MY story too.” She wanted to share the book with her family. This was the associative experience Wilkerson wanted to convey with her book. As a migrant to Australia, and the grandchild of a migrant, I read the book with great interest. The Great Migration was also about moving from the ‘Old Country’ in the south, to the ‘New World’ in the north for the migrants. It overlapped the huge influx of migrants from Europe, some of which were my family, and so it was the plight many people faced. But the colored people were at the bottom of the pile, even though they had been in the country for twelve generations previously.

If all history books were written as well as this one I would have been a better history student. This work has been a real awakening with respect to government policy regarding migrants, as well as the recalcitrant behaviour of the general population whose unconscious collusion continues today. When we know better we can do better, but it is still a choice.

A month ago when I began reading, I had no idea I would finish it on Martin Luther King Day (USA), in the same week as the first African American President of the USA would finish his second term in office. With Australia Day coming in a week, I can’t help but think of all the challenges both of my countries have before them. We have so much experience from which to draw it is a wonder we still falter when encountering someone who is different from us. And yet we do. I hope many will read this book and find knowledge and compassion, and perhaps even part of their own story within its pages.

Do the best you can, then when you know better, do better. –Maya Angelou

 *If  you have 51 minutes, listen to the podcast linked in the opening quotation, via your computer.

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 dingoes has established itself nearby as well. It has happened previously, and is of some consternation to locals as the dingoes 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