Good morning 2023. How lovely to see you….. :)

It is the fifth week of summer and the start of a brand new year. After months of unseasonal rain and cool temperatures, the heat we know and love has finally hit South Australia with the mercury reaching the low 40’s. Up early, I watered my fruit trees which have survived two SA summers under siege of blistering heat and hot dry winds. This year, the trees flowered and tiny fruit has appeared in the shape of pears, sugar plums, blueberries, figs and pomegranates along with a trellis filled with thick skinned passionfruit.

This was a lovely morning of solitude, stillness and space. As the church bells pealed in the buttressed tower of our towns 165 year old church, a magnificent wedge-tail eagle began circling above my yard and that of my neighbour. On majestic wings, she glided between our homes and the wildlife corridor which runs parallel to us before finally being seen off by our resident, very brave little kestrel. What an amazingly privileged way to begin the day and a gentle reminder life is never dull……nor predictable!

After witnessing our kestrel and wedgetail, I thought of the year passed and the one ahead. No ‘new year’s resolutions’ again this year but an intent to continue to be kind, to have those around who deserve a seat at my table and to give 2023 all I got with as much optimism, love and hope as I can muster.

The start of 2023 looks like skies of pale washed denim, smells like hot dry wheat, tastes like fresh Queensland mangoes and feels like good omens and late afternoon ocean swims. Happy New Year…….x

Well hello again…….

Where are your stories oceangirl, why aren’t you blogging, are you okay, Hey!, are you still around and other odd messages…..

I cannot believe my last post was June 2021! My absence it seems, has been conspicuous. I love writing my blog so I really don’t know why I haven’t blogged for such a long time. I did try on numerous occasions. It just didn’t come. It is as simple as that. Thank you for sending your messages. I am so appreciative of your care and concern x.

Now. To the task of catching up……..

The apex of privilege is that over the past few months I have ever so slowly learnt to give myself permission to just be. To lay in bed a little longer, to leave cat hair on the couch because it is after all my dear companions home too and to watch the night sky for what seems like hours because there is no reason for me to be inside watching TV except when Gardening Australia is on 🙂

I am no longer striving for unattainable perfection and I have set boundaries. No expectations, just gratitude.

Much has happened since my last post. There have been some life changes, good and difficult. Good people – such good people, happiness, sadness, inspired travel and more. My life is taking a gentler pace and I have let go of things that no longer serve me well.

My dear little gardening companion Zoe has passed. She made it to the wonderful age of 20 cat years which is the equivalent of 96 human years. Writing of her makes my heart turn to dust but then I remind myself that the grief felt for Zoe Clementine is born of love. Grief can be so varied and often it is not what we expect especially when it wraps around your heart like a fist. What an honour it was to have you as our lovely little companion for just over 14 years.

Zoe’s passing was gut wrenching but peaceful. Her little body was beginning to shut down and as much as it was heartbreaking, letting her go was the kindest thing. She went to sleep in my arms for the last time and for that privilege alone, we are grateful beyond words.

What a wonderful, tenacious, sweet, clever little cat she was. A great traveller and true adventurer along with being a voracious consumer of prawns and a lover of mature cheese. A delicate little cat with the biggest fighting spirit who adored being out in the enclosed vegie patch sunbathing regardless the temperature. Zoe was a little pocket rocket who had pretty much used up most of her 9 lives, she loved a chin rub and a gentle brushing and she loved nothing more than snuggling up. She could, when the mood took her, behave like a feline possessed, she could hold a grudge and she hated having her nail clipped. If cats had accents, Zoe’s would have certainly been French given her delicate features and jewel green eyes. She knew she was so loved and she will be missed for a very very long time……

The house is still a work in progress. More cracks appear in these old walls and the remaining ceiling of plaster and horse hair are sagging but I have a sturdy roof over my head. The garden is peaceful, lovely and continuing its transformation and the yields it offers up are fresh, nourishing and beautiful. The garden puts food on the table and fills vintage and hand-thrown pottery vases with beauty and that makes me happy.

Tom Tom and Boo (Thomas and George), those two wonderful furry beings are the best boys ever and love bugs personified, I became a vegan since my last blog post – I could never go vegan said every vegan before becoming vegan 🙂 and there has been some wonderful travel. All in all, everything is pretty okay in my little part of the world.

I don’t have it all figured out, I don’t think any of us are meant to but I noodle along regardless. Just one foot in front of the other and the path becomes more evident. I may not always know where I am going but no doubt I am getting to where I am meant to be.

None of us ever really know how the story will end but where was I in June 2021! Thats right. I was part way through writing about Robe…..x

Robe, South Australia…….

It is winter in South Australia.  The cats are fireside and the house smells of toasted crumpets and dark hot chocolate.  The garlic bulbs and brassicas have been planted and the soil kept warm with layers of pea straw.  The daffodils, jonquils and freesia’s are beginning to shoot and the leaves of the two year old stone fruit trees have changed colour and fallen.

The skies are deep blue and turn golden late on wintery afternoons and brilliantly star lit by night.  I feel grateful, settled, and all manner of things one hopes to feel from time to time.

As the global pandemic continues to reshape our world, overseas and interstate travel are highly improbably.  Because of this, I find myself enjoying more of what Australia’s newly crowned ‘most livable city’ (and state for that matter) has to offer.  It is no secret that although I am a born and raised Queenslander, have lived and travelled the world, I am undeniably in love with South Australia.

Of course I will travel again when the world reopens but in the mean time, I shall continue to skulk about this beautiful and wonderous state enjoying all it has to offer.  Perhaps in these strange times it is more about who you are and how your life feels rather than where you are not……….

Robe Part I

Overflowing with stunning coastal beauty, Robe, located on the Limestone Coast, is one of my favorite South Australian seaside destinations.

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This was a trip of crescent moons, winter blossom and dreamy old houses.  There was great coffee, mandatory coastal wanderings, rainbows and birdsong.  It was hiking on scenic tracks which hug and crisscross the beautiful shoreline and nature reserves where strong tussock grasses and native winter blooms of creams and golds flowered in breathtaking splendor.

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It was flawlessly beautiful night skies, ocean as far as the eye could see, sunsets and wide streets slick with rain where under lavender skies I searched for the end points of rainbows.

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There is an unhurried pace in Robe and a community of generational fishermen and farmers, artists, gin makers and brewers, good eateries specialising in local organic and free range produce, bakeries, an independent grocer, an op shop and a great surf shop.

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Not tomorrow skinny jeans.  Not tomorrow……. 🙂

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The coastline is wild, unforgiving and mostly magnificent.  On days, the sun was out but the air was  bitingly cold.  Early morning, and bundled up against the prevailing winds, I’d watch the sea rise and fall, always hoping to spot a whale.  I stood in the peace of the morning shivering to watch the waves crash against the granite headland, gulls and sea eagles overhead and searched small sandy rock pools.

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Late afternoons came and went with obelisk ocean views.

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Part II – Eat, Drink, Enjoy Robe coming soon……. x

‘Sailin’ away on the crest of a wave, it’s like magic’…….

Long Beach, South Australia…….

I miss the solitude and eternal joy the ocean brings my soul. I miss those rare and very privileged moments of just being. The white lines of salt on my skin and the way the sand and salt water stiffly curls my hair. The sound of my board on the water. That smooth whoosh, whoosh, whoosh as it cleaves on through the sea, the waves breaking over the nose, the peace and then the waiting. It is such a beautiful thing and it feels like home…….

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Driving down the sandy track that is Steve Woolston Road I was after one thing.

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A perfectly beautiful wave……

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At 12ks long and with its powdery white sand, turquoise waters and gentle tides, the secluded Long Beach is a beautiful part of the world.

A popular haunt for local surfers you need nothing more than a little light-weight Malibu and quiet isolated spot of which there are plenty.

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When first arriving there was a surf school in progress. A few foamies dotted the waves and I stood on the sand shading my eyes from the glare to watch them.

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I normally photograph cats but on this trip it was dogs who were centre stage.

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Happiness looks so different to dogs……..

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It was late afternoon, the chop was setting in and there was a long drive home but life was swell 🙂 Farewell Long Beach until we meet again……x

Footnote:

Title of blog post from the lyrics of ‘Livin’ thing’, ELO.

2021…….

And just like that, we are into the second week of this brand-new year.  I don’t follow the tradition of a resolution but there is intent ahead.

  • Making a conscious investment in myself because finally, I realise I am worth it.
  • Endeavoring to do more of what I love.
  • To not walk the long path I have often felt obligated to walk.
  • Allowing that space inside me to accommodate more simplicity and joy, and
  • The continued transformation of my garden and this house into my home…..no pressure 😊

Captured in photos, I have just skimmed through the last 12 months.  It was at times, a sweet look back.  The cats, the ocean, local travel opportunities (those posts to come) and my garden.  Ordinary days made good.

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I can’t complain of 2020.  I sincerely cannot complain when so many suffered such tragedy yet perhaps for many, that year also marked a return to home.  In a year filled with sorrow, such uncertainty, lockdowns and isolation, the need for home and family and loved ones was recognised and for me, there was also a greater appreciation of the small things.

I am grateful for Thomas and George who arrived so skittish and fearful but who now are settled.  Sweet, happy, gentle and very much at home and for me, finding home in their very gentle presence. Thankful as always for little Zoe.  For a simple yet beautiful old book which arrived in the post, a blue banded bee on a sage flower, the washed denim blue of the sky, a roof over my head and home-grown food on the table, a fledgling kestrel and snow bird and good people. Small yet significant things.

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Over the past few years my sadness has been vast and deep and there is nothing which can prevent you from feeling lost but life marches on with or without your consent or attendance.  You soon realise though, there is much good out there and even better reasons to move forward.

It is no secret that when I first returned to South Australia I initially found in my come back, a difficulty.  I was leaving behind much which I loved in Newcastle, and I was embarking on the unknown.  And trust me, returning somewhere whence you have been is never easy (#USA2015!!).

The house and yard were both an absolute mess.  An overwhelming chaotic muddle which stole my time, my energy, my patience and at times my sanity.  Some days, I seriously reached my quota!

I very often tend to take far too much on.  There are clearly no margins to this life and when driven by perfectionism, I forget to be kind to myself which in turn leaves me exhausted and shattered.  Yet over time, I have come to slowly love this place again.  I am starting to like the way it is turning out with the investment over the past few months of a new roof, full solar power and a reverse cycle air conditioner to replace the old swampy.

Rusted gutters along with 22 tonne of old brittle and broken terracotta tiles were removed and the house sighed with relief.  New steel beams replaced dry rotten wood, a dark colourbond tin roof chosen for a more elegant and contemporary look, the eaves and chimney painted.  No more leaks.  It looks amazing.  Best investment ever!

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I adore the garden and yard now too, especially my veggie patch.  That ever evolving and growing space called ‘Zoe’s Patch’ after my little gardening companion and where I spend my quiet time has come so far.  As soon as Zoe hears the rattle of my keys in the back door she is at my feet.  The patch is fully enclosed and Zo loves to head out there to either sit on the sugar cane mulch or amongst the plants or perch herself upon one of the compost bins.

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How it looked when I first arrived back……

And in the post came the most beautiful of surprises.  My mothers cherished book.  She and I share a love of books and many of her old childhood books display the evidence of her relationships with them. Well read and much loved, spines rebound, yellowed scotch tape and dog-eared pages and small notes.  I could not love this dear little book more.

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This year is about developing roots yet still having the ability to fly.  It is about being a warrior for and a peacemaker with the past.  It is of simplicity and mindful resilience.  Hugs without restrictions or supervision and all the little things in between.  Nothing is out of reach……….x

Happy New Year…….please stay the f**k home!

It is almost a brand new year and as 2021 stands trembling in the wings, we will be at home indulging in an Old Fashioned…… or three.

This is a lovely cocktail. Not overly-complicated nor pretentious, yet graceful enough to celebrate with.

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Nothing this year has been normal and the ending of 2020 will be no different. No tomfoolery, no hugging, no pash and dash (unless you get a contact number), no travel, no big crowds and no fire works. That’s just how it is so stay the f**k home.

Being apart does not mean we are not connected.  We will always find ways to stay connected.  Always.   We have all had our wings clipped, we have all grieved someone or something and we have all had bad days yet the weight of our grief is made more bearable in the recognition that although we have had empty bowls in front of us, we have also had the opportunity to fill them.

For me, the past few months and the past decade have been a gift regardless of what they served up. And holy cats that decade served up some shit! But for those who boldly and courageously show up despite all that has happened, you are rewarded. You do come back to life, the unbearable ache slowly eases, you begin to try again and you survive.  Things will come to you and they will come when they are good and ready.  It is all just a matter of patience and time. Just bide your time.

So as the curtain drops on the spectacularly weird and at times frightening and uncertain 2020, I send out much love, hope and optimism for 2021. Surround yourself with good people. People who are good and who are good for your soul. These are the ones who deserve a seat at your table. Be kind, courageous and gracious.  Be empathic and stand up when others tell you sit down.  Be proud and do the things which make your heart explode with joy and walk away from those and that which destroys your happiness. Most of all, please stay the fuck home…… 🙂 x

More than just a bank…….

I drove off the Augusta Highway, over the rusted rail lines then turned right into the wide main street.  Subjectively, I could have been in any wheat belt town in any part of South Australia but I wasn’t.  I was in Snowtown.

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With its dark, macabre past set against the lightness of a town with snow in its name, this place will be forever remembered for the bleak, horrific and frightening ‘bodies in the barrels’  murders where eight dismembered bodies were discovered in acid filled barrels in the abandoned bank vault in the town.  Apart from those eight, there were also more victims making this Australia’s worst serial killing.

Snowtown is quiet.  Settled by the first pioneers around 1867 and surrounded by tall heads of golden wheat, sheep and overlooked by the wind farms atop Barunga and Hummocks Ranges, this unassuming town involuntarily wrote itself into the history books for all the wrong reasons.

 I walked Fourth Street, the main street of Snowtown on a warm October day without seeing another soul expect for a farmer driving through with his two red kelpie dogs yipping in the back of the old ute and a camper trailer which pulled up outside the public toilet block.

Not that long ago, due entirely to the notoriety of the murders, people flocked to this small country town swelling its population but those days seem to have gone.  Occasionally, a tourist drops by to photograph a building then they leave as quickly as they arrived.

No doubt this town will forever be stigmatised by those monstrous events but Snowtown is so much more.

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There is the colourfully painted water tower – part of the Silo Art Trail, old buildings, ‘The Big Blade’, charming churches, a weekend community market and a beautiful rose garden where I spent much of my time.

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I had been to Snowtown prior to this trip.  Back then I came to see the bank given my fascination with true Australian crime.  This time however, it was a trip to a simple place of stoic residents and community resilience.  It was the Silo Art Trail, the sweet smell of damask and drying wheat, working dogs and utes.  Most of all though, it was a reminder of gentle snowfall in a place which will never see a snowflake and that big peaceful quiet only a small country town can offer.

You cannot change or deny the past, especially a past so unavoidably real, but like Snowtown, you can manage to live with it…..

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Good morning sunshine….

 

Catching up….

And just like that, spring has gone and in its place the season of bleached skies and scorched earth.  On the last day of spring, Sunday, the aerial water bombers flew low continual circuits over our home as the sirens of CFS trucks wailed.  To the west and just beyond my neighbours natural boundary of grey mallee, stringybarks and pines, verdant towering sentinels planted by the early settlers in the 1800’s, the smoke plumed.  This gives your stomach cause to lurch as I had not, but an hour earlier been outside preparing for this seasons bushfires.

Too soon I thought.  Too soon!  I stood on the deck and watched the planes, so low overhead I could clearly see the pilots.  I raised my hand and waved.  The pilot gave a nod and I knew from that one small gesture everything would be okay.

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Of late, I wake each morning to a day of brilliant sunshine and these days often end with an unseasonable thunderstorm.   They remind of my years of living in Queensland where almost every afternoon, the humid sultry summer days of bare feet, chocolate paddle pops and mangoes gave way to an afternoon storm.   A lone storm bird would signal the tempests impending arrival as the big clouds gathered low and bruising.  They would suddenly burst with so much rain the gutters could do little to hold it.  Fat green tree frogs croaked in the down pipes, steam would rise up from the roads and the air smelt sweet and clean.    

During the last big thunderstorm here in SA, the lovely old Grevillea, planted well before we purchased this home was lost. With sadness I watched its heavy flower laden branches split and drop but in its death keel, I appreciated the shade and the joy this gnarly old tree had offered families of tiny New Holland Honeyeaters, pollinators and myself.   

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It has been a busy time with so much afoot but as summer breaks, I will endeavor to get my shitzen together to catch this blog up 🙂  There are road trips and rich offerings to write of.  The chasing of rainbows, a snowbird, sunrises in silent gratitude, the gift of isolation and a garden update to come.

Until then, take care.  Be strong, be kind, be good to yourself and be good to all others……. x

Footnote:  CFS – Country Fire Service.  A wonderful volunteer based fire fighting service in Australia.