It’s that day of the year that gets me thinking about things. I know I am not alone in this. I think it is a day that we should at least pause for thought In our life.
And so here it is, that day has arrived once again. Although I am not bothered about being a year older. I am glad that I am here and I still have my partner and my dog to share it with. It will also be nice to catch up with my Mum as I haven’t seen her for a few weeks. I don’t have big fancy plans, a favourite meal in the evening and have seen some of my friends over this week. I am conscious of the fact that it is a blessing to be here and that in itself is my celebration. Age is no indication that we can remain. The world loses many wonderful people young and old every day.
I had planned to do certain things just for me by the time my birthday came around this year, but alas I have not managed to achieve half of what I wanted to do at this point in my life. However, this year has only just begun so I will just have to get stuck in.
But… To return to my original subject now I talked to a few people about my writing in the past month or so and they have said some nice things which motivated me to try some things that I had put to the back of my mind. The first thing being to get the first book out there in physical form. When I set out to publish my first book two years ago I didn’t think that it was important to have a hard copy of the book, but how wrong was I? Time and again the people I know have said to me that if I had a printed copy they would buy it so I hope that they will now.
At the time I just wanted to get it out there and thought that people used kindles anyway, so it seemed like the easiest way to self publish. But since then I have realised the importance of a physical book to so many readers.
I must admit, that when I go to the spoken word poetry nights there are paperback books, sheaves of paper, notebooks and the occasional phone which people read from. I have not yet seen a kindle in use.
So I set about my task for this week, to edit, spellcheck, read through my book once again and attempt to put it into print. This time proper print, which people might actually read on holiday, or the bus, or in their coffee break or anywhere really.
If nothing else, this is my Birthday gift to myself, that I have done it, approved it and sent it for publishing. So that at least my parents might be able to have a copy of it at last.
One thing that I have learned in the last week whilst I have been doing the slight adjustments to the book is that my writing has improved. It felt somehow naive reading those poems back. Although I know that I am my own worst critic. I can see my work warts and all. Thankfully there are also people who enjoy some of it, which spurs me on to write more. But these days I feel more confident as a writer. Like I can actually do it now. I also feel that my poetry has changed quite a bit. Of course the subject matter differs from piece to piece anyway, but I think I am more at ease with the flow, however it comes to me.
I will also be creating the second book of poems this year. A long time ago I had a number in my head that when I’d written that many I would make the selection. But that was some time ago. I wasn’t feeling as though it was the right time to publish so I just kept on writing more. I now feel it’s time.
It has been suggested that I write some poems for children, which should help me along the way as I want to get into reading them out in public. I began a children’s story book a couple lf months ago which I hope will grow over time and I have two people that I would like to illustrate it for me, but since I haven’t finished it yet, I feel that I can’t ask them until its ready. I also have lots of other ideas. So who knows what this year will shape up to be by the end of it.
Like many gardeners, I have long thought disdainfully at the Dandelions creeping through gaps in the pavement, through pots of blooms and pretty much anywhere they can get. There seems to be an endless quest to rid gardens of these bright and cheerful plants and many resort to harsh chemicals to do just that. But last summer I made a discovery about this wonderful weed. It is amazing, that something which has been considered bothersome is in fact packed with nutrition and healing properties. So I thought in my quest for better natural remedies and health, that I would give it a try. I had nothing to lose.
I made some oil which I thought might help with arthritis pain. It is also good for aching muscles as well I have found out and has a slightly warming sensation on the skin. It is olive oil infused with dandelion and smells rather nice. It is also a pretty good skin conditioner so even if it didn’t work I would still use it. But to my surprise it did. So I made some more and gave them away in bottles as Christmas gifts. As I patiently wait for more dandelions to bloom again this year I’m finding out just how useful they can be. Since the oil has only two ingredients, it would also serve as a dressing oil for salad so is multi purpose.
I rather wish I had the means to store them up on the hill and can only look forward to the day when I will be able to. I fully intend to make use of natures bounty when we spend more time there. Whatever the season there is always something I try to bring back when we return South, it makes me a little less homesick.
Meanwhile I exhausted the southern lawn of dandelions right up until the end of November and gathered a stock of them picking them every other day since the Summer. I was interested to learn that if you dry them, they continue to open and you end up with the pretty seed heads or “clocks” even when they are no longer attached to the plants. This also happens whilst they are in oil. It doesn’t matter, I dried them anyway and now have them in jars. I was also pleased to note that since the winter had been fairly mild, at least up until recently here in the South, they continued to grow and flower.
I am now looking at the many benefits of this herb both topically and it’s culinary uses. Salad leaves are popular and I did incorporate them with spinach but my partner wasn’t keen on the more bitter taste. Using the roots for tea is another use but I have not perfected the knack of drying the roots out properly yet without moisture getting in, I will however work on this again this year having just discovered that I also love the taste of a Dandelion Latte.
So as the new spring Dandelions are poking through the as yet unmown lawn, I have left these as Bee food, as it is their first readily accessible nutrition. But since the lawn is due for a mow any day now, I will have to get out there and start collecting them as it would be a shame for them to go to waste. Meanwhile I have cultivated areas of the garden, where they steadily growing undisturbed in pots for the Bees and I to share so they won’t go hungry.
To make your own Infused Dandelion Oil.
Rinse Dandelion flowers collected from a safe source (free from pesticides) in water and leave them to dry naturally in a warm place. This can take a couple of days.
Use a Clean Screw Top Jar and put the dried dandelions in, cover with Olive Oil and fill to almost the top of the jar.
Screw the lid firmly, shake gently and leave on a sunny windowsill for minimum of 2 weeks, tipping the jar to rotate daily. The mixture will be golden in colour.
After 2 weeks, (or more) drain the oil into suitable containers for intended use and discard the preserved flowers, or use them in cooking. It will last for a good six months if kept in a cool dark place.
Since this oil only contains two all natural ingredients it can be used for both topical or culinary uses.
I have realised that although I have a few small videoclips of him singing, as yet we don’t have a picture of our Roki In Song.
When he first came to live with us he didn’t talk much. Silenced by fear he made a few noises to express pleasure, barked if you asked if he wanted food. Gave a little rumble if you scratched his tummy or ears. It took some getting used to and realising that it was simply his way of expressing happiness. He makes some funny sounds.
Kato used to sing, we encouraged it from the very first and he loved to sing the song of his people sometimes at the most inopportune moments. He also loved to sing Happy Birthday and would burst into song after the first word with recognisable words throughout.
When Roki came into our lives, we decided to teach him to sing too.
The first time we all howled together he looked confused and I think so did we. He was two years old. This little puppy voice which had not been encouraged to speak came out, sounding very hoarse and croaky but his tail wagged and his face lit up when he realised that he wasn’t going to be told off.
We made it our mission to let him sing every day, so in the mornings when everyone is awake we all sit on the bed and have a Song, the family or pack (if you prefer) all joining in and I tell him that I love his singing and he is a very good boy.
His voice is getting deeper now that he is four years old, not a sudden change like when Kato became ill, but the strength from within that resonates, it comes from deep down. It is soulful yet happy and the whole bed shakes when he sings now, the paws bounce as he throws his head back, just like a wolf his neck extended to allow the depth of his voice to come out and travel through the air and the tail still wags.
He has learned to talk to us more now too, answering questions and saying Hello.
Although he was adopted by us you might think that he has been here all his life. We are very pleased and proud of the boy he has grown into. Adoring, loving and full of character and as gentle as a lamb with friends and family whilst protecting us from intruders and predators as well.
So as I return home after a month in the Beautiful Queensland Coast with my dear friends, I am struck by how down to earth I felt about this wonderful place. I immediately felt homely in this unknown place. As I left I knew that I would miss the family so much and that saying my Goodbyes would be difficult. But we are all happy in the knowledge that this will not be my last trip to Australia. It is just the beginning of my travels to this part of the world. I guess that hasn’t quite sunken in yet as I sit on the first leg of the flight home. I have rung my partner and heard that they are alright (as alright can be) at home and as my friends family will all be asleep now having journeyed back to Eudlo, where they all stay, part of me is wishing that I was also tucked up in a nice warm bed, but that is for tomorrow.
As I figure out in my fuzzy head a way to get my family over to Australia in one piece, if only it is his dream too, I could perhaps satisfy my wanderlust with regular trips if some of my contacts might put some work my way. Time to make a few more phone calls I think.
Today, my last day in Australia, we visited Coolum Beach, a lovely area which was absolutely littered with blue jellyfish, which apparently have a vicious sting to their rather lengthy tail.
Since I was attacked by a green ant only yesterday, I was not inclined to repeat the exercise with one of these beasties today, so we dodged rather a lot of them along the beach, but the waves were high, we wrote messages on the sand, whilst the boys played and ran up and down. The sun was shining and I looked at the iridescence of the water as the tides crossed my path. It was beautiful and for a moment, I lingered there not wanting to leave.
Swept away in the moment I was transfixed by the waves which reached the shore. Only being brought back to the present when the boys called out to us.
We went on to Coloundra, which is a favourite since my friends Mum currently lives there and it is where they began their time here, just after emigrating. There was a fish restaurant which served wet fish too, it was on a main road, not particularly inspiring as places go, but my meal was enjoyable nevertheless Calamari and Swordfish steaks served with chips and a side salad.
I was quite pleased to see a Pelican fly over the car as we arrived along the beach front and he rested upon the wall of a block of flats. I managed to get a photograph of him before we left. Another thing that I will remember of Coloundra.
There is snow back home, just a few small flurries here and there so I am told, but I hope that he brings a warm coat to the airport, despite the layers I have packed, I know that after the warmth of the Sunshine Coast I am really going to feel the cold at least for the first few days. I may even have to resort to Thermals, but lets hope not.
So what will I be taking with me from this trip?
Positivity, that there is so much that is better and that is actually available to me in this life, not having to wait until the next one to experience it all.
Do I believe in reincarnation…
Hmm, although I have long thought that we get one life and should live it. It’s one of those things that I hope that we do get some kind second chance if the odds have been against us in this life thus far. Not necessarily if we live a pure and chaste existence, but if we do good unto others, try to help people along the way and such like.
I have met up with someone who gave me some wonderful advice regarding writing. She has been an inspiration for looking for the good in things, even when I have felt really low. To meet her in person after all this time, could have gone well, or not and neither of us were sure. We arranged to meet in the last week of my trip. Over a coffee and cake. It was an absolute joy to spend an hour or so with her, chatting about all kinds of things and finding out that we got along just fine. It seems that we have indeed become friends and we will be keeping in touch.
As we drove back from the beach and I squashed all of my luggage into my cases in the hope that I didn’t have to take anything out. My beach combed shells carefully placed in the luggage so that they will not get broken. The beautiful “Blue Shell” given me by my friend, who said I should have it. We sat outside on her verandah in the sunshine and made jewellery from the Quandong stones which we had collected from the garden. Or rather, I drilled the holes, my friend strung them and made them into two rather lovely necklaces, which are enormous, almost architectural in their style. But I also learned that sacred jewellery is made from them by the Aborigines.’ The kids decided since there were so many of them left over, that they would also make some one for their mum and one for a friend and each other. We had picked up and cleaned up much more of them than we first thought from the garden and yet they still litter the floor at the back of the house, there are probably thousands of them and there will be many more when fruit season comes around. It is a shame that I did not get to see the blue fruit, but they have long gone, only the debris remains. But we have seen the jewellery made by the monks at the nearby Buddhist Temple, Chenrezig up on the hill nearby. The only difference being that they have added a bead and tassle to their ones. Ours are simpler, but hang beautifully as a double necklace, made by my own dear friend. There is one for me and one for my mother. Along with a bracelet one of the boys and I made from all of the beach shells and coral that had natural holes in.
I tasted custard apple for the first time today, it has an interesting taste, I think I am more taken with the Mangoes and also the quite amazing Fruit Salad Fruit, a strange looking fruit which as it ripens and sheds its outer skin, you are left with something which resembles a skinned banana, but you can taste so many other fruit.
We each described it differently after a taste, one thought pineapple, another melon, and another banana.
I tried Jack Fruit, which is another native one, it looks a bit like a hedgehog on the outside and has a pungent smell to it when it is ripe, but makes an awful mess and leaves a glue like substance, its sap which is difficult to remove, on everything that it touches. It was my friends’ first taste of the fruit too, she had read that you could prepare it and use it like a vegan version pulled pork, which is very popular. It had a sweet taste in its raw form, which was quite pleasant, definitely fruity. But once cooked takes on a whole new persona. It lost its appeal somewhat and then only took on the taste of the spices and sauce which it was cooked in. So isn’t something I’d be likely to try again.
I thought that I would do some things differently whilst I was away, but didn’t. Firstly I thought that I would write lots of poetry, but didn’t write any at all.
I also thought that I would meditate but although there were times when I sought peace and calm I did not, not even once! Well, not intentionally although the calm swept over me every time my toes hit the sand.
I thought that I might struggle to drive a manual car again on roads which I do not know, with the different layout and rules, but I took to it once again like a duck to water. One drive out in the car, ten minutes in and it all came flooding back to me, the first drive in an unknown place. The South of France all those years ago, it was as natural as breathing. I soon learned some of the routes to enable us to get back home. We did have the mobile sat nav, but when the signal was non existent or the batteries low, we somehow still made it back.
The fact that I was open to trying new things, experiences and directions, meant that this was the holiday that I needed it to be, filled with wonderful places, beautiful sights, friendly and welcoming people. It was a very pleasant surprise to be wished a safe journey, by the people I met around the town before I left. They had observed my arrival, as a tired unwell traveller and observed the change in me finding my feet and would all stop to talk and find out what I thought of their little town.
The nearest town Mooloolah is more like one of our villages, spread out over a greater area, but with similar facilities to a British country village. A few essential stores and a fuel station, but there is a good network of regular trains going past at the bottom of the garden. I have never seen such lengthy freight trains, but maybe next time when I return to this part of the world, I will take a journey on the train with my friend.
As I said Goodbye to the house, the area, my friends and their transport which has carried me safely on this journey, I watched the greenery whizzing by as a passenger in the car, thinking of many of the things that have captured my heart about this place and the many things I have yet to see and feeling quite emotional about leaving.
I will return one day, to my friends again and this place which has captured not just the imagination, but reignited my spirit of adventure and also a little piece of my heart. There is so much to see and I have barely scratched the surface, I simply have to see more.
Not to put to fine a point on it, most of the last year or two has been toxic in alot of ways. It has not gone well, besieged by illness and tormented by the past and situations which I felt powerless to change. But underneath it all, little did I realise that actually I was changing. We are ever changing and sometimes, it creeps up on us and whacks us over the head with the proverbial hammer. Sometimes it needs to.
I needed to change, so many things. My self-destructive thinking, my approach to people always thinking that it was my job to make them like me and getting awfully disappointed and even upset if they didn’t. My attitude to myself and general way of thinking. I had to stop taking things so personally, but the trouble with being an empathetic soul means that unless you take time to protect yourself, then it feels as though it is all on you, your responsibility to make things better for others, to listen, to advise etc, etc. Sometimes it is just too much to cope with.
Then someone wonderful sat me down for a little talk, well actually a lot of talks over quite a long period of time. She told me that I was a nice person, (I have always tried to be) that I am loved and that people should be proud to know me and work with me, that I am an inspiration and encouragement to others and if they didn’t like me, then it was their problem and not mine.
That last bit, I have to admit was a bit of a thunderbolt. I don’t think that I was equipped to deal with it at the time, but it was nice to hear it. But there it sat, at the back of my mind for months and months. Slowly over time, I began to view myself differently, I looked at the things that I could do, the ways that I could help people and even in some small way, I decided that if people didn’t like me, then that was it. I wasn’t going to beat myself up trying.
This was a sign of a new me emerging. I also found my usually reserved thoughts, creeping out, when someone made me angry, or sad, or hurt then I became vocal about it. I occasionally swore, whereas the previous me would have done almost anything to avoid this, I have become more like my siblings who don’t hide their emotions. It didn’t always make me nice to be around, but as time has gone by, I have been fighting invisible illnesses which people do not understand and trying to keep a brave face. Sometimes the cracks show.
I have looked into myself, rediscovered my spirituality, things that make me tick, instincts which I have long neglected to follow, recognition of things that I know to be true. I have looked at alternative ways to heal physical ailments. Having been let down by medics who are supposed to help, left out in the cold I decided that it was not good enough and would look at alternative therapies, return to reflexology and homeopathic remedies in the hope that it would start to make a difference and slowly it did. Little steps, bit by bit I began to change.
I have consciously tried to regain my confidence that had been ripped from me by the people who tore away at me. By the circumstances which have caused havoc in my life lately and by the grief caused by the loss of loved ones.
But, I am still the new me in progress. My eyes have been opened to so much in the past few months. The toxic people and relationships which I have had to sustain in the workplace just to get along, are gone along with the job. I have found that by having time to work things out in my head and realise people for what they were has given me a better understanding of their behaviour.
I miss working, in the normal sense but I now realise that I don’t have to accept their bad behaviour any more. Lately I have been concentrating on getting my health back to normal and I am still a way off. I am less trusting of people now. I no longer take them at face value, I watch for the signs, body language and follow my gut feeling. As someone who was watching my back once said, “if something looks too good to be true, it usually is” the same can be said for people.
The environments that I had been around had become toxic, there was bad feeling all around me and it was making me more and more sick. Those of you who have followed the blog for a while will notice that some of what had been happening, or had happened in the past has been mentioned sometimes at length and this has been part of the process of healing from it. Fixing my mental health along with my physical health and finally I feel as though I have turned a corner.
I took time out from the norm, actively encouraged, (well pushed and shoved kicking and screaming would be more apt) to go off and take some time out, to see friends not knowing how my health was going to be in the future it was arranged for now. I was also encouraged to do things which caused happiness and to get creative, which I have been busy doing for a while now. In conclusion it has been exactly what was needed.
So have I rebooted my system, for want of a better phrase? I hope so. I think I am becoming a different person and it isn’t just about growing up and being an adult. Time changes us, situations change us, relationships change us, so we remain ever-changing, evolving into hopefully a new improved version of ourselves, before we get to grow old disgracefully, having the time of our lives, surrounded by loving people who will miss us when we are gone.
The weather reported that the cyclone was passing over right where they were. It could have hit at any time. They had been expecting it for days, battening down the hatches and protecting the house and garden hoping that the damage it might cause if any would be minimal.
So far they had been safe. But now at that moment on this day, louder than ever the sea was calling them, they went to answer the call.
Travelling to the beach, there was no sign of bad weather. The sky was bright and clear, a real blue sky for miles with no grey of rain. They parked and bought refreshments at the nearby café. As they stumbled across the sand, past the lake and up the dunes to the top, they paused as they were met with an almost empty beach, no crazy surfers hitting the waves for once heeding the warnings of danger.
The occasional local wandering along, with dogs, racing through the sand and water, charging around barking excitedly. Or others with some companions walking and taking in the spectacle of it all. Lifeguards on patrol retrieving rubbish from the beach, no one out at sea for miles around. She stopped for a moment, looking out with her friend at the softest sand and crystal blue sea gazing in wonder at the sight before them. A wall of waves and foam, about 40 feet in height, the sand being swept up crashing upon the shoreline and their faces.
Suddenly there they were, like little storm hunters barefoot and racing towards it, they ran into the water. Embracing the storm for a moment the wind lashing at their faces and sand biting their skin, cleansed by the elements.
They had gone expecting to find great treasures washed upon the shore, a storm can bring such wonderful things to the beachcomber. Alas, no sooner had the large waves brought in an abundance of things, which they scurried to collect, then another would arrive to sweep the beach clear once again. The beautiful shells and things being replaced by fragments, shattered in the process. But they did not cause sadness, they held a beauty all of their own. For the storm granted them freedom. Yes, freedom to run to jump, to think and to breathe.
They stood, transfixed as the waves grew and broke before them, such power which no one could harness. Nature at its finest and there she walked along, arms outstretched, welcoming it all with a radiant smile. Suddenly with all the previous stresses of her mind now gone, washed away by the storm carefree she walked along with her friend, both of them in silence at the wonder of it all.
Returning in the direction of the car, greeted by wet dogs and smiling people along the way, she thought quietly of her loved ones at home and the moment they had missed. This glorious beach which would be the perfect place to walk, hand in hand with her lover and their beloved dog racing towards the surf. Wind in his fur, tail held high in excitement, hardly anyone around. Miles and miles of pure white sand, not littered by rubbish, but freshly groomed by nature for their pleasure. Her friend in tune with her suddenly voicing the same thoughts agreed, they should be here to enjoy this too it would be the perfect beach for them.