Say Yes to Life

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (28 of 31)I’ve enjoyed writing for local Ciao Magazine, because it gets me out seeing places and meeting people that I never would otherwise. Last week, I was working on a piece about bicycle paths in the Inner West. I needed to go take photos, but was really not motivated to do it. I had a cold, I’d recently hurt my back, and all I really wanted to do was curl up with an ice pack and a glass of bourbon. Instead, I grabbed my camera and hopped on the bus. I’m so glad I did.

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (2 of 31)My first stop was at a section of the GreenWay, a green corridor from Iron Cove down to Cooks River, where there are some existing bike paths, and the local councils are working on putting in more. I didn’t see a single bike rider here, but I did see drunk Santa passed out under a tree! I never would have got to see that if I’d stayed home!

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (14 of 31)My next stop was Cooks River.  I was wandering down the path waiting for cyclists to go by, when I spotted something up ahead in the distance. Birds! More specifically, Great Cormorants.

plastic covered cormorant (1 of 1)It wasn’t until I was home and looking at my photos, that I saw this poor guy covered in plastic. I had noticed an incredible amount of garbage floating in the river. I called the wildlife rescue for that area, and they said they’d send somebody over to look.  I hope they were able to help him. I never did hear anything back.

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (6 of 8)Continuing my bicycle-turned-bird walk, I came across something that did make me squeal out loud. I’m glad there weren’t many people out that day. This is my first ever sighting of a Royal Spoonbill! I’m going back with my telephoto lens to get some better pics. Maybe I’ll drag the husband along, too.

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (8 of 8)I stalked this Australian Pelican for quite a way down the river, until he got weary of me and flew off. I was fiddling with my camera settings and completely missed him swallowing a mouthful of fish.

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (7 of 31)This is a Purple Swamphen. I never knew there was such a thing.

bike ride freelance writer (3 of 4)Later in the week, in the course of an interview, I was asked to go on a bike ride. I’ve been on a bike only once in the last 21 years, and that was two years ago when Salt Lake blocked off downtown streets for their Open Streets event. The thought of riding in Sydney scared the crap out of me, so at first I gave excuses of why I couldn’t do it. I don’t have a bike; I’m on deadline. Well, she had an extra bike. Something inside me sparked and said, “say yes to life!” I took her up on her offer.  That is definitely something I would not have done if not for that assignment. What started out as research for an article, turned out to be a chance for me to overcome fear, and I felt like superwoman afterwards!

Festival of the Winds – Let’s Go Fly a Kite at the Beach

Festival of the Winds (1 of 13)The sun is out, the days are warm, and the time has come to shed the shackles of winter. Sydney turned out in droves – droves I say! – for the Festival of the Winds at Bondi Beach on Sunday. We traveled to Bondi Junction by bus and train.  At the train station, the line for the bus on to the beach was an hour or more wait, so we gave up and took a taxi.  With all the traffic, it still took over 30 minutes to drive 4 kilometers.

Festival of the Winds (9 of 13)It was worth it though, because the primary reason for our excursion, aside from serious cabin fever, was to meet our new friends from the U.S., Tami, Jeff, Lexy, and Austin.  They arrived in Sydney just a few days ago, to make Australia their home.

Festival of the Winds (7 of 13)The kites were fantastic.

Festival of the Winds (11 of 13) I’ve never in my life seen so many kites in one place.

Festival of the Winds (4 of 13)There were dragons, sea animals, a pirate ship, and endless more variety. This appears to be a rite of spring here in Sydney; it’s been going on for over 35 years.

Festival of the Winds (2 of 2)Some people would have been better off watching the kites instead of sleeping!

Festival of the Winds (13 of 13)When’s the last time you flew a kite?

Visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney

RoyalBotanicGardens (3 of 23)September 1st is considered the first day of spring down here in Australia. In celebration, I wandered over to the Royal Botanic Gardens, where the new season was certainly putting on a show.  I’m making an effort to take myself on a field trip each week and write about it here. One of my biggest fears is that our time here will come to a close and we’ll not have really experienced the place.

RoyalBotanicGardens (18 of 23)I chose the gardens this week as I’m trying to connect physically with Australia, and understand the cycle of nature here. I’ve found in the past that I do form a better connection with a locality once I am familiar with the natural environment. I didn’t grow to love Utah until I read Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge, and made that journey out to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge myself.

RoyalBotanicGardens (9 of 23)The seasons are still really confusing to me. I keep thinking it’s April.

RoyalBotanicGardens (5 of 23)I’m curious to learn about the native Australian plants, and what blooms when. At the Gardens, there is a mixture of native and imported plants, and not all of the plants have identifying markers. I did find it curious that I’m so focused on knowing which ones are natives, because most of the plants I’ve always associated with spring, were not native to the U.S., but rather Europe and Asia. I guess it’s part of wanting to understand the natural environment, the real Australia before Europeans showed up.

RoyalBotanicGardens (4 of 23)Prior to 1788 when the First Fleet arrived in Australia, the land where the Royal Botanic Gardens are now, was used as a ceremonial ground by the Cadigal people. They held initiation ceremonies to mark the coming of age of their young men. When the British arrived they cleared the land to make way for their social experiment, killed kangaroos, and by August had almost depleted fish from the harbor. Farm Cove was planted and houses built up around the area.

RoyalBotanicGardens (20 of 23)In 1807, Governor Bligh had the houses removed, and then when Governor Macquarie and his wife came along, they began building walls and making a private English parkland type area, only available to what he referred to as the respectable class of inhabitants of the area. The Botanic Garden was established by 1816,

RoyalBotanicGardens (16 of 23)The botanist Charles Fraser was appointed Government Colonial Botanist in 1821. After Fraser’s death in 1831, it seems that there was a string of short lived Colonial Botanist assignments. Richard Cunningham was clubbed to death in 1835 after serving for two years. Allen Cunningham lasted less than a year, being appointed Colonial Botanist and Superintendent in February and resigning in December, and died soon after. Then came James Anderson as Superintendent in 1838, until he died in 1842. Nasmith Robertson was superintendent from 1842-1844 when he…wait for it!… died. Is it just me, or does this position seem cursed?

RoyalBotanicGardens (22 of 23)Charles Moore came on as director in 1848. He lasted several years. He also introduced regulations prohibiting, according to the RBG website, “all persons of reputed bad character…persons who are not cleanly and decently dressed…. and all young persons not accompanied by some respectable adult.” It sounds an awful lot like Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

RoyalBotanicGardens (23 of 23)Over the years, many varieties of plants were imported from Europe. The gardens saw an herbarium, an aviary, a zoo, and an insectarium all added to the grounds. The zoo and aviary are long gone. Many of these Moreton Bay Figs remain, which are over 100 years old.

RoyalBotanicGardens (2 of 5)When I saw this statue out of the corner of my eye, I had to laugh when I realized that the first thought that registered was that he was checking his phone.

RoyalBotanicGardens (7 of 23)I only touched on a portion of the gardens, completely missing the Cadi Jam Ora, or First Encounters garden walk, where I would have learned about those native species I was looking for. I also didn’t have time to view the herb garden. The Royal Botanic Gardens are free to visit and are open year-round. A variety of events take place in the gardens, and there are free and for-a-fee tours that you can join. There is a lovely gift shop where you can buy Australian native seeds. The park boasts a cafe and a restaurant, and the Growing Friends propagate plants for sale. I’ll be going back for sure!

Freelance Article on Fermentation

freelancewriterarticleonfermentation (1 of 2)Kombucha sampling at Wild Kombucha in Leichhardt

I am so thrilled to have published my article covering the local fermentation scene in the Sydney Inner West’s Ciao Magazine. Fermented foods and beverages have been a big part of my own diet and quest for health for a few years now. Upon arriving in Sydney, I was pleased to discover that there is a good size community of fermentos (people who ferment) here.  And although I set out simply to write about fermentation and the people who were doing it in the area, what I discovered is that it is very much about community building and nurturing. It further strengthened my own belief that our journey to a healthy society is going to be a group effort.

Read the full article, Fermenting a Community, here!

freelancewriterarticleonfermentation (2 of 2)Massive kombucha SCOBYs at Egg of the Universe in Rozelle

Sunny Memories

We are in the death grip of winter down here, and while I am grateful that there is no snow on the ground (there was frost this week in some local areas) and it is not 104°F like I heard it was back in Utah last week, it is cold here.  And it is damp.  That’s the worst of it.  The damp breeds mold, which even after obtaining a dehumidifier I’m still cleaning off the ceilings and walls.  Apparently wicker is extra susceptible to mold.  I didn’t know this.  I do now, and have had to dispose of a favored straw tote, three perfectly good wicker baskets that I used for organizing my art and craft supplies, plus a large wicker clothes hamper.  I discovered them all yesterday looking like something forgotten in the nether regions of the refrigerator.

As the sky threatens more rain, I’m choosing to remember a warmer, sunnier day when we journeyed south to Bundeena.  Come on; let’s go!

Bundeena-(1-of-16)We took the train down to Cronulla, on the coast, and from there hopped a small ferry across the water to the village of Bundeena.

Bundeena-(2-of-16)How would you like to live there?

Bundeena-(4-of-16)We walked through the village, skipping the Sunday Art Trail this time around, on our way to the beach and coastal walk.  Along the way, we discovered this poinsettia tree.  Can you imagine those potted Christmas-time plants you buy getting this big?  I was always lucky if the leaves would even stay on.

Bundeena-(5-of-16)Royal National Park, established in 1879 is the second-oldest national park in the world.  Bundeena sits right up against the park, and the coastal walk cuts through the forest.

Bundeena-(8-of-16)It was exciting to view rock carvings created by the Dharawal people, the first inhabitants of the area.

Bundeena-(10-of-16)It was easy to imagine the Dharawal people looking out over a similar landscape.

Bundeena-(11-of-16)Peering back at the village.

Bundeena-(12-of-16)The views were food for the soul.

Bundeena-(14-of-16)We made our way to the point of Jibbon Head that looks out to sea.  Gazing out in the distance, I saw a patch of water that was behaving differently than the water around it.  Then I realized it was a whale tail!  Soon after we saw spouts.  Our first and only whale spotting was a spiritual experience for me.

[An aside – we went on a whale watching cruise a couple weeks ago.  It was a rainy, stormy day, but the boat was going out anyway, and we were game.  We didn’t see a single whale, but we did have a whale of a roller coaster ride in that boat, riding up and down the waves!  Some people didn’t enjoy the ride quite so much. The cruise company gave us vouchers to return again in hopes of seeing whales.  We’re going to try again this Friday. ]

Bundeena-(16-of-16)As the sun set on a beautiful day, we made our way back to the ferry.  While on the ride back, we were discussing options for eating dinner in Cronulla or back in Balmain.  A woman sitting beside us said, “oh we’re going to dinner in Cronulla; come with us!”  Australians are just so cool.

Downton Abbey Down Under

I admit, I’ve really been sucking at this whole blogging thing.  In an effort to get back on track, I’m going back several weeks in my photo inventory to bring you the Vaucluse House.  I’m pretty sure it was the sheer quantity of photos I took and then needed to process that has caused me to put this off for so long! My fascination with Australian history has urged me on, however.

Vaucluse House (66 of 69)The Vaucluse House is one of the original manor houses in Sydney.  It began life as a small, stone cottage in 1803, built for Sir Henry Brown Hayes.  In 1827, William Charles Wentworth purchased the property.

Vaucluse House (48 of 69)Wentworth was born in Australia in 1790, shortly after his mother who was convicted of theft arrived in Sydney aboard the Neptune.  His father, who escaped conviction for highway robbery in England, also traveled on the same ship.  While the senior Wentworth went on to become a prominent and wealthy member of the colony, the family was never accepted into the gentry because of their convict past.

Vaucluse House (61 of 69)Young Wentworth was bitter over this fact. Still, he went on to become an influential man.  He was a lawyer, politician, writer, and was part of the first European crossing of the Blue Mountains.

Vaucluse House (14 of 69)Vaucluse House was built for Wentworth’s wife, Sarah Cox, whose parents also arrived aboard a convict ship.  She kept a tight ship herself of the estate and their family.  Even with the big fancy house and lots of money, she, too, suffered isolation because of their past.  And, oh, apparently two of their children were born before she and Wentworth actually got married.

Vaucluse House (16 of 69)As I strolled through the rooms, they became peopled by my imagination.  I find it fascinating to think of the individuals who sat in these chairs, and the servants who leaned in to offer plates of food, while attempting to be invisible.

Vaucluse House (17 of 69)What letters were written at this table?  Love letters?  Mystery, intrigue, orders for more convict servants to work the estate?

Vaucluse House aprons (1 of 1)What maids scurried down this hall?  Is that a breeze that just ruffled the aprons or a ghost?

Vaucluse House (8 of 69)My dream table.

Vaucluse House (6 of 69)I whined for four months about not having my kitchen tools.  This makes me both appreciate my sharp knives and wonder what it was like to chop parsley in the late afternoon light with this tool.

Vaucluse House (5 of 69)I kept thinking of Downton Abbey as I walked through this grand house, especially when in the domains of the servants.  I find them more interesting.  Just imagine the stories that were witnessed by this majestic stove!

I do have a zillion more pics, some of questionable quality.  I’ve put them over on Flickr if you want to continue wandering the halls and gardens of this exquisite estate. Click here to see them:)

At Long Last

shipment arrival (1 of 5)I was awake this morning before the sun. As I opened my eyes and adjusted to consciousness, I was filled with the absolute joy of a child who knows that this day really is Christmas. You know that magic feeling, as you slowly start to remember your name and where you exist in the world. Then, the realization dawns that downstairs there is an evergreen tree covered in tiny, twinkling colored lights.

shipment arrival (5 of 5)Beneath that tree are presents wrapped in gorgeous paper. Surprises! Because you have no idea what’s inside.

shipment arrival (3 of 5)Being reunited with familiar friends brings me a feeling of home that I have not felt in so very long.  It was fun to see what was in those boxes.  There are many things that I’d forgotten about.  And to be completely honest, as I unwrapped handful after handful of cutlery and serving utensils, I realized it’s more than I need.  But hey!  Next time I need a big spoon or a spatula, I have one!

shipment arrival (4 of 5)The house back in Salt Lake had a very particular musty odor that we only noticed upon returning from travels.  As I dig through these boxes, that smell comes wafting out.  While not the most pleasant of aromas, it does bring back many fond memories.  Also, it occurs to me that if the stuff in these boxes smells like that house, then we probably smelled like that too when we lived there!  Our clothes, anyway.

I’m exhausted after unpacking and washing a kitchen full of dishes (and caressing and speaking to each piece).  I know it’s time to quit, if not for the night, at least long enough to eat some dinner, but there are still boxes to open!  Treasures to discover.  I still need to find the bathroom scales and my boots and……

 

A Mother’s Day Excursion

Palm Beach(12 of 13)Continuing in my effort to visit every single beach in the Sydney area, and to document each and every wave, we set off on Mother’s Day to visit our primordial mother, the Sea.

bus tripOur adventure began with a ferry ride to Manly, where we picked up a bus going north, with one quick transfer.  It was about an hour’s ride along the coast, with gorgeous water views along the way, interspersed with woodsy areas and homes surrounded by trees and gardens.  I noticed the air change as we traveled north; it took on a woody aroma.

Palm Beach5 of 13)We took the bus as far as it would go and landed at Palm Beach.

Palm Beach13 of 13)Our original plan had been to hike up to Barren Joey Lighthouse,

Palm Beach(11 of 13)but there were no waves up there!

Palm Beach (9 of 13)I’m pretty sure between the two of us, we took about seventy-five million photos.

Palm Beach(7 of 13)Don’t get your camera wet!

Palm Beach (2 of 13)While a little chilly for swimming, it was still a beautiful day for the beach.  In contrast to Bondi and other more popular beaches, this one was mostly deserted.  There were a few families there picnicking and playing in the sand.  I got overly nervous about little kiddos too close to that surf.

Palm Beach(3 of 13)This sneaky fellow was pretending he wasn’t just snooping through our bags!

Palm Beach (10 of 13)It was one of those perfect, peaceful days when you can just feel the serotonin whooshing through your brain and you thank the Universe for putting you here.

Are you tired of beaches yet?

On Finding One’s Strength and a Quick Trip to Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach (3 of 7)I have a dream of learning to surf.  On our very first beach visit here, I formed an image in my head of a woman, about 60-65 years old, walking along the beach in her wetsuit, carrying her surf board, with her long, sea-water-soaked, grey hair flying.  That woman is future me.

I was thinking about this dream the other day.  Thinking about the practicality of this dream, and coming to the conclusion that given my age, fitness level, and the time we’ll have here by the ocean, maybe this is more of a fantasy.

At that moment, I felt future me’s heart break in two.  How could I just dash her dreams like that?  I felt her reach back through time, pleading with me.  I was being so unfair.  I continued to ponder all this, weighing reality against wishful thinking, and reminding myself that just because today I have one reality doesn’t mean that can’t change.

Now I don’t know if I’ll ever really get to learn to surf.  I do know that I have lots of ocean waves I can play in while I’m here.  AND, and this is the most important truth I came to, even if I don’t learn to surf, that image of the strong woman with her grey hair and surf board can be a power symbol I can use to focus on in visualizing success in attaining my goals.  She can be my guide.

I’m not going to let go of the dream of surfing.  I’ll start by taking this course next summer, then move on to this one, and build from there.

I’m curious, what kinds of symbols, imagery, or positive self talk do others use to help spur them on in their goals?  Please share; don’t be shy.

Here are some quick pics of our visit to Bondi Beach:)

Bondi Beach (1 of 7)

Bondi Beach (7 of 7)

Bondi Beach (6 of 7)

Bondi Beach (4 of 7)

Three Month Mile-marker and Another Beach

It’s hard to believe, but we have been in Sydney for just over three months.  It feels both like we just got here and like we’ve been here forever.  Our shipment has still not arrived.  Well, let me rephrase that; it hasn’t been delivered to us.  Our bed and my kitchen is in Sydney.  In quarantine.  They do that.  It should be released soon and I’ll be doing a happy Christmas-in-May dance while I unpack the boxes and discover just what I put in there besides a bed and cooking utensils.

It’s been weeks since I’ve posted here, I know.  I’ve been up to something I’m sure.  Let me see…. we’ve been visiting and been visited by fun friends.  We had our first American sort-of-guests.  Our Utah friends’ son and his girlfriend borrowed our floor.  Unfortunately for them, they arrived the week of the worst storm in a decade here.  For three days we had gale force winds and rain falling in sheets from the sky.  I’ve seen Texas rainstorms, Iowa rainstorms, and blizzards from Utah to Wisconsin, but I’ve never seen a storm like this one.  We are still trying to dry out in here.  I had to wipe the walls down, it was that wet.  Thankfully the sun came out again.  At last.

I’ve been in a really good writing zone, finished two short stories.  The rain helped with that!  Nothing like being shut up for days to get you in the writing mood.

It’s been over a month now since I’ve been to a beach!  This Sunday is looking promising.  I do hope so, because I’m having withdrawals something fierce.  So, on that note, I’ll share more of March’s beach visits with you!

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (9 of 13)I set out one day to visit the McIver’s Baths at Coogee (I love the names of places here!), the only remaining women and children only ocean pool.  Wouldn’t you know, I went on the day they were revamping the pool.  So, I trekked on down a ways to Wylie’s Baths.  I did have to pay $4.80 to get in, but it was worth it.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (7 of 13)The pool is located just south of Coogee beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.  It sits in the rocks overlooking the open sea.  There is plenty of room to sun yourself, and there are also shady spots with rocks, benches, and even chairs to lounge upon.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (1 of 13)It was a warm day and the water was perfect.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (5 of 13)It fit my specifications because I could swim laps (ha ha!) and watch the waves.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (4 of 13)The bottom of the pool was a bit rough.  I discovered I’d drifted into more shallow water when I scraped the top of my foot across the rocks.  Oh and apparently a sea urchin.  I found the tiny tip of a spine sticking out of my toe when I got home.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (11 of 13)You can’t deny it’s a beautiful setting, though.  As I was walking back to the bus, I kept having to stop for one more peek at the views.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (12 of 13)A smaller ocean bath is situated just off of Coogee Beach.  This one appears to be free admission.  It is a lot smaller.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (13 of 13)Having a tough time tearing myself away from the water, I stopped to watch the surfers and swimmers at Coogee Beach before I left.  (Shh!  Don’t tell anyone, but I have a secret fantasy of being an old lady surfer one day.)

I only have one more beach up my sleeve to share with you.  I should do that before Sunday, because I have every intention of taking advantage of the $2.50 travel cap and adding another beach to my collection.  I seriously doubt we’ll be swimming!