Birds out my window today.

I am sitting watching out the window as I write my blog. The day is dawning and the birds are waking. I like and respect animals but am not what you would call a passionate animal lover. I have had my fair share of cats and dogs, experienced owning white mice, and cute little rabbits, gone through the silkworm process and visited many zoos and animal parks.

Since retiring to the Blue Mountains I have noticed birds. I have always scoffed a little at birdwatchers wondering how they could be interested in something that just flits from tree to tree. I realise now how my ignorance hid from me the complexity and the beauty of these creatures.

A white Sulphur Crested Cockatoo flies past the window with his wide spread wings holding him afloat. He parks on a tree and calls his friends to join him. If I call to him with my cocky voice his yellow crown immediately stands high as he turns to stare and then squawks as if to say “you are interrupting, wait your turn.” His majestic all powerful stance glorious against the natural colours of the trees.

Meanwhile I notice our resident Kookaburra and his baby search diligently for worms deep under the green lawn which sparkles from the tiny drops of water from the early morning dew. The mother working tirelessly to stifle the continuous cry of her reliant baby.

I look to my left to the Red Wattle Bird foraging for nector in buds of the grevillia plants. His familiar gutteral chortle filling the air. He is a very territorial bird and fights daily with the other birdlife to retain his home. A few months ago a he was followed relentlessly by his new baby. Today the baby is not seen as I guess he is now making his own way among the blooms of the many small bushes surrounding him.

I know from seeing this all unfold each day that the stunning red, yellow and blue colours of the Rosella’s just behind the house are scattered in the many trees waiting to descend to our balcony with their own distinct sound. They will sit along the rail whistling their melodic tunes with the hope of a handful of seed to enhance their diets.

Not far behind them will be the more graceful and brilliantly coloured Red and Green King Parrots. They are more patient than the others and will come close and look at you when they speak. Cautious at first but then demanding in their request for attention.

Further down the yard I see the distinct black and white of the Magpies foraging among the leaves and debris surrounding the bush. Religiously following the lawn mower gathering the worms as they come to the surface. The Magpie family comes and goes each season. They know our faces and respond immediately to my whistle. Swooping in from nowhere they glide in close knowing there is a handout not far away. It is interesting to watch when they have new babies. They collect the food in their mouth adding to the pile until it is bulging from their beak. It is then time to fly away to the nest where the squawking babies are waiting for them. They overload and quickly return for another round.

Last but certainly not least are my favourites when it comes to feeding. The little Butcher Birds are very cute, quick and silent. They fly high into the trees and sit patiently watching and waiting. When the coast is clear they very smoothly swoop and scoop the tiny morsel of food left for them. They are in and out before you notice.

Some others worth mentioning but not in view this morning are the Lorikeets, Brown Dove, Bower Bird, Plovers , Black Cockatoo and a Tawny Frogmouth. Not viewed but definitley heard is The Big Owl.

I spend much time just watching the birds as they wake, play and rest each day. Time spent watching them strip the bark off the trees or building their nests. Noticing how they go from bush to bush searching for nectar, chasing each other flying in and out of the many branches. At dusk you can see them gliding across the skies rich from the colours of the sunsets looking for a place to settle during the dark hours.

Complacency-Boredom

As a retired person I have more available time, as an older person living during the pandemic I have more idle hours to fill. Following I have written my thoughts on this situation. No expertise, no qualifications just what is in my head. 🤔

I refer back to an early blog “What will I do when I retire?” I wrote that blog with my own actions in mind and focused mainly on activities that I related to at the time. Covid has made me think more earnestly about what we do on a daily basis and how easily boredom can slip into our life and have a detrimental affect on some people. It is easy to become bored, it is easy to become complacent about your daily activities. Dictionary.com’s meaning of complacency is “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition etc.” I think this explains it very clearly but breaking it down a little and putting it into terms of actual life activities helped me to clarify.🤓

The first part is easy for me to identify, particularly during covid restrictions. Doing a jigsaw puzzle, doing my heritage investigations, reading a book or simply going for a walk.These activities were pleasureable and gave me the security of knowing I was safe in my own home.They quickly became my norm and were only broken by the necessity of housework or shopping on line. 🙂

The second part of the dictionary meaning is a little unnerving at first. I questioned what potential danger could these activities evoke. The answer came with endured lengths of time of repetitively doing the same activities every day. The danger lies in the complacency of ones own thoughts and actions. When you are in a pattern without too much change it becomes easy to be habitual. Our life becomes boring. We could easily become disinterested in our surroundings which leads to more debilitating effects to our well being. As you become more bored your life becomes less active and your brain less stimulated. You talk less, you laugh less and more and more creativity and interests die. It becomes easy to not make an effort, to not make plans, to not look forward. If we do not change our routines, explore new avenues, take risks and try new things our brains become less stimulated and more vulnerable to negative thoughts. Of course there is nothing wrong with boredom, it is a normal emotion and it is not harmful unless of course it becomes excessive and interferes with ones normal daily life and this where the danger lives. 😦

I do suspect if you have an interesting hobby you possibly will not have this problem, but if you find yourself increasingly idle try something new. If you do not have any specific interest maybe look back at what you liked doing as a young person and see how that fits into your retired lifestyle. This would not have worked for me as I worked from a very young age and did not really develop any specific hobbies other than being involved in some sports. As I age those particular sports are not appropriate. I do however like long easy walks and on line music exercise classes so I am trying to become more consistent with that. I have listing here some suggestions(not mind boggling) just simple actions to minimise boredom or complacency and things that activate our brains. 😀

  • Cooking-reinvent the way you cook, try new foods. If you have no one at home to cook for bake a cake or make some cookies for your neighbour or elderly friend and invite them over for a cuppa. (covid permitted) Make some fun cookies for the neighbourhood children.
  • Craft-Learn a new skill or two. There are many tutorials on line. knitting, crocheting, origami, macrame, scrapbooking, sculpting, ceramics, painting etc the list is endless.
  • Sorting– photos, memorabilia, kitchen cupboards, clothing, garage, sheds, music collections We all need to declutter and sort. Do it slowly so it is enjoyable not a chore.
  • Photographing– I became bored while taking my daily walk, so I decided to photograph specific things. I chose a colour and with my trusty smart phone I walked and searched for that colour. You would be amazed at what you see. Each day I changed the colour or the theme and my walks became interesting again. I posted my photo’s on facebook which resulted in interaction with friends. Use your smart phone or camera and photograph whatever you like, your home, the streets surrounding you, fungi, trees, flowers, pictures, food, shapes use your imagination.
  • Writing-this is what I chose and the subjects are endless. I chose to put my thoughts on line but you do not have to. Start a journal, each day write down what you are thinking. It is habit forming however not boring as the subject matter changes everyday when you are forced to think of something to put down on paper. Nobody is reading it unless you want them to so write whatever crap comes to mind. Reading it back is often fun and thought provoking.
  • Planning-even though covid has momentarily changed our freedom we can still plan for the future. go online and plan the trip of a lifetime, you may never do it but it does not hurt to dream and its fun to map it out, and at the same time you are finding lots of information about other countries.
  • Games-mind games, computer games, board games, card games or do puzzles. There are many both on line and probably some gathering dust in your cupboards. They keep your mind active and if you have someone to play with all the better. If not challenge yourself to better your skills or beat your own score.
  • Meet new people-Join a book club, a walking group, a community centre or simply say hi to your neighbours or local shopkeepers. Go to a bingo group or a dance class or join a bowls club. A few words to a stranger can make your day. Some of these things are difficult during covid restrictions however if you are reading this you have access to on line so be brave start a social media page and finds some new friends. There are many senior groups filled with people just like yourself. It could be just 5 minutes a day and it could change your life.
  • Pampering-this is something we forget to do, whether male or female we all deserve to spoil ourselves. The obvious is a long luxurious bath, a hot chocolate and a good book, a home facial, a cup of tea while sitting on the verandah listening to your favourite music, relax with a heat-pack on those aching bones, watch a movie or better still watch a comedy routine, paint your nails, watch the footy.
  • Mens/Womens sheds– of course we are talking post covid but definitely something for those who have worked hard all of their lives and not had time to develop a hobby. From what I have heard and read they give people a purpose and are a great way to meet new friends. Research on line as they are popping up in many places.
  • Yoga,Meditation,Pilates,Exercise.- Whether male or female there a on line classes for everyone. No effort as you are in your own home, nobody to see you, no cost just simple movement which is the most important thing our ageing bodies need.
  • Hydo-Water activities– another post coved activity. Local pools have lots of classes for seniors with special classes or simply do some easy stretches and leisurely swimming
  • Language Course-learn a new language on line. I have friends who have done just this and are really enjoying the process.
  • Pets– If you don’t have one and you live alone consider adopting a pet. The reasons are obvious, companionship, responsibility, fun and caring. No negatives here and no time to be bored or complacent. They wont let it happen.

I hope you have fun finding your new or renewed interest. If you have a story to tell of how you fill the hours let me know in the comments. 🌻😃

USA 2017 Part 3

Our next leg of this trip is centred around New Mexico. The highlights were White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns Roswell and up to Colorado to visit Manitou Springs.

After spending the night in La Cruces New Mexico we headed to White Sands National Park. On the way we stopped off at Dripping Springs Natural Area. there is a small visitors centre where the many walks are shown on detailed maps. We were limited in time so did the smallest and closest walk. We visited a cave occupied in the 1800s by a priest with healing powers known as The Hermit. An interesting story in the plagues below.

Continuing onto White Sands National Park, a natural landscape of brilliant tiny particles that reflect the sun, making the crystals shine “white” to the human eye. It covers an area of 275 sq miles (590 km) and is situated in the southeastern part of the state. The wave-like mounds are made predominantly of gypsum crystals, making this the world’s largest gypsum dune field. There is an easy drive about 15 km into the centre of the area. There are some parts of the drive where you feel like you are in another world. Surrounded only by white with the occasional drop of colour spotted on humans experimenting with the landscape. Other areas present more texture and colour with small shrubs and plants protruding. You can walk up and over the dunes or ride a sled down the embankments. We ventured onto the Interdune Boardwalk which is approx 600 metres of easy walking. We were lucky enough to see a couple of lizards along the way and I have to say with no overhead coverage the walk was quite hot. As you can imagine August, even though near the end of summer in the US it is still very hot in this type of environment. In slightly cooler weather you could spend more time simply wandering around, gazing at this natural wonder.

Time for some astronomy of course. It would not be a Wallace trip without visits to the local observatories. Located within the Lincoln National Forest, south of Cloudcroft, is Sunspot. Here you will find the National Solar Observatory on Sacramento Peak. It is at an elevation of 9200 feet (2800 m). I have included a link here to explain its purpose https://sunspot.solar/about I think this will give you more insight than I could give. Unfortunately, we are unable to enter the actual observatories but there were viewing windows showing you the very interesting inner workings of the site. At least the surrounding grounds were quite pleasant to wander through and presented some stunning views of the countryside.

We move on now to Whites City where we stayed for a couple of days to visit Carlsbad Caverns. There are two ways of entering the monstrous limestone mountain. One was the traditional way which is to walk the natural entrance trail down into the massive main cavern. The second was to ride via a lift down 750 feet to reach the underground gift centre and then explore from there. Certainly not the same as the many stairs on offer in the Jenolan Caves system here in NSW Australia. On the first day we chose the lift as it was different. It is quite surprising alighting from the steel interior of the lift, expecting to see a dark and damp space, you are confronted with a huge open cavern with a large brightly lit gift shop with refreshments. It is just not what you expect at all. From here you can do either a quided tour or a self quided tour. As we have been in quite a few caving systems in our time we chose the self-quided. What I remember most was the size of the vast caverns and the ease to access them. The lighting was superb and walkways wound in and out showing all aspects of the limestone. Hopefully this sprinkling of photo’s will give you an idea of the size and beauty. The second day Ken decided to do the walk into the cave. Having scaled many a cave wall in Australian caves over the years this was more natural to him. A very tired but happy person returned relating the experience as being spectacular with another ridiculous amount of photo’s added to the camera.

The next town we visited is one which had come up in conversations many times. Being involved in Astronomy the subject of UFO’s is often broached. Roswell was a town well known for a supposed flying saucer crash in 1947 (it was actually a US Army Air Force balloon). We had to stop out of sheer curiosity. The entire town is decked out in a UFO theme. Everything is greatly embellished, sometimes to the point of ugly. The museum exists of models of aliens, flying saucers, a multitude of newspaper articles and other various things relating to the “visit”. Even the street lights are of an alien nature. I am not sure what we expected but this town is certainly worth a look.

We move a little north now to Santa Fe, still in New Mexico. This town was founded as a Spanish colony in 1610. It is known for its Pueblo style architecture. The town has a main plaza dotted with many grand buildings and churches. The buildings are predominantly made from adobe (sun dried mud) with massive heavy timber doors and dark ceiling beams. There are many churches dotting the horizon in Santa Fe. I believe the main church in the plaza is the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi more commonly known as St Frances Cathedral. Another very interesting piece of architecture is The Loretto Chapel, where the Miraculous Spiral Staircase can be found. The history of its origins can easily be researched on the internet along with much advertising for weddings etc. The surrounding narrow streets with all the nooks and crannies, markets, galleries and eating places are quite a treat to wander through. I found this town to be one of the prettier in New Mexico that we experienced. Not far out of Santa Fe we stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, locally known as the “High Bridge”, being a steel deck arch bridge across the Rio Grande Gorge 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Taos, New Mexico, US. The gorge depth is 800 feet (240 m) over the Rio Grande river. More importantly this is the bridge featured in the movie “Natural Born Killers” where Mickey and Mallory Knox marry. We then moved onto Taos Pueblo, a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is a living village and considered a sacred place where life continues from the earliest of human existence. There are approx. 150 people living within the Taos village. You can wander around the grounds and into the buildings. We noticed people living and working around their homes, of which many were artists selling handmade goods. We found them forthcoming with conversation and interesting people.

We take off early passing via the palisades sill marker. Spectacular cliffs and palisades (fine-grained porphyritic dacite sill) in the Cimarron River canyon in Northern New Mexico. It is a beautiful drive on our way to the Capulin Volcano. The volcano is a cinder cone Volcano and this one is considered a perfect example of the larger ones in USA. From the top of the volcano, four different states can be viewed. The drive up is pleasant and takes only 10-15 minutes to reach the car park. We then took one of the trails to explore more closely. The Crater Rim Trail is a steep paved one mile loop around the rim with fantastic views. The thing I remember most was the lady bugs. Thousands of bright orange and black ladybugs hugging the tree trunks and rocks as you reach higher on the volcano. To see so many in one place is quite spectacular. I believe the bugs feed all summer and then hibernate throughout the winter so we were lucky to be there just at the right time. I had no expectations about this visit and ended up enjoying my time there immensely.

We are finally close to Manitou Springs in Colorado. The part of the trip which I have been looking forward to. The countryside is beautiful everywhere you look. The town is a picturesque tourist town with a variety of old and new shops, eating houses, parks, river walks. We are staying at a motel in the middle of town for a couple of days. The first place on our agenda was Pikes Peak. Part of the Rocky Mountain Range, Pikes Peak stands 14,115 ft above sea level. The road continuously winds through stunning tall pine trees, rocky outcrops with snowy edges and wide open mountainous hills. The road is 19 miles long, has 156 turns and climbs 6,715 ft from the entrance of the highway. Driving is a little scary with steep climbs, sharp turns and death drops on both sides. Very few guard rails and quite a bit of fast moving traffic. It is a long breath holding hour up the mountainside, but once the top is reached the fear is quickly replaced with awe. The air is clean and thin but very chilly and you need a minute or two to adjust for the altitude. Everything is picturesque. For me personally it was overwhelming, I found myself mesmerised by its beauty with a few tears wetting my cheeks. I have seen many beautiful views from very high mountains previously but the contrasting colours of the green trees, the bright blue lakes, the white snow, red rocks and blue and white skies was breathtaking. Maybe it was the combination of the scary drive and the sharp air filling my lungs I really cannot say but it is not a view I will forget easily. We spent some time walking the summit with Ken photographing from every angle. For the feint hearted or time poor there is a cog railway train that will take you to the peak. It does not stop for long but enough to take in the view and of course visit the gift shop. It happened to arrive while we were there so we were able to get a few photo’s and watch it take off on the return trip. We spent some time in the gift shop and cafe before departing for the return trip. What we found interesting just over half way down the mountain there is a compulsory pit stop where every car has to have their brakes checked for overheating. If the brakes were hot you were made to pull over and wait in the car park until they return to normal before continuing the journey. My husband expressed concern quite a few times at other drivers excessive use of their brakes on the way down so it was a very necessary safety stop and there were many cars patiently waiting.

The Manitou cliff dwelling museum was our next stop. I know we have seen quite a few dwellings up till now and the thought of another was not exciting us a lot. These dwellings were original near Mesa Verde but were moved to Manitou in 1907 with the purpose of saving the 40 room structure from vandalism. They were reconstructed with concrete mortar as opposed to the original mud clay to allow human traffic to explore the ruins for many years to come. They have constructed a huge 3 level museum of interesting facts, many stories and some exquisite pieces of art along with the normal touristy gift ideas and restaurant.

The last stop for this leg of the trip is Garden of the Gods. This was unplanned for in our itinerary. We arrived here mid to late afternoon driving through and marvelling at our surrounds. You are able to park in varying places and wander off on side trails stopping for views or to climb some rocks, We were so surprised at the ease of the walking trails and the beauty surrounding us. The park can be navigated in many ways, eg; by car, foot, segway, jeep or even horseback. Most of the pathways are paved and easy walking. There is a trading post with maps, gifts, coffee and snacks. Garden of the Gods is an area gifted to Colorado Springs by Charles Elliott Perkins and his family on the condition that the whole area be free to all visitors forever after his death. He absolutely cherished the place and his legacy was for as many people as possible to see and enjoy what he loved and treasured. Once you have seen it you will agree with his sentiments. We decided to come back the following morning to see the sun shine and highlight the true nature of the many large rock formations. Both red and white boulders jut out from the ground commanding attention. We also walked a lot further this time and Ken climbed one of the taller rock formations. What a peaceful and tranquil way to finish our stay in Colorado.

Hopefully I have not bored anyone too much as I know holidays are really only special to those who are experiencing them. I have to say here, by doing this blog I am certainly reliving our adventure and highly recommend the process. We are not yet finished as we head to The Rocky Mountains National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Mt Rushmore and The Badlands in South Dakota. I invite you to like and follow my blog. Bye for now.

Living alone, loneliness and its challenges.

I am basing this blog only on the knowledge of relatives and friends I know who are in either or both of these situations. I am not assuming that every person who lives alone is suffering. One can live alone and not be lonely, one can live with many but battle with loneliness.

Living alone has some really obvious and positive benefits. One can manage their space to cater for all of their own likes and dislikes. They can run with a schedule or not. They do not have to be considerate of someone else’s feelings, their moods or their preferences. The work load is less if living alone and the grocery bill is cheaper. They can wear daggy clothes or no clothes. They can eat or not eat, sleep or not sleep, cry and curse at whomever they want and turn the volume up whenever the moods takes them. These are things that those living in a family or a relationship sometimes envy of those who live alone.

I would like to point out the numerous negatives many of us never think about.

Putting aside the unusual state a pandemic creates, imagine if you are single, unable to work or are maybe self employed and working alone from home. Consider someone who suffers from anxiety or has social phobias. Your life may be like living with a lot of the covid restrictions but not only for one or two years but for a lifetime. Consider a person in this situation could easily find themselves with no reason to actually use their own voice. The mobile phone has minimised the amount of actual calls one needs to make. Texts are a common method of dialogue now. A person in this situation does not need to leave the house as we can order our groceries, clothes, computers, stationery and actually most goods online without the need to speak. No contact drop off has eliminated the need to see or hear another human being. There are many single people in this situation. The need for human interaction becomes minimised and eventually eliminated. This is quite sad and disturbing and quite real.

Again very sad that this situation continues and can actually become a mental illness or can result in medical complications. With no accountability to others we have no need to take responsibility for our own health or wellbeing. There is no one who will question them, encourage them or help to motivate them. When one isolates we tend to think our view is the most important and this is totally wrong in my mind. We need to listen to other opinions, other ideas, otherwise we become self indulgent and therefore selfish. It is important to get out and to communicate. Working, mingling or joining sporting or activity groups puts more of a perspective on our opinions. It is vital to learn and to grow as a person.

Then you have those who are surrounded by relatives and/or friends, are members of clubs and are continually active but unknown to others they feel totally alone. Sometimes people keep busy to avoid being alone or avoid thinking about themselves. They often appear very in control or very happy with life but in fact are not. For many reasons they have not connected personally with anyone. Maybe they do not feel special or needed or loved. Often people feel misunderstood or judged. Maybe they are insecure with different aspects of themselves. I am sure there are many reasons and many times people in this situation rarely express these feelings and therefore their contacts believe they are ok, leaving the problem unsolved and the feeling of being alone continues.

Of course we have all felt alone at times. That birthday that you insisted on not celebrating but then on the day you receive no acknowledgement and you feel alone and a little sad. That time you decide not to go to the party and then are sorry you are sitting home alone on a Saturday night. Maybe your partner is away for a week and you feel moments of loneliness. I remember times when a major decision had to be made and there was no one else there to help. One feels alone and neglected during these situations. The main difference here is you will probably be laughing or commiserating with another human the following day. Time will pass quickly and you would have moved onto new things to keep you occupied and sane. That may not be the result for those who are totally isolated on a long term basis.

The Covid-19 virus has certainly highlighted the need for human touch and the sound of the human voice. The need to feel needed and the desire to talk to people on a day to day basis. We can only hope that we all consider those who are still living day to day with restrictive lifestyles and where possible reach out to them just a little more than we have in the past.

Self Harm Intimate Trauma (SHIT!)

Trigger warning: self harm, child abuse

Stream of consciousness at 3am on a rainy morning:

I don’t know how to start this story and even if I should, but something tells me to write this down. Maybe it’s to help me cope, maybe it’s to help others know they are not alone. I am a parent whose child self harms, abusing her body to experience feeling, albeit negative. When one does not feel anything at all then pain is a way to feel real. When one cannot express their feelings sometimes pain will explain.

How do we understand this when we only see the results, the trauma, the physical scarring, the broken body? We spend our entire life trying to ensure safety for our children, trying to guide them down a path that will bring happiness, wanting only peace in both their life and our own. How do we ever understand? I have spent many a sleepless night waiting in emergency rooms for my adult child to be helped by professionals. She had physically and mentally passed the stage of being able to help herself. The pain of her illness becoming unbearable. During this time my thoughts would go over the past years to try to make sense of this moment.

Where did I go wrong, where did she go wrong, where did society go wrong and what do I do now? What else can we try to do to stop this vicious disease and to eradicate some of the reasons contributing to these outcomes? There are many questions to ask with very few answers, but maybe it’s the process which heals and helps us get through this. Friends ask how we manage to keep going and to keep trying. There are two answers to this question. Firstly, she is our child and our love for her prevents us from not trying. Secondly her fight is so much harder than ours and yet she keeps trying. How dare we give up when she has not?

This self-destructive path she has chosen seems so pointless and yet an alternative does exist…death… but oh! So pointless. Death will not answer the questions. A painless void is all it will leave. I can only be thankful so far that intelligence prevails in her confused soul. If she dies, what purpose would she have served? Pain for all those who are left to endure. If she lives, more pain, certainly, but maybe, just maybe, some answers will be found. She does what she must to survive this trauma in her life and who am I to tell her how to deal with her feelings? Who am I to criticise another? I can only question my own thoughts and deal with them. Maybe by understanding myself, it will help me to understand a little more about her and her illness.

To do this we must ask ourselves the question of “What is self-harm?” Slicing through the skin with a razor, burning one’s body with cigarette butts, starving oneself, binging, alcohol abuse, most definitely these acts are all self harm and are all acts I have seen first hand. These are more obvious and are our first thoughts of self-abuse. There are more subtle forms of self abuse that many of us encounter without being consciously aware of the effect on our wellbeing. What of the abuse we inflict on ourselves which is often disguised or hidden? How many times do we say YES, when we should say NO? A simple response used daily by many with rarely a second thought. Society teaches us to help others and so we should, but sometimes the messages we get are wrong and self destructive. In saying yes when we are not fully comfortable we often break the boundaries of self-preservation and self-worth.  We often push ourselves to the extent of harm. We get sick, we get tired, or hurt and we take on others’ pain and grief as our own. The result of this is often an extreme overuse of our mental capacity. Another negative form of this behaviour is that we will often forget or neglect those closest to us, which in turn, often creates more problems for us to deal with. This is also self-harm as we are only human and only have so much energy to give.

As children we are taught that adults have already experienced life, therefore we should learn from them. We ask our children to respect them and listen to their instruction. We are told to respect our teachers, listen to those in authority. Do we let them know that some elders teachers or people in authority can be abusive or unnecessarily critical? Do we teach them how to deal with this? Do we listen when they try to speak out? Rarely as parents or educators do we clarify this advice explaining the distinction between adults who may be right and adults who may be wrong. I am sure we can agree there are many adults in our lives who do not yet exhibit adult behaviour in the true meaning of the word. We teach our children stranger danger but we neglect to teach them how to identify subtle abusive conduct by not only strangers but friends and family. I believe often this is because we do not recognise these behaviours ourself. Ask yourself about the following everyday occurrences in our lives and then determine what is right and what is wrong and what we often neglect to teach.

Society insists that children participate in sport during their school years. I agree to some extent but there is a time in a child’s life where their focus is on their body which is not always something to be exposed. There are those of us who find it difficult, embarrassing and painful, those who feel inadequate or awkward at school sport. It may be good for our bodies but are we mentally prepared for the ridicule coming from our fellow classmates and the unending barrage of thoughtless comments from our teachers? Maybe less pressure to be perfect and more understanding of how and why would gain better results. Are we teaching children to self harm?

We become competitive because we are told it is good to win, even when those who have the talent may not have the desire. Talent does not necessarily come with an inbuilt ability to cope with the adoration and expectation from others. Should we ask before we push… are we teaching them to be the best or are we pushing them to self-harm?

We study excessively because we are told this is the only chance to make something of ourselves. True, this may give us top marks but what about experiencing life, where we will learn so much more? Maybe we should consider the current high dropout rate in the first couple of years of university and ask ourselves why! Are we teaching them to excel or maybe to self-abuse?

Our children are often accelerated in their learning process. Why is that? We do not question this because we are secretly happy our child is considered smarter than others. Once this happens they are put onto a pedestal and expectations grow. We assume they will be able to hold an intelligent conversation, give speeches, talk in front of crowds, control their peers and many other tasks. Some thrive on this, or that’s what we tell ourselves, but some are painfully shy, unsure or frightened but they push forward not wanting to disappoint…once again in many cases this is self-abuse.

Elements of these lessons are indeed very good and should be learnt, but as a society maybe we are pushing for development and perfection way too much. Is less than 100% no longer acceptable? Are we moulding and changing people too often? When we are young teenagers and trying to find our place in this world, we receive so many mixed messages. I as a parent am often confused about what to teach our children. We encourage on one hand to be yourself and not be influenced by others, however we also expect them to fit into the mould society has determined as acceptable.

As parents we are constantly giving advice or consistently steering them to conform with society. Don’t colour your hair, don’t wear outrageous clothes, don’t wear too much makeup, don’t bring attention to yourself. Don’t be controversial, don’t dress individually, do what everyone else does, fit in, conform. We want them to be “normal”, accepted by society because it is easier for us that way. Now ask your self how many times have you openly said “always be true to yourself, stand up for yourself, stand up for your rights, don’t let people walk all over you?” How mixed are those messages?

Society comes with its own set of rules and double standards which also creates so much confusion. Take famous people as an example. Famous people are just the same as everyone else. They started out as everyday souls, whose lives followed a path which ended up being public property. They are famous and the general public often hold them up as gods. There are people who are famous, or who have achieved a high status by sheer luck, some by massive sacrifice, and some who just plodded along and that’s where they ended. Their lives are scrutinised, criticised, adored, and ignored when society chooses. Allowances are made when it suits, just as easily as criticism and disdain are expelled when needed. When people are famous we make allowances, we laugh and encourage them when they are different, difficult or unique. However, if an unknown teenager acted in the same manner, we ignore or criticise or force our opinion on that person. Does this not create confusion in our world? Society makes allowances when it suits them and then questions why we have troubled teenagers and confused adults. Do we not confuse them with our inconsistencies and with our need for acceptance or our need to be inconspicuous? How do we stay unique or individual or uninfluenced if this is what we are taught on a daily basis?

We are expected to do well at school, find a job or go to university, be successful, fall in love, get married, have children, raise them perfectly, buy a house and live happily ever after. How many people do you know who have actually followed this path successfully? That would be an interesting statistic. We are expected to be normal, even though we are influenced by so many different things.

What is normal and what is right?

Is it being a leader, or a follower, being gay or being straight, being married or unmarried, having kids or having no kids, being political or non-political, religious or non-religious, rebellious, compliant, withdrawn or argumentative? Is it being a university student, blue collar worker, creative, talented or academic, famous or infamous? I am sure this list could go on for many pages and all would be normal. If this society needs to grow we need all of these traits and all of these behaviours come with their own set of characteristics and emotions.

So, is self-harm normal? It doesn’t matter if it is normal or abnormal, it happens. And it happens without discrimination. Those who do it will say yes, it gets them through the moment to fight another day and that is normal for them. We as adults hold people in high esteem whom we see as having achieved and we strive to be as they are, but also worthy of our respect are the souls who struggle quietly with their demons and still continue to survive. Those who don’t seem to fit in our society. Those who strive to retain their own individuality against a society who sees them as different.

Sometimes they achieve outstanding things in their life and sometimes they are shunned and looked down upon. Often in our society we claim them as mentally ill. In my short experiences with what we call “mental illness”, I have encountered all levels. The very successful, talented actors and performers, top level athletes, high profile business people, university students trying to achieve, young teenagers trying to fit in, young children trying to emulate others, rich people, poor people, mums and dads. One common underlying factor with many of those I have met or read about was their intelligent, caring, highly sensitive minds which did not allow them to fit into society. They did not ask for these qualities and their intelligence does not allow them to just give up, so they keep trying to fit into the “normal, accepted” mould.

Self-harm is intimate, self-destructive and personal. My daughter has never intentionally harmed another living soul, I have to add here that it must be said that others have certainly been emotionally affected by her actions but that was never the intent. In fact, she bleeds inside for others who suffer. She takes aboard their pain and questions her inability to help them and make it right. She claims blame for others’ errors and accepts imperfections in people she knows are struggling. No such allowances are made for herself though. When it comes to her own self-worth, guilt, anger and self-hate are more powerful. She must change her thinking before she can heal, but do we change ours? Rarely, because we are not considered as having a mental illness, we are considered as “normal”. We who destroy with our words, our thoughtless criticism, our relentless pressure, our unyielding desire to only accept those who appear perfect. Yes, she must change to be able to survive and it is not our problem, it is hers alone, but if this world is to improve and is to support those who will be our future, we must look at where we are placing our energy. We must broaden our beliefs and allow change and we must accept that people are so individual. I do not advocate crime or bad behaviour, that is not acceptable and the consequences of those actions should be theirs to bear. What society should do is not be so quick to judge. Find out the facts and look behind the action first before you condemn. We must put money into research for those with behavioural illness. We must spare time for those in need and help them to find the answers. We must listen to those who are suffering. Do not harm others and respect their feelings. In my mind these are rules which should never be questioned and should always be taught, regardless of race, colour or creed. Unfortunately, in the world today, we are burdened with people who have not been taught these simple rules and because of this, too many people are suffering.

Once again, I wait for my daughter. This time a therapy session, one of many which leave her in too much pain. Memories from the actions of a so-called adult brought alive again. An adult devoid of respect for her in years gone by. These actions were brutal and unforgiving, but the person imposing them is long gone, their suffering ceased, but hers unyielding. She sits with many others trying to understand, trying to learn how to live with this horrid nightmare bought upon by others. All of these victims many years later being treated for mental illness. The pain and anguish these victims go through is not something I ever want to experience and the sad part of this is that sometimes the perpetrators are often suffering similar pain and anguish. The vicious cycle continues.

Is this the area in which we should be putting our resources? Why do people harm others and why do people not respect? How do we stop them? Is part of their illness because they were restricted from being who they wanted to be? It is hard to believe we are born with these destructive harmful traits. Where did society go wrong? There is much research and money put into medical research to keep us living longer, such as cancer, MS, heart conditions etc. We sink so much money into medical research for transplants and other vital procedures. Obviously this is necessary however mental illness is a major crippling illness and all the hospitals specialising in this area are closing. The only real help of any type that we have been able to find is one that is far too expensive for the average person. Society continuously tell people to seek help, but it is very hard to find the right help and it is costly and exhausting to keep looking. Sadly the process often makes the person with the illness feel alienated and alone and increases their thoughts of being undeserving. Why is this!?

There are so many things in this world that contribute to our lives and so many areas we can lay blame, but will that change us? I think not. Change comes from within and not always by just accepting what others think, but by listening to what our heart and soul tells us is right. There are so many influences in our environment which we can use to excuse our situation, but the reality is, we are the ones who choose to live the way we do. We are the ones who choose to allow these influences to affect us and hold dominance over our lives. Some of us are not strong enough to say NO, so we will continue down that path, but what we must learn is to help and assist those who do not want to follow that same path. Those of us who want to change, be different, explore and be individual. Help them to change what we cannot. Accept them and encourage them to explore. Some will say this would be chaotic, but maybe it would be inspiring and maybe it would help society to grow.

SHIT happens and we go on. Self-worth, self-esteem and confidence with our own being, is something we need and will be felt when we self-nurture a little more and when we extend tolerance and respect to people so they are able to be themselves.  

Footnote 1 (2007)

I wrote these notes in 2004 and now 3 years later, little has changed. My own tolerance is better, but my energy is drained. With this comes more frustration, anger and disappointment…

A second child, one who has already endured watching her sister go through enormous pain, one who has tried to learn and gain insight from this, one who was become stronger for this experience, one who again is individual and trying to fit into this society and now one who has herself experienced abuse by a fellow human being. How do we all deal with this. My anger is extreme and my thoughts confused. I feel alienated by society, I question is it me once again? Why would I not think this? Two children, both caring, genuine, beautiful people. It seems obvious to me that I should have raised them to be less thoughtful, less caring, and then maybe they would not have been so easily abused. Society has to change. We need to be more aware, we have to stop abuse, both mental and physical. We are destroying ourselves. So much talk of keeping our environment green, our environment includes our actions. How can we keep our personal environment clean?

Footnote 2 (2010)

Another 3 years on and again little has changed. The world changes slowly but constantly we hear of personal destruction of human beings at the hands of people who should not be in the public forum. The lack of mental health facilities, the lack of funds for research, the lack of care in general for all people. Sexual assaults, child pornography, shootings, people trafficking, increased use of drugs and alcohol and exploitation on every corner. The list is endless and I am not too naïve to realise this is all part of society. My complaint is that not only the victims of these hideous acts, but also the perpetrators, have very little options for help. I am by no means condoning violence of any type and I have little sympathy for those responsible for these crimes. My anger lies with the people who have power in this world. They who have control of where our money is spent. They seem unable to see the extreme need for money for mental health, research and institutions to care for the wide spectrum of deteriorating care in the community. Social security is mismanaged and chronically understaffed. Public hospitals are old, inadequate and chronically understaffed and underfunded. Private hospitals are overstocked and unaffordable, mental health facilities are non-existent. Private health care is extremely expensive. Jails are overloaded and mismanaged. The court system is out of date and acutely in need of investigation. This morning on the news was the announcement of a massive amount of money issued to upgrade the Opera House. I can only hope this will help keep a few more homeless people sheltered during winter, because it is certainly not going to help anyone in need.

Footnote 3 (2011)

The government has finally thrown some money into mental health. Not nearly enough though. A new private hospital has opened and some new ways are being tried. This is a great thing and for those of us who are able to afford private health insurance, we will try once again, but for those not so lucky no real changes are occurring. The government generously offers some free psychological sessions, 6, maybe 12 or even 18 if you are lucky. We can only hope this will help some get help before their illness or trauma eats them alive. For those who have passed the initial onset of the trauma, for those who are chronically affected by mental health it hardly touches us. We currently see a psychologist twice weekly and a psychiatrist monthly. This goes on 52 weeks a year, ie 100 odd sessions, so how do we pay for the other 82 not covered by medicare? We work and work and neglect the people who need constant care. Ironically self-harm persists and grows in this instance, not only with the patient but with the family.

A positive note, research is happening, new treatments are being used and hopefully these will continue and some will be helped. Education is broadening and acceptance is more widely experienced. I worry though, that parents or society in general are not being educated in simple kindness and acceptance in this fast moving world. Political correctness is killing our freedom of speech. Political correctness is not allowing individualism, and weak governments are not adhering to our general safety. How long before we go back to the dark ages and hide our mentally ill away from society because the problem is too great to tackle?

If you are suffering please reach out for help

Mental health line is 1800 011 511

If you cannot get through to the Mental Health Line, call:

Mental health services and support contact list

USA 2017 Part Two

Leaving  Lake Powell, Page behind us, we headed toward Monument Valley. First stop is to view the cliff dwellings at Navajo National Monument in Arizona. Navajo lands cover over 27,000 square miles. The cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi) people of the Southwestern United States are just a tiny part of the wonderous varying landscape. Once at the visitors centre it is a reasonable walk to the overhanging  platform. Here you can view the dwellings surrounded by beautiful countryside. At 66yrs I found the walk quite easy and well worth the effort. I believe there are also several walks which take you down further into the valley floor.

We move on now toward our next destination. On the drive approaching Monument Valley you get a little taste of the magnificence of the Buttes (flat-topped, steep-sided towers of rock) reaching toward the sky. Buttes are created through the process of erosion, the gradual wearing of earth by water, wind, and ice. There are several accommodation options outside Tribal Park, but we chose this time to stay up close and booked 2 nights at The View Hotel. It is situated on the edge of the park blending in with the natural red earth and towering buttes surrounding it. Our room was at the south end, it was beautiful and spacious with a huge balcony looking straight onto the brilliance of the park. We then ventured out to master the valley drive, a 17-mile loop road of dirt and gravel within the confines of the park. It is difficult to describe the uniqueness of the area. The colours and shadows change completely at every angle. The stark red against the cloudless blue sky is magic. The earth is desolate and yet seems alive and active. There is a spattering of primitive homes throughout the area and a small trading post shop. With every twist and turn in the road a new and amazing view is revealed.

We hurried back so as not to miss the opportunity for a little sunset photography. Before venturing out we opened a bottle of wine and stood on the balcony marvelling at the vision before us. We meandered through the grounds, photographing, and waiting for the sunset which did not disappoint. Absolutely mesmerising and stealthily quiet atmosphere as the Sun slowly headed to the other side of the world and allowed the gigantic rocks to sleep for the night. Dinner in the hotel restaurant was simple but tasty food with a casual atmosphere, (note no alcohol as the Navajo have a strict policy regarding the serving of alcohol).

The next day we were booked on a tour with a Navajo guide. We were wondering if we had wasted our money as we thought we had seen the park already. Our young guide led us to an open windowed jeep and headed off to the gated parts of the park we had not previously seen. It was interesting to hear of the structure of the Navajo community regarding their laws and the expectations of their people. We were part of a small group, only six of us and therefore we were able to experience the Navajo ways up closely. We were able to visit a typical hut dwelling and see some authentic weaving. Watched the Navajo ponies in their natural environment and visited some sacred sites. Discovering more details about the archaeology and the anthropology of the landscape proved very interesting. The guide was informative, easy to relate to and a wealth of knowledge. We were thoroughly entertained and educated the whole time. We returned to the hotel, on the way watching the Sun setting slowly behind the Buttes. Early the next morning we were able to witness a spectacular sunrise. The atmosphere was beautiful. Everyone waiting for the first light to hit the ground. Anyone who has watched a sunrise will know the calmness that envelopes you.

It was sad to leave such a captivating place. A quick trip to the Visitors Centre to purchase something to remember the experience and back on the road again.

We head up to cross the border again into Utah making our way to The Mexican Hat (a huge pile of red rock with a large flat rock sitting on top). Close by we visited Gooseneck State reserve which sits  about a 1000 ft above the San Juan River. It is a fantastic place, quite vast, dry, and deserted with the river weaving in and out of huge grey rock structures. After this we drove via the Moki Dugway which is a steep, gravel road traversing 1,200 feet from the valley floor to the top of Cedar Mesa. It is not very wide and zig zags back and forth continuously. Quite a scary drive fearing the presence of a large RV or truck heading toward us with nowhere to go. I have included a photo from the internet as we were unable to stop to photograph on the way up. We lived to tell the tale and headed straight onto the Natural Bridges National Monument again crossing over into Utah.

Declared a National Monument in 1908, the bridges are named “Kachina,” “Owachomo” and “Sipapu” in honour of the ancestral Puebloans who once made this place their home. There is a great little visitor centre which was very informative. On the road again, we headed to Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park. The park has some of the best preserved ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites in the US. You will find a lot of information on the history of this area on google which is fascinating reading. We were booked on a  guided tour the next day which was superb.

Starting with a bus drive around the surrounding area, visiting ancient Pit Houses and Pueblos (AD700-795). After a reasonably easy descent to the ruins, we were able to wander through the site and photograph the cliff dwellings. Once again, we were fortunate to have a great guide who offered plenty of information and amusing stories about the ancient inhabitants. We completed taking our photographs and headed to the way out. They had warned us at the beginning that the exit from the ruins may be difficult, so we were prepared for a challenge. It turned out to be straight up several daunting ladders, squeezed in between the rocks weaving through some very tight spots. I must admit the ordeal was a little harrowing but extremely rewarding once we reached the top.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and after a shower we headed to the lodge restaurant for a well-earned scrumptious meal by the window overlooking the surrounding area, finishing with a cocktail on the outside rooftop platform. The next morning, we headed to Window Rock in Arizona. This is a beautifully designed park with interesting monuments and a great walk to view the large natural opening known as Window Rock.

The next step in our journey required us to travel to Socorro in New Mexico via Albuquerque. There was a couple of little walks and displays we discovered on the way, but the main attraction was The VLA (Very Large Array, a radio telescope). Astronomy is a passion of my husbands and to see this site was quite amazing. In a sparse area on the plains of San Agustin, 50 miles west of Socorro, stands one of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories. It consists of  27 radio antennas in a Y shaped configuration with each antenna being 25 meters (82 feet) in diameter. The first antenna arrived at the site in 1975. When the moveable antennas are spaced furthest apart that they can be, it is able to make very high-resolution measurements that can pinpoint objects in space very accurately.

The VLA is a monumental site which you are not likely to forget easily. There is a self-guided tour which allows a close look at one of the antennas. After a multitude of photographs had been secured, we took a quick look around the visitor’s centre ending our visit very satisfied.

PHOTOS Inserted here.

Come back and join me on the next blog where Ken and I visit White Sands, some observatories, Carlsbad Caverns and Santa Fe, New Mexico.  

What is your take on love

Do you believe you are or have been in love?

I was asked this question many times during the first couple of decades of my marriage. Being married very young everyone decided they knew better than I, so the statement rather than the question was, You cannot be in love you are too young!, or do you even know what love is? I tended to answer with ambiguous phrases because honestly I was unable to answer undeniably. I was very young, with little experience to compare. I was extremely happy and felt safe so I believed I was in love. I had nothing tangible to qualify this feeling. Over the years with this question being posed often, I wondered how one could categorically answer it. In years gone it was not generally perceived that women would have careers, their role was that of housewife and mother. Marriage was there go to, the only real excitement in their life between the 21st birthday bash and the expectation of children. The wedding was high on the female list. Marriage was still considered as a permanent structure so it was important to try to evaluate whether the love you felt for your partner was real or just a fleeting crush.I have thought many times over the years, including more recent times, that the partner in the equation of marriage was often less important than the big day. It really saddens me to say this but countless conversations leading up to the wedding day reinforces this belief over and over again.

The sixties was a huge decade of freedom and love, discovery and awareness. Many times the subject of love and sex was part of the discussions within my circle of friends. With more and more news about feminism and career possibilities women were a little confused about their futures. Add to this the talk of sexual awareness, sexual freedom and I think it was fair to say we as females questioned whether love was real or just an emotional stage. Everyone described their relationships in differing terms, with moving levels of depth which actually made it near impossible to evaluate.

Describe what love means to you.

One has to define love before answering this question. the dictionary says,  “an intense feeling of deep attraction” or “a great interest and pleasure in something” 

The Oxford dictionary says “ an intense feeling of romantic attachment based on an attraction felt by one person for another etc etc .

So is it one or the other, all of the above or none of the above. Another description I read in a google search seems to describe loving a person more adequately in my mind. 

I quote. “Love is when you choose to be at your best when the other person is not at their best. Love is when what you want is never as important as their needs.” When I say this I stress it is never ok to disregard ones own self worth. If we do not love and respect ourself then we cannot have the same love and respect for another.  

I believe love is many things and one does not know this on their first encounter or for many years later. What we feel in the beginning is desire, sexual attraction, heightened emotion and an ease of presence and safety. However these emotions can be obliterated so quickly with negative actions, that they are not sustainable without more. As humans we also need friendship and empathy. We need to feel and receive compassion, caring, understanding. Furthermore we must also learn to accept another person for who they are, not for whom we want them to be.

How does love vary from person to person

My lifetime has revealed many types of love. The protective love of a child, total respect and honour of a parent, the passion of a lover or the comfort, deep understanding and compassion of a spouse. Even though these descriptions are all emotional and easily identified they are no less important than the devoted and sustained love of a career, a job, a hobby or a pastime. This being said it is relatively obvious that love varies considerably both within one person and between two persons. Love is too vast a category to define it with one description. It is a feeling and one not easily described and one that takes time to truly recognise.

Reflection

Having said all this, I can honestly say now after 52 years of being with the same man, we have grown together and changed in many ways. We have laughed, cried, loved, annoyed and frustrated each other over the years. When I think about all of what I have described above, I finally I have the confidence to say I have experienced several forms of love and am and always have been in love.

What do you give a senior person as a gift.

It seems simple when we, being older people, say we don’t want gifts, we have everything we need. You may have read in a previous blog about my feelings about celebratory days. Therefore you would know I do not rate them as a priority in my life. Having said that I like to be spoiled the same as most people. To feel loved and pampered is so uplifting. It is a motivation to keep living, especially for those who are ill or those whose lives are sad and lonely.

The type of gift is what is important here. In todays world, particularly in our lucky country many of us own our home, have money to buy what we need and as we age we need a lot less. I only speak for myself in this post but I do think that if you give the following it will be appreciated.

Time is what we want, whether it be time spent with those who makes us happy or time spent doing the activities or the hobbies we enjoy. Time to be heard and time to reminisce. What we need is to feel respected and loved. By this I personally mean we like to think we are of value and our experiences and insights gained over the years have not been wasted.

I am sure a lot of us remember back when we were teenagers or young adults and thought of our parents as old, unwise, out of touch and intolerant. I can recall these feelings on some occassions.

I am now old enough to realise how thoughtless and even cruel that was. I did not value the time I had with the people who knew the most about me. I did not respect the experiences and the knowledge they gained through the multitude of changes they went through over there existence. I had not experienced the hardships of war and the depression. I had not lived through several pandemics I had not experienced death and destruction. I often think about the confusion of migration and the introduction of new cultures and traditions. In addition to this I wish I knew more about their lives as children, what toys they had, what they did with their friends. We will never ever really know what the world was like before we entered it, if we rely only on books or google to enlighten us. Talking to an older person will give you so much more colour, depth and yes maybe a little license will be taken with the story but it will be worth it. Life was so different in generations before us. It has only been in recent times that I have taken the time to think about this. What I do know is I now regret by own lack of insight.

Next time you are thinking what can I give grandma or the elderly neighbour or anyone for that matter, buy the chocolates, the flowers or the new appliance they may need but pair that offer with a visit, a phone call or an invite for coffee. The exchange will be more than worth it for you and I assure you the person receiving will value that time above everything else.

Lightening Ridge, Opal Mining

A week away with friends at Grawin

We are spending this extended long weekend with some of our friends from the astronomical crowd. We have all journeyed to Northern NSW to visit Frances and Brett who own mines at Grawin, west of Lightening Ridge. On the way is certainly interesting landscape. Lengthy flat roads , bright yellow canola fields ,the wide expanses of farmlands splattered by trees and red clay areas. Hills in the distances and quaint country towns to break the silence and stop for coffee or lunch. It is somewhat sad but thought provoking to see the uninhabited homesteads left to ruin. So many stories left to our imagination. The once vibrant shops now empty and forlorn. We are pleasantly surprised that the grounds show signs of recent rain and green pastures increasing. Lands that were surely brown a few months back. 

Friday night we all arrived at the Opal caravan park. we had booked a small cabin on line and were really happy to see it was in very good condition, clean and comfortable. With some friends already there our first night started with wine and cheese moved onto a makeshift barbecue dinner with whatever we had to contribute and lots of catch up conversation. We all chatted about the varying routes we took to get here and relaxed under the perfect serene country dark sky. A good clear night sky is always a priority for this group.

The following morning we headed to Grawin Opal fields to experience life as an opal miner. Certainly a new experience for us. The drive there is pleasant with a few homesteads dotting the countryside, some native flora and fauna along the way. The small quaint town of Cumborah with a population of roughly 500 indicates we are close to our destination. Driving a little further on bitumen we get to a dirt road to our left. Our first amusement came with the sign for the golf course. Advising us to be wary of flying golf balls.There were no green pastures, no buggies or men in golf shirts. We had trees, bushes, dirt and rickety signs depicting which hole you were on. We thought it was a bit of humour but in fact it is an active used golf course. Next we were to find our meeting place.There are no streets to speak of in Grawin and no Macca’s for direction so our friends told us to meet at the local, the Club in the Scrub, and they would direct us from there. I will fill you in on this unique abode when we come back for lunch.

Once everyone had arrived and we had used the pubs facilities we got back in our vehicles to follow our hosts. They were wise with this decision as we would never have found their dwelling. The first thing that strikes you as unexpected is the multitude of inhabitants scattered all over the area in makeshift dwellings, partially built homes, sheds and wrought iron buildings. We are surrounded with much corrugated iron, rock mounds, trucks, rusted out cars and abandoned mine shafts. We arrive at their humble home for a cold drink and some nibbles. Outside their home is no different to the others, it is iron and wood and whatever else is available. Inside we are greeted with a very cool, quirky comfortable kitchen with a mixture of old and new. A beautiful old ceramic /iron stove complete with cast iron pots and special iron heat fans for warming the air on the cold winter nights, Separate comfortable bedroom and a work in progress shower recess. Living room with flat screen, wifi and a working Hot tub in progress. All the comfort you need after a hard day down the mines or noodling for those elusive opals in the hot day sun. Brett has built a very unique astronomical observatory on the top of one of those rock piles. He is a miner but also an astronomer and the clear black skies and the absence of suburban street lights allows him the luxury of doing what he loves after a day of hard labour. Frances then takes us outdoors to explain and to try our hand at noodling. This is the process of searching, selecting and washing the rocks with the express hope of finding glittering colour amongst the white mounds we are surrounded by. You are hooked immediately. It is fun, scrounging through buckets of rocks looking for those shiny sparkles which catch your eye, then rinsing them off to see what you have discovered. A very mindful exercise which takes you away from the continued jumbled thoughts which tend to crowd our heads daily. The quiet achiever comes to the surface as you strive to be the one who makes the discovery. Is this my lucky day! They provided us with little jars so we could take home our findings. I have put my in a cupboard of treasures and each time I notice it, I am reminded of this trip.

It is time for lunch so we head back to the starting point for a mean hamburger and a cool drink. The club is a work of art with gregarious structures and subtle sprinkles of outback humour. Numerous historical photographs and stories scattered throughout. It is worn, it is old and the walls reek of stories of the past. Outside there is a pleasant beer garden, and further afar a large cactus garden to wander through. Your imagination goes to the miners after sweltering in the days heat or isolated in the depths of the mines eagerly joining their friends for a cold beer and a hearty laugh to bring them back to normality. A couple of handwritten signs on the trees leaving the car park of the club caught my attention as I felt they depicted the true blue Aussie spirit.

After relaxing in the beer lounge we headed to see our friends underground mine. Major decision time now, who will go down the mine shaft into the deep dark depths of the earth. This is not an organised tour when you know all is safe and its all been commercialised for your enjoyment. It is a hole in the ground with a ladder and darkness beyond. Having said this we all trusted Brett explicitly and knew he would not take us down unless it was safe. We get to see down the shaft to decide if we are to venture further. Of the 11 of us only 3 were brave or keen enough to descend the ladder into the deep pit of the unknown. We watched the hard hats of the brave disappear and wandered off to explore a little, finally retreating to a shaded area to wait their demise. No dramas here everyone returned safely with awe in their eyes. A great experience gained from their braveness. A little regret from others that they had not taken the plunge.A guided tour by our hosts took us for a visit to the war museum which had much memorabilia of the war years, surrounded by pleasant natural landscape and a large memorial site. We then saw the huge nobbies (soft greyish claystone often referred to as opal dirt) another 2 pub visits at which one I eagerly downed on the the few glasses of Beer I have had in my life due to the intensity of the dry heat surrounding us. After experiencing the entire area of the opal fields we returned back to collect our cars and head back to Lightening Ridge. We finished the night with another light makeshift dinner and plenty of beer and wine and very tired but cheerful conversation. 

Visiting the mine was the purpose and the highlight of our trip, however Lightening Ridge and the surrounding areas have a lot more to offer. There are self drive tours or walks aptly named the Car Door Tours. Each one is clearly highlighted with an old car door resting on a tree, painted in a specific colour showing you the direction to go. They all have their own unique specialties worth seeing. The town itself is full of miscellaneous shops displaying and selling a huge range of differing artifacts and many beautiful Opals. The John Murray Art Gallery is worth a visit with many stunning prints to help lighten your wallet. We were lucky to dine in a lovely local restaurant called Piccolo’s, where the food, wine and service was fantastic and reasonably overpriced. I would highly recommend it and would suggest you book early. There is also an RSL and other cafes and restaurants. On the Sunday there was market selling opals mined by locals and turned into stunning pieces for the keen eye. We are not people who spend on souvenirs when we travel. We will often buy one thing of value if we really like what we see. We both like opals and therefore checked out the markets just in case. Needless to say with the guided hand of our hosts who told us what to look for and who to buy from a couple of us are now proud owners of some stunning jewellery. Last but certainly not least is the Artesian Bore Baths. We were able to sample this on our 3rd night if I remember correctly. We did not venture down the very short walk until late in the evening. Around 10 we arrived and it was quite busy. A long line saw us sobering up while we patiently waited our turn. It was during the early stage of covid restrictions and only so many people allowed in at a time. Around the time we were discussing whether to go back and try another time a whisper came down the ranks that all would be good at 11pm. This was when those managing the restrictions clocked off and went home. No more restrictions, we were now happy. The water was absolutely beautiful, hot and yet refreshing. It was clean with fresh showers available once one decided the body was sufficiently pruned enough to alight. With our bodies now soothed and our heads a little clearer we slowly walked back to our cabins and heavily crashed into blissful sleep for the night.

On our last day a few of us returned to Grawin for an impromtu barbecue with our friends. An event was planned which we felt we could not miss. A new hole was being escavated, not for another opal mine but for something much more important. A huge, deep hole to house the sleeve for the exciting new outdoor toilet. One has to appreciate the difficulties incurred for this to happen. A simple facility we all take for granted in the modern world. Brett and Frances were ecstatic with the nearing possibility of having a decent, functioning dunny close to the homestead. We all look forward to our next trip to Northern NSW to try out this life changing facility. Hope you enjoyed this journey and welcome your comments below.

What is a successful life

Is there a difference between achievement and success

Ken and I have just had a discussion about the privilege of being able to sit out in our own garden with a bottle of wine warming ourselves in front of a pit fire chatting about anything and everything.The discussion turned to being proud of what we have achieved in life. Nothing like wine for a bit of self praise. Ken is a pretty humble guy so I found myself having to convince him that we have achieved a lot. I sat there listing what I believe are his achievements and he minimising each thing as normal and ordinary. He then proudly points out my achievements and I, maybe less than him, I write them off as ordinary.

What i want to discuss is what I believe is success. Bare with me here as this ramble is a bit self indulgent. Recently in a zoom discussion a group of friends were doing questions and answers. The question – What does success mean to you? Most answered happiness or financial security, a good career. I value those things and I do relate them to success. I had not really thought about the question beforehand and when I answered off the cuff I had to later query myself. My answer was, “Getting to this age and still being alive” Am I answering the same question or am I talking about my achievements? Is there a difference?

The dictionary definition of success is ” the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” an example of this may be,

A person has just walked to the end of the street with the specific purpose of getting to the end — success.

The dictionary definition of achievement is ” a thing done successfully with effort, skill or courage” the same example with a slight difference.

A person with only one leg has just walked to the end of the street with the specific goal of getting to the end—achievement

If we take these words literally we could be quietly destroying our confidence. We all have an aim or a purpose for each day of our life. We wake each day with a to do list and at the end of the day the tasks are not all completed. do we render ourselves as failures or do we consider ourselves successful with what we did finish.A negative person will head toward failure but a positive person will be successful. My belief is we are all successful in the fact that we are still functioning at the end of every single day. Life can be hard with many hurdles to jump. Every time we get to the other side of those obstacles we have achieved.

The reason we think we are not successful or feel we have not achieved comes from the reality that these words are often used to describe status. When we think of status we immediately relate to financial security, financial freedom, power or position, recognition and validity.

Many years ago I remember a day when I felt l had not achieved or been successful very much in my life. That day was a negative one and I decided after that to think a little more about what exactly was success. I thought about what was important to me as opposed to what everyone around me thought. I remember back to my mother and her last years. Unfortunately she had a difficult life and was still renting and struggling financially right up until her death. She was also ill and in pain so her last years were not happy. I remember thinking then that I did not want to be reliant on the government and I did not want to have the insecurity of not having a roof over my head so this thought process was my motivation to try to achieve some financial security.I feel an element of success because there was a purpose for getting to that position. It is however something that I have achieved but do not think about it as an achievement. I think about getting my accountants degree under quite difficult circumstances so I do count that as an achievement as it took courage and a whole lot of effort to obtain it. I am valued by my present employer and I count that as an achievement because I have learnt the skills to be good at what I do.

My husband worked for over 25years with a very large company with thousands of employees. When the company finally closed its doors he was the last person left to finalise everything. He was not the CEO or the financial guru, he was the warehouse manager and he was a dedicated, hard working, loyal employee who they trusted. Ken has been an amateur astronomer since he was a boy. He is well respected by his peers. He has co-authored two books on astronomy and co-authored and published other astronomy magazines. One annual publication has been produced 31 years running and is highly regarded in the industry.

Together we ran a successful small business for 18 years with loyal staff who are still our friends. Our customers openly praised our business and again some are still our friends. We did not become outrageously rich from this but certainly helped to gain some financial security in our old age.

Ken and I have been married for 52 years and we are happy with our lives. He has been my whole life since I was 16yrs old. He is my mentor, my security and my only love. We own our own home and we have travelled both local and overseas. Our achievement here is that we are still together we are still respectful of each other and we are still happy. We have 2 daughters who are still talking to us and hopefully will be active in our lives until the end. We are enjoying our retirement. We are not rich in money or famous, neither are we distinguished or decorated.

We are however very rich in life. I call this an ongoing successful existence with many achievements.

Have you thought about this question and what do you think is important?