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Being playful keeps you young, over 50 or over 80

Sometimes it smashes on my head like a water balloon

Hello folks, thanks for dropping by.

Today, as I crossed the street in my small Australian regional town, I passed a handsome hairy wolfhound crossing the other way.

“What a great-looking dog; Mum would have loved to stop and say hello to him,” I thought.

And there it came: the burst of sadness upon me, running through my mind and body like cold water from a balloon.

I didn’t cry, or even sniff. I kept walking to the supermarket and health food store, but trailing my dripping heart behind me, just for a moment.

She’s been gone one year, two months. And I’m relieved she’s free of dementia, as I’ve said many times, as well as all the painful memories and stresses which came between us as I grew up.

But sometimes, I wish I could call her. I’d love to tell her about the wonderful film I just saw, ‘Good luck to you Leo Grande’ with Emma Thompson (you MUST see it if you haven’t already). Or the delicious fancy meal my son ’22’ and I recently shared, which she’d have oohed and aahed over.

I’d love to tell her that the native shrub I planted for her when she died, is flowering now, in her favourite vivid colour.

I’d love her to know how well we’re doing, despite losing her, and that she’s lucky she’s not here any more, to be devastated by the war in Ukraine, and the terrible floods in Pakistan.

*sigh

Sometimes the cold flood of loss and grief washes over me, just like a water bomb reaching its target, then it passes.

Does anything like that ever happen to you?

In gratitude for resilience in the face of loss, however big, however small- it all hurts the soul- G xO

Yet more photos from the Australian desert during a silent bushwalking adventure (Part Three)

Hello Folks, thanks for dropping by.

I’m trying to upload more photos from my Meditation walk, but the dumb smartphone is not complying. How I wish I was back in the desert, just walking (Part One and Part Two are here).

I miss the circle of power as we meditate together, which makes my brain buzz. I miss the break from no admin, no work, no housecleaning, no driving, no cooking!

I miss the incredible gift of walking among Red Cabbage palms who only grow here, in a narrow gorge, with scientists still wondering how they arrived and thrive.

I miss the simplicity of only having two outfits: walking clothes, and back-at-camp-&-sleeping clothes. Keeping warm, then safe from sunburn, then warm again saw a juggle of hats/beanies/scarves & sarongs (even though it was ‘winter’ in the desert, the sun is still strong).

Fashion sense did not apply.

It was such a relief to be silent. To walk and eat in silence; to pack up and down in silence; to spend time with new humans in challenging circumstances like a 25km hike, yet not chattering, or knowing what they do for a job, or how many kids they have.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bonesilverrivertree.jpg

To spend time with the desert country was a huge privilege, and we introduced ourselves to each new campsite, thanking the ancestors for having us, letting them know that we came in peace and healing.

When did you last have a nature walk? Have you ever walked in silence with a friend? I so recommend it.

More photos coming soon, when I can get my phone to cooperate…

In gratitude for boots, backpacks, and quiet buddies, G xO

More photos from the Australian desert during a silent bushwalking adventure, with brumbies & a camel (Part Two)

Hello folks, and welcome to Part Two of my Yatra photo blog; Part One is here.

Remember, a Yatra is a silent, meditative walk, a journey from the quiet heart…

Except when it’s not. Wild brumbies galloped down the rocky river bed one night, making me fear for my tent and belongings. A sick-sounding camel moaned its way along the river bank, and the nightly howl of dingoes (both far and near) reminded me that we were out in the Australian desert, a long way from safety and suburbia! Not to mention the sometimes-very-annoying habits of my fellow travellers, particularly snoring. But that’s in another post 🙂

From the big to the small, I loved it. The chance to walk, think, rest, meditate, walk, swim (SO COLD), eat vegetarian food, and walk more, with like-minded folks of all types and ages, was such a blessing.

I did one a year ago HERE, and really hope I get to do another next year, and every year after that…

Yatra Australia pick different places to explore (this one in the Finke River of Central Australia took them 5 years to establish, from the initial idea, to the mapping of the walk, to the logistics of hiring buses/cars/a trailer etc), and I’d love to do one in Tasmania.

They’re smart too: planned this one for the full moon, so we were treated to a silvered landscape at night (which offered a small compensation for the agony of getting out of a warm sleeping bag into a below zero world for that final toilet call).

Come back next time for more stunning images, including my fav shot of the whole trip, with both the full moon and dawn’s rays lighting up the red cliff…

In gratitude for walking, and wild places still being wild, G xO

Photos from the Australian desert during a silent bushwalking adventure, with a vegetarian cook & dingoes (Part One)

Hello folks, I’m back from the yatra, as calm and settled as can be nowadays. “What’s a yatra”, some of you wonder? This explains it, from the Yatra Australia website:

A yatra is a unique journey providing a special environment to engage with and enquire deeply into the potential of ‘human awakening.’ In the company of like-minded people, it takes place within some of the most pristine landscapes of our natural world.

A yatra offers an integrative experience, combining physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual explorations in a secular environment. Being primarily based in the Buddhist tradition we also respect and draw from the wealth of many other wisdom traditions such as yoga, advaita, tao, modern science and tribal cultures.

A flexible combination of yoga, meditation, silent walking, dharma teachings, experiential exercises, story telling around the camp- fire, wholesome meals and our intuitive way of ceremony and creative expression support an unfolding process.

Got it? Let’s get on with it then. So we flew to Alice Springs, got the 4WD bus out towards Palm Valley (2 hours on sandy corrugated roads), and set up camp for the first three days.

Who’s ‘we’? Thirty intrepid walkers, with full camping gear each for 10 days, plus a daypack for the daily hikes. There were also 2 Buddhist teachers, a vegetarian cook called TeaCosy, 3 volunteer assistants to help with pack up/pack down, and a partridge in a pear gum tree.

Desert temperatures in Australian winter are 20’C in the day (68F), but zero sometimes at night, hence puffer jackets, beanies, gloves and scarves.

I’ve done a yatra before, last year, so knew what to expect, but still… that first morning bell at 6.30am with frost on the tent fly was hard to obey!

Cup of tea (no coffee allowed), then stumble to the meditation circle, clutching a blanket, as bundled up as you can be, ready to sit from 6.45-7.30. Porridge for brekky, then make lunch box of salads with egg and falafels, before either another meditation, or the start of a walk.

And why did I take so many photos of that ring? See you soon for Part Two…

In gratitude for good boots and the privilege of meditation, G xO

From Brooklyn to the Bush: going out to the Australian desert for some silence

Hello folks- do any of you recall my Yatra last year, meditating and walking the South Coast national park after the terrible bushfires, with a group of mainly over 50s? It was stunning, and even made me delete the Candy Crush app, check the post HERE for details.

Well, I’m going again. But this time, to Alice Springs in central Australia, hiking along the Finke River:

“The Finke River, or Larapinta (Arrernte), is a river in central Australia, one of four main rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin and thought to be the oldest riverbed in the world. It flows for only a few days a year and when this happens, its water usually disappears into the sands of the Simpson Desert, rarely if ever reaching Lake Eyre.” (Wikipedia)

I’m very excited, as you can see from this freshly-snapped selfie as I type!

And my living room is a mess, as I air all my thermals and sleeping bag, trying to pack minimally yet effectively. Last-minute washing needs to dry, and I can’t decide whether to take poles or not… So for once, I’m not nagging my son ’22’ to tidy up, and he’s just rolling his eyes playfully at me, happy at my glee.

As I explained during the previous Yatra post last year, my favourite aspect of this adventure is NOT having to carry my big backpack as we walk, plus vegetarian food catering, although everything else is basic and a bit tough of course- like minus 3 degrees last night apparently!

We will have no mobile reception for 10 days out there , so I promise I will share many photos on my return. I’m so lucky to be going from the bright jungle of New York to the red dust and depth of central Australia, via the soft green forests of my home, so please stay safe & well in my absence, and I’ll be back here for a cuppa and a chat soon… hopefully without too many blisters.

In gratitude for hiking boots and the fitness to use them, G xO

Farewell New York, you were great, thank you

It’s been an action-packed three weeks, and now I’m so ready for home in Australia.

I’ve ticked off every item on my ‘Must Do/See’ list, including: Central Park, the Met/Whitney/Guggenheim/New Museum/Brooklyn Museum, Coney Island, ferry past Statue of Liberty, Manhattan walks, Brooklyn Bridge, Red Hook, Roosevelt Island, and 10-15kms/day of street strolling. I also got to walk & talk all through the Botanic Gardens with fellow blogger LA, which was an unexpected treat.

I’ve discovered the joys of Van Leuwen’s vegan ice cream, plus the widely-available bakeries & Mexican food all through Brooklyn, & of course Key Lime Pie.

My brother’s wedding was wonderful- I got to walk him down the aisle- and my speech went down well too (phew).

The last week has just been relaxing at his apartment, getting to know he & his lovely wife (they have been together for 10 years but she & I have only met once before for 24hrs in a barn in France); I am SO LUCKY & grateful to have spent this time together after so much separation and loss.

Now, two long flights await me: 12hrs then 14. *grimaces. I already feel like I’m transitioning out of here, & I am so ready for Home Sweet Home.

In celebration of these amazing 3 weeks, I got my nails done (which I never do!), so I’m tapping out this post on my smartphone, admiring the little apples…

With a full heart, & infinite gratitude for this special time, much love to all, G xO

No more travel quarantine in Australia, so now I’m in New York

Yes, you read that right Folks. After 2 years not going anywhere or doing much at all, I have impulsively flown to the Big Apple for 3 weeks!

I have a great motivation too: after postponing twice due to Covid of course, my dear brother is getting married in Manhattan.

In 2020, I was taking my son as well- I had a suit made to measure- it was very exciting… and then Covid/lockdowns/quarantines etc- literally no planes flying out of Australia.

After a little tantrum, I surrendered. And have been carving spoons, gardening, & pottering around in the rainforest.

But right now, I’m in New York New York. Brooklyn for a week, Manhattan for 5 days near the wedding venues, then back to Brooklyn.

I AM HAVING THE BEST TIME!

Walking, walking, walking. People watching. Eating. Listening. Smelling. More walking. Yesterday I stepped out 13.3kms, and today was 14 as I crossed back and forth over the Brooklyn Bridge.

I’ve never made a blog post on my phone, tapping away in my cute Airbnb, so I don’t know if I can insert photos…

High line

Ooh yes, it worked ✔️

Who’s been to New York? Who has suggestions?

I’m a very happy G, so grateful for my privilege, & family events like weddings, after a long time apart & quite a bit of loss.

Bring on the Joy. Love to all, G xO

There are simply no words for me in these times

Greetings from the Australian rainforest, where birds sing soggy songs after so much rain.

The sun is elbowing clouds aside as best it can, and I am grateful to see the small holes of blue coming and going.

Today is my dear dead Dad’s birthday, and I’m staying quietly at home. Normally, as my honouring ritual, I oil his antique French furniture; this year, there’s too much mould trying to get a grip, so I’m refusing to feed the spores with expensive linseed and orange blossom.

Today is also the monthly Women’s Dharma Day meditation meeting, and I needed it so much. More than I knew.

As I wrote last time, I’ve been volunteering daily with Resilient Lismore, a Facebook group formed to help my nearby beloved Lismore (and surrounds) deal with flood recovery. It started in 2017, as a response to the Cyclone Debbie flood, with 3000 members. Now we’ve had 2 catastrophic floods a month apart, including landslides and massive devastation, so subsequently have almost 30,000 members.

I’m one of the team of ‘Moderators’, monitoring page comments/posts/requests for help/offers of help. It’s a mammoth task, but feels incredibly worthwhile, and suited to my skillsets.

Plus I’m good at it.

But there is a never-ending river of stories of loss, struggle, confusion, anger, kindness, grief, and utter devastation.

People have literally lost everything.

I may not be sweating it out in overalls and gumboots, hosing mud from houses, or throwing entire lives onto piles of wet, ruined, mouldy belongings, but I feel like I am in the trenches with the Lismore folk nevertheless.

But sometimes I don’t sign up for a daily shift; I stare into space from my verandah, or slowly pick small weeds close to the house, throwing them into a tin bucket.

Sometimes I visit one of many flood-traumatized friends, and help with driving salvaged belongings down ghostly streets full of abandoned damaged houses, listening to them debrief their struggle over and over again.

Sometimes I plant seedlings in my still-soggy veggie garden, reminding the spinach and parsley that the sun IS coming again, and that we NEED their healthy greenery in our food.

Today, I needed my meditation group. I’d seen our teacher, Carol, volunteering at the iconic “Trees Not Bombs” café in central Lismore, which serves free food all day every day to hungry flood survivors. I asked her to teach about ‘resilience’, and the pressure that concept can create on us to be ‘strong’, to be ‘coping’, and to be ‘bouncing back better than ever’.

She called her teaching ‘There are no words’, and it was PERFECT.

When something so vast, so destructive, so incomprehensible happens, we literally have no vocabulary for it,” she said.

I could be referring now to the nightmare in Ukraine, to the war crimes being committed? Or to the killing floods in South Africa? I can be talking about climate change, or a global pandemic, or the double flood in my local town from which I don’t know if we will ever recover.

It’s all TOO MUCH.

And Carol just told us to sit with it with no words.

She was so right: I burst into tears. And felt deep relief that it was OK I’d been struggling so hard to not be OK; that it was understandable I couldn’t find words for my blog, or at a dinner with friends when I sat in silence.

She counselled us to truly BE in our hopeless grief/confusion/loss, and let others BE in theirs. This will bring a soft empathetic way of being with Self and Others, creating an intimacy with our shared humanity, and thus compassion.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Thank you.

So here I am: finding words, but not many. Sharing my sadness, and feeling yours. Despairing at the next global loss, and resting so I am ready for it.

Trying times indeed, everywhere.

And I am free to have no words for it, which is sweet relief.

Love to you all, G xOOO

COVID-19 got me, then a catastrophic flood: valid excuses for not blogging?

Hi everyone, long time no see. Sorry I’ve been ‘missing in WordPress action’, it’s been a terrible 6 weeks here in Australia.

On a personal level, I finally caught Covid, despite being super cautious for 2 years! It was bound to happen: my darling son Nearly22 brought it unknowingly into the home, despite 3 negative RATs & a negative PCR… *sigh

I hoped I may be fine (we were only together for a few hours, but one of them was in the car), plus returned 2 negative RATs & a negative PCR, then on Day 6 since my exposure, I was hit by a sledgehammer of chills/aches/red eyes/nausea/fatigue/dizziness/brain fog.

It was horrible.

I was one of the last people I know to get it, so luckily I had regular soothing phone calls about what to expect, what to take, & what may happen next.

I literally spent 10 days in my pyjamas, dragging myself from bed to kitchen to couch to bed. Dosing myself every 1-2 hours, as well as eucalyptus steam baths, became almost a full time job.

By Day 12 since testing positive, I could feel a shift in my energy… and then I got a negative RAT again. Woohoo! Never have I felt so glad to know something foreign was out of my body.

Exhaustion lingered though. Brain fog would curl in from the edges of my mind, until all I could do was lie down immediately and rest. Other friends (whether vaxxed or not) had that experience too, which was somehow reassuring.

I spent a week at about 70% of my normal energy, then the flood catastrophe hit, in the early hours of Monday 28 Feb.

It had been raining for days- constant drizzles and downpours, making everything soggy and the creeks brown and swollen.

Then this ‘Rain Bomb’ arrived on the East Coast of Australia, and just sat there, unleashing.

Floods were predicted, but height levels kept increasing… until finally mass destruction brought landslides, roads washed away, houses waist deep or neck deep in water… scenes of devastation everywhere.

Have you ever been in a flood? Look around you now, where you sit reading this blog: imagine dirty smelly water rising up fast over every single thing you own, until you’re standing on a kitchen bench trying to break into your roof cavity so that you can get away from it.

Oh and in the dark too, at 3am, because the power’s gone.

There are so many vivid experiences like that where I live; I’m sure you’ve seen images on the news.

My dearest friends thought they were going to drown- they were rescued by the SES (emergency services) out of their 2nd storey front room window, and had to duck under the electricity lines as they were boated to safety.

That’s how high the water was.

It’s inconceivable.

And now is the massive clean up, by traumatised people, forced to stay in an evacuation centre, while others with safe dry houses up the hill have entire households (& pets) staying in any spare rooms.

It is catastrophic.

[Search for more images & video at Lismore 2022 flood]

I live 30 minutes away, and I am safe. But I have loved Lismore and her creative, quirky, queer, friendly population since I moved there in 1997; it breaks my heart to see the loss and devastation.

But this is the reality of climate change. It’s been predicted by science for years: “more severe weather events, more often.”

I’ve been volunteering at the Evacuation Centre, helping friends clean out houses (such sticky, smelly mud- made my Covid cough worse for sure), and completely forgetting my WordPress world.

Sorry.

I’m exhausted now, three weeks since the flood. And I’ve lost nothing, while so many have lost everything. Whole lives and homes thrown onto the street, becoming piles of rotting garbage.

It’s hard to feel positive in times like these.

Sorry again.

It has felt good to tell a little of my recent story though, and reach out.

In gratitude for community, G xO

Why is Boris still there- doesn’t honour/honor matter anymore?

I emigrated from England to Australia in 1986, desperate to escape the destruction of the Thatcher years; I still see the dark seeds of her reign flowering.

But Boris is a whole new level of distress.

WHY IS HE STILL PRIME MINISTER?

How can he have hosted social events in his home while the whole country was in lockdown?? My Mum was shut in her room in her nursing home; her sister couldn’t even visit, and when they were finally allowed to connect, it was via a closed bay window looking onto the carpark where my Aunt stood, speaking on the phone, although they could see each other.

Boris Johnson’s birthday party is among 12 events being investigated by police, according to an initial report on 16 gatherings by Sue Gray (it’s called ‘PartyGate’).

There are allegations of garden parties, DJs, and suitcases full of alcohol. A culture of ‘excessive drinking’ has been highlighted.

This is the Prime Minister: why is he still in charge? How can he just REFUSE to step down?

Come on English folks: TIME FOR DIRECT ACTION! Time to get up and riot. You had the strictest peacetime restrictions imposed by this cruel clown of a leader, who partied with his cabinet while 150,000 of you died lonely Covid deaths.

Weddings were cancelled, and you weren’t allowed to hug each other at funerals, while Boris was LYING TO YOUR FACES about his behaviour.

It’s an emotionally-abusive relationship; he’s gaslighting you; he’s a cheating, selfish, heartless arsehole: DUMP HIM.

You so deserve better.

Quite frankly, we ALL do.

Our own arsehole Prime Minister let us burn in bushfires while he went off to holiday in Hawaii, gave us the vaccine ‘Strollout’, and now has us scrabbling for PPE gear for nursing homes while Rapid Antigen Tests are few and far between…

What’s happened to Honour?

What’s happened to Integrity?

What’s happened to Empathy and Courage?

Why are we being led by such dickheads? Why are we voting them in, and letting them stay there?

I shake my head and shake my fist at the state of the world and its terrible leaders, at a time when we need good ones more than ever.

How about you? How do you deal with the lack of honour (or ‘honor’ for the Americans) all around us?

I need to take my cranky face out for a walk, then destroy some garden weeds: that’s one of my strategies…

In gratitude for being able to vent in a safe place, & gardening, G xO