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I am the Keeper of Stories now Mum’s gone

As I let the bath water cool around me last night, I remembered being 10 or 11, paddling in the chilly English sea. Forty-five years have passed, yet I can still recall the sand sinking beneath my toes, and the seaweed slithering against my pale legs. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore; it had been fun briefly, in the novelty of visiting the beach for the first time, but I was cold, and wanted to get out.

I was only knee-deep in water, and Mum had taken my younger brother back to the warm dry sand, telling me to follow when ready.

But I was trapped! Writhing and heaving between me and my family was a two metre-thick band of brown kelp, some strands as thick as my skinny legs, freezing me in fear.

What lurked beneath?

My vivid yet anxious imagination created snakes, grabbing hands, various sea monsters, and perhaps a pirate’s dead body or two for good measure.

I couldn’t even wave to Mum, who was fussing with my brother and had her back to me.

I looked up and down the water’s edge for a gap in the terrible mass, but it pulsed with the gentle waves as far as I could see, as though it were breathing.

Around me, children and their parents splashed out beyond the seaweed, laughing and playing in the sun diamonds they made. I just hugged myself, staring in misery at the barrier before me, absolutely unable to beat my fear.

Hours went by. Or was it minutes? It seemed like half the day, with me trapped so near yet so far from where I wanted to be: happy on the sand, cajoling for ice-cream.

I could see Mum and my brother sitting on our striped towels– he was pushing sand around with his annoying dumper truck, and she was reading as usual, glancing up every now and again to check I was OK with a cheery wave.

I sent desperate telepathic messages:

“I am NOT having a good time. I am NOT OK. Please rescue me at once. I am freezing, and in danger of death by seaweed misadventure.”

Nothing.

I hugged myself tighter, and looked again for a gap in the morass of salty eels.

Was it thinner over there? Could I see glimpses of sand between the grasping hands and thick snakes?

Over and over I tried to make myself walk through the seaweed, but I just couldn’t move. I could see Mum starting to pack up, waving at me to come in.

“My feet have sunk too deep to move. I am desperate to be saved. Please come and pick me up.”

Again nothing.

I could see Mum frowning, puzzled at my reluctance, and I just wanted her hug so much. I burst into tears, took a deep breath, and hopped/ran/scrambled my way through the dreaded kelp, almost like a cartoon character who spins her legs in one spot before actually moving forward.

It felt like the scariest and bravest thing I’d ever done, by myself, and Mum laughed in a sad way when I gasped out my tale of woe. She hugged me tight when she understood I hadn’t been enjoying the paddling around as she had thought, and I relaxed against her salty warm body.

We joked about it later, eating vanilla ice cream from a waffle cone, stuffed with a chocolate flake, and somehow I became proud of my determination to beat the threatening seaweed.

As I lay in the bath tonight, almost three months since Mum died of dementia aged 85, I realized that no one else knows that story, or really cares. I could tell my son, but he’s 21- full of life and its boundless, confident energy- he wouldn’t understand. He’s a surfer- the ocean and its weedy creatures are his friends.

I am the sole Keeper of that Story now, and so, SO many more…

I miss you Mum.

In gratitude for days by the beach, and salty hugs, G xO

And now for something completely different: my Top Five Tips for trapping a feral cat

It started innocently enough: I borrowed two 24-hr wildlife cameras, and set them up on my 2-acre rainforest retreat on the East coast of Australia.

Can you imagine my horror when amongst the cute snaps of pademelons, the lace monitor, wallaby mums with joeys in the pouch, and yes, a hurrying koala, I saw a big tabby cat?

A koala scurrying home at 2am

I was shocked to say the least. Then the other camera revealed a second fat brindle cat, and even a fox!

My image of our property as a wildlife sanctuary crumbled.

Feral cats cover 99% of Australia, and are the Number One threat to our native wildlife (foxes are 2nd).

“On average, each feral cat in the bush kills a whopping 740 animals per year.  In a year with average conditions there are about 2.8 million feral cats, but that figure can double when good rain leads to an abundance of prey animals.

“On average each pet cat kills about 75 animals per year, but many of these kills are never witnessed by their owners.” Professor Sarah Legge from The Australian National University (ANU), Professor John Woinarski from Charles Darwin University, & Professor Chris Dickman from The University of Sydney: Cats in Australia: Companion and killer (2019).

I moved the cameras into different positions; daily checking of the footage gave me anxiety, as I realised both cats were regular visitors, and even walked up and down my verandah. Then a friend arriving for dinner one weekend announced she’d seen a third black cat at the top of my driveway- I nearly cried.

Cuddling with the cat while I contemplate new queer romance over 50 in
#advice #blogging @boneAndsilver

In outrage and despair, I rang my local Landcare group, and reached out to other community members who had cat trapping experience and advice. I borrowed a big cage, and the local trapper brought me another four: thus began my trapping mission.

(Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE domestic cats. Most of you know I’ve lived with the YetiCat for over 10 years. But he’s an inside cat, and that makes a HUGE difference).

Almost every night for a month, I did the rounds of setting traps, using the cameras to gather intel on what was happening in the dark of night; I caught a few rats, a bush turkey, and the resident echidna.

So annoying.

I had to watch in frustration as the cats sat in cage doorways but didn’t go in, or just ignored them altogether. Worst still was when the door had been triggered shut but they were outside.

The trapper kept saying “Be patient, you’ll get them…”

And he was right.

With persistence, I caught all three cats eventually!

Let me tell you: nothing is more satisfying than seeing a wild cat caught in a cage, knowing you’ve just saved hundreds of birds and small mammals. As I said, I love domestic cats kept indoors, but have hardened my heart to the feral versions, and the final big tomcat hissed and span circles in the trap, clawing madly and spraying everywhere to no avail. The trapper came to take them all away immediately, for the Big Sleep (after checking they weren’t microchipped lost pets).

Here are my Top Five Tips for feral cat-catching (not a blog post I ever thought I’d write):

  1. Use wildlife cameras to make smart decisions about where to place traps, plus who is visiting them and when
  2. Liaise with experienced community members, plus Landcare, and your local trapper
  3. Be persistent: I set my traps with bait every night at 8pm, and the big tom I was really after started appearing at 8.10. I also wore gloves, to prevent too much human smell, and oiled all the traps’ moving parts so the mechanisms were smooth
  4. Make the cage stable, and the floor as solid as possible: I caught all 3 cats in a small trap in the same place at the top of my driveway, using sand and leaves to camouflage the wire cage floor
  5. It’s all about bait: on advice, I used Dine cat food, KFC drumsticks, bloody lamb kidneys, and drops of smelly fish oil. They all worked eventually

Feel free to contact me for any further advice or inspiration, and my family now proudly call me ‘Trapper G’, which is a very unexpected outcome of my move to a hippy forest idyll…

Now for the fox hey?

In gratitude for determination, a small killer instinct, & fish oil, G xO

Six weeks since Mum died: letting go and setting free

Native flowers in her fav colours

No one really wants to organise a funeral celebration. No one wants to go to one. And of course, none of us are ready for it to be our own.

But when it IS my turn, I’m having a Humanist one, which is what I created for Mum’s send off last month.

She wasn’t religious, and the rest of the family certainly isn’t; a church service would be an uncomfortable nightmare for everyone… so I decided a quiet beach in Wales would be perfect.

But I’m in Australia, my brother and children in Norway, various family friends around the UK, Canada, and USA: thank goodness for Zoom!

By luck (or divine intervention?), the first celebrant I emailed to ask if she was free in 3 weeks to conduct an international online ashes scattering ceremony said yes.

As I sat with the reality of needing to organise this farewell, despite my tiredness and grief, I gave thanks for being exposed to ‘unusual’ send offs and life celebrations where I live in Northern NSW, such as same sex marriages before they were legal, living wakes for those not yet dead, and naming ceremonies or baby blessings, which can involve red string, Plaster of Paris, rocks, flowers, rope, fire and water.

I knew I had to choose whatever elements felt ‘right’ to me and the family, and being by the ocean meant we could all feel connected through the water. I was also lent this amazing book, full of ritual ideas for all kinds of life events, including the loss of a pet or announcement of a divorce, so I collated two of its ash-scattering ceremonies into Mum’s. The celebrant I hired was 100% supportive of my choices, which also felt great.

I added a poem and two songs, as well as allocating eulogies and memory-readings between all the participants who would be there in person- I admit my inner theatre director stood up tall and worked hard.

With every day that passed since she died July 9th, I felt more determined to give Mum a great send-off, even though it would be via Zoom. My family in England and Wales really stepped up to the celebration, and travelled from all over to be together. We wore her favourite rich bright colours, and here in Oz I cooked a nourishing soup to keep us going for the day (it was held at 9am in Wales, 8am in Norway, 6pm here, 4am in Canada).

She’d been cremated on my birthday (we had no say in the date they chose, and although I did at first plead to change it, in the end it felt quite synchronistically perfect), and my son, my love and I had gone to the beach for that event, making a small altar with a candle, incense, and the scarf I’d knitted for her two decades ago. It was private and intense; now a month later it was time for public mourning…

The ceremony went so well! Luckily I am confident with Zoom, so I MC’d all the little boxes and their occupants- I made sure we introduced ourselves, and how we knew Mum. In Wales, a laptop set on a newly-purchased tripod with external USB microphone worked perfectly, and 10 people huddled round the screen with as much colourful dignity as possible.

We finished by throwing flowers into the sea after some of her ashes, and it was stunning to feel part of such a meaningful experience- thank goodness my cousin took a photo of it for me:

Then of course the family all went to a posh cafe for morning tea and cake, followed by pub lunch with rosé toasts, Mum’s fav tipple.

It was surreal, sad, funny, emotional, and liberating all at the same time. I’d worked hard, feeling mounting pressure as the time approached, and it was a massive relief that it all went smoothly (not least of all the Wifi coverage on a remote beach)- thank you Universe.

I was exhausted but stayed up till 2.30, crying, looking at old photos, listening to reggae, and SO WISHING I could be with my family at the pub.

That was hard, feeling isolated.

But we did it together. We gave Mum an ultra-modern, COVID-friendly, heart-centred send off, and in the future I will bring more of her ashes here to plant beneath a bright red flowering, bird-attracting native tree.

Be free now Mum: transform and evolve, as we must too without you.

In gratitude for family love, technology, and rituals, G xO

Losing my Mum to dementia at 85: the terribly sad yet sweet relief

The last time I saw her for real in 2018

The 2nd last time I saw her, it was her birthday July 4th, & I video called. She was in a Home in Wales, and I’m here in Australia, where I’ve lived for 35 years.

Mum was kinda asleep, though it was 11am, but muttering to herself. The staff held the phone, and tickled her chin to wake her, but no success.

I kept wishing her Happy Birthday, singing that damn song, but she only stirred and seemed to smile when I teased her for being so old now.

It was a sad experience.

Then 2 days later the Home Manager emailed to ask me to call her.

“I’m sorry to say this over the phone, but I think your Mum is coming to the end of her life- we’ve seen this before- she’s stopped eating and drinking, and won’t open her mouth.”

Oh Mum!

Our adult relationship hadn’t been easy– I was a rebellious teenager, then emigrated to Australia when I was 20, so rarely saw her over the years before Skype and mobile phones.

We were very different in personality, and in our ways of moving through the world… so much of how I am now is actually in opposition to how she was, or how I perceived her to be.

Being playful keeps you young, over 50 or over 80
2018: Grateful for my wise crone Mum #gratitude #wisdom #crone #wellbeing @boneAndsilver

But her politics were fabulous, raising me as a proud green Left feminist, and we loved reggae music, old movies, walks on the moors, and animals, especially cats. My younger brother and I each moved away from Mum though, (he to Norway), and had our children whom she rarely saw, and that was a constant source of sadness for her.

On July 7th my son hugged me hard, and we video called the Home. My cousin and her Mum (Mum’s younger sister) were there, holding the sacred space, waiting…

It was a shock to see her like that, struggling for breath, so old and clearly departing, and all I could do was sob.

But an hour later I composed myself; I called on my meditation habit, my compassion, my Buddhist Dharma practice, and I rang back. My friend H says I brought my ‘selfless presence’ to the fore, and she’s right, thank you.

I really said goodbye. I thanked Mum for all she’d done for me, for the great mothering she’d given, for all the confidence she’d gifted me with despite the lack of her own, and for helping me create such a wonderful life for myself and my son.

I spoke to her in French (she lived there for many years), scraping my best accent from the barrel of memory, and told her over and over to relax, to go to sleep, to let go, and be at peace.

It took another 2 days, but at 1am Saturday July 10th, my cousin called to say she’d passed. She’d been with her, playing reggae and Frank Sinatra as we’d requested, and her sister had just stepped out for a walk- it was 4pm in Wales, July 9th, and a lovely day.

Mum was diagnosed with Dementia in 2016, at 80 (her Mum was too, and lived to be 90 with it). We knew Mum was struggling for a few years before that, and official diagnosis was a relief. But the slow, clawing decline, as memories, speech, and cognition disappeared, was a terrible way to go.

1994- In a musical in France, aged 58.

When I last visited the UK in 2018, I determined to get Mum into a Home in Wales, where she was born, and which she remained fiercely proud of. I knew I was saying a big goodbye, as we sorted some of her papers and clothes, but I didn’t know COVID was going to stop me getting overseas again.

I guess I’ve been mourning her since then, hearing her speech become more of a word salad/gibberish, and hearing of her decline from the staff at the Home.

At the end of April this year, I went on a 9-day organised Yatra, or silent walk. We meditated several times a day, and bushwalked in silence too. We were invited to use a Mantra sometimes when we walked, saying one phrase over and over with intention, and I altered mine to suit Mum:

“May she be Safe, and Free.”

Over and over as we passed through previously-burnt bushland and open heath, along the Southern coastline of Eastern Australia:

“”May she be Safe, and Free.”

And now I very much have the feeling that she is at last.

I’m not going to pretend I believe she’s gone to Heaven, nor that I didn’t wish her to die.

Our relationship was complex, but I can proudly say we reached a kind, caring, and fun place together in the last few years. She was super intelligent and very witty when in a good mood; hugely sentimental and romantic; hopeless in the kitchen yet loved food; passionate about her politics and human/animal rights; adored celebrity gossip and chat shows; was haunted by childhood difficulties and anxieties; made poor choices in both love and real estate; was as loyal to her long-lived Pyrenean Sheep-dog Dylan as he was to her; and was a proud Head Librarian with her own collection of leather-bound first edition books on shelves all round her tiny garden flat.

Wellbeing over 50 often involves caring for elderly parents
Catching the bus to the Mall July 2017 (the hats were unplanned) #motheranddaughter #ageing #dementia #over50

I love you Mum. I’m so glad you’re free at last. I’ve cried and cried, but I’ve also danced, walked, prayed, written, meditated, and talked. I feel massive relief, and immense gratitude that you’ve passed. I’m being so well-supported by my beloved V, by my son, and my friends. The family overseas are doing the best they can from a distance, helping to sort out the cremation, and the Celebration of her life next month.

I am blessed.

Life is a blessing, to be sure, even in its terrible pain and distress.

But dying is also a blessing, whatever you believe happens next, and I wish for us all that we fear not the end, for it is always also a beginning.

In gratitude for being Judi’s daughter, G xO

How a silent walk made me delete the Candy Crush app (Part One)

Admit it: do you have a game on your phone you love unwinding with? Scrabble with friends? Chess? Candy Crush?

A few years ago- I can’t remember why- my son and I both downloaded Candy Crush, and became a little competitive. Of course, he streaked ahead in levels, then quickly bored of it and never played again.

I stoically continued, and got myself slowly but surely up to Level 691.

Then 2 months ago, I had to get a new phone… and somehow, all my apps froze as I transferred the old info, so I found myself back at the beginning of the Candy Crush map again.

What’s all this got to do with a silent walk you wonder?

Well, last month I had the privilege of going on a 9-day Yatra, which is a Buddhist-based bushwalking adventure, filled with daily meditations, talks on Buddhist philosophies and practices, plus walks and meals in ‘noble silence’.

Farewell candy Crush map, I’ll miss you

30 of us (mainly aged over 50) travelled to the South Coast of Sydney, which had been ravaged by bushfires last year- remember those scenes of whole townships huddled on the beach in eerie orange smoke? That’s where we went. The incredible Australian bush is reviving though, with green epicormic growth sprouting everywhere (it means ‘leaves growing from the trunk’, and I’m just showing off ‘cos it’s a new word I’ve learnt).

We hiked along the coastline, through the National Park, camping for 2 nights in each spot- and the best part for me was that our heavy packs with tents were transported for us, so all we had to carry were our day packs with water and lunch!

So civilised.

We were woken at 6.30 with a bell, then meditated from 7-7.45. Brekky was porridge with multiple toppings, then either more meditating before the day’s walk, or packing up camp before we set off.

So good.

The walks varied from 10-20kms/day, and were always in silence.

So why am I posting pictures of a phone app, not glorious wild scenery?

Because I realised how often I tuned out of my surroundings at home, sitting on the couch or verandah, yet miles away from reality on Facebook or sometimes Candy Crush.

I don’t think I have a serious phone addiction at all, yet still it tugs me away from the Here and Now, every single day.

So I decided to REALLY try and curb my mindless use of it, which meant “See Ya Later CC”.

And I regret nothing. Which is the most important thing.

Six weeks later I am still happily meditating regularly, and can drop into ‘the zone’ more quickly than ever before. I feel like I expanded my brain muscle somehow, and my stamina for sitting quietly built up on the Yatra from 20 minutes to 45.

I wish I’d stuck to this when I first learnt it at age 25! I’d be levitating by now…

*sighs

Anyway: at least I’m no longer wasting my life on a stupid phone game full of pretty moving shapes and quirky sounds…

*sighs again

How about you? Do you meditate? Have you tried, failed or succeeded? And are you a Candy Crusher?

My next post will contain more scenery photos I promise- here’s 3 to tempt you back:

With gratitude for the discipline of breathing, G xO

Why my obsession with this spoon is re-wiring my brain

Who knew spoon carving was so fun & satisfying for the over 50s
This is how the magic begins: with a ‘spoon blank’ machine cut by my teacher Sophie.

Hi Everyone, from cool Autumn days in Australia that make it worth putting up with the dreadful heat of summer.

How are you all? I keep finding myself sitting on my deck, surrounded by the rainforest, staring at this spoon. Not just staring: stroking, smelling, turning and touching.

Is it a magic spoon you ask? Well yes, in some ways it is.

Because I carved it, from White Beech.

OK, so for some of you ‘handy/crafty’ folks, this may not seem like a big deal. Or for those of you who know that spoon-carving is a bit of a ‘hipster’ fad at the moment, perhaps you’re rolling your eyes?

But I don’t care. Because I’m the girl who hated sewing at school; who wasn’t allowed to do woodwork classes (because of being a girl), and who has spent 5 decades baulking at using tools/drills/saws because of an assumed ‘hopelessness’ with them.

My first ever spoon, June 2020

How did this change happen? It was my darling cousin’s idea:

Try this workshop with me G, it will be fun, and a bonding experience- only $140.

It has literally changed my life.

I was fast hooked, because our teacher Sophie was kind, fun, patient, positive, and very knowledgeable. She teaches complete beginners all the time, so knows exactly how to make nervous carvers feel at home.

It soon became a meditation practice: gouging out the bowl with chisel at the exact angle to peel the wood like firm butter.

So satisfying.

Slowly but surely, I persevered at home alone. I ordered tools online, and of course COVID restrictions meant that staying in, carving quietly, was a great entertainment option.

Spiral spoon-carving for beginners
Starting to take its spiral shape… so exciting

My Instagram feed quickly filled with spoony images, and there are a million clips to watch on YouTube if you’re addicted.

But one thing intrigued me: the wooden spiral.

How does it happen??

By now, I’d carved 4 or 5 spoons, cautiously following the wood’s whisper to reveal its shape.

I sent a Red Cedar one to my dear friend in Adelaide, and spent many hours dealing with a very hard (well-named) Iron Bark spoon for my new love, to mark our 6 months of dating… soaking it in water to make it soften, then blunting all my tools as I tried to shape it.

It reminded me of the new relationship: we slowly explore, finding the knots in ourselves and the other, forming a new bond or shape. It can be hard work, and of course, utterly joyful along the way. And full of imperfections 🙂

But back to my spiral obsession… my teacher offered another class, on ‘advanced carving’, and I dared myself to go. I was so excited, and my delight was well-founded, because in only 5 hours, I made this:

Spoon carving for over 50s- so fun!
Nearly done! The final sanding and smoothing is very satisfying

It’s White Beech, easy to carve. There were 5 students including me, and every spoon spiral looked so different. I brought it home to spend more hours working on it; slipping sometimes, nearly cutting myself; learning how to sharpen my knife (a whole other world of learning!), and most importantly, RE-WIRING MY BRAIN.

The 55-yr old brain who thought she was no good with tools.

Who thought she wasn’t practical enough, or creative enough.

Who thought she would make too many mistakes, or cut herself.

Who thought it would just be too hard for her.

Who thought it was simply a gift she didn’t have, and couldn’t learn.

Spoon carving has rewired my brain for success over 50
Oiled & done. I have never felt so proud of any handiwork before ever

Everyone I’ve showed it to, including my son and his cool friends, have marvelled at it. And I’m still delighting in that.

As I was carving, I realised it was the perfect gift for my soulmate sister who is turning 50 this year, so I posted it last week (I really hope she’s too busy to read my blog this month!)

What have you wanted to try but didn’t dare? What secret crafty skill beckons you?

Please please do it, and blog about it- let us delight with you.

In huge gratitude for good teachers, courage, and sharp knives, G xO

15 weeks since the car crash- how am I doing? Pretty great!

December 3 2020 was a bad day for me, when I had my first car accident in 37 years of driving. Life seems to have become BA & AA now: Before & After Accident. I think it’s a common reaction, and certainly understandable.

I so could have died. Or had internal injuries/broken neck/punctured a lung etc.

But I didn’t.

For which I thank my guardian angels, who felt like my dear departed Dad…

I came home with whiplash and concussion though, so walked around like a zombie for a month, cautious of my ‘frozen’ upper back and neck.

I did no dancing, minimal walking, barely any Pilates, and an awful lot of lying on the couch or bed feeling a bit miserable.

I utterly lost my joy.

So I’m delighted to announce that it’s back! I’m laughing, dancing, making plans, having adventures, getting a groovy haircut as suggested by my son (“Get a mullet Mum, you’d rock it”), and most importantly, feeling fully alive again, at home in my body.

I’m so happy and grateful.

If you keep up with this blog, you’ll know that I am also chewing more slowly now, which has definitely improved my sense of wellbeing and mindfulness.

But more than anything, these last 4 months have been graced and shaped by my unfurling new love, who I’ll call ‘F’. A kind, thoughtful, intelligent, honest, and flawed human being, who rushed to my hospital bedside, lent me a car while I scraped together money to buy a new one, and whippersnipped my driveway and garden because it brought me to tears that I couldn’t manage that for a while.

I feel so lucky.

How tender is the path to fresh romance, strewn with carcasses of loss and pain on both sides? Yet still we tiptoe towards each other, us humans over 50, hoping for another go at the game of love…

Slowly slowly we move closer, and I’m delighted.

In gratitude for resilience, and the power of flirting, love G xO

My 2 top alternatives to avoid Valentine’s Day pressure

Make no mistake, I love Love. Whether happily single, sadly recovering from a break-up, or delighting in new fields of play, I have never given up on Love for long. I believe this is healthy, that I am a healthy human, and that we all deserve love.

However, what I absolutely don’t need is a dumb card and cheap chocolates.

Or even a smart card and expensive chocolates.

So if any human out there felt a little blue they had no Valentine, or was let down by an unsatisfactory experience, let me inspire you: why not organize a Galentine’s Day, or a V-Day flash mob?

What are these 2 curious offerings you wonder? My favourite Australian feminist writer Clementine Ford drew me to the first one, when she recently offered a picnic in the park experience for 100 women, bringing gals together. It’s been around for a decade or so, and is about celebrating female sister-like connections; it’s so easy to let friendships slip by when we’re busy with work/kids/household chores/ageing parents etc.

But who else are you gonna call when the chips are down? Not Ghostbusters I hope, but your best sistafriend! So on Galentine’s Day, make a date to eat yummy food, dress up, paint your nails perhaps, feed each other chocolates… whatever feels like a celebration to YOU.

V-Day protest Byron Bay 2021 for One Billion Rising

And if (like me), you are becoming a feisty older lady, my second suggestion may suit you as well: to produce or participate in a flashmob dance protest about ongoing global violence against women and children, under the banner of One Billion Rising.

“One Billion Rising is a global campaign, founded by Eve Ensler, to end rape and sexual violence against women. It was started in 2012 as part of the V-Day movement. The “billion” refers to the UN statistic that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime…”

I am one of the organizing commitee that puts it on every year, and it’s an empowering experience for all who attend. We wear red; meet at dawn at the most Easterly point of the Australian mainland, where the sun’s rays hit first; then dance in solidarity with women all around the world who demand and deserve freedom from oppression and aggression.

Men are welcome too of course, but on the sidelines: let us take up space. I am a lucky, liberated, fully empowered woman, with no history of sexual or physical abuse, but a lot of women aren’t, and it’s important that survivors of abuse be seen and heard. After a rousing speech and two tries at the dance routine (where it doesn’t actually matter if you know the steps or not- I seem to fudge it ok every year), we strip and dive into the ocean.

Now that’s a beautiful experience to share.

The DJ keeps playing while we swim (the ocean was so warm this year), and then we keep dancing (albeit salty and damp) until 8.30 or so: it’s the best way I’ve found to celebrate February 14.

So there are my two best alternatives for the insipid Hallmark construction that is Valentine’s Day. If you do Feb 14 romantic celebrations with authenticity and loving care, I’m delighted for you. But please do NOT struggle with it if you are single, as though you’ve ‘failed’ somehow, or are missing out… simply create your own pleasure, your own ritual, and truly Be the free daughter of those witches who were burnt so long ago!

With gratitude for behaving disgracefully, & my sistas all around the world, including YOU, my blogging buddies, love G xO

Chewing slowly: who knew it would change my life?

Hi there! 10 weeks since my car accident, and I’m slowly but surely feeling like my old self again. Just with a stiff neck, and a little more anxiety in vehicles generally, especially going round corners.

But I’m getting some style of healing treatment every week (Osteo/physio/Kinesiology/Cranio-Sacral/massage), so I’m blessed to be recovering my physicality.

I had a very quiet New Year’s Eve, as it was only 3 weeks since the crash then, and wondered about my new resolutions? To be honest, I just wanted to feel well again, without a permanent headache, and the disconcerting sense of a hand gripping my throat…

So no one was more surprised than me when on New Year’s Day I suddenly announced I was going to eat more mindfully.

Specifically: to count my chews, and do at least 25-30 per mouthful.

First I conducted controlled research on how many times I usually masticate my food: 5 to 10 chews before I swallow. How many do you do?

Then I practiced how many I could get comfortable with, which seemed to be 25-30. Which is interesting, because multiple sources of dietary information online recommended chewing approx 30 times before swallowing, once the food has become almost liquid in your mouth.

Surprisingly, nowadays it can take me 40 chews to make a raw apple feel ready to swallow. My morning breakfast of avocado and sauerkraut on toast is at least 25-35. A handful of nuts can be 40-50.

It’s fascinating!

I’ve always been a fast eater, mainly because I just love food and fresh flavours so much. Slowing down, and being truly aware of my eating process as it’s happening is bringing me unexpected joy.

It’s truly Mindfulness in Action.

I so suggest you try it today, then let me know how many times you usually chew, vs your count when you slow down and chew.

I’ve noticed I want to focus more on what I’m tasting, and not be juggling a phone call or a series of emails; there is something so peaceful about simply eating.

And the rising numbers feel almost like a mantra.

I’ve been doing it since Jan 1st, and I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not, but I’ve been feeling very calm, and definitely eating a bit less. In these days of such global inequalities and pandemic stress, it feels like the least I can do is be mindful and grateful for every meal I am blessed to have and share.

So that’s my unforeseen update. I thoroughly recommend chewing slowly. Notably, everyone I’ve mentioned it to has been intrigued, and given it a go.

Now we’re REALLY talking about the Slow Food Movement!

Please try it, even if it’s just a cookie, and comment about your experience 🙂

In gratitude for my tastebuds, G xO

My car crash to end the car crash that was 2020

It’s OK: I’m OK! It’s been a month, and I’ve been waiting to feel better before posting. Happy New Year everyone, especially ME, because I am literally glad to be alive…

[Content warning: images of crashed car coming up.]

I’d left home at 5.45am, in a light drizzle after a great night’s sleep, keen to drive the one hour trip to teach my Pilates class.

I definitely drove more slowly than usual because of the newly-wet roads, up and down through the winding hilly rainforest, listening to the radio, looking forward to my horse ride later that morning.

I came round the last big corner before town, no other cars on the road, driving 10kms below the 80km speed limit, when suddenly my back end began to slide out. I corrected a bit but didn’t brake, just took my foot off the accelerator, but kept fish-tailing… then realised I was heading for the grass bank looming in front of me.

Who carries a traffic cone in their car?? An angel, that’s who.

“This is like a bumper car/dodgem car game, but a bad one!” I thought, struggling to believe I was going to impact.

But impact I did.

The car flipped, rolled right over and half again, crossing the road, and ended facing in the wrong direction.

I remember being upside down, feeling like I was in a tumble dryer.

“I just have to wait till this stops, then see what I have to deal with,” I surrendered.

The terrible screeching of metal on road stopped, and in the sudden silence, I waited for extreme pain to start, or blood to rush down my face…

Nothing.

“Right, I’m going to get out of the car then.”

I unclipped my seatbelt, which was pinning me in the air (the car had stopped on its side, passenger door down), and dropped into a crouch position. No windows were smashed, but neither door would budge. I had a moment of panic, feeling claustrophobia arise, then heard myself say “It’s OK gg, it’s OK, we’re going to get out, we’re going to get out.”

I remembered a YouTube clip I’d seen of someone smashing a window with the metal rods of the headrest to escape a car sinking in water; I registered I didn’t need that, although I could see fluid leaking across the road from the engine, and steam rising. I reminded myself that cars exploding into fireballs on impact is mainly a stunt for the movies, but that getting out was definitely a good idea.

My hands flailed around to unlock a door or something, and suddenly the electric window wound down- I stuck my head out, noticed there was not too much debris where I would land, and jumped out over the roof barefoot like a ninja!

The first person to stop was an angel called Jason, who held both my hands, looked deep into my battered soul, and said:

“It’s OK, you’re safe, I’m here, I’ve got you, let’s go sit in my car.

I stared into his kind brown eyes, and in that moment, never felt so grateful for another human being in my life.

‘I want to sit on the ground, I want to be on the earth,’ I insisted, so the good fellow sat me in the blessed wet welcoming grass of the verge.

Again, the best grass I ever saw.

Second car to stop held two guys who had a traffic control cone in their van, so they began directing traffic and called the ambulance.

In the ambulance; sharing this pic to remind us to slow down, in cars and in Life

Third car was a nurse on her way to work, so she stood behind me and held my neck still like a neck brace for 10 minutes till the ambulance arrived with the real plastic one.

Then off I sped to hospital for a CT scan, terrified and in shock, yet managing to call work to say I wasn’t coming, plus my girlfriend to tell her what had happened, and to please call my son.

In 37 years of driving, I have NEVER had an accident. Not a prang in the supermarket carpark, or a slight ding when reversing near trees, or even many ‘near misses’. I loved driving; remember I used to have that gorgeous black Mini Cooper? A delight to drive. But I’d sensibly swapped it for an AWD Subaru when I moved out to the rainforest, and I’d put new tyres on it a couple of months ago…

So I was majorly shocked. Still am. Driving makes me anxious, and exhausts me for now.

But you know what? I’m ALIVE. We have a health care system which means I was taken care of, and of course friends and loved ones rallied round to offer emotional and practical support.

I am SO GRATEFUL. I came home with concussion, and whiplash, which can be a long journey of healing…

But I am HERE. I can eat, hug, laugh, see my son, and enjoy experiences with friends, like Xmas and New Year, albeit slowly and gently, with lots of naps.

SO SO GRATEFUL.

And so lucky. I feel like my dear departed Dad definitely saved me- even the doctor said he couldn’t believe I wasn’t more badly-injured/dead.

SO SO GRATEFUL.

So Happy New Year everyone. 2020 was a car crash for all of us, as well as illuminating where massive changes need to be made, and while I slowly recover, I am sitting in my vulnerability and willingness to learn lessons and make changes…

This blog could be a good place for that?

Stay safe please; drive carefully; take deep breaths as often as you can, and practice gratitude for the roof over your head and the loved ones you share it with.

Seriously, Life is a precious gift we completely underestimate.

Blessings, G xO