All posts tagged: Australia

Final Part Three of my short story ‘Earth’ (500 words)

Weekend reading? Part One and Part Two just a click away (500 words each). And here’s the third and final, based in Kakadu after my recent incredible off-track bush adventure: Their palms scraped skin across branches and boulders as they launched into the dark ravine. Down, down, down they slithered, heaving their bags ahead of them, legs protesting at the speed and brutality of the descent. A spiky pandanus drew blood across Kelly’s cheek, and Sam’s ankle twisted hard in the scrabbling, but at last they burst through the scrub to touch the smooth rock edges of the river again. Kelly’s whole body trembled as she stripped naked and jumped into the creek, gulping mouthfuls of water as she cooled down and almost cried with relief. ‘This is better than any Christmas ever, even as a kid,’ she yelled. Sam paused, then went on ahead to check the way forward, barely stopping to refill her bottle and guzzle. She returned with heavy steps. ‘I don’t wanna say this, but there’s another overhang coming up, so we …

Here’s Part Two of shortlisted story ‘Earth’

But did you miss Part One?? Don’t do that! It’s HERE Part Two: … Then Sam stopped, hands on hips, and squinted into the distance. ‘Shit, I don’t think we can get through along here after all. Let me look at the map and compass again.’ She frowned at the contour lines on the creased page, telling her a story of steep cliffs and gullies, without revealing the safest route. ‘Sorry honey, but the only way we’ll get past that massive overhang is to tackle the stone country along the top of the ridge. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle up there, which you can never solve. Brace yourself.’ Kelly clenched her jaw for a second. ‘I never knew off-track walking was quite this tough,’ she admitted. ‘Especially for old ladies like us.’ Sam smiled at the familiar joke, but her forehead worried, as they tightened waist straps and headed away from the water without looking back. Within thirty minutes, thighs screamed with lactic acid as they scrambled over boulders and fallen tree branches, …

My story got shortlisted! Here’s Part One

Wait, I’m not going to launch straight into the story; I want to say Hi first, and set the scene. Remember that 4-day off-track bushwalk in Kakadu I survived? While there, I was struck with inspiration to write about the adventure, and scribbled sentences into my tiny notebook one dreadful evening while being attacked by mosquitos (the only time we were hassled). I sat down 2 months later to draft 500 words at least, for a short story competition with looming deadline (I can only work under pressure it seems). Again I was grabbed by the muse, and spent all day pouring 1500+ words around the competition theme ‘Earth’ onto my computer (such a good feeling). Edit, edit, exaggerate, edit etc, and voila: ready just in time. Weeks passed with no word, so I assumed I’d slipped into the discard pile… then last week got an email to say I was shortlisted (another really good feeling). Alas, I heard on the weekend that I didn’t win, but I don’t really care. I don’t care because …

Grappling with the spaciousness of uncertainty, by Yoda herself (Part 3)

Having finished our first 30 minute meditation from Part 2, and admitted any latecomers we’d locked out in a boundary-setting exercise in Part 1, the lesson began. ‘Uncertainty is one of the 3 main characteristics of human existence,’ Yoda Carol said, sitting her 70+ self on a floor cushion like the rest of us. ‘It’s difficult to endure, so we all cling to certainty. Yet clinging creates further suffering, doesn’t it?’ Well I know I’m clinging to my meditation aspirations as a way to calm anxiety, channel greater creativity, and nurture more peaceful personal relationships, that’s for sure. Is it not going to work? ‘We always want to make the “right decision”, weighing pros and cons, grasping for certainty. But we are just creating more attachment, and more eventual suffering.’ Damn. I thought my pros/cons list-making was a fabulous strategy. ‘There is more ease and wellbeing in letting go, so that we can focus on our actual needs in the situation as it unfolds in real time…’ Would that work for astronauts? Or brain surgeons? …

Can meditation help you set clearer boundaries? Perhaps (Part 2)

“Yes, this is good, let’s begin. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat,” I say to myself. [Where am I? In a yurt on a Sunday with 20 other women, practicing setting boundaries and the discomfort of that in Part 1] I sit cross-legged on my cushion at my Women’s Dharma Meditation circle, while Yoda Carol guards the door and taps the bowl to begin the session. “I love meditating so much, I’m damn lucky to be here. I wonder how I’ll go today? Hopefully I’ll go deep… breathe in, breathe out. Repeat. Ooh, it feels so good already, how great to do it with so many other women… did any of them bring dessert for lunch, or just lots of salad? I’m glad I made my brownies, such a cool recipe, remember that week I made them 3 times for those birthday parties that was fun perhaps I’ll go to that party next weekend… WAIT! Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat. Welcome back Brain. Shit, it’s easy to stray isn’t it? I wonder how everyone else is …

Does setting boundaries make you uncomfortable? Good: you’re doing it right (Part 1)

Sunday was my Women’s Buddhist Meditation Day, and the group’s facilitator Yoda Carol began by shutting the door on any latecomers. ‘If you arrive late next time ladies, you will have to wait outside for 45 minutes while we finish our introductions and first Meditation circle,’ she cautioned. The group of 20 women shifted on their cushions, and glanced round the room, calculating who may be missing. ‘Oh, have I made you uncomfortable? It’s simply too disruptive to admit latecomers; we must each just plan to arrive on time.’ More rustling and looking. ‘We all have families, partners, children, pets, or jobs that may make us run late to Meditation, but that’s not the point. We close the door at 9.30am sharp, and that’s the boundary. I’m setting it, and happy to. If you’re uncomfortable with that, sit with it. Boundaries are not always easy, to set or receive, and especially for women. We are so trained to be ‘nice’, to be ‘good’, to not make a fuss or upset anyone… But boundaries are healthy, …

Bushwalking off-track in Kakadu? I needed a snorkel (Part 3)

Where am I/what am I doing? PART 1 HERE & PART 2 HERE With over 20,000 square kilometres of bush in Kakadu National Park, we chose to stay as close as possible to waterways; the thrill of simply filling my bottle from the fresh creek did not wane. When we did have to ascend to the escarpment to get past an overhang, I noticed how instantly relieved I was when we came back to the river’s edge. Imagine those first white explorers, setting out from Sydney to see what they could find… the bush both delights and terrifies me, and water is an essential comfort. As you can see, the views were stunning, and these are all unedited, with no filters, just snapped on my smartphone. But I haven’t told you about the Big River Crossing Fiasco have I? *sighs So ‘off-track walking’ means there’s no path; you have to meander/explore/experiment to get ahead. Luckily my companion had lots of energy and enthusiasm for both map-reading and ‘I’ll-just-leave-my-pack-here-and-see-if-we-can-get-through’ reconnaissance missions. You can see it’s not an …

Bushwalking off-track in Kakadu? Don’t forget your key (Part 2)

Where am I/what am I doing? PART 1 HERE For 10 seconds, I ran the newspaper headline through my mind: “53-yr old woman succumbs to heat exhaustion while bashing through the untamed Australian wilderness, within 100 metres of fresh water & a clearly-marked track.” No. That is absolutely NOT going to happen. But shit: my water bottle IS empty; this backpack IS damn heavy; it IS over 30 degrees C (86F); & we are definitely NOT going the right way. ‘What are you doing G’ ask the readers of bone&silver again? Well PART 1 is here again. When I was offered the chance for this adventure, I jumped. Kakadu National Park is vast, and some locations even require a permit and key to a locked gate, as the Management team control the balance between tourism and protecting the diverse ecology and wildlife population. But guess what? We had both permit and key. So with 4WD vehicle hired, 12 meals faithfully dehydrated (incl a gourmet vegetarian gluten-free pasta dinner), and backpacks crammed (but with restraint this …

Bushwalking off-track in Kakadu? Pack a spare set of legs (Part 1)

I’m pretty fit, fabulous & fierce for Almost-53, though I say it myself. And last year I trekked in Nepal for a couple of weeks, so I certainly enjoy a challenge… But my most recent adventure was HARDER, even a little scary to be honest, and I didn’t even have to leave Australia. I did fly to Darwin though, up in the Northern Territory, which is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, with an experienced bushwalking companion. Where was I going? I was going ‘offtrack’. From the red dirt to the fire-blackened eucalypt trees via fertile billabongs and wetlands, Kakadu National Park covers nearly 20,000 square kilometres, and is World Heritage listed. It’s full of incredible wildlife and plant diversity, plus crocodiles. Like, truly wild, roaming-around-the waterways-doing-their-own-thing crocodiles. These signs are everywhere; it’s an Australian cliché that all our native animals and reptiles are trying to kill us… but sometimes, it’s kinda true! I emigrated to Australia when I was 20; the concept of crocodiles is somewhat foreign to me. But at literally every single creek …

Teenage Tuesday: ‘My son just turned 19. Guess what I did when I turned 19?’

He was born at home on the back verandah as planned, after a long, slow labor. I’d paced up and down the driveway for 2 days, wrapped in a quilt, asking the night sky to bring me my baby. And finally, with dawn’s 5am light, he came. Every year when he was little, we seemed to wake up around that time, and lie there together contemplating the celebration of it. This year I was working almost 2000kms away, but still opened my eyes at exactly 5am; I admit I shed a few tears as I reflected on the passing of so much time, as he’s grown into such a tall, capable young man. For his birthday, I’d bought him 3 tickets to an 80s/90s dress up disco dance party, the same as last year (a winning gift). I knew he’d have had a late night, but texted anyway: “5am- Happy Birthday Moment, darling boy.” No reply, as expected. But I took myself for a sunrise beach walk, revelling in the gorgeous environment, and the knowledge …