Monthly Archives: January 2017

Stories from the Outback

What a lot of memories flooded back on reading an article in the travel section of the weekend newspaper…

Apart from the retreat …..which is sort of bush……..but not really…….. it’s a 40acre residential block surrounded by some light forest and farms, I’ve seriously missed being “Outback”.  My love affair with the red dirt began at age 11 when my father took a position as shopkeeper at Tarcoola on the Transcontinental Railway, just two years after arriving in Australia as “Ten Pound Poms”. We exchanged the bright lights of Adelaide for the bright starlight nights of a village on the edge of the Nullabor Plain and we children exchanged our “posh” English accents for an Aussie drawl…. We experienced the shimmer of the heat above the railway line as it snaked into the distance,  learned to look both into the distance and close by, to spot any movement (snakes) and danced in the dust as the first fat raindrops fell in a long time.

The store, with adjoining house was one of the few stone buildings and we lived a few meters from the railway as the goods were unloaded directly from the train into the shop. We all pitched in on days that the Tea and Sugar arrived. Circular crates of tetra pack milk were taken to the coolroom. The butcher’s van attached to the train did a roaring trade in fresh meat and samples of clothes were inspected and orders put in with Dad to relay to the bigger Commonwealth store in Port Augusta and to arrive on the next goods train. The train also brought movies and eagerly looked forward to and I seem to remember that film nights were held in a hall next to the pub.

The families of the fettlers lived a little way back from the railway – neat weather board houses all in a row and further up the hill, built during the gold rush, was the stone/brick schoolhouse.  In those years it was just 2 rooms – one for the “bubs” and another for the bigger kids – all eight of us – with different work for the different year levels we were in and I was the only one in my year level. Once a week, the girls went into the “bubs room” to do needlework with the teacher’s wife who taught the little ones.  Some of the other  school work we did together, such as having to rote learn poems, which I never got the hang of….

There was one about Ozymandius….

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Which probably summed up the despair of the teacher as he struggled in the heat and with having to teach such a diverse group of students.

Spare time was spent roaming on the bicycles… always with the caution to stay on the roads as there were old gold mines in the area and keep the railway line in sight. Swathes of Sturt Desert Peas brightened up the landscape …the red and black in start contrast to the greenish leaves. I don’t think they were supposed to, but the train drivers would often stop and pick some on their return towards Pt Augusta for their wives.  Most of the time we roamed westwards towards an ancient escarpment, which in later years I discovered has some of the oldest rocks in the world.  Curiously we hardly ever went in the direction of Kingoonya, the next village towards the south. The highlight of the year was the race day at Mulgathing Station which was about 40km away. No 4WD in those days, we piled into to the trusty Holden EJ and off we went.

Then it was time for me to leave…. The school only catered for primary education and I was to go to Port Augusta for high school. Dad, having previously worked at Woomera, which was closer was adamant that it wasn’t the place for me to be. So the day before school started, I boarded the Transcontinental train with Mum and we went down to Pt Augusta. I met the family I was to board with and then Mum returned on the next train back that evening. This began the longest school term of my life. I loved school, but I wasn’t fitting in and I was stuck there until the holidays in May when I could return home.

Then in the middle of Term 2, I got a message to say that Mum & Dad had decided to move on from Tarcoola and we were heading to Western Australia. They packed up their belongings and put the car on a flat bed  carriage and as soon as I returned from school we set off .. this time on the “Tea and Sugar”, stopping at all stations on it’s way to Kalgoorlie. We had a compartment pretty much to ourselves and ate and slept in that. No refrigeration and I had memories of being violently ill in the main street of Kalgoorlie after a bung sandwich. Dad looked around for work for a couple of days and I don’t think they realized how far or remote Kalgoorlie was from Perth …. we set off in the Holden and arrived late one evening in Perth. After our sojourn in the outback, we were now back in the “big smoke”!

The next time I was “Outback” was as teenager, riding my 450cc Honda east across the unsealed Nullabor Plain road, a trip I was to make another 15 times over the years as I visited my parents who had settled in Western Australia.

Life, children, teaching all happened for many years and while we were discussing the purchase of a new car, I expressed that I would like to get a vehicle that I could go “off road” in from time to time. We ended up with a Nissan Patrol and the first trip was to Cape York. Quite a different adventure to Central Australia. Other trips were planned & taken…. Fraser Island (where to the amusement of teenage children, I got “air” under the wheels as I misjudged a creek crossing along the beach),  the old Ghan Railway line and Central Australia and back to the Cape. Another trip to Central Australia and a detour back to Tarcoola. We had to get special permits to travel through Commonwealth land – part of the Woomera rocket range and found the town closed down. The old house was boarded up with warning signs of asbestos and the pub was shut. The school had been extended to cope with the expansion when the Ghan Railway was re-routed through because of frequent flooding on the old track. They had even built a swimming pool! And I recalled the lines of the poem that I had found so difficult to remember…..

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.






Looking back

My very first labyrinth was a temporary chalk labyrinth drawn in the chakra colours some 18 years ago, on the driveway of my city home. This is the fourth permanent labyrinth that I have built…… with another on the drawing board….The current labyrinth was constructed over the Easter weekend in April 2014 on my 16 hectare property not far from Rushworth.

The previous three labyrinths were constructed on a friend’s property down the road, nearer to Heathcote. These were also built over Easter weekends, but have now been “de-commissioned” and two have been totally dismantled and the last one has been totally overgrown with trees.

The first one was made of wood and branches collected from the property and laid out on a disused ant’s nest. Curiously, the kangaroos and wildlife left it alone and it stayed relatively intact for some 15 years.The next labyrinth was a little more ambitious and work began on it in 2006. Blistered hands and aching muscles were forgotten when I made the first walk! Visits over the years entailed tidying up the path until one year that became impossible.

In 2011 there had been heavy rains in Central Victoria, with many areas flooding and the dry, dormant land sprang back to life. The pathway of the labyrinth became a forest of young gum saplings! I did clear some and hoped to weave the rest into a fence but it became too difficult to manage and the purchase of my own property gave me license to be creative!

In the meantime, the current, larger,  Labyrinth is a Classic 7 ring Cretan style that grew, once I realized that it wasn’t constrained by space. The small structure in the centre has a shallow bowl that I fill for the blue wrens and wagtails that live in the nearby bushes. To follow the construction follow THIS LINK or look through the blog archives from 2012 onwards.

A smaller labyrinth has also been constructed… initially intended to be temporary, it has remained in situ for about 18 months and needs very little maintenance.

On “the bucket list” is the construction of a large Chartres style labyrinth similar to the one in Sydney’s Centennial Park and have it open for public walking. I’ll keep you posted…..




We all, at some time or another, have issues.

It is our choice as to how we act or react.

If we have come from a fear or control based childhood our responses are likely to be different from someone who has come from an emotionally intelligent background.

By overcomplicating things, we can often exacerbate an issue…..  who hasn’t heard of the saying “making mountains out of molehills” ?

By learning some simple emotional intelligence strategies, we can escape the return to “default” and exercise choice in our responses. These strategies will give you the courage to identify fears or issues and by facing them, you will resolve them. For example if you have an issue with conflict, then a useful strategy is to become aware of different perspectives. Ask yourself “What alternatives and opinions can be considered instead of sticking rigidly to this perspective?”


Depending on your outlook, the rhythm of the seasons brings great abundance….

Each season is a cause for celebration and when observing the cycles of the seasons, there is much to be grateful for.

As Melbourne swelters through a summer heat wave, I’ve observed an abundance of short temper. In one instance the power had to be turned off to a residential area to sort out a fault that meant that industrial sized air conditioners couldn’t be run. The heat was a little uncomfortable, but bearable and the power went off just as the sun went down and came back on about two hours later. Candles were found, both ordinary and citronella (to deter the abundant mosquitoes), and a pleasant evening outside conversing by candlelight ensued. Other households did the same and mixed with the sound of chirping cicadas was the low hum of neighbours chatting. The only discord was a neighbour several houses down ranting at the workmen about how old people needed to be kept cool, which brought a wry smile to those grey haired neighbours who were standing close by to her, many of whom had grown up in smaller houses with no airconditioning.

Taking time to enjoy the evening stillness, putting aside disharmony and participating fully in life’s adventures is but one path to abundance. When you are still, both internally and externally, you allow the abundance of the universe to flow toward you.  Notice your heartbeat and see if you can calibrate it with the rhythm of life.