Tag Archives: labyrinth

Communication

Every so often you get to have an unforgettable experience.  Just about every visit to the retreat provides a different kind of experience and there is a wonderful opportunity to learn from each of them.

With the warmer weather, one keeps an eye out for reptiles but I haven’t seen any for some time. Over the nearly two years, I have seen just two, a black snake and a brown snake – neither close to the cottage.  With that in mind, I was sitting near the fire pit reading and enjoying the spring sunshine  when a movement caught my eye.

Immediately, the primal instincts kicked in and yes, I froze.  Having had a meter long snake slither under my chair at Mataranka, I was hoping that this was not going to be a replay.

I looked up. Two beady eyes were fixed on me. A long forked tongue darted in angoanna snipd out of the mouth and then I noticed it had legs…… a Goanna!

A mental sigh of relief and keeping as still as possible, I reached for the camera in the chair pocket. It turned its head to look at me and we sat and stared at each other for what seemed to be an age. Keeping in mind that goannas have been known to think humans are trees and climb them, I decided to remain still and wondered how long we would stare at each other…

Breathe…… that’s what I tell clients to do all the time! Then curiosity got the better of me, I started to wonder about the metaphysical message of Goanna, knowing that I would have goannato wait until I returned to the city for reliable internet access. We continued to stare at each other for a little longer and I thanked it for coming to visit, whereupon it got up and ambled off, looking very much like a small crocodile, and disappeared under the fence into the bush property behind the retreat.

The message I took from that encounter, before I looked up the symbolism, was the need for stillness.  Having spent the previous 6 weeks or more with pneumonia, I had been in an altered state of consciousness for some time. Priorities have changed and I am again drawn back to the metaphysical and energy healing that has been a part of my journey this far.

It was to be a couple of weeks before I could return and with high temperatures forecast for the next week or so, it was important to help the oak tree seedlings with their survival. Deep, slow watering every couple of weeks will help to encourage them to do their best.  Each tree is planted in well aged compost from the toilet and the sawdust will help to break down the heavy clay as well retain some moisture around the roots.

Shepherd Crook labyrinthWith energy levels a little higher on this visit, having had some acupuncture and homeopathic treatment, I managed to tidy up the little labyrinth in no time at all.

This is a “Shepherd’s Crook” labyrinth and what I love about it, is that there is a choice of how to get to the centre. This allows time to ask a question and instinctively take the right or left path. I didn’t have the heart to remove the pigface or trees and one has to maneuver around them.

Later that afternoon, I took my book to the fireplace and settled down to catch up on some esoteric reading, when I heard a whoosh and looked up to see a wedgetail eagle swooping into the tree above me. The feathers on its belly and the detail on the wings were clear as it flew out of the sunlight….. Eagle flying in from the sunthen there was a little thud as it seemed to crash into the canopy above and then it was gone, but continued to circle.

I quickly got my phone out and pressed video…… trying to capture the moment but unable to track it properly because of the position of the sun. It made several circles and it was then that I realized that it was looking for the bird that had fallen but would not land because humans were there.  A sudden movement caught my eye and I found a tiny pardelote fledgling in the leaf litter with the bull ants already sensing this was their next meal. IMG_3629

I caught it and pulled the ants off, but there was no hope of getting high enough to put it back into the nest. It hopped around for some time and I did put it into a tree, but it soon fluttered back down to the ground. All I could do was to leave it and hope that it developed enough strength in its tiny wings to get back to the nest.

Whilst all this was going on, various small birds gathered, including this robin who perched about a metre away and kindly stayed still long enough for a photo to be taken!

There is a great sense of wonderment with the metaphysical meanings of the various creatures that appear at the retreat and combined with the strange and often historical nature of the dreams that occur whilst there, I am curious to find out more about the history of the area. Watching the seasonal changes is a great lesson in awareness and whilst it would be easier to use chemicals to control some of the weeds and artificial fertilizers to enhance the soil, I remain committed to organic  or permaculture practices.

 

 

 

Autumn Planting

first of the home grown oaksProbably not the best time of year to start planting, but on advice from a friend that is wise about these matters, I put in the first of the home grown oak trees just after the first Autumn Full Moon.

The soil was just a shade softer than concrete. It’s a heavy clay and as the summer sun has dried out the moisture and the grass has died back and gone crispy and crunchy underfoot, a pick was required to loosen the soil.  After digging just four holes, I was dreaming of a mechanical auger to do the holes for the next 10 or so trees that are waiting to be planted out, until I read the reviews on several sites and forums.

The first of the composted toilet bins has gone beyond 12 months of “cooking” in the sun, so once a deepish hole (around 500mm) was dug,  half a bucket was tipped into each oak tree hole and mixed with the soil to help with drainage and feed the trees. Surprisingly, there was very little odour, so I assume that the composting has been successful.

the first of the pomegranate treesStakes and tree guards were put around the two Oak trees and the two Pomegranate trees that were planted and watered in well. Another acorn was planted directly into the ground next to the passionfruit vine which on this visit was looking decidedly unwell. I had planned to move it to a less sunny spot as “full sun” up here is equivalent to baking and crisping!

Having discovered that a reasonably liberal sprinkling of gypsum throughout the labyrinth has made the soil there a little easier to dig, I will take up a couple of bags on the next visit to apply before putting in the next trees and see if it works it magic again.

The driveway has a collection or avenue of native trees such as wattles, eucalyptus and pinwheel hakeas as one heads up from the roadway towards the cottage and shed. Most of the property was pasture at some stage, with a remnant stand of Bull Mallee trees at the high point and some tall eucalyptus trees on the lower slopes, which I usually refer to as the  “wild area”.  One can choose to continue driving along the fence line or turn east along the edge of the “wild area” towards the astronomy dome which sits like a lonely Dalek in the paddock.  It is along this area that I will create (if nature and the wildlife allow) a deciduous avenue of oak trees -perhaps in the future they will become the backdrop to a garden of a house yet to be dreamed of, let alone built. Planning the future plantings and ensuring a good water supply for the cottage, the labyrinth and the trees changes as the land reveals itself takes time and careful consideration.

Orbs like the oak tree plantingEach trip has different highlights. Often it is to note the changes of season, or to walk the labyrinth or to roam the property and catch the energy of the land. Nights are interesting, even though I have vivid dreams in the city, the dreams here are lucid and have characters who seem to have stepped out of a time long gone. Another friend who is a gifted psychic, has suggested I’m picking up on the energy of the goldrush days and the colourful characters that roamed this area back then.  Whatever it is, I’m quite happy to go with the flow and enjoy the peaceful environment and work on restoring the land gradually and along permaculture principles.

Change

“Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back even from the most difficult times. . . Your ability to thrive depends, in the end, on your attitude to your life circumstances. Take everything in stride with grace, putting forth energy when it is needed, yet always staying calm inwardly.”  Ping Fu

Another word for change is transformation. There needs to be a certain amount of flexibility when making a change because if you hold on to something too rigidly, either it or you may break.

Sometimes change is forced upon us…..loss of a family member, redundancy or ill health and you need to call upon your reserves of resilience, be tenacious and hold on without being stubborn or inflexible.

There is room at these times for both sadness and laughter.  Allowing yourself to be in the moment and recognising ……and naming…..what emotion you are feeling, certainly helps. When the challenges occur, they are often pathways or stepping stones not only for your own healing but for those of others.

labryinth in green and blueRecently as my father in law was making his transition, I took some time out to do the shopping. About to return home, a friend in a similar circumstance called. Still in the car park, we had a long conversation about death, dying, unsaid conversations with loved ones and supporting those who are left behind. It was a hot summer evening and I had the window down. So totally involved in the conversation, I hadn’t noticed until it finished that there was another car next to me also with the window down. As I started the engine and glanced over, I observed the woman in it sobbing, tears running down her face.  I realized that she had listened to the whole, emotionally raw conversation and that it had touched hlabyrinth painting in red and orangeer as well.

In the days following there was the funeral – tears, sadness and yes, laughter. This was a who lived his life fully. Friends rallied around the family and there was laughter at shared memories. Grief is expressed in many ways and being non judgmental, opens a space within you for growth and change. Times like this give you a different perspective.  The same event is perceived quite differently by each participant. With this in mind there is the  opportunity to slow down, meditate and learn to trust yourself and thus transform.

Like walking the labyrinth, you enter into it and find yourself firstly traveling in one direction and then another. Tantalizingly, you approach what might be that peaceful space in the centre, then move away again. Mindful of the steps that you take, there is a slowing down as the centre is reached and you can rest awhile.

Here is the space and time to have the courage to face your inner conflicts, the grief, the burdens and set them down or offer them up gently and peacefully to the universe/angels or whatever deity you believe in.  Spend as much time here in the centre as you need and then begin to walk the pathway out. You can’t get lost, there is only the one path and you might begin to notice that your step is a little lighter. Allow yourself to feel any emotions, again take note and name them – are they the same as before? Is what is coming up for you negative or positive? What are the triggers? Are you able to clearly communicate your thoughts and feelings to someone who will listen? Be in the moment and breathe……

 

Enchantment

On a  recent visit to the retreat, I was enchanted with the spectre of a double rainbow over the labyrinth.  It was at the end of a hot and humid day and just as the sun was getting ready to slip over the horizon, the clouds parted and there was a most amazing light dancing on the tree tops. A shower in the distance provided the catalyst for a most amazing rainbow.

Did I manage to capture the image? Sadly no…. one of the rare occasions when I had neither camera or smartphone with me.

Earlier in the day, I had shrugged off the lethargy and done a New Moon meditation and vision book page. The next step was to take the vision book into the labyrinth and meditate further on what had come to me.

As I came out of the labyrinth, I was reminded of the benefit of journalling the experiences, many abridged versions appear here in this blog. I remembered a comment from a reader some time ago who suggested that I include video. With that in mind, I walked slowly back to the centre recording the journey, which I would share, except that it seems that the iphone video is not compatible with this platform. The act of mindfulness in walking slowly and holding the camera steadily made for a different experience. The focus was not on myself, but how could I best film the pathway so that viewers would not feel dizzy or sick and that they could really get a “feel” for the rustic nature of this labyrinth.

It cannot be compared to the  pictures of the labyrinths in North America and Europe that are either beautifully paved or have lush green turf….  This is country Victoria coming into summer.. the weeds and the grass have turned to straw brown, the soil is drying and cracking and the patches of gravel are rust red and need to be stepped on carefully.  The mounded soil of the rings allows some long grass and other small hardy plants to grow, but there is no sign of life in the outer ring where the garlic was planted, except for 2 sage plants and a lavender plant that has just flowered. As each step is taken, there is a crunching sound… the dried up plants…. the opposite to the Northern Hemisphere which had record snowfalls on that same weekend.

So whilst the intent has been to share the New Moon experience with you, I can only do so with words and not pictures…. perhaps some enchanted things are not to share……

Postscript….. If you would like to do a virtual walk of the labyrinth, click HERE

 

Feeling seedy

Overgrown labyrinthThe good winter rains meant that there is a variety of grasses that sprung up to replace some of the weeds that also popped up in the labyrinth. These have now all seeded and the labyrinth has taken on an unkempt appearance.  A trial of sawdust as a pathway covering has mixed success. It feels lovely to walk on and the tannins in the wood have begun to leach out of the damp, underlayer, but a couple of hardy plants have poked their heads through and flowered.

The lawnmower will be packed for the next trip, but before it can be mowed, I will have to remove any rocks from the pathway.

The wildlife has taken a fancy to the garlic planted in the outer marking ring.  It took off really well and in the two weeks since the last visit,  has been munched, so my vision of having a nice summer crop of organic garlic to share has evaporated.  I guess there are a few garlic flavoured kangaroos and rabbits hopping about……as the chap over the back with the shotgun may well find out. I’m sure that’s why they all hang out at my place!!

oak remnantUnfortunately the wildlife also took a fancy to the Oak tree seedling in the centre of the labyrinth. Fortunately there was a strong green stem with a tiny bud to one side remaining.

Having planned to plant out the other dozen Oak tree seedlings over the weekend,  I had brought up tomato stakes and tree guards to protect them, so one was immediately seconded for this little tree.

Oak within a tree guardI’m hoping that this will give it a second chance.  It’s all a learning experience…..! There’s a possibility of returning to an original idea of building a fence around the labyrinth, but I do like the wide open spaces around it.  As yet the wildlife hasn’t got hungry enough to eat the sage or the lavender, so fingers crossed they won’t!!

I’ve found a flat, well flattish, area to build the next labyrinth. Out in the middle of the paddock…. but it will have to wait until the little thistle patch is under control.

I’m often asked what I’m growing on the block and I think people expect a response like “Wheat/barley/grapes or sheep/goats/cows”…  so far it’s weeds……. lots of weeds……

Biddy bush, Capeweed, onion weed, little thistles, mistletoe, dodder laurel, rabbits, roos and I’m sure there are more that I haven’t learnt the names of yet….

I needed to dig a dozen holes to put the city Oak tree seedlings in, so it was decided that they would form an outer ring to a Chartres style labyrinth in another spot. Firstly I had to find the spot and then mark out the compass points for the labyrinth. Using a compass, I marked out the cardinal points. It’s too early to decide whether to enter from the East or West, that will come later. The stakes were a little hard to hammer in as the soil is a heavy clay that has contracted and is starting to crack. Being a novice, I managed to hit my hand a few times!

Just measuring out the cardinal points was hot work! The temperature in the shade up near the cottage was in the low 30’s C, and I didn’t really want to know how warm it would be out in the open paddock.

Next, I needed to measure out where the Oaks would go….. so another circle was measured – allowing at least a  10 meter space for the Oaks to grow and not interfere with the labyrinth or each other. It was in marking this out, I realized that I wouldn’t have enough stakes to protect the Oak seedlings.

Sunday morning presented a different problem. The stakes that I had used for the outer ring (and were to be used for tree guards) were too flimsy and the travelling kangaroos had snapped some off near the base….so  the decision was made to take the Oak seedlings back to the city,  chance re-potting them into bigger pots until they became dormant again. The thinking behind this is to give them a better chance of surviving a hot, waterless summer and the roaming roos, whilst also giving me time to get the holes dug and the stakes in place (without the trees inside) to test how they will stand up to the traffic!

 

 

Busy as a Bee

Busy  beeSpring has arrived, even though most of the wattles have finished flowering and various seeds are sprouting.

I had just about given up on this one…. when I took a closer look at a different shade of green in the centre of the labyrinth.  The outer ring is punctuated by garlic shoots spearing up through the heavy clods of clay – although one or two have been pruned by some hungry creature….. hmmm!! Me-thinks there might be a  pre-seasoned rabbit or two?

The labyrinth construction started on Good Friday this year and we took some time off to enjoy the Rushworth Easter Parade on  the Saturday.  The dogs accompanied us and didn’t enjoy the experience as they were unused to crowds, so I sat out with one of them in a grassy area at the top of town.

Nearby are Oak trees that must have been planted in the Gold Rush days of the 19th century.  They stand guard over the memories of better days for the little town. It is said that it takes around 120 years for an Oak tree to mature and produce a good crop of acorns – these have tolerated drought, heat, cold, frost…. and the ground around them was blanketed with them.

I pocketed a few and took the time to plant 5 in and around the labyrinth. No sign of any growth for many months, except for a variety of plants classed as weeds. A month or so before Easter, I had also gathered some acorns from an Oak tree that was overhanging the fence at my son’s first house out of home. He and his young family were moving out and I thought it would be nice to have some trees as a memento of where they first brought the baby home. Acorns duly potted up, 2 sprouted almost straight away. Not having any use for the pots and thinking I would use the soil for compost later, I left them where they were. To my surprise, just a few weeks ago, I counted another 10 Oak tree seedlings emerging….

Now if only the sage seeds would start doing something!!!! I’m waiting on the Grass Tree seeds to germinate as well. They grow wild in the forest just a couple of kilometers down the track, and many have been vandalized. I bought the seeds, but now I know what they look like, may stop and have a look for some next time I’m down that way.

A single Jacaranda seed, saved from a school excursion my daughter went on years ago, has been potted up and I’ve noticed that the city neighbors Jacaranda trees have some seed pods on them…. time to ask if I can harvest them! Some of the towns to the east of Rushworth have Jacarandas planted in the main streets and look spectacular in flower. I can envision a stand of them along the driveway, perhaps interspersed with the glorious yellow of Kowhai trees competing with the wattles for colour. I still have some Kowhai seeds saved from the house where the children were first raised.

The Oak trees will be planted out closer to where ever the planned retreat building goes, to partly act as shade and being deciduous, as a fire break – but also to offset my carbon footprint. I also see it as building an inheritance for whoever is custodian of the land long after I have gone.

labyrinth12Half a dozen Pomegranate trees are thriving in pots and another 10 or so continue to live in crowded conditions in a corner of the city garden. These are now about 4 or 5 years old and as I thin them out they are growing much stronger and taller.  Having read of the health benefits of pomegranate, i’m sure that I will have a veritable forest of them shortly! As the trunks are rather “leggy”, I’m thinking of using them as a screen in front of the labyrinth.

A pot bound Avocado  that is about 8 years old is destined to make the road trip once I have a couple more seeds sprouting.

mowed area3Visitors are arriving in early October for “A Back to Basics” camping weekend. In preparation an area has been mowed – partly to remove the unwanted Biddy Bush – but mostly to discourage snakes which are likely to be starting to stir after their winter hibernation.  That’s it in the foreground…. 12 months regrowth. It doesn’t have much of a smell to it, but it must contain some volatile oils, because you can pull it up out of the ground (only after a good rain) and put it on the fire – green and wet – and it burns like crazy.

mowing2Driving the tractor is a great time to meditate – you have to be mindful not to mow rocks and to keep fairly straight lines – although I had fun going in circles mowing around the labyrinth.

Another bonus is that a lot of the capeweed flowers were lopped off, and although they might look pretty and the bees seem to love them, I would rather not have them there. It seems that the only natural solution to get rid of them is to mow  before the flowers set seed and mulch, oversow with other grasses and top dress the lot with dolomite.  All the other advice is to spray with roundup or similar…..I don’t really want to become a Monsanto customer. From what I can ascertain, capeweed grows in over tilled soil and where there is little topsoil enriched with humus. It is also a hazard to horses, causing a magnesium deficiency – not that I have any stock at all – except the itinerant kangaroos, who seemed somewhat unhappy that their feed had been mowed and a couple of displaced hares who seem to have moved into next door’s thicket of Biddy Bush.

In between all of this, my city business is also starting to grow with the arrival of Spring. I’m coaching, seeing hypnotherapy clients and this past week has been full of networking activities and late nights. All about that in another post……..

Observing the environment

 

Prejudices, it is well known,are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow firm there, firm as weeds among stones.

Charlotte Bronte
Another all too brief sojourn up at the retreat, with some more clearing of bushes, tending to the labyrinth and the beginnings of a walking track (fire break) around the perimeter.
Mound of Biddy Bush alight in the overflowClearing the Biddy Bush or Chinese Bush has just about been completed and the debris was pushed into a large pile in the damp area of the dam overflow to minimize the fire spreading.
Whilst it was sad to see so many tiny Blue Wrens and other little bush birds displaced and homeless, the ongoing fire risk is too great to let the bushes stay. They kept busy collecting twigs from previously slashed bushes and rebuilt during the day.
Just one small section of the debris was lit and within seconds, this inferno took off. Some 5 hours later – after burning red-hot, the pile was reduced to ashes, which will be added to a composting area.
AshesEventually deemed safe to leave, we made periodic trips to check on it during the evening (& the Yabbie nets). On one of these trips, not only kangaroos were sighted in the headlights, but a large hare. This is the third time I’ve caught a glimpse of it!
The evenings are spent thinking about building projects. Now the proud owner of a metal bath, which originally was sourced to have as an outdoor bath heated by a small fire under it, it will most probably reside (still outside) on a verandah to built at the front of the cottage.
A bath with a view!
The first of the fruit trees has gone in  – a lemon tree and although kangaroos and wallabies have inspected it, so far it seems to be off their menu.
A passionfruit vine was gifted to me and it will possibly be installed as part of a green fence around the labyrinth.
Other trees in pots are waiting to make the trip up to the retreat.  There are half a dozen pomegranate trees – a result of planting out the spent seeds from a pomegranate feast 3 years ago. Quite small still, but hardy as they have been in a crowded spot, they should take off now they have been potted up. They should do quite well  and I’m intending to hedge them in front of the labyrinth, which should also offer a little more privacy as people walk.
There is also a 7 year old Avocado tree that has been on the deck for some time and is calling to have its roots set free and the half dozen or so Oak seedlings are progressing well.
Just yesterday, a small almond tree was given to me and that will be planted out on the next trip.
As with all projects, enthusiasm needs to be balanced with practicality… but there is the trap of over intellectualizing and doing nothing…

Progress at the Retreat

The Paddock December 2013 The Paddock May 2014 Paddock viewed from North boundary Dec 2013 Paddock viewed from North Boundary May 2014Visible changes are taking place, and whilst the photos aren’t taken in the same spot, this gives a sense of the work that has been done.

It was too hot from December to March to do any slashing of the scrub without creating a fire hazard.

The scrub, commonly called Chinese bush is self seeded and is a fire hazard even when it is wet and green.

It seeds prolifically, and just one plant can produce over a million seeds in a season.

What it does tell us; is that the soil here has either been overgrazed in the past or is depleted in nutrients.

One method of controlling the bush is to overplant the area once it is slashed with a green crop, such as clover – which will smother the emerging seedlings and provide green manure for the soil.

The difficulty in removing this scrub, is that there are also young saplings of gum trees and a couple of varieties of wattle, including Golden Wattle to avoid.

Poison is not an option as we want to develop the property as organically as possible. What has been made apparent, now that the scrub has gone, are the contours of the property.  It slopes gently down to the centre of the property, revealing the natural flow of water that feeds the two dams.

Plans for the future include developing much of the area using Permaculture principles.

Labyrinth site Easter Labyrinth outline 13 Centre of the Labyrinth 14 Centre of the labyrinthAnother problem is Guildford Grass or Onion Grass and this is prolific in the area of the labyrinth.

Single blades of grass that come up from a bulb and toxic to stock in large quantities.

Not even the kangaroos seem to have a taste for this.

Again, chemical removal is not really an option as it will leave residual poison in the ground for several seasons. Apparently use of a rotary hoe on a regular basis helps to keep it in check and reduce the incidence of re-infestation.

At present, I’m in the process of removing the top layer of soil, with the intention of getting rid of weeds so that I can put a topping on the path.

However the Onion Grass is very resilient and just bends with the shovel, so after reading the agricultural notes about it, am thinking of using a small tilling machine in the area.

This will most likely save time and my back!

In the meantime, work continues and mapping the progress with photos makes for a welcome break from digging.

We want to observe a full year of seasons before commencing any building projects. The first project is to restore the soil and then we can start to plan what plants to put in and where.

Already I am growing some oak seedlings and whilst the trees would not be used or harvested in my lifetime, future generations will have access to them.

 

 

Time flies when you are having fun…

I thought it was just a few weeks since the last update and was surprised to find that it has been a couple of months….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere have been a number of projects on the go, the largest being the preparation of a country retreat.

It is being developed as an eco-friendly place and will be very much “back to basics” with an organic/permaculture overlay. With quite a lot of work to do, including fencing and weed removal, it is anticipated that it will take a little while longer before it is officially open to guests.

The scrub being cleared is highly flammable, so not a desirable feature and hopefully it will break down into good mulch.

A labyrinth is under construction in a previously cleared area and should be completed for day visitors to walk in time for the Winter Solstice.

Additional projects underway are:

  • some collaborations with other Hypnotherapists and we hope to see some exciting new therapy options to come out of these discussions
  • the revival of the Melbourne Chapter of IACT, (International Association of Counsellors and Therapists) with meetings scheduled to be held on the 2nd Monday of each month (unless there is a public holiday).