Year: 2017

Of things unknown and longed for still

Every morning I watch the seagulls fly over the canal from the deck of my new home, a houseboat in the centre of Amsterdam. They are experts at catching an updraft, familiar with every twist and turn of the waterways, expending energy only when needed. Unlike the seagulls though, I am bewildered by my new surroundings. I feel like a fledgling pulsing between fascination and a desperate need to return to the nest. Moving countries can do that to you, especially if you’ve spent the last 6 years living in the Australian wilderness with only forest for company. When I was young, I dreamt I could fly too. I soared high above mountains and through valleys. I wasn’t a bird in my dreams. I was me, flying. It felt completely natural and it was exhilarating. I haven’t experienced anything quite like it since. It coincided with a childhood exploring the woods surrounding my home, boundless and free of self-doubt.

What does not bend, breaks

Now that we’ve set a departure date, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how much living in this wild place, often alone, has changed me. In particular, and inspired by a grove of bamboo that I’ve only just learned to love, how much stronger I’ve become. Backwoods living has tested my strength physically and emotionally and I’ve discovered a depth of resourcefulness I never knew I had. I am proud of my strong arms and that I’m no longer afraid when I hear wild dogs howling at the moon or when I wake up to the smell of bushfires in the forest at night. What’s absent now though is the stubborn, white knuckled and rigid view of strength I came here with. A softer more intelligent strength has taken its place. A strength that is not afraid of bowing humbly before adversity knowing just like the bamboo, it will bend and not break. I lost a lot of metaphorical stems along the way though before I realised my un natural view of strength no longer …

Why am I leaving this!

Dear Hearts, while I wait for a departure date to drop into my lap, I’ve been musing about some last lingering doubts and about Nature, my harshest and wisest teacher. ‘Why am I leaving this!” I’ve been asking myself this question nearly every morning for weeks now as I sit, often uncomfortably, in the uncertainty of not knowing where to from here. A trigger for all of the lingering doubts about our decision to leave to come back and torment me. It’s winter here in Australia, and along with Autumn, it’s my favourite time of year. Full of cold nights with the fire on, blue sky days and lovely walks safe in the knowledge that all of the the creatures that can kill me are sleeping! There’s a gentleness to the wilderness now that allows me to exhale after the intensity of summer. To fully relax into myself and into nature.

Living the dream

I’ve been trying to write this post since March, the five year anniversary of our move from the city to the bush. I could say that life got in the way, that I was too busy but that would only be partly true. The real truth is that I’ve been procrastinating, making excuses because I knew writing it would be hard. Hard because after 5 years of ‘living the dream’ we’ve decided to follow our hearts back to the city. How do you celebrate something and leave it at the same time without feeling like somehow you’ve failed? I realised as much as wanted to, I couldn’t let this milestone pass because an anniversary is more than a celebration of the start of something it is also an opportunity to take stock of where you are now and how far you’ve come. To reflect on all of the things you didn’t know then but do now. That day back in the beginning, I burst into tears as the removal truck made it’s way up our …

After the flood

Finally last weekend, after months of extreme heat and little rain, we got our first summer flood. And it was a proper flood, isolating many small communities along the waterways that weave their way through the local river valleys. I realised that of all the things that I cherish about living here, it’s these flood days that I love the most. That might sound strange but floods are part of life here and, most of the time, they are an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the serenity. I think they’re also a rite of passage. You haven’t truly lived here until you’ve experienced a flood. I still remember the excitement of our first one. We couldn’t wait to get down to the river and watch the bridge disappear. We had three that first summer, one isolating us for 5 days and leaving us with out power for longer. Since that time we’ve had many more with each one a time for rich connection with family, neighbours and neighbours we never knew we had. Even hermits come out to …

The love of thousands

This week I started reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, a former forrester in Germany who now works actively for the return of primeval forests. He writes that forests are in fact a social network supporting the sick, nourishing the young and working together to regenerate in times of devastation. They flourish in community just like humans and a tree is only as strong as the trees that surround it. Both nature and nurture are recognised as having an impact on lifespan with the ‘maternal instincts’ of mother trees playing a role in the nurturing of young trees, passing on their legacy through their fungal root connections. In our human world, it seems nature and nurture are also inextricably linked. Entangled together manifesting as our innate disposition and our inner voice, influencing our behaviour, our relationships and our longevity. We are a potent mix of our essential selves and the accumulated experience of those that have come before us. A cocktail of DNA and generations of lived experience.

Rose is a rose…loveliness extreme

We’ve been back from the cooler climes of the Northern Hemisphere for a month now and the summer we’ve returned to has been brutal. Two days ago we reached a record breaking temperature of 48.9 degrees celsius, the hottest place on earth according to some news reports. Extreme heat like that silences and suffocates everything in its wake. It might sound dramatic, but it feels like we’ve been in survival mode for weeks. Another valuable lesson in surrendering to the dictation of nature and a frightening glimpse into our global warming future. But thankfully today I’m exhaling deeply and breathing in the sweet smell of rain. The forest is alive again with the sounds of the animal world. After nearly 5 years living in this wild and sometimes extreme landscape, I remain in awe of the power of the natural world. I’ve come to realise that to flourish in this wild place, I must also be fierce and irrepressible. To stand steady amid the chaos and boldly express my own true nature. That’s when the magic …

These are the good old days

After a month in The Netherlands reconnecting with family and old friends, tonight I’m leaving on a jet plane for home. I’ve said many goodbyes over the past 25 years but this time I’m feeling particularly melancholic. To have a life in more than one place is a gift for which I am very grateful but at times like this, I feel torn. Being here always takes me on a journey through past lives and a rollercoaster of emotions. Amsterdam in particular is where my heart feels most at home. It’s the city where I fell in love, truly felt comfortable in my own skin and learned to be a mother. Maybe it’s a symptom of growing older and understanding the impermanence of life that I’m struggling more and more with letting go and with the feeling that I still have unfinished business. Often the heart just knows what the mind struggles to understand.