magical mystery bay

looking out to montague island

It just goes to show what a difference a tide can make.  Last week we ventured up to magical Mystery Bay.  Abby’s first time – only our second.  And this afternoon the tide was waaaaaaay out.  Oh – it was an utterly different landscape.  Even more enchanting.  Montague Island was crisper – especially through Mum’s wonderful new binoculars – and almost enticing to me who is terrified of boats.  There was a funny gathering of birds on the far rocks – perched right on the jagged edge with their wings fluffed out like butterflies as if they were trying to catch treasures from the wind as it passed them by.  There were rock pools galore – worlds for miniature people, mermaids, pirates, their ships and treasure.  And the green.  Oh the green.  Sharp rocky fields of it.  It was thick, velvety and so beautiful, turning the broken rocky landscape into an aerial landscape of lush green hills and valleys.

fields of green

miniature mountain rounge

looking for shells

Mum searched for shells and driftwood … and made little movies with her iPhone to send to Grandad so many thousands of kilometres away.  He loved it – especially the roar of the waves.

watching the birds

inspecting needelpointing

Abby watched the birds, inspected the sea’s washed up relics … and eventually settled down on the park bench to needlepoint.  Oh my, she’s her mother’s daughter, isn’t she :-)

washing

I – being the only one with bare feet and legs – explored the rock pools and was made chief shell washer.  As I picked my way over the vivid green rocks and through the sun warmed pools, my mind was full of stories and plans to make the little felt people that could play them.

Wee fisher folk who catch the tiny, darting sparkling fish with the finest of fishing lines and nets.  Rock fairies who dwell in the deep holes of the steep, black rocks – like the cave homes of ancient China – decorated with the soft pinks and greens of the rock pool gardens.  Their little children who gather the sea snails and race them along the slippery rocks as the tide first slips away.  Tiny but fierce pirates who know all the routes in and out of the miniature bays, hiding their treasure in the sharp crevices of dagger like cliffs. And plenty of merfolk who dart about the rock pool gardens, tending to the sea weeds and coral, and collecting the soft green moss for their beds.

rock pools

sea gardens

like a model for pirates

washed up seedy thing crab underwater ponytail

blue bottle

I haven’t yet thought of a role for the blue bottles.  There were plenty – such an amazing array of sizes and shapes but all with that exquisite colour.  Always makes me think of the laundry “blue” that my Nanny Dougall kept to brighten the whites.

Doesn’t this just make you think of a face!? A sea troll who was caught out by the sun, doomed to squat there by the water’s edge for long centuries, the fierce, battering waves slowly wearing him away.  First his limbs, then his body until all that is left is his surprised face until it too is no more, his story forever washed away.

is that not a fac

Of course, this just has to be the bony spine of a long ago sea monster who was washed up one stormy night, too scared to crawl any further up the sand, to weak to return to his home in the sea.

spine

Mum and I are both especially fond of the fragments of sponge and coral that are washed up, drained of their colour and life, but still so very very pretty …

hunting for garden treasure texture funny critter sea witch hand chimeys
treasures lovely greys and sands me

And then, with the sun beginning to set, it was time to bump across this spindly, old beauty and head for home.  Isn’t it such a delightful bridge.  It’s wooden and rattly with the lake on either side filled with the most glorious of reflections, black swans, herons and egrets.  Picture perfect every time.

bridge home

Another magical day on the Sapphire Coast.  Oh I am so looking forward to when it is my home.

following the little mountain’s footsteps

vegie garden chilies

It’s been a bit of a crazy time here in Bootville lately.  My poor old Grandad has had quite the year, suffering a heart attack in January then a stroke in April.  There have been many trips to Brisbane, quite a bit of extended family angst, and many big changes.  Through it all, my lovely Mum has dedicated more than 20 weeks out of the last 26 to caring for Nanny and Grandad – something she does with inspiring patience and love.  She has lived with them – first Nanny and Grandad, whilst Grandad recovered from his heart attack; then with Nanny, whilst Grandad spent many long weeks in rehab following his stroke.

Every day she helped Nanny up, prepared her breakfast, helped her dress, did the chores, arrived at the hospital just before lunch so she could chat with Grandad’s therapists and physicians, help Grandad with his lunch, back home to Nanny, make Nanny’s lunch, do the laundry (always lots when someone’s in hospital), do any shoppings, sometimes take Nanny on little outings, start supper preparations, back up to the hospital, help Grandad with supper, settle him cosy in bed for the night, back home to Nanny, share supper, support Nanny and listen into the wee hours of the morning, as Nanny navigated this strange and unsettling new time in her life, send off the daily family update to our aunts and uncles and cousins who are scattered across the world, then to bed, always with an ear cocked to make sure Nanny was okay and didn’t need help.

In amongst this, new living arrangements had to be sorted for Nanny and Grandad, and the awkward and sad process of packing up Nanny and Grandad’s home began.  I’m in awe of my Mum and the grace and the strength with which she navigated these tricky waters.  Nanny and Grandad are now safe and comfortable in their new home.  But wow, there has been a significant toll on the extended family and I doubt things will ever return to the way they were.  At many times, I found myself grinding my teeth as I contemplated the strange and fraught family relationships that have emerged.

But this period has also seen a strengthening of the closeness between Mum and her lovely sisters Mary, Cate and Jackie.  Their love and the passion with which they advocated for their mum and dad was often the one light of many difficult weeks.  As I write, Mum, Mary and Cate are there in Brisbane – they’ve packed the last boxes of Nanny and Grandad’s precious treasures and pieces of Nanny and Grandad’s furniture are being shared amongst the siblings – visiting with Nanny and Grandad, taking them on wee adventures, making peace with this new phase of their old and frail parents’ lives.

I know I’m so very very priviliged to be a 44 year old who still has her Nanny and Grandad and I’m incredibly grateful for the wonderful times we have shared with them – many, many happy, funny, silly, creative, adventurous and beautiful memories.  But there’s still a little bit of me that feels a sense of loss.  The family home – that has been recreated wherever Nanny and Grandad have lived (they were irrepressible adventurers) – is now no more.  The familiar and comfy velvet armchairs and sofa with the old standard lamp softly glowing – lighting the stitches of countless knitted jumpers and crocheted rugs.  The long heavy dining table with all the chairs – so as to squash in as many children and grandchildren for Nanny’s feasts of pumpkin soup, roasts and sponge cake, as possible.  The elegant dresser, its glass doors illuminating Nanny’s treasured Lottie collection.  The twin beds with their electric blankets – oh my, how Janie and I loved these as little girls, arriving on cold dark nights after the long drive south.  Nanny’s fabulous sewing table and her trusty Bernina.  Grandad’s hall stand with his Akubra hat and walking stick.  His outdoor cupboards stuffed full of all the handy little things he MIGHT one day need.  The old fashioned kerosene lamps he used to light each night on the back porch so he and Nanny could sip their evening drink whilst looking out at their garden.  All of these will colour my stories and memories for many more years to come – but we will never gather there again as a family, with that wonderfully comfortable sense of familiarity and belonging.

In amongst all of this, Mum came down to Melbourne to help Abby and I prepare for Abby’s debut.  Yes!  The Debutantes’ Ball is alive and well here in our corner of Melbourne :-) Abby needed a long white ball gown with elbow length gloves.  It was such a blast!  And part of these preparations involved MAKING the dress for which we needed Mum’s overlocker – which was at home in Merimbula.  So, two weekends before the ball, Mum and I hopped in the car and set off for home.  The first time she’d been home in over two months.  We took our time – soaked up as much sun as we could, marvelled at the ocean’s beauty, visited with sweet neighbours and of course, headed up to Tilba for cheese … and a little, late afternoon adventure to a new for us spot  - Mystery Bay!

down to the sea

Now Tilba is a wee village nestled into the side of Mount Gulaga – a very spiritual place for the local Aboriginal people.  And I’ve been told a really beautiful story about this Mother Mountain and her children.  Mother Gulaga had two sons – Baranguba and Najanuga.  One day, they asked if they could go play – Mother Gulaga said yes, but reminded them not to go too far because the sea would come in soon.  Najanuga – the smaller son, obeyed and played just a little in front of Mother Gulaga’s feet – he is now the small rocky hill that sits between Tilba and the ocean.  Baranguba – the older son – ran out to the ocean where he laid down amongst the fish and the dolphins and the whales – and there he stayed, a rocky island visited by local Aborigines in their canoes for thousands of years – we now call him Montague Island and it is a seabird refuge with a lighthouse.  Legend has it that the bond between Mother Gulaga and Baranguba was never broken, and if you stand quietly on her summit and press your ear to her rocks, you can hear the dolphins as they play around Baranguba, her adventurous child.  A Tilba local also told me that ANU scientists, studying the hundreds of underground springs and streams in the area, put dye into the springs on Mount Gulaga and sure enough, the same dye came out in streams and ponds on Montague Island.  Local Aborigines refer to these sources of fresh water on a rocky ocean crop as Mother Gulaga’s tears.  Amazing!  I love stories such as these, and the rich and meaningful connections Aboriginal culture makes with its landscape.

You can just make out Montague Island in that photo above.  It does indeed look like a person stretched out sleeping.  But you can get a much better view of it from Mystery Bay.  So – despite the cold and encroaching sunset, down we went.  There were a few brave souls on the beach – some fishermen, two women riding horses, and a few children digging in the sand.  It is an incredibly beautiful spot.  The bay is littered with large sharp rocks and to the north side, a collection of caves, hollowed out from the cliffs.  Very Famous Fivish.

fisherman patterns in the sand rocky montague island standing on the point a clash of waves sea jewells sunkissed rock moon two little rock children the next little inlet the caves sunset

It was a beautiful, if fleeting, visit and I’m so looking forward to taking Julian and Abby back there on a glorious summer’s day.  The Far South Coast – it just keeps jumping up with more beautiful presents for us every time we visit. According to the neighbours, there’s also a little beach there – Billy’s Beach – that has the best shells ever.  Mum and I didn’t find it – sunsetting and all that. But we will …

fire

And you know – Mum, Mary, Cate and Jackie – as I’ve sat here and written these words, the story of Mother Gulaga and her children seems so very very pertinent.  Even though Najanuba is the one sitting at Mother Gulaga’s feet – the obvious child who didn’t leave.  And even though the ocean has washed in and seemingly cut Mother Gulaga off from her other much loved, adventurous child – Mother Gulaga and Baranguba are inextricably bound.  He can still see her from where he lays in the ocean, admire her strength and beauty, and revel in the courage and love she shared with him as a child.  She too can see him – she knows that he is part of her, that he shares her history, that he reflects her beauty, courage and love.  That long cord that still holds them together will never, can never be truly broken.  Forests and farms may grow up between them.  Waves may crash around them.  Sometimes those dolphin songs may be a bit harder to hear.  But that long and ancient cord is incredibly strong and eternal – they will always be Mother and Child.

 

where peruvian wool, german woodruff and the norfolk pines of rainbow bay meet

Well in my mind’s eye of course!

It’s a busy and overflowing mind.  One which races with images, memories and voices, sounds, tastes and smells.  One that holds hundreds of lists.  One that plots out countless plans, dreams and conversations.  One that sometimes gets lost with longing for what I miss, rather than make the most of what I have.

Let me tell you, quietening this mind at night can be a challenge.

But every now and then, it makes wonderful connections.  Connections that draw the here and now towards the dearly held images and memories.  In a piece of floral fabric I see the curtains that once hung in Nanny and Grandad’s spare bedroom, or the covers of cushions on the their porch chairs.  Holding a vintage jug in an opshop reminds me of the jug Nanny served gravy in and I’m taken straight back to a giggly Christmas dinner where Aunty Jackie hoarded the custard, in its saucepan, on her lap.  In a dear little baby’s cardigan, I think of my old Nanny Dougall and her incredible attention to detail.  A jaunty children’s print takes me back to the family room of my childhood and I picture my Mum at the sewing machine, stitching up matching dresses for my sister and I.  Just the other day – a grey, drizzly, cold and lonely day – I found a vintage children’s beach towel that I swear Aunty Anne kept in her linen cupboard in the 1970s for when all the cousins came for the summer.  When I bring these things home to Bootville – when I add that fabric to a quilt, or stitch another piece into a skirt, when I serve Julian’s gravy in that jug, and fold that beach towel into a cushion cover, it feels so good.  My stitches and the time I devote to them, pull the web of my life closer and firmer, making it into a beautiful pattern that I can pull out and enjoy.

These poignant words, from the talented writer, knitter and sewist at Needle and Spindle (found via the lovely Kate Davies), sum it up perfectly …

“Hand made items preserve time in the same way that fruit is preserved as jam, not as the unchanged strawberry or plum fresh plucked, but as something cooked and processed to preserve the taste of summer.  Hand made items embody both the hours of making (time) and memories and feelings of people (the times) within the construction of the object…a true cultural artefact.”

Isn’t that so lovely!  And as batty as it might sound, it’s exactly what I felt when I found this gorgeous sock pattern, last Friday night, after coming back to Melbourne from my week’s trip to Brisbane to help care for family.  Those rich shades of green and blue, with their lovely straight lines and ordered branches/leaves, reminded me so much of the Norfolk Pines of Rainbow Bay, standing tall, elegant and timeless against the magnificent blue of the ocean, the brilliance of the sunlit sky, and the smudgy mist of the hinterland.   Sitting on the sofa in cold Melbourne, so far away, these socks made me feel closer to that which I love, and I knew I had to find me some wool and get knitting!

pattern

norfolk pines

I had spent Thursday afternoon at Rainbow Bay, with Mum, Aunty Anne and Aunty Cate.  In the very small and southern corner of Queensland, where it meets New South Wales.  Where I spent hundreds of weekends and summers as a child, a teenager, then as a mum with her own little girl. Oh it was so lovely.

We visited the Dbar cafe for lunch …

dbar

walked the cliff top path remembering the ships sunk off the coast of Australia during WW2 …

log

stopped at the rail and peered down into the rollings waves, hoping for surfing dolphins …

scanning for dolphins

followed the trail down the steep cliff to the tiny cove with its “frog”…

the frog

passed the old porpoise pools where the crazy folk stand out on the Point Danger rocks – Uncle Keith always declared every 7th wave would wash any fool who was standing there straight off – put us off for life …

surfer with wave

channel

Round to the surf life saving club – where my favourite beer billboard “From where you’d rather be” now adorns the clubhouse!

mum and cate

lifequard

from where you'd rather be

… and down to the water’s edge …

looking through the pandanus

down to the sea

leaves

Mum sat under the Norfolk Pines (just saying now, when we have our land in the Bega valley, I am planting a line of Norfolk Pines) – not the Pandanus ’cause they were heavy with their drupe (that’s the word for their huge heavy fruit – you learn something new everyday, huh)

pandanus

pandanus not

and I reckon had one of them fallen on her head she’d have known about it – and watched as Aunty Anne, Aunty Cate and I had a lovely long swim.

silvery

Oh, it was heaven.

grandads school

view from the classroom

greenmount

is grandad here

(I wonder if one of these little people standing “at ease” is Grandad!)

Then we hopped back in the car and drove up the hill to the little old school Grandad attended as a wee lad – he tells us all the time about sitting in the hot classroom with the boring school teachers looking north down to Kirra and longing to run away and go for a swim, then south up to Greenmount where he knew the Boicke brothers would be – one sitting on top of the hill watching for the shoals of fish, the rest in the pub down below.

This small corner has barely changed in 30 years.  There’s always combi vans parked alongside the park, their backs stuffed with mattresses and cheerful towels draped here and there to dry.  There’s always families with tired sandy children, and mums and dads with their arms full of towels and boards and umbrellas.  There’s always older folk walking slowly along the paths, looking out at the magnificent view, stopping now and then to sit on the park benches that are shaped like old wooden surboards.  There’s always teenage girls strutting along in their bikinis, and teenage boys with their board shorts and rashies, their surfboards tucked under their arms, their faces smeared with zinc.  The air is filled with the lovely roar of the ocean, and the occasional shriek of the seagulls.  And there’s that smell of salt and coconut oil.  Yes, coconut oil!

Isn’t that wonderful?  That time-stands-still quality.  Oh it melts my heart.  The joy is almost overwhelming and I am so very grateful for every moment I am there, filling my soul, replenishing my mind’s eye.

So when I gathered my supplies today – my pattern written by a Londoner, based on a plant that grows in Germany, knit in wool that came from Peru – and headed out into my sunlit, autumn Melbourne garden – that was a full 13 degrees celsius cooler than I had been last Thursday at Rainbow Bay – in a strange but lovely way, all those sights and sounds and stories and happiness  met me there in the little green and blue stitches I made on the thinnest needles I’ve ever knit with.

swift

wool winder

(Nanny’s old wool winder)

the start coraline lucy sunbaking

on the kneeprogress

And I dream that when I pull these socks on – hopefully before winter’s through! – I will know they belong to me because I’ll be wearing a little bit of Rainbow.

all that has happened

Oh my goodness … 2014, what a year you are shaping up to be!  Almost four months past and I’ve barely caught my breath.  Now tonight, here I sit in my layers of wool and sheepskin slippers.  The bed is laden with blankets and quilts.  The rain patters outside.  Summer has well and truly finished.  Autumn never really arrived … or if you caught glimpses, I must have been deep inside the emergency room of the children’s hospital and missed them completely … and now it’s almost gone.  And I’ve not popped my head in here for ages!

In fact, this is the third night I’ve sat down to write, but then I’ve thought … well, what on earth have I got to say?  I’ve been lurching from one chaotic period to another.  Nothing much has progressed on the crafty front.  No show and tells ready and prettily photographed  :sigh:

Then I decided to empty the camera card and what did I find?  Empty camera card? Evidence of chaos?  A visual reminder of what happens when you are frantically writing up one university assignment after another, whilst working full time in a completely new and unusual environment with a massive team of nurses and doctors that seem to completely change with each shift, accompanied by a husband who’s overseas working for a month, a wonderful Mummy who steps into the breach and keeps Bootville running, followed by a dear old grandad who suffers a terrible stroke and needs us by his side quickly and a darling old grandmother who doesn’t know what their life holds for them next?  Is that what’s on the camera card?

No, not really.  Instead, there are glimpses – here and there – some more weeks than others – of a life that is still being lived with good cheer.  There’s been lots of keeping close to the ones I love, birthdays celebrated, an endless appreciation for the old, battered and quirky, a never before experienced explosion of autumnal knitting, a coming together of quilts – old and new, a treasured opportunity to hold my Grandad’s hand whilst he rests in hospital, beautiful hours sitting with my Nanny whilst we knit together and ponder what may come next, a very special opportunity to rekindle a close relationship with a dear aunty, a much appreciated trip to a favourite beach, tablecloths turned into skirts, an adored friend visiting for Easter, wee dolls being needlefelted, moments of sunshine in the garden …

Yes … it would seem that whilst I have been away from here for a very long time – the longest ever I think! – and spent many, many hours at the early and late ends of the day caring for little people and their families; the spirit of Bootville lives on, and the goodness that makes up our crazy, busy, love-filled, creative lives gets squeezed into the corners no matter how fast the time flies.

table cloth borders sewn borders attached birthday quilts sewn quilting cocktails sipped newly thrifted shelves fabrics were played with dirty lamp fizzy clean lamp pea soup cardie dishcloths were knitted cardigans multiplied dirty sideboard clean sideboard mum visited ready for home nanny's knitting bag family rainbow dollls made friends came husbands relished autumn welcomed even more knitting

And that’s so good.  See you tomorrow – yes?

weekend drive :: crowdy bay & a wee lighthouse

A weekend with a little driving adventure is the best weekend of all – well, I think so :-)  But often, during these busy months of school and work and study and placement, it’s all we can do to keep everything running smoothly at home, let alone pack a yummy picnic and set off for a whole day.  Fortunately, the summer holidays provided plenty of opportunities for little – and big – driving adventures, so I’ve plenty to look back on over the next few months.  I thought I’d share some of them here –  this weekend, I bring you the little known, quiet hamlet of Crowdy Head.

Most of the beautiful bay, of which Crowdy Head is but the southern tip, is a National Park so the only access to the long beach is from this spot, or the northern tip – Diamond Head.  Originally, Captain Cook named this point “Indian Head”.  The Australian writer, poet, and social justice campaigner Kylie Tennant, suggested he may have named it so after catching sight of, through his spyglass, a group of the local Aborogines – the Birripi people (I think this is their name, but if I’m wrong, I do apologise and please let me know!).  Later it was renamed Diamond Head because of its abundance of sparkling quartz in the cliff faces.

kylie tennant's cottage(picture retrieved from:

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/travel/a-writers-hut-among-the-old-gum-trees)

Kylie Tennant, whilst living in nearby Laurieton, with her husband (the local schoolmaster) and children, was so delighted with this beautiful spot, she built a wee shack for writing, watching the animals, escaping from it all … not much is known about her time here.  But her book “The Man on the Headland” provides an enchanting description of this place and its local “hermit” Ernie Metcalfe.

Despite my many, many trips to the southern tip as a child, we never ventured north, so the delights of Kylie’s Beach, the Diamond Head Walk, the Mermaid Walk, and the many picturesque cliffs, coves and inlets of this part of the park are unknown to me.  I intend to remedy this at the next opportunity!

But Crowdy Head – it is part of my childhood dreams and memories.  The hot and sticky drive, always accompanied by the incessant and fierce drone of cicadas, from Nanny and Poppy’s to the beach – that always seemed suuuuuuch a long way (only 7km actually!).  The beautiful little waves that were always perfect for my sister and I with our boogie boards  The wee fishing harbour where Poppy’s friends kept their trawlers.  The co-op where we’d buy freshly caught prawns for lunch.  The squat white lighthouse, that I imagined holidaying in and keeping an eye out for smugglers, just like Famous Five.

close into shore all the way to the edge the paddler the pebbles little lighthouse from the fence towards harrington swirly down below looking up looking back to the bay keepers cottage

(the site of the lighthouse keeper’s cottage – the Crowdy Head lighthouse was demanned in 1928, very early, so unlike most of its lighthouse cousins, there is no keeper’s cottage for holiday makers to stay – such a shame – the views are magnificent!)

pretty edges

When we last visited here (four years ago) it was looking very neglected and dingy – I stood here with Julian, dismayed and almost disbelieving, declaring that the REAL lighthouse must have been pulled down, such a sorry sight stood before me.  But this visit, the little lighthouse is looking splendid!  Thank goodness the Taree Shire Council saw fit to restore her to her former glory.  I especially loved this little insignia – painted by someone with a steady and quirky hand.

VR 1879

It’s charming naivete reminded me of a wonderful picture book Abby and I enjoyed when she was little.

loud emily waving her parents off title page

Don’t you think!  Oh I do have such a romantic and sentimental spot in my heart for the ocean and all the good bits that go along with it.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend adventure to Crowdy Bay!  I did.

 

embrace

Some things never change. When the sky is radiant blue, the sun is beating down, and the mercury climbing, I immediately think of the beach. Surely the result of a childhood spent in damp, soggy bathers, my hair crusty with salt, sand between my toes, and my freckled skin sticky with sunscreen.

And so this morning, with today’s top expected to be 42 celsius AGAIN, I convinced the family that the only sensible thing to do was head to the beach. With towels and bathers packed, the beach umbrella tucked under my arm, Abby carting the bag full of snorkels and masks, and books and hats squished into the corners of the beach basket, we skittled out of the house whilst it was still a cool 25.

Today’s destination – Birdrock Beach, with its 169 steps steeply marching this way and that down a very steep cliff ensuring there won’t be a crowd :-) It didn’t disappoint – we were greeted with a cool breeze, sparkling water, the pick of the spots under a broad, almost toppling tree, and colours so lush and perfect it was as if they had been painted on especially.

the view from the top skirt and gat my book abby homeworking we had the pick the curve

Immediately I swam out – it is only waist deep for such a long way – and floated; the cool, salty, sparkly water holding my body in the way that only the ocean can. Pretty scraps of seaweed floated by, a school of chubby, stripey fish swam round and round below me, brilliant white gulls swooped back and forth across the sky, and the sounds of excited children and chatter of relieved-to-be-out-of-the-heat parents bounced off the small waves.

As I floated I thought about the beach – about the notion of my beach, my magic beach – and what makes that beach so. And decided that Birdrock Beach would probably never be my beach, my magic beach. Not because it isn’t lovely – it is. No, it’s not the location, nor the curve of the bay that makes it my magic beach. Nor the quality of the sand, nor the nature of the waves. It’s not what treasures you find there, or what sits back beyond the beach.

It’s that part of a beach that stays with me when I leave, that makes it my beach, my magic beach. That beach becomes part of my story, part of my heart, part of how I fit into the years I have spent circling this sun and the family I have around me. It’s that part of a beach that when I return years and years later, I recognise myself as still there – I can feel my joy, my laughter, my experiences in the air around me, in the water as it holds me.

When I reached the sand at The Pass, at the far end of Byron Bay, two weeks ago with Mum, the tide was way out and the paisley patterned sky was heavy with a brewing storm. But there were still plenty of people about – families making the most of the last sun-kissed evenings of the school holidays, surfers bobbing out amongst the waves, people walking gently, slowly along the glistening sands. It was magic. All those years of swimming and playing here as a child filled my heart and my senses. All those years of bringing my Abby here when she was small. All the sandcastles we built, the waves we raced in to shore, the mermaids we sculpted and decorated, the shells we collected, the daydreams we had about what adventures waited for us at Julian’s Rocks if only we could get there. I felt a love-filled and familiar ache in my heart and I knew it was my beach, my magic beach.

Earlier that day, I had experienced a similar rush of sweetness at Crowdy Head – a beach further south, down the road from the small fishing village my grandparents lived in when I was little. It is such a modest spot compared to Byron. A small, quiet surf lifesaving clubhouse, an almost defunct fishermen’s co-op, maybe fifty ordinary homes nestled into the gentle hills behind me. But once I picked my way gingerly across the heavily pebbled foreshore and stood at the water’s edge, Crowdy’s gentle, glittering waves rushing in to wet my skirt’s hem, tears filled my eyes and I felt an incredible sense of coming home, of belonging here, of it too being part of my heart – something I never would have expected. It too was my beach, my magic beach.

sandcastle stick orange rock

As for Merimbula, each time we visit, our plans for moving there become ever more concrete and detailed and I know that her beaches are my magic beaches too. When Julian and I stroll along that majestic main beach in the cool, soft purple light of the late afternoon, the dogs bouncing at our heels, sharing our plans and hopes for the future, I know that I am where I want to be and I feel such a sense of contentment. When we hit quirky little Bar Beach- be it to slip down for an early morning snorkel, a visit in the middle of the day with the family (and all the other families!), or to sit with our supper looking out across the ocean and mountains, whilst the sun turns everything in its path to a glittery gold – I feel an incredible sense of warmth, knowing that this will be my beach, my magic beach, one that I will visit and love for the rest of my life.

Which brings me back here to Birdrock. As you probably know, I’m not a fan of Melbourne. I don’t like living here in Victoria. I feel so very far away from everything I know, everything I’m related to, so many things that I love, and four years has not made it any easier. In fact, sometimes it feels overwhelmingly awful and I cry. For four years I have griped about the beaches (they’re mostly yuk with appalling water quality), the weather, the football, the government, the public transport, the roads, the neighbours, the police, the rules, the utility companies, the education system, the health system … give me a chance and I can find fault with almost every part of this state. But this is not a good way to live – for me or my family.

So in this year of 2014, with just two more years to go before Abby finishes school (I must add here that Abby’s school is FANTASTIC – I am constantly impressed by what they share with my girl and how they care for her) and we move to Merimbula and the beautiful Bega Valley, I am going to put a lot more effort into embracing.

That’s my word for the year – next year’s too probably. Embrace. Not everything will be perfect. Not everything will go according to plan. I won’t feel that nourishing sense of belonging. Birdrock Beach will never be my magic beach. And I will never understand Victoria’s obsession with football. But I will work harder to embrace what is put before me.

I will embrace the eight weeks of placement that are looming – not just an amazing opportunity to learn, but the final step I need to take before becoming a Registered Nurse. I will embrace the dark mornings that have already arrived – they are a chance to catch my breath before the day steamrolls ahead with a lovely cup of tea in hand and my husband by my side. I will embrace Abby’s very own version of blossoming – it is such a wonderful thing to watch and share. I will embrace Julian’s tireless efforts at work – hopefully it will all pay off. I will embrace the prospect of working (almost) full time come August – all those extra pennies will go towards building our home. I will embrace the cold and grey when it arrives – it’s simply a marvellous opportunity to cosy up with Abby and stitch more quilts and knit more woollies. I will embrace the responsibilities and talents I have and put them to good use.

patchwork rock honey comb cliffs cheese rock kayakers golden rock tree above us

Today, I embraced the glorious day we were given. I embraced the hot weather with its beating sun, reminding myself of how much I will miss it in just a few short months. I embraced Birdrock Beach with it refreshing, beautiful water and richly glowing rocks. I embraced the chance to escape, with my family, from the everyday and make it something special.

Magic is wonderful and I know that I need it to thrive, but sometimes – and this is that sometime – I need to accept that I can’t always have my magic, and instead, embrace that which is offered.

stones

my favourite locals

There’s so much life down here on the far south coast.  Wombats trotting doggedly along the road’s edge.  Gently, spiky little echidnas clambering up the storm water guttering – oh my goodness, their legs are SO short, I don’t know how they manage.  Ringtail possums sitting in amongst the toys on the bookshelf in the attic – seriously!.  Tall, loping kangaroos gathering on the front lawn each evening for a grassy snack.  Cockatoos and lorikeets galore.  So much of this makes us giggle – it truly does look like the Australia many folks overseas imagine we all live with, all the time.  Kangaroos on the front lawn indeed!

I’m very fond of the smaller, less flamboyant locals too – my good friends the sea sponges that hunker down on the rocks at Bar, the everpresent and always crazy seagulls that strut about us when we visit the beach, and the thousands of bees that are currently adoring the Red Flowering Gums planted by a very wise soul with an eye to future beauty and shade in the carpark of a recently built local shopping centre.  Come along, I’ll introduce you …

favourite rocks oysters smothered funny little hillock of brown and green standing proud lonley open middle open closed big red hello sway in the current smiling at me:: we head over to the rocks that lie on the far end of Bar :: as we near the water, their smooth red and black backs become home to old oysters, snails, tiny crabs, and eventually … the sea sponges :: when first you notice them, they look like a rather ugly clumping of weed and sand ::  then you look closer and realise the rocks are encrusted with marvellous gatherings of soft yet sturdy chimneys :: those that are currently washed by the tide or sitting just under the water open their star shaped eyes, you peer down through the rippling water and oh – such a pretty coral red and if you peer even closer, one or two slits of deep black at the very bottom, tucked safely away in a corner ::  the sponges sway with the tide, seeming to breathe gently, collectively, in and out, in and out :: my favourite bit, when they squeeze shut their eye and squirt a lovely long stream of crystal clear sea water up into the air – makes me laugh every time  :: truly they smile at me, and in my imagination, they hear me when I talk to them, and reply with bobs and squirts, openings and closings ::

have cracker redone the bread dance screaming

:: oh they are such funny little thieving things :: always on the lookout for bounty but not very good at keeping what they find :: today’s prize – one of them steals Abby’s crust from her lunch box :: we say to them, just eat it!  stop with the posturing, dancing and squawking! :: but oh no, these two make such a fuss, they draw the attention of a dozen of their competitors and without even noticing – their too busy proving to each other who is the most fierce and worthy of a crust –  their morsel is stolen, the victor swooping away to the rocks to enjoy her prize in peace ::

with leaves little bottoms sticking out so many high up and more a little hoverer:: I walk back to the car from the shops – icecreams and stone fruit in my bag – and think how pretty the flowering red gums are :: their incredible fieriness against the vivid blue sky suggests that the air about them should simmer with heat :: instead – thousands of bees :: swooping and diving and wriggling their little butts deeper into the blossoms :: the air vibrates with their energy :: as I snap away with the camera, people stop and say “Yes, aren’t they pretty flowers … oh wow!  look at all the bees!”  Yes, you find so much more when you stop ::  I am so grateful for the clever and thoughtful person that chose these Australian beauties :: we’ll come back in 10 years and it will be magnificent – a glow of red that sailors will surely glimpse from the bay as they scoot past ::

come for a walk

supper has been cooked and shared :: the beautiful summer light still softly dusts the sky :: a salty mist slowly slips in across the bay, laying its folds lightly over mountains, forests and beach ::

Come for a walk …

arriving the beach lowering sun running in and out footsteps getting darker footsteps with little holes bubbles feather grains of sand tumble weed clouds bird tracks bird with the red beak back the other way our own lamp post

a narrow sandy track takes us through a small forest of gums, she-oaks, tea trees, coastal grasses and softly twittering birds that are readying themselves for bed :: suddenly the forest parts, the stillness is broken, and there before us is the roaring swell of the bay, curving round to the small village of Pambula ::  the sun behind me glows fiercely, turning the forest we’ve just left into an inky black silhouette  :: a funny little gull trots after the departing waves, searching the wet sand for his supper, then, as the waves return, he turns smartly and bustles back towards the dry sand, keeping his toesies dry, back and forth and back and forth he goes until, as we draw closer, he elegantly, slowly, lifts his wings and hovers just out of our reach ::  following his footsteps :: but stopping all along to observe and enjoy – such as the little air holes in the buoyant, wet sand that seem to breath in and out – who is living down there? :: then, lost in thought, the waves rush back in and my feet and skirt are wet ::  not many leftovers on this beach – a pelican’s feather, a small shell nestling countable grains of sand, the marvellous little tumble weeds (I’ve no idea what they’re really called) that flitter wildly along the sand,  spinning up and down and round and round until the wind dies, a small hillock in the sand snags them, or a wave mires them in sogginess ::  the sun slides ever lower ::  we turn back for home, a little trail of claw prints leading us on :: they belong to this beauty – a sooty oyster catcher – he’s joined the funny gull for supper ::  our cliffs, still touched with a hint of the sun’s pinky warmth, the blunt head of which always reminds me of the whales that sail these waters, their babes tucked in beside them :: finally, our beachy version of Narnia’s lamp post – the dog off leash sign marking the path that will take us back through the forest, back home ::

on the front porch

from the porch

It’s my favourite spot – Mum’s front porch.  Just a narrow strip, wide enough for a pair of Adirondacks at one end, the old miner’s couch in the middle, two rows of vibrant red geraniums and a couple of potted herbs under the kitchen window.  All carefully positioned to soak up the sun.  Within moments of arriving, moments of waking up, moments of coming home from the beach, we head to the front porch.  Almost always with stitching in one hand and a cup of tea in the other.  And I have to confess, I can become lost on the front porch.  Perfectly happy to sit there for hours on end.

The mighty Pacific, in uncountable shades of turquoise, sapphire, aquamarine and sun-kissed silver, rolls gently in and out of the bay.  Framed at one end by the glowing red rocks of Long Point, and the tumble-down cliff of Haycocks Point at the other.  In between, the little village of Pambula nestles into the heavily forested hill to my right.  Behind it, Mt Imlay rises ever so slightly, like a sponge cake whose top has just broken, reminding me of the white pioneers who arrived just 150 years ago with their pigs, seeds and saws, and what isolation and ruggedness they battled.  Mitch’s Jetty, painted in a selection of ice cream blues and pinks and yellows and greens, sits quaintly in the middle.  Hundreds of mostly little boats bob about in Fishpen – which is also home to many carefully tended oyster farms.

Just before we move along to Long Point on the left, the sandy tip of the main beach a-l-m-o-s-t reaches our favourite Bar Beach, stopped only by a very narrow stretch of water that is carefully navigated by the fishing boats as they come in and out of Fishpen. When the tide is in, Fishpen and the Bar are smooth and deep with those magnificent shades of blue (they don’t call it the Sapphire Coast for nothing).  When the tide is out, huge sandbars appear everywhere, reminding us that this perfect little harbour has been slowly filling up with sand over the last several thousand years.  One day …

From the porch we can hear the bellbirds in the forests that surround Mum.  Flocks of sulphur crested cockatoos scream overhead.  Pairs of beautiful rosellas and lorikeets come to visit.  The shy rosellas, in their vibrant plumes of red and blue, sit atop the weeping silver birch.  The jaunty lorikeets fly right in and strut up and down the railing, winking and talking to us as they jig and bob.  On most afternoons, huge grey kangaroos hop lazily out of the forest and down the grassy footpaths, stopping on the front lawns to have their afternoon tea.  In the morning, the same footpaths are covered with piles of their pebbly round droppings.  Sometimes, a timid and solitary wallaby will sit at the top of the street, staring out to sea as if she too is captivated by its beauty.

It truly is my favourite spot, especially with Mum or Julian or Abby at my side – or all three!  As for the doggles – Lucy gives it a cursory glance, “yeah, yeah, see that every day” and then sprawls out in sun to sleep and when that becomes too hot, she slides under one of the chairs.  Fu – well she’s her mother’s daughter!  The second she realises we are heading out to the porch, she throws herself out the door.  She bounces up and down the length of it once or twice, checks out what we are doing, whether we have anything nice to eat, then sits Sphinx-like in the far right corner, her head up and alert, eyes narrowed, turning this way and that, her ears and nose twitching as they catch all of the wonderful sounds and scents.  She misses nothing.  Every now and then she turns back to me, a big laugh on her face, as if to say “did you see that!  did you hear that!  isn’t it awesome!”

We humans chatter and laugh and read and stitch and draw.  We sip our early morning tea, eat our breakfast, often our lunch too, enjoy an afternoon coffee, take out late afternoon nibbles and cocktails.  I sit, sunglasses and hat on at 6am – the early morning sun is blinding – and quietly breathe it all in, trying to tuck all of that beauty and magic inside, so that I may take it back to Melbourne with me, holding it close as a reminder of where we want to be in a few more years.

box and violinst

olives geraniums cushion lucy Fu close up fu fu watching the street mum stitching mums pleased mum starting number 2 wind is up

Then, just as happens on the beach, the wind can come up, fierce and cold, whipping pages of out of books, throwing scissors and threads off the table and scuttling off the edge of the porch and down to the garden below.  Hair blows into my eyes and mouth, my eyes squint up tight.

It’s time to quickly gather our things and seek refuge inside, knowing this is what life by the sea is like, waiting for it to pass, before eventually popping our heads out the front door to see if it’s nice outside for another wee sit on the front porch.

early morning

 

at our beach, at our magic beach

favourite spot belongings

dimpled rock

cross stitch

My favourite spot.  Nestled in amongst the glowing red and honeycombed rocks, the turquoise water tinkling close by.   Cardigan dropped within moments.  Cross stitch on my lap.

tall bird setting out gulls fighting for the rock

Sea birds gather.  Small black ones duck and dart amongst the gentle waves.  Every now and then one catches a fish and must frantically throw back his head to choke it down before it escapes.  The seagulls preen and strut, fighting over the perfect perch.  Right near my spot, the surfers enter the water.  See how they have wetsuits on?  I don’t have a wet suit and despite the best of intentions, when that first wave splashed my knees, it was sooooooooo cold I dared not go in, lest I developed an atrial fibrillation!

water turned wild

Then, after a lovely long sit in the sun with my Christmas cross stitch, a fierce wind comes up as the clouds darken and stomp across the sky! What was tranquil and gentle becomes stroppy and impatient.  Within moments, those sweet baby waves are rushing up the sand to catch my quilt.  It’s time to retreat.

circling gulls

And yet, by the time I’ve gathered my things and climbed back up the hill, the clouds are looking sheepish, declaring they didn’t really mean it.  The wind drops a little, as does the sea.  The silly seagulls forget their earlier quarrels and dance loopy dances in time with the wind.

Such a magic beach.

the packing of a wee suitcase

This wee “genuine hide” suitcase came from … you guessed it!  Mr. P’s dumpster.  I love vintage suitcases so had been on the lookout for one each week.  It wasn’t until the very last week (yes, I know, ’tis sad, but it does appear that there will be no more dumpsters outside Mr. P’s home) that this little treasure appeared.  Filled of course.  Mr. P filled everything with everything else.

Now? Why it’s packed with my version of the good things in life and coming to Merimbula with me.  Eeeeee!  I have a WHOLE week with no classes.  So tomorrow morning – with my trusty travelling companion, Fu – I am jumping into the car and heading up to Mum’s for a few days of sun, sand, swimming (serious, I bought new bathers, just ignore the two cold fronts lurking in the Bass Strait), lounging on the front porch, and lots of good quality pottering (aka sewing).

empty suitcase

~ there’s the sweet fabric Abby chose to line the wee suitcase with, so that I may pick Mum’s brain on how best to line it …

fabric for lining

~ some stretchy red cotton and pattern to make my first ever pair of leggings.  Don’t worry, I shan’t be wearing mine with SHORT tops – I have nice long, concealing smocks in mind …

leggings

~ some new white t-shirts for Julian …

tshirt

~ quilt fabric carefully chosen by one of my little girlies who’s moving to Sydney next term (bit sad about this) …

fabric and gloves

~ aha! the long smock to go over the red leggings, already cut out …

smock

~ a pair of trousers, recently thrifted by Jules, which need their cuffed hems taking up (please Mum) …

trousers

~ & my current infatuation … an absolutely gorgeous Danish cross stitch book which the lovely Kristy from #castoncastoff gave me when she came for tea this week  … she went home with Mr. P’s lemon juicer :-) …

cross stitch

There – it all fitted!  Well sort of.  I had to pop the three cross stitch thread boxes and the jar of quilting safety pins into a separate bag.  Now – do you reckon that if all these projects fit into one wee “genuine hide” suitcase, that means they are eminently do-able in the four short days I will be at the beach?

full

Hmmmm … I know.  Possibly a bit hopeful.  But I do thoroughly believe in being prepared :-)  Now I just have to find me a belt to hold this suitcase shut.

wintery scenes

beach flying birds

Oh it has been so cold here in Melbourne.  The mornings have been exceedingly frosty.  The grass is dusted with white.  My breath fogs my glasses – whilst inside.  The windscreen is hard with ice, demanding that we dawdle in the driveway for a good five minutes, waiting for the heater to turn it to slush.

too cold for the shed

Such has been the cold that one of us insists on tinkering with his outdoor toys at the kitchen table!

honeybunny

The young one is making the most of her lovely squishy, warm, snuggly honey-bunny – newly arrived companion for Miss Hinchcliffe who has been a bit lonesome since the deaths of our sweet little guinea pigs.

scrubbing the dresser

dresser doors

Whilst the crazy one has been more intrepid, determined to get that dresser scrubbed down, sanded till it gleams, oiled and inside before the next spell of rain.  Complete with newly built and collaged doors.  Who’d have thought a mitre box and tenon saw could be such fun.

the sun

chopping wood solstice bonfire

And then the Solstice came.  On a day glowing with sun (albeit, super cold) with a rich blue sky that sang of the summer to come.  Julian chopped wood.  The Solstice bonfire was lit.  We sat as close as we could, plates of slow roasted pork and pumpkin upon our laps, marshmallows waiting to be toasted, strawberries (from Queensland) waiting to be dunked into the chocolate fondue.  As the flames danced and crackled, we looked up into the frosty, moonlit sky and cheered that our earth was tilting back towards the sun.

Who cares that we are only 22 days into the first month of winter.  From this point on, each day reclaims just a minute more light, pushing us gently on to spring.

tea little squares pieced border blanket label

Whilst we wait, we remind each other how much we LOVE the cold!  Make more tea.  Fight over who gets to wash up in that lovely hot water.  Linger by the stove.  Fill and refill the hot water bottles.  Beg Fu to stay still on our laps and just cuddle!

And I dig around in boxes and cupboards, pulling out half finished blocks, long forgotten fabrics, and almost done quilts.  Piling them onto the table, the must-finish-this-winter list growing longer and longer.  And promise Julian that tonight! tonight!  I’ll start the argyle pattern on the front of his vest.  And sneakily knit another two repeats on the much less daunting baby cardigan.

And look out at that dresser …