notes from here and there


Something other than Australiana

I needed to take a break from thinking about Australia: what to do here; where to live here; how to live here; what's best here; which school here; which friends; and the why's...the many, many why's. I just couldn't take it any longer, the pain in the ass of it all, so instead I'm posting some images that aren't even mine, of a place I have been near but haven't actually been to, but because of it, I am here now...sort of, because of work and the need for sustenance.

In the beginning there was Tchad or maybe it was in the end. Or maybe the beginning was God but we have since forgotten. And still we wait to see which way the wind blows. From north to south or east to west? And does it matter, the knowing of this?  

I saw the earth spin on its axis once when I was a child and could still fly to the heavens in my dreams. The earth flies. The earth spins. And yet we remain in place. Not circular. But in place. 


I miss Africa or at least I think I do. Australia does that to you...makes you miss what you don't have. Or makes you miss what's been lost.  The animals here are strange. It's not normal to have such big hind legs and such small front paws. 


Nothing compares with a lion. Not even a tiger and especially not an emu...a most hideous bird. Although an ostrich is no less strange. 


They call this man a camel jockey. I think about that phrase. Who coined it.  A man crossing the desert, riding off into the sunset knowing which way to go, which sun to follow.


Yes, I miss Africa. And if you were born there and are not living there anymore, then I suppose you must miss it even more. Woe to you who have left your homeland even if it lives in your heart. It would be better to detest it and forget. But life doesn't work that way, at least not for me.


I miss the dust. The elephants and rhinos. The mud huts and giraffes. I miss the beginning of time sifting through my fingertips. I am hoping to find that same magic in this place...because they say dreamtime began here. And carbon dating agrees.   


Here there is no respect for the desert. Just coastlines and ocean. Perhaps therein lies the problem. An interior wasteland they repeatedly tell me is nothing. But all things lie in the nothing. The nothing is everything. The nothing is.


So now we’re in Tchad at least in these photos. A place most politicians would prefer to forget if they haven't already. A place that has largely been erased from our consciousness because there are too many problems to face and too much humanity we would rather forget. All things lie on the surface like an open wound. Festering. Waiting to infect. The disease of Africa.

If you want to simplify your life, go to Africa and you will quickly learn what is important. There are many of you who will disagree.  It's not for me to say what's wrong or right. I point my finger in a direction. It's up to you to decide which way to go. 


There is much song in Africa.  Have you ever wondered why? My favorite lullabies are African. I used to play them for Sophia when she was a baby. I have no idea if she remembers. 


My daughter likes to sing. She sings everywhere. I like to believe it's a sign of her happiness. If I am right, then perhaps I’ve done my job well. This mothering thing. But of course, it may have nothing to do with me which is usually the case. The blood of Africa runs through her so melancholy surely cannot be far. 


Sophia did not believe me when I told her that in Africa, the women carry things on their heads. She wanted to know if it rained there. She believes all of Africa is like Tchad. It’s all the same. Children without toys. Crops without water. People starving. I tell her that parts of Africa are not much different than here. She tells me she doesn’t believe me. “How can that be true?” 


We are all hoping to find our place. 


New questions arise. Sophia now wants to know what God we believe in versus other people. And then she wants me to explain all those other religions. And religion in general. What is religion, mom?


I read somewhere that if you want to know what you think, then talk to a five year old. All of the sudden you are answering your own questions about topics you haven’t considered in a long time.


Before having a child I thought I resolved a lot of issues. Now I’m not so sure. I think now, I just have more issues. But I digress…this is supposed to be a poem to Tchad.  


Something to take my mind off of me. Just for a minute. An afternoon, while the child naps and I can look out my window and dream, watching the rain dust the roads and the ferries traverse the river in a mist. Rain in Australia is heaven. It is gold. That’s true everywhere. Even in our dreams. 


The man sitting here knows the answers. The sight of him, surrounded by shrouded girls, it scares me. Intrigues me. The father of the herd. I wonder what he has to say. I wonder what he could tell me that wouldn't make my skin flinch.

Here's a story for you. A family, walking along the salt flats searches for water. Some kind of water. What if the water makes you sick? Do you drink it?

The family sings songs and tells stories. They find food. Somehow they find water. They play games with sticks and they walk many miles together. They wrap themselves in color.

Note: The source of the images are from friends of Carl taken while working in Tchad over the past few years. I would list their names but do not know them and am trying to track names. I feel a little weird about this but Carl gave me permission to use the I am. I think they are stunning.


Living Proof that the Universe Listens

At Crescent Head, NSW.

 Just when I asked Teya, "How exactly do I find connection?" The answers start coming. First there is her direction to "air it out" and "speak" and then amongst other "signs" I find this post at Slow Family Living. I'm posting it to my blog not so much for you but so I can catalogue and find it later when I need it. (I have a terrible memory when it comes to the how to's and what for's of intimacy and connection). That's a very good reason to keep a blog, by the way. Blogs are a great way to sort through all those ideas, thoughts and experiences that we soon forget and lose track of. And you thought this blog was just for you.


Getting Connected from Slow Family Living
  1. Write letters, send postcards every chance you get. Keep stamps in your wallet so that whenever you think of someone, you can jot them a quick note.
  2. Talk it through.
  3. Say sorry. Even times when you’re not really sure what you’re sorry for. Be sorry that there was strife. In the name of peace and love.
  4. Forgive. And forget. And move on.
  5. Give people a second chance. More if they’re family. And if they’re your children, give them endless chances. (Thanks Mom!)
  6. Ask people questions about themselves. Your family and friends and also people you meet on the street. Whether you’re at the grocery counter or the bank or the gas station, talk to people about their life.
  7. Listen to the answers.
  8. Make the connection when you think of making the connection. When you think of calling someone, call them at that moment.
  9. Have extra beds on hand for guests. Or cots. Or sleeping bags. And lots and lots of blankets.
  10. If you have to choose between order and quiet or mess and noise, go for the mess and noise. It might make you a little crazy but there’s plenty of time for order and quiet when you get old.


What to Do if You're Feeling Blue

Step 3.

Step 1: Read Byron Katie

If you don't know her work, you should check out Byron Katie. Yes, she's New-Agey. But who cares? If the shoe fits...then I say, put it on for Pete's sake. She's got lots of books and plenty of reading guides (and plenty more video clips). If it matters, she was interviewed by Oprah. So if you're looking for inspiration or are getting ready to re-write your New Year's resolutions... again... pick up one of her books, check her website and/or do the work. It's been one of those golden kernels I stumbled upon recently, much like discovering Pema Chodron. More tools for the tool box.

Now that I think of it, Byron Katie might be Step 2.

Okay, Step 1 - Call Teya or get yourself a life coach.
Step 2 - Read Byron Katie (or Pema Chodron).
Step 3 - Go for a walk.
Step 4 - Meet up with a friend.
Step 5 - Browse through Facebook and then visit all your favorite blogs.
Step 6 - Make a painting or two or three...
Step 7 - Write something and maybe even post it on your blog.
Step 8 - Take your daughter to the movie store and rent whatever she wants.
Step 9 - Clean and organize your house.
Step 10 - Ride the ferry up and down the river or to the museum.

Well, that should get you started.


Crescent Heads, NSW

This place was just beautiful so I had to post some pics. Five or six hours south of Brisbane, we stopped here on our way north, heading home from Victoria. The Australian coast. You can see why so many Aussies are beach bums. Amazing.






Echuca, Real Estate and Ears

Cruising the Murray on the old steamboat, Emmylou in Echuca, Victoria.  Tea and scones, anyone?

The plan is to drop little pics here and there from our trip south. Just read the captions for details and maybe I'll fill in a detail here or there if I think of it. All I can say is Victoria is a long way away. Just like most things in Australia. Partly because you may be cruising on the Interstate one minute and the next minute you are at a roundabout in the middle of some small town like Dubbo, for instance. Which isn't that small, comparatively speaking. I just couldn't think of another podunk village off the top of my head and I'm too lazy to reach for a map. Anyhow, we've moved on from Victoria and now back in Queensland we continue our search for a house. I'm feeling more hopeful as I see more and more houses added to the real estate website. Of course, we had to get a new perspective on the cost of rent in Brisbane....$600/wk seems to be a good rate but then there are limitations. I know, I too was aghast. Most suitable houses go for around $1000/wk and these aren't even the luxury houses. Buying a house is even worse. If you want something livable, it's going to be a cool million to start. A tear-down is 600k. So if you think you've got it bad in Houston, think again. 

By the way for those of you keeping up...Sophia's visit to the ENT went great. Her ear is fine. Just a lovely fungal infection. She was thrilled to have it vacuumed out. Seriously. The doctor couldn't believe it. She's had goop in her for a month so I don't blame her for wanting it out. Total visit was $200. I'm waiting to see how much I get back from the insurance company. Ear drops were $21. Back in the States, our trip the ENT was over $1000 (and that was just for lab work). So although real estate is high least medical costs are more normal here. And if I were a permanent resident it would be even less because of medicare which makes medical costs mostly negligable. 


Life's Lessons by Regina Brett

Sophia and Carl at Apollo Bay, Victoria.

 Apollo Bay, Victoria.

Someone e-mailed me this list of Life's Lessons written By Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio. I liked it so I'm sharing it here. It's always good to be reminded of the obvious and the not so obvious. So here it is.


To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught to me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:"

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one i s up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
25. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ''In five years, will this matter?".
26. Always choose life.
27. Forgive everyone everything.
28. What other people think of you is none of your business.
29. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.
30. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
31. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
32. Believe in miracles.
33. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do..
34. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
35. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
36. Your children get only one childhood.
37. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
38. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
39. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
40. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
41. The best is yet to come.
42. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
43. Yield.
44. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.



Thoughts Along the Great Ocean Road

12 Apostles

Sorry I haven't been keeping up with this here blog. Firstly, we went on a two week road trip down to Victoria (4800 km return -- what was I thinking?) And then we got back and to a plague of homesickness. Just not wanting to write. Just not wanting to be here. And I don't think this blog is a place for my groveling. Not sure what to do about that yet. On top of all that, Sophia's ear thing has returned so after 3 visits to the GP we're off to the ENT tomorrow.

Here's a little bit from our trip to Victoria. I'll post some more pics later.

The Great Ocean Road is one of my favorite parts of Australia. It's along the bottom coast of Victoria from Port Fairy to Torquay. It is uninterrupted coastline dotted with sheep and valleys, an occasional koala, and plenty of blue ocean. Ahhh. It was cold in Victoria. So nice for me, because my body clock is telling me it's supposed to be fall even though every day is glorious and cool in Brisbane.

How far do we have to go? 

Can you find the koala?

The coastline is dripping with vegetation.

London Bridge fell down.

A cold, blustery day. I love my wool hat. 

Succulents ready for spring.

In case you missed it...

Monkey Dance on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria from susan simmons on Vimeo.


Talking about the Grampians

I'm starting to compile pics from our trip. In the meantime, here is our family reporter giving us the low down on the weather in the Grampians. I think we have the makings of a television personality.

Talking about the Grampians from susan simmons on Vimeo.

We met Catherine and her family at Rachel's house in Stawell which is near the Grampians National Park. After Stawell, we stayed at the Halls Gap Eco Hostel. The weather was cold and rainy. For me, a nice change from beautiful Brisbane. My body clock must be ready for winter...or at least Fall. I loved the Grampians. They reminded me of Big Bend although not so dramatic as that high and low desert in West Texas. Nonetheless, the walking and views were lovely.

Sophia got hold of the camera. This is Jasmine.

 Now Jasmine's turn.

 Entrance to Eco Hostel in Halls Gap.

 Back patio.

 I love the bike rack and the free bike use. We had a great ride in the rain.

Sophia getting ready to ride.