You See Dem Owls?

Families gather around the campfire at night telling stories about the night owls. By Kathleen Buzzacott

Families gather around the campfire at night telling stories about the night owls. By Kathleen Buzzacott

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
~ e.e. cummings

So, back to my story about the Kimberley owls

Have you ever wanted to run away from yourself?

Twenty years ago or so, when I arrived at this remote cattle station at the top end of western Australia – a million acres of vast wilderness that I was to call home – I was already deeply unhappy. I’d been troubled by a mystery illness which had disrupted my career, and whose lingering affects of fatigue left me strangely unable to pursue a ‘normal life’.  I found that after working all day I had no energy for socialising or relationships, I could no longer drink alcohol without feeling ill, and the plans I had made for myself seemed to be going up in smoke. Instead of climbing the ladder I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, and that, it seems, was where my life was going.

After such a promising beginning, my life had spiralled into a place I couldn’t recognise. My relationship was in tatters, although I was still trying to make it work. The staff at the station were mostly men with poor social skills – only the gay and seriously alcoholic station cook took any time to talk to me. And I had come ill-prepared for living somewhere so remote.  I had brought only one book, and no crafts or projects for a nightly distraction.

Even worse, I had this weird psychic sense of something impending. I had moments of deja vu, lucid dreams, a feeling of being watched, and I often smelled flowers or smoke when there was nothing to create that sort of odour. I knew things about people or events without being able to understand why.

I worked hard on shoving any intuitive or psychic feelings and perceptions back down.  That was something I actively didn’t want.  Being unwell already made me different enough.  I just wanted to be normal.

That was quite hard to do, given my circumstances.

Kimberley Boabs - Image from www.boabsinthe kimberley.com.au

Kimberley Boabs – Image from www.boabsinthe kimberley.com.au

The aboriginal man who’d met us at the last river crossing on the day we’d arrived at the Station still treated me as if I was invisible.  It was becoming embarrassing.  Ever since he’d poked his bony finger into my breastbone, with his strange welcoming message, ‘You dat thing’, he had only spoken to me twice; both times in the evening as we came back to our rooms after a night around the camp fire.  Each time he simply asked me, “You see dem owls?” And then he’d ask, “How many fella you see?” There had only been one, and just like the first night he had grunted at me and walked off.

I felt like a fringe dweller in an already tiny community with limited social activities and opportunities for friendships.

The Station had satellite television – a big screen in the staff dining room – and we received two channels clearly.  One was the ABC, and the other was an amalgamation of sport, more sport, local sport, national and international sport, fishing shows and a few bad reruns. To change channels someone needed to go out to the big box under the satellite dish and flick a switch. No-one ever wanted to watch the ABC besides me, and seeing I was not a drinker either, it didn’t leave me many options for evening entertainment.  It was miserably lonely.

I ended up with two favourite activities.

I’d sit quietly around the nightly campfire, listening to the music as stockmen strummed their guitars and sang, or played their small (very small!) collection of country music CDs.  While everyone else drank beer I’d sip tea and watch for owls. Gradually, over the coming months, I began to see more than one owl coming down to the trees around our fire. But the aboriginal stockman never asked me again how many owls I saw, and I was too shy to say anything to him. I figured he didn’t like me anyway.

My most favourite thing of all was something I did with only my dog Bundy for company, once the station’s communal dinner was finished. On moonlit nights, Bundy and I would head out onto the main road, which was just a wide dirt track leading out to the runway or over to the river crossing and back into town. We’d choose a direction and start walking. The dust was soft and thick beneath our feet and we would walk until the laughter, loud television and bad country music faded into nothingness. We never needed a torch. The stars and moon were so bright that we could see perfectly well without them.

When we came to a good straight stretch, I’d lie down in the soft dust in the middle of the road, and Bundy would come and lay beside me, her head on my chest. Together we’d look up and count shooting stars. There were so many that I needed to choose a high number as our goal each night. Seventy-six I’d say to Bundy.  When we’ve seen seventy-six shooting stars we’ll head back home to bed.

Shooting stars - image from   www.freeimages.gatag.net

Shooting stars – image from www.freeimages.gatag.net

Out there the night sky was oh-so-beautiful. Stars stretched out forever, a milky blanket thick with light. The ground was soft and warm beneath me, and I grew to love the smell and sounds of the night. My loneliness would melt away and I would gaze in wonder at the world above me.  Over the coming months it changed me somehow. I found myself calmer, more open to things, and I realised that I didn’t need to fit in, or try to be someone other than who I was.

I began to see things I’d never noticed before – plants, animals, tracks in the dirt, scuds of clouds in the sky. I realised that the Kimberley was full of crystals, all lying in the dirt at my feet.  Slowly my collection grew. Amethysts, clear quartz, smoky quartz, carnelians, dusty agates and river-smoothed wonders.

The big vast emptiness filled me up with…

I still can’t tell you what it was. Magic?  Spirit?

So much of my life unravelled at my feet during that time, and looking back I can see that it was more a freeing than a falling apart. But that’s now. With the wisdom of hindsight. At the time I was lonely, isolated and afraid of whatever was dwelling at the edge of my consciousness. Change was coming, although I did not understand what that could possibly mean.

And with every owl I saw, that feeling grew…

Barn Owl by Andrew Howells

Barn Owl by Andrew Howells

36 thoughts on “You See Dem Owls?

  1. The suspense is killing me !!!!
    Back from hols sweetness. Miss you guys. will call soon for a catch up.
    Love you and hope you’re feeling well today lovely.
    Kimmie xx

    • So far I am okay today, touch wood. But Wednesday is ‘Killer Tablet Day’ so I remain circumspect. While I’d love to think it’s gonna be a fab day, I am also realistic. But I have 30 minutes to go before said drug, so I’m making the most of it. And cleverly I have avoided a big breakfast, to ensure my trip home to the farm is less problematic…
      Hope your hols were amazing. Was thinking of you! Much, much love xoxo

  2. I love this blog Nicole!!! I felt so connected to it having had some similar expereinces moving to the NT… Let me know if you’re ever heading over to Darwin as I’d love to connect. Much love and light Bronwyn x

  3. Feels like I’m reading a really good book and I don’t want it to end! Living in remote Western Australia I can really relate to everything you are saying! Xx

  4. I smell flowers and smoke too. How interesting. Do you know what it means for you when you smell them?
    I’m waiting anxiously for each installment of this story.
    Hope your ” killer tablet day” isn’t as bad as all that this time.

    • Sometimes the smell is associated with souls who’ve crossed over, and sometimes with spirits or guides.

      Or, you’re walking past gardens and chronic smokers, or houses where they burned the morning toast…

      You’ll know which one it is, based on what’s around you. A strong sign of psychic awakening usually! xx

      • It’s mostly flowers for me, for my mom too. Although I have had other smells on occasion. It’s a psychic thing. I know what it precedes for me. I just wish I could sort of fine tune it.

  5. This is such an exciting story and love the way you tell it. After coming home from a healing for my husband we were at out ranch gate and a beautiful barn owl flew low directly towards us and in the headlights we could really see his face. He was coming for us and turned and flew by our house and rested there in the trees. I saw” dat owl ” real good… will never forget his face. Thanks to you and all my owl friends

  6. Here’s to coming home….sitting under your fav tree & if your well enough this afternoon…go down to the Pass or Wategos…the sunsets have been stunning beyond words. Big hugs sweetie..X

  7. An alcoholic station cook – oh please Nicole is there any other type of station cook? I thought it was only me who had walked the station road at night, it is always a healing experience. Reading these posts during a Kimberley dawn, something magical always happens. Today each cloud had it’s own rainbow, something I had never seen before. Thanks for the magic.

  8. May it be a breezy tablet day (and not in a tornado sense, rather a light flowing zephyr). Make that pair of nurses are on the ball and ready.

    Thank you so much for sharing. A little further up, you’ve partially answered a question (re smells) I had and it makes me more curious. I think “interesting times” are afoot and my understanding is blooming at exponential rates. Thank you.

  9. Thank you for this post Nicole. It has sparked my love affair with the outback. Ahhhhh diving into the outback dreaming….I love it out there. I know those feelings and connection to land and spirit. If you just sit still for long enough…and it doesn’t have to be a looooong time….something just washes over and opens. ‘Things’ appear. I fall in love with the land when I’m walking the outback. My heart celebrates and dances between the very grounding red dust earth and the spacious limitless clear star filled sky. Yes, magic and spirit is everywhere. When I’m home here on the east coast of Australia I feel the outback calling me. When the calling is strong, I go. At the moment the calling is very strong, so I will go soon to drink from that well. I will visit my favorite Nungkari (aboriginal healer), sit among the ancient rocks and quietly listen to spirit. Big dreaming love to you sweetheart x

  10. Dearest Nicole love this post of a monkey beautiful..(oh! I have to leave this in because its funny but this technology can sometimes cause things to come out really wonky x) but as I meant to say a lonley beautiful heroine way out in the wilderness with limited company and even limited TV or music choices….oh how you have turned it around and how that place turned you around by seeping its magic and crystal magic into your bones…what an absolutely delightful and intoxicating story love all the characters….thank you much much…and bucketfuls of love for Wed and your continuing war against dem little germ type infection type annoying lyme buggers.much done much left to do thank you for bringing us along it means a lot to me and my own life…..u gift me with these posts they make my day. xxxxx

  11. Just soaking up your words Nicole, so evocative and thrilling.
    Hope this current freeing time starts passing more gently and you reach the new magic soon.
    Love xxx

  12. hanging on the words Nicole…….and then the instalment ends……and I’m dashed…….this is riveting, I love it….thank you so much. It is exciting and enlivens something inside me that makes me feel like I will explode. Thank you. I do hope the super-nasty pill has not been super-nasty to you today…….
    Love xxxx

  13. Owls are my mascots….they are everywhere in my house….and the only thing that truly puts me in a peaceful meditative state of mind is the time I spend outside at the very early hours of the morning (2am to 4am) staring at the night sky…..I have seen at least a dozen shooting stars….

  14. I love your blog. Thanks for sharing all your insights and recipes for life in such a positive informative way. In this piece.. you wrote ‘ and I often smelled flowers or smoke when there was nothing to create that sort of odour. ‘ That definitely spoke to me…. I too pick up scents, smoke.. have you come to any conclusions on that? I’d be curious if you feel like sharing. Thanks

  15. I love your blogs… I found you by accident and now I’m a big fan. In this postings you write ‘and I often smelled flowers or smoke when there was nothing to create that sort of odour’. This spoke to me, I pick up scents as well – mainly smoke, sometimes perfume… not sure where it comes from or from whom… I do have close family that have passed away.. I was curious of your conclusion of these smells… and if you would share. Thanks.

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  18. Your writing is really gripping. I can just imagine you lying in the dust watching the stars, you describe it so well. Incidentally, I saw a magazine article for the Kimberley recently and it looks absolutely beautiful.

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