My changing perspective on Australia Day


It happens to everyone as they grow up. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do. So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.     
~ Nicholas Sparks

It’s Australia Day,  a national celebration of the 1788  arrival of the First Fleet to Sydney Cove. A national holiday and day of celebration for all Australians. It’s a day I always looked forward to as a child and young adult – a day of barbeques and beach swims, of mateship and camaraderie.

But I’m fifty now, and other things pre-occupy me this morning as I drag the hose around our garden, filling the birdbaths and the bowls we’ve left out for the animals. I’ve never seen it this dry here at the farm. Australia’s been experiencing a catastrophic heatwave, and everything that was once green here in my little piece of paradise is dusty and brown. Since we’ve lived on this farm we’ve seen an alarming decline in bird populations, insects, marsupials and animals of all kinds. Some days I find it hard to breathe with this co-existing undercurrent of alarm.

I love this country. Her dust is in my veins. After my time in the Kimberley with my Aboriginal Aunties I truly understand what it means to belong to country. To feel the pulsing heart of this great land beating as one with your own. I still feel Australia’s beauty and magic daily. But even as my heart soars with the beauty and mystery of this country, it is breaking too.

An Aboriginal woman sits by rock carvings in Western Australia. Photograph: Medford Taylor/Getty

Breaking as I watch the effects of global warming, at the loss of habitats and ecosystems and at the mass extinctions that are happening on our watch. Breaking as I watch self-interested adults governing nations for short term re-election victories instead of with a true vision for the Earth’s future. Breaking as I watch whole tracts of land laid waste by mining and land clearing. Breaking at the plastic in our oceans. Breaking as I watch our government turn people away from Australia’s shores or lock them up in detention for years, forgetting that we were all once boat people too. Breaking for the historic treatment of our indigenous nations.

I think of my Aboriginal Aunties. (Aunties through love and respect and their gracious inclusion of me in their family – not through blood.) I reflect on how they opened their arms to me, and shared wisdom and acceptance and grace when I was going through psychic awakening. In their culture I was normal, and these gifts were normal. Their kindness continues to shape and enrich me.

I think of the fact that their entire history was negated through the British policy of Terra Nullius at the time of white settlement, which obliterated Aboriginal sovereignty and rendered them invisible and without rights in their own land.

They are still, so often, invisible or made to feel that way. Like almost all indigenous nations around the world. We are losing their old ways, their wisdom, and their insights into the land right when we need them most.

Dancers from the Yarrabah community perform during the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival in Laura, Australia Picture: GETTY

I think about going shopping a few years ago on Racecourse Road at Ascot in Brisbane, with my friend Vynette and her mother Leanna. About how while I was in the change rooms trying on a dress they disappeared. I found them sitting in a bus stop down the road. Why? They’d been asked to leave the shop. They’d been told that they couldn’t afford anything, that they shouldn’t be touching anything – because they were making it dirty, and that they should just leave. Why? They are Aborigines.

I felt sickened that my dear friends had been subject to such racist treatment. Yet they were the ones who apologised to me! They were sorry, I shouldn’t worry, it happened all the time. I’d had no idea…

In a country where nobody bats an eyelid if I sit with a group of friends who are of various ethnic origins because ‘Australia is multi-cultural’, my Aboriginal friends get treated like this almost daily.

Image by Holger Leue

I think of all the history we aren’t taught. Of the massacres and incarcerations and rights violations of Aboriginal people. I’d never known about them. We were never taught them at school. It was never discussed within our homes. For me this history hadn’t even existed. Until one day when I had a visceral introduction to that suffering.

I remember being at a waterhole in country Queensland many years ago. As I sat beside that tranquil water, I was gripped with stomach cramps so bad that I lay down on the earth, wretched with pain. To my mind came a brutal psychic vision and a knowing. I saw Aboriginal families writhing and dying after ingesting dampers (breads) laced with poison, and drinking from this waterhole, also poisoned. Could it be true? Surely, no! I researched local history later, and my vision was confirmed. It was well documented. And this type of poisoning was common. I began to dig around, and the more I looked the more I found. Atrocities. Injustices. Not just in our early days of settlement either. This racist treatment of Australia’s First Nation Peoples still goes on today.

How can I celebrate Australia Day with pride if I cannot also acknowledge these deep stains of injustice and cruelty? If I cannot acknowledge the pain and suffering of my indigenous friends and their families and ancestors.

How can we grow as a nation if we are unwilling to acknowledge and accept that there is a darker past upon which our nation has been built? How can we hold our heads high if this inequality is still entrenched?

I love my country. But today I’m filled with mixed emotions, not a need for celebration. I’m happy for all those who choose to celebrate. We live in a beautiful country. A lucky country. Lucky for some. Lucky for me. But while an entire cohort of our nation – our First Nation peoples – can’t know that same fortune, and while our planet is falling into ruins around us, it’s a hollow day for me.

With much love, Nicole ❤ xx

First Light, Byron Bay, by paul (dex) from vagabondish.com

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I was going to write something else…


“Good stories are like those noble wild animals that make their home in hidden spots, and you must often settle down at the entrance of the caves and woods and lie in wait for them a long time.” 

~ Hermann Hesse

This morning started as it always did. I meditated at 4am, and then rose with the first rays of streaky dawn to come sit and my desk and write a blog post.

But as I sat here at my desk with its view of the distant front paddock, our little home cradled by a circle of old trees whose leaves hang in fringes around every window, I became lost in the story of the morning.

Up in an ancient tree sat a powerful owl. He spotted me at my desk and nodded sleepily, before blinking his eyes shut again.

Over the parched grass under the teak tree Cedric the massive carpet python who usually lives in our roof came home from his nightly hunt. He wound himself up the teak and into the branchest closest to the house, which dipped and swayed under his weight. Then he slid across the frangipani and I watched as he disappeared from sight. A few minutes later I heard the rustle and thump as he settled in the roof above me.

Zebidee, the little water dragon, came and settled himself on the edge of the large ceramic pot we use as a bird bath. Can you see him here in one of our other pots, hiding among the leaves?

Bruce the baby Scrub Turkey ran dementedly in circles in the far corner of the yard before running into the tangle of leaves and long grass under the Bunya Pines. I was grateful to see him and know he was still alive. He’s starting to get wing feathers now. We’ve also seen one of his siblings recently too.

The Lewin’s Honeyeaters have been bathing in the water bowl I keep for them on the front verandah and have almost splashed it dry. So now I will go make a mug of tea and grab the garden hose and stroll around the garden, refilling the bird baths and watering my potted herbs and flowers before the heat of the day comes.

So, I intended to write something else, but I got lost in the world outside my window.

I hope you find some ordinary wonders and some time for yourself today too,

All my love, Nicole ❤ xx

Help Can Come From Anywhere


“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.” 
~
 Charles de Lint

The other morning, as the house slumbered on, I quietly closed the kitchen door behind me and walked up to the pool which sits in the big open back paddock behind our farmhouse.

My plan was to go for a sunrise swim and enjoy some quiet time on my own after my morning meditation.

I thought I’d be alone. But when I entered the pool enclosure I found a small wet bird miserably balanced on the floating hose of our creepy crawly pool cleaner. He was shaking and looked barely conscious. I eased myself into the water so that no ripples would knock him off his precarious perch and made my way to him. He gave no protest as I scooped him up. The little bird was just a fledgling, a ball of downy fluff and wings not yet formed.

I took him back to the house and warmed him against my body, and then placed him in a covered cardboard box that was dark and warm. Then I called WIRES – the Australian wildlife rescue network – and we worked together to make sure that this little bird would survive and be safe.

Our little visitor is an Australian Brush Turkey fledgling. They are also known as Bush Turkeys or Scrub Turkeys, and they grow to quite a size. Mum and Dad turkey build a huge mound of leaves as a nest and spend much time incubating and protecting the eggs. But once they hatch the tiny birds are on their own. And this little fella had experienced a very rough night and was exhausted from his ordeal.

After a little care he perked right up by day’s end, so I released him back close to where I found him.

I wondered what would become of him, and if he would be okay.

The very next afternoon he ran straight through the kitchen door and then eluded capture for the next twenty minutes. After sipping water from the dog bowl he ran back outside again.

We named him Bruce.

Bruce came back twice more that day and we found him asleep – burrowed into some old teatowels in the laundry basket on the back verandah at day’s end.

He’s now become a regular sight, darting about our yard or in and out of the house as he sees fit. Our dogs watch him with curiosity but ignore him. He’s just passing traffic to them, like the many lizards, birds, possums, bandicoots, wallabies, koalas, cows and occasional peacocks that visit our space.

And one day he’ll grow big and look like this! (See pic below)

Male Brush Turkey showing naked red head skin and yellow neck wattle which is in loose stage, Pearl Beach, Central Coast, New South Wales

Bruce could not have known I would show up that morning to rescue him. If I’d been five minutes later the automatic timer on the creepy crawly would have kicked in and Bruce would have drowned.

Life’s like that sometimes. Help comes right at the last moment.

So the next time you feel like Bruce and there’s nothing more you can do to save yourself, hang on. Life often has a funny way of lending a hand when you least expect it.

Much love to you, Nicole ❤ xx

PS – here’s a cool little 3-minute documentary to show you what Bruce will look like as he grows up!

Short and Sweet Update!

That’s going to be me too – lying around at the farm!


“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” 
~ L.M. Montgomery

After far too long in the city I’m heading home this morning.

Home to our farm in the Byron Hills.

Home to greenery and fresh air and quiet nights and mornings filled with birdsong.

Home to music and writing and journalling and playing with my new YOM 2019 Planner.

Home to baking and swimming and digging in the garden and walking on the beach.

Home to farmers markets and my favourite cafes.

I can’t honestly tell you how that makes me feel. There isn’t an adequate word for what home feels like. It’s happiness and a giant hug and freedom and comfort all rolled into one.

I hope you can find a little of that feeling for yourself today or sometime soon,

All my love, Nicole ❤ xx

Easy Fruitcake Rum Ball Recipe for Christmas

“You little beauty! I wait all year for these Rum Balls!” ~ Michael the Tractor Man

 

We live on a farm, as members of a small regional community here in the Byron Bay Shire. Each year we use the same services, eat at the same cafes, shop at the same markets. Over time the people who staff these places have become friends – people whose names we know and whose lives have become intertwined with our own.

So at Christmas time we love to share gifts with the people who have served and supported us throughout the year.

I’m planning to make my Festive Fudge, shortbread and Christmas cakes to give as gifts. But I’ve been in bed for most of the past month so my preparation is behind and today Ben will be seeing the man who services our mowers and chainsaws, and the man who repairs and services our tractors. So we need rumballs, stat! With Bundaberg Rum, of course, because that’s how we roll in this household. It’s tradition!

These rumballs are one of the fastest and easiest recipes I know. And oh my goodness, they are DELICIOUS!!! Fudgey and flavoursome, great texture, and not too sweet. I whipped up these Easy Fruitcake Rum Balls last night, in about twenty minutes from start to finish.

If you don’t like the taste of rum try brandy, Frangelico, Kahlua, Tia Maria or even Grand Marnier. Need it alcohol-free? Substitute rum flavoured essence, vanilla or hazelnut syrup or even a coffee essence.

And if you live somewhere hot at Christmas time make sure to keep the finished rum balls in the fridge. In fact if it’s meltingly hot where you are you may need to chill the mixture first before rolling it.

Happy making, lots of love, Nicole xx

Ingredients:

  • 1.2kg of fruitcake (Buy two x 800 gram dark fruitcakes and use one and one half cakes)
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) of dark rum
  • 3 x 200g blocks of dark chocolate
  • 3 to 4 cups of unsweetened desiccated coconut (Note – you could substitute chocolate sprinkles for some or all of the coconut if you prefer)

Method:

  1. Choose a large bowl. Break the cake into tiny crumbs in the bowl and then sprinkle the rum over the cake. Mix well and leave to stand for five minutes.
  2. If you have a  microwave melt the chocolate by breaking the first 200g block of chocolate into pieces in a heatproof bowl. Melt on medium for one minute. Stir and then melt on medium for another 30 seconds. Stir and if all melted add chocolate to cake mixture. Stir well.
  3. Repeat process for remaining two blocks of chocolate, melting and mixing one block at a time.
  4. If you don’t have a microwave use a double boiler  – break all of the chocolate into a large bowl and place the bowl over simmering water. Stir until melted. Add the chocolate to the fruitcake mix in thirds, stirring well after each addition.
  5. Take heaped teaspoons of mixture and roll into balls using your hands. If it’s boiling hot in your kitchen chill the mixture a little first to make it easier to roll. Toss the balls in coconut to cover. You should get upwards of 80 balls. (Results vary depending on how much you eat while making!)
  6. Place on a tray or in a container in one layer and refrigerate until firm. After the balls are hard you can stack them on top of each other, but wait until they are set or they will lose their shape.

Here is the recipe and the taste test in pictures for you (and you’ll notice that Rufous Dog has managed to sneak into yet another food pic) 🙂