Road Trip Treasures!

“You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It all depends on how you view your life.” 
~  Paulo Coelho

 

Late last week Ben and I slipped away from the farm for a few days.

We took a simple road trip into country New South Wales. Just to be together. Just to be on our own.

It’s been a very full year. This time twelve months ago I was preparing for major surgery. And since then there have been family health dramas, constant concern and worry for Ben’s aging mum, and then my latest near-death experience, back in May.

We were more than ready for some processing time, and a little distance between us and our problems.

We were gone for two and a half days. Not long at all. But it felt like weeks.

Here’s the secret of how we stretched time:

  1. We put our phones away and didn’t check our emails, social media or other distractions except to have a quick glance after breakfast and before dinner in case there was an emergency.
  2. We allowed ourselves early nights and plenty of rest.
  3. We kept our days simple and chose easy over ambitious.
  4. We stayed in the moment, engaged with each other and our surroundings.
  5. We held hands, we talked and deeply listened, and we held eye contact with each other and anyone we spoke to.

Those simple choices gave us the gift of replenishment. And if they worked for us I know they’ll work for you.

It was a super trip. Here’s a few of my highlights:

This is Beth, standing in front of the beautiful silk and merino wool shawls and scarves that she makes. Beth reinvented herself as an artist when she turned fifty, after attending a TAFE course in felting. She totally inspired me, and she gives awesome hugs too. (And yes, Ben bought me a gorgeous pink and coral shawl for my birthday!)

 

 

On our first night away we went for dinner at a local bowling club that does an all-you-can-eat $16 Chinese buffet on Thursday nights. It was packed with locals, all soaking up the ambiance that only plastic tablecloths, gold-painted honour boards, decorations from last Christmas and a gigantic empty dance floor can give. The food was delicious!

Book stores. You know the ones that are filled to the rafters with rare and old editions, as well as the latest reads? I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t come home with anything. I’ve now got some excellent reference books to research my next project. And I may have come away with one or two eclectic ancient cookbooks as well…

Op shops, second-hand shops, and those lucky dip kind of places where you walk through the door into a glorious clutter of wares old and new. I found some beautifully made old tablecloth and napkin sets at totally bargain prices, as well as a few little plates and bowls for serving tasty treats in. Oh, and some cake forks and a set of Japanese made 1950’s cocktail forks. And a cake tin. All of which will be put to good use here at the farm.

This glorious sewing, quilting and fabric shop fired up my imagination, and we managed to buy a packet of needles. Just the thing for me to dig all the splinters out of Ben’s hands from when he was off chainsawing and hauling timber earlier in the week.

We also enjoyed a quiet pub meal for two, sitting in an ancient dining room beside a roaring log fire on a frosty night. The table was set with real linen and a candle, and as we ate our delicious food we realised that it was the first time we’d had a romantic dinner date in Australia for over ten years!!! (My fault – my health has been crap, and I’m always in bed so early that we usually favour a breakfast outing or an early cafe meal.)

Ben’s already planning our next adventure.

How about you? Do you have a road trip planned or can you recommend one? I’d love to hear about it.

Much love from your rested and refreshed friend, Nicole xoxo

I’m Taking A Short Road Trip

“Go outside. Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone. Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice. Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. And that’s the point. Just walk, see, sit down if you like. And be. Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have, and realise that that is enough to be happy. 
There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.” 
~  Charlotte Eriksson

 

Early next month I will celebrate my fiftieth birthday.

My husband has been bothering me for months, asking what I want to do to celebrate. And I kept avoiding his question. I didn’t think I wanted a big party, but part of me was trying to juggle the possibility, and all that ended up doing was deflating my party mood.

To further muddy the water I’ve been working on the final draft of my memoir, and combined with a year of hospitalisations, near-death experiences and lingering complications, as well as my background companion Lyme disease, the realisation of just how long I have been living with chronic illness and all that has stolen from me has been quite confronting.

Finally, after a long walk down to the river and back, I had a clear head. I am alive. That is what turning fifty is all about. I am still here, and it is up to me to fill my bucket with the things that matter to me. Fifty is no mean feat for someone who has nearly croaked it four times now. So I came up with a list of options. A birthday celebration list, and this is it:

  • A road trip with Ben, and he has to make some excellent playlists for me as a soundtrack for our adventure
  • A small but fancy and delicious High Tea with my sister and a group of my closest girlfriends
  • A weekend away writing, where all I have to think about is words on the page or going for a long walk to ponder a plot point. A place where my meals are cooked and my bed is comfortable, and I can get a cup of tea whenever I want.
  • A holiday, somewhere new, anytime in the next year, where I can sip champagne with Ben and count my many blessings
  • A raucous dinner party at home with my neighbours and Byron Bay pals, followed by a bonfire in the backyard, under the stars
  • A big meetup with Dana and all my students, YOMmers, and Cauldrons and Cupcakes peeps – with tasty treats and crystals and lots of hugs and fun
  • An early morning beach walk and meditation, with time for ritual, journaling, oracle cards and reflection time, just on my own with the big sky and my Aunties and Ancestors above me and the earth beneath my feet.

 

I brought my list to Ben. This is it, I said. I’m going to do one of these. Can you help me pick?

He read over the list, and then he smiled.

Do all of them, he said.

We’ll start with the road trip.

 

So today that’s what we’re doing. A few totally unplanned days away, wherever the road takes us, while a dear friend looks after the dogs and the farm.

Elle, I haven’t forgotten your question about God, the Universe and why stuff happens. In fact I’ve been thinking about it all week while we’ve had no phone or internet here at the farm. I’ve begun a blog post to answer it but it till needs a bit more thought. It was a big question, and it deserves a decent and considered answer. Expect one in the next few days.

Meanwhile, maybe it’s time for you to write a list of your own, my friends. Just because you can. Just because you’re alive. And that’s worth celebrating every day of the year.

Sending you all my love, some hugs and a very good virtual cuppa, Nicole xoxo

 

Coming Home

“Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to uncrinkle, to breathe, to present to itself a cure for a disease it had not, until now, known it had.”
― Elizabeth Berg, The Year of Pleasures

 

I’ve been in the city so long this last stay. It was necessary. Bert needed surgery. Then Harry. I needed doctors, and treatment. Somehow the few days I had planned for became so many more than that.

But finally, last night, we came home.

We set out from the city in the early evening, to miss peak hour traffic.

The roads were quiet. We turned the radio off. The dogs snuggled into each other in the back seat and went to sleep.

When we left the city behind the sky became luminous with stars, and beneath us the tyres hummed along the asphalt clocking up the miles to our farm’s front gates. Flanked by forests and fields we drove through the darkness. With every mile I felt my body soften and relax a little more.

As we turned off the main highway onto the winding backroads of home we rolled down the windows and the chilly autumn air rushed in. The dogs stirred sleepily, ears alert, noses twitching.

There it was. The familiar scent of damp soil and sweet grass. A hint of cow. Occasionally a sharp stench of eucalypt-scented koala piss.

The night hung heavy and still above us. The trees closed their canopy over the narrow road. Almost home.

A large tawny frogmouth stood sentinel at our front gate, staring at us a moment before she beat her wings noisily as she lifted off and soared away.

We clattered up the long drive, our headlights making everything unfamiliar in their uneven light. Tired as we were, we all lit up with excitement.

We were home.

I could hear the cows calling from down by the river. The night was filled with the sound of koalas and possums and frogs. Sweet music to my homesick ears.

The house was silent and cold for only a moment. We all rushed in, turning on lights, putting down bags, turning back covers, making noise where there had been none.

But soon enough we were tucked up in bed, lights out, house dark again, everyone happy and ready for sleep.

So good to be home!

Milky Way over Byron Bay Farm - Image by Sirflife Australia

Milky Way over Byron Bay Farm – Image by Surflife Australia

The Long Drive Home

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“When anybody honks at me in traffic, I blush, wave, and shout, “Thanks for being a fan.” Being a celebrity is a 24/7 thing.”
~ Jarod Kintz

 

It was a slow trip from the country to the city yesterday.

It didn’t take long to pack the car, but the detours and delays, they were the things which took the time.

It was such a beautiful morning. I had to keep looking up at the bright blue sky.

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Finally we were on the road. But we’d forgotten one thing. Milking time. The road was thick with cows, ambling along, enjoying all the car horn toots from more impatient drivers as the herd stopped every now and then to eat some tasty shoot or leaf. We were happy to creep along behind them, and it gave Harry and Bert something to get excited about. Long car trips are often quite boring for dogs so we all made the most of cow appreciation.

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Coffee.

We needed fortification for the long drive to Brisbane. We took a quick detour to Harvest Cafe.

Of course, you can’t have a coffee without talking to friends, enjoying hugs and chats and sharing all the latest news. It was a very sociable, newsy kind of coffee break. My friends Wendy and Satisha got to see which bead on the mala was theirs. My mala was around my neck the entire time, so you were all there with me, enjoying the early morning of love, friendship and excellent hot beverages. I felt your presence close, and was glad to be giving you such a loving start to the day!

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Finally, we were on the highway and the dogs caught up on some beauty sleep.

By the time we got home Harry was well rested and all ready to race inside and out the back to greet the dogs next door. Bert? Well, Bert was mostly still asleep and needed gentle coaxing with the promise of a biscuit before he would leave the comfort of his position.

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I’d only been home ten minutes and my work day started.

A full-on afternoon of psychic readings, a quick dash to the shops for provisions, the total pleasure of take-out Indian food for dinner, and then my nightly meditation and an early night.

All in all a very satisfying day!

Sending much love your way, Nicole xx

Calling me back…

Post Office in Longreach, Queensland, circa 1908. Image courtesy of the John Oxley Library

Post Office in Longreach, Queensland, circa 1908. Image courtesy of the John Oxley Library

“When we illuminate the road back to our ancestors, they have a way of reaching out, of manifesting themselves…sometimes even physically.” 
~ Raquel Cepeda, Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina

 

All things going well, I shall be on the road this Sunday, heading out to Longreach in Western Queensland for a few weeks. Ben and I will pack the ute and depart at dawn for the long trek into the heat and dust. I’m hopeful my health will hold. I could use the break away, and it’s been two years since I was last there – that big wide space which always feels so familiar. No matter how much part of me yearns for salt water, yet another part craves the forever skies, the emptiness, those Outback vistas.

Part of my DNA is anchored at Longreach. Of that I am sure. My grandfather was born here, the son of a drover. His feet walked these same roads. His mother and father’s too. So much history speaks to me as I stroll the wide gracious streets of this town, as I sit by the river or wander the plains.

The cemetary at dawn, Longreach

The cemetery at dawn, Longreach

I’m not quite sure what I expect to find on this next trip. The bleached bones of old stories? A fragment of myself? Rememberings and reconnections?

All I know is that the voices calling me to return have been growing steadily louder and more insistent.

I’ll be celebrating my Nana’s birthday in Barcaldine. My first year without her gentle presence in my life. It will be good to be so far away for that one, I think, and I’m sure I’ll find a little bakery or coffee shop with the sort of food she would have considered a fitting birthday treat.

And for my own birthday I’ll be whooping it up in Longreach. Really, how much more fun could a girl have? LOL!

So, as I’m walking around my little farmhouse this week I’m packing too. Video camera. Hat. Boots. Sunscreen. Jumpers. (It’s still so cold at night there!) Snacks. Books. Journal. Camera. My billy (an old pineapple juice can with wire for a handle) and the fixings for tea down by the river.

Not a glamorous adventure by any stretch. But a real one. With a sky full of stars above me, the whisperings of my ancestors, and a good dose of Aussie fresh air and sunshine. I promise I’ll keep you posted!

billycanlarge

Homeward bound!

cleanse

“And when the day arrives I’ll become the sky and I’ll become the sea and the sea will come to kiss me for I am going home. Nothing can stop me now.” ~ Trent Reznor

The ute’s all packed, it’s not quite dawn and we’re heading home to the farm.

I’m filled with a quiet thrill. It seems so long since I was there. And home is the place where I heal, where I write, where my heart is free.

The dogs, of course, knew we were going and have been sitting at the front door since 4am.  Perhaps being home and having a whole farm to run around on will cure them of the need to eat computers and other assorted household items.

They are beyond excited.  Well, to be more accurate, Harry is beyond excited and Bert is, well…  resigned to sharing the back seat with an insane pup with no sense of personal boundaries.

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Okay.  We’re off.  I’ll leave you with a parting thought;

530100_432265656784343_1130393838_nMuch, much love to you, ♥ Nicole xx

Gifts from the Road…

Sunrise from the ute window as we make the long drive home…

I’m home.  I slept in my own bed last night. Today I have work in front of me – a long, intense stretch of it, in fact.  But it doesn’t matter.  I feel renewed, and something in me has been mended.

Maybe it was all that good roadhouse and bakery food.  We started with a breakfast at Kibbles Bakery in Casino at barely 7 in the morning on Day One of our trip.  They stumped up toasted sangers, bacon and eggs and an enormous pot of excellent strong tea, and then charged us so little money I queried them twice.

Road trip food!

Maybe it was all the wide open spaces, and the smell of sunshine and dust and gumleaves. Our trip took us well and truly off the beaten track, and delivered us more than a few amazing vistas.  It was a pleasure just to stop and sit for a while, enjoying the solitude and the sounds of nature. And of course, we got to pick up my birthday windmill!

Every road led us to another beautiful panorama

There were moments of whimsy, like the artist and potter friends we visited, whose farm was littered with little sculptural surprises…

Wallaby, guarding a bowl of drinking water for the fairy wrens and willy wagtails

More than once we came to a new town and discovered something wonderful, like the milkbar at Bingara that is straight out of the 1920s, and which deserves a blog post all its own.

The Gem of Bingara

Romance was a delicious malted vanilla milk shake with two straws!

 

Of course I still took life with me.  I have a Channelling Intensive Retreat in a few weeks, and my students were worn round my neck, worked through my fingers twice daily or more so, as I prayed my mala. Maybe they needed the nurture of the Outback energies too…

My mala beads, one large bead for every student on my course, and a few extras for people that I love and want to include in my daily prayers and healing meditations

We covered vast distances on this trip, and I had the odd sensation of moving through life in a blur, and being simultaneously cocooned safely in the arms of the land, quiet and still.

Life reminded me of the things I loved.  I found a second-hand bookshop in Glen Innes, and spent way too long perusing the shelves. Of course I came away with a few, some of which were devoured before we even made it home. I was reconnected to a story of my own that I’d put down a few years ago, unsure how to proceed.  On this trip I was gifted clarity and inspiration. I made notes that will help me complete the project I have struggled with so long.  Once again I see the wisdom of Universal Timing.

Book shops – I love them so!

I said goodbye to my friend who died last week, in a way that felt right and that allowed her past suffering to become a bright blaze of light and love. I held my husband’s hand. I said hello to myself again. And in the shortest of times really, something shifted and all my burdens eased or fell away.

The calm of early morning as the world falls away beneath my wheels

I’m looking forward to the next adventure, but right now I’m ready for life again, and being here for you! Wishing you blue skies, sunshine and happiness. Bless ♥ xx