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Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

It’s hard to believe that just over a week ago I was telling you all about my enrollment in the Matador U’s Travel Writing course.  Now a couple of weeks in, I have submitted my first assignment – writing about my home town.  There have been a couple of revisions to the initial draft, but I hope that you all feel like you are with me as I returned ‘Home’ to this place I love so much.

Travel writing evolution Assignment – Returning home

Reminders of home

Across the farming land I see them.  The high-rises of my home town.  Two concrete wheat silos standing tall above the mallee scrub. Their corrugated tin roofs reflecting the hot summer sun’s rays back up into the brilliant blue, cloudless sky, and I know I’m almost home.

IMG_3449

The newest additions to Patche – Two 10 meter tall Mallee Fowls. The intention is that they will become a draw card for travellers hoping to tick visiting all the ‘big things’ off their list.

Past the ‘Welcome to Patchewollock’ sign the deserted main street is a familiarity.  The football oval a silvery grey, with bands of brown.  The grass long dead after years of drought and the weeds now crusty from the early summer heat. The old general store, though closed now for years, stands beyond black and yellow striped tape, a caution by the council of danger.  The local hotel, the hub of our community, freshly painted but desolate.  The farmers too busy with harvest to call in for a cold beer or a quite yarn.

Across the road, two giant mallee fowls. Their 10 meter tall structures built to honor this native flightless bird that was once thought to be close to extinction, but now which frequently roams across our remote desert landscape.  They seem strange; foreign, yet their sculptured bodies and finely detailed painted feathers provide our small town with a glimmer of tourist hope.

Nothing has really changed, but it all seems slightly different.  Perhaps I am seeing it through new eyes. Once a town at the ‘end of the line’, many may see it as a lost cause.  A town without life, without heart, without hope, but I know its secret.

Before I know it we are out of town. Where I’d previously thought a puddle of water lay on the road, now only dry bitumen remains. The watery mirage from the 40 degree heat now dancing on the road 50 meter’s ahead.

Golden Fields of Wheat

Golden Fields of Wheat

As far as the eye can see, paddocks after paddock of golden wheat line the road, their full heads of grain swaying in the light summer breeze, a living tribute to the settlers that selected and cleared this land in the early 1900′s. Land that their grandchildren and great grandchildren continue to work and graze in this harsh but un-spoilt corner of Victoria’s northwest.

The blue bitumen turns to white gypsum and the white gypsum to red dirt. The type of dirt that burns your feet on a hot summer’s day, that’s fine enough to stick to your skin after a hard day’s work and the type of dirt that creates a layer of dust on EVERYTHING inside the house after a mid-season dust storm. I know I am home.

The shearing shed, the grain shed. The tractors and the trucks, all reminders of my childhood.  Memories engrained in the sand, the sheds and the land these machines have worked.

Memories of racing through the pouring rain on pushbikes. Of sitting on Dad’s knee and steering the huge tractor and of resting in its wheel hub while sharing cheese and jam sandwiches under a shady tree in the middle of the vast open paddocks.

The smell of freshly turned soil after a rain and the sound of large rain drops falling on the tin roof as I fell to sleep on stormy summer nights. Of waking up to the stillness and calmness of the farm.  The only noise that of birds chirping in the cool of the morning and of the dogs barking, marking the new day.

Getting out of the car, the still dry heat hits me. It has been 20 months since I was last home and only 30 hours since I left a snow dusted Calgary. It feels a long way from where I have come, but everything about this place remains alive within me and I know in my heart that this will always be my home.

DSC_0479_Snapseed - Shearing shed

I always know this is ‘home’

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Ever since I got my new camera I’ve wondered if I could manage to pull off one of those spectacular startrail photographs that grace the web.

Surely with the camera I’ve got (Nikon D5100) I should have at least half a chance, but alas my first attempt in the Canadian Rockies at the remote location of Beaverfoot Lodge left ALOT to be desired and me wondering if I could ever really pull this photography trick off.  Needless to say my spirits that night were down and out…

Fast forward a couple of months and I am now back home in Australia and in our little corner of Victoria.

The best part of growing up on a farm is that there is no light pollution from the big city lights (we live about 3km out of town and the town would be lucky to have 5/6 street lights!).. the other part about being back home in Oz is that it is Summer and even at 10:30 / 11:00 at night, the temperature is still hovering around a mild 25 degrees celsius, so standing outside is actually quite pleasant.

But back to tonight.

I was just returning from a walk when I noticed the moon rising. A full moon and it was BIG.  It was just peaking over the hill to the left of Mum’s house and I got the idea that I would try and photograph it.  Again, not a well thought out plan.

For christmas I had received a remote shutter release (very happy I might add) and I thought that this might give me a good chance to try it out.  Unfortunately my attempt to photograph the spectacular moon was a bit like trying to photograph stars for the first time  –  under prepared and a total failure.

That’s when I decided to turn my attention to startrails again.

I sat on the front veranda and googled on my iPhone until I found some instructions and then decided to give it another crack.  I fiddled with my settings for a while.. took a photo, reviewed it and did this basically until I captured the first photograph that gave me a good image of the stars that I was trying to photograph.  Then I clicked away for the next half an hour or so to gain a collection of photos.

This is one of the first images:

It wasn’t until I had taken the 6th or 7th photo that I realised that I was photographing the Southern Cross
Southern cross
Note the southern Cross in the top left hand corner (points of the red cross)
In all I took approx. 16 photos, after all I was just experimenting. With the use of some software called startrails, layering each of the pictures on top of each other was so simple, the program does it for you (highly recommended for any other novices out there).  And this is my result….
Startrails over the Mallee
Now I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not the best.
There is too long of a gap between my shutter releases (this is what is causing the dotted effect), but for a second attempt I’m pretty damn happy.  My next attempt will include a much more interesting foreground scene and fingers crossed some smooth startrails.  Now.. about that moon…

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Reminders of homeThe original family farm truck

It’s hard to believe that is a month ago at this exact moment that I was saying ‘see-ya later’ to some of my amazing friends that I had made whilst I was living in Calgary.

It was an emotional time, but I have to admit I suprised myself and contained the majority of my tears.  I’m not sure if this was because I was tired and lacked the energy; because I was coming home and would see family and loved ones that I had not seen for the last year and a half; or simply because I knew that this was the beginning of the next chapter of my life.  Secretly, I think it was a combination of EVERYTHING.

Getting home was not a quick trip.

Calgary to L.A.  A 12 hour layover in LA.  LA to Melbourne. 5 hour layover in Melbourne. Melbourne to Mildura.

In total I think it was around 30+ hours, but walking across the tarmac in Mildura and spotting my niece Tamsin pressed up as close as she could get to the entrance turnstile with one of the biggest smiles on her face, made the entire journey so much more worth while.  Of course there was the rest of the homecoming crowd including my Mum, complete with a ‘Welcome Home’ balloon.

It was good to be home!

Golden Fields of Wheat

Golden Paddocks of Wheat

The last four weeks have passed by almost in a blur (thank goodness I have photo’s).  I have witnessed 2 amazing friends get married. Enjoyed a day in the beautiful Grampians. Celebrated a hen’s day floating down the mighty Murray river. Played, painted and laughed with my neices and nephews. Met the newest addition to the beautiful McLean family – Jorge. Become a ‘cricket Mum’ for our four farm kids and simply enjoyed the peace and quite, warmth and beautiful sunsets and simplicity of life that exists in this untouched place that I love and that I call home.

 There truly isn’t no place like home!

Beautiful day in the Grampian's

A beautiful day in The Grampians

Watching the kids at cricket
An evening on the pitch
Oops.. was I in charge!!
Oops… was I in charge??
Sunset at the Farm
A picture perfect sunset on the farm

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Ree and Jono double checking the tubes to make sure we were all set to go!

Sept 2010 –

For some people being away from family can be a blessing.. for others like me.. it’s a tad harder.

Yes there are always exciting things to tell them, but it’s always hard being that person living so far away when something exciting (or mundane) happens back home that you miss out on.

Thankfully for me I had Ree and Jono just down the road from me in Florida.. ok, well it wasn’t ‘quite’ just down the road.  It was still 4,477 kms away (according to google maps), but it was definitely a lot closer than the family back home. So in September 2010 I diverted via Las Vegas to Orlando and was met at the airport by not only Ree and Jono, but also ‘bump’.

With only 6 weeks between us in age and being cousin’s, Ree and I were pretty much inseparable growing up. Plus being the only girl in my family and practically living at her house when Mum and Dad were in Melbourne for Dad’s treatment meant that Ree was the closest thing that I had to a sister – so really visiting with them really was being with family.

Ree and Jono had been living in Gainesville for a couple of years so it was good to have some personal guides for the 7 days.  Being a University city (Go Gators Go!!) there wasn’t too many touristy things to do ‘downtown’, so after exploring Paynes Prairie in the morning in search of Alligator’s on the Saturday, Ree and Jono decided that we should tube down the Ichetucknee River.

Yes.  Tube down a river in a state that is WELL known for its Alligators!!.. I was slightly skeptical to say the least, but they both told me that I had nothing to worry about and that it would be a relaxing afternoon.. agh they were so right (except for those damn water snakes!!).

So after stopping along the road to collect our tubes, we hit the Ichetucknee Springs State Park, untied our tubes from the roof of the car, walked to the river and launched ourselves for an afternoon of ‘floating ‘.  It is one of the many occasions that I wish that my small point and shoot camera was waterproof.  The water was crystal clear and you could see EVERYTHING .. small fishes, the protected reeds, fallen trees… and I swear (Jono) small water snakes.  Thankfully though no Gators!!.

I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to enjoy our surroundings and being together than simply floating down the river on a sunny day, catching up on lost time and being with those that you love.

Of course the true highlight of the trip was just spending time with Ree and Jono and getting excited with them about the impending arrival later that year of ‘bump’.. now known as Master Jedadiah James.

I can’t wait to get home to Australia and visit them again.. after all young little Jed will almost be two .. and two years  is just a tad too long not to see your bestfriend..

and yes.. I couldn’t write this post without adding a second photo 🙂

Ree and I in St Augustine, Florida

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Ok.. well technically the countdown started a long time ago.. but since it’s getting closer and with only 18 days left until I’m on a plane bound for home, I thought that I’d post a daily photo of my time in Canada..  

Now I have to admit that it is going to be one hell of a challenge choosing JUST ONE photo everyday, but hopefully you can relive the last two and a half years with me in these last few weeks..

I have been lucky enough that each of the cities or towns that I have lived in (ok, well we won’t count Patche in this) have all had a river run through them.  Mildura – The Mighty Murray River, Dublin – The River Liffey and now Calgary – The Bow River.

Each of them have their own special trait’s, but living in Calgary has made me realise how little I ever ‘enjoyed’ the Murray River, which has been on my back doorstep for over 10 years.  One note to self is when/if I ever move back to Mildura, or any other town that has a river flowing through it, that I make the most of it.

This photo was taken within the first week of my arrival in Calgary.  I had just been for an interview with a financial planning firm which operated out of a beautiful 100-year-old house on the banks of the Bow River.  It was quite a change from what I had come from (a firm with in excess of 80+ employees).

Little did I know as I stood there on the bridge above The Bow, that that financial planning firm would become a huge part of my Canadian family and that one of my colleagues was literally my sister-in-laws next door neighbour from Benson, Sask.

Over the past two and a half years I have learned that it is not really that cold in March, in fact that small amount of ice you see on The Bow is nothing in comparison to what you get to experience if you stay for a winter.  I have learnt that a balmy 5 degrees celsius or even a balmy -10 degrees celsius can actually be quite warm (after a winter that included a few -40’s).

I have learnt that being from Mildura will get your foot in the door for an interview (if the person reviewing your random email enquiry enjoyed their honeymoon picking grapes in ‘sunny sunraysia’). That a 2 week job placement can turn into two and a half years in the blink of an eye and that no matter what you have done, where you have been or where you are going, there is always something to learn – Personally and Professionally.

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Enjoying Christmas Day at Lake Louise 2011

I love living in another country. I love the ability to step outside of what I know are my comfort zones. To reach out on a limb and take a chance. I love experiencing new things. Love the sensations that I feel when something is new to me and the happiness I feel when I accomplish something that I may never have tried at home.. but I LOVE my family more!.

The past eight to nine weeks have been a whirlwind, but a weekend visiting extended family in southern Saskatchewan in early August gave me the clarification that I needed.

The wide open spaces of the prairie lands. The golden fields of wheat. The sweet sounds of nothingness. The clear skies scattered with a million stars… and the photo’s of MY family hanging on a wall… It was all that I needed for my head and my heart to align and for me to know that I wanted to go home.

Golden Fields of Saskatchewan

The last two and a half years have been amazing. There have been days when I could not have been blissfully more happy and days when I wanted to pack it all in. Curl up, close my eyes and wish that I was somewhere else.

I will miss EVERYTHING here in Calgary..I will miss my amazing friends that have made the two and a half years I have been here so much better, my adopted Canadian family, complete with nieces and nephews and our annual Thanksgiving get-aways and the colleagues and clients that have become part of my everyday life.

I will miss the summer day’s when hiking in the mountains makes you feel alive and the coldest of winter days when it feels like moths are stuck up your nose and you can’t open your eyes because of the icicles on your eyelashes have frozen them shut… but it is not a goodbye.. more simply a see-you-later.

Hiking the ‘Many Springs’ trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park (July 2011)

I am looking forward to coming home. Spending time with my ever-growing family. Meeting my new niece and spoiling all over again, each and every single one of the ten nieces and nephews in my life and annoying my four bigger and older brothers (and their wives).  Catching up with friends and preparing for the next adventure.

My Mum and my beautiful nieces and nephews (before Jorge)… so cannot wait to spoil them all again

By far my adventures, travel and personal, are not over.  They are simply beginning the next chapter.

‘Home James’ …. looking forward to seeing this sign once again

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mate·ship [meyt-ship]

noun

1. the state of being a mate.

2. Australian . a mode of conduct among Australian men that stresses equality,

friendship, and solidarity.

I find it hard to believe (yet proud) that mateship is considered to be Australian.  That a country such as ours can be considered to have such an awesomeness associated with it.

Every country can have this and perhaps they do.  Perhaps it is simply known as something else, but has exactly the same meaning – a relationship between men that stresses equality, friendship and solidarity.

But where does mateship begin… and where does it end?

As many of the people that I love and adore in our community are gathered together to farewell a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a friend, a protector, a mentor and a mate, I can’t help but think how lucky we were to have one of Dad’s best mates in our lives.

I’m sure that their friendship began as young boys running a muck in the back blocks of Patchewollock and as each of them grew, got married and started a family, that friendship turned to something stronger – mateship.

A mateship that was formed on similarities.  On country values and a respect for each other.  A mateship that faced illness and my father’s death. A mateship that stood up to be counted and remained with our family until last Sunday and will continue to remain within our hearts forever.

I will never know the true sacrifice that was made for our family.  Will never be able to explain it and no words of thanks would ever come close.

All I can simply hope is that two mates are now resting together.  Catching up on lost years, reminiscing about the past and watching down on our future.

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