Big Skies, Bush Tracks, Feathers and Reflections …

Every time I set foot outside my home, no, probably every time I open my eyes or my mind, a story awaits me.  It seems my life is one of constant stories, layers upon layers settling in across time, and always, all ways, bleeding through to this present moment.  Everything I see evokes stories for me or tells me yet another one to add to the journal of my existence.

I thought I would try to share one story per week, with the images that inspired the memories or the inner dialogue or the secret whispers from beyond.   All of these things will be within a short journey from my home… a day “trip” if you will…..


Big Skies, Bush Tracks, Feathers and Reflections…

Big Skies over home

I stood on the hill and felt the sky overwhelm me.   It truly did reach out and embrace the whole landscape, as if invisible hands were unfurling a blanket way up in the heavens – it felt as if any moment it would drift down slowly and settle over all I surveyed, painting all beneath with its patterns and ever-changing designs – that undeniable bold blue that is so much a part of Australian life.   I stood on that hill feeling diminutive, and yet grateful for eyes to see.


As I continued to walk, looking upwards, it became a “thylacine sky” showing the face of the swamp dog and his striped curves, a salute to the respect and dedication this family feels towards the most mysterious of our Aussie marsupials.




At the top of the hill, behind my parents’ home is a protected patch of bush that every year offers the most fascinating array of wildflowers and orchids….. through this area weaves a beautiful little bushtrack, naturally cobbled with the coffee rock or coloured ironstone that is the foundation of these ranges, a track that holds so much life and colour in the present and yet so many stories and memories from the past. This is the path I take today.



As I walk, I am reminded of a young wife, transported from the comparable comforts of England, where she had worked for noble families, and propelled into the most raw, unknown territory half way across the world, with her husband and soon to be born, baby daughter.   She walks this path and stands on this ground, the allocation given by the government of the day, and gazes around at the humble bush timber and hessian home – a simple one room “humpy” with dirt floors, completely at the mercy of elements so different to any she had known back in the “mother country”.  All around are the thick trees, many of which watch over me now, even as they did to this woman almost a century ago, all around are the unfamiliar sounds and smells of the bush, the melodic bird calls, intermingled with raucous screeching of cockatoos and other native birds; all around is the dense, amost suffocating bush with its ever present dangers and infinite secrets of the most ancient culture in the world.

Here on this hilltop patch of white sand, in the midst of the many rocky outcrops, it would have looked very different than it does today.   I felt the despair and the sweat, and the gritty discomfort of everyday living…. I felt the lure and warmth of neighbours and the sparse social occasions that seemed to be the very opposite of what she would have known in her previous life with family and gentry.   The simple act of making a cup of billy tea for her husband, or damper scones, when he came in from milking their tiny but precious herd of cattle, would have seemed the only link with the past, but minus the silver trays and fine china. Perhaps some tea cups and lace doilies had travelled with her in her hope chests from England?   But remembering my Grandmother as I knew her, in her little house in town sixty years later, those memories and rituals of life with gentry still remained, the tea service, the silverware polished and perfectly placed, the fine china cups and saucers and the every present manners and etiquette, the indomitable self-discipline, the work, the measured balance of all things.   It was evident that the harsh environment that she had been uprooted into did little to erase her decorum and innate respectability or need for order.

I wish I could have been a guest in her humble home back then.

Though maybe I was….. in another life….


I pictured her walks along this track either on foot or or horseback, to visit with the nearest neighbours, my great grandparents, or on her way into town, to purchase stores and supplies from the sailing ships… or to attend services at the local place of worship.


My Grandmother, age 26, with her horse near the bush track I still walk through today.

My Grandmother, age 26, with her horse near the bush track I still walk through today.


Even as an older lady, the genteel white haired Grandmother we all visited, her favourite piece of advice to we of the younger generations was to “crack hardy”.   We giggled and joked over that line, or even at times took offense because we had wanted sympathy or support and found very little in her scant dismissive words. There seemed so little empathy, so little recognition for what we might be suffering at the time, yet time has shown me she had only shared what she knew. When did she learn for herself that this was the only way to overcome life’s hardships and challenges, to bury the emotions beneath a tough exterior and soldier on?

Was it during World War 1.when they brought news that her fiancé had been killed, leaving her to grieve without the man she loved and the future they had planned together?   Was it her time working in the munitions factory and driving the trains there, setting her apart with     that which was certainly not “womens work”. Was it when her fiance’s brother married her and brought her from her family and all that she knew to this rugged, inhospitable country to stand beside him and carve out a life for themselves and their new baby girl with little but their bare hands and inner strength?


Was it the day she hurried along this track, distraught, carrying her little baby, with tears in her eyes and fear in her heart, seeking the neighbours on the farm down the track to help her, because her husband had not emerged from cleaning the small well near their house?  I picture the devastation with which she would have stood this ground when his lifeless body was pulled from the well and the cold hard realization that she and her tiny daughter were now alone in this unforgiving landscape. Oh yes, this woman sure did know from an early age, what “crack hardy” meant and how her life revolved around that mantra.





Today I walk this path again and think of my Grandmother.   She would then have walked this path many times in the days following that tragedy, to find company and solace with her neighbours, my great grandparents – both Salvation Army officers. And perhaps the walk along this path eventually brought the promise of romance or at least companionship from their son, who she eventually married, joining their properties and their lives to lay the foundations of the family farm I know today.

P1240376 P1240375

Now all that remains of their story are a few broken stones in a ploughed, cleared paddock, pieces of the foundations of the original dairy and other buildings…. and the pathway between the Ifound and Slee properties where my Grandmother walked, and the memories that linger along that stony track.


The site of their home and farm, and the well where her first husband died, is very close to the meeting place on the hill, the significant site where the energy of lives and families far older than my own still linger and whisper in the trees and in the air. I wonder at how disturbed the ancestors would have been to see the European farm unfold on their traditional communal grounds and whether their disturbance was manifested in any way towards the hardships felt by those first settlers.

I hear my dark skinned sister whisper “It was odd to see people settle in one place to live, and try to stay still and survive throughout the seasons fixed to one location. It seems so inflexible and limiting.  Moving with the seasons and the sky time is wiser in this land and enhances survival and quality of life”.



Today, the ancient meeting place remains. If you look hard, you might see circles of stones from ancient fires beneath the leaves and debris of the bush.   Are they ancient fire circles, often in clusters with a main one and smaller ones nearby?   Or merely the circle of stones left long after an old tree has fallen and been burned or rotted back into the soil?  I caution myself not to see something that is not there, but at the same time, the feeling that there is way more than I can ever see embedded in this landscape, is evident in every cell of my body.


And are the marked trees actually “scar trees”?   Century old jarrah trees bear the telltale cut marks that could indicate the work of hands of from hundreds of years ago.



I stand beneath the trees and there at my feet is blood splattered on the leaves of the forest floor. Bright red drops and formations paint a picture in the debris of the forest.


Who is it that bleeds their silent pain and the hardship of their existence into the ground? Who shares such sadness, evident for only those with eyes to see?



The ancient redgum towers above me and defies the adversity and interference of humanity, by displaying its life story against the sky.



I walk on, following another overgrown track through the bush. It leads me to a waterhole, manmade with machines, but one which taps into the sacred underground water of the Yarragadee. This area abounds with places where the water rises to the surface or emerges from the earth and flows from the Whicher Ranges towards the ocean in Geographe Bay.





At first glance, it is like a window in the baked end of summer ground, a giant hole full of trees and sky that reach downwards into the Earth infinitely.



There is a sense of age and mystery about these water holes, for all that they have been man made.   My Father divined this (and many others on this farm)  using a stick, being guided to find water by the energy of the land, being shown where the underground spring flowed and how deep.   Being in tune with the Earth is such a powerful gift.  Here at the water’s edge, it is possible to feel the whisper of the spirits and know you are being watched by many eyes, here and beyond.  Being respectful of the water that is sacred to all life, becomes second nature when in the presence of such energy.


But the reflections are quite beautiful and painterly and reflect so much more…



I know the swamp dog comes here to drink, I have always felt his presence at this place.   My eyes do not see him, but every nerve in my body tells me he watches.   There is a constant aura of the unknown here.  His footprints are in the sand, his energy ripples along these pathways.   Together with the kangaroos and emus, the foxes and rabbits and birds, he shares this water supply with the less than “native” creatures of the farm, as the water is piped away to tanks and troughs for cattle, dairy and homes.




I am always grateful for fresh water, for the Yarragadee that is the life blood of this land….  Reflections abound…..



This old tree stood lush and flourishing and unique, a work of art bearing testiomony to the survival and endurance of Mother Nature.




Sixteen months ago, it created a whole different display of beauty and art against a night sky and I thought that would be the end of its “life”.










But in true aussie style, it has prevailed to continue writing its story against the sky and the backdrop of the bushland.

Amazing transformation isn’t it!





As I walked for home, a feather caught my eye laying on the ground…. a fluffy whispy little messenger blowing in the wind like a flag, against a blade of dry grass. I wondered briefly at what it signified, but smiled, and walked by, quietly acknowledging its intricate beauty.

But a few steps further along, a flash of green blue caught my eye and another feather demanded my attention with its colour therapy splash.





“That’s two!” I thought as the feathers pointed me in a certain direction….. “I wonder what three will be”…. and sure enough there ahead of me on the ground was an amazing gift.





…. a wedgetail Eagle feather!   I stood there for a moment feeling really blessed.   And walked back along the way I had come to revisit the trail of feathers.   There was something in being called to follow a path however small and seemingly insignificant.   As I stood there in the open paddock with the wind blowing gently, the rush of feathers in my mind, there was an eery silence, then loud crashing in the bush where I had been a few minutes earlier.   The crashing got louder, it was not the sound of a kangaroo thumping its way through the forest. It sounded like tree branches falling. I felt a prickling sensation again of being watched, and then, there was more crashing. I could not see what was there but I truly felt a presence and decided it was time to go home.





I followed the trail of feathers again, this time there seemed to be more, crow feathers, parrot feathers etc… until I picked up the Eagle feather…. it was one of the many gifts of the day and saying “thank you”,  I carried that home with me.  I wondered if all those years ago, my Grandmother might have walked this same path and marvelled at feathers or tiny transient pieces of natural art but I knew that regardless, there were many before me who had done this and more, and left their footprints across this hillside….

I wondered too, if somewhere in the distant future, another woman might do the same, pausing to sense and reflect upon my own invisible footprints left indelibly behind as stories  and memories in this place…..


Thanks for sharing this this journey with me




For every little girl who dared to dream of that prince on a white stallion, or of flying free on the back of a galloping horse with her beautiful dress trailing in the wind; for every little boy who ran across open fields with a stick in his hand, dreaming of being an explorer or warrior, or who hid under the bed and lost himself in a storybook of romance and daring; for every lost or lonely child who imagined dancing to music that gave them wings, or whispering into the warm hide of their own horse, its curious breath blowing promises and secrets onto their neck……

This is for you….


There’s a secret place inside each of us, hidden from the world, where every time we have a dream or entertain a heartfelt wish, or even feel a ray of hope or desire for that special something in life to kindle the spirit or arouse the heart, it gets stored away.  No matter how elusive or intangible, or how quickly our conditioning denies or rejects our secret hopes and dreams, this space inside us saves them to become part of our unwritten story.

Most of us are not even aware we do this or where we keep our dreams and wishes locked away.  Most have had them buried deep for too long, or darkened and dulled by pain, grief or stress and the tedious nature of our everyday lives.  As children we dip in and out of this inner treasure trove, a kaleidoscope of the imagination that our hearts know so well how to turn, yet sadly, by the time we reach adulthood, most of us have forgotten how to access that place or even that we ever had such a library of the soul’s joy.

But what if the key was found to unlock that collection of dreams that we have carried forever, and set them free to play?

What happens when you open your heart to release all of the dreams you had as a little girl or boy, together with the wishes you have collected along the way into adulthood….the moments that caused your heart to swell, your dreams to awaken, your spirit to rise up and remember?   And you paint these dreams and memories with colours and light, and set them free to dance to a drum beat and some music?

One word – Cavalia!

There on that stage – the passion, the dance, the music, the colour, and the very art and magic I inhaled, became the keys to unlock the true joy in every cell of my being  – and I exhaled my awakening in the form and grace of Equus.   When human hearts and horse hearts express themselves together, there is an alchemy that releases all the collective dreams of the human soul.   You cannot remain unmoved, you cannot be untouched when held in the vision of a horse.  The thunder of hooves, the beat of a drum, the rhythm of awakened heartbeats, weave together the cadence of life’s journey.  It was so simple and yet so powerfully effective.

As I stepped into the darkness of the tent, my heart quickened.  And fell in time with the drums…. And the lights played seductively across the stage and from the shadows the first horse appeared, with his rider…. And the door to my secret collection of every wish or dream I had ever known, blew wide open.

So I relinquished the world outside and its cares, and I became all I had ever dreamed ….

The Flames 2xss

I stared into a horse’s dark eyes, and became the dream.

I am the manes and tails flying, the eyes flashing and the galloping hooves; I am the beautiful woman in a flowing outfit, scarves and silks swirling, floating through the air, suspended in aerial grace; I am hanging precariously from my charging horse, hair wild in the breeze, freedom in every wave that ripples behind me, divine, feminine power surging before me…I am confident and I am loved …
I am entwined with equine majesty that lifts me high above all else; I am the strong, agile man, leaping onto my horse and smiling with humour as I guide my steed with firm hands and capricious manner…I am the warrior, the cowboy, the lover, the clown … I am the love letters blowing in the breeze behind dashing hooves, the chivalry, the honour … I am the romance, the spark, the passion that sails between hearts on an endless tide…

I am the music, the sweet high notes and the lows, the rise and fall, the longing, the heartsong reverberating in unspoken promises and long forgotten dreams…. I am the tenderness, the connection, the silent language of the spirit that is life’s gift to itself…  All this and more – I become, awakened and released from that dream sanctuary within.  I am the noble hearts of horses dancing with humans like an ancient rite of passage – and in all this, I reclaim what the unforgiving world has almost stolen from me. 

My inner Cavalia is illuminated.   Reflected soul deep in a horse’s eye … I rediscover who I am.


art 1 copys

Stories – Everyone has one, Everyone IS one….



Life is a story, emerging, unfolding, evolving.

In the relentless hand of time

The words are written on the landscapes of our childhood

And flow beside our footprints ever after.

Words are not necessarily written on a page but etched into time… OUR time.   Our story, our time, nobody else’s.

They are the breaths we take, the moments we absorb, the thoughts and feelings we express and the awareness that we have for our existence, our being, our presence.

Each of us, is a book unwritten,

We are living stories, and these stories will remain long after our last breath fades…

More so because we have shared them with another.

But the existence of our story is real and valid, regardless of who else might get to hear it… fact, it exists because we do, and not because of anyone else who reads it.  We are both the writer and the reader.   No one else is required.


(but of course, while not necessary for us to write, the reader or listener does help to clarify or even justify our storytelling….. because we are after all, sharing beings….)

And where once we might have sat around a communal campfire with family and friends and told our stories by the firelight, today we sit alone before the glow of our computer screens and share our stories around a cyber campfire that extends to all corners of the world and directly unites and warms countless members of the human race.

Fire, Urban and Commercial development, Dieback, Disease and Climate Change

So today I had the grand privilege of being interviewed by a woman wishing to write my biography as part of her university degree.  It felt a little strange at first – “who am I to be written about for such an important project!” – then we began to talk about our experiences, recognizing a common thread within each other’s lives as well as the unique and colorful threads that entwined them and made them distinctly personal, and so the joy of sharing and chatting freely became the order of the day.  Then the concept of stories unfolding lay on the table between us like an open book, and a new chapter emerged along with the words and pictures of that evolving book.

It was both confronting and enlightening to try to describe my life – WHO I AM – to a stranger who had never met me before.   And to use those stories to explain my journey as an artist, to illuminate the meaning of my existence and the ongoing exploration of who I am and what I am here for, became as much, if not more, a gift to me, as it was a contribution to this lady’s work.

My childhood, the patterns that weave throughout my life….. while so unaware at the time, now with the clarity of hindsight, I see so clearly how these storylines are so strong and powerful and such  a part of who I am.   My love for nature, for animals, for Aboriginal and ancient culture, for writing, music and visual images……. These are the things that intrinsically define me, explain ME and place me firmly in this life – they are at the core of my being.   The patterns emerged during the interview, and became more clear through the telling to another.

If traditional culture, writing and imagery, as well as an affinity with nature, were my longitude, then my children, my relationships and my life lessons wove between them as the latitude that made up the dimensions of my world.

Marking my place in time and space at any given point in my journey, was simply a matter of searching out the coordinates of what was happening for me and the discoveries and joys I was immersed in.   A virtual GPS for my existence!  And today I got to explore, and remember and share some of those points and dimensions.


A moment in the Tearooms….

“That was a nice welcome!” said the man who had just entered the tearooms with his wife.

“We always welcome everyone here,” said Brenda, “We laugh and shout and chat.”

“Have you seen our menu?” she added as they viewed the cake fridge.  “It’s out on the verandah….”

“Oh we’ll have to go back out to view it” said the customer.

“Well then,” laughed Brenda, “You’ll get another welcome when you walk back in!”

I love being in this place!

Art on Display

Art on Display

4th april 2013


The quiche was very rich(e)

The frittata was a starter

But the Caesar salad was a little pallid

The egg and bacon pie was never shy

But I had a hunch about the ploughman’s lunch

The classic BLT would be tasty by the sea

And the leg ham and mustard sandwich

Would have done some damage

If I’d come from Putney I would have enjoyed the cheddar and chutney

But I skipped all that AND ATE THE CHOCOLATE CAKE!




We always look forward to our cosy little interludes at this very quaint little place.

Friendly faces

Fabulous food

We will return to the Old Post Office Café

Vin and Jude Dawes

9 april 2013

2 april 2013

Scones, jam and cream – excellent

Coffee and tea the same

Music even better.

Better than anything in Melbourne

Terry and Jenny (Phillip island Vic)


2 April 2013

The “Old Post Office”

What a find!

There we both stopped off and dined.

What a place to go and see

Great “Darjeeling” and a “tasty BLT”

We’ve far traveled and nothing did it lack,

Hope one day we can soon return back.

Most enjoyable

Jim and Isabel Laird

Hamilton, Scotland



5th april 2013


Very relaxing outlook – scones were delicious –

Could sit here all day and watch the world go by!

Ben and Pam (Perth)

Siblings Week Busselton 

9th April 2013

We came to Busselton to stay awhile

Let’s have ice coffee with a smile

Then along the jetty for a walk

Where we will laugh, joke and talk.

Brother John will be on his phone

Either with son Mat or wife Julie at home.

Sister Beth knows she is alive

Having a rest from her children, five.

The big sister – that is me

Always making a cup of tea

Waiting for Deb to arrive from Perth

Then we’ll be here as we were at birth.

John, Ruth, Deb and Beth



Story Week

10th April, 2013

Came to Busselton for a quiet break after babysitting 3 and 4 year old Grandchildren.

We are weary and need relaxation.

1st night I fell down some stairs, grazed arms, banged head, great start.

2nd day, pain and bruises in places I didn’t know I hit.  

Thanks so much to hubby for looking after me.

Give back the babysitting.

Sitting outside The Old Post Office enjoying a milkshake

And the cool breeze helps.


Strawberries may come

And in jam they go

A coffee and love shared

Like the tides and life

Ebb and flow



If you woke up in a bed today,

With a roof over your head and

Food in your fridge,

Then you are very lucky!

Maybe it’s time to think of someone in need!

How about putting a smile on someone else’s face today.


Travelled all the way from Geraldton

To visit Busselton, to have nice sunny days.

So then to visit this nice lovely, inspiration, darly gorgeous café shop

Well worth the trip.

See you again


A Place of My Own

Community of Music and Festivals – Nannup I applaud you!

I came home from the Music Festival with all the colour, sound and activity swirling inside my head, that I had witnessed in Nannup over the weekend…  Perhaps even more … as I tried to hold onto the memory and meaning of so many magical moments and process my own viewing of them, it was like a sensory kaleidoscope.  Attempting to unjumble the patchwork of interwoven, eclectic experiences was almost impossible but the easiest way is the same in thought as in reality – to step away from the main stage areas, which pulled crowds and dominated the airwaves, and focus in on the periphery of the festival, the multitude of smaller sights and sounds and yes, the very humanity that makes this long weekend such an incredibly memorable place to be.


Down the road between the main part of town and the riverside park and amphitheatre, crowds of people wander between the mix of markets and information stalls.  Colourful marquees full of bright clothing and handmade jewellery, nature based attire and innovative creations rub shoulders with tents offering healing, musical instruments (I saw a man selling hand carved lyres and offering workshops to carve your own and learn to play – oh how tempting that felt to me), drumming workshops, and political parties!   A man rolled an orb ball around with barely a touch of his hands, as if it was suspended in mid air, while the children and parents gathered to watch and hands twitched with the desire to try it.   On roadsides, children were busking, with their hats or guitar cases on the ground before them, catching spare change from appreciative passers-by.  A young girl played violin, across the road, a small boy played guitar…. On the street corner, three friends sang together, having fun as much as harmony.   Further up the road, two boys busked, one playing a guitar, the other standing on his head (with a cushion) waving his legs in time to the music.   It was all happening.   And it was heartwarming to see the children expressing themselves musically in such a friendly, receptive place where the crowds were so laid back, at ease and friendly.





I stood back and quietly witnessed the various children busking, feeling such emotion at their courage and talents, and the simple joy of seeing children allowed to participate in the spirit of the musical event, without fear of judgment or insecurity.


Nobody was rushing, people moved leisurely, and all had smiles on their faces and a relaxed softening of shoulders.  The weekday stresses, the normal day to day troubles were all left behind to attend this event.   That was really obvious!



Everywhere the tents, campervans and trailers were parked haphazardly, squashed in beneath the tall trees, and the visitors were soaking up the energy of the town and the music.  Nobody seemed angry or stressed.  Everyone was accepted and accepting.   Everyone belonged.  It felt like one big community of those who loved music, creativity and nature.  The food and drink vans were in constant demand and it was great to see so many of them with natural or organic offerings, or homemade food, though the slushy and fairy floss vans were doing a roaring trade with the kids!



What can I say?  The energy was so calm and peaceful and all about people coming together to celebrate music in the beautiful hills and forests of Nannup.  I was very aware of the community feel to this festival, and the strength of those who had worked tirelessly behind the scenes to organize and pull it together.   To emphasize the fact, Phaedra rode past on her pushbike and stopped to check on someone – perspiring in the scorching sun, running between stalls and stages, performers and participants, messages, instructions, assistance, ensuring everything was running smoothly – she symbolized the team of hardworking community members who were out there in all corners of the festival- some in the public eye, but even more behind the scenes, creating a successful experience for others to enjoy.





As I walked up the street, I watched a young man playing the hang, his fingers racing across the steel surface evoking the most uplifting, soulful but energetic melody.   It was mesmerizing.  If you have never seen or heard this instrument being played, you should check it out.  Although I was familiar with the music of Samjjana, and Maia’s soulfelt playing of the hang, (it is an instrument I absolutely love,) I had not seen the hang played in the manner of this young man, Sam.   I stayed, captivated, until he packed up ready to move on.   But then a woman approached him and asked if she could sing with him.   It was a bold request, considering the nature of his form of music.  I waited to see what would happen.  He got out the hang and she sat cross legged in front of him on the road, and opened her mouth and poured out her soul.    I was not sure what to expect, so it came as a shock.  Her voice was so pure and filled with passion, it came straight from the heart, and mingled with the beautiful notes of the hang as if their sounds were two long lost friends reunited across time.  With her eyes closed, her hands moved as if drawing on some invisible ancient language.  There were no words, just a pure language channeled from somewhere far beyond down into this tree lined street full of festival goers.


I flicked on my video camera and stood still, stunned at the meeting of these two channels of beautiful energy….. this young man Sam calling forth the melody of the universe with his fingers dancing lightly across the surface of the hang, and this woman Deborah delivering the purest song of spirit, right from her heart.  My eyes stung with tears that overflowed from my own heart’s response.


The crowd gathered and stood in awe as this amazing spectacle unfolded, there on the humble streets of Nannup.   As the music ended, people stood in silence, aware that they had just witnessed something quite magical – experienced an amazing gift.  I felt the tears and recognized them in other eyes around me.   It was difficult to describe but I knew something had flooded through me while in the presence of that music….  As I glanced around me at those who had gathered, I could see I was not the only one feeling this way.


Then there were smiles all around.  Debra informed us that she was a healer, that she used song as a method for channeling healing in its purest form.   She told us what I realized already – that everyone present had just received a gift of healing.   And although Sam may not have realized it at the time, his own unique offering of music was a healing gift too, and together these two strangers had met and manifested the most amazing power that was shared with strangers and carried away out into the world, ripples that I knew would last forever.   I watched them talk and hoped that somehow they would find a way to perform or record music together as the world could certainly use more of what they had to offer.

Miss M was with me at this point and feeling very tired and unwell, with a sore throat, blocked nose and a sleepless night hanging over her, as well as the nerves of her impending performance in the children’s talent quest.  I mentioned this to Debra who offered to do a healing on her right there and then.   And so it was, this stranger put her hands on my daughter’s throat and sang a healing song.   It seemed very natural to me, though Missy M was shooting me some killer looks as if to say “get me out of here”.  I could tell she was a little embarrassed but to be honest, I don’t think anyone even noticed this small ceremony happening on the footpath behind the crowds.  After that it was time for an icecream and Miss M seemed lighter than ever with the energy she had received.   So did I, for that music had become a part of me.


Down by the river, beneath the amphitheatre and the main crowds, an amazing event was unfolding on Saturday.  As the beautiful melodies of a female vocalist drifted up the river valley,  the Friends of the Blackwood erected a large marquee with displays about the river ecology, and the beauty and fragility of the natural environment and waterways of the region, together with added information about the Helms Forest issue, the Black Cockatoos, and the need to stop logging old growth forests.  But the most powerful part of this display was the genuine sharing of the local Wardandi people, who spent Saturday creating a sand mandala to portray their stories and culture with iconic symbols in coloured ochres.  This would be the corroboree ground for the night’s final dance.



The Cultural display was dedicated to the matriarchal Grandmother Vilma Webb who had passed away a week before.   Within the display tent, was a memorial table with images and stories commemorating this much loved lady whose family were this weekend mourning her loss, yet celebrating the culture and the love of family and land, that she had upheld and instilled in each of them.  The magnificent sand mandala featured iconography from Burial Stones (Teaching Stones) to highlight the story of life and transition to the Spirit World.  In the sand figures were depicted pointing the way between one world and the other, with the rainbow serpent weaving through the wind and the stars, and over the ocean, for whom the Wardandi people are named.P1060761

Children sat on mats on the earth to paint rocks with iconography – stones that would then be placed in the Reconciliation Garden, higher up the river banks, another special way to share creativity and form a lasting reminder of all hands and hearts together as one in nature’s garden.  Children sat to have their faces painted by other children, with ochre in the traditional manner, or lined up to learn spear throwing (Guess who had to duck once when walking down the track feeling hot and tired and not watching where I was going!  I walked in front of a line of spear throwers and could have ended up being the rather unwilling or unpalatable prey at the end of the day’s hunt!)


At midday Saturday, the Nyungar men and women performed a small dance ceremony on a secondary mandala, to the sound of Josh (Koomal) on the didgeridoo and drums.  Josh played both instruments so perfectly all the while holding his small son on his lap.  As Father and son bonded within the music, a small hand reached up to hold the didgeridoo his Father was playing.  The powerful pulse of the didgeridoo did not miss a beat.



As the day wore on, the heat and humidity was pretty overpowering, so everyone headed for shade and water bottles and desperately sought out any hint of a breeze.  Luckily the Blackwood channeled some breeze down the valley which was a certain relief.


A nine year old boy shyly approached the members of the Wardandi people with his father, and showed his own didgeridoo that he had been given and learned to play in the Kimberleys.  At their invitation, he played it and blew every one away with his mastery of the circular breathing and tonal ranges of this fascinating instrument.   He was gifted a traditional tool from the display to honour his visit and sharing.



Saturday evening was the grand Corroboree on the mandala.  Excitement seemed to grow as children painted one another in preparation for the event.   In the shade, a small girl painted stripes of white and tan ochre on her cousin’s legs, the brush poised delicately in her little hands, a smile of accomplishment on her face at the completion of each section.  Adults adorned the young ones with traditional headgear, dress and feathers, and painted small faces, before painting each other.  The preparations were a glimpse into another world, one that has endured since long before European settlement.  Small boys chased one another around the tent, laughing, teasing and playing, their excitement at being in traditional attire and paint, a beautiful sight to see, though perhaps not for the parents who were trying to keep them under some form of control before the ceremony!


As the sound of the didgeridoo and drums rose above the river valley, people came down from the festival grounds above, and gathered to watch the ceremony.   The Nyungar women circled the mandala first, sweeping the earth with peppi fronds, cleansing the area ready for the dance.  Then they began sweeping the whole mandala area, spreading the coloured ochres into the sand and initiating the closing down of the powerful energy portal generated by the circular design.   Their dance was vibrant and symbolic, and flowed on with the dance of the men and the boys, their movements telling stories, acting out elements of their traditional way of life, the hunt, the celebration, their spirituality, their lives.



The crowd joined in for a final dance – from little things, big things grow – and as the dust rose, the bare feet stamped away last traces of the mandala, arms waves expressively, and smiles stretched across faces and laughter could be heard.  One man got up with his crutches and danced.   A woman with a tiny baby danced and celebrated the life sung in by the river.  The energy rose up higher than the dust and the feelings of joyful celebration settled over the riverbanks and all who were there.


Meanwhile, the music continued into the warm Autumn night on Saturday, and the crowds relaxed and soaked up the peaceful energy of artists sharing.   The same continued on Sunday, with more song, more dance, more displays.   More fascinating and amazing sights!




Down the street a man riding a large pink pig wandered, paying his guitar and singing.   A group of very tall “blue ladies” sashayed through the crowd with their purple rinses, plum in mouth accents and baskets of silver teaspoons, performing, as one described to me, “teaspoon readings” to heal the world and resolve the problems of those in it.    I couldn’t help but grin at them, as they mingled and delighted the crowds, and asked about them.   They were a group from the Hairball Theatre company in Denmark, there to raise awareness for their group.   They, hairy legs and blue powdered noses, certainly got my attention!




Acrobats performed, a juggler entertained the crowd with his skills, a beautiful bellydancer shared her sensual movements with a gathering circle of onlookers, especially the men!  In the childrens area, painted Nannup Tigers mingled and entertained and tireless workers kept the younger people busy and happy.  A fairy told stories and had the children dancing.  A large purple dragon boldly wandered in to delight the kids some more.   That dragon had my sympathy – not only having to wait around in the intense heat of the sun in that heavy costume, but to have to walk through the crowds with limited vision and then dance for them!   Another hero in my eyes!  In the “Playground” the children gathered for their talent quest, with entrants ranging from small girls who came boldly on stage to do the splits to a drum roll and then walk off, young teens who danced, leaped and lip synced their way through favourite pop songs (one could only imagine the ongoing mischief at home with the music cranked up, or the state of their bedrooms!), earnest boys with their bands, and then, the highlight of the day – one young girl who had the crowd in stunned awe as she delivered the most haunting and breathtaking rendition of “Hallelujah”.   (Thank you Emily Lambert!)  The crowd stood or sat mesmerized, mouths slightly open, and I heard more than one person comment “What is she doing singing at Nannup, she should be on X Factor! “  It was a goosebumps moment for sure.  I could only shake my head in amazement at such a strong and beautiful voice and her delivery of this powerful song.   I felt I had just witnessed the early rise of an incredible star.  Miss M, standing beside me whispered totally alarmed, “I hope I don’t have to get up and sing next after her!!”  I felt the same, as this girl’s talent shone so bright it would have paled everyone else into insignificance.  As luck would have it however, Miss M WAS called upon next to sing, but her style and song was totally different, and although she was tired and unwell, she got up and sang her Taylor Swift song “Red” admirably.   And was rewarded with a prize for it along with the other talented young people who were all winners because they got up and had a go!  The highlight of her day was spending some time chatting with the talented Emily, and realizing she was just a quiet, unassuming girl who loved to sing as much as Miss M did and was someone my daughter really wanted to be friends with.   Not to mention, be inspired by!


Later in the afternoon, the emerging talent awards were held, and it was one sensational and gifted performer after another.   I wish I could have been in several places at once, because I did not wish to miss a thing.  It was exciting to see so much talent.   My friend’s daughter Iona Jane, a self taught musician and singer, waited nervously in the shade for her act, surrounded by family and friends to support her.   To cheers from the audience, she sang a song she wrote herself, and all I could think of was “where are the talent scouts! She should be recording!”  More amazing talent!!  I did not get to see the band that won this competition but all I can say is they must have been outstanding!



Again, into the evening, the sounds of cheers and applause from crowds, the music rising through the trees and touching the night sky, and the relief of a cool breeze sighing in after a hot day, seemed to be the enduring mark of the festival, a lasting memory that filled the senses and restored equilibrium and peace of mind.  And left me with no doubt in my mind, that next year I would be back for more.

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So as I drove home on the Sunday evening, after a second full day, with feet so sore I could barely place them on the ground, and hot and dirty and tired, I knew that it worth every bit of my discomfort.   I had experienced so many amazing moments, sights, sounds and people and the overwhelming feeling I took away with me was of community spirit and creativity…. Very talented and creative people and the community that supported and illuminated them.

Communi-tea … Thoughts on Community


–          “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common”

–          “the people of a district or country considered collectively, especially in the context of social values and responsibilities; society:”

–         “the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common”

(from the Oxford Online Dictionary)


The past few weeks have brought the thought of “Community” to me.   What do you think of when you hear the word community?

Do you define community by your involvement in something, your immersion, participation, understanding, recognition, belonging?

Do you see Community as something distinct and separate to yourself, to be aspired to?   Is it possible this is due to a lack of connection, where your sense of place has you on the outside looking in, yourself a discrete entity who from the perspective of distance, can only witness, yearn for and hope for belonging?  Do you feel something within the concept of community that touches a chord within each of us, that intrinsic human need for “home”, for family, to belong?

Characters parade at Balingup Medieval Fair

Characters parade at Balingup Medieval Fair


I’ve thought a lot about this…. Communities are like circles…… we belong in some, we are outside of others, and many are overlapping or shared.   But all are there for our understanding and learning, about who we are as individuals and who WE are as human beings, …and as opportunities to reach higher or be better or more, or simply reach out and find the courage to share.  And all are created and driven by those who are a part of them.  A community is defined by the people it is made up of….

The idea of community is a powerful, much valued, but elusive quality.  Governments and Councillors cannot create, guide or legislate for it (though I personally think it should be a priority to promote and protect all aspects of “community” at any cost), corporations cannot buy, invent or generate it, no matter how crucial it might be for their fiscal wellbeing.   It starts with each individual and the connection they make with another.  It is not taught as a subject in schools, though some discerning establishments foster the spirit of community as a child or student’s first experience of what it means to belong and participate.   Like personal honour, and integrity, it is an intangible quality that no matter how subtle, we all aspire to it, yet there seems to be no value placed upon it by the shabby systems our societies dwell within, and no classrooms are dedicated to it – only the examples received in life and the gifts of our conscience.   A Community is a living breathing, evolving entity, greater than the sum of its parts, and yet only existing because of the individuals within it.

The Queen and King and their entourage enter the village...

The Queen and King and their entourage enter the village…

Many years ago, I went to the Balingup Medieval Festival for the first time.   I came away from the event with the most overwhelming sense of Community, to the point where I decided if there was one place in this state I wanted to live, it would be Balingup.  It was the Community spirit that danced and shone throughout that amazing event showing me what a group of people could do, when they worked together with passion and purpose.   The creativity and imagination that saw the town transformed into a medieval village, with lifesize jesters, colorful characters and icons around the streets, vibrant flags, bunting, real enactments of medieval ceremony and society, dragons, kings, queens, knights and fair ladies, created a sense of community beyond any I had seen, especially in the artistic sense.   For a town to come together with a common goal such as this event, captured my imagination and made me long to be a part of that.   To me, that is the lure of a true community.

However, I did not have to look too far from home to recognize a community that I am already a part of, one that offers many of the same qualities.   Here at the Artgeo complex, a thriving community of real people who share a creative spirit and pride in all that they offer, is already a circle I am grateful to be involved in.

ArtGeo Courthouse Gallery

ArtGeo Courthouse Gallery in Queen Street

For starters, you will find here, a sense of history entwined throughout the creative process and acknowledged openly.   Set in buildings that have played a critical role in this region since first settlement, initially as the local courthouse, police and gaol complex, then as a home for local artisans, buildings that hold many layers of stories from every angle of these human elements, you will also find the history of art for the region entrenched within these walls.  The Busselton Art Society, now over fifty years in the making, is rich with colour and stories and real people – generations of artists creating, sharing and teaching what they do with others.   On any given day, you can witness the women of all ages who turn up to paint and share a cup of tea with their peers, or the men who seek to share their woodturning skills, or those who volunteer to run the gallery and sell other artist’s works, or to help teach children’s art classes.  Many of these members of the art community have been doing this for over forty-five years and this is a primary part of their lives.  My Mother is one of them.   She has been a part of the Busselton Art Society for virtually all my life, and there was never a time when my image of “Mum” did not include the creative woman heading into town one or more times a week with her art supplies, her imagination and her generosity in helping others in the art rooms.  Women, people, like my Mum, form a part of the community that at times is neglected or overlooked, especially when a younger city planners or lawmakers alter landscapes, move parking or access away from the area and make life difficult for the Elders who are the backbone of this artistic family.   They should be treasured and cared for, not ignored or pushed aside in the rush for gentrification and image.   Then you will find a vibrant selection of artists, both professional and amateur, all who have stepped up to express themselves through their chosen mediums, contributing to society in subtle but essential ways through their diverse artistic statements.   New artists arrive regularly, shyly mustering the courage to offer their work for display and sale, or to enter exhibitions, and seasoned artists greet and welcome them, encouraging and inspiring them to follow their passion.  I have witnessed this first hand, the exchange of creative ideas and inspiration and encouragement, not to mention human friendship.  It is what makes Artgeo so very special and most deserving of the tag “community gallery”.

Passageway Past the Cells

Passageway Past the Cells

I remember the first times I entered the gallery with a view to share my work, and how it could have been a negative encounter that turned me away from my art, had the people there been different.  Instead, it was a positive and welcoming experience, one that made me feel accepted, gave me the courage to take my art to the next level and beyond.  And the community feel has always been enhanced by having those special people working behind the scenes, organizing, planning, promoting and hanging exhibitions, who know what it is to be an artist, who have art in their heart and recognize that the wellbeing of their fellow artists is a priority to the ongoing spirit of the complex.  These are the people who live, breathe and share art on a daily basis, another element of humanity that cannot be taught in universities, or gained from studying, but earned by a way of seeing life, a way of feeling, a way of being.   These people never criticize or crush new and emerging artists nor disrespect the older ones, they believe in inclusion, respect and acceptance, knowing art is something we all share, something beyond monetary value, something that connects us as human beings.  And their spirit rubs off on those they deal with constantly.  If you have had anything to do with Artgeo over the years you will know exactly the special people I am talking about…. these are the people who should be valued more highly than paid bureacrats, ego suited professionals or those who seek to create a high end image for the complex to the detriment of the real people within it; these are the people whose presence defines the true meaning of community…. and without such people, “community” would not exist.


Main Gallery during my solo exhibition – Cinefest Oz

Nothing epitomizes this more than the little tearooms where I come to sit and write each week.   It is a smaller community in the heart of the larger one at Artgeo.   Here creativity is expressed through the baking and preparation of real food to sustain and nourish real people. Visitors to this little café are treated as guests in a family home.  Brenda greets them all and welcomes them to her “kitchen” as do her specially chosen staff.  There is chat and banter and smiles and always the offer of kindness.  It is as guaranteed as the garnish or rose petals on the side of the plate.  And the team in Brenda’s kitchen deliver heartfelt food and goodwill first and foremost to all who enter this community.   Behind the scenes, the energy of this little café extends over into everyday lives, just as it does within the Artgeo community.   Many who have walked into the café with a sadness, or an emptiness or a longing, walk out fulfilled, and I don’t just mean in the belly sense!  Brenda makes sure that volunteers at the gallery are always offered a free cup of tea or coffee for their time spent helping, something she does of her own generosity and as a contribution to the family feel of the place.     It is a kindness, simple and pure, a gift of the heart, to keep the human element alive, and this symbolizes the community feel that emanates from The Old Post Office Tearooms and the wonderful lady at its centre.

Quiche Smiles

These are rare qualities that are not found in many people or places any more…. they most certainly should not just be found in historic places as a symbol of how it once was or a tribute to the past!   These are qualities that must be protected and enhanced, in all areas of life.  The aspects of kindness, generosity of spirit, creativity and acceptance should be part of every community so that the members can drink freely and be inspired to perpetuate those qualities.

(from the notebooks on Cafe tables…)

Seventh of march, two thousand and thirteen

As I sit back I remember when expression was not limited by lines of ink or fountain pen.  My mind then charts across the ocean my vessel upon which I search for my perpetual Ondine.  There where I sit and the blessed easterly winds blow warm doth do I find the girl of my heart and mind, my faithful Ondine.

(Anon of the Oceans)

School visit mum

Visit over and done,

now for something in my tum!

Take one day at a time

Especially when the weather is sublime

Sit, sip some tea

Never forget to absorb what you see

Remembering that every moment counts

Enjoy eating your cake in small amounts

Talk to friends in the community

You will reap the rewards, just wait and see.


13th march 2013

Lovely food

Beautiful crockery

Excellent service

What more could you ask for in Busselton

And the music tops it off

Thank you

Lorna, Alma Heath



Close to the sea


Main street

Making the most of our day

Using our talent to enjoy

Nectar of caramel and pear and rose

Infusion of tea

The word of the week – community

Yes we will return to try again



I will grow old but never lose life’s zest

Because the road’s last turn

Will be the best  (Henry van dyke)


Never make anyone unhappy

Only when you say goodbye

June J

A Place of My Own

Communi-TEA or Coffee?