>Playing for Change: Songs Around the World

>Still on music, a while back I thoroughly enjoyed watching on youtube the video of Stand By Me recorded by various artists around the world. Brilliant project and absolutely awe-inspiring. The music focuses on what brings us together, not what drives us apart. It’s a global jam session and it got me all misty-eyed as it’s so inspiring.

I came across info for the website recently so thought I’d post a link for anyone interested in the CD/DVD of “Playing for Change: Songs Around the World – Various Artists” which is: http://www.playingforchange.com.

You can also watch Stand By Me at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v+Us-TVg40ExM or simply put in a search on youtube for Stand by Me. Trust me, it’s great.

>Sound as art

>I am continually entranced by Aboriginal art, it has always fascinated me perhaps because my own art arises from symbols rather than real life images.

In a recent newspaper article I came across the concept that western desert art derives from the artists’ unbroken link to country but that also the artists paint the SONG of the land which I think is a quite awe-inspiring concept. You can only paint the song of the land when you can hear music as you look at the countryside. Just as an aside to this, do you remember when, recently, scientists announced that they had discovered a subtle and mysterious global sound which is the Earth’s hum? This hum is deep and rhythmic like the sound of heavy drums or the didgeridoo and it has a very grounding effect.

The conclusion is, then, that the desert artists are synaesthetics – for them, song produces mental visual images of country and tones are absorbed through all the senses: touched, heard, felt and seen. Musicologist Catherine Ellis felt Aboriginal song had an iridescent quality, with various colours brought to the foreground of thel istening imagination by the slightest variations of tone in the singer’s voice.

You can go back to the concept of songlines threading through desert art, as old desert artists sing as they paint, and stroke and touch their canvases. They sing as they move through country and produce the images on canvas of a world that beats with the pulse of vivid life.

So picture this – painting the song of moonlight as it hits the ground; or the song of rain as it pours onto the earth; or the song of sunlight striking a particular rock or formation.

It’s not just Aboriginal artists who hear the song of the Universe. I read a story recently of the British mystic, Laurens van der Post, who was in the African desert with, if I remember rightly, Kalahari Bushmen. They asked him what he thought of the song of the starts and he said he couldn’t hear anything. They were shocked, so took him away from the group right out into the wilderness and then asked him what he thought of the song of the stars. When he confessed he still couldn’t hear anything, they professed profound concern and sympathy for him.

I believe that opening our perspectives to those of Aboriginal and First Nation peoples can deepen our understanding of indigenous gifts and talents which all too easily can be overlooked in Western society. But I have to say again that the idea of hearing song in moonlight, rain and so on is one which lifts my heart and makes me pause with awe at the richness and mysterious of the universe around us.

>Journey’s End

>As I said in an earlier blog, we had lunch beside the Nambucca River in Bowraville, and we have high hopes that we’ll have many more coffees in this rather splendid location.

I have always loved this area – it’s green, lush and quite central to the sea, the mountains and just lovely scenery generally. But I never thought we’d be able to live around here as it’s quite expensive.

However, as the voice said to me as we were going to look at the unfortunately named Karisma Cottage: “Third time lucky”. We went to have a look at a small house in a village called Bowraville, about 10 minutes inland from Macksville and only 20 minutes from Scottshead Beach. Here’s the link:


When we put our home in Victoria up for sale, instead of making my usual list of things I’d like in our next home, I simply asked for a home where we could be happy. And I’m hoping that the Bowraville house is that home. I asked for a sign as we drove up to see it as to whether it would be a good home for us and got the answer as we walked in the front door: a nice arrangement of crystals on the coffee table and mandalas on the walls of the home. It is fairly small but feels good and we are hoping that we will be able to move in shortly. We put in an offer of $143,500 which is the most we can afford as we’re both pensioners, Bryan on the age pension and me on the disability pension, and the lady owner has accepted our offer. We are waiting to exchange contracts and, if that goes ahead as we hope, we’ll be able to move in straight away under licence until the final settlement.

As you can imagine, with two failed house buying bids behind us, we’re rather nervous about the purchase until the contracts have been exchanged which, in New South Wales, means the purchase is then irrecoverable. So if you feel like sending any good thoughts our way for the successful purchase of this lovely home, we’d appreciate it.

There is a small park at the bottom of the road and beyond that is the Nambucca River. We are on the high side of the road, plus Bowraville is up in the hills with lovely views of the surrounding area, so if any floods reach our home, the world will have to be very, very worried, believe me! Bowraville is a small village of about 1000 people and has a range of shops which cover virtually every need, plus a lovely theatre for films and local theatre productions. Added to this there is a Moroccan restaurant opening shortly and also, I was pleased to see, a health centre offering massage and spiritual healing.

Keep your fingers crossed for us, folks!

>Frogs, frogs and more frogs

>The heavy rains last week have led to an explosion of frogs in this area. When we stayed at Ned’s Bed, the noise of the frogs croaking at night was deafening. It’s not much different here either. Bryan was sitting up on the verandah and a green tree frog, a fairly large frog, jumped on his head and another one on his lap. Valerie said she was sitting on the verandah last week when frogs just poured out of the creepers on the verandah!
This is a pic of a green tree frog which was lurking outside our verandah door.

And here’s a pic of a tiny frog on the window of our bathoom – you can see how small it is from the reflection of the leaf on the window and the fact that it is beside a normal sized brick which is parallel to the ground:

I’m really rather partial to frogs. On the south coast on the way to Sydney I saw an area of rocks which looked like frogs and was pleased to see a road nearby called Frog Hollow Road, most appropriate.

Where we used to live in Pingelly in the wheatbelt of Western Australia we came across a beautiful area with huge rocks that looked liked frogs. I called it Frog Dreaming and was interested to find out afterwards that Frog is the totem of the local Aboriginal tribe. Here’s a pic:

And here’s another pic:

The atmosphere in this grove of rocks was quite extraordinary, very peaceful and quite awesome given the size of the rocks, they were huge. You can only imagine the forces at work that threw these rocks up and together in this formation.

>Coffee breaks

>On Sunday we went for a drive in the late afternoon to Scottshead Beach. This is where I scattered my parents’ ashes back on late 2007. It was good to revisit this peaceful spot and say a final good-bye to my parents as I move into the next part of my life. Here’s a pic of the beach:

We enjoyed a paddle in the shallow water and even Rosie managed to get her paws wet without freaking out. the views here are out of this world as it’s a huge bay which is impossible to capture due to its size. But if you can imagine that from where the pic was taken the bay goes into an enormous curve until it finishes in the hills at the back of the photo. I think this is one of my favourite spots and I hope to return here time after time.

Today we went to Macksville about 50kms from here for reasons which I’ll explain the next blog and, after some shopping, enjoyed another cup of coffee and some wedges with sour cream and sweet chilli (I LOVE sweet chilli!). We overlooked the Nambucca River:

It was very hazy today after a day of 33C and 80% humidity yesterday. It was still very humid and misty today, as is common along this coast, but at least it was a lot cooler today and very pleasant to sit at a cafe overlooking another one of the mighty rivers of this region.

>Halfway House

>Here’s the house where we’re staying at present and here are Murphy and Oliver, the two Jack Russells who live here, with Rosie in the background. Oliver loves to greet you with twigs, old tennis balls, bits of dried cow dung (uurrghh!) and today an orange peg!

As you can see, this is a terrible hardship being forced to stay in the ground floor unit, looking out over beautiful plants and watching the various horses, cows and little poddie calves walk by in the adjoining paddock. The awful owner forces us to go up and sit on her verandah overlooking the McLeay River at the bottom of her property, then plies us with wine, nibbles and dips. Oh, this is such a burden on us as you can imagine, RAOFLMAO!

Here’s a pic of the McLeay River:

The mid-north coast of New South Wales and the Northern Rivers area are home to a huge river system with (I think) its origins high in the Great Dividing Range. There is the Wilson River; the Clarence River; the Richmond River; the McLeay River and the Nambucca River, to name a few. These rivers are seriously big and can cause heavy flooding from Port Maquarie south of here to Lismore further north and close to the Queensland border.

It is wonderful being here and back in the country again after our one and a half years in suburbia. I walked out with Rosie in the middle of the night a few nights ago and saw the stars again, shining like bright lanterns in the sky. We are in the middle of acreage and there are no lights anywhere near at night, it is truly black all around us, and the light comes from the stars above. Fantastic. I feel so sad though that children are born, grow up to be adults and die without ever seeing the true glory of the galaxy because it’s obscured by light pollution in cities. Ever since that night, I go outside just to look in awe and wonder at the stars above in all their splendid light show.

Unfortunately one of the drawbacks of long travel and the stress of moving home is a flare-up of fibromyalgia which is why I haven’t been sending e-mails much. However, the other morning when I woke up about 5am and was feeling a bit stiff and painful, I got up and wandered outside. It was very foggy and I could just see the outline of the stallion in the adjoining paddock and one of the horses in the other paddock. They looked so other-wordly that I raced inside to take some photos. I think these are really my favourites. They look a bit out of focus but it’s the early morning mist around them.

The stallion’s been throwing some hissy fits recently as he had a girlfriend while she was in season and now she’s gone home. He’s not impressed. He’s also kept separate from the gelding, mare and young colt which also doesn’t go down well. The other night we heard a sound like a donkey or mule so Bryan went out to investigate. He came back looking a bit shaken and told me it was actually a very big, very black, very baleful bull in the neighbour’s paddock which was in an almighty snit and digging a hole in the dirt. As you might guess, we haven’t gone to say hello and he looked even less friendly in broad daylight.

>Kookas, ‘roos and Jack Russells

>What can I say about Ned’s Bed? We just love staying here as it is so laid-back and relaxed, right in the middle of the bush with a dam right in front of where we stay. The motel-type units are run by Jenny and Peter who are great hosts – there to help if need be, but happy to leave you in privacy if you so desire.

The unit we always stay in is fenced and overlooks a dam. As we drove up, the Four Musketeers came to greet us – four Jack Russells called Max, Jack, Russell and Spike. Rosie jumped out of the car and they ran to say hello like old friends. She was so pleased to see them and it was really funny to watch the five Jack Russells running around, falling over each other and generally having a good time. Rosie loves them and they seem to remember her, particularly Max with whom she exchanges many friendly licks.

And there on the fence was a kookaburra. There’s always a kookaburra or two or three at Ned’s Bed. The two horses came to check us out and wandered over occasionally during our stay to keep an eye on the strangers on their patch. Jenny is the horse lover and many horse owners stay at Ned’s Bad as they travel along the Pacific Highway.

In the mornings we were woken by the magpie which used to sit on the fence beside our bedroom window and carol away, a truly lovely way to wake up. Other maggies used to join in, and then their song was added to in the early morning peace by butcher birds which have the most amazing bell-like singing. Their songlines alter between groups of butcher birds, so as you move up the East coast, each butcher bird grouping has a slightly different variation on their song.

We would then get up, make our coffee then sit outside and watch the ‘roos out on the paddock:

It’s a bit hard to get a good pic of ‘roos in the early morning light as they’re very, very nervous and you can’t get at all close to them. But this is the best I could get of a Mama ‘Roo and her young Joey. There were up to seven ‘roos out on the paddocks in the early morning. We also had to be careful when we were driving the kilometre-long road through the bush to the road as ‘roos were inclined to hop out and hop about at any old time they felt like it, quite nerve-racking when you’re creeping along in your car.

I should add too that just after we arrived it was wet, wet, wet, rain, rain, rain, floods, floods, floods. It just poured down as if someone on high had an endless bucket they kept pouring down on the mid-north coast. There was severe flooding further north in Coffs Harbour and the rain at Ned’s Bed filled the quarter-empty dam to full within a day.

On a mad impulse because we were bored sitting around doing nothing, on one of the really wet days we decided to go and have a look at a couple of houses up on the Ranges at a place called Ebor. We only just got up the mountain road as it had been closed to traffic until just before we got there. It is called the Waterfall Road and lived up to its name – a glorious drive up a mountain road with waterfalls pouring down the left-hand side and running down beside the road. As we headed to Ebor, I started getting another message: “Buyer beware”, which was a bit daunting, but it was extremely accurate. Both houses were in poor condition. Not only that, the bush flies were thick with the local cafe asking you to close the flyscreen door “to keep out the Ebor flies”. We also found out that Ebor is seriously cold in the winter and they – shock, gasp, horror – get snow every other year. Well, we’ve lived in the UK with snow and if we wanted snow we’d go back there. But not in Australia. We left Victoria to get away from the cold weather. The return journey was a nightmare. Low cloud descended and we had to creep through practically zero visibility which cleared as we got to Dorrigo, a small country town at the top of Waterfall Road. The good part of the day was my finding a “Gratitude” diary for 2010 which I bought as I hadn’t seen one anywhere else. We got down the mountain road okay only to hit huge rainfall again on the Pacific Highway, and crawl through the flooded roads at Macksville, about 30 minutes north of Ned’s Bed. We sloshed through deep puddles to get to Ned’s Bed and were extremely happy to flop into bed that night.

But we couldn’t stay at Ned’s Bed forever, and a friend of Jenny’s kindly offered us the use of her ground-floor unit which I’ll talk about in the next blog.