KITES & EAGLES

We are in the process of moving – from the mid-north coast of New South Wales to North Cyprus in the Mediterranean.  Our bags are packed and we’re ready to fly, to pinch the phrasing from the Peter, Paul and Mary song of long ago, our furniture is going to new owners tomorrow and our boxes will be picked up by the removalists for their journey to Cyprus on Tuesday.

We have, thankfully, sold our car and the buyer kindly offered to us keep it for another week for our convenience, for which we are truly grateful.

But yesterday we had to go to Coffs Harbour to pick up a hire car as our buyer was coming to pick up the Subaru in the afternoon.  We both woke at a horrendously early hour, because we were worried about getting to Coffs given the torrential floods and rain of the past couple of weeks. And we also had to do some shopping beforehand. This section of the Pacific Highway is very dangerous, it is halfway between Brisbane and Sydney, has one one lane in each direction, and it regularly has accidents with a high mortality rate.

The latest tragedy was a B-double truck hitting a utility which was on the wrong side of the road and swerving off the road to plough through the side of the house. The truck driver, utility driver and a young boy asleep in the house were all killed, a really terrible accident.  Which is why we drive very carefully on this stretch and were a tad uptight given the severe weather conditions.

So we left really early, and I’m really chuffed to say that, on the way to Macksville which is close to the coast and through which the Pacific Highway runs, we had a marvellous view of a Brahminey Kite.  It flew really low in front of us, and we could clearly see the white of the head and part of the body, and the absolutely beautiful orange-brown of its wings and tail. I’ve seen this kite flying around in this area, but never had such a close-up view.  Awe-inspiring!

Then we watched it fly over the river looking for tucker.   The Brahminy Kite gets its name, apparently, from the Brahmin caste of India where, in certain systems of belief, it is held sacred.  This magnificent bird is found not only in Australia, but also in Asia and India.

It was rather lovely to get a view of the kite to start our journey to Coffs.  The rivers were overflowing, paddocks were flooded and new lakes had proliferated since we last drove north along the coast. We had a great shopping exhibition (because I bought a purple suitcase!) and then I had the absolute pleasure of driving a strange hire car through torrential rain and repeated white-outs on the way home.  To say I was nervous is an under-statement.  But then I  cheered up and relaxed as I reached the Kalang River, which runs by Urunga, to see an eagle swooping over the car.  The wedge-tailed eagle is a totem for me, and it was as if I was being reassured that all was well.

I did get home safely, so did my husband in our own car. And then we found a phone message for us on the answering machine – our poor buyer is stuck at home with flood waters covering the bridge on the way out of his property!  So we still have our car and are hoping the waters recede enough for our buyer to get through and pick up his new toy!

RAIN, RAIN AND FLOODS

Debris on bridge

We live on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, Australia, and in this area and the next one along the coast, we have some very large rivers – Hastings, McLeay, Nambucca, Kalang, Bellingen, Barwon-Darling, Brunswick, Tweed, Richmond, Wilsons and Clarence. 

There is a lot of water in this region and now there is a heck of a lot more due to the torrential, non-stop rain which has been pouring down for the past few days (and it’s still raining!).

Where we live,  South Cree runs down at the bottom of our neighbours’ gardens on the opposite side of the road, and at the base of our hill it joins the Nambucca River which flows in from its headwaters. These are sourced on the plateau which runs parallel to the coast and the Pacific Ocean.

And as I sit here writing this blog, with all the doors open as it’s quite warm, I can hear the stream tearing along on the opposite side of our road as it floods our neighbours’ garden, and at the back door I can hear the roar of the flood at the bottom of our hill.  When you go to the back gate and look down the hill, you can see water all over the road and over the small park beside the bridge.

Debris shifting from bridge, dislodged by tree
All the above rivers are now flooded, and the bridge at the bottom of our road has been flooded once, cleared once, and is now flooded again.  In a brief pause in the drenching rain, we wandered down today to look at the flood across the park, the road, the bridge and the adjoining paddocks.  We suddenly heard a grinding and banging noise, and realised a huge tree was crashing down the river.  It thumped into the debris which had gathered against the bridge, and then dislodged the whole lot which floated off down the flooded paddocks.
The power of the flood waters is awesome, the water really moves at a terrific lick, and you can see the force of the water when, as it did, it dislodged the debris caught up at the bridge, with the debris taking little or no time to take off over the paddocks.  Every time there are floods, people under-estimate the power of the water and often there are rescues of people from cars swept away in the floods or, tragically, bodies to be recovered from the flood waters.  So often those swept away are children who think it’s a game to splash around in the water and then find they can’t get back to safe land. Just yesterday we saw three young people wading around close to the flooded bridge, despite all the warnings not to enter flood waters.
The pics above are of the debris being dislodged and floating off into the paddocks. Below are pics of the small park beside the bridge, and South Creek flooding through our neighbour’s garden on the opposite side of the street.
Flooded park
I’ve also added in a couple of pics of the Grandfather Tree in our neighbour’s garden.  It’s  a Moreton Bay fig and has a huge trunk, even though you can hardly see it through the elkhorn fern and other creepers which have grown up around it. But you can get some idea of the size of the tree when you see the roof of the house close to it.
Grandfather tree, Moreton Bay Fig, with flooded South Creek in background
You can just see the roof of the house beside the tree, which puts its height into perspective. This Moreton Bay fig is magnificent.

A TOAST TO THE UNKNOWN FACTORY WORKERS OF THE WORLD

I often think of the low-paid  workers – wherever they are, whether it’s China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Fiji or hidden away in Western countries – when I buy low-cost clothing or hear about the working conditions of those who produce Nike shoes or iPads and iPhones. It was also brought to mind by a recent court decision in Indonesia where factories producing Nike products were forced by the courts to pay nearly US$1 million in back pay to workers for unpaid overtime. Nike management came out with a few weasel words about the judgement but that’s what they always do when there’s publicity about those who actually do the shit work to produce the company’s expensive footwear.

As I’m on a disability pension and low income, I don’t have a choice about buying cheap clothing I know has been produced by workers in exploitative conditions. While I’d love to buy eco-clothing, the prices are usually prohibitive for someone on my income. I do, however,  ensure I try to be judicious about what I buy, as far as possible aim for long-term use, and if I do let clothing go, I pass it on to op/charity/thrift shops for recycling.

I don’t possess any designer clothing, not because I can’t afford them but because, even if I did have the means, I think they’re a waste of money and a con trick.  I don’t buy designer shoes for the same reason.  Because I know that so many hugely expensive clothes are produced in sweatshops while the manufacturers, often big label, make mega-profits from this rotten exploitation. And I also don’t own any Apple product because of the way workers in factories in China are so badly exploited they commit suicide or try to commit suicide. I read that one factory has actually erected nets to catch workers who throw themselves off the roof.

In a TV interview, I saw an activist on wages and working conditions for workers in developing nations tell the interviewer that he had mentioned to people buying iPads and iPhones in Apple stores the suicide attempts by workers manufacturing these products. The great majority simply shrugged their shoulders and said they didn’t care, they wanted the latest gizmo, so in essence, bugger the poor workers doing the shit work to produce these fashion toys. And I think this attitude and selfishness stinks, to be very honest.

I’m quite aware that I’m off the beaten track in the worldwide adoration of Apple products but I don’t like the way they exercise their monopoly, I don’t like the sales claptrap of all the gadgets you need to go with these electronic toys, and – while I admire the creativity which inspires these gizmos – I can’t hack the hysteria and advertising over-sell which Apple peddles for all it’s worth. And I don’t like their indifference to the workers who are paid lousy wages, work long hours unpaid over-time, and have crap working conditions.

World Mandala

Added to this, I saw a programme recently of the huge toxic dumps in Nigeria and other African countries where the Western obsession with new electronic toys – updated phones, the latest iPad, and so on, leads to great mountains of toxic waste products which are exported to developing nations to be destroyed.

It’s okay for these unknown workers in developing nations to die an early death of exposure to the poisons in these electronic toys but not okay for us in Western nations to even think about the disposal of these products or that our wasteful ways contribute to deaths by poison of unknown Third World, desperately poor people.

It’s a Catch-22 situation.  Globalisation hasn’t been about the liberalisation of trade to benefit people. The aim of lifting trade barriers has been to enable huge multinational conglomerates to shift their production to the country which has the cheapest labour and lousiest working conditions.  At the same time, it has used that low cost of goods produced in these overseas operations to hold down wages and working conditions in their own backyard by claiming that the low cost of goods means pay rises aren’t necessary.

However, globalisation has also had unexpected consequences for the huge conglomerates seeking mega-profits. So many of the world’s peoples are inter-twined now because of globalisation so that we in Western nations are becoming aware of the way in which these wage slaves (and I use that word literally, as these people are desperate for work and have no choice in the slavery-like conditions they work), and we can make moral choices about our consumption and our support for people in developing nations to get decent wages and working conditions.

So this post is about expressing my public gratitude to the unknown, anonymous workers around the globe who slave away to produce clothes, electronic gadgets and other products.  The world is becoming a much smaller place and our interconnectedness is something which, I believe, is a blessing in the way in which new ways are coming into being of producing goods ethically, of building local, national and global co-operation and support, and encouraging compassion and tolerance for all peoples, not just the ones in the backyard of our own country.

I suppose I might sound like a moralising crusader, but to be very honest,  I couldn’t care less if I am.  There’s more to this life than material goods – there is love for our fellow human being. So I have stopped describing myself as an Australian or British citizen.  I now consider myself a citizen of Earth and the Galaxy.  I hope it’s a small step to realising that our whole world is precious, beautiful and awe-inspiring, not just the little spot right before our eyes.

FIND YOUR PASSION

Here in Australia we’ve been enjoying watching a TV programme from the UK called “Country House Rescue”.  It involves a successful hotelier, Ruth Watson, visiting people with old country houses that need financial rescue and giving them practical advice on how to get their country house renovated and up and running again. The people she advises are usually hopelessly inept at the financial and practical side of things, even though they may be devoted to the houses they inhabit.

We mainly enjoy it for Ruth Watson.  She’s an energetic, no-nonsense woman who hands out down-to-earth, practical advice, and doesn’t hold back in telling people the plain truth.  She is forthright, doesn’t worry about sparing people’s feelings, and has a very intuitive approach to what works for each individual house.

The people she has to deal with are another matter.  So many of them seem quite unable to accept her advice, although you’d think – having been given the privilege of her usually very expensive advice for free – that they would listen carefully to the suggestions from someone who is very, very successful in her chosen field. But no. So many of them listen, argue, procrastinate or are resistant to her ideas and have to be dragged kicking and screaming towards action to generate income and activity for the (always) expensive upkeep and constant renovation of their very large homes. think only one couple took up her ideas with enthusiasm and made them work, and it really was very good to see them make a success of their venture and look happy doing the type of work Ruth Watson advised them to undertake.

I watch her and think there must be a lot of Aries-type energy in her because she is full of energy, has leadership ability, calls a spade a spade, and is very, very practical.

What made me write this post is that this passionate, energetic, very direct, very humorous woman has identified her passion in life, which is running hotels and involvement in the hospitality industry, and the rescue of big, old, country houses in the UK which are steeped in history and significance for the environment where they’re constructed.

She is very successful financially and is very, very good in her chosen profession which she obviously thoroughly enjoys. The other thing about her which endears her to me are the amazingly loud, huge necklaces she wears, quite outrageous, but worn with flair and panache.

I always find it interesting to see what grabs people’s attention or what fires up their passion. Now, when you mention passion, I’m sure most people think of arty-farty stuff, whereas what I’m thinking of is the very stuff of life which feeds your passion, direction and inner happiness.

A while back we saw a couple on Kevin McLeod’s Grand Designs find on the internet a ruin of a French chateau which they fell in love with on the spot and bought within a couple of days. They moved to France and completed the restoration of what has emerged as a magnificent mansion, lovingly brought back to life with furnishings which are lovingly chosen for their resonance with the history and ambience of this now beautiful house.

I also read recently of an inventor in India, a man, who developed a passion to develop low-cost sanitary napkins for poor Indian women who most often having nothing to use when their monthly periods arrive. For a man to be involved in these sorts of products in India has been, for many, quite beyond the pale and culturally inappropriate. But he’s persevered as if, once the idea had seized hold of him, he had no choice, it called to his inner spirit.

In his zeal and focus, his wife left him and eventually his mother walked out. But he has developed the means to produce a cheap inner filling for these pads, a machine which can be operated and produced at low cost, so that he can show women how to work it, made an income for themselves and, in the process, employ more women. Not only is this dedicated man providing cheap sanitary pads for very poor Indian women, he has opened up employment activities and become involved in spreading health advice for women who can often die young from preventable reproductive problems.’ Oh, and the good news is that his wife eventually returned to him!

I’ve seen the same dedication in teachers, child-care workers, plumbers, motor mechanics, wood workers, writers, carers for the elderly or disabled, musicians, all of whom get a light in their eyes when they do work they love.  I’ve deliberately included types of work a lot of people wouldn’t normally consider as inspiring passion, but I’ve known very many people who love what might be called low-skilled or low-paid work which they love and which leaves them returning home feeling happy and fulfilled at the end of their working day.

I believe it’s important to listen to what fires YOU up, not what others think you should do for the money, prestige or security.  You can live a wealthy life which is very poor because you’re living to work, not working to live. I’ve also seen very poor people who have a wealthy life in terms of happiness, fulfilment and a devotion to what feeds their heart and soul.

I’ve personally found that, when you sort out yourself astrology-wise, it helps you come to a position of peace with who you actually area.  I always felt a strong sense of service and felt I “ought” to be doing work which involved a lot of interaction with people on a political and trade union basis, as I’ve always been committed to social justice.  It was a huge relief to realise that my communication skills arouse far more passion in me when I’m helping people with problems or challenges because I have a particular astrological formation which helps me see into people and understand their emotional and spiritual challenges. I also realised that writing is my forte which also, by allowing me quiet time, feeds my need to withdraw from community and replenish myself in peace and quiet and all things to be found in the countryside.

So when I urge people to find their passion, what I’m really advising is to sort out who you are within, your innate gifts and talents, and to focus on what really gives your heart and soul that uplift and feeling of fulfilment and happiness which means you’re leading the life you’re mean to lead.  That is what is truly spiritual – not necessarily spending heaps of time being overtly “spiritual” or behaving in a saintly fashion (which will probably drive people barking mad), but living life with the passion which is your gift when you enter this life. If we all did this, the world would be a far happier place!

MO’S COAT OF MANY COLOURS

I am delighted to announce the arrival in my wardrobe of this – ahem – extremely bright, colourful coat, picked up on sale at TS14+ . As you can see, this packs a punch!

My husband reeled back as I emerged from the changing room looking like a multi-coloured rainbow, he prefers plain colours, but I just LUUURRRRVVVE what I call the  “Ken Done” colours. Ken Done is an Australian artist who creates amazingly brightly coloured artworks which reflect the hot landscape of Australia.

Years ago when I suffered depression, I used to wear black a lot.  Not only did it reflect my downbeat mood, I also thought it made me look thinner. Then I realised one day I looked like a fat women wearing black to look thin, and still looked fat, so I went out and bought myself the most brightly-coloured “Ken Done” dress I could find. It actually leaves the jacket in the photo for dead.

But it marked a turning point for me. I started to release the depression and, as I did so, I swore I’d never, ever again wear such dreary colours again, nor would I slop around in unkempt clothes and look like a slob, as I had in the midst of the big-time blues.

My Ken Done dress was cotton and eventually wore out due to constant use. What I did discover was that, as I brightened up and also started wearing flashier colours, people began to open up to me more, smile at me and respond far more positively.  I remember one woman walking up to me and saying with a huge grin: “I LOVE your dress, the colours are gorgeous”.  It did wonders for my well-being, and to this day I mostly wear bright colours.  I do wear black occasionally, if I’m in the mood but generally ensure I’m wearing a bright jacket, scarf or jewellery to lighten the impact.

So if you see a woman with purple hair doing a hop, skip and jump in front of you and wearing a bright, dazzling jacket – that’ll be me.  Stop me and say hello!

LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES

I came across this link today so thought I’d post it because I think it’s such a great idea:
http://www.littlefreelibrary.org

It’s about a free book lending system run by individual households. The idea is to have a box at your front fence or door or whatever’s accessible, with books that passers-by can borrow and return once read, or replace if they so wish.

Isn’t this a brilliant idea?  To me, it’s part of the development of community action and support which has been incubating for ages.  I love these sorts of ideas which by-pass bureaucracy and spread the concept of people taking action which brings people together.

A really practical  “Feel Good” concept!