Gazing out my office window on this glorious autumn morning, I seek inspiration for a meaningful post. Then I think about the role of nature in balancing our lives and preventing us from getting out of kilter with our natural environment. Reaching another decade milestone in my life has me battling that white noise in my brain trying to derail us on our journey. When those negative thoughts and emotions come to visit me, I find that connection to nature balances out the sea-saw. Breathe in, breath out.
I got thinking about this concept of nature as a great leveller. I decided to do a search online for any related topics on this theme. As with many things, my thought was not original, but it did reinforce that idea. Victoria, where I live in Australia, has borne the brunt of bushfires in recent years. It is a reminder of the impact that such events have on our environment and our relationship to the natural world. We try to shape and conform the environment to our desires. Still, it is often usurped by Mother Nature’s unpredictable character and puts us back on our haunches.
Today, there is the gentle warm sun on one’s back, the constant chirping and twittering of the birds, green grass glistening from the morning dew, and a diverse palette of autumn colours. It is a delightful vision reminding me that Mother Nature can be like a benevolent aunt that wraps her loving arms around us, offering a safe haven.
As the earth turns so do the seasons. We are all experiencing a different season in our lives these last few months of the COVID-19 emergency. Today, Victoria, Australia, was the only state or territory to record any new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours. These cases are a worry but seem to be under control. The curve is flattening but as we ease restrictions from midnight, the start of winter will see a flurry of activities as more freedom to dine in or travel within the state begins. Our ski season is opening a week later this year on June 22 instead of the traditional Queen’s birthday long weekend.
Only time will only tell if the measures taken by our government and individuals will see a quicker return to normal life for many of us. But the damage has already been done to the economy which no doubt will take longer to bounce back.
It has been a struggle some days dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions in response to changed circumstances. Thankfully I live somewhere close to nature and the autumn tones this year have been a joy to capture during this period of self-isolation. It is also a reminder of something much bigger and more significant than ourselves.
“A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains for ever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south;
and goes round to the north;
round and round goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.”
Here is a collection of some of my favourite shots of autumn 2020.
How different is the world compared to last year? Tucked away in my rural paradise in the Southern Hemisphere I can pretend not much has changed as I ooh and ah over an another stunning sunset sipping on my scotch and dry. It is my favourite time of the day. Tasks completed during the day and an opportunity to sit with my husband to savour the view. The only downside to this is the arrival in recent weeks of 200 plus screeching cockatoos free-wheeling between the various huge gum trees that surround our home. These native birds love to destroy trees and any other soft-wood they can find to combat their boredom. They love to start their deafening noise before sunup drowning out the melodic magpies and sweet sounding currawongs which come down from the mountains.
Anyway, I’m not complaining because giving up some of the pleasures and activities I was enjoying until things changed in March is the price I’m willing to pay if we continue to flatten the curve here in Australia. The enormity of this pandemic has shaken the world and its nations to the core. The loss of human life is heart-breaking to watch across the globe and the impact it has on those at the frontline. There is no denying that we all have a role to play in beating this COVID-19 in the little actions such as regular handwashing and social distancing through to staying home as much as possible. For those of us fortunate to have a roof over our heads this is possible but for others we need to be aware of the impact.
Thankfully, we seem to have moved beyond the initial panic buying of supermarket items including toilet paper but supplies of certain items are still limited and being restricted. Once a fortnight trip into town is all I can cope with at present. Shopping has become more stressful with limits on how many people are allowed in a shop, trying to keep our distance in narrow supermarket aisles while trying to reach into the meat section and having to pack our own grocery bags. Walking down the street people avoid you like you have the plague!
A highlight of our new routine has been the advent of takeaway deliveries once a week to outlying areas by one of our local hotels. My husband loves the Mexican Parma while I like the spring rolls washed down with a drop of local Aussie pino noir! They set up the van in a designated spot so we can do a drive through to pickup our meals and alcohol orders. This is one way of keeping staff employed while the hotel is closed due to Level 3 coronavirus restrictions. Living out of town we don’t bother with take away very often so it feels like a treat. But everyone must pre-pay by card over the phone when putting in their order to ensure no physical contact.
Easter regardless of whether you a follower of Jesus or use it as a break away with family and friends, was different this year. Our town is usually overflowing with visitors and hosting an array of events to keep people amused. After the economic downturn from the impact of nearby fires in January, there was a campaign to encourage visitors to return and fill their eskies with local produce. Come April and we are asking people to stay away!
My husband and I celebrated our birthdays one day apart during Easter. While there was no special dinner out or a trip to a winery even, Bolly (my hubby) bought some gourmet takeaway from town and fine wine to enjoy. The two of us spent most of our birthdays talking to family and friends over the phone at length because like us they have the extra time to spare. I think that has been a positive out of this. So many more people are talking about how they are catching up with friends they haven’t spoken to in a long time.
Church was different with a Zoom meeting but was lovely to see the faces and hear the voices of those we are missing from our regular Sunday gatherings. The local community radio provided air time for a stations of the cross a joint service with the Catholics and Anglicans on the Good Friday.
ANZAC Day on the 25th April was surreal with no war memorial services to attend. But people found ways to mark this sombre and important day by staying home and standing in their driveways at dawn with a candle as they remembered those who gave their lives for us. We took a battery radio outside to listen to the Dawn Service broadcasted from Canberra’s War Memorial with a handful of people including our Prime Minister Scott Morrison. My husband and I lit our old kerosene lantern and stood in our paddock watching the sun rise. As the strains of the Last Post played I was surprised by how moved I felt by this simple action. The magpies provided a beautiful background chorus. We later visited the war memorial in town practising social distancing and were able to view the many wreaths and tributes that were laid by various individuals and community groups and organisations.
Autumn has been delightful here and the show of colours better than previous years. We are allowed out to exercise so we are fortunate to have the picturesque Delatite River nearby to enjoy. April came to a close with impressive rainfalls and a wintery blast. We received more than 130ml in one week so there is lots of runoff from the hills behind us and our dams are overflowing which makes us very happy. This cold snap also brought more than half a metre of snow to Mt Buller making for a magnificent sight on a clear sunny day.
So life carries on with its own rhythms as we look forward to less restrictions in the near future.
Waking to a sky washed with shades of pink and grey, accompanied by the melodious dawn chorus, is deeply satisfying. This morning we were also treated to the sight of four kangaroos outside our bedroom window. Sadly, these native animals because of their large numbers are culled by local farmers trying to preserve pasture for stock and we hadn’t seen any on our place for several weeks. Earlier in the year we had seen three rather large males vying for dominance. We haven’t seen them since. You still have to exercise caution when driving on our country roads during the hours of darkness because they can suddenly appear from nowhere.
Introduced species also cause havoc such as the fox. While they are a magnificent looking creature they are a threat to young lambs and chickens. One morning I was enjoying a bowl of cereal gazing out the window well after sunup when a fox appeared outside the kitchen door. Another morning a wayward wombat, usually a nocturnal animal, was running across our front lawn.
Although the 40 Celsius plus days seem to have gone, the sun is still baking hot and with little rain in the past month, everything is looking brown and withered. There some hints of autumn colour with our poplar trees sporting orange and yellow leaves. It shouldn’t be long before the local vineyards follow suite. I had a good friend come to stay who tended my rose bushes with loving care. I am amazed how hardy old roses can be. They give me great pleasure.
After only 7 ml rain for the whole of February, a week ago we received more than 34 ml in less than 24 hours. It is the most wonderful sound when the runoff from the gutters splashes into our rainwater tanks. This week for the first time this year, we lit our wood fire when there was a dusting of snow on the nearby mountain. But it doesn’t take long and the weather returns to sunny days of 26 degrees Celsius plus. This bodes well for the four-day Easter break and the start of school holidays. Many take the opportunity to enjoy the good weather and as a last gasp before winter arrives. Our country town is overflowing with many tourists and visitors. For the locals, it is a good time to retreat to their homes until we can reclaim our roads and town once again. I had to laugh last year, when I heard tourists complaining there were too many tourists!
But tomorrow both Bolly (my husband) and I will volunteer our time to help out during the Easter Saturday bush market. Our Anglican church is popular with shoppers looking to relax with a cuppa and freshly baked scones enjoyed under the old pin-oak. My husband helps with the set-up and I will be on the stall for our Friends of Venilale group which raises funds for East Timor.
Two weeks ago we hosted a Trivia Night at our church which supports remote area schools in Timor-Leste in partnership with the “Friends” group. We had run similar nights in Melbourne but were not sure how we would go here in a new place. But thanks to a lot of support and a good turn-out on the night it was a highly successful event as well as being a lot of fun.
As if the weekend was not already busy enough I also helped out at the local campdraft (an Australian competition which involves horses and cattle) which was run the same weekend. I am on the local agricultural and pastoral show society committee which supports the event which is held at the showgrounds. Dry and very dusty conditions. On the Sunday, the wind was horrendous, with a very high fire warning being issued. Fortunately, no fires in our part of the world although other parts of Victoria suffered property and stock losses due to bush fires. Although we had a good drenching last weekend, we still need follow-up rains.
We are enjoying a quiet, relaxing afternoon on this Good Friday. Church this morning was an opportunity to reflect and think about the sacrifice made for us all on the cross. Life and death entwined. For some it is a highly emotional time and a reminder of grief in our own lives. Other denominations are invited to join the Catholic parish as they walked the stations of the cross in one of our main streets. A visible reminder to those passing by on foot or car about the reason for Easter.
There seems to be a rhythm to our daily routines as we settle into our second year as permanent residents. We now have new friends that we welcome into our home and lives, as well as our old city friends. Wednesday has become our social bike riding day. For health reasons, I had avoided cycling for over two years but decided to give it a go. Our group has a mixture of men and women, some retired and others working part-time. It has proved to be a wonderful experience with everyone getting on so well and really considerate of each other regardless of how slow we may be! It has morphed into a farm drop in session as we cycle around and enjoy hospitality at each other’s homes. Sometimes we do short rides around the township followed by morning tea at a popular local café, or along the rail-trail for longer rides of up to 28kms or ride out to Lake Eildon.
The rhythm of life is interrupted for our friends and neighbours when they lose love ones. We attended one funeral for my girlfriend’s father, buried not far from his farm in a quiet, country graveyard with extended views of the hills beyond. It was a fitting end to a life well-lived. The other funeral was the brother of our neighbour who we had never met because he was living and working overseas. We felt privileged to be able to share in hearing about the life of a man taken too soon who lived his life to the full. Again we are reminded of the fragility of life and how precious each moment is.
It has taken some months but finally, I feel this is where I am supposed to be. I have found that rhythm and with a tweak here and there, my life is like a river meandering through this beautiful landscape, that never fails to lift my spirits.
It’s like osmosis. This gradual shifting of one’s mindset from crazy full-on life in the city to one that seems to move with the seasons and the natural world. Don’t get me wrong I’m not exactly enthusiastic about the rather large brown snake that chooses my veranda as its own personal sun deck. And I’m still grappling with the mystery of how do dead frogs end up on my bed! This week we feel like we are living on top of Old Smokey because of the planned burn-off in the nearby hills that has shrouded us in smoke haze. While I know we are not in any danger, I do feel for those people who are traumatised by the smell of smoke and are reminded of bush fires that have caused loss of life and property. One positive, is that it provides spectacular sunsets.
Autumn seemed to emerge in a matter of 24-hours about a week ago. Heat, dust and flies has been replaced with pleasant autumnal days and chilly starts. Thoughts of lighting the wood fire are becoming more frequent with temperatures down to 5 degrees Celsius overnight. I love pulling on a pair of jeans, boots and T-shirt plus fleece if needed. No need to worry about what am I going to wear today.
I’m relishing these cooler days and seem to be more productive. I can choose when I want to go for my daily walk instead of trying to beat the heat. Bolly (my hubby) has been busy gathering and cutting wood for winter. We are fortunate that there are plenty of fallen branches and old logs on our property to use. My husband hired a wood splitter which made easy work of rather large pieces and much easier than chopping by hand! Bolly has a small 30-year-old chainsaw. Since moving here, he has pulled it apart several times to try to fix it. Despite my comments, that maybe a new chain saw might be a good idea, he spent hours working on it (This must be a man thing!).
On our weekly shopping trip to town yesterday, he became the proud owner of a rather impressive looking chain saw. He succumbed! The week before he bought a large water tank to capture the run-off on our shed for when it does decide to rain again. Just as well we only go to town to shop once a week!
Today, we are doing our bit for the local economy! Got a local plumber in to deal with some suspected tree roots that are blocking our toilet. We use to have the same issue at our old house in Melbourne.
All of this is just part of normal life for many of us, but there is something comforting to know that others experience it as well.
Our life here is still a work in progress. Last week we walked around our place and discussed the possibilities of creating horse yards which is exciting for me. Getting back on a horse after many years is on my bucket list!
We are both keen to build some raised garden beds for our own vegetable patch. Will need to protect it from stock and other wildlife.
Plenty to keep us occupied. Almost done unpacking the boxes, although we still seem to have more stuff than places to put it! Slowly getting more organised and starting to make plans for the year ahead. We feel so blessed to have this place to call home.