Sunday, January 22, 2012

Epic Hawkesbury road trip, Part Two: Cat Raffle & Marilyn Monroe at Wisemans ferry

This looks like a place for morning Yoga

I had set off yesterday morning, expecting to arrive at Bandusia's Permaculture Design Course in time for lunch.  It would be garden-grown luxury lunch, with all the creative international people who were certain to be there, getting into each others dreams and projects and more.

A series of navigational errors and distractions had my car and I miss lunch, miss dinner, and now we were going to miss breakfast too.
We had made a midnight decision to return to the river bank, re-cross on the ferry, and curl up for the night on the correct river bank.  There would be a leisurely breakfast for me, and a big tank of petrol for the Japanese car.  We could then get lost to our hearts content.
A PDC is after all a 2 week course.

It was warm when I awoke, and peered out the window from the back seat. A beautiful day! I had just set a record:  eight hours in the car and not one navigational mistake.
My morning yoga was on the grass, with river-washed air, in dappled sunshine. It set me up for a day of great expectations, a day where mistakes wouldn't even matter.

I wandered into town, seeking a pleasant spot for breakfast. Passing through a quirky little arcade, I noticed an unusual poster.
This poster that made me realize, people here at Wisemans are different.

The Cat Raffle

I could just imagine it
"Honey, we won the cat raffle!"
"Luv, we've already got 16 cats"

Looking closely, I learn the prize was a painting. The model is Reg, one of the handsome arcade cats, painted by a local artist

Take a look at the photo - its young Reg himself, inspecting his portrait.
The ear is back, a dismissing gesture.
He's not impressed.
Maybe he's getting a premonition of what the prize will be for him and his girlfriends - a community-supported desexing.

Sorry mate, but its got to be done.
I am impressed with this community.

Walking on, and who comes and greets me?

Reg the cat.
He stops me in my tracks. I drop everything.  He makes out with my handbag.
Charming, radiant with health, and letting it out on the world.

Another little cat appears, hurls herself at him.

So things have turned out rather well for the cats of the Cat Raffle.

Behind me a lady with keys is opening the Local Gallery Co-op.
I start chatting, and get the whole story.
Reg and Rita are the direct descendents of the original ferry cats, looked after by the whole town.
I love this story.
I love that the townspeople didn't just moan about the bloody kitten problem, nor did they ignore it and let the cats get hard and mean and many.
Neither did they leave it to the usual saintly people, who get landed with paying to fix it.
A kind of tax on virtue.
In a generative, fun way, the cats got what they needed, the artist got some fame, and the main cat lady, whoever she is,  got some food money.
Its all rather wonderful, and very permacultural.
I handed her few coins to pop into the catfood fund.

I've slept here, so now its my town too, and my cats.

Cecilia takes breakfast on the Hawksbury river
Breakfast was slow and delicious. I watched the Hawksbury river wend around the bend, also slow and delicous.

On my way back, who do I see?
Its the cat lady.
Mired in a frenzy of miaowing, as she tries to open her antique store. Reg's head office.

Karlene of Wiseman’s Ferry Vintage and Collectables

Here is Karlene, coming to work with her arms full of home-grown roses, and her ankles full of ginger cats.

She is enjoying her life and her work.  Check this out - a whole bookshelf of Marylin Monroe, a shrine to the beauty of one little lady.
"I taught a whole month of Marylin Monroe-themed English Classes, in Tokyo" I tell her.
We beauty addicts know, if you have to go to work, there is no reason why you can't make it lovely.

I like everything in her shop. Victorian fish-serving platter-knives, lacy. Coal-fueled bedwarming pans.
Back in Melbourne is an Aladdin's cave storage unit filled with things just as quirky and lovely, things I'm already in a relationship with. Things who are waiting for me to get my next house.
I'm not tempted at all.
But I am in need of a pretty cup and saucer for my morning tea.

This one is mine. 
It has many predecessors, I'm afraid.
But I can invest in it lovely memories of 2012, starting with today. It may still survive a long time more.

So I'm back on the road.  

The valley here in St. Albans unfolds its loveliness for me, curve after curve. Yesterday, with its perils and defeats, seem like the dream.  
Its as if this valley doesn't yet know that plastic has been invented.

I feel like Frodo Baggins. I know why he keeps adventuring.   

Very, very old pub. It smells wonderful inside, suggesting
centuries of roast dinners, wainscoting, and fireside conversations.

Have I gone too far? 
Its Bandusia, and I am a great, inadvertant success.
Arriving as planned, just in time for lunch. 

Cecilia at Bandusia driveway, Photo Penny Pyett

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Epic Hawkesbury road trip, Part One: Healers, Rechargers, and Reg of the Dump

This is the story of my trip up here to Bandusia, over a week ago now. 

Enchanted Pecan forest,  Bandusia

I had heard that my Permaculture heroes were gathering to teach a PDC at the many-starred Bandusia Contry Retreat, home of the new Permaculture Sydney Institute. 
You don't just sit around in Sydney with this going on. 
So I packed my bag, and hit the road. 

I was not gifted with a talent for navigation and map reading. 
Life also landed me with irresistible urges to sidetrack, ever since I was tiny.

Here is what life is like, when you are made that way. 
Here are the people you meet, and the things that happen. 
Its just the way it is. 

Circling Bondai - Rebecca

First I got the creative idea that Bondai was on the way to St. Albans, which meant I just had to drop in and finally meet a lady from my Meetup group, a lady who had caught my fancy. 

After circling around a bit, I arrived at Rebecca's.

Dahlia flowers, my constant friend the thermos,
 and vintage tea sets at Rebecca's

The circling included getting pastries that neither of us would eat - she is a naturopath, I'm a permie, we don't eat that kind of dead white-flour food. 
She kept them for her husband. 

Kitchen sink sprouts

It was fun at her house, as it looked just like her - lots of growing, originality, and things evolving into other things.
Her work and her surroundings are all of a piece. She is also a 'doula', a kind of midwife. Bringing life to the world, and liveliness to our bodies is her mission and her profession.

Urban Beehive

Her new garden is just getting started as a permaculture garden. I did not know about her permie side, she did not know about mine. But we found each other.

Like a bee to honey.

 I love that all the colors of her house, the moods and eras all sing to the same tune - aqua and flowery and 50's and housewifely.

The theme of her house is Happy.

Rebecca is coming to my 'Tim Ferriss Meetup group's New Year Planing day next weekend, when we will be thinking up ways to bring our lovely projects to the world.

One of her many projects is Rhubarb, a wholefood co-op.
A labor of love, I can see.

I peeped into her pantry, the cupboards were full of bottled produce she and her friends had grown, all in jars without labels, all rather magical.  
To this she will be adding jars of upackaged grains and treasures from her co-op, one day soon. 
Orrganic good things, to be cooked up and become....herself. 

We enjoyed each other, did some mutual admiring, hatched up more new insights and ideas about how bodies really work.

Then I was back on the road.

I won't make it to Bandusia by lunchtime, I realize. 

Circling The Highways: 
You can't actually look at your iphone while driving, and I forget what maps are telling me the minute I take my eyes of them.  
My memory is excellent. Its just not interested in things that will date so quickly as 'right, then left'. 
In Sydney, if you are two seconds late changing lanes, you can get taken 20 minutes in the wrong direction. 
That happened, and it happened.
I just don't learn.
But I stayed on the road, just kept on going.

In my car,  2008.

Circling the Suburbs
I drew near the house of another lady I couldn't resist meeting, the second healer for the day. 
Janene is a host to special paying travelers on Air B&B, a wonderful site for sharing and connecting good people. 
She looked like a friend waiting to happen, so I dropped in. 
She shared her lunch with me. I gave her come of my cards, and a bit of garden advice.
She let me  recharge my poor overworked iphone, before I headed into the mountains.
Navigating wears everything out.
While I waited,  she had me sit and listen to a downloaded affirmation on her personal computer.

I enjoyed it so much. 
There was some Californian motivational speaker, urging us into visualizations to draw in a soulmate. 
Another one of my blank spots.
Navigating, and finding soulmates.
It did, however, pop into my imagination how nice it would be to have a Japanese bathroom, steamy with the fragrance of ceder wood. 
Yes, geting a husband could result in enough stability for such a lovely thing. 
My phone charged, and with a charming new vision, my bath of matrimony, I waved goodbye and got back on the road.

Cecilia driving, 2008

A hut in the forest
Driving deep in the mountains, there is a patch of convoluted turns so tight, I didn't even THINK of disobeying the speed-signs. 5km, they said, at the turns.
It seemed endless, but I did emerge.
I pulled over to calm the adrenaline, say a little prayer, and let the antsy cars behind me pass. 
Now can you imagine this?  They leaned on their horns, to teach me some kind of lesson. 
I sat there a long time. I gathered my wits, as the light faded. 
Did some more gathering my wits. Then just a bit more.
I turned the key. 

Lucky my phone was charged. An NRMA man was on his way, through all those curves, to come and charge my flat battery.

Off the road.  Just temporarily.

Reg of the Dump

My evening rescued by Reg of the Dump.  
Reg took me in as I waited in the fading light. 90 minutes, they said.

"Would you like a cuppa, love?" 
"Well, is there any chance I could use your stove? It would be great if I cook some of my oatmeal. Its just in the car".  
"We can do that. Come in, come in".

My dinner: Oatmeal and Hawksbury river prawns, wth hot water and milk.

He offered me some Hawksbury River Prawns he had just cooked to go with them. The were tiny and sweet, like cashews.
Fusion cuisine.

After my supper, Reg showed me some of the treasures he had gleaned from his days as the boss of the Wiseman's Ferry Dump.

A carousel cigarette dispenser. A curly candelabra. Elaborate Victorian dining contraptions and fancy china, all from the dump.

He showed me the legacy from his dear dead wife, the china dolls she had made by hand. She was always in the op shops, he said. Always looking out for frocks to be re-made into fine little dresses for her pretty girls, her darling girls.

Hes blokey, but seemd to like the postcard set I gave him, with my pretty drawings.

Recharged again and back on the road, I kept on going. 
I've missed lunch and I've missed dinner, but I kept on going.

Circling Wisemans Ferry: Dark

After my usual wrong turns and reverses, my little car and I arrived at Wisemans Ferry. A man with a biker's beard put us on the ferry, and winched us over the river. 
After an increasingly strange drive, I finally saw what my iphone map had been telling me all along - there are TWO ferrys at Wiseman's. I had taken the wrong one. 
As is my custom.

I back track, yet again.

Starry night by Ander Bos

By now, everyone at Bandusia would be asleep. I have enough petrol for the official part of the journey, but my capacity for getting lost is beyond calculation. 

I vote to wait until the petrol station opens. 
My car and I found a place by the river. I spread out my Sheridan sheets as far as they'd go, and hopped into my pink pyjamas.

Off the road, but just for a bit. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Getting Down and Out in Double Bay - New Year, New Life

Photos by Cecilia and passers-by, 2nd week of January, 2012

I heard Double Bay is a desireable area, so I thought I'd go and live there for a bit. 

At the Marina. Yeah, I got a bit skinny over Christmas.
You are quite welcome to cook me dinner. 

Down the road from my friend's house is a marina, where I take my strolls, and meet other vagabonds from all around the world. 
They live, eat and sleep in tiny, tiny cabins for weeks, but have a vast view of the sea, horizons all around. 
Its 180º opposite of life in a McMansion, or even a real mansion, where your house is vast, but you may be confined to an office to pay for it all.  
Some of these boats even had weenie balcony gardens, little cheerful pots. How precious this scrap of soil would seem, if you were weeks without it.
"Land Ahoy". Thats how they greet their pot plants each morning. 

Double Bay streetscape, 10 minutes from Sydney's city center. 

2011 was my year of being reclusive,  so for 2012 Im going to have a go at being out and about. 
Here is the result:

First night
We had a nice dinner, my laptop and I, with rain pattering on the awnings, the air fresh and electic.
When I got a whining neighbour, I moved table and fished out my earplugs.

We may not all like each other, but there are plenty of tricks that allow us to share the same world.

Next Night
The food at Mrs. Sippy is almost as good as my own cooking, delicate and classy. 
Hey, maybe we just have similar tastes.
The lady beside me took my photo when she had her smoko. 
Then her companion invited us (my laptop and I) over to join them. 

It turned out she wasn't Kylie Minoge, but an Executive's assistant.
She's just about to start running work-life balance events, and needs some good Permaculture.
A woman with keen insticts.
He's not a film star either, but a Dubai Lawer. I wonder if his office needs a self-watering indoor edible garden?
I like this town.

Next Night
The fellow who took this photo had helped me with parking, the day I moved in, and recognized me.  He was chivalrous then, and interesting now - he has his own T.V. show, imagine that.
I could look it up on Google as we chatted, and show my lovely permaculture too.
Share surplus ideas, get them out there too.

I like dinner with technology, and yes, I do like this town.

After that?
The next night I knew my Permaculture heros were coming to town, to teach a Design Course. John Champagne. Janet Millington. I tried to track them down, but they don't seem keen on mobile phones.

Dinner alone.

And then?
I'm going to get in my car and follow them, see if I can help out on the course.
I hear there is no wireless in that part of the Hawksbury region.
No phones, no email, no googling people as you meet them.

But great expectations for another good week, in my year of getting out there.
Acording to one of the great minds of our time, 99% of success is just turning up.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

How to apologize - lunch, Bonza rent-a-bike & getting connected

While my mother was here in Sydney over the holidays, we had a bit of a blue. (That's an Aussie term for a fight).
No words were exchanged.  I just up and left before desert, before I chucked a spazza (that's a politically incorect term for 'get mad').

She was probably feeling a bit miserable about it.
So the next moring I sent a text message. "Sorry I got cross. You ways and mine are different, and there is no reason you should do things my way. Would you like to go on a bike ride after lunch?" 

Sunscreen, as supplied by Bonza Bike tours

That wasn't so hard. And it is all true.
Just because I'm right and she is wrong doesn't mean I cannot say "sorry'. 

"I'm regretful that things are not harmonious between us"
Thats what my apology actually means!  She has no idea. But it doesn't matter. 
Every one alive knows we are all partly wrong and partly right, in mesures we would never be able to calculate.

And everyone alive loves an apology.
Nobody really teaches us how to do it, apart from the rare souls who give us a memorable one.
Words are a bit too cheap and easy, especially with shameless types like me.
Actually doing something for somebody, something that takes a meaningful chunk of time or money, is the way to go.
About 2 hours of our wages or time seems about right to 'clean up' after snapping at someone. 

So, my happy mother and I met at Circular Quay. We found a cafe, and shared a very big hamburger without relish, without pickle, without mayonaise, because she likes things plain.  All the condiments came on side for me, because I like things fancy. 

That's design to accommodate differences, before conflict strikes. 

I'm finding that if I apologize EVERY TIME I get annoyed, and make it a 2 hour apology, with flowers, cooking dinner, or a trip, then everyone gets better at putting in effort to avoid going crook (an old-fashioned word for 'get mad').

Yes, this is very Japanese. 

My mum, as we cycle under the miraculous Sydney Harbor Bridge

After lunch we got our bikes, and got all decked out with helmets, maps, scenic directions and sunscreen by the lovely man at Bonza Bike Tours.    
Yes, Bonza Bike Tours were bonza (thats an Aussie term meaning Bloody Marvelous)

I love it when people put my helmet on for me. I feel petted and 'looked-after.' 
We WERE Looked After.

We coasted and peaddled, and saw lots of nice things up close. 
Its so cute at The Rocks, with all the stone and wood low-tech buildings. 

I like that they are crooked and lumpy and leaning, which makes them organic and alive,  as if they had their own gait and calling noise. You can imagine them getting up and galumping down the street.

Some even sprout their very own miniature doorstep gardens.
There are many lovely things in this world, but life in an unlikely, barren place is up there with the best.

Apologies are like that, little miracles of life.

I've got another 60 or so years to refine my skills in this area.
I will be bloody marvelous at it, one day. That's the wish.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Spend one year observing. Happy New Year 2012

Here the last light of 2011 lingers in my hair. 
From this perch on a friend's balcony you can see my new city of Sydney. 

I've been here one year now, and this fact amazes me. 
Its been the most solitary and quiet year of my whole 42 years. 
Maybe it will be decades till I experiance this kind of quiet again.

'When you move to new land', says the Permaculture design manual, 'spend the first year doing nothing. Just obseve how the sunshine falls, where the wind comes from, how the water swirls and flows. Twelve months later, start planting.'

I always thought that sounded lovely from a poetic point of view, but not a good use of time. 

If you just plant something, anything, simply caring about its progress will make your observation 100 times sharper. 
You won't just be looking for sun and wind, you will learn all about the pests, the anti-pests, the creatures who want to eat or protect your new little family of plants. By being generative, and planting things for nature to interact with, by allowing measured failure,  a whole spectrum of subtleties will spring into view.  

Getting into creative action is the only way to really see things in this world. As somebody who draws, this is something I know.

A year has passed since I arrived in Sydney, I see that sentence differently.

That sentence was certainly written by someone not young. Someone who had alreadly loved a piece of land and its plants, enough to be able to imagine vividly how a year's worth of life would be playing out on the blank stage of his new garden. 

If someone is facing a blank new land, with a vivid picture of what will be there, it is almost certain this person has recently lost a place, a place he knew deeply and cared about.

Maybe it takes one year to get the spirits up, get into action, and start investing in your new life, as if it would be there forever. 

After the fireworks, it took a long time to get home to the pretty house I am housesitting, in leafy Turramurra. 
The people of Sydney were catching trains with high-heels in their hands, scraped knees, and irrepressable joyfulness. Its inspring, that we can generate this, by simply deciding to.

Then you know what I did when I got home? 
I started reading a novel. 'The Glass house' by Jennette Wall, sad and beautiful and funny. 
I read it as I read every good book, from start to end in one gulp.

I had to cover my eyes to go to sleep, with the moring light of 2012 in my hair. Decadent. 

Happy New Year. It will be a beautiful 2012. 
It is already. 


Monday, January 2, 2012

Making After-dinner clean up fun - ingenious social design by Mary

Sometimes my mother is just so clever.

She came to Sydney for Christmas and New Year, with another brother, Dom. The whole mob came for dinner the other night, to enjoy the pretty suburban house I'm house-sitting, here in Turramurra

As I was licking the last of the Christmas cream from my dinner plate, my mother turned to me and said
"Name three tasks you would like done".
"Mmm... walk the dog. Clear the table. Wash the dishes".

"People!' she announced. "I have a game. In the garden is hidden a treasure. Whoever finds it gets to watch the three loosers do one job each. Go! 

John finds the treasure.

Thats an inspiring way to look at the tasks of 2012.
To find a way to never every 'power thoug'h procrastination.
Instead, to prepare cleverly, to  design a way that makes each task a fun game for myself.

If that takes cooking for friends to get me over a rough bumpy task, wonderful!
I can do that.

Happy New Year