The Gift


“A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.” – Jonathan Huie

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” – Mary Oliver

Often when relationships end, especially when they have ended unpleasantly, we look at all the bad, all the damage and all the hurt that was generated. Recently I was reminded of an old relationship, one that ended many, many years ago. My relationship with this person was tenuous. It didn’t so much end but dragged on unpleasantly for a long time. It was unpleasant not least of all because of the damage done to me but to others I cared for as well. I have done so much work to calm my raging heart and turbulent head. I’ve cut chords and forgiven. I’ve written letters, pouring out my angst, and burnt them, I’ve even sent some to sea. I’ve meditated and used visualisation and, well, you name it, I’ve done it. Over the years, maturity and time have healed my wounds. The rage has abated, and, while there isn’t a sense of true calm about this person, my every waking moment isn’t consumed with thoughts of them. The occasional thought no longer propels me to the edge of reason, teetering on the brink of a black hole of rage and self-destruction.

This last week, I was challenged to look at the gift in that relationship. Yes, you read it correctly, the GIFT!

Now isn’t that an interesting concept? “You mean there was gift amidst all that anger and hate and shame and agony?” Wow! That idea blew my mind for an instant. But you know, it was there. There was a gift; a tremendous and beautiful gift. One I would not have sought for myself if it hadn’t been for that person coming into my life. I spent the next week reviewing the magic of that relationship, looking at it from a new and different perspective. It’s changed my outlook and it’s amplified my gratitude for so many things.

I see now how that relationship, as difficult and fraught as it was, as agonising and draining as it was, has shaped me. It has, through the gift, rounded out my life and made me whole. What an incredible discovery to make. I now feel true forgiveness for the other person. I now know what real gratitude and love is as I can now hold that person in my heart with compassion, respect and a new sense of understanding.

Sounds a bit dramatic and over the top, doesn’t it? I can’t explain the shift that has occurred for me in any other way. Imagine what our lives would be like if we looked for the gift in those relationships that ended unexpectedly or in ways we hadn’t planned. Imagine if we looked for the gift, instead of focussing on the hurt. Imagine if gratitude took over where revenge or confusion, or heartbreak might step in. Imagine how much freer we’d be. Imagine how much lighter we’d be. Imagine looking at your life from a whole different perspective and being full of joy for what you’d learnt and gained and how you’d grown as a result of all of your interactions with others.

Food for thought.

Blessing to you,


Hiking mighty Maroon


 “My thoughts have climbed mountains and I’ve overcome boundaries set by the mind.”
― Jeremy Limn

I found myself at the base of another mountain last weekend, poised for the long hike up. This time I had company, my gorgeous husband and his mate. Now, company on a hike up a steep mountain might appeal to some. Hiking with one’s husband should indeed be a welcome opportunity to spend quality time together. Yes. Normally that would be true. However, you must take into account that my beloved is a super fit, deeply driven and totally focused mountain climber, in the true sense of the term. He climbs rocks all over the world and he has added Alpine climbing to his repertoire.  He’s driven. Did I say that already?  And he’s preparing to summit a Himalayan mountain in a few weeks time.

As you can imagine, my idea of a casual mountain stroll, taking in nature and enjoying the view, doesn’t necessarily match with his blinkered view of getting to the top in the shortest time possible.  Add to that my slow return to something slightly resembling fitness and I started to get myself in a tizz.

It all began a week ago when beloved husband asked if I’d like to hike Mt Maroon the following weekend. He mentioned his mate, probably slightly fitter than I but without recent hiking fitness under his belt, would join us. I agreed thinking it sounded like a nice morning out.  The day before the hike  I started to get scratchy about the whole thing. You see, I made the fateful error of doing some research.

Is forewarned better than ignorance? I’m not so sure. Accounts from other hikers suggested the hike was steep to vertical in sections. Some took six to eight hours to complete it. Many mentioned it was pretty hard on the knees. They all agreed the view from the top was stunning. I’m all for a view when I can get it but six hours? Seriously? I hadn’t planned on that one.  Okay, there’s nothing wrong with a six-hour hike, I’ve done longer but I was under the impression from my super lean, super fit hubby that it would take about three hours (he usually runs up in 45 minutes. See the pressure I was under!?).  I don’t do vertical elegantly and I certainly don’t love the jelly leg, arthritic joint pain that follows a steep descent. My head and heart were in conflict.  I couldn’t bail, as I too was in need of preparation for  a Himalayan trek. There was nothing for it but to suck it up and strap on my big girl hiking boots.

Sunrise on the way to the mountian.

Sunrise on the way to the mountain.

The drive from my home town of Brisbane, in southeast Queensland, took approximately and hour and a half. Leaving early ensured we had a nice cool start. The early stages of the walk are through open forest. It’s fairly gentle but certainly not flat. In fact, it isn’t long before the track becomes quite steep going. We rose very quickly leaving the surrounding farmlands behind us. The views were spectacular.

Everything was looking good for me, it was sweaty, heart pumping work but pleasant enough with a gentle cool breeze.  Until the gully (read gorge). Yep, there was a vertical section. While I was initially freaked out it turned out to be a fairly enjoyable, though strenuous scramble. We made use of tree roots and stone pockets to pull ourselves up. At one stage my husband told me to use my feet to bridge between the rocks??? Must be a climbing term. Anyway, it was a handy tip, once my brain wrapped itself a round the meaning.  I can’t say how long this section lasted, maybe fifteen, twenty minutes.  Once through the gully we could see the prize. The top of the mountain.


A pleasant stroll through forest and a scrambly traverse up some rock slabs had us at the top in no time, where the biggest cairn I’ve seen, since hiking Ben Nevis, marked our arrival. As luck would have it, we arrived soon after  two parties departed and so, we had the summit to ourselves.  I can’t describe the view. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. We had an unimpeded 360 degree view of the national park, surrounding farms and the lake. There wasn’t a sound to be heard, man-made or otherwise. No cars, no planes, no people. It was superb.


I was pretty excited to have completed the hike. I came away relatively unscathed, only one small scratch and a nasty egg on my shin from a rock, hidden amongst foliage, that I wacked good and proper on my descent.  We moved pretty consistently, with minimal rests (there was considerable huffing and puffing),  so the hike took us an hour and forty minutes up and an hour and twenty return. Not too bad after all my fussing. The track isn’t well-defined. In places it’s hard to know if you are on a track at all. I’m glad I was with someone who was familiar with the area.


Mt Maroon forms part of the McPherson Range in the Mount Barney National Park. It is a 967 m peak surrounded by other mountains; Barney, Earnest, Clunie, May, Ballow and Mt Lindesay. It was named Maroon after the first grazing property in the area but it’s true, and original, name is Wahlmoorum which means sand goanna in the Yuggera language.

The national park has extremely varied vegetation with open forests around the foothills of the peaks, subtropical rainforest above 600 m and heath shrublands towards the summits. There are endangered and near threatened plant species in the National park. This knowledge really does make you want to walk gently on the earth and adds to the awe of the place.

As for the rock itself, Mount Maroon consists mainly of rhyolite. Rhyolite can be used to invigorate your emotional state and provide energy, relieve depression and lethargy. I’m not sure I felt the energy on the way up but I certainly felt the love once we reached the car park at the end of the hike. I was definitely rejuvenated.

What mountain have you found yourself scaling lately?


What’s your story?

Dada and Rodney

That’s my Dad on the left, as a young man, with his brother.


“Since storytelling is a dialogue, shared stories create more understanding; bring people closer together as a community;  and serve as a string that binds one heart to another.  (And I believe that the universe is made up of string.)”
Peninnah Schram

“Stories are at the very heart of being human; they talk about where we’re from, where we are, and where we’re going.  They’re like bread; you need to hear and tell them everyday.”
Bill Harley

We all have a story. Sometimes we live a false story and are victims of a self belief but that’s not the story I’m talking about. I’m talking about our own individual history kind of story. The really interesting stuff, the stuff that make us, well, us I guess.

I recently had dinner with my parents and I was moved by what I learned about my father. I was moved and intrigued by his stories; stories I didn’t know; stories of him I’d never imagined. Okay, he didn’t go hunting tigers or elephants  in the savannah or trek the arctic on a quest of find a long-lost artefacts. But he did do some pretty unique things.

My dad is an artist, a lover of art, race horses and fine wine. He is also a handy man and can fix just about anything. He has been married for near on 46 years, has three daughters, worked in retail as a manager and then went into insurance. He played squash and entered walks for charity when I was young. He loves the oceans and still, to this day, at the ripe old age of 73, goes for a body surf to relax and unwind. He is clever and kind and, well, you know, a dad.

A drawing my my father did as a child.

A drawing my my father did as a child.

Growing up I’d learnt a little of my father’s early life, life before me and my sisters, life even before my mum was in his picture. I gleaned these little snippets from my grandmother and some from passing comments he’d make at times, in relation to other things, never as a topic of conversation in and of themselves. So I knew my dad had attended boarding school, that he was a pretty good student, I’ve seen report cards. I knew too, that as a young man he had learnt and practiced Judo. I’d also seen photos of him in a rugby uniform while at school but I hadn’t realised he continued to play as a working adult. He also played hockey. For some reason I imagined he’d played ice hockey, why in Australia would I assume this?  I’m not sure. Too many movies I guess. Anyway, dad told me about the very rough grass court they’d play on, not a smooth manicured green as one might see today but a rough and tumble, bumpy lumpy piece of paddock. He loved it. He and a mate, from an outlying property near Gladstone, would play of a weekend. They’d also turn their hand to lawn bowls on occasion, to test their mettle in other ways.

Graeme felsch second row frist on left

Second row, first on the left.

The story that really blew my mind and had me gawping in amazement and horror was a tale involving a boat. I knew Dad had sailed in a Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race. If you are unaware, this yacht race is an icon of Queensland, the state in which I live. It’s a pretty high-profile race held every year over the Easter long weekend. It begins from Shorncliffe in Moreton Bay and follows a 308 nautical mile journey up to Gladstone.

Over dinner I discovered my father had sailed in, not one but, five Brisbane to Gladstone yacht races.  I learned how it came about that he was recruited as crew with no ocean-going experience,  just river sailing under his belt. The skipper, a very  colourful character, and his two sons, both teenagers, were making their maiden voyage and needed an extra hand. They took dad out for a day on the seas and he got the tick of approval.  Dad, in his twenties, loved the experience and became close friends with the family.  My parents are still friends, some 40 odd years later, with this family.  One year, after race was run and things were winding down, news that a cyclone was brewing set things back in motion.  Dad had to be back in Brisbane for work. Time was of the essence. To make it back in time and safely they had to leave immediately when normally they would rest and celebrate. Trouble was, one crew member, the older son, had left to make a rendezvous elsewhere and the skipper had retired to the bar, where he felt most at home. With a sense of urgency Dad and the youngest of the crew collected the skipper, poured him into his bunk and set sail for home.  As fate would have it the cyclone hit early and Dad singlehandedly, with some assistance from a young teenager, manned the boat through rough seas negotiating twenty to thirty metre waves.  They rode out the night, a very tense night I imagine, and sailed into calmer waters by dawn, safe and sound, surrounded by thick fog.

The skipper was rudely awakened from his slumber to navigate their whereabouts. Funnily enough, my Father had managed the boat through tremendous odds but had no navigational skills in the white out. I think that’s gorgeous. I was aware my jaw and eyes were wide open (not an elegant look in an upmarket restaurant) in amazement as I listened to this story and marvelled at the courage, skill and foolhardiness of my Father.  What an incredible experience.

How is it I never knew these things before?

I asked him why he’d never told me and he simply said he didn’t think they were worth telling, they were just things he’d done. From my wide-eyed stare and enthusiastic responses he said he guessed he should write some things done.  You bet you should DaddyO.

If we don’t tell our stories we are like ghosts on this planet. We appear to be but husks without our narrative to give essence and depth. Our stories are bridges; they deepen relationships, they inspire, and, through hearing them, they give us a greater connection to ourselves and our own sense of place in the world. That may sound a little odd but I walked away from that meal with my parents with a greater sense of who my father was but I also felt differently positioned in my own narrative as a result.

Whatever your story, share it. Nothing is too grand or too insignificant.  Sometimes it’s the most mundane scraps of information that feed the soul and mind of the listener.

What’s your story?

Graeme October 1959

Did I forget to mention he liked to swing a golf club as well as a hockey stick?


Wouldn’t it be interesting if…


“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Albert Einstein

There is a bike path near my house that meanders through several suburbs all the way to the river. As I walked this path recently I passed a number of really cool playgrounds. Each had more than the regular swings and slides. These playgrounds had really neat and unique play equipment that I imagine would be great fun for kids.

These playgrounds for kids got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be interesting if, as adults, we could design our own little space for fun, relaxation and adventure. What would we include?  I chuckled to myself realising they could look very different for each of us, even different for individuals on different days, should we have the opportunity to be the architects of our dreams.

This week, for me, my little space would include lots of relaxation and soulfilling adventure.  Now, I’m going to use a good deal of imagination here, because that’s what kids do in playgrounds, right? Use their imaginations.  My playground would consist of five hut like gazebos arranged in a pentagon around a central hut that acts as a hub, if you will.  Reflexology paths, lined with aromatic herbs, radiate from the hub to the other huts. This central hut is, of course, a tea hut. It boasts every type of tea imaginable; chai, oolong, gunpowder green, herbal teas, you name it it’s there with an equally abundant collection of teapots and tea cups for any mood or occasion.

I could begin my adventure with a soothing cup of High Mountain Vietnamese Oolong and then take the path that leads to the massage hut where I could indulge in Thai foot massage, Indian head massage and Kahuna massage. Once rejuvenated, refreshed and relaxed  I would wander back to the hub for a rich and creamy pot of creme brûlée tea .  Next, I’d head out to the art gazebo where I could escape into and create with paints, collage, beading, and clay.

Thinking about what play means to me, I’d have to have a place for a tight rope and a trapeze swing. But a trapeze wouldn’t fit in a gazebo you say. Such a trifling matter.  When employing  imagination,  anything is possible. Gilbert Chestrson also believed “there are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.”

Giving free rein to my imagination (as I wandered through a tree lined park on my Sunday morning walk) I daydreamed of having a hut with a magic door that would transport me to anywhere in the world. I could visit the Uffizi Gallery and sate myself on gorgeous art, then wander up the spiritual haven of the Tor in Glastonbury, followed by a wander around the standing stones in Avebury, or the quiet moors in Scotland. I wouldn’t mind dropping into the little church of San Damiano, in Assisi, for mass in Italian or for a seafood lunch in Honfleur.  On my return, and after supping a dandelion tea, I’d head off to the remaining hut, for a soak in a warm mud pool  finished off  with a float in a float tank.

Now wouldn’t that be grand? A cluster little white wooden gazebos where I could indulge, play and escape.  I know it is just plain silly (and many of you will be wondering what the hell I was thinking posting this tripe) but that’s half the fun and my. How often do we let ourselves, as adults, just dream silly dreams? How often do we play and use our imaginations? Where’s the harm in having fun? Sometimes time and finances don’t allow us to truly escape but a little daydreaming is as good as a holiday. Your brain can’t tell the difference between a thought and reality.  Needless to say my Sunday morning walk was one of the most relaxing and exhilarating walks I’ve had in a long time.  I might actually pull the paintbrushes out this week and pop off for a foot rub. Woo hoo. See what letting your imagination run wild can trigger.

Fire up your imagination and start daydreaming. What would your playground include?