Yearning for place

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”
― John Muir

“Going to the woods is going home.”
― John Muir

“What’s the hurry to move in?” my friend asked when I declined an invitation for an outing the evening after I was to take possession of my new house?

Indeed. There was no real, or should I say logical, hurry to move in or be moving at night. I could go out for a few hours, surely. I wrestled with my heart and relented. However, the reason I so badly wanted to be in my empty house was that I have been experiencing a pain at being unattached to place.  I don’t mean to a dwelling, I mean to a patch of land, to a place I feel called to be.

When looking for a new home my number one criterion was that it be near the forest.  You see, I was drawn to stay close to that forest. A forest I have come to love and feel at home in.  It’s a place I find magical, where animals dare approach, where I meditate and escape the world.  When nothing became available I considered other suburbs with forests. I planned to inspect a number of homes for sale in those areas but, when I felt into it, those other forests were not my forest. Not my place. I didn’t feel drawn to be there. It’s not logical, you’re right. A forest is a forest, right? Well, no. This is not about logic it’s about feeling and about intuition and about what I can only call magic.

I am drawn to nature. I love to wander on the beach, in forested areas and the wild places, away from civilisation. I feel an intricate link with the natural world and connected to a power greater than myself when in nature. I feel at home in nature,so much more than I do when in cites and around people.  I have a real sense of the energy of “my forest”.  It’s like I can read the history of that place and I feel welcome there. It restores me to connect with the trees and the rocks and the bush. My new backyard feels like an extension of that forest. I can see the tree tops of it from my back deck.

So, when my friend asked me out and I really had no rational reason to be sitting in an empty house or moving boxes out of a storage shed into an empty house at night, this was the real reason. I was longing to be home. Longing to connect with my own sacred space and to set down roots.  You can’t reason with emotion, with the sacred and mystical.

I know I can live anywhere but to thrive anywhere? Perhaps not. I feel a fundamental pull to this particular spot. At first, I thought it was habit. In fact, the very same friend who asked me out had me consider if I was just in my comfort zone there.  That question took me by surprise and my hackles raised slightly at first.  However, living in temporary accommodation, before settlement, I examined that question closely.   Staying for a time by the river, a place I used to live, I wondered if I’d made the right decision to stay near the forest.  The river was so lovely, the sunsets stunning, the silky texture of the water, alluring. In my gut though, I knew that while I could appreciate the river and its beauty, I really didn’t feel connected there.  Then, living in a funky and vibrant inner-city suburb for a month, I began to question myself again.  I was enjoying the hubbub and the eclectic crowd but the throb of disconnection and being unattached returned.

I can’t explain the draw to the place I’ve chosen as home; except to say, that since I was a child I have felt the energy of places. From a very young age I’ve felt strongly uncomfortable or completely at ease in some buildings and environments.  When travelling I have been reduced to tears when stepping onto battlefields and I’ve vomited as a result of heavy and overwhelming energies of some places. This connection to “my forest” is instinctual and I am so looking forward to seeing what transpires when, in a few days, I set down roots and return home.

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Our humanity is the natural world

To listen is therefore to touch a stethoscope to the skin of a landscape, to hear what stirs below.  George Haskell

Maria Popova’s recent newsletter, Nature and the Serious Business of Joy, resonated strongly with me and I was struck by how shared sentiments can connect us across centuries, borders, gender, time and place. I was delighted to discover Whitman, Thoreau and I share a love of trees. That the work of Michael McCarthy articulates the deep-seated joy I have when in nature.  Nature pulls me. I am drawn to it and feel very at home, embraced, when in the wild places.

Over the years I have realised the pull of nature and my respect and adoration of it can only stem from being of the earth myself and of sharing the same transcendent source as the natural world. Rachel Carson expresses it beautifully:

 “Our origins are of the earth. And so there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity.”

Michael McCarthy has walked the same paths as I. He too has felt, numerous times, that sudden and involuntary love of nature that bursts forth with such “a startling intensity, in a burst of emotion which we may not fully understand, and the only word that seems to me to be appropriate for this feeling is joy.”  And yet what is joy? Sadly it seems a term used only by those delusional romantic types (like me), caught up in the fanciful, magical type of thinking that a weary, cynical populace denounces.

McCarthy weighs the precariousness of joy in our modern world: “Joy is not a concept, nor indeed a word, that we are entirely comfortable with, in the present age. The idea seems out of step with a time whose characteristic notes are mordant and mocking, and whose preferred emotion is irony. Joy hints at an unrestrained enthusiasm which may be thought uncool… It reeks of the Romantic movement. Yet it is there. Being unfashionable has no effect on its existence… What it denotes is a happiness with an overtone of something more, which we might term an elevated or, indeed, a spiritual quality.

Nature speaks to so many of us, it awakens our senses and, at times, offers us a glimpse into the extraordinary, yet so few speak of these experiences publicly.  We should extol nature’s virtues loudly. Share the revelations uncovered while in the wilderness. Thoreau recognised nature as an antidote to the diminishing of spirit amid a fast paced, ego-driven society — “In the street and in society I am almost invariably cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean,”

McCarthy takes Thoreau’s idea further and reminds us of our origins, the roots of our being and our evolution with the earth and our connection to her —

“They are surely very old, these feelings. They are lodged deep in our tissues and emerge to surprise us. For we forget our origins; in our towns and cities, staring into our screens, we need constantly reminding that we have been operators of computers for a single generation and workers in neon-lit offices for three or four, but we were farmers for five hundred generations, and before that hunter-gatherers for perhaps fifty thousand or more, living with the natural world as part of it as we evolved, and the legacy cannot be done away with.”

We are not separate from the natural world, we do not simply walk upon it, we are part of it as it is of us. We belong to the natural world and ought to rekindle our connection to be once again filled with joy, substance and beauty.

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.” Whitman.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting


In life we wait.
There is a distinction between the kinds of waiting one is required to abide.

There is waiting that must be endured such as waiting for—a bus, an appointment, test results, news from a lost loved one …

There is waiting that is observed with tolerance. We wait for the traffic lights to turn green, the kettle to boil, the pizza to arrive …

Outside these watch checking, magazine flicking, foot tapping, finger drumming, carpet pacing moments of waiting there is anticipation—a different kind of waiting.  Anticipation flutters, it tingles.  Anticipation contains expectation—like the countdown to a holiday or a long-awaited reunion with a dear friend.

Today’s prompt took me back to the top of Brinkley Bluff on the Larapinta Trail, in Australia’s Northern Territory, where we waited in anticipation for the sun to set.

Is it a plant or an animal – exploring Queensland rainforests

Why did the mushroom go to the party?
Because he’s a fungi!
Louis Tomlinson

Rainforests are magical places. There is so much to see, hear, feel and smell. There are giant trees, twisting and looping vines, melodic birds, dank soil, tumbling waterfalls, and rough, fuzzy, hairy bark along side smooth and mossy rocks. Another feature of rainforests that deserves some attention are organisms that are often overlooked. Fungi.

Fungi are fascinating. Being neither plant nor animal, despite sharing some properties common to both, they are recognised in a kingdom all of their own. There are five kingdoms used for classification of organisms: Plantae, Animalia, Fungi, Monera (bacteria), Protista (unicellular organisms). Unlike plants fungi do not photosynthesise. Having no chlorophyll they can’t convert sunlight into food. Being unable to produce their own food like other plants they scavenge it, like animals. Another trait shared with animals, or more correctly insects, is the existence of chitin in their cell walls.

Fungi’s role in the rainforest while not terribly glamorous is functional. Fungi recycle and decompose material. Many people don’t realise that the soil in rainforests is quite poor. To ensure rainforests continue to grow in this poor soil fungi break down organic material allowing nutrients to become available to plants for growth. These tiny fungi enable the huge trees to live. Now that’s pretty cool.

To be accurate, there are three basic types of fungi that feed off dead or living flora and fauna. There are Saptrotrophs that break down animal and plant remains so nutrients can be released and taken up by new living plants and animals. Parasitic fungi, on the other hand, attack living tissues and divert their resources to their own use. Mutualists digest wood to help other rainforest beings such as insects and help feed released nutrients back into growing trees. Not glamorous but definitely functional and way cool!

The dampness of the rainforest is essential, as some fungi need it to pump up their cells to keep their shape. Stronger fungi don’t need water for their form but to grow they require a high concentration of water in the wood they digest.

Have you ever hiked in a rainforest or national park and been required to dip and scrub your boots? Often this is because of the way fungi reproduce. They produce large numbers spores; some fungi release up to 200 million spores an hour. These spores are tiny and once discharged can travel huge distances. They are mostly distributed by wind but in the rainforest, the spores of many fungi are eaten and dispersed by insects and animals. Humans are animals. The grooves of hiking boots can carry many spores from place to place and be deposited when the caked on soil dries and falls out. Unwanted or troublesome strains of fungi spore can easily and inadvertently be transported this way.

Of huge importance is that rainforest fungi are not for human consumption. My best advice is to never eat fungi; many varieties can be toxic or fatal to humans. Leave the slugs, snails, cassowaries, rat kangaroos and insects to feast on fungi. Eat your trail mix instead.

Next time you are in the rainforest explore the small magic; look down, pay attention to the fallen trees and stumps. Enjoy the shape and the colour and the arrangement of the fungi on display. They play a vital role in our rainforests.

If you are not quite convinced, I leave you with some fun fungi facts.

  • Without fungi, dead plant material such as leaves, twigs and logs would pile up on the forest floor to form a massive heap as high as the canopy.
  • Some fungi glow in the dark.
  • It is possible there are more fungi than plants or animals.
  • One individual fungus of the species Armillaria bulbosa covers an area of 15 hectares. It weighs an estimated100 tonnes (the same as an adult blue whale), and is thought to be over 1500 years old.

Four profoundly powerful practices everyone should do at least once

The best things in life are the people you love, the places you’ve seen, and the memories you’ve made along the way

A recent hiking holiday reminded me of several things I already knew but hadn’t fully grasped the significance of. I realised there are four things every woman (and man) should do, at least once in their life but preferably more often, for a powerful realignment to their true north.

1. Sleep with your back to the earth
There is something very settling about sleeping with your back to the earth. On several multi-day hikes around the world my beloved and I have slept in the wilderness with just the thin fabric of a tent between us and the elements. Enclosed in a small space, unadorned with furnishings, without manufactured structures between the earth and ourselves we revelled in the grounding, reconnective and healing nature of this opportunity.

I find now, having done this quite a bit, that I crave to pack up and go outdoors to sleep when things get busy and out of control.   Part of the pull is getting back to basics, it’s partly about shrugging off all the unwanted and unnecessary parts of life but a greater part is about reconnecting with nature. Feeling the warmth drain out of the earth, going to bed with the sinking of the sun and rising with the trill of birds and the breaking of day is powerfully seductive in its simplicity. Why not pitch a tent in the back yard, create a lean- to and crawl under it if you don’t have the time or means to take a camping holiday or throw a sleeping bag on the ground, if you are so inclined.

2. Go hiking and carry your belongings on your back
Like the previous item this action is mind-blowing. Apart from the reality check of hiking where time is inconsequential, devices are left behind and routine turns into a gentle daily rhythm, there is something really sobering about lacing on a pair of hiking boots, slinging a pack on your back and walking in nature for several days.

When on a multi day hike you are limited by how much you can carry. It’s a great lesson in prioritising. Only the essentials are necessary for a more comfortable experience. After my first multi day hike many years ago I realised the towel and the soap and the book I’d packed weren’t necessary. Nor were several other items I thought I had to have. Not only were they adding to the weight of my pack but in the end, I didn’t even use them. More recently I realised I could swap my small brush for a comb to lighten my load. I’d taken a sleeping bag liner that wasn’t necessary with the thermals I’d carried. Why did I pack three pairs of socks when I only wore two? Once you are out on the track things change. A clean set of clothes each day isn’t as important a priority as it usually is. Not looking in a mirror or doing the usual grooming routines, one normally engages in, is liberating and refreshing (well, perhaps not too refreshing for those in close contact with you when there hasn’t been facilities to shower or bathe for several days).

I remember on the Walls of Jerusalem walk in Tasmania, a few years back, having a light bulb moment when I realised that all I needed to survive was in the pack on my back: food, water, shelter. I realised, in that moment, that so much of what I’d acquired over the years wasn’t really necessary. Yes, definitely some things make life more comfortable but going on a walk and having to consider what you’ll be happy to carry up hill and over dale day in day out helps you readjust your values and priorities. The things I long to have with me on my hikes are not things at all but the people I would love to share the experience with. Carrying a pack on a hike is a nice exercise in getting back to basics; something we all need from time to time. I challenge you to pack up and go hiking for a few days, what will you carry on your back? Who will you take with you?

3. See the sun set and rise on top of a mountain
There is something magical about a sunrise and sunset. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve seen, it’s one of those enchanting experiences. Sharing the experience with someone is even more special but sharing both, with someone you love, in the same place, is an absolute must do.

My beloved and I camped atop Brinkley Bluff in the West MacDonald Ranges recently and watched the sunset over a magnificent and vast landscape. We woke early to watch it rise again to warm the earth after a cold and windy night. That experience will stay with me forever. It was a highlight of my life such was the magnitude of it. I totally recommend you do it, you’ll not only be connecting with nature in a very real way but you’ll be investing in a shared experience with your loved one and creating a lasting memory.

4. Be a tourist in your own country.
I love to travel. It’s an enriching experience and it changes you. You can’t go home the same after all you see, do, hear and engage with. Travelling at home and visiting places in ones own country is immeasurably pleasing.

I recently visited the heart of my country, central Australia. I’d learnt about arid zones in school when I was young, I’d seen pictures in books and watched movies set in the various places I visited but nothing prepared me for the experience of actually being there. I was gobsmacked by the beauty, the vastness, the palpable spirit of the place. Of course not everywhere you go at home will have the same impact but it’s definitely worth exploring those places you know about but haven’t actually visited. It helps you have a greater appreciation for the country you live in, its history, its geology, the ecosystems that thrive there, the opportunities and the experiences available.

Many people I know were unaware they could ride a lift to the clock tower of our city hall. Nor did they know there is a magnificent art gallery and museum on the same level as the lift entrance. Discovering and exploring these points of interest creates a greater sense of connection and belonging with where you live. It is an easy way to bring more joy into your life through adventure, curiosity and discovery. I travel for work quite often now and approach each trip away with the attitude of ‘what will I discover there this time?’ Sometimes it’s beautiful botanical gardens, or quirky public art, a zoo, often it’s a peaceful place to watch life unfolding in that place.Where will your curiosity take you? What would you like to explore that’s close to home? Perhaps it’s somewhere in your own city or town.

If you feel rudderless and adrift or stressed out and totally wired why not take some time to get back to basics, to realign, to invest in yourself, to embrace life more, to reignite your sense of wonder and awe with some profoundly illuminating, yet simple practices, such as these. Go ahead. What will you do first?

Gardening; it’s a tough gig!

The monstrosity

The monstrosity

A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself…   May Sarton

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.  May Sarton

It was the silence that woke me. An unusual hush had fallen across the air outside my bedroom window that, at dawn, is otherwise a cacophony of bird song. Lately, the non-lyrical cawing of crows has drowned out the melodic songs of other birds and served as a crude alarm clock for the weary. Even the lush, throaty warble of the magpie has been dampened by the crows cawing.

I’ve had some issue with crows of late.  A month or so ago, while out walking, I came across a ( what’s the name for a group of crows? Not a gaggle, that’s geese, not a flock surely? Perhaps it’s a shroud?) group of crows and I kid you not, I was followed by one of them. It was very unnerving at the time hearing the strong beating of those black wings just above my head, flying so far, stopping to perch, looking away as if it were not tailing me, then taking off in pursuit again as I powered up the street. This crow continued to follow me for a good ten minutes. If I stopped to look at it, he would turn away, stay put a little then continue in his pursuit. I thought it unusual at the time but soon dismissed it until it occurred again, when I was walking a completely different route, several weeks later.

Anyway, what’s this to do with my garden? Well, the crows have descended on the perimeters of my garden like a swarm (actually, it’s ‘a murder of crows’. I just looked it up). Several crows have been making regular visits to my garden. At first they came to drink from the bird bath. No big deal, it’s been sweltering hot. Then I noticed they would sit high in the neighbour’s silky oak tree, scanning the yard. Over the course of a week they became emboldened and sat closer, upon the fence. I noticed it was not just morning visits they would make. Before too long each afternoon they were to be found scrounging around, picking at hard seeds that had fallen from a neighbour’s tree into the yard.  This behaviour puzzled me. Why were they here? What has driven them to my yard, apart from the water and the seeds?

Low and behold, I was sitting at breakfast on the back deck one morning when I heard a rustling. A strange, ‘wrong’ kind of rustling. Upon investigation I discovered a very crafty crow had slipped beneath the netting I had thrown over my fig tree in an effort to discourage possums, turkeys, grasshoppers and the like from devouring my sweet precious bounty. The sheer cunning and audacity of this crow, to find the one small rise of netting to slip under and feast upon the fruit of kings, incensed me.  Not only had this crow foiled my protective borders but it had the bad manners to sample several fruits and leave half uneaten spoils behind. Really? My mother always told me to eat everything on my plate. To add insult to injury they leave calling cards scattered across the lawn, discarded feathers dotted here and there.

The insult added to injury - crow calling cards

The insult added to injury – crow calling cards

Into battle mode I went, redesigning and repositioning the netting to ensure no gaps existed. After several attempts, with armfuls of white nylon and a few laundry pegs, stakes and the like, I managed to construct a monstrosity in my garden. I’m concerned the weight of it is too much for my dear fig tree but I felt confident I could safely leave the premises without concern, assured my fruits would ripen for my table and not the tummies of my black cloaked visitors.

Several years ago, when I first began gardening, I had issues with nocturnal visits from possums that would partake of the herbs, fruit and vegetables in my harvest garden. So up went the walls. One very ‘close to nature’ friend suggested sharing with them but at the time I was determined that the fruits of my labour would not be shared with uninvited guests that I constructed perimeters to protect my burgeoning  yield. My yard now looks quite a shambles. It isn’t pretty by any means and perhaps not too functional either. I realised the possums were the least of my concerns when the grasshoppers descended en mass and began reproducing at an alarming rate and promptly shredding the leaves of the fig, lemon and orange trees, not to mention all the smaller crops as well. You name it, they ate it. Then the pretty little fluttery white moths came and lay eggs that turned into nice little green grubs that munched heartily on my Asian greens, cauliflower, kale and more. How to  overcome these invaders? Does one have to wage a constant battle against these formidable opponents? I know not the answer.

The fortified perimeters in place.

The fortified perimeters in place.

This latest feathered foe has me running from my bedroom in the early hours of the morning giving chase to save my crops. This morning in the hushed silence two plump, glossy crows were feasting upon my blueberries – a little bush I was delighted to see producing a flux of fruit this year compared to the meagre dividend of three round berries of last year. Groggy from sleep and barely able to coordinate my limbs I ran from the house wielding a pink rubber thong and hurled it at the intruders before, pyjama clad, constructing a temporary screen around what is left of the blueberries.
I find myself between indignant fury and a reluctant respect for the craftiness of these feathered ‘friends’. I can’t help but wonder what change has occurred to drive the crows to behave in this manner. I am familiar with crows as scavengers; lifting scraps from bins and picking through rubbish. I had not known them to be connoisseurs  of modern superfoods. So I find myself asking the same questions, year after year, as I puddle about in my hobby garden, trying to raise a few crops for my table, enjoying the time outdoors, hands in dirt, sun on skin, “How does one overcome these invaders? Is it worth the constant battle or should I give in?  Is there a middle ground? Can I wave a white flag and call a truce somehow with the crawling, hopping, flying, skulking opponents who love my garden as much as I do?”

I suspect it’s up to me to find the balance, to make the concessions, as nature is surely stronger than my resolve and far more enduring. I suspect it is nonsensical to pitch a human will against the force of Mother Nature but can anyone tell me, before I go rabid, how I might work with her in this case?

 

Climbing Suburban Mountains: Part 2 – Mt Gravatt Outlook

2a

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than one seeks.       John Muir

At four thirty it was still dark but the birds were singing. Loudly. Realising there was no chance of more sleep I decided to make the most of my day and begin it with a hike up a nearby suburban mountain.

Mt Gravatt Outlook Reserve is a quartz peak within the Toohey Forest Conservation Park  in Brisbane. As with my previous hike/climb (Mt Coolum) I doubt it would even rank on a sliding scale of world mountains. Nevertheless, it is a significant landmark in an otherwise flat suburban landscape, just 10 kilometers south east of Brisbane city center. The “hill” and surrounding suburb was named after Lieutenant George Gravatt who commanded the Moreton Bay settlement for a short time many years ago, in 1843.

2b

The luxury of hiking this mountain, for me, is there is no travel involved. I simply have to walk out my backdoor and into the forest that winds its way up the little hillock. The lookout affords stunning views of Brisbane city as well as clear views of the Moreton Bay Islands, the D’Aguilar Range, Mt Coottha and the Glass House Mountains. The walk is quite interesting too.

2e

Toohey Forest is named after an Irishman, James Toohey, who made his home in the forest in 1872. Interestingly, his family maintained ownership of the lands until 1945 when Brisbane City Council acquired them. The park spans 260 hectares. Its vastness is matched by its variety. This is a Eucalypt forest replete with vines, closed scrub, an abundant understory of acacias, sheoaks and banksias as well as our very distinctive Australian grass trees. Wildlife is abundant too. Walkers can enjoy the songs of kookaburras, thrushes, lorikeets, honey eaters, currawongs and magpies, to name a few. Of course there are possums and bats as evidenced by their fecal remains. Large ant nests provide food for echidnas. I’ve seen lizards, skinks and geckos but not a goanna yet.

As with life, there are many paths that can be taken to get to the top. There are sealed bike paths, dirt tracks and even smaller ‘goat’ tracks, created by mountain bike riders, one can follow. The forest is so dense and beautifully populated with flora and fauna that one is quite shocked when the sounds of urban traffic encroach on the peace and tranquility. Toohey Forest straddles a major freeway and nature lovers wander under it by way of a pedestrian tunnel. On the other side one is required to wander through the grounds of a university, another surreal experience, before diving back into the cocoon of the forest.

2d

After a gentle undulating wander the final section, a steep incline, requires a little push but nothing too tough or taxing before emerging at the outlook. There is a little café at the top. Which sadly was not open when I arrived just after dawn.

2g

For me the journey is approximately a three hour return hike. This is a pretty decent way to decompress, get into nature and enjoy moving. What I love about suburban forests is that there are so many entry points and people can enjoy tramps of their own design based on time and energy levels.

The beauty of having a forest in your backyard is that you can go off on a hike in the relative wilderness and still return home in time for breakfast.

Next stop: Hmmm, should it be Mt Tambourine, Mt Barney, Mt Tibrogargan, Maroon perhaps? I’ll meet you on the next peak.

Happy wandering,

Shannyn

 

Nature’s pharmacy: What potent ingredients do you require for good health?

I am currently travelling through Europe and have had the opportunity to hike in a number of different landscapes: while all have their own unique qualities I am drawn to certain landscapes more than others.

In the Dolomites I was awed by the stark harshness of the bare jagged rock but felt quite misplaced. I had this feeling once before after catching the cable car to the top of the Argille Du Midi in Chamonix, France, a 3842 metre peak. I enjoyed the splendour of the mountain terrain coated in white snow and ice but after a while I began to crave the earth beneath my feet; I had a driving need to place my bare feet deep into moist, aromatic soil.

The rugged landscape of The Dolomites

The rugged landscape of The Dolomites

The Scottish moors are mysterious and magical. The roaring silence deep within the moors is at once unsettling and peaceful. The landscape, birds, animals and flora play to my senses

I am most at home, however, in the forest. Be it the lush humid Australian rainforest or cool dark European forests surrounded by Oak, Rowan, Ash, Juniper, Elm and Pine trees. I love the raw, dank smell of the soil, the richness of colour and the closeness of the majestic trees. The sounds of these wooded places draws me. The melody of native birds to the hushed silence one experiences deep within these places are soothing. The interplay of species within the forest and bushland are works of art to my eye. I revel in the twisting of vine around trunk, the round woody burls protruding from trees, the buttress like flanges that extend from the base of trees that can cradle a weary walker and the colourful fungi and mushrooms that remind me of childhood stories of fairies and their homes. All this and more draw me back to the forest time and again. There have been times in my life I have needed to return to the Australian Blue Mountains to rejuvenate by lingering in that vast National Park. The mountains call to me.

The ocean too is a place of healing, refreshment and rejuvenation for me. I have only to step onto one of our sandy Australian beaches to feel my troubles roll away on the tide. The strength of the ocean waves crashing on the beach or gently rolling over each other as they reach the shore is music to my ears. The very vastness of the ocean, viewed from a small section of beach, puts my thoughts into perspective. Twice, I have soothed a grieving heart by the sea. Having lost cherished grandparents I was instinctively drawn to the beach when my grief overwhelmed me. After several days of walking, bathing, sitting, praying and being nurtured by the energy of the ocean I could return home, still nursing a grieving heart but one that was less raw, one that allowed me to function again in the world.

Pottsville Beach, Australia

Pottsville Beach, Australia

Nature is a powerful healer. I know this to be true yet I am constantly amazed and pleasantly surprised when I experience a deep solace, heightened senses and raised spirits after a hike, a walk on the beach or time in the garden. Do you draw strength from the earth? Where do you go to recover, rejuvenate and heal?