On That Dark, Dreary Day

The air was frosty cold on that dark, dreary day in Seattle. Like most days, the first decision centred on coffee – the where, not the when. From that decision, all other decisions would follow. 

It was Monday. Had it been any other day, the decision would have centred on the when, not the where. On Mondays, the RedWing cafe was closed. On this Monday, the where led to another place – another suburb. 

Walk to the end of the block on 63rd Avenue – turn right – walk another block – turn left – cross the street. Wait at the Bus Stop. Watch cars passing, thankful for the warmth of a coat that is redundant back home in northern New South Wales. Wait for the bus.

The bus stops – you board the bus and feel the instant warmth from the heated interior. You wish for a traffic jam – anything to delay the inevitable moment of reaching your destination and facing the cold.

Change buses at the Interchange. The cold bites at your heels as you walk to the bus that will take you the rest of the way. Again, the warmth of the bus, albeit short-lived. Only a few stops this time. 

Then, the coffee. Starbucks. Because you know what to order at Starbucks. You know how it will taste. You slowly drink your coffee. But you are not ready to face the cold, so you order another coffee.

You watch the people. The young couple with the four-year-old – Grandparents arrive – they go through the motions. Grandpa wants to be somewhere else. The College student staring at the screen of his laptop, looking for inspiration. People come and go. You stay, until you can’t justify staying any longer. The morning coffee has dragged on. It is almost lunch time.

Put on your coat – leave the warmth – brave the cold. 

Take the bus back to the Interchange; find the bus to Rainier Beach. Feel the warmth of the heated interior.

Leave the bus, turn right and walk to the corner where the solar-powered flamingos stand – waiting to illuminate the path at night. You wonder how solar power works in that climate.

Turn left and walk along 63rd Avenue. Feel the cold, but embrace the experience.

Home – where all other decisions can now be made, on that dark, dreary day in Seattle.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Travel, 0 comments
Nature’s Mirror To The Sky

Nature’s Mirror To The Sky

When the water is crystal clear, I look across the river and see the sky, the clouds, and the trees, mirrored on the surface. That’s when I am seeing nature at its best. And that’s what makes the Tweed River so spectacularly beautiful. When I drive along Tweed Valley Way, I glance across to the river as often as I safely can. This really is Nature’s mirror to the sky.

Nature’s Mirror

Mother Nature’s Palette

The colours of the water mirror nature’s palette of colours. It’s as if Mother Nature has spent the dark hours of the night mixing the vibrant blues and greens, for those lucky enough to see her masterpiece in the morning light. Artists and photographers try to capture the beauty, but few can do justice to what nature provides for us, free of charge.

Shades of Blue

Nothing can be more beautiful than looking into the mirror that Nature provides, right here on the Tweed River. 


Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments
Gutenberg Is On The Horizon!

Gutenberg Is On The Horizon!

Gutenberg is coming to WordPress – real soon. But if you just can’t wait, install the Gutenberg Plugin.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments
My Annus Horribilis!

My Annus Horribilis!

In 1992, Queen Elizabeth II dragged a Latin phrase out of antiquity, and gave it modern prominence. I remember the speech well. When the Queen uttered the seemingly inoccuous Latin phrase, snickers (I mean – the smothered laugh variety – nothing to do with chocolate) went up simultaneously around the world. Did she just say Annus? Oh, wait, that’s Annus, with two n’s – right – got it. Given the events of that year, Queen Elizabeth had certainly endured her annus horribilis – or, ‘worst year’. My annus horribilis usurped almost all of 2010. Certainly not for the same reasons as the reigning Monarch’s annus horribilus, but just as horrible.

 

Horribilis or Mirabilis?

The year started okay, but took a steep nose-dive somewhere around the middle. I can’t account for how, when, or why, but it deteriorated rapidly.

While the ‘Annus Horribilis’ was unfolding, I kept thinking, “Something good will come out of this”. It became my Mantra. But while I was stuck in the middle of the ‘horrible-ness’ of the year, I struggled to really believe any good would come of it, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself.

I guess we all have bad days, but when a whole year falls apart at the seams, you know you have to do something different.

And that’s exactly what I did.

I packed up my car and drove

I left the city behind, and headed North-West. Away from the surf, sand, and Starbucks; the busy shopping centres and growing trend of ‘chocolate’ cafes, and from the friends I’d hung out with.

But not before kicking 2010 out, and welcoming 2011 in, with open arms. I don’t normally celebrate New Year’s Eve, but I did that year. I booked into a hotel in Brisbane, and watched the clock strike midnight over the Brisbane River, with fireworks lighting up the night sky and the water. As 2010 rolled out to sea, 2011 beamed over the horizon, and I knew things would be different that year.

A long way from home

Isolated – compared to the city I left behind – and yet surrounded by amazing people.

My sojourn in the bush began in January 2011 and was meant to last for six months, but six months turned into five years. Five years of isolation – time to reflect and grow; it’s amazing how strong you can be when you have to. And it’s amazing how your annus mirabilis can emerge out of the toughest moments.

The place that I was to call home for five years had no sand, or surf; no shopping centres full of trendy shops; none of the friends that I used to hang out with. And it was a four-hour round-trip to anything that even remotely resembled a city, or a Starbucks. But I loved every minute of being there. My annus mirabilis lasted the whole five years in that quiet little region.

Time to watch the grass grow

Going from a busy city to a small town gave me perspective – I found out what peace sounds like. When you are immersed in city life, you rarely stop to think about any other existence. The hustle and bustle of a metropolis keep propelling you forward, and you think there is no other way to live. And then you sit on your verandah, in a town of less than 2000 people, and listen to the grass grow outside your door. It is then you realise there are two sides: the noisy and the quiet – the busy and the slow – the near and the far.

After five years of the quiet, I needed the noisy – but not the noisy I had left behind. I wanted something in-between. The not so near, and the not so fast.

I found it in Murwillumbah, where I have the best of both worlds. The not so far, the not so quiet, and the not so slow, is right here in my own backyard.

A thirty minute drive to the busy and the noisy is easy when I want to be immersed in all the Gold Coast has to offer, including the sea, the sand and the Starbucks.

Now I am content to sit on my verandah and hear the muffled sounds of life around me – not the sounds of constant traffic – or the grass growing. Just the peaceful sounds of life – not intrusive – just there.

 My annus horribilis is a distant memory and has never been repeated. Now, every year is an annus mirabilis; each one gently rolls over to make way for the next great year.

Life in Paradise just keeps getting better.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 2 comments
Washing Day

Washing Day

I had never thought of writing about washing day – until I was unpegging the washing from the clothesline one day. I don’t know why, but images flashed through my mind, and for an instant, I was taken back to another clothesline, in another place, and another time.

A Little Piece of Paradise

My unit is nestled amongst the trees, plants, and wildlife that fill the twenty-eight acres of bushland that I now call home. Even though it is quiet and peaceful here, it isn’t as quiet as the place that popped into my head on that washing day.

Before I found my little piece of Paradise, I spent five years living and working in Central Queensland. And it’s that part of my life that the washing day memory came from. I was living seventy-five kilometres from one small town, and seventy-five kilometres from the next, even smaller town. Smack-dab in the middle of both, with nothing but bush in between.

In the Middle of Isolation

Apart from a small school on one side, which was always deserted on weekends – there was nothing but bush on the other three sides, which were deserted on any day. My only company on Saturdays and Sundays, unless I drove to the general store a few kilometres away, was the wildlife.

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A school on one side…

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And bush on the other sides

Just Me and the ‘Roos

My routine on Sunday mornings, when I was at home (more about that later), was to sit on the back step with my morning coffee, and watch the kangaroos in the paddock next to my house. I discovered they have an interesting method of checking for safety – not foolproof I might add, given the number of flat ones on the road – but it seemed to work okay out there in the paddock. In the process of hopping through the bush, one of the larger ‘roos would stop, scan, and listen, with head up and ears back. The rest of the mob would then hop a little further into the paddock, usually in single file, and usually with some distance between each one. Eventually, they would congregate, but they were always on alert for the slightest sound or movement.

They were comfortable with my presence, although they were aware of every move I made. Meanwhile, the mob grazed, and I watched and learned.

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The constant scanning, protects the mob in the paddock

It Is What It Is….

That was my existence back then; work all week, and watch the kangaroos graze on weekends. I always had a week’s worth of washing to hang out on at least one of those weekend days. And it was staring at the bush from the clothesline that drove home the reality of isolation. When I wasn’t at the clothesline, or watching the kangaroos from the top step, I was inside, planning for the next week at work.

I couldn’t see the isolation from inside. But outside – it was unavoidable – you just couldn’t escape the aloneness out there. Was it peaceful? Absolutely!

But the isolation was stronger

There were times when the aloneness was overpowering. The nearest big town was three hours away. I would drive there every few weeks and check into a hotel for the weekend – just for the socialisation.  I still took work with me, but it was accomplished over a coffee, in the hotel restaurant. The fact that my only social encounter for the weekend was the waiters, didn’t bother me. They were better looking than the furry-faced kangaroos, and communicated in a way that I understood. As much as I loved the ‘roos, they certainly didn’t compensate for a human to talk to.

Here in Paradise?

As I stood at my clothesline that day, I gave thanks for being here in Paradise. Having people around me to socialise with when I need people-time. And witnessing the beauty of trees, flowers, and fabulous bird life, in my quiet times.

Well, almost all the bird life. The Ibises and Brush Turkeys take some getting used to.

The Kookaburras and Parrots make up for the turkeys that destroy the gardens while building their nests.

Ibis: alias – Bin-Chicken

I’m still wondering what purpose the Ibis serves.

Gratitude

I’m grateful for the quiet reflective times spent in the other place, but not the isolation.

I’m grateful for the lessons I learned about strength and resilience, but not the aloneness.

I’ve finally come home to where I want, and need to be. And my clothesline here in paradise is a symbol of my new reality.

But even my little piece of Paradise might one day be just a memory, to be thought about while unpegging the washing, on another washing day.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments
Life Happens!

Life Happens!

The July Ultimate Blog Challenge has been and gone, and August has arrived. My plan to post thirty-one new blog posts in July ended with just twenty-four – I fell short by seven. Some could argue that I failed, but I don’t see it that way. Why did I not achieve my goal? Because life happens!

Since July has come and gone, days are warmer, nights are shorter, and life is slipping back to a normal pace – not that I really know what normal is.

Should I Lurk in the Shadows?

In the words of John Lennon – “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. Meetings; friends; coffee catch-ups; lunch catch-ups; paperwork; and sleep – although the sleep department was seriously short-changed throughout July. They all happened – and I participated – to the best of my ability.

When life happens, I need to be up close and personal and engage with it. Only then can I describe what it feels like. To blog – I need content, and to have content – I need to take life by the horns and wrestle it to the ground. Standing safely in the shadows, watching as life happens around me, just won’t cut it.

It’s About the People

While grappling with life in July, I met people who have a lot to say about – life; history; politics; philosophy; adventures; and everything else. Each story has helped me understand a little more about people, human nature, and the world I live in.

Through my blog, I hope to tell the story of the amazing people I know: some have journeyed with me for a long time; others, not so long; and some are strangers who take the time to connect – even if just for a short while. My life has been enriched because of them, and because of their story.

Everyone has a story, because life happens!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 0 comments
Day 31 – UBC – Did I Learn Anything?

Day 31 – UBC – Did I Learn Anything?

The last day of the July Challenge – and despite all efforts, I only managed to post twenty-three new articles on my Blog in July. Did I fail? Did I learn anything? Was it worth it?

Did I Learn Anything?

Whether I consider it a failure or not, I managed a lot more this time than the last time I accepted the Challenge. I might have only made it to Day 23, but I definitely learned a lot, so it was worth every word I typed; every late night I had; and every nightmare about the 31st July, looming menacingly above me, as I slept.

I can now write a shorter blog, find the image I need faster – especially with Pixabay.com, and get the green SEO lights from the Yoast Plugin, without too much effort. But I still need to work faster. If nothing else, at least I know where my shortfalls are, and hopefully how to fix them.

Write On!

When the next Ultimate Blog Challenge comes around, I hope I am more prepared than this time. Yes, I had a few drafts ready, but they weren’t easily tweaked to fit the day’s agenda.

For the next challenge I plan to have some short blogs drafted – based on general topics – not too specific. Oh, and I will have a long list of photos ready to cover any special day that might arise that month – how did I not see the Fourth of July coming!

If you made it to the finish line with all thirty-one blogs posted, you are amazing! If, like me, you were dragging the chain a bit – I know we’ll get there next time. Now, I’ll catch up on cleaning a neglected house, and wash the car.

As I bid my fellow-bloggers goodbye, I hope that we will meet again. I will continue to enjoy reading your blogs, and look forward to meeting you on a page somewhere, sometime soon.

RyanMcGuire / Pixabay

Thank you for reading my blog posts, and for taking the time to comment.

So until the next Ultimate Blog Challenge – that’s it for me.

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 2 comments
Day 23 – UBC – Can You Ever Have Too Many Photos?

Day 23 – UBC – Can You Ever Have Too Many Photos?

Is twenty-thousand photos, too many? No matter how many photos I have on my i-devices (I have over 20,000 photos), I often struggle to find the one photo I need for a Blog. But miraculously, today I found a solution. There is a website called Pixabay that has thousands of photos that can be used at no cost, and without the need to attribute the photographer who uploaded the photo. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to acknowledge the photographer, if I could figure out how to do it properly. It isn’t always easy. But now, with Pixabay at my fingertips, I should be able to find a photo or image to match any topic I’m writing about.

More Photos Than You Will Ever Need!

While looking for something on the Weekend Notes website, I stumbled across a comment a writer had made about using images in reviews. The writer had posted a few favourite websites featuring Copyright free photos, and asked other writers to suggest their favourites. Pixabay was one of the recommendations, and somehow the name stuck in my head, like a non-musical earworm. When I checked out the website, I couldn’t believe my luck. There are thousands of photos that can be freely used, even for commercial purposes!

A little bit of searching on the Pixabay site led me to a Pixabay Plugin for WordPress websites. I couldn’t install and activate the plugin fast enough. And I’m about to test it by uploading a photo to this section of my blog.

Ant

ROverhate / Pixabay

Wow! That couldn’t have been easier. Where was Pixabay when I wrote a blog about ants recently? This is exactly the image I was looking for.

What I love about using Pixabay images, is that the appropriate acknowledgement is built into the photo.

And with the plugin, there’s a neat button next to the ‘Add Media’ button on my WordPress website that takes me straight to the photos. I don’t have to download the photo into my Photo App, and then upload it to my website. Pixabay takes care of it with just one click.

Now, that’s smart!

So what is the one thing I can’t do without right now?

My new-found Photo friend, Pixabay.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 4 comments
Day 22 – UBC – In the Shadow of Mount Warning

Day 22 – UBC – In the Shadow of Mount Warning

The only trouble with living close to an iconic landmark or attraction is that you rarely get up close and personal with it. How many attractions are in your area that you seldom, or have never visited? You know they are there but you keep saying “One day I’ll climb that mountain”, or “One day I’ll visit that castle”, but that ‘one-day’ slips further away until you start saying, “I’ll get there, some day”.  And that’s how it was for me, living in the shadow of Mount Warning, in the beautiful Northern Rivers area of New South Wales – my one-day just kept slipping by.

Then ‘one-day’ a friend mentioned a cafe she had been to, that I hadn’t. We consulted our diaries, decided on a day and time, and headed out of town.

Rainforest Cafe

We were in search of the Rainforest Cafe, nestled in the leafy surrounds of the base of Mount Warning, otherwise known as Wollumbin, which is the Aboriginal name for Mt Warning.

So we sat by the creek at the Rainforest Cafe, under the trees, and sipped our milkshake, and coffee, and ate amazing Middle Eastern cake. In the process, we managed to prove that there is no better place for a relaxing breakfast, lunch, morning or afternoon tea than the Rainforest Cafe at Wollumbin. And then, to offload the calories, we walked through the trees beside the creek, taking photos of nature at its best.

Okay – this isn’t the best photo I’ve ever taken, but I love the effects..

There is no shortage of colour, shapes and rays of sun to capture in photographic spleandour. You just need a full battery on your smart phone and you’ll have plenty of content to upload on whichever Social Media you subscribe to.

On the Steep and Narrow Road

When we left the cafe, a right-turn took us up the hill towards the majestic Mount Warning. The road was steep and narrow; there isn’t a lot of room for passing another car on that road. But luckily there wasn’t much traffic and my friend’s car made the climb seemingly effortlessly.  Although, when we reached a plateau’d car-park near the top, there was a slight ‘hot’ smell coming from the engine. Compact car – steep climb, what more could we expect?

Rise and Shine, Australia!

The Bundjalung People are the original custodians of the land surrounding, and beyond Mount Warning. For them, the mountain is a sacred site. With respect for the Bundjalung people, I would rather treat the site as sacred ground and not climb to the top of Mount Warning. Just to be able to see its beauty up close and personal from a lower point, is all I need.

Mount Warning is said to be the first place in Australia to witness the birth of every new day, as the sun peeps over the mountain, ready to warm the earth below.

While it boasts a New South Wales address, Mount Warning is still close enough to be a short trek for South East Queenslanders, and visitors to the Gold Coast. The uniqueness of its peak makes Mount Warning easily identifiable, from both sides of the border. Seeing Mount Warning from a plane, while taxiing into the Gold Coast Airport, is the warm welcome-home you look forward to, after travelling far and wide.

The only thing that says “Welcome Home” louder than Mount Warning, is the Tweed River, as you drive along Tweed Valley Way on your way into Murwillumbah. Only then do we appreciate the real beauty of where we live.

What! You don’t believe me?

Then come and see for yourself. Oh, and let me know when you’ll be heading into town and we’ll meet for a coffee, I know all the best places, and they are all in the shadow of Mount Warning.

See you in Murwillumbah!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Travel, 4 comments

Day 21 – UBC – Does it Matter Where I Sit?

When I visit a friend or relative’s home for the first time, I usually ask “Does it matter where I sit?”. Everyone has their favourite chair, or seat in the house, and I am wary of plonking myself down on my host’s favourite chair. And one of the most common questions asked of writers is: Where do you write? Like the rest of us, writers probably have a chair or place that they prefer, while writing. I know I do.

Old Habits Are Hard To Break

We all have habits, right? Some good, some not-so-good. And some of us are more bound by habits and routines than others. My morning routine of ‘coffee first!’, is sacrosanct. Pity help anyone who stands between me and that first coffee of the day. Once I’m caffeinated – I’m fine, and the immediate vicinity is once again a safe place to be.


Part of my routine features the chair I sit in to write. My favourite chair in summer is by the door, leading out to the verandah.  The chair is comfortable and rocks just slightly, and with a breeze coming through the door, writing is easy.

My Outside Space

If I want to write early in the morning, this is my ‘go-to’ place. Of course, there’s another little habit that goes with that seat – when I sit out there, I have to have a coffee beside me.

Where Do You Write?

Inside? Outside?

On the Move

While travelling this great planet of ours, I’ve discovered a few places I like to claim as my writing-chair. Top of the list would have to be coffee shops and cafes.

Here are some of the places I’ve sat, with iPad and keyboard stragically placed, and churned out a blog – or two. Usually while sipping about eleven or eight coffees.

My Local

Re Cafe Nate: my neighbourhood coffee shop in Murwillumbah. It can get a bit busy here because the locals all know how good the coffee, food and service are, but it’s a great place to write; thanks Josh, Desley and Don.

West End Brisbane

Between The Bars: West End, Brisbane. This is my home-away-from-home coffee shop. Great coffee and great service; thanks Nick and Mal.

Seattle: WA

RedWing Cafe: Seattle, US. Tucked away in Rainier Beach, this is the best place for just hanging out and writing, on a cold winter’s day. The coffee, food and service are outstanding. And that’s all the encouragement I needed to sit and write. Thank you Anthony, Sue and the fantastic team who kept me fed and caffeinated while I wrote, early this year.

Berhampore (Wellington) NZ

Rinski Korsakov: Berhampore. What can I say? This was just the cutest place – with a table in the front window for people-watching, when inspiration waned. Luckily, there was no shortage of great coffee and carrot cake, when I frequented Rinski’s in September 2017.  Thanks Jet!

Where do Famous Authors Write?

J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, came up with the idea for the series while on a delayed train, but wrote in cafes in Scotland. Could it be the coffee that provides the inspiration?

If you have ever asked a writer – “Where do you write?”, what was their response? Do they favour cafes, or a park bench? Do they prefer a log cabin in the woods, or a bench on a busy street?

My guess is, writers have a favourite place when it comes to the serious business of writing. Inspiration, on the other hand, can happen anywhere.

Write On!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 2 comments
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