Goodbye Scotland

Well, the time has come and we have finally left Scotland. In six hours, we leave the UK.

Scotland, I want you to know, it’s not about you, it’s me. You are a beautiful country filled with wonderful people and I still love you, but it is time and I have to go HOME. The Pull is too strong! Thanks for all the good times. xxxx

Speaking of home, I had to post and watch this one more time, simply because the words speak to me and echo exactly how I feel about my homeland: – I Still Call Australia Home – To listen and watch, click on the title or here.

Thanks to the Outback Singers for this version, and to Peter Allen for writing the words and music. Thanks also to Qantas for taking me home and finally, thanks to Australia for being there.

See you soon.

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Choices

When I return to Australia in September this year, it will be the first time there won’t be a dog waiting to greet me.

Kara, Hutch and Claude

Back in 2003, we left three of the family’s dogs with my daughter who continued to live in our home. Three friends. Claude, the renowned beagle of Mt Eliza was very ill when we left and I knew we were saying goodbye to him. He died about a week later, but, Kara, a big, hairy German shepherd with a gentle nature, and Hutch, the kelpie-like mutt who lived to fetch balls, sticks, or anything we cared to throw, were both still young.

I’m not sure if it occurred to me that Kara and Hutch would also be gone by the time we returned to live in Australia. Our future felt so unknown at the time.

Kara died in 2008, and this month, Hutchie left us, too. It broke my heart on many levels, but also brought to mind my grief for the other friends who are no longer there for me to visit. Two of my closest friends, Monica and Judy, already had cancer when we left, but I kidded myself that they were both doing well, the cancer was in remission and they would still be around when we returned. Monica died the following year, but Judy hung on for another two years.

Judy, sitting, and Monica, standing, with my daughter at a farewell lunch.

My third and lifelong friend, my sister Helen – my confidant, adviser, mentor and almost mother substitute – was healthy when we left and I never allowed myself to consider she might also be gone when I returned. But she is. She died in 2011, nine months after her cancer diagnosis .

My sister Helen in Glasgow

When we left Australia, we didn’t know how long we would stay away. We tossed out vague references about allowing three years to assess how we felt but rarely mentioned the possibility of stretching the stay until Tony retired in ten years time. Our friends didn’t want to hear that.

Now, facing no dog to greet me, and massive holes where good friends and family were, I find myself asking the question, would I have made the choice to leave what I knew and loved if I had known my friends would no longer be there when I returned?

What if…?

What if I had chosen the well travelled road?

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Pollock Park

Pollock Park

I can never know the answer. Robert Frost was right when he points out, how way leads on to way. There is no going back to choose the other path, and I guess, like Frost, I tell this with a sigh, but only fleetingly.

Because we lived overseas, my sister spent a full month living and travelling with us in Florida, and another here in Scotland. They were joyful months filled with fun, endless chats and doing things we never had time to do together when we were both working and raising families. If I had stayed in Australia, I would still be working.

I also had the privilege of being able to be with each of my friends in their final days, to spend quality time with them and help care for them, to be the midwife as they made a transition, not into this world, but out of it.  It was an honour  and a gift to be able to spend precious time with them without the normal workday constraints.

I can only guess what my life may have been like if I had stayed, but ultimately, despite moments of sadness, I’m glad I chose the less travelled path.

Currently, that path has me in Scotland’s Summer and last week, the slightly warmer temperatures encouraged me to choose to go for a walk and take some photographs. The Scots know how to make the best of a small city garden and the conditions here bring the gardens alive with beautiful flowers in the summer.

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I agonised over the decision to leave Australia, but returning is a given. That’s because my heart has made the choice for me, and when the heart decides, there’s no argument.

Do you have a hard time making big decisions? Do you follow your heart, or let your head get in the way?

What a Difference a Month Makes

I received an email from a friend this month with a link to this video. As this is a ‘full moon’ blog, I thought it would be a good place to share it. Read the written information underneath the clip before you watch it by clicking here.  Or go to: http://vimeo.com/markg/fullmoonsilhouettes

Isn’t it beautiful.

Was it only one moon ago that I was lamenting how sloooowly time was moving?

Wow!

Where did that month go?

Time flies, eh?

Why is this so?

JSM

I asked Julius Sumner Miller the same question and you can see what he said by clicking here or going to this link: http://tinyurl.com/oxp9rxb

A wee trip down memory lane with nothing to do with time flying, except, was it really that long ago that we watched him on television?

Despite being devoid of an answer to my question, the fact remains that in three short months, I’ll be busy packing up our lives for one last time. In the meantime, we have guests visiting next week, and then another staying for a month after they leave, and to top it all off, in August our youngest daughter will be visiting us and taking advantage of free accommodation in Scotland for one last time. Yay!!!!

At this point, I’m focussing more on what I’m leaving rather than what I’m heading towards. I am still looking forward to living in Australia again, but I’ve spent the last two years thinking about that and now is the time to treasure what is here.

Like Spring!

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Now, how is autumn shaping up in Australia? I notice a few occasions when we share the same high and low expected temperatures at this time of year, but that will soon change. It will soon be winter in Melbourne with cool and wet days, and it will be summer here with predominately cool and wet days.

Oh…hang on…

The List

Lately, with the months ticking away, I’ve been thinking more and more about what I will miss about Scotland when we leave, and this has set in motion thoughts about what I missed about Australia when I left there, and what I missed about Florida when we moved to Scotland. I decided to list the things I miss from each of those places, and have a go at predicting what I may miss from here.

Keep in mind that whenever I leave a place, I miss the friends and family I leave behind, but I’m going to keep this post simple, so it’s about the other things I miss.

Let’s start where it all began –

What I missed when I left Australia:

1. The beautiful gum trees in all their varieties and the scent of eucalyptus.

A White barked gum tree

2. The friendliness of strangers, the smiling faces in the shopping centres.

3. The noisy colourful birds.

4. The ability to visit a friend unannounced.

5. Shops, schools, doctors, dentists, friends, beaches and buses, all within walking distance of where I lived.

6. The soft tones of the Australian accent.

What I missed when I left Florida:

1. The hot humid weather which meant I knew exactly what to wear to be comfortable almost every day.

2. The dramatic thunderstorms and brief torrential downpours.

3. Eating dinner outdoors almost every night, watching the wind make patterns on our lake.

4. Looking over our tropical garden to the lake and the reserve beyond.

The Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow shrub in our garden.

The ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’ shrub in our garden.

5. Swimming in the warm waters of the ocean and our swimming pool.

6. Our lovely home and magical garden.

What I think I’ll miss when I leave Scotland:

1. The thrill I get when big fat snowflakes flutter out of the sky.

2. Walking in the snow and feeling the snowflakes land on my nose.

3. The way my world can be transformed into a white wonderland when the snow stays for a few days.

Looking out my bedroom window.

Looking out my bedroom window.

4. The beautiful hoar frost on the trees.

A frosted tree at Glasgow University.

A frosted tree at Glasgow University.

5. The crunch of autumn leaves underfoot.

6. The long slow approach of spring, becoming more outrageous as each month passes. First the snowdrops hint of it’s approach, then the crocus announce, ‘not long now.’ Next come the fields of bluebells and daffodils before the grand finale when the trees dress themselves in magnificent shades of bright new greens.

Crocus in the Glasgow Botanical Gardens

Crocus in the Glasgow Botanical Gardens

Wild bluebells

Wild bluebells

Daffodils

Daffodils

7. The ability to visit anywhere in Europe, inexpensively and quickly.

8. The lilting Scottish accent and the quirky dialects.

In truth, I’m not sure I will miss any of these things when I return to Australia. These are the things I love about living in Scotland, but I doubt I’ll be hungering for them much, because I’ll be in my country with those things I began missing almost ten years ago.

And now, the final verse of Dorothea McKellar’s My Country –

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land –
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand –
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

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Uluru

Months and Leaves Fall Away

The Australian climate and flora doesn’t lend itself to autumn in the same way Scotland and much of the northern hemisphere does. Most Australian trees are evergreens, although the original settlers, no doubt hungering for the familiar, imported deciduous trees to plant. Thanks to them, the odd tree ablaze in autumn’s colours can be seen scattered throughout the southern states of Australia.

When we moved to Florida, I delighted in living in a sub-tropical climate where the differences between the seasons is even less obvious than it is in Melbourne. However, I often thought it would be fun to experience the four distinct seasons I’d read and heard so much about.

This was one of the reasons I was excited about our move to Glasgow, where I expected a ‘proper’ spring, summer, autumn and winter. Although Glasgow’s climate is more moderate than many of the northern hemisphere’s cities, I now can say I have lived where the seasons are similar to those often portrayed in many books and movies.

Spring is amazing; the poetry about clouds of golden daffodils and songs delighting in the lusty month of May all ring true. I love it and completely understand why poets and songwriters use this season as a muse.

I quickly forgive the cold of winter when the first fat snowflakes fall from the sky. To wake and find the world painted white overnight is always a thrill.

Summer… Well, Glasgow fails summer. The less said the better.

Until this year, autumn has been a little disappointing. The leaves weren’t colourful enough, the sky not blue enough and the days kept getting shorter and colder. However, this autumn, Glasgow has put on a spectacular show for us. Did I not notice the leaves in my first years in Glasgow, or were they less impressive? The answer is a mystery, but thinking about it made me aware that I won’t be here next autumn. This is my last October in Glasgow! That blows my mind, so a few days ago; I grabbed my camera and set out to capture some of the beauty. Click on the photos to get full size.

 

As I deliberately scuffed through the dried leaves covering the ground, shuffling them around and hearing the crunch underfoot, I had a flashback to an Easter when I was eight years old. My best friend at the time lived in a house with a big Liquid Amber in their front garden, and in autumn its fallen leaves blanketed the ground surrounding it. One Easter, I joined my friend for an egg hunt at her home. The Easter bunny had hidden his eggs in the garden and we delighted in searching the dried yellow to brown leaves to discover many colourful foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. A great memory.

  

Easter in autumn? Yeah, I know – crazy hey?

Living in Scotland has given me a greater understanding of the beginnings of those celebrations that began before the world knew it had another half – a place where the seasons would not fit the events.

Upside-down, wrong-way-around Australia. Easter in autumn, Christmas in summer, Halloween in spring.

Easter eggs // OstereierIt makes sense to celebrate Easter in spring. It’s a celebration of the rebirth of Jesus. In this climate, spring is all about the rebirth of the plants that have been dormant in the winter, and it’s a safe time for the animals to have their babies. Yet, in Australia, we celebrate Easter in autumn. Not that I cared; my focus at Easter was about chocolate eggs.

Boogie BoardChristmas in Australia usually involves a hearty traditional English roast, followed by plum pudding and a nap. As children, we’d spend the rest of the day outside, riding our new bikes, or playing cricket with Christmas cricket sets. Maybe a trip to the beach and a swim might be on the agenda; a chance to test out the bucket and spade set, or ride a new boogie board. I didn’t mind the inappropriate hot meal designed for a colder climate. I still cook it wherever I am in the world, and I love hot Christmas days.

My children enjoyed dressing up and trick-or-treating for Halloween. The
celebration is so old that it’s difficult to define how, when or why it began,
but it has always gone hand-in-hand with All Hallows Eve. In ancient Scottish
lore, this time was the marker for the end of the summer; a time to put the
animals in the barn and finish the harvest in preparation for the chilly
winter. Totally inappropriate in Australia. Read more about Halloween by clicking here.

English: The pumpkin patch fills up during the...

This autumn has been glorious, but it doesn’t last long. Very soon, I will open the curtains one morning and the trees will be bare. My best autumn will be behind me. Next year, I’ll be warmer, but without the wonderful display. I’ll be in My Country.

I took lots of photos, if you wish to see more, click here.

Do you remember the second verse to My Country by Dorothea McKellar?

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty and her terror –

The wide brown land for me!

Arid pastoral (sheep grazing) land with the So...

It’s spring in Australia now, and in a couple of days, the kids will be out trick-or-treating.