Photo101 Day 1 Home

Today is day one of Photo 101, and this is our assignment:

Home is elusive. When we think about this word, we might picture different physical locations. And while home is often found on a map, it can also be less tangible: a loved one, a state of mind.

Anyone who has been reading this blog for some time knows what home means to me. It is Australia, and for some reason, the first thing I think of is the gum trees.

Gum Tree

Gum Tree

They come in many varieties and I love them all. Some have stunning blooms, some have flowers that infuse the surrounding air with the scent of honey, some have thin leaves, some have fat leaves. Generally, they are messy and drop twigs, bark, and branches often, but still, I love them.

Gumnuts

Gumnuts

The gum tree that frames most of my sunset photos.

The gum tree that frames most of my sunset photos.

They provide a home to many of Australia’s unique birds and animals, species that can’t be found elsewhere in the world; cockatoos, kookaburras, rosellas, and koalas.

On the rare occurrences that I found a gum tree when I was living in Florida and Scotland, I’d always pick a leaf, scrunch it up, and hold it to my nose to inhale the eucalyptus scent. I’ve always loved it, and in my time away, it was my favourite reminder of what ‘Home’ was to me.

Gum leaves

Gum leaves

One of my goals for this year was to brush up on my photography skills before I leave on my next big adventure, so I jumped at the opportunity to do the WordPress Photo 101 course.

Since returning to Australia nineteen months ago, I’ve been reluctant to leave again. My husband loves to travel and thankfully, he likes to take me with him most of the time, which was great until we moved back home. I guess I’ve been feeling a little guilty about not travelling with him, which was why I told him I’d found the one trip that would induce me to leave the country again – an arctic cruise.

The trip is now booked, our departure date is September 2nd, and I’m excited. I’m hoping that taking a photo a day for Photo 101 will force me to learn more about my camera, perhaps become a little more creative with my photos, and help prepare me for the stunning images I hope to take on my arctic cruise.

Bats!

Yarra Bend Bats

Yarra Bend Bats

Recently, my walking group visited a section of the Yarra Bend Park inhabited by bats, or to give them their correct title – Grey-headed Flying-Foxes. A large section of the trees bordering the Yarra River is thick with them. I’ve never seen so many in the one place before.

Grey-headed Flying Foxes

Grey-headed Flying Foxes

It’s difficult to capture the enormity of the numbers when I could only photograph a small group of the trees at a time, but according to The Australian Bat Society webpage, the numbers have reached as high as 50,000 in recent years.

At first glimpse, it looked as if the trees were full of crows, or ravens, but the noise gave them away. Even though most of them were sleeping, those still awake didn’t worry about keeping quiet. In a large group, they sound like parrots but with a higher pitch and a distinct screechiness. They’re certainly not the most considerate of neighbours. You can hear a recording of one on the following YouTube: https://youtu.be/pc1wUKIxwSQ

Now, imagine that sound coming from a few hundred bats to get an idea of what we were hearing.

The first bat colony to take up permanent residence in Melbourne established itself in The Royal Botanic Gardens in 1986. However, by 2000, their numbers had grown so large that they were causing significant damage to the garden’s heritage listed trees. Wildlife groups rose to the occasion and helped relocate them by making loud noises at dusk and dawn. The damage to the Yarra Bend trees is also obvious, but the constant new growth compensates for it.

Bats sleeping in a dead gumtree

Bats sleeping in a dead gumtree

It really is a sight to see and hear, so if you live in Melbourne, I’d recommend you visit and take a look. We plan to return at dusk one day to watch them wake and fly off on their nightly search for fruit, nectar, and pollen.

Grey-headed Flying-Foxes sleeping/

Grey-headed Flying-Foxes sleeping

Yarra Bend Park is the largest area of natural bushland close to Melbourne’s centre, and it is easy to access the bat’s domain from The Bellbird Picnic area.

And for more interesting information about bats, go to the Australian Bat Society’s webpage.

Iphone Photos

The Night Noodle Market

Photo taken at the Melbourne Night Noodle Market in the daytime.

For some time, I’ve resisted using my iPhone for photos, choosing instead, to remain stuck in the misguided belief that I couldn’t clearly see an image on a phone screen, an opinion I believe comes from many years of using the viewfinder on my oldish digital camera.

But all that changed this week when I didn’t take my camera on a city walk with my walking group.

We began in Richmond and headed towards the city’s skyscrapers, walking alongside the Yarra. Melbourne is surrounded by green places, making the sight of the city skyline come as a surprise at times. It’s hard to believe there are so many pleasant spots close to a major city.

Some of my walking companions

The first photo I took wasn’t as successful as the ones above, but it was the one that first prompted me to pull out my phone. I nearly trod on a beautiful parrot that blended so well into the green grass that it was almost invisible. The movement as it pecked at grass seeds caught my eye and as soon as I saw it, I wanted to photograph it. At first I thought it was a budgerigar, but on closer examination, I discovered it was a Red Rumped Parrot.

I had to crop the photo because the original  looked like a photo of grass!

Red Rumped Parrot

Red Rumped Parrot

You can see a better image of a Red Rumped Parrot here.

I love that such striking and colourful birds can be found in the city’s gardens and parks. A little further down the track, there were Galahs to photograph as well, so out came the phone again.

Galahs

Galahs

The more I used the phone to take photographs, the easier it became. I did need to stand in the shade to clearly see and frame the image I wanted to take, and I often lingered so long taking photos that I fell behind my fellow walkers and had to run to catch up to them, but I didn’t mind.

My walking companions escaping!

Getting closer to the city.

In the city

And closer

We have arrived.

We have arrived.

And still the greenery continued.

A city Walk November 2014 046

I was excited when we came upon the Federation Bells, created in 2001 by by Anton Hasell and Neil McLachlan to commemorate the centenary of Australia’s federation. I’d never seen them before.

The Federation Bells

The Federation Bells

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to wait for their scheduled ringing, but next time I go to the city, I’ll make sure I get there at the right time. They can be heard daily between 8-9 am, 12.30-1.30 pm, and 5 pm-6 pm.

We walked past the Night Noodle Market, visited the Immigration Museum – which I highly recommend – went over and under the Yarra bridges, and sat on the grass under a shady tree in Southbank to eat our lunch.

I’m impressed with the quality of the images – I generally don’t Photoshop because I’m just clicking away for memories, not art – and these are fine as far as I’m concerned.

Apparently, I CAN take iPhone photos!

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Unfortunately, using the iPhone to take photographs has’t resolved my tendency to sometimes produce images with muddled horizons that make them look slanted.

Sandridge Bridge

Sandridge Bridge

But I did master zooming in!

Underneath Sandridge Bridge

Underneath Sandridge Bridge

I was impressed with how clean it was everywhere we walked, especially the river, and then I saw this rubbish trap.

Yarra rubbish

Yarra rubbish

What a brilliant and effective idea!

I Love Melbourne

I Love Melbourne

I feel lucky  to have been born in this country, and that Melbourne is my home town, I love its green places, quirky buildings, art, and ambiance.

And I love my iPhone!

Returning to Australia, One Year Later

Twelve months ago today, we stepped off the plane at Melbourne Airport to begin living in Australia again after ten years abroad.

I’ve chosen a few random photos from each month over the past year, and posted them below to mark the event.

September

McCrae Beach with kids.

McCrae Beach with kids.

Weird Weather in Somers

Weird Weather in Somers

October

Gumnuts

Gumnuts

November

Visiting family in Barkers Creek

Visiting family in Barkers Creek

Barkers Creek Garden

Barkers Creek Garden

Birthday Parties!

Birthday Parties!

Home

Home

December

Wonderful Sunsets

Wonderful Sunsets

Housewarming Gift

Housewarming Gift

Watching the ships sail by.

Watching the ships sail by.

IMG_3911

Beautiful Skies

January

Dinosaur Park

Dinosaur Park

February

Visiting Cockatoos

Visiting Cockatoos

March

Dinner time for magpies.

Dinner time for magpies.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree...

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree…

March 2014 006

More beautiful skies

PS Zeva and train

Train ride!

April

Sherbrooke Forest

Sherbrooke Forest

May

The View from Seawinds

The View from Seawinds

Early morning moonset

Early morning moonset

Seawinds Flower

Seawinds Flower

June

Tasmania

Tasmania

July

Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance

Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance

Another sunset

Another sunset

August

Reflections

Reflections

One of the old Gundagai bridges with cow.

One of the old Gundagai bridges and a cow.

One sister at the Blue Mountains, NSW

One of the Three Sisters at the Blue Mountains, NSW

Waterfall, Blue Mountains, NSW

Waterfall, Blue Mountains, NSW

Coffs Harbour, NSW

Coffs Harbour, NSW

Wild weather at Coffs Harbour

Wild weather at Coffs Harbour

Kiama, NSW

Kiama, NSW

Bateman's Bay

Bateman’s Bay, NSW

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance, Victoria

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance

And that brings us back to September again!

A Walk into History

I like to explore my local environment, and now my life has settled into a less hectic pace, I’m spending more time walking around my new neighbourhood.

There are many miniscule moments that give me a buzz of pleasure because they remind me that I’m really here, living in Australia again. I planned to list some of those magic moments in this post, but then, another blogger I follow – An American in Norway – blogged about a walk she took one day (Click here to read her blog), and it inspired me to head off on one of my walks armed with my camera.

We live close to the Arthurs Seat National Park, and I often walk along it’s bush tracks to explore. The very first time I ventured into the park, I was rewarded with laughing kookaburras, cockatoos nesting in a hollowed out old gum tree, and an abundance of small birds in the densely wooded gully.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

On another walk, I came across a kangaroo and an echidna.

And always, there are the gum trees, – or eucalypts as they are known in America – the she oaks, and wattles.

I love that when I wander through this park, it is blatantly obvious that I am in Australia.

Our bush is unique.

Southern Australian Coastal Bush

Southern Australian Coastal Bush

This time, I took a turn along a different path in search of something new to photograph and was rewarded with a pleasant, but unexpected discovery – a cairn which was built to commemorate the place where Matthew Flinders stood and surveyed Port Phillip Bay way back in 1802, over thirty years before Melbourne was first settled.

Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 023

Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 024

I stood where he stood, looked over our beautiful bay, and wondered how difficult it was for him to reach this spot.

There would have been no cleared tracks for him to follow. I imagine he needed tools to help hack his way though the thick undergrowth, and large rocky outcrops would have made his climb even more difficult.

Perhaps the local aborigines guided him to this place with the great view?

What wildlife did he see? Snakes, wombats, koalas?

What were his thoughts?

Was he missing his cold and green land? Or the new wife he’d left behind against his wishes?

My Australian history lessons have faded from memory, but Flinders is commemorated with many statues and cairns around the country, and there are many places (towns, islands) and streets named after him.

Despite knowing some of these places well, I’m ashamed to admit I’d forgotten his significance to our country, so when I returned to my home, I Googled him.

He was born in England in 1774.

When he was a young boy, he read Daniel DeFoe’s novel, Robinson Crusoe and was inspired by the story to live a life of exploration, so at fifteen, he joined the Navy.

Here is a list of the facts I found most st interesting:

  • He made three journey’s to Australia, each lasting longer than the previous one.
  • On his final trip, he circumnavigated the continent, successfully proving that Australia was also an island.
  • It was also on his final voyage that he went ashore in the newly discovered Port Phillip Bay, and climbed to the top of Arthurs Seat, on April 27th, 1802.
  • Drawing on an old British custom of marking historical points with a cairn, he left a scroll with his ship’s name on it in a small pile of stones at the the peak.
  • He later reported back to Governor King that the land had ‘a pleasing and, in many parts, fertile appearance.’
  • He campaigned to have our country called Terra Australis (the Great South Land)and eventually he referred to it as Australia.
Three ships in the shipping lane in Port Phillip Bay

Three ships in the shipping lane in Port Phillip Bay

My walk was very different to Cindi’s stroll through the Norwegian woods, but I was well pleased with where it led me, none-the-less.

I was impressed by what I read about Flinders, his diligence, intelligence and high morals. He had reputation as a man who treated his crew and the local aborigines well.

We should be proud to have such a man in our history.

I think that, like me,  he enjoyed Australia.

Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 034

Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 032

Thank you Cindi, for leading me to a history lesson.

Hello Australia!

Gum Trees by the Dam

Gum Trees by the Dam

I AM HOME!

It is just over two weeks since we arrived in Australia, but it feels more like two months. We’ve really jammed things in, especially considering how exhausted we were after the last few days in Glasgow.

What a month we have had!

But now we are home… and homeless… but not for long! We’ve been living like like gypsies without a van, moving from home to home so as not to overstay our welcome anywhere, but this week we moved into the house we’re minding for the next six weeks. It’s lovely to finally unpack the suitcases and know I don’t need to pack them again for a while.

After landing and reconnecting with family, my next priority was to find our future home. I threw myself into the search, spending hours scouring online real estate sites, making appointments and then viewing properties. However, five days of intensive searching and viewing, left me at the point of despair. Prices seemed to have risen dramatically in the last two years, something I didn’t expect. House after house was a disappointment.

On day six, all that changed.

We inspected another property that I thought looked interesting when I drove by it the day before, and our first impression lifted my spirits immensely. But, it seemed too good to be true, so we had to go back for a second viewing two days later before we made up our minds and the deal was clinched. On Tuesday, we made an offer, on Wednesday, it was ours!

Our first visitors

Our first visitors

It doesn’t fulfill every requirement I wished for, but it comes close enough, and suddenly those other things I wanted seem unimportant, or we’ll find ways to manage them. My main wish for any house we bought, was to be able to look out the window and see gum trees, and thankfully, this house gives me that, but…

It has more!

It has sea views!

Sea View

Sea View

I’m amazed we managed to find a home within our budget that has magnificent sea views.

More sea

More sea

Am I dreaming?

Apart from finding such a wonderful home to live in as we settle back to life in Australia, coming home has held endless pleasures for me –

  1. Spending time with my children, family and friends,
  2. Driving through the magnificent countryside (everything is very green!),
  3. The blue skies (sometimes interrupted by clouds and rain, but not for long),
  4. Warm days with temperatures in the high teens and twenties,
  5. Soft white sandy beaches with glistening water in various shades of blue.
  6. The Australian native trees,
  7. The noisy and colourful birds,
  8. The people who smile and say g’day when we pass in the street,
  9. The shops filled with the old familiar foods,
  10. The ease of buying my favourite black goods – Vegemite and Darrell Lea Licorice.
  11. The wonderful familiarity of the way everyone speaks.
  12. However, an unexpected bonus that I hadn’t thought of before is the feeling of permanence. I don’t have to worry if something I buy is perishable, or if it will fit in the suitcase because this time… I am not visiting.  I am here to live.
Vegemite and Darrell Lea Licorice

Vegemite and Darrell Lea Licorice

Beach

Beach

Garden

Garden

Wattle

Wattle

Bottle Brush

Bottle Brush

I LOVE being HOME!

Missed Deadlines

Somehow in the midst of my current chaotic situation, I missed the full moon!

The Moon

That’s right – I missed my own deadline. And that, my friends, is something I recommend we all do from time to time, particularly when stressed, because it’s wonderfully freeing. The fail has happened, I can’t fail more than I already have – how great is that?

With all pressure gone, I took my time to get this to you.

I’ve sorted through mountains of papers, most of which could have been thrown out weeks/months/years ago, and as I progressed, I wondered if I’ll ever overcome this tendency to accumulate useless pieces of paper.

I’m the type of person who  wanders around hardware stores, loving the way they have everything in a special place, cataloged and easy to find.

Interior, Tweedy & Popp Hardware Store, 1916 N...

Interior, Tweedy & Popp Hardware Store, 1916 N 45th St, Wallingford neighborhood, Seattle, Washington. Seattle’s oldest extant hardware store, founded 1920, in the same location since 1949. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve also been known to spend too much time in office supply stores, looking at various containers to keep things in.  I’m not predisposed to keeping things tidy beyond a certain point, but I do dream of orderly file cabinets and shelves. I dream of knowing exactly where to go to find that travel brochure we brought home from our last trip, the one that I put ‘somewhere’ out of sight because I needed to clean up for some reason and I was busy with living,

And then there’s the man I married – hi Tony!

Order to him is piles of papers where ever he leaves them. He knows where to find what he needs, but the problem I have with his system is that when he no longer needs something, it just remains in a pile untouched. Until we move and I throw them away.

Throwing away ‘stuff’ is another liberating activity.

Some of the papers I’ve thrown out belonged to me, and among them there have been many memories. Maps and brochures from places we’ve visited, and stories written by my writing friends. It is lovely to glance at them and remember when…

One of the piles of papers to be discarded.

One of the piles of papers to be discarded.

But, if we weren’t moving, I would never have looked at them. Is this a benefit of moving? Maybe.

When we sold our family home in Australia, my daughters took endless photographs of the important memories they wanted to keep and I thought that was a great idea, but photos of stacks of brochures, maps, and printed papers won’t provide me with memories, so I’m letting them go.

The important memories are in my head.

But I still yearn for an orderly life.

In my orderly life, I would place those pamphlets on a special shelf until we are settled back from our holiday, and then I’d use them as prompts to create some type of record of where we went and what we did, something that would be easy to flip through and read.

And those printed stories and paper bills – I’d allocate special shelves or drawers for certain months, and then every three to six months, I’d clean out the the old to make room for the new. How sweet that would be!

It would, however, involve more deadlines. Perhaps not so sweet, but I won’t worry about it because it won’t happen. There is always a far more important desire that takes priority in my life. It changes from time to time, but somehow, the orderly life never seems to hit the top of the list. Maybe I like the dream more than the reality.

In two more sleeps, we leave our Glasgow home and as I sort and toss, filming of The Pull is coming to a conclusion. It’s been a fun ride watching movie magic in the making, and today I’m going to share some of it with you. Click Here to see a preview!!!! 😉

Enjoy.

Australia, I will see you at sunrise in one week and one day. Looking forward to it very much. xxxx

Countdown

Have a peek at the countdown calender on the left? You’ll have to scroll down – it’s below the Absent Children image.

It says that in 28 days, I leave Glasgow.  That’s right, there are only 28 days of living in Glasgow left.

This time next month, I will be living in Australia!

I’m ridiculously excited about this!

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!

IMG_3120

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…

My Country

September is almost over. This time next year, I hope to be living in the country of my birth, Australia.

After nine years as an expat, I no longer want my possessions to be split between homes on opposite sides of the globe. I want to find my pate knife with the ceramic Christmas tree handle when I look for it, instead of wasting ten minutes searching before I remember it is part of my Australian home, 16,965 kms (or 10,542 miles) away.

More importantly, I want to be able to give my children hugs on their birthdays. I want to celebrte Christmases with them in person. I want to be physically nearer my extended family and those friends I’ve known for years. I will miss my American and Scottish friends, but it will be fun to visit them.

This blog is about repatriation, but let me begin by telling you where my expatriate life began. It may never have happened if I hadn’t visited a clairvoyant.

Yep, you heard right, I went to a psychic!

What possessed me to visit a psychic?

About ten months before we left Australia, and six months prior to any thoughts of moving to another country flitted across my mind, I dreamt I should visit a medium.

I take my dreams relatively seriously, but  there was no sense of urgency, so the memory of the dream lingered with the intention to find a medium when I had time. Many months later, my daughter told me about a clairvoyant one of her friends vouched for. Not a medium, but near enough to keep me happy.

By the time I visited her, Tony (my husband) had applied for the job in Florida, but I didn’t expect him to get the position, and if he did, I wasn’t convinced I’d join him.

On the day of my appointment, I happily knocked on the clairvoyant’s door with a hand devoid of rings. I was determined not to give her any clues about myself, convinced she’d assume I was a miserable and lonely, old woman. I expected her to tell me I would meet a tall dark stranger.

She asked me if I had any specific questions. I told her about my dream and explained it was the only reason I was there.

I said nothing else. She began slapping Tarot cards on the table.

No, she didn’t have a crystal ball. 😦 

Within seconds, she said,

“Whoa, you have so many changes ahead. New home, new furniture, new place, new job. Amazing, a whole new life.”

Somehow, she’d read my mind, picking up on all the furniture purchases I’d made, along with the renovating and painting I’d completed in the previous two months. I was impressed, but I didn’t have a new job and there was no way I was going to begin one. I loved my work with a passion.   

As my allotted hour continued, she told me more, much more.  I barely spoke to her, just listened as she mentioned my children and the cancer diagnosis of two of my close friends, giving details about both. She never questioned my marital status, it was a given I had a husband. 

By the time she told me I’d be reluctant to make this big move in my future, I was convinced of her authenticity.

Then she added the words that sealed my fate.

“This change is going to be extremely good for you in so many ways; just wonderful. Don’t resist it, go with the flow.”

I did, and she was right.

Living life as an expat is a fantastic adventure, but my spirit never belonged to another country. On each visit to Australia, Peter Allen’s song, I Still Call Australia Home, and the words of Dorothea McKellar’s poem, My Country, filled the empty nooks in my mind. Now that resettling is uppermost in my thoughts, the second verse of My Country keeps repeating in my head; reason enough, methinks, to revisit the complete poem in this blog – a verse a month. 

Way back, a looong time ago, when I was in primary school, everyone had to learn this poem, which is probably why I still remember segments of it. My classmate’s childish voices chanting the words,  “I love a sunburnt country” are locked into my brain at a deep level, but I’d forgotten this first verse:

My Country, by Dorothea McKellar.

The love of field and coppice,

Of green and shaded lanes.

Of ordered woods and gardens

Is running in your veins,

Strong love of grey-blue distance

Brown streams and soft dim skies 

I know but cannot share it,

My love is otherwise.

                                            

Photo taken from The Burns Museum gardens, Scotland.

I am fond of this green land, but it is the next verse of McKellar’s poem that resonates with me. (Read it in next month’s blog! Or listen below.)

I was amazed to learn that Dorothea Mckellar began writing this when she was nineteen, living in London and homesick. I know how that feels.

Do you have poems or songs that remind you of home, wherever that may be? I’d like to hear about them, whether you’re an expat or not.

Below is a YouTube link of McKellar reading her own words. The images are wonderful, including the odd fun shot, an example of Australian larrikinism. Enjoy:

.