Monday, 14 December 2009

Tribute to Katina

This blog instalment is in honour of Katina, my younger sister’s mother-in-law who passed over on 24 November 2009. I have drawn most of the material from my own Honours Dissertation, When “Back Home” isn’t England: making visible the memories, lives and experiences of some white women in Rhodesia. Katina was one of the women who I interviewed for the dissertation. Typically, Katina was unstinting in her generosity, allowing me to share her experiences with a wider audience. The interviews took place in December 1996 and January 1997, in Harare, Zimbabwe. Katina emigrated to Australia some 9 or 10 years ago.

My dilemma in Katina’s case was who I saw not connecting with what I heard. Katina spoke French, Arabic as well as English, Greek and a number of African dialects. She had a strong Greek/French accent. For me, this served to blur her identity, particularly when she said, with conviction, that she was Zimbabwean. I listened to Katina and heard a Greek woman. I looked at Katina and saw a Greek woman who lived in Zimbabwe. I was aware then, and still am, that this was my perception. I reminded myself that I must allow her experience to speak. I relished her articulate knowledge of herself.

Katina had a prodigious memory. She rehearsed her memories for her granddaughters, Chloe and Cath. Always she was willing to talk and reminisce. She valued her memories. Jung maintained that old people become too involved in their reconstruction of past events and remained imprisoned in the memories. If Katina tends to do this, it is as the Storyteller, keeping alive her family’s history. She tells me she was born in Zag-a-Zig in Egypt, on Christmas Eve.

Katina: Because I was born there it was the life I knew. I didn’t come from Greece. To say that I came in ... I was born there. To me that was my home. The place I knew. The people I knew.
Eleanor: So you were just twenty-one or twenty-two when you came here (To Zimbabwe)?
Katina: Twenty-one.

When Katina was fifteen or sixteen, following the Greek tradition, her widowed mother arranged Katina’s marriage to a much older man. What Katina wanted was to continue her education and to work as a governess. However, because the Greek high school was in Alexandria and she would have to leave home in Zag-a-Zig to attend, tradition won and the arranged marriage went ahead.

Eleanor: Tryphon was forty-three when you got married?
Katina: Yes. He was twenty-seven years older than me.
Eleanor: You were just a child ...
Katina: I knew nothing.
Eleanor: You were the same age as Cath is now?
Katina: No. When I got married I was younger than Cathy. Cathy is past seventeen. I was just past sixteen. I knew nothing. Sometimes I felt that I was a child playing grown ups. You know what I mean? Playing grown ups ...

There was sadness in Katina’s voice when she spoke of her marriage and her (late) husband; her lost girlhood, her dreams of school and university. In the interview, she was emotional and not embarrassed to let her tears flow. I pondered on how her experiences have coloured the way she is with Chloe and Cath. I think about how her relationship with my sister started, with her being opposed to John marrying a non-Greek (my sister told me Katina wrote to John to say how she “shocked” she was). But, after speaking to dad and discovering our Thracian background, everything was deemed satisfactory; indeed, when my sister and John got married, my mother took Katina by the hand and said, “Now you are my sister!”

I asked Katina about the journey to Southern Rhodesia.
Eleanor: You flew down from Zag-a-Zig ...?
Katina: From Cairo ... I had the two children. The one was seventeen months and the other was three years old. The plane was very small, very tight, two seats on one side and one on the other. It was a transport plane that they changed ... into a civilian way ... I don’t know exactly ... It was by BOAC. And of course, they looked after you. It wasn’t a question of not being looked after. Both my kids were sick during the flight. We left Cairo and [after] five hours we were in Khartoum. Something happened to the plane and we had to stay in Khartoum for two days. It took us eight hours from Khartoum to Nairobi. I can’t remember how many hours took us from Nairobi here. But we stopped at Ndola; that I remember.
Eleanor: Ndola, in Northern Rhodesia.
Katina: We didn’t get out of the plane because there was nothing to get out to. It was only dry bush. I was saying to myself “My God, where am I going”.
Eleanor: So you landed in Salisbury?
Katina: And went to the Norfolk Hotel. We spent the night there.

We talked about the Egypt Katina left.
Eleanor: What was Egypt like in those days?
Katina: It was like Europe. All Egypt was civilised. A better life, a higher life. You can have the very poor and the very, very rich. Because there were classes it wasn’t like here [Zimbabwe] ... You see the Greek community had its own schools, its own laws, its own church, its own thing into Egypt.
Eleanor: When you came down here ... it wasn’t like that was it?
Katina: No. I knew quite a lot of Egyptians. I knew poor ones, rich ones, middle class, high class ... I never had any problems.

Katina said that among the Greek community in Egypt, Egypt was known as ‘Mother of the Poor’, because it was easy to survive there with very little money. It was only after the war, when Egypt devalued her currency and there was the threat of a cholera epidemic that Katina, Tryphon and their sons went to Rhodesia.

The community Katina and Tryphon moved into was in a remote area of Southern Rhodesia and the facilities were decidedly primitive. With two young children and another son born later, life was not easy. Although Katina became fluent in English, Greek was her home language. She worked very hard and it was a matter of pride to her that her sons should attend university. This was going against tradition but Katina prevailed. She financed the boys education with sewing, and she used to dress make long into the night, often only getting about two hours sleep, then going off to work, managing the African stores all day. At one stage, she managed six stores in the Lowveld of Rhodesia. She was the only white woman for hundreds of kilometres and the driver would collect her in a five-ton truck. She was totally responsible for all the stocktaking, running the stores and collecting vast sums of money. She was paid a pittance, less than £50 a month, from which she had to feed a family of six. Tryphon was too ill to work; she had the three boys and her mother to support, so she supplemented her income with dress making. She scraped together the money to educate her boys by hard work. When she went to Harare years later she would have the odd flutter on the races but usually lost. When she arrived in Australia, Katina enjoyed a flutter and some of her last words were to instruct my sister to buy her a lotto ticket.

In the latter part of her life, Katina immigrated to Australia to join the rest of the family who had migrated earlier. The close links between Katina and the family remained strong to the end. My daughter was her grand daughter; my grand daughters were her great-grand daughters. Other family members feel the same way. We miss her dreadfully; not only her culinary skills, which were legendary, but her sense of humour, her well considered views on politics, society and life in general. We wonder: who is going to make the delicious dolmades, the spanakopita and other Greek delicacies for our family gatherings now? So, I have written this in tribute to a strong and wonderful woman, a true friend and a loving mother, grandmother and great grandmother. May her dear soul rest in peace.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Yoga notes

This morning I went to yoga class with my long time yoga teacher, Gail. She has so much knowledge and her classes are innovative and challenging - on one level or another. This morning there were 5 yoga teachers in her class as well as 8 or 9 students. Yoga teachers are attracted to some teachers more than others although I believe most of us will attend any class that is offered! There is always, always, something to learn.

Having had a stressful couple of weeks, I really benefited from the asana work and the meditations in this morning's session. It is strange how often a class seems tailored to my needs and this was no exception. Gail's teaching has influenced me a lot and I often hear her 'voice' in my own teaching. I probably do more sequences than she does and also my classes tend to evolve whereas Gail has a carefully set out plan.

Last Saturday was Yoga Day at the Beacon Ashram/Yoga Centre and I went along to that as well. We had a 2 hour practice followed by an exceedingly delicious vegetarian lunch. The class was taken by Marge Willcocks. I hadn't been to one of her classes before but had heard many good reports about her teaching. I was not disappointed - she is a wonderful teacher - I feel that I learned so much ... hope I remember some of it to pass on to my own students when I get back! We did Janusirasana which is a fairly sta
ndard asana but the way Marge teaches it, it was a new experience for me. Keeping the thigh on the bent leg 'rolled' out and closing the eyes while coming into the forward bend give the posture a whole new feeling. In fact, the illustration I've posted here does not do the asana justice because here, the model seems to be straining, and there is no strain involved.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Back on line at last! New computer works beautifully but I'm not getting caught out again with no insurance, even Macs can spit the dummy I've found to my cost. This little mac pro is a beauty.

Perth is warming up but it is still cold and wet down south. Roll on summer, then we can whinge about it being too hot instead of too cold!

Thursday, 24 September 2009


It must be time for me to update this blog. I've been remiss and have no excuse other than the usual - life gets in the way. However, I have to say that this particular blogging site is really annoying. Many times it won't load or won't load properly. How many glitches have to be ironed out? Uploading an image is often impossible and then deletes without any input on my part.

I missed out on wishing Leonard Cohen a happy birthday on 21st September, he's 75 now. I think his concert tour is over and he's gone home to Montreal. I read that he had a health scare at his penultimate concert in Spain but is OK. Having seen him in the flesh, I am amazed at his stamina. He is so small and so fragile looking. One day I'm going to go to Montreal and see him!

The winter is hanging on here in the far south west. We've had a fire every day for weeks and weeks. The wood pile is right down so we have had to order some more. We're down to about 6 of these logs. This is really good
wood, it burns clean.

Yoga classes are continuing, even on the worst days - rain, hail and so on, students come to class. I think to myself, 'really, only one person has to be there - and that's me!' so it is rewarding to have 6 or 7 people lob up for class. In the evening class I light the hall with candles because the strip lighting is so glary. It looks lovely and we do heaps of flowing asanas. Now that I've invested in an iPod and speakers, it is easy to use a variety of music for some of the work we do. I've worked out a sequence that moves the body and mind as a meditation. It is still a work in progress and I think it will always be that. Sometimes a small, brown rabbit hops up to the door and peers in. During day classes, the duck often pay us a visit and leave their calling cards in the doorway. Walking back to the car after evening class is an adventure. It is pitch dark by the time we finish. There used to be a light outside but one of the residents in Nornalup has managed to switch it off and now it does not work (I guess it shone into their house?). I am aware that there are a lot of tiger snakes around (Nornalup translates as 'place of many, many snakes') and so my hike across to the car is a bit fraught! I'm usually laden down with bits and pieces including a torch that shines everywhere except where I'm walking! Nevertheless, that last half hour on my own in the hall is precious to me. I wind down from the class and tidy up the hall. My students ask me if they can stay back and help pack up - but I send them on their way. Some of them come from far and there are heaps of 'roos on the road at night.

Next entry when I'm ready ...

Friday, 4 September 2009

Many people think that yoga means standing on your head, but it really means learning how to stand firmly on your feet
. Swami Satchidananda

I have been practicing yoga for more than four decades. I had my first lesson in 1964 soon after I got married. My husband’s aunt, who was a student of BKS Iyengar, visited us at the camp where we lived in Hwange Game Reserve in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Lynette introduced me to some of the asanas, including Suraya Namaskar. She also led me through a Yoga Nidra. Lynette gave me a roneoed booklet she had written and, because of the isolated area in which we lived, my practice was mainly guided by the asanas therein.

Since immigrating to Australia in 1982 and starting formal lessons at the Beacon Yoga Centre (Ashram) yoga has become even more important in my life. I appreciate the continuing thread that runs through the practice of yoga, down the millennia and into our lives now. I have had many teachers through the years and they have influenced me deeply. I am aware that my yoga practice (sadhana) contains inspiration from all of my teachers. It is this continuity and integrity that I offer to my own students.

In 2000, I graduated from the FinY Teachers Training Course and taught at the Beacon Yoga Centre until retiring in July 2007. Teaching yoga has influenced my ‘other’ (academic) teaching at Murdoch University, where I completed my PhD and a Graduate Diploma in Education. I taught in the Student Learning Centre, Murdoch Business School, Foundation Units and ... Politics - Security Studies.

Since retiring, I have continued teaching yoga in Walpole, Nornalup and the surrounding areas. The classes started very small (sometimes only one student) but the numbers have built and there is now a dedicated band of students – some of whom drive many kilometres to attend a class. A few of the students bring their babies and young children to class and, where possible, I include the little ones, even if just to hold a baby through the relaxation so the mother can properly relax. Teaching yoga in a remote farming area has many idiosyncratic qualities and it is necessary to be flexible! Payment is nominal and is often in the form of eggs, garden produce and the like. My only condition is no livestock!

From my many teachers and drawing on my own research and studies, I have created a form of yoga that is accessible to young and old, the healthy and the not-so-healthy! Underpinning all my yoga classes is humour. Yoga is serious fun - a smile, a joke and/or a good belly laugh are encouraged. Thankfully, my students have become used to my ... fairly quirky ... sense of humour.

I have learned from Swami Laksmi, that a yoga class generally consists of:

Head stand
Shoulder stand
Half twist
Forward bend
Back bend (cobra, locust, bow).

So, a forward bend, a backward bend, a twist, lateral (trikonasana) and inverted asanas.

I have also learned that this is negotiable - it depends on the students and how I am feeling on the day. Learning to 'wing it' is indispensable for a yoga teacher.

I have learned that there is a difference between pain and stimulating an obstacle (or resistance) in the body. To discover your own threshold, pull back a fraction and hold. Allow the body to release into the posture. Get in touch with the inner intelligence of your body – listen to it, the intelligence of the body.
Everybody, whatever the level, gets the same benefits from the practice working within their own capabilities with awareness. In other words, you don’t have to tie yourself in knots, compete, and strain to get the benefit!
Swami Venkatesananda said “... whatever you can do today is perfect for you today!”

Body and mind are one, they affect each other.
After yoga you feel light and energised – not exhausted!

Backbends stimulate
Forward bends calm

Donna Farhi says, "... for your asanas to change and grow, you learn to sustain a mobile core in each pose and then allow the movement of your breath to slowly open your body. For transformation to occur, you have to drop your preconceptions." She says, "Asanas come alive through our questioning, our curiosity, our openness to change and our delight in discovery, rather than by finding a set answer which we can safely repeat in every practice. If you already know the answer, why bother repeating the question?"

Yoga balances my life – otherwise I tend to live too much in the intellect. Love of yoga has led me down many paths of self-development and spiritual awakening. I have often integrated some of the methods I’ve learned elsewhere into my yoga practice, only to find that yoga was there first!

I have a sense that for many of us, our first yoga teacher holds a similar place in our hearts to first love!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Ubiquitous Dogs of Bali

Since I've been home in Australia, I've been thinking about the dogs and cats in Bali.

There are few dogs that seemed to be owned by someone. For example, in the lane, (gang) where our hotel was located, there was a small black and tan Pomeranian-type dog whose tail had been carefully dreadlocked! He yapped incessantly. I saw a Rottweiler that looked well fed and happy too; as happy as a Rotty can look. There was a Cocker Spaniel on a leash being dragged around the streets of Lovina by her young owner. According to my research, there are more than 24,000 pet dogs in Bali, which I take to mean 'cared for' albeit allowed to roam the streets. For the most part, the dogs roam around, probably homeless, and feeding on scraps and garbage. Another source of food for the dogs (and the cats) are the offerings (that are refreshed everyday) at the many shrines. Sometimes offerings are left on the ground at a significant site. The offerings often consist of a couple of biscuits, some rice and so on, contained in small, woven banana leaf baskets. I saw some offerings with money and some with a cigarette or two!

More than 1000 stray dogs were culled in Bali earlier this year because of a rabies outbreak .
I believe poison (strychnine) baits were, possibly still are, being used for culling. This seems a bit dodgy considering how many children play on the streets. Strychnine is a dreadful death for the baited animal; however, far be it from me to judge. In Africa we used to shoot stray dogs, particularly if there was a rabies outbreak.

Many of the dogs look as though they are from the same genetic pool. They are light brown and have teddy bear faces with their ears set quite low on the skull, like the one in the picture. A lot of the stray dogs are covered in mange - sarcoptic and demodectic mange I think. Sarcoptic mange is the one that humans contact as scabies. I was careful not to touch any of the dogs, that was ok because they didn't seem to want to touch me either! From what I could see, the street dogs were riddled with worms, even to the extent of protruding from the anus. On a couple of occasions I saw a pack of dogs turn on one of their own who may have been injured or weaker than the others, notably when we visited Tanalot and once in Lovina. Although they fight among themselves, the animals are not generally vicious toward humans. They will bark fiercely and follow you a little way, to the end of their territory, and then leave you alone. One of my friends pointed out that the dogs sounded different from Aussie dogs! They did, more a croaking than a woofing noise.

That the dogs are 'street-wise' goes without saying. So many times I held my breath as a dog sauntered into the path of an oncoming vehicle, only to veer to the side at the last moment. On the incredibly narrow and busy roads connecting the villages and towns, the dogs amble alongside the road or sleep inches away from the speeding wheels of buses, trucks, vans and motorbikes. I know some must get squashed but I never saw it or the evidence of it having happened. Plenty have broken limbs and one puppy that I saw had a big wound in its side that had been stitched. That was at Sangaraja, the old Dutch capital of Bali.

Clearly, many animal lovers have taken notice of the Bali dogs and there are a plethora of sites on the Internet discussing the animals and the action being taken to alleviate the suffering and disease.

Next blog will talk about stray cats in Bali, maybe.

Sunday, 19 July 2009


Bali - the good, the bad and the ugly; believe me, there is some of each in this amazing place.

This is me chilling out by the pool at the first hotel.

Our little group travelled first to Kuta/Legian where we stayed in one of noisiest hotels I've ever come across. The hotel is directly opposite a night club. The 'music' starts around 10pm and continues until the wee small hours. Earplugs are useless, the noise is earthshaking. The hotel is in a gang only a couple of hundred metres from the site of the Bali bombing.

Among the first Bahasa Indonesian words learned are, "jalaan, jalaan" which means 'walking'; "tadik gula" - no sugar! Bali kopi is the best coffee I've ever tasted, short, black and potent. "Lihat lihat saja" is important, it means 'just looking'. So many hawkers, some of whom could only have been 4 or 5 years old. I found this distressing but on the bright side, there are not many beggars - the people want to sell you something and bargaining is de rigueur. Toward the end of the stay I was looking for fixed price shops and stalls as haggling is not my favourite thing to do - especially when you realise you are haggling over 20c or something!

The giant head of Wishnu at GWK Cultural Park. I particularly liked his mo, very lounge lizard ...

you can get some idea of the size of this sculpture by looking at the humans at the top of the cliff, well, you can hardly see them really! The completed sculpture
includes Garuda ...

Garuda, who looks a lot like the baddies in The Dark Crystal, so I wonder who copied who?

This is the wicked ogre so I bravely stuck my hand in his mouth. He didn't bite so that was a relief. This room contained any number of costumes and musical instruments used by the performers in festivals and plays. The dragon like Barongs are integral to the festivities. There is much banging of drums and cymbals as the carnival procession proceeds down the street.

Traffic stops for weddings, funerals and any religious procession. Traffic is another story in Bali ...
Hati Hati means 'caution' and you better believe it. Hati translates as 'heart' and sometimes it can be heart stopping as you drive down the road! There must be road rules and the Balinese know them - for me the rules (such as they are) remain a mystery.

Herb Walk from Ubud.

We started out through a building site and within minutes were in the paddy fields.

Cleaning the rice paddy is part of the agricultural ritual. In Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, there is an interesting and informative essay on the rice growing culture. Our guide, Made Westi, on the Herb Walk, was erudite and we were given many insights into the farming community and the underlying cultural mores. I bought the book that Made Westi and his wife Lilian have written about the medicinal properties of the Balinese flora; however, the Australian Quarantine ripped the cover off because there were some pressed flowers. Oh well, c'est la vie.

Tanalot was another experience, many hawkers and many street dogs as we walked up toward the temples.

Yoga at Gandhi Ashram, Candidasa
On the water's edge - this was truly wonderful.

Of course there was lots more and once I've sorted it out in my mind and written up my 'proper' journal, I'll post some more on this blog. I'd like to talk about the dogs and cats and have an idea for an essay simmering away at the back of my mind.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Chandra Namaskar, snakes and other delights

So cold, wet and windy here in the far south west of Western Australia. I'm heading off to Bali at the beginning of July and it is looking more and more attractive! I haven't been out of Australia since last time I went back to Africa in 1996/97 so it will be quite strange. Flying is not my favourite method of travelling; however, it is 3 to 4 hours from Perth to Bali by air and when I drive to Perth from here, I'm lucky to get in in under 5 or 6 hours, so relatively speaking, the journey is not so long. I'll have to pull my head in regarding the amount of luggage I take! Travelling alone by car I can fill up all the spaces and then bring it all back again (that seems to be my modus operandi).

I've only been home since Friday and today was the first day we managed to get a good walk - the weather has been so inclement. Thank the Goddess for yoga practice, otherwise I'd go completely nuts. I've been practicing jump backs and for an ancient crone such as me, I think I'm doing ok. I can get back into a reasonable Chatuspadasana (Plank) but jumping forward again is more like bunny-hops. I keep at it and one of these days, who knows ... At the moment I'm practicing 'creeping tiger' or the extended leg squat I find it difficult to get my heel to the floor on the bent leg although I can squat fairly easily. The asana is part of a sequence taught to me by a colleague who does the best Trikonasana (Triangle) I've ever seen. She says it is because she has a 'long' body but I think it is because she is such a dedicated Yogi and she practices assiduously. The sequence is one of the Chandra Namaskar and needs a lot of concentration because you go through it and then reverse the sequence. The one I've linked here is slightly different to the one that I do in that Esther doesn't bring her heel to the floor in the extended leg squat. Maybe I'm just being pedantic? I'm sure it makes no difference in the long run.

We walked toward the golf course along the Bibbulmun Track the little black dog running ahead. There are a couple of bridges along the path, crossing creeks which are, at the moment, more like swamps. No wonder we have so many Tiger snakes around here, there are heaps of frogs. The name of the settlement just down the road from us is Nornalup, and the translation is 'place of snakes'. Apparently the original name was Norna-Nornalup which translates as many, many snakes! Snake bite is one of the main causes of dogs dying here. The antivenom is hugely expensive and has to be administered early in the piece, however, as the nearest vet is a good hour away in Denmark, most dogs are dead long before being treated. Tiger snakes around here are not striped, but they are fierce.

I'm off again quite soon so this may be my last blog before I come back from Bali in mid-July.


Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Vanaprastha, living in the forest.

Giant Tingle Trees (eucalypts) in the Valley of the Giants.
Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha, Sannyasa : The 4 Ashrams of the human life span. Vanaprastha is a sanskrit word (Vano + Prasthati). It means "to go to the forest" or the act of "being in the forest".

The weather has turned, winter has arrived. We have had a fire every evening for the past couple of weeks. Time for contemplation and hibernation.

The picture is Roland and our grand daughter fishing from the Town Jetty.
I'd like to make some deeply philosophical comments but the mundane, the banal is at the forefront of my life presently! However, it is interesting to note that, according to Vedic philosophy, the third stage of the four divisions of life known as the ashrams is vanaprastha. Vanaprastha corresponds to Western ideas of retirement. The demographic is 50-75 years old so we fit nicely into that. Traditionally this withdrawal from work is to a forest dwelling, to concentrate on spiritual practices. In Roland's case this would be fishing!

Sunday, 31 May 2009

mice and birds

House Mice (Mus domesticus)

I've just been reading Michele Phillips' blog about mice and decided to post my comment to her on my own blog (plus a bit more)!

We've got mice here in Walpole (about 120kms west of Albany). Late autumn - winter is definitely mouse season in the south west of Western Australia! I trap them because poisoning often means stinky corpses behind the cupboards or the dog eating dead mice. I bury their little corpses in the garden so they are recycled! Living in the forest I worry that the animals I trap may be little marsupials but so far no pouches. Anyway, I use peanut butter or chocolate to bait the traps. I've discovered you actually have to feed the mice up to make them heavy enough to spring the trap (theory, not fact).

According to the website from which I took the picture, mice plagues have been occurring in Australia since 1917.
Mice breed in the southern hemisphere from August to May. They breed from 6-8 weeks of age and a female mouse is pregnant for 19 days then re-mates 1-3 days after giving birth. Litters contain 5-10 young and one breeding pair of mice and their offspring has the potential to produce 500 mice in just 21 weeks. The problems of mouse plagues are not simply economic. Swarms of mice can invade households, hospitals, livestock pens, food storage and other facilities causing significant damage to infrastructure. They also pose a major threat to health and welfare, inflicting stress on humans and livestock. Mice also carry a number of diseases which affect humans and livestock including Salmonella and swine encephalomyocarditis
All-in-all, it is not good to have the little vermin in the house. In our house there is a competition running on who catches the most mice - and so far I'm winning and my husband is way behind. However, he is the one who has to take the mice out of the trap because it makes me feel quite ill! It isn't very yogic trapping mice.

To move on to something more savoury ... fairly early this morning while I was doing my yoga practice on the verandah, a kookaburra swooped down and sat on the railing to watch. The little black dog was not impressed and the bird just looked at her, sharpened his beak on the railing and then flew away. I thought he may laugh but not today!

Monday, 25 May 2009

There is a crack in everything, that's where the light comes in

Sometimes this is a serendipitous way to approach the day - looking at the light through a forest giant. In this case, a Tingle tree. Leonard Cohen sings in Anthem, there is a crack in everything, that's where the light comes in ...

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

The secret is to move through and into the light! The Little Black Dog is checking out where the light is coming through, she knows more than me, that's for sure.

Many bloggers (should that be Bloggers?) are so good at blogging regularly. I follow a fair few and am often impressed at the amount of blogging that happens, the amazing issues that are discussed and the arguments that are put forward. Practice seems to be the name of the game. I guess that in my life I 'practice' yoga and I 'practice' gardening and a few other inconsequential things that make me happy. Having just read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell I'm thinking about his '10,000 hours of practice' theory. If that is accurate, then I have a long way to go to become a talented blogger! Of course, I am a talented Leonard Cohen fan!!

Anyway, the next book on my bedside table is Holy Cow by Sarah MacDonald - the copy I've got, the cover portrait hasn't got sunnies but it is the same book. My daughter lent it to me. One thing about being retired is that you have heaps of time to read books that are not literary tomes. I had enough of that in the 7 years it took me to complete my PhD. It is difficult to break the habit of reading so critically that you miss the enjoyment of the story.

I do need to figure out how to make these darn pictures obey me. I sort of wanted the books to be next to each other but it isn't happening. Oh well, more practice - I suppose about another 9,500 hours going by Gladwell's theory!

All this writing and I've not really said anything of interest. To put it crudely, blogging really is a mind wank.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Getting ready to travel, again ...

Once again I'm on the road - well, I will be tomorrow. There is always a frisson of nerves before I go, it is a long way to drive and in some places it is quite isolated with no mobile reception. When the suitcase comes out from under the bed, the little black dog goes into a sulk. She won't eat her food and looks at me with a pitiful expression. Of course, that does not make it any easier for me! The polarity of longing to see my daughter and grand daughters, as against leaving husband, home and dog can be quite discombobulating (love that word ...). For someone who has never really enjoyed travel, this monthly trip can be quite trying. Falling asleep at the wheel is one great fear - it is so easy to doze off when driving through the forest. Hitting a 'roo is also something to think about and as for the log trucks, well, the less of them I come across the happier I am!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Yoga and ego

I am often surprised when my yoga students brave the elements and come to yoga on a cold, wet, wintery day or evening. I guess the adage, "First you drag your body along to yoga, and then your body drags you along to yoga" is about right!

I had to go to the hall today to fetch the blankets - they need a wash and there is no rain on the horizon so it seemed like a good idea. On the way I stopped in at the Telecentre to find out if there were any takers on the Yoga/Meditation Workshop that I am running (on behalf of the Telecentre) in a couple of weeks. Jenny asked me if I would take the Telecentre camera and get a photo of me in an asana to publish in the Walpole Weekly. Roland said he'd come and do the photography. Being in this situation is not so good for the ego because of the temptation to do something quite ... difficult. However, good sense prevailed and I sat in swastikasana (auspicious pose), took chin mudra, and lowered my eyes. If that photo is used I'll be pleased; otherwise one similar to the one here would be ok.

The point I'm making is that it is not a good idea to put people off by doing something complicated. The tendency is for them to think, "I'm too inflexible to do yoga, I couldn't do that pose!" so they avoid coming along. I believe you don't come to yoga because you're flexible, you come to yoga to become flexible! Swami Venkatasananda was known to say, "Whatever you can do today is perfect for you today" and I think that is about right!

Swami Venkatasananda

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Procrastination and other stuff

I think this is a funny picture - the little dog looks so happy. It is also something to look at while I write this blog. My sister sent it to me but I don't know where she got it from.

We have emptied the rainwater tanks and cleaned out the one we use for drinking water, now we wait for rain again. The rocket I planted is looking a bit sad. I was hoping to have some while the family were here last week but it isn't big enough to harvest. There are still a few tomatoes left that the birds (twenty-eights) have left for us. The veges at the local store are sometimes OK but not always very fresh. I guess that is one of the drawbacks living rural.

I came back from Perth on Monday and brought Bessie (Kath's dog) with me. She hyperventilated until Donnybrook and then she settled down. She does smell a lot, especially her breath and her farts. I'm more used to Stella who is quite nice smelling except when she has been rolling in something disgusting like dead fish.

When I got home, the family had already arrived and that was just as well. When Roland got home (he had been fishing) he had hurt his leg on the transom of the boat. Kath dressed it for him. I'm glad I didn't have to use my rusty first-aid skills (although I did the course earlier this year). That is one of the problems getting older, one's balance can be dodgy. I do the Tibetan Rites every morning to keep myself balanced - in more ways than just physical! The Rites segue nicely with the asana work I do each day.

About the procrastination, well, I've got a pair of yoga pants that need to be hemmed and I have been meaning to fix them since I got back from Perth ... I keep thinking of other things to do, like writing drivel in this blog!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

I'm a Leonard Cohen Tragic

Oh wow! My good friend Robin has given me the Leonard Cohen Live in London CD set.

We went to the concert together in Perth in February this year and it was magic. I've been waiting to get up to Perth to buy the CD set and now I've got it in my hot little hand - I'm overwhelmed.

I might end up with two copies because I had asked my friend Marian to get it for me, in case they sold out.

Am I not the luckiest person! Such good friends, such a lovely gift.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

blogging for the olympics?

I never realised that blogging was a competition!

More on this when I get around to writing up the blog next time or I'll add to this one probably.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Out and about

We went through to Albania today so Stella (the LBD*) could have her hair cut. A trip to Albany is a big outing for us! We set off late - for various reasons - and we were travelling in the Rocky** which makes life a little slower. The 10am appointment seemed achievable when I made it but with road works and other diversions, the 120kms between Walpole and Albany took a little longer than expected. OK, we were late. Latish, and I did phone from the Marbelup crossing to explain ...
Roland is not used to driving in traffic and Albany was busy. Lucky we have out-of-town number plates because some of his driving strategies were hair-raising. We attracted some strange looks and stranger language. If my hair wasn't so curly I'd have ended up looking like Struwwelpeter or like someone who had inserted their finger into the electric socket. However, in my old age I've learned to shut-up and practice my pelvic floor exercises. Believe me, this is not difficult in the circumstances.
Our other business was to buy a deepfreeze. I'd made a list of all the relevant dealers so we were relatively well organised. In the event, the first shop we went to had exactly what we wanted, size, shape etc. and at a good price. Julie, the helpful, courteous, friendly woman who sold it to us gave us a great deal. Getting it into the back of the Rocky was slightly more problematic and there was much shifting of seats and huffing and puffing until it was satisfactorily lodged and the back door could shut. I did the shutting-up/pelvic floor exercises trick again. LBD had to squeeze into a small space but she didn't seem to mind. She curled up and went to sleep for the trip home. I guess she was just pleased to be with her humans again. It can't be much fun being bathed, clipped and having your anal glands emptied (although it probably feels really good after it is finished).
So, after all that, the freezer is now home, it is up and running and waiting to filled with the fish that are waiting to be caught - but not by me.

*Little black dog
** 4WD Daihatsu Rocky, not an SUV, more like a little truck and not built for comfort.

Monday, 30 March 2009

How bizarre is this blogging business? Plus, I love Leonard Cohen

I'm finding this whole blogging business really strange. I'm able to 'follow' myself but I'm not able to respond to comments on my blog! Maybe I'm just not technologically gifted ...

Another thing is the video thingymebob strip at the bottom of the blog. I only want Leonard Cohen on it but when I come back to visit myself, why, what do I find but advertisements for motor vehicles! I'm losing control of this crazy thing. Anyway, if you do happen to find it when Leonard Cohen is on, have a listen to Closing Time - it is fabulous.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Celebrate the end of daylight saving in WA

Today started off clear and warmish. I sat on the balcony and watched the wrens skittering about on the lawn. The drizzle came in quite quickly and I had to roll up my yoga mat and close the front doors - which are usually open this early in the day to clear out the night stuff. I do my morning yoga behind the apricot tree - at this time of year it is still leafy and quite private. In winter, the tree is bare and I do my asana inside but with the doors open (unless the rain is driving in). Stella, the LBD (little black dog) is always party to any asana that involves me turning upside down. It is a great opportunity to come in close and kiss me or inspect my bum. How delightful, Not.

Roland was off fishing at Mandalay and came home dripping wet - no fish - that's OK the salmon that are running at the moment are, in my opinion, only known for the complexity of recipe to disguise their taste ... curry, peri peri and so on. Herring are better and I must get out the smoker and see if I can remember how to kipper them.

So this is a quick post on Saturday evening to celebrate the end of daylight saving - I hope for a very long time. Tomorrow (Sunday) when I wake up at 6.30am it really will be 6.30am and not 5.30am.

New Tricks is on TV but it is a repeat and although I am a big fan of the program I can remember that this one was too highly charged for a sook like me. I think it is the one I'm thinking about. Roland will carry on and watch The Bill but I'm going to write up my proper journal (the one with a fountain pen and pages). I'm just about to start on a new one and that is always a milestone for me. I still wish I hadn't destroyed all the ones from Rhodesia, South Africa and our early days in Australia. The fact that it is unlikely that anyone would ever have read them is beside the point because, when I reread the ones I have got (dating back to approx 1992) I am able to reflect on the many changes in my life and in myself. Who would have thought, all those years ago, that I would go to university and come out some 12 years later with a PhD? Shit, I didn't even know what a PhD was when I started in 1993. I wish I had some pictures of me in my bonnet, collecting the doctorate! I looked like an animated mushroom.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Life in the Australian Army - would that we were all so able

One in a million - only in Oz. I trot it out at the drop of a hat - read and be suitably enlightened.

Life in the Australian Army...

Text of a letter from a kid from Eromanga to Mum and Dad. (For Those of you not in the know, Eromanga is a small town, west of Quilpie in the far south west of Queensland)

Dear Mum & Dad,

I am well. Hope youse are too. Tell me big brothers Doug and Phil that the Army is better than workin' on the farm - tell them to get in bloody quick smart before the jobs are all gone! I wuz a bit slow in settling down at first, because ya don't hafta get outta bed until 6am. But I like sleeping in now, cuz all ya gotta do before brekky is make ya bed and shine ya boots and clean ya uniform. No bloody cows to milk, no calves to feed, no feed to stack - nothin'!! Ya haz gotta shower though, but its not so bad, coz there's lotsa hot water and even a light to see what ya doing!

At brekky ya get cereal, fruit and eggs but there's no kangaroo steaks or possum stew like wot Mum makes. You don't get fed again until noon and by that time all the city boys are buggered because we've been on a 'route march' - geez its only just like walking to the windmill in the back paddock!!

This one will kill me brothers Doug and Phil with laughter. I keep getting medals for shootin' - dunno why. The bullseye is as big as a bloody possum's bum and it don't move and it's not firing back at ya like the Johnsons did when our big scrubber bull got into their prize cows before the Ekka last year! All ya gotta do is make yourself comfortable and hit the target - it's a piece of piss!! You don't even load your own cartridges, they comes in little boxes, and ya don't have to steady yourself against the rollbar of the roo shooting truck when you reload!

Sometimes ya gotta wrestle with the city boys and I gotta be real careful coz they break easy - it's not like fighting with Doug and Phil and Jack and Boori and Steve and Muzza all at once like we do at home after the muster.
Turns out I'm not a bad boxer either and it looks like I'm the best the platoon's got, and I've only been beaten by this one bloke from the Engineers - he's 6 foot 5 and 15 stone and three pick handles across the shoulders and as ya know I'm only 5 foot 7 and eight stone wringin' wet, but I fought him till the other blokes carried me off to the boozer.

I can't complain about the Army - tell the boys to get in quick before word gets around how bloody good it is.

Your loving daughter,


Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Life in the forest on the ocean's edge

I was going to add the next bit in the angling saga but decided it is too academic and too dull. Anyway, I've mislaid the bibliography. If I find it, I'll maybe add the next episode.

Life in the forest on the ocean's edge is (should be) enough.
On Monday we went to Mandalay Beach with my brother and my sister-in-law. Roland and Pete were fishing for salmon and Pete actually caught one - you couldn't wipe the smile from his dial - especially as Roland missed out! Both caught herring.

Mandalay is a lovely spot and there is an air of mystery. Swimming is verboten - seriously dangerous rips and so on. There were a couple of other people there which is unusual. Most times it is only us.

The view toward Chatham Island is spectacular. The enormous cave on the rock that is Chatham Island reminds me of stories I heard and read in my childhood. From the beach you can watch the sun and shadow chase across the mouth of the cave.

to be continued/...

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Mr. Miyagi from "The Karate Kid"

Mr. Miyagi from "The Karate Kid":
"You learn karate, you be just fine. You no learn karate, you be just fine.
But if you kinda fool around--walk in middle of the road--SQUISH! ...just like bug.

Now that is what I call a sensible quotation.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Driving home

Seeing as I am writing this for an audience of one (me) I'm OK to say most anything.

Perth was busy and I caught a walloping head cold - I thought I would drown in the snot but managed to pull through. The cold (I'm not taking ownership of it) has passed through the gluey stage and is on its way out.

The trip home was uneventful. There were heaps of log-trucks going north as I drove south. I could see it was plantation timber so didn't get too upset. The sheep trucks (also travelling north) were another matter. The live sheep transport is a disgrace. It is inhumane and we should be ashamed of ourselves exporting live animals in dreadful conditions to be slaughtered overseas.

By the time I reached Manjimup there was a hint of rain in the air and I felt refreshed to drive the final 120kms to Walpole through the forest. No caravans in front of me for a change and I only picked up some slower traffic about 30kms out of Walpole.

Stella and Roland were both happy to see me - or else they are both good actors. Stella's coat has grown considerably so I think we'll have to take a trip through to Albania so she can have a clip. When I figure out how this works, I'll post a picture of her for me to look at as I read this lonely blog. Well, I sorted that out even if it didn't land up where I wanted it too. She doesn't usually have bows in her hair - the photo is an older one when she still went to a dog-groomer in Perth, not the "we're not fancy but we're cheap" guy that we take her to in Albany - well, it is more than $20 cheaper!

Yoga class starts again next week and I'm looking forward to seeing my students again. When I get back from Bali in July I'm starting classes for children so that will be good fun too.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

First Post

Well, here goes - this is my first post on this blog. I'm not sure the form this blog is going to take but if I run true to form it will surprise me as well as any of my friends and family who happen to visit. Organic is probably the buzz word here.

I'm off to Perth tomorrow for a few days. I hope to visit the beach sculptures at Cottesloe and of course there is the workshop next Sunday.

This is a really boring entry so excuse me while I go to bed and think about it, so here's a story to help you pass the time:

A newly discovered chapter in the Book of Genesis has provided the answer to 'Where do pets come from?'

Adam and Eve said, 'Lord, when we were in the garden, you walked with us every day. Now we do not see you any more. We are lonesome here, and it is difficult for us to remember how much you love us.'

And God said, I will create a companion for you that will be with you and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will love me even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of your selves.'

And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam and Eve.

And it was a good animal.

And God was pleased.

And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and Eve and he wagged his tail.

And Adam said, 'Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and I cannot think of a name for this new animal.'

And God said, ' I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG.'

And Dog lived with Adam and Eve and was a companion to them and loved them.

And they were comforted.

And God was pleased.

And Dog was content and wagged his tail.

After a while, it came to pass that an angel came to the Lord and said, 'Lord, Adam and Eve have become filled with pride. They strut and preen like peacocks and they believe they are worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught them that they are loved, but perhaps too well.'

And God said, I will create for them a companion who will be with them and who will see them as they are. The companion will remind them of their limitations, so they will know that they are not always worthy of adoration.'

And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam and Eve.

And Cat would not obey them. And when Adam and Eve gazed into Cat's eyes, they were reminded that they were not the supreme beings.

And Adam and Eve learned humility.

And they were greatly improved

And God was pleased.

And Dog was happy...

...and Cat didn't give a shit one way or the other.