Things Change


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In October 2014 I travelled to Borneo to witness firsthand what is happening to the rainforests that support these fragile animals. My tour was short and encompassed only a portion of the story. There is much yet to be learned. The incredible respect and hospitality of the lovely people we met will remain in my heart for the rest of my life. Dayak people and the Orangutans that live amongst them fill me with hope as do the “warriors” striving to create change. Like koalas, they make me want to continue in my efforts to speak up for the voiceless in this life.

Orang-utans are hanging by a delicate thread of imbalance and are threatened in the wild forests they call home. Over 80% of the rainforests in which they live have been destroyed. Their needs to be greater accountability for the decline in Orang utans within these forests. The Dayak people are working to do something different and they are fighting back with ingenuity and permaculture principals. There is a line of disagreement between  groups as to “sustainable” Palm Oil and many arrows have been shot in these polarities. Can there really be such a thing as “sustainable” palm oil? Or not?? There seems to be a very distinct polar divide between the two ideas and yet can there not be a compromise and an ability to forgive and move forward creating solutions together? Through the efforts of a few, may these efforts become many and may we see the change that we need to see for the future of a species. There is no time to point fingers and there is no time to waste. There is time to work together.

I accompanied the “Rise of the Eco-Warriors” team and photographed and witnessed the workings of the small villages of the Dayak people in West Kalimantan, Borneo. We lived in a Long House. We shared time and meals and there were challenges to be faced. I was challenged with equipment issues. My camera lens broke. My computer stuffed up and tiny little ants crawled out of the laptop which led to hard-drive failure. Perhaps there was a message in this!  When I returned, I was not sure if I could recover my photos, but thankfully, I did and I am grateful for the smiles these images bring today. I had no idea how this experience would affect my life, or how profound it would be. It is only now, when I put together the puzzle of this past year, that I can see. For me, Borneo was an escape and yet also a reminder of what is truly important.

As you fly over hectares and hectares of rainforest destroyed, you see the wake of dead and degraded soil unable to sustain life, human or animal alike. Waters:poisoned! Trees: burnt and Co2 waste escaping into the atmosphere! Climate change is profoundly impacted by this destructive process to produce cheap oil for human consumption. Do we “need” these products that are contributing to this destruction? I think not,as I line my shelves with products that do no harm but many do not even understand the impact of their decisions as a consumer in today’s modern world. I live with less as did the people in these villages. Through their simplicity and their way of life, I listened and I learned. We swam in the cool rushing river with the children. There was a great rhythm and flow to every day. There was also spontaneity and joy in shared value without any language necessary to comprehend. We waded and played in the waters after the rain. We laughed. We cried. We connected. We lived!

When we left the village of Tembak, we were able to give.One of the women’s tribal leaders, “Imu” Florentina, was very ill with the devastating effects of cancer. We were able to give her transport and help to raise funds to ensure the surgery she required. It is though such efforts that Countries connect and a shared journey becomes one.

I see parallels in my work in Australia with koalas. In order to be a part of speaking out for our wildlife, we must be brave and bold and this can be difficult. I rebel against the protocols and procedure and bureaucratic regulations that prevent change. We can only see effective change when we look for new ways with respect to “old” values. Our fast paced world has often forgotten these as we are a world out of balance. With each new government change, we must start again and look to be better. As time is ticking, there is no better time than the present to stand up and be heard!  We are all connected and the only way forward is to collectively make a difference. Let’s take “ego” out of the equation and do better in Conservation Circles. This chance will be had as we meet this week to discuss a “Koala Protection Act”. I look forward to meeting with others that care “doing what is best for koalas”. I can only hope that these collective ideas formed and efforts made will lead to a better future. Hope, Truth and Belief are the keys.

On November 28th 2014, everything changed in our family in a way that we had not imagined.  Through tragedy and trauma and blunt awareness, we all realise that the only time is now! In an instant, everything can change forever. That is for next time….

In the meantime, you may enjoy reading more about this amazing trip below from fellow travellers or contribute just $1 to help support one of my friends that is going back! The choice is yours!

http://www.youcaring.com/mission-trip-fundraiser/help-save-the-orangutans-for-as-little-as-1-00/292585

http://www.ecowarriorsrise.com

http://blog.cifor.org/2607/could-orangutan-conservation-be-helped-by-the-heavens#.VPz9QkK6jEY

http://www.bendessen.com.au/uncategorized/back-to-borneo/

http://alushforest.blogspot.com.au

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Our Inner Voice


“You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”Good Will Hunting (1997)DSC_3221
There are times to speak out and times to be silent. When your heart feels that it is filled with shards of glass and you reach out to those you love but feel unheard and ignored, those shards dig deeper. Often silence wraps a blanket around you after the explosion and you sit with it, waiting for the light to shine and lead you in a new direction. When the direction comes, the path you choose is entirely up to you alone but when shared with others, perhaps that can lead you out of the dark.

The past few months have had sharp contrasts of highs and lows. People have let me down and others have surprised me with their kindness and compassion. There have been shades of gray that lead to reflection and self -evaluation. In these gray zones is where I let my intuition and truth guide me, dropping ego and looking for the path to balance.

Depression. What is it? How is it that some survive it and others succumb to its disastrous effects? We live in a world that is ever increasing in isolation and disconnection led by greed and destruction. The values that make us most endearing as humans are being lost in the cluttered world we live in. However, on the other side of this is the yearning for connection and the increasing rise of people coming together in collaboration and spirit.

Robin Williams died this week. The world was shocked by the sudden surprise and the grief rippled from households across the world. Memories of “favorite” movies and moments and quotes poured from the pages of social media and in conversations had. I know that I have been depressed but I do not have clinical depression. My life has been touched by others who were clinically depressed; by those who have taken their own lives through suicide, and they have left their mark. The act is so final and so complete and yet it’s effects ripple through families and friendships and lead us to question and sometimes judge. Is this judgment cruel or is it an attempt to understand something that cannot truly be understood unless you are “in” it?

I know that I have questioned whether or not I have said enough, did enough or supported enough when I lost a dear friend to suicide. I cannot imagine if it had been someone in my family. I do not know how their family coped and went on.

We are all touched by a bit of madness in this world. Can we create balance when mental illness, drug abuse, alcoholism, addictions and an overall race to go nowhere seem to be the driving factor in many around us? Can we speak our truth without causing pain and destruction? When we come to understand, truly listen and practice principals of kindness in our own homes then we can give better out in the world. When we set boundaries of safety around us and those we love, then we can show respect through our self- discipline. Letting go of the destructive forces that drive and manipulate some are difficult when we are wearing blinders within ourselves as to how we see the world.

The music of nature and its balance are the cures I wish for the world. When we see the perfection and grace of joy and laughter as well as pain and tears, then perhaps in balance the fulcrum will rest in the middle of the depth of human perception and all we are created to be.

Blessings to anyone who is struggling in this crazy world we live in. Love each other and importantly love yourself enough to not destroy the goodness within. Show respect to those that differ in opinion and rest in the knowledge that you are unique and special in a vast wilderness of sky, space and eternity. Step out and do your best. We all beat to an inner rhythm that in unison creates harmony and peace. Perception is the heart of our reality.

Dreaming in Doonan


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The steps leading to the veranda invite a smile. The fruit shop is quiet, as is the café’. The hanging, hand-knit beanies draw Josh’s gaze. Dewdrops remain on the ramp from this morning’s rain. The staff greet the day with care and the touch of a succulent and an olive tree growing from a recycled soybean oil container catch my eye, reminding me of a place faraway, perhaps Italy or the south of France. But no, I am in Australia. The kookaburra articulates his morning songs to his mate in the canopy as we order.

The deli items entice but a sit-down breakfast is what we seek. We pick a number, woven of colourful, woolen yarn stretched over nails shaped on a wooden block. These are new and give a splash of bright tonal contrast to the bench. They sit next to the frequent coffee club box filled with cards of local customers. I am one of them and today our coffees are free! Our number is 4 and we find a table at the edge of the porch overlooking the bush. We sit facing each other and I study my son. His dreadlocks blend into his woven jacket and portray his musical nature. He looks tired despite a good nights rest. I look out and see tables scattered across the green grass leading to the road. Cars and trucks whizz past. They are oblivious to this quiet gem with fantastic coffee. The trees provide a canopy of shade.

DSC_9329A magpie swoops down and sits on a chair overseeing the food service. A customer shoos him away but he’ll be back. I am out for morning breakfast with Josh and I am grateful for his presence and this gift of time. The morning is perfect.

The tables, topped with rustic cloth, give the impression of a farm country cottage and the kitchen provides the aroma of herbs and garlic and apple and cinnamon. The atmosphere is homey and warm and welcoming.

The family staff cooks our meals. Josh picks up the sounds of the song, A “Horse With No Name”. He sings along and remembers our road-trip playlists together. As we sip our Cappuccino’s, we talk about our lives and share. Sometimes we are silent.

We hear the blender and Josh orders a juice. The books lining the shelves and the scattered art lead the eye to the tree branches attempting to enter the café from beneath the aluminium roof. They wind their branches as they enter. Flower vases balance the natural wood and the stools beside the grille whisper conversation. Breakfast is served.

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Save the Reef Contemplation and Challenge


Save the Reef Contemplation and Challenge

Contemplation Challenge

When I saw this writing challenge this morning, it inspired  me to reflect upon my weekend and how I dealt with the challenge of utter despair and disgust I felt, in response to the decisions of the Australian Goverment regarding the Great Barrier Reef. On Friday, 31st January, it was announced that despite high public response and contradiction from around the world, Environmental Minister Greg Hunt and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, will give the go ahead to dump 3 Million cubic metres of waste into our ocean! How ludicrous that a World Heritage Listed site and a site known around the World for it’s pristine waters and diverse marine life is going to be polluted through the waste and destruction of mining spoils. It seems that all around this beautiful country, the Australian government is making short-sighted decisions for the long-term future for our environment. The seas will be raped and pillaged, denying science and common sense in the name of greed and progress if we do not do something. Government and business state that science is the leader in their decision and in their application but as this goes ahead, we are likely to see the same international embarrassment that is occurring in the minds of scientists as climate change is ignored and denied.  Where will we be when the oceans die and our water will not be pottable?  Will true science then be denied and ignored or will science even matter when it is too late?? I believe that we all must stand up and say NO to this as we look at ways to turn this decision and change the course in which we are headed. This view is something we must preserve for our future and the future of our families!

As this photo-view represents that faraway gaze many of us portray when we are looking out to see, I wonder in amazement at the vast gap between where I perceive this to be and where I am now. Just a few short months ago, I was on a similar rock amongst the tidepools in Laguna Beach Ca. I gazed out and stared towards my new homeland and wondered if there was anyone over there staring back at me through the mirror of an ocean mirage. Today, I stare back and I want to hide my head with embarrassment as to what this country is planning for the future of our land and our sea.What will our children be left with and how do I explain to my own children, the actions of others who seemingly care little beyond their next paycheck. Will this greed in their pockets give them clean water to drink and shelter from the extremity of climate change weather?

What does the future hold for me?

What does the future hold for me?

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I began my quest last weekend to stay positive in this force of negativity by attending the SaveOurSharks Rally in Burleigh Heads, Qld Australia. February 1st was my birthday. I asked my family to join me and we had a lovely day out showing our support of the apex predators that govern the balance of our seas. The protest saw 10’s of thousands across Australia speaking out for the Sharks and although this support is worthy, we need to find a way to reach those who are caught up in the fear and ignorance that goes hand in hand with the limited knowledge and understanding that many have regarding our sustainable future.

My passion is for koalas because they touched my heart and soul in those first few days that I was on Australian soil. As I looked out towards the sea on that day, behind me sat a koala in a tree that also was gazing out into the tea tree bay with contemplation. Perhaps that koala saw what I saw and if that wise soul saw the path we would take in just 5 short years, I wish he could have warned me. The koalas of Noosa National Park are disappearing and one day their presence here in the wild will be no more. Our group is focused on making as much of a difference as possible and yet we are caught up in red tape and bureacracy! We keep repeating the “old” story rather than embracing the “new”. In 5 years, we have lobbied govrnment to no avail. We continue to ghave meetings. I would like to see these meetings stop and for the action to start! We have volunteered and stepped up our education and awareness programs. A sanctuary is a solution for the future of some koalas but we need 10 sanctuaries across their natural range or 100, in order to maintain those that are hanging by a thread amidst danger and disease and the very real threat of extinction in the wild.

With this, comes the full circle that humans are creating on land and in the sea. The crash course in education and awareness is spreading. People are standing up and joining forces to create a “new” story through an evolution of change.

This is what I see, as I gaze out and as others gaze out beside me. I find hope in the Alliance that we have formed and through the relationship with “new” people with “new” ideas in “new” places. Our stories are all one: with the whales, the dolphins, the sharks, the koalas, the flying fox and all the living and breathing inhabitants of this earth! I was trained in science but I am not a scientist per-se. I am just a woman with a heart for all.

I will take this new writing challenge and embrace my thoughts and fears and dreams and share with others. I believe that if we work together, we can change the world and at this moment more now than ever, the World needs us to be the pioneers for a sustainable future. Won’t you join me? It is not too late. 🙂

Everyday Christmas


At this time of year, I often feel a bit frantic inside when the Christmas decorations are seen in stores before December. There is a desperation that denies the true meaning of the season as shops are full of enticing products pushing people to buy and spend. Ah, the art of consumer marketing and the expectation it brings to adults and children around the world. Frankly, it puts me in a bad mood! People seem more frantic and less kind. Families argue. Children throw more tantrums and going to a shop can be a nightmare! I avoid the shops and stay home and live in the moment and anticipate the things I’d like to do all year. I rebel against the overspending and debt that once was a pattern for us in this family and choose a different path. I talk to my kids about how material things are not what I want  and I really do mean it! The things that I do want, can’t be bought in a store. I want for our family to “get” the meaning not just today, but every day, including those in our extended family. I want humanity to stop hurting the planet and to start really thinking about what they can do individually and collectively to make this world a better place to be. I want to forgive and be forgiven for the past.  I want for people not to go hungry all around the world. I want for animals not to suffer for human greed.  I think about how I can have a beautiful holiday here in Australia this year by truly being in the present moment and without distraction.   I will be spending my days with koalas and those who care for them and I will give my smile to them and a word of kindness to show them they are appreciated every day! Why can’t everyday be Christmas in our hearts and why can’t each day be a gift to the world??  Do we need to overbuy, and over-indulge to have a happy holiday? I really don’t think so.

OK. I’m guilty. I admit it. I used to be right in it and when the kids were little, I spent days decorating, preparing and planning and I often became over-tired and cranky and snapped at everyone around me! Was that in the Christmas spirit? No. Well, Christmas morning would come and then poof, it was gone and there were mountains of waste and clean-up and everyone was overfed and yet still unsatisfied. Does anyone else have memories like this??  My guess is yes, and perhaps as recent as last year or those feelings are beginning to surface now as the season is upon us.

Since we have been in Australia, Christmas has been really strange and has had me re-evaluating the true meaning of the season. I just haven’t felt that “magic” and I have felt down during the season. This year, though, I feel different as though something has shifted. I can’t fix all the problems of the world, but I can do my best to just be happy and I am. A friend played a bit of a game in the volunteer room at the Wildlife Hospital on Sunday as a bit of fun for us all. With many changes taking place, she still found the spirit to give us all a bit of a laugh and a smile!  We played a trivia game and I learned the meanings of the words I so often saw but paid little attention to. All the enclosures for the koalas are named and thus we were asked what these names meant. “Warina” means to give and here means give a place to rest. “Allambee” means a quiet resting place. “Sui” was the name of Steve Irwin’s beloved dog and this enclosure holds very special sick koalas. “Kiah” means from the beautiful place. “Burrenbong” comes from the word meaning “no drink” and is where the name koala came from! Thus all the names have a special meaning that is a key to my beloved friend, the koala. Thanks for the education Leisa! It has taken me a few years here and although it will never be the same as in the northern hemisphere, I value the people here that I have met and who inspire me as many selflessly give for these amazing animals.   This year, Josh will return from the States and we will create an Aussie memory just by being together as a close family. It will likely be the last one together before Josh moves to the city and enters University which is a new beginning for us all and I try to hold no expectation as to how the day will be. It just will be.

The moments that I remember most satisfying in the past all revolve around that warm, fuzzy feeling of contentment.  I ponder now and it was not the gifts received, but the act of kindness behind them, that mattered. To me, the magic came from the cold crisp nights sitting around a roaring fire and singing Christmas Carols. I still smile when I hear those songs and they stick in my head even in this heat! I remember the winter night strolls with icicles hanging from the rooftops and white lights sparkling as I try to imagine being “cool”. I remember the quiet of the night and the peace as we lit the candles. I will light them this year as well and imagine. The ornaments on the tree had special meanings too and each year my mum would buy a new one or we would create one. I remember the smiles on my kids faces and also the times when their eyes just lit up with anticipation. Togetherness and the joy of each others company was what mattered. When Jackie Gram died, I think that took a bit of my Christmas Spirit away but it is slowly coming back. England brought new memories and new traditions. Australia brings more and these are yet to come. I am grateful for each moment each day and the random acts of kindness that others show me, help me see that it is this that matters most and not just on a holiday morning but all year round. I have found my birth mother, Pat and got to know my grandmother, Edna, before she died. Stories emerge and brew. As the sun sets in the summer sky and the sultry air brings floral fragrance, my garden grows in a summer Christmas. My heart is here as well as there, where the bitter cold brings warmth by the fire. May the fire be in our hearts this year across the world, as we all share in a new future with bright horizons. May they be simple and meaningful. Blessings to friends near and far!