Love & Kindness — A Diamond in the Rough.

I am addicted to the remotely located Ningaloo coral reef at Cape Range National Park. It is the worlds longest onshore reef so you can just snorkel off the shore and you are immediately in the wonderland of coral and sea creatures.

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The best bit about this obsession is that it is only twelve hours drive away from my home.

The North West of Australia where the reef is located has a harsh climate with extremely high summer temperatures, dangerous animals, lack of water, very long distances between towns, droughts and cyclones.

The adversity of living in this part of the world can create deeply authentic people who have had to  connect to make things work.

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Advice for cycling this path. Packs of dingos are known to bite bike tyres. Stand as tall as you can, face the pack of dingos (as they circle around you?), if you are with someone stand back to back, look the dingos in the eye, stay close to children and small teenagers, etc. A person needs to be tough to live here.

Cape Range National Park has been upgraded by the Australian Government from prickly, boiling, scratchy desert so that it now has pristine drop toilets, rubbish collection and camping bays at some of the bays.

Yearly I stay at Cape Range National Park and am enthralled by the hump back whales breaching and playing off the back reef. I am delighted when swimming with whale sharks, manta rays or turtles. I enjoy paddle boarding, kaiaking, wind or kite surfing with other large marine animals such as sharks, porpoises and stingrays.

Snorkelling here is like diving into a kaleidoscope of beautiful movement and colour. Within a few minutes you may see enormous green turtles nestling quietly under the reef an arms length away or octopi in tight holes in the coral, then there are swirling schools of gigantic pelagic fish, swaying reed like sea snakes, delicate Spanish dancers plus anything else that can be seen at a tropical reef.

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A small sting ray at the shore.

Last time I visited it was inky black at night with the moon a tiny slit so that the stars jumped out, the milky way was a band of diamonds. The silence felt to me like I was cradled safely in a hole in the cosmos.

There are no more facilities than the toilet and rubbish bins, no mobile phone service, wifi, fresh water, shops or anything else. For that you have to drive an hour away to Exmouth.

At Ningaloo one morning bleary with a healthy hangover of a deep sleep in silence, I almost walked into to a kangaroo that had reached into the “dry” vegetable box that was inside a tent — he was quietly eating carrots. He had already eaten a couple of kilos of bananas so was content. He nibbled away at his ill gotten gains as I walked around him to brew an early morning coffee.

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Just as the coffee boiled two white galahs swirled into camp, and stalked around. They only left after I gave them a plate of fresh water.

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There are many beautiful and interesting bays in Cape Range National park.

In Turquoise Bay I relaxed and surrendered to the current as it swept me over the reef where I came close to a white tipped reef shark and then enormous purple lipped clams that appear to breathe the water.

Later at Oyster Stacks I almost swam into a wobbly gong shark as it sat camouflaged on top of a coral outcrop and then I shied away from a deadly cone shell as it sat on the sea floor less than an arms length away.

Exmouth is the closest town to the paradise of Cape Range National park so after days of no showers and lots of swimming I’m feeling a tad crusty, in need of some civilisation and fresh water.

I took my salt encrusted self into town to have a wash before I travelled on. My hair was standing on end and I couldn’t get a brush through it. I love not having to brush my hair but after some time well…

After days of camping my habit is to have dinner cooked for me at the restaurant in the caravan park where I stay before heading south and back home.

The last time I was there I wandered over to the Potshot pub for a pre dinner drink and quiet read before heading to the restaurant for dinner.

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The Potshot Hotel

I’m a people watcher so when I heard lots of loud talk and laughter at a near table I noticed a very tall, man who appeared to be about fifty or sixty years of age —  it was hard to tell. His hair was dark without any grey and his body was shaped like a modern day Chinese Wealth God. This man had a huge tummy swaddled in a bright blue “T” shirt. He moved lightly on his feet for such a heavy man so I imagined that imperceptibly over time he had swapped his six pack for a keg.

Mr “Blue” as I named him had large heavy framed black glasses with coke bottle lenses that slid down his nose. When he chose to see he tipped his head back and looked down from his great height. His skin was the deep red of a European who had —over the decades — been sun burnt so much that his skin had given up and was perpetually a deep red. As he laughed loudly I noticed the gap in his teeth.

Blue walked lightly and quickly but with the waddle of a heavily pregnant woman. I noticed that he was talking to a couple of young women and that the energy between them was loving, engaged and they seemed to be excited to be together. There was a pinkish glow over these people and they had easy familiarity and respect that made me curious.

I then reminded myself that it was madness to assume anything about anyone or anything in life so I went back to my book.

Later I wandered back to the caravan park and restaurant. In the dark on the excellent bike paths of Exmouth I felt safe because the paths were filled with cyclists, runners and dog walkers enjoying the cool evening air.

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Emu warning signs

The only unsafe part was the emus who are known to be aggressive at times.

Over the last couple of years I have been invited to join people at their table in this restaurant. I guess because it is too embarrassing for the locals to see a single woman eating alone? I’m not sure really.

I had forgotten this quirk in the fabric of the universe so excitedly entered the restaurant thinking about the next chapter of my book.

A backpacker waiter with a strong accent I couldn’t place hovered over me as he showed me my table. He was much taller than me and he bent over the top of me and bumped me as he gave me the menu.

I was distracted by the waiter until I was accosted by a man at the next table who was loudly calling out “Come and sit here!” 

It is the larger than life “Blue” mountain of a man from the pub and he is there with four younger people.

Resigned that this is the way of it in this restaurant in Exmouth — I do.

I notice a couple of grey nomads sitting at the table behind “Blue” and they take a lively vicarious interest in what is happening. It is easy for them to follow the theme as “Blue” is joyous, loud and open with his speech.

Upon sitting down I learn that “Blue’s” name is Walsey — this is because he comes from Wales.

He is excited to have me at the table because he had noticed me reading at the pub.

Walsey emanates smiles. He is loud and funny and seems out of place with the other occupants of the table. Yet they sit there with a sense of protection and caring.

I’m introduced; First to a German couple both slender, refined, beautiful and quiet. Their  eyes were intelligently taking in the play of words as they wash over the table. This couple chip in at times with remarks that are well thought out. I learn that they have opened an amazing business in Exmouth called Social Society where they serve delicious organic food and sustainable clothing.

At the other end of the table are a married couple. The woman is Korean with a round face an easy smile and lots of dead pan jokes. Her newly minted husband is from Ireland. These two are fun they have twinkles in their eyes and a ready humour. They work from Perth in the fly-in/fly-out mining industry. They are a joy to be around because they keep the conversation flowing no matter what Walsey says.

I am the only Australian born person at the table and I recognise that this has been the familiar experience all my life. I am constantly exposed to a soup of different cultural perspectives and ideas without having to travel overseas —I well up with the feeling of luck and gratitude.

Curious I ask what brings them together and the story unfolds.

During the boom time in Western Australia the Korean woman and German couple were in Exmouth working twelve hour shifts in hospitality. They couldn’t  afford the extremely high cost of accommodation in town, so they camped in the bush out of town. They had no facilities — no water, toilets, rubbish collection or electricity. Sort of like being at Cape Range National Park however, without the toilets, camp sites or rubbish collection.

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The bush is harsh in this part of Western Australia

The bush here is hot, dusty, full of insects that bite, plants that sting, snakes, and other poisonous creepy things. There are very few trees around Exmouth and the ones that are there are stunted and provide little shade. I imagined that their tent would have been hellish. After a twelve hour shift they would have had to cook and clean for themselves, cart in their own water, food and everything else and only God knows what they did for a toilet.

These people were from Korea and Germany where they have every facility imaginable so they probably would have been exposed to extreme culture shock.

Their story is told in snippets between jokes, rude comments and various other stories.

At one time Walsey relays that he thought that the Korean woman would never get married because he thought she was a lesbian.

At another time he says he knows that his twenty-three year old Australian daughter is a virgin — for sure.  

He then relates how he behaved when he met the only boyfriend she ever let him near. We then totally understand why he thinks that she doesn’t have boyfriends.

Then he questions me. “Where do you live?”

When I answer he loudly asks “What is the value of your home?” To which I reply; “Way more than you can imagine, I’m a purse.”

I then say to the table “I’m a total nurse and a purse — I understand this is a real turn on for men.” They look amused and then cringe a little when his next question; “What type of car do you drive?” 

I am ecstatic at this situation so in answer I slap my keys on the table. When he sees it is a Mercedes he looks happy.

The two couples wince again and then protectively try to say something to ameliorate his crash-bang queries.

I am in a place of joy, such open gall and innocence all mixed up together in a fully grown man.

At the end of the meal he whips out his credit card and pays for everyone including me.

Back to the story of why they were all together. This is how I heard their story — I am not really sure if I have it exactly right.

Walsey who was living in Exmouth with all the facilities of modern life noticed their situation.  He invited them to live with or maybe around him.

These back packers moved out of the bush and they all lived as a community protected by this big Boomer of a man and for this they love him and respect him.

At the end of the evening Walsey turns to me and much to the delight of the grey nomad couple he says; “Come back to my place.”

By this stage my love for this kind bumbling man knows no bounds — He is a fine soul and I respect him. I let him down gently. I say; “Thanks so much but I have a long drive tomorrow so — no.”

When he insists I gently say;

“Walsey, I don’t want to drink anything more tonight so thanks so much for inviting me but no.”

He has had a few too many wines so asks couple more times until he finally gets the “No” in good humour.

The grey nomads are hysterical. I am blissed out.

Kind, generous and genuine people come in many guises.

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Horses, dogs and children… Sage Advice from an Australian Jackaroo

Silhouette of a CowboyMy school in Wubin had a program that linked you with a “pen friend”. This was sort of like an old fashioned “facebook friend”. My pen friend was called Michael Boladaris and he lived on Wonganoo station that was miles out of Wiluna in the Western Desert.

We sent letters to each other for many years all the way through primary and high school. At the Wiluna gymkhana we would meet and hang out together.

Going outback to the gymkhana was a long adventure of driving down roads into the desert often not seeing another car for up to half a day.

We would drive by soft yellow sand plain with a mad profusion of crazy coloured wildflowers, and then into the red dirt that got up your nose in your ears and every crevice of everything.

 

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Beautiful red dirt with a pristine blue sky.

We would stop along the way in deserted gold mining towns and we children would fossick for junk.

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Desert finds. In the past there were many gold mining towns near the roads. These are now just concrete. broken glass and bits of metal with the odd find.

Finally we would be in Wiluna and camp in the bush as there were no caravan parks.

No showers or toilets for camping in those days, we would just camp somewhere flat use the showers provided at the gymkhana and when we felt the need we grabbed a shovel and squatted behind a bush.

Families  would cook on an open fire and after dinner we would sit around  and gaze into the fire or someone would grab a guitar and sing.

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Fire gazing — the original TV

We would all be so exhausted from the gymkhana that as soon as it was really dark we would sleep in our swags under a pitch black sky with a myriad of diamond like stars.

I would watch for satellites — they were really infrequent then, and then I would go to sleep with the sound of the wind, cicadas and at times; night birds.

One night just as twilight was occurring and dinner was cooking on the open fire a old guy was sitting with my family around the campfire.

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Open fire cooking makes the food taste better — sort of smoky and crispy.

I remember that the bush had that soft orange glow that it gets as the last rays of sun hit the tops of the low bushes and reflects from the gum leaves. There was a quietness in that evening where sound carried for a long distance.

This man was probably somewhere between 25 – 30 years old and seemed so OLD to the young me. He was dressed in jeans, heeled cowboy boots, and a check shirt. His body was lean and muscular with skin that was thickened and dark from the sun. Around his eyes were smile wrinkles with white in the crinkles where the sun didn’t tan due to his habit of smiling.

He gently cajoled me aside from my family through the scrub and away from the fire in that beautiful early evening. I clearly remember the beauty of that soft light on the bushes, and the quiet.

I was a shy farm child but he felt OK and he worked hard at overcoming my shyness until he really had me on my own and had my total attention.

He then gently and repeatedly told me some of the best advice I have ever been given in my life and it was:

“Never go with a man who is not kind to horses, dogs and children.

If they are not kind to horses, dogs and children they will not be kind to you.”

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Check out how people treat their dogs and that is how they will treat you.

He asked me to repeat it for him to show that I understood and then lead me back to the fire.

In my life, I have noticed that this advice is true for both men and women — if they are not kind I know not to give them much attention — to leave them alone.

The times I have not used this advice I have always regretted it.

I have never forgotten that man and I wish I could thank him.

The Doctor who confused arms with legs!

It was 3.15 am and I was in a taxi speeding towards my daughters home in Melbourne.

I had been in Melbourne for a couple of days catching up with Kia and had a wonderful time with her showing me around her favourite spots.

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I had seen Victoria night markets,

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seen quirky fashion and even bought a real 1960’s pair of bathers for summer. We had eaten interesting food seen crazy dogs

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and people plus enjoyed streets of cafes and bars and even Daiso!

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Back to the taxi ride, the taxi driver was asking me about what I was doing so early in the morning. I told him my 21 year old daughter Kia had moved from WA to Melbourne a few months ago and I was visiting. I told him how she had just phoned saying that she had been vomiting without stop since 10pm and needed help. Lucky I was in the city really…

The Sirian taxi driver told me that all his children stayed at home until they were married, some at 34 and one as late as 39 years old. He had five sons and a daughter. He wasn’t judgmental that my daughter had left home so early — just observing difference. He said that he couldn’t understand why a person would leave a loving family to move in with strangers.

I was wondering about our Western need to have independent young adults. I had left home at twelve for boarding school and was living with a girlfriend from school at seventeen. I thought nothing of the fact that Kia was off in the great wide world living life at twenty-one.

A small part of me just wanted to protect her and keep her close and make sure she was safe —my heart remembers her as the vulnerable baby and toddler. In times of stress my heart retreats to the past to those wonderful times— reminiscing the time where I could fix most things for her easily.

The taxi sped the wrong way down Kia’s empty one-way street where she was waiting at the door with a large bowl. After a “U’ie” we were whisked off to the famous St Vincent’s hospital emergency department.

It was really quiet in there with two people in the waiting room—both were sleeping on the chairs and one was snoring loudly.

We booked in and waited, Kia noisily vomiting every few seconds, and crying in pain so much so that she awoke the other two “waiters” in the waiting room.

After half an hour she was given an injection to stop the stomach cramps and she too lay down on the seats getting up every five to ten minutes for another spasmodic emptying.

By 5.30am all three of the emergency patients were still in place in the waiting room. Apparently they had been busy with severely injured ambulance clients.

Kia decided that she had been there long enough and wanted to go home. She got up went outside and I followed. She then had a semi collapse in the street—so back to the waiting room. By this time the drug had worn off so she crying in pain and vomiting her heart out.

At about 6.30am she was shown a bed and after half an hour the nurse gave her some medication and things settled down a bit.

Again she was left until the medication wore off. At this stage she was making such a noise retching and crying in pain that a Doctor finally came to see her.

At about 8.30 am a smiling rounded young Doctor came and in his lilting accent asked her to move her arms straight whilst grabbing her legs and pushing down on them.

Kia was a bit confused and straightened her arms but he insisted that she moved her arms straight and again pushed down on her legs.

Kia asked; “Do you mean my legs?” He responded; “Yes, your arms” and pushed some more. When she straightened her legs he said; “That’s right”.

Now this Doctor who didn’t know the difference between arms and legs was a bit of a worry!

He seemed to know his drugs—even if he didn’t know her body parts!

He gave her some morphine and when that didn’t really work — some more morphine. Finally the pattern of spasm, pain and vomiting stopped. He ordered a battery of blood tests, ultrasound and lots of poking and prodding. He seemed to know that bit of his work and I found out that his accent was Romanian so forgave his ever so slight misdemeanour about arms and legs after a frantic night for him in ED.

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At about 2pm she was discharged with more drugs and no diagnosis. All is quiet finally.

Unofficial Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb in the mid 80’s

In the 1980’s life was a little more simple. Perhaps it was that I was more relaxed and less fearful of doing silly things?

I was in Sydney visiting a friend who I will call Harry. We were sitting around in Ugg boots and Lycra having dinner at his house in Paddington.

I spent the whole of the 1980’s in designer Lycra. I hand spray painted and had elaborate designs stitched onto my tracksuits and other stretchy exercise clothing that I wore all the time. I remember once voting in Cottesloe in a pair of bikinis as though that was the most normal thing to do. My memories of the 1980’s was that it was a chilled time of extreme exercise and physically comfortable clothing.

Just as we were finishing dinner he said to me “Would you like to climb Sydney Harbour Bridge?”

Well… as a very fit and healthy person I was up for any fun so said “Yes”.

There was no official bridge climb at that time. The bridge climb came almost a decade and a half later in 1998. In the 1980’s the only people who climbed the bridge were people who looked after it in some way — or people like Harry and myself.

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Harry had been told how to access the bridge to climb it, so we jumped into his car and drove to the area at the base of the pylons. On the picture above it is that area where there are the upright brick structures. Harry had bought some carpet along so that we could climb over the barbed wire fence.

Once we got there I found out that before the barbed wire bit was a bit of an obstacle course. First we had to scale a very steep wall with the carpet. On the top of the wall was a six foot high fence and on the top of the fence was the barbed wire.

Being athletic and strong that was the least of our problems. The first problem was to find a time span between the security vehicles so that we would not be caught. We waited in the car until a police car came and just as it left around a corner we got into action. We quickly scaled the wall and then the fence, immediately pulling the carpet into the opening at the side of the brick structure where we could enter the bridge struts. Adrenaline pumping stuff! We were both panting and sweating by the time we were secreted way in the dark of the entrance to the bridge.

We went up some stairs and eventually we found the opening where you could climb within the metal spans. Each metal span seemed a bit wider than I was and higher than it was wider.

Here is an old photograph showing a span that we climbed within.

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An old photograph showing one of the spans. We climbed within one of the upper spans.

The slope upwards was really steep and there were large smooth bolts and metal lips at very regular intervals all the way up. It was like climbing within a slippery metal cave. We climbed and at intervals there were openings in the top where you could push back a metal plate and look out.

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The bridge is covered in smooth metal bolts.

My main problem was the Ugg boots as they were not the least bit useful for gripping on to the smooth iron base of the column. After some time we came to the place where it flattened out where we were going to  look out at the very top. As far as we could tell it was the top because there is little slope at the top. To our great disappointment the lookout slot had been fixed shut. I am guessing that this was because the bridge people wanted to dissuade people like ourselves from climbing.

We then retraced our steps slipping and sliding our way downwards again to get to the bottom and back to our piece of carpet. Anxiously we waited for ages for the next security patrol and when it left we quickly threw the carpet over the barbed wire, scaled the fence and then thundered down the sloped wall to be back in the car again after our adventure.

In 2010 I was in Sydney and decided to climb the bridge the official way.

It was such a let down — the original climb was so much more interesting and fun — and it was free. I don’t mean free in cost as the cost was reasonable, I mean free in spirit.

The official bridge climb required enough equipment —the cost of which would probably to keep a whole third world family in food and education for a year. It was slooowwwwww… as slow as the most unfit of humanity.  So slow I could have fallen asleep at any time during the climb. I couldn’t help thinking “Wendy you are spending your life one moment at a time. Is this experience worth it?”

However I have to admit the views were much better.

Ora Banda Pub — A dalliance on the way to Lake Ballard

 

So many huge metropolises in the outback of Western Australia are now just broken glass, a bit of tin and some shrubs. Ora Banda has been a bit more fortunate and in its current manifestation it is a beautiful stone building that is operating as a pub.

A pub in the middle of nowhere as it is a one hour 40 minute drive from Coolgardie and Coolgardie is in the nearly at the end of the Earth.

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Coolgardie streets were made wide enough to turn a camel train.


I was there on my way to the desert sculptures at Lake Ballard. This is a sculpture installation by Antony Gormley and consists of fifty one sculptures over an area of ten square kilometres. I wanted to “run the sculptures and this is what I eventually did.

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Running the Sculptures in the salt

I will explain how I got to Ora Banda and what happened. 

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Distant Sculpture on Lake Ballard

Around the Coolgardie area there are many tourist attractions but they are spread over 1,000’s of desert miles.

The locals know the way to these places because that is part of their being, the places of their childhood holidays and memories.

They have not looked at their signage in a way that makes the slightest bit of sense to a visitor.

I thought that I was on my way to Lake Ballard and I was doing my best to go via Rowlands Lagoon, however with many a side road unmarked I ended up in Ora Banda.

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Ora Banda Pub where an unsolved bikie murder occurred in 2000. I’m guessing that it must be a good place for a murder as it is isolated.

I stopped at the pub because I decided to ask a local if I was on the right road to get to Lake Ballard.

I was planning to take the gravel road that didn’t take me via Menzies.

I like the isolation of dirt roads — the lack of traffic. I revel in the feeling of the slippery-slidey roll under the tyres as they spin and slide against the round stones so that if you don’t correct extremely gently you will be flipped and the car will simply spin, career out of control or tip over and slide on the roof for a while.

Meditation and focus at its best — a little slice of heaven.

Ora Banda pub is a beautiful stone building and as I walked towards it I wondered how it would smell. It didn’t disappoint because it smelt of alcohol and dust.

It didn’t have that terrible chemical smell of Perth hotels where they have used a bucket load of “products” that results in them smelling like public toilets.

The Ora Banda pub had that honest smell of sweat, dust and plonk.

It was dark inside in the way that old buildings are and it took some time for my eyes to adjust, and then I noticed that it was decorated with ancient photographs and quaint bits of history.

At the bar was a young man who looked Maori — and when I asked about the roads he said that he didn’t know a thing about the area and he motioned to the two women who were sitting at the far end of the long bar.

They only two patrons of the place at 11.30 AM — he said that they would know.

I walked down the bar to these women and I immediately had eye contact with a woman in her 30’s who had those sorts of 1980’s “Ita Buttrose” eyebrows that had been shaped so that she looked constantly surprised by life. She also had bottled jet-black hair with very pale skin. I started to ask her which road was the unsealed one that went directly to Lake Ballard.

The woman next to her simply took over—the surprised looking, black haired woman didn’t get a chance to speak.

This other woman was large in a brick shit house sort of way, not fat but huge — all muscle and tone. Her manner was butch and she walked over to me and hovered over me with a presence that seems to block out the rest of the world.

To me it was as though she had decided that I was someone who needed to be protected from my “delusional city slicker ideas “ and that I should not worry my “pretty little head” about driving on a gravel road.

Every query I had was answered with a protective “go to the left, there is bitumen” answer.

She had beautiful clear blue eyes and she eye balled me and twinkled them so that I knew that she was interested in protecting me.

Attraction energy has a sort of buzz and she was buzzing me with full force.

She kept telling me that the way that I wanted to go was simply too difficult, too many wash-a-ways, too much trouble for me. She even said that maybe my car would not make the journey!

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My trusty “Landy” in Coolgardie – it loves the outback roads.

My heart was smiling at this situation and with that feeling I quietly said that my car was designed to drive down roads…

I decided to retreat as I had learned that the gravel road I thought was the right way would get me to Lake Ballard.

I moved over towards the door and she followed me and hovered that huge energy over me and it felt that she was trying to trap my will to leave.

Her presence was so huge and overbearingly protective that I could have felt small and dependant.

Yes, I am small but I don’t ever feel small except when I can’t reach a top cupboard. I only feel small when it is a bonus such as sleeping in the back of my car.

I don’t feel small around people — that’s not an option.

As I was leaving she followed me and at the door were tourist maps on the wall.

She took a few of them out and explained to me the best way —which was the way I didn’t want to go— and as she did this her alcoholic breath made me a tad dizzy.

At this stage the black haired woman decided to eke her way back in to the conversation — she agreed with her friend.

I thanked them both and left and took the “wrong” gravel road and had a wonderful trip to Lake Ballard.

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The sunlight reflected on the salt with a distant sculpture that was quite a run away. I didn’t get to run all fifty one it was way too hot.

 

 

“Past Life Therapy”. What the? What is a past life?

The very first man I dated at nineteen reappeared in my life thirty seven years after our split. I had forgotten why our relationship had ended.

During those thirty-seven years if someone had asked me about the most influential relationships I had in my life I would have missed that relationship out completely.

Not because I did it consciously, I had simply relegated the experience to the most distant recesses of my mind and only the basics of it were available for recall.

My first-ever long-term relationship… That lasted a whole year… My first love… Not an important influence?

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Nineteen years old and with the whole world before me

Now that was an interesting psychological phenomenon to observe in myself.

I will explain…

In seventies and eighties the thing to do on a Sunday was to go to the “Sesh.” The Sunday session was a few of hours of binge drinking that occurred because of the liquor licensing laws.

It was probably the catalyst for our binge drinking culture — the government of the time had special religious laws that trained us to binge drink.

My sister and I started the habit of going to Steve’s “Sesh” in Nedlands when I was about fifteen or sixteen years old and we kept it up until I was eighteen and once I was of legal age I felt that it was optional.

Steve’s was popular and packed and there were always people spilling out the doors. I didn’t have any money at the time so drinking wasn’t an choice, I would order a glass of water and it would arrive with ice and I would sip it as though it was straight vodka.

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Steve’s Pub

I was at boarding school at the time, and every second week-end my parents would sign me out so I could stay with my grandmother in Nedlands.

It was wonderful staying with her as she really cared for me in a way that my mother couldn’t so I revelled in her attention.

At the “Sesh” if a man asked me if I wanted a drink I would order a Pim’s because it was pretty and I liked the umbrella — I actually didn’t much like alcohol and didn’t really drink much of it until my mid 20’s.

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Pims complete with umbrella

On the Sunday’s that I was with my Nanna, I would hang out at the “Sesh” for the few hours allowed and then go back to Nannas, don my school uniform complete with tie, hat and lace up shoes. I would take the taxi back to the “gaol like” boarding school by 8pm.

I had no idea what Nanna thought we were doing. Maybe she thought that we were just going for a walk?

Times were much freer then and most adults were not the control freaks that many parents are now.

I left boarding school and continued with the Sunday “Sesh” with friends when there was nothing better to do.

We would trawl around to different places. One of the places was Chelsea Tavern also in Nedlands but on the highway. We would walk in and it would be so crowded that we women would get fondled and pinched and not know who did it as there were too many close men to choose from.

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The Zydecats at Chelsea Tavern in the 1980’s

I always found these places noisy, confusing and as I didn’t often drink — outright stupid. I remember men with reddened, beaded sweaty faces and slurred words coming much too close to me and blasting me with alcoholic breath while asking me out.

I don’t really know why I went. Peer pressure I am guessing — it just seemed to be the thing that was done on a Sunday afternoon.

After a couple of weeks going to Chelsea Tavern I got to know a guy who I will call Sam. He was English and had not been in Australia for long. Sam had the strongest accent, and to my unschooled Australian ears it sound as though he was from Northern England — Manchester or somewhere like that. I thought that he was from the back blocks of nowhere.

Little did I know that he was from London and had a life of endless opportunity and due to rheumatic fever conversely had experienced such pain that he would spend his life trying to prove that he was good enough by being spectacular.

He was quiet and thoughtful and didn’t seem to get drunk, sweaty and garrulously —  stick his face in my space — annoying.

I was a student and was still skint so I am guessing he bought me a Pims or two.  After some time we got to go out together.

We went out for about a year but it was a strange relationship because he spent all weekend playing soccer.

I am not a spectator so when he invited me to “watch my man play sport” I declined as I had assignments and study to do. I could see no point in sitting in the cold being bored to death. It would have been like putting my life on hold to “please” my man — while I wasted my life. That was not going to happen therefore  we  caught up during the week and I would be home by midnight.

Sort of a Cinderella thing, I had my life to lead as he did and we both accepted that fact.

Apparently he was well known in the soccer world but I was oblivious to that fact. He had played a few games for Chelsea and then played in Johannesburg before coming to Australia under a very good contract. I knew nothing about soccer so this didn’t impress me.

Although he had only been in Australia a short time he owned a house and had started a business. Again I knew nothing about buying houses and business so didn’t give those facts a thought.

OK — lets get things straight here. I was nineteen years old and at that age many people are not interested in that sort of stuff, and I wasn’t. I was on my own life path where I had decided that these sorts of things were going to be done by me and I was not interested in the success or lack of it in the man I was dating.

Another fact was that he was eleven years older than me. “What the?” was I not thinking. “What the?” was he doing?

When I was older and told my friends about him they called him the “Cradle snatcher.”

Anyway, that is the way it was…

Sam had a younger brother who was addicted to heroin and at times he would come and stay at the house. This brother was extremely good looking — at the time — however — just having him in the same room as me gave me the creeps. He would proposition me the minute Sam was out of the room — it was skin crawling stuff.

I tried to speak to Sam about this but he was dismissive.

What is it about alpha males? Do they have a specific neuropathy of the eight cranial nerve — auditory/vestibulo-cochlear? Or is it a fact of life that most men simply don’t listen to women?

He had a life full of work, business deals, soccer training, games and deals on the side and he mainly focused on that.

Over the year I came to understand that he was just not really interested in putting time let alone care and kindness into creating a healthy relationship with me, so I moved on.

My heart was bereft. In order to deal with it I blocked him out of my mind — I hit the delete key and that was that.

I remember him being really upset by our relationship demise. This is the polar opposite of the previous behaviours of  ” I don’t give a toss” that he had been doing before the split.

It appeared to me that he only gave me true attention once I had let him go. How many songs of that time sing about that situation? Whole albums of both male and female singers.

For some time afterwards my doorstep would have gifts from him.

First a dozen red roses in a beautiful white box with a red ribbon — my reaction to that was “Why didn’t he bother to do that when were together?

Then he started to leave records. First Carole King — Tapestry — with a note to listen to track four — “Home again.”

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Luckily at the time I simply put the record away and didn’t notice the irony of Track three — what I felt — preceding how he felt or I could have got him to listen to Track three “It’s too Late.”

I purposely didn’t listen to the words of Home Again and didn’t until decades later. I just didn’t want to revisit a relationship with him — that level of painful confusion was not an option.

Over time he  became more introspective so left Carly Simon and then the Moody Blues records— again I didn’t listen to the tracks that he asked.

Once I had hit that exquisitely painful delete key I just couldn’t.

From about that time onwards I had a “gluey” disc at L5/S1 and it would regularly get stiff.

I would always do the right thing being the “a good Physiotherapist.” It didn’t give me major issues apart from feeling stiff on and off. It did sometimes annoy me that it would come back but it was never severe enough to actually seriously treat because it would release with a few stretches. I didn’t give it much thought.

Over the years I occasionally saw Sam and each time he tried to engage me. I was always polite but I had him filed away as “not good for me” so I kept him at arms length so that he had no way in.

Fast-forward thirty-seven years.

When I was fifty-six Sam contacted me again and asked me for coffee.

At this age I was unphased by the behaviour of others. Time had cured me of the vast majority of my insecurities. I felt up to whatever arose in life. Therefore, I curious about us as I realised that I had forgotten or blocked most of the details of that relationship.

I was not sure that was a good thing.

This left me feeling interested as to why I couldn’t remember what had happened and open to meeting up with him.

 

I  felt that it would be “character building” for me to open that Pandora’s box of suppressed emotions, so I decided to follow that idea. We started dating again or as I can see it now. I consciously put myself into “past-life-therapy”.

It was a strange feeling to date Sam, as I would slip in and out of current time.

One moment I would feel like that nineteen year old who was enamored with him and at other times I would see him from my calm older eyes, only to be flipped back into the past and feel all confused and bothered again.

It was exquisite fun!

At times I would simply say to him “I’m back at nineteen you’re not going to get any sense out of me now, I will answer that later” Sam would look confused by that answer but I was telling the truth.

It was bliss to be back in his arms as it was familiar and felt “right.” I think the physical attraction was probably the main reason I was with him at that young age.  He was actually a good choice as he had been a very gentle, interesting and kind lover. Just what an inexperienced nineteen year-old would require when you come to think of it.

He thought that it would be a good idea for us to travel together for a week to see how we would get on in present time.  It proved to be an amazing week for me. Familiar and easy would be the feelings I would give our time together.

Each day another memory would return and I would be whipped back into the past to face another situation that I had buried.

It was like having a daily Kinesiology or Psychology session without the Therapist.

A gentle unfolding of feelings and memories, so as the time went along I realised why I left him in the first place and it was a solid reason that would have to be sorted if we were to keep dating.

In current time I teach a course on relationships and this is one of the quotes by Tolstoy that I use in the course.

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All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Leo Tolstoy

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Happy families require all of the functional behaviours and if one or more is missing then you can’t have a long term healthy, happy family.

This maxim is true for relationships and businesses. I have stolen that quote and rewritten it.

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All happy relationships resemble one another, each unhappy relationship is unhappy in its own way.

Wendy Schulze (apologies to Leo Tolstoy)

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This is the reason why I chose to move on from Sam — he didn’t have a few basic relationship skills.

We discussed this and Sam was most happy to talk however, his actions remained the same. This is exactly what had happened thirty seven years before and that gave me a clear choice.

It was like a “not so instant replay” thirty-seven years later.

This time I left him knowing that he was not meaning to be hurtful or unkind. He simply didn’t have primary relationship skills and didn’t seem interested in learning them.

He had explained to me that his relationships during those thirty-seven years had not been very happy. They had been filled with bitter recriminations and all that sort of stuff that doesn’t really interest me — these unhappy relationships were still affecting him in current time.

After we stopped dating I was struck down by severe back pain. I couldn’t sleep at night due to the pain. Worse, treatment didn’t help. This is because I was stretching it as I would normally do. I hadn’t realised that this time it was a different situation for those joints.

After a couple of weeks of not sleeping I understood that the pain was mainly inflammation — not my usual stiffness— and once I started to give myself Physiotherapy treatment for inflammation it quickly settled and I have not had a stiff back since.

It was like I had been holding that tightness and pain in that triad of joints for all those years. Once I reclaimed and resolved those feelings it just let go, and when it started to move after thirty-seven years it protested with inflammation.

This is what Applied Kinesiology is based on. Emotions creating stiffness, pain or illness. I was a living example of resolved emotions resolving physical ailments.

For the last thirty-seven years I would need to stretch my back at least once every few weeks particularly after long flights or times in the car. It is now over a year and I have not had any stiffness in that area despite long times travelling and sitting — it is like a miracle.

I am so grateful towards my nineteen-year-old self who was so enamored and at the same time worked out that that relationship was not good for her.

To love someone and walk away is a very difficult and brave thing to do, that young hurt girl must have been very strong.

Sam and I are now friends and we catch up from time to time.

How to get a free trip worth thousands $$$

This is a story of how to get a free trip worth thousands of dollars. It involves initial straight out pain and agony that transmutes eventually to… free travel to the USA.

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When I was in my 20’s I was living with a man and together we had few limits — I will call him Luke.

Anyway Luke and I were always interested in pushing the boundaries of what was possible.

This is what I wrote about how I felt at the time.

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To live with my partner is to live with my best friend, not only my friend but also my lover and teacher. He is the clown in my life, the brainteaser.

He stretches my limits and holds me close when the limits seem too daunting.

I am able to do what ever takes my attention when he is around, be it pulling faces in the mirror, singing at the piano, trading the share market or having a bath in the goldfish pond. We impose few limits.

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Cooling down on a hot day while making a gold fish pond.

When we find a limit, after a little insecurity, a few tears and laughs, we gently remind each other that limits are the death of our fun time together, so we push the limits until they go.

Being with him is so much fun that it seems impossible to imagine life with out such a loving companion.

We are each other’s teacher, lover, muso, Macintosh freak, sexual dynamo, or what ever. Label a label and we can be it together, then, change the label and try that!

One thing that I have learned, the more I let him be, the more freedom I have to be me.

When we are apart we have the practice and confidence to be ourselves around others, because we have already been bathed in each other’s acceptance.

Learning this together has been frightening, fun and always exciting.

How could I ever get bored with him when he is always changing? Just when I think I know him, he finds another skill, another way of doing something, another view of planet earth. My inspiration is no longer stifled and I also find new and better ways to surprise myself — and of course — him.

This mutual acceptance inspires us both to look at the world differently and constantly search for new and better ways of behaving and having fun.

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This story is about our lack of limits regarding creating a new career in the computer business and thus getting the free trip.

We both decided that we would like a new challenge so after a great deal of discussion, many glasses of wine and some laughter we decided to start a computer software company that specialized in computer security.

I think we registered it as DATACOMP SECURITY SERVICES at least from my recall. This was a serious business that suited Luke’s intellect but not necessarily our sense of fun.

We purchased an expensive IBM clone computer and decided to learn DOS. We set it up in our spare bedroom on a table and we would go into that room and learn how to use it. It was big, bulky and serious. A large hard disc and a screen and a clunky keyboard.

GJq6-cemElEvu5t66890AkxkFQ3ubf6aZn3BHlFgoVI
The CLONE

For all the people who don’t remember DOS it is a computer language where every single thing that you type has to be absolutely correct. Not a full stop or a space wrong or the whole thing wouldn’t work.

For example to open the word processing program we would have to type;

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C:\>winword.exe

Then press ENTER.

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…and don’t forget the :\> in the whole shebang!

Another easy example:

When you want to print on a Laser Printer 2 on your network.

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C:\>net use lpt2 \\pserver\laser1 /persistent:yes,

and then press ENTER.

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We both started to learn DOS and it was excruciating. We would get so frustrated that we would actually cry real tears.

I remember the conversation when we decided to leave a box of tissues by the computer. It was a practical conversation about what was required if we were to succeed and still be able to see the manuals and screen while we were learning.

We didn’t give our frustration much attention we would simply sit there and cry, dab our eyes with the tissues and blow our noses.

We had no formal training in computers and no help from teachers let alone Google. Google was not to be invented for at least fifteen years later.

It was such a stretch — the pain of it was like purposely using a pair of pliers to slowly… and with great conviction….pull out our own finger-nails, one by one…

stretch

It felt like an excruciating type of self-torture that was not to be ceased until the goal was reached.

You people who have never lived without Google simply can’t understand that at that time you had to get in your car and during opening hours — which was mainly work hours — go into to the library or a bookshop to get the books.  To make it even harder back then shops and libaries didn’t open after hours very much.

Sometimes I would go to a library or bookshop and have to order the book and it would take a couple of weeks or a month or two to arrive. This is the way it was then.

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Digger would lie on the manuals and soak up the knowledge.

Many of the computer tomes at the time were written by geeks not educators so they were really difficult to decipher and almost impossible to understand. All at once we were learning geek language, DOS and then finally the actual language we were going to program in such as “C” or “C++” etc.

I never did get to the programming.

The library had old computer information therefore we finally found out that we had to go to universities and buy the very latest text books.

We actually went to every university bookshop in Perth at the time that had computer studies. We bought all of the books for the courses we needed to know.  I remember having three text books on System Analysis and Design. By the time I had read them all I knew what to do.

It was expensive and then we had to actually allocate the time and brain space to read them with some sort of understanding.

We read and discussed them ad infinitum. In the bath, when drinking beer on a late Sunday afternoon, at the beach and we read and read until they started to make sense and slowly our brains became computer savvy.

Digger ever wanting to join in. He would study and then demonstrate different DOS commands.

digger study

digger study 2

Luke focused on the programming side and I focused on the design side. I read huge books about systems analysis and design while he did the nit picking work of programming.

The whole time we were learning we were also each others teacher and student. We were relentless and used a kind type of “tough love” to gently and lovingly “bully” each other to keep going.

Neither of us had the time to attend the university courses. It is amazing how quickly you can learn when you don’t have lectures, assignments and exams to hold you up.

It was slow and agonizing pain as our neurons had to grow dendrites and our minds had to reshape so that we could be that perfect that we could type every single letter, space and symbol in the correct order.  Conversely when we had a mishap we could calmly and easily correct our mistakes.

After some time we got better at it and things started to move along…

Then we both realized that my Physiotherapy business would benefit from having a computer with the right software. That would require specialist software and there was nothing around that was suitable.

We then changed our minds and decided to develop software for Physiotherapists.

Luke researched this scenario and we decided that we needed a graphical interface so that I could write an exercise manual with graphics. The idea was to create a program that would print out individualized exercise programs for clients. Luke would write the program. Then write the user manual and I created the extensive exercise manual of over 400 exercises and write and publish that manual.

We designed a simple accounting program for Physiotherapists to go with it.

In the end Macintosh computers were the way to go. The IBM’s at the time had extremely limited graphics of the pac-man variety while Apple had beautiful crisp graphics of a high quality.

Our beautiful Mac +
Our beautiful Mac +

An absolute no brainer so we switched to the Macintosh +  computer, and replaced the clunker with a  beautiful being. I wrote this about it at the time.

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Macintosh Adoration — Wendy Schox 1988

When I switched on the Macintosh, the lights in my little old house flickered perceptibly, and the Macintosh made humming and tringing sounds as the disc searched to find itself, ready for the next sessions of musings.

Finally the disc ceased the noise and sat shining brightly waiting for me to sit at the keyboard and tap.

Reaching for the mouse I “double clicked” the word processing application and began.

Luke was ironing and as the thermostat of the iron caused the iron to repeatedly switch off and on I began to wonder why I was living in such a place.

My Macintosh had to suffer all sorts of electrical indignities because of the old wiring and dust in this house. Often when I worked at home the electrical chaos caused strange behavior from my computer, so much so, that I often had corrupted files.

small computer300
My new best friend a Mac +

This resulted in my Monday mornings being times to repair the computer before I could begin work.

I was addicted and I knew it, home was not the place to bring this small grey friend of mine.

macbagon300
If only this worked!

Mac through all this just glowed and hummed, checked errors, gently reminded me with beeps, wizzes and trills when it was saving my thoughts on to the disk.

A gentle but powerful companion.

How could I leave Mac on its own in the office all weekend?

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After the IBM DOS clunker — how much easier was a Macintosh ? It was like distress and pain versus ease and joy.

We called our new company Schox Corporation – this was a mixture of our two surnames. Then we named our Physiotherapy program “Physi-soft™” and we were open for programming design and coding.

Together Luke and I worked mindfully and the programs were completed and tested at my clinic.

We had contacted Apple Computer Australia and they made us into “Certified Developers”. This meant that we could ring them for support, plus they would send us the latest information of what was happening in “Apple world”. Additionally we could attend conferences and get hardware at a discount etc. It was an absolute buzz to be included with all the geeks!

I felt that we were just impostors who had worked our guts out trying to understand the industry.

The next step was to write the manuals. Luke researched and we decided to take our inspiration from the beautiful Apple Manuals.

Apple had a saying that went something like this;

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Imagine that the screen is a quiet room

and everything you put on it is a noise.

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To this day I still refer to this phrase as it applies to many things in life. Steve Jobs may or may not have been a fun guy to know — however — he certainly understood beauty and quality and we were hooked.

We copied the Apple Manuals. This meant 12-point Garamond text with 14-point bold Tahoma headings, two returns between  paragraphs, fine lines (0.5 point) to separate subjects and wide columns. We learned about kerning and leading and included that in our manuals.

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Clean and with lots of white – Physi-soft™ Users Guide.

We then researched paper — I had no idea that the choice of paper was so extensive and Luke finally chose mat gloss 90gsm. Then binding, packaging, floppy disc covers and the list went on and on.

Every detail had to be correctly researched and then implemented. All of those tears and tissues started to pay off, we were able to do detail to the ‘nth degree.

I decided that the graphics for the exercises needed to have no gender, age or race.

HI there 300
Zee

I developed a character that we called Zee. We hired a Graphic Artist—Steven to draw them. I spent ages physically showing Steven exactly how I wanted the exercise graphic to appear and what to emphasize.

I wanted the graphics to be so clear that a child could understand them without reading the description.

The exercise manual had hundreds of pictures that we had to scan, and then save at 300 dpi— any higher then we would run out of disc room — then we had to “box” each graphic in a clear box (yes this was a detail not to be missed) so that they would each sit on the page correctly, with the right amount of space around them.

I remember scanning saving and “boxing” for days.

There were two manuals the “user” manual and then the “exercise” manual.

We bought a laser printer. At the time they were $6,000 each at the Certified Developer discount price! This created some financial stress as getting software coded, was also a huge expense in both time and money. We printed the manuals and had them professionally bound.

Hundreds of hours of work, yet Luke and I enjoyed the challenge, as nothing could be as hard as the initial stages of this project.

Finally we finished and sent a copy off to Apple Computer Australia so that they could assess if the quality was OK.

There was a conference scheduled at Leura in the Blue Mountains out of Sydney. We went along but really wanted to stand out from the crowd because only two companies in Australia were going to be given a free trip to the USA by Apple Computer Australia.

This offer would pay for airfares, plus a conference booth at a World trade show in Washington DC. The whole lot was worth thousands of dollars and we wanted that trip. 

We gave this some discussion and I decided that I would have my head shaved and have a lightening bolt shaved into the side of my “Grace Jones” inspired crew cut.

I had very long blue black shiny thick hair that was probably my signature feature at the time. I had it all shaved off and the lightening bolts shaved in the side.

digger study 4
Please notice the Femo broach of a lightening bolt in Apple colours.
We went ALL OUT to get that trip.

To drive our point home Luke and I decided to change our surnames to Schox. We paid the $79.00 filled in the forms and officially by deed pole became Luke and Wendy Schox of Schox Corporation

schox 2
My business card with lightening bolt!

Off to the conference we went and we were noticed!

Yes, we got the trip – how could they resist us?

washington DC 1988 4

 Me in Washington DC six months later – my hair is long here.

Now how did that happen so quickly? I will write about that later…

Post script

Andrew Mason was one of my nerdy windsurfing computer friends at the time. He was the other Apple certified developer who won the other trip at the time so it was a win for Western Australia that year as only two companies got to go.

Andrew  wrote the following comment on my Facebook link when I posted this story.

“It’s all true. I still remember being at the Apple developer conference in Leura in the Blue Mountains, and Apple giving out CD ROMS of developer documentation. Unfortunately CD drives for the Mac were not yet available, and you sarcastically asked if we were supposed to hold the disks up to the light and read the zeroes and ones ourselves. Later when I asked you about changing your name to Schox by deed poll I remember you replied “it’s amazing what you can do with $20 and a sense of humour”. And Garamond is still my favourite font.”

Joe Danau — Spiritual Artist / Builder

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 8.23.30 PM“When in the bush at first it seems like there is nothing there. After some time the land get’s you then you become part of the land. Then when you lift a rock or look up you notice that the world is teaming with life. Everything is living—the air, everything… This is what I try to put in my paintings—the things that you don’t necessarily see.” Joe Danau

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Joe Danau – Australian Builder and Artist

joes-solar-picture

Joe Danau found his artistic inspiration and enlightenment from the most unlikely of circumstances.

It is as though Joe has had a few lives in this one lifetime. He began his life in Belgium and his childhood was deeply affected by the war. When peace came he migrated to Australia. He then became a very successful tradie, then builder and businessman with his own sub-contracting company. Unexpectedly he was influenced by a most ‘out of this world’ unusual friendship, to finally find his way back to his original childhood intention of becoming an artist.

This is Joes life story so far.

Joe was born in Belgium in 1935 and the first five years were wonderful years where the people of Belgium couldn’t spend all of their money. Food was plentiful, there was laughing, dancing the Charleston and life was plentiful. His mother owned a cafe in Brussels where beer and food was sold and the cafe seemed to be one constant party for the young Joe.

 Joes childhood

Joes older brother (left) and little Joe in their woollen pants

When he was about five the war arrived in Belgium and Joe he remembers going by horse and cart down the main road out of Brussels with a man who owned the horse, his mother and brother.

Joe’s Mother had decided to take an open horse and cart away from the invasion—it was a quick decision in the heat of the moment.

They were part of a mass exodus and the road was packed with people and their belongings. After one day of walking down the road the old horse was exhausted so they pulled off the road beside a big warehouse. Very soon after they pulled off they heard the sound of German airplanes as they came over machine gunning, shooting and dropping small bombs onto the road and down the side of the road that was full of people. If they had not pulled off when they did they may have been killed.

Soon after that some Germans soldiers drove down the road and pulled over to the warehouse and broke in. They found that it was full of food—biscuits and jam. One solider gave Joe an open tin of jam and he remembers sitting on the stairs and eating from the big can with his fingers.

His mother decided it was really unsafe to stay or go further down the road away from Brussels and so asked his brother to get Joe so that they could return to Brussels. Unknown to the mother his brother couldn’t find Joe and simply jumped back on the cart without him.  They started back down the road without Joe. Luckily for Joe when this was discovered they came back and found him on the stairs with the jam.

On the way back the stench on the road was horrific. There was blood, body parts and guts everywhere. The horse was as spooked as were the humans.  It was very slow going with fear their constant companion.

At this stage a row of German tanks came out from Brussels. The first tank had a big blade on it that clearing everything off the road.

When they eventually got back to the café they found that people had broken in to the café stolen the beer and used the bed as a toilet.

During the war his mother had to run the café to survive. Joe’s father was initially a POW. He had been rescued by the Swiss Red Cross from a camp. He spent his time in an infirmary recovering from a severely infected head injury that was inflicted by a rifle butt while he was a POW.

 Joes childhood 1

Joe on his bike — in front of his mother’s café.

His grandfather thought that the boys would be safer and better cared for in a Catholic boarding school so as a little mite of seven years old Joe went to live in the strict surroundings of a convent for boys.

Joe escaped the brutality of the boarding school by spending much of his time reading.

He became a choirboy so at times would sing in the Cathedral. This was his first introduction to art because the works of Rubens and many other Flemish Masters were hidden away from the eyes of the invader in the back of the Cathedral. The young Joe loved those paintings and vowed that someday he would become an artist.

Joe painted at this time and the walls of his mother’s café were covered with his works.

When Joe left boarding school he was 12 and when 13 Joe was invited to learn at the Institute of Art in Construction. Everyone else in the class was over 20 years old and some were 30 however, this didn’t worry him at all. He was an immediate success as he had been reading books his whole life so won first prize for the theory and was advanced immediately to the second level.

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The certificate from the Belgium Institute of Art and Construction

The day he turned fourteen his father put him to work and Joe started digging trenches for foundations. At the same time he continued with his studies at night school and learned all about stone masonry, and other artistic aspects of building. At his fathers work he advanced to brick laying.

 Joes childhood 2

Joe the apprentice builder at 14 years old

When peace came the Danau family reunited but the friction between the allied troops and the Russians horrified Joe’s father who had spent three years in hospital recovering. He was filled with trepidation and declared: “We’re not going to be caught again… we must get out of Europe.”

In 1951 the family migrated to Western Australia and bought a farm in Donnybrook.

Country life was not to the liking of 16 year old Joe so he moved up to Fremantle.

Joe’s first work in Belgium had been as a stonemason therefore it was natural that he entered the building trades. Quickly he graduated from bricky’s laborer to a full time bricklayer.

Soon after his 17th birthday he met an Australian girl who had two children and they settled in Fremantle. When he was 20 they were married, as he felt very protective of her and her children particularly as she was mentally unwell. They had two more children making a family of three girls and one boy. This marriage lasted fifty-three years and ended with her death at a ripe old age.

In the late 1960’s the building trade slumped and Joe accepted a job at the isolated Catholic Lombardina Mission staffed by Germans in Beagle Bay. Beagle Bay is 125 kilometres north of the pearling centre of Broome in the North West of Western Australia.

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The famous Beagle Bay Pearl Shell Church

Joe had no idea that this would change his life forever and he would return to his original childhood dream of becoming an artist.

Joe became well known to the local Aboriginal people as he was building for their community, in particular an old bloke who was an elder became a regular friend.

The elder was respected and a tad feared as he had flashlight eyes, with a light that smoldered behind them.  His very presence demanded respect. He rarely spoke and when he did he was quiet and of few words. Many people found him intimidating and the Mission locals mainly avoided him.

Joe found that the elder’s beliefs and physicality different — powerful and pure.  Joe understood that the elders way of living was beyond anything that was currently held as possible by most people.

He was not just an elder but also a “Medicine Man” who had walked from the Northwest down a song-line via Uluru to Adelaide and up to Queensland at least twice. Along the way he would perform ancient traditional Medicine Man initiation rituals.

As there were so many languages along the way, the old bloke would have to learn each language. This man was extremely educated and spoke all the languages. At each language group they would pick up a new person and drop off the person who had been picked up when they last visited. This ensured that each language group had a few people who understood all of the languages along that song line.

The elder was from a time when his teachers had little or no contact with white people so his education was purely traditional. His way was often diametrically opposed to the ways of the Christian raised Aboriginals of the mission. Joe noticed that he was feared and ostracized for his traditional Aboriginal beliefs therefore he had few friends and Joe and he struck up a strong bond.

Joe felt that the elder knew what he was doing all the time—it was like he was a fully conscious human being.

Joe reminisces what happened when they went net fishing. When a big fish was caught in the net the old bloke would jump in and disappear below the water for up to two minutes. Then Joe would see a hand with a huge one meter long fish slowly rise up above the water. The fish would be dead. The old man had killed it with his teeth. Joe has many stories of this mans exquisite control and use of his body and understanding of the landscape and animals.

The local mission people had fear around this elder’s ability so avoided him and thus his knowledge. The elder found this to be very heartbreaking but after some attempts to pass on the knowledge and artifacts he gave up.

He told Joe that Christianity and alcohol affected the next generation —he gave special totem objects to relatives as required by law and his people sold them for alcohol in Broome. These artifacts were ancient and powerful and the Christian raised family members simply didn’t grasp the cultural significance of the objects.

The old bloke then realized that respect for the traditional Aboriginal culture was usurped by “white mans ways” even by his blood brothers and sisters. He came to the conclusion that there was no one that he could trust to pass his ancient knowledge onto so he stopped. He told Joe that the original Aboriginal culture would be gone once his generation was gone.

Joe 6

Cooking lunch on the Beach

No work on Sunday was a Mission rule so Joe would often take a truckload of men, women and children and their dogs to fishing spots or picnics.

Joe 4Successful fishing

On one of these fishing trips Joe was standing in a small river about knee deep in the water with his fishing rod. The children all started yelling “snake, snake” and a couple of them ran over to Joe and climbed on him literally rooting him to the spot.

Two black snakes swam down the river towards him and they circled him then swam through his legs and swam off.

The elder was watching and interpreted it as a sign.

One day the elder asked Joe on walkabout. Joe accepted thinking that the trip would be pleasurable just like the ones they had done so far—maybe a few days or a week at the most. He had been on many walks with the elder and thought nothing of it.

“I’m just going back to where I came from” explained the elder.

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Self portrait – Fishing at Beagle Bay

Joe had no idea that before him was a walk from Beagle Bay to the Mitchell Plateau in the extreme north of Western Australia. Over 1,000 kilometers of terrible terrain and that this walk would take between three to four months to complete.

Joe remembers…

“There was the elder, two of his nephews, one wife. some children and me. The day we left the Mission we simply collected our hunting gear—I had my own spear and woomera—and we went bush.”

“After two weeks of walking and living off the land and whatever water was offering I was well and truly ready to toss it all in and head for home. But as I had no idea where we were, I had to keep going. My survival was entirely in the hands of the elder.”

“Along the way we met various tribes and mates of the elder and we would stop for about a week. Ceremonies would be held and although I was not formally initiated I was permitted to watch the dancing, singing and the corroboree’s.”

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Joes painting – The spirit of the elder . This is not an exact depiction as culturally the elder would not have wanted that.

“I only had the clothes I was wearing and after some time the cloth became weak and worn until it simply rotted away and I was left without much on. The same happened with my shoes. I was not used to going bare foot so the elder made me some shoes out of bark.”

“I was so dependant on him for everything. We ate what the land provided. We ate little but the foods was so nutritious that just a little seemed well and truly enough.”

“Although I was totally dependant on him at no time did I feel insecure.”

“A couple of times due to the situation I was placed in — my mind would become different — and I became the land and the land became me.  I was floating around in it all wrapped in the blackness of the night.”

“After a few days this feeling would subside and I felt totally at peace. I was filled with a new wisdom and understanding of myself and my fellow human beings and our mutual relationship to ‘our land’.”

“I had become, in fact, a totally different person. The combination of the dancing, the chanting and the elder’s magnetic personality had affected me deeply. Our close human contact while travelling together in the wilderness had given me a deep appreciation of ‘simplicity’—we revealed ourselves to each other without pretence or deceit of any kind. For me this was the first time I had seen human beings acting in complete honesty.”

They eventually reached the elders “place” and a great reunion ensued.

Joe had to return to work at the Mission so a vehicle was found to take him down the tracks via the legendary Fitzroy Crossing, back to Broome and out to Beagle Bay.

On his return home to Fremantle Joe found his had no desire to continue many aspects of his former lifestyle. Once a ‘regular’ at the pub, he gave up drinking entirely, and smoking, and also lost interest in the more material aspects of ‘civilization’.

He gave up building and enrolled at Claremont School of Art where he won many awards over the five years that he was there.

He is known for painting, ceramics as well as sculpture.

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Two years running he won the sculpture award.

Today he owns no car and is happy with just the ‘simple things’.

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Joe 9

Joe 1

Joe

Examples of Joes sculptures

Joe describes himself as an Australian Artist with his unique and unusual techniques that he has developed over the years.

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Joes art techniques are uniquely developed over the years.

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Honey ant people

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Joe with a couple of large paintings

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Joes current art and sculpture

IMG_3181More current paintings 

Joes website is:  http://joedanauartist.com/index.html

How I met Joe Danau — Artist

Art, writing and music have always held my heart. Yet, somehow when I went to university I got myself a science degree. My creative side was relegated to gardening, playing the piano and renovating houses. In my 20’s I was still “getting over” my university education so didn’t give my creative side much attention. I simply didn’t appreciate the qualities it bought to my life.

I chose house paint colours, renovated antique furniture, did tie dyeing, dress making, I spray painted rainbows on my clothing, played the piano daily and built pergolas but didn’t see this as important and worse I didn’t appreciate how much joy this side of my life gave me.

One day in my 30’s I visited a very dear friend of mine called Phil. I had been married to him in my early 20’s so that he would travel with me. He said he wouldn’t travel with me to India without a marriage certificate, as it was too dangerous. kia and Phil 1

Me and my “husband”

I asked him “Do you want to change your name to Schulze?”

He said “No”

I told him. “You don’t HAVE to.”

So we married. Mind you he looks as good as this now and he is the most wonderful soul — all of this decades later. Sigh…

I wanted to go to India with him and even although I believed that marriage was simply rich white guys in the church/government giving the OK that you could “legally” have sex – I married him.

A trip to India and Nepal was just too much of an enticement.

I left him in my mid 20’s because he told me that we were not going to travel that year. This whole conversation was rather silly of him really. He so didn’t understand how I would respond to this news. I immediately booked myself a two-week skiing tour without him in Falls Creek. I went and had a wonderful time and that was the end of that.

At the time I was not really interested in the whole marriage thing I had no interest in having children or the longevity of relationships, I was simply exploring the boundaries of what I wanted and what I didn’t want. My heart screamed at me that I didn’t want to be told by another adult what I could or couldn’t do.

Many years later I discovered a word in English that explained my hearts desire, it is eleutheromaina — an intense and irresistible desire for freedom. As I love the freedom of saying things my way — I would translate this word to say — an insatiable lust for freedom.

Eleuthermomania should have been my name instead of Wendy. This has been the theme of my life.

You can’t change your dreaming — you are who you are…Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 10.09.05 PM I guess every relationship has times of misunderstanding, boredom and confusion. When this occurred with this wonderful man I simply left.

I have not regretted it as when we were together I was 100% there and when that wasn’t the case I left. I was then 100% doing things differently.

Mind you my heart was broken, I couldn’t imagine why my loved partner would want to “tell me what to do” and try and treat me as though I was a child.

I couldn’t get my head around that and it was very confronting, confusing and distressing.

I remember that he didn’t really want a divorce, yet I thought that it would help him move on as I had. Therefore I organised the legal side of the paperwork and paid for it upfront.

Eventually the divorce was official and I got some papers in the mail — he didn’t know that our divorce was official as he hadn’t really been a willing party and he somehow didn’t get any official notification.

At that time I would have any excuse for a party so I organised a “divorce” party at my home without telling anyone the reason. It was a large casual party with people coming and going all day. Of course I invited Phil as he was my closest friend.  When the party was at the zenith I jumped onto a table and asked Phil to come to over. I then announced that the party was in honor of our divorce. On top of this wonderful news I said that I would marry myself and I would partner myself for the rest of my life. No more marriage for me. After this wonderful divorce event Phil and I visited each other often and shared really good times together.

We remained very close and loving friends so he was still a major part of my life for twelve years after our divorce.

He had lots of girlfriends and eventually he found one he was really into.

She found our closeness confusing and I don’t blame her. I backed off so that they could get together and Phil and I have since lost our closeness.

I really loved and cared for him and wanted only the best for him. I understood that he was more traditional and steady than me and required a more traditional and steady partner to be really happy. I don’t really understand the whole “to death do us part” social consciousness. I have always lived for the now and in the now.

Eleutheromania — this is the way I am — no apologies.

It was the late 1980’s when we were still in contact Phil asked me to visit him. When I arrived he led me to his fireplace and with sparkling eyes showed me his latest acquisition that was hanging in pride of place in his home. He appeared excited by this new gift for himself and seemed to want to know what I thought.

I was stopped in my tracks. The work had an immediate emotional impact on me — it spoke of dreams undreamed, realities not explored and I begged him to take me to the gallery so I could see the rest of the collection.

He took me to the “A” shed in Fremantle — the spirit and the beauty of that artists works hooked me. Immediately I bought a piece and asked the gallery owners Valerie and George if they would let me know when Joe Danau ever had another exhibition.

FIRST PICTURE This is the first painting I purchased

This was the 1980’s and although I was by then in my 30’s I was a teenager in spirit. I spent my time working at a job I loved, windsurfing, hitchhiking around in third world places and simply having fun. Art was a wonderful diversion as was sport, travel, adrenaline laced fear, food and friends.

Every now and again Valerie or George the business owners of the A Shed would let me know when Joe was having another exhibition and I would go and buy a piece.

 MICE WOMENMice Women

At each exhibition I would be eager to  get exactly the piece I wanted and this is what happened.

 IMG_2726You can’t change your dreaming — you are who you are.

Money was no problem and in my life beauty has always been senselessly important. Joe’s art was one of those senselessly beautiful things that I included in my life.

One day Valerie gave me Joe’s telephone number as he had asked to speak to me and I rang him and arranged to meet him. I had no idea what it was about. I was simply happy to meet “the artist”.

When I met Joe I was a single parent of one child, and as Joe had been a bolder in his life before being an artist he asked if he could help me around the house.

Joe realed me in with gentle words and kindness, he asked if he could help me around my garden…

As a struggling single parent with a house to run, two businesses and a crazed angry controlling father of my child, I had very little kindness and support in my life. I was focusing on getting through each day in a sane way that supported my child…

I easily accepted Joes offer, so, every second week end when my daughter was being tortured by her father with access Joe and I would work together in the garden. While we were working he would open up about his experiences in life and “teach” me what he had learned.

The teaching was osmotic, it seeped into my being and I was nurtured by the stories. Amazingly enough I had already been to many of the desert places he told me about and so I was able to visualise his travels and stories in the outback of Australia.

Joe

If you want to know more about Joe Danau and his art visit this site. Joe Danau Artist

 

Kia and I on the edge of returning to dust.

One of my favourite photographs of Kia reminds me of all the adventures we had outback in her childhood, this was before the time of mobile phones that could simply sweep over the vista and make an amazing shot. I had to carefully take shot after shot hoping that I could paste them together in the end and show a tad of what I was seeing.

It is a photograph of her in the sitting quietly in a gorge that is so vast and beautiful — she didn’t know that I was worried about the heat and my ability to get her back to the car. I was thinking “Maybe we could perish in the beautiful place — hopefully not”. At the same time I was just so happy to be walking in my country with her sharing the beauty.

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Kia is about 1/4 of the way up this picture seated on a ledge.

It all started when I was 8 months pregnant with Kia and I had a calling to be in the desert. Sort of like a pregnancy craving, it just had to be sated — no question!

I drove up to my parents farm in Wubin. At that time of the year they were doing the grey nomads thing and were on their property in Broome. I left my Mercedes Sports SLC 500 and took their Toyota tray top and went to the land of my childhood. The land east of Wubin, beyond the rabbit proof fence onto Ningham station.

During my childhood I spent time in the desert with my family checking out the vast lakes, ancient human markings, abandoned gold mines, creepy deserted towns and weird natural landmarks of the desert.

Kia on Wardagga when she was older. I took her and her friends back there often.

Wardagga is a monolith on Ningham station and it is larger around the base than Ullaroo (Ayres Rock) yet because it is in wooded desert it is not able to be seen until you are at its base.

It was at Wardagga where I and sat for 4 days at 8 months of pregnancy.

I did it so that my daughter could “know the land.

During this time I just walked on the rock and contemplated life. What it would be like to be a mother and what it would like for the being in my womb to be the child of a mother like me…

The view from the top of Wardagga - I took Kia here many times in her childhood

I actually slept on the tray top of the Toyota. I had never done that before I had always slept on the desert floor feeling the pulse of the land under my body as I slept. However becoming a mother seemed to make me more timid and I was very aware of how vulnerable I now was as a heavily pregnant mother.

I had factored in the “worst case scenario” situation that I could think of. That was going into labour when I was alone in the desert.

I knew that the average time for a first time labor was 12 hours therefore I could make it back to the farm in Wubin in 2 hours. From there I could telephone and call an ambulance.  This seemed like a fairly OK situation to me.

Why on earth didn’t I think to drive to the local service station in Paynes Find — that was closer? I could have thought to drive to the service station in Wubin so that I had people around me to support me. At that time I had that streak of independence — sort of like a silly teenager.

I have always said that I was a thirty seven year old teenager and then I had Kia.

Before this most wonderful event all I did was have fun doing lots of exciting things such as absailing, exploring the desert, sailing, running, rock climbing windsurfing off the back of Rotttnest from Eagle Bay until I couldn’t see land. Adventure was my life. When Kia was born I had three businesses to run! I had been hitch hiking around the planet in remote places for decades — generally I lived the life of a spoiled Western Brat.

Back to the desert and away from the past…

I was most fortunate to have four wonderful meditative days in the desert observing the land, so I didn’t have to test my back up plan.

I actually don’t remember that I told anyone where I was for those four days so perhaps my bravado was just a tad short of stupid?

All over Australia we have some of the most ancient art galleries in the world. They are out in the open where the art is all subtle earthy colours and abstract design.

Beautiful ancient art – it makes my heart sing

I took Kia to the desert on many a trip and when she was two years old we took a “big trip” across the centre of Australia. Just the two of us on the Gun Barrel Highway from Carnegie Station to Warburton then across the back blocks of Queensland and then up to Cape York. We must have travelled about nine thousand kilometres during this holiday.

On the way home we went “across the top” and back down the coast to Perth. When the opportunity was presented we would stop off at these places and take a peek.

One day in Queensland I noticed a road sign about an art sight and as we were due to stop for a snack I drove off the road down a dirt track.

In Queensland we found a gallery in the outback and we were the only people there.

Having travelled the world I find it amazing that a forty thousand year old art gallery is deserted. How does that happen? In Europe and Asia anything a few thousand years old is a cultural treasure with thousands of visitors.

Australia is one of the last incredible travel adventures in the world and luckily for me the rest of the world hasn’t discovered that yet.

There was an arrow sign showing that the art was up a steep winding stone strewn track.

I am a very light traveler so minimised what I took for a walk to see art. The minimum was a camera, car keys and a water bottle. Kia was just under three years old so she was light and portable. I put her in the sling and traipsed up the steep path to the sights with her happily on my hip.

We spent some time walking up along the track and observing the artworks that were high above us. The place was signed-posted with arrows. An arrow pointing along the path to me meant go that way. So, I did. I took photographs and followed the arrows.

All over Australia is rock art more ancient than the Pyramids!

The day was on the hot side of warm, one of those sleepy Australian days where even the blowflies sound slow. The occasional puffs of wind would rattle the dry leaves and swirl up some dust.

This art gallery had the music of the wind and more importantly the silences between the gusts.

The site was on the side of a hill and we finally came to a rise to one side where there was an arrow that pointed onwards through a small open-ended cave.

Kia in the open ended cave.

On the other side of the cave was another arrow pointing down what appeared to be a narrow animal or human track around the side of the hill.

My body likes to move and be strong so I was motivated onwards and upwards around the hill.

After about 20 minutes walk I had not seen another arrow so was very careful to take my bearings so that I would find my way back.

Kia happily sat in her human carriage and chatted away as I walked along. The weathered rocky hill had many unusual strange shapes and cut outs so the artistic sites were nature created rather than human.

At one stage we came to a natural passageway where the rocks each side appeared to be human hewn, yet I knew that they were natural. Inside was dark, very dry and cold and it was a sharp contrast from the heat of that day.

Kia in the natural passageway

When we came out the other end into the hot sun the disparity was like a slap it the face and we were again hit with the heat, flies and slow burning of muscles traipsing in unfamiliar territory where the slightest mistake could mean death by snake bite, strained ankle or lack of water.

The track was just as clear so I kept walking wondering if I would get to see more art. I was also calculating how dangerous it was to be in the bush with a young child with only a small bottle of water.

After another 20 minutes walk we came to an overhang. It was of such wonder that I placed Kia down and walked backwards so that I could get a shot.

After some time I realised that if I walked away any further Kia would not show up in the photograph.

Double click on this image and  1/3 of the way up the photo you will find Kia

That photograph again.

After the extreme photo opportunity I then put my girl back in the sling and carefully retraced my way back.

Kia didn’t understand the state of play so she asked for and drank all the water in the bottle. I just chose to slog on back to that car park…

We made it!