From S.W Ireland to S.W. Victoria

– the story of a journey

A few years ago I had the opportunity to go through some old family papers.   There I came across a letter written by my great, great grandmother, Priscilla to her daughter Eliza, my great grandmother.   In the letter Priscilla wrote that the family had lived in a particular part of the British Isles ‘for time out of mind’ before they came to Australia.

It is unclear why Priscilla and her common law husband John felt the need to take a three month sea voyage to the other side of the world with all of their nine children.  Further on in the letter she hints at some family trouble – some problem that forced them to flee  their ancestral home.  The details are very sketchy.

The letter is the only written story of my ancestors I have ever found.   The rest of my forebears are silent.  All that remains of them are a few tattered material goods and fragments of stories – stories that speak of loss and disruption – some sudden change in fortune that sent them across the globe to start again.


As their descendant I feel I carry these imprints of disruption, exile and wandering in my DNA.   No doubt many of us carry similar imprints for so many of us can trace our ancestry back to another country, another culture.

When I went to south west Ireland I felt I was venturing back through my own familial history into time out of mind – that time where my ancestral roots are lost in the mists of myth and legend.


These experiences enriched me and gave me a sense of belonging to a people, an ethnic group, even to an ancient pre-Christian belief system I can only guess at but feel spiritually connected to.

Wedge tomb Tomb of the crone goddess, Co. Cork, Ireland

Here in south west Victoria the feeling that I am journeying back in time still comes to me when I am alone in untamed natural environments.  Here though I feel as if I am travelling back into pre-history.  I walk past archaeological evidence of the Aboriginal people that have lived here for 40,000 years to ancient fossilized landscapes that date back millions of years.


As I clamber over the cooled lava flows that shaped this area or pick my way along the crumbling sandstone cliffs of the coast a sense of time beyond human time envelops me. I step beyond my ancestral roots into something far older – a sense of connection with the Earth that goes back through the very first humans that walked this land to the creation myths and the cellular connection between all carbon based life forms.

Standing alone in the primal landscapes of south west Victoria I feel myself to be a part of the Earth and of the universe itself.  The life force that animates all living things pulsates within my being.


FOOTNOTE:   On a personal note this blog post was one of those ideas that woke in the middle of night.   I couldn’t get back to sleep last night until I had turned on the light and jotted  it down.   When I came online to write this blog post I saw a complete stranger had visited some old blog of mine I’d completely forgotten about and found a post I wrote about Priscilla 7 years ago.   It seems she too is a descendant of this indomitable woman and would like to email me.   Life is stranger than fiction.




Season change

Perhaps it is the smell of autumn leaves moldering in corners…

Perhaps it is the smell of burning fossil fuels as the gas heaters and wood burners of the town are arced up to combat the creeping winter chills…

Perhaps it is the smell of burning money as people in all electric homes attempt to pay their power bills…

Perhaps it is the smell of global politics – the malodorous stench of war mongering, hypocrisy and injustice – the lingering whiff of hot air escaping…

Perhaps it is the smell of my own kitchen waste slowly fermenting in the bin I forgot to empty last night…

whatever it is – it stinks.

As season change rolls in I am ambivalent about the coming winter down here in Oz.   It’s a chance to knuckle down and get some serious work done but then there’s all those long grey months and all those long, grey faces of people around town.   Am I just noticing it more or are more people more depressed than usual?

It feels like we all need a big shake up – a revitalizing blast of fresh air, ideas and energy. Not some superficial makeover that blows away as quickly as it arrived but some fundamental shift in perception.

I open my windows and let a blast of sharp salt wind stir up the stagnant air in my house.   I throw out my garbage and sort the recycling.

I walk outside and smell the rich, fertile earth damp from last night’s rain.   As the wind stirs the trees behind my house eucalyptus laden air fills my lungs.   It circulates through my being invigorating me.  It infuses me with the strength to keep going and the energy to keep clearing, to keep releasing everything that is keeping me stuck in old ways of being and thinking.

Let the change come…


prompts: – smell

Rocks as energy

I’m finding life very intense at the moment.  My feeling nature seems to have become more acute and I am becoming more aware of the energetic fields in the natural environment.   Today began with major tree felling going on next door.  At the sound of the first branches falling my legs started to shake.  It was a weird feeling.   I think it’s in the Star Wars movies where they talk about a disturbance in the force.   This morning felt like that.   As the men started to bring down the branches of the really big eucalypt it felt like a disturbance occurred in the energy field of the neighbourhood.

The noise of wood chipper was appalling so I went out.   When I came home later I saw the branches on all the trees that hang over my neighbour’s back fence have been removed but the smaller trees are still standing.   The large tree is now a massive tree trunk sticking up about 12 feet into the air.   It’s already partly covered in ivy.   I guess in time it will become totally covered and look like a tall thin tower of ivy.

The energy still felt kind of fractured and the wood chipper was still going so I decided to see if the rumour that the Southern Right Whales had arrived from Antarctica already was true.  (they spend the winter in the Southern Ocean here).    I drove out to the lookout.   There were quite a lot of people about.   My whale spotting strategy is to scan the ocean in the direction where most people are looking.  Sure enough, far out to sea I caught sight of the distinctive spume of the Right Whale.   As I watched I saw the dark shape of the head appearing from time to time and, once, the tail fin.   The animal was so far out I caught no more than glimpses.   All the same, there was a moment where my sense of myself in time and space suddenly expanded.   Maybe it was the thought of the creature swimming all the way from Antarctica that did it.    For a brief instant I felt like I was part of the vast cycle of life on this planet – hard to describe but it was enough to make me think I’ll be doing a lot of whale watching this winter.

So –  a day of high drama.   During the past week I got back out to the rock cliff I featured last week.   I walked in as close as I could get and concentrated on taking photos of the detail.    Reducing the photos to B&W highlights the dramatic presence of the rock wall.  I think the photos work as a visual metaphor to convey something of the intensity I’ve been feeling lately. Although the final photo is of a vertical rock face it suggests the power and energy of the sea to me.   It goes some way towards corresponding with the kind of feeling I get when I see the whales.


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prompt:  Sally D’s mobile devices challenge – challengers choice

Forest Bathing

This week’s WordPress photo challenge  asks us to ‘share a photo that captures something reflected back to you in a way that made you look at your surroundings differently.’

I took the photo below one autumn a few years ago but it is still one of my favourites.


It was taken in a Japanese garden in a little country town an hour’s drive north of where I live.   The red tree growing in the water challenges my usual way of seeing the world.   The fact that water reflects the sky so accurately adds to effect.   My pre-conceived ideas that trees are green and grow in the earth are turned upside down.

The imminent destruction of the biggest, oldest tree in my neighbourhood (see my last two posts) has led me to think about trees a lot this week.   The tree felling is due to happen on Saturday.   I don’t want to be here and have been trying to work out where I can go that will keep me busy for hours on end.

I could go and see friends but then I’d probably just end up talking about the tree felling and getting myself even more upset.   Yesterday I went and spent some time in a local bush reserve.   Walking beneath the tall eucalyptus trees helped me balance and ground my energy.

In the comment section of a previous post someone said I had been forest bathing.   I’d heard this phase before but it wasn’t until last night that I read about the healing benefits of spending time in the forest.   After my experience in the forest yesterday I am convinced that spending time in the forest absorbing the energy really can lower the heart rate and calm anxieties.

After finding the photos of the red trees I’m thinking I might make the trek across country and go and visit these trees once again.   It’s autumn over here in Oz but this year the weather has been very cold and wet.   There haven’t been many sunny days.   Fingers crossed Saturday brings some sunshine and I make the pilgrimage to see these these extraordinary trees.    I might even make Saturday the day when I buy myself that new camera I’ve been promising myself.



When I was very young I lived with my family on the shores of a vast salt lake.  We moved to the city when I was four  – the country was left behind and never revisited.   My childhood memories are of suburban streets and holidays on the beach.    The inland lake and the flat plains surrounding it became a mythic land I visited only in dreams.

illusionReturning to the lake shore now, all these decades later, my eyes are stretched into a haze of blue.   Is this what I saw as a baby?   Did my infant eyes attempt to focus on the horizon only to drift into illusory realms where nothing is quite as it seems?   Did this vision of infinite possibilities, probabilities and improbabilities influence my approach to life? – the landscape as a Buddhist primer for babies.

prompt –

(elements of this post appeared on my old blog “Art and Life” is a different format)


Just the other day I had a bout of Wanderlust.   As I couldn’t fly off to an exotic locale at that moment I drove across town to Thunder Point.

Up at the point I walked through the scrub for a bit 2017-04-22 12.11.14-02

then took the rocky track down to the cliff tops.  2017-04-22 12.12.59-01

There I picked my way along uneven ground.  My eyes drank in the subtle variations of colour in the rocks and vegetation.

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My ears were filled with the sound of sea gnawing at the base of the cliffs below me-

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On my lips I tasted the salt tang on the air as it blew in from the Southern Ocean.

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My senses were on high alert.   Any mis-step here and I could fall to my death.

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Up ahead I saw the shell scatter of an ancient aboriginal midden.   There is evidence that they have lived along this coast for 35,000 years or more.

2017-04-22 12.27.51-01 (1) I skirted round the edges –

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2017-04-22 12.26.59-01 – then on past the next headland.  The colours of the rocks changed again – I had reached my destination – Shelly Beach –

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A short walk along the shore led me to the next cove where fossilized tree trunks and roots appeared to hold up the cliff.

Higher up on the cliff face the stratified layers of geological time were revealed –


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Later as I walked back to my car I saw intrepid fisherfolk perched on the cliff edge.   They were braver than me to walk so close to the edge.

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Once I got back to my car I only had to drive for a few minutes to get back to my house. Although I’d only been away for a couple of hours I felt like I’d journeyed back into pre-history.

 (When I uploaded the photos to my computer I wished I’d taken the images with a camera rather than my old phone.   Hopefully I will be able to buy one before the next bout of Wanderlust hits. As soon as I get one I’ll be back down to Shelly Beach to take more shots.)

prompt –

Which Way?

I think I’m beginning to get a sense of direction with this blog.   There are two or three more old posts I want to salvage from “Art and Life” but I think most of the content from here on will be new stuff.   I’m intrigued with the idea of creating photo collages and photo poems so I’m thinking I’ll concentrate on that for a while.

prompt –      –     Outdoor walks:  sidewalks, paths, trails