Let me begin with a new idea: Have you ever had someone present an idea to you that was so completely totally different from the one you have now, that your mind simply can’t accept it? Like how people must have felt when someone broke it to them that the earth was not the center of the Universe? They hung that guy.
Or when we discovered that the earth was round and not flat (which some people still find controversial…). A new idea that allot of people had a hard time adjusting to.
When I was at Uluru in Australia (the four most educational days of my life…) I was presented with a “new idea”. I learned that the aboriginal people don’t believe in some of the concepts and ideas that we find very natural – like competition, agriculture, and creating towns and villages and teaching children how to read. My first reaction to these ideas was probably the same as yours:
“You must be competitive as a culture – how else will you have goals to strive for and landmarks to achieve. Competition is natural. Good. Healthy.
You must plant agriculture – Because how else will you create food?
You must make towns and villages! How else will you accumulate security?”
Leroy, our brilliant story telling tour guide explained it this way:
You plant an apple tree – and now you claim you own it. You own the fruit on it.
You feed it. Water it. Spend time with it. protect it. And eat from it.
It’s your tree.
One day, someone comes and takes “your” fruit. This creates two problems mate: a -conflict between people b- ownership of that which cannot be owned. The tree belongs the the land – the fruit belongs to the tree. if you treat the tree well, it will give you fruit. If you eat what is around you on the land, the land will live in balance with your needs.
2- You don’t build a village because then you are doing the same thing as with the tree – there is no land that can belong to you. You have to travel to where the land can best feed and sustain you. Nomadic movement is natural. and 3- communal identities create separation – and everyone is the same. No separation.
Remember – Australian Aboriginals have stories which date back now estimated at 60,000 years. Cave illustrations recently have been dated at a conservative 46 thousand years. Nearly 30 thousand years older than our native cultures in Europe and North America. Through their stories Aboriginal Australians have taken on the task of singing “Song Lines” of the earth, through instruments carved by man and nature, such as the didgeridoo. They function in the Dream Time where the ephemeral Rainbow Serpent abides – she who created the earth and hold it all together with “Jarkupa” the law of the land. Aboriginal Art is incredibly important in understanding both the perspective of their culture but perhaps also a new idea about how to see the world.
Most aboriginal art is done as an “astral travel’ perspective, the consciousness of the artists hanging high above her subject. Paintings often represents maps, in effect. Even those painting which tell the great stories of the seven sisters and Orion, of the Great dingo, or the star people are presented as maps pathways. The simple and seemingly obvious and repetitive symbols passed down through illustrations that are still clearly seen on the cave walls after as long as 46 thousand years, tell vivid stories of the Rainbow Serpent and how she carved the bones of the earth for all that lives on it.
She made the law – Jarkupa – and it is unmistakable and clear; the rules are simple.
Fairness. Equality. Survival is a group effort.
Everything is connected – through the Serpent.
And the consequences for breaking the law- Jarkupa – are immutable.
You mess with my woman, we bring you to a circle with all the men – we throw spears at you. You live – it’s over. Don’t do it again. You don’t live, that’s too bad. You broke the law.
For women – you mess with my man, I take out my woman’s stick and I beat the shit out of you. You live – cool. We can be friends but don’t do it again. You don’t live. Too bad. You broke the law.
Might seem harsh to us – but how many of our problems in our personal lives and our communities exist because we harbour resentment and anger – internalizing feelings that we medicate or douse with drugs alcohol, work avoidance.
there is sanity n dealing with things up front and lettnig them go.
There is clarity in the laws – no grey areas messed around with by our enigmatic ability to make thigns complicated when they don’t need to be.
God we are complicated.
Aboriginal Australians recognize that certain things do not require a ‘law” but are known within the soul of a person.
So, are they right about no-competition?
Are the Olympics helpful or not helpful anymore?
Aboriginal people do not put one person up against another – like in a wrestling competition. I think they figure they have enough problems living on the dangerous land they do, without creating conflict between each other. They don’t – for example – allow boys to compete in sports. They encourage work together and learn to hunt or fish. But they don’t compete. Philosophically they told me that competition, ownership and false pride – are the critical elements that have caused the our falling of of sync with the planet that we live on. I am inclined to agree.
But here in the west we are far from the influences of the desert, and our history is based on things we have been told, by the ancient Greeks the founding culture of the Olympics. We assume things like competition, winning and loosing are as natural as breathing oxygen – but they really aren’t. They are ideas we have been taught – like the world is flat and and moon is made of cheese.
The Olympics were founded in Olympia Greece in 776 BC. They were held in Greece and only by Greeks until the first International games also held in Greece in 1896. There was not another Olympics held in Greece after this for 108 years. In 1896, the IOC or International Olympic Committee was founded and it was agreed that the games would move from one nation to another from then on. The next games were held in Paris four years later in 1900.
When the Olympics happen – we have a feeling of “national pride”. It’s a good feeling and one we cater to with “National pride” marketing galore. Economies boom – Favelas are ignored.
But in reality “national pride” “religious pride” or really “pride” in anything, is at the basis of so many of our conflicts.
The Aboriginals are right – “pride” brings separation. And the belief that we are separate from each other and the living things around us – is a big big problem for the earth. Does the Olympics contribute to separation?
Lets face it, the world changes so quickly now, with everything we know about each other because of the internet, and how we relate to one another as cultures and individuals because of our technological connections, and a greater ease and economy in travel which has allowed us to connect in real time with one another, we are much more knowledgeable about each others cultures, habits and beliefs.
The lesson that is always learned by individuals and nations after International events? How similar we are. How we are all the same.
You do realize that we are all one?
The Olympics is not just any international event – it was created in this manner for the purpose of putting our political and economic differences aside to just be together as humans and enjoy our potential.
This is a good idea. No doubt the entire world needs to relax.
Maybe the purpose of the Olympics brings us a snap shot picture of this picture of peace. An “Act as if” every four years. A peaceful Global pool party. Above and beyond the aspect of competition, maybe it is even more beneficial to us just to have goals, and come together in some united form that is for fun, for games for pleasure. and enjoy each others greatest abilities on display, give other kids hope and goals and things to reach for.
Maybe one day it will become an ACTUAL global event where all countries are welcome t.
**this was more like a journal entry so I never put it out but as I reread a couple of things (something I nearly never do) I saw this, the fresh reaction to see the Dalai Lama and just felt like tonight the message I and 20000 other people received might be useful. I left his talk with a full and hopeful heart…i hope you feel it yourself. Namaste
Perth here we come! Farthest place from Montreal possible and its just AMAZING TO ME…that i will get to sit in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other peacekeeping folks from all over the world. WOW!
My mom would have LOVED this…in fact, I’m pretty sure she is orchestrating the whole thing from on high…
She would have loved it all…even the hard stuff.
Even the places where we are challenged to stay centered and peaceful, but strong in desire to unite with non-violence, compassion and love.
yes – peace doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen
Peace doesn’t mean there is nothing to fight for
stand up for
Peace means that we know we stand even in the middle of the storm and we will not break with the wind.
Wind is good.
It is alive and always changing. Just like the planet…and us. Same thing.
And here it is the weekend of wonders…
May all sentient beings know themselves as each other…Just for a day 😉
peace and joy to everyone on this celebratory weekend!
Travelling all over the world is beautiful, adventurous, romantic and fantastic. I feel like a “citizen of the world…and I love the whole thing – the good, the awesome and the ugly.
But let’s face it – it’s not all roses and can be equally difficult and dangerous for those of us who travel with medical issues like depression or other mental health issues which make us look healthy on the outside, while our mind is melting into something untouchable. Indeed the challenge is mighty to maintain the balance we all require for wellness – but a person with depression must be diligent. It can be a massive challenge at times to just feel like a normal person in your skin, alone in crowds of familiar-like faces but apart from the motion of another world. It’s a very strange feeling. And I really did my best – but there is no way to replicate the kind of gentle balance you can create for yourself in your home environment, when you know the food, the roads, the people – it’s just different.
I must admit I was entirely dismayed when about 9 days after arriving in Australia I dropped into a deep dangerously dark place after trying hard to keep my feet on the ground and carefully walking the edge of a very precarious mind. I hadn’t felt like that in years! Traveler’s exhaustion coupled with the fast pace of each day “trying not to waste a second” of where you are at, knowing it could be the only time you see it, rich food, booze, sugar – my body probably went into some form of shock. When travelling it just goes with the territory that your physical balance is completely shot with constant restaurant meals, wired eating hours, too much food, wine and not enough weed – harder to find anywhere when you are new. Imaginably for anyone, there are variety of reasons why when travelling you basically relinquish control of your body to the elements of the land you find yourself on.
It is my hope to use my own story with purpose to help break the stigma of depression. It is so important that we are speaking openly about our struggles when it falls on us like a lead weight.
If you’ve never had it – you won’t understand this.
But if you have it – I hope this will make you feel less alone.
Just in case you are not familiar with depression, I’d like to emphasize three things –
1- Depression is not “a bad attitude”, lack of knowledge or some weakness that those without depression don’t.
2- You cannot overcome depression through “sucking it up”. I saw a tee-shirt in Sydney that said…
“Depressed? Have a cup of cement and toughen the fuck up”.
3- Depression does not go on vacation just because you do. And maintaining the necessary disciplines you need when you are totally outside of your comfort zone – presents some unique challenges.
As a person who uses “natural and usually illegal” means of managing depression, the challenge is greater, because no matter what country you travel to, obtaining such “medicine” requires that you get to know folks a little less than casually or they think you are undercover something or other.
So, four days into Sydney, in the largest city I have ever been in, I found myself quite literally on my knees. It was wicked. I sat in the bath crying, praying – and feeling like a burden to the entire planet – depression closes the world in around me and makes me the only thing I think about – not good for anyone. For whatever reason (every good depression has its own “theme”) this was all about the past – I began reviewing all the regrets of my past – which are very few actually except for the absolute bleak loss I feel when I think about the people and animals I love who have died in the past few years. Depression brings back the ghost of deep grief for me.
Over the years I have come to understand that even the darkest times will reveal eventually to me a reason – that it is inevitably something I need to see inside myself, and that those are the times when self-care is absolutely mandatory. The idea that “happiness is created from the inside” is poignant and sharp like a good Pinot Noir. But you can’t think your way out of depression. The only action to move towards healing is non-avoidance – not try and rid yourself of it, but to recognize, reflect and adapt. It is imperative you remind yourself that everything is changing – all the time – the happy things the sad things – are all changing. So – as my mom loved to tell me…
“This too shall pass…”
Even if you don’t believe it.
I know how lucky I am – even when I am in the darkest of them all. . Unlike the people I see living on the streets who suffer from mental health issues, I have a fantastic partner, who is always standing at the ready to help bail me out of this place. But this one was different – even he was afraid he wouldn’t find me in there.
Here’s how I handle depression…I get into a bath and I cry, and I pray and then I cry and pray more.
My first “bath tub” prayers were to my mother. I miss her in such a tangible way, especially as I travel. She was my entire inspiration for loving the world and travelling through it like I do. When I first found out she was my mother, my family sent me to Africa to live with her. This was my first experience far from home, but unlike the experience I have had in any place since, Africa was home to me. My feet touched the red soils of Guinea and I was simply – home. I was happy there with her, basking in the hot African sun, reveling in the multicultural celebrations of living in an expatriate environment. My friends were from all over the world, from all imaginable places. Emmanuel from Ethiopia, my best friend from the US and my first boyfriend from Belgium. I heard the drums, I danced in the rains, and said forever more that we shared a common disorder – la malady d’afrique – my heart was left in Africa.
In the bathtub that night I prayed…oh did I pray. For a miracle. I needed a good one because nothing looked like it would ever feel good again. I fight with my husband, angry that he is talking to work while I fear I may be dying – not even imagined, it was really how it felt. I think about my mother – my mother – my mother – how she could always talk me down from the ledge, I didn’t even to tell her, she just knew me like two cells from the same being know each other. I miss my friend.
I find it cold here in the deep city – I mean “people cold”. Everyone rushing to work running never saying good morning or making eye contact. A person could really get lost in such a place. But I break free from john and I go and sit on stairs, away from the maddening crowds, where evening commuters are passing by.
I think about the David white video on vulnerability and I think:
“Fuck it. I’m going to sit here and just be.”
I think about what a long way I am from who i used to be – from shopping in New York for dresses as a young woman, only caring about my hair and shoes – to sitting here in my Nepalese poncho and ripped jeans, messy hair – I have never looked (or felt) more homeless in my life. It also felt more free than my “former designer self” had ever felt.
People are rushing by me in the evening commute. I count – one, two three – But no one looks at me, or acknowledges me. I feel like a ghost – invisible. I imagine this is what homeless people must feel like. The loneliness of being invisible and sad was almost indescribable.
I keep my eyes down mostly, sitting on the cement stairs, away from the world walking above me. Occasional post work commuters pass by me, I see shoes – jogging shoes, pretty pumps, sensible men’s shoes.
27 people go by before a man stops in mid step and asks
“Excuse me miss are you OK?”
All I can say as I look up at him is
“You’re number 27….”
He looks confused and a little embarrassed – apologizes to me and moves on. Clearly concerned but not wanting to invest any time.
I continue to count pairs of shoes, my mind still begging for a miracle in this cement world I had crouched in. I see more people, more shoes. More time passes. I think about the 15 times a day I stop in the city to make human contact with a homeless person – and I am awash in the wonder of how amazing that must feel to someone that may have this kind of loneliness every day. I feel sorry for myself – why isn’t anyone doing for me what I freely do all the time?
“Am I the only one who cares left on this planet??”
Just in time – a nice pair of casual sneakers stops and I look up to a bright green shirted man; he is number 72 but I don’t say it wanting to be alone as much as I wanted him to not leave.
He looks at me authentically concerned;
“You ok mate?”
I decided to be honest,
“Not really. I have had way better days, but this will pass. Thanks for asking.”
I try a smile but it probably comes out looking like post stroke victim smile all crooked swollen eyes sadness leaking from my face.
He lingers and looks at me then. It was clear he was no stranger to deep sadness. He had been there, done that and had gotten the tee shirt. I was grateful for the understanding and connection.
“Good on ya!” Giving me a “that’s the spirit” kind of look.
“You take good care of yourself”, he added sincerely and went on.
That was just enough real human contact for me to be able to get up to my feet and walk back to our hotel to greet my worried husband, wondering at my gratitude for having had the opportunity to feel like a homeless person for a while. It made me want to tell you how important it is to someone feeling bad, homeless or not, to feel humanity from you, even if you don’t have money to give a person – that exchange can make all the difference.
The next morning when I didn’t wake feeling any better, I dragged my sorry self-downstairs to smoke a cigarette (I know I know – I’m trying to quit I swear). I was working on a hopeful song, inspired by talking to a young musician excited about her first composition – I felt a focus that was not ME. Very important!
It allowed just enough to open a crack of light…possibility.
The smoking area is a big common square with comfortable benches where people commune to smoke and generally look at their cell phones. I went to be with my poetry. I sat on a bench, concentrating on my own composition when suddenly the blackest man I have ever seen in Australia, I mean BLACK like Africa beautiful black, comes to me and interrupts saying with an angry voice almost, no eye contact,
“May I sit here?”
I look around – most of the benches are empty – why would he want to sit with me?
“Sure”, I say lamely.
I see he is obviously homeless, dirty pants and shirt, and probably suffers from something like paranoid schizophrenia or something along those un-socially acceptable mental health illnesses that cause so many to be homeless. His eyes have no “connection” with me.
“Of course”, I smile at him, wiping the rain off the bench so he can sit in a dry place, pretty sure no one had done something nice for this guy in decades.
Just that first action of doing a kindness for someone else – thinking about someone other than my self – was a great start back to me.
He looks at me long and hard, watching my hand move back and forth across the wood of the bench, a distress, beginning a hushed conversation with only himself. I lean into him, trying to understand.
“Are you African?” I ask bluntly.
“Yes of course, where the hell do you think I come from” he says in a thick beautiful delicious accent – a
Balm to my ears.
I have to turn my head so he doesn’t see my tears – now from gratitude. I know it’s my mother sending me what I need…no one else would know this.
“Where do you come from?” I ask trying to get him to focus his talking on one thought.
“Africa…Africa. I left Africa when I was just a child. I am from nowhere now. Everyone my family is all dead form there – there is no more Africa.” He says almost angrily.
I think about the beautiful smiling children I loved so much in Africa…the real people who danced and played and understood the way of nature. The fresh smart beautiful people of Africa, no pretention and such honesty we have never known in the west. I wonder sadly if this man was one of those proud children learning the drum from his father in a circle of proud family and tribe members.
He starts talking nonsense – about his wife and loss and sadness…
“You are the nicest person I have met here”, I interrupt him unable to hide the grateful tears in my eyes.
He is quiet.
I think he hasn’t smiled in so long his face seems stuck in this frown.
“I’m a musician”, I tell him. “Music makes me feel better”.
I sing him a song – he closes his eyes.
We agree together that the world is fucked up because not enough people sing a dance.
I tell him it would be grand fun to bring a drum into this common place and make the serious people dance so they speak again to the wind – like we did in Africa.
Now he is laughing – and we are both laughing. I put my arm him and I hug him.
“You are very wonderful”, I say to him.
“Your energy is why I am here – you speak to me”. He says quietly – suddenly completely “there” with me. I feel the power of this.
We sit again quiet comfortable like old friends. I put my hand on his arm and we are happy…connected and not lonely. Not depressed – now we feel good together in our aloneness.
Soon, his busy speaking mind takes over and he is forced to move on by its vapid imperative to him.
The most unlikely, my husband and his coworker and I go to the Manly Island ferry – world famous for its view of Sydney. I can tell you right now that touring was NOT in my plan – I could barely have wrapped my mind around being near people, never mind travelling by subway and ferry with crowds of fellow travelers.
But hey – if I have learned nothing else my plans are always not as good as god’s plans…and I only wanted to feel less sadness. I was – as they say – as willing as the dying can be.
We take the subway, my eyes are swollen. I see myself in the window – I look old and tired. My eyes avoid further self-scrutiny.
Arriving at the quay for the ferry my husband says…
“Jo – do you hear it?”
I am breathing in the fresher air of the harbor incredibly grateful for not being in the city, feeling my feet reconnected…a peace coming over me.
“No”, I say to him distractedly.
Then I hear the sound…the Australian didgeridoo. It has been my only desire to connect with and learn from the Australian aboriginal people, who are incredibly difficult to find in the cities.
Suddenly my feet are running…I am, literally tearing through the crowds, pushing the too slow aside. Maybe I am running for my life? It feels like I am running to someone or something familiar. I couldn’t have stopped myself if I would have tried.
And then I am DANCING…the dig playing under me lifting me up, and old man and me – he is shaman, dancing beside me. I have rain sticks and I am leaping all over I feel the power of it all and I am ELEVATED by it.
The old shaman invites me beside him – a dew dance. I am FILLED with it all – like a magic that is so hard to describe to you, UT I really want to try. I want everyone to know this so possible.
He looked at me, and the man on the ground playing the dig and suddenly we are the only ones there.
I feel it shift in me – my joy. He has shaken my joy free – is all I can think.
We leave them eventually to take our ferry ride – but what happened next was all miracle.
My energy so high, everywhere we went people were smiling and talking to us and everyone interchanging. The ferry people around us soon became like friends, interchanging our experiencing around the world. Talking about how amazing it was to all be together tree.
I can ASSURE YOU that had I gone on that trip with the original energy I came with – one of that would happen.
So here’s my point –
Travelling with depression can be hard – a dive it happens to you, well then you have some work to do.
Take exceptionally good care of yourself
Create write draw express.
Stop caring about what people think.
And most important…WAIT FOR THE MIRACLE.!! don’t be so impatient 😉
The lower down you go – the greater the beauty that is available.
Be a badass…and love it all!
And so, now we are on a different route, back on home territory for us in Australia continuing on with the old shaman’s lovely energy forever inside my heart.
FILLED WITH GRATITUDE and determination to keep myself as well as possible for the people I love and this world I am dedicated to.
In the time my husband and I were living in Australia for three months, we often take spontaneous planned weekends to retreats or nature parks to try and have the fullest experience of a place so far from home. This one particular weekend we decided to head off to Phillip Island – a small island on the tip of Australia that is full of wild life and fun things to do. After a four hour whale spotting trip that was amazing but made me feel a little sick, we stopped by an “eco-zoo” to have time with some indigenous animals and our feet on the earth.
I spoke to the lady at our entrance and I asked, after seeing all the many wallabies and kangaroos around me,
“Do you set them free when they are well enough?” I said – assuming they were all there, in such numbers for rehabilitation.
“Oh no – we’re not allowed to do that. We breed them”. She looked at me blankly.
“You breed them? ” I said too loudly – astonished. “But there are SO many in Australia already” _ sputtered “Even dead all over the roads! and so many are injured, baby’s without mothers…” I couldn’t continue. I was starting to feel sick. We moved along once the admission lady got that glazed look in her eye like people who can’t stand to be around people like me because we cause them an internal moral disturbance with these obvious observations.
Entering the eco zoo, we could see that all of the animals were very well cared for. Cages were clean, and animals were all friendly and approachable, most of the Kangaroos and wallabies were in free pens we could visit them in. A swan began tailing us right away, and we fed it and chatted happily as we played with baby wallabies. But as this wondrous little adventure went on, we moved further into the park, and closer to the birds.
It was about 4 o’clock by this time which is when all of the birds and huge flocks of free cockatoos and parrots come out for their nightly romp, screeching joyfully through the air in massive flock numbers, littering the trees with their colour, like flashes of magical white appearing suddenly where before there was only 200 shades of green.
Suddenly over our head there was a massive chaotic explosion of screeching birds – maybe 30 or 40 cockatoos all flying darting from one tree to another. They were obviously addressing the dozen or so cocky’s in the large enclosure cage, which sent them all reeling. I stood still for along time and watched – one leader free cocky in particular who found a tree and opening his 3 foot wingspan began to call to all the cockatoos in the area in his massive voice – he looked incredibly regal like a King of the birds calling his troops. In immediate response, all of the the zoo birds went absolutely hysterical, screeching, wide eyed, calling, and bounding around in their cages.
Then through all the cacophony (and I really know where that word comes form now) this one little sweet voice cuts through very gently and I hear;
I see him right away – on the opposite side of the cage, looking straight at me.
“Hello poppet ” I respond trying to smile.
He rushes to my side of the enclosure, and I feel him melt against my chest into my heart through the mesh wires, warm and soft and gentle. That’s when my heart simply broke.
So I did what I only know how to do when I am terribly sad…I began to sing. And I sang him the only song I can when I am so sad…Three Little Birds by Bob Marley.
“Don’t worry…about a thing…cause every little thing, is gonna be alright”. My voice was choking there was no way to sing this without crying. This must be my go to song when my heart is breaking – the last time I sang it was to my mom as she was dying.
He stayed and stayed, quiet, listening to the soft cadence of the song, concerned with my tears looking into my face with wonder. I sang it over and over like a mantra for us while absolute insanity happened all around us. For a few minutes – I really don’t know how long – we were happy he and I there in the sun together. Really happy like we were in a bubble of love, a protective space, and I am sure he knew how much one person cold love another thing then cause that feeling bounced back and forth between us.
Suddenly he did the most awesome and terrifying thing…all at once.
Remaining in front of me he moved back just a little, shivered all over and spread his huge wide massive white wings, like angels in front of me. He raised his awesome golden crown and began to SCREAM AS LOUD AS HE COULD, holding my eyes like steel. I could feel the warm air of his breath going into my own open mouth. I was completely rooted and equally transported. Holding my eyes with his unblinking – it was the most frantic display of emotion I have ever seen. It washed over me, through me and into me. I felt it vibrate in my throat, in my head – and I was completely unable to step away. I recall some funny voice in my head – the “Josee” voice saying – “wow dude, it’s really ironic you’re going to go deaf from a bird and not your band…”
But we stayed together, because I didn’t want him to have all of that inside him alone. It felt like I was taking “it” – the sadness, frustration, fear – for him. I felt it with him.
Eventually my husband dragged me away, he didn’t like seeing me cry like that and he had spotted a massive eagle in captivity around the corner which he predicted would be my breaking point so he was rushing me out of the “eco-zoo” by then.
Walking away, leaving the zoo, didn’t remove this bird from me – it made him stronger in me. He stayed with me, night after night, until finally one night I simply saw his face again, like a flash in my mind – the spread out wings, wide open eyes and screaming voice – and I heard…
HEEEEEYYYYY HEY YAH!
I felt like a warrior inside – a scream from a deep place I had not yet met. I felt all our Mowawk, Ojibwe, MigMAg – all our tribes inside me at once. It was incredibly power.
Like a mighty cry, I saw the faces of our Native family at home – the beautiful colours, the feathers and the respect we have for their wisdom of the land. I felt like it was MY war cry…from my heart.
Then I felt helpless.
What could ONE little middle aged housewife from Canada do about ALL the caged birds in the world?? In fact, what could I possibly do about ALL the caged animals that broke my heart all over the world?
Having boycotted zoos most of my life, including never taking my kids to one, just wasn’t enough.
Who am I? Just one person right?
So, I did what I do. I wrote a song.
The idea of it expanded. I wanted a song that represented the world need to “uncage ” EVERYTHING that is imprisoned and respect all of our native roots – the ONLY roots that will hold any hope for this planet. Australia is JUST on the brink of beginning to understand the power and importance of our indigenous people, and I wanted to be a part of bringing that beauty here. So, with my friends Dave and Regine at Devine Drum Studio in mind, who are bringing African drumming to our cold land back home, I integrated an indigenous beat and a rhythm that is also appropriate for drumming to honour our connection to the earth and to encourage people who are not usually musicians to sing and play drums, dance and be a part of this song.
What I want to say to YOU is – SING WITH ME! Don’t be afraid to get REALLY LOUD at the end…I’m sure cocky can hear your love! Or maybe they can hear you in Tibet or some other caged in place that needs our collective voice.
I wrote Cocky’s song, at least the majority of it, very quickly no edits. It was “one of those” – easy, simple and free flowing. Singing it makes me happy and cry all at the same time.
Our neighbour a local Aussie old hippie called Bruce, named the song “Cockey’s Song” – a very common expression in Australia – they tend to shorten everything into something fast and friendly. A “cockey” – is a beloved animal in Australia.
When I reread the lyrics I had written it struck me that Cocky’s song may not be unique to him only – It made me think of everyone who is stuck in a cage” – so many cages. Ones we build, ones we are given…we all have them.
You can decide what has happened to cocky by the end of the song – but inevitably, we all get out of the cage one way – or the other.
I would like to play this song everywhere – and hear all of the peoples voices singing with it.
So – CHEERS MATE!
Here’s to flying free in blue skies!
COCKY’S SONG (lyrics)
(Heyyyyy….hey yah! Heyyy yah Heyyy yahx2) x 2
I see my friends fly in the sky
I can’t go with them and I don’t know why.
I must have done something wrong,
Maybe someone didn’t like my song?
But I sang Heyyyyyy hey yah – get me out of here, get me out of here x2
I heard of freedom once in a song
It sounded so silly, I thought they must be wrong
Each day I try to spread my wings
But that doesn’t change much of anything….
So I sing.. (Chorus) hey ya – “get me out of here…” x2
My heart it aches to touch a cloud
I dream about it When there’s no one around
But I put on a show for all to see
All those blind eyes,
Staring back at me
And we sing – “heyyy get us out of here, get us out of here…” x2
She sings a song to the little bird
He seems to listen To every word
She told him we were very wrong
To keep him in And stop his song
And we sang Heyyyyy heyy yah – get them out of there, get them out of there…” x2
Then one day it did come true,
The cage was gone And the sky so blue!
I saw my friends way down below
Now there’s no place I can’t go!
And I sing…hey heyyy yah – I’m out of here I’m out of here x2
Back to intro hay ya…with an “amen heya” scat to end.,,,
My rough unproduced initial recording of this song and video is available for download on a couple of my pages.
I am giving this song to you freely. However, if you feel a tug at your heart, please make a donation to
What was “supposed to be” a lovely afternoon in Perth with my husband attending a public talk being given by the Dalai Lama began with a long early morning walk following an argument with said husband the previous night. Dark despair hung over the state of my life (or lack thereof), my thoughts racing at five hundred miles an hour – I was clouded by anger and depression. Not to mention being in the most remote city in the world, Perth is the farthest place away from where I live as you can get on planet earth and I was very homesick. Finding no relief of course, just walking, crying and thinking, thinking thinking – Blech, I returned to our hotel where I planned to go to the room and just sleep until the event began later that afternoon.
Suddenly across the quiet street in the early Sunday morning sun a lone monk walked along purposefully towards the corner to cross the street, carrying a small “monk-bag” with his few possessions in tow. I sat on a bench and watched him in wonder as he carefully crossed the street busy now with cars directly in front of the area that HHDL would be giving his public address later that day. In my despair and desperation, I prayed with tears in my eyes that somehow he would see me, sense my pain and come over to me dissipating my sadness with a mere magical word or simply by his calm monkish energy. Frankly, I wanted to be saved.
But instead, the little monk continued straight on his path, casting me a last second glance as he turned the corner smiling from his eyes to mine, and he was gone – leaving me to my bench and my misery.
Sighing sadly, I looked across the street at the arena and noticed a man already beginning to set up railings and dividers where people would be entering the arena later on. I felt suddenly compelled to go over to the otherwise deserted arena grounds and find myself a place to sit in the sun and meditate or just sit quietly.
I quickly felt at home on my little cement perch. It was similar to the other benches fashioned in cold hard concrete to match the ultra-modern Perth Arena, all of it made in triangles from the ground to the walls, like a giant seed of life. I noticed two older women sitting to my right, for two hours they interchanged and talked together. It made me think of my friends back home and the peace I get from exchanging with them. Crossing my legs on the cement bench I had adopted to the right of the arena in the sun, I closed my eyes and felt myself go unusually quickly into a space of calm and quiet. If there were thoughts and stories flying around my mind – I was no longer interested in them. I did however feel so grateful to be in a space where it seemed perfectly normal that a middle aged hippie in a shawl that looks like it would have fit nicely into Jesus’s wardrobe, or was at least that old, It seemed perfectly logical that I should be there for some reason and frankly no one even noticed me, like I was just part of the environment.
Sooner – or later I opened my eyes on and off noticing small changes happening around me that weren’t there the last time I had opened my eyes. Some cars had pulled up behind me and a group of Tibetan nationalists had begun to gather at the bench beside me where the two women had now vacated. Men and women, young and older all dressed in stunning colourful regalia, the mood celebratory in anticipation of seeing His Holiness. They unraveled loving banners that said things like “Long Live His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama”, “Freedom for Tibet” and “May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes” written in English and Tibetan on a beautiful bright yellow banner.
For a moment out of my meditation I wondered if they would mind me being on this bench- was I in the way, out of place – did I belong there? So far from home, outside of my culture, I often felt out of place. But, they seemed to all just accept me as part of the environment, and I felt incredibly happy there, so I spent the next three hours sitting, breathing, smiling in the sun and simply watching.
Upon the next opening of my eyes, I saw that a small woman had arrived to my right and was standing stock still, her eyes steady and forward and her mouth making the small motions of a concentrated mantra. To her right another younger woman arrived and began doing the same thing, both women facing the street that the monk had walked up.
“Om Mani Padmi Hum” I could see them repeating the familiar mantra over and over. The same one I had been saying for over an hour now. They were there to do the same thing as I was – and this to me was simply amazing. Like God telling me I was ok, in the right place, doing the right thing.
Another meditation and I open my eyes – now there are four or five police cars directly behind me that I hadn’t heard drive up. Security for His Holiness is very very tight. There are dogs in one of the cars which delights some of the young Tibetan girls. Horses with cool looking tattooed police officers arrive, Clydesdale crosses looking gentle and fierce all at once. The young Tibetan girls go to touch the horses holding each others hands to have courage. These horses are much bigger than horses in Tibet or India I imagine.
My husband eventually finds me and suddenly we are soon surrounded by increased comings and goings of preparatory activities. Boxes with pamphlets being hauled around, security guards fill the place even a group of protesters forming across the street. These protesters claim HHDL told them they were “not allowed” to worship a certain deity because it was an angry one – or something. I have to admit to paying little attention to what felt like a small dark cloud in a very sunny place. My husband and I talk about how confusing this is since even not knowing as much about Buddhism or HHDL – being relatively new to this world, we can see clearly that his philosophy would never allow for the “prohibition” of any aspect of any religion – which of course he never would say, so were a little confused.
I close my eyes to the blue sky. The moving artwork beside me makes a noise like monks chanting ohm…
I allow all the activity around me pull me deeper into the quietness that is for now so easily accessed in my mind.
Open my eyes to newcomers to my perch: Paul and his wife Chris, a woman about my age who had lived in Dharamsala for three years right at the base of His Holiness’s refuge, where he landed after escaping from Tibet the brutal Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959. I felt that by meeting her I was very lucky – almost like she made me feel closer to the source. Her warm brown eyes and gentle face outlined a soft German accent. She explained she had lived in Australia for only ten years, her husband for nearly 30. John and I both said later that we could feel a quiet presence from these people who have been practicing for so long – as though they are settled quite comfortably into their own skin and ego has vanished to be replaced with a quiet curiosity and a child like open heartedness.
I admit to her during our conversation that every time I learn just a little more about anything I feel as though I have stepped backwards ten steps and I know even less.
She laughed and said this was a good sign that I was on the right path.
“Every time you get more from seeing him”, she said speaking of her experiences listening to the talks of the Dalai Lama showing me the tip of her little finger. “Yes, You get just a little bit more, but I don’t think we are meant to know too much in this life – only to add to what we need for now, yes?”. She smiled allowing me time to consider this. Amazing.
Sometimes I have had encounters such as this one, which make me feel incredibly at peace and to know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be – even if that is on the other side of the planet from my home. I felt guided, protected and incredibly loved.
What a stark difference from my mentality and feelings of just a few hours ago!
And there was still unbelievably more to come…
John, my incredible partner seems to understand that I simply NEED to be at this place, on my perch, in the middle of “this” – whatever “this” was. He brings me food, an egg wrap and juice which I devour having not even noticed how starving I was until I smelled the delicious food. He sits beside me quietly, taking it all in. Then he offers to check us out of our hotel, take care of our bags and regroup with me to go into the arena in a while, leaving me to my vigil. I am incredibly touched and grateful for his understanding and support.
When he comes back, I introduce him to “our new friends” – to which he exclaims loudly
“I love new friends!”. This outburst was greeted by wide smiles by all around us, even the beautiful Tibetan’s who maybe couldn’t understand what he said, but surely felt his smile.
Chris Paul John and I speak for a while, exchange authentic gratitude at having met, and decide it is time to enter the arena.
We go in after a pretty serious but light hearted security check. No one is taking chances with His Holiness, and of course we all understand. Inside the new arena, we see an awesome open space and our fellow attendees milling about. There is a small area where they are selling books, so we make our way over.
On the tables there are only maybe 30 titles, some written by the Dalai Lama and other authors that support the concepts in Tibetan Buddhism. I see three stack of books through a crowd of book lovers with an adorable cat on the cover. The first is called “The Dalai Lama’s Cat”, the second and sequel is “The Power of Meow”, and the third “The Art of Purring”. A few volunteers scramble around behind three large tables positioned in a semi circle, while throngs of attendees jostle each other in quite a friendly way trying to see all the new titles they may not yet have heard about and chatting about books they had read.
The girl in front of me had short dark hair, a serious nose piercing and a wide honest smile.
“I love these books”, she said over the din smiling at me. “Do you have any questions?”
“I haven’t had the chance to read any of them, but I’ve heard the first one”,
“Oh yes, they are all great”, she replies.
“Ok, cool. So if you could only choose one of these which one would you pick?” I ask.
She points immediately to the third book.
“This one,” she says without an ounce of doubt. “In the story the Dalai Lama challenges his cat to find the root cause of happiness while he is away on a long journey. Happiness is something I am very interested in”, she says smiling. ” So I like this one right now, the best”.
I snatch up the book and thank her whole heartedly. I notice an understanding pass between us. Maybe she saw my red rimmed eyes still from my emotional day and felt sorry for me. More likely she saw that I really wanted to understand something I didn’t even have a question for yet.
We find our seats and notice in front of us a row of monks arrived and two Buddhist nuns took up their seats as well. I felt very lucky sitting near their peaceful energy. I looked around and caught my breath as I realized that here we ALL were…delegates from every potential variety of human on the planet I am sure. Every race, creed, religion, old, young, rich, poor, happy, sad – all of it in one place.
The talk began with brief introductions and then a dance by local Aborigine tribe. It was an awesome dance – a calling in the ancestors to protect our space each of the two dancers demonstrating the elegant poses of the animals the represented; the pelican, kangaroo, and emu all beautifully obvious in the expression of the dancers dancing on the vibrations of the haunting and beautiful didgeridoo.
A tribal chief sings a welcoming and protective incantation and then, without any fancy introduction whatsoever, His Holiness just quietly walks out onto the stage, smiling away and chatting with a security team obviously accustomed to scrambling and keeping up with following His Holiness. My first impression of the Dalai Lama then was that well – he was full of beans. I was totally right
The dancers completed their amazing choreography and exited the stage. Another Grand Chief came and sang part of the Song line that the Aborigine’s are in charge of. History says that the aborigine of Australia are the oldest tribe existing on the planet and that, when creation occurred they were given the responsibility of singing the song that keeps the world in balance and harmony. Part of that process is that young men are sent on their walkabout at 13 and they have to fashion their own Didgeridoo. Then they have to sing their song line into the planet, like a seed, causing their vibrations to send healing into the earth. It’s a very powerful thing to witness.
And without ceremony, HHDL is there, at the microphone. He tells his translator and adviser that he wants to just stand and speaks.
“Hello my brothers…” and he looks around at everyone, “And my sisters…” smiling eyes – prayer pose hands on his heart.
I felt like he was looking directly at me…and everyone all at once.
His eyes sort of half closed and we could feel him sending out love or peace or something unbelievably awesome and unnameable to all of us. I feel like explaining it is very difficult but I have to say, after what he spoke about, for nearly three hours (and only a few days before his 80th birthday!) he had one bottom line, and that was “peace in the world isn’t going to happen until we can find peace within ourselves, first as individuals, then as family’s then as community’s nations and so on. It all has to come from what we do for ourselves every day. This was the outward message he sent anyways…but I was to discover that the effect of this talk simply goes on and on.
At the end of his talk HHDl cracked us all up by simply saying
“OK I’m done now. You can all go home and take your problems with you!”, hhahaaha!! The audience laughed gleefully. meaning that he emphasizes that the only place to find happiness is inside ourselves and so, carrying our probes around wasn’t very productive. We all laughed, but I also felt a sense of relief in the air, because obviously there were many others who may have come in to that place with a “brick cloak” full of problems, but it seems that after it, the cloak had simply disappeared.
It changed what I pay attention to, and what I give meaning to. It changed how I see change. It allowed me at accept more fully the benefits of being more compassionate to myself and thinking more of others and not being so focused on myself all the time. That was a very lonely place. It allowed me to get excited about my day. I was so energized at this talk I stayed awake to navigate john home, chattering and unable to stop being in awe of what had just happened for the entire 4 and a half hour flight followed by the additional 2 1/2 hours it took us to get home for what should have been a one hour an fifteen minute drive. But we just kept getting lost, turning in circles. John was incredibly exasperated but he stayed jovial nonetheless. Normally it would make me frustrated if he was mad and getting lost in the middle of the night driving through terrifying kangaroo lands on dark scary Australian stretches of highway. I have an old tendency to react like an injured dog when I am frightened – but I KNOW this about myself and suddenly I am laughing instead of being nervous or scared, and we are having a good time and laughing at our ridiculous lack of direction in this foreign land.
HAPPINESS…we were really enjoying the feeling.
Every day is foreign land for all of us, no matter where we live. It starts off as a great mystery, and we all know anything can happen. You can win the lottery, find true love, get the job, get the car – whatever it is, we have all believed there is something OUT THERE that will be found to make all the irritations inside you go away. But this will never happen. No matter how good, or chaste or decent or well behaved you are – there is absolutely nothing on the outside that can bring you the kind of happiness you can find within yourself. I think this is indeed, a universal truth.
Seeing the Dalai Lama strips away all of the unnecessary worries and refocuses you on your primary purpose – to be HAPPY.
So, my new mission – well – the only mission I will have each day is to be responsible for my own happiness. I want to be happy now, not just to ease my own personal pains and suffering of this life’s journey, like we ALL have, but more because I want to be useful – I want my life to mean something and to help people. That’s it. not complicated Not easy – but not complicated.
Oh, by the way, not to give away anything but…at the end of the book, the Dalai Lama returns to his cat, and reveals to him the single most important secret to achieving happiness…
I’d like to tell you, but I won’t. I’d like you to think of that for yourself.
Or read the book 😉
One of the things I like so much about life with my husband is that we travel really well together; we are both friendly and have a real love for people and have an immediate desire, in whatever place we land at, to know the local culture and people right away – and steer clear of all tourist attractions.
This trip is very different because for two major reasons: first we really are not tourists this time. We are what you call “expats” – or temporary residents. And second, it is winter in Australia and all the tourists have run away, so we get to see a side of this life that most people don’t.
When we arrived in St Andrews beach, a small resort town about an hour outside of Melbourne. After two weeks of traveling in Asia, and all the emotions of leaving everything we know half a world away, we felt pretty disoriented not only with our surroundings but with each other. Our relationship has always been in the context of the kids or the people that we are involved with in our lives. Suddenly there was me wandering aimlessly in my floppy slippers, john trying to work in his office, the silence of the house deafening. I mean silence. No phone calls, no door knocking, no kids talking upstairs, no music from bedrooms, no having to line up for the shower. Weird. In fact, the first night I heard the chaotic running of possums on the tin roof I actually had a sense of relief and not fear: chaos I can do. I can handle unforeseen noises, chaotic occurrences by nature and children, winds, cyclones – yes I am good at those. But silence? Peace? Nothingness? That was going to drive me wacko.
We both knew we needed to find something outside of the house to keep us going, so of course we turn to music, the passport to the universe. We began to ask around for local jams and very quickly found the first local place that would give us something to do other than watch 80 episodes of House on Netflix for the next three months.
What we didn’t realize is that Jamming and music in Australia is something like a sacred religion. We would soon discover that not only is Australia the Jam capital of the planet, but that there is an amazing group of underground jammers: normal humans who by day may be disguised as moms or dads, accountants and business folk- but once a week, they get their hippie on, dust off the old axe and drive to the strangest places that come alive with jammers and jam supporters.
Here we are called musos – an expression referring to a talented jammer. To be called a muso is to be accepted into the popular underground culture of the jam world. We found our home base with other musos quickly, at a little taco joint called Baha’s, in Rye a small bay town ten minutes away. The very first Wednesday we jammed there the owner asked us to put together a band and do a full three set show on the Saturday night, as he had lost his band and needed a fill. Soon we were in the full throws of rehearsal with Dan our newly found multi-instrumental bass, saxophone, guitar, drum, keyboard guy with an amazing studio in a house that overlooks the whole world. Our new friend Jaci (Jaycee), a sweet original folk player who knows everyone, goes everywhere and immediately adopted us and began bringing us around with her, expanding our network of muso friends exponentially – our experience in australia began to widen as though we had lived here for years.
I enjoy that our relationships with people are never basic – we always go deep. We don’t talk about the weather, politics or other things that don’t really concern peoples hearts. And because Australians seem to be willing to engage easily in this level of “real talk” we have really found some amazing stories.
Last night was one of my favourites so far. It began as a very sad story: a man with a Ford tee-shirt sitting across from me, having imbibed ten or so too many pints pulls up his sleeve and says to me in a thick slightly drunk Aussie drawl.
“This ‘ere was my son – Cammy – he was the best boy evah. Gone now two years he is”, and he stopped and smiled at me weakly. I heard john take a deep breath and try and absorb it – I could his his mind thinking about our boys, all around the same 20 years old Cam was when he died in a biking accident.
My heart squeezed as he told the story about how his boy had just gotten a loan and had paid for his and his father’s tickets to fly across the country to attend his sister’s wedding in Cairns. The man known to others as “Spoons” because of his talent playing musical spoons, told me how he had spoken with his son the night before his death. Cam told his father he was going to the highlands to go mountain biking. The accident happened when a low lying wire unseen by the boy clotheslined him causing his neck to break.
My husband and I took the story in; we aren’t afraid of talking about death the way some people who want to be very polite about it can be. Spoons leans over and we look at his tattoo –
“Cameron ….. it says – “Never Forgotten”- He was 20 only years old.”
I watch the man like he is an enigma wondering how anyone survives the loss of a child – I just can’t imagine it. I feel such love for him, I just want to make it go away. I want to say something encouraging to him, but my own experience with grief tells me that nothing brings solace to a heart that is so broken. So I decide to really listen to him – be very present – and let him tell me all sort of beautiful stories about his son, which I see brings a sparkle to his eyes and an aliveness to it all.
Suddenly, as he is ending his story and I am trying to find a different way to repeat what I have been saying over and over “God, Im so sorry…I’m so sorry…”, a young man with messy brown hair and his friend a smiling blond boy, both in their early 20s come up to Spoons and sit right down beside him on the couch.
“You were Cam’s dad eh?” said the boy to Spoons smiling widely “I knew him yeah…I was living with him in town”.
My mouth falls open, and Spoons just looks at me with wide open eyes like he has seen a ghost
“That’s him!” I say probably louder than I meant to, feeling like somehow we had just won the lottery.
I feel tears come into my eyes –
“Spoons! That’s the way they keep talking to you! Your son is here to tell you he’s ok!”
We jump up – everyone is hugging and smiling, dancing a little jog with our arms around each other. We don’t care that an hour ago we were all strangers and now are crying quite openly together. Everyone around realizes what has happened and there is a giant resounding toast with lifted glasses, everyone’s eyes slightly upturned addressing Cam directly
“To Cam!!” everyone cheers.
Spoons hugs the boy beside him so long his tears don’t have a chance against his failing willpower and he comes out of the embrace wet faced – both men smiling understanding and accepting that Cam continues somehow.
I feel very honoured to be a witness of these experiences. It is my only wish not to waste the time or the learning. They remind me that life is really very magical. I also feel incredibly lucky to be a musician, because I experience life through this world of colour and sound and emotional openness that brings about these instances of incredible joy and pure honest humanity.
After Cam’s appearance, Spoons now calls me “his sister from another mister” and we are friends. The musicians call john and I Musos – and we are one of them now.
What a miracle to create and find this community all the way across the world. I still marvel at how far I had to travel only to discover how very small the world really is.
Dawn breaks slowly in Australia. At around 6am it appears in a succession of silences broken by bird song, screeches and warbles alerting all the living things to the impending day. The ocean, only a kilometer away, provides a constant gentle roaring – an auditory background, like big deep breaths by the Great Mother Herself. In the mist of the morning I can imagine myself as something cradled deep within her, and I feel safe and fine. There is a wildness everywhere you go – even in the cities, and everywhere I look I am reminded that nature has its own way; like the cockatoos that have adapted to the city and float like giant yellow and white clouds between buildings early in the morning. Or like yesterday when I saw a sea gull on the beach who had only one leg. I was surprised at the intensity of my sadness for this bird – maybe it had to do with the connection we feel here? Somehow I related to him – like any of us could relate to a determined one legged bird.
But Australia is a wild place – and fairness is really not part of the deal.
In such contrast, it is the most beautiful and the most wicked of all places on the earth. In terms of Ying and Yang, everything about Australia demonstrates these diametrical opposites. The first thing I have become aware of here is that even the locals don’t take mother nature for granted. They take things seriously – like if you tell them you have discovered a giant spider that has survived swimming in your pool all day – they come over, and want to see. There are serious spiders here and snakes and weather. I was even warned against the birds and that I should not “commune” with the magpie because they were territorial and would peck out my eyes. But this does not stop me from having frequent conversations with the local magpies that I am coming to know in my back yard. They are intense in their energy and unimaginably beautiful with their stark black and white feathers. \some of them are as big as a small dog, and when I play music in the back yard I feel like a rock star because they come from all over, and curious about my recording device spend time making funny noises and poking at it, while providing perfect background chorus. But these birds are not aggressive – I have also seen that the very smallest of the birds can push a magpie off their food. They are big wimps in the face of their feathered cousins. And yet sports stores sell helmets with long funny looking spikes for bikers who travel too close to Magpie nests in the fall and winter (June through august) because the males are known to attack anyone within 50 feet of their nest, and they can
“peck right into your skull they will…”
Everyone who arrives in Australia wants to know what to do if they are confronted with a giant man eating spider or poisonous snake. So, the second most important saying you’ll want to pay attention to in Australia is:
“Just don’t poke it”.
Sounds good to me mate.
Things are straight forward here – it either IS or it IS’T. There is an absence of conversational beating around the bush that we employ in the more American culture. Here – things are what they are. Say what you mean and mean what you say. And if you ask someone a favour the response is inevitably –
“No worries Mate”,
And that’s true too. In Australia, you are invited to put your worries away and live each second in its incredible wicked beauty.
The center of Australia is basically a big dry pot of sand, that gets bigger and bigger each year because you can’t plant in it, and roots are what keep soil on top with minerals and hydration able to sustain plant life. Without plants – the top soil blows away with the wind and keeps eating away at the land around it until everything is a desert.
You see this happening in Africa, especially if you compare maps from twenty years ago to today, the change in the desert is incredibly frightening. Australia however, has been putting actively enforcing eco-protection measures and land protection for a long time. It seems everywhere you go there is another national park with magnificent beauty all alive and open to anyone who cares to spend time in it. You can easily within the same day be at the beach, in the desert and in the rainforest. You can drive up to the mountains and go skiing, and you can be in a city in time for dinner.
Because of rapid and irresponsible industrial development in Asia and the natural current of winds, Australia’s ozone layer has been effectively destroyed. You don’t really understand how important the ozone layer is, until you don’t have one.
The first time I came here I mistakenly did not heed the advice to wear sunscreen because I thought my well worn skin could take anything after Africa. And frankly being jet lagged and time confused didn’t help my cause. I went out my first morning at 11 am to the beach for two hours and returned with second degree burns on my shoulders. I have never seen a sun so BRIGHT – most children wear sunglasses as young as three years old to protect their eyes. It is a very different looking sky from what we have back home.
I feel very fortunate to be able to have seen Australia in the summer time – at the height of the sun – and also to be living in the autumn and winter. I wasn;t sure what to expect and our first few days spent here were the worst weather I (or even many of the locals) have ever seen. Every day 50km winds dangerously whipping palm trees this way and that, rain dousing the roads in misty sheets at unforeseeable times. Contrastingly, people traipsing about in shorts and tee-shirts or cycling through the maelstrom because they seem to be in denial that it is only seven degrees out. Sometimes the dogs better dressed than their humans. But that is Australia.
The real land of ying and yang – each day opposite to the one before and SO quickly changing you can’t keep up. There is a favourite saying in these parts –
“Don’t like the weather in Melbourne? Just wait a minute…”
And it is true – the weather never stays the same for very long. In a way it seems the winter differs psychologically here, not only because it is warmer, but because you know you don’t have to settle into the “horrible weather” daze of -40 degree winters that keep you trapped inside your house staring at the same four walls for 6 months. In Australia, when the bad weather comes, maybe the streets quiet down from tourists who prefer to summers of +30, but they come alive with locals venturing out into the safety of streets not crowded with confused drivers from Asia and America trying to figure out how to drive on the wrong side of the road, and on the wrong side of a rental car.
I have to admit that I often experience some anxiety, especially on the overhanging cliffs of the Great Ocean drive when I see an obvious tourist blasting down the roads in Australia. I was saddened but not surprised to read that car accidents are now the number one cause of death in China, resulting in over 2500 deaths a month! That makes Quebec highways look tranquil. But whether we are American, Canadian, European or Asian – a tourist is a tourist – and we are all obviously lost.
That’s my pet peeve – I don’t like looking lost and I certainly never want to look like a tourist! Its a strange mentality I have acquired over so many years of travelling through different countries and experiences. Being a tourist leaves you in the out – you don’t find out where the best restaurant is (where locals eat) and places to hang out. They will tell you the standard “tourist spots”, which rarely if ever have anything to do with authentic culture in the place where you are at. So the goal is to “fit in and belong” to a place right away.
No matter where we go, for example, my first desire is always to see the grocery store. If you know what people eat, then you learn allot about them right away. I have bought food in some amazing places – French Town in Honduras where we had to be guarded by a guy with a big machine gun so we wouldnty get robbed of our food and money as we exited the store. In Guinea where the food container only came once a month or six weeks across the ocean and you had to stand in long line ups to get even the smallest comfort like shampoo and soap from home. Arguably though I have to say – grocery shopping in Australia brought me to a whole new level of experience. For example, there is a remarkable and immediately noticeable absence of American products. Like there are none. Not even Tylenol – here it’s called Panadol and it has nothing to do with Tylenol. Everything looks different, packaging seems to be more simple and even the commercials on TV are more basic. Not as “high tech” and manipulative as the ones developed for teh European and North American markets. And because Australia and New Zealand are a traditional cattle and sheep farming culture, there is allot of cheap beef and lamb on the shelves. It seems like New Zealand lamb, which is very popular also in north America is everywhere. Eggs are clearly indicated whether or not the chickens are cage raised or free range. I like that. Its more expensive for the free range eggs, but I like eating happy food. The bread is expensive and big – except for the amazing Turkish bread we found, seeded with sesame and poppy seeds like a soft delicious Ciabatta.
As a Canadian I find discovering the food and becoming accustomed to life in Australia, very easy. We do allot of the same things, we enjoy similar cultural mannerisms. When asked by a local man what the difference was between an me and a person from the United States I was able to answer him quickly and easily:
“Well, if you bump into me, I will apologize”, we had a good laugh because somehow that made perfect sense. We share a similar gentleness as well with our Australian cousins that I am coming to appreciate not only in the people I meet here, but in the ones I have left back home.
There was no joy in my heart as we left Montreal for Hong Kong late Tuesday afternoon. Just a closed eyed fist clenching oblivion, like when I was a little girl on a roller coaster, and I couldn’t wait to get on the ride, and then once on, I just wanted to scary parts to be over.
When you are uprooting everything you know, love and understand to move across the world, you can’t really afford to think about it too much – you just do the next thing that is right under your foot, not even looking much past your toes. My friend Jacques, while he was dying of cancer taught me about “doing the next right thing”. It’s a tactic I use in my head to keep myself from imploding emotionally.
So – leave at night – get through the line ups – get on the plane – don’t look out the window cause I’ll cry – let the plane take off (what’s the alternative?) – up in the air…close your eyes.
Its a one hour flight from Montreal to Toronto, then 15 from our connection to Hong Kong. Ouch.
Arriving in Toronto at 11:30 in a sleepy airport with only a few hundred Asian travellers, closed stores and dark hallways was a part of airport life I had not yet seen. Like a city tucked in for the night – I felt like a trespasser.
At the time I thought that the terminal for Cathay Airlines flight to Hong Kong had more Asian people in one single space than I had seen – in a long time. Everything about Asian cultures to me seems crowded. I had already been to China, the first year they opened to tourists…it was a very different place then. I was very young, maybe 15, and my father was the only parent who joined us on a high-school field trip. It’s one of my favourite memories with him, because he was the only parent who came and we had such a terrific time together. My school mates in the private international boarding school I attended were mostly from all over the world, didn’t get to see their parents very much so my dad was “the cool dad”. He would arrive at school with a trunk full of groceries and delicious things for all of us, he took us out for dinners and “real food” (not mystery meat form the cafeteria) He attended my soccer games, called, wrote me letters, an for my 16th birthday rented two school busses and surprised me by secretly bussing half my school to another town for a party in a beautiful hotel restaurant. I think I was abit the envy of the other kids, but he loved all of us, and they felt it.
During our time in Asia, dad had become very good friends with my soccer coach and our school’s chemistry teacher Mr. Chen. I remembered Mr. Chen during my flight; patient, kind and probably the only teacher that had not had a reason to get incredibly angry with me at some point – I wasn’t exactly the easiest kid in the world. I found them both entering my mind during the long flight; in a fresh way – not the way you think of people so long after they had died and the memories of them have dimmed to a sad grey or some faded sepia that takes the poignancy from the joy of the moments you live with them, and only leaves the sadness of loss. I saw them with a joyful vibrancy that allowed me to relive the happy feeling of the moments without the tugging at my heart.
Now, I saw my father again in vivid Technicolor – struggling up the great wall of China with me. The Wall had not yet undergone renovations, so the road was broken and treacherous. He was always dragging his enormous video camera, panting determinedly, recording every moment. More memories, ones that used to make me cry for longing, now make me smile. I see him again, on a bridge over a pond, in a small village in surrounded by little girls at a Chinese orphanage who saw a “fat silver hair’d man” as a person of affluence and wisdom. “Lucky Buddha!” They called him – I’m sure he loved that more than anything.
He would kneel on the ground and tell them stories in a language they didn’t understand somehow they understood the intention of the story and would watch quietly wide eyed in rapt attention. I had bought a guitar at a pawn shop in China and we would travel in schools and to children to sing songs – Old MacDonald Had A Farm seems to be a universally known ditty. We even met Dick Clark who joined us for some of this fun.
During our first time in china, Hong Kong was like a break for us. The New York of Asia – in a time where I cared about what I wore, and enjoyed the vibrancy of night life, music, dancing and fun- Hong Kong had all of that to offer. Because China had only opened it’s doors that first year to tourists, the hotels and places we stayed on the Mainland were abit rough to say the least. Little gangs of cockroaches, scary bed sheets, and there was no chance in hell I was putting bare feet on the ground. Food always seemed to still have a face on it, eye balls as delicacies, and wormy things for breakfast – Hong Kong was a break – it had pizza! I cherished these great memories with my friends in the New York of Asia. I was returning to a place that was once brand new – the Royal Garden Hotel had just opened that long ago year of 1983. Now, 31 years later, it was older – like me- and was undergoing some major renovations – like me.
The flight from Toronto to Hong Kong is 15 hours long. You are in the air without really standing or walking or moving. My ankles swelled to about 3 times their normal size, and I began to remember stories of a woman about my age dying in mid flight of a pulmonary embolism that had accumulated because of lack of circulation. Great.
The female flight attendants, John and I noticed, all looked like beautiful dolls. Perfect shiny skin, smiles and sweet faces, gentle and attentive. I have to say – our North American airlines could take a serious lesson from Asian airlines. They put us to shame.
The food was delicious, the service was incredible and since there is a TV right in front of your face, there was a plethora of mindless movies to choose from – mostly Asian (no lack of Bruce Lee) and notably (and happily) very little American viewing. This was my first taste of life without American influence.
For 15 hours we slept, woke, slept. Shifted, stretched, grunted – its like being in a fever – you don’t quite remember the time passing like a foggy haze. My neck cramping head bobbing open one eye position – checking the flight status on the screen – 8 hours left to go. Ugh. 8 hours – a full work day, is the worst part. Its the endless part which seems like an infinite and impossible amount of time when you’re stuck in a tiny 2 foot space squished between your snoring husband and an Asian lady who wont make eye contact with me but keeps putting her head on my shoulder to sleep.
AND SO….My lessons in patience began, and as I would soon come to learn – and certainly patience would be the focus of my time in Hong Kong.
Miraculously the flight ends and we arrive in Hong Kong. It’s 5:30 in the morning, and still dark over the city. They have built a new airport – in the late 1990’s, which is the size of a small city. The old airport was an epic landing – supposed to be the scariest landing in the world between the insanely crowded buildings on Hong Kong Island. I was grateful for the less freaky landing I must say.
We unfold our bodies, everyone grunting and stretching trying to make a impossible mad dash for the front doors. The Flight attendants routine “Thank You…Thank You…Thank You….” as we leave the plane. They still look perfect.
We are there for sunrise, and John’s work mate – Rodika and I chat excitedly about all we will see.
This was Hong Kong waking up.
I had no real idea what day it was. We had left on Tuesday – and now it was Thursday – where did my Wednesday go? John, I had to remind myself, was here on business and had a meeting later that afternoon. This was our first taste of the “Chinese work ethic” – which is something like “all work and no play all day every day”. Relentlessly hard working people – everything about Hong Kong culture, we were soon to see, is geared towards doing business.
The Royal Gardens was still as beautiful as I remember it. A Center garden atrium, hotel rooms overlook the interior, glass elevators and a piano player every night. Stores inside that I would never shop at – Rolex, Dolce & Gabanna, Versace. I was happy to see things had not gone downhill since I had been – it felt exciting for me to bring John and his co-worker to a place I knew and remembered with such fondness, allowing me not to feel so displaced from my family.
Because I went to an international school, and thanks to the benefit of social networking, I had been in touch with two old school friends before I left, who had moved back to Hong Kong after high school. We had travelled together during springs breaks and I really liked these guys, so we arranged lunch and drinks.
I missed dinner the first night with Johnny, only because I didn’t know what day or time it was. He was a sweet friend who I had gone on spring break with to Florida when we were younger. I had always liked this guy, and when he suggested we get together for drinks that first night, I was excited. I felt like a kid again – going out after 9:30 just for fun.
I met him and his lovely wife Linda downstairs at the RG and we walked a short ways away to find a small cafe for drinks. The city was quiet – although stores only close at 11 each night, a store keeper explained to me that the rents were so high they couldn’t afford to close.
We hugged happily like old friends, and right away he says
“Did you know Mr. Chen moved here again?”
My heart exploded. I couldn’t believe it! Mr. and Mrs. Chen were alive and well! I had assumed he had died I guess because my father was dead – so this felt like such a miracle! Johnny quickly dials his phone and within seconds the bridge of three decades disappeared and I hear Mr.c’s voice…
“Marie-Josee?” – he was one of the only people that called me by my full name.
I hear his trademark laugh…
“You’re alive!!” I said.
“Well of course I’m alive…” he laughs.
We make excited plans like old friends to meet the next day with his wife and another old student friend. We will surprised Derek who also had not seen M. C in so many years.
I have to say – my reunions were amazing. Mr, Chen was very sad to hear about my fathers passing – he was one of the only people in the world, I saw that had a real “friendship love: for my dad. Most other people just saw him as a business guy, or politician. But here – he was a friend, and we talked about things I hadn’t talked about in so long, my heart was exploding with happiness. I felt so at home in this strange foreign place after this meeting.,
Mr Chen an his wife took Derek and I to the Kowloon Bowling and Cricket Club, a beautiful private club on the island facing Hong Kong. I must mention here that Hong Kong is a VERY small city. The most populated city in the world, everything is built very very tall, and on top of each other. During the day, the streets are nearly impassable for walking. You are regularly jostled by incoming walkers. Very few regular citizens have cars, public transit is absolutely the only way to go. But at this place, in the quiet of the club, it was cool and quiet an spacious.
\Just like when I was young, Mr. And Mrs. Chen ordered food for us. Delicious crispy sweet and sour tofu, Mushrooms marinated in something unpronounceable and yummy.
“Remember sir…nothing with a face please”, I smiled at him
“I know, Marie-Josee, I remember you”.
It felt so good to be known and remembered – he felt like family.
He told me I was one of about 20 students that really stayed with him in his mind – I figure because I had a big mouth, but he seemed to remember me with pleasant memories. . I felt so honoured to be loved by this fine man.
Mrs. Chen and I catch up, share pictures of our children, our grandchildren. How remarkable it was to share these things with them.
I have so much more to tell about Hong Kong, but that will be for another day. I still need time to process the incredulity of it all. For this entry, I am happy to remember and be remembered by these beautiful people and memories. The next few days before leaving for Melbourne, I explored Hong Kong deeply. Remember – I am here on a self proclaimed pilgrimage – I want to understand the world, THE TRUTH – not from the perspective of America, Canada or Europe media, but from my own eyes, my own discernment and my own heart.
Have you ever time lined your life? Wow – what an experience.
Start from the last big event…be objective and don’t put little things like ‘Fight with Joe” or details that are not “life upending”. The purpose is for you to see that things come…and go…and come…and go. and you can make it through it all!
I started mine from when we had left the city and moved to our first farm.
2007 July – moved to farm. Two days later – began started taking in refuge animals.
November 10 – got married after 8 years raising seven kids together – bout time 😉
March 2008 – farm arena falls under snow – devastation. Business is destroyed.
2009 – move to temp house – and finally permanent farm three months later.
3 years of renovations ensue – frenetic trip to Costa Rica alone.
2011 – find out mom has lung cancer – let the devastation begin
2 years of hell…with medical/worries/anger/fear/dealing with terrified angry family who can barely stand being in same room with me.
So ok…Work like hell on music – creation of album, focus focus focus, gigs, work, gigs, work, write, gigs, work…
2013 – July – Lucy my friend and teacher dies of ALS. She gave me my garden. I am so grateful.
September 6 – my (best) mom dies. I know – most people don’t get a “best” mom – but this one was kinda special. I was adopted by my grandmother who died when I was 15. – #NotSoSpecial.
2014 – RIP Otis – my beautiful best-friend horse/ranger and daily companion.
RIP – Ranger my cat of 20 years ( a twin)
RIP – Buzz Lightyear the super-goat(another twin)
RIP – Mike’s suicide (didn’t see it coming…)
RIP – Anne suicide (really really didn’t see it coming…) – ouch.
November: KABOOM. Richard my dear friend and producer of my album dies suddenly.
Do you hear the toilet flushing? Those are my hopes and dreams…
RIP Casper – Buzz’s twin – only relief felt at this. He was lonely for his brother and really old.
RIP – Randy – another suicide…why is this happening??
Feb 2015 – surprise ten-day trip to Australia with John – woohoo. Loved it.
May 2015 – Move to Australia – seems like a good idea.
Really?? This all seems so random to me.
Its like living two or three lives in one…Insane. I was supposed to be a lawyer or politician or businessy person or something along those lines. My entire childhood groomed me for this. But the soul is MUCH louder – really you can’t shut it up and there was a musician inside that just wouldn’t let me stop making music. Thank God.
The musician won.
The lawyer in me left town.
The politician committed suicide.
This time line lets me see a few things:
1- Life has WAVES of stuff…there were years without any death or chaos,…then there were years where it was all condensed. This line reminds me that when the “waves” happen – they will pass and turn into something else.
2- You cannot predict a bloody thing.
I have been a daughter/wife/student/mother/teacher/writer/business person/politician/activist/poet/musician/composer/artist/trainer now…
I guess I want to share this in case someone else needs to relate to the “i don’t know where I’m going but I’m pretty sure I am supposed to be going this way” feeling of life…
There was a song I wrote a while back called “Traveling Man” – must be about 16 years now. I have never played it – but the lyrics seem to be randomly popping into my head as i think of all the people who are so important to me and me to them – my tribe of and loved ones –
Wish I was a traveling man looking to find my way
I would tell you all my dreams
in love we’d live each day
But I don’t’ know where I’m going,
please help me get there soon,
Lord I don’t know where I’m going!
But you’ll find me waiting by the moon…
Maybe it will be time to launch that one at our final gigs this weekend.
We are getting ready for Australia and I am a little daunted at the trip I am about to take. You see I am Canadian and Australia is literally half a world away. Not only is the time zone thing confusing, but apparently I will lose a complete day of my life. It will be taken from me by the intrepid date line…and I don’t understand where it goes?!! I leave thursday and arrive saturday…so…where did friday go?? Is it replaced later? NO because I leave on a Monday and return here on a Monday. HOW does that work??
Let me explain the little I understand…
I live in Montreal.
I leave Thursday at 5:30pm (mtl) and arrive Vancouver 11:00pm (mtl time) 8:00pm (Vancouver time)
I leave at 11:30pm Vancouver time and fly for 14.5 hours to Sidney where we arrive on Saturday – at 2:30 a.m Australia time. Hunh?
Because of leaving a) late thursday so it’s already friday in AUstralia and b) crossing this “date line”, friday is taken. Gone. poof. Just getting there is the first incredible thing to get over.
I am packed two days before leaving. If you knew me then you would know how totally and completely out of character this is for me. But I’m excited. Something about this is feeling eerily like my beloved Africa.
I researched the animals and wildlife which brought memories of Africa closer. Except I think Australia is more challenging even.
We forget how lucky we are in Canada. When I look up “Canadian Wildlife” on google images i get something like this :
Here, we may have to contend with “a little” cold, but in the summer you can walk barefoot and you can drink water pretty safely, you don’t have to be afraid to put your slippers on in the morning and you don’t check every bite of bread for weevils. There are some real challenges that we simply don’t face here in North america. Our most dangerous snake being the Rattler or something equally benign compared to the insanely big and venomous Black Skinned Tiger Snake. Our waters are incredibly safe for swimming in terms of the creatures they house.
When I look up “Australian Wildlife” on google images I get something more like…this:
What the fuck is that?
In Australia there seem to be many things waiting to kill you everywhere. Spiders and snakes on land, Box Jelly fish with 4 meter long tendrils causing you to die within an hour of asphyxiation if you just touch them a teenie tiny bit. Oh and they’re basically invisible…yeah. how do you fight that?
Australian water life is a hole other topic. People actually dive there…just watching the documentary on ocean life made me want to sell my scuba gear and declare heartily “never again!”. I am a dummy.
It’s funny because here in Canada I am extremely comfortable with nature. I feel connected to animals and have a very good level of communication with the things that live around me. But uproot me and put me somewhere like Costa Rica and it’s a whole new world to learn. So many different sounds and smells. Even just the “feeling” of a day passing is so different I often would find myself not having any clue what time it is because I think at home we have a natural connection to the placement of the sun, but in a different place, we need to realign ourselves and this takes time.
Vacationers don’t have time to waste. I am making plans to not make plans. My favourite part of this trip to take so far will be when john and I go “walkabout”. We are renting a car and heading “thatta way” down the Great ocean road off the coast near Melbourne. I think neither of us wanted to mention that we were a little more nervous about doing this since we watched the documentary together last night, with the teenie-weenie spiders that inject a small glob of venom into your toenail and you die. You just stop breathing and die and never even see it coming. Maybe we weren’t so comfy with those.
Or maybe we were both having second thoughts when we learned of the GIGANTIC DINO-LIKE-CROCODILE that can out-run A FRIKKING LAMBORGHINI.
Maybe it was the big fuzzy ugly gigantic icky spider with shiny horrible black spikes in its mouth that attacks forward so it can pierce your boot. Kind makes you love a good blizzard eh?
Or maybe it was the snakes that just lie waiting for you in every single shadowy part of every city or rural area in Australia. Yeah…I have to say that made me think:
“Panic!! We need a guide!!”
John and I are celebrating 15 years together with this trip. Our relationship began basically with a trip like this one, but to friendly little Boston in 2000. Now this trip is our most adventurous and over the years I have learned about my beautiful husband that our likelihood of getting a guide is about as much as him stopping for directions at a garage….
I wonder if you can buy portable anti-venom for long trips?