All my life I have thought of mistletoe as a European thing, and associated it with images of druids cutting it out of trees with a sickle– most likely embedded by all the Asterix books I read as a kid.
Mistletoe is, in fact, a very old word that dates back to Old English. It had closely related words for the same plant in Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian, Old High German and Gothic languages.
The plant was venerated by the druids, especially when it was found growing on oak trees, which were seen as the most powerful and mighty of trees. The druids believed that mistletoe had powerful healing properties, and it has traditionally been associated with life, renewal, hope, magic, and love.
This accounts for my enormous surprise last Friday as we were driving through southern New South Wales and I discovered that the teardrop shaped plants growing on Australian gum trees were, in fact, a native variety of mistletoe. They were different enough in colour, leaf shape and habit to be distinct from the trees on which they were growing, and a quick search online confirmed what I had jokingly suggested to my husband as we drove: “Maybe it’s mistletoe!”
Photos: WordyNerdBird. Mistletoe growing in an Australian eucalypt at Wilbriggie, NSW.
As it happens, Australia has about seventy varieties of native mistletoe, and another twenty or so that have been introduced. While they live semi-parasitically on other trees, they don’t do any harm to them or the environment as some other parasitic plants do. (Yes, Golden Dodder, I’m looking at you, you nasty weed.)
So, next Christmas when certain family and friends laugh at me for singing ‘Meet Me Under The Mistletoe’ I’ll be able to inform them that it does grow here naturally, and therefore Australians are just as entitled to sing about it as anyone else.
For many years, families have made a tradition of going into the city to see the department store Christmas windows.
We don’t live in a big city, or near one, but shop windows decorated for Christmas have become popular out here in the country, too.
Tonight we had the unveiling of the Christmas windows at the local hardware. They made an event of it, added in some competitions and games, and generated a lot of interest among the community. A good number of community folks turned out for the event, and there was a lot of excitement and chatter among the crowd.
The Christmas windows at H Hardware in Cobden, Victoria.
The windows, each decorated by a different staff member, are fabulous. They all show creativity and a sense of humour, and they are sure to be a feature of the Christmas lights viewing in town.
“Why would you live in Cobden?” is a question I get asked from time to time. My standard response is, “Why wouldn’t you?”
An evening like this is just another reminder of just a few of the reasons why my town is a really great place to live.
COVID-19 restrictions were recently eased in our area, just in time for us to make the most of us both having four days off work.
We took the opportunity to sneak away for a break and headed down the coast with our friends, caravans in tow, phones switched onto silent, and four days’ worth of food, drinks and comfy old clothes ready to go.
At this point of 2020, we fully realise what a luxury four days away from home really is. After months of staying home, teaching from home, and only leaving home when absolutely necessary, the change of scenery was most welcome. Of course, Melbourne and its surrounding area are still under restrictions, so this is a privilege most people in my state do not have. I do feel sympathy for them, but not sufficiently to forgo the pleasure of my first real break since January.
We are camped at the little coastal hamlet of Yambuk on the south-western coast of Victoria. It’s a picturesque little spot, overlooking a lake that is kept separate from the ocean only by sand dunes. We can see the ocean beyond the dunes, hear it murmuring all night as we rest, and easily walk to the beach whenever we so desire. The lake has a bird population of a dozen gulls and one magnificent pelican, while our campsite has several blue wrens that keep us entertained.
Not that I need much for entertainment. I’m happy to gaze at the sea, or the birds, or watch the sun dip behind the dunes as dusk cloaks the countryside with a blanket of almost-but-not-quite-darkness, illuminated by stars and a full moon so bright you could almost read by it.
I had planned to record and upload a couple of spooky stories for Halloween, but the phone signal is so low, I can’t even upload images to Instagram unless I drive twenty minutes to a bigger town. This would usually frustrate me but, this weekend, I really don’t care. So, I put my phone down and decided I would also take a good break from screens.
I have taken the opportunity to walk, to nap, to read books, to do puzzles, and to sit in companionable silence with my friend. I have managed to get a few nice photos. I have taken time to contemplate the huge differences in my life between last January and now. I don’t know if this year has changed me, but it has changed lots of things for me.
I suppose I am stronger, but I don’t feel it. It’s going to take more than four days to heal that amount of damage, but at least I’ve made a bit of a start.
I’m very thankful for this beautiful place and the time off that made this little getaway possible.
Most of all, I am thankful for the people who are willing to nourish me physically and spiritually, and to hold my hand or encourage me while giving me time and space to work on myself. I am blessed to have some of those people right here with me this weekend, while others are still on the other side of closed borders. It may have been one of the most rubbish years ever, but I am richly blessed to have some amazing people in my life to help me get through it.
This post and its pictures actually uploaded after who-knows-how-many attempts. I had actually given up and put my phone down again, and noticed some time later that it has uploaded. And they say miracles don’t happen!
In wilful defiance of TLC’s advice, we spent today chasing waterfalls. Thankfully, though, we were visiting real waterfalls rather than metaphorical ones.
It was great to get out in the sunshine and fresh air, and to enjoy a change of scenery after months of social restrictions and another term of teaching from home.
I visited both Nigretta Falls and Wannon Falls near Hamilton, Victoria, with my bestie in July, but my husband hadn’t been there before, so it was nice to be able to visit with him.
Western Victoria has had a lot of rain the past couple of weeks, so the falls were both far more spectacular than they were in July. The volume of water at Nigretta Falls actually made it look completely different than it did just a few months ago. Wannon Falls had more water, but still looked much the same.
While watching the water cascading over Wannon Falls and flowing away, I spotted one resilient little tree growing in the river. It is barely visible in the bottom corner of the image above, but it’s there.
I thought about how the river just washes around it and keeps going, but rather than being washed away, that little tree stands its ground. The rocks around it may give it some protection and reduce the drag of the water, but even so, it must have very good roots.
It occurred to me that I am a bit like that tree.
This year has been a powerful and relentless river, and the last four months in particular have swollen that river with a lot of extra rain. I’ve learned to stand my ground and, to purposefully allow many of the pressures of life to just pass me by. I’ve had to. My priority has been to just hang on and try to not get completely overwhelmed and washed away.
Chances are, without the rocks around me, I might have been broken or got washed away. I am so thankful for those people who have supported and protected me. I’m thankful for the powerful roots and protective rocks of faith, family and friends who have held me and sheltered me, each one of them helping to deflect the water in their own way.
Hopefully, the floodwaters will recede soon and both that little tree and I can start to grow and flourish rather than merely surviving.
Over the past few weeks, I found myself growing heartily tired of advertisements and posts about Fathers’ Day.
I sincerely wish all the dads out there and their kids a very happy Father’s Day, and I truly hope they can spend some quality time together. I hope kids of all ages cherish their dads and make the most of every opportunity to spend time with them while they still have them.
For me, though… it just hurts. This is my first Father’s Day without my dad after 53 years of having him in my life. It has only been 11 weeks since he died and I miss him enormously every day.
I have so much to be thankful for. Dad was wise, and funny, and encouraging, and consistent, and caring, and always there when I needed him. I loved being able to care for him and provide for him, to spend time with him every day, and to take him to the places he needed or wanted to go. We were father and daughter, but also great companions and partners in laughter, day trips, good coffee and sweet treats.
All of that is why I miss him so much. And while everyone else is celebrating their dads as they absolutely should, it feels empty for me.
So, I spent part of my day commemorating my father.
I went to visit the grave where both my parents are now buried. I placed flowers there, took some photos, and had a big howly cry.
There was a young guy nearby, placing something on a grave — maybe his own dad’s or grandfather’s resting place, I don’t know. He approached me gently and asked, “Are you okay, miss?” We we’re both wearing masks, but his eyes were kind and I could see he was genuinely concerned for me. I thanked him and explained it was my first Father’s Day without my dad as he died in June, and he nodded. “He was lucky to have a daughter who would cry for him,” he said. Then he patted my arm and walked away. What a kind, compassionate soul!
As I calmed my breathing and emotions, I took some photos for the family.
My next stop was the Camperdown Botanic Gardens. I love walking there. It’s so pretty and there is always something lovely to see. It was the perfect place for reflecting and mindfulness as I walked. Surprisingly, I was the only person there: everyone else was missing out, because it was an absolutely glorious day. There were blossom trees covered in buds and blooms, new leaves on limbs that have been bare all winter, a glorious grove of bluebells, pretty tulips and cheerful daffodils and jonquils. They were all sights that were good for the soul.
My third destination for the day was the nursery: I wanted to buy a tree to plant in memory of my dad. There were some lovely options – silver birches, ornamental pears, weeping cherry blossom, and a range of decorative blossom trees. In the end, I couldn’t decide between the crabapple and the Persian witch hazel, so I bought both. They both have leaves that change with autumn colour, and pretty blossoms to give cheer in late winter and early spring.
There was one funny moment when the lady who runs the nursery suggested a maple tree. I had to confess to her that I adore maples — they are my favourite tree— but I couldn’t get a maple this time because nobody would believe I bought it to remember Dad. A maple would definitely be just for me.
It has been an emotional roller coaster of a day, but I have tried to fill it with positive things and happy memories instead of dwelling on the past or wallowing in misery. I experienced a beautiful moment of kindness from a stranger, enjoyed fresh air and sunshine on an absolutely cracking spring day, and I have two lovely new trees that will brighten the garden and my life.
The crabapple has been planted, and the Persian witch hazel is just waiting until tomorrow evening for its turn.
Counting my blessings instead of my tears is definitely what Dad would have wanted me to do.
Today’s important task was to finalise the wording for the plaque on Dad’s half of the headstone he shares with Mum, so that we could order it and have it done.
Most of the inscription was easy enough – name, dates of birth and death, and “loving husband of Anne”.
The challenge for my brother, sisters and myself was which bible verse to include. We knew Dad’s favourite passage was Romans 8, but that was way too long, and far too complex, to include or even simplify. We’re limited to 10-12 words, so it needed to be short but still meaningful, and reflect Dad’s faith as his final message.
There were some really good suggestions made.
This morning I texted my siblings a list of the “top eight” for their consideration and vote.
As it turned out, the decision almost made itself when my sister asked, “Why don’t we just continue the verse that’s on Mum’s?”
The simplicity and beauty of that idea took my breath. Mum’s side of the plaque has the first line of Isaiah 40:31 “They that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength”.
It was the verse that Dad chose for Mum’s inscription, so we knew Dad would have approved. It was a way of embracing their unity, too. They shared 58 years of marriage, they shared five different homes in that time, and they shared four amazing and super-talented children. Now, their earthly remains share a final resting place while their souls share eternity in heaven. Sharing such a beautiful Scripture on their headstone seemed to be a lovely reflection of their shared faith.
Still, it was another reminder that Dad is gone, another challenge to meet head on, and another emotional hurdle to overleap.
Feeling the weight of the moment, I went for a drive to one of my favourite thinking places: on top of Mt Leura, overlooking Camperdown and the volcanic plains and lakes of the area, where I have sat and thought, or taken photos, or walked, or written, or listened, or prayed, or rested, or had dinner before a theatre company rehearsal, at least a hundred times.
I typed up the text of the inscription for Dad’s plaque, ready for ordering. I knew the words, and I am pro at typing, but still, that was hard.
“Maybe I shouldn’t be on my own right now,” I whispered to nobody but me.
I got out of the car, and walked the short distance up to the top of the lookout.
And then, for the first time ever in all the times I have been there, a wedge-tailed eagle flew overhead, soaring in the sky above me.
It was there, and then it was gone. I was so caught up in the moment that I didn’t even manage to get my phone out of my pocket in time. I so wish I had, though.
I’m not the biggest believer in coincidences. In that moment, I accepted it as a sign: a reminder that although I was by myself, I wasn’t actually alone at that point in time.
My friends and I were standing in front of a portrait of Oliver Cromwell at the Tudors to Windsors portrait exhibition at the art gallery in Bendigo. .
As I often do, I added my own commentary. In a posh English accent and lower vocal register, I quipped, “Look at me being all godly and humble and unroyal and stuff before I go and kill a bunch of people and destroy all the monasteries… you know, on God’s behalf.”
A well-dressed elderly gentleman had come to stand beside me. When I finished speaking, he added in a crisp, upper class accent: “Bastard.” He was not wrong.