After a crazy-busy Christmas and New Year “silly season” followed by some medical events with my father, we managed to get away for a few days to one of our favourite destinations. It’s a little caravan park (aka ‘trailer park’ in American English) nestled into a bend on the Surry River on the south-western coast of Victoria, just down the hill from a small hamlet named Narrawong.
Many people might drive through Narrawong on their way from Warrnambool to Portland and suspect that there’s not much there. They’d be wrong.
This area is full of surprises. We’ve been spending part of our January here for years, but we are still finding new things to do and see.
This year’s unexpected bonus was a visit to the Bay of Whales Gallery, where wildlife artist Brett Jarrett creates and exhibits his amazing realist art of all sorts of animals and birds.
Visitors are welcome to talk with Brett and watch him work, which makes them feel very connected to his artwork. It’s a very relaxed and comfortable place, and it was lovely to be able to walk around and peruse Brett’s paintings at our own pace.
There is beauty outside the gallery, too. Peacocks and chickens roam the grounds of the building, which sits atop a hill that overlooks natural bush, farmland, beach and bay.
The Bay of Whales Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday.
My friends and I can personally testify that very good coffee and a range of delicious home-made cakes are available on weekends.
Today I caught a train into Melbourne for an appointment tomorrow.
That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but.. ouch.
I didn’t even think about only being seven weeks post-surgery when I got on the train. I probably should have done, though.
Here’s the thing. A country rail journey here is bumpier than a car trip and the jostling is constant. You can’t adjust the seat or change your position, so it is what it is.
The great thing was that my travelling companions were a. people I know well, b. very helpful and c. not actually able to walk much faster than me, so apart from the jiggling it was quite a good trip.
By the time we arrived at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, my back was feeling very tender indeed. It was great to get off the train and walk for a bit, which helps to relieve the inflammation and get the circulation going again.
I also really like this railway station. Melbourne has two iconic stations: Flinders Street Station is old and beautiful, while Southern Cross is funky and cool with its sleek designs and wavy roof. I find it hard not to look up at that roof and think, “That’s SO cool!”
From the station, it was only a short cab ride to the hotel. Now that I am lying down in my hotel room and have had some ibuprofen, I feel quite okay, so no harm done.
It’s day 21 of my 28 day holiday in Canada and the US. It has been an absolute blast.
Right now we are on our way north to meet with a friend from Missouri who is driving to a small town in Illinois to meet us there. I’m looking forward to seeing her again after several years. Even so, my day is still flavoured with more sadness than I care for.
I love some of the places we have left behind but it runs much deeper and stronger than that.
I miss the very special people I have left behind. I am missing them terribly, to the point where the tears won’t stop.
I guess part of keeping a schedule is that you do have to move on and keep going, but I don’t want to.
I want to go back and spend more time. I want to drink coffee together, talk, hug, share meals, see places, and to show them how much I love and value them. I want to hold hands and hug and touch faces and talk and listen. We just didn’t have enough time together.
I don’t want to say goodbye. I don’t want to be gone.
Sometimes parting really is more sorrow than sweetness, and I don’t think I can ever be quite the same again. As much as I love Australia, it won’t ever fully be home now, because it’s true: home is where the heart is, and I have a very powerful sense of having left several large chunks of mine behind.
One sleep. Just one sleep. That’s all. The countdown started at 187. This time tomorrow I will be doing final checks and preparations before I get on the plane and fly away. This trip has been four years in the dreaming, then hoping, then planning, then organising. It’s so close – I can almost taste it.
I’m going to the US and then to Canada. I’m going to hug people that I have never met, but speak with every day. I’m going to meet family that I’ve never met before. I’m going to see places and animals that I’ve only ever dreamed I’d see. I’m going to spend four weeks on the other side of the world.
And yet it still doesn’t really seem real, because I’m sitting at my desk like I do every other night. I’ve spent the day at school. I went to the staff meeting, then came home, graded essays and planned lessons. The washing machine is still going. My dog is sleeping beside me.
Life seems remarkably normal tonight for someone who is going to experience the beginning of the trip of a lifetime tomorrow.