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I have been writing more and more frequently in the last few days and so I know it’s time to share a bit. This is my usual pattern. Write, fumble..write, wonder how one can have writers’ block when one isn’t really a writer?? scratch, write more, stumble, feel a bit of flow, laugh at the crummy stuff I’ve come up with… and then in one fell swoop write something I feel I can share. It’s like a quick exhalation of real coherent thought… although this is subjective!!

The rest of it, all those little pieces of writing-excess, they are good and important and all that, but for me, the thought that hits home has a specific feel. I might compare it to the feeling you get when you swing the club and know, right away, that it’s a good one… maybe it doesn’t quite get you that hole-in-one, but it’s fairly straight and it’s not going to hurt anyone. It’ll go as far as your experience, strength, and equipment will allow.

And so I plan to make this a short post….

My last few months living down in a valley and working up on a mountain have been everything I had hoped for and so much more! It’s been refreshing, fun, social, and rewarding to work outside again. My snowboard and I have made good friends. I might not know thirty words for snow, but I know that “variable conditions” mean many different things to many different people and that the whole feel of the mountain can change in a matter of twenty minutes or twenty centimeters..

The season is coming to a very quick close. As I find myself in another period of transition.

I’ve also come to realize that as I settle down into routine and into living in one place for more than a few months, that the vastness of “new and different” aren’t lost – instead they change. I might see the same scenery day-in and day-out; speak the same language; align myself with those old familiar social norms; it’s all so the same. But really everyday is unique. There’s a richness in routine. The layers of the people we meet, the decisions we make – it’s fascinating and it keeps the spark alive. I’m especially impressed by my friends.

I don’t want to sound like an over-indulgent parent, but my friends are amazing! They make hard decisions, follow-through even when the going gets tough, and have the gumption to admit when they’re wrong.

They are funny when it’s appropriate and hilarious when it’s not.

They stand strong, ask for help, melt a bit, reorganize, restructure, change their friends’ kid’s diapers and down an 8-pack of Lucky in the sun when they have to. I have friends that run marathons, start new lives in foreign countries, and deliver new lives without even melting a bit!

I could go on and on, but I think I mentioned this being a short entry?

It’s been quite a ride. The forecast continues to call for variable conditions, with a 50% chance of melting.

Well this is definitely the time of year I feel compelled to write. It’s been two years since I lost my husband to brain cancer. Looking back on some of my previous postings, I realize I don’t come out and write these words very often. I skirt around them; I allude to them and paint a water coloured landscape where things are vague and it’s more about big-picture ideas than detailed events. This is how I have liked it up to this point.

As this anniversary approached I had a few friends ask me if it’s gotten easier now that a bit more time has passed…now that there’s been two whole years between me and that other reality I was living.

Time – that old cure-all.

The easy answer – and the one that everyone is looking for is yes… of course time has helped. I have had two years of experiencing people and places and events, between me and that other world in which my husband was battling for his life. Time helps get over any traumatic experience. It dulls the edges.

Well this is what I thought – that the edges were supposed to get duller. The sharp blade of loss wearing down slowly. Maybe I had heard it somewhere once? Maybe it just seems logical; the general consensus.  I don’t know. But after having more that a few people ask me if it’s gotten easier, I started to think about it. 

And here’s the thing – for me, time has proved invaluable in that it gives me longer stretches of relief. I think about Kevin every day and I smile. He was so f*&king funny. He just had this way about him, and he shared it with everyone. I don’t need to tell those of you who knew him. I swear he had this sort of smirk behind his eyes – like he knew something you didn’t and it was hilarious. He brought people together. A lot of the time he was just ridiculous. Most of the time, really. To me he was the best friend in the world. We were lucky like that.

So now when it hits hard, it still hits just as hard. I could use the word emptiness, and although it’s strikingly painful, it’s usually fleeting. It comes less often now, and I can pull myself out of it pretty fast. I just think about how much it would hurt him to see me like that and then I pick myself up.

If you’re reading this and you were lucky enough to know Kevin, please think of the best and most funny moment you shared with him… maybe it involved minotaurs? nerd capes? some sort of limerick?

If you didn’t know Kevin, but have had loss in your life, then remember the people you’ve loved and all of their lovable qualities. If you haven’t had loss in your lives, then hug the people around you tightly, and start laughing.

Something that makes me feel better? Realizing that Kevin did, indeed, know something we don’t. Let’s hope it’s hilarious.

Theme Song, One of Kevin’s favourites:

The Matterhorn

The Swiss experience cannot be complete without an up-close and personal glimpse of the mystical, magical Matterhorn. Luckily you don’t have to be a mountaineer to appreciate the astounding beauty of the (second) highest mountain in the Swiss Alps. It’s obvious that this 4478m monolith has indeed caught the attention of the world … there is a chocolate bar based on it’s shape. Do you know which one?

Catrin & Jill..and the big mountain in the background!

We arrived in Zermatt, the small village at the base of the Matterhorn, early in the day. The train was full but not uncomfortable. There were less young people than I thought there would be, but then I considered how expensive Zermatt must be (picture Whistler in a really expensive country and you’ve got the idea), and then I understood that although it’s a very popular place, it’s not necessarily on the “backpacking circuit”.

Safety First! The First Sunscreen Application.

Alpine Wild Flowers

With the money we were saving by camping and bringing our own groceries, well we could maybe pick up some souvenirs… I had my eye on one of the watches in the stores selling for $42,000 and change.

So we found our camp spot and it was as basic as they come. Actually it was sort of just a field…maybe even more like a yard, with a fence around it. The sign “Camp Ground” actually had 5 stars engraved on the bottom, yet NONE of them were filled in. Our accommodation was “no star”!! It was perfect enough. We set off to explore. There are dozens of hikes from Zermatt. We pointed ourselves upward and walked for a couple of hours. How we enjoyed the graceful views of the Matterhorn in the dying daylight; the sun hitting the surrounding peaks and glaciers was exactly perfect.

A view from the Zero Star Accommodation

The second day we set off early. With our nice strong, dark café warming our tummies, we sprung off the dark, cool valley floor and climbed until we found sunlight in which to eat our morning feast. Glaciers and mountains, wooly sheep, small derelict cabins, and the sound of roosters announcing another day (and helicopters starting their scenic tours) were a great accompaniment to our bread and cheese. We completed the 18km circuit of the Höhenweg Höhbalmen in about six hours.

A rest at the top with views of the glacier

The trail was quite busy, but we had some spectacular views and were able to take a rest in the valley (the Höhbalmen). I was convinced that Heidi was going to come bounding over the next hill. This was exactly how I have picture walking in the alps.

There sure is a lot of time to think when one is climbing a mountain – or even traversing across it. This is quite a feeling.

My mind wanders and analyzes on a constant basis; this is true of most of us. We relive events, and delve into new ideas all the time….all the time. There’s that certain beautiful point during any extended activity, were the mind suddenly relaxes.

Jill, Joe, Catriin & The Matterhorn

Ahhhh…. It’s nice to get to a point where you’re just concentrating on the next step.. or the wild flower at your feet, or the fact that there are dozens of butterflies landing beside you; on you. The first marmot is spotted, and then you search the rocky hills above for more. You watch the mountains creating clouds in the clear blue sky and your thoughts get bigger – they get perspective – they put you in your place. There’s nothing like the grandeur of mother nature to make you realize how small you are. It’s wonderful, and Switzerland is full of it.

Theme Song:

You know those moments when you feel like everything is as it should be? That all the good, the bad, the confusing, the funny, the in-between moments – that it’s all happened – is happening – in the just the perfect ratio? Like all the happenings have led to this point. Good and bad and neutral…it’s brought you to the exact spot you’re in, and that spot is exactly where you’re supposed to be?

I’m not talking about the physical spot either; I’m speaking more about one’s state-of-mind. I’m talking about growth and I’m talking about experience.

You know?

Some may call it wisdom – although I’m not feeling overly wise – definitely not.  But I’m feeling like I’ve come to a point where I am okay with myself and my feelings and I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on and it’s okay to be proud.

And although I’m not necessarily speaking in physical terms, the physical journey is not to be ignored. It’s been astounding! I’ve seen a whole heck of a lot of Australia and New Zealand. I’ve made my way through South East Asia and some of the South Pacific. I’ve even stopped off in Canada for a visit! This is some substantial travel. Considering my original trip was planned as six weeks in Oz and two in NZ, I think flying by the seat of my pants is an understatement. What an opportunity, and a gift.

I’ve kept my head on straight (or as straight as it’s ever been…this is all relative.. it’s a sliding scale). So many ups and downs; SO so so many decisions to make everyday. No routine means I can’t turn my brain off too much. Maybe this isn’t true, but I’m using my brain in very different ways than I did when I lived in a house, went to work everyday, and came home to a husband and cat. All these decisions I’ve been making have led to this spot. All my interactions, on the road and at home, have helped to bring me to this head space. And you know what? I can honestly say, for the first time in many, many moons, that it’s a good head space. The galaxy in my mind is good. It’s accepting and filled with positive ions. I’ve disproved dark energy…no antimatter here! (oh, oh…now I’m on an astronomy analogy tangent….this can’t be good for anyone…it could be never-ending..doppler effect…escape velocity….let’s change the subject, the trajectory, if you will).

Someone wise once said that we are never given more than we can handle (this is actually based on a passage from the bible [Corinthians 10:13] but I didn’t know that until I just looked it up). I heard this a long time ago, probably when I was a teenager, and it was one of those ideas that made sense to me at the time, but its poignancy was fleeting and quickly vanished into the aether. Well this small piece of wisdom was brought back into my life, by someone I love, when Kevin and I were battling that insidious f*#ker we call brain cancer. Kevin and I latched onto this idea; we embraced it whole-heartedly and it kept us going, especially through some of the tougher moments. I still think about it and I believe it and I hope that it brings some sort of peace to people going through something difficult. We, as humans, are tough and capable. I feel tough and capable.

I also have a headache, but I guess that’s to be expected. Gamma-ray bursts and supernovae have that effect.

“There are two mistakes that one can make on the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting”

~Guatama Siddharta, The Buddha

So I’ve taken a short hiatus from writing – a small break.  I’ve not felt the overwhelming urge to share these past few weeks.

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My mind has been busy and private.  January 10th was a big day –  a very important day – and significant to so many people who read this blog.  I think I’ve needed some time to sort out exactly what this anniversary means to me; sometime to regroup and look at what I’ve (we’ve) been through.  I’ll let you know when I’ve figured it out…

There are moments I still find myself in disbelief at the chaos of the last couple of years.  I have a feeling these shock waves will strike for a long time to come. How do we get through this stuff…how have I made it?  One thing I know is that this year is extremely significant to me as it is both an end, and a beginning  Funny how that works, hey? …(it’s science).

Getting through the holidays was a triumph unto itself and frankly I  feel like a huge balloon of air has been expelled from my chest.  Definitely a lessening of pressure.  What sort of pressure? Well I’m not too sure, but the build up to that year was insurmountable.  I have made it and I’m still going.  I surprise myself sometimes.  I guess we all do.

Greens PoolsMy last couple of weeks in Western Australia were just great.  After New Years we packed into a friend’s caravan and hit the road.  We would travel ~500km southeast of Perth, cutting diagonally through the bareness of NoWheresVille, Australia, to hit the coast again and check out a little place called Denmark near the city Albany.  With absolutely no regard for its namesake – all that this small community lacks in European charm, it makes up for in abounding natural beauty.  Our hunt for waves proved fruitless, but we had fun exploring the beautiful coastline.  The water was so clear! The terraces and rocky cliffs ever expansive.  We cut across through Margaret River and found our own private beach – the kind of beach that comes to mind when you picture Australia but you’ve never been here.  No people, just sand and waves and sunshine.

We arrived back in Perth it was time to get to work.  I had located a small Christmas tree farm in the far Eastern suburbs that could use a helping hand in exchange for room and board.  Jann – the family matriarch – and I had been in touch and hit it off right away.  Claiming there was little work to be done around the property – due to the dryness and soaring temperatures – we agreed that I would do as much as I could, work-wise, and then spend the rest of my time swimming in the pool.  These are work conditions that I can feel confident in accepting.

Well my week with the family was just amazing.  I was accepted into the family with open arms.  Richard & His AlphornThis is one cool clique, and between their short bouts of conversing only in Swiss-German I was let in on their colourful history. Stories of living in Nigeria, and traveling the world kept me entertained at every meal.  We ate well, and talked well, and it was sad to leave.

This leaving stuff has to be the downside of traveling.  The connections we make as we go – this is the whole point of travel.  Scenery can be fantastic, awe-inspiring.  New cities and towns are (usually)  fun to explore. This is all fine and good,  but the relationships we create, both on the road and at home, are the core of the journey. With the freedom to pick-up -and-go comes the other side of the coin – saying goodbye…it gets old. There’s a reason we naturally settle down and get those roots in the ground.  Only a very special kind of person can keep up the transient lifestyle.

Jill 'n Kim Making the Most of the Final Days! So with only a few days left in the most remote capital city in the world– we planned a going away shindig and it was perfect. Altogether I have had the good luck and fortune to spend more than two months in Perth and the surrounds and have come to consider some of the people I have met there to be the type of friends that are life-long.  A barbeque on the beach…. guitars found their way to nearby laps….the astounding talent of my Western Australian friends was given the limelight.  Damn it – another goodbye.

The Rocks, SydneyAnd with the end comes a new beginning – this time the east coast    I touched down just in time to celebrate Australia Day in the country’s biggest city.  Old friends and new, we had a great time,  After years of practice in Canada, I feel I’m a bit of an expert at this type of celebration.  The sunshine, swimming, beer, and chaos of families running around – I felt right at home. ..

But I’m not….not yet.

Theme Songs of the Day:

There is no real pattern for this whole healing process.  At every turn I find a new way to address a feeling or thought.  It must be one of the most reflective times in my life.  Learning new, honest and organic ways to sift through my emotions is an art-form that takes time and effort.   I’m lucky to have these beautiful surrounding and people around me, to make it all a little easier.”

This is a paragraph that resonates with me.  I take it from a post I wrote back in June (Down Time) and it is still relevant.  I had just been released from the hospital and I’m sure the healing I was referring to had very little to do with my kidney.

As I get ready to fly to Vietnam, I have taken a few moments to skim through some of my older posts.   It’s interesting to see how this journey has progressed.  I have to admit: I don’t remember writing all that much of it.  Once out there, the words have done their intended duty – they have punched the healing time-card.  Looking back is something I don’t think I’ll make a habit of. ..not yet, at least.

A Taste of the Great Ocean RoadConquering My Fear!After Tonga, I had a week or so in Melbourne.  Catching up with old friends and making new ones – I kept busy and managed to meet some people heading west along the Great Ocean Road.  Beautiful!  The twelve apostles are a highlight.  We had decent weather and it was entirely too cold to swim, but we did attempt whale-watching from the shores of Warnambool.

Adelaide is probably best described as delightful and easy; a planned-city makes for straight-forward navigation.  The museum and art gallery were good hideouts during the rain.  As the weather got better I made my way north to stay with a fabulous family.  I spent time reading in front of the fire (pure luxury) and then got a chance to ride through the hills on the back of a bike!  With the promise of more French food and good conversation,Nothing Like It! I will definitely be making another stop in South Australia.  Thanks friends!

Although Perth found me in my seventh time-zone in little less than a month, arriving here feels as close to coming home as I think possible.  My plans to make a couple of small trips down south – they fell by the wayside as soon as I arrived.  It’s too easy to be in beautiful North Beach, with my friends and my pseudo-routines…albeit I am in a tent in the backyard…but its home-like…in a breezy sort of way.

Western Australia is a place that is close to my heart.  I think it’s interesting to look back on my last visit here, five months in the past.  I was at a very, noticeably different place.  As I gently peruse my current headspace, I can see the lengths at which I’ve travelled to get here…time zones notwithstanding.

The Twelve Apostles

Theme Songs of the Day:

Within You – Ray LaMontagne, from the album Till The Sun Turns Black
Lesson No. 1 – Viva Voce, from the album The Heat Can Melt Your Brain

Cook Strait

Cook Strait

As I write this, I’m enjoying my last solo night in New Zealand before meeting up with friends for one final adventurous week abroad.  Tonight I’ve decided to camp next to a little out-of-the-way geothermal hot spring.  I wanted to avoid the crowds and commercialism of some of the bigger, more established areas further north in Rotorua.  I made the right decision.  I feel I have my own private nook – a little piece of cold paradise (apparently it’s the coldest winter they’ve had here in quite a while).  It’s peaceful and natural and smelly (like eggs). I have spent hours in the water and when I’m done writing, I will hop right back in….ahhhh….

What an incredible country!  The people I have been fortunate enough to meet are fantastic!  I have belly-danced and learned the basics of medieval sword fighting.  In Christchurch I met a fascinating couple who took me in and were so hospitable – we ate too much seafood and made a break for the mountains.  I received insider information on the best powder in the area (not to mention the use of full gear! – thank you M. Lucas).  I met a friend of a friend and not only had a tour of the village and a hike through the surrounding hills of Lyttleton, but also had the pleasure of partaking if some great conversation (she’s walked thousands of kms all over the world and she makes the idea of biking from Melbourne to Sydney out like it’s not a big deal).  I was made to feel right at home in their lovely little cabin (thank you Joan & Bryon).  I was invited to accompany a beautiful family up to some thermal pools on the South Island. We chatted amongst the steam while looking up at the surrounding mountains – their three little boys keeping me entertained the entire time (thank you Angel family).

Hamner Springs

Hamner Springs

The people here are fabulous and the scenery isn’t bad either.  My drive over the last few days has been incredible!  First, I have my own music because of the ingenuity of an iPod adaptor.  Second, the campervan is free as it’s a ‘relocation’ which means I have five days to get from Christchurch (on the South Island) to Auckland (on the North Island) and I simply pay for petrol.  Third, most of the 1800km+ that I’ve covered in this beautiful country have been magnificent.

I have witnessed vast horizons, towering cliffs, the rugged snow-covered peaks of the Southern Alps, inlets and sail-filled harbours, black sand beaches, white sand beaches, and sprawling volcanic plateau.  I’ve seen more sheep in the last few days than I’ve seen in my entire life prior to this.   Wooly cows, lamas, pigs, ostrich, deer, porpoise, baby seals,  mama seals, hawks and a large variety of birds… lakes, hills, valleys and rivers – this lone exploration has been a time of beauty and reflection.

So what to think, or to do, as this chapter of my travels winds down?

I’m not sure how I feel right now.

I guess I’m caught up in trying to be in the present moment; enjoying my last few days in New Zealand with good friends…

All the while I feel as though my brain and my heart are being pulled in opposite directions – a conflicting feeling of numbness and painful sensitivity.  Actually “pulled” isn’t even the right verb…it’s more like my brain and heart are contained in that rare state we learnt about in science: homogeneity.  Everything is dispersed evenly – neither floating nor sinking (thanks high-school, for these random references).  I am not fully present in this moment – or really any particular moment; ‘not 100% in the room’.  I feel I am suspended.  I don’t even feel caught or stuck…I just am – just hanging out in that beaker back in science class.

What are the thoughts and feelings I see suspended beside me in this beaker – these particles that all take on the same weight – the same gravity?

A View of Picton from the ferry

A View of Picton from the ferry

I am thinking of home…of a home that is different now.  I am thinking of the logistics of travel and getting back to the island.  I am thinking about how I will spend my time back in Canada; seven weeks will fly by.  I am thinking about my journey up to this point: where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, who I’ve met, how I’ve felt, how some experiences have affected me more than others- and the reasons for this.  I am thinking of Kevin.  I am thinking of family, and friends that are family– many of whom I haven’t seen since the wake.  I am thinking about summer on the beautiful West Coast. I am thinking about my cat.

I am thinking of continuing forward, like we all must do

through all these incredibly hard things that punch us in the gut

they crosscheck us from behind

tear us apart

strip us down to the basics

and give us a chance to rebuild

to find strength from hidden sources

delve deep to locate power-buried

and rekindle our faith in the human spirit.

*A huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to travel with me in real life and also via this website – your support is invaluable.

*My plan is to continue writing and sharing during my trip back to Canada – the journey continues…

Can’t wait to see you all.
Love and many hugs,

The Successful Traveler
~just a girl who has somehow managed to find a way to gear down to first~

Helmets!

Helmets!

Whale Watching in Byron Bay

Whale Watching in Byron Bay

Theme Songs of the Day:

Remember Me – Blue Boy (this song is for you, Alice)
Go It Alone – Beck, from the Album Guero

After spending many months with friends travelling through the vast and varying country of Australia, I find myself craving some ‘me’ time.  I’m ready to venture out on my own for a bit. 

On a contradictory note: this entire journey has been an individual one – there’s no denying that.

I am choosing my direction as I go and I’m making decisions on a daily basis that point me towards the light at the end of the tunnel; whatever trail my intuition deems best at the time.  With a few exceptions this had lead me to meet up with people I have known previously: the luxury of a large network of friends – I’m very grateful.  I have been able to get to know these special people so much better because of the time we’ve shared…the places we’ve ventured to together.   I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Now it’s time for me to do some exploring without the harness.  It wasn’t long ago that the idea of venturing out on my own created some anxiety.  Although I do feel strong and independent, I have low moments.  It’s at these times when I have really relied on the support and understanding of friends – new and old – I’ve needed that support.

I have now reached a point where I trust myself to get through the rough patches without a safety net.  The lone traveler makes decisions on a whim without consulting anyone.  They are alone – but only as alone as they want to be.  Another potential friend is never too far away; it never takes long to meet good people, if you’re open to it.  Saying this, there’s no substitution for long-term friends that know you inside and out.  Confiding in strangers is easy and you may get some interesting and poignant perspective, but it doesn’t hold the weight of a hug from a good friend when you need it.

The most Eastern Point in OZ - Byron Bay

The most Eastern Point in OZ - Byron Bay

My last week in Australia was bitter-sweet.  I had some quality time with my buddies in Brisbane and had a blast down in Byron Bay with the girls.  We saw some kick@ss live music (True Live) and when we weren’t chillin’ on the beach and wandering the town’s haunts, we were out on the water, watching humpbacks do their thing – a great last hurrah before my departure.

When we got home I realized how I have really come to associate Brisbane with ‘home’.   I will miss it, but I will be back.

New Zealand: land of the long white cloud.… I sensed an adventure when I made the booking, and I haven’t been disappointed so far.   Trying new things, meeting locals – this is excellent.   I have made some new friends and I have fallen for NZ in a big way.  Life is good….great, actually.

 

Looking up at Mt. Hutt, Canterbury

Looking up at Mt. Hutt, Canterbury

 

“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.”
– Hippocrates

The Dragon that greets patrons of Soul Mama, a vegetarian restaurant in Melbourne

The Dragon that greets patrons of Soul Mama, a vegetarian restaurant in Melbourne

Melbourne is in the running for one of my favourite cities in the country.  It’s beautiful and culturally-varied.  I couldn’t help but notice that people are pretty darn friendly there as well (including my hosts, who were personally responsible for me enjoying a deliciously diverse menu and eating the very best I have in months – thank you Lynch family).

Not only are the cafes and restaurants dynamic and never-ending, but the city’s hospitals ain’t so bad either.  Actually that implies I’ve seen more than one, but really, one hospital tends to fill the quota, wouldn’t you think?

I wasn’t really, seriously sick, but my kidneys had decided to let themselves be known to me.  I had to get it all sorted out by spending the night hooked up to an IV.   The medical system here is very similar to Canada, and because I was in noticeable pain they got me through administration quite quickly – and then doled out morphine with similar speed.  I felt very well taken care of (thanks morphine!) and in general I’m quite okay with hospitals; comfortable enough with how it all works and what to expect…   I know I’m an expert because I was able to get the gown on with only minimal assistance and a short question and answer period….

It was the first time I had been in any sort of medical facility since Kevin’s illness and it was emotionally hard for me.  It brought back so many memories.  Being in the fevered-pain I was in, not having all my defenses intact, it got a little tough there for a while.  As the pain slowly subsided and I knew I wouldn’t have to stay a second night, I actually started to delve into the memories of our journey through the medical system these past couple of years.   What a journey it was.

View from St. Kilda Pier

View from St. Kilda Pier

The tests and the appointments.  The chemotherapy, radiation, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-convulsants.  The CT scans and MRIs and ECGs.  We had appointments everyday for a while there.  Ambulance rides, stretchers, wheelchairs, walkers.  We had handle bars and poles and railings, so much equipment for normal, everyday activities.   Physiotherapists, nurses, oncologists, GPs, home-care and finally hospice.    There were a minimum of six hospitals that we became all too familiar with.  We were proficient in a field that no one should even have to think about.

This is a sad trip down memory lane.  I’m sorry if it’s hard for some of you to read.  These are the thoughts that I explored while lying in that hospital bed, and when I faced some of it head-on again, it became a little easier to deal with.

There is no real pattern for this whole healing process.  At every turn I find a new way to address a feeling or thought.  It must be one of the most reflective times in my life.  Learning new, honest and organic ways to sift through my emotions is an art-form that takes time and effort.   I’m lucky to have both these beautiful surrounding, and the amazing people around me;  it makes it all a little easier.

I know that my body needed the rest (and the medicine) and when I felt well enough to be discharged I was able to head back to a very comfortable home where I was made to feel welcome and at ease.  This was invaluable, and really, if I had to be sick, I’m glad I was where I was.  A little down-time has refreshed me in new ways.

Willows Beach, April 2008

The Bedfords call this Home

The Bedfords call this Home

I know there is an absolute abundance of vivid, descriptive words that could be used to attempt an accurate portrayal of the Bedford’s property in Loongana, Tasmania. Now I just need to figure out where to start?  Wondrous, natural, fantastic?  All good, but not painting the entire picture.  I’m not sure I can do it justice, but this 70 acres of land is beautiful and worth the journey.  It’s less than an hour’s drive from Ulverstone which lies on the North shore of Tasmania, West of Launceston.    

Matt, my American-Aussie travel companion, had found the Bedford’s on Couchsurfing.org. After some correspondence with Peter, the man of the house, we had been invited to stay a couple of nights.  As we got comfortable, we knew that we would end up staying the remainder of our trip in and about the area.  What a welcoming, comfortable piece of paradise.

Matt and our host Peter looking down on Leven Canyon

Matt and our host Peter looking down on Leven Canyon

The property is more or less self-contained and self-sufficient.  The Bedfords have spent years building the property from the ground up.  A great descriptive word for this family: industrious!  A gorgeous (secret) waterfall and small river supply hydro power.  There are gardens, chickens, some miniature horses, a small lake with trout, a tree fort, and my personal favourite: the outdoor, fire heated bathtub. 

This is a real treat – you actually light a fire below the tub and must be careful to add cold water on a frequent basis in order not to be slowly simmered!  Can it get any better?  It’s cold enough for frost in the mornings, so a hot bath outside is a virtual heaven.  Even better?  Our last night there, as the hand-picked hazelnuts roasted on the bonfire, I sipped homemade honey mead in the tub, and the others stood around chatting and throwing vegetables in to make the stock perfect (mmmhhh, Jill soup? – yeah, I might not remember the night with complete accuracy, the honey mead packed a powerful punch). 

They sure are friendly in Penguin!

They sure are friendly in Penguin!

Although the entire first day was spent on the property, by the second day it was time to explore a bit further out.  A trip into Ulverstone was highlighted by a coffee at Smiley’s.  The scones and jam, and friendly atmosphere made allowance for the atrocious attempt at a Canadian accent (although I was flattered Smiley tried, and it came across in a lovely Irish lilt with ‘eh’ planted at the end of each sentence).  

Fresh fish for sushi

Fresh fish for sushi

We took the van West to a small town called Penguin on the quest for fresh fish.  Penguin is charming (sort of like Qualicum for you Vancouver Islanders) but contrary to popular belief (and logic) contains no penguins.  Oh, and no fresh fish….sigh (one might bring the other, no?).  We continued on to Burnie and our fresh-fish-success meant sushi night at the Bedfords. Yum!

The river running through the Canyon

The river running through the Canyon

Hiking through Leven Canyon, biking, late-night wildlife excursions in the Ute, eating way too much, drinking, sharing stories, just a lot of hanging out…this was the bulk of how I spent my time in Tasmania.  This is how everyone should spend their time in Tasmania! 

It’s always so nice to get off the beaten track a bit.  It feels real and wholesome and valuable.  Tasmania is a lot like home, more so than any place I’ve been so far in Australia.  I think the vague familiarity and the vast differences are intriguing and were a little unexpected.  I felt very at ease in this little state (yes, it’s approximately the size of Ireland, but it’s all relative, isn’t it?).  The landscape was inspiring, and the company was pretty great – no two-headed people to be seen… although, you know, we never did make it right around the island…

        …                                                                                              

Theme Songs of the Day:

Brainy – The National, form the album Boxer

Messages – Xavier Rudd, from the album

Gone Away From Me – Ray LaMontagne, from the album Till the Sun Turns Black

Sunset in Tasmania

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