In December 2016 my husband and I went on one of our adventures, an epic 5-week journey through five states of Australia. Our last journey before this was an overseas trek through England, Ireland, Amsterdam, Prague, Germany and Austria, a couple of years ago, the highlight of which was a tandem paraglide off the Austrian Alps. As always, I came back from this journey loving my Australian home more than ever, with a strong urge to make our next journey home-based, but a back injury had me grounded for a while.
While we were waiting out my recovery time, Spirit colluded with my great uncle, encouraging me to take a step back from work and focus instead on writing a family history. “Write my story” said my uncle, and in the next breath he asked that the story be not just about him, but my grandparents as well. “Exploring your roots will help you heal your root chakra” my spirit guides explained to me.
I was able to manage a series of short trips to Alice Springs to gather family archive material for the book and in amongst it all, my stepfather passed away: the loss of my last father-figure marking the end of an era in a 9 year, a year of endings. With my step-father passing I went through yet another past-life review, re-living and releasing the wounds of my teenage years, and the family history writing stirring the pot, giving me new insight into the weaknesses and strengths that run through my family line. In the background, my husband was plotting one of his magnificent adventures and I couldn’t help but laugh when I realised his proposed route through Australia (in the search for a new and cooler place to live) was coinciding with my own discoveries about locations relevant to my family history.
“I want to be cold” he told me. He didn’t just want to be cold, he wanted to grow a medicinal herb that requires 4 degree temperatures in winter. This meant travelling through southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania in the search for a new home, all the places my ancestors hailed from.
On December 5th 2016, Stephen and I flew to Sydney and rented a stone cottage around the corner from my great aunt Helen in Balmain. Helen is my family-history story-teller, full of magic with her theatrical gift for bringing a story to life, full of multi-sensory delight. She is an architect, with a love for visual beauty, and her stories paint beautiful pictures in my mind when she speaks. Like her sister, my doctor-grandmother, Helen’s chosen course of study was unusual in her day and age. As teenagers, Helen and my grandmother Anne both convinced their father to support and finance a career that was, at the time, considered improper for a woman to pursue. Their mother (my great grandmother) had set the tone by studying science but she married after she graduated, so that was the end of that.
While we were visiting Helen she told me a new story I hadn’t heard before, about a journey she went on with my grandparents to Kings Canyon, climbing over mountain rocks in the heat of the central Australian desert. Just as she was about to wilt, my grandfather lead them to a dip in the rock, almost like a tunnel, and they slid down into a hidden paradise. “He told us it was a birth-canal dreaming, a ceremony of rebirth, and it certainly felt like that when we emerged into the cool valley below.”
While we were visiting Helen and collecting more stories for the book, my husband and I walked down to the ferry and paid for passage across to Circular Quay, delighting in the magic of passing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and exploring the Sydney Opera House. Sydney has been my favourite city ever since I went there for a Happiness Conference a few years ago. Perhaps it just “feels right” to me because I visited as a child, or perhaps it’s familiar on a family-genetics level, with my grandmother’s family having lived in Woolongong and Dapto through the 50’s and 60’s.
After a few days with Helen in Sydney, my husband Stephen and I picked up a hire car and drove into the Blue Mountains. I loved the views, the smell, the coolness in the air, and the freedom to explore that comes with the open road and the abundance of native flowers. I absolutely love photographing wildflowers and making flower essences, using a no-pick method taught to me by a Welsh lady of gypsy descent named Mhyrlyn. We drove higher and higher, and then wound our way down into Megalong Valley, past the mermaid caves, where we camped alongside enchanting parrots who didn’t seem at all fazed by our approach, and some annoying leeches who were a bit overfriendly.
The next morning we headed back up to the mountain tops, where we spotted a sign that said “Evan’s Lookout”. We couldn’t resist this turnoff, because Evan’s is a family name, and what a magnificent lookout it turned out to be! We found a quiet place at the top of a cliff edge that felt like a meditation place and sat quietly together in silence, looking out over the view. Mountains feature very strongly in my inner world and one of my guides will only talk to me if I came and sit on a rock at the top of a waterfall. And my male guide Tomas went through a phase where he would only talk to me if we were mountain-climbing. Then there was the year he spent pushing me off the edge of a mountain, while teaching me about the fine art of surrendering with courage. While all of these interactions place in my imagination, I’ve been surprised how often mountains, waterfalls and cliff edges have featured in my real-life adventures.
As so often happens when we travel, the spiritual teaching I get along the way seemed to come from the wildflowers I met! There is something about native flowers that pulls me back into the magic, wisdom and innocence of childhood, with visions of tiny fairies sitting in amongst the petals, whispering guidance into my heart. As a naturopath and herbalist who specialises in emotional healing, I love working with flower essences. I have a life-long affinity with plants that began in childhood while living in a rainforest in Tasmania. There weren’t any other children around so the trees became my friends. I find flowers particularly enchanting because their colours and shapes speak to that part of me that specialises in colour and chakra therapy.
The first flower I met felt me coming and began it’s work on me even before I arrived. I knew I recognised it so I did some research and sure enough, it was ‘mountain devil’, a flower I had seen in Ian White’s collection of flower essences. To begin with, our meeting was friendly enough, but I soon became aware of this flower digging deep into my heart chakra and flicking up unresolved resentment and anger from deep within. It was painful, but incredibly liberating as the festering wounds cleared. I felt myself, over the next week, cycling in and out of anger and blessed surrender, in classic healing-crisis mode.
We came down out of the mountains and headed for the coast, staying overnight at a Camellia farm, with a guided tour through a wide array of Asian trees and flowering plants. I was particularly enchanted by the myrtle trees and felt an almost childlike delight when our host offered us day lillies picked fresh from his garden for our breakfast and lunch the next day. They had a fresh crunch, slight pepperiness and that classic, mildly slimy consistency you get with plants containing mucilage, a carbohydrate that is healing for the gut lining. The camellias weren’t in flower but many other flowers were.
Our next stop was a botanical garden just after Bateman’s Bay. It was quiet and I felt as though we had the place all to ourselves. This was flower-essence heaven for me, and I had a magical moment with some very large kangaroos who made me a little nervous when they didn’t hop away at my approach. I found another flower that seemed familiar to me from Ian White’s work, a beautiful grevillea called Green Spider Flower. Spider is my power animal, so perhaps this is why I not only felt a profound connection with this flower spirit, the medicine I tapped into was quite different from that shared by Ian, and not at all fear-based.
That night we stayed at Mystery Bay, where one of my aunts had her first teenage kiss. It was cold but we were snuggled amongst the trees, and the beach and cliff-top views more than made up for the chilly breeze. I couldn’t find any flowers but I loved the shapes of the rocks and the story about the clifftops being a whale-watching site.
The next morning I had a mountain devil moment of angry regret about having driven past Woolongong and Dapto without exploring the family homes of my ancestors, but this passed after some good conversation with my husband who assured me we could come back and reminded me that we needed time to check out some properties around Merimbula. This was a bad day for me. I felt hormonal and on edge, full of self-pity and pessimism. Merimbula was beautiful to look at but I found it hard to get the scowl off my face. “It’s too cold!” I whined. “There was meant to be a heat wave. This is meant to be summer!” In reality, it wasn’t that cold: I just don’t cope well with cold winds and strong sea-breezes. My husband weathered my miserable mood with patience and good grace.
Thankfully my gloomy internal storm cleared after a good sleep, my brightness and humour returning the next morning. We had fun exploring properties around Merimbula and then towards the end of the day, we headed to a blues session I’d heard was taking place at a pub in Candelo. The drive there was a bit miserable, with land cleared as far as the eye could see and barely a tree left standing, but when we arrived at the pub, locals were spilled out onto the street and the sounds emerging from within were delicious. There weren’t many places left to sit but I’d noticed a man sitting alone at a table that seated four, so I asked him if we could sit with him and he said yes! Our new friend turned out to be a muso and a masseur and we had some fantastic conversations.
I felt inspired when a local muso took to the stage with her alto sax. Envying her musical sense, both vocally and with the sax, I found myself thinking I would like to spend more time practising with my own saxophone… a new years resolution of sorts. When I sing, I prefer to sing without words, so perhaps the saxophone will free me from the burden of words and carry me to places my voice cannot. That night we camped beside the beach, not far out of Eden, and took a moonlit stroll along the beach, under a starry sky, with the lights of Eden sparkling on the other side of the bay.
The next morning I found a beautiful flower on the beach. It reminded me of the portulaca flowers in my grandfather’s garden and the native parakeelya flowers at Uluru. Tuning into these flowers, I felt my entire being open and expand, and I began to feel very inspired about what might be possible for me in terms of networking, business and friendship in the year to come. Mountain devil had cleared the decks and my new flower friend was coaxing me into rebirth.
I’m guessing that this beach-flower might be a pigface called Carpobrotus glaucescens, a native that (unlike me) can easily weather salt-spray, strong winds and sand blast. Pigface produces a red-purple berry fruit, which can be used as a food source, with a taste similar to salty apples, and the juice can be used to relieve the pain of insect bites. The next day we poked around in Eden for a while. The views really were magnificent but I had to admit the ocean really wasn’t my cup of tea and I was looking forward to travelling inland, into the mountains again.
Here ends Part 1, on Day 7 of our journey, just before we crossed the border into NSW. Click here for Part 2.