From mountain devils to coastal pigfaces

PART ONE

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. Continue reading

Working with the flowers….

If you have a deck of the Wildflower Cards, spread your cards out in front of you so that you can see the images of the flowers, and notice which one you are drawn to. I’ll demonstrate, showing you how you can work with the flower spirits for healing and guidance, and then perhaps you can try this yourself! Remember to be playful and trust yourself: you will access your intuitive wisdom by allowing your imagination to take you on a journey.

IMG_4200

For me today, it was Tomato Bush, that drew me in, with her beautiful purple petals, and the warm sunset glow cast over her in the photograph.

Holding the card in my hand, I gaze at her image and imagine being with her in the red centre of Australia, surrounded by red sand and open space that stretches as far as the eye can see.

Like two women sitting at a campfire, we sit across from one another. Our ‘campfire’ is the red dirt and the setting sun. As the sun goes down, I feel Wild Tomato Bush drawing me into the wavy lines of the red sand-dunes. It feels like we are travelling, winding along through the sand like snakes. I follow her and she guides me to a hollow in the sand. I curl up in the sand and she covers me with her branches. Continue reading

Daisy Bush

Screenshot 2015-10-08 08.28.28Given the connection I made with Utju, I’m embarrassed to say this was the one community where we got into trouble for going into the wrong area while looking for flowers. The two young men who told us we were heading into sacred men’s territory were very patient and polite. We quickly turned around and headed back out on to the main road. Seeing a variation in leaf colour amongst the trees, I wondered if it might be a mistletoe, so we pulled over and I went to investigate.

I had to scramble through a narrow, dry streambed with steep banks and weave my way through a maze of spiky spinifex to reach the nearest tree. Unfortunately the mistletoe wasn’t in flower, but as I stepped back from the tree, I looked down and discovered a magnificent daisy bush at my feet. Daisy bush belongs to the Olearia genus. In her book, Grandma says: “Olearia are perennials, and are only found in Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.” Continue reading

Kakadu- Day 2 “Climbing the W”

IMG_6534A picture tells a thousand stories, or so they say. For me on this journey, it was the lack of photographs in the second half of each day that truly told my story. Fatigue and pain played a big role in keeping my camera packed at times like these, but at the end of day two it was the sacredness of the space we were in that kept my finger off the button. The tourist in me dissolves into thin air whenever the soft hush of sacred space descends. 


After packing up camp the next morning and reloading our packs, we had to climb a steep 5-7 meter incline. This was my first introduction to the complexities of balancing a pack on your back while you climb. After teetering on the edge of a backwards tumble more than once, I learned to climb on all fours, tipping the weight of my pack forwards.

IMG_6528At the top of the rise there was a flat area, and looking back the way we had come, we found a breath-taking view of the escarpment on the other side of the river. After drinking in this view, we stood together under a majestic tree in a picturesque area we nicknamed ‘the meeting place’, and consulted our map. After much discussion, we found our bearings and started following the contour of the mountain alongside the river’s edge, curving our way counter-clockwise up towards the escarpment. At times, steep gully walls pushed us into the river’s bed of rock. Water snaked and gurgled its way past us as we traversed flat expanses of gently sloping, smooth rock, occasionally climbing small 1-2 metre vertical rock-faces alongside mini-waterfalls.

The easy climbing soon ended. With the gully narrowing, all the smaller rivulets combined to create one deep channel, with sheer rock-face either side for the next four metres. We could swim, but that meant getting our packs wet and possibly being dragged down with the weight of them. After studying the rock face on our side of the gully for a while, we realised there were hand and foot holds we could use to inch our way across.

“Are you two up for this?”, asked Kate. “We’ll need to take our socks, shoes and trousers off and put them in our packs to keep them dry.”

“What do you think, Om?”, asked Alex. “I’m up for it if you are”. A little smile played around the corners of her mouth. Continue reading

Kakadu Wildflower Trek : Day 1 “The princess and the pea”

 

IMG_6445We arrived at the campsite on dusk and had to work fast to get our beds set up and dinner cooking in the last of the light. We had a play with the GPS but couldn’t work out how to use it. For some reason it wasn’t matching up with what our map was telling us so we decided to leave it behind and stick with our compasses and map.

 

It was on that first night, in the relative comfort of the carpark campground, that I realised I had made an error in judgement with my bedding. The girls had brought inflatable mattresses with them, and I, in a quest to keep the weight of my pack down, was making do with a pathetic piece of roll up foam. It weighed hardly anything but, like the proverbial princess and the pea, I could feel every rock and stick and clump of grass under me. It was a rough night to say the least, with my neck and shoulder complaining no matter how I lay. But do you think I spoke up about how I was feeling in the morning?

 

Mind you, I don’t recall anyone asking, says my sulky three-year old self. Nor was there any discussion about establishing this site as the day camp to travel out from and return back to each day. It was as though the cajoling promises made by both of them that morning had never existed. The excitement of the adventure whisked as all up, and as usual, I just went along with what was happening. The ‘nice’ part of me wanted to please them and not ruin their adventure. And the gritty part of me was determined to stick with the original plan in spite of my injury. Continue reading

Kakadu – deciding to go

This is the pre-edited beginning of the Kakadu Wildflower Journey. Looking back, I admire my inner strength and courage, but find it hard to believe I did this hike with an injury!


Stirring after a restless night, I took a moment to listen to my body. My heart sank and my stomach churned with a mess of conflicting emotions. There was a part of me that didn’t want to go on this trek through Kakadu and now I had the perfect excuse not to go: a neck and shoulder injury. The first little warning twinges had started the day before and I had hoped in vain that it might clear up after a good sleep. The pain was excruciating and I couldn’t even get out of bed without help from my husband.

 

That damned massage! I thought to myself crossly. A few days earlier I had received my part of an exchange with another practitioner. She had lovingly given me extra time, but it was extra time I could have done without. It was an Ayurvedic consultation and included an oil treatment. My head was tilted back, hanging off the end of the table, with oil pouring down over my forehead. As usual, I was being excessively polite and I didn’t have the heart to tell her how uncomfortable I was. To be fair, having my head tilted backwards for almost an hour might not have been an issue if I wasn’t also in the midst of re-painting the walls in our old bedroom. My husband and I had moved ourselves downstairs, and were preparing to take on a boarder. As is so often the way, the injury sets itself up during these crazy weekend ventures and then pounces days later while doing perfectly innocent things like receiving a massage.

 

I checked my phone and found a message from Kate: How’s the neck?

 

Worse, I replied. I can’t come. Not happy. Steve is going to meet you at Alex’s with the GPS, beanie, mushroom soup ingredients and stock for first night soup. Say hello to the flowers from me! xx

 

Kate called me back immediately and asked me to reconsider, saying she had spoken with Alex and they would be happy to set up a day-camp so that we didn’t have to carry full packs, and I could rest there if I wasn’t feeling up to the walk. Then found a beautifully worded voice message on my phone from Alex herself, imploring me to come, with similar ideas about how we could still make it work.

 

I felt so torn! I knew Steve didn’t really want me to go, because he was worried about us getting lost or eaten by a crocodile, and I had similar fears myself, but they really wanted me to come. And I had done so much work to prepare for this hike! It seemed like such a waste. I had been practising walking with a loaded pack for the past two months and I had prepared dehydrated food packs and spent hard-earned money on equipment for the journey, like my compass, boots and backpack.

 

“I don’t know what to do!” I wailed to my husband. We talked it through for a while and he encouraged me to rest for the remainder of the morning.

 

“Sleep on it”, he said. “I’ll go and get you some special things to help your muscles relax. Come on, let’s get you back into bed! You can make a decision at lunch time after a good rest.”

 

I crawled back into bed, struggling to find any position that was comfortable and gave me relief from the pain. Steve soon came back with a glorious bag full of goodies and insisted I play lucky dip. I reached a hand in and came up with deep-heat, which he promptly applied. My second foray into the bag yielded a packet of medicated sticky bandages, a box of Epsom salts, pain-killers and Tiger Balm, amongst other things.

 

I did feel better when I woke at lunch time, and throwing caution to the winds, decided to text Kate: I’m coming. What time do you want us to get to your place?

 

Yeehah! 1pm here??

 

I ate lunch and did one last check on my pack, adding the medicated bandages and filling my camelback (a water bladder with a hose attached so you can drink while walking). Then we drove out to Kate’s. Kate lives on a rural block with her husband and three daughters. She’s a veterinarian with a passion for horses and on their block they have horses, chickens, dogs and a pet crow. This was only my second visit, and Steve’s first. I really didn’t know Kate or Alex very well beyond the practitioner-client relationships I had developed with them, and was looking forward to getting to know them better.

 

We collected Kate and she guided us to Alex’s house, further out into the rural area. One of Alex’s chickens seemed quite intent on coming with us and we had to keep shooing her out of the car while we were loading up. Steve had made me a walking stick to take with me, and he strapped it firmly to the roof rack. It was a long staff made from an old tree-branch, with the bark scrapped off so that the surface was smooth under my hands. Besides being another point of contact with the earth and thus providing extra support, it had also been designated Chief Crocodile-Basher, ‘just-in-case’.

 

Steve gave us a brief lesson with the GPS and then before I knew it, we were saying our goodbyes and heading off towards Kakadu! The first few hours of driving were filled with chatter about family and I occasionally felt a bit shy, realising these two knew each other a lot better than I knew either of them. I may have been their healer, intimate with them in ways they perhaps weren’t with each other, but I still knew so little about the day-to-day of their lives. Not for the first time, I found myself brushing away vague fears, wondering what on earth I was getting myself into and whether it was wise to be going into the Kakadu wilderness with two clients and an injury.

 

Arriving at the turn-off into the part of Kakadu that was to become our home for the next four days, we went through the open gates on to dirt road. Alex refused to relinquish her position in the driver’s seat, even though she had no experience with four-wheel driving, and we had a lovely time guiding her through creek beds with their steep inclines and rises. She did a brilliant job. There’s such an art to finding the right approach and speed when navigating country like this and it was fun watching her exhilaration when she successfully got through each creek-crossing without getting us bogged.

 

Along the way we saw some wild horses, a mother and child. The discussion that ensued gave me an insight into Kate’s love for and knowledge about horses. I haven’t had much to do with horses myself, beyond my connection with them on a spirit level. My childhood was filled with camels and camel treks and the only time I ever went near a horse, it bit me, so I’ve been rather wary ever since. That doesn’t stop me from admiring them though. Perhaps they are another power animal for me: we usually have a healthy respect for our power animals. When animals come into our lives, they bring spirit medicine with them and the spirit medicine of horses is about adventure, freedom, stamina, strength and warrior energy. Thank you horse, for lending me your strength and spirit. I certainly needed it for this journey!

 

Wildflower Spirit Journey in Kakadu

IMG_6714Two years ago I had a wildflower adventure in Kakadu.

My birthday brings the memories back because I had my birthday out there under a tree on the escarpment with two incredible women who kept me alive and amazed me with the blessings they kept pulling out of their backpacks. Grapefruit tastes like manna from heaven when you are thirsty from shock and you still have to get through the night with only half a litre of water to share between three people. 

I’ve decided to publicly share some of the writing I’ve done about this, even though I’m not sure I will complete this story and release it as a second wildflower book. It was an incredibly powerful experience, and one I would love to share, but I can’t seem to write about coming down off the escarpment without having nightmares, so I’m putting that part of the writing on hold until my psyche feels safe to continue. The journey ended with us being rescued by helicopter from a waterfall ledge half way down the cliff face. Phew! I may have cured my fear of heights in the process but that’s only because everything else seems like a walk in the park by comparison. 

I feel nervous sharing ‘the cave’ part of this story with you- emotional actually- but I think it’s time, and at least this part of the story is mine to share…. or is it? Spirit assures me it is, at least in terms of my relationship with Spirit and the land. Some of the reason I keep hesitating with the writing of this book is because it involves two other people. Do I really have the right to tell a story shared? And if so, how do I do it in a way that honours their privacy and the fact that their story might be very different from my own? Perhaps I need to revisit the cave and re-anchor the decisive male energy I discovered there. 



THE CAVE

I lay down again and opened up my senses, reaching out and speaking to the canyon, the cave, the rock spirits, the space itself.

We apologise if we are trespassing but we have travelled a long way. It’s getting dark and we are very tired. Can we please rest here for the night?

The reply came as it always does: a collage of words, feelings, impressions, images and knowing. I could feel a strong male energy stepping forward.

We understand. You may stay the night but you must leave as early as possible in the morning. We like you three. You are quiet. We are tired of noisy people. Everything is changing. We don’t like all these white people coming through here. We long for the old days.

I suggested to the spirit energy that he could talk to his people and ask them to speak with the rangers about this. At first, all I could feel was silence in response. Then grief, which soon gave way to reluctant acceptance.

We’ve already done this. The way it is now, with this area being shared with the white man… it’s the only way. We have already negotiatied. It’s either this or nothing.

I could feel the deep grief of the canyon about the way everything was changing so quickly. I felt sad for Spirit, but what could I do? I agreed to the terms laid down about our stay and gave thanks, ready to end the conversation, when it suddenly veered in an unexpected direction.

We want you to come into the cave. We have things to teach you.

It wasn’t a request. I almost felt as though it was part of the condition of staying, a sneaky addition tacked on at the last minute. I also knew I would do what I was told, in spite of my reservations about entering the cave.

I conveyed all of this to the girls and they relaxed a little. Or at least, I thought at the time they did. Later I was to discover otherwise. While they began setting up camp, I went into the cave. As I entered, I became aware of a power position on the ground, up against the rock wall in front of me, and headed towards it. Then I stopped suddenly, confused, because there was another one up against the wall to my left.

Which one do I sit in? Why am I aware of two?, I asked myself. The answer came in a flash. The one directly in front of me was a man’s power position. The one to my left was a woman’s power position. I turned automatically to the left to go and sit in the women’s position, when Spirit stopped me.

No. Sit in the man’s position first.

First. Obviously that meant I was going to end up sitting in both. I sat in the man’s position, feeling very comfortable with the rock wall supporting my back.

Are you sure I’m meant to sit here?, I asked Spirit.

Yes. We have things to teach you, Spirit replied.

Are you sure I’m meant to be in this cave? I’m white. I don’t have the right.

In hindsight, I’m guessing I sounded a bit whiny, but I was exhausted and feeling overwhelmed.

Quiet. We asked you to be here. Everything is changing. We make do with what we can get. Black, white, it’s irrelevant. You are a Spirit Walker. Not many like you come up here. We make do with what we can get.

Reassured, I settled back into position and went into trance. A series of shadowy images flittered through my mind, morphing and shifting. I peered more closely. It looked like an animal. A black mountain goat? Or was it a mountain lion? A kangaroo? Finally the shifting settled. It was a black dingo.

I felt the spirit I had been speaking with earlier drawing my attention back to the canyon. I became aware of my position in the cave and then the perspective lifted, as though I were flying upwards and looking down over the canyon. Higher and higher we lifted. Finally the ascent slowed and the cave spirit pointed into the distance. I looked and could see Uluru.

Puzzled, I asked Why are you showing me this?

This is your Country, yes?, asked the spirit, it’s tone light and friendly. I realised it was making a connection with me, almost like a traditional form of greeting.

Yes, this is my country. It was close enough. I grew up in Alice, a days drive from Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock, or more simply The Rock. During my childhood we often went to Uluru to visit my Great Uncle Peter, an arid zone botanist and ranger.

As the spirit and I gazed out over the land I could feel a connection in the land between where I was in Kakadu, and where I had spent time as a child in the comunity at Mutijulu, where my Great Uncle lived. I felt as though the land here in Kakadu was understanding me via my connection with Uluru.

Then the spirit showed me an image of a dingo and referenced the famous Australian story about a dingo taking a baby, back in the 70’s when I was a child. I wasn’t sure why spirit was showing me this, but I politely acknowledged the event, saying yes, I remember this. I also remembered the many dingos I had spent time with at Uluru, especially the one that used to visit the community in the evenings, looking for food. We were taught to be wary and careful, but not afraid. I thought they were beautiful.

The spirit seemed satisfied with my memories, somehow identifying me and where I belonged via my connection with Uluru and the dingos. Then it’s attention snapped back to where we were, pulling me back with it. I could feel it looking into me and through me, as though rifling through my memories, especially of the journey up the side of the mountain.

You are a flower spirit walker, it declared emphatically, as though this were my sole purpose in life, engraved into the fabric of my being.

I’m a healer. I work with colours, I replied, trying to convey a broader sense of who I was.

If this spirit had had a hand, he would have waved it dismissively. All spirit walkers are healers. You are a flower spirit walker. Obviously my identity beyond this wasn’t open to discussion. I shrugged and acknowledged what the spirit was saying, feeling a little dubious about my new title.

IMG_6441Then the spirit showed me an image of one of the flowers I had met on my way up the mountain. It was the first flower I had met along the way, on the first day heading out of base camp.

This is cleansing spirit medicine, it told me, showing me an image of my aura, full of small dark blotches.

You need cleansing. You filled your mind with negative thoughts on your way up the mountain. Why were you thinking these thoughts? You are a spirit walker. Be in your power.

It brushed the branch of flowers over me and through me, all the while scolding me for my unbecoming behaviour on my way up the mountain.

How can your body stay strong with these useless thoughts? And no wonder you were having trouble keeping up! Look!

It showed me an image replay of me climbing the mountain, pausing to decide which way forwards as I debated whether to go around a tree or under it, push past the bush or go over the rocks. Over and over again I had lost time pondering while the girls pushed forward without hesitation.

Just keep going. Go in a straight line. You think and wonder too much. Just get on with it!, said the spirit with exasperation.

I could feel my body soaking up the male energy in the position I was sitting in, and I started to shake off the indecisiveness that had slowed my progress, not only on this walk, but in my life in general. Then the branch disappeared and tiny points of yellow light appeared, like sparkles of sunlight coursing through my mind. The lights were flower spirits and they were filling me with positivity.IMG_6610

After a while the shower of yellow light stopped, and I knew it was time to move into the other position.

Leave your spirit-body here, said the spirit, so I was careful to stand up in body only. I left a firm image and feeling of myself sitting in the men’s power spot while I walked over to the women’s position.

The women’s position was just as comfortable, but the rock behind me sloped backwards rather than being completely vertical. Instinctively, I leaned back against it, with my legs in a squatting position. It felt like such a good position to give birth in. My mind filled with images of women giving birth here, while my body went through the bearing-down motions as though I myself were giving birth. I didn’t really feel like me: I felt like all the women who had ever come to this place to give birth.

As the baby slipped out of me into my hands, the spirit of the place stepped forward and took the baby from me.

Now leave your body here and go sit in the men’s position.

I did as I was asked, stepping out of my body and walking over to the other power spot. I could feel myself in both positions at the same time. I was the man watching the woman giving birth, and I was the woman giving birth.

I watched the spirit hand the baby to the man, the father of the child. I held my hands out as the man, and received the child. This imagery repeated itself, over and over again.

Then I saw an image of someone taking the baby into the water and somehow ascending together up through the rockface at the head of the canyon, emerging up through the rock onto the top of the escarpment. The baby was held aloft to the sky, as though being presented to the heavens, as though a great event had unfolded and was to be celebrated.

Then everything became more intense but I don’t remember all the details because I was in such a deeply altered state at the time. I was being shown a dreamtime story. What I do remember is that when it first began, I realised what was happening and felt alarmed. What right did I have, to hear such a story!? I got quite upset about this and wept until spirit calmed me, saying Hush child.

You are a spirit walker. The stories have to be told. We make do with what we have,

I wonder if my reluctance to hear the story is the reason why I can’t remember all of it, or if this partial memory loss was a safeguard established by spirit to ensure the sacred parts of this story were kept secret.

The story began with an image of a vortex over the cliff face at the head of the gorge, above the waterhole. I remember feeling mesmerized by it and drawn towards it. Spirit stopped me. It almost felt like an invisible arm was pushing back against my chest, holding me back.

No. Don’t go there. Not for you. Not safe. Stay here and watch. Listen.

IMG_6638

Fan Flowers : Heart-opening, Space-expanding

Screenshot 2015-05-22 15.43.29

The next morning we rose early and drove to Ti Tree. On the way there, I found some fan flowers on the side of the road. Grandma says: “The name scaevola comes from a Latin word meaning left-handed, because of the one-sided shape.”

There are about 90 species of fan flower. Most of them are Australian, and seven of them are specifically Central Australian. Fan flower spirit medicine expands and opens our chakras, especially the heart chakra. They broaden our sense of personal space, helping us feel more open and expansive in heart, mind and body. Continue reading

Humility Fuchsia

Screenshot 2015-05-19 16.12.54

After completing work in this community, we made a brief detour into Palm Valley for lunch. This was my favourite thrill-a-minute four-wheel drive road. Not only was it an adrenaline rush because it was so challenging, the landscape was stunning and ever-changing. We didn’t have time to walk deeper into the valley, but the road itself and the flowers along the way more than compensated. After being forced to drive past many fuchsias on the roads north of Alice Springs due to time constraints, I became a little obsessed with fuchsias for the rest of the trip.

I found myself searching for a black and white fuchsia that I kept seeing in my mind. I couldn’t work out what it was and why it seemed important. Perhaps it was one Grandma had shown me as a child. Fuchsia was one of my grandmother’s favourite flowers and my grandparents had loved visiting Palm Valley, so it felt special to find my first fuchsia here. Continue reading