In native culture Hawk is the messenger of the gods - Life is sending you signals; a clue about the magic of life is being brought to you (from Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson). Picture: SM Scott

The Winds of Change – a poem

As I carried my cup of tea onto the terrace this morning I was greeted by a brown hawk in flight, barely three metres away from me at eye level. My heart lifted, I called out to others to come and see. No one came.
It circled around a nearby tree and came back for another pass, wingtips rippling in the strong easterly wind. Elation flooded me. What a gift – so close. It circled one more time and disappeared over the treetops into the east. Spirit has sent me a message – it’s time to listen and look for clues.
Sitting there thinking how lucky I was I remembered a poem I wrote in 1994:

The Winds of Change
The winds of change blow strong
Stirring your emotions
One moment calm, yet stifling and hot
You are in the depths of despair and exhaustion;
Nothing is fun.
Next they whip up fiercely
Blowing away the cobwebs;
Invigorating, sweeping your emotions along with them.
In the cool of night they blow strongest
Voicing their mighty power.
Yet you are safe inside – calm within the storm.
To stand outside is inspiring;
The wintry winds hold promise of a fruitful spring.
Speak to me, oh wind, of what is my destiny!

– SM Scott

When life gets too much

When life gets you down take comfort in the thought that this too will pass- Picture credit: Jon Eckert

A young girl in our beautiful valley has taken her own life. What makes a 13-year-old feel their predicament is so hopeless? Why didn’t she talk to someone who could help?
Could this tragedy have been prevented?
It seems farmers are also killing themselves at the rate of one every four weeks in Queensland, politicians say. They see no future what with overwhelming debts, drought and death all around them. But we always have choice, even when we don’t know it.
We are losing too many individuals – be they young or older – and whatever talents and creativity they may have enriched our world with. Is it overwhelm? Hopelessness?
I have my bad days but when I do I think “This too shall pass” (an old Persian saying about the inevitable nature of change).
And you know what – it always does.
Take heart and reach for hope any way you can.

Out of the darkness

 

There are hidden treasures in the great grasslands of north-west Queensland and not all of them are gold and sapphires, as I discover on a drive along the Savannah Way


 

Undara lava tubes were created as rivers of hot lava flowed across the land some 190,000 years ago.

Undara lava tubes were created as rivers of hot lava flowed across the land some 190,000 years ago.

Unexpected warmth emanates from the cavernous tunnel before us. Its source is not the river of hot molten lava that formed this high semi-circular “tube” – that cooled about 190,000 years ago. Hardy bushes now grow in the tumble of rocks at its entrance.

It comes in waves as if the cave is breathing.

Behind us the temperature is dropping as the sun sinks towards the dry savannah horizon. We wait patiently, eyes keenly peeled for any sign of movement. But the warmth endures as the sun sets over the savannah behind us, glowing deep orange.

Sunset over the western Queensland savannah at Undara Volcanic Park

Sunset over the western Queensland savannah at Undara Volcanic Park

A faint odour wafts from inside the cave, hinting at what’s lurking inside. I try not to breathe too deeply or make any sudden moves. Voices are hushed as we all focus on the darker depths of the lava tube.

Minutes pass. There’s a rush of air past my shoulder. I duck as movement flits past my face.

These are the scouts, checking if it is time yet. The light is dimming and the flash of wings comes more often, disappearing back into the cave’s depths. My eyes adjust with the fading light.

Before long there is a swirl of 20 or so tiny creatures circling in the cave entrance only metres in front of me, building up confidence to venture past. A 5cm fur-ball zips past me into the cool dusk air – followed by another and another. As if on cue, hundreds of resident horseshoe and bent-wing microbats dart for the surface en masse.

Out of the darkness there's a rush of wings

Out of the darkness there’s a rush of wings

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The sheer numbers make them easy prey for pythons which strike from the bushes crowding the cave entrance.

The snakes are more prevalent during the warm summer months – when bat numbers also swell with the breeding season.A python strikes (look closely for the bat wing as it swallows its prey).

A python strikes (look closely for the bat wing as it swallows its prey).

But the call of nature is strong and they continue to run the gauntlet to freedom and food. Finely tuned sonar ensures the bats don’t collide with each other or the humans vying to get a photograph but it is impossible not to duck as they whiz past.

Measuring only 5cm long and with a 10cm wingspan, thousands of the insectivorous microbats emerge from this particular lava tube at Undara every night. The creatures need to eat their own body weight in insects before the sun returns at dawn and play a vital role in the  web of life on the savannah.

Our Savannah Guide Ivor Davies says the bat population can swell to a million during the summer breeding season, taking up to 90 minutes to vacate their daytime abode. During winter there can be a steady stream of creatures for 20 minutes or more. The effect is mesmerising.

This is the excitement of the Sunset Wildlife Tour at Undara Experience, a national park-based tourist facility some 275km southwest of Cairns on the Savannah Way, in north Queensland.

The lava tubes are among the longest in the world – more than 90km long – formed as an estimated 23 cubic kilometres of molten lava flowed in rivers from a single volcano across the McBride Volcanic Province. It is one of the longest lava flows from a single volcano in modern geological time, spreading more than 160km to the north-west.

For more details go to: Undara Experience, Undara Volcanic National Park; Ph 1800 990 992; www.undara.com.au

This is just one of the natural wonders of the north-western Queensland section of the Savannah Way, a 3699km trans-national drive from tropical Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef to the remote pearling town of Broome, in Western Australia.

Dreaming of Dolphins – a plight interwoven

Last night I dreamed of dolphins. I followed a concrete pathway down a steep bank to an abandoned wooden structure which used to be a watery abattoir where dolphins were killed. The water’s surface was littered with light debris which I couldn’t really identify, perhaps leaves but with a sense of pollution about it which left me feeling sad. However then I brightened up as a pod of dolphins appeared in the water. I was amazed and overjoyed that they could come back to this place of such negativity and still be so friendly and playful. I watched the dolphins for ages, admiring their sleek forms and playfulness, overjoyed at the feelings they inspired in myself. There were baby dolphins there as well and I was able to touch them and have them gather around me until the caretaker of the place told me it was time to leave. A sadness overcame me as I knew I had to go. What would happen to these dolphins now? What was their fate amid this pollution?

Upon waking I had several thoughts. There was the feeling of joy the dolphins inspired which made me question: “Where is the joy in my daily life?” What can I do to feel like that more often.

Then there was the memory of the annual Japanese dolphin slaughter – was this what the dream was also symbolic of? If you haven’t heard the story check out the Sixty Minutes’ segment aired Feb 23 called The Killing Cove  at http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8804712

Dolphins are not just another animal. They are sentient beings, so intelligent and so inspiring, they deserve to be treated so much better than to be slaughtered like fish for food that many people would be loathe to eat or just to steal their young for the profit of the aquarium trade.

There was another layer to my dream I believe that spoke of the compassion and willingness of dolphins to return to that place of killing (an abattoir in the dream; the Killing Cove in Japan) and endure that negativity so that we humans can feel their joy again and reconnect with our playfulness.

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I was fortunate enough to interact with a wild dolphin at Monkey Mia in Western Australia many years ago (pictured above) and the memory of it is a real treasure in my heart.  I hope other people can experience that joy and wonder in future years as well.

Flyboarding out of a rut

Rise above it all with Flyboard Cairns - Ironman meets King Neptune. Picture courtesy of Flyboard Cairns

Rise above it all with Flyboard Cairns – Ironman meets King Neptune. Picture courtesy of Flyboard Cairns

Sometimes life gets so mundane we can’t see our way out of the rut of our daily routine – when you can only see what needs doing rather than what you feel like doing.

When I find myself in this state I know that drastic action is required. Another time this happened I signed up for the Minjin swing – being winched several storeys high up a metal tower and freefalling for several seconds before the swing kicked in and shot me out across the treetops at Kuranda markets. It was such an adrenalin-rush my knees were knocking so much afterwards I could barely stand. Great fun.

So this time I was sitting around feeling swamped by all the weeds that had overtaken my garden when I thought of Richard Branson.  Now that’s a man with a sense of adventure. I can’t imagine he even lets the word “boredom” into his vocabulary. He’s a superman of extreme action!

Now by the Law of Attraction, what you think you draw to you. And what you think about with emotion comes even faster. So, as it happens, the last time I felt really excited was watching a TV segment about this great new sport of Flyboarding. It looked fantastic – the presenter hovering above the water like a superhero with white water jets streaming out below his feet like some rocket exhaust.

It was a case of Marvel Comics’ Ironman meets King Neptune  – or science-fiction meets reality.

So a few days after musing over “what would Richard Branson be doing now” I was offered the chance to go Flyboarding. I didn’t even know Flyboard Cairns existed at that stage. With a mix of trepidation and anticipation I agreed to do it.

After all, when the Universe brings you what you ask for it is only polite to go with it.

Watching YouTube footage of the pros jetting 15m high did little to quell the fears of friends and family who know my mind often gets carried away with things my body is less capable of. But I knew I needed this. Balance and flexibility could be an issue – so I trotted off to an osteopath to ensure my spine could snake as much as the young bucks and beach babes on the flyboardcairns.com.au website – fat chance really.

Palm Cove with Double Island in the distance

Palm Cove with Double Island in the distance

Come 9am Saturday and it is a sightly-overcast day at the beautiful spa-spangled Palm Cove, about 30 minutes’ drive north of Cairns. The gentle blue-green swell of the Coral Sea is enticing. I make a mental note of an advertising board offering discount massages outside one of the hotels – may be needed after I’ve finished.

As I rock up to their beachfront setup opposite The Reef House resort, Flyboard Cairns director/instructor Luke Kanowski assures me it this brave new extreme sport looks a lot harder than it is. Fellow director Chris De Santo says it generally only takes 10 minutes of instruction to be standing up out of the water and 15 minutes to learn to manoeuvre on the Flyboard. There are no weight restrictions (big relief) and about 20 per cent of their clients are aged 55-70 (out go my preconceived ideas that this is just for the young guns).

After squeezing myself into a full-body wetsuit and helmet, safety briefing over, and I join Chris at the jet-ski to get strapped into my jet-boots. Facing into the waves, the jet-ski powers up and the exhaust water quickly fills the 20m hose connecting us. As it exits the two metal pipes on either side of the Flyboard I start to move forward. The feeling is weird – effortless. Alternatively bending one knee or the other effectively controls your direction. We head for the safety of deeper water. I practice circling the jet-ski. Tilting my toes upwards and miraculously I rise up out of the water like some sea serpent. Nerves kick in as I get higher, losing balance and falling into the sea. Chris assures me that from the beach it would appear that’s what I meant to do. Yeah, right. We practice dolphin dives and work up to hovering. I make it up to 1.5m above the water. It feels more like 4m. I come crashing down on my side – my humpback whale breaching impersonation.

Up, up and away

Up, up and away

Getting my balance

Getting my balance

Beginners can usually get up to 1-2m high, Chris says, up to 4m for those with nerve and balance. With extended repetition it is possible to hover up to 5-8m, he says, with pros reaching 15m and top speeds of 20km/h.

“It is more about style and aerial stunts,” Chris says, which excites these pioneering sportsmen the most.

“It is so new, we don’t know what we can do,” Luke says, likening it to the advances in skateboarding tricks since the 1970s. “We don’t know what is possible”.

Flyboard Cairns instructor Luke in action at Palm Cove

Flyboard Cairns instructor Luke in action at Palm Cove

With that in mind, the guys are hoping to attract flyboarders for a North Queensland competition in 2014, with the aim of taking a team to national and world competitions at the Gold Coast and in Qatar at the end of 2014.

So far the tricks include backflips, dolphin dives and variations such as the twister/tornado and corkscrew. It takes “twisting by the pool” to a whole new level.

Thank you to Chris and Luke for blasting me out of a rut. And I didn’t even need the massage afterwards. Highly recommended.

For more info: check out www.flyboardcairns.com.au

(Flyboard session provided courtesy of Flyboard Cairns.)