A Sense of Spirit · farewell · sisters · travels

The twenty-eighth to the twenty-eighth

sunsetDuring the last month I have spent more days away from home than I have there, an unusual occurrence for me being the home-body that I am.

On the twenty-eighth of October I began a ten-day trip south with my youngest daughter and when I have the time to sort through and edit almost five-hundred photos I took, I will share a few photos here.

Less than two weeks after returning home I headed north, this time to attend the wedding of my eldest daughter who married her long-time boyfriend in a gorgeous beach ceremony.

After returning home from the wedding, and with just enough time to complete and submit a university assignment and catch up on some work, I received news that I had been dreading – my brother-in-law, who had been ill for some years, had taken a turn for the worse. I had to be with my sister.

My big sister means the world to me and I have often cursed the geographic distance between us. Knowing that my brother-in-law, a man I have known all of my life, had just days, maybe even hours to live, had me packing my bags and heading south again.

On Friday night, after a six-hour drive, I arrive just in time to join my family at the hospital. We cried, hugged one another, laughed as we remembered the good times, and shed tears over the loss of a beloved family member.

The funeral is Friday and I will stay with my sister until after we say our final goodbyes to her husband. She has never lived alone before and the days and months ahead will be a time when she will have to make adjustments to the new life which has been forced upon her. Thankfully, she will not have to face the future completely alone – a beautiful girl with unruly curls and floppy ears will keep her company.

“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” – Edgar Allan Poe

Change is inevitable, but for the last month of the year I am hoping for a calm, peaceful time at home. The twenty-eighth October to the twenty-eighth of November this year has been a memorable month, for many reasons.




A Sense of Spirit · Australia · blessings · gratitude · photography · sisters · summer · unbreakable bonds

After a Twenty-Two Year Wait ~ Photos of a Pheasant Coucal.

Summer-time black feathers.

“I saw the most magnificent bird on our land!”

I couldn’t wait to tell my eldest sister, who I knew to be a bird lover, about the most incredible sight I had seen. But it wasn’t just the sight of the bird that had me intrigued. The way it took off from the ground, with a massive flap, flap, flap, whilst running, using its wide expanse of outspread wings to become airborne, was completely different to how other, smaller varieties of birds took off from the ground.

“It was absolutely massive!” I exclaimed, “but with the face of a dove. The tail feathers alone must have been eighteen inches long. And the bird was predominately brown, of all colours. There was some mottling around its tail, but I didn’t get a good look at all the details. I can’t wait to see it again, it really was a sight to see, like no other bird I have ever seen before.”

My sister rolled her eyes. “Really, Jo, you do exaggerate….what did this miracle bird really look like?”

A magnificent Pheasant Coucal.
A magnificent Pheasant Coucal.

As far as my sister was concerned, I always exaggerated. If I said I was freezing cold, boiling hot, or couldn’t wait to visit mum, Anne regarded the statement to be an exaggeration. (If you were freezing cold you would be solid and unable to speak; if you were boiling hot you would be dead; and you will have to wait to see mum, but why the rush?) To my sister, I was the Queen of Exaggeration. In my eyes, Anne was a painful stickler for details.

But I knew this bird was big, and brown. It also had a pretty dove-like face. I had never in my life seen such an elaborate take-off either, thinking that all birds simply went flap, whooshka….up into the sky! This one didn’t.

Twenty-two years have passed by since that day, of my first sighting of what I now know to be a Pheasant Coucal. The next one to sight the bird back then was my husband  (who hadn’t doubted my description for a minute!) We searched bird identification books, asked the locals, tried to see the bird again, all during which time my sister occasionally thought to question whether I had seen this Feathered Colossus again, using the most sarcastic tone she could muster.

Preening those gorgeous feathers.
Preening those gorgeous feathers.

After my husband had sighted it as well though, she had to accept that maybe, just maybe, Kid Sister really had seen an unusual, and unusually large bird.

During the years between building our house on our land and now, we have sighted the Coucal’s many times, but we hear them more often than see them. They are a very shy bird, nest in the long grass right down the bottom of our yard along the fence line, between us and the farm-house behind us, but we know they are there when we hear their cries, echoing through the garden. It’s a low-pitched sound, a constant “coo-coo-coo”, vibrating through the yard and around the valley. The sound is as magical as the sight of them.

Occasionally, I spot a Coucal, usually way down the back yard (we have one acre of land), or taking off in their laborious way, disappearing into the trees.  Unfortunately, due to their inability to fly easily, we often see them on the main road leading to our village, victims of the cars moving faster than the coucals can fly across the road. They also walk a lot, another hazard for these beautiful creatures.

Enjoying the rain....
Enjoying the rain….

Pheasant Coucals are members of the cuckoo family, although unlike cuckoos, who invade the ready-made nests of magpies and currawongs, Coucal’s lay their eggs, usually three to five in number, in the long grass, caring for them themselves. And according to my book, “Guide to Australian Birds”, Pheasant Coucal’s are about fifty-five to sixty-eight centimeters in length. Conversion ~ twenty-two to twenty-seven inches long.

Large long-tailed cuckoo with body black (summer) or brown (winter and juvenile) and rufous barred wings and tail. Usually seen running across roads or perched (particularly on wet days) on fence posts or dead trees near long grass; when flushed flies heavily with laboured wing-beats. ~ The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds.

coucal 4
…more preening…

For so many years, which now seems like forever, I have tried, unsuccessfully, to take a photo of a Pheasant Coucal. Although their presence is felt, they remain hidden.

Earlier this week though, my daughter took breakfast outside, to be enjoyed in the cool morning air, just before a few spots of rain hit the ground. Before coming back indoors, I heard her calling to me, in a low, quiet, yet urgent voice. I grabbed my camera; I knew by her tone this must be important.

There, sitting in clear view, right on top of the shed, in all its glory, sat a Pheasant Coucal!

It didn’t stay there long enough for me to take a photo, (typical!) and flew down to a low tree in the garden. I sneaked around to the side of the tree, camera poised, but must have disturbed it, as it flew up into the branches of the pecan nut tree, which it seemed to decide was a safe place for its morning bath.

Shaking those pretty tail feathers.
Shaking those pretty tail feathers.

I took refuge from the now-steady rain, standing in the shed, happily clicking away at one of my mysterious, seldom seen, Coucals. It posed and preened, whilst I held my breath and quietly clicked. What a joyful few minutes it was.

I would like to think that Anne looked down on me from heaven, watching me with my camera that morning, in my (unexaggerated!) moment of glory.

Maybe she even arranged for the Coucal to be there for me….who knows? It’s a lovely thought, and a brilliant beginning to 2015.

Magnificent, even in black and white.
Magnificent, even in black and white.



daughter · photography · sisters

Lady of the Dead ~ A Halloween Makeup Session


Who is that girl in the photo? I don’t recognize her! But that’s my clock, sitting on the mantle piece, right behind her!???????????????????????????????

Now that’s more like it, I know these two girls, my beautiful daughters, Emma and Hayley. Hayley loves playing around with makeup and creating different effects, so when Emma asked her to turn her into someone who even her mother wouldn’t recognize, eg, The Lady of the Dead, (as you can see in the photo on the phone in Hayley’s hand,) Hayley was all for it!???????????????????????????????

It began quite simply, just a big circle around her eyes……???????????????????????????????

Well that was a surprise….a bit dark, don’t you think????????????????????????????????

I thought Emma said she was going to the party as The Lady of the Dead, not a Panda Bear!???????????????????????????????

That softens it up a bit, Hayley is getting into her “Flower-Power” mode….she always did love drawing flowers when she was a little girl. 🙂 ???????????????????????????????

Aww, that’s kind of cute, a little black nose…..???????????????????????????????

…..and funky little whiskers too; maybe she is going to the party as a cute little fury creature, after all. ???????????????????????????????

Oh, a cute little fury creature with white lines on its face…..I’ve got it ~ a white tiger…..or, or, or……a zebra!???????????????????????????????

Well that’s kind of pretty, in an odd sort of way, if you half close your eyes…..???????????????????????????????

What the….?!!! That can’t be Emma! She wouldn’t be caught dead with hair that messy!???????????????????????????????

I think a nice necklace would look better, Emma, don’t you????????????????????????????????

Here comes the special effects lady Hayley again, what’s she doing this time????????????????????????????????

I feel faint…….???????????????????????????????

Eeeewwwww………………that can’t be my beautiful girl, can it?

Thank goodness Halloween only comes around once a year!

Footnote : Emma enjoyed herself, didn’t drink too much, and went to bed reasonably early, if you call 3 am early!

A Sense of Spirit · birthdays · blessings · Mum · sisters

Pennies From Heaven


“I found a penny today
Just laying on the ground.
But it’s not just a penny,
this little coin I’ve found.
Found pennies come from heaven,
that’s what my Grandpa told me,
He said angels toss them down
Oh, how I love that story!”

~ Author Unknown.

The # 1 hit song in February 1964 in both Australia and the USA was “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles, and in the UK, “Needles and Pins” by The Searchers. And just by coincidence, the 10th of February, 1964, was also a Monday.

“Monday’s child is fair of face”, or so the old rhyme goes, and to me, the baby in the photo above, taken in 1964, and born on this day 50 years ago, has always been fair of face. And he holds a very special place in my heart.

I don’t remember the day he was born, I was too young, and try as I have over the years, all I can remember about this time in my life was my mother telling me that we “have to save our pennies for the new baby”, so I did. And one day when I was shopping in Penrith with my mum, as she stood at the counter in the delicatessen placing her order, I spotted a big jar of pennies, high above me on the counter. “So this is where we buy the baby when we’ve saved enough pennies!” my young mind thought.

I last spoke to him at Christmas time when he phoned. “It’s your cousin Jeff!” he told me…..”No, It’s my nephew Jeff!” I corrected him. “Oh whatever, I’m pi**ed!” he told me. A bit too much “Christmas” perhaps, and knowing my nephew, no doubt he will enjoy a bit too much “birthday” today as well, being the fun-loving man he is.

Today he turns 50. Today it is 50 years ago that I became an auntie for the first time. Today, he is on a cruise somewhere around the Pacific Islands with his wife, celebrating.

Holding her young baby boy in the photo is my eldest sister, Annette. She’s been gone now for six years and Jeff’s grandma for 20 years, but they both loved him dearly. Maybe today, they will send him some “pennies from heaven”, as their way of letting him know they are thinking of him, as I know they will be.

Happy 50th Birthday to my dear nephew Jeffrey, the cheeky baby boy that my mum called “A Little Buggeroo!”, the young man who became one of my sister’s closest friends and the son she always knew she could rely on.

And to me, he’s the baby boy who cost us lots and lots of pennies, but was worth every one of them; my childhood playmate; the young teenager who followed me around and tried to “copy” the clothes I wore (luckily, as a teenager I wore jeans and t-shirts a lot, he would have looked hilarious in a dress!); the serious young man on his wedding day; the cousin who my children remember as the “fun” cousin when they were growing up; the son who misses his mum every day; the grown man who still loves his family; the nephew who gives the best bear-hugs.

Jeffrey ~ A Blessing. x

A Sense of Spirit · birthdays · gardening · Mum · sisters

My Sister’s Garden

A Rose for Mum.
Flowers for Mum.

On the morning of Monday, the 30th of August, 1993, I dropped my son off at school, saw my daughter into her pre school-class and with my nine month old baby I visited my mother for the last time. Mum had lapsed into a coma on the Saturday afternoon so we knew the end was near. Up to that particular morning, before leaving my mother’s bedside I could only say to her “see you later”. The thought of never seeing her again terrified me. On this day, twenty years ago today, before leaving her room I noticed a pulse beating in her neck, she was still alive. Then I said the words I had feared ~ “Goodbye Mum”, yet the words came easily; it was time for me to let her go. Later I was told that a nurse saw me leave the room. She went in to check on my mum ~ she had gone.

Today, as I think of my mother, the angel and guide of my life for the past twenty years, I would love to take you all for a walk with me around the beautiful garden of another very important woman in my life, one who also lost a part of her own soul twenty years ago today, my sister, Vivien.


See the dew on the sunflower
And a rose that is fading
Roses whither away
Like the sunflower
I yearn to turn my face to the dawn
I am waiting for the day . . . ” ~ Memory from the Musical “Cats”, one of Mum’s favourite songs.

Cows across the road from Vivi's home. Such a beautiful view from her front door.
Cows across the road from Vivi’s home, grazing by the river. Such a beautiful view from her front door.

Having three sisters, all of whom were substantially older than me, may have robbed me of the fun times as a child of having sister’s for playmates, but the blessing it gave me was the joy of having three extra “mothers”.

Take a seat....
Take a seat….

Vivi is my closest sister in age, she is twelve years older than me, and it was Vivi who mothered me the most throughout the years when I was growing up. We even went through a stage when she spent a considerable amount of time yelling at me, as I rebelled against her when I was a teenager! Now that’s real love…. 🙂

....we can read a story together.
….we can read a story together.

My own children adore their auntie. My youngest son Adam said to me recently “there’s nothing to not like about Auntie Vivi”, and I totally agree with him, she’s just wonderful.

A very pretty bird, one which I don't see at my place.
A very pretty bird, one which I don’t see at my place.

If my sister lived closer I would definitely see her more often. Vivi lives six hours drive south of me, so when Adam and I took our trip down south in late June I planned it so that we would be at Vivi’s place to help her celebrate her birthday this year.

This is a bird that stays put in Vivi's garden.
This is a bird that stays put in Vivi’s garden.

One of Vivi’s sons, his wife and two children came around for dinner. Vivi had asked for take-away Chinese food, which she doesn’t have very often, for her birthday meal so she wouldn’t have to cook on her birthday, so that’s what we had.

Keeping an eye on the time.
Keeping an eye on the time.

Vivi is a fantastic cook and can throw together a delicious meal in no time at all! As a child I loved sleep-overs at Vivi’s home as her meals were yummy, her beds were always soft and comfy and we did fun things together, like cooking and going shopping.

The Zen Garden.
The Zen Garden.

During another visit to my sister’s home just over two years ago, her grandson told me about all the fun things he and his grandma do together when he visits her. It was like deja vu for me to hear him speak. “I used to do those things with your grandma when I was a little girl too!” I told him. I’m not sure that he could quite grasp the concept of the age difference between me and Vivi though, and why I was a child when she was an adult!

Every garden needs at least one bird bath.
Every garden needs at least one bird bath.

The day I took these photos it was raining although the dampness did not put a dampener on the calm atmosphere in the garden, if anything the duller natural light and the raindrops created an even more ambient atmosphere. I can imagine how beautiful it must be on a sunny day. These photos were taken on a wet, midwinter’s day.

Vivi isn't a huge cat lover, so instead of Puss in Boots" she has "Frogs in Boots".
Vivi isn’t a huge cat lover, so instead of “Puss in Boots” she has “Frogs in Boots”.

I am definitely pleased with the photos I took that day and I just love the whimsical ornaments Vivi has in her garden. Vivi and her husband have lived in this home for around nineteen years now, the same length of time I have lived in my home, but I remember her previous home in the Blue Mountains which had a full-sized wishing well in the front garden. It was magical.

No chance of this slow moving guy getting too far away!
No chance of this slow moving guy getting too far away!

Our mum loved her garden and preferred large, brightly coloured flowers to the dainty, paler variety. Anything unusual caught her eye and she was very fond of cactus plants and succulents. One of her favourite plants was her Zygocactus and I was thrilled to see Vivi had one in a hanging basket in her garden. They are not a particular favourite of mine, although I think I should get one. They bring back wonderful memories of the excitement my mum showed when her Zygocactus flowered.

One of Mum's favourite plants, Zygocactus.
One of Mum’s favourite plants, Zygocactus. And the bird in the small cage is an ornament!

Vivi loves frogs! She has quite a few in her home and around her garden, ornaments that is. I made her a cross stitch of three frogs in lily pads a few years ago. It took me ages to finish but it was well worth the effort as it looked fantastic when finished and framed.

Frog art in Vivi's garden.
Frog art in Vivi’s garden.

Before the night of Vivi’s birthday was over, Vivi’s grand-daughter asked if we would like a photo taken together. Jess is a lovely girl, and at age nineteen she speaks with Vivi as if she were her friend and not her grandmother. Vivi’s eldest son and family couldn’t make it for her birthday, he has three children, two sons and a gorgeous little daughter. I hope someday I have the same close bond with my grandchildren.

Me and my big sister Vivi.
Me and my big sister Vivi.

Mum wasn’t overly fussed on the colour pink, she preferred yellow, but I’m still going to show you Vivi’s pretty pink Azaleas, and I will leave you with another verse of “Memories” from Cats, a song that my mum loved. I know she remembers, I know she loves us, I feel her with us; it seems like only yesterday I heard her laughter, felt her hands, combed her hair. How can it possibly be twenty years…..

Raindrops on the pink Azaleas.
Raindrops on the pink Azaleas.

All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again…..”

I love you for Eternity Mum. xxxxxx