The Best Years

4 Comments

Today is my 37th Wedding Anniversary. It’s the second time around for Hubby. Not for me though, and while the research says that second marriages are more likely to fail, they obviously got it wrong when it came to us. Ours continues on in all its glory and bliss.

Our Wedding Day

Our Wedding Day in 1976

Like everyone, we’ve had our ups and downs and spits and spats, but the hard times, and there have been some very hard times, pale into insignificance when compared to the love, joy and happiness we’ve shared ~ it abounds and bounces around like glittery stars, and with each bounce creates more and more of the same!

So, after all these years how did we celebrate? Well, we did our favourite thing ~ we had a lovely breakfast followed by a quiet day in, enjoying each other’s company and reminiscing about what a fabulous life we’ve had. And we have! We’ve done so many things together ~ we’ve worked as partners in business from day one creating and building our best life, travelled the world enjoying fabulous moments and wonderful friends, and created an enduring family filled with love and joy. Not everyone could take being together 24/7, but for us it’s been easy! We knew from the very beginning we were a good team.

Words of thanks, especially those which are written, are a wonderful thing. Eleven years ago when Hubby celebrated a special birthday these are the words I wrote …

‘We have enjoyed 28 wonderful and eventful years together, 26 of them in a committed loving marriage. We have spoken many times of the gratitude we both feel to be so very blessed. Over the years we have not only been each other’s most important support, but we have given each other many special gifts of love, hope and joy. Before our beautiful child was born, our life was only about us. Now, having shared the joys of parenthood and the many paths travelled together I am cushioned by the wonderful memories of the past and the ones yet to come.

I look forward to every day with you. You light up my life. You are a rock and a comfort … my handsome everlasting love. Thank you for the romance, the nurturing, the spoiling, the wit, the humour, the fun, the good times, and also the hard. You have never wavered for a moment. You have always done your best with a kind and giving heart. And thank you for being so understanding, for loving me so completely and always allowing me the freedom to follow my own pursuits… and also, for sharing your sadness and your joy ~ for sharing the real you.

Oh how our life together has grown, only because we have been so united and so confident that it would. We have shared so much yet the time has been but a blink of an eye. But we have never, nor will we ever waste a moment. We will always fill our lives with laughter, joy and happiness. As always, my heart is full. I salute and serenade you with love, love, love.’

The Best Years

Hubby and I today!

Those words are just as true today. People often ask me, how is it that we have such a good marriage, and the answer is easy ~ we’re worth it! We respect and hold each other in very high esteem. We have never tried to outdo the other ~ competition has no place in a marriage ~ instead we always work to each other’s strengths. And we learn from each other too ~ impetuous me for instance, has learned to ‘sleep on it’ while Hubby has learned to slam a door! We laugh every day, especially at the things that annoy us, and we do ‘silly’ a lot. We spoil each other, we celebrate the special moments, we have loads of fun and most important of all ~ we play the mutual admiration game and trust each other completely. My marriage is the most comfortable place in the world. I am treated like a princess by the kindness, most caring, funniest and gorgeous bloke I know!

We’ve had 39 wonderful years together, and if you were to ask me which were the best? My answer would be: all of them and every single one yet to come! As I was writing this, Hubby came in, took my hand, kissed it and said, “We got it right!” Yes, we most certainly did!

Inara Hawley © 2013

Dreams Do Come True

10 Comments

Do you believe that dreams can come true? I’m not talking about those special goals we make and aim for ~ I’m talking about the miracles we wish for. In this busy world of ours where everything moves so fast, many of us don’t have time to sit and dream about miracles. But miracles do occur, and it’s when we hold tight to a burning desire with passion, that they come true.

So let me tell you a story about a miracle. In1936, a few short years before the Second World War broke out, a desolate and very unhappy young girl was living a miserable existence in an orphanage. Her legs were scratched and bleeding from the rough woollen socks she wore, her feet were wet because she had no gumboots, she was lonely, and she was sick. For you see she had spent most of her life in hospital suffering from tuberculosis of the spine. When it was time to leave she had no family to go to. Her parents and her grandmother had long since died, and her only close relative, her grandfather, had fallen on hard times. He lived in a rented attic crammed full of memorabilia, and the authorities would not allow him to take her, so the only place left was the state orphanage.

The safe refuge of the hospital was gone, and daily life was now about the survival of the fittest. But unfortunately her lungs and spine were badly damaged and still very weak, and having to fend for herself and deal with the harsh daily regime was not easy. She slept in a twenty-bed dormitory, and her life was dominated by bells. There was a bell for everything; for washing, for dressing, for eating, for school, and for sleeping. Bell after bell controlled her every movement. There was never a moment to recover. She had to be sharp and fast, something which was very difficult for a girl who was not physically strong. She even had to fight for her food ~ breakfast was a case of the quick or the dead, and she was not quick.

Getting around was also very difficult. There were lots of steps and it was slow going. She didn’t walk like other children, nor could she run or play as she still wore a spinal brace. And because her gait was different, the other children made fun of her and pushed her over. Years of living in an institution had left its mark ~ she was insecure, fearful, and lacked self-esteem. So she spoke with no one, and no one spoke to her. Her only respite was school ~ she loved it. Learning became her sanctuary and she excelled. It gave her something to hang on to and feel proud of.

When she was discharged from the hospital and moved to the orphanage she was given a parting gift ~ a book of her favourite stories, and the one she loved the most, was about an angel who was sent to earth at Christmas to do a good deed. The angel’s mission was to find a child for a broken-hearted mother whose baby had gone to heaven. The angel searched and searched, and on Christmas Eve, found the child he was looking for ~ a destitute orphan who desperately needed a mother. And in the words of the book, ‘by the love in the light of a candle flame’, the angel brought them together.

With heart and soul this little girl believed it to be a true story, and with burning faith, believed it was also her story. She slept with the book under her pillow and knew the words by heart, whispering them to herself every single night and praying to God and the angels for her miracle to come. So deep and intense was her belief that she was convinced her prayers would be answered with the coming of Christmas, only weeks away. Just like the story, the angels would send her a mother, exactly the right mother, to fill her life with love.

In this lonely existence, one day she had an unexpected visitor ~ her grandfather. And what he found not only shocked him, it made him very angry. He may have lost his wealth, but he was not about to let his granddaughter get lost in a world of poverty and struggle. He was still owed money from the days when he was a wealthy man, and if he couldn’t get the money, he was going to make damn sure those who owed it to him met his granddaughter’s needs. And so without ceremony he made his way to the doorstep of the man who owed him the most.

His actions set some very powerful wheels in motion ~ the wife of the man he visited decided to go to the orphanage and see for herself this child he was so passionate about. She was a kind and loving woman, and it was with a caring heart that she sat down beside a frail little girl in the dormitory. And as if it was heaven sent, the child beside her instantly knew this was the miracle she had been praying for. This kind lady with the loving eyes was her mother ~ she was certain of it. And without a second’s thought, she looked into her eyes and said, ‘Mother, when are we going home?’ These words were the turning point in both their lives.

Dreams Do Come TrueSo yes, dreams do come true. This was the miracle she had been longing for. The young girl was my mother and the kind stranger was the only grandmother I ever knew. And so it was that my mother spent her first Christmas in ten years in the care of a loving family. And as time went by their bond grew. With the blessing of my mother’s grandfather, within a few months they adopted her, and Omi and Opaps, as we always called them, became my grandparents. Omi did everything in her power to bring my mother back to health and Opaps lived up to his responsibility and gave her everything she needed, and more. Omi saved her life after years of illness and Opaps kept her safe during the war.

My two siblings and I became much loved grandchildren to our Omi and Opaps. Even though they had a natural granddaughter of their own, we were a loving part of their family, and many years later, when the meagre proceeds of their estate was distributed, it was divided equally amongst their four grandchildren. So their debt was finally paid, both in honour and in obligation, and the miracle of love lives on.

Inara Hawley © 2013

*This story is an abridged extract from my book, ‘Conversations With My Mother’, published for the family in 2010*

Building a Deck

2 Comments

I married a builder. Now this doesn’t mean that I’ve lived with Mr. Handy for the last 36 years ~ far from it! He put his tool bag away long before he met me and went into corporate work, where he rose to dizzy heights. Then he married me, and in addition to being life partners, we also became business partners.

This made for a very busy lifestyle, and as most Australians do, we moved around quite a bit. Over the years we’ve lived in six houses ~ built one from scratch and improved the others with either big or small renovations, all done by hired builders. But now that Hubby has retired, he’s a man possessed ~ renovating has become his passion! From early morning to mid afternoon he’s out there hammering away at something, creating his version of a great place to live. And it’s a good thing too, as this house is badly in need of repair. I’ve never lived in such a run down place. It was a sad old house indeed when we moved in ~ very unloved, and it took me a bit of time to get used to the fact that it was falling apart inside, but as Hubby said, it had good bones and he fell in love with it at first glance so here we are, and here he is doing what he set out to do when he first saw the place ~ fix it up!

Our Country HomeWe had a general idea of the renovations we wanted to do, but apart from what tradespeople like electricians and plumbers did, there was a long list of bits that needed doing first, like repairing verandah boards, lining cupboards, replacing doors, fixing steps, making rails and pump covers, repairing fences, planting trees, and the biggie ~ painting the outside of the house. Only then could we think about what we’d do with the mess outside the kitchen door. The back porch was small and downright dangerous, and the ground area was wet, sloppy and awful (that’s girl talk for it being a ‘rainwater sump with rotting deck timber’) so hubby decided to build a decent covered deck. My thoughts were, given that he was doing it all by himself and there was lots of heavy lifting and tall ladders involved, it was probably a bit beyond him, but he was resolute … he was building the deck. My idea of a decent covered outside area was a large roof, a bit of a porch, and some pavers and gravel for sitting around the barbeque, but no, no, no! He had a plan and he would not be swayed, and in case I didn’t hear him the first time, he was BUILDING THE DECK!

Hubby Building DeckRoof Nearly DoneDeck StepsDeck Boards DoneAnd so it began. With measurements in hand Hubby took himself off to the local hardware store and connected with his new best friends … yes, there were days when he needed to pop up there three times in the space of 6 hours! And of course the locals (hubby does all the shopping so he knows everyone) have all been kept up to date as well. The owners of the post office, who nearly bought the place when it was for sale, expect a blow-by-blow of everything we do plus photographs! And anyone who’s ever made a delivery of materials has also taken a moment to check in on the building progress. All I can say is, you’ve got to love the people in small country towns!

So bit by bit and board by board, our deck grew into something rather fabulous. But of course building it without fixing the surrounding garden simply wouldn’t do. So there was also a lot of moving of dirt, retaining of garden walls, filling and planting, and covering the very grotty broken pathways with pavers and gravel. And in doing all of it Hubby only fell off the ladder from a great height once! It was a big ‘ouch’ and under instructions from wife and four daughters he took a week off! Fast forward five months and everything is now finished … it’s been a huge job, and it looks fantastic ~ even the cats love it! Compared to what was there before Hubby has created something very special. He has a flair for designing just the right thing for the right space. And Sheep Man, who owns the little flock on our land, is coming over in the next few days with his strong-man brother-in-law to carry out the barbecue.

The Finished Deck!So that’s the deck done! And now we sit out there with swelled chests admiring it and loving that we can soak up the beauty of our surroundings in such a luxurious space. It’s a pleasure and a joy, and my man is a miracle worker. He is so special and I am truly blessed.

Inara Hawley © 2013

The Path to Teaching

2 Comments

In hindsight, the path leading to the important choices we make is usually very clear, even if the beginnings may appear to be somewhat tenuous and difficult. But sometimes, it’s precisely because those beginnings are difficult that a particular path is taken.

When I was five years old I started school, but because I couldn’t speak a word of English I walked into a very scary and confusing world. Had it not been for the little boy who lived next door taking me by the hand on that first day, I would have been totally lost. But the truth of it was, when it came to school, I was lost … for quite a long time.

4th Class School PhotoWhether it was the xenophobia which was rife in Australia in the 1950’s or the fact that I was so quiet no one noticed how much I was struggling, my early school life was a soul destroying experience. And because no one bothered to reach out, isolation and a lack of confidence became my daily school companions ~ quite a paradox for a child, who outside of school, was lively and confident, and gave piano recitals and ballet performances regularly. Of course by the time I was in second class I knew the drill ~ I was no longer confused, just isolated and afraid to speak up. That’s me above in the front row holding the board in my year five class photo.

It seemed that I could not touch the heart of any teacher until I was in the last year of primary, when low and behold, my teacher was not Australian, but Polish!  She not only noticed me, but praised me. And suddenly my world changed ~ I excelled, and I topped the year! I also found my first school friend that year, a German girl who, like me, had her own struggle ~ she had a debilitating stutter. For the year we were together we became firm friends and I was in heaven ~ a friend and a teacher who both cared. It was bliss!

During the years up until then I was very much alone, even in the playground. I was so reticent and shy I can’t ever remember playing with the other children. I guess it was because I was different, and of course I was! So I sat by myself in my short uniform ~ everyone else wore theirs below the knee, with my warm winter woolly undershorts ~ usually a nice bright colour knitted by my grandmother, eating my black bread sandwiches filled with either jam or liverwurst. While modern day bullying didn’t exist in the 1950’s, differences were not accepted as they are today. If you didn’t fit in you were not included, and I didn’t fit in simply because I didn’t know how to bridge the gap. I was too shy.

Path to Teaching - My Family in the 1950sApart from that last happy year, it’s hard to remember any really joyful events in primary school. Those happened at home with my family and the kids on our street with whom I played every day ~ I had no problem fitting in with them. It’s there that I felt confident, comfortable and happy ~ all the things I didn’t feel at school. Kindergarten for instance, was a nightmare. The teacher was a witch and in fact proved to be a very cruel individual. It would have been blatantly clear that I didn’t have the language skills to ask for anything, let alone wanting to use the toilet. The day came when I could hold it no longer, and as we all stood in line holding up our paintings, I felt the warm trickle of a puddle spreading at my feet. I not only had to clean it up, but that became my spot for the rest of the year! I was 5 years old, but even a 5 year old can feel overwhelmingly humiliated.

And there were lots of instructions which passed me by as well. There was the day I sat outside by myself while the whole school community was in the main hall enjoying a performance. I was sitting there alone because I had not paid my money. It’s not that I had forgotten … it’s that I had not understood I should bring it. I was only in 1st class. And then there was the day I fell ill. It was the middle of summer and very hot, but rather than telephone my mother to come fetch me, the school told me to go home. I had a raging temperature, but stoically started walking! By sheer coincidence my mother was on a bus going into town. Shocked to see her 7 year old daughter walking alone on the main street in searing heat, she jumped off the bus and reached me just in time. My legs buckled and I collapsed. She picked me up and carried me home.

With this level of incompetence and insensitivity, you would be right to wonder why my parents didn’t hit the roof. They did the best they could, but unfortunately they were having as much trouble as I was trying to integrate into the Australian way of life. As it was, by the time I was seven I spoke the best English in the house. And it was not the European way to let children sleep over or go off to someone’s house for the day without parents, nor was my mother comfortable with letting me go on school excursions. In those very raw years after the Second World War we were very protective of our own, particularly in a country where we were not openly accepted, so we kept to ourselves and created our own communities. While I became far more self-assured in high school, and my parents became more relaxed as well, a pattern had unfortunately been set and I found no joy in being at school or in learning ~ then friends and rebellion were more important, and my education fell by the wayside.

While this may sound like a sorry tale, it isn’t. It’s certainly a shameful tale about the school system at the time, but not about me. The education system may have failed me, but I didn’t fail myself. None of it made me crumble, and none of it made me feel like a victim either. It actually made me stronger and more determined to do well in life, which is exactly what I went on to do. In years to come I understood that being ‘me’ and having had ‘my’ experiences was my greatest strength. Even though at times I may have aspired to be ‘the same’, it was actually the fact that I was different which turned out to be one of my greatest inspirations ~ the memory of how difficult and lonely those early school days were inspired me, as a mature age student, to become a teacher. I wanted to make a difference, especially for those who struggled. And what I found was that I not only got the university education I didn’t pursue after leaving school, the children I taught satisfied a deep longing within me to see every child shine.

Without doubt teaching has a special place in my heart, but what is abundantly clear is that when we choose to use our challenges, past or present, as inspiration rather than allow them to defeat us ~ when we treat them as a launching pad, we ignite passion and fill our world with purpose. And we can make that choice at any time … about any challenge.

Inara Hawley © 2013

From Doing to Knowing

3 Comments

Busy WorkingSometimes there are events in life which catapult us into a completely new reality. For me, becoming a mother was one such event. This of course is true for all new mothers ~ it’s a life changing experience, but the extent of that change depends on where you were before your bundle of joy enters the world. Prior to my daughter’s birth I was totally focused on work. Hubby and I had both been in empire-building mode for a number of years, and it took 100% of our time. I was in fact so busy ‘doing’ that I hadn’t really given much thought to what would happen when the baby arrived. To be honest I think my feeling was that I’d give birth in the tea break and carry on, but oh how wrong I was! Not only did my life and priorities change in an instant, my connection to ‘doing’ and ‘knowing’ as it was, changed dramatically as well.

It was late November, a hot and sticky time in Australia, and I was due any day. I’d given up going to the office the previous month to prepare for the birth, but instead of relaxing, in my organised way I spent most of my time cooking food and freezing it. Overall, it had not been an easy nine months ~ I was one of those pregnant women who had morning sickness the entire time, so let’s just say I didn’t bloom and I was well and truly ready to replace my baby bump with the real thing.

Early in the pregnancy I had a serious scare. In the moment when I realised I was in danger of losing the baby I instinctively sent out the strongest message to the little life within me to ‘hold on and stay’ … and she did. That should have been the first inkling of what was to come, but I didn’t connect to it just then. I spent ten very quiet and still days feeling anxious until the danger was over. And when it was, I went back to being busy and doing ~ so busy that I didn’t buy a thing for the baby till I was seven months pregnant. When I finally did launch into a shopping spree, like everything I did in those days, it was all purchased, delivered and assembled within two days!

So by the time I was full term, I had very little left to do. The bassinette and cot was organised, the baby clothes were washed and folded, the nappies were ready, the baby’s room was decorated and the house was in perfect order. So I decided to weed the garden … you know that burst of energy just before the baby is born? Well that was it. A few months earlier we’d moved into a lovely turn of the century house, and the garden was a work in progress, and I was full of energy. So, on my hands and knees in the shade of the Jacaranda tree, I pulled weeds for most of the day. When hubby came home, I made one of my cordon bleu dinners and we went to bed early to read. Half an hour later my water broke, and with bag in hand, we headed off to the hospital.

MotherhoodIt was a long night and an even longer day which followed. Suffice to say that by the time I’d been in the labour ward for a few hours, I was not only stroppy with hubby, but with everyone else who walked through the door. I will however be forever grateful to the intern who panted with me for hours! Having had an induction I was launching from one pain to the next without a break until suddenly … everything stopped. The labour ward was becalmed! After more than twenty one hours, for me it was a welcome relief. And for the next thirty minutes doctors and nurses leaned against the walls and chatted about their weekend plans!

Then all of a sudden, I felt an almighty thump from above. It hit my stomach with full force and without thinking I shouted, “It’s a girl”, and out she came! It was quite a moment, one which I have never questioned because I just knew. And there it was ~ all of a sudden I just ‘knew’. Giving birth switched on a light, and it was significant. My new awareness felt so alive and awake that it was almost as if my previous existence was a dream. There were many things I was to learn and experience in the years to come, and while my life was still filled with lots of doing, it was now quite different ~ the divine connection between mother and child had been forged and the door to the most wonderful and remarkable ‘knowing’ had opened.

Inara Hawley © 2013

Our Backyard

4 Comments

How life has changed, and it seems to me it’s our backyards which reflect it the most. Not only are they smaller these days, houses are enormous and the backyard has become an outdoor room.

Now I’m all for a nice deck, a barbeque, lots of greenery and a bit of paving, but really, an outdoor room? Where is the expanse of grass? Where can the dog dig a hole? Where is the aviary or the chook pen? Where can the kids run through the sprinkler or play chasings? Where’s the mulberry tree, the passionfruit vine and the rhubarb? All disappeared to make space for the outdoor room. In my day it was a place exclusively for kids, not a group of allocated designer spaces. But alas, the backyard has gone the way of many things today ~ it’s small and compact, roughly one third of the size it was in the 1950’s. And as a result indoor and outdoor living spaces have become blurred, and the child-friendly, free spaces that once were backyards are not what they used to be.

Franjipani FlowersBut I’m one of the lucky ones. I grew up in the fifties, and my backyard was big and it belonged to me! There was no such thing as landscaping when I was a kid ~ our yard was filled with our life! We had a frangipani tree out the front which we were very proud of, hydrangeas along the side of the house which filled our vases with flowers, patches of freesias here and there which magically appeared, and out the back ~ paling fences covered with passionfruit, a neighbour’s overhanging fig tree laden with forbidden fruit, sunflowers which reached the sky, a veggie patch, aMagic Willow Tree bush just the right size to jump over, a rotary clothes line we swung on, a proper cubby, an aviary filled with finches, budgies and canaries, a sandpit, and if like me you were lucky, smack bang in the middle of the yard there was a magic willow tree to dream under. Our backyard was a safe wonderful place where we kids played, created make-believe worlds and had a heap of fun. The backyard was ours ~ all of it!

And it was not only us kids who enjoyed our backyard ~ all of our animals did as well! Over the years we had a menagerie that lived with us ~ chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and even a lamb. Dad, a farm boy, was very comfortable with all of it, and Mum, for a city girl, managed our menagerie amazingly well. When it came to the chickens it was our job to feed them and collect the eggs, but she cleaned their pen and hatched the new chicks, and that, was an amazing experience. She brought in the eggs that were ready, put them in a large box near the warmth of the gas oven and then we waited. When the chicks and ducklings popped out the kitchen became a madhouse, especially when they escaped, but it was great fun and we delighted in the wonder and joy of it all.

As for our dogs, all oPuppies of My Bed!f them were females, so we always had lots of puppies. One of them even had her pups on my bed! And any of our cats which were females, always managed to give birth in the wardrobes! We watched the babies being born, watched some of them die and watched with sad hearts when it came time for them to go to their new homes.

Our LambAnd then there was the lamb! He came to us via friends who found him wondering on the road. He occasionally snuck into the house as well, which was a riot. He stayed with us until his horns got so big that he started attacking anyone who wasn’t family … then it was time for him to go! Our backyard really was a farm yard ~ we even had a ring-in pet dog that fell in love with my baby sister and only went home for meals!

Of all the animals we had, the funniest was the flying duck. We had hilarious times watching him learn to fly ~ his take-offs were absolutely hysterical. We really loved him however, once he learned to fly, the neighbours didn’t! Come to think of it, I don’t blame them one bit ~ they were probably very sick of having to throw the rooster back over the fence every couple of days! So back to the flying duck, unbeknown to us children a decision was made that he would be fattened up for Christmas and so he was caged. Mum took pity on him a month or so later and let him out for a stroll. Freedom of course was just too tempting. He took off like a rocket and was never seen again! Secretly, I think Mum was very pleased.

So it was that our life was interwoven with our backyard. There was always something going on! It may have been very plain by today’s designer standards, but it was filled with everything you could ever want ~ fun, joy, and loads of love.

Inara Hawley © 2013

Weeping Willow photographed by (Christine Westerback) / CC BY-SA 2.0

We Have Sheep!

9 Comments

If you’ve been reading my blog you may remember that around the end of May I wrote ‘Thank God for the Firies’ about the rather dramatic grass fire we had in our paddock.

Well the outcome was that a neighbour from up the road, let’s call him Sheep Man, knocked on our door the next morning ~ yes, the very next morning because the grapevine in the country is lightning fast ~ and offered his sheep to keep the grass down. And we now have sheep!

It’s taken longer than expected to get them here as Sheep Man had to erect an inner wire fence around our four-acre paddock boundary to protect the 200 trees, and as we’ve had a lot of rain, he hasn’t been able to do it as quickly as he hoped. However today, was the day! The weather was magnificent and they are in!

So we have 26 African Merinos, and very good looking sheep they are too! Apparently they are very docile and we won’t even notice them. That’s probably true because the paddock has lots of little hills and valleys and it won’t be that easy to see them. Sheep Man says it will take them a couple of days to find their camp, which will be either near the water troughs under the trees or on the very top of the paddock, but the very first thing they will do is check the boundaries to get to know the area.

We Have Sheep!When they arrived it took them some time to sort themselves out. They huddled together for about 30 minutes, until suddenly there was a leader and they took off! And as Sheep Man said, they went straight to the boundary and started walking around it. Merinos are excellent foragers and very adaptable. Because they love clover they’ll find that first, usually where tyre tracks have pushed down the long grass, and only then will they start eating out the rest of the paddock. By the picture above you can see they have a big job ahead of them!

Our little flock are about 2 years old, and as most of you would know, Merinos are bred predominantly for their wool, which is very fine and soft. Sheep Man has about 800 head spread around the area, and he and his father do all the shearing themselves every year about late November, which in Australia, is coming into summer. He will be checking on them every few days, and as there won’t be any lambs ~ he keeps those on his property to protect them from dogs ~ it will be an easy job. And it will be nice for us as well to not only learn more about sheep, but to have someone drop in a couple of times a week.

Sheep - Close the GateSo now it’s all done! I’ve painted a ‘sheep’ sign for the gate, and hubby and I are both very happy to have a ‘living’ paddock on our property again. Apart from kangaroos, the last time we had animals on a property was twenty ago when we lived on acres in Sydney and our paddock was used by the local riding school to rest their horses.

When Sheep Man was finally satisfied that the herd was happy, he hopped into his truck and with a thumbs up and a wink, left us with these parting words, “It’ll look like a park in here next year!” … and I believe it will!

A Next Morning P.S. ~ I think I’m turning into a sheep watcher! 🙂

Inara Hawley © 2013

Happy Birthday Dad

5 Comments

Dad, today is your birthday. You would have been 90 years old, so this morning I toasted you with my first cup of tea. And because you have been on my mind all day, these words are for you.

Life with you was never dull, and being the happy-go-lucky person that you were, you swept us all along on that roller coaster ride of yours. You may not be in your earthly body anymore but your energy and lust for life is still here as strong as ever. How could anyone not have noticed you. So sure of yourself that you told your bride she would be your wife the very first time you met her. So affable, fun-loving and irresistibly charming that she couldn’t resist. And such a good dancer, that you waltzed around the dance floor with commanding ease.

Riding the Motorbike with DadMum called you a hero Dad for the way in which you fought till the end, and when I was a child, you were certainly my hero. To me you seemed invincible. So big and strong. As far as I was concerned you could do anything, and you did! You saved my life when I stopped breathing as a baby, you got your family safely to a free country and you did extraordinary things for us like the time you rode 12kms on a pushbike with a huge glass window strapped to your back so we could have light in our meagre garage lodgings. Dad, you were amazing!

And you were such a doer too ~ always committed to doing your best and getting the job done. If something needed doing, from organising a function to moving house, you were the man. You were the ultimate wheeler-dealer ~ smart and sharp. You always found a way, and you did it the quickest and the best way without any fuss. Over the years we all witnessed your incredible determination, will and drive. Growing up we were inevitably caught up in what you were doing, and whatever it was, it always involved people and action. 

You worked very hard for us Dad. You saw that as your duty, but you also played hard as well, especially in your hey days. Having come through a horrific war, like most, you refused to discuss it and instead you lived in the moment, took chances and loved a gamble. You locked away the demons and focused on the pleasure. You saw yourself as a winner, and when that winning moment came you revelled in it, often throwing caution to the wind. And oh how you loved those impulsive breezes and where they took you.

A free-spirited farm boy and a believer in ‘live and let live’, there was no hiding behind a bush for you. You did your own thing, secure within yourself, never feeling the need to impress anyone. Your only sadness, and it never left you, was the heartbreak of having to leave Latvia and your family behind. In later years, as you worked in your garden, I know you often thought of your father and mother, and never once did you fall asleep without closing your eyes and walking through your childhood home first.

Dancing with Dad

Dancing with my Dad

So you see Dad, we all understood you very well through all the ups and downs. We felt your sadness and your joy, and we loved and accepted you just the way you were. Strong of mind, body and will. Anyone who shook your hand felt your strength and assuredness. Your ideals were simple: family, hard work, friends, good food and fun. You lived your life exactly as you wanted, and you enjoyed it. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Dad you may have been a man of few words, but you left us with so many memories and so much love. I am a better person for having you as a father. So thank you… for saving me, for being my hero, for teaching me how to dance, for instilling in me your work ethic, for letting me be me, for being proud of me, and for the times you made me feel like a princess. But most of all, thank you for showing me how to celebrate life, live in the moment and in-joy it.

Inara Hawley © 2013

When Fishing Becomes A Feast

7 Comments

My father loved fishing. He was brought up by a river and I can’t remember a time during my childhood when fishing was not part of our life. We went fishing every single weekend ~ Dad, Mum my younger brother and me.

In the early days we had no car nor did we have the money to hire a motorboat. You see we were refugees, part of the intake by the Australian government after the Second World War to populate the country, and life was tough. Not only did we have no money, my parents were trying to fit into a country which at the time was very xenophobic. It was during this time that fishing became a crucial part of our life for it was what provided us with most of our food. There were many times when the fish we caught that day was our evening meal. So while fishing was Dad’s great love, it was also what sustained us.

Fishing Every Saturday Mum would pack the lunch, Dad, the bait and lines, and we’d head off to One Point at Georges River in Sydney. We’d then pile into our hired dinghy and Dad would row us out to the deep part of the river and let the boat slowly drift. He fished all day ~ from morning till sunset. To keep the fish fresh and alive, Dad hung a mesh bag over the side of the boat. In those days there was no law about throwing back the little ones so we kept and ate everything we caught. And if I remember rightly, the little ones were the most delicious!

Sometimes we pulled into a sandy inlet for lunch, but mostly we spent the day on the water. My brother and I sat in the open boat with wide brimmed hats, our fingers rippling through the shiny dark green water. They were quiet peaceful days, moving with the rise and fall of river as it gently lapped the side of the boat. Occasionally the silence was broken by the plopping sound of a leaping fish, and at other times we gazed in amazement as the river filled with jellyfish and surrounded our boat. When we got older my brother and I also fished. I caught a few, and my brother, two years younger, caught a few less than me. We really weren’t fisherman material. It was my sister, born some years later, who turned out to be a match for Dad.

A Feast of FishOf course, the best part of the day was the delicious feast back home, which my mother managed to produce with expert ease at the end of a long day of fishing. Dad did the scaling and gutting, and then Mum crumbed and fried our bounty on an old gas stove just the way Dad liked it. Then, as with everything she cooked, she served it on a big platter in the middle of the table. It was wonderful, and the fish were scrumptious! I can still taste the buttery sweet flakes. It truly was finger licking good!

While this may seem to be a simple story about fishing, it really is far from it. Fishing allowed us to experience the joy of a table laden with food. And food was very much part of celebrating life in our family. As I grew older I understood that these feasts symbolised a celebration of survival and freedom ~ they were the antithesis to the insanity of war, deprivation, fear and loss which my parents experienced. While life was not easy in a new country, we never took our circumstances or our new life for granted. Our bountiful table was a representation of all the good things we valued, and for us, every feast was without doubt a fortunate one.

Inara Hawley © 2013

Dancing Amongst The Stars

8 Comments

Have you ever felt like you were dancing amongst the stars? I mean really dancing amongst the stars? I have, and I did for most of my childhood.

Posing for the cameraI spent hours twirling, arms outstretched, floating about in fantasy land under the soft billowing branches of our willow tree. It was a place where the seeds of my dreams were planted, and as I danced in my world of make believe, my mother watched. And what she saw was a ballerina.

She was not mistaken for I loved to dance, and so, the dream began. Ballet became part of my world. By the time I was nine, I was a seasoned performer, dancing in operettas and even television. I was good at it and I liked it, but if you asked me whether there was an element of pressure, I would have to say that there was. It was after all, at its inception, my mother’s dream for me.

And she had a big vision. My talents were not to be wasted. Wanting the very best I started at a prestigious ballet school run by Mrs. George in the Sydney Tivoli Theatre. Twice a week Mum and I hopped on a train after school and rushed into the city. We had to walk through Belmore Park ~ perfectly fine in daylight, but on the way back in pitch black darkness we were terrified, and tore through it like lightening singing at the top of our lungs!

Within a few years I was being privately tutored by a Latvian prima ballerina. Eventually I joined her weekly classes and life centred around lessons, practice, and working towards performances ~ that’s me below on the far right in an operetta. My mother, a skilled seamstress made all my costumes, and together, immersed in the world of ballet her vision for me became mine. I dreamt of becoming a ballerina.

Dancing in an Operatta
But that however, was to change much sooner than I imagined. My last performance, a valiant swansong, was at the tender age of eleven. Looking back now, I have the strong feeling it was all predetermined. By that time I was dancing on points, stuffing cotton wool into my ballet slippers to help with painful toes and pirouetting across the stage with great skill and flare.

That evening I had two dances. The first was a solo and the second, a duet with the principal male dancer, the prima ballerina’s husband. I remember desperately wanting a nervous pee while waiting in the wings for my solo. But when it was time to launch myself on stage, for some unknown reason, I missed my music. Another would-be ballerina standing beside me panicked and gave me a big push, and before I knew it, I was out there. Disorientated, I completely lost the thread of the dance. So, with a pounding heart, I made it up. I thought I had saved the day, but by the time the duet came around I had completely lost the plot. When he lifted, my feet were firmly planted on the floor and when I jumped he wasn’t lifting. It was a disaster, but it was about to get a whole lot worse!

After the bows were taken and the flowers given, all hell broke loose backstage. In a blistering outburst, the prima ballerina tore me to shreds. Now as bad as this may seem, sometimes the worst things turn out to be the best.

In one stroke of the tongue my desire to be a prima ballerina was over, and in my eleven year old heart I knew it was absolutely the right decision for me. Today, I have a wonderful appreciation for the fine art of ballet, but from that day on I danced without pressure and without sore toes. I was free to twirl, float and dream once again in the place where it all began… under the willow tree dancing amongst the stars.

Inara Hawley © 2013