Christmas was colourful this year. There was the usual - great food (and too much of it), a house bursting at the seams with family and friends, gift giving, beach going.... and there was the not usual - a family session of tie dying (thanks Heidi)
We arrived lately to Christmas preparations this year but are now feeling relieved to be somewhat on track. It is with great anticipation that we await the arrival of all our kids and their partners for a few days of celebration and feasting (our frequent flyer points came in handy to get Johanna from Caloundra to Barwon Heads). Our family tradition begins on Christmas Eve when we all gather to make and eat home made pasta (ravioli). I'm not sure how it has happened but my twenty something children (well one in particular) insist on hanging up their childhood Christmas stockings. And Santa, for some strange reason, keeps filling them up year after year!
This year will be a Duthie Christmas, lunch spent with Colin's extended family. As usual, we will celebrate Heidi's birthday on boxing day, it is a bummer to be born on Christmas day. At least this way she gets a day dedicated to her birthday. This year will also be the first (of many we hope) here in Barwon Heads; it will feature beach, surf, sand and who knows maybe even some sun! I do believe some tie dying is also on the cards.
There is a lot to look forward to and as usual we are sobered by our very good fortune to be able to celebrate and especially with those we love...
It was with a slight touch of panic that we realised on the weekend that it was only two weeks til christmas and we hadn't done a thing. So much has been going on, the days and weeks a blur, slipping by, that mid December has caught us unaware. We did some menu planning, wrote a couple of lists, and bravely headed to the shops on Sunday. It was less stressful than we anticipated and I don't know how it happened but I ended up in a cycling store for over an hour (no exaggeration) while Colin figured out the basics he would need to join the Barwon Heads Cycling Club. Yep, he has acquiesced, the years of 'no way' have reluctantly been set aside. Cycling is big in Barwon Heads and when you are new and looking to connect with other blokes it really is the best way. A neighbour is lending him a bike, another some gloves, he is not exactly wrapped with the lycra he had to buy, but if you want to ride, you have to look the part! It is a good club with great people, we met some of them at the pub the other night. A whole new world is opening up, I just hope he doesn't injure himself, he does have somewhat of a track record...
These are crazy days. In a period of four days my youngest child left home, my father died and we bought a house, that I have not seen. Colin has seen it and I have seen photos of it, I just haven't been in Barwon Heads long enough and at the right time to actually see it, for real. Someone else made an offer and we had to as well, or let it go. And a lot of research and watching and waiting said this was worth pursuing despite the appalling timing. They were waiting for our offer, we made it early morning as we made our way to see my father. An hour later he was gone. Amidst the tears I cheekily suggested to my father that maybe there was something he could do from up there, to get us over the line. Perhaps he did, for an hour later we had our answer and a new house. Our new home will forever be linked to my father now...
I flew straight from Caloundra to Tassie last Wednesday, for a different kind of goodbye, the final kind. My father's health had steadily declined and as he entered end stage with his lung disease he decided he'd had enough. Once his independence was compromised and the quality of his life poor he made his decision, the only one left to him, to proactively seek the end. We supported his right to choose for himself. He stopped taking his medications (other than pain relief), stopped eating (his appetite had been poor for a while) and had minimal fluid. He was determined and peaceful with his decision. There was time; time to say goodbye, time to remember, time to laugh and time to cry. He was his funny and amusing self right to the end. He noted with interest his skeletal hands and must have wondered if the rest of him looked the same way. He asked my sister "what I look like, I look alright?" They took a selfie so he could see, "oh, not too bad". He became weaker each day, someone was with him all the time and within a week he slipped away. He got his wish today. He was ready to die, he chose to die and now he is at peace...
2000 km in a day and a half is not bad. We have arrived, Johanna and her car are in Caloundra safe and sound. It is the end and the beginning.
Johanna is house sitting for her friends family for a couple of weeks. Colin and I are staying in the apartment complex where we used to live for a couple of days. So many memories from such a happy and special time in our lives.
It just so happens that late on the afternoon we arrive Johanna and I find ourselves walking along the path that we traversed most afternoons when we lived here. It was our end of day walk along the beach, a ritual, familiar and precious. Sometimes we talked and sometimes we did not. The late afternoon shadows were long, the sky often tinged various shades of marmalade, mostly it was warm and pleasant. And here we are again, walking, remembering times past and how much things have changed, how much we have changed and how much is about to change. And it is sad and it is good and it is scary...
Johanna is blaming the super moon, "I feel all, I don't know, weird." Me too. We have had four days in Tassie, four in Barwon Heads and tomorrow it's back to Tassie for four days (year 12 exams) and then the drive to Queensland. Johanna finishes her last exam Friday morning, we fly back to Victoria Friday night and leave for Queensland at rude o'clock Saturday morning. She is off - at the very first chance she has, literally. And in the middle of exam study she has been finishing work and saying goodbye to friends and packing and organising and looking for a job and somewhere to live on the Sunshine Coast and....Colin and I have been looking at houses and talking to the bank.
Every now and then the reality of the passing days and the imminent departure hits home, "this time next week I'll be left home, I don't know if I'm ready to be an adult yet." Ready or not, the time has come. Such a mixture of emotions for us all.
So a late Monday afternoon finds us both feeling kind of weird and restless, our solution, binge watching netflix to pass the time and provide distraction, each of us in front of our computers in separate parts of the house. Not exactly quality time in these last precious days, but sometimes you just do what works for the moment...
She stands at the precipice, childhood and high school behind her and before her a multitude of possibilities, a leap into adulthood and independence. These are the last days - of school and study and exams, of return to Tasmania, of living in Barwon Heads, of working at Kyosk, of living at home...
In a couple of weeks it will all be done and she will be free, free to return to her beloved sunshine state, to her friends, to warmth and sun and sea. She has waited a long time for this, two years really, her heart has always been in Queensland.
It has been an intense few months, for her (and us); moving to Barwon Heads, returning to Tasmania regularly for school, finishing year 12 and preparing for exams, working to save money and making choices about next year. Like most 18 year olds she changes her mind every few weeks. It has been a roller coaster of a ride.
In all the busyness and things to be done, these 'last days' have snuck up on me. Every now and then I feel an overwhelming sadness, the last of my children is stretching her wings and flying from the nest. These last four years it has often been just the two of us, it will be a significant change when she is gone. If I am honest, along with the sadness is a touch of relief. The roller coaster ride that has been most of this year has left me weary and the prospect of slower and quieter days is not an unpleasant one.
There are two more weeks and a lot to happen in that short time, the roller coaster has not stopped yet...
One of the things that drew us to Barwon Heads was the sense that this place was a community, that we could belong here. One of the first groups we joined was the Barwon Heads Community Arts Garden.
a shared green space
a beautiful garden with a myriad of growing things
benches and seats for rest and contemplation
a poly tunnel
a wood fired pizza oven
a kids corner, bee hives and that's just the beginning. There is a meeting room that is utilised by other community groups, an information board, an outdoor kitchen, compost heaps, storage shed for tools and the list goes on. It is a beautiful place, a useful place, a productive place and a meeting place. It is a place for passions and experiments and learning and sharing. It has a special something and we are looking forward to being a part of it...
Like most southerners we have been whinging about the weather. The rain and cold has outstayed its welcome, by a long way. Every now and then there is a hint of warmth in the air and a snatch of blue in the sky, but it is momentary, a fleeting, tantalising glimpse of what is yet to come. Part of the problem is our expectations; it is the end of October, winter should be well behind us. But this year it is not. A few weeks ago I picked up some blossom that had fallen to the ground, a fluffy pink pompom, something tangible to say yes spring is here.
I waited weeks for a morning where there was some sun so I could photograph a canola field in all its yellow glory. For a short few weeks the flowers blaze a brilliant and bedazzling gold, then they fade and die away ready for harvesting the tiny black seeds that remain. The flowers are all but gone now and the paddocks water logged.
It's kind of weird that it is spring and it is not, a confusing in-between where one season lingers and another appears to be running rather late...
This week is a Tassie week and Johanna was sooo excited to meet the newest addition to my sisters menagerie. Another rescued baby, two weeks old, this one a little bigger than the lambs and goats from previous years, though he will join them in the paddock when he is bigger and stronger.
We arrived to find the newest addition sitting at the front door with the dogs. He doesn't have a name yet, it was touch and go whether he would survive. My father calls him Bully and my sister Little Moo, it looks as though he will make it now, he is one lucky little fella.
Soft brown fur, big dark eyes, a love heart in the middle of his forehead. This is going to be one spoilt cow.
Blue sky is a bit of a rarity at the moment so a rainless Saturday had to be made the most of. Johanna had a nine o'clock bus to catch in Geelong, an airport shuttle, the beginning of her journey to Queensland. After dropping her off we had breakfast in her favourite cafe, sending snapshots and updates of our breakfast, revenge in advance for all the photos she will be sending us of blue skies, beautiful beaches and the places we lived and loved in Caloundra!
The You Yangs is close to Geelong and somewhere we had never been so why not check them out. It has been a while since we have been bush walking and in Tassie Johanna and my mother were usually along for the ride, so it felt like we were missing a couple of buddies. It so happened that the Geelong Mountain Bike Club was having a whole lot of races on the You Yangs tracks, fortunately they were different from the walking tracks. We weren't prepared for a longer walk so took a short one instead. Colin was super impressed when he realised he could down load an app rather than carry a map and that it showed exactly where you were in relation to all the tracks and better still the app was for Victoria and Australia and anywhere....I think....I tuned out early on in the explanation. I prefer to follow the wooden sign posts.
It is quite dis-satisfying taking photos in the middle of the day, harsh light and deep shadows, but that's what is.
Sugar Gum trees
The big Rock
On top of The Big Rock
Yep, cyclists up here too
These guys made a wrong turn somewhere
There is something so restorative about being in the bush, it is good for the soul.