much of it wasted on wrong turns,
back roads riddled by ruts.
I had adventures
I never would have known
if I proceeded as the crow flies.
Super highways are so sure
of where they are going:
they arrive too soon. A straight line isn’t always
the shortest distance
between two people.
Sometimes I act as though
I’m heading somewhere else
I narrow the gap between you and me.
I’m not sure I’ll ever
know the right way, but I don’t mind
getting lost now and then.
Maps don’t know everything.
We had a rather run-down chook-pen at the far north corner of our block so when our friend, Yvonne, moved out of her house in a rural area and into Boonah town, she asked us if we’d adopt her hens and a couple of roosters. Never having had chooks before, we nevertheless decided to take them on to join our existing menagerie of 3 cats and 1 dog, plus the odd wallaby which bounded around our paddock, hotly chased by our Jack Russell. We thought it would be a doddle when we went out to Yvonne’s rural property to pick up the hens and roosters.
WRONG! The guys and gals objected strongly to being caught and we were hot and sweaty by the time we’d finishing chasing after them, catching them and stuffing the six hens and two roosters into the cage Bryan had constructed. We drove back to our block on Mt French, chucked the chooks in their shed, and left them there overnight to settle in.
Luckily, the cats and dog were profoundly indifferent to the sudden presence of feathered creatures. But mayhem ensued because the boss cocky rooster, Oscar, hated the younger rooster, Clarence, and kept bashing him up all the time. We’d hear screeches, yells, see feathers flying, the girls would head for cover and poor old Clarence would stagger into view, looking utterly depressed, while Oscar screeched his winning notes. One morning I walked into the pen and thought Clarence had died because all I could see was a bundle of feathers in one corner with the young rooster’s head stuck down a hole. But this had been Clarence’s bolt-hole from being duffed up again by Oscar and he eventually emerged looking even more bedraggled than usual.
In our ignorance, we decided we’d buy another six hens to try and divvy up the girls between the two boys. We saw an ad for chooks being sold by a barn operation so hopped over to the chook farm one morning to pick up some more girls. If you think you’re doing the right thing by buying barn eggs instead of battery eggs, forget it. Stick to free-range eggs where you know the hens have had a good life out in the open poking around in a natural environment. The hens were packed into the barn so tightly they could hardly move and yes, they were on the floor but they were an utterly miserable sight. They had had their wings clipped and when we got our six girls out into the sunlight, they blinked nervously because they’d never seen the outside before.
When we got them back to Mt French, the fun well and truly started. I read in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Eat, Pray, Love” that the way to introduce new hens is to put them in at night when the original girls had already roosted so that when they all woke up the next morning, they’d forget they hadn’t been together the night before and get on well together. It was daylight when we put our six, very twitchy “new” hens in with the “old” girls who absolutely hated the newcomers and attacked them at every opportunity.
Added to that, the new girls didn’t want to leave the shed because they’d never been out in fresh air, had never fossicked in the earth and grass, and were scared silly of the wide open spaces. Every morning Bryan had to gently pick each one up and put them outside until they realised it was okay to be out in the open and learned to hop over the entrance bar. Eventually the girls settled down together but alas and alack! it didn’t solve the Oscar/Clarence situation since Oscar decided to enlist the new girls into his harem and continued bashing up poor old Clarence at every opportunity.
The new girls, all eventually a lovely glossy black, fell in love with Bryan. Along with the original chooks, they would follow him around the block, peering closely as he dug into the earth, catching worms, and generally having a good time. The other chooks would follow too, including the two roosters, and you’d see Bryan wandering around the grounds of our block followed by about 14 chooks, 3 cats and 1 dog. He looked like the Pied Piper. In the evening he’d go out to lock up the chooks for the night and the black ones would fly towards him, because their flight feathers had grown back, cluster around him and follow at his feet as he led them to the chook shed.
Unfortunately, we lost one hen to what is called “the scours”, and another hen, Whitey, also disappeared but strolled out of the high grass a month later. We figured she’d gone broody but probably lost any chicks to foxes or dingoes. We got up one morning to find a big hole dug under the wire and into the chook shed and Goldie crouched looking completely traumatised. We reckoned a monitor lizard (which can grow well past six feet in length) had dug in under the wire, probably to nick any eggs but also to try to catch a chicken. Poor old Goldie was in very poor shape, so we kept her in a cage, and I gave her Reiki regularly until, eventually, she came good and joined the rest of the flock again.
The time came when we sold the property up Mt French and, sadly, we had to say goodbye to our girls and boys. Luckily, for his own safety and well-being, Clarence went back to Yvonne who had bought a house with space for chooks, and Oscar and the rest of the girls went to my father’s home which was also on one acre so they had heaps of space. One by one they eventually died,as is the way of chook life, but poor old Oscar met his come-uppance by a close encounter with Mr Fox. My father came out one day to find feathers all over the place, signs of a struggle and no rooster, so it was good-bye Oscar.
On the monitor lizard front, we went up to the top of Mt French early one morning and could see these huge lizards pounding around in the undergrowth, a quite amazing sight. I was down in Boonah one day and when I got back, Bryan said a six-foot monitor lizard has stomped along the pathway beside our house, climbed up the railway sleepers which formed the wall and disappeared up the hill. He said the dog and cats just stared at the lizard, too terrified to even bark or hiss. The video below is of a monitor lizard in Thailand but it’s pretty much the same as you got up Mt French, although we’ve seen bigger when we were on the summit:
I decided early one morning that I would go for a walk at the top of Mt French as there’s a parking area and walking trail. As I was walking along the dirt path, I wondered why people would bring bikes up Mt French to ride around as I could see all sorts of paths wound in the dirt. Then I realised – DUH! – that I was looking at snake trails so, trust me, I walked much more careful after that. But I didn’t get far. I was looking at a magpie on the ground digging around when, all of a sudden, a damned great brush-turkey rushed out from the bush and headed towards me, head down with a vicious look in its beady eye. It obviously didn’t have kindly intent towards me and luckily there was a fallen bough near me which I grabbed to ward off the homicidal turkey. I had to back slowly all the way to the car, fending off the turkey all the way, until I was able to jump in the car and hare off home.
Bryan looked surprised when I got back in such a short time, until I told him what had happened. And then he started laughing his head off, rotten sod, and repeating over and over with great glee: “Which one’s the turkey, then? She’s standing right in front of me, gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble”! Brush turkeys, by the way, are a protected species and the male builds great mounds of material where the female lays her eggs. They can be a real pest if they decide they like your garden as their happy hunting ground because they’ll wreck anything that grows in it. We watched a documentary once of a collective of Buddhist women, devoted to peaceful intent, trying to cope withe the presence of two brush-turkeys in their carefully tended garden. It was really very funny to see the peaceful women descend into aggro and violence towards the brush-turkeys and trying to reconcile their desire to wring the birds’ necks with their Buddhist views. The birds won, by the way!
One of the great thrills of living up Mt French was to see the big wedge-tailed eagles circling and soaring on the thermals high above us. They were so majestic and we spent many a long time just watching them lazily waft around in the skies. One day there was a kerfuffle outside and the cats and dog ran into the house with their hair standing on end, Bryan heard the beating of wings and went outside, to find all our chooks hiding under bushes. They had nearly become eagle tucker as an eagle had swooped down to try to grab one of the chooks or small cats or dog. The farm next to us lost their puppy and the family finally resigned themselves to it being snatched by an eagle.
And if you think that’s a bit far-fetched, I once visited the north-west of Western Australia, and my friend was driving me around showing me the various sights. We were barrelling along a long, straight road in his sturdy 4-wheel drive truck, with no other cars in sight, when he suddenly slowed down and started crawling along. I asked him what was going on and he told me a wedge-tailed eagle was on the verge ahead having a feed on road kill. If you went towards them at too fast a speed, they assumed you were attacking them and after their prey, so they in turn would attack the car. Not only did it kill the bird, it caused considerable damage to any vehicle unlucky enough to be attacked by a kamikaze eagle. And I do have to say, when we drove slowly past – and we were in a high, big SUV – the eagle’s head was on a par with my eyes and it just stared coldly at us as we crept past. An awe-inspiring sight!
We also loved the butcher birds and magpies which were in big numbers around our block. Butcher birds have a beautiful, liquid, single note which is quite enchanting. The song varies along the east coast of Australia from flock to flock, but it’s their way of communicating within each community, and the song changes slightly over time. Here’s a link to a video of a butcher bird and its song, interestingly, it is quite different to the song of the butcher birds up Mt French:
Magpies have a beautiful carolling song which also is quite fascinating. When I broke my leg and ankle and had to spend time on my own up Mt French, the songs of these two birds on a lovely winter’s day, with bright sunshine and temperatures around 23C, were really quite magical, soothing and healing. Here’s a link to a video of magpies carolling:
One particularly enchanting sight was the echidna we spotted slowly making its way up the sloping block, muttering away to itself, until Rosie made a sudden move towards it when it rolled into a tight ball with all its spikes sticking out. Here’s a lovely little video about echidnas:
Not so enchanting were the paralysis ticks and mosquitos which inhabited our environment. Paralysis ticks are nasty little buggers which will attach to humans and make you feel pretty sick, but they will kill cats and dogs within a few days if their presence goes undetected. You wouldn’t believe such small creatures could be so deadly. I had noticed a couple of lumps on the face of Daisy, one of our cats, and assumed she’d been fighting, because you didn’t come across paralysis ticks in inner-suburban Fremantle where we’d lived prior to moving to Queensland. She began to look a bit woozy and started staggering so I called the vet who told me to bring her in immediately. She actually had three ticks on her and as the vet started injecting various drugs he told me her chances were 50/50. I was shocked as I had no idea how dangerous the ticks were and the vet apologised as he said he should have warned us as he knew we weren’t local to the area. At one stage, I could feel Daisy’s energy fading until the vet injected another antidote and then I felt life returning to her. The vet told me she wouldn’t be able to walk for a couple of days but would likely survive. But good old, feisty Daisy – I went down to see her the next day and she was yowling her head off in the cage and stomping around looking most put out at her confinement. So I took her home and very happy she was to back in her home environment.
We also used to get dingoes hanging around, mostly at night, because they used to drink from the dam at the bottom of the hill on which our house was perched. They never bothered us and I never heard of any stock getting killed by dingos in our area. One night the Rottweiler dogs at the farm at the bottom of the hill started barking which was really noisy and kept us awake. All of a sudden we heard what was most likely an alpha male dingo let out a huge roar and howl, which made us jump, but after that we never heard a peep from the Rottweilers, just dead silence!
Most of the mosquitoes up Mt French and in Boonah where we later moved were annoying and pesky critters but there was a particular breed of mozzies which really was quite daunting: Scotch Greys. They were very large mozzies, they would dive-bomb you with a really loud buzz and give you a really nasty, itchy bite if you didn’t manage to spray them with mozzie-killer first. If you batted them away, they would go right off their rocker and start attacking you quite venomously. We went for a walk one night and then Bryan suddenly noticed that a heap of these huge Scotch Greys had landed on my back. He batted them off but we both had to literally run home as it was like a hoard of kamikaze Stuiker fighters strafing us as the mozzies went utterly ballistic.
We left Boonah in 2002 to return to the UK where we lived for two years and one night we decided to watch a TV programme about an English couple considering the purchase of a property on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. They were there in winter which has a quite delightful climate – warm, dry, sunny days and cool nights, hardly any rain. And we were sitting there shouting: “No, don’t buy now. Go back in summer when it’s 36C, 95% humidity, the snakes, mosquitoes, paralysis ticks, spiders and every other creepy-crawly is out and about. THEN make up your mind!”
I decided I couldn’t handle a trip down memory lane into the Dark Night of the Soul quite yet, and one of the joys of writing a book as a blog is you can duck into side alleys if you wish.
So I’ve veered off route to look at the good side of life on Mt French which was our motley collection of various animals and chooks, as well as unexpected close encounters of the snake kind, big spiders, large lizards, fruit bats, paralysis ticks, straying cows, dingoes, frogs, eagles, various birds, echidnas and kamikaze mosquitoes.
When we arrived in Queensland, we had our three cats and one dog picked up by kennels north of Brisbane so, once we’d moved into our new home, I drove up to pick them up while Bryan continued sorting the house out and fencing our 1-acre property to keep Rosie, our Jack Russell in.
It was a hot day and the air was thick with smoke from the various bushfires burning around Ipswich (a city to the west of Brisbane) and Brisbane itself. As I drove along the freeway leading to Brisbane, the smoke was so thick you could hardly make out the signposts overhead. And as it was quite difficult to head in the direction of the kennels (no freeways that far north in those days), I duly got lost and ended up very hot and sweaty by the time I reached my destination.
It was brilliant being reunited with our pets: Rosie settled into her crate in the front seat and fell asleep. On the other hand, in the back seat, two of the cats – Smudge and Daisy – were fine but Jessie got car-sick and I’d forgotten how bad she used to be. The car stank of poo, pee and vomit as I headed home in the heat and it was an enormous relief to stagger out of the car and breath in the fresh, cool air of the mountain when I got home.
Rosie loved her new home and all it’s space to race around in. We kept the cats in for a week to get them acclimatised and, once released, they stayed close by and settled in. We also kept the cats indoors at night to protect the native wildlife as cats are big killers of local animals, particularly at night.
As we’d lived in suburban Perth we had no idea of the wildlife awaiting us in sub-tropical Queensland. Our first hint that life would be different was when Bryan strolled in and said he’d found a brown snake with its head down a hole, tweaked its tail and ran like hell as it shot out of the hole. Browns, king browns, red-bellied blacks, taipans and various other slithery creatures inhabiting our environment are extremely poisonous – Australia has a myriad of deadly snakes which leave the rest of the world in its wake.
I saw Daisy chasing a brown snake once and was amazed at its speed. Luckily for Daisy I yelled for her to stop just as the snake turned around to attack her and, as she turned towards my voice, it took the opportunity to literally leap away in huge loops of its body. It helped me respect people’s advice to leave snakes along and they’ll leave you alone. I forgot this when I was at home on my own one day while Bryan was down in Boonah doing the shopping. The cats and dog suddenly began making really weird growls and hisses, so I looked outside and there was a python stretching out from our side fencing and heading onto our roof. Well, I had no wish to have a biggish snake wandering around on our roof and perhaps dropping on my head so I grabbed a broom, locked the animals inside, and rushed out to poke the snake and send it back where it came from.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work like that. The snake moved really quickly, swung around towards me, I screamed, dropped the broomstick and ran inside. I think my hair may have been standing on end! I kept an eye on the snake and it finally returned to the thick jasmine creeper on the corner of our patio where it blended so well you would have no idea a python was coiled up inside. Bryan came back shortly afterwards and strolled past the jasmine, quite oblivious to the python lurking inside.
“How big was it?” he asked. “Oh, about six feet, I think,” I replied. Until I had to change my mind about the size a short while afterwards. Bryan had grabbed a roll of vinyl from where we’d stored it on the front verandah as we were going to re-vinyl the kitchen floor. He walked through the house with the vinyl over his shoulder to the flat part at the back to cut the roll to size. I suddenly heard a yell out back so ran out, to see a rather groggy looking carpet python staggering away from the vinyl. My husband had slipped his hands inside, started unrolling the vinyl but at the final roll came in contact with the snake’s body. Luckily, it had been asleep and was a bit dopey at being rolled over and over, but carpet pythons aren’t venomous although they can give you a bit of a bite. I asked Bryan how long he thought it was. “Oh, about six feet, I suppose” he replied. And I instantly had to up the size of the carpet python I’d poked with the broom. It was twice as long as the snake in the vinyl and much wider, so I guess I’d mixed it with a 12 ft python. I was just glad I hadn’t realised how big it was at the time!
I came home from shopping one day to find Bryan looking a bit shaken. He told me the curtains on the verandah doors had been moving so he’d swept them back, thinking a gekko had got in, only to find himself eyeballing a snake. He grabbed Rosie and locked her in a bedroom but, luckily, when he got back he saw the snake disappearing down the verandah – it had been chased away by feisty old Daisy!
A few weeks later we were in a shopping centre close to Ipswich and saw a wildlife display with a ranger in attendance. Bryan leaned forward, pointed and said: “Hey, that’s the snake I saw in the house.” We were quite casual about it until the ranger said: “Oh, that’s a taipan”. Now, you may not know taipans but they’re one of the world’s deadliest snakes, large, highly poisonous (the third most deadly while the inland taipan is the most deadly) and extremely aggressive. They won’t steer clear of you, they’ll actively attack you. So we looked at each other, both going a bit pale.
We went even paler when we talked to the ranger and she told us Mt French was rife with taipans and – also – funnel web spiders. These are just as unfunny as taipans. They tend to like dark places so you often find them in your shoes or boots and they love wet places so often fall into swimming pools. The male is the most aggressive and they generally wake in a mean mood and stay in a mean mood all day so if they feel in any way
threatened they’ll attack and bite. Luckily no-one has died since an anti-venene was developed but I remember, back in England before I’d moved to Australia, reading about a woman in Sydney who’d been bitten and who had died very quickly. So, as you can imagine, we returned to what we’d thought was a home in paradise, looking cautiously around for anything looking remotely like a taipan or funnel web spider.
Luckily we mainly saw the odd carpet python and quite a few tree snakes which, while venomous, can’t open their mouths wide enough to bite a human. But we did hear screaming one night and quite a big green snake had caught a frog and was swallowing it. We had to accept it’s nature but it was really rather horrible, hearing the screaming getting muffled until finally there was silence. I think we looked as green as the tree snake!
While we thankfully never saw any funnel web spiders, we did see many large huntsman and wolf spiders. They look pretty terrifying because they are so big, but they are real wusses, nervous of humans, quite happy to stay out of the way, and very timid if you get too close to them. We used to have one that lived behind a painting: you’d see the legs sticking out and we’d say: “Aha, Spike’s home”. Mainly we left them to themselves
as they were great at catching flies and mozzies, but if they were on the wall beside the pillow we’d pop them in a glass then release them outside.
One night I got up to use the bathroom, switched on the light then let out a screech as a big huntsman was sitting right beside the switch. A centimetre further and I would have poked the spider. The spider jumped an inch off the wall and, unfortunately, went absolutely troppo, running around the walls of the toilet while I tried to get finished as quickly as possible while keeping an eye on the manic spider.
We also used to get green frogs climbing up inside the toilet. It was a hell of a shock the first time I went in and saw a couple of dirty great green frogs calmly staring back at me from the rim. I got Bryan to catch them and put them outside but one night I had to handle one myself. I heard a screeching, the dog barking and the cats yowling so got up, only to find the mutts sitting in a circle around a frog which was keeping them at bay with its screeching. I knew if I didn’t fix it, the noise would continue all night. It was mid-summer with really hot nights so both of us slept starkers which was lucky, I guess, because when I picked up the damned frog to put it outside, it peed all over me. Luckily with no clothes I was able to wash myself down. And my dear husband slept right through the racket and was quite surprised to hear about the kerfuffle the next morning!
So here’s a hint – if you want to chuck a frog outside, fling a towel over it first to catch it, as it’s a damned sight easier to chuck a towel into the washing machine than it is to wash yourself down!
While I was pursuing my crystal craziness, a couple of other newbies lobbed into my life too.
Around the time the crystals jumped my bones, I began to dabble in art and the Tarot.
First the arty-farty stuff.
In February 1996, my friend, Yvonne, and I decided to go to a mandala workshop at the Relaxation Centre in Brisbane. It was a non-profit enterprise which offered a range of courses, with a borrowing library and bookshop. The main reason I considered going was because it was within my means. The 2-day course only cost $60. But I had completely forgotten a Tarot reading I’d had in November in Ipswich. We – Yvonne, myself and a couple of young people – had gone to the town to take part in a market. It was a pretty dismal affair with few people turning up to look at the stalls. So in sheer boredom I wandered off, found a Psychic Fair around the corner and decided to have a reading.
I wandered around looking at the various readers until I found one who drew me through her energy. I don’t know if you’ve ever have had Tarot readings, but my experience has been that the best way to approach a reading is to do your homework and find one who draws you. Don’t be in a rush. And don’t get drawn into repeat Tarot readings. Also, beware of any reader who preaches doom and gloom and leaves you feeling dispirited and despondent. A good Tarot reader isn’t one who can necessarily predict the future. For one thing, if she does make accurate predictions, what exactly is the purpose? A Tarot reader needs to be able to leave you uplifted, positive, understanding yourself, feeling you’ve had spiritual guidance to walk into the future with courage and inner awareness. If she does that, fantastic. And if she doesn’t, let her reading go metaphorically speaking into the trash bin.
I once had a Tarot reading where the reader predicted the end of my relationship with Bryan. I was devastated. But Yvonne, who was at the same centre with me, pointed out that the reader had recently had a bad car accident. It was obviously still affecting her negatively. What the reader had picked up on was that Bryan and I were having some relationship challenges, as all couples do from time to time. The most constructive advice would have been to draw this out and give advice how to approach this situation positively for the highest, rather than the lowest, outcome. And, of course, since Bryan and I have been together for 36 years, her prediction certainly didn’t come true!
I did a Tarot reading for a couple once who were concerned that, in an earlier reading, they’d drawn The Lovers and the reader had told them they would break up and form new relationships. I delved a bit deeper and found out that, in one sense, the information was correct. They had each done personal development courses which led to a new relationship alright – with each other. Their relationship had been strengthened by the change and growth in each of them.
I once did Tarot readings with a good friend at another Psychic Fair in Ipswich a few years later. I did a reading for one woman who said in deep disappointment: “Oh, that’s pretty much what the other reader told me”. Rather than seeing it as confirmation of the information from each reading, she wanted one which presented her with the information she wanted to hear, not what she needed to hear. You’re wasting your time and money and the Tarot reader’s time and energy if you have your mind made up about what you want from a reading.
The same thing happened when I was doing Tarot readings in the UK. I was giving the readings in pubs in the evenings. Bookings were taken beforehand and readers just turned up to do the readings. It was right up my alley as I’m not a good organiser, so to turn up and have everything fixed up suited me to the ground. Then one night I received a phone call requesting readings for four people at a home. I accepted but, when I turned up, I realised I’d already done readings for a couple of the women. They were disappointed to receive similar comments but I could have told them that if they’d advised me they’d had readings recently with me.
So if you want a Tarot reading, decide to have one reading, and one reading only. It’s all you need if you take the time to tune into the whole process and find a Tarot reader who attracts your attention. I won’t do repeat readings within a year of a consultation, otherwise it encourages dependency on the Tarot reader – people living their lives according to each reading instead of understanding they have free will and need to stand on their own two feet. The Tarot can give advice and insight, but it can’t live your life for you.
Back to my Tarot reading in Ipswich. I had to wait an hour for the reader to become free but I really felt I needed to see this particular woman. I wasn’t wrong (although I thought I’d done my dash when I’d finished the reading). She told me, and this is about all I recall after all this time, that I would attend a short painting workshop which would open me up to seeing colours around people and I’d start drawing images for them. I sighed inwardly to myself. I had always been a cack-handed artist. Or rather – artist manqué. I had no talent at grammar school and I always believed that I managed to scrape through art exams by the skin of my teeth with the minimum pass marks out of sheer compassion on the part of the art teacher.
My art was, not to put too fine a point on it, quite pitiful. In fact, I really didn’t believe I had any creative talent at all. So a prediction that I would start painting for people seemed quite unrealistic and a complete waste of my money.
And then I attended the mandala workshop. When we got there and sat down, I was terrified because I thought I was such a dunce at artwork. If I’d been near an exit, I would have bolted, but I was too far away and had to stay. It opened up a whole new world of creativity and awareness that my artistic ability doesn’t relate to the world around me but to the world within, to symbolic art.
I couldn’t believe I’d created something like this. I was even more delighted when, after laying our various mandalas on the floor, one of the participants chose my artwork to photograph. I got home and showed Bryan the mandala and he asked who’d done it. He looked simply thunderstruck when I said I had, as I’d never in our whole life together drawn anything!
I carried on creating mandalas in a desultory fashion until the day I fell and broke my leg and ankle. Bryan used to leave early to drive to work in Ipswich but our car started playing up- breaking down and needing a tow back to Boonah. One day when this happened, he phoned me to let me know he’d give me a ring once he was back in the town so I could pick him up while the car was checked out at the garage. I started off up the slope to my car, decided to go back and pick up a radio to listen to the news while I waited, slipped on the wet grass and went down with a bang.
Unfortunately, my left leg shot out from under me but my right leg got caught in a small hole so my leg got badly twisted on the way down. I knew straight away I’d done some serious damage as I felt really, really weird, spacey and sort of detached, as if I was in some sort of bubble. I was also stuck out in the open in cold, wet weather, hidden from the road where there was precious little traffic anyway, so decided I’d have to drag myself back to the house.
Luckily I had my house keys with me and was able to reach up to open the door as I couldn’t stand at all. I slowly dragged myself to the study, where I was able to knock the desk phone to the floor, and phoned a young friend who – luckily – had just done a first aid course. He arrived within 20 minutes, got my right leg strapped up (with a supply of free, wrapped up community newspapers!) and helped me get up. I felt no pain but, due to the shock, my throat was dry and I was drinking water like there was no tomorrow.
Martin drove me to Boonah Hospital where Bryan caught up with me, as he’d heard what had happened from another friend. And there I found I’d splintered the bone in the fibula of my right leg. We hadn’t been able to afford ambulance fees as we were so broke, so Bryan had to drive me to Ipswich Hospital for my leg to be sorted out in an operation. Again, I felt a bit weird, was in no pain but was drinking gallons of water.
The lady doctor who greeted me was quite delightful, She stroked my arm to calm me down, turned to the male orthopaedic surgeon who turned up to check me out and said: “See, I told you how strong women are. This lady says she’s not feeling any pain, talk about being brave!” I felt a complete fraud! I kept denying I was in any pain and kept reassuring them that I was fine – that was, until the lady doctor noticed bruising on my ankle, felt around and I nearly fainted with the pain. I’d also managed to break my ankle.
My treatment at Ipswich Hospital was fantastic. I was whizzed off to a ward within an hour or so arriving, and was in the operating theatre within a couple of hours. It is really weird waking up with a heavy cast on your leg, plus I was informed I had a raging temperature when I was admitted and some sort of infection, so was on intravenous drugs for a couple of days. I used a walking frame at first to hop around but then got issued with crutches and told I couldn’t leave the hospital until I could get up a couple of stairs. Co-ordination has never been my thing and, after watching a few miserable hops on my part, the physio gave up and I was released from hospital.
I was stuck up Mt French all day on my own. Bryan had casual work at the time and left the house around 6am and got home around 5pm. So I sat there in solitary splendour all day, going slightly off my rocker with impatience and boredom. I didn’t realise it at the time but it was a real turning point for me. I slept a lot of the time as the accident had shaken me up big-time. I began to really focus on mandalas, and I started creating different ones for friends. I’d get Bryan to post them off for me, and then get the response that the symbols had meanings for the recipients.
I’d started on the path of drawing colours for people which was a complete surprise for me. And I loved it. In the night I’d wake up with the pain of the cast pressing on my foot which had swelled in the heat of the bed, so I’d get up, hobble out to the front room on my crutches and keep on drawing mandalas in the quiet of the night.
During the day, I’d doze and then get back to drawing mandalas. The days were those lovely winter days you get in Queensland – clear, blue skies, bright sunshine, not too cold, very dry, and I’d listen to the carolling of the magpies and the liquid, falling notes of the butcher birds which were plentiful in that area. A friend had left me a beautiful tape by the Native American Musician, R. Carlos Nakai, called: “Emergence – Songs of the Rainbow World” and I listened to this time after time, soaking up its soaring, and deeply relaxing, notes. It was a time of profound spiritual and physical healing, where I tuned in not only to artwork and psychic connections, but also to nature and my own inner voice.