Just add a dash of risk….

Cliff Adventure

“I thought I might go on an adventure tomorrow”, said my brother….

“Are you game?”

Now I had woken up on Christmas morning with a really sore throat, swollen glands and a bit of a fever- a reaction, I theorised, to the fact that I had taken it easy for a couple of days- put my feet up and even read a book – and my body had gone into complete shock!

But this was a challenge that could not be overlooked.

I grew up in a family where we spent most of our time in the outdoors doing weird and wonderful things- the more challenging and interesting the better- so my answer of course was “Count me in!” (Followed cynically by “Why, won’t your car make it??)

So, there we were, early on Boxing Day, precariously making our way over the edge of the highest cliff I had seen for a very long time. The aim: to make our way down to the “inaccessible” beach we could see in micro-miniature far below.

It was a looooooong way down and it wasn’t long before we both realised a couple of things:

a) that neither of us was as fit as we thought we were (and quite obviously the wrong side of 45) and:

b) that neither of us was going to be the first to admit to that fact!

My legs had turned to jelly long before I struck the steep crumbly bits with the loose rocks – not helped by the knowledge that each hand placement was near vegetation that quite probably housed a tiger snake much like the ones we’d seen on the way in….. Adrenaline is such a handy hormone!

By the time we finally reached the beach I had concluded that there was no way I was ever going to be able to make it all the way back to the top. I had a quick scout around for a suitable spot for my helicopter retrieval- if they ever found me that was!

After collapsing in the shade of a rock and moaning and groaning for (quite) awhile, we eventually revived enough to go off exploring and to eat the Xmas leftovers we had lugged down. Then we sat and chatted and absorbed the spectacular beauty of the magical place around us and talked about how lucky we are to live where we do and how we appreciate our parents for instilling in us a love of the world around us, a spirit of curiosity and adventure and a willingness to challenge ourselves and take a risk or two, and how that seems to be so lacking in many people these days….(Or as my brother so fondly put it “You are the only other person I know crazy enough to come and do this with me!”)

We reflected on how easy it is to get caught up in the mundane, the comfortable and the safe, never even realising that, on the other side of discomfort, lies the real richness of life….

We stayed down there on the pure white sand for hours marvelling at the unique rocks and caves and the sea-life on the reef until we couldn’t pretend any longer- it was time to face the awful truth- if we were going to ever get home again we would have to climb back up that humongous cliff that seemed to be growing higher and higher each minute. “Actually, I really like it here”, I decided. “I could build a cool little shack with all of that driftwood- could you just do me a food drop once a week?”

A quick dip in the ocean and we began the steep ascent, much of which for me was done on hands and knees (and yes, I’m hearing you body- we need to get a lot fitter!!)

So, it’s been all about ice packs and Deep Heat and dodgy knees in the day since, but it’s also been about laughing and teasing and a deep sense of shared accomplishment. It was a wonderful reminder about all of the “important stuff” and already we’re planning our next adventure- for something challenging but safe enough for the next generation to come along on, because it may be one of the most important things we need for them to know: that just outside of our comfort zones are the places where real magic takes place….

Bushfire Update

A quick bushfire update:

The fire was declared “contained” over the weekend and some cooler weather and even a few light showers have helped to calm things down again. It has been a busy time though (well, that’s my excuse for not posting sooner!)

I noticed a lot of cars driving around all week filled to the brim with all of “the important stuff.” There were lots of conversations about what people had selected to take and why.

Some people made practical choices, including basic food supplies and clothing. Others did the sentimental thing with a car stuffed full of memories. Still others took almost nothing because they were simply unable to decide in the stress of the moment. Everyone I talked to took their pets. One friend told me she had run back to her house and grabbed the two new dresses she’d recently bought –she was damned if they were going to be burnt before she’d had a chance to wear them! Most said they’ll make some different choices next time- some quite profound, some minor.

I guess on a practical level it’s given us all yet another practice run to prepare for next time.

When I re-read my last post I realised I’d actually forgotten to include the original positive learning that had prompted me to write the post so I’ll share it now.

It came from a lovely lady who lost everything she owned in the 2005 bushfire. When I talked to her soon after she said:

“I used to have all of these nice things- things that were too special to use. Things like family heirloom crystal, expensive sheets that I used for special guests and lovely collectible things that were locked away in cupboards so that they didn’t get broken. I had art materials that were too nice to use and “good” clothes that I saved for special occasions. Now I have nothing. If I had one piece of advice it would be to use your nice things- take them out and use them every day. Wear the things that make you feel good and enjoy what you have- every single day.”

It was a great piece of advice and one that had a profound influence on the choices I make.

As for her, she has thrived and actually considers that event a major positive turning point –she is loving life!

So, break out that precious stuff and enjoy what you have.

After all, that’s what it’s for..

Bushfire-What Would You Save?

Have you ever done the hypothetical “If there was a fire, what would I save?”

Well I live in a bushfire zone and yesterday was given a “catastrophic” fire rating by the fire authorities due to high temperatures, strong winds and the possibility of lightning strikes. Unfortunately, by mid-morning, the worst happened and soon a large bushfire was raging out of control-our fifth large one within the last seven years or so.

So, there I was, following my bushfire action plan and preparing myself to evacuate. After grabbing my survival box and rounding up a bewildered dog and a very grumpy duck I stood there and asked myself the question I always ask: “What should I take with me?” I had in my hands my three standard no-brainers: my laptop, my camera and my ukulele. As I looked around I saw lots of things that are important to me-mainly family things, some favourite artworks, childhood photos, presents from friends, childhood collections… Lots of things that I love and that have great meaning to me. But it felt okay to close the door and walk away.

I used to be a person who was very attached to my “stuff”. As I sat in my car in the heat and watched the billowing clouds of smoke over the hill I had time to think about the impact that living in a bushfire zone has had on me.

Obviously a lot of the impact has been negative (and that is something I may talk about at some time) but there have also been a lot of positive things that have come from the fires. I thought I might share some of those. They are things that I have learned from my own fire experiences and from the courageous and inspirational people I have worked with. I have watched those who have coped, those who have not coped and those who have thrived.

These are some of the things I have learned:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. There’s nothing like a catastrophe to give you some perspective. How much of our time do we spend worrying about the piddly stuff? All of the unimportant, trivial things? Sometimes it is only when we get a huge fright, a wake-up call, that we remember what’s important.
  • “Stuff” and “things” are not important. So many of us seem to dedicate our lives to getting “things”. “Things” can disappear in an instant. They come and they go. People are the most important things.
  • Live every day as if it is your last. Life is unpredictable-and that is a good thing! It reminds us to be present, to live in the now, to make good use of our time and to enjoy life.
  • Each of us is stronger than we think. It is not until we are tested that we remember how courageous, how brave and how resilient we can be. It is often in adversity that we are reminded of just how amazing we actually are.
  • The majority of people are good people. It is in a crisis that we often see the best in people. It is when we pull together, when we give and when we show that we care. It is when people show a generosity of spirit and a willingness to do whatever they can. It is when people volunteer their time, their expertise, their money and their compassion.
  • Everything will be okay in the end. No matter how unlikely that seems at times there is always a way through and there is something better down the track. Trust and have faith that things will work out.
  • Take time to appreciate what you have. Be grateful every day for those around you and take care not to take things for granted. Tell those close to you that you love and appreciate them-often.
  • Remember to focus on the important things. The things that really matter. Make time and do it. Don’t wait, do it now….. don’t wait for a bushfire to remind you :)

Urgent vs. Important

In my last post I talked about urgent vs. important things.(Stop The World- I Want To Get Off!)

What’s the difference?

Well, urgent things are those things you just have to get done…and, as soon as you do, they are replaced by a huge avalanche of even more urgent things…. It’s a never-ending-story of one thing after another and then you wake up and do it all over again…The more you do the more there is to do!

But, what if you were able to put these so-called “urgent” things aside, just for a few minutes and focus instead on the important things- those things that really matter to you. What might that list look like for you?

Important Things: (My list)

Doing things I love like:

  • Hanging out with my family and friends
  • Spending time in my garden and growing my own food
  • Creating stuff
  • Writing every day
  • Laughing ‘til it hurts- often
  • Learning new things- investing in me
  • Being outdoors- fresh air and exercise
  • Camping and going bush

Now have a good hard look at what’s on your list…and be totally honest with yourself. How many of those important things, the things that really matter at the end of the day, are you actually doing?

(Hmmm, mine’s looking a bit dodgy…)

When push comes to shove, at the end of your life you’re not going to be flashing back to all of that “urgent” stuff like cleaning that bathroom/doing that paperwork/watching that TV program/worrying about your mortgage or making sure your shirt is ironed nicely.

You’re only going to remember the important stuff…the stuff that really matters…..

and all of those things you never quite got around to doing….

Life is always about the important stuff.

Write that list and get to it!