Sloppy Ground

 

IMG_5250 (1)I’ve been outside of late walking the sloppy paddocks, my blood pumping and learning the lay of the land. Spirit horse and I jumped over a muddy stream together last week when he clipped my heel leaving me face down on the opposite bank, pain hot tingling poker. Stopped. Plans parked. Earth felt. I let him go and just went soft dead still. My mare Suki trotted over sniffing the ground like I was a hurt foal. Strong inhale, yes alive ok, no fuss back to grass. Chew chew. I lie feeling the pulse of the Earth in beat with my pain. I dare not move. Spirit eats nearby. Chomp chomp. Time passes.

He comes and kisses my hair with his lips.

You’re ok, move he says. Ouch, I can’t. Too far to the house.

He shows his teeth to nip gently, enough get up, the bears may come, get up.

Ok ok, I say. Can I lean on you?

He stands and I pull myself up. His wither steady. Hop Hop. Gate. Crawl. Rest. Crawl. Call. Help.

The kids hear me and come, boy crutches. Toy soldiers, dependable and weak yet strangely strong. Power shifts. Lean on me mum. I will carry you. 

We shuffle up the hill. Crawl in the steep bits. Home. Ice.

Little chef makes tea. Rest.

Little Chef protectively looking after me

I missed their school concert. Quinn was a monkey, so realistic the crowd cheered. It’s easier with a mask on, he says to really get into character. Beau and his class were a steady mountain in gloomy green capes waving scarves when they felt like it, some missing their cues and a correcting classmate loudly pointing it out ‘you don’t do it then’.

Nothing like an injury to find you evaluating life and how mobility is just one of those things we take for granted. I don’t like having my phone on me down the valley. It is a distraction and gets hot transmitting nonsense in my pocket. But… possibly I will have it on a fencepost nearby when I’m working horses on my own.

Here’s a love story with a happy ending- Suki a thoroughbred mare who lived at Spirit’s old home has come to live with us. She is a natural mother and only been separated from her foal 4 months ago, she is neighing to the neigh-bour’s foals regularly checking in. Spirit and Suki were never in the same paddock but would make lovey sounds over the fence. Now these two are reunited, sharing a paddock and beginning a herd.

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Their contentment is beautiful to witness. The power of friendship and belonging to a herd lowers their heart rates and anxiety levels, especially being a prey animal. Underneath trying to please their owners and compete in sports at their humans’ folly, horses just want to be horse. I’m sure lots of them love to be ridden if it doesn’t hurt and love the human-horse relationship, but not at the expense of being in their own kind herd in pasture under open skies. It’s their birthright. I’ve been reflecting on our love of horses- their allure, their pull, but also how we project our own thoughts on to them. We can romanticise them and coddle them.  This anthromorphism becomes so normal that we rarely question it.

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They are such giving creatures. They carry us, emotionally and physically. They show up with their gentle energy and reflect back to us what emotions and energies we are carry. I’ve been mentoring with a lady in equine therapy. Every Thursday, a group of 5 year 5 boys come out to learn about connecting with a horse (relationships), asking a horse to participate in their wishes (leadership) and emotional resilience (neuroscience and heart intelligence).  They learn about herd behaviour that is reflected in their own peer dynamics. It has been such profound work to see these boys learn about controlling their emotions, expressing their feelings and connecting with themselves and the horses. Boys chosen for the program because they have behavioural issues and turbulent family lives. The change in their attitude and the smiles (!) over a short period of time is remarkable. After one term, the program develops with a riding component for those keen to explore more. AJ Millions (founder) has an open door policy so any of these kids can visit the horses at any time they wish.

Writing isn’t flowing for me at the moment. Sometimes, it rolls like the sweet spring wind tussling the leaves and other times, it’s not. I tell myself that it’s ok, to sit with the void and be open to its vulnerability without lurching into it. That like the sun rises, some time when I’m doing another job, a pop up often formed and clear will come to life. I’ll sign off and go and spend time outside. Being patient for the next season.

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A letter for your tenth birthday

Dear Quinn,

A decade since that Spring sunrise when I first held you. The day before was spent watching a bushfire on the hill. Its flames consuming acacias in a calm, confronting way. I sat with Pat and felt pangs in my belly what felt like period pain amidst the drama of a helicopter taking water from the house dam to wet the fire.

By the wee hours you were on your way. And I was calm and there with you as you felt your peaceful way into the world. We were connected and still one entity, until at 4.48am you burst forth. With black coal eyes, you watched the world with an intense stare, observant and wise.

Now you are 10. Your hair falls to your shoulders, curled like an 19th Century aristocrat. You’re growing it out, finding your own way. You said to me this morning, you love being independent and this next decade will see more of that for you. Your curiosity channelled into nerf guns, endless modification ideas filling your notebooks.

Stand tall, gaze long, my beloved son. Put your roots deep into the Mother who will hold you up. You dream of being an assassin who ‘works in the shadows to serve the light’. You asked me earnestly, ‘Will you still love me if I choose to be one?’ Yes, whatever path you travel, I will always love you.

Go forth and create, my dear son. A life of laughter and care, love and intensity awaits you.

Eons of  love, mum

 

Serendipity

We have a home where we can spread out roots and let the seasons whisper their secrets to us. We have a place perched near the top of a hill with valley views and a large fig tree. When the wind is up, the figs sound like gunshots as they hit the shed roof.

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There are paddocks for animals and our menagarie is growing: some borrowed, some new. Our darling dog, Patrick Swayze is back with us after a stint with Grandma. And we are so happy! He fills such a big space in my heart and now at 11 years old, he is content, gentle, wise and such great company. I am never lonely when he is around.

FullSizeRenderNow life is overflowing with juicy goodness. Through a series of events aka universe magic, a friend flicked me an ad of a horse being given away. I called on a whim and spoke to a delightful lady who wanted him to go to a good home etc and be loved. I went and met this horse who came straight over and proceeded to show me his favourite massage spots. I hardly asked any questions, I was smitten. And the owner was content that he had chosen his new owner!

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Spirit now lives with us and has completed my dream of getting up every morning to horse. He has a back injury hence didn’t make it as a dressage prospect. And the sad part is that his back injury is human related. Horses have elongated spines that can be easily damaged through overwork and insensitive riding. I hope to rehabilitate him and give him a wonderful life here. Already he is teaching me about being quiet and listening, not always pushing my own agenda.

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There is a playfulness about animals. An ability to touch the present through them. They just ask us to show up and be ourselves. Not the fancy, academic, ambitious, sleek, successful version. I love how they see who I am, and respond to that by jumping in. It is the closest I get to God or Spirit or endless wonder (insert whatever word floats you).

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Malibu, one of 3 friend’s horses enjoying a vacation here

I am contentedly become the crazy horse lady….and feel unable to write about anything else… this obsession has been going for a long time.  And the future looks the same from the back of a horse.

Much love, Amy

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The Road to Character

So we’ve been in this town for 4 months now. It can feel longer like with any immersion experience, but also no time at all. And from asking others ‘how long did it take for you to feel settled, like a local?’ the answers vary but the ball park is around 2 years.

The routine of school and work seams our lives. The kids are settled into classes and soccer teams. We are starting to recognise faces on the street and frequent the local gig scene that supports artists from Maleny and down the Coast. The Upfront Club was an institution for local acts and really rocked a Monday night but closed last year after 22 years due to financial difficulties. But luckily a local cafe took over the premises has now started live music twice a week. We bustled 3 minutes down the road after dinner, had a drink and a chat, Tim got coerced into a song for his friend’s birthday and then recited The Man From Ironbark for a lark. And we were back home by 8pm. Good wholey fun for a Monday night.

The school had a Cafe night awhile back and did a call out to families keen to perform together. It didn’t take long before Beau and Tim were on the list. Here is a video of the song they performed. Beau’s favourite, one he learnt at his old preschool.

Sorry, cut short hit some technical difficulties… Beau has taken up piano and is writing songs. This week he wrote ‘Sad Song For Pat’ about our dog who we are all missing a lot. My mum is minding him because our rental has no fences.

But not for long, because our grand news is that we have purchased a property here. So we are staying to get our hands dirty in the soil and watch the misty skies pass over head. I’m in awe that my childhood dream of green rolling hills will be our reality. The block is 34.5 acres, partly cleared with paddocks and the bottom end of the property has a waterfall with a hefty drop and a rainforest that is quite impenetrable at present. Quinn and I have visions of getting into it with machetes. Walking trails is what we want to create.  The neighbours have told me an Aboriginal stone axe was found in 1950s as the tribes used the creek on their way to ceremonial grounds at Lake Baroon dam, 10 km north east in pre colonial times.

Life has a way of working its magic. We hope to have a cabin built soon-ish for folks to stay. The neighbouring property is named ‘The Space Between’, a name I really dig. And it got me thinking about that place we often find ourselves in- between jobs, holidays, projects, life stages….And our tendency to mentally jump on to the next thing before the current thing has actually finished. Or even if the current thing has ended, the desire to latch on to something else immediately to calm our anxiety or quieten our busy mind, instead of waiting in that fertile space of uncomfortable unknowing until the next thing rises gently out of the ether.

We move in August so this is a space I’m wading in, looking at the sharp greens of the foliage and fog breath mornings here in the treehouse. It’s prettier than the ticking watch.

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How I found sisterhood in a sweat lodge

 

 

Heating stones for ‘sweat bath’ in Supa. Circa 1924. Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection

It’s a work day and after blowing off a meeting, I drive out of town where lantana rambles on the road’s edge. The first sign of smoke comes from a fire started at daybreak on a flat terrace. I stop by a Balinese-esque building and walk through wooden doors, stepping into another world.

Though it’s Thursday, a group of women have managed to claw some precious time to come together for a “sweat.” My first, and I’m feeling intrigued with a mixture of reverence and rebellion about a daytime meeting when I could be taking care of other duties.

We change into sarongs, the only clothing we will be wearing for the next few hours. I look around at the other women—a yoga teacher from the city, and a Spanish mum of three young kids down from the coast “who’s not sure why she’s come, but she has,” and other faces I’ve met before briefly. We sit and gather in a comforting circle.

Laurel, our Shamanic facilitator opens the ceremony with her flute. We each pick up an instrument laid out on the floor and begin to drum a beat. A tune forms quickly, energetic and curious.

After a light safety induction, we walk in silence toward a domed structure lined with thick canvas. Think of an igloo with a flat top, willow saplings holding up its walls. We pick mugwort and set intentions for what we wish to get clarity on during our sweat.

Native American cultures have used sweat lodges as a sacred ceremony for purification, however, there is evidence of other indigenous cultures practising similar rituals. It symbolises a kind of birth, death, and rebirth, much like a snake shedding its skin.

I crawl through the small opening, the sand surprisingly cool under my palms. The air is stale and so different from the vibrant wind whipping the tarpaulin outside. In single file, I find my place opposite the door. Our firekeeper, a practical lady called Luna brings the hot rocks known as the Stone People and places them into the pit. Sweetgrass incense sizzles when thrown on top. The four directions are noted. I realise I am due north, the place of moving into and through difficulty. I puff out my chest trying for courage and endurance as I feel stirrings of nausea.

It is very dark, and I can’t see anyone next to me. We take turns acknowledging ancestors and sharing sorrows. I am unsure who is speaking, nor remembering what is said—it is like a long trail of emu footprints across a desert. My back screams from lack of yogic fitness or just plain revolt. I feel the pull to lie down and surrender. Blackish sand marks my forehead as I curl up like I’m inside my mother again.

We welcome the last round of rocks mottled black and red as the older rocks cool dark. Drinking water is shared around the circle. I slurp hungrily out of my hands; forgetting to wash the sand off, I get grit in my mouth. I don’t care, I’m saved by its sweet relief. Gratitude rushes over me—I have never been this thirsty and lucky.

Photo credit: Valerie Everett

As the drum beats slow, Laurel begins to walk us safely home. We all lay together on the sand. I feel a hand reach for mine that awakens vague alarm, but I don’t pull away. Firmly our fingers close around each other and love washes over me. We stay like this until the end of the ceremony when the daylight pierces us from the door.

Michelle, the yoga teacher, swore she heard the prompt to hold hands inside the lodge though no one else did. But by reaching out her hand, the Spanish mum uncertain about being touched after a rocky start to life, felt her heart burst out of her chest. I also felt touched deeply by sisterhood and how we are never alone, no matter how hard it can get.

A Lakotan saying, “Mitakuye Oyasin,” which is loosely translated as “all my relations,” meaning all plants, animals, minerals, and humans are interconnected. This philosophy sits snug with me as I emerge feeling lighter, clearer and profoundly quieter.

As I retreat back into my routine, I feel more gratitude for my sparky family and thankful for a clean shower and a yummy salad. I may not see Michelle or my other sisters again though I hope I do,  I’m left feeling connected and realise by reaching out to others we can lessen any feelings we may have of loneliness or isolation.

This piece was featured on Elephant Journal

Move over Plan B

 

I am a uni drop out again. I enrolled in a masters of social work in a hope to find some certainty to that perennial ‘what do you do‘ question in this far from sure world.  There’s dysfunction dripping thus demand for social workers is high and I wanted to find a ‘secure’ profession.

But life had a trail of little wakeup calls. I was shaking after a colleague downloaded about her abusive boyfriend and hearing yet another stress leave story, found me in bed contemplating:

What is driving this decision? And for whom am I doing it?

I am a slow learner. It takes me several times around the block over the same terrain for things to become clear. This current vocational plan (there has been many..) is yet another time I’ve placed onus on Plan B as a protection from owning up to my true desires, Plan A. It gets exhausting trying to hoodwink your soul. This conflict is something many artistic creatures face as following your passion in the arts is a hard, bloody road, not helped by society perpetually questioning its relevance, legitimacy and economic prospects.

But is it really a choice?

I lay there quietly asking the deeper parts of myself, and the answer was no.

After years of feeling like I need to find a career- an answer tied up with a pretty bow,  it was there all the time.  When I stood at the photocopier at my graduate job for a multinational, a poem licked my face. From the recovering heroin addict with a PhD in mathematics who helped change a flat tyre on my courier bike to the elderly lady who asked me (a support worker) to collude with her by hurriedly changing her spotted blood dressing gown so she could look ‘put together’ before the resident nurse came to do an in home assessment, stories have coloured my life. As I tidied away the decay in her Mosman apartment, we chatted early days at Women’s Weekly, her role as editor and laughed about the wickedness of life. I stood poker faced when asked if she was fit enough to remain living alone. Later I got a call from Deirdre’s son with a heartfelt thank you and news that she passed away peacefully in her own home weeks later.

I remember being asked ‘What do you want to be?’ upon graduating from high school for our school magazine. With ‘unthinking’ speed I answered

A constant Kombie cruiser

I have lived up to that. I have found by seeking new places, experiences, jobs and people- I find endless material, stimulation and variety that feeds my writing. Not good for a CV per se but when you are called to write and reflect on what you see in the world, you can’t turn it off.  Where do you learn how to be a writer? Yes you can do university and always get something out of it. But the qualitative research comes from living life. And maybe that’s what I have actually been doing, even when I felt I was ‘failing’ at this career game.

In Maleny, I am waiting tables, gathering dialogue and indulging in voyeurism. Chatting with customers and asking questions to tap into threads that hold opinions together. Moments that may find another life one day now I’ve fired Plan B.

I’m sitting here naked ready for Plan A-rse in the chair work of dancing whispering ghosts with grit under my keyboard.

Wish me luck and thanks for reading thus far.

Love Amy

 

 

 

 

Ode To A Soft Man

Inspired by a podcast this morning where Missy Higgins spoke about being a strong woman and being a soft man is a hope she holds for her young son.

And my thoughts rest on my own soft man.

A man who shows to be soft is to be strong

A man unafraid to feel emotional rainbows, their full range of colours

Some times the dark comes but with patience we can find our way back to the light

A man who holds the hands of elders in his work

A man who feels others pain

Some times we bark and snap but can apologise

A man who rubs his kids’ backs when they cry

A man who says it’s ok to cry

A man who can be firm and clear, and hold the world up for his kids to see

A man who changes wet beds and treats his kids’ knits

A man who isn’t in to makeup sex

A man who can bake sourdough and fix a fence

A man who can build a castle and create a home

Here is an ode to all the soft men out there. Thankful that we live in a time where beautifully supple men are hands on raising soft bamboo children.

Modern masculinity has evolved into a bridge between the masculine and the feminine. To be articulate emotionally and nurturing are not sissy traits but right up there on women’s detective lists when looking for a partner. To be a slob or refuse to engage in child rearing is not acceptable. As women work outside the home and garner new skills, menfolk evolve within it.  We are bombing away at the foundations of past gender roles.

This is the ultimate partnership, not his or her, but our and us. That in the end we are all human, both the yin and the yang.

 

Dropping the Walls

Photo credit

Udaipur in Rajahstan had no fortress or walls. It was open to the plains. In previous centuries many forts had been built there and were overrun time and time again by enemies. Each time this occurred the town was looted and many of its citizens killed.

A wise leader took over Udaipur and when the townsfolk clamoured for a bigger and stronger fort, he held a meeting with the elders. He pointed out the disastrous history of having each fort destroyed by the enemy and convinced them to rid the town of its treasures, leave the gates of the city open and provide hospitality to the enemies.

Since then Udaipur has lived in peace and prosperity: the only town in that area not surrounded by walls.

(Source: unknown. It was copied from an old postcard found in a diary from my travels in India)

It is a choice to open our hearts, it is a way of living. Walls can keep us held in as well as hold others out. Our marriages can only flourish when we drop the walls. When we jump in with full bodies and bulging hearts. We’ve felt this palpable grace when we witness couples with wobbling chins saying ‘I do’.

Kumbhalgrah Fort – Photo credit

Over time though we need reminders of this grace and this choice we’ve made. As our more serious, ‘grown up’ selves often feel weighed down by bags, bills and burdens. It can feel like the individual versions of ourselves get lost.

How do we keep a relationship fresh and alive? We all know the happily ever after Disney bullsh$t is skin deep and expectations are a slow death to relationships. Marriage is a journey into demolition patiently drilling away at the chips on our shoulders and niggling resentments.  Left untended they can grow up around us until we can barely see over the walls.

Our busy lives can feel like we have little time left over to give to our relationship. But if we calculated up the time we pick up a device or have that extra drink at night rather than turn to our loved one to share? Distractions are sticky glue and sometimes they can feel like a supportive escape from emotional turmoil. But they take us away from the moment or place to be with our lover and too easily this can become the new normal. A couple I know came up with ‘Massage Monday’, a night of rubs and a night off HBO and social media to reclaim time together. No devices in the bedroom can promote cuddle time cos let’s face it sex will drop but it doesn’t have to be exponential.

When we are operating on hyper (busy, busy, busy) stopping to check in and listen to our feelings isn’t easy. The two are mutually exclusive. Taking some alone time each day, to just be with yourself can really help bring your whole self to your relationship. I keep a journal in my bag that I regularly ‘dump’ (writing without censoring anything) which helps to clear my thoughts, calm my mind and sometimes if I’m lucky, clarity comes. I’m not militant about it . I have no set routine but it is a proven lifeline when I’m upset. Afterwards, I am in a much clearer state to share with my partner.

We still remain two individuals in a healthy relationship. This notion that ‘two become one’ is pretty old hat and from experience, co-dependency isn’t fun. The idea that we see our partner as an extra limb, scratching post or a saviour only builds up resentment and up go the walls. Often our behaviour is unconscious and we expect our marriage to play out like our own childhood version. But after going down this path, we can wake up and forge a new way. It just takes awareness and patience because some days we are breathing easy and other days forgetting we need air to survive. We can start by building a strong connection with ourselves. An art practice, yoga or walking in Nature facilitate connection with our inner selves. Once we have that foundation, we don’t need to lean so heavily on our partner and our relationship flourishes from this new space.

We can live a life not asking what we feel. Our society promotes thinking and analysis, ‘this is what I think’ and we go around with buzzing heads and self importance waiting for our turn to speak. This is very different to feelings that are personal and heart felt. Sometimes irrational, sometimes intuitive, feelings have a place and a reason behind them. It is our job to learn to sit with them, name them and process them so we can let go and move on. It’s not a matter of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ feelings even spiky feelings like jealousy (can help us identify something we want) and anger (can empower us to do something) are signposts that can lead us into more self awareness. Our feelings are always more about us and less about the other person’s behaviour. Taking time out first (if possible) to get clarity on what our emotions are telling us before diving into accusation that only erects walls works wonders.

When we live with an open heart, compassion for each other flows forth. We see the human foibles – narky comments after a bad day, shortness or mood swings as part of processing emotions and how we all need space to grow.  That by giving each other time, our relationship gets stronger. This took me ages to realise cos I felt carrying my partner’s load would ‘help’ him and ultimately speed things up. I was in a hurry to get the messy emotional bits over and back to happy land. But all it meant was I got worn out and resentful he wasn’t doing it himself. Good ol’ boundaries is what’s it about – realising what’s your stuff and what’s theirs.

When we pick away at the walls our playful hearts have room to dance. By forming a powerful connection with ourselves, we can feel mighty fine with energy left to give gallons to our beloved.  And even on our off days when we ‘think’ we’ll die from sharing our feelings and being vulnerable, life has a way of walking us closer to our truth each time we trust wholeheartedly. It’s not always easy or fun but definitely keeps us growing with each try.

This piece was first published on Less Stuff More Meaning, ethical wedding blog.

L o V e

Adventurous at heart

In the face of not knowing

We trust in the ‘feel’ inside

That our hearts will lead us

To a place of ease and wonder

That mistakes don’t exist

When we follow this thread

All we can do is grow

Otherwise we will never know

How to live life full of juice

I’m feeling reflective today and this poem popped out.

My boys often ask about ‘God’ and one may pipe up that they don’t believe in one and the other sometimes say ‘I do’. This discussion leads to what happens after we die or who did create the world? And we postulate about space and the unknown until it peters out for another time.

And in the end, I often find myself saying that whatever you believe, it all comes down to love. That love is a compass to guide your life.

What love means to me?

Family at xmas. Blended, motley and extended families.  All of us came together, laughed, broke bread and forged memories.We are now Queenslanders in license, rego and place. My family are still in the south. But I carry them here.

And aren’t we all part of a larger human family.

What does love mean to you?

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Finding Pl-space

Welcome to Maleny- video by Beau…

We’ve arrived in paradise. The house is cradled by a massive native fig and when seeds fall on the roof they sound like a shot gun. Quinn’s in heaven dashing around on an acre of rainforest and who lives right next door but a retired…weapons expert.

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view from our deck

We’ve got a daily ritual so far out at Gardener’s Falls. Quinn  jumps off 10 m drop, and I’ve managed to work on my fear of deep water by jumping off the baby 3 m one with Beau. Quinn is training on smaller rope swings (there’s 3 in total)  Beau tried but couldn’t reach the handle yet. Quinn’s desperate to try this big one…maybe next year.

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Gardener’s Falls, local waterhole

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looking yes/no

First day of school went ok. We had a morning circle of singing and meditation, parents invited. Lots of songs about love and compassion. Then Tim saw a picture of what looked like a swastika encompassed inside the Star of David. We giggled and thought they have all bases covered. The River School is on 100 acres of land along a creek just outside the town. It has been going for 23 years set up by the Ananda Marga community. Below is a view of the garden from the original farmhouse that’s attached to one of the classrooms.

 

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The River School garden

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Poly pipe instrument outside Quinn’s classroom

The local IGA has musicians playing right outside every time I’ve been there- from jazz piano to acoustic guitar. We even saw a teenage girl playing the harp in honour of Leonard Cohen when we came up on our reccie in November.

banjotim2016 So needlessly to say, we are feeling quite at home. Early days but bright futures. Here’s to slowing down and opening up to place and space.

Hope this finds you feeling your space too. xx