Life, Travel

Vale Gigi


A few weeks after my beloved grandmother’s funeral, I found myself staying at a hut in Norway in the middle of the mild northern European summer of 2015. By mid-morning when the sun had gained some strength, most days I made my way out to the large veranda to sit amidst the birch trees and wild summer flowers. Quiet days followed, often alone in contemplation, overlooking the glassy waters of the Oslo Fjord.

For many years my grandmother Gigi’s life and mine had been closely intertwined, bound in a relationship born out of deep love and respect and an element of duty. Her final breathe came half way through her 102nd year as the cycle of her long life found its end. Immersed in the magical long days of the Scandinavian summer, I allowed myself time to reflect upon the tapestry of memories embedded in my heart of the fiercely intelligent, kind-hearted woman who had been an ever-present figure in my life since the day I was born.

Sometimes I curled up and dozed in the sun, my body unravelling from the state of vigilance that had built up over the years I cared for my grandmother whilst my two little boys were still very young. Sometimes I took long silent walks through the forest while bright sunlight filtered through the tall canopy of pine trees. I passed hundreds of wild blueberry and raspberry patches and ate delicious berries straight from the bush.

Even this simple act flooded me with memories and transported me back to a happy weekly childhood ritual. While my two younger siblings and I piled on to my grandparent’s bed to watch the Muppet Show, my grandmother would bring in a big bowl of fruit and sit peeling and cutting up different fruits for us. Often she patiently peeled grapes for her treasured grandchildren long past the age we were old enough to eat the skins.

There were many things I admired about my grandmother. She considered herself a fortunate soul, despite having seen and endured much sadness and tragedy throughout her lifetime. She was curious and thoughtful, warm and loving and made deep friendships wherever she went. She lived a love-filled life as a result of the care she had always bestowed upon her family and friends.

The natural mystic in me takes solace knowing she died on the same date in the Hebrew calendar, the 2nd of Tammuz, that her cherished husband, my wonderful Papa also passed away twenty-four years earlier.


Butterflies of Mexico and the Day of the Dead

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“If we fly by your side, avoid chasing us away, we are fragile and you may harm us.”

“Si pasamos a un lado tuyo, evita espantarnos, somos fragiles y nos puedes lastimar.”

This beautiful sentence touched my heart while walking through the butterfly enclosure at Xcaret, an enormous ‘eco fun park’ on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, close to the famous beaches of Playa Del Carmen and Cancun.

Butterflies hold a special place in the hearts of the Mexican people. In one of the great migrations of the animal kingdom, at the end of October every year, up to a billion orange and black Monarch Butterflies undertake a four thousand kilometre journey from Eastern Canada to the forests of western central Mexico. They arrive at the Reserva de las Biosfera Mariposa Monarca, (the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve) to begin their five month winter hibernation in the tree tops, some thirty metres above the forest floor in the oak and evergreen trees.

Their arrival in late October coincides with Mexico’s most important national holiday, Dia de los Muertas; the Day of the Dead, on the 2nd of November. According to Mexican folklore, many people believe the butterflies are the souls of their departed relatives who return to be with their families around this special national holiday.

As the name suggests, Day of the Dead celebrations remember and honour the lives of the dead. Mexican families often spend the day picnicking in the cemetery by the gravesites of their loved ones. Sometimes their dead family members’ favourite foods are placed alongside the grave. In the city of Campeche, the government has even granted permission for some families to exhume the bones to allow them to be cleaned before being returned to their burial site.

I love the idea that the cycle of life and death plays an important role in the rich Mexican culture. If you think back to the beautiful butterflies, one of nature’s most evolved insects, their four-stage life cycle; from egg to larvae to cocoon and finally the metamorphosis into a butterfly is an incredible example of nature’s infinite intelligence. Both male and female butterflies die soon after mating, the female once she has laid her eggs, having done what she was placed on this earth to do.

Cricket, Life

Cricket, my children and me.

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Reflections on the summer of 2014/15

The tragic death of Phillip Hughes on November 27th, 2014, was a devastating start to the summer of 2014/15. The twenty-five year old was struck by a bouncer and collapsed during a Sheffield Shield match at my beloved Sydney Cricket Ground. Phillip Hughes failed to regain consciousness and passed away in hospital three days later. As a mother of two cricket obsessed young boys, this horrific fatal accident left me pondering some of life’s big questions.

How do you explain the inexplicable? That sometimes life makes little sense. How do you reconcile the fact that dissecting the vertebral artery as a result of being hit by a cricket ball at the base of the neck is so rare it’s virtually unheard of? People just don’t die playing cricket. And yet it happened to this prodigiously talented boy from the country who fulfilled his dream of wearing the Baggy Green cap and representing Australia. That he died playing a game that doesn’t pose the huge risks of head injuries like some football codes leaves me stumbling for words. (more…)