Weekly photo challenge: Beloved

Reflecting upon the meaning of beloved as part of this week’s photo challenge I find that there is no one thing or person that is beloved to me, there are many and they contribute to many of the special moments and experiences during my life. For this particular challenge the focus ison cherished childhood memories, just thinking about the fun we had makes me smile and start reminiscing about ‘the good old days’.

Living on acreage in the country meant that we could have pets beyond your typical cats, dogs and budgies. With Mum’s help we hand reared calves from a local dairy farm and as children it was our job to mix their formula and feed them morning and night. I can remember the formula we used, especially when Mum changed over to a more nutritious formula which smelled revolting. The calves would love it and once they finished slurping up the milk they would suck on our fingers and follow us around the yard. Our first pet cow was Caramel, she loved to wander all over the countryside and we would have to go and pick her up and lead her home, on foot which usually entailed carrying a bucket of food in front of her to entice her to follow. Sweetie was our second calf and she was soon followed by Horrie, all of whom you can see in the following picture. I would often head out into the paddock to pat them and talk to them, it was so easy talking to cows, they just munched on grass and tolerated my company.

Our cows Caramel, Sweetie and Horrie
Our cows Caramel, Sweetie and Horrie

Our school trips often involved camping. Our school principle had a large property up in the hills and each year he and his wife or a couple of keen parents would take a class of students camping for a week. Camping involved bushwalking, swimming in creeks, learning about dingoes and other native animals and sitting around the camp fire telling ghost stories or singing songs. They were magical times and although I’m not much of a camper these days I still love bushwalks and our natural environment.

Kids in front of a tent
My Christmas tent

My Mum is a horse person, she brought us up to love them as well. A good friend owned several horses on a property not far from ours and it was always a joy to visit them and help with feeding. On one particular occasion we were present during the birth of a foal, keeping our distance of course and it was so exciting. When the foal was old enough we were allowed to interact with it, that is me in the brown riding helmet in the picture below. I saved and saved to buy that helmet so that I could go horse riding with my Mum.

A foal and children
A new foal

Our first dog was a beautiful black Irish Setter mix called Lady who used to run all over the hills with us, there weren’t fences in those days and being on a main road in the country meant that nobody drove slowly. Lady had no road sense and was sadly hit by a car, she was not with us long but I can still remember her. Scooter was our first puppy, a playful boy who would follow us everywhere. Scooter had a dog house at the bottom of the yard, dogs did not belong indoors and at night he was secured by chain to his house. As much as I loved Scooter I don’t recall the bond being anything like what I have with my boy Bundy, perhaps it was because we were so young and the dog really was Mum’s dog. Taking Scooter for walks was how I earned some pocket money, sometimes I rode my bike while he ran alongside, on leash of course.

Scooter the puppy
Scooter the puppy

Holidays in New Zealand were not frequent growing up however we were lucky enough to travel there a few times and they were some of the best holidays I’ve ever had. They were fun times spent on the farm, horse riding and tripping around in the back of the ute with cousins and my Grandfather’s dogs. My Nanna and my Aunty would cook up a storm and we must have consumed litres of Raro (cordial) and flavoured soft drink from the Soda Stream machine. We even helped in the shearing sheds one year, sweeping dags off the floor and camping overnight with all of our other cousins and family. There was no accommodation on the farm so we slept in the shearing shed. The smell of sheep and pine trees always brings back memories of those holidays. Beloved.

Tripping around the farm in the back of a ute with cousins
Tripping around the farm with cousins
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My 11 year old self’s bucket list

This post was inspired by Nathaniel Boyle’s interview with Robert Reid, episode 152 on Nathaniel’s travel podcast, The Travelers. Robert Reid is currently National Geographic’s Digital Nomad and during his interview he talks about travel, why and how people travel, what they’re naturally drawn to and what his bucket list might have looked like as an 11 year old. The interview caused me to ponder the things that would have been on my 11 year old self’s bucket list and whether they have influenced my interests and travel preferences.

tent in the backyardA tent for Christmas! My brother and I set for camping in the backyard.

Sam’s 11 year old self’s bucket list

I wanted to be a vet or a flight attendant, sadly I was not academically suited to being a vet and being a flight attendant required at least one language in the eighties and a more outgoing personality. Although I achieved neither of these career goals, volunteering at a shelter  and working with dogs feeds my soul and provides me with great joy and satisfaction. What I loved about the idea of working as a flight attendant was the travel, seeing and exploring the world. As children my brother and I were always exploring the countryside with friends, on foot or on horse back. When I got a tent for Christmas we camped in the backyard, except for the lack of proper toilet facilities I used to love camping. As an adult travel is still important to me, even though I don’t travel overseas as often as I would like. Taking a day or a weekend to visit local areas of interest, travelling interstate for a long weekend and taking the occasional overseas trip helps to satiate my hunger (just) for travel and adventure.

At school and at home we watched historical dramas and documentaries on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) many of which focused on British history, the unearthing of the ancient ruins of Pompeii and mysterious deaths of explorers. To this day I still love to watch programs that dig deep into the history of Roman and British history. Visiting Europe and the UK in 1999 was my first opportunity to wander the ruins of Pompeii and it was mind blowing. To be standing in a forum that was bustling with activity almost 2000 years ago and look up to see Mt Vesuvius, the volcano that ended it all, was a dream come true. Wandering ancient streets, imagining how people lived and what the cities looked like fascinates me. When I travel, I like to explore and understand what it is I am seeing and experiencing. Hubby loves to sit at a cafe and people watch or wander aimlessly but for me, the excitement is in discovering the places and things that I have seen in art books and documentaries or read about (a long time ago) in history class.

Ancient road of Pompeii
Ancient road of Pompeii

Save the whales! Save our koalas! Save the baby fur seals! They were things I was passionate about as a child and nothing much has changed. My childhood was spent in the country, living on dairy farms, visiting stables, riding my horse Rio through the bush and herding sheep on horseback in New Zealand. I cried every time one of my pets died and watching movies like Lassie Come Home and the Yearling always brought tears to my eyes. Now I choose not to watch those movies, and I will stop to help an animal in distress or seemingly lost. During a recent heatwave I left containers of water out for the birds and wildlife and made sure the bird bath was always full. I don’t understand how our government can ignore the plight of our native wildlife and I cannot support politicians that believe climate change to be a furphy. On my adult bucket list are trips to Antartica, Patagonia and Alaska, I want to stand and stare in awe of those places before they are destroyed and before we lose the beautiful creatures that inhabit that environment. Funnily enough, I am not a vegetarian even though I probably should be given my love for animals of all shapes and sizes.

Art and photography, drawing and taking pictures. I cannot remember a time when I did not want do either. A collapse in confidence saw me take a break in drawing and painting for a couple of years yet the desire still burned within. My sketch books were full of horses and princesses, I loved drawing beautiful things and still do. The photos I took were numerous, my Mum was horrified at paying for a roll of film to be developed only to find that there were umpteen photos of my friend’s kittens. Very few of them were in focus. My camera always goes with me when I travel, capturing colour and light is what appeals to me most and as with my drawing, beautiful subjects always get my attention. Once I am home my photos provide me with an extensive source of inspiration for my art, pastel illustrations of Venice, Tuscany and Sorrento are stacked in my office and this year Scotland will feature as I recreate the memories of my 2016 holiday in Fife and the Highlands.

Sunlight on a foggy morning
Sunlight on a foggy morning

For the most part, I have stayed true to my passions with the exception of my current career path. Whilst I am not working in an area that is related to any of my interests, my job does enable and afford me the luxury of pursuing them in my spare time. Would my 11 year old self be happy with my life choices? For the most part I think yes, but she would probably be disappointed that I don’t go camping anymore.

Memories of our girl

Monday marked six weeks since we farewelled our dear old Maxi. Some days it feels as though it was only yesterday when I held her in my arms and said goodbye, her not being here doesn’t seem real. Other days I feel her presence, I close my eyes and she is right next to me. There has been plenty of tears, but also a lot of reminiscing about the funny side of life with Maxi. I miss hearing the click clack of her nails on our tile floor as she paced through the house, and come dinner time I picture her standing in the doorway eagerly awaiting her food. I miss the happy dance that she did once she realised dinner was ready and I watch with sadness as Bundy heads to the garage alone when I go to work. I wish I could kiss her forehead again and feel her soft ears in my hands, did she know how much I loved her.

Yesterday the custom urn from Vitrified Studio arrived. After seeing their beautiful urns on the  oh melvin (and yo jake) (and hey doug) blog and reading the recommendations I knew that nothing else would do for Maxi. Such a special and beautiful girl, she deserved something special to rest in. On the back of the urn the artist has stamped (at my request) ‘you had me at woof’, one of my favourite dog related sayings and the most meaningful. At the moment the urn is on display alongside the Maxi photobook I created after sorting through hard drives and boxes to find all the photos. It makes me smile to see her face, the photobook is filled with hundreds of photos taken throughout her life and each photo has a funny story or a special memory that comes rushing back when I browse through the pages. Also in the photo is the silver memorial necklace from Earth Shine Designs1, it arrived today and even though it comes from the other side of the world it makes me feel as though she will always be close when I wear it. Gone, but never forgotten.

In memory of our dear old Maxi girl
Our Maxi, gone but not forgotten

Memories of our 2011 scrappy adventure

It has been almost 4 years since our trip to Europe, much has happened since then and sadly, none of it included travelling overseas. Nor did it include finishing all of my photobooks from that trip, three are currently sitting on our book shelves but there are still a few books to go. Sorting through photos and deciding on layout takes time and with me being a bit of a procrastinator it is taking longer because I keep getting sidetracked. Today the distraction has been looking through the many photos we took on our compact camera, the happy snaps and selfies (sans selfie stick of course). With the planning of our next trip underway, it was a joy to go back and see the photos we had of each other, captured as we moved from Paris to Amsterdam, then onto Germany and Switzerland before spending four weeks in Italy.  The next trip will be shorter, but still with a focus on Italy and we are madly saving in the hope that we can make it happen this year. In the meantime, I’ll keep smiling as I look through all our wonderful, memory filled photos.

Wishful thinking

Another hot and humid day is looming, summer is definitely making her presence felt after several years of wet summers and lower temperatures. In an effort to cool down I am thinking of colder climates and wishing I could click my heels and transport myself and the doggies to the beautiful Lucerne in Switzerland. We were in Lucerne prior to Easter in 2011, the days were lovely and mild allowing us to fully enjoy all the delights that the old town had to offer.

Homeward bound

The passing of a close family friend called me home this past week. Our family has known Eric and his family for almost forty years, having met them when our family moved to a small country town when I was about six years old. Eric was heavily involved in a variety of community activities and events, including the local football club and the billy cart derby (reincarnated in recent years as the Billycart Classic) and he was a popular, well known character throughout the area. One of my first paying jobs was washing old wine bottles for Eric’s ‘Murrumbidgee Wines’ business, the water in the barrels was always cold and up to our armpits, the smell of bleach filled our nostrils and even worse was the smell of old, wine and mould. Just when we thought that we had finished washing and rinsing bottles Eric would alert us to another pallet of bottles behind the shed.

As a teen I knew I wouldn’t stay in the one place forever, even though my childhood afforded me the freedom to explore the countryside on horseback and on foot without a care in the world. The desire to go to university took me away from home, returning for long weekends and semester breaks. There were always a few constants when returning home, my family, the starry skies, the local swimming hole and friends such as Eric, his wife and daughters. Eric’s daughters are still among my closest friends, our paths don’t always cross frequently yet when we meet it is as though we have never been apart and there is always lots of laughter when we recall our childhood and the antics of our families. Every Christmas morning we would gather in Eric’s garage and driveway for a breakfast feast to rival the best hotels, fresh summer fruits, bacon, eggs and hash browns all washed down with champagne and a dose of story telling from the night before.

At such a sad time it can be hard to remember all the good moments shared, and there were plenty. Each morning I was home I wandered an old familiar path for my morning walk and remembered the good and the funny things about Eric, and was thankful for growing up in a small country town.

Rest in peace Eric, thank you for the wonderful memories and for giving me two beautiful friends x

A trip down memory lane

Today I put the final pages together for my brother’s 40th birthday photo book, it’s a little late but I’m sure he’ll love it, for all is ‘toughness’ he is really a big softy and extremely sentimental. My Mum rummaged through her suitcase of old photos and looking through them brought back some very funny (to me anyway) and heartwarming memories which I’d like to share with you.

Enjoy your weekend 🙂