I woke this morning to see the Darling Baaka River had changed colour overnight! Now you might be wondering why I'm so excited to see a muddy river outside my living room window. Here's the thing. The Darling Baaka river hasn't flowed for over 18 months due to a devastating drought that has affected many along the river. It has been okay where I live because we are located where the Darling joins the Murray river at Wentworth, and the Murray water creates a weir pool from the confluence to about 40 km upstream. The Murray river is quite khaki green in colour usually, whilst the Darling Baaka is the colour of milky tea. Towns upriver like Bourke, Wilcannia, Menindee and Pooncarie have been without water for a long time, creating enormous struggle for their communities. I have followed their excitement on Facebook as the Darling Baaka has flowed past their towns for the first time in over a year. This grand ancient river is the longest in Australia. Unfortunately, not only was there a drought but the river has been subject to abuse from irrigation practices. You can't begin to imagine the sheer joy of seeing such a beautiful river flowing again and more importantly, coming back to life.
I have just completed my latest album 'Darling Baaka' which was inspired completely by this amazing river and the life it brings, as well as its hardships. It seems appropriate that as the river flows again, the album was completed. Most tracks describe a positive aspect of living on the river but as the album was recorded in summer, there is a track called Dust where you hear clouds of dust swirling around the river. We seemed to average a dust storm a week. No rain meant no plants to stop soil erosion and in some places the soil even covered fences and sand drifts blocked major highways.
Today, we are in the throws of a pandemic. These are tough times indeed (and frankly a bit weird). Life is so very fragile and we can never know what is around the corner. Staying 'in the moment' is more important than ever as is helping each other. May each and every one of you be at peace and keep love in your hearts.
(I had to include a picture of our pooch - he just looks so peaceful don't you think?)
Footnote: The Darling River is called Baaka by Barkindji people and now the NSW Government is in the process of considering a dual name 'Darling Baaka'
I was reflecting on my last blog post in May 2018. Nine months after I wrote that post about self healing, I was admitted to hospital for emergency life saving surgery and consequent hospitalisation for another 7 months. Had my surgeon not been as capable as he was, there is some doubt that I would have survived at all. I had gone from excellent health and looking after myself with no medications, to being very sick and on some incredibly strong medications. I took nutrition through artificial means - TPN - and at one stage lost count of the tubes coming out of my body. The amazing thing is even though I remember the experience as being horrific at the time, I have largely forgotten the pain and much of the actual experience. There were some very dark times emotionally until one day I began to accept my situation and stopped trying to control it. From that moment, things turned around. I was still taking the same medications and subject to some pretty heavy procedures but my attitude had changed. I still visit the dark places occasionally but they’re not quite as dark and not there quite as often.
One of the lessons I learned from all this is that sometimes we have no choice but to accept medical intervention and in fact are very fortunate to have it offered. In so many countries, medical assistance is limited, unavailable or unaffordable. In my case, all my care was provided by the Australian Government including five return trips with the Flying Doctor service from a rural outback town to a the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.
Never one to accept help easily, I found myself relying daily on the kindness of friends and strangers. There must have been hundreds of people in that 7 months that had a hand in my care and subsequent recovery. I spoke of becoming self aware in my previous blog, but nothing could prepare me for the self awareness I was to experience while infirm.
Our bodies do not define who we are - not even close! Too ill to read or bother watching television, for many months I simply thought. I observed the struggle of many others and how each individual dealt with their unique situation. I spoke to my carers and realised many of them had their own very real struggles that they were dealing with.
There are two people who went above and beyond. One is my a very dear friend who I have known most of my life and is like family, who stepped in and cared for my very sooky German Shorthaired Pointers and generally cared for our house, check the mail while we were in Melbourne. The other is my wife. We have been together 11 years. On Valentines Day I was admitted to hospital, and on our first wedding anniversary (we were married as soon as we could after same sex marriage was legislated in Australia) I was in an operating theatre fighting for my life. She was at my side every single day whether it be in the local hospital or in the city hospital which is five hundred kilometres from home. Many days I was too ill to communicate but she was there to help me and take some strain off the understaffed nurses by helping me wash, bringing food when I was able to eat, and changing my bed. She asked for nothing and gave everything. When she first went to the city she was petrified of trying to work out how to get around (we are after all country people). One of my step daughters put her own life on hold and accompanied her for the first few weeks to give her the confidence to cope - showing her how to use the public transport system, organise travel and emotional support. Her daughter sat with her every day, reassuring her, when I was close to death’s door.
Being married made it so much easier in so many ways while in hospital. If we hadn’t been married my wife wouldn’t have been allowed to be at my side in those moments when my life was in the balance. People wonder why it is so important for those in same sex relationships to have the option of marriage! For many months now and like so many other relationships, my wife has done just about everything for me including dressing my wounds daily and running of the household. I can’t imagine how hard and tiring it must be to live two lives simultaneously, so hats off to the carers of the world! . They are the unsung heroes for sure!
Only now after 2 months out of hospital, am I able to cook occasionally if its not too complicated, and water the indoor plants. I have little energy but was recently able to start practising music again for a few minutes each day. With the advent of home delivery and online ordering, I can at least contribute by doing the grocery shopping.
At the end of the day, when I am tempted to feel sorry for myself I am instead inspired by these wonderful human beings who taught me so much about giving and loving without expectation. I can never repay what has been done for me but I can aspire to be more like these wonderful people.
I would especially like to thank Vizard House which provides affordable accomodation in Melbourne, for the families of hospital patients.
Echoes of a proverb from ancient Greece have been everywhere around me this week, but perhaps the proverb for me should say musician, heal thyself. I have been making music with the intention of healing others on an energetic level for quite some time, but in the process, have forgotten how important it is to heal myself. Everywhere I look in the media at the moment, I have been drawn to notice how important it is to take our own healing into our hands. We look to the medical profession to fix a myriad of ills that afflict us, without any expectation that we may have to do the hard yards too. In particular, I refer to the constant reminder that the foods we eat and chemicals in our environment affect us on a cellular level that manifests after many years of abuse and while the fix isn’t quick, it is possible and it is up to us to take more interest in how we can help these bodies we inhabit.
After several months of physical distress and its subsequent mental stress, I decided to go back to basics and look at diet and nutrition. What I have discovered and implemented has been quite monumental for me in terms of self healing. Everyone has their own journey so I won’t put my ‘fix’ here but suffice to say, we each need to find our own. What I can say is that throwing drugs, alcohol, processed foods etc at our bodies is not at all helpful and extremely dangerous to physical and mental health and disrespectful to our soul.
About 4 weeks ago I took delivery of a set of crystal singing bowls - 7 in all, each representing a different chakra or energy centre in the body. Nearly every day I have played them for self healing and I can’t say whether it is the bowls or my modified diet, but I am more focused and self aware than I have ever before
As I consider the direction of my new album, all of these factors are coming together and I’m feeling the cosmic energy swirling into realisation. I am drawn increasingly to creating ambient music in a simple, direct way. After years of trying to be a clever musician playing lots of notes, I am hearing the wondrous beauty in the spaces. I have a studio full of instruments and I love playing them all, but the simplicity and beauty of a native American Indian flute, made only of wood, or a crystal singing bowl made of only silica, are sounds to behold.
Photo: Sandra Brown
Sometimes it is difficult to see the wood for the trees. The last few months have been no exception. Everytime I near the end of an album my mindset goes into overdrive worrying about the 'details'. Making music is the easy part. Mixing it down, adding meta data and mastering to get it ready for manufacture seems to raise my stress levels considerably. Ironic really, when you consider I am making relaxation music and don't get me wrong, the album has some really nice relaxing music in it, but my recent stress has caused me to stop for a minute and review what is happening for me.
I've been travelling all over central and northern NSW for the last few months looking for some beautiful sounds of nature for my next meditation album. What a journey it has been - from the tranquility of the Myall Lakes and Lake Forbes, I have witnessed the transformation of many waterways into raging floodways. The common theme of my journey was water! Water has its own journey and it is a journey of peace, majesty and power. Most of my trip was spent checking weather forecasts and dodging inclement weather wherever possible, but I have collected some amazing sounds and I can see my next album reflecting the journey of water from the hills to the ocean. Many of the sounds are too powerful for a meditation album and I was feeling disappointed. Where would I find those beautiful relaxing sounds that were unadulterated by the sounds of humanity - cars, planes, generators, mowers... Ironically, I found the sounds I was looking for in South Australia, in the little hamlet where I lived as a child, and the final resting place for my parents. As I sat by the tree where we had scattered their ashes, I could feel their presence and was comforted in knowing that they rested to the sounds of a tiny brook with hundreds of birds cheerily serenading nearby! I sat for many hours recording this symphony. Several days later I was hastily leaving South Australia as the State was about to experience one of the worst storm/flood events in decades. Returning home to more rain, I slipped and fell on wet cement, my injuries keeping me still for quite a while. The universe has sent me a very clear message: I must be still and start my new album - and I'm listening :-) I have started editing the sounds to remove clicks, pops, cars and other sundry undesirable sounds and in the process came across this gorgeous footage of Boundary Falls that I filmed on the Waterfall Way, very early in my journey. I've quickly put together some music and just had to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it and remember that although water can be intimidating and dangerous, it is foremostly life giving and a thing of great beauty.
I am experiencing great sales of Songs of the Darling and am pleased to say that sales are mostly for the physical CD. Many people don't realise how little an artist will receive for digital downloads. I know when I have purchased downloads I have felt very pleased with myself for supporting the Artist but it turns out from first hand experience, I can now say that the only entity I am really supporting is the distributor and iTunes is one of the worst offenders. They have everything their way. iTunes has set my CD download at $16.99 for the entire album. Of that I might end up with $6.50 - all for something that is costing iTunes very little - oh yes, and by the way, I had to pay to have the album distributed online. Google on the other hand is only charging $12.99 (no idea why but hey!) The physical album is available online for $15 + P & H. For that, I can rip a copy to my computer and share across all my devices - Apple, Android, Mac, PC - and I get to see all the great album artwork. It is a reflection of the times but in future, where possible I will buy a music from the Artists website at least knowing they will get most of the benefit.
It is a reflection of the times. I was in the Roads and Maritime Service the other day to get a replacement boat rego sticker, and they had one staff member on. I overheard them saying it was because most people go online. Fair enough - online is convenient - but it has put someone out of work. The original sticker arrived in the post 2 weeks after the rego had expired. If I had gone personally to the RMS in the first place I would have received the sticker immediately then gone and put it on the boat. Instead, I went online, lost the sticker when it arrived very overdue then had to go and get a replacement sticker at the storefront, that cost $20! The worst thing though, is that I helped to put someone out of work!
I'm a bit of a tech head and I love technology, nevertheless, I will be thinking twice before I use the automatic checkout or make digitial purchases.
photo: By Marlith (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
I often pop into Dee’s studio to see what she is up to or discuss our latest respective projects. Imagine my delight opening the studio door to a vision of a woman with 1/4” thick glasses, earplugs and a surgical mask. The aliens have nothing on Dee :-). She had just taken delivery of some specially made spectacles to replace her jeweller's loupe, which was proving uncomfortable .The resulting effect is HUGE eyes. Still, it is good to see that my nagging about OH&S hasn’t fallen on deaf ears (although she is pretty deaf with the ear plugs in!)
The latest gourd design is shaping up to be another incredible work of art. Dee has burnt eagles into the wood and then created a filigree design to complement that. It is by no means finished but shaping up to be gourdgeous. I just had to share its progress with you!
Now I know I can be a bit of a nag, but I adore Dee’s tree pendant designs – they are so unique compared to the run-of-the-mill trees usually seen on jewellery, so I am very excited to see Dee has heard my pleas with nearly a dozen designs sketched in her note book, waiting to be cut into sterling silver.
The ongoing battle with the tinny has been resolved with our dear friend John Bond gifting us some 'you beaut' spark plugs that apparently run hotter, which is ideal for old outboard motors. Well, they worked a treat and we have been zipping up and down the Darling with gay abandon ;-)