Welcome to my new online journal! Welcome back to me! Welcome! Welcome!
First off, you may have noticed that this looks nothing like my previous journal. In this you would be correct. I've had several issues with the previous journal site. Coupled with the fact that I have this brand-spanking new website that I absolutely love and it has journalling options, I thought that it would be best if I just had everything all in one place. So, to that end, I've shifted over almost all of my current blog stuff, including the Your Very Own Adventure project (which I feel like I'm really behind on). It's now here. And, of course, I have shifted my actual journal over as well.
Don't fret! If ever you want to reread any of my inanity, I will be keeping the old journal as an archive. See! It's still here.
In other news, I am home again after a wonderful three weeks with my family in Australia. I won't go into every little detail here as I have chronicled much of the experience (minus the family bits in order to protect their privacy) in photographs which can be found on my Facebook Page here (and while you're there, give me a 'like'... For reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with self-esteem issues).
I also, as promised, took Grimglum along. You can follow his travel Tumblr here. Unfortunately, I haven't much money, so it might be a while until a new Grimglum adventure, but whenever I travel, I will be taking him with me.
It was an amazing three weeks. It really was. The first week took me to Cairns in tropical North Queensland where I saw my sister married to her love. The ceremony was simple and (blissfully) short, with one hell of a party afterwards. We stayed at Paradise Palms Resort and Golf Club. I'm not a golfer, so I can't comment on the grounds, but the location was stunning and the people wonderful. This was the first time I met my sister's now husband in person, though we had talked via Skype a couple of times. He is lovely, and his family is lovely. I had such a good time while there.
Once that week of bliss was over, I returned with my mum to her little cottage near the beach. It's a beautiful little house, with a magnificent garden that she has worked very hard on. I ate fresh eggplant, tomatoes and various herbs from that garden. It was great!
We did various things, like head up to the Paluma Range National Park and walked a short trail. No cassowary sightings, unfortunately, but plenty of lush rainforest to be had. After seeing Little Crystal Creek Falls, I wanted to go swimming there and resolved to come back my final week. Alas that didn't happen, as I fell ill two days before heading back to Canada - on the day I was supposed to swim. Yay mobile germ factories (children)! Oh well. Next time.
I did go swimming in the ocean, though. I missed doing that more than I thought - and the weather was perfect for it! Also, no stingers, which is nice. I also swam in a nearby river, which had water so clear and mineral blue I thought I was in another world. It really was stunning.
I also did a lot of reading. I finally caught up on the next book of The Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. It's a spectacular read. Mr. Erikson did not disappoint. That's entirely beside the point. The point is, there is a great deal of comfort to be gleaned from simply sitting in silence with a loved one. My happiest memories of this trip really are those quiet moments when Mum and I would snuggle on the couch on the veranda and read/snooze/watch the birds.
We also went visiting. On those visits, the landscape changed dramatically. While up north, in the mountains and on the coast, it was very green and lush, the situation further inland was completely different. Here was a world of red earth, stunted trees and dry grass. This was the landscape I did most of my growing up in. For all the dry and the brown and the gnarled, stunted trees, it is a landscape I find incredibly beautiful.
In winter here, there are few birds. The air is marked by the occasional call of the Australian raven, the gentle warble of Australian magpies andr, if you're very lucky, the song of the pied butcher bird. And also the screeches of cockatoos, but they're less fun to listen to.
Interestingly, the Australian raven's call is extremely different from that of its North American cousins. While the raven's call in North America is short and sharp, the Australian raven is a little more lackadaisical about its cry. It is more of a drawl. In fact the difference between the two raven's calls a reflection of the respective accents. While in North America, most vowels are quite short and the liquid 'r's well defined, Australians tend to drawl their vowels, and forget the 'r's altogether, drawing the words longer still. 'Car' with an Australian accent sounds a little more like 'caah.' The same is true of common and Australian ravens. The common raven's call is short and sharp; a well defined 'caw.' Australian ravens... well... their call is a little more drawn out. And by a little, I mean a lot.
Here are the sounds to illustrate my point:
Common raven (North America)
The Australian raven (which I grew up calling crows), the Australian magpie and the pied butcher bird song are my memories of an Australian winter. If you're curious about what they all sound like together open each of the links and hit play. Then you will have some idea of what a winter morning sounded like (I didn't often hear the pied butcher bird after the sun had risen properly) for me growing up. Mostly, it was all crow calls.
My uncle's property, while a work in progress, is the tidiest place I have ever seen in my life, an affect of his time in the Australian navy, no doubt. My uncle himself looks a proper swagman; beard, bare feet and all. A wide-brimmed hat with corks dangling down to keep away the flies would not look out of place on him. The man is almost entirely self-sufficient. He makes his own petrol (diesel) out of discarded frying oils, is growing his own food garden, has an old, old wood stove (that's right. A wood stove. Not gas. Not electric. Not even solar. A wood stove. It looks like it's straight out of the 1700s to be honest. In that stove he makes his own damper) that he fixed up, built a chicken coop for when he gets his chooks (chickens), and recently acquired a wonderful rescue dog he has called Yardi. She's a great big goof ball.
Right now he lives out of a camper van, but is going to be building his own house. In his own words, it's going to be a 'tin shed... a flash tin shed, but a tin shed.' Flash, for the non-Australians, means 'fancy'.
I very much admire him, actually.
My aunt, like myself and my mother, is also a writer. She has written a great young adult series and is writing more. I would consider it a kindness if you'd check her stuff out. This is her website. Go take a gander. She is another one who lives out in the country. They are completely off-grid out there, living on solar power fed batteries. Their house, though still under construction is fantastic, with gorgeous views. They, too, have a dog. He's a three-legged dingo dog named Zeus. He used to have four legs, but he tried to tackle a train. He's not especially bright.
Coming back after three weeks of relaxing and reconnecting feels very odd. I arrived last night at roughly 11:30pm and was greeted at the aeroport by my good friend T.K. and her wonderful husband. They were so lovely to go out of their way to collect me and deliver me home. They even greeted me with a hot chocolate from Tim Hortons. Ahhhh.... Timmies!
Strangely enough, winter was warm in Northern Australia. Every day was, almost without exception, in the mid -to-high twenties (Celsius) and sunny. I come to Canada in the summer, and it was overcast and eleven degrees when I left the house this morning. Oh, Canada!
Home felt... odd. The cats didn't seem to recognise me, for starters. In fact, it wasn't until I took a shower to scrub two days of continuous travel off me that they seemed to understand who I was and that I was back. That's when Persephone started giving me a lecture which ended with never-ending kisses. Even Galahad, who is normally stand-offish, got in on the lecturing and the cuddling. They both settled on my bed to sleep with me last night. I had missed that so much.
Home didn't quite feel like home until I stepped out of the shower and dried myself off. Poof! Covered in cat hair. Yup. I was home.
By the time I finished unpacking and showering and scrubbing my teeth, it was close to 1:00am. Not feeling all that tired, I clambered into bed, quickly joined by the cats, and much to my surprise, feel asleep almost immediately. I awoke this morning with my alarm at half past seven and felt great. I am now sitting at my desk at work, still feeling pretty amazing, though I'm sure that the jet lag will catch up with me soon. Not too soon, I hope as, finances allowing, I have to go grocery shopping or starve for the rest of the week (I might yet, depending!) this afternoon.
I am so glad I was able to go. I am so grateful to work for giving me my three weeks holiday in one massive block. I am so, so, SO grateful to my little brother, who financed the trip (with a verbal contract to pay him back once I sell a manuscript... Fingers crossed!) and all my friends who helped with the financing. I am grateful to my mum, whom I miss like mad already, for all the Vegemite on toast, the cuddles and the spoiling I received while there. To my family, who made my stay so much fun, I am so grateful. I love you all.
And now, I have to go and catch up on all the work I neglected while on holiday. Oh well, at least I'll be keeping busy!