What’s your dog’s name?

Visiting the pristine Wilsons Promontory National Park in Victoria last weekend, I was happily soaking up the peace, gazing at the gorgeous vistas, deeply breathing in the natural fragrances, running along Norman Beach, taking dips in the crystal clear waters, and wondering what else makes me love this place so much.

Wilsons Promontory National Park

Wilsons Promontory National Park

Then it hit me – THERE ARE NO DOGS!!! Hallelujah! PERFECTION! And further to that thought; no dog owners trying to convince everyone how adorable their mutt is and how it wouldn’t ever possibly bite or snarl at anyone. Yeah right!

Please Please Please powers of bureauracy never ever ever allow dogs into Wilsons Promontory National Park. No matter how much they try to convince everyone that it would be a fair thing.

What’s not fair is that so many people are not obeying local laws thinking their lovely smelly slobbering fleabag is the exception to the rule. Our beaches are plagued with them. Dog non-lovers (and there are a few of us) are ignored and forced to share our beaches with dogs at all times of the day despite the rules.

Recently I was sitting near two little girls on the beach on a hot summers day and a lady was blatantly walking her dog along the beach without a lead in the middle of the time of day when dogs were not supposed to be there at all. The little girls father was out in the water with his little boy, and a long way away in terms of supervision or protection of the little girls. One little girl said to her sister, “I’m scared of dogs.” The other sister replied nastily, “Get over it.” The point is that the little girl should not have been made to feel scared at the beach. She should have been able to enjoy the experience unthreatened. If something had happened the father was too far away to be of any use whatsoever. But that is another issue.

So beautiful Wilson’s Promontory I will keep returning to have my soul renewed with natural beauty quietly confident that it will continue to be a sanctuary, not only for the Australian wildlife that lives there, but also for the people like me who do not share a liking for dogs.

Walking in nature

One strategy I intentionally employed with the objective towards handling the grieving process and retaining a positive outlook on life is to walk in the natural environment.

I know that just being in amongst nature, absorbing the sights, sounds, textures, and smells lifts my spirits and reminds me of my place in the larger scheme of things.

I love the chaotic unpredictable asymmetrical and beautiful variety of nature’s garden: the choir of bird calls and insect buzzing; the extensive palette of green; the movement of leaves, grasses and dust particles; the unusual flowers; the occasional animal; and the absence of manmade ugliness.

Susan at Pillar Point

So I did and it has. I’ve walked the trails of the Mornington Peninsula and recently some of the rugged walks at Wilsons Promontory. The vistas at ‘The Prom’ are awesome (in the true sense of the word). The greens, aquas, and turquoises of the crystal clear waters sparkle like a precious gemstone. The wind roars like an oncoming freight train. The rocky monoliths stand in perpetuity – daunting shapes remembered from my childhood visits. The beauty fills my spirit and soul. Petty squabbles dissipate. My love of life abounds.

Back in December as I sat in the hospital room beside the waxen corpse of my deceased father on the morning he died, I received the words into my head “Just enjoy your life!” I’m sure this was a message for me from my Dad’s departing spirit, as he knows my serious nature more than most.

Tidal River Duck Race

And Tidal River is a place where adults can let their inner child run free. The group of people we went with really know how to enjoy life with childish abandon without the need for alcohol or drugs. They are a bunch of mostly retired fitness nuts. So we had running relay races on the beach. We rode the waves on body boards. We had a duck race and a boat with egg passenger race on the river. We laughed. We looked for wombats at dusk and rose at dawn with the birds. We snorkelled the rocky shoreline, walked and ran the trails, and relaxed in water holes in the river. We had a heap of fun.

So yes Dad I am getting on with enjoying my life.

Book Audio Video

First there was the book Eat Pray Love. I read it long before the hype and loved it. It really spoke to me and I enjoyed reading about the spiritual journey of Elizabeth Gilbert after the collapse of her marriage.

In anticipation of the release of the movie I listened to the audio book to remind myself why I enjoyed it. I once again enjoyed the intelligent narrative written with brutal honesty. I could relate to the idea of her desire to learn the Italian language simply because of the beauty of it, and I admired her courage to go to Italy to immerse herself in that language and beauty.

Now I have seen the movie and I luxuriated in the stunning visual feast on the big screen at the beautiful old Rivoli theatre in Camberwell. Despite omitting significant parts of the story, it was still well over two hours long. Her depression within the context of living in New York City during the September 11 terrorist attacks was not mentioned and I think this was a major contributing factor leading to her marriage breakdown. Without this fact she was characterised in the movie as being more superficial than she portrays herself in her book. One can only assume that Elizabeth Gilbert agreed to the changes. There were other small changes that were not significant but robbed me of the same enjoyment I found in these details when I read the book. The delicious cinematography in magnificent locations compensated for the rich text that was edited out. 

Julia Roberts plays the role well despite my lack of enthusiasm to see her in this movie. Javier Bardem is perfect as the Brazilian Felipe.

The sequel Committed is another intelligent discussion about marriage through history and culture. It follows the love story of Elizabeth and Felipe as they negotiate their rocky emotional journey. It is definitely worth a read. Now for the soundtrack from the movie….

Here comes the sun

Beach Sunset 016

Photo by Ryan James Bentley 2009

Sunday with no plans so I went for a walk. I knew there would be cyclists on the main road taking part in the annual Around The Bay In A Day event. I had gone for my ride yesterday avoiding the crowds.  15,500 cyclists wearing colourful lycra pedalled their bikes in both directions looping 250 kilometres around Port Phillip Bay.

At Anthony’s Nose three large men in bulging lycra asked in their English accents if I would take their photo. With the silvery bay clad in morning light as a backdrop and the tall buildings of Melbourne peeking above the horizon as small black pegs (their destination) I took the picture of these jovial men. They told me they were from Sydney and came down each year especially for this event. Finding time to stop at a cafe for breakfast was a priority they said. I wish I had my phone with me so I could have taken a photo of them for myself.

Later in the day I drove to Mornington to see and hear a friend sing as part of the Two Bays Choir. The Annual Mornington Food and Wine Expo was in full swing when I arrived. The main street was closed to vehicles and instead filled with tent stalls where local wineries offered samples of their wine, and all sorts of food was being made and sold. A rock band played loudly at one end of the street and another at the other end. It was difficult to find my way through the crowds of people, children, dogs, and stalls. The cafes, restaurants and hotels were open for business and diners were eating and drinking, spilling out onto the footpaths.

Eventually finding the stage where the choir performed I sat and enjoyed their efforts despite the competing sounds from the rock bands and crowds of exuberant people. As I was about to leave a group of 14 people gathered and sat in a circle with bongo drums. A joyous rhythm of drumming began and a crowd gathered to lap up their sound and spirit.

I drove home along the beach road as the sun made its way to the western horizon. Boats were still out on the golden bay and people were fishing, skiing, or just motoring around. A barbeque dinner at home with family finished off a great day. Springtime in Melbourne heralds the arrival of longer days of sunshine and everyone gets out enjoying themselves in this glorious weather.