Hello and welcome to this week’s blog. I’m excited to have reached number 80 – it looks and feels like a milestone in my blogging career. Thank you for your encouragement and support. Without you, my readers, listeners and subscribers, I don’t think I’d have the same intensity of enthusiasm about writing as I do. You make it all the more meaningful.
The audio version of this blog is available here and it is a special one as the background music has been provided by my inspirational nephew, Michael, who you will read more about in this blog. He taught himself guitar and I think he has made a fabulous job of the piece called Autumn Leaves.
Since last writing, I’ve done a massive journey by car to places I’d been wanting to visit since moving to Australia almost 13 years ago. It took my nephew visiting to galvanise me to go out and explore this magnificent part of the world. As part of our six-day road trip up the west coast of Australia from Perth to Broome, Michael and I covered 3,200 kilometres and took in the most amazing sights along the way. They comprised colourful gigantic rock formations, pink salt lakes, vast gorges, expansive green plains dotted with giant termite mounds, the most beautiful pristine turquoise oceans washing onto immaculate white sandy beaches, and all brought to a gentle close at the end of each day with stunning sunsets. We came face-to-face with nature’s power too, what with the plague of locusts that invaded one campsite forcing us to forego our overnight stay at 80-Mile beach and take to the road for a further 400 kilometres instead! I did manage to keep the locusts off me long enough to grab a panorama of possibly the most beautiful length of beach I have ever seen before jumping back in the car and retracing our tracks on the red dirt road that took us back to the highway and away from the menacing insects.
We encountered wild dingoes at a distance and at one point a lightning strike right above us that almost blew my ears off. Some of my time was spent in pure awe and some in a state of hypervigilance, especially when it was my turn to take the wheel as I nervously overtook road-trains, some of which measured as much as 12 car lengths. No wonder they’re called ‘king of the roads’ in Western Australia. Being the main suppliers of goods to remote parts of the state, they were often the only other road user we met for many hundreds of kilometres. And OMG when they’re approaching from the opposite direction, travelling at the top speed of 110km per hour, they bring with them a sensation that you’ve just been hit by a small hurricane, hence why it’s kind of important to stay absolutely focused and steady! Honestly, I found it nerve-wrecking at times.
In a state of awe
The awe-inspiring part of the trip is what I’d like to focus on here though. It was Albert Einstein who said: ‘He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.’ And I really get it. Especially after what I just experienced during the trip that took me right out of my comfort zone. I found myself in a state of awe at least once a day throughout the trip, but two incidences stand out as almost life-changing in their nature. The first was out on the Ningaloo Reef, when Michael and I joined an expedition to explore the reef in search of whale sharks. For those of you who might not be familiar with these creatures of the ocean, they are the largest fish in the sea, solitary creatures that can grow up to 40 feet in length and weigh as much as 20 tonnes, yet they are known to be the gentlest of giants. Apparently less than 10% of whale sharks born survive to adulthood but those that do can live to be 150 years old. They travel thousands of miles to feed on plankton in tropical oceans. I had the immense pleasure of swimming with one four times during that expedition. On each occasion we had been instructed by the captain of the boat to make our way into the deep waters of the reef after the spotter plane had located a whale shark moving slowly close by. In I flopped off the back of the boat like a lemming, snorkel mask vacuumed onto my face and flippers flapping about at the end of my legs. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go given that I have experienced anxiety and panic in the ocean before. I was doing my best to follow the leader who was waving her hand about in the air but I was getting left behind because of the sense of panic that caught me by the throat. I think it was exacerbated by the turbulence stirred up by the 19 other bodies dashing to catch sight of their first whale shark. I took a deep breath and told myself that all was OK and what was to be, would be. Then I instinctively turned to my right and there it was, staring me straight in the face as it sauntered past me. This gigantic creature’s body looked like the night sky, dotted with stars. It was so close to me I could have reached out and touched it but out of respect for them we were instructed to maintain our distance. I kept my arms to myself, but I let the whale shark do its thing, gently roaming through the waters with me by its side. I felt special. I felt as though I was part of something out of this world, in a place where everything makes sense. I realised at that moment what a miracle we are and how lucky we are to be a part of this awesome and wonderful natural world. Here was this majestic creature doing its thing, being its authentic self with grace and purpose. I’m stuck for words to describe the feeling. It’s like a deep sense of connection to the universal energy that bind us all together and empowers us to live as we are meant to. If none of this makes any sense to you, don’t worry. I am confident that you too will one day experience this feeling, whether it’s while looking up into the night sky and contemplating the vastness of our universe or looking into the eyes of a beautiful new-born and connecting with the purity of its life that is in all of us but that we so easily forget when we are sweating the small stuff of life.
The whisper of my heart
By the time I had my fourth encounter with a whale shark, and each time was like the first, I began to tune into the quiet whispers of my heart telling me that I am where I am meant to be and that I do not need to burden myself with fears anymore. As the creature swam off into the distance, I floated face-down, breathing through my snorkel, listening to my breath, and a sense of calm wrapped around me like a protective blanket. I could see my mind for what it is, a noisy machine that works overtime calculating this and that and going around in circles that really make no sense a lot of the time. There in the peace and tranquillity of the ocean, surrounded by magnificence, I reconnected with my heart and listened to its desires. Those desires are so simple that it is easy to dismiss them, but my heart insists that they are what matters the most. I heard my husband’s mantra echoing from deep within me: ‘the thing that matters most in life is to love and to be loved.’ Being able to float about in this space for a brief time gave me the much-needed chance to reboot my system and over-ride the ‘must-do this, can’t-do that’ error messages that constantly spill out from my mind when I’m not looking. So, there in the peace of my own solitude, I reconnected with my true self and saw the truth about my existence.
Relationships are everything
When I got back on the boat after my final swim with the whale sharks, I turned to Michael, and I told him that he is a beautiful human being and that I love him. I hugged him with a deep sense of connection and then we both laughed at how the expedition had made us feel. We laughed because it is almost alien for us to be so vulnerable, to show that kind of unconditional love towards one another. We laughed because we had overcome some of the obstacles that stand in the way of us being able to express love openly and without judgement.
So, there you have it. Look for the wonder in the universe and take a moment to connect with it, to feel it, and you will realise that you too are a part of this miracle that is life. Nothing is more important than that. And I should mention that during my drinking days the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone like this would have filled me with such dread that I always would have opted to stay home. So, you can imagine why I am immensely grateful for my sober life.
Watch this space for the story of the second awe-inspiring experience of that trip coming up soon. In the meantime, I wish you similar experiences that allow your heart to speak to you and for the chatter of the mind to fade into the distance.
Thanks to Michael for being a wonderful presence in my life and for your music that plays on my heartstrings. 💚
Go gently in wonder. Love, Gill x