Georgie’s frangipani tree is budding.
Baby leaves peek from the tips of each branch,
tiny halos signalling the end of the Spring drought.
This day is mist.
A soft blanket of grey with the rain playing across the tin roof;
A blessing of cloudfall that has washed ashore on the northerlies.
I sit like a mountain and breathe,
watching the ragged prayer flags whisper their
sutras around the house,
hearing the cottage garden stretch and smile
turning itself from a patch of brown sticks into
colour again.
The mountain sighs.

When winds blow across
the top of the ocean they
push waves away,
allowing the cold, dark, deep water
to rise to the surface
in an overturning process called upwelling.
And so it has been in my life this year.
Layers of warmth upended by wind and
replaced for a time by fertile shadows
that broke me open to tenderness.

I am revising history now
from the perspective of the beloved Alley ospreys
that wheel above Currumbin Rock,
the place we call our temple.
As age and time weather away the layers
a miracle of understanding and compassion arise:
We all did the best we could with what we had back then.
Families fractured across generations across time and space but
somehow most of us lived on and found other paths and ways.
The wind whispers forgiveness and I inhale
folding it into every cell and atom of this body.
Exhaling, the ocean rolls and
we paddle our surfboards out across crystal sky on a mid-October morning
that feels like summer holidays because
the water is so warm and light plays through the lineup.

Georgie’s frangipani tree rises.
Six years she stands in the soil of love and longing
blossoming every November to remind us that beauty endures.
The mountain rests.




Today I made friends with my shadow. Not so much the one cast by the sun. We’ve been skipping, running, jumping, giggling friends most of my life.

I made friends with my shadow that is terrified, anxious and furious.

The one that has hidden deep inside since the childhood that collided with my dad’s schizophrenia and psychosis, my 29yo mum’s fortitude and love that got us – our little family of three – out, and my extended family’s unspoken, down-to-earth solidarity that gave my sister and I miraculous normality. You know the kind: school, regular meals, a home, holidays, outings, treats, Christmases, birthdays, neighbourhood friends and Saturday morning sport.

I was having tea and toast and journalling before dawn when I noticed my shadow. Terror. Anxiety. Fury. I have tended to think broadly of such states to the soundtrack of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” in the film “Apocalypse Now” and not really in the context of my life. But in the sacred dark before dawn in my little home on the hill, there they were like shy birds peeking out of the bushes at me. Beautifully camouflaged.

I’d had a poor night’s sleep after a conversation with my mum that looped around her cycle of accusation, blaming and running away. And my violent, recurring dream of beating her up in a frustrated rage after she dismantled my home had resurfaced. (Who the hell beats their mum up, even in a bad dream?) Sigh.

So I invited my shadow in.

“Hello Shadow, I see you. It’s okay. I know we’ve both felt terribly ashamed of ourselves in the past.

“We’ve lived together for a very long time pretending you don’t exist. But here you are – visible at last.

“Please come in and sit with me. Would you like some tea? What would you like to say? What is it that you need?

“I know you were born out of terrifying times when little people and a young mother must have felt lost, abandoned and horrified.

“We had to run and escape for our lives and our sanity.

“I guess you arrived to help me do that. To survive and to protect myself and my family.

“And you continued to stand armed and ready deep inside me in case you were ever needed again. You’re there to help me in dire emergencies and what a thankless job you have.

“You have never relaxed or stopped being vigilant.

“Thank you.

“It’s good to see you at last and talk. Maybe there’s a chance we could become friends so your job doesn’t feel as intense? Maybe we could keep talking and find comfort together?

“Maybe we could relax because, actually, all things considered in this big wide mysterious world, we are pretty safe.”

This conversation with my shadow happened on August 14 2017. I am 54 years old.

The shadow of my poor dear dad Mike, has been a long and mostly undiscussed one cast across my family, but this year my younger sister Cal set out to find out more.

In conversation with my dad’s side of the family, she learned about the extent of his mental illness that at times saw him institutionalised, declared criminally insane and also cared for by his brother Sandy with impacts on Sandy’s own family.

Dad completed suicide at the age of 42 in about 1982.

I was seven when I last saw him, Cal was two and my mum Joss was about 29 or 30.

Court orders were put in place that prohibited any contact between Dad and us. Sandy and his family were not allowed to speak of our whereabouts to him, even though they kept in regular contact with us.

I have no memories of that time so these revelations have reverberated in the deep underground of my life this year.

When they surface like my shadow did recently, I am better equipped these days to meet them with kindness, largely because my Buddhist meditation and yoga practices support me.

I am learning that we have within us, an incredible capacity to observe and accept everything that arises within us; with steadiness and non-judgement.

During this winter of 2017 I also walked back into the belly of the beast of my former workaholism by taking on an intense consulting project in the midst of my happy part-time work life as a surfing, fitness and yoga instructor.

To be frank, the financial reward was a much-appreciated boost to my small savings.

Before I began that job I made a plan to keep meditating every day and to surf at dawn. To ditch social media and TV and get to bed by 8 or 8.30pm each night. To eat fresh whole foods and to rest mindfully in my breath constantly.

I stuck to my plan.

The project is done (and yes, it was extremely intense).

In the midst of these things I went to a 7-day silent meditation retreat and bailed on day 3 when terror, anxiety and fury overtook me and I absolutely, categorically HAD to race home to fall in love with my life all over again.

It’s been a big year so far. It’s been a gnarly, illuminating winter.

Today the sky is Big and Blue.

The air is alive with swirling winds.

The leaves on the trees are shining in the sun and I’m about to hang out the washing and have some brekkie.

I’m loving the literal sunshine and shadows that play through my little home on the hill this year. Each day they shift slightly and surprise me as I walk into the lounge room or lie in bed watching dawn slide across the ceiling.

Within my inner home, a similar play of light and shadows is underway. And in fits and starts, day-by-day, I am finding comfort within it all.

opening doors



Wed mermys

This week in one of our women’s dawn surfing sessions, fondly known as the Mermaid Sessions, we experienced our first freak accident when one of our mermys was badly hit in the head with her fibreglass surfboard. A big gust of wind hurled the board into the air and then into her forehead. It instantly became a serious first aid situation and our group rallied with incredible, calm-efficiency to get our girl out of the water, stem the bleeding, call the ambulance and look after her until the ambos arrived. She has 16 stitches in her forehead now; she’s in good spirits and beginning to tell her story; and she’ll take a rest from the water for a little while. It will take time to re-build her confidence and when she feels ready we will walk beside her back into the water.

Late last year I wrote a little essay about fear and surfing called “opening doors” and now seems a good time to put it out into the world with love and respect for all surfers, especially women surfers. Here it is…

The thing about surfing is that it invites us to be brave.

Almost every time we paddle out, whether it’s into the whitewater in the learner’s corner or out the back where we often can’t see the bottom, Mother Nature invites us to be brave.

To face our fears about sharks and drowning in particular and in amongst these two, everything else that arises: hitting someone with your board, hitting yourself with your board, being hit by someone else’s board; breaking something: your board, your head, your leg, your face; dealing with ‘mountainous’ waves as they roll towards you or as you’re perched on top of, or beside them. Getting caught in rips or sweeps and ending up in New Zealand or even Burleigh. Not being in control. Getting in and out of impossibly tight wetsuits. And on and on and on.

Women have a tendency to worry about getting in people’s way out there in the big blue. We are often so heavily socialised into smoothing and supporting life for everyone else that the long journey of years of awkward practice and getting in people’s way to become a half decent surfer can be quite daunting.

I once recited the opening lines of Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese” to a group of women learner surfers as we stood on the beach checking conditions, with trepidation in our hearts about getting in the way of other surfers (particularly those speedy short boarders).

“You do not have to be good/ You do not have to crawl on your knees for 100 miles through the desert, repenting./ You have only to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves…”

It was like naming the elephant in the room and we all exhaled with relief and went out there with courage and forgiveness in our hearts, to laugh and play in our awkwardness and hard-won, emerging skills.

The ocean is there for everyone. Learners, women, groms, world champions. Boardriders, body boarders, surf skiers, body surfers and yes, even stand up paddle boarders. Everyone.

I love teaching women how to surf because it opens the doors to our wellspring of courage.

From the moment a woman turns up at my office – the glorious right hand point break named Currumbin Alley – they have made the decision to eyeball some of their greatest fears.

As we go through the basics of how to stand on a board and ride waves – on the sand – I know the women I’m collaborating with are already leaning into their fears.

In the four short years that I’ve taught surfing, I have become something of an expert at working with people’s fear and anxiety. And God knows, in the nine short years that I’ve been surfing I’ve leaned into more of my own fears than I ever dreamed possible.

That’s what surfing does. It says “come and play and oh, the price to play is to face your fears.”

So I teach surfing the way I teach and practice yoga. Based on the breath – mindful deep belly breathing. With long, slow exhales that move fear out of the body and into the ether.

Feet steady and grounded on the sand; feet steady and grounded on the board like Tadasana, Mountain pose.

Moving with the energy of the ocean, Mother Nature, Gaia, the Universe.

Surya Namaskar – Salute to the Sun: surrendering to and celebrating what is so much bigger than us.

I’m realising that as important as the physical skills of surfing, is the connection to energy. Big Energy. So when we paddle into a wave and ride that wave on our board we harness ourselves to that energy – fears and all – and then we fly.

We are no longer shackled to our fears or held hostage by our worries; we are physically, emotionally, mentally and perhaps spiritually liberated.

What a blessing.

During 2016 I formed the intention to surf more beach breaks. These are the breaks that tend to pound down onto shallow sandbanks. The waves kick and rear left or right, fast. They close out quickly with board-breaking thumps and spray that shears in reverse.

It took me a long time to commit to surfing beach breaks but in the Big Spring Lull of 2016, when the ocean around the points and headlands of the Gold Coast became a lake for days and weeks on end, I took to the beach breaks.

I couldn’t believe it.

Somehow in all these years of almost-daily surfing in any and all conditions; of facing my fears and loving it all no matter what, my surfing had magically improved to the place where I revelled in those beach breaks.

I devoured those fast steep takeoffs and those speedy sections which you sometimes skip through and sometimes don’t.

Late in the year I ventured out into conditions that challenged me even from the beach and found myself with only slight terror, eyeballing a head-high wall of water ready to pitch me into the sandbank.

In the nanosecond between wonder and wipeout I dived straight through the face of that green wall of water to the other side, where laughter bubbled up out of my soul as I resurfaced. And in the frothing, foaming residue of that wave I offered eternal thanks to Big Spirit for surfing and fear and liberation.



Forest protectors have always been an exceptional breed. They lay down their lives before bulldozers and live in treetop canopies for days, weeks, months to ensure the safety of wild communities. I’ve always admired their elvin commitment – lean vegans with dreadlocks camped out in clans with their fierce hearts and wiles, defending all life.

On Saturday a handful of them from around the country converged in the halls of Brisbane’s legal complex in the centre of the city’s CBD, for the first Rights of Nature People’s Tribunal to be held in Australia. With forensic accuracy they told The People of the Tribunal just how the wholesale destruction of this country’s forest communities is progressing.

We are the only developed nation in the world represented in the top 10 international forest destruction hotspots.

Though we have a federal government framework, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, that is designed to trigger examination of proposed or potential threats and maybe, just maybe, apply restrictions from the top, our national government has relinquished this flimsy stick and given each state jurisdiction through Regional Forest Agreements; voluntary, self-assessed processes of ‘regulation’.

The current Forestry Act dates back to 1959 a time when our forests were regarded as scrub to be demolished for cash.

National Parks provide the best protection but if the Commonwealth Government decrees, these areas CAN BE MINED.

It turns out that Australia, despite its participation in international conventions like that of World Heritage, is breaching its obligations over and over again in the way our governments fail to administer the frail laws and regulations around forests.

As the forest protectors told this story in the halls of legal power, as they spoke of the wholesale desecration and destruction of the Karri forests of WA, the cool temperate forests of Tasmania, the brigalow and eucalypt forests of Qld and the subtropical rainforests of NSW…and all of the communities of life within these ecosystems…and as they described the failure of any government to uphold its own laws (flimsy and filled with gaps as they are), a great stillness and grief crept over The People of the Rights of Nature People’s Tribunal.

Tears streamed down the face of the Tribunal facilitator and she broke down, handing the questioning over to a fellow panellist.

We The People bore witness. For that 90 minute presentation we bore the weight of this world on our shoulders and in our hearts on behalf of humankind. We leaned into the grief of the world for this moment in time.

Afterwards when I bumped into my old friend and brother-in-law in the aisle of the courtroom, surrounded by The People, we clung to each other and sobbed. In these times of ecological and social collapse and the triumph of extreme capital and consumption that lays waste to all of nature and humanity, it is essential that we sob and wail and grieve and lament.

It has happened so fast. Surely it was only 30, 40, 50 years ago that the scientists began seeing and calling the evidence of change? “Silent Spring” was only published in 1962 a year before my birth and it was the first clarion call of impending danger. How did we lose this one so fast? How did the power of the dollar overrun governments and society so quickly? When I joined the environment movement in 1989 there was still a sense of hope and possibility that we could turn this thing around.

Where does this leave us now? After the bearing witness and the lamenting and the sobbing and the grieving, what then? What now?

My 20 year old son recently posted on Facebook the report that atmospheric carbon levels consistently exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) every month of 2015-16. The climate scientists tell us that this is the tipping point at which catastrophic global warming and climate change is unstoppable. When we will experience vast melting of the ice caps which in turn trigger sea level rises and the release of the intense greenhouse gas methane, formerly held in lockdown under those ice caps.

Huon’s post triggered my own personal meltdown and as I shared this news further on Facebook I asked my friends “how are we to live in such times? How are we to live?”

Miraculously over 30 people responded with their thoughtful wisdom. A conversation of depth spontaneously arose in that strange world we call Facebook and it revolved around love.

People, at least in my small part of the world, are bearing witness, breaking open and learning to live from love. No one has definitive answers any more – the questions are often too huge for us to comprehend – and so in this space of great unknowing, We The People, in all our brokenness are beginning to gather together to deeply listen, speak of our vulnerability, hold hands and learn to love again.

Longtime US social activist Parker Palmer says “our charge is not to save the world but to live in it flawed and fierce.”

Broadcaster and author Krista Tippett asks us these questions…”Where does it hurt? Where do you see new generative relationship? Where is the garden blooming?”

For me it hurts in a lot of places. In the forests and the oceans and the atmosphere. In the tragedy of the commons, as the ecological infrastructure – the gifts of Gaia that sustain all life – are destroyed.

And at the same time the garden is blooming in places where The People are gathering in love, in tenderness, in vulnerability; to create safe and sacred spaces where the wild, shy, sinewy soul can make an appearance and we can hear our truth. Finally.

I have a theory that they make
contact with us consciously
when they know it is safe.
When they know peace is in the air or water.
The birds.
Currawongs and magpies at dusk as
I walk in time to the setting sun.
Black messenger birds make contact
and I ask them what tidings they sing.
At Tallows - the south edge of the most easterly point -
the beach where we found the mythical swell
had finally landed.
In amongst the first waves for a month
the dolphins made contact
cruising with glistening breath, at an arms-length
between surfers;
Making contact.

After all the meditation and resting in the breath,
after all the seeking and distractions have eased,
in the silence of the garden which is stirring after Winter's long rest,
I would not be surprised if a butterfly were to
land on my head.
Or my shoulder.
Or my hand.
To make contact and with the power of
ten thousand suns
release the potential of love.

Photographer unknown




the whale

Gosh this has been a year of whale sightings from the southern Gold Coast beaches. Whales heading north during Winter then south with their babies during Spring. What a treat. And this week, with tiny surf and glassy dreamy oceanscapes, we have seen so many whales from our surfboards at Currumbin Alley. It’s taken me back two years ago when I paddled a surf ski with a friend beyond Fingal’s Cook Island and we had the biggest whale encounter so far in my life. One unimaginably enormous humpback whale chose to swim-dive directly under our tiny bobbing ski. I’ve never been the same since. I wrote this poem after contact…


The Whale


Like Icarus

we aim for the sun;

synchronising paddles, arms, core rotations

across blinding ocean, heavenward.

The caldera – basalt shield – arcs

behind our backs;

23 million years in the making,

running in slow motion to the sea where

it gathers in headlands and reefs to

contemplate the state of the world.


We know they’ve arrived,

50-million-year-old-smiles, when

we hear them breathe.

A glimpse of grey

A dorsal fin

A flipper

A breach

A plume of salt spray and

A tail held aloft like a medieval pageant banner.


We hear them breathe,

vast mammals who chose sea over land.

We hear them call in bass and soprano

and finally amongst the leviathan procession,

One Chooses Us.

Glides silently beneath our

matchstick craft with such

grace and control

such delicate care and responsibility for the tiny bobbing ones

it makes not a ripple; and

we are left gasping in its wake

believing that this day we’ve made love to God.

I am still in love

I found myself tearing up early on Thursday morning as I stood in thigh-deep ocean, side-by-side with Currumbin Rock and mermaid surf student Jordy.

As we waited for a lull in between solid 3 foot sets so we could paddle out, we watched as the back edge of a 2-day rain front passed over us and the sun emerged to light up the surf as the waves rounded the point…luminescent green lips with westerly spray shearing seaward, like wild horses.

The years come and go. Children grow, hearts break, happiness rises, dictators fall.

I am still in love with this world.


Photo credit: We Are Wildness

moments of transcendence

Why are we moved to tears when we encounter transcendence?

A piece of music.

A sky.

A poem.

Making love.

The touch of a kind hand.

Why do these moments call up tears?

Perhaps because separation falls away. Perhaps because we are gathered up by the Divine, by the sacred, by the eternal and for a precious moment we remember that we are more than flesh and bones. More than our job or our family or our partner. For a moment, perhaps, we remember we are doing more than getting by.

In that moment, something so deep inside, something we didn’t know we held, reaches to the heavens and remembers. In the remembrance and the forgiveness there is resurrection.

And so the tears flow…

Pink sky rainbow

the sun and I touch the sky.
We radiate across eons
reflecting the warmth of ages
with a smile, a touch, a dance.
On this first morning
the pink magnolia leans towards the light
in her finest gown.
We sense signs of Spring;
of love stretching and blinking and beginning to wake
breaking open the world and more
Breaking open the potential for resurrection.
We have this moment
and eternity.
We have this day, this ordinary day
to practice and to pray.

I slide across the length of the glistening wave
Finger tips play the ocean like a flute
A whale breaches once, twice, then hoists its mammoth tail high
a mainsail to the wind.
From within the breakers I swoon and laugh
and for a second there are tears too as
mammals and seasons and lifetimes and eons

the dance

17 - Let your breath take you to the centre of your surfing, to the centre of your life...

Photo by Scotty Johnson

While I was on holidays recently I got to surf at my favourite time of day – twilight – when the sea and the sky slow dance as the lights onshore blink into life. I was so moved by the experience when a dear friend and I paddled out together at Belongil beach at Byron Bay that I wrote a poem called “the dance”.

There is no escape from romance at sunset.
Blushing pinks whisper into blues that
stroke the top of the sky then
tumble into Wollumbin's shield
of mountainous ridges circling the Bay.
The sun exhales in flames.

Last night the lighthouse glowed but
tonight it dozes;
we almost lose it as dusk wraps it in her quiet pastels.
Together the sky and the sea slow dance.
Nocturnal chiffons and lace trace liquid
pathways and patterns across the water until
reflections spin like a living Van Gough
lighting up the night.

And we, in shiny black seal skins, paddle
our longboards out late,
our eyes adjusting to dim lights and our ears
to the hush of sighing foam,
our backs flex as we glide beyond the shorebreak to
the dark place where all is still.

It is his silhouette that stuns me.
Not a single feature visible,
he is pressed up against the world
like a mythical hero returning home
from war.
And he is bone weary. And he is crushed. And he is lost.
And he is found as the sky and the sea dance
their heartbreakingly beautiful dance.

leaning into the work-in-progress

I’ve just been away on holiday to Byron Bay. I unplugged almost completely – no TV, no Facebook, minimal and random phone and emails.

I followed the sun, the tide, the swell and the wind so I could surf for hours every day.

On three days I was lucky enough to surf with two amazing surfing mentors, Pete Sea and Pete A. These Petes have been surfing pretty much all their lives and they understand the ocean intimately. They can do just about anything on any surfboard in any conditions.

Recently I bought a new, shorter board (aka ‘the blue board of happiness’) because I want to surf more beach breaks and I’d like to learn how to manoeuvre across the face of waves more dynamically.

So the Petes took me up on this ambition. On Friday, Pete Sea took me to the Broken Head beach break and on Sunday, Pete A took me to Boulders. Both days we surfed at the mid-dropping tide and the swell was small and friendly.

But still, this situation is my big surfing challenge. Short boards and blokes carving and slashing. Quick takeoffs and speed across the face before the waves pitch onto the sand bank and said short boards and blokes fly off the back with the offshore spray.

I felt anxious. I felt conspicuously unskilled and inexperienced. I didn’t want to wreck anyone’s wave by dropping in or wiping out in front of them. I didn’t want the blokes to laugh at me or treat me like a beginner who shouldn’t be out there. Thirty plus years of being out of the water in the era when women were generally excluded from the lineup weighed heavily on my shoulders and tried to do my head in.

And the Petes were awesome! They talked to me about where waves come from, where they go, how they form and shape, and how to read the peak and paddle into place to connect with that power. They both told me it was my time to eyeball those waves. To face them and become fearless and committed to my takeoffs.

I gave it a red hot go. I caught more beach break waves than I ever have before and I made more takeoffs than ever before. I also had a lot of fun in the gaps between anxiety. But I still wasn’t breaking through…and this felt a little embarrassing and certainly very humbling given I’ve just published “the dharma of surfing” a book about surf-life wisdom…

Anyway, on Sunday afternoon after our Boulders surf session, Pete A had a good long yarn with me. He told me upfront what I do well: I’m good with my weight distribution on the board so everything trims well; and I bend my knees really well.

He also told me what I do wrong, really really wrong: I think too much. He can see it, everyone out there can see it: Me. On the board. Thinking. Worrying. Debating.

He was blindingly right.

So I finally shared all my heartache and assumptions about those lost surfing years between when I was about 15 years old and 40ish. What it felt like to be excluded and how that feeling of exclusion has sat on my shoulders to this very day.

Pete then told me what goes on in his and other bloke’s minds when they’re out there surfing. They surf! They go for waves and generally they respect anyone who’s out there going for waves no matter their age or sex. Pete keeps moving out there too, paddling, looking, watching, observing, paddling again, mostly to be in the right place at the right time for the right wave, but also to keep his mind at bay. To stay in his body. To keep his body warm and tuned in ready to go at any moment.

I heard him. I heard him clearly and deeply. And in that wonderful honest conversation I let go of all the angst and worry and chose to get back out there and keep moving. Just keep moving. To watch the ocean like a hawk for forming waves and to paddle hard and go with commitment. To be respectful of other surfers and to be confident in my own right to be out there and surfing wholeheartedly.

The next day I went surfing alone and no it wasn’t to a beach break, it was a crowded point break (I wanted to consolidate those theoretical and practical learnings – to bed them down in a reasonably comfortable zone). I focused on three things: moving, moving, moving; watching for those forming waves; and paddling into them with total commitment. I stayed in my body and I leaned into this incredible work-in-progress – this surfing life. I had an absolute, unapologetic blast.

And I dove deeper into my own words of wisdom from the sea…moving from one level of understanding to another…evolving my own relationship with myself.



30 - Surfing is more than standing on a surfboard...

Photo by Scotty Johnson






surfing the solstice

And on the third morning of the Winter Solstice some of the Currumbin Alley mermaids went surfing at dawn.

When we woke between 3.30am and 4.30am and drove to the beach in the dark,  we thought we were a bit mad.

But then there was the pre-dawn sky…and sunrise…and rainbows…and sweet waves for the few of us out there.

So we rejoiced and shared our wonder and awe and fellowship.

Life is bloody good. Right here. Right now.

This our photo essay.