Jerry Jeff Walker died.
Saturday, October 24, 2020
Sunday, October 4, 2020
|Bunda Cliffs off the Nullarbor, South Australia |
Friday, October 2, 2020
I have not written a blog entry in a few months so I am having a go at this one. The issue is, that Blogger updated and changed, a lot. I am battling my way through and we will see how we go. It does not work in the same way that it did and this may be just an experiment. We will see. Now on with the entry. It seems to have worked and I will now attempt to hit "publish" and then I will try a quick edit.
|Sunset on the Hay Plains, New South Wales 15 November 2015 from my book, An Australian Birding Year published by John Beaufoy Publishing. I will do a longer post about the book release soon. It is out now.|
|Another from the Hay Plains just before massive thunderstorms. It was beautiful out there.|
I am working toward identifying, and then focusing on, my future in two stacks. These are not unlike the serenity prayer. “To accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can.” That is a cornerstone for living, regardless of alcoholism and recovery. That is just living wisdom. So, my two stacks are as follows…
|A Southern Emu-wren from Anglesea Heath 2015 because there should be a bird photo in here and I do love me some Emu-wrens.|
|One of my sources of hope. I do own a Troop Carrier camper and I can (when I can afford the fuel) go almost anywhere in Australia. Her name is Troopi.|
Thursday, June 18, 2020
|On holiday in Canada with my family of origin. My brother was 9 years older. I was a "surprise."|
I fear fear more than anything else. I think the fear of fear is a good definition of what anxiety is for me personally. Yes, above all things, I loathe being afraid. I would much rather be angry, or sad, or in physical pain, or anything. I do not even fear dying. I’ve seen it and I have sat with it. I was with my brother as he breathed for the last time. It was peaceful and I was playing guitar. Death is only hard on those left behind. However, I do fear fearing death. That is not a contradiction. They are separate things in my head.
To me, fear is the ultimate monster and I never, ever want anyone to be afraid. I certainly would not call myself any sort of an empath, but I do connect to other people’s fear. It touches me deeply and it makes me feel sick. I cry very easily. I do not consider tears a weakness. I honestly think the inability to cry is a weakness. But I consider my very frequent tears an indicator of my level of depression. In 2020 I have cried more than I am comfortable with crying. I am tired of the sad.
My uncle (who became my father figure) lived with us for the last six years of his life. Toward the end we learned that his heart was failing. It took a period of months and he was able to stay at our house, in his own comfortable room, through to the end. Earlier in his decline, I stated that whatever happened, I never wanted him to feel afraid. To the best of my knowledge, he never was. I accompanied him to his assorted appointments and stayed with him in situations that might be stressful or confusing.
In these turbulent times, I have come to fully understand my white privilege. I now know that there are millions of people who have to be afraid in situations only because they are black, or gay, or Asian, or trans, or follow a “different” religion. This goes against my very core. It is wrong. I cannot truly know what it is like to be them, but I can support them. Whoever you are, wherever you are, I do not want you to have to be afraid.
This is a transformative time. From the orange monster attacking all that is decent in my country of origin, to seeing a man murdered, I will never be exactly the same again. I reckon that change is a good thing. I have been through a lot of significant transformations in my (almost) 67 years. Some of them were joyous, some were sad, some were difficult, some were intentional, some were not, and some required a whole lot of effort. I am not yet finished, and I will remain in transformation for the rest of my days. Presently, I am trying to come to grips with ageing. That presents its own massive set of changes, complexities and yes, a lot of fear regarding a lot of things.
|Me now (in January of this year)... ageing ain't easy, but I can do whatever needs to be done.|
|One of William Betts photos of me swimming with a Whale Shark, December 2019 off Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Overcoming anxiety is worth it.|
|Above photos are from northern Tasmania in January 2018. I was really battling with depression and anxiety at the end of that trip.|
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Years ago I was discussing live performing with a rock star friend and we both said one of the most important parts of connecting with an audience was the willingness to be vulnerable. It was odd to hear a star of his success talking about vulnerability on stage, but he believed (as I do as a performer) that vulnerability is essential to making that genuine connection with the audience. It is through that realness of allowing them to see you, that they become your audience, as much as you become their performer. It is an exchange of vulnerability. We see each other.
I am vulnerable, open and real. I cannot not be. It’s almost like “Tourette's vulnerability.” It is certainly not always convenient to be vulnerable and genuine. There are many times when it would be much easier if I were not. But it is who I am and it is what I write. For my writing to have any value, it must be me and I must be it. I am my words. I could not write otherwise.
Over the past few years, my writing has changed (evolved?) from being mostly social media posts into its own entity. These words are now just “what I write.” I will share them, but they exist as they are. I do not have to share them for them to be validated. However, I do truly enjoy sharing and I will continue to do so.
This doesn’t mean what I write will always be interesting, or fun, sometimes quite the contrary. The value of my writing is in its truth. I need to write these words to help me to understand myself and my world. I reckon that sometimes, they will be worth sharing. I will share this photo of a Star Finch departing its branch from Kununurra, Western Australia.
I opened this with a quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh and I will close with a bit more from her as well. I am so grateful that her words, which are beautiful, vulnerable and genuine, have reached across time and touched my soul. Her hands that held pencil and paper years ago have now held my heart. I will know her through her words and love her. Inspiration is golden.
She wrote, “I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.” In those words she explains perfectly and concisely why I write. For me writing is essential to living, like air and water and coffee.
“One writes not to be read, but to breathe... One writes to think, to pray, to analyse. One writes to clear one's mind, to dissipate one's fears, to face one's doubts, to look at one's mistakes--in order to retrieve them. One writes to capture and crystallise one's joy, but also to disperse one's gloom. Like prayer--you go to it in sorrow more than joy, for help, a road back to 'grace'.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh from the War Within & Without: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1939-1944
Thursday, April 16, 2020
Thirty years ago that day I entered the inpatient chemical dependency unit of the Peninsula Psychiatric Hospital for a month. At about 8pm in the car park, I finished a beer, tucked the empty can behind the seat in Lynn’s car and walked into the hospital.
It was with Lynn’s love and support that I was able to go into rehab. I was “sleeping” on her couch those last weeks, awaking every couple of hours to drink. I was using a slab of beer a day, supplemented by a two-litre bottle of vodka every three days. This was just to try and feel normal. I wanted to stop, but I did not think it was possible, Lynn thought it was, and sorted getting me into rehab. That saved my life. No hyperbole, I would have died if I hadn’t stopped drinking. My liver was already being damaged and it would not have been safe to quit on my own. My brother did rehab over 12 times, but never quit. He died of liver failure when he was 56. I was strumming guitar in his hospital room when he died.
They kept me in the detox section for five full days (usually it’s three or less). I can remember my little room in detox. I remember lying on my bed and looking at photos in a magazine. There were pictures of red-rock desert in the US. They were so beautiful and I remember thinking, “If I can be sober. Maybe I could travel and see places like that.” I had no idea how true that would turn out to be. I had no idea that I would tour performing all across America and in the UK, Canada and the Caribbean. Then travel the whole continent of Australia birding and write a book about it. I was agoraphobic back then. I did not think any of that would ever, could ever be possible.
My supervising therapist at our group meeting the morning I was released said, “Bruce entered this program massively addicted to alcohol.” Before I was released, they showed me my chart from when I was admitted. It was recorded that although I was not visibly intoxicated, my blood alcohol content was .412. They checked it twice to be sure. It was the highest that admission nurse had ever seen. .412 is above the lethal level for a normal person with a healthy liver. They had also written in red marker on the chart, “May Injure Self.” I didn’t and I stayed. And I still do not drink alcohol.
I made my living performing in bars and lounges and I had to call and cancel gigs because I was going into hospital for a month. I remember one club where I had played for years, the owner said, “Man, I knew you drank a lot, but I have never seen you drunk.” And I said quite truthfully, “You have never seen me sober.” And he never had. Many people had never seen me sober back then. Now, the majority of you have never seen me drunk.
So I have now been sober for 30 years. Thirty years of sobriety without relapse puts me in a rarified, tiny percentile of recovering alcoholics. Believe me, I am grateful. I could go on about this. It is quite honestly the story of my rebirth.
I will leave you with three photos of me from close to the time I went into hospital. There are no selfies from rehab. We did not have mobile phones yet. Thirty years ago.
|Typical me back then... ever present cigarette and a beer.|
Saturday, March 21, 2020
I have been very lucky off Port Fairy, Victoria with Whales. I saw a Blue Whale there (at least one) in November of 2017. That was a childhood dream made manifest. As a little kid I heard about the largest animal that ever lived on the Earth. I stared at photos and paintings of them. I was in love with the idea of a creature whose heart was the size of a Volkswagen. And now I have seen one in the sea. When this majestic, massive creature was sideways in the clear blue water of the swell I could see its mass like a train car gliding through the water. My heart felt like it was the size of a Volkswagen as well (photos Rohan Clarke)
Then I saw Sperm Whales off PF in December of 2018. These were closer and we had lots of wonderful looks at this huge toothed whale. The whale of Moby Dick, again my heart was moved to say the least (so I will. I am trying to keep this short).
Then (as many of you know) this past December I was on Richard Baxter’s tour and had the opportunity to swim with dear friends with Whale Sharks just off Christmas Island. That! That was the realisation of a lifelong dream. I now have the head of Kon-Tiki on my left forearm and a simple line drawing of a Whale Shark under it (there will be some shading added to that later after the plague has passed).
I will never forget that experience. I can literally close my eyes, and inside of my mind, relive gazing down on that magnificent fish. The patterns on its back looked like a living, moving Aboriginal painting. It glided in seemingly effortless slow motion with me. My heart catches for moment in the memory, but it is difficult to hold on to clearly. That is why I need to write, as well as stare at Bill Betts’ wonderful underwater photos of the shark and me. I can remember the bubbles running across my skin, I can hear the sound of my snorkelling, and I can feel the wonder, the overwhelming ecstasy I felt as that giant fish rose up just beneath me and he swam with me. I was on the surface and that shark (the last of three) came up to me. If that is the last memory in my mind before I one day join “the great twitch beyond,” I will have no regrets. I swam with Whale Sharks. I really did.
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
Last Thursday I did a post about my beautiful new PRBY apparel Painted Bunting t-shirt and although I did not go into it, but I was feeling unwell that day.
|New PRBY shirt. I love their shirts!|
Just before Christmas, Rohan Clarke had posted the dates of his quarterly Eaglehawk Neck double-header pelagics. I was interested in the February 1-2 trip, hoping for Gould’s and possibly Mottled Petrels. I did get a spot, along with James, Alan Stringer and Robert Shore (Robert later had to cancel). I very much love Eaglehawk Neck and I have done several pelagics from there. They are the essence of “…a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” You never know what might turn up. It was there in January 2018 that the Juan Fernandez Petrel flew into my heart and onto my list. Many thousands of miles from its normal range, somehow it had ended up off Eaglehawk Neck. You never know what you may see out there deep sea birding.
|A bird I will never forget, the famous Juan Fernandez Petrel, January 2018 off Eaglehawk Neck|
We reached the deep water beyond the shelf and began to berley (chum). There were a lot of birds around. The highlights were a Cook’s Petrel, a truly gorgeous dark morph Soft-plumaged Petrel and yes, a Gould’s. Tick! It was a fast flying bird, but I saw it well. Thank you Rohan for spotting it, and Paul Brooks for bodily pointing me at it when it came in and looped across the stern. Then it flew down the port side of the boat and was gone. No time for photos, just time for a lifer-look. Yes, there were lots of birds around us. We had Wilson’s, Grey-backed and White-faced Storm Petrels dancing together on the water behind the boat. We had lots of Albatrosses, Wandering, Southern and Northern Royal, Black-browed, Campbell’s, Buller’s and of course scores of Shy. It was indeed rough, definitely one of the roughest pelagics I’ve done. The ride back in was “interesting,” but fine. John’s boat, the Paulette is a very stable, safe boat and I have complete confidence in his abilities as captain. The next day, Sunday was rough as well, but not as “lumpy” and with fewer birds. Our hopes for a Mottled did not come to fruition, but I had gotten my Gould’s on Saturday and I was very happy about that.
|Internet Photo of a Gould's Petrel, as far as I know, no one got a shot of ours, but this is what they look like...|
|Buller's Albatross being particularly cooperative for photos. They are gorgeous.|
Back on shore, many of the group went up the hill behind the boat ramp to the food truck. Sadly, our traditional after pelagic meeting spot, a café called, Havin’-a-Bite has gone out of business. It was a wonderful place for visiting and sharing some chips. The food truck has excellent chips and also very good prawns and scallops. I ate my early dinner there (as I do) both days. We sat on picnic tables with a gorgeous view of the rocky shore.
Monday morning James, Alan and I had a leisurely drive to the Hobart Airport. The trip home was gratefully uneventful (as one hopes for air travel to be) and James and I collected my old Prius from Long Term Parking about 3:15. By 4:30 I was grabbing a short nap at the house in Lara.
|James and I often have Banana Bread as a snack at airports. This was not the best we've had. It was rather lame to be honest.|
|And a little sweet-treat, my favourite ice cream on a stick|
I write therefore I am. I share therefore it’s real. I love because Love Wins.