Travelling – Saltbush and Mallee

Saltbush and Mallee South Australia

Semi-circular silver-blue saltbushes dot the sandplains. It’s a pretty scene, or at least I think it is. Compact shrubs, unpruned but naturally neat. Not all species are equally attractive though, with rambling straggly grey and green saltbushes mingling with their sculptured cousins.

‘Saltbush’ is a generic term used for several families of low dry-country native shrubs that appear to thrive where not much else grows.

Some are covered in thorns. It’s not unusual to see a Bearded Dragon perched atop a spiky saltbush, soaking up the sunshine. Others sprout delicate, paper-like flowers that seem far too precious for such a harsh environment. And yet others supply berries every colour of the rainbow for the desert birds.

I like the saltbush landscape, with occasional stunted Eucalyptus and desert plants making a statement across the evenness of the pompom-strewn plains.

We’re travelling the Outback roads of southwestern New South Wales and South Australia. There’s not a great deal of traffic, but it isn’t easy pulling off the highway towing a caravan to wander amongst the vegetation. We go exploring after we’ve set up camp. That’s when I see a slim sandy-coloured skink wriggle to safety under a saltbush as my footfalls announce an intruder. And that’s when I get an up close look at the Singing Honey-eaters and an Orange Chat. Kangaroos lounge in the shade of the taller saltbushes, and I startled a hare that startled me.

And then we’re in mallee country. What the mallee gums lack in grandeur they make up for in character. Multiple skinny limbs fan out from an underground woody tuber, carrying tight bunches of glossy green gum leaves, providing umbrellas of shade for animals and birds. A grey carpet of leaf-litter occupies the drip-circle of each tree, naturally fertilising the tree after decomposition and rain.

Ribbons of bark flap in the breeze, exposing bronze and raw-green branches, with a natural brilliant sheen to them. It’s the details that I appreciate.

As I relax, writing, under the caravan awning, recalling the amazing scenery we’ve experienced, an excessively loud car-load of campers arrives to disturb the peace of this simple campsite. Why do these obnoxious people who have a need for noise and ruckus come to these out-of-the-way places? As friendly, considerate families try to enjoy their chosen surrounds, there seems always to be oneĀ  inconsiderate and ungrateful mob who thrive on attention to spoil it for everyone.

Like the mallee gums, I feel stripped of protection, exposed and vulnerable. Although I generally feel that I have my mental health well under control, when I fall in a heap, my ragged psych on display is not a pretty being. So I’ll take myself off for a walk along the bay where the gentle soothing sound of the lapping waves will ease the tension before it overcomes me. I know my triggers, and I’ve come to know how to care for myself.

I am an amateur wordsmith. I am unable to articulate well all of my experiences or truths. Arrogance pushes my buttons, therefore I know that I still have much inner work to do on what I perceive as ‘arrogance’. A person repeatedly displaying arrogance is not yet at a soul level of growth whereby he/she can recognise this undesirable feature in him/herself. They may even be unteachable. The arrogance that disturbs me is not ‘their’ problem – it is mine. I must learn how to process these disturbances to my inner peace and emotional stability in a manner that allows me to move on quickly.

That peaceful walk on the beach is calling me.

Saltbush outback australia

An effort to let life wash over me effortlessly

Waves rolling in slowly

Humans are drawn to water. It’s more than just survival instinct; it seems to be an intrinsic human requirement for self-reflection. Any pleasant natural setting will provide a fitting atmosphere in which to contemplate life and self, but for me, the sound or view of water is the ultimate place for thought and introspection.

I love being immersed in water, cool and refreshing, but I can also appreciate the value and pleasure in simply watching the water. The process of ebb and flow of the waves, or various pace of the journey of a waterway is endlessly beautiful to my senses, anywhere, anytime.

On the beach, the waves roll in with gusto, lose momentum, and spread over the sand melding with whatever is in its path, offering no resistance to obstacles, trickling backwards to blend with the water around it, and continuing to BE.

That’s what I’m aiming for. That is my goal: to emulate the harmony, wisdom, and acceptance of NATURE BEING NATURE.

When my world is rocked, to recognise that it’s all part of my journey, to let it happen, to let it teach me, to let it strengthen me, and then to let it go – that is the way to grow, to change, and to ultimately lead me and those around me to a better place.

I’ve still got a lot to learn about letting life flow over me like water. Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business – and if people treat me poorly, I am well aware that it shows their character rather than mine. I’m doing well with that bit. I get it. But I can’t always disregard this, and at times I even begin to doubt my choices.

It takes incredible inner work to learn to let it all flow over me spontaneously. Whilst ever this flow does not come naturally, whilst ever I suffer other people disrespecting my space and choices, I am digging further into the rut I find myself in.

My progress is slow, but positive. Writing helps me to evaluate situations and to process information. It is my hope that my writing also helps others. Meanwhile, I will absorb the beauty and wonderment of the water’s effortless journey.

044 poster

Touching the life of a stranger

We all touch the lives of strangers, whether we do so deliberately or not, simply by being social creatures. A genuine smile and passing greeting might well be the highlight of that one person’s day. We will never know.


Many years ago, at a time when I was struggling to keep my life together, I found the inner strength to make a positive contribution to one stranger’s life.

While walking through a carpark, I heard the sound of a person sobbing. Initially, I walked past the sound, too afraid of my own inability to cope with anything other than what constituted my own survival, to contemplate offering assistance. But I backtracked, and found a young intellectually impaired man sitting on an outdoor seat, crying into his hands. An older man, his friend? or carer? was trying to console his charge, to no avail.

I sat next to the young man and casually put my arm around his shoulders. He dropped his head to my shoulder, and sobbed. No words from any of us. The sobbing subsided, and he got up, turning to his male companion. They walked inside the Senior Citizens’ building to whatever function was underway.

That’s when I dissolved into tears. I strode off as swift as I could, desperate to avoid speaking to anyone.

I walked home alone, and lonely, in disbelief that I had actually managed to do something worthwhile for a stranger. Helping a face that I would never see again, stayed with me, and inspired me.

036 poster