Chasing Clouds

The colours of the Yarra Valley in winter are muted. Misted vistas of gums and mountains …and the vines, stacked in soft green rows against the ochre earth. Layers of clouds roll across the skyscape, as if in competition with the beauty below. Look up!  Look here! They roll and twist, jostling for the most beautiful arrangement. Australian skies are big skies, the cloud banks dwarf the landscape. I was mesmerised by them.


I went to Australia in search of respite. Thirsty for a change of scenery, a change of mindset, just a change from the daily drudge. I came here hoping for a new perspective. Hoping, if I am brutally honest, that I would want to return home again at the end of my holiday.

On Friday, with my eyes downcast, I watched the toes of my converse lace-ups scuffing along the back streets of a country town. It was early. I’m an urban girl, so to me it seemed utterly reasonable to go in search of an espresso at 7am. I moseyed off along the sleepy streets, following the blue mountain ahead of me.  Tiny white curlicues of mist tickled at its edges. The night blanket of clouds was rolling back, ushered away and up by the sun. I felt transfixed by that small space of heaven, where the gold met the brooding gray. My breath misted in front of me and I felt that familiar heavy consciousness; I recognised that I had brought all of my urban angst here with me. Trailed it behind me as I jet-streamed over the Tasman.

I tried to slow my breathing, to slow my thoughts. I tried to name my anxieties and let them evaporate into the gilt of the new day.


The rhythm of my feet brought me past historic cottages, iron fretwork fencing, elaborate brickwork, local artisan studios, darkened cafes and gift shops. The air was crisp with the aroma of fallen leaves, the mountain reassuringly squat above the little town. Golden leaves gathered into drifts at the edges of the main street, swirling in little eddies down the alleyways. It was an old town, sure of itself and its place in the midst of this popular valley. So many gifts of nature and such abundance of produce. The tourists flock here year round, drawn by the wineries, galleries and a slower, more genteel way of life.

An elderly gentleman waved me in through his cafe window. He was a friendly relic from the hippie era, long hair and a handwoven hat. His old eyes seemed to know too much about me, but I stepped into the warmth regardless. He asked if I was looking for a hot drink. Gratefully, I accepted his offer of a cup of organic brew. We talked about his pretty spot there, overlooking the avenue of oak. He rustled up my coffee and began chatting with his next early riser. I fell into silence with my only my thoughts for company; contemplative. The benign presence of kind strangers was a comfort. I blew the steam from the top of my cup and asked myself the question that had driven me here, the haunting of my peace. The crossroads of my heart.

What choice do I need to make?


There is a song I have loved for a long time. A woman’s song. The lines of the impossibly beautiful melody danced through my mind. ‘Both Sides’ by Joni Mitchell. It’s about the juxtaposition of perspective. It’s innocence vs. experience.  It’s how I feel about life right now. About wellness and illness, about mothering, being a wife, being in my forties, about my career. There is a bitter/sweetness to the understanding that life is all of the things; the beautiful and the frustrating, the happy and the unspeakably sad.

I spent a lot of time on that week away, looking at clouds. Chasing the kind of girlish freedom I’d had, once upon a time, when I was unfettered by responsiblities. It took most of the week for me to come to the realisation, once more, that all of my life has been borne of choice. I’ve chosen my reactions when I didn’t have control of circumstance, and I have chosen my life’s direction. The biggest choices are already made. I wasn’t choosing ‘for now’ I was choosing ‘forever’. Now, I can choose how I live with those choices. With an open heart, seeking the gilt edges of dark clouds, or with my eyes shut tight against the beauty that might be there.  Love is hard. Life is hard.

As I blew the steam off the top of my cup, staring out through the glass panes of that little coffee shop, I chose to let the light in anyway.

I wish you the kind of clouds that remind you of angel hair. And also the kind that take your breath away with their severity and stormy brooding. I wish us all, the strength to look up, and forge ahead, honouring the choices of our hearts.

Are you like me? A tired mum, frazzled wife, maybe a bit lonely, hopeful, thoughtful …are you yearning for more ice-cream castles in the air? Here’s to you, and me, and the knowledge that what will be, will be.


The Bobby Dazzler

It’s Father’s Day again. Time for the legendary sausage sandwich with brown sauce for breakfast.  Home-made cards after a rare sleep in.  There will probably be a new book, I’m sure Zombie Apocalypse will get some air time. The kids and I have been getting things ready for the big day. And I’m going to write a bit about their Daddy.

Sometimes, my kids ask me questions about my first husband.  Or ex-boyfriends.  There are photos of these people around the place, it’s not a hidden part of my past.  My mother, if she were here, would probably roll her eyes  “Oh, Rachel! For heaven’s sake, don’t write about all that!”.  Horrified.  But I’m not ashamed. My ‘History of Men’ is very much a part of who I am and I am not much of a life story editor.  The cutting room floor would be littered with things I’d want to pick up again and say Remember when…?  My husband and close family sometimes tease me about the number of volumes in my ‘History of Men’! They can laugh all they like. Every single one of those relationships was important and taught me something.  Some of those relationships changed the course of my life. I don’t regret meeting those men or loving them.  So when my kids ask questions like,
“Why aren’t you still with that person?”
my answer is always the same:
“They weren’t supposed to be your Daddy.
I had to search for a long time to find the one who was supposed to be your Daddy”.

They are always satisfied with that answer. They know I picked them the right one.

(Here he is, during the rugby, doing double duty as a beanbag).


He came to fatherhood late.  It hadn’t been on the radar during his first marriage, but when he got together with me he knew that kids were a non-negotiable part of the equation.  We surprised ourselves by being a bit quick off the mark… Bee came along rather rapidly after we bought our first house and before we were married. I sported an bodacious breast feeding cleavage in that wedding dress, all thanks to our early arrival!   I think the hubster was quite happy with that. Then, three years later, Zed joined us.  When I eventually saw a cardiologist, he was surprised to learn I had two children.  “Well,” he said “I do hope you are happy with two because I don’t recommend any more.  If I had seen you earlier I would have advised against it altogether”.  So we are conscious of how lucky we are to have them.  Two beautiful kids.  Our pigeon pair.  But it is fair to say that when Bee was a baby, during the early, difficult introduction to parenthood, my hubster didn’t cope well with the drastic change in lifestyle.  Bee’s stratospheric scream lasered right in on his amygdyla.  And his primitive self would bellow back.  He found it really hard.  And yet there were times; he bathed her every night and lay down on the carpet to do baby exercises with her. I remember watching him with wonder, pacing up and down the hallway with her some nights.  He would sing her the same song every time, he said it was the only one he knew the words to.  Away in a Manger.  Bags under his eyes and hair all mussied up. Then the careful transfer of a sleeping Bee into her cot before the blissful drop onto his own.


By the time Zed came along, Bee had turned him into a bit of a pro at the Daddy thing. He had begun to prize the parts of parenting that were his domain.  And he had discovered that kids were a fantastic excuse to build a train set. I am sure we sport the largest geotrax collection in this country.  The kids even get to play with it, sometimes!  Because he is a bit of a workshop wonder, he’s even wired headlights onto the engines, for night drives.  He can turn his hand to most things and loves to wander through Bunnings, dreaming of the next project. He has cleaned up sick, wiped up poop, cooked breakfasts (best egg poacher and pancake afficionado in the whole universe), lunches (he’s a toasted sandwich, sausage rolls and noodling hero). And dinners, too. They equate yummy with Daddy being in the kitchen.  They equate comfort with themselves being inside his warm embrace.

Yesterday, that Daddy performed the kata for me in his undies, to show me what Zed learned at the dojo (it was a great show, but I digress).  I love that he never misses a chance to be there for Zed and he is Bee’s staunchest supporter.  He is a lego master builder, a horse-jump adjuster, a ten man cheer squad all in one booming voice box. He is a home-stay-student hugger,  a family driver, a miniature stables builder, a problem solver and a fixer upper.  There’s only one word for it. When I was growing up, my Mum had an old-fashioned moniker for Dad when she was impressed with something he’d done.  It’s a term that has trickled down into my own family’s vernacular.  And my babies’ daddy?  I’m proud to say he’s a Bobby Dazzler.


Every morning, my Bobby D gets up and makes breakfast for the kids.  The morning routine falls entirely to him while I flounder into a new day. He is adept at knowing the details of which uniform pieces are required each day, it is him that reminds the kids about whether they have packed the various bits and pieces they will need.  I lie in bed and hear him chatting and laughing with them over breakfast, or issuing the tenth exasperated request for someone to do something.  And then he opens my curtains so I can see the world; brings me a cup of tea.  He’ll run through the list of things he has done, because he knows that I will worry that he has missed something. He’s such a great Dad to those kids of ours, even though his job is bigger than most daddies. Even though the mummy he chose for his kids is a bit of a compromised control freak sometimes.

Happy Father’s Day honey.  You were worth the search.  Thanks for being such a good Daddy.