Brand New Mourning (sic)

Dreamtime Beach Fingal 1/1/2012

The afternoon before Jo and I were to catch a flight to Marrakech for what we thought would be a warm and exotic Christmas holiday, I received a phone call on my mobile. I was standing in line at a check out in FNAC Lausanne with my niece Kirsty and her husband Mitch, who were holidaying at our place in Switzerland. I checked the screen and saw that it was one of my brothers calling. I didn’t need to take the call to know what he was going to tell me. Kirsty walked outside as soon as she heard me greet my brother.
After eighty six years walking the planet my father had decided to call it a day. He’d had a personal struggle coming to terms with the loss of memory, the freedom to explore life on his terms and choosing to live how and where he wanted to over the last fifteen months. As difficult as that moment was for me personally, I was instantly and inwardly reassured that dad now had the freedom and painless peace he had been craving.
Jo, Kirsty, Mitch and I continued with our plan to finish our walk around the snow strewn, cobble stoned streets of Lausanne. But the desire had flown and we took a bus back to our apartment. Later that afternoon we drove Kirsty and Mitch to Geneva where they caught a flight to Iceland as the next stage in their planned European winter adventure. The following afternoon Jo and I were being driven to the airport to board a plane to Australia, via Dubai and Singapore with 22 hours of flight time and 24 hours of stopovers.
Miraculously my father had managed to get all his family together at Christmas, sans him. It was certainly something none of us had planned to do. And despite the sadness of seeing his favourite chair on the back verandah lying empty, and the absence of his reminisces and uncensored one liners, for me there was a definite sense of his spiritual presence. The body lies at rest. Spirit continues the journey.
Our five days in historic Marrakech had been converted into fifteen days in balmy Kingscliff, courtesy of Kirsty and Mitch’s beach front apartment. It was a perfect place for me to reflect and let go, to let go and reflect. Jo and I took every opportunity to walk barefoot along the kilometres of sand on our doorstep and to plunge headlong into the salt water bliss that we have missed so much in our European experience of the last eighteen months. This time out and the discussions that ensued, convinced us to honour our desire to return to this part of the world and to discover what is written on the next few pages for us, individually and collectively.
During the last couple of months we had been exploring the idea of returning to Australia at the end of June 2012, selling up in Maleny and relocating to Springbrook on the Gold Coast Hinterland. Our exploration had included making sure our reasoning for the move was valid, that our creative work and personal pursuits would be satisfied and that Springbrook was where we could be not only personally comfortable but of service to the wider community. Now we had been granted the opportunity to test our assumptions and findings beyond the confines of a thirteen inch, pixelated, MacBook screen.

Our first measure was the car journey from Mudgeeraba village to the Springbrook General Store. Now the Subaru Impreza is no Alfa Romeo, but thankfully the coastal mountains here are nothing like the Swiss Alps. Twenty minutes after we passed ‘Wallaby’ Bob Mc Master’s old pub we reached the sixty kilometre zone on the eastern fringe of Springbrook. Tick. At the first lookout opportunity we got out to see if the stunning views from the tourist info sites transferred unequivocally to the real life experience. Another tick. The next stage was to find our way along Springbrook Road to the Google Earth made familiar narrow, winding pathway that is Lyrebird Crescent. Immediately, everything from a Eucalypt to a letterbox was so familiar that Jo and I felt that we had been here so many times before. The houses we had been looking at online were waiting for us like old friends. Many of them were not quite as appealing as their sales pitch had romanticized them to our distance senses, but the real life sense of nature was greatly enhanced by being here in the moment. 
The village of Springwood is a small community of some 350 homes. All the houses sit on the edge of a high altitude (for coastal Australia) National Park. A National Park that overflows with waterfalls and abounds with wildlife. The lush rainforest vegetation keeps the temperatures eight to ten degrees lower than the heat that rises up from the coastal flats and ensures that the vital and expensive commodity called water is a freely available to all local inhabitants, no matter how many legs they have. The forest that lined the roadways reached across and down to greet us along with the darting paddymelons (small wallabies) and sluggish black skinks. The natural beauty was way beyond our expectations. Tick.

So far everything about our new proposed home place felt right . It was time to make some personal contact with locals, to see how the people we might be living next door to dealt with immigrants. After a drive by of all the local eateries we could find we settled on The Laughing Waters Cafe, beside the entrance to Purling Brook Falls National Park walks. Outside the cafe we realised we only had four dollars in cash. Jo asked a man sitting on the verandah if the cafe had EFTPOS and he told us they didn’t. We decided that I would have a coffee (which is always a vital component of social life for me) and we would get lunch somewhere else later.
And this is how inviting and welcoming communities work. When we got inside the lady working in the cafe asked us where we were from and what we were up to. She introduced herself as Anastasia. I ordered my coffee and she proceeded to make two coffees as we continued the discussion. I reminded Anastasia that we only wanted one coffee. And she replied, ‘My husband came in and told me that there were two really nice people outside who only had enough money to buy one coffee. He said to make sure that I gave you two coffees for the price of one.’
When Jo and I heard this we knew for sure we were in the right place. Real people. By the time we left Springbrook later that afternoon I had reconnected with some old friends in the village who I had known since 1983 and Jo and I had made two new friends. One of them was a lady called Sharon who was the beautiful owner of one Fairy Brook Cottage which she had recently put up for sale. Fairy Brook Cottage was love at first sight for both of us.

Our new pets

The rear boundary of Fairy Brook Cottage

Our forest

One of Sharon's chooks

From the front

On the first brand new morning of 2012 I drove up to Fingal on the very northern tip of New South Wales. I parked and walked through the forested headland to Dreamtime Beach then found my way up the track to the lighthouse and down to the Giants Causeway. I missed the sunrise by moments, the battery in my camera went flat after a dozen or so photos and my spare battery was also flat. So I just made the most of where I found myself. Sitting within the orchestra of persistent waves and seabirds, on a blanket of cloud filtered colour and the lovers scattered around me, who had brought their own blankets and cameras much like I had, to record another beginning. I took this opportunity to pray silently, to express my gratitude for all that I have been gifted and for the Love and beauty of memories. And I found peace. Thanks dad wherever you now are for your help in arranging this moment.

Dad 1946

  Robert John Campbell Swales

23/5/1925    -     19/12/2011
                                                                                              Dad with Huon 2009


  1. Wonderful story and tribute Rob. It will be great to have your energy and joy for life, return home.

  2. What a moving tribute to an obviously wonderful man - he was a major part of your life, Rob, and we all love you for who you are! Thank you for sharing in such a loving and poetic way the feelings in your heart. How blessed we are that you are returning to our shores - and to such an amazingly-you-and-Jodie retreat! Looking forward to seeing you soon, Much love to you and Jodie, Mary

  3. It does no harm just this once...
    Let google translator work a bit :-)

    Merci Rob pour cet émouvant récit et ces photos magnifiques. Je me réjouis de retrouver Lubna, Anoush et tous les enfants de l'EVAM à nouveau à tes côtés. Merci pour les Tim Tam ;-)

    See u soon!

    Silvia & Ge

  4. A lovely commentary Rob - so sorry to hear about your dad. Thinking of you all. Jen


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