The Gathering Place

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Cherry tree in full blossomed glory

When you live in Western New York and on top of a hill as we do, Spring can be long in coming and short in duration. Trees and flowers at the bottom of the hill on either side, has perhaps already bloomed two weeks ago. Forty-five minutes or so from us, the famous Rochester, NY Lilac Festival ended last week and our lilacs are barely budding. The winds are strong and fierce here, across the 100’s of acres of farmland in back and in front of our home. Winter is long here and is so often, accompanied by snow drifts several feet high, all around us. Atop the the hill, it seems an ideal place for the wind and rain and snow to blow and fly. It is what it is and unless you take this as complaining, it is more, just my observations.

My wife Susan and I, frequently gather on our small and narrow front porch. It was originally built as a two-season room with screens and storms and a screen-storm door. We thought replacing these with thermal pane, dual-glass windows and the door, would extend our usable time here. But the floor has no insulation and is built over a crawl space. Having so much of a wall of glass, there is not really room for much insulation there. And there is probably not much if any, above the ceiling.

We added a little electric heater that looks like a wood burning stove and it warms the room nice and toasty, while adding to our electric bill, considerably. But we love this room! Children, friends, family, Bella our cat and Lady our dog, and our seven grandchildren, love this room. Notice the many toys and Bella on one of the chairs, in the picture below. 🙂

Other than changing the windows, the door, adding a heater and installing an oak-look floating laminate floor, it really has not changed much, since Susan’s Mother and Father lived here. They were the first occupants since the place was built, in 1973. When the porch was enclosed or added-on (I’m not sure which),  her father installed rough-sawn paneling and the ceiling fan we still use today. I can say for myself and think it true for Susan too, it is our favorite room, in all our home!

Our Favorite Room
Sunrise and bird good morning

Most of the furniture has been in the family, for many years. The couch and two chairs were refinished, repaired and re-covered with a blue-jean color, cotton jean-like material. The couch has at times and the floor next to it, has been covered with napping bodies of friends and family. Other furniture is also, family heirloom. Family pictures and military paraphernalia adorn the interesting wall of carefully designed and saw-cut paneling, and are a continual tribute to the man that built this porch, Susan’s Dad. The room is nothing fancy or expensive. It is comfortable, just wonderfully comfortable!

Susan and I often gather here in the morning with our coffee and look out and watch the birds. We also gather here for drinks at Happy Hour, around 5 PM. These are those special times we share together and converse about life and are still getting to learn something new about one another. I call these times, ‘Sips with Susan’! 🙂

Whenever I finish my book, ‘The Gathering Place Feast Book’ (How anyone can turn their home into a five-star culinary experience), under the category of beverages, it too will be called, ‘Sips with Susan’. 🙂

But, for the long wait of spring at the top of the hill, at ‘The Gathering Place’, I came up with not a bit solace, for a sorrowed soul, but anticipation, for whenever Spring in full arrives and for how little in time it may last? For myself, while waiting for anything, any little subtle changes, anything new, it causes me to get excited and my heart all twitter-patted, in anticipation and appreciation!

“They who wait for Spring the longest, appreciate it the most!”


Our lilacs just coming
Azalea just this morning
Susan’s birthday sculpture – hummingbird made with spoons













But Susan, just this morning, during ‘Sips with Susan’, wrote the following. It captures it all perfectly, from our little comfy-cozy porch, atop the hill at The Gathering Place.

Our red-bud is almost ready




The Gathering Place

By Susan Meech Hayden
©️ 2019, all rights reserved

Our Gathering Place, on top the hill we wait at morn or eve
For sun to rise, burst forth and shine, then sink to take its leave.
Sometimes the sun plays hide and seek in clouds of grey or white
Or mist and fog might cover the fields and stretch beyond our sight.
Our little home, through nature’s powers,
We sit content, because it’s ours.
Oh, from our hill the stage is set for every kind of weather
The blustery winds, the snow and cold, but we stay warm together
We wait for spring’s array of colors beneath the sullen skies
It lags behind, but now and then, bursts forth before our eyes.


Categories: Beauty, DREAM, Family & Friends, Flowers, Home, Inspiration, Making Memories, Poetry, Simplicity, Spring, The Gathering Place, Things that really matter, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Robin Report

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by Dahni
© 2015, all rights reserved


The American Robin is, a more sure harbinger and prognosticator of spring, than Punxsutawney Phil the ground hog, could ever be, in his or her, wildest dreams.

Robins are actually, part of the family of thrushes. They received their familiar name from homesick European settlers in the United States, many years ago. They were reminded of their beloved and familiar little Robin Red-breast, which has a color pattern brighter, but somewhat similar to our robin, even though the two are, not closely related.

Years ago, there was a median strip between our home (then) and our neighbor’s property. In the middle of this strip of land was a Hawthorne tree with long and potentially hurtful thorns. Trust me they hurt, having been pricked by them, more than a few times. The berries are bright red orange and often stay on the tree throughout the winter. The reason for this is quite simple. Their berries are not considered to be, culinary fowl fare or bird yum yums. 🙂

Most wintering critters and birds don’t care for them, that is, until one snowy wintry, February morning. I happened to look outside our bedroom window and right below in this Hawthorne tree was, at least a hundred robins. In about a half an hour, they picked the tree clean. There was not a single berry left. I was astounded!

I had never seen so many robins before and I did not know they would group like this. So, I did some research.

I suppose, I never really thought about where robins go in the winter? I guess I never entertained the idea that they migrate, but they do. Curiously, first of all, some, for some unknown reason, will winter farther up north in Canada (We live in NY). But others, will migrate thousands of miles, from Vancouver Island to as far south as, Guatemala. Some will just hang around where they are.

Robins are of only, just a few type of birds that change their diet. They will eat nuts, seeds and berries (even those nasty Hawthorne berries), insects and grubs and their favorite delicacy, earthworms. Obviously in February, it was still a little cold for earthworms. But the interesting thing I have come to understand about the robins I saw in February is, they were all male. The males return before their females to begin building their nests, scoping out new or defending their territory. And how do they defend their turf – by singing, sometimes fighting, but a good song seems to be, what works best, most of the time.

After the male robins first appear, the spring rains begin soon thereafter. When the grounds become saturated, the earthworms come up for air. From the time the males show up and the rains fall is, around two weeks. Right on cue, about two weeks after the males, the females arrive hungry from the long flight and earth worms are easy to find. Contrary to what I thought and perhaps many others as well, robins do NOT hear the earthworms underground, they see them on the top of the waterlogged soil. I know, we’ve all seem them pecking on the ground when it looks like there’s nothing there, don’t they really hear the worms? Just remember, their eyesight is far superior to ours. They can see the smallest movement of leaves and earth and KNOW, something alive is moving!

So dear friends and family of, The Gathering Place, robins are, the sure sign that spring has sprung! 🙂

 Robin song mp3 on SoundCloud (may not work on Apple devices)


YouTubeIcon32X32Robin Song on YouTube



The following poem which inspired by these robins was, posted on another one of my blogs at: Dahni Daily, Februrary, 21, 2010. It was written right around the time the robins first appeared in the Hawthorne tree. They did come back the next year, but only around 30. That was the last time I saw them in such numbers or in that tree. We moved to where we live now at: The Gathering Place. But we still see robins here. I can’t wait to see them soon and report that spring here, has definitely arrived! I hope you enjoy the following poem.

A Sure Sign

By Dahni, © 2010, all rights reserved

The Hawthorne berry bright red

Seemingly an attractive fruit,

But most unsavory,

For they last the whole of winter,

Undisturbed and uneaten.

A robin one or two or few,

A sure sign of spring,

Though long after the snows melt,

And the rains come,

And the worms surface.

Two years ago, about a week,

Before the end of February,

Hundreds of robins picked the Hawthorne clean,

In minutes,

Their migratory mates followed two weeks later,

And brought spring with them.

Today, about a week,

Before the end of February,

Many robins sat in the Hawthorne;

My heart was lightened,

Though snow still upon the ground,

And in the air,

Surely their mates are on the way,

And bringing with them,


From the collection: ‘As it Happened – Collections of Recollections, by the same author
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 So, what is, your robin report? Are they where you are yet? Is it spring where you are yet?

Categories: Beauty, Birds, Family & Friends, Poetry, Robins, Spring, Uncategorized, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: The Caged Bird Released, Sings and Flies Free

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

Dr. Maya Angelou

April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014



Dear Maya,

You have sung in your cage, sung in Your release and now You sing, flying free! I cannot offer up Your praise and give words of your many accomplishments. There are many others that knew You, knew You well and that can do the far better telling. I can only shed my own tears of the sad and of the joy. I can only say here, what You mean to me. I call You Maya because, it’s deeply personal and You are this to me, as if I have always known You, though I have never met You, though as if I have! We are not related. Our skins and sins are not the same. We came here to life at different times. All that I may leave here pales, to what, You have left. But I love You and I know You loved me because, You lived!

Your first book, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ set You not upon your path, but it brought many to you and my seeking heart to your path and with your smile, You bid any and all, welcome!

Maya's 1st book

Maya’s 1st book

I always thought of You as my dear and trusted aunt, though I never had the privilege of meeting You. You were born in my home state of Missouri. You lived in Arkansas and I first met of You, when I lived there. I will never forget Your performance in the 1995 movie, ‘How to Make an American Quilt!’ You had only a small part. You did neither write it nor directed it. You were not its narrator. Your character was Anna. You told the story of, “the story quilt.” You are the “story quilt.” You were the master quilter and brought every person into this story. And it is brilliant and so deep and has so many meanings on so many levels. It was more than about a quilt for one woman. It was more than just about women or a movie for women. It was about people, all people. Ignorance makes us all slaves to something or to someone. But together are we freed, WE the many different and beautiful “shreds,” make up ‘An American Quilt!’  ‘An American Quilt,’ is by far, my favorite movie of all time. To me, You were the whole movie! I cannot imagine it being written, directed, acted or presented without You. All the great acting, music and sets were the background. You are its subject. You are the quilting needle; WE are the quilt!


“It’s a story quilt.  It’s meant to be read.” 

“That summer the Grasse quilting bee did something they’ve never done before. Anna called everyone back and wouldn’t let them go home until they finished the quilt. They all worked [straight through the night] sustained by Anna’s will and gallons of ice tea.”


Young lovers seek perfection. 

Old lovers learn the art of sewing shreds together

 and of seeing beauty in a multiplicity of patches  


“As Anna says about making a quilt, you have to choose your combination carefully. The right choices will enhance your quilt. The wrong choices will dull the colors, hide their original beauty. There are no rules you can follow. You have to go by your instinct. And you have to be brave.”

 excerpts from the transcript: ‘An American Quilt’


I hear You and see You and feel You in every frame of the whole movie and in the following video clip.



Your  last Tweet on Twitter:



Your last personal Facebook post was typical of, your concern for others



Maya’s FB Profile

Maya Angelou
May 26, 2014


“And now we come to the day [Memorial Day] where we can honor the brave men and women who have risked their lives to honor our country and our principles. Our history is rife with citizens who care and who are courageous enough to say we care for those who went before us.”


You earned three Grammys, spoke six languages, and were the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. You received two Presidential Medals of Honor from two separate presidents, one for Art and the most important, for Freedom.


On Thursday, May 28, 2014, you took your last breath and I was breathless when I knew.

On your Facebook page:

Your FB  profile

Your FB profile

Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:

Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.
Guy B. Johnson

You were a beautiful young girl, a beautiful young woman, a beautiful woman, and a beautiful lady in Your glorious sunset! There is no place for a beautiful mind to be shone, than shining out and upon, from within!

My favorite poem of Yours, I will share here to follow. You meant a lot to me personally, and I will greatly miss Your presence on this earth and in the life that I have left!

Still I Rise

by Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.



by Dahni

How does one summarize the impact of a single life? Indeed, there have been countless books penned, poems and paintings that have tried to capture this deep enigma. Perhaps the smallest sentence to have ever seized all the emotion of loss comes from the Bible,


“Jesus Wept!”


William Shakespeare from ‘King Lear,’ concluded a single life simply and plainly with the words,


“He died!”


But the things penned, the poems, the paeans, and paintings all try to show the eons of time, events and unique forming that brought forth the birth of a single life. And then they try to show the waves and connections and spheres of influence from all the moments and all the years of a single life. And thus a summing up of all that are touched by this single life may simply and plainly conclude –


They Lived!


No one can escape tears sometimes. Sometimes these droplets of one’s measured life are of great joy. Sometimes these droplets of one’s measured life are of great sorrow. The push of sorrow and the pull of joy is this not like a crib and are we not cradled of love? A life enters and exits, but leaves a cradle rocking. The push and pull continues. Turn the page, keep reading. Pen, poem and paint. Rock the cradle, for the point is


We live!


Note: a “paean” – any song of joy, praise or triumph

© 2011

From the collection: ‘Full Measure’ © 2008-2014 by the same author, all rights reserved

Even more than my ‘Cradle’ poem, You taught me to always trust love –

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time

and always one more time.”

Maya Angelou

Even more than my ‘Cradle’ poem, You taught me that all of us are shackled or we bear the scars of something that enslaves. But my favorite words from You are, only two.

“Love Liberates”

Maya Angelou


You sang in Your cage. You sang when Your caged was opened. You sing now in freedom’s flight. Many will fly because, of You.

I will rise

I will sing




Your loving liberated nephew,



Categories: Beauty, Birds, Family & Friends, Freedom, Inspiration, Joy & Sorrow, Life, Life & Death, Literature, Live Laugh Love, Love, Maya Angelou, Poetry, Saying Goodbye, Spiritual, The Gathering Place, Uncategorized, Visual Poetry, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: The Land of Oz

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

Today to you in the west is the 30th of April, 2014. Our last full day in Australia was on the 29th. The day before (4/28/14), we finally made it to the ocean. So for today’s post, even though we are already in Japan, spending the night and leaving for home on May 1st, I wanted to share some last minute OZ’ stuff with you. Most native Aussies pronounce Australia as, OZ- tralia.We have in many ways, felt like we have been in the land of OZ! 🙂

It's a BIG country

It’s a BIG country

But Australia is not only a country comprised of six states and two territories, it is also, a continent. We have never left the huge state of New South Wales. Not only have we not seen the rest of this beautiful and interesting country, we have not even scratched the surface of New South Wales!

We spent most of our time with family at their home in Camden, NSW, Australia. I personally, fell in love with this wonderful community! We went to Sydney, NSW, a couple of times, went to the Sydney Opera House, the Harbor area, downtown Sydney, the Chinese Friendship Garden, took a ferry boat ride to Toronga Zoo, and went to Sea World. Still, all of this is located in New South Wales. We rented a cottage for the weekend in Katoomba, New South Wales, in the Blue Mountains. On and on and so forth and even though we saw and experienced a lot in just over a month’s time, what do we really know about this wonderful country, not very much! And even though I took probably 1,000’s of pictures, if they all turn out and I shared them all with you, Australia has SO MUCH MORE to offer! And the same can be said of Japan as well!

But we made it to the ocean in Australia. And do you remember a few posts back while in Katoomba, NSW, I said we saw 100 or more sulfur crested cockatoos fly overhead? Perhaps you found that hard to believe, especially since there were no photos or videos to back up that claim.

I'm so pretty! Thanks for looking! HAVE A NICE DAY! :)

I’m so pretty! Thanks for looking! HAVE A NICE DAY! 🙂


Well, at the bottom of this post are two videos. 100 or so cockatoos flew over the home where we have been staying in, Camden, NSW, Australia. It was an early foggy morning with a little light rain. It was on our last full day here on 4/29/14. The videos show these same birds, perched in a couple of gum trees, in front of the house. Incredible, beautiful and NOISY! 🙂

The day before 4/28/14, we set out to see the ocean. The following unexpected road sign was seen while in route.

Koala Crossing

Koala Crossing

Road sign to the Ocean

Road sign on the way to the Ocean

We got to the ocean to Susan’s pure joy and delight! If I told you Susan loves the ocean, that would be an understatement, GREATLY UNDER-STATED!! 🙂

It was a nice drive there through some ‘bush’ of eucalyptus forests, past the koala crossing and with a gorgeous view of mountains until, we descended toward the beach. And there, was, a little sand path walk to the shore. It was a lovely cool day and a bit cloudy. It was definitely a remove-your-sandals-and-walk-barefoot-in-the-sand kind of day. There were huge barges and boats in the distance. Several surfers were out trying to, “catch some waves.” Jonathan and baby Felix, Susan and I walked and explored the beautiful beach and walked along the shoreline. But of course we rolled up our pant legs and dipped our feet in the water! It was wonderful! Susan and I collected a few shells to bring home and spied all kinds of washed-ashore plant life and a couple of little live creatures. One was a tiny hermit crab, walking with its shell still attached. There were large black rocks covered with barnacles. But after all is said and done, it’s all about the ocean!

Ocean I

Ocean I – our path to the beach

Ocean II

Ocean II

Ocean III

Ocean III

Ocean IV

Ocean IV

There was some driftwood and a huge chuck of timber that I pretended to be part of some shipreck that really did occur in this area in the late 1800’s. I found a little stick and, but of course, I had to write something in the sand!

With Love from Susan & Dahni on the beach in OZ-tralia :)

With Love from Susan & Dahni on the beach in OZ-tralia , 4/28/14 🙂

As our outing ended, I came back another way, up some stairs to a play area for kids, picnic area and public restrooms. They even had showers that I took advantage of and washed the sand from my feet, before putting my Keen sandals back on (And yes, brother Richard, my Keen’s stood up to sand, shore and salt-ocean-water. Our outing at the beach was short-lived, but WE LIVED! It was an appropriate one ending to our stay in Australia. Why did I use the words, “one ending?” Why, because, the very next morning, those 100 or so cockatoos from the Blue Mountains seemed to show up in Camden, (as if they followed us) and right in front of our house, JUST FOR YOU!!!! 🙂

But before this post ends and you see the little videos, we would like to take this time to thank all the wonderful Aussies, family and all our new friends that made this such a wonderful and memorable experience! Thank you one and all! We will never forget you! Missing you already! Guhday Mates and Maties or Sheilas! 🙂

Dahni in Susan

A Cockatoo Good Morning to You – Youutube video 1

If possible, watch this full screen and crank up the volume! 🙂

A Cockatoo Good Morning to You II – Youutube video 2

If possible, watch this full screen and crank up the volume! 🙂

Categories: Aussie, Australia, Australian Life, Beauty, Birds of Australia, cockatoos, Entertainment, Family & Friends, Japan, Missing You, Ocean, The Gathering Place, The Land Down Under, Travel, Visual Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Pretty & Cool

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

Pretty & Cool or Pretty Cool Part I

As you are waxing on your Sunday, our is waning in Australia. Soon it will be Monday here. We have only two days left until we leave early Wednesday for our flight to Tokyo, Japan on April 30th. After an overnight night there, we will take a flight to Chicago, IL, U.S.A. on May 1st, fly through yesterday and still arrive on May 1st, catch another plane and be in Rochester, NY around 2:15 PM est, on May 1st. Then it is about a 45 minute drive and we will be home!

This has been an incredible trip to Japan & Australia! There is so much from both countries I still want to share with you.

While still in Australia there was so much more I wanted to share, but the time fails me. I have taken thousands of pictures and many of them are acceptable to my very critical eye. But with the laptop I  have been using, problems with my camera, lack of software and other issues, I have been severely limited.

But there are places we went and things we did that I want to share and will, somehow in the future. Here is just a partial list of content I have not posted yet:

• Belgenny Farm (the birthplace of Australian agriculture)
• Out N’ About Sydney, Australia
• Beautiful sunrises and sunset
• Paddy’s Market (downtown Sydney shopping district
• More about Camden, Australia
• Our ferry boat ride in Darling Harbor, past the Sydney Opera House and underneath Harbor Bridge
• Susan’s & Caitlin’s High Tea
Sea Life Sydney Aquarium
• Taronga Zoo (truly a world class zoo in Sydney. I have so many pictures of animals and we proabably only saw 1/3 of the zoo)
• And so much more!

So, I have loaded over 60 pictures of just what I call in the post, Pretty & Cool or you could also just think of these as pretty cool! 🙂 But these are pictures taken over the month that we have been in Australia. The are pictures of flowers and plants mostly found here. Most of these I do not not know their names are really much about them other than, there are just to me, Pretty & Cool! 🙂

So I will pre-schedule 3 posts for the next three days (including today) and post about 20 or so pictures for each day with some simple captions with descriptions.

If I get an opportunity to post anymore before we get home to The Gathering Place, I may? I will try and continue posting about our trip when we get home ASAP. But, we have much to do when we get home for the month of may and June, but I will do the best that I can, when I can.

Thank You for your patience and understanding.


A neighbor's tree on Little St., Camden, NSW, Australia

A neighbor’s tree on Little St., Camden, NSW, Australia


A rose of many The Rose Cottage, Camden, NSW, Australia


Camden, NSW, Australia


Camden, NSW, Australia


Bottle Brush Tree, Camden, NSW, Australia


Closeup of Bottle Brush Tree, Camden, NSW, Australia


Even after the colors fade, the Bottle Brush Tree is still interesting, Belgenny Farm, Camden Park Estate, Camden, NSW, Australia


Closeup of faded Bottle Brush Tree, Belgenny Farm, Camden Park Estate, Camden, NSW, Australia


Just another ‘Pretty,’ in Camden, NSW, Australia


Gorgeous Rose, Somewhere in Australia


Another ‘Pretty’ Taronga Zoo, Sydney, NSW, Australia


Bird of Paradise, Taronga Zoo, Sydney, NSW, Australia


Interesting hangy-downy-thingies somewhere on an Australian tree 🙂


A pretty lorikeet eating pretty red petals, right outside our living room window on Little Street, Camden, NSW, Australia


Closeup of pretty lorikeet eating pretty red petals, right outside our living room window on Little Street, Camden, NSW, Australia


This cactus at the end of the street, budded shortly after we got here. There must have been over a 100 buds. Only 1-2 blooms


Closeup of bloom and buds


The blooms only bloom once and only two buds blossomed and as of 4/26/14 this is how the cactus now looks


All the buds and 2 blooms disappeared. This little red I saw the morning of 4/26/14

Categories: Australia, Australian Life, Beauty, Belgenny Farm, Birds of Australia, Birds of Paradise, Blue Mountains, Camden, Family & Friends, Harbor Bridge, Homeward Bound, Japan, Katoomba, Missing You, Plants & Cool Stuff from Australia, Sydney, Taronga Zoo, The Chinese Friendship Garden, The Gathering Place, The Land Down Under, Travel, Uncategorized, Visual Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Anzac Day

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

Caveat lector – LATIN “Let the reader beware”

Dear Friends and Family,

This will be a very long post. I realize that you may have many things that you deem more important than reading my blog and because of the length of that to follow, this post, but I promise you that it will be well worth your time! Our purpose singularly, in visiting Japan and Australia was to meet two of our newest grandsons for the very first time and to be with family and friends we have not seen in a long time. It is like a vacation too and like an exploration to us, of the new and unknown. I try with all my ability to immerse myself in all that I do. Whether or not you believe me, I do this mostly, for you! In much that I do, I think, I must live live inside my head and within my heart and perhaps I should instead, just be living life. I think that I am living, but I just know of no other way to be, then who and what I am. I take things and feel things deeply and my sincerest hope for you in reading this post is that you will find something that moves you as deeply as it has and does. so moves me. Perhaps it will even change your life or transform it? It is for this purpose that I have written the following, as best that I know how. I have written it for you!!!

If I could wish and my wishes could come true, I’d wish I could type (keystroke) faster, think faster, think smarter, use less words, but capture exactly what I feel that you feel exactly what I try to write and that it may be understood by anyone!!!


Guhday mates from Dahni, your ANZAC Day guide

Guhday mates from Donnie, your ANZAC Day guide

On Friday April 25th, 2014, Australia, will commemorate the 99th year memorial of ANZAC Day.

Until quite recently, I had never heard of ANZAC Day. It has been an evolving rote (basic) understanding for me of not just the event of historical relevance, but its far-reaching significance to the world. As this is being written, the sun has already set here in Australia and I scramble to complete this post in time, for you of the West that will soon begin your sunrise on Friday.

We were informed of ANZAC Day by email from a family member, before we arrived in Australia. I thought there was some connection between the Netherlands and Australia, but I could not quite understand it. But there was a U.S. connection that I did understand and you will understand this as well, at the conclusion of this post and the video at the very end.

Then, I started to see that there was a connection between Australia and New Zealand, but it still, was unclear to me, what this was.

Then, we were downtown in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, in Hyde Park. There, in this beautiful and massive park stands, the ANZAC Memorial.


ANZAC Memorial, Hyde Park, Sydney, NSW, Australia


That ANZAC Day is important to the Australians, is another public holiday, and not relative to me (or so I thought), was all becoming more clear to me.

I knew today was related to Gallipolli, war, April 25 and 1915 and this is about all I understood. In the United States we have Veterans Day and I thought it was just something unique to us as, ANZAC Day is to Australia and New Zealand. I still did not yet understand, the connections and associations and involvement of many people and many countries throughout the world, with this particular day.

I do understand and have great respect for honoring not the dead, but the purposes for which they loved, lived and died. I remember seeing my own countrymen spit on our own returning veterans from the Vietnam conflict. I use the word “conflict, on purpose, for it was never declared a war by my government. This seems to be an all too often ploy, to conduct, for all practical purposes, war without having the US Congress involved, in declaring it so. I understand that many of our returning service men and women were treated poorly, because of the nation’s vehement desire to protest it; were against it and unfortunately, those that got caught in the crossfire by many of us, WE the People, were our own people; our own brothers and sisters; our service men and women! Things have changed since then. There is more respect bestowed, more honor given and it is all, more than deserved and far, far less, than they deserve! After all, because of men and women like these the world over, every country to some degree or another, enjoys the liberty, the freedoms, the prosperity and the peace that we all do. I understand the simple act of recognizing one who has served or is serving by saying, THANK YOU, and shaking their hand!” If not for such as these, the world in its entirety, would be in slavery, in bondage and not know liberty!

But the meaning of all this has come to mean, so much more to me!

On Thursday night April 24th, 2014, I was walking through the downtown area of Camden, New South Wales, Australia. I went into a local clothing store called, ‘The Looking Class.’ I was surprised to find them open at this hour, but was later informed that Thursday nights are a normal time to shop here and most stores would be closed the next day, on Friday due to the holiday.

My purpose in stopping there was to thank them for trying to locate an Akurbra hat for me, which I later found in Katoomba, NSW, Australia, during our visit to the Blue Mountains. I also wanted to ask if there was a special brush I could purchase from them to keep my hat clean. And, having nearly had my hat blown off my head by the wind here, I was curious as to a solution to prevent this from happening in the future. Though the wind was slight and more than I had previously or since experienced while in Australia, where we live on top of a hill in Macedon, New York, in the United States of America, the winds can be quite fierce and on a regular basis.  I do not want to lose my hat!

The owner and his wife were both present and I thanked them, for their efforts in trying to locate a ‘Coolibah,’ Akurbra, in my size and asked my questions. Bob promptly showed me a leather chinstrap made of Kangaroo hide and made in Australia. He promised that if I brought in my hat, he would install the strap for me at no charge, even though I did not purchase my hat from them.

We chatted about many things, my impressions of Australia and they shared some history of their country, the community of Camden and even explained some Aussie phrases to me. 🙂

Bob is a member of the Camden Community Band along with our son Jonathan and asked me if either Jon was going to perform with the band the following morning and would I be attending the sunrise service for ANZAC Day on Friday? I told them that Jonathan could not attend. I knew very little about this public holiday, even though we viewed, the 1981 movie, ‘Gallipoli,’ soon after we first arrived in Australia.

Movie DVD cover art starring Mel Gibson

1981 Movie DVD cover art
starring Mel Gibson & Mark Lee

I still did not understand and because, from a military point of view, this battle, for which ANZAC Day is remembered, was basically a failed campaign with many losses of life!

Still, the day is important enough to Australia to declare it a national holiday. And it was obviously important to Bob. He had a wonderful display in their store window.

Looking Class Store Window Display

Looking Class clothing store window display

The Looking Class

The Looking Class Clothing Store

Bob informed me that the service would begin at 5:20 AM the next morning. I will never forget my response to his question, am I going! “Who on God’s earth would be awake at this time of the morning,” I sarcastically replied. But I did leave their store with the suggestion that I might show up.

I have been awakened often at 5:00 AM here anyway, because the three cats that live here. If our door is not all the way closed, all three will come into our room to try and wake me up to feed them. One even walks across the head of our bed, and my head, to get to the nightstand and will literally tap the button on the alarm clock to make the radio come on, if all else fails to rouse me from sleep. 🙂

But, I decided to set the alarm on my smart phone, for 4:50 AM and give this sunrise service a shot.

The alarm went off as scheduled; I got up and dressed; then walked maybe four minutes, to where the service was to be held at, The Camden Rose Garden. While I was walking, I noticed to my surprise, the streets were already starting to be lined on both sides with vehicles. I saw a few people out, here and there. Then, as I rounded the corner of the street to where the service was to be held, I beheld something totally unexpected! Hundreds of people were already gathering at the Memorial Rose Garden. Police closed the street to traffic and set up and manned blockades at both ends. As I walked closer, the crowd of people grew larger.

Here were the young and elderly people, male and female, whole families with their children (some still in their pajamas) and groups of families and friends all walking towards the center of attention. The morning was overcast and it was not supposed to rain. There was only a slight 10% chance, but after 10:00 AM. While I walked closer, the band promptly began to play at 5:20 AM.

As I drew closer, I could see that the musicians had their music stands with little lights on them so that they could read the music before them and play their instruments. I saw many men and women dressed in uniform, scouts and various youth groups were dressed in uniform and there were several in their street clothes that had medals on their overcoats and jackets. The temperature was cool and delicious. I only wore a single long sleeve shirt, long pants, shoes and socks. Some that gathered had clear plastic raincoats and others had umbrellas, many of which, had the Australian Flag as part of the design when opened. On occasion, the then crescent moon shined through the clouds and the area had the benefit of a few streetlamps to provide light.

ANZAC Day sunrise service, video clip

As the band finished the first song, an announcer over a speaker greeted the people and thanked them for coming and for proving him wrong, as it was reported that there were hundreds of people there! By the time the service was over (approximately 1 hour in length), there must have been thousands present at such an early hour, including myself, the least among them, to know why I was there.

The band played another tune and then there was a pause. The people stood motionless and quiet. A few kookaburra birds supplied some vocals. Then the announcer began to explain the purpose of this service and gave a brief introduction of what was to come, named the featured speaker and other dignitaries that had come to participate. The people and every child stood still and were still. It started to rain and I prayed fervently that it would cease. It mattered not, no one moved or even flinched. A few lifted their umbrellas and some were in raincoats, but the rest of the crowd would not be moved by any amount of rain. Thankfully, the rain stopped.

Youth groups in uniforms marched. Planes unseen in the clouds above, flew quietly overhead, out of respect. Every ear listened, as this memorial was far more than to honor those that had fought and died, for what they believed was right and sacrificed the full measure of their devotion, with their lives. Left behind were families that perhaps, would never see their sons, brothers, relatives, friends, or husbands anymore, and children that may have never known their fathers. Left behind were those free to aspire to careers as doctors, engineers, scientists and all manner of free-to-choose paths, FREE from tyranny. Left behind would be those that would live with privilege, not ever knowing war and its many losses and its many changes that many would take long to recover from and some perhaps, not ever. What a wonderful lesson these children and I were being instructed and inspired with! Many of these children, I found out later, did not have to be there so early, they wanted to be!

The beautiful and soaring vocals of woman, along with the band, filled the air and every heart. One by one and group by group, many came forward from the crowd and laid a wreath of honor with the simple and singularly repeated banner, “LEST WE FORGET.” 

Something familiar as, “We will remember, We will never forget,” and other such phrases came to my mind, but…

…But the meaning of all this has come to mean, so much more to me!

The featured speaker was an active military person. His assignment was to bring home fellow soldiers, those that had completed their assignments, were injured and those that fell from the Iraqi war and Afghanistan. It did not matter from which country they hailed. His task this morning was to express what ANZAC Day meant to him. He began his brief remarks with a sincere and humble apology, should he stumble over his words, if his voice should crack or if he could not speak the full content of his words. It was a highly emotional speech. I recall some of it. His job and his team’s mission was to bring “their” soldiers home, period, whatever it took, from whatever country they may have come from! They joked as the plane was loaded and ready to take off, to an unseen enemy, “give us your best shot!” At that very moment, a single bullet rang out and hit. An american soldier that just moments before was showing pictures of his wife and family, smiling and looking so forward to going home, was instantly dead. Our morning speaker mentioned other similar events, his voice quivered, but stayed strong and true. “All our soldiers, we bring home,” he said, with out reservation or hesitation!

I must confess that I was literally in tears. I cannot recount how moved I was and how privileged I felt to be alive, to have been in Australia and to have participated in this early morning service that was purposed to be on or about the same time in 1915, when the soldiers fought and died the morning of April 25th.

There I was, some 9,000 miles away from our home, in another country; at nearly the bottom of the world, before dawn. I cannot imagine what those in 1915 must have felt that day, so far from their loved ones and on foreign soil!

But the meaning of all this has come to mean, so much more to me!

ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the first campaign that led to major casualties for Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, whose soldiers were known as Anzacs. Anzac Day remains one of the most important national occasions of both Australia and New Zealand, a rare instance of two sovereign countries that not only share in the same remembrance day, but making reference to both countries in its name. When war broke out in 1914, Australia and New Zealand had been dominions of the British Empire for thirteen and seven years respectively.

But Anzac Day has become a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all, “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations,” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served. though originally, April 25th was to honor the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

But the meaning of all this has come to mean, so much more to me!

Today, is also, a very special Day for the Dutch in the Netherlands, the Turkish people, the Greeks, and as it should be to Canada, Great Britain, the United States, and in my opinion, the whole world.

“The Gallipoli peninsula TurkishGelibolu YarımadasıGreek:Καλλίπολη) is located in Turkish Thrace (or East Thrace), the European part of Turkey, with the Aegean Sea to the west and the Dardanelles straits to the east. Gallipoli derives its name from the Greek “Καλλίπολις” (Kallipolis), meaning “Beautiful City”. In antiquity, it was known as the Thracian Chersonese (LatinChersonesus ThracicaGreekΘρακική Χερσόνησος).

In ancient times, the Gallipoli Peninsula was known as the Thracian Chersonesus (“Chersonesus” means “peninsula”) to the Greeks and Romans. it was the location of several prominent towns, including CardiaPactya, Callipolis (Gallipoli), AlopeconnesusSestosMadytos, and Elaeus. The peninsula was renowned for its wheat. It also benefited from its strategic importance on the main route between Europe and Asia, as well as from its control of the shipping route from Crimea. The city of Sestos was the main crossing-point on the Hellespont (Dardanelles).”

Source: Wikipedia

After the sunrise service, there was a parade downtown around 10 AM the same morning. Susan and I made the short walk and arrived shortly before it began. A lady close to us on the corner, was wearing a sprig of rosemary on her blouse. I asked her why and she told us it is a spice for remembering and used symbolically on ANZAC Day. Camden has rosemary growing all over downtown! We struck up a conversation with this lady who has lived in Australia for eight years. She was born and raised in Cyprus, part of Greece and she explained the Greek connection to ANZAC DAY. She broke off two sprigs of rosemary, one for Susan and I and withdrew two small safety pins from her purse and pinned us! A man came by and offered anyone that wanted one, a free Australian Flag. So this is the information about my picture above. But most important, the connections are all starting to connect for me.

Susan enjoying the parade

Susan enjoying the parade

1,000's of the people of Camden came out

1,000’s of the people of Camden came out

Girl carrying one of the many wreaths

A girl carrying one of the many wreaths

The Memorial at the Rose Garden

The Memorial at the Rose Garden

"Lest We Forget"

“Lest We Forget”

Though the following video displays uniforms and symbolism perhaps specifically only familiar to the people of the United States, cannot the same truths and emotions be understood, shared and felt among all the peoples of the world?!

“Hey Brother”

In World War 2, twenty-two thousand Australians were captured defending Malaya, Singapore, and the Netherlands and the East Indies. An estimated 8031 died in captivity as Prisoners-of-War (POWs) of the Japanese.

Some 13000 Australian POWs were transported to Burma and Thailand to work on the 420 kilometre (about 261 miles) Burma–Thailand Railway, where nearly 2650 Australians died — from disease, deprivation and horrendous brutality at the hands of their captors. This was known as and perhaps for infamy (in shame), the ‘Railway of Death.’

But the meaning of all this has come to mean, so much more to me!

In Turkey, the name “ANZAC Cove” was officially recognized by the Turkish government on Anzac Day in 1985. In 1934, Kemal Atatürk delivered the following words to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. This was later inscribed on a monolith at Ari Burnu Cemetery (ANZAC Beach) which was unveiled in 1985. The words also appear on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial, Canberra, and the Atatürk Memorial in Wellington:

“Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well.”

But the meaning of all this has come to mean, so much more to me!

The Netherlands connect with and share much in common with ANZAC DAY.

In commemorating the 20th anniversary of The Netherlands liberation, the Dutch government commissioned trumpet player, Nini Rosso and Guglielmo Brezza, to compose a piece of music. It was written in 1965 and first played in 1965, May 5th.

The piece is instrumental, with a small spoken Italian lyric, notable for its trumpet theme. Its thematic melody is, an extension of the same Italian Calvary bugle call, used by Russian composer Tchaikovsky, to open his ‘Capriccio Italien’ and often mistaken for the United States bugle call, ‘Taps.’ It has become a world wide instrumental standard.

The reason for the commissioning of this music was to honor those in a cemetery in the Dutch city of Maastricht. For there lie buried, 8,301 American soldiers, who died in “Operation Market Garden,” in the battles to liberate Holland in the fall and winter of 1944-45. Everyone of the men buried in the cemetery, as well as those in the Canadian and British military cemeteries has been adopted by a Dutch family, who tend the grave and keep alive the memory of the soldier they have adopted. It is the custom to keep a portrait of “their,” foreign soldier, in a place of honor in their homes. Annually, on “Liberation Day,” Memorial Services are held for “the men, who died to liberate Holland.” The day concludes with a concert, at which, “Il Silenzio” (The Silence) has always been, the concluding piece.

Il Silenzio contains the following spoken lines:

Buona notte, amore
Ti vedrò nei miei sogni
Buona notte a te che sei lontana
Good night, love
I’ll see you in my dreams
Good night to you who are far away.

In 2008, the soloist was a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Melissa Venema, backed by André Rieu and the Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands.


“Il Silenzio” 

The Silence

But the meaning of all this has come to mean, so much more to me!

We the peoples of the world are connected, by so much more than we may realize. I am not advocating that we abandon our individual dates of importance or our cultures. I am not even suggesting that we all share in some world wide special international holiday. In silence we all should not just remember what people have died for, but for what purpose have they lived.

The United States, in our Declaration of Independence of 1776, put into writing, the hopes and dreams of every man, woman and child for all times past, for the present and for all our futures; ALL PEOPLE OF THE WORLD! Are the peoples of the world all not connected by the fervent desire, for “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness!” We should remember those that lived and died for these things the world over as well as, those that live now and have resolved to give their lives to those ends if called for. But we who are alive and live with the privileges of those sacrifices made for us, should remember that we all desire the same things and to live this way, to teach our children, and avoid any conflict,

“Lest we forget!” 

And these are not merely lofty sentiments or unreal expectations. For the purpose of life is to live. The right of life is liberty. The desire of every life is the pursuit of individual happiness.

Over nine thousand miles away from home, in a foreign country; at almost the bottom of the world, I have seen this and experienced it in the coming together of the people here in Camden, New South Wales, Australia, on this ANZAC Day, 2014!

For this day, they were all a part of me and I was one with them. May I return to my own homeland with this same heart and share it,

“Lest I Forget!

Categories: ANZAC Day, Australia, Australian Life, Beauty, Family & Friends, Holidays, Inspiration, Japan, The Gathering Place, The Global Village, The Land Down Under, Things that really matter, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: A Cockatoo Good Morning to You

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

On Friday April 11, 2014, after we checked in at our cottage in Katoomba, NSW, Australia in the Blue Mountains, Susan and Jonathan and I went to town to find some food for super. Caitlin, baby Felix and Fritz the dog stayed behind at the cottage.

The cottage had a large open space for the living, dining and breakfast area, with a high cathedral ceiling. The west wall was all glass and outside was a large wooden deck. Two large cedar trees were on each side of the deck.

The view of the Blue Mountains towards the frot of the deck or due west was incredible! It was the perfect place to view the sunrise, sunset, moon-rise,  moon-fall and the many coolabah (eucalyptus or gum) trees rising mysteriously in the distance. These trees hosted many cockatoos and other birds. Throughout our weekend, we could see them fly over and sunset and sunrise and perch in the trees. And, outside on the deck was a wonderful place to hear the cacophony of sounds and breathe the fresh clean mountain air and reflect on life, chill or just be at peace.

But as we three, on our first evening here, crossed the street from our cottage, at least 100 cockatoos flew overhead, just around sunset. We we brought food home for Caitlin and told her about this, she let us know that she saw the same group of birds fly overhead and land in the trees, in front of the deck of our cottage!

Personally, I’ve only ever seen any of these beautiful birds in zoos and as pets back home in the United States, but and never so many and flying-living free in Australia!!! 🙂

Although I was not able to capture this extraordinary sight with my camera, four cockatoos showed up the morning we left for home. One in particular, seemed more than willing to pose just for you! So I share this ‘Cockatoo Good Morning with You!’

Good Morning from our cottage deck in the Blue Mountains

Good Morning from our cottage deck in the Blue Mountains

Four Cockatoos

Four Cockatoos

Curious Cockatoos

Curious Cockatoos

Strutting Stuff

Strutting Stuff

Got any food?

Got any food?

Sure I'll pose for you!

Sure I’ll pose for you!

Look at me!

Look at me!

Are you looking at me?

Are you looking at me?

It is a beautiful morning!

It is a beautiful morning!

See how high I can sit in the tree!

See how high I can sit in the tree!

I'm so pretty! Thanks for looking! HAVE A NICE DAY! :)

I’m so pretty! Thanks for looking! HAVE A NICE DAY! 🙂

Categories: Australia, Australian Life, Beauty, Birds of Australia, Blue Mountains, cockatoos, Eucalyptus Trees, Family & Friends, Inspiration, Japan, Katoomba, Photography, The Gathering Place, The Land Down Under, Travel, Uncategorized, Visual Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Cottage in the Mountains

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

Guhday Mates, from Dahni your Aussie Blue Miuntain Cottage Guide

Guhday Mates, from Donnie your Aussie Blue Mountains, cottage guide

On April twelfth through the morning of the 14, 2014 we rented a cottage in The Blue Mountains, in the city of Kat0omba, New South Wales, Australia.

It was a wonderful place full of antiques, plush thick big towels and all the necessary things for comfort as you could imagine. They even had the refrigerator stocked with food which we gladly added to with what we brought and enjoyed some cooking at our home away from home.

The cottage was called: Sidney’s Retreat (Not Sydney, but I think they live there) and is named after the owner’s wife, I believe.

Hot water was supplied by a Rinnai tank-less water heater, so we always had hot water. There was a microwave, coffee/espresso/cappuccino machine, four slice toaster, plates, and other cookware and utensils, silverware, spices, an assortment of coffees and teas.

We had a wood burning fireplace with plenty of wood, but no kindling to start one. Jonathan and I manged to burn a roll of toilet paper and some paper towels for a short-lived fire, due to the wood still being damp and no kindling, but we had a great time trying.

There were gas or electric heaters in every room – each of the two bedrooms, the bathroom and the kitchen/dining/living room = Great room with a vaulted ceiling. There were electric blankets in every bedroom. There were toys for children, a high chair for Baby Felix, DVD movies, a falt screen TV, books even playing cards which we four used a couple of nights.

The deck outside was massive and even supplied a grill if we were inclined to use it. There was an outside table and chairs for 6-8 people. The deck overlooked an interesting classic, ancient Greek/Romanesque courtyard, of stone and statues in process. All of us concurred that we would love to live in this place! 🙂

This was agreat place to explore and visit the town of Katoomba (more about this in another post). But after all is said and done, it’s all about the view from the Great Room or from the deck! The Blue Mountains were right in our back yard!!

Jonathan & Susan at the gate to our cottage

Jonathan & Susan at the gate to your cottage

No. 36 Laurline St

No. 36 Lurline St., your temp. address in Katoomba, NSW, Australia

Path to home away from home

Pathway to your home away from home

Your Front Door

Your Front Door

What's this Samsung thing? Touch your palm to the face?

What’s this Samsung thing? Touch your palm to the face?

Press the two numbers that show (different each time)

Press the two numbers that show (different each time)

A full panel display, insert the four digit password followed by the pound sign and the door opens! AWESOME! i want one of these!!! :)

A full panel display, insert the four digit password followed by the pound sign and the door opens! AWESOME! I want one of these!!! 🙂


Your Bedroom

Our Bed. Rm. with chairs and stuffed toys for kids

Your bed rm. with chairs and stuffed toys and stuff for kids

Big room bath with shower and claw legged tub and the room had a skylight

Big room bath with shower and claw legged tub and the room had a skylight

Living area of Great Rm.

Living area of Great Rm.

I loved the old telephone! wing, wing, wing, Hehwo! :)

I loved the old telephone! wing, wing, wing, Hehwo! 🙂

Part of the spacious kitchen

Part of the spacious kitchen

Outside looking in

Outside looking in

Jonathan, Caitlin, baby Felix and Fritz the dog even had an old pump organ in their room that Jonathan played. This video is for you, Janet Beaman! 🙂

It's All about the View

It’s All about the View from our deck!

It's All about the View II

It’s All about the View II

It's All about the View III

It’s All about the View III

It's All about the View IV

It’s All about the View IV

It's All about the View V

It’s All about the View V

It's All about the View VI

It’s All about the View VI

Categories: Aussie, Australia, Beauty, Blue Mountains, Entertainment, Family & Friends, Food, Fun, Inspiration, Japan, Katoomba, Photography, Simplicity, The Gathering Place, The Land Down Under, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Stuff

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

Guhday Mates, from Dahni your Aussie Tour Guide

Guhday Mates, from Donnie your Aussie Tour Guide

We just recently returned from the Blue Mountains where we rented a rustic cottage with a gorgeous overlook in Katoomba, NSW, (New South Wales), Australia. While I’m picking and choosing the pictures, I’ll give you an update and background information.

The day before we left, baby Felix came down with the croup. Mom, Papa and Grandma took him to the emergency room about 5:00 am – 7:30. I held down the fort with the three cats, one dog and the three chickens (Chooks).

Felix received some medicine and was given instructions that he should definitely go to the Blue Mountains and that all should enjoy the weekend! We followed those instructions to the letter! 🙂

Today, Tuesday 4/15, he went to the doctor and we received a good report. He is a happy boy again and Mom, Papa and Felix just returned from a walk to the supermarket, for stuff to put into the chicken soup, son Jonathan and Mom Susan are making for dinner. We had a lot of chicken left over from last night. Last night? Yes, last night. After we all got back from the Blue Mountains, Jonathan, Susan and I drove to Sydney for dinner. It was NOT an ordinary dinner, to say the least!

We were invited to this dinner and shared it with 16 other people, in a Jewish home. It was part of the Jewish Festival of Passover and called the seder.

The seder, the ceremonial feast held on the first two nights of Passover, is one of the most intricate rituals in the Jewish calendar, kicking off an eight-day stretch of complicated and demanding dietary restrictions. The initial meal, which ranges from eating bitter herbs to reciting Talmudic passages in a foreign language, usually lasts for several hours—and dinner isn’t served until more than halfway through.

The festival commemorates the exodus from Egypt, a key step in the formation of the Jewish people. The seder is not just a retelling of the story, like the weekly Torah readings in synagogue; it’s an invitation for Jews to relive the liberation from slavery as if they had actually been there in Egypt, to teach the narrative to the next generation, and to claim the history of their people as part of their own individual identities. But even in orthodox Judaism, families have long been accustomed to inviting non-Jews to share in this meal, alongside of them. I suppose this is because the desire for freedom and any exodus we may experience from bondage, is common to all.

But this particular seder was somewhat orthodox with some other unorthodox stuff, all thrown in together.

Guests included those from Poland, China, Sri Lanka, Australia and of course, we from the United States, but those are all the countries I can recall. Give me a break please, there were 18 people there besides me! 🙂

Just the guests themselves made an international and unusual impression. I am not quite sure, but I think all the major religions were represented at this dinner. I do know that Judaism, Muslim, Hindi, Christian and Roman Catholics were present.

Parts of the service were read by our host in Hebrew and most was in English and read by whomever desired to read and from the text re-written with a more modern update, by one of the three daughters of our hosts. The reading was done from 2 iPads we passed around the room. 🙂

It was at least to me, quite humorous to hear the readings by those Jewish with an Australian accent.

Part of the service includes the necessity of having “new” plates and utensils for each part. By “new” I mean that the same plates, bowls and utensils had to be changed during the several courses of the service. But in our case, the “new” was plenty of plastic ware. I can’t recall how many plates, small plates, bowls and utensils we used, but it was a lot! Our hosts were very giving in buying all this stuff that was thrown away as we went through each part. Once the ware or utensil was used, it was immediately thrown into a large plastic trash bag. You would eat or drink one thing and then toss the plate or bowls or glass or whatever, as these were now the “old” and had to make way for the “new.” If that seems like a lot of effort, you should have seen all the food! No one left hungry and I would imagine it took 1-2 days of chopping, dicing, cooking and so forth, to prepare this meal! And there was no bread, only Matzo.

Matzo is a flat cracker like food made with flour and water that is baked without yeast or “leavening.” I actually liked it, especially with the pickled (vinegar) beet-horseradish used as part of their “bitter herbs” requirement for the service. I sat right next to our host Lindsay and across from his wife Cheryl. I think they liked me because, I loved the beet-horseradish so much and told them about my tearing eyes and purple thumbs from making this at home. 🙂

The conversations around the room were about Jewish meanings/symbolism, history, WWII history, veterinarian medicine, teaching, psychology, sports food, differences of food between the United States and Australia and other topics! There was so much going on that I was nearly speechless and just did a lot of listening. I know, to those of you that know me best, it’s about next to impossible, for me to keep my mouth shut! 🙂

The whole event from start to finish, took hours. Sometimes, OK, most of the time, it was just loud and raucous. I loved it! And especially among the three Jewish daughters and their mother and father, the banter back in forth was hysterical! I even told Lindsay that I couldn’t believe that from across the room in the midst of all this volume, any of his daughters could still hear if their names were mentioned in conversation with others, but they did!

There were two dogs hoping for scraps that made the rounds. There were a couple of cats, one that is 18 years old that did make the rounds. I think that cat must have sat in every person’s lap that attended this meal. They liked the cat and the cat sure seemed to love the attention and the stroking. I even petted Tibet, the cat. Lindsay confessed that he loves the two dogs, but hates the two cats. But he is still the one that feeds them and they know this, but just keep their distance the rest of the time. I really don’t think he hates them though! 🙂

I enjoyed all the food and even the sweet red wine with grapes from Israel, grown in California, and blessed by some Rabbi in Hoboken New Jersey before, being exported to Australia!  🙂

That was real, but also a joke as there were several like these from the host family including what they call the Jewish chicken soup, ‘Jewish Penicillin Soup’ (good for what ails you and sickness prevention) or simply, ‘Jew Soup.’ That might sound racist and not funny to some, but I’m not the one that said these things. Well, it’s what Susan & Jonathan made for tonight’s supper from the massive quantity of chicken our hosts sent us home with, for Caitlin, as she and Felix did not attend, to everyone’s disappointment, I might add. But all seemed satiated with not just the meal, but from pictures and videos shared by Papa, with Felix as the main attraction! 🙂

The reason we are having soup tonight is because, everyone here was not feeling too well, except for me, I HAD THE CHICKEN SOUP LAST NIGHT, (while Susan & Jonathan had the orange soup)! 🙂

It was so very nice of our hosts to open their home and their hearts and share the costs and time required to prepare their food with, so many non-Jewish people and even with strangers like me that they had never met. I mean come on, can you get any stranger than me? 🙂

I thought it not polite to take pictures, so there are none. but there are 18 other witnesses (not including the two dogs and two cats that it happened and that I was there! 🙂

But this experience is one I will never forget! It was informative, historical, delicious and hilarious with some really good conversation, all thrown in together. And I would like to think that there, just a for a few hours, it seemed the world people in all their many differences and separations, were all ‘In Common, for this meal!

OK, so that’s a lot of content, where’s the pictures? They are coming! It has been difficult for me to get these posts done on a regular basis. For one thing, we are doing a lot of stuff. For another, I have been having problems with my camera, which needs to be addressed when we get back home to the United States. Another problem I am having is with my laptop. It is good to have it, but it does not perform like or have all the programs I use on my desk top at home to edit and quickly reduce the size of pictures to post. I cannot just use full size pictures in these posts, as I will quickly go over my maximum allowance through my WordPress (free blog). The resolution on my laptop is not as good as my desktop at home. But there is much visually, I do want to share with you and I will just have to work it out when we return.

It has also been difficult for me to adjust here. Last night and while in the Blue Mountains, I was layered, including a wool shirt. This morning, I was wearing a short sleeve shirt, sandals with no socks and I would have had shorts on, but they were all in the laundry. This is how it is here, in Australia. It is fall or early winter here, while it is nearly spring 🙂 in New York where we live. In New York, we ‘fell back’ last fall, when daylight savings time ended. Daylight savings time just recently started here. When you are sleeping there, I am awake here. When I should be sleeping here, you are probably awake there. Sometimes here, it’s tomorrow there and sometimes your today is already yesterday here. Then there is the up and down thing. You are up there and we’re down under here. Please don’t ask about which direction the water swirls here as supposed to there, I have not seen it nor can I tell. And when we leave here in a couple of weeks, we leave on the morning of the 30th, spend the night in Tokyo on the 30th, wake up on the 30th, fly home and by the time we get home there, its already tomorrow here and yesterday there! Everything is really messed up, but people that live here, just like you there, are all probably doing fine. It must be just me that’s messed up! 🙂

Oh, about the hat. Yes, I found my Akubra hat, not the one I was looking for, but one better and $30 cheaper and at size 58 not 57, it fits great! More about that later. Closing for now until again. OK, one picture then! 🙂

Blue Mountains from Echo Point, Katoomba, NSW, Austrailia

Blue Mountains from Echo Point, Katoomba, NSW, Austrailia

Categories: Aussie, Australia, Australian Life, Beauty, Blue Mountains, Entertainment, Food, Fun, Holidays, Inspiration, Japan, Passover, Photography, Religion, Spiritual, The Gathering Place, The Land Down Under, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Adapting

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

Guhday mates from Dahni,  Your Aussie Koala eucalyptus tree specialist

Guhday mates from Donnie, Your Aussie Koala eucalyptus tree specialist

I could have just as easily called this post, On: Gum Trees because, it is. And a Gum Tree is certainly easier to say than perhaps, an Eucalyptus Tree and I suppose it is, even though gum trees and eucalyptus trees are related and not to mention our cousin myrtle.

Let me see if I have this straight. Not every gum tree is an eucalyptus tree, but every eucalyptus tree is a gum tree? Huh? What? These trees are called gum trees and are classified as trees and shrubs which have smooth bark which exudes a lot of sap from any break in the bark. Hence, sap, sappy, gummy or gum.

As a Koala Bear, surely you would think that I am quite particularly partial to eucalyptus trees and especially since I dine on their delicious leaves! 🙂 But I am not the only one in Australia that loves the eucalypts” (as they are often called here down under) and not everyone loves them like I do!

The kookaburra sometimes sings from a Coolabah (a type of eucalypt), waltzing Maltilda often rests against one as does her swagman, just to mention a few. For more information about these names, terms and characters on this blog, see Waltzing MaltidaDamper and the Kookaburra song from Music Down Under.

By the way, the Coolabah is also the name of a certain style of a special Australian hat made by Akubra. I am hoping and waiting for a email that my size and color has bee found. I am anticipating a simple reference that reads: Found Hat – Bring Head! 🙂 If you are an Aussie reading this and you can help me locate one in black size 57 I will love you forever! 🙂

Long Straight and Tall

Long Straight and Tall

With the eucalyptus/gum/coolabah species of trees having so many varieties, it’s obvious that there are many of them in the country of Australia. Many of them grow really tall and grow mostly straight. They are excellent for timber and for telephone/utility poles. I have seen several in our neighborhood where one seems to be its natural color, another tinted green as a preservative I assume and another with saw cut beveled edges. Perhaps the differences may be understood by the dates when they were installed and methods that have evolved through the years

These are remarkable trees with little that bother them, but there are a few exceptions. There is one insect, Psyllids that leave behind  sugary secretions on the underside of the leaves they ingest. These sugary secretions are called Bell Lerps and attract some ants and the beautiful sounding birds called the, Bell Birds. Yes, this is exactly what they sound like! For more information see on this blog: Bell Birds

Closeup of a seemingly naked tree

Closeup of a seemingly naked tree

There is a very rare type of eucalyptus known as the White Gum which is nearly extinct, but it is seen in and around Camden, New South Wales, Australia.

Many of these eucalyptus trees shed their bark annually. And here in Australia, the bark is just simply called, ‘fuel.’ The trees might look like they’re naked, but the bark will grow back.

In addition to the bark falling off in either strips or chucks (depending on the variety) sometimes, entire branches will fall off. The Aussies know this, but for us foreigners that do not, signs are sometimes placed near some of these trees, especially in the Australian summer (December to February) to alert and protect others from unexpected and sudden branches falling. These fallen branches are actually hollowed out from within by termites and yet the tree still survives.

The Aborigines, walking in the forest would tap on the appropriate size of fallen branches they were seeking, to determine the quality of sound it made. Some of these chosen fallen and hollow branches are suitable for the famous didgeridoo instruments, used in Australia. They are carved, and decorated by skilled craftsmen and artisans.

The Didgeridoo is quite possibly the oldest instrument in the world – and still one of the best. Forever associated with Aboriginal Music, the sound of Australia is now available everywhere and growing in popularity.

Aboriginal Man Playing a Didgeridoo Image edited & sized from:

Aboriginal Man Playing a Digeridoo

Modern Music with a Digeridoo, Xavier Rudd –

It is estimated that there are over 700 varieties of eucalyptus tree with just 15 of these outside of Australia, but of those 15, only nine are not found in Australia. I suppose you could say, we Aussies have cornered the world marketplace on eucalypts.

The tree looks dead, but it's not

The tree looks dead, but it’s not

Other uses of these amazing trees are: pulp, paper, charcoal, ornamental uses, as an antiseptic, disinfectants, dyes, insect repellents, mosquito repellents, cough drops, deodorizing, decongestants, toothpaste, sweets and bees from their flowers produce delicious honey.

Image from Wikipedia - Eucalyptus leucoxylon var. ‘Rosea’ showing flowers and buds with operculum present

Image from Wikipedia –
Eucalyptus leucoxylon var. ‘Rosea’ showing flowers and buds with operculum present

They are fast growing and some trees, even if cut off from the roots, will grow back. Their roots dig deep into the earth and to some people, this water sucking tree is a good thing, as it helps to reduce the spread of malaria from stagnant pools of water the roots will just suck dry. To others, these sponge-like trees steal the water from everything else that needs it.

Due to the depth its roots reach in the earth, they are often called – prospectors, gold prospectors. Yes, you read that correctly, gold! They will actually transfer some all the way into its leaves. These gold-leaf-nugget-clusters may not be worth collecting, but they can sure tell one that this tree, where the gold may be found in its leaves, could be sitting on a fortune below its roots in a huge vein of gold!!!! 🙂

Some believe these trees are not so great as they are a fire hazard. Much of the time, Australia can be quite arid and dry, even though humidity, for example,  just yesterday was at 98%. Bush fires have spread and burned perhaps, 1000’s and 1,000’s of acres. And the eucalyptus does not endear itself to many, when it contributes greatly to these consuming fires, since it sheds its bark and drops branches – adding fuel to the fires. But how quickly whole forests grow back and how fertile the soil, after a fire, is amazing. Despite how anyone may feel about these trees (favorably or unfavorably) they have most likely been here a whole lot longer than people have. And the most amazing thing to me about these trees and the purpose of this post is, their ability to adapt.

A small local forest as it might have looked a hundred years ago

A small local forest as it might have looked a hundred years ago

Image from Wikipedia - Eucalyptus melliodora, showing flowers and opercula

Image from Wikipedia –
Eucalyptus melliodora, showing flowers and opercula

To continue life, life most reproduce itself. It is no different for these trees. They grow, flower and are pollinated by bees. They produce fertile seeds and many are as hard as, little green rocks. The trees drop bark which is like surrounding their trunks with kindling to  attract fire!

Its bark, sap and leaves are full of volatile chemicals. The Blue Mountains (which we will be visiting this weekend) is so-named because of, a blue-like haze from the tree-leave combustible chemicals in the air. It’s like these trees are waiting for and setting up conditions for a lightening strike to start the fires that will destroy them.

But here is the conclusion of the seemingly purposed set-up of its own destruction and continuation. There are two dominant theories on this. Some believe those hard as rock seeds will not open unless there is a fire. Others believe that they will only open when the soot mixes with water, after a fire Whatever is factually accurate the truth is, these trees continue their species through FIRE and they seem to try and bring the fires!!!!

Seeds will only open to either fire or soot mixed with water

Seeds will only open to either fire or soot mixed with water

Categories: Aussie, Australia, Australian Life, Beauty, Bellbirds, didgeridoo, Eucalyptus Trees, Family & Friends, Inspiration, Japan, Koala, The Gathering Place, The Land Down Under, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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