Life and Nature: Installment 4. Bellingen.
By the beginning of the 80s, city life had lost some of its spell, and movement was in the air again.
It was now time to go further north, and, after some hunting in the Bellinger Valley area, we found a wonderful place to live on the edge of the town, even though I had originally had impractical visions of going bush!.
It is a really charming little town SW of Coffs Harbour. I had come to know it quit well during my visits to the Homeland community to its west in the Thora valley, and the Bundagen community to the east on the coast.
I was fortunate to be guided by a wise and helpful real estate agent, who sent me a note saying that he had found me a home that, although it wasn’t what I thought I needed, would be just right for us.
I was ever grateful for his perceptive advice – (he subsequently became a long-serving and popular Mayor.)
The house was built well up on a hillside on the outskirts of the village
It was at least 100 years old even then, built of beautiful, strong timber, and with a wonderful aspect, looking across the homes and treetops towards Dorrigo mountain which we came to call Mara.
It was roomy and with scope for later renovation to meet our needs as they evolved over the years.
What really delighted me was the generous piece of land that it was built on – about 1-1/2 acres, and much more my style than the property of five or so isolated acres in the bush I had been looking at!!
It was a wonderful, wild garden and it was here that I would really come to know and enjoy living amongst splendid old trees. They were the defining feature of the garden.
Years before, the well-known local doctor, who had been a great traveller and plant lover, had created a beautiful park-like garden in the hospital grounds just across the adjoining valley from us..
He had brought in seeds from around Australia and overseas, and also helped to distribute them throughout the town, including our new home on the hillside opposite
The Queen of our garden was a magnificent rare tree which sheltered the house.
I learned that its name was Chorizia speciosa and that it came from South America.
It was very tall and Its huge trunk was covered with large spiky thorns, said to protect the beautiful canopy of
large pink flowers which appeared every year or two from tropical predators.
An African Tulip tree, ‘the flame of the forest’ grew up beside it adding colour with its orange/red flowers.
Nearby to it, and not quite as tall was a tree gardenia, often covered in white
blossoms. Its perfume would waft right throughout the house.
Further down the garden was a magnificent forest-sized bunya pine, not a tree that you could safely sit under when the huge cones were ripe enough to fall.
There were flowering shrubs bigger and
older than I could have imagined – a great variety of azaleas for which the town is famous, as well as camellias, crepe myrtles, frangipanis and others.
The tree guardian of the house, which I grew to love and appreciate, was one of the biggest camphor laurel trees I have seen. I loved the way its branches spread out over the back of the house, framing the view of the lower part of the garden through the glass wall of the living area.
The camphors are now so widely spread throughout the area that they are regarded as a weed to be eradicated. They are beautiful trees and had served a useful purpose in earlier days, providing shade and holding the soil together along the banks of the creeks after the cedar loggers had stripped the land.
I have often felt uncomfortable listening to the continuing complaints levelled at various plants and wonder how it must feel to the spirit of a particular species experiencing the animosity coming from people saying they are just a weeds and how they hate them.
After all, it is no longer a secret that plants have feelings.
That great little book ” the secret life of plants” was a wake-up call in that respect.
One day, when thinking of the unpopularity of the camphor laurels in particular, it occurred to me to tune into the Camphor Deva — the nature spirit of the species — and ask if she would give me an example of a positive attribute (according to our way of judging things) that I could share with others which might help counteract some of the negative propaganda.
I wasn’t too sure what to expect, if anything, so I was delighted to hear a clear reply. She told me that the camphor oil contained in the tissues of the tree – both leaves and limbs – had the property of absorbing negative radiation from the atmosphere.
She said that the pines and eucalypts did this is well.
Later, by chance, I heard that the atmospheric radiation reading in the Thora and surrounding valleys was lower than in most parts of the country.
I thanked the deva for trusting me with this information and for being present in my garden, and resolved to communicate with these wise spirit beings more often.
Once we had settled in when I first arrived in Bellingen, I was keen to establish a veggie and herb garden like so many other new settlers had done.
I didn’t quite know where to start – it was a very shady garden because of the house being surrounded by very fine old trees, and it wasn’t long before I discovered that my plans where a little too ambitious. –
the soil was very hard, and the very large tree roots had deprived it of much of its nutrition.
I settled for putting in my favourite herbs and some of the wonderful tropical fruit and nut trees that I was discovering, and learned to wait patiently till they began to fruit, and just be grateful for all the delightful corners throughout the garden that were happy to look after themselves.
I soon came to rely on the wonderful community markets which were becoming popular to provide us with a bountiful supply of fruit and vegetables and seedlings and a very enjoyable social outing on a monthly basis, and local organically grown produce was on the increase.
As the years flew by, my life continued to become very rich and varied, as family and community life inevitably is, with its share of ups and downs.
I was blessed with a couple of special teachers. This is our water-colour group, and here am I painting the painters!
I also joined another painting group who worked using oils. We would set off every Wednesday morning to paint scenes of the countryside. The Watercolour classes were often held out in the field as well.
Time flew by, and my holistic therapy practice grew, group meditations expanded and building extensions were needed. The Windgarden gradually developed into a little healing centre, both
physically and spiritually, with lots of people passing through over the years.
. My relationship with nature expanded as I learnt to work in co-operation with the Devas — the spirits of the plant kingdom, and this lead on to vibrational earth healing and balancing work, both individually and in groups.
Like-minded friends would gather here together on a regular basis, and in tune with the cycles of the moon and the four seasons, our earth working methods incorporating visualization, channelling and toning, learning as we went along.
We learnt to use colour, light and sound as tools for both individual and planetary healing, both at the Windgarden and out in nature..
This was when working vibrationly with the crystal kingdom also came into play. as we learnt to make use of gem elixirs as well as flower essences in the healing work.
My collection of a variety of gemstones and quartz crystals grew, encouraged by a visit to the opal fields in 1986 , and much time was consumed creating an extensive set of gem elixirs as well as the flower essences.
This focus served to deepen my understanding of the interplay between the plant and mineral kingdoms as the healing work became more subtle and interconnected with other modalities.
There were also the great excursions that the group were guided to make together into the landscape, helping to restore it to balance by placing crystals back into the earth at appropriate energy points and re-activating disturbed ley-lines. – I received my first practical lesson in planting crystals from visiting ETs back in 1985.
This work was often followed by a gathering of friends and family out in the countryside. swimming, picnicking, singing and dancing.
Towards the end of the 90s, I hit a life-threatening health crisis.
I knew intuitively at the time that whether or not I survived the major surgery that was needed, it would be time to move on from Bellingen. There was no special logic to this realization — It just was what it was! what a way to complete the end of a centuary!
And what an amazing time it had been over 17 years living in the Bellinger Valley – lots of diverse and unanticipated experiences.
Looking back, I felt a deep gratitude to have been able to live in such a beautiful pocket of nature for so long.
I had slowly come to understand that Mother Earth regularly puts out a call to each of us who is willing to hear, asking us to seek out places to live where, consciously or otherwise, we can be of service in a guardianship role to the land and nature, rather than seeing ourselves as owning parts of it.
Experience had shown me that if we begin with that intention at the outset
when looking for a new home, we may be
pleasantly surprised to see where we end up!
Similarly, if and when our time feels complete in one area,, and that inner call comes to move on to other pastures, the transition can happen without regrets, even though we had felt contented where we were before.
Once I began to regain my strength after surviving the crisis, I felt drawn to search further north for a new home, not over the border into Queensland, but rather in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales.
Since gradually coming north I had felt much at home living in the sub tropics, relishing the rich greens of nature and the abundance of water, all of which contrasted with the dry planes of the Riverina in my early life – though they too have their own beauty.
And so it was that a new phase of my life and learning was about to begin in a little village called Clunes in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales …
Look out for the next chapter any time soon.