About Candida Baker

I'm an Australian writer, editor, journalist, photographer and natural horse practitioner. My books include two novels, Women and Horses, and The Hidden, a book of short stories, the Powerful Owl; Yacker, a series of interviews with Australian writers, and most recently the anthologies, The Infinite Magic of Horses, The Wonderful World of Dogs and the Amazing Life of Cats. The Wisdom of Women, stories by and about women, was published in April 2012, and there are more to come! I live in the hills behind Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, with my children, partner and an assorted collection of four-legged creatures...

Cool, becalmed and collected


So there we are, sitting in the middle of the ocean, and not a breath of wind in sight.

We’ve come up to the beautiful Whitsundays for a week’s sailing, and even I, as a non-sailor, know that wind is kind of essential to make the boat move.  Not only that but due to the other half having never experienced the Whitsundays without wind, he hasn’t bought quite enough petrol with him, so we’re not sure if we’ve got enough to get back to Whitsunday Island where we’re camping for four nights.  It’s all a little bit hairy, if you get my drift, which is certainly what we were doing – drifting.  Not only that, but something’s gone wrong with the motor and it’s not working.

Surely there must be wind somewhere, we beseech the sky, which taunts us with some tiny little gusts from every direction at once.

Finally, the motor decides to splutter into life, and having had to give up on our attempt to get to a snorkelling spot, we opt for lunch in one of the many beautiful coves that dot the edges of these tropical paradise islands.  We drop anchor in May Bay among the million-dollar motor-boats and try to look as if at least, because we’ve got sails, we’re superior.  Which would be all well and good if the sails were actually working of course.  We dive into the deep, clear blue water, and consume a delicious picnic lunch on deck.  It’s enough to restore our optimism entirely, and even better, the wind picks up, so I’m told we’re going to sail out of there triumphantly.

Unfortunately the only large gust of wind of the day arrives at the very moment we discover the anchor is stuck deep down below – probably snagged on some coral – and we’re heading at high speed for one of those above expensive motor boats, and I have NO idea what I’m doing. Disaster is averted by a millimetre, the anchor finally obliges, and we sail for all of 500 metres before the wind disappears.

Apparently, this is what sailing is all about – hours of boredom, minutes of adrenalin and moments of panic and pandemonium.  We motor slowly back to our temporary home on Dugong beach, with our sails between our legs, and wonder exactly how we’ll manage to do the snorkelling trip we’ve planned to Blue Pearl Bay the next day, and get our selves back all the way to Shute Harbour in Airlie Beach the day after if we have no wind and not enough fuel.

But in a way, all of these adventures are part of what we wanted – a down-to-earth (or sea) real-life as far away from the madding crowds style holiday as possible.  Dugong Beach on Whitsunday Island has only eight camping spots, metres from the edge of the beach, fringed with shade, and walks to Sawmill Beach, or if you’re feeling fit, to the top of Whitsunday Peak.  It’s picturesque and peaceful.  Shortly after we arrived we were the only two people on the island, with only the resident Curlews and goannas for company.  We took our chairs down to the sand and watched the lazy resident turtle bob across the bay, and felt we were very privileged indeed.

Now, though, we’re lucky in a different way – experiencing the kind of friendly helping hand that I’ve found is often extended on holidays, and I hope I’ve offered in the past myself.  We meet a couple, Liz and Paul McCarthur, who both work on Hamilton Island, and are taking a few days out camping on Dugong.  They offer to take us snorkelling in their motor-powered runabout, and we accept their offer gratefully.


If yachts need wind, motorboats most certainly don’t and skimming across the flat ocean the next morning is a treat in itself before we even arrive at the aptly-named Blue Pearl Bay.  On the way, we pass Hook Island and Hayman Island, and when we arrive at the Bay one of the lovely things about it is that there is every kind of boat there – from massive old clippers redone as charter boats, private yachts and motorboats and smaller charter boats.  There’s even a custom-designed drop-people-straight-on-the-beach from Hayman Island boat, a long thin flat-bottomed affair with three genteel steps forrard (that’s a nautical term just so you know I was paying attention) so people can simply walk down onto the coral beach, and straight into the water.

And what water it is.  This is not my first snorkelling experience on the reef, but it certainly was the best so far.  As soon as we slid into the water, we were surrounded by fishes of all shapes, sizes and colours – angel fish, butterfly fish, the exquisitely coloured parrot fish, to name but a few, and the highlight of this particular bay, the incredibly friendly, curious and massive Murray Wrasse, with his or her smaller friend, who followed snorkelers about in an almost dog-like fashion.  Murray Wrasse can live to the ripe old age of 30, and can grow up to two metres long, but are unfortunately still on the endangered list because of their reputation as a fine fish to eat.


One of the most extraordinary things about snorkelling is not only the invisible presence of this brightly coloured underwater world below the surface of the sea, but the blissful silence.  I drifted through the water, schools of fish twisting and turning around me, and felt completely at peace.

Back at Dugong we watch the sun turn the sea a golden orange; in the morning we wake to the turquoise still waters of our little beach.  I manage to cook some strangely imaginative meals over our one gas burner, we marvel at our nocturnal visitor – the cheeky bush rat, the shy potoroo and the tiny marsupial mouse are all visitors to our campsite, while no night would be complete without the mournful wailing of the Curlews.  Every morning I wake up to the sight of the beautiful hoop pines that cover this and all the 74 islands that make the Whitsunday group, and thank god they have not been completely deforested.  As the days go by, we become increasingly grateful that we have a tiny luxury in the form of the shower tent for our solar powered shower bought just before we left.

I’d had the foresight to make a bargain – five days sailing and island living in return for two nights luxury.  Clever me.  By the time we sail (with a little helpful motor power of course since there is still hardly any wind) into Shute Harbour I’m more than ready for a little luxury.


I’ve chosen Peppers in Airlie Beach as our destination, and the resort is perfect.  A large one-bedroom apartment with a huge deck overlooking the new Port Harbour complex, and with a huge spa bath, is exactly what is needed for restoration. The restaurant serves delicious tropical meals, and it is right next to the wet-edge pool – easy to go from eating to swimming and back to sleeping.  It’s also a perfect antidote to the 75 (I counted) sandfly bites I unfortunately collected.  Warning:  take the strongest mosquito repellent that exists and wear it permanently. Ahhh, tropical island holidays!

Airlie Beach is a perfect holiday town. The European-style restaurants and cafes along the tree-lined boulevard next to the park are beach are full, the child-safe lagoon offers relief for families and children on holidays, and there’s plenty of shopping in the main street.


What the Whitsundays offer is the best of all worlds – a holiday everybody can enjoy on any budget. For me the mix of adventure and luxury was perfect.

Photographs:  Candida Baker (apart from Murray Wrasse)



To get to Airlie Beach fly Virgin or Jetstar to Proserpine. There are regular shuttle buses to Airlie, which is about 40 minutes away, or hire a car from Proserpine.


At Airlie, Shute Harbour has plenty of charter boats on offer. For most of the boats no boat licence is required, and some companies, such as Bare Boat Charters, offer shorter charters of three, four or five nights, see airliebeach.com/bareboatcharters/welcome.html. You can hire anything from a small yacht to a sailing or powered catamaran, a motor-boat, a luxury crewed power cruiser, or a crewed sailing ship. According to charteryachtsaustralia.com.au/, the cheapest charter is around $440 a night for a yacht that will carry a maximum of four up to around $1800 a night for a sailing catamaran which takes up to 10 people; the sky’s the limit on the luxury crewed boats. Charter companies offer boat tuition and help is just a radio call away.


Many of the Whitsunday Islands offer camping. See nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/.

MORE INFORMATION tourismwhitsundays.com.au

Stay – the last dog in Antarctica


<em>Stay: The Last Dog in Antarctica</em> by Jesse Blackadder.

When author Jesse Blackadder was awarded an arts fellowship to travel to Antarctica to research her novel Chasing the Light, about Ingrid Christensen, the first woman to reach Antarctica, little did she know she was about to meet a character who would demand to have her own book.

In Blackadder’s blog she writes about the odd moment of sitting on a snow-covered hill, a 70-year-old Australian red ensign flag in her hand and a life-size fibreglass guide dog called Stay sitting by her feet.

Back at home, Blackadder found herself thinking about Stay, whose real story is as strange, if not stranger, than fiction. The fibreglass guide dog was ”dognapped” from the streets of Hobart in 1992. Stay’s arrival in Antarctica coincided with the departure of the last of the huskies from the environmentally protected continent, and she was quickly adopted as a replacement canine mascot.

Since then, Stay has been on so many adventures that, according to Blackadder, ”she’s lost count”. She’s travelled around Antarctica on helicopters, aeroplanes, skiddoos, Haggs, quad bikes, tractors and utes. She’s been a wintering expeditioner at every Australian base, and at Macquarie Island, and has visited the Antarctic bases and ships of many other countries. And Blackadder confesses she was involved in a Stay dognapping episode.

These adventures, and the endowment of a real canine personality on Stay, are Blackadder’s starting point for this charming children’s book, which is also – albeit in a quiet way – an educational story for Australian kids about the remote beauty of Antarctica, 3400 kilometres from our shores. This is the first in a trilogy of animal-based books by Blackadder for children aged eight to 12.

Blackadder had not written for children before, but you would not know it. She has created a perfect tone for the book – the language is simple, clear and visual. The plot twists and turns, and we never know exactly what is going to happen to Stay next.

It’s not an easy task to endow a fibreglass dog with feelings and yet stay true to its physically lifeless form, but Blackadder manages it, and for any child who owns a dog, many of Stay’s thought processes will feel familiar.

It’s true that when the huskies first met Stay, they didn’t take to her, territorially peeing on her in protest at her arrival. Did they know they were about to leave their home, and that this strange new arrival would claim people’s affections as they once did? Who knows? It would appear stranger things have happened.

Stay: The Last Dog in Antarctica
Jesse Blackadder
ABC Books, $14.99

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/a-snowbound-fibreglass-canine-warms-the-heart-20130913-2to0i.html#ixzz2f7A65ffh

The Pagoda Tree


Figuring it out: Claire Scobie took inspiration from carved temple walls. Photo: Karen Hardy

The change of writing genre from non-fiction to fiction is not always easily achieved, but Claire Scobie’s first book, Last Seen in Lhasa, about her search for a rare red lily and her subsequent friendship with a Tibetan nun, already suggested a writer whose evocative prose might make the transition.

Scobie’s first novel, The Pagoda Tree, is an ambitious book set in southern India in 1765 when the British were becoming increasingly dominant. At the heart of the book is the story of Mayambikai – Maya – a young girl training to be a temple dancer, a devadasi.

Pagoda refers not only to a temple in southern India but also to a gold coin – perfect symbolism.

There is a small hint in the first few pages about where Scobie’s inspiration for the book came from, when Maya, roaming near her home in the temple grounds, has flights of fantasy about the dancing girls carved into the temple walls. When Scobie visited Thanjavur (then Tanjore) in southern India, she was struck by the beauty of the 11th-century walls and that the names and addresses of 400 dancing girls are still visible today. It’s one of those perfect starting points for fiction – a visually arresting moment with a story behind it: Who were these girls and what were they like?

<i>The Pagoda Tree</i> by Claire Scobie

Maya is part of this continuum; her mother was a devadasi, and her ancestors before her. Astrologers have foretold that Maya will have an unusual destiny, and as someone born with the mark of the goddess she has been singled out to be trained to the height of her profession, with the ultimate intention that she will be a courtesan for the prince.

When I was younger, I travelled frequently to India and Scobie’s several research trips have allowed her to capture perfectly what I remember of the intensity of the country. The result is a richly textured tale full of the sights, sounds and smells of India, with all its complex beauty and troubled history.

Into the single thread of Maya’s life are woven numerous other stories. Within Maya’s complex relationship with her somewhat emotionally detached mother, Scobie

achieves a delicate balance – both mother and child yearning for love and acceptance. For Maya, much of her story is about loss: The loss of her beloved aunt when she is cast out for visiting a Muslim doctor; her patronage by Palani, the resident but ageing courtesan and dancer who then disappears; the subsequent breakdown of the prince’s power and Maya’s ensuing enslavement to the head of the temple, and her attraction to, and relationship with, Thomas Pearce, a young Englishman trying to make his fortune.

The word pagoda refers not only to a temple in southern India but also to a gold coin – perfect symbolism for the book. Somehow though, this book reminds me more of that most quintessential of Indian garments – the sari. Its layering, the unravelling of the story, the subtext of the fortunes made and lost on cotton and silk, the evocative descriptions of saris themselves are all part of the tapestry of this novel.

But in some ways its very ambition and complexity is where Scobie stumbles somewhat. The creation not just of Maya as a main character, but also the English Reverend Sutcliffe, the corrupt Mudaliar, head of the temple and purchaser of Maya, and her lover Thomas – among others – means the reader’s focus is, on occasions, distracted from engagement with Maya’s story. To my mind, the other characters in the book don’t achieve quite the same emotional depth as Maya.

However, as the story wends its colourful way to an inevitable denouement, through the increasing distress of a country struggling against the invaders, and the tragedy of Maya and Thomas’s doomed relationship, this is a novel to be savoured, in much the same way as the colourful subcontinent itself.

In Last Seen in Lhasa, Scobie wrote of Pemako in Tibet that it was ”a spiritualscape where legend merged with truth.” Scobie has, once more, found a subject matter with a powerful ”spiritualscape” and she does it ample justice.

Purchase Claire Scobie’s The Pagoda Tree here.


Claire Scobie

Viking, 384pp, $29.99

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/elaborate-tale-of-india-woven-with-the-intricacy-of-a-tapestry-20130815-2rxga.html#ixzz2ckkaQsPY

The Ride of her Life

Trick rider Kansas Carradine continues her quest for trust and understanding between horse and rider…

This story first appeared in The Age, July 6, 2013

Kansas Carradine in <i>Cavalia</i>.

Kansas Carradine in Cavalia which opens in Melbourne on July 24

”A trick-riding horse has to be straight as an arrow and strong as an ox,” says Kansas Carradine, who knows a thing or two about horses. ”They need fire and heart. They need to be the kind of horse that can be brave and fast, and then fall asleep as soon as they’re off stage.”

Not your average thoroughbred then? Carradine, one of the stars of the horse-based circus show Cavalia, laughs. ”Not usually. We tend more towards the quarter horses, but the horses come in all shapes and sizes and breeds – it’s the temperament more than anything else.”

Just as the quarter horses have a genetic suitability for a show such as Cavalia, Carradine herself comes with impeccable genes for a life in the spotlight involving an element of derring-do.

Her father, after all, was actor David Carradine, the star of the 1970s television series Kung Fu, and her grandfather, John Carradine, was a prolific character actor in Hollywood. David Carradine’s somewhat chaotic home life – he was married five times – meant his daughter moved around between family members, but the one constant in her life was horses.

”Even when I was as young as two, there were a couple of high-school girls up the road who used to look after our horses, and they would literally tie me on to a horse with a jacket and take me riding on the beach,” she says. ”When I was five, I apparently used to stop riders on the beach and ‘command’ them to put me on a horse. I would do anything to get a ride.”

As it turns out, it was an ideal background for Carradine’s future career which began at 11 when she went to a horse camp where they also taught trick riding.

”Initially I resisted, but when I got there I loved it so much I basically didn’t go home for seven years. Tom and Vicky Maier, who own Riata Ranch, became my second parents, and within six months I went from doing my first trick riding lesson to appearing in my first show.”

She performed for the next seven years, before taking some time off due to burnout.

”I really questioned what I was supposed to be doing with my life,” she says. ”I was tired of dressing up in red, white and blue and performing at rodeos. It was an adolescent team, and I was maturing as a performance artist.”

Carradine remembers sitting in her bedroom and asking for help. ”I was saying to the universe ‘just give me a sign, I just want a sign’,” she says. ”At that very moment the phone rang and it was somebody telling me that there was this new show – a circus show with horses that had been created by the Cirque du Soleil team.”

Carradine almost chose to ignore the call. ”I told them I didn’t feel prepared, or in shape enough to audition. I hadn’t even been on a horse in a year, and I was afraid I wouldn’t make the cut. Then I put the phone down and just sat there for a few minutes – and it was like a flash in my brain. Of course it was the sign.”

In very quick succession she auditioned, was accepted into the troupe and fell in love with and married Alain Gauthier, the show’s choreographer and resident director.

Carradine performed for a year and then took a training position buying and starting trick riding horses. Two are still on tour with Cavalia and five are touring North America with Cavalia’s other show, Odysseo. She also took leave when she had daughters Phoenix Rose, 7, and Bodhi, 4.

If there was anybody who would understand her love of horses and performing it was Gauthier, an original cast member of Cirque du Soleil. They travel the world constantly. ”We’re part of the Cavalia family; that’s how we live,” she says.

It’s a large family – 50 horses, the acrobats, the riders and a huge daily crew. ”We’re dedicated to the horses’ well-being,” Carradine says. ”When we’re on tour they get a huge amount of attention – not just the performance. We work them at liberty, we ride them every day, we train with them – their health is paramount to us.” The show has been running for almost 10 years, and Carradine has been with it on and off since 2004. She works as a back-up performer, so on any given night she might be Roman riding, trick riding or lassoing.

Carradine was pregnant with Bodhi when she heard about her father’s death in Bangkok in 2009.

”I closed my computer for a couple of weeks, turned off the phone, and sang and prayed and communed with the spirit of my father in a deeply personal way. I chose to shield myself from anything that wasn’t positive and I forced my mind to focus on the gifts I had received from my father.”

Her ability to focus has helped her to continue to grow as a horse person, and her relationship with the animals is not just about riding. ”I was lucky enough to discover Ariana Strozzi at Skyhorse Ranch in California – the creator of equine-guided education – and I very quickly realised that this was the missing piece of the jigsaw for me.”

Now a qualified instructor, Carradine has seen it work wonders for humans. ”Watching people who know nothing about horses interact with them in a non-forceful way is very powerful,” she says.

 Cavalia opens in Melbourne on July 24 at Docklands.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/the-ride-of-her-life-20130705-2pgw1.html#ixzz2YPYgyc9Y

From Paris to Paradise

Sarah Turnbull’s journey along the rocky road of hope…

This review first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on July 6, 2013

Sarah Turnbull

Author Sarah Turnbull.  Photo Andrew Goldie

It’s a hard thing in life to know when to let go of a dream and when to fight for it. In Sarah Turnbull’s first memoir, Almost French, we followed her journey as she bravely let go of her Australian life to move to Paris to be with Frederic, the man with whom she’d fallen in love.

After many trials and tribulations, all seemed to be well that ended well, and this is where we once more plunge into Turnbull’s story at the start of All Good Things.

Turnbull proves once again what an accomplished, versatile and humane writer she has become.

The couple are renovating their apartment; Frederic is working as a lawyer and Turnbull is researching a novel; they have their terrier, Maddie; and their life is full, to the outside eye at least. The only thing missing is a baby and, although for the reader there is no reason to suppose that a little one won’t make its presence felt there is a slightly wistful air almost immediately, as Turnbull describes her visits to her local church where she lights candles for her cause.

When Frederic is suddenly offered a job with his firm in Tahiti, their first thought is to refuse it. After all, they reason, why would they leave their perfect city life? And why, too, would they leave the place with the technology to help them make babies?

Because, as it transpires, after discovering that Turnbull is in the throes of early menopause, Frederic and Sarah have taken the IVF route several times with no success and a lot of heartbreak. Quite soon it becomes evident that the Holy Grail of this book is their quest to have a baby, and Turnbull writes with searing honesty about the hormonal swings, the debilitating effect of IVF on her body, the moments of optimism, and the crash when yet again it doesn’t work.

Gradually, the idea of Tahiti takes hold. After all, Turnbull reasons, what could be so bad about a place that inspired Gauguin and Matisse?

They settle on Mo’orea – a ferry ride to Pape’ete where Frederic will be working, and not as busy or as populated. So that is where Sarah, Frederic and Maddie find themselves in a cottage by a lagoon, in a landscape full of vivid colours, with friends and an entire new culture and way of life to absorb. They both decide that it’s time to close the book on the baby quest.

Except that Turnbull, despite her glorious surroundings, finds herself sinking into a depression, unable to write, and becoming more and more withdrawn. When she finds a sympathetic psychiatrist, she dwells on the subject of her infertility so much that in the end he points out to her that she is not moving on; she is, he says, not even going backwards. ”It’s not a crime to hope, you know,” he tells her.

The story of their last, successful try and the subsequent birth of their son, Oliver, is interspersed with wonderful descriptions of learning to dive (not very well); travelling to atolls and the tiny islands that surround the mainland; their introduction to the darker side of island life – thieves that have no fear of invading a house at any time of the day or night – and the ongoing, often amusing account of a marriage between two people from very different cultures. A small example from early in the book: guests arrive both five minutes early and 90 minutes late for a dinner party in Paris. Turnbull can’t believe people would turn up so late, while Frederic thinks it’s the height of rudeness to arrive early. Vive la difference.

”All good things come to those who wait” goes the expression, and in Turnbull’s case there is a happy ending – a lively, healthy son and a new start again in Sydney for the family. In All Good Things, Turnbull proves once again what an accomplished, versatile and humane writer she has become.

All Good Things by Sarah Turnbull.


Sarah Turnbull

HarperCollins, 325pp, $29.99

Download the ebook here.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/from-paris-to-paradise-along-the-rocky-road-of-hope-20130704-2pct3.html#ixzz2YPVnlZkY

Magical Moon Moment

Original photo from Almost A Cowboy Western

Original photo from Almost A Cowboy Western

IT WAS a full moon the other night, and somehow it seemed to bring with it a small oasis of calm in the weeks of somewhat wild and unpredictable weather we’ve been having in the Northern Rivers.

I  look forward to full moons, because a while ago my daughter and I made a pact that we would try our best to do something different on a full moon, or – her school work and my writing permitting – a few nights either side.  In the past four or five months we’ve driven into the macadamia forests and had a fire and marshmallows down by the river; gone down to Byron Bay to watch the moon rise from the water – almost as golden as its brother sun; danced outside on our arena, and had a full moon dinner in the garden.

This month, we hadn’t even thought about a full moon moment.  In fact, the night before the weather had been so violent – with lashing rain and gusting winds, that full moon fever was the last thing on my mind.

But now, standing in my kitchen, looking out into the garden, everything was clearly silhouetted in silvery light, and I could see my Paint horse, Storm, lying down in his paddock, with his companion, Johnny, our grey Arabian, grazing close by.

Storm was born on the property, and I was lucky enough to be there when it happened.  When he was a foal, and used to take his baby naps, I would often go into the paddock and lie down beside him, and he was always welcoming.  He would open an eye, and close it again, and we would lie there together quite contentedly until I had to go back to work, or he’d had enough snoozing.  Sometimes his mother, Glimmer, would stand over us both, and they were always special moments.

I wondered if Storm would be let me talk to him now, in the full moonlight, so I wandered over to the paddock, and sure enough, he kept on resting, while I sat on the ground beside him and scratched his neck for him.  We sat there companionably together, and now that I was outside, I could see clearly into the house, back into the kitchen where I’d been standing, and where my daughter and her two friends were hanging out.

Wouldn’t it be lovely, I suddenly thought, if we could actually ride in the moonlight?  How amazing would that be to embrace the still, crisp night air, and the moon in all its glory, with a horse?

I looked at Johnny, grazing away.  We’ve had our occasionally slightly over-excited Arab for eleven years, and somehow along the way, he’s become a been-there, done-that sort of a horse – exactly the sort of horse to go riding on in the moonlight – as long as there were no horse-eating dragons out and about. (Fortunately, in Johnny’s horse brain, horse-eating dragons are usually absent from the arena, and only present when he feels he has to keep his wits about him in the macadamia forest.)

The girls were willing, and so was Johnny, and so there we were with the natural horsemanship halter, and the bareback pad, just in our tracksuits and gumboots, pottering around in the moonlight on a horse.  What a beautiful feeling it was!   No pressure, no force – we just let Johnny wander around with one of us beside him, and one of us riding.  He was mostly curious about the light shining from the ubiquitous iPod, and what he really wanted to do was just hang with us and cuddle – which was fine by us.  So we all had a turn, riding in the moonlight, and then we sat and chatted, while the other horses looked at us over the fences as if to say they too would like to join in.

It was a magical moonlit moment out there with the three girls, and the snowy-white Arab – one for the memory banks, that’s for sure.


The Worry Monster, Mother’s Day and muddling through…

Cranes from the Art of Japan exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art

Cranes from the Art of Japan exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art

I woke up in the early hours of the morning to the sound of the rain on the roof – as I so often do living in the green hills of the Northern Rivers.  (Note to self:  In Australia, a country renowned for its droughts, there’s a reason why this area is always green.  Second note to self:  Always research an area before moving there.)

As I lay there wondering if it was too early to get up at 4.30 am and work, the Worry Monster came to visit, and soon we were running through our favourite conversations – too many horses with too many fungal diseases (also due to the weather); too little time, too much to do, not enough money, no clear direction at the moment as to the way forward – and why not?  And what is wrong with me??? Everything was absolutely focussed with crystal-like clarity on what is wrong with my life.

And this day, the Saturday before Mother’s Day is always a little hard because three years ago we were told a very beautiful and valuable thoroughbred horse, Fox, whom we’d owned only for a few months, was dying of pneumonia.  It was a catastrophic series of tiny mistakes which had led us to this sad place, but there we were with just the slightest chance he would make it through the night, but at 5.00am on Mother’s Day morning, he died, and I’ve felt the sadness most acutely at this same time of year ever since.

I took a deep breath.  After several years of trying my best to acquire the positive habit of the Law of Attraction I knew I wasn’t doing myself any favours.

I decided, as I also often do, to tune into one of my favourite shows – Jennifer McLean’s Healing with the Masters, and her replay of her interviewer with author and teacher, Patricia Cota-Robles.

And there it was – the exact phrase I needed for that moment:

“The company of heaven say that worry is a way of praying for what you don’t want.”

 OMG!  So true.

I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, ignore the rain and take the dogs for a walk before I fed the horses.

As I drove up the lane where I live there was a single White-headed pigeon sitting bang-slap in the middle of the road.  I had to get out of the car and shoo it away before it decided to fly up into the nearest tree – and that was just the start of my morning adventures.

The pigeon was followed by more bird-life than I usually see in weeks, all in the space of half-an-hour.  Ground-nesting plovers stalked imperiously away from me scolding me crossly for daring to drive through their territory; flocks of Australian White Ibis and the Black-headed Ibis took to the sky in their droves as the dogs and I walked up and down the avenues of macadamia trees trying to avoid the pouring rain, a pair of delicate Grey Herons, (actually the Australian White-faced Heron by the way), rose gracefully into the air looking exactly like birds on a Japanese scroll.  Even the sky – a deep shade of Payne’s Grey – looked like a painting, ominous, brooding and beautiful all at once. On the way home a pair of Willy Wagtails and a pair of Butcher Birds were right next to the White-headed pigeon – which led me to wonder why the pigeon was by itself?  Had it lost its mate?  After all, pigeons are monogamous and mate for life – like many bird species who seem to have achieved something with which we humans have difficulties. Were the other birds keeping it company in its loneliness?

Stranger things have happened – certainly in my animal-filled life!

Talking of which, what do you when you get home and you need to move a guinea pig and rabbit from a horse stable so you can put two horses in the two stables in order to dry them out a bit?  You put them in an Ikea laundry basket – you know, the silver ones, with a wire frame and fine mesh all around.  Plenty of air, light to carry, fine enough mesh that the sawdust doesn’t fall out – problem solved – and it only took 20 minutes of chasing them around the stable to get them in there.

(Of course all of that might beg the question as to why the guinea pig and rabbit are in a horse stable to begin with, and that goes back to the weather.  They’re living in massive five-star hotel luxury because they were constantly being rained out in their previous home and I got sick of rescuing them.  Now they live in a stable big enough for a 17hh warmblood, and are ejected only when I need the stable.)

Then, because ‘needs must’, as my mother used to say, I heat up a bowl of olive oil – not as a nature’s own remedy for me, but in order that I can rub it in to one of the horse’s legs.  Our old show-jumper, Cardigan, gets regular outbreaks of Greasy Heel, which spreads up his legs, and olive oil is just one of the numerous treatments we have to apply.  I let the leg soak up the oil for a while before I spend half-an-hour happily engrossed in scratching scabs off.

By now my human needs are more than calling me – it’s time for a shower, breakfast and a cup of tea.

I discover, to my surprise, that I’ve enjoyed this morning much more than I might have thought I would when I first woke up, and the Worry Monster has been well and truly banished – at least for a while, and when she makes her presence felt I will remember, when I worry, I am praying for what I don’t want.

The illustration with this post is actually of cranes, of course, but it captures the heron spirit!

Check out my author page on Amazon Central,http://www.amazon.com/Candida-Baker/e/B00AFCTF1I/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_12?qid=1368241472&sr=8-12 or my author page on Facebook, and my website:  www.candidabaker.com and twitter@CandidaBaker