Victory Part One

[Written 20th June 2015]

Victory is mine blog post

Okay that’s not going to be my title, way too grand and pompous for my usual style. But today was a victory and I want to talk about.

I was meant to restart work sometime last week. It was always a vague plan of sometime after the Queen’s birthday public holiday. From the time I took back my authorization to get a police check and stat dec to say that I wasn’t an awful criminal the suggestion was it would take the HR department about two weeks to prepare the contracts. Oh, and by the way, the hospital executive have just put a halt on recruitment until the end of the financial year! We may sneak in, we may not.

So it didn’t happen last week, and it wasn’t looking super likely for this week either. So my plan? Bike ride as much as possible until I go back to work! It is still amazing to me that I, in the dead of winter, in shall we say frigid conditions with rain and bleak outlooks and low teens temperatures, would be keen to get out there and get cold and exert effort! Crazy! Yet it turns out that my week is built around it! I would NEVER have thought that this would actually come to be in my life!

I mean, yeah, they said exercise was good for you and helped your mood and did wonders. I got started at the gym after moving back to Melbourne when I was beginning to put on weight in a vain attempt to keep that at bay. I did enjoy the classes, another women’s only special, and afterwards I loved that I’d been able to do it. My post-gym face made it into a couple of my ‘100 happy days’ posts. I made an effort to get to my classes after work, which was a tight squeeze, and then when I wasn’t working anymore I tried to get there and do the solos workouts my friendly coach had designed for me. But the cardio stuff sucked! I’ve always been good at weights and they are my preference. But right then, with the weight I’d put on and as the sedation overcame me, cardio was just a punishment! So I put the gym on hold, and it stayed there. My psychiatrist agreed that I shouldn’t be pushing myself with the gym and suggested walking each day.

Walking. Okay, seriously! I have a green, leafy park that I can get to, walking, in less than two minutes. It’s one of the awesome conveniences of where I live. Theoretically. There’s a beautiful walking loop made from perfectly poured, on camber concrete with an inner spongy lane perfect for running. It has marked distances and revolves around a pretty little lake with ducks and a foot bridge, a community exercise area always in use and a children’s playground. Perfect.

Two minutes to the park. Five minutes to the hospital, twelves minutes to the train station and supermarket. That’s my house.

But I don’t like walking anymore!

I used to walk up hill to the train station to get to work every day, from October 2013 to March 2014, and I just did it without thinking. Then I walked around the hospital all day often clocking up half my daily step count and a couple of kilometres. I’d often take a walk for 20 minutes under the Moreton Bay fig trees to chill out at lunchtime which was lovely, travelling from Commercial Road to Toorak Road and back, then walk back down the hill again to get home. My Fitbit got to 10,000 steps every single day and often quite a bit more. I was doing great physically and was in the shape of the last 10 years! I’d just spent more than 18 months up to August 2013 exercising and dieting my way to 78kg which was a 15kg effort that I was very proud of, and got me within a few kilos of my ideal weight! So I was enjoying my hard work.

But as I got sicker, my motivation and energy flagged and I started putting on some weight, and that morning uphill walk was taking me longer and was getting harder. I started to dread it! My breathing was way harder than before, my heart felt like it was about to hit the absolute red line or die altogether, my legs rubbed and chafed and turned to jelly mush, and I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Besides I had to conserve energy; I had the whole day still ahead of me!! I didn’t want to walk; I wanted to catch the bus. Once I did, there was no turning back. I would wait 15 minutes at the bus stop for a 7 minute bus ride that was full to overflowing where I sweated up a storm in the crush of body heat, rather than walk 10 minutes home, even though it was downhill. At that point, it didn’t matter whether it was uphill, downhill or neutral; I hated it!

I’m working on this. I wear shorts or leggings, I take my time, I breathe it out, I remember that my heart is actually a surprisingly resilient muscle and no one has ever yet died from it jumping through their throat into the open air and flying away! That last one is difficult and takes a lot of mantra-like chanting inside my brain! I will not die, I will not die, and I will not die.

We did an impromptu walk with friends a couple of months back. It was described as an easy walk, but that was their opinion not mine. They set a cracking pace over difficult terrain and I wished I was dead! Halfway through the caring mother figure asked me quite seriously if I was going to have a heart attack!! I was so red in the face I probably looked like I would in fact explode, I was dripping sweat, my feet and legs hurt…la, la, la; it wasn’t that much fun, apart from the scenery.

Cue the bicycle. It came to me, I now realise, at the perfect moment in my journey. I’d seen an ad for She Rides earlier and instantly dismissed it. The fact that when it came back around on Facebook, or email, or something else, I actually considered it, showed that I was in a place in my recovery where I was starting to open my very closed mind to the idea and possibility that starting gently into some exercise could really be something I could a) do, and b) maybe, somehow, I don’t know but people assure me I could, actually enjoy! So I tentatively put out some feelers. I’m not a committing person! I have to do a lot of thought before I jump in, and even then it’s more of a slow trip and fall that accidentally turns into a jump!

Ask my husband: we went out for 7 years before I “jumped” in! At least we got through the whole itch thing first. In that last year when it was blindingly apparent that of course we’d be together forever, and no sinister cosmic plan was floating through the universe waiting to hit us with its deadly and devastating bolts, or anything along that drastic and dramatic plane of thought, I gave my husband a model snail. I told him please wait, I’m getting there, I’m coming; it’s just taking me a while! That’s how I am, but I’m working on it. I can impulse buy now, not that I’m sure that’s a good thing! There are shops in Shepparton where I grew up probably sick of the sight of me, coming back for the third time to try on the same pair of shoes “just to see” if they were any different from every other time! Procrastination is what it’s really called, and it has gotten the upper hand of me in a lot of my life, but I’m working hard to crush it!

Flighty Friday

[Written 22nd June, 2015]

Okay, now I get it!

It really is a big deal.

Actually I’m a bit exhilarated!

I finally found them! Well actually a really nice guy with his twins in a pram wearing a camera found them, and came and got me so that I could see them too. Many thanks to him for that, but what I mean is I finally got to see them!

gum tree, eucalypt

Several of the Swift parrots at Macleod station

The famous Macleod Station Swift Parrots!

Otherwise named by other birders as The Great Houdini! They have certainly nailed the vanishing act on the last three times I’ve gone looking for them! But to be fair, thanks to some advice from another birder, I’ve realised that I’ve been looking for the wrong thing.

branch, acrobat

The belly of an upside down Swift parrot doing acrobatics

I’m used to rainbow lorikeets and musk lorikeets. You can tell where these birds are at all times of the day and night by the raucous racket that they make! So every time I’ve gone over the Macleod I’ve followed the noise. This has been an unfailing tactic in the past, so I went by history and experience. This did lead to a first in a lifetime sighting of a few Scaly-breasted Lorikeets mixing with the Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets, but no Swift Parrots.

pink flowering gum, musk lorikeet

Just for variety, one of the Musk Lorikeets, the noisy ones!

So today was my ‘4th time is the charm’ visit! The plan: walk quietly around the station looking up into the eucalypt trees for sight of birds, rather than listening for their sound. And it was the perfect plan. Even without the kind gentleman I would have come across them, but sharing it with someone else was nice. The excitement and satisfaction is better shared, otherwise random shrieks of joy and jumping up and down clenching fists frightens nearby innocent strangers and inspires parents to gather their children and retreat to a safe distance!

colours

So many different colours! It’s hard to take it all in!

So, the Swift Parrot. This flock is estimated to be up to 30 birds, so I’ve heard. The word has spread like wildfire among birders around the country, and people have traveled serious distances to see these gorgeous creatures. Most days I see people posting photos to Facebook of their experience with finding these quiet, well camouflaged birds. And the sightings have been very reliable every day for several weeks. And now I’m a part of it!

climbing, food

This Swift parrot climbing up the tree for more food

Why are we so excited and motivated to see those beauties? Well for a start they are just stunning! Pretty colours, graceful flight, acrobatic climbers and most significantly, they are endangered. These parrots breed only in Tasmania in the summer; during those months they can only be found in that state which is their home territory and the location of their nests in hollow trees. They migrate to south-eastern Australia, i.e. Victoria and maybe southern NSW, in the winter. They are considered nearly extinct in SA. Year old birds who won’t be breeding sometimes stay here for the summer while the majority of the population head back to Tassie.[1]

magazine, celebrity

I feel like I’ve met a celebrity in the Swift Parrot! I might never see them again, and here they are on the cover of Birdlife’s quarterly magazine!

So they’re endangered, only here in the winter and they’ve set up shop right here in the city, in the square between a strip of shops, a kindergarten, a school and a train station of all things! Not exactly the distant, peaceful, undisturbed bush/forest that you would imagine.

Noisy Miner, power struggle

The annoying Noisy Miners trying to shoo off the Swift Parrots…eventually they won, for now

Which gives me an opportunity to grind one of my favourite axes!

I take issue with people favouring the country to the exclusion of the city.

hello

Well Hello there! Nice to see you

Of course you all have the right to your own opinion. And to be clear, I grew up in the country, moved to the city when I was eighteen to study instead of moving to another country city, moved back to the country for a job when I was twenty two because my city option fell through, and moved back to the city because trying to live in the country was killing us when I was twenty six.

pretty

Just so pretty from every angle!!

I love the country. It really feeds me to find some green spaces. I love the city; my life is there and I love the energy and opportunities.

I don’t understand having a total block opinion of the city. It’s the greatest variety of types and cultures and one opinion can’t apply as a blanket. My husband came from the city, my pharmacist education came from the city, some of the best days of my life have been in the city. Of course growing up in the country was something I loved too.

territory wars, back off

Territory wars are rife around Macleod, Noisy Miners vs. anything else! This Swfit parrot is telling Noisy to back off!

Having a narrow view of those “city people” and “city drivers” is not well thought out. Most “city people” don’t live in the city, as in the CBD. Not many people live in the actual city. We live in suburbs of the city, just like you live in suburbs of country; there is pretty much no difference between where I live and you live in most cases.

The majority of “country people” and “country drivers” don’t live in the country, as in open plains and wide spaces. Not many people live in the actual country. And as above, suburbs vs suburbs.

flock, quiet

A flock of Swift Parrots – if they sit still it’s pretty easy to miss them!

Those in the CBD and those out in the open country can debate the issue, but most people forget that for the rest of us, we’re actually living more or less the same life whether we’re in a town or city.

I can find undisturbed bush land where you can’t hear any traffic and feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere within a 10 minute drive or bike ride from my house in the middle eastern suburbs. Once there you would have no idea that there’s a freeway just the other side, that you’re surrounded by housing. And at the centre of a lot of towns you’ll find it hard to find a park, be walking past plate glass buildings and have all the fumes of the cars just like the city.

rainbow lorikeet, pink flowering gum

Can’t forget a photo of the many Rainbow Lorikeets that rule the rest of the playground at Macleod

I think it’s time we agreed everything has it’s good and poor aspects, and stop being scared of what we don’t know. You never truly know until you go and experience the other side of life. So get out there, live on the other side.

pose

Another shot in bad light so it doesn’t do this bird justice, but what a pose!

It’s always pros and cons. If you didn’t have the city, you couldn’t live the life you enjoy. Without the country, you wouldn’t have many essentials that make up life as we know it.

tomorrow

What a day! What an experience! I’m tempted to head back tomorrow…..

Point being, if a flock of an endangered species of bird that can migrate to anywhere they like choose the suburbs of the city instead of the country, can it really be that bad?

[1] Museum Victoria Field Guide to Victorian Fauna, free app