Yani makes a wooden board - Alaia with Aloha

Yani and Pacha now go to the same, local, public schools that I went to over 30 years ago. They are good schools - providing opportunities to learn within their conventional parameters. When Yani's grade (6) had their school excursion to our faraway capital city of Canberra, we decided to stay behind (we regularly go to Canberra to visit my brother anyway and the trip was a little expensive).
Instead, Yani, just a week after his 12th birthday, went to stay with our friends who live 2 hours away in Evans Heads - able to freely surf, skate, play music (he's been teaching himself the didgeridoo) and let his spirit dream and grow. He said it was one of the best weeks of his life.
He came home with a deeper self confidence and understanding of the lifestyle that truly makes him happy. He came home with many 'first time' experiences, including being just about to go out surfing when a local man was attacked by a shark at that very beach (Evans Head)! This experience has deepened his appreciation for life and raised his awareness of his own intuition about whether or not he chooses to go out in the water or not.
He also came home with a self-made, finless, wooden surfboard - an 'Alaia', based on the inspiration of the first known surfers, the Hawaiin indigenous peoples.
His home stay host had worked with his friend who runs a local Byron Bay sawmill (Wooden Anchor) harvesting sustainably grown 'pawlonia' trees and had a spare 'blank' that Yani could work on. Yani thought deeply about the design and came up with something quite unique and so artistic - an asymmetrical design with a concave bottom, specially made to take advantage of the kinds of waves we surf on the Gold Coast on our point breaks. Yani made a little video clip about his experience that you can see here: Yani's Alaia project
Pacha and I both basked in his glow of happiness when he had his first try of his hand shaped creation - nothing can match the deep sense of contentment when you have made something with your own hands and realise that it can bring you (and many others) so much joy!  He said he did his own little ceremony to introduce 'her' (he named her 'Glide') into the ocean - invoking the spirit of earth and water and making the sound of a didgeridoo through his clenched hand...deep, soul connection...Now, every time he, or Pacha, uses it, there are people who stop them to take a look and ask questions about it - it's such a great way to spread a positive message!
Here on the Gold Coast, there is a lot of emphasis on artificial happiness - happiness that is attempted to be packaged, commodified, bought and sold. It can go hand in hand with a competitive, bullying mentality that sometimes seeps into the surfing here - especially among young surfers being pushed by themselves, their parents and/or their sponsors to be 'the winner' no matter what it takes. It seems to be the opposite of the spirit of 'Aloha' - the Hawaiian indigenous word meaning: “The joyful sharing of life energy in the present”.
Yani, by sharing his 'Alaia' surfboard experience, thanks to the kindness and generosity of our friends, has reminded us of 'Aloha' and the true soul of surfing - giving and sharing the limitless power of the ocean; of nature itself.
Yani's first ride on his Alaia board with dawn glow.
When not in the water, 'Glide' becomes a work of art in our home!


Economic crisis and Voluntary Simplicity - Joyful Low income living - in the '1st world'.

Economic crisis and Voluntary Simplicity - Joyful Low income living - in the '1st world'.

With Greece in the headlines struggling to keep its people afloat through the challenges of ‘austerity’ – I have been pondering the trend of media commentators (and therefore the majority of ill-informed people!) to blame Greek people for the crisis coming as a result of their ‘laziness’. This, after-all, is the easiest response – just blame poor people because they’ve obviously been ‘living it up’ for too long.  It’s a trend that is repeated around the world as the welfare lines grow and the number of homeless people in ‘rich’ countries like Australia and the US sky-rockets (despite there being plenty of empty houses available).

As usual, things are not so simple – you can’t just blame poor people for not working hard enough. As explained by Helena Norberg-Hodge in her recent article on the subject (link); “The economic problem in Greece is the product of a global system that puts the needs of corporations and banks ahead of people and the planet’. 

My deep feeling is that the crisis being felt in Greece right now is already being felt (and has been felt) throughout the ‘third world’ for many, many years and is about to hit us all as the myth of ‘infinite economic growth’ crashes against the wall of reality.

There are glimmers of hope emerging from the ongoing crisis in Greece including the strengthening of people to people connections, an emerging sharing/helping economy and a new appreciation for small scale, sustainable agriculture, which may offer us all a new vision for the future.

At the end of the day, the way we live is a result of our own personal choices. In my case, I’ve felt an instinctive rejection in following the mainstream mantra of ‘get a good job to make lots of money, buy a big, new house (with a big mortgage), give your kids lots of stuff, etc, etc and chose to direct my energy and education to trying to make the world a better place. Now - focussed on raising happy, healthy, resilient children on a low income while living in a very rich society - sometimes causes stress. We don’t fit in the mainstream very well and sometimes I feel that people misunderstand our life choices.

The questions go something like this (and they are rarely spoken directly – but I hear them through friends of my Mother, or husbands of curious wives, or maybe just from my own imagination!):

How do you do it? How do you survive without a well paid, fulltime job? How can you bring up your kids and support them in doing what they love on such a small income? What do you actually do?

Well, for decades now, I have chosen to do what I believe in over earning a high income. It is a challenge at times – but it has meant I have been able to give more to others and to the planet over the years. For much of the past 30 years I have been a fulltime volunteer managing international projects and campaigns to save forests and support communities. I do less of that now and find myself spending almost every moment being ‘present’ - for my children and supporting my Mother – it’s been quite an adjustment and sometimes, honestly, I do feel ‘lazy’sometimes (have I finally become a ‘Sloth’?).

But, somehow we are surviving - I earn around $200 per week through writing (blogs) and assisting an international environmental organization. The income from our rented-out self built eco-house helps pay the rest of the bills.
Mostly, we ‘do it’ by living very simply.
We don’t go our to eat, we rarely go to the cinemas, I don’t buy coffees, or smoothies or snacks for the kids – we bring our own food and water to drink wherever we go.  I cut my own (and Pacha and Yani's) hair. We don’t buy ‘new’ things. We don’t live on credit. We prioritise what funds we have to support the kids in doing what most love (surfing) -  spending money for surf competitions and travel -  while letting go of being able to pay for lessons in other pursuits they’d love to do (music, dance, marital arts – the list goes on) like other people around them.  
Pacha is sponsored so she doesn’t have to worry about buying clothes, and many of the costs to do with her surfing passion. She’s been rewarded for her hard work, great attitude and beauty – which can sometimes be confusing, but which, somehow, is just the way the story is unfolding.

Anyway, I guess I’m writing this because there seems to be a wave of right-wing, controlling, judgemental, conservative mindset saturating current mainstream media – the trend is to blame the poor (or refugees, or muslims, or anyone getting any government support, or anyone generally not 'following the rules') for the world’s problems.

Everyday working people are encouraged to feel hard done by because they pay tax and some of this contributes to government help for the unemployed, the disabled or those on very low incomes. We get distracted by these issues and seem to forget that the richest individuals have all the tricks to avoid paying any tax at all; corporations regularly shift their immense profits offshore to dodge their tax obligations and the current government priority on military spending far outweighs the cost of helping people.

I encourage people to embrace voluntary simplicity. It is s challenge - especially in the first world where judgement is rife - but I think it may be a better preparation for survival through sharing, connection, relationships and community.





















パチャのパドルキャンペーンの様子は地元TV 局のサイトに紹介されています。


Deep thanks to the Peacemakers of Japan...

Deep thanks to the Peacemakers of Japan...

Recently my Facebook news feed has been filled with images of the many, many thousands of people, from all different ages and walks of life, demonstrating to keep Japan true to its constitution of non-violence. 
I stand in solidarity with you all!
It has been my great privilege to share time with so many courageous and gentle peacemakers of Japan - joining sacred runs, walks and marches all over the country including Hiroshima and Nagasaki – filled with admiration for so many people dedicated to doing what they can for a better world.
I can only imagine how despairing people must feel to see their wishes and prayers for peace being completely ignored by PM Abe and the general shift to politics of fear and control.
In Australia too, we feel more and more disconnected from any kind of democracy or political process that reflects the opinion of the majority - or even basic human compassion or commonsense.
Recently our government is acting to prevent any support for renewable energy, harassing and demonising refugees and making it more difficult for environment and human rights groups to raise funds or protest. And the ‘war on terror’ here is reaching fever pitch with our PM donning military uniforms and surrounding himself with nationalistic flags, to urge on Australian soldiers as they are sent back to the middle-east to try to fix the mess that over 80% of Australians opposed in the first place (invasion of Iraq).
It all seems to be part of a global trend that exploits the emotion of fear, in order to distribute wealth and power into the hands of an ever-dwindling minority – for what ultimate reason - I really don’t know...
But I do know, there is another global trend that is also building – where people seeking truth and connection are linking together to help each other – often beginning from long standing local networks.
This is what I see in Japan – pinpricks of light in the dark heavy blanket of control and manipulation – and the light is as bright as ever! Thank-you to each and every one of you – marching, singing, dancing, praying for Peace!
Peace Songs in Tokyo 2013 (Thanks for the photo Isao Kimura)


Sharks - Fear itself may be the greatest danger...

'Menacing, marauding, lurking'....these were the descriptions on the local news as images of large sharks flashed across the tv screen. Watching with my Mother, I couldn't help myself blurt out: "oh, that's just ridiculous - they shouldn't use language like that to make us fearful - the sharks are just there because they live in the ocean - they don't hunt humans." But my Mum was upset. "How can you let your children go out surfing when there are such dangerous creatures around?". 
My Mother is one of the vast majority who tend to respond from pure emotion when told shocking and biased news from the media...it takes time and patient explanation to try to balance the story with the real background...
It's important to be aware of the real facts when it comes to sharks.

A shark 'attacked' a boogy boarder just a few days earlier leaving him fighting for life in hospital and the incident took place only a couple of hours from where we live. The media was on high alert. Here was a convenient, excitement filled story that could instil fear and paranoia about risks we have no control over - a great distraction from the multitudes of causes of death and suffering caused by our own behaviour (think ecological collapse, health epidemics caused by poor lifestyle choices and starvation caused by inequality for starters!).

Pacha and Yani were entered in a surf contest nearby and, while a little nervous, didn't hesitate to jump into the ocean to do what they loved. The contest organisers put the competition on hold while helicopters and jetskis patrolled the area to chase away any sharks, and competitors were interviewed by TV and radio crews and argued with each other about what should be done. 

I felt so proud to hear Pacha describe a debate she had with an older boy who said the sharks should be killed. Pacha retorted; 'But more people are killed by coconuts than sharks! We are entering their territory, it's the risk that we as surfers have to accept everytime we go in the water - we should have respect for them!' Her passion was clear and a small crowd gathered to see her eventually 'win' the argument. 

The truth is that sharks don't really like the taste of humans - but, being hungry (with fish stocks depleted by industrial over-fishing), sometimes they mistake humans for seals - or a glint of colour or flashing jewellery lures them like bait to take a 'nibble'. As a result sharks killed 12 people last year - but humans kill around 100 million sharks annually.

My mother with 'Molly' - stays onshore!
For me, the larger picture comes back to our human dilemma where fear of the natural world has so often driven us in efforts to control and subjugate all living things. Fear - closing people  to real life; priming us to becoming obedient consumers - replacing the dwindling sense of connection and trust in this miraculous planet with 'stuff'.

As a Mother of course I worry for my children - and it's perfectly natural that my Mother also worries for her grandchildren - but the reality is that we took a far greater risk driving the car to reach the surf competition than splashing into the big blue sea to surf!
Pacha's surfing - full of joy, sharks or no sharks!


Our daily community...

Over the past week I have had a spontaneous stream of visitors - new friends, old friends from many different age groups and walks of life.
It's reminded me of my community - of the kind of community many of us global wanderers and campaigners share - a network of people who, although we may meet rarely, but are friends for life.
I have been grateful to have been able to offer my humble shelter and the little offerings of time and sustenance I have to share. 

Almost all of this is spent with my children these days - which feels right as I watch them grow and shine. It's so important to let your children be your teachers in the world...it has taken some time to really trust this process, but now I am learning it's value.
Pacha is a natural leader. I watch her as she nurtures the young and vulnerable, jokes and plays with friends around her and questions and challenges the brash and the powerful.
This week she will do a long paddle challenge with her surfer friend Kiani to raise awareness of protecting the coastline where we live through a designated World Surfing Reserve. It's an idea they came up with by themselves and it has inspired and enlivened local decision makers to pay attention to future generations and the values that go beyond quick profits.
Here on the Gold Coast where I grew up, there has been a constant struggle to protect nature from high rise developments, marinas, casinos, cruise ship terminals...the list goes on. You can see the difference as you land at the Gold Coast airport, with the southern end lush and green and the northern end all glitzy and gaudy high rise developments - so tall they shade the beach after midday. This has largely been due to local grassroots activism - people like my parents who joined protests with surfers 30 years ago to declare their love for the area left as it is.
Now, the southern end of the Gold Coast not only glows in green, it bustles with positive community initiatives; local markets, Lohas precincts, community groups and shared food gardens, wildlife groups, a works famous Eco-village - somehow there is more engagement and involvement - more local, participatory democracy.

Here's the local TV coverage of Pacha's paddle campaign:
/Paddle for the Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve