Notwithstanding the hours yanking capricious weeds from flower beds, or the endless untangling of a hose twisted around my ankles, my garden is a place of great joy. And where there is great joy, there are great teachings. Or perhaps I just made that up. One thing I can say for sure, a garden is the cornerstone of many things, life-lessons included.

A garden is the bedrock of duality; winter and summer, rain and the big dry, a breeze to carry seeds and gusts that uproot, cold snaps and heatwaves, flowers, and weeds, too much and too little. I learnt some time ago that nurturing a garden to perfection will mean little in the face of a hailstorm. So better not to aim to make it perfect. The shredded leaves and broken stems will come back when the weather calms and the seasons change. When life breaks something, us included, the greatest warriors are time and patience. So too in the garden when the frost bites and the wind snaps.

Hands in the dirt, head in the sun

In any season though, the voracious growth of grass, as ordinary and steady as it is, are the lungs of a garden. Each blade gently echoing the energy of the everyday keeping the earth moving and the air rippling; the only problem being that it’s as relentless as the day is long. Sprouting mile high through hedges, trees, and bushes, turning into pampas grass by the time it’s reached the lawns edge. Where it suddenly stops, giving way to hard brown dirt that couldn’t grow a bean. It’s as if it only flourishes where it feels free to, and not where it’s told to neatly behave. Funny that.

A weed by any other name

In my garden of good and evil, an amusing little parody plays out when sneaky look alike weeds pop up alongside flowers. Appearing remarkably like the real thing, these little imposters have an uncanny knack of showing up. I marvel that this is one of the most complex things that can happen in a garden. A weed-like geranium seed searches the yard and plonks itself next to the real thing. Kind of like a stunt double that can take all the knocks.

floer,

Put simply, a weed is just a plant that’s grown out of place, or more specifically, one that I didn’t pick up at Flower Power. But these pesky wannabes are the most resilient, natural, and resourceful aides around. They fertilise, keep the ground moist, attract insects and often protect the plants they grow near. Well, nothing really grows when or where we want it to, does it? So many things pop up where we least expect it, so many things happen in their own time, so many times we can look back and say, it was best left to nature. Weeds and all.

All in good thyme

Things happen quickly in a garden. With Spring, birds flit from branch to branch. Flowers bloom overnight. They fade the next day. Day Lilies are just that. A red urban fox has come to see what all the fuss is about. Autumn breezes through in an afternoon and the trees turn crimson and dry. Behind the scenes the earth and the air are silently and diligently turning the wheel of the seasons. We think that change has come suddenly. Like we think that every day passes slowly but a year passes swiftly. Little by little, progress and change is happening all the time, even when we can’t see it, we’ve grown a little more.

If you’re waiting for a seed to sprout, then yes, a garden will teach you patience. But it will also show the art of control, knowing what to hold on to and what to let go. It will show you this in the most painstaking way until you realise that a garden can be a place of least control. I mean, you get a say it in, but it’s a negatable window of influence. As it happens, most things in life become easier with the same understanding.

My favourite time in the garden is when it’s raining. Not only because my watering services are rendered unnecessary, but because with the rain, pause is pressed, and the garden becomes a watercolour where I can stand back and soak in its impressionism. When I look at a Monet, I don’t want to correct anything or change it, I just appreciate the joy it gives. So too a garden. Until I look down and realise that I’ve splashed mud from head to toe, yesterday’s seedlings have been washed away and even the fox now has a wily smirk on his face. 

“While strolling through the streets of Istanbul, it’s immersive and pristine architecture weaves a beautiful story with spellbinding chapters of the city’s 2,500 year old history.”

To find out more about Istanbul’s authentic charms, see Hello 6E, IndiGo’s Inflight Magazine where we’re proud to be published here

“Along the paved streets of Dublin, the bustling evening crowd spills street side. Beneath a pink stretch of evening sky, live music floats from Grafton Street and travellers fill the marketplaces, cafes, and corner pubs. It’s summertime in Ireland’s capital and the city is alive with the celebration of summer solstice.”

For more about holidaying in Dublin, see Hello 6E, IndiGo’s Inflight Magazine where we’re proud to be published here.

What would the newsfeed of our life over the past couple of years look like if we played it back? If we’re lucky, a shambles under the surface, but enough smiling selfies to show we’re holding it together, if only by a thread. We’re all uneasy about something. Big and little tangles that catch on the corners of our decisions and our days. In an otherwise ordinary life, full to the brim with responsibility, it’s hard to know where to go to catch your breath. Until you swing through the driveway to Billabong Retreat, where catching your breath for a moment of sanctuary is what it’s all about.

Rebalancing act

Overlooking an expansive billabong bursting with lemon coloured lilies, the eco-retreat is a hub for yoga, mindfulness, and wellness. Looking up from the water’s edge, the cabins and main centre sit amongst the tree-tops of sage eucalypts and you feel a million miles from anywhere.

It can be tricky blending the crazy parts of being a grown up with our search for peace, in body, mind and spirit. We might find escapes, or favourite things to do, but nurturing the stillness of our mind is a whole new superpower. My overarching belief has always been that whatever you believe in, whatever name you give it, whatever you follow to bring you to that place of stillness, is a deeply personal and private choice. It’s a one on one with you and the Divine all the way. So, when the groundswell of mums in active gear (even though I am one), started talking about mindfulness I switched off.  No amount of almond milk and journaling, I thought, could connect you with your inner peace. In truth, I  thought mindfulness was for hacks.

Searching for wellness

It’s easy to overlook the wish for a little peace and quiet as the day pulls us in so many directions. Of course we don’t have time, have you seen the to-do list that we all hang on to? But what would happen if we told ourselves we could put the list down for a moment, not ignore it, just gave ourselves permission to pick it back up in half an hour. Actually, amazing things happen!

I’ve since come to believe that mindfulness might very well be the religion of our time, in this day, and age. There are many who no longer crave a place to worship or feel that the words of a book are solace enough. The simple act of quietness away from the noise of our minds in the stillness of where we are, we can find a safe harbour. And that’s pretty powerful stuff. A short 2 day getaway to Billabong Retreat will gently push the pressures to one side and fill your mind with a natural harmony that leaves little room for all else.

Like most things at Billabong, mindfulness comes as a sampler. Learn as little or as much as you like. If I’d thought I was in for a week of hard-core yoga and prune juice, well, I wouldn’t have moved from my couch. Thankfully, the offerings are plenty, but the expectations few. The choice is yours to do a lot, a little or none at all. Like many, we chose the retreat as a way to kick-start some better health habits and it paved the way just nicely. Nature walks, gentle yoga, wholesome food, and most of all time. In this quiet space between the moments, we breathe, finding a rhythm that calms and energises.

You might like to read about writing a daily gratitude list. You can see Billabong Retreat’s upcoming programs here.

Bathurst gold mine

For anyone who has travelled the Blue Mountains and surrounds, you’ll know that the real gold lays beyond. As you pass the historic village of Hartley, the slopes open up to sweeping countryside that meanders westbound towards the towns of Bathurst, Mudgee, Orange, and Dubbo until you reach the mid-western plains. While each has their own story, settlement, and corner pub, today we’re heading to Bathurst. Here’s our quick guide to exploring this cultured and celebrated region and discovering the best of Bathurst.

On the outskirts, the golden grass shifts in the wind. It’s mostly farmland until the Hotels and Motels referencing Goldfields and Nuggets catch your eye. The oversized bushman kneeling above his gold-pan is a dead giveaway. You’ve now reached the home of New South Wales’ Goldrush.

Bridges to the past

It’s influence as the first European Settlement is easily spotted in the stately Churches and grand central gardens. Known as a Cathedral City, the town centre is dominated by the War Memorial Carillion on Kings Parade. Home to Galleries, Museums and heritage listed buildings, cafes and artisan stores now line the streets. For curious kids, the Fossil Museum, located in the heritage listed Public School Buildings (1874) is a worthwhile stop where they’ll even be able to see Dinosaurs. I can’t think of anyone over the age of 4 who wouldn’t be mesmerised by the life size t-rex on display. It’s a fascinating introduction to a step back in time.

The surrounds of Bathurst lay within the traditional lands of the Wiradjuri people of the three rivers – the Wambool (Macquarie), the Calare/Kalari (Lachlan) and the Murrumbidgee. European settlers first agreed on Bathurst as a central point of government administration, through for the next 5 years, this met with great resistance from the Aboriginal people. Some 30 years later, with the discovery of gold, the history of Bathurst would be rewritten.

Today, Aboriginal artistic relics, including carved trees can be seen on display in the Bathurst District Historical Society Museum in the wing of the Bathurst Courthouse.

Big kid’s day out

Even as a day trip, if you’re prepared for the 200km journey from Sydney, Bathurst has something for everyone. Every year, school camps flock to the Bathurst Goldfields. Fortunately, we went on the school holidays with only a handful of kids and plenty of space to try our hands at panning for gold. With accommodation also on site, a walk around the Goldfields is a true to life exhibition. Wander into the Blacksmiths shed, turn the Whim or lean against the aging sheds that overlook Bathurst. Our host Gary, who filled us in on all things “goldrush” (Bushrangers included) was as genuine as he was educational.

As the Goldfields are set on Mount Panorama (home of the Supercars Championship), the “rush” ironies are obvious. Every November, the Bathurst 1000 brings life to the mountain as the 1,000km touring car race winds around the hillside. For everyone else driving the circuit at any other time of the year, it’s the perfect spot to overlook the Bathurst Plains, on the western edge of the Great Dividing Range. (Just in case the name Mount Panorama didn’t give it away). And because you don’t need to drive the track 161 times, it’s a quick add on to the Goldfields tour.

There’s also an annual Inland Sea of Sound Festival held at the end of summer on top of Wahluu-Mount Panorama which features a line-up of local and national artists.

Backdrops, bites, and buzz

When it’s time to unwind, abundant fresh local produce can be tasted in cafés, restaurants, pubs or leafy garden settings. Try Vine & Tap at Brooke Moore House, The Hub or Harvest Café and Store for delicious food and an easy atmosphere. It’s always hard to beat Wholefoods and the Pear Tree Co-op on William Street has everything, including Shell, the most helpful health-food specialist ever!

The beauty of Bathurst is that everything on the traveller’s menu can be sampled in just a day or two. You could literally go to town with phrases that describe the region as a real gem, but let’s not. Instead, jump in the car, or take the daily train to a town that has history, culture, magnificent scenery with a story that’s alive. Dare I say it’s worth its weight in…stop!

Read about some of our other favourite getaways in regional New South Wales.

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