‘I think you will like these lyrics Mum,’ my 21-year-old son said as I accompanied him to Brisbane yesterday so he could sit a uni (college) entrance exam for the Feb 2020 semester.
‘The song’s called The Colour of Leaving‘, he continued.
I was immediately drawn to the title for it was cryptic, beautiful and could be interpreted in many ways. I also found it ironic considering I’d just completed my post about Meg before we left.
As the kilometres ticked over I absorbed the lyrics and as I glanced over at my beautiful son, I also embraced the importance of being present.
The moment was bittersweet and melancholic for the lyrics generated sadness, yet at the same time, the present enveloped me with love and gratitude: an interesting juxtaposition of emotions.
Settling lower into my seat, my gaze resting on my son’s strong hands, holding the steering wheel, I took comfort in knowing life is a kaleidoscope of colour, with the colours often changing with each passing moment.
And sometimes, those moments blend to form magnificent rainbows, allowing the colour of leaving to fade, and the importance of being present to shine brilliantly…
As we drive through the magnificent Allgau Alps region in the country’s south-west, fresh white snow blankets majestic peaks, which sparkle like huge diamonds in the afternoon sunshine.
Against a backdrop of brilliant blue sky, the effect is breathtaking. I am unable to take in the beauty that surrounds me for the narrow, snow-covered road snaking around the edge of the mountain demands my attention.
The road thankfully widens as we enter the quaint village of Tannheimer Tal, and without fear of plunging off the side of the mountain, I am finally able to take in my surroundings.
The village, nestled in the heart of the Tannheimer Valley is walled with ski fields which host a myriad of runs. As we watch, skiers and snowboarders weave tracks continuously through the freshly fallen, powder white snow. Traditional Austrian chalets dot the landscape. Wooden shutters frame windows adorned with bright red bows and fairy lights in obvious celebration of the festive season. From chimneys perched upon snow-capped rooftops, smoke lingers in the frosty air. The effect is homely and inviting.
Against the side of one chalet a brightly coloured sign announcing ‘Zimmer Frei’ (rooms available) grabs my attention. As we have no accommodation booked for the night, we decide to stay.
Later, as we dine on freshly crumbed schnitzel while sipping a superb local Austrian wine, I am joined by Isolde, the owner of Alpengastof Zur Post, and she tells me the guesthouse has been in her family for over 400 years.
The cosy dining room, with its carved wooden chairs and red chequered tablecloths oozes charm. Family photos dating back to the early 1900’s cover the walls, add to the feeling of homeliness and warmth. After dinner, we head upstairs where thick doonas lie invitingly across pine beds. From shuttered windows, the view is simply magical as moonlight showers the Alps and adjoining ski fields.
This region is the perfect place to base yourself for an Austrian winter holiday, as it is guaranteed to excite skiers and snowboarders, both novice and expert. Non-skiers can also delight in winter activities on horse-drawn carriage rides, ice-skating, and moonlight toboggan rides.
King Ludwig’s castle of Neuschwanstein along the famous Romantic Road is only a short 20 minute drive and the fabled city of Garmisch-Partenkirchen an hour away. But the beauty of this area can not only be found in the magnificent mountains, snow fields and crystal clear lakes, its beauty is also found in its people. They are friendly, hospitable and brimming with warmth, making your holiday in Austria a truly uplifting and invigorating experience.
A friend said to me recently: ‘think about where you want to be in 5 years, then figure out how best to get there…’. On hearing his words, I did not need to think about where I wanted to be, for I already knew.
In 5 years I shall be sitting in a cafe in Paris, sipping a good Pinot whilst watching Parisian life stroll by.
On finishing my wine, I return to my apartment and take a moment to gaze upon the array of red chimney tops that adorn the abundant rooftops. Atop the small table that occupies the space beneath the open window, pots of brightly coloured flowers sit alongside fresh herbs of which I use to excite my cooking. In the small yet quaint living room, an overstuffed sofa bed bought from a second hand store, waits for my two grown sons who are soon to arrive. I am excited at the prospect of time soon to be spent with my beautiful children, who are, and always will be my greatest achievement.
My French is now reasonable and in the last years I have trekked the Annapurna Circuit, floated in the Dead Sea and gazed in wonder at the natural beauty of the Northern Lights. I have spent time teaching in foreign lands and broadened my knowledge in photography.
I ponder where I have left footprints and find I have no regrets, for I have lived and am now living, life…
How often do we take the time to strip away what can be defined as difficult times, only to reveal a different truth to the one we thought we knew?
Yes, that sentence is quite complex. But think about it. We can often think we’ve been dealt a tough hand, a bad deal, a horrible time.
Define it how you will, but it comes down to thinking life has not always been kind.
This may well be true in part.
But look deeply. Look hard. What do you really find?
Personally. At this moment, as I sit here listening to music and lolling through old images on the 23rd of May, 2014. I come to a realisation about life.
I’ve had an amazing life.
I’m truly one of the lucky ones.
I’ve travelled. I’ve lost. I’ve cried. I’ve laughed.
I’ve LOVED. And I’ve been LOVED.
What more could I want?
Here’s a few of my favourite images, taken by me and for me that depict a great life.
Life truly is amazing!
I did a status update on Facebook recently that read, ‘Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in places we never thought we’d be, but we when have to leave, we find ourselves wanting to stay’.
In early November I moved to Penghu, an island off the coast of Taiwan, to take on a teaching position. When I arrived I found my new home somewhat daunting and foreign. I felt a little lost, a little alone and a long way from those I loved most. But this new life soon began to feel comfortable, and metaphorically, somewhat akin to buying a new dress. Initially, wearing that dress is exciting for it feels new and fresh, but it also feels strange as it doesn’t quite fit the contours of your body. Yet after a while, it begins to feel comfortable and before long, it fits perfectly.
That is how I felt following my first few weeks in Penghu. I had eased comfortably into my teaching role, created my space in a small apartment and fell a little in love with a few of my beautiful students, whose enchanting smiles and infectious giggles enriched my day. I knew I had found what I wanted to do and I was happy.
In those first weeks, I also heard about a place called The Beach Break 衝浪店, a funky little bar run by South African expat, Ted and his wife Shao Mai. It was apparently the place where the handful of Penghu foreigners (roughly 20 in total) gathered on Sunday afternoons to play music whilst enjoying cold beers and good company.
One afternoon I headed out to Shanshui, the quiet beachside village where the bar is located. After a 15 minute ride I arrived, and soon found the ramshackle bar tucked on the corner of the main street. It exuded character and charm.
Waxed surfboards stood against a graffiti covered wall and inside, a scattering of wooden stools and a well-worn leather couch created the space in which I imagined, many travel tales were shared.
At the bar, two men stood talking, obviously comfortable in each other’s presence and on seeing me, welcomed my presence with warmth and enthusiasm. That afternoon, in a little bar on a remote island, new friendships were formed and ones that filled my remaining weeks in Penghu with fun, laughter and true companionship. That dress had truly begun to fit, I loved my teaching role, I had formed new friendships and I was very comfortable living in this unique part of the world.
However, there was one element missing. My sons and my dogs. I missed them terribly and they missed me, yet we managed that ‘missing’ with regular Skype calls and messages and accepted that my plan to stay in Penghu for 12 months would remain in place.
But plans change. And change they did. Certain changes occurred at home and it meant my presence in Australia was needed and as a result, a decision had to be made. It was difficult, for I felt a strong sense of obligation to fulfill my contract in Penghu, yet as a mother my children’s needs were of paramount importance and therefore naturally overrode my needs and the needs of others.
Within days, hurried travel arrangements were made amid mixed emotions and tearful farewells to my beautiful students and a group of people who had quickly become my Penghu ‘family’. The kindness and care from Wednesday, Lisa and the lovable Bamboo had touched my heart and saying goodbye was not something I wanted to do so soon after meeting. And bidding farewell to Vivien, who I met quite by chance one day at another friends house, was particularly difficult. A beautiful woman of Taiwanese heritage, who had lived in Germany for many years and as a consequence, spoke with an accent that was a wonderful mix of Chinese and German.
Shortly before I decided to leave Penghu, I was at Viv’s house sharing a good bottle of French red and great conversation. Asking her advice relating to my need to head home she offered these words: ‘Jen, does it make sense’, at that moment I knew staying in Penghu didn’t make sense and I had to go home despite my strong desire to fulfil my commitments in Penghu. Adding to my distress, I now had my ‘Penghu kids’ who were depending on me and the thought of disappointing them tug at my heart. But Viv’s 5 words put everything into perspective and I thank her for that and also thank fate for allowing our paths to cross.
I am now home and happy. My 3 months in Penghu changed my life in many ways. That unique little island gave me direction and my wonderful children who I had the pleasure to teach, fuelled my desire to take my teaching to another level and as such, I am about to commence Graduate Diploma in Teaching. And my wonderful new friends? We will meet again, maybe in Penghu or maybe elsewhere.
Sometimes we do find ourselves in a place we never thought we’d be and if you happen to find yourself there, embrace it for it may shape the rest of your life, as Penghu has for me.
Living and teaching in Penghu, Taiwan brings many photo opportunities. The other day my kids celebrated the American Thanksgiving holiday. Parents shared moments with their children, children shared moments with each other. And in those moments, light filtered into the rooms bathing those beautiful people in the warm, afternoon light.
In an earlier post I wrote about Stanley’s (my beloved Dachshund) issue with being left alone.
So I researched a number of different sites relating to separation anxiety to find methods that would help overcome his problem.
After following some of the suggested remedies, Stanley has improved, however I feel the main reason his behaviour has improved relates directly to the new addition to our family: Oscar, an 8 week-old Wire-Haired Dachshund.