I was born by the sea. The often murky and moody English channel, but the ocean nonetheless. I grew up in a Christian household that held me in a spell of beliefs of a God high above me, to be feared and prayed to. My parents instilled the gift of nature, both avid walkers and lovers of the outdoors. I left school to train as a nurse. I had wanted to go to art college, but was persuaded to train with a profession immediately available.
How glad I am for this.Nursing has given me many opportunities over the years. I was offered my first staff nurse job on a surgical ward of the Royal London Hospital. Less than a year after qualifying I went to India with a friend. We stayed three months and I will never forget the first day arriving in this country. Sitting on a pavement in the heart and hub of New Delhi completely overwhelmed and speechless with the chaos, commotion, smells and stares, the sheer volume of life in every aspect.
We took the tourist route through Rajasthan, then Agra, Varanasi – and by the time we reached this city on the banks of the River Ganga I began to feel a sense that here was a country that had an altogether different relationship to God. When I flew home to London I knew for sure I would return.
I took a job in a sexually transmitted disease clinic, and during this time in the late 1980’s, the newly emerging epidemic of HIV/Aids took hold. It wasn’t long before a clinic was run especially for those diagnosed and I found an interest and ease of connection with the clients. I left the clinic to work on a ward at St Mary’s, Paddington, caring mostly for this community. One of the first purpose built units in the UK was opened at St Mary’s, and it was a special moment when Lady Diana came to officially open our unit.
I had been promoted to the senior staff nurse, a role of leadership as I was always in charge of the shift. And as you will read in the first chapter of Tracing the Moon, a time of witnessing many die. For the last 2 years of my life in London I lived on a boat on the river Thames. A canal boat, long and narrow and I loved to be on the water and have the freedom to drive up river for the weekend if I so desired.
In January 1991 I left England with a one-way ticket to Bombay, as it was then called. The many experiences of theseyears in India is what my memoir reveals. Initially I focused my time on the Buddhist teachings, retreats, and visited monasteries in Thailand whilst renewing my visa for India. I met a sadhu in the foothills of the mighty Himalaya, and through an ongoing connection with this man and his way of living in his simple ashram, I was drawn more and more into the Hindu culture and ways. The gods are everywhere in India and I devoured the pageantry and rituals and sense of reverence and devotion that became the basis for my own spiritual path.
I met a Naga baba and sat at his dhuni, sacred fire, at the KumbhaMela in Allahabad, surrounded by Naga Babas and the immense energy of this gathering of sadhus. I had the great good luck to meet Papaji, in the bustling city of Lucknow. There is a separate page on this web site to tell you more about this man who touched, inspired and gave so much to many of us over the years. Indeed he continues to do so, even though long departed from his physical form.
In ‘97 I came to Australia for a holiday and never left. I live in the Byronshire, an area well known for beauty and an alternative community, close by the ocean. And the ocean is often my solace, wide horizons, the endless empty beach and vast heavens revealing the daily shifting moods and tides. I renewed my career in nursing and worked for some years as a community nurse. It was the palliative care aspect that I felt so privileged to be part of. Again to witness the intimacy of death and the dying process often gave me moments to reflect on my own attitude to life and the fact that death in the west still is removed from life. We all come in with our destined number of breaths.
I have two children now and have been mostly the stay at home mother. When our youngest was just turned one and the eldest three we went as a family to India. It was the first time I had been back for ten years. This began regular trips to my spiritual homeland and I continue to breath deeply of all that this country invokes as soon as I step off the plane.
Now days it is the return to the west that the culture shock occurs and the adjustment to an ordered life where rules and regulations are in place. The streets appear so empty, barren of an essential ingredient. Where are the gods! No shrines or temples no statues of Hanuman and Shiva, sounds of temples or bells ringing out in the smoky dawn air as fires are lit and the day begins. A country of great diversity and of course many changes as western values and greater wealth creates shopping malls and four lane highways and the traffic is no longer jammed with just buses and rickshaws but Mercedes and Audis. The ancient India remains, in my eyes, always.
In May last year I found myself on the other side of nursing as I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It has been a journey of great challenges and a terrain often rugged and steep. Yet with all challenges many blessings and learning’s and I have learnt, and continue to do so, much about myself, and life, through it. I have much to share about this latest journey and hope to do so in the fullness of time.
I have always loved to write and it was six years ago that I first sat down to write this story of my time in India. Initially I had two days every week when I was released for a few hours of mothering duty, and in that time I would brew chai, and sit down to write. It was surprisingly easy for me to slip back to the days of India and I found great solace in doing so. It has been a lengthy process and I believe with this first manuscript I have learnt so much about the writing process. Indeed about myself as it took me beyond the edge of comfort at times with revealing more about myself than I ever set out to share. It is a story that wants to be shared and I found that the more I could get out of my own way and simply be present, to show up to the empty page, the more it revealed.
Thank you for visiting my website and I hope that if you do read Tracing the Moon you will enjoy as much as I have enjoyed to write it.
Hari Om and Namaste.