All aboard the gratitude train

Today I woke up with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. It began when, as I lay in bed, I started going through in my mind a list of things I am truly grateful for.

I think I laid there for at least five minutes before nature called. As I looked out from the Black Queen’s walls to see the beautiful Ridge sunrise, I spied a mother and her young joey hopping by and I heard the songs of the birds welcoming a bright, beautiful new day.

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I then started looking around and marvelling at Joan Andrew’s handiwork and the sheer joy and love we have for our Black Queen.

You know, it’s funny, once you start on this train of thinking, the list just seems to get bigger and bigger. The more you are grateful for, the more gratitude you have. Kind of cool, if you ask me. But did you also know gratitude is a fundamental part of all spiritual teachings?

So, I have a challenge for you – write a list of the things you are grateful for and I bet you too will be surprised at how the list keeps growing. I guarantee you will not regret it.

I would just like to say to each person reading my blog, how very grateful I am to you, taking time out of your very precious day, to read what I have written. I am truly grateful to you.

Gale x

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Opening the suggestion box of worms!

At the Black Queen it has always been our policy to ask for comments and suggestions from our guests to make our attraction better for future visitors.

We recently received a suggestion to add a few extra dollars to our entry charge to provide a complimentary beer/wine or soft drink to visitors, which would allow them to relax and take in the surroundings before needing to concentrate on the performance. Further, as a value-add, it was suggested drinks could be offered between acts.

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This single, simple suggestion spurred a dialogue between Roger and myself that carried on for days. Throughout the past seven years we have debated serving a drink during the performance and have always abandoned the idea. But this time we decided to really explore the options.

I will provide the short version of our deliberations so as not to bore you – in the end, we’ve come to the view that in a room full of priceless lamps, lit with real fire, it is not worth the risk. We pass around some amazing ancient artifacts as part of our show and we couldn’t bear the thought of what could happen if alcohol was spilled and mixed with the fire.

While we won’t be pursuing this particular suggestion now, we are very grateful we received it as it truly made us re-examine our thoughts – always a positive thing.

Do you have any suggestions for us? We’d love to hear them!

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Hickory, dickory, dock…Some thoughts on ‘time’

Hickory, dickory, dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down,
Hickory, dickory, dock

We all know that famous nursery rhyme. But lately I’ve been thinking more about time, and what a funny old thing it is. Why is it that when there is very little to do, time seems to drag by? But yet when we are busy…or having fun…well, time speeds up so fast you can hardly catch your breath before the day is over?

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It also seems that the years are now speeding by faster and faster, blurring together. I notice this particularly when I have to think about my age! It’s got me wondering, is time actually speeding up? Or are our perceptions merely changing with time? An interesting thought.

So aside from the perspective of time related to your age, what else could it be? There are numerous theories—one being a shift in consciousness.

Consider how far we have come in just a few years regarding technology, education, medicine and communications. It seems like we have been more productive in the past few years than in the previous one hundred.

The late Mayan calendar researcher and expert Ian Xel Lungold was of the belief that time seemed to be speeding up because creation was speeding up. As more happens, time appears to move more quickly. In Lungold’s words, “When more is possible to happen in every moment, there is more possible outcomes which opens the door to things called miracles.” Sounds like time flies when you’re making miracles!

So as time marches on even more quickly these days, remember it’s all part of our spiritual journey. We are speedily racing towards a higher consciousness that is truly timeless.

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Shining a light our precious Diggers Lamp

Anzac Day has a special meaning at the Black Queen, not only today but throughout the year. You see, a couple of years ago we were given a WWI Diggers Lamp containing the remnants of its original candle and original matches.

The woman who gifted this lamp to us found it in a garage sale years ago and, unbelievably, paid just 10 cents for it. She then went on a 20-year odyssey to find the right home for it.

Our special WWI Diggers Lamp

Our special WWI Diggers Lamp

She told me for 15 years the Australian War Memorial in Canberra pursued her, wanting the lamp for their collection. She told me they could never guarantee it would be on display and if it was on display, how long it would be on display for. We could guarantee her that every person who came to one of our performances at the Black Queen would see this magnificent piece up close, and that it would be a very personal experience for them.

The story goes that every Digger was kitted with one of these small lamps. Once the candle and matches were gone, the men would stomp on them to destroy them, as they could not afford for the lamp to be fashioned into a weapon to be used against them. For this reason, hardly any survived the war, much less with original candle and matches. It is simply unheard of.

I think of all the pieces in our collection, this piece touches people’s heart the most. My grandfather served in WWI, as did many of our grandparents or great grandparents, regardless of where thy came from. I feel this piece speaks to all of us.

Our Digger’s light was owned by Private Daniel Sullivan. He used the light to write letters to his sweetheart, Rose, from the trenches of France.

We will remember them…Lest We Forget.

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We gave the Queen a facelift for a special anniversary

This year marks ten years since Roger and I became the custodians and owners of the Black Queen. In recognition of this milestone, we thought what better way to celebrate than by giving the Queen a bit of a facelift!

For the past nine years, every cent of profit we’ve made has gone back into the restoration of the magnificent structure. During this period, the Queen has seen a complete refurbishment and stabilising of its structure including new rooves (the old ones leaked like a sieve) and Climate Action Leader Accreditation. We’ve also overseen the installation of five reticulated water tanks, solar hot water systems, new sanitation through eco toilet facilities, a new office for Roger, new carports for covered parking, landscaping, extensive concreting, the addition of a fabulous sculpture garden thanks to Jenny Rickards, and the list goes on and on and on.

We arrived back in the Ridge this year on March 18, just in time to witness the start of the Queen’s transformation. Roger and I had carefully picked out the new exterior colours back in October and left the timing up our master painter/contractor Ron Campbell. Perfectly ‘On Q’, he planned the start of the Queen’s transformation the morning of our arrival.

The Queen looking resplendent following her facelift

The Queen looking resplendent following her facelift

By the time we arrived, we could actually see the magic of the new colours unfolding. Then for three weeks, Ron’s chief painter Lester, meticulously painted away with his concentration and focus never waning.

The result! Well, see for yourself…Isn’t she looking divine!

The new coat of paint will see the Queen through her next decade and beyond. Our sincere thanks go out to Lester, Ron and Luke.

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Why the spontaneous drop-in is one of the sheer joys of life

Some dear friends of ours dropped by unexpectedly today. At first when they arrived, I thought they were travellers wanting to book in for a performance, so off I went with brochure in hand. But they turned out to be the wonderful and talented Jenny and Steve Greentree from Bourke!

Jenny is one of my favourite artists in the world, and not just because she paints Leopardwood trees. The Black Queen is surrounded by these fascinating native trees, which are remnants from the past when the area was rainforest. Somewhat surprisingly, they have managed to survive and thrive in the harsh climate.

Jenny's

Jenny’s painting, ‘Leopard’, that hangs above our bed

The bark of the Leopardwood is completely unique, and they blossom each spring with little yellow flowers. You can’t plant them, as our local cactus expert John Bevan will attest – they must procreate themselves and will grow only in a place of their choosing.

A fitting tree for the Ridge, don’t you think?

Years ago, we purchased one of Jenny’s original works entitled ‘Leopard’. This remarkable painting hangs next to our bed, and it’s the first thing I see when I wake every morning. If you have the opportunity to visit Bourke, I implore you to make Back of Bourke Gallery part of your trip. It’s a must see and do, and you will love Jenny’s perspective on life.

Jenny and Steve’s visit reminded me just what a surprise – and a joy – a spontaneous catch up with friends can be!

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Not your average Easter show…

Apparently, there’s an Easter Show happening in Sydney at the moment.

This time of year, there’s only one show you’ll find me at – and that’s the Lightning Ridge Easter Festival!

Kicking off tomorrow on Good Friday, and running through to Easter Sunday, the show is a unique outback festival experience. Where else in Australia will you find human goat races, rickshaw challenges, talent quests, fireworks, a ‘busk off’ and a float parade?

If you’re anywhere near the Ridge, make sure you stop in this weekend and get involved. I’ll see you there!

Lightning Ridge Easter Festival festivities!

Lightning Ridge Easter Festival showgoers

For more information on the program, click here

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Are you having a good day or a bad one? It’s your choice!

Why would anyone deliberately deface something that does not belong to them? I have been asking myself this question for the past week.

You see, when we arrived back in Lightning Ridge last month we put up all new signage, so proud are we of our new branding. Heading back into town after taking Donna to the airport, we noticed our beautiful new sign had been graffitied.

Our beautiful, graffiti-free sign!

Our beautiful, graffiti-free sign!

Our signs have never been defaced in the past, so we thought this strange. In fact, one of the great things about the Ridge is how little graffiti there is here.

This got me thinking…Does someone have something against us? Was it a random act by kids? Or could we expect more?

So off I went to clean the sign, taking with me an array of cleaning products, hoping it could be salvaged. As good luck would have it, my scouring block of ‘white magic’ did the trick perfectly. Two days later a visitor told us our sign had been defaced. Again I went down and cleaned off the sign and once again, all of the graffiti came off.

I was talking to my daughter Jill about the situation and she told me I should change my thoughts in order to change my world. In other words, I needed to think about this situation differently. Jill reminded me how each time I now went down to the sign, I was making sure it was sparkling clean and ready to direct our visitors to the Black Queen. What great advice!

We’ve had another episode of grafatti since, and for the foreseeable future I will be going down every day to clean our sign. But the difference is, I now know my purpose is to shine the way for visitors to find us.

Do you have an example of how you’ve changed your thoughts around?

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A night of expected and unexpected visitors…

Friday night’s performance was looking to be a fizzer. Pre-Easter is always slow and when half of our audience decided to change their booking to the following night’s performance, things were looking pretty scarce. To top it off, I had invited a local painter, Luke, to attend that evening’s performance. My husband told me he probably wouldn’t be able to attend, as he had no transportation.

I called up the family who were scheduled for that evening, asking them if they would like to rebook for the Saturday night’s performance. They told me unfortunately they were leaving the next morning. I told them in that case they would be privileged to a very special and private performance and we would be delighted to see them at 5pm.

When they arrived at 4.45, I made the decision to start the show early and wouldn’t you know it, precisely at 5pm, Luke shows up, mid-way through Act 1. The performance continued and went according to plan except…these 4 people were a simply amazing audience. The family was so cool and a true pleasure to perform the show for. Luke fitted in just perfectly and it was one of those magical nights the Black Queen has become famous for.

One of the family members, Nicole, was doing a photography course and asked if she could take some pictures. Once the inside photos were finished, she proceeded to attempt some outside images of the Black Queen. Enter Luke…also a student of photography who had worked and studied under a few famous international photographers. Luke was very familiar with Nicole’s camera, and he helped her make the adjustments required to get a most sensational evening photograph.

But here’s the rub…

Look to the left - can you see the silhouette of a woman?

Look to the left – can you see the silhouette of a woman?

People often say to me they can see and feel the presence of the late Joan Andrews, the creator and builder of the Black Queen, in and around the house.

Now, take a look at the left side of this photograph and you will see what appears to be a shadow of a woman.

Please understand that none of us were standing anywhere near the vicinity of that shadow. It even looks like Joan! Far out!

Life is an amazing and mysterious thing, isn’t it?

Roger’s and my thanks and appreciation goes out to Luke Reynolds and Nicole Sedent for jointly creating this amazing photograph. 

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If you only watch one thing today, make it this video

This time last week, an incredibly brave young woman shared an intensely personal moment with the world.

Having undergone a double mastectomy, Marina McDonald shared her new body with the cameras (both still and moving) in an act that shows incredible strength and generosity. And all of this on a tiny little morning program called The Today Show.

The photo was taken by co-host Lisa Wilkinson, who is also an ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Take a look:

I have been thinking about this video for the past week, trying to get my head around why it is so powerful. To say it didn’t hit me hard is an understatement.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time, I thought my whole world was coming to an end. I took a few days out to research what options I had. Such decisions are extremely hard to make and are deeply personal. Whatever you decide will have an impact on you, mentally and physically, for the rest of your life.

Another lumpectomy, radiation and chemo…a single mastectomy…a double mastectomy…reconstructive surgery…

In the end I chose reconstructive surgery. The doctors took my lower tummy fat (I had extra to spare!) and using my own tissue, they reconstructed two new breasts. The surgery was 14 hours and the recovery time extensive. The most important thing my doctor told me at the time is that I would never feel the same after my surgery as before. This was such excellent advice for me to start the process of adjusting to my new, post-cancer life.

Here I am, 3 years later, happy with my decision and confident in my new body. I have written my journey with cancer into ‘Legacy & Light’, as a beacon for all to know there is life after breast cancer.

So, like the incredible Marina McDonald, in my own way I hope that sharing my story with the world will help others come to terms with theirs.

Gale x

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