Hope is the Thing with Feathers – Burnett River, Gayndah

purple sunset at Burnett River

“The river itself portrays humanity precisely, with its tortuous windings, its accumulation of driftwood, its unsuspected depths, and its crystalline shallows, singing in the summer sun.”   Myrtle Reed, Old Rose and Silver

I’ve always derived pleasure from watching sunrises, sunsets and rivers.  Given the vast amount of poetry and photography dedicated to these subjects, I’m not unusual in my interest. Sometimes though, we can observe something in nature for years  and then be gifted with an epiphany.  We view it with new eyes. I had one such moment recently.

The last two months have involved adventures and challenges of a mainly non-walking kind.  After having a transient ischaemic attack and a fall leaving her with spinal damage, a relative will not be able to return home and remains in hospital until we’re able to find alternative care for her. As next of kin and having power of attorney, I’ve been travelling back and forth to her location five hours drive away to visit and sort out her affairs.

During these trips, I’ve found an hour here and there to enjoy the local region where she lives, in particular, the Burnett River at Gayndah in Queensland. The beauty of nature can be comforting. As usual, I found the process of capturing shots meditative and calming.

Burnett River

There is a danger of being dragged into a tunnel of despair when watching a loved one suffer. How can I enjoy myself when she has lost her independence and is in pain?  I’ve struggled with this in the past.  If anything though,  the suffering of another should be a reason for me to appreciate what I do have.


I’ve missed the contact with my blogging friends and followers across the world and thought I’d take some time to share a few images and information. I’m sorry I’ve not had time to read and comment on  blogs during this period. When life settles I’ll be able to resume my interactions again. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy what I have to offer.


To followers, Tony and family, I walked the Tarcoola track earlier this year and am looking forward to sharing the walk through pictures soon. Thank you very much for recommending this beautiful short walk to me. Thanks to all my other friends in the blogging world who sent supportive messages during the last couple of months. I appreciate your kindness and apologise for not having replied to you all individually.

black swan feeding sunrise

To watch a loved one who has already suffered many setbacks in her life be in constant pain and dependent on others for the most basic aspects of hygiene and to be told there was little chance she would improve was a greater physical and mental challenge than any hike I’ve undertaken.

A morning came though, when the unexpected happened. After being confined to bed with a paralysed and weakened body, she was able to take a few excruciatingly slow steps aided by a  Rollator – a 5 star 4 wheeled walking aid.  I left the hospital that afternoon in a daze, trying to take in what had transpired that day.

I decided to make a brief stop to walk across a bridge spanning the Burnett River at dusk. The last time I’d set foot there was over 40 years ago as a 5 year old child walking from my home at an orchard to school. The old wooden bridge has since been replaced  by a higher modern concrete version.

Bridge over Burnett River

Birds were settling down for the night or finding their last meal by wading in the shallows or skimming across the water.

Birds at sunset

birds at sunset


The final curtain of darkness was descending when suddenly, as is the unpredictability and ephemeral nature of sunsets, brilliant flashes of colour lit up the sky and were reflected in the water.


At that moment it seemed to mirror what I’d seen that day. The end was drawing closer in my relative’s life and just when we thought there was no hope for improvement, when the inevitability of her deterioration was darkening our emotions, she was not ready to let go. It was a brilliant event to witness.  All hope seemed lost but it is was not yet over.


Death comes to us all but the human spirit can be amazingly resilient and the sunset reminded me of this. I’d watched her struggle to fight serious incapacity and seen the amazing strength she possessed that day and the flashes of colour before the darkness seemed to symbolise this.  There is beauty even in the ugliness of struggle. The beauty is in the incredible human capacity to endure and the  love that connects us and transcends these events.

For most of my life I’ve watched her battling many serious health problems and difficult life events and only felt deep  sadness when instead, perhaps I should have focused on celebrating her amazing inner strength and endurance. She’s lived a quiet life; she’s not famous,  but given what she’s had to endure she deserves recognition.

sunset and birds

In the last two months, I’ve met many elderly female patients and listened to their stories.  Their strength, determination and faith under seemingly hopeless circumstances has lifted my hopes that when infirmity hits me and death approaches  there will still be flashes of colour before the darkness descends.  They’re not famous adventurers, but they’re  heroes to me.

Another evening I experienced a sunset from Archer’s Lookout. I don’t think I will ever view a sunset or sunrise in quite the same way again.

Archers Lookout

cobblers pegs at sunset


I visited the river as often as I could, enjoying the wildlife and the patterns the water carves.

River patterns from bridge

bee on native flower


black swans burnett river sunrise


birds in water

remains of old bridge

On one trip my brother joined me. Being a mad fisherman he always has gear in the car and threw in a line. To his surprise he caught a catfish within minutes. On a later trip on his own he was to catch a few giant ones. Our father used to catch the same fish in this location many years ago.


On the subject of fish, the little town of Gayndah, situated on the banks of the Burnett River, was the source of the  hoax fish, Ompax spatuloides .  Locals served up a meal which they’d constructed from the body of a mullet, the head of a platypus and the tail of an eel, to visiting Brisbane Museum director, Karl Staigor, in 1872. Karl sent a sketch and description to expert Francis de Laporte de Castelnau  who gave it the scientific name in 1879. This “fish” could still be found in some fish lists in the 1930s.  Having lived in country areas for many years it comes as no surprise to me that the locals would take great delight in fooling visiting high brow academics.

It seems the Gayndah locals like to tell a few stories.  Even though I lived in Gayndah for 8 years, I’d not heard of the legend of the Gayndah bear/yowie/panther/hairy man until now. A few explanations exist but one seems to be based on a true event. In the late 1950s, Queensland was struck by serious weather events – many cyclones, destructive storms and flooding. During this period a circus trailer overturned on the old range road. Most of the animals were recovered apart from three brown or Himalayan bears.  Apparently this information was kept quiet at the time to avoid panic.  It is possible that these bears may have survived and even bred.

Many Queenslanders are also probably unaware that Gayndah is the oldest gazetted town in our state. There was a small convict colony at Brisbane but Gayndah has the official honour. In fact, at one time Gayndah was competing to be the capital of Queensland, however the Burnett River wasn’t consistently deep enough to be used as a port. It’s hard to believe it was once a bustling centre when you drive along its sleepy main street today.

The town is also known for its citrus crops and competes with nearby Mundubbera for the title of citrus capital. The Gayndah Orange Festival is held every two years and was a thrilling event when I was a child.

Gayndah orange

Orange man

This tiny town was also the location for The Mango Tree, an Australian drama  directed by Kevin Dobson in 1977, starring Geraldine Fitzgerald and Sir Robert Helpmann. The film-makers chose Gayndah because many of the old buildings from the 19th century remained intact.  If you visit the township today you’ll still see much of the old architecture. I remember how excited we schoolkids were at the thought of possibly being chosen as  extras. Sadly, I do not make an appearance in the movie but many of the locals do. For old movie buffs, the lead actor Christopher Pate is the son of actor Michael Pate who also produced the film.

Rivers twist and turn. Sometimes they’re  raging torrents washing away everything in their path.  Other times they’re slow moving and tranquil. To look at the Burnett River recently, it was difficult for me to imagine it as a huge wall of water, sweeping away buildings and farms and  flooding the local township in 2010.

flood indicators



It’s a reminder that everything passes. Tumultuous events in life come and go. The ebb and flow of life continues. Floodwaters can bring devastation but they also bring growth, as can difficult life experiences.

purple sunset

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—

That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—’

Emily Dickinson

60 thoughts on “Hope is the Thing with Feathers – Burnett River, Gayndah

  1. A great pleasure to read this post Jane. Your writing and photography are sublime. Happy to hear that there is some good news and that you are hanging in there at this difficult time.

    It is such a joy to be somewhere like that river when nature throws up such a spectacular but fleeting lightshow. Even better when to have your camera in hand – the moment gets shared with us all.

    Many thanks, take care, Rob

    • Thanks very much for the kind comments, Rob. I’m very thankful for your encouragement with blogging and other issues, especially since you have such a hectic workload and busy family life. I know your family has been through its own personal challenges over the years and your support has meant a lot to me. Yes, it is wonderful to witness such events in nature. They really do raise the spirits! Thanks for all the work you do in your job to improve our experiences when visiting national parks and to monitor the wildlife that need these habitats. Have a great week. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Anna. I’ve got some catching up to do. I hope all is well with you and your family in Perth and you’ve managed a few hikes/escapes! 🙂 Best wishes. x

  2. It is great to hear from you again though on such a sad occasion, She must be a remarkable woman to manage to walk again. Your pictures are stunning especially the first one, I had forgotten what a good photographer you are. Good luck to your fighting relative.

    • Thanks very much, Susan. Yes, she’s a remarkable woman. Considering all the challenges she’s had to face it is amazing she is still alive today. My new camera has made photography so much easier for me. It has automatic settings for many situations so I don’t need to worry about ISO numbers etc. It means the pictures represent more what my eyes are actually seeing. I’m looking forward to catching up on all your adventures when life slows down a little. I’ve missed my regular Tuesday tour from you! I hope you have a lovely week. Best wishes. 🙂

  3. Hi there Jane

    It’s nice to hear from you again, even though it’s not the best situation for you, by a long shot. I wholeheartedly subscribe to what you wrote about pain, about people whom the Goddess of Bad Luck has given too many ‘presents’, and how much we should learn from them. Your words reminded me of my mother, and I could really see myself in your musings over fairness and making the most of one’s life. I hope your relative’s suffering will diminish, all the best and thanks for those lovely nature shots.

    • Hi Fabrizio. I’ve missed reading your blog. 🙂 It’s good to hear from you. Thanks for your lovely comments. I am glad you find elements of my post common to your own experiences and thoughts. It’s reassuring to know that my words are understood and appreciated by others. I hope you are well and look forward to catching up on your writings. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Brenda. I probably won’t “be back” completely for a while but it is wonderful to make connections with my blogging friends and followers again. I’ve missed the interactions. Have a lovely week. Best wishes. 🙂

  4. Ah Jane. Once again, you’ve moved me from my current surroundings to have me sit and ponder beside that river with you. You not only moved me mentally to that beautiful spot, but emotionally as you describe a season that is such a part of life, one of the darker ones, that we fear thinking or planning for it. Strength and peace to you and your loved one(s) Jane as you walk this part of life’s adventure with such grace.

    • Thanks for those lovely words, Caro. I’ve never spent much extended time in high care sections of hospitals or in aged care homes. It’s been a rewarding and challenging experience. The last two months have felt more like a year in some ways. It’s made me think more about old age and death and how I will cope. It’s also given me a deeper insight into my relative’s life as I had to pack up her personal belongings and move them out of her rental home. There has certainly been a lot of reflection happening. I hope you are enjoying your new move. I was able to have a quick read about your place in the mountains. A wonderful decision I think! Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thank you, Tom! I’ve really missed following the goings-on of the Tootlepedals. I hope to get a chance to do some catching up soon. Life doesn’t feel quite the same without a daily dose of your wit and beautiful pictures. I hope you and Mrs T are keeping well. Best wishes. 🙂

  5. Good to have you back again Jane! Hang in there. You’re doing precious and important work, and making a difference in all sorts of ways.

    • Thanks very much for your support and encouragement, Paula. I am looking forward to catching up with all your doings when life settles down a little more. I had a lovely walk along the Coomera Circuit at Binna Burra with a visiting friend recently. So many waterfalls and creeks! What a soothing experience. I still haven’t seen Morticia yet but hope to on a guided night walk eventually. Best wishes. 🙂

  6. Hi Jane, good to see a post from you but hate to hear things aren’t going so well for your relative. Beautiful words and photos. Keep finding your joy in the sunrises and sunsets and the river currents…and in the unexpected moments when they happen.

    • Hi Steve,
      Thanks for those encouraging words. I’m surprised and heartened that people still read my posts after such a long absence. I do hope all is well in the world of Mr Bream. You’ve had your own challenges, I know. I’ll be sure to keep enjoying all the beautiful free gifts offered by nature. They certainly help to lift the spirits during challenging times. Have a great week! 🙂

  7. Stunningly beautiful photos Jane! It great to hear from you again after a long absence. I do pray your relative will recover soon. However, like myself, you have managed to pluck something beautiful from amongst the hours of care and empathy you are giving. This is like a reward, those sunsets are amazing. Love the bird shots also. All the best to you my dear blogging friend:-)

    • Thanks for your kind thoughts and prayers, Ashley. Actually, she was having a very bad day but tonight I got a call to say she was feeling much better. I’m back home in Brisbane for a little while again and I know she misses me when she is feeling vulnerable. A number of special things happened though to lift her spirits and she said she was now feeling like a Queen, surrounded by so much help and support. I was very relieved. I appreciate your continued encouragement and hope that you and your loved ones are well. Best wishes. 🙂

  8. I was so pleased to see that you had published a post – you have had such a hard time recently and must be exhausted. This is such a touching and moving piece of writing and the photographs are beautiful. My prayers are with you and your brave relative. Love Clare x

    • Hello dear Clare,
      Thank you for always being such a kind and empathetic soul. You are such a caring person. I’m so glad you enjoyed my words and pictures. It will be a while before I can catch up with your news as my relative still needs me to travel back and forth quite often. I had a lovely walk through rainforest recently which I am looking forward to sharing with you eventually. There were so many waterfalls and creek crossings! Have a lovely week. 🙂

      • Thank-you Jane. I am glad you are finding a little time to relax in amongst all your many duties. Don’t you worry about catching up with my posts – I haven’t had time to write many and none of them were works of art! Take care and have as good a week as you possibly can xx

  9. Nice Post Jane, you bring a lot of people happiness with your offerings and I look forward to many more years of them. Cheers Kevin

    • Thanks, Kevin for your supportive comments and for sharing the Coomera Circuit with me at Binna Burra. It was a fantastic walk. I lost count of the waterfalls and creek crossings. Keep churning out those entertaining, distinctively “feral” blog posts! I hope you’re not freezing in Melbourne right now. The weather looks pretty bleak. Best wishes. 🙂

  10. Your reflections on this delicate topic are beautiful Jane. Together with your photographs they leave quite an impact. One with a gentle strength. The type that seeps in deeply. Thank you and bless you.

    • What lovely feedback, Gail. Thank you for those kind and thoughtful words. I’m happy you felt it gave out “gentle strength” as that is the overwhelming feeling I came away with after speaking to many of the elderly patients. I was very touched by their stories. I do hope you are well and enjoying your cycling at the moment. I’ve missed reading your posts for the last couple of months so I’m sorry if I’m not up to date on your life. Thank you again and blessings to you also. x

  11. As usual, a beautiful post, full of emotion and stunning imagery. Thank you again. Oh, I figured I should say hi, as I have been non blogging for some time and have even moved from the Far North down here to Brisbane 🙂

    • Hi Griff! What a surprise to hear from you and also to read that you’ve moved to Brisbane. I hope it was a move that was desired and you are happy living here. I assume the humidity is much less down our way? I hope you are well. Anyway, thanks for the nice comments. Let me know if you are up for a walk one day. Best wishes. 🙂

  12. Fine to hear and read you again.Great and wonderful photography.You do such a good work to help family.You are a warm and lovely person..Hope everything will be better for you and the one you loves and helps

    • Thank you for visiting my blog after my long absence and for your kind words. I’ve found a place for her to get better long term care now which is good but it is still a long way from where I live so I am trying to find a place closer to Brisbane. I hope you are well and I look forward to visiting your lovely blog again soon. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Nic. I hope you and your family are well and you’re still enjoying water adventures. I’ve just noticed some nasty weather down that way though so I guess you may be staying close to home for a while. I’m looking forward to catching up on your beautiful images and humorous and thought-provoking words soon ( I hope!) Best wishes. 🙂

  13. Jane, this post really hit home for me. Your words were comforting and beautiful, and your photography is just exceptional! I think sometimes, our best work (however we create) is done in our darkest moments.This is some of your finest work.

    • Thank you, Lori! Your positive feedback means a great deal to me. Yes, I think it’s often the case for me that struggle/darkness help open up my mind to other thoughts or teach me something new. At the time though all we may want to do is have everything fixed, for it to be all better, but often that can’t be done. We just have to ride out the storm and see where it takes us. It can be scary…:-) I also owe you another letter. Just after I received your long one, life became more complicated… I know though that with you and me, there is never pressure to respond within a certain time. Your friendship is such a comfort to me, Lori. You are such a giver. x

      • Oh goodness… You and I are both hooked up with life right now, and you’re right, we understand. No worries about when you respond. Good thoughts and positive energy flow between us, dear friend.

    • Thanks very much, Terry. It is nice to know that across the vast distances I have blogger friends who care. I hope you are well and all is good in your world. I look forward to catching up on your beautiful nature shots. I hope I am able to visit the area one day. Best wishes. 🙂

  14. Your writing skills are so good, and the story so compelling, that I had to skip the photos the first time through this post. Then, I went back and viewed the wonderful photos, so that I could appreciate them on their own merit. Then, I read the post again, and found that it moved me more the second time through. You are an excellent writer, I hope that you are able to put that to use some day in a way that is emotionally and monetarily beneficial to you!

    • Such kind and encouraging words, Jerry. Thank you very much! While writing this post I remembered your own experiences with your mother in her last years. It’s so difficult to watch loved ones deteriorate. At the same time we may be trying to battle with Government department bureaucracy while we organise their financial arrangements. Negotiating the aged care systems can be very tricky. It’s a long process. Thank you for the support you’ve given me during this time. I look forward to reading your blog again soon. I saw quickly on a title that you’ve been on a short holiday so I’m sure there will be plenty of beautiful images for me to enjoy when I have more time to relax. Yes, it would be nice to obtain some financial reward from writing one day as my finances are looking very grim at the moment. Ah well, in the end the friendships I’ve gained from blogging are worth more than money. I hope you’re able to continue your walking and photography for many years to come. Maybe one day I’ll make it to the lakes of Michigan. Best wishes. 🙂

  15. It is lovely to read your latest post, Jane. The images of the river and sunset are awesome! Yes, it takes maturity and insight to see the beauty which exists in difficult times. Best wishes to you and your relative.

    • Thank you very much, Margaret. Yes, I was very lucky to witness such beautiful sunsets on multiple occasions. The vantage point from the high bridge helped me to capture the shot of the distant parts of the river. I hope you are well, Margaret, and I look forward to catching up on your lovely posts. Thank you again and best wishes. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, John. After another trip north this weekend, life should settle a little and I can catch up with your daily inspiration. Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

  16. This is a first-rate post, Jane, and a welcome one after your silence during what has been a difficult but enlightening time for you.

    With regard to Ompax spatuloides, the platypus itself was (incorrectly) suspected of being a hoax when the first specimen arrived in Britain:


    Your photograph showing debris high in trees is nothing new to people in central Texas, which is notorious for flash floods and where such sights aren’t unusual:


    In any event, welcome back.

    • Hi Steve,
      Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been northwest again helping my relative become settled into a new location and I only had my phone which is difficult to reply with.
      It is wonderful to hear from you again too, Steve. Unfortunately due to travelling again I’ve still not had a chance to check everyone’s blogs and I’m afraid I will just have to start with the latest posts.
      Ah yes, it is amusing how the platypus was suspected of being a hoax. Perhaps understandable considering it’s very strange appearance. I’ve yet to see one in the wild (or even in a zoo) so I’m very keen to visit a few platypus hot spots in the future.
      Despite learning of your flash floods from your blog, it’s still a little strange for me to think of Texas as having them due to the TV programs we grew up with that focused on the dry desert like areas. I hope one day to see the diversity of Texas in person.
      Thank you for the links and for your continued encouragement and interest, Steve. I hope all is well with you. Best wishes. 🙂

      • We’ve been travelling too, but not in difficult family circumstances. Five days ago we returned from a three-week driving trip to the north-central United States, primarily Chicago and vicinity. There and in Milwaukee, Bentonville (Arkansas) and Tulsa (Oklahoma) we got museumed out. I also took my share of nature pictures, some of which will eventually show up in my blog.

        Let’s hope you can visit Texas before too long.

    • Hi! It’s great to hear from you. Thanks for the kind comments. Every time I am reminded of the fish hoax I have a chuckle. Country people can enjoy teasing city visitors. I remember an outback station owner having a bowl of round sheep poo pellets in a bowl on his dining table for young work experience students. He told them they were chocolate smart pills. They did indeed learn a lesson and become smarter after sampling them! Sorry I’ve not caught up with your blog. I am in thr process of trying to get back on track. Best wishes. 🙂

  17. Your thoughts and images are very beautiful, Jane. This is an inspiring post~thank you for sharing it. My thoughts are with you and your relative. How good that she has you watching out for her.

    • Hi Melissa, Thank you very much for the lovely feedback and your kind thoughts. She has been moved out of hospital now and into a better location however it is still not ideal. I am hoping to transfer to a place much closer to my home so I can more easily keep an eye on her condition. I hope you are well and I am so sorry I’ve not had a chance to catch up on your beautiful art work. Best wishes! 🙂

  18. Hi Jane! I am sorry about the challenges your family is going through. Hang in there. Glad you are able to take some walks here and there. You need caring too. Your sunset pictures are stunning! I understand taking photos has this calming effect. It does the same for me. Being creative is nurturing for our souls. Take care.

    • Thank you very much. You are very kind. I’m sorry I’ve not caught up with your hikes. I do hope you and Xena are well and happy. Yes, taking photos is a very meditative activity for me. I get into a very peaceful zone. I agree, being able to take time to be creative is very nurturing for the soul. Thank you, my friend. 🙂

Comments are always appreciated.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s