Sunday, April 23, 2017

Enjoying Autumn in Melbourne

Self-Reliance Corner - The Challenge to Become

Our self-reliance message for this month comes from several quotes by Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks
"In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something". (Ensign, November 2000, p. 32).

"Whatever causes us to be dependent on someone else for decisions or resources we could provide for ourselves, weakens us spiritually and retards our growth toward what the gospel plan intends us to be." (Ensign, November 2003, p. 40).

(In both cases, the emphasis is ours.)

A serious consideration of these quotations of course begs the questions: "What do we want to become?" and "What is it that the gospel plan intends us to be?".  Each of us must answer these questions for ourselves.  No matter what our answers, though, they will define our own vision for our lives, which in turn establishes the long and short-term goals towards which we inexorably work every day.  It does not matter if we have written them down on paper or even if we have articulated or consciously thought of them.  They are there, underpinning and directing our actions, day by day.

While the Cheshire cat's advice to Alice, that if she did not know where she was going, it did not matter which road she took, sounds reasonable, it is a fact that in this life all roads go somewhere and each day we chose the path we will follow and the turns we will take.  Do you not want to have some idea of what both the journey and the destination will be like?  Knowing that our choices each day are important, it is prudent for us to do some contemplation and soul-searching, to discover our answers to the above questions, and to make some changes if we don't like where our life is headed.

A true disciple of Christ might have, as one answer, that he or she wants to become like Christ - to develop his/her characteristics, especially the kind of love he/she has for others, which we call charity.  Other answers might be that we want to be an exemplary husband or wife, or father or mother.  Or that we want to excel in some area of science, engineering, medicine, law, teaching, philosophy, history, politics, art, music, etc., and thereby make a real contribution to the society around us.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson
The obvious follow-on question, once we have firmly established a vision for our lives, is "How do we go about achieving that vision?".  That is a long discussion for a future post, but to whet your appetite, we'd like to close with this quote from Elder D. Todd Christofferson:

"It is God's will that we be free men and women, enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually, that we be free from the humiliating limitations of poverty and the bondage of sin, that we enjoy self-respect and independence, that we be prepared in all things to join Him in His celestial kingdom." (Ensign, November 2014, "Free Forever, to Act for Themselves").

Out and About

We were out for a day in the Dandenong Mountains recently and decided to stop by Miss Marple's Tea Room for an afternoon snack.  This is located in the small town of Sassafras.  The food was delicious, and being mystery lovers (especially those by Agatha Christie), we loved the ambiance.

Miss Marple's Tea Room in Sassafras

In a nearby park, the pathways were beautifully painted with local flora and fauna - it was almost a shame to walk on them!

While out walking in early April, we came across a real treat - first time in the wild!  We saw an Echidna rooting around for some ants amongst the leaves.  He was very shy to start, hunkering down and showing us his quills, but after a while, condescended to move around again, allowing us to get the following photo:

An Echidna Rooting for its Supper

A few days later, we saw another Echidna, street art style, painted on the side of an electrical box.  This one was a bit more adventurous than her real counterpart:

Australian Street Art

Birds and Flying-foxes

This is a time of year when the bird life is diminishing - many of them are flying north for the winter (that's right - a sensible bird does not fly south for the winter in Australia; too many icebergs).  However, we discovered a colony of the only mammal capable of sustained flight - the "Australian Grey-headed Flying-Fox" (they just looked like huge bats to us).

This colony used to roost in the Botanical Gardens in downtown Melbourne, but was relocated to a 1 km long section along the Yarra River in Bell Bird park (don't see any Bell Birds around there now).  It is hard to estimate their numbers, but there must be from 10 to 50 hanging from every tree on both sides of the river, with a total of several thousand bats.  They like to "hang out" during the day, but are not really sleeping.  There is a continual (not unpleasant) noise and the occasional bat that decides to fly from one tree to the next.

The bats don't eat where they roost, but at dusk fly up to 50 km away to feed.  They are major pollinators of eucalyptus trees, as they feed on a vegetarian diet.

The following guy is literally hanging by his toe nails from a rather wimpy looking branch, quite content.  Apparently hanging upside down is the most efficient way to spend the day, as the bat isn't fighting gravity trying to stay upright.

Australian Grey-headed Flying-fox
We managed to take a photo of one flying-fox just as it opened its wings for a stretch.  The expression "blind as a bat" really does not apply to these bats - they can see better than a human during the day time and at least as well as a cat at night.

Australian Grey-headed Flying-fox - taking a break (from resting) and having a stretch.
Here is one shot of about 50 bats hanging in one tree - an example of how densely they congregate during the day.  They were removed from the Botanical Gardens because of problems with breaking tree branches, but the Eucalyptus trees along this stretch of the river seem quite hardy.

Flying-foxes lining the trees along the Yarra River
These bats are protected by the city parks and police.  Anyone caught disturbing them during the day or injuring them is subject to heavy fines and/or imprisonment.

While many "exotic" birds are in short supply, there are still birds that are hanging around the cricket fields for an early morning breakfast.  They particularly like whatever shows up after a rainfall.

White Ibis (yes, we can see the black head :>)
Masked Lapwing
The last bird photo for this blog is of the uncommon, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo.  Normally raucous in the spring, when feeding on the Acacia Trees, in the fall they were quiet and subdued (both in sound and colour).  We were fortunate to see a few in a reserve known as Grant's Picnic Grounds in the Dandenong Mountains.  On that same trip, we also caught a brief glimpse of the elusive Lyrebird but were too dumbfounded to react and take a photo (sigh!).

Yellow-Tailed Black-Cockatoo