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Published: January 7th 2020
Wildfires scorch and scour our Australian bushland as I rise to the 2020 New Year.
Green can become flaming orange then become ashes and tears.
Images of the ever spectacular Sydney NYE fireworks and simultaneous Fire & Rescue videos of sparks flying and endless flames leaping...homes and lives smashed or smouldering...wondering if our home backing onto National Park in Sydney's North will soon be threatened.
And if so, what will we do?
What will be our future?
The smoke in the gorge behind us reminding that the closest fires are 20 kms away but as long as we are prepared...as long as we are ready.
The uneasy ash filled air causing my eyes to squint...to close...to drift away to the Neva..the Svir...the Volga and our worry-less glide as the rivers of Russia wash any cares away. Play this music video as you watch the Panorama Slideshow at the top of this page. Music only works on Page l of my blog. The beauty of the Neva, Svir & Volga Russian Rivers at their most brilliant best.
Wind back three months...our river cruise from St Petersburg to Moscow on the
Viking Ingvar...29 Aussies brought together by subscription to newspapers in Oz...and by the lure of being led by Deborah Snow, the ABC correspondent during the fall of the Soviet Union...each with different expectations...each with different attitudes to snooze.
Let's face it...this dancer has never been a morning person...I cannot sleep in, but when I rise ...silence is my preferred soliloquy.
Always thinking...never an empty vessel...unspoken reflections on occasion my greatest brain ping engagements...revealing themselves in my sleep or during my morning shower...embedding as the day rolls on or while presenting a case.
Yet others are morning persons...readily able to talk on waking...or prattle away.
But until I have washed night's cobwebs away...mmmm.
Denise breaks my thoughts saying there is a lot of talk as to whether Sydney should have had the NYE fireworks or whether we should have cancelled them and stood in solidarity with our firefighting brothers.
Denise then says we are complex creatures of a higher order and capable of being empathetic to the needs of our brothers and sisters both within Australia and beyond in times of crisis, but at the same time being able to celebrate in the now and
be hopeful of the future. One does not negate the other They can co-exist together if they are not at the expense or exclusion of others.
Denise is a morning person and as I have not yet had my morning shower, I will need time to reflect on that.
I nuke my coffee and resume dreaming away.
I wake in our riverboat cabin at 5:30am every morning...the sort of time I wake in Oz with work on my mind.
But I'm in Russia...on the Neva River, then Lake Ladoga, then the Svir, Lake Onega then the Volga...my mobile phone still locked in one of my bags...work issues half a world away...grabbing a dressing gown to do something I only do on holiday...grabbing my camera to capture a sunrise.
Our cabin is top deck and only 20 metres from the Panorama Bar.
Each morning I am greeted by Tina...our gracious hostess while she sets up for the day.
Carafes of icy orange juice...tapas of Norwegian salmon, Dutch cheeses, charcuterie of Russian cured meats and juicy sandwich morsels, yoghurt and fruit salad surprises, breads and the ever present champagne.
asks if I would like a coffee...she knows how I like it...out the side door to the sweeping verandah deck...usually early enough to capture the pre-dawn light.
Mist over the water rising...silence oh what silence...a bird screeching as it wheels then settles.
Horizon glow growing...first light creeping...crescent sun peeping...sky and river glistening aqua, pink, yellow...autumn tinged forests waving...the rooves of dachas nestling the river shore.
A necklace of birds...the odd one darting here and there...will one fly across the ascending sun and be haloed within my lens?
I take my fill and head inside for my morning coffee.
And that's how I got to know Westly.
He, a fellow Aussie, used to arrive in the Panorama Bar at dawn and sit down with a 'History of the Tsars' reading...near the front window but two tables back.
A couple of Americans would follow and occasionally another Aussie, Ron.
Jay would have joined Tina setting up by then and would be busy offering everyone coffee.
Westly would occasionally look up and share a piece of Russian history with me.
As the dawns passed he told me one morning that he had beaten
me in there.
I smiled and we both laughed as our souls connected.
I enjoyed our chats. Westly is from Melbourne who spends much time in Europe investigating his craft.
I felt we understood each other.
Ron on the other hand is a morning person yet he was not often up to catch the sunrise...probably his delightful partner Pauline suggested he not disturb. There are a few people in life that draw joy and humour from deep within...Ron is such a person...a man of the World.
Tina would light my mornings...would care for all the patrons of the Panorama Bar as if they were her own...have extended chats with Denise & I well beyond the call of duty.
And when Denise would finally enter...I knew it was time I get out of my dressing gown and have a shower to wipe my non-morning person cobwebs away.
When I would emerge fresh faced and combed...there would be Denise chatting to the Aussies from neighbouring cabins, the learned Priscilla and Claudia...or the eclectic Peter and Mary.
And I would join them before our fellow naughty kids from the back of the bus, Simon and
Liz would waltz in for a chat and a laugh as the day set in...or maybe I'd have a heart to heart with Geoffrey on the deck..or the hunting for rare minerals in Mali with Wolf..
There were also various Americans and English who soon learnt my name.
And as is her way, Denise connected with all of them.
Ah the Panorama Bar...my preferred place for breakfast...a clubhouse for the like-minded...where non-morning and morning minded mariners could feel at home.
Who was I sharing the sunrises with?
Anyone who was up early enough...who would enter the Panorama Bar in the early morning light...who would brighten the day by venturing in.
Relax and Enjoy,
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