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stART me up

Byron Bay Surf Festival presents ‘stART me up’
Saturday October 22nd 1-5pm
Byron Youth Services

When I was a kid I would scribble perfect wave after perfect wave onto my schoolbooks. I would take my drawings of waves home and show my Mum and she always encouraged me and told me they looked great. So I kept drawing them. When I was older I looked back at the covers on my old schoolbooks and my drawings were never really that great, but because of my Mum's encouragement I never stopped producing art, and I still do today! JMc

Byron Bay Surf Festival presents 'stART me up', a new art exhibition for kids, developed by local artist James McMillan, in association with Real creative designs, Wings, and Volcom clothing. The purpose of stART me up is to encourage youth art and to give new and emerging young artkids (some very young!) a valuable and real opportunity to hang and expose their work, in an exhibition type environment.

There are prizes in each category, including paints and paintbrushes from Eco paints, with the major prize going to the winner of the 14 -18yrs group, receiving a 6-month artist mentorship program with James Mc. There is also the overall 'Volcom artist prize': One artists work, overall, will be selected to be a part of the Volcom clothing high-Summer range for early 2012 as a Featured Artist on their range of T-shirts which will be distributed all around Australia and New Zealand. This is Huge!! Once the their design is released the winner will also receive 10 of these t shirts to share with family and friends. Yew!!

The artshow will be on display at the Byron Bay YAC located in Gilmore crescent off Lawson Street opposite Byron main beach. It starts at 1pm and there will be a gold coin donations at the door, which will enable you to see the awesome art, watch the youth rock bands, and checkout the skating demo at 3.30pm. So come along everyone and have some fun!

Entries close Thursday October 20th at 4pm and can be delivered to 2/9 Marvell street Byron Bay, along with the $10 artist entry fee and A3 size artwork. More info at: www.byronbaysurffestival.com

Surf Festival : Program


Visit www.byronbaysurffestival.com for further information.

Byron Bay Surf Festival

Byron Bay Surf Festival 'surf culture now' Oct 21-23 2011

The Byron Bay Surf Festival is about 'Surf Culture Now'. It's gonna be rad, it's gonna be diverse and fun, and like the blond kid with the dripping wet hair said, 'it's gonna be cool.' On the weekend of 21-23 of October 2011 history will be created when the town of Byron Bay hosts it's first ever, dedicated Surf Festival. The wholesome focus is on the creative culture within surfing, including live music, filmmaking, original art, photography, and the shaping and riding of handmade surfboards.

Opening the festival will be none other than international surfing icon, Byron Bay local Bob McTavish, presenting a live surfboard shaping demonstration whilst sharing an historic look at his first trip to Byron Bay. Events over the weekend include, Surf markets, Surf Swap Meet, 'freestyle&stoke' surf sessions, surf related clinics, Surf World Museum, live music by Dan Hannaford, Josh Hamilton, The Grains, and film collaboration/live music event by Andrew Kidman and The Windy Hills. Original art from James McMillan, Mark Sutherland (Sutho), Hanai Yusuke (Japan), Luke Taffe, Rusty Miller, Vanessa Janss (USA) and others, including photography from surf filmmaking legends George Greenough and Albe Falzon.

Just one of the inspiring events is 'stART me up', a new art exhibition and mentoring program for kids, developed by local artist James McMillan, in conjunction with Retrospect Galleries and the Byron Bay Surf Festival. The purpose of 'stART me up' is to give new and emerging young art kids (some very young!) a valuable and real opportunity to hang and expose their art, in a well known and established art gallery. There are prizes in each age category from 4-16 years with the winner of the 13-16yrs group receiving a 6-month artist mentorship program.

Another exciting event being held on the Sunday morning between 8am and 12 noon is the Surf Swap Meet, open to one and all, and the 'freestyle&stoke' surf sessions. The idea behind this Surf Swap Meet is quite basic, even old age, in that you can actually swap one thing for another and no money is exchanged. Although anyone is welcome to just browse or even buy. Shapers attending and showing boards on the day include, Tom Wegener, Sage and Paul Joske, Simon Jones, Gary Burden and Thomas Bexon, all well known and respected craftsmen who practice the art of hand-shaping surfboards. And the 'freestyle&stoke' surf sessions; an expression session format surf event from 10am-12noon with 4 categories of 10 registered surfers in each, for half hour per category; Log (incl old mal), Fish (incl stub, hull), Finless (incl alaia), and Vintage (pre1980). It's about fun as well as being a display of surfboard riding on these particularly chosen mix of surfcraft.

At a glance the purpose and intention of this event is about creating a sustainable surfbent event for the local community to build on, and at large it's for everyone that surfs. 'The simple motivation behind The Byron Bay Surf Festival is to have a killer weekend in Byron Bay immersed in Surf Culture as we know it right now.'

See website for all full program, locations and images. Enjoy most of the events for free, just like surfing is! www.byronbaysurffestival.com See you there.

Byron Bay Writers’ Festival – a treat for film enthusiasts

Movie buffs can look forward to a small but powerful film program featuring the great works of John Pilger, Louis de Bernières and Paul Cox as part of the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival offsite events line-up.

Acclaimed film-making Paul Cox will participate in the In Search of Soul Festival series in the session The transformational power of trauma. Paul Cox’s book Tales from the Cancer Ward chronicles the moving portrayal of his own personal journey through liver cancer.  Festival Director Candida Baker says it is very special to have Cox present his film Innocence in a one-off screening. “Both Cox’s book and films seem to contain a quintessential European quality of dark and light sometimes missing from mainstream Australian film,” says Baker. “Cox will discuss the film after the screening which presents a rare chance to speak to one of the Australia’s most respected film makers.” Innocence will play at 5.00pm, Thursday, August 4, at the Dendy Byron Bay.

The Festival team is proud to present the Byron premiere of Louis de Bernières’ film Red Dog at the Dendy Cinema at 7.00pm, Friday, August 5.  De Bernières will be on hand after the film to explore further the story of the charismatic, hitch-hiking kelpie from the 70’s. “With the Observer describing the film as particular treat, Red Dog is for lovers of dogs and the Australian outback or just those who enjoy a good Aussie yarn,” says Baker. The screening is sponsored by Dendy Byron Bay Cinemas and Screen NSW.

Treats for film-enthusiasts don’t stop there.  A special screening of John Pilger’s controversial documentary The War You Don’t See will screen at the Byron Community Centre Theatre at 7.00pm Sunday, August 7. “We are thrilled that John will be available after the screening for a Q&A session, chaired by Mick O’Regan,” says Baker.

Baker believes adding film to the Festival program was an important aspect of the Passion theme: “All these filmmakers have created incredibly passionate works.  It is a great privilege to be able to present such a powerful line-up of films as part of the Festival program.”

Baker advises those wishing to attend film sessions to contact the Dendy and the Byron Community Centre.  Tickets for John Pilger are already on sale, and tickets for the Dendy shows will be available soon.

To purchase tickets visit www.byronbaywritersfestival.com.au or call 1300 368 552.

Ganga Giri at Durrumbul Hall

Earthdance Byron welcomes Ganga Giri as guest performing artist for this year’s event at Durrumbul Hall on Saturday September 18th with DJ selector and DJ Pob supporting. With lighting wizardry from Luminous Lights, decor by TrancEnhance and a pumping sound system – prepare yourself for an audio visual feast with one of the North Coast’s most popular and talented musicians. Ganga Giri, an inspired music creator whose passion brings people together in a modern day corroboree. Explosive and pulsating; ambient and flowing at times – Ganga Giri is a pumping percussive multi-layered experience of complex grooves and raw, deep natural sound.

Ganga Giri’s live show is a modern/primitive celebration; a melting pot unifying many musical genres and cultures. Delivering his unique and authentic taste of multicultural Australia GANGA GIRI’s music has been widely & wildly appreciated by music lovers in many countries in clubs, halls and at music festivals all over the world.

Earthdance is the world’s largest synchronized music and dance festival for peace. Since its inception, Earthdance has been held annually in over 500 locations in 80 countries with all events simultaneously joining together in the Prayer for Peace – a powerful moment of coherent intention. All the profits from this event will be donated to Olive Kids (www.olivekids.org.au) an organisation providing support for Palestinian orphans. Earthdance’ creed transcends the restrictive boundaries of ethnicity, nationality and religion aiming to unite people across the world in the name of peace through the medium of dance.

“We dance for peace and the healing of our planet earth, peace for all nations, peace in our communities and peace within ourselves”.

Everyone is welcome regardless of age and the event is alcohol free. Durrumbul Hall Saturday September 18th 2010 6:30pm – Midnight Tickets $20 on the door Volunteers needed in exchange for free tickets. Please contact Duncan on 0266 882350.

twitter.com/byronbay

I am going to become a twitter. It will take me a while to find my feet as a twit and I have heard there is a lot of garbage being tweeted, so I will keep the frequency of my tweets reasonable.

I can’t forget the joke I heard on the Tonight Show with Conan Obrian;

YouTube, Twitter and Facebook will merge to form one super time-wasting Web site called YouTwitFace.

Anyway – be sure to follow us on Twitter; twitter.com/byronbay

Byron Times By Shelley Neller

It is almost impossible to parody the New Age and alternative lifestylers in Byron Bay because our ordinary daily existence is frequently so "far out" (to coin a psychedelic phrase still popular in this territory), that it defies exaggerated mimicry.

Attempts to parody our local tribes only comes across as comic overkill; satire sounds stagey or superfluous, because, let's face it, we Byronites are already right at the esoteric and entertaining edge of unconventionality.

Or as one local quipped: "The truth is out there and so are we."

Having lived here since well into last century, I proffer a few favoured anecdotes to demonstrate my point.

  • In a yoga class several years ago, I heard a heavily tattooed and metal-studded student tell the teacher she could not do handstands for a few weeks because while helping her boyfriend erect their new home, one of the heavy teepee poles had fallen on her wrist.
     
  • Queuing for entrance to a group meditation of several hundred people one autumn afternoon, I got chatting to a mid-thirties man with hair down to his hips. In a sincere, mild-mannered voice, he told me that he'd been instructed by extraterrestrials not to cut his locks or the ensuing "hard" energy could harm and eventually kill him. I nodded sagely. His hair was remarkably lush and shiny, so, allowing the conversation to slide momentarily from the metaphysical to the mundane, I asked him which conditioner he used. He put his face close to mine and whispered conspiratorially that it was a secret blend of oils concocted by his ET friends.
     
  • The staff in the Byron Post Office must be among the friendliest and most efficient on the planet. However, as any tourist who has queued for stamps at the height of the season will know, the conga line for service can snake around the shop and out the door. This is what one of my friends calls the Zen corridor because it gives you the time and opportunity to practise being here now. One morning, while contemplating my own essential nature inside the "corridor", I heard a young girl greet a male friend who had just walked in. "Hi Krishna!" she called out heartily. Krishna took one look at the length of the queue, and with a twinkle in his eye, replied: "I'm not yet, but I will be when I get home."
     
  • On the footpath in Fletcher Street only a few weeks ago, I overheard a snatch of conversation between three youths in boardshorts and T-shirts. "OK," said the tallest. "First we go to Centrelink (the dole office), then the pawnbroker, then the surf shop. OK?" The other two nodded, and the trio sped off on their skateboards.

I could recount more stories, but you get the drift.

However, while much of our local lifestyle cannot be parodied, it can, if you have a yen for it, be experienced directly. You need only consult the voice of the people, The Byron Shire Echo, to make your choice. The Echo's classifieds -- from the public notices, health ads and share accommodation to the garage sales and the lost and found -- are read as assiduously as its news and features.

In the classifieds, you will find not only your average, run-of--the-mill alternative modalities such as naturopaths, homeopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, kinesiologists and clinical hypnotherapists, but also therapeutic methods such as dolphin healing energy, voice dialogue, Vedic astrology, tantric sex, floats and a whole raft of massage styles -- Hawaiian, Swedish, shiatsu, pre-natal, deep tissue, liquid bodywork, et al.

The healing business, presumably, is brisk, for as Wendell Berry once claimed: "The sufferer is by definition a customer." Byron is chokka with them. Every second urban refugee you meet has chronic fatigue syndrome and has come here to rest and recuperate. Hardly surprising, because this is a place whose general ambience and community mindset allows you to take enough time off to find out who you are apart from what you do. And not to feel guilty about it in the process.

Around here we generally don't ask people what they do, we ask them how they are. An important distinction. The former question queries a person's doingness, their productivity, that Western industrial imperative which has come to define and rank people according to its volume and intensity. The latter question merely asks after a man's or woman's wellbeing. And besides, a goodly number of Byron residents don't "do" regular nine-to-five work. A large percentage are on welfare; a certain privileged proportion lead dilettantish, hothouse lives supported by family stipends from foreign countries; and then there are those who grow "Mullumbimby Madness" (that's Byron demotic for marijuana, although it also turns up as the name of a particularly tasty pizza topping at the local Earth 'n Sea Restaurant). So, if you're new to the Rainbow Region, remember: it's not local etiquette to inquire about a resident's occupation immediately upon meeting them

But, back to the unlimited life options via The Echo... If you're feeling more outwardly bound socially, you may want to step out to a dance party, rock up to a hip hop gig, learn the salsa, Egyptian or pagan dance or -- why not? -- African drumming. You might decide to lie about your birthday and gatecrash a Scorpio cabaret party.

Or perhaps you'd prefer to attend full moon or kundalini meditations, chant in company, sit for satsang, discover Taoist secrets of love, join a psychic circle, attend a shamanic weekend, have your chakras rebalanced, participate in a pelvic floor exercise group, or stretch out at a yoga class (Iyengar, astanga, vinyasana, Oki Do, all on offer).

Need more practical or creative engagement with the world? Why not get life coaching, learn woodwork, audition for a local choir, join a landcare group to help protect coastal dunes or a rare smooth Davidsonia patch, find out where to get your Oriental rugs washed and repaired, order a cannabis cookbook or -- as entirely separate gestures, of course -- find out more about Steiner education or hire a girl clown for your kids' party?

My aim here is not to denigrate local lifestyles, but to chronicle and celebrate their diversity. As I said in my recently published book about Byron Bay, Love Letters from Mother Nature

"It is easy to take cheap shots at the self-discovery phenomenon that has been building up amongst ordinary people across the planet since the baby boomers hit the scene. It is simplistic and convenient to call people's preoccupation with self-knowledge 'narcissism'. But, as [Theodore] Roszak points out, those firing the shots ' hear the desire to be treated as special and unique and they call it self-indulgence. They bemoan the buzz-words on the surface, failing to attend the desperate need beneath. Shall we say they 'pity the plumage, but forget the dying bird?'

"Yes, I, too, cringe at the crass mass marketing of mind, body and spirit, the bizarreries, the psychobabble, the distorted distillations of deeper truths, at the proselytising New Age neophytes (and they are as rampant as lantana around here) who, uninvited, lay their poultices of newfound 'wisdom' - slap! - on the psyche of the nearest living being. Like the satirist said: 'A little learning is a dangerous thing.' Yet in this pervasive shift in societal direction, I share Roszak's view that it is of 'great political, personal and ecological value ... It is the brave beginning of a project that both the person and the planet require... If this be narcissism, make the most of it.' "

Speaking of making the most of it, I'm off to a yoga class at the Byron Yoga Arts School. Now which of the school's studios will I favour today? Studio One, located above the dole office or Studio Two, upstairs from the organic butchery?

Raggamuffin 2009 – Reggae Festival in Byron Bay

Following the overwhelming success of the inaugural reggae festival Raggamuffin, fans will be delighted to hear it’s happening all over again with Raggamuffin 2009.

Ziggy Marley, Eddy Grant, Ali Campbell, Shaggy, Arrested Development, Inner Circle and Bonjah will perform at six events nationally and one in New Zealand, kicking off on January 24 in Perth. Raggamuffin played to more than 70,000 ecstatic fans through February this year, emphatically proving that reggae is alive and well! This year’s event again offers a six hour musical feast of the world’s best reggae artists, with a healthy dose of funk, dub, hip hop and soul. It will be the first ever visit to Australia by Eddy Grant.

So there you have it… seven great bands providing a veritable musical reggae feast, welcome to Raggamuffin 2009!

Check out the website www.raggamuffin.com.au for all the details.

The Weather and Us

Like many parts of Australia right now, the Byron Shire is experiencing its worst drought in many years. Recently, the local community organised a raindance ceremony in Mullumbimby. Various shire identities spoke to the public gathering and everyone participated in ceremonies and rituals led by Sol Farina. Below is the text of a talk I gave at the raindance. Forty-eight hours later, we did receive a generous but brief fall of rain. Coincidence? Read the text and decide for yourself.


As acknowledged in the text below, my views on the link between human consciousness and the weather have been informed and inspired by a number of the Seth/Jane Roberts' books, and most of the concepts presented below have been derived and paraphrased from several of these books, including, for those who may wish to explore further, Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul; The Nature of Personal Reality and The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, available from all good metaphysical bookshops.]

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It's a beautiful night for a raindance. Yet I wonder: Do we really, at the levels where it most matters, believe that we can manifest the weather?

The other night in Suffolk Park when we enjoyed a welcome downpour, a friend of mine claimed it was because she had been invoking precipitation by playing her didjeridoo; I claimed it was because intuitively I had mulched my garden the day before, and a bloke I know insisted it was because he'd just put his soft top down. Or maybe it rained because Sol Farina appeared on the front page of "The Byron News", arms akimbo, invoking the rain.

So we jokingly parlay the idea that we can affect the weather, but do we really believe we can? And if we don't believe, why don't we?

I turned to my friend Seth for a few insights into our relationship with the weather and I'd like to share some of his ideas with you.

In Western culture since the Industrial Revolution, around 1760, we've grown to believe that there is little connection between the objects of the world and the individual. Before that time, when we still retained our nature-based agrarian rhythms and identification, we did believe that we could affect matter and the environment through our thoughts.

Today, however, in our highly industrialised societies, our human thoughts no longer seem to have any effect upon nature because in our minds we see ourselves as apart from it. In an ambiguous fashion, while we've concentrated upon nature's exterior aspects in a very conscious manner, we have still ended up denying the conscious powers of our own minds. We've become quite blind to the connection between our thoughts and our physical environment and experience.

These days we think of rain or earthquakes as natural events, yet we don't consider our thoughts or emotions as natural events. Therefore it's difficult for us to see how there can be any valid interactions between our inner emotional states and our outer physical ones.

We might say: "Of course, I realise that the weather affects my mood," yet it will occur to few of us that our moods have any effect on the weather. We have so concentrated upon the categorisation, delineation, and exploration of the objective world that it surely seems to be "the only real one." It seems to exert force or pressure against us, or to impinge upon us, or at least almost to happen by itself, so that we sometimes feel powerless against it. Our contemporary belief systems have given great energy to the outsideness of things.

In exasperation some of us see nature as good and enduring, filled with an innocence and joy, while on the other hand we envision ourselves as a bastard species, a blight upon the face of the earth, as creatures bound to do everything wrong regardless, of our strong and good intent.

This myth we've evolved assigns great value to the larger processes of nature in general, yet sees humankind alone as the villains of an otherwise edifying tale. As long as we believe in this myth, we cannot allow ourselves to trust our own human natures.

Psychically, mentally and physically, I believe we are as much a part of an event such as a drought or flood, as say, the plants that wither on the vine or the water that sweeps through a town. We can utilise the physical catastrophe, as an individual might use a symptom for purposes of challenge, growth or understanding -- but I don't doubt that we will individually and collectively continue to choose our disasters just as we choose our symptoms of physical illness.

A severe illness may be used by a person to put him or her into the most intimate contact with the powers of life and death, to initiate a crisis in order to mobilise buried survival instincts, to vividly portray great points of contact and to summon all of his or her strength.

Similarly, a climatic catastrophe can be used consciously or unconsciously, according to each individual.

We could reason that, just like the floods in previous years in Byron Shire, this drought is physically materialising the inner problems of the region. Each individual involved has his or her own reasons for participating, and through our mass-created framework, each of us works out our private purposes and dilemmas.

So-called natural disasters actually serve many positive purposes. For a start, they remind us that we can't ignore our planet or our creaturehood.

Disasters, such as the current drought, possess the great rousing energy of powers unleashed, of nature escaping humanity's discipline, and by their very characteristics they also remind us of our own psyches; for in their way such profound events always involve creativity being born, rising even from the bowels of the parched or flooded earth, reshaping the land and the lives of women and men.

During times of weather calamities, our taken-for-granted patterns of existence can be effectively ripped away and we can sense our kinship with our local community.

The crisis of our current drought can catalyse our realisation that any permanency of form is an illusion, since all consciousness is in a constant state of change.

More than this, however, each of us can feel the enduring energy of nature. We can be reminded of the great permanent stability upon which normal life is based and the incredible potency from which we spring.

Because we're here at this community rain dance, I'm assuming that many of us believe, on deeper and deeper levels, that we do indeed create our own reality.

And if you're tired of hearing that phrase -- you create your own reality, you create your own reality -- in cafe conversations, workshops, and counselling sessions, in books, Van Morrison lyrics and at Mullumbimby raindances -- I can only say that I personally count on this repetition -- you create your own reality -- to reaffirm my understanding that this underlying spiritual principle applies to the most minute and the most important of the events that I experience.

In my understanding, we do not simply react to the weather. We help form it, even as we breathe the air and then send it outward again. To some extent or another, our human desires and emotions merge with the physical aspects of nature, so that our great storms or droughts are as much the result of psychological activity as they are of weather conditions.

The brain is a nest of electromagnetic relationships that scientists admit we do not yet understand. From our brains spring ideas that are quite as natural as lightning. When lightning strikes the earth, it changes it. There are also changes that come about through the impact of our thoughts upon the atmosphere.

The notion of collective weather-conjuring may be confirmed by the more enlightened of our scientists and quantum physicists, for they are finally learning what philosophers and mystics have known for centuries -- that mind can influence matter. Still, the scientists have yet to discover that mind creates and forms matter.

As certain indigenous people do rain dances and consciously bring about rain through deliberately directing the unconscious forces, so too people like us in different places on the planet do the same thing quite automatically, but mostly we do it with no awareness of the processes involved.

Most of the time, we don't realise that we create our larger environment by propelling our thoughts and emotions into matter. Mostly we don't recognise that the inner self, individually and en masse, sends its psychic energy out, forming tentacles that coalesce into form.

Yet sometimes we do recognise and harness this creative power. For here we are in Mullumbimby, having a go at co-creating a new atmospheric reality.

Here we are, trying to heal the drought, that mass psychic symptom we've projected upon our patch of earth.

Here we stand as a community, participating in our own collective healing process, for we can no more separate ourselves from the body of the earth and its condition than we can from our own bodies.

Here we are, deliberately, mindfully, congregated, learning to be co-creators; learning the responsibility of any individualised consciousness; learning to handle the energy that is ourselves, for creative purposes.

If a thunderstorm is the exteriorised local materialisation of the inner emotional state of the people experiencing the storm, and I believe it is, then how, exactly, will we incite the rain to fall?

As far as I can gather, the overall emotional tone or feeling-level of masses of people, through our body connections with the environment, can create the exterior physical conditions that initiate the onslaught of natural energy we're wanting. According to the mass emotional conditions, various excesses are built up physically; these are then thrown off into the atmosphere in a different form.

The electromagnetic propreties of our emotions will play a big part in our ceremonies today, so if there are any aura readers amongst us, you're likely to see some interesting etherics.

OK, so let's begin now, in our minds and in our hearts, to seed the rain-clouds through our collective conscious intent. Let's focus, let's imagine, let's call on all the higher powers as we prepare to participate in our rituals and ceremonies.

Let's invoke the collective power of the gods and goddesses within ourselves to materialise the blessed physical rain, the rain which, literally and symbolically, will help us to wash away the old and to give birth to the new times for which we are all yearning.

Regional Chic and the Power of Place

When I first moved to Byron Bay, some city contemporaries thought I was copping out, dropping out or having a very premature midlife crisis.

In those days, it had not yet become hip to downscale, de-escalate and go back-to-nature, and Byron Bay had not yet reached its current apogee of fashionability for urban escapees.

At that time, happiness for masses of metropolites was, as Wallace Stevens wrote, "an acquisition."

Whereas by the fin de sicle, many of the middle-class (and mostly middle-aged) trendoids, feeling burnt out by working, working working in various Bladerunnerlands, were, as David Brooks wrote, "frantically shopping for the acoutrements of calm." They were fantasising about buying or "building a home where [they] can finally sit still and relax," a place where they could retreat without their ambition tagging along. Although we were all on word processors by the early 90s, business still was conducted primarily by phone and fax. Again, somewhat prematurely, I connected to email in 1985. It was lonely online then as there was virtually no one to talk to, and even the most cool urban entrepreneurial dudes, estranged as they were from the natural world, thought a website was the location of a spider home. Also, there was absolutely no biz cred or personal chic associated with living regionally or rurally.

None of these societal prejudices deterred me from relocation. For even at that time Byron was steadily acquiring its reputation -- as a unique, quality-of-life place to live. Visitors referred to its lush environs as "special", "powerful", "healing" "regenerative" (choose you own magical epithet), a place where people would go for a period of rest, recuperation and reassessment. In my social circles, there was plenty of talk about geomancy, earth magnetism and leylines. Harkening back to a dinner I once shared with two local friends, David and Peter, in a Lawson Street restaurant one balmy evening, I recall David saying he'd heard that a leyline ran through Mullumbimby, one of our neighbouring towns. Peter quipped laconically that a surefire business bet would be to open a new backbackers' hostel in Burringbar Street, Mullum, and publicise it as being built on a leyline.

I've written quite a bit about the power of place (in my book Love Letters from Mother Nature and on my website, www.shelleyneller.com). This subject always raises some incontestable truths (certain places on the planet do appear to affect people benefically) and some intriguing questions (how does this happen?)

For instance, one might reasonably ask: is the power of place inherently in the land, in the very rocks and crystals, dirt, dust and plant matter of a particular patch of the planet? Is there, as they say colloquially, something in the Byron water? And is this, apart from the blindingly obvious -- the gobsmacking subtropical beauty of the Shire, what subliminally attracts people to holiday or live here?

Or do people, gradually, collectively, over time, bring a certain energy and consciousness to the place they call home? And does this consciousness and energy, by some ethereal osmosis, flow out and bestow, imbue, permeate and positively influence the local landscape and atmosphere?

Or are both speculations true? And in which order? It's a chicken and egg conundrum.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian guru who taught the Beatles Transcendental Meditation, claims that if only 0.5 per cent of the world's population meditated, the influence of this would be so positively powerful it would create world peace. Hypothetically this theory makes me feel good, but when I consider that the local Byron population must boast one of the highest incidences of regular meditators in Australia, and when I observe the local political and social scenes with their entrenched and internicine warfare and machiavellian manoeuvres, I can only deduce that we residents are not chanting enough mantras to create local, let alone global peace and goodwill towards people, flora and fauna…

A while back, on one of my beloved beach walks, I ruminated some more over these notions. Trailing a dead branch in the soft Belongil sand behind me, I walked the shoreline pondering:have certain stories, songs, wisdoms, always existed a priori in the earth's landscape or are they the projections, the inventions, of peoples throughout the ages? My instinctive response is that the former is true, a belief which I discovered had been confirmed by James Cowan, an Australian poet and writer who has spent many years in the outback with tribal Aborigines. Cowan maintains that the landscape is imprinted with its own metaphysical data, waiting to be invoked. Even if we are wrong on this score, there are Eastern masters and Western theologians who maintain that projections during one's spiritual journey are essential, that without them the spiritual life (like love affairs) would not generate the heat to get started.

Unfortunately, we've now reached a stage where Byron Bay has become a victim of its own rapidly evolving mythology, its own juggernaut of good, albeit eyebrow-raising press. The rich biodiversity of local life which attracted human transplants here in the 70s, 80s and early 90s -- the residents' full-spectrum individuality (as in hippies, ferals, surfies, star-gazers, tarot readers, goths, vegetarians, musos, healers and organic gardeners, to name a few tribes), funky architecture (yuppies should read this as "unrenovated"), quirky local shops selling locally made wares -- all of these strands of original community life daily grow closer to marginalisation from the town centre or even to annihilation by rampant overdevelopment, escalating rents, trendy citification and homogenising, and an increasing I-want the city-in the country mindset exemplified by the following anecdote.

At the Byron Writers' Festival this year, a black-clad inner-city type declared publicly that one of his crucial criteria for upping stakes and moving to the Far North Coast was that the place should provide him with his requisite weekly hit of films at local cinemas. He appeared to be trying to cultivate local favour by praising the development of a brand new twin cinema in town. Lacking the sensitive antennae of a long-term local, he failed to notice a distinct ripple of audience disquiet around this remark. For a substantial portion of locals who've lived here for many years do not crave - and some actively resist -- this kind of development. So many of us did not come here for an addictive hit of air-conditioned cinemas, shopping malls and the like. We came for the surfing, the pristine environment, the old-fashionedness of the place; in short, we came for the Shire's blessed absence of city trappings.

To use an extended ecological metaphor, many of Byron Bay's unusual and variegated human species are rapidly becoming extinct or rare, due to habitat loss and displacement (See Byron Times Column 4, The Way We Were) by that rampant introduced species, the bobos* (bourgeois bohemians, as David Brooks calls them in his book Bobos in Paradise).

Once established, this alien species often dominates disturbed areas in and around the Bay (hinterland is never as appealing to despoil; the capital gain just can't match that of beachside real estate), and can destroy original habitat systems. Two particularly aggressive invaders - Sydney superannuatii and Yuppie materialis - pose the greatest threat to native species and in particular to long-established but fragile social systems. Regrettably, there is no local government management plan for this onslaught on native species.

Admittedly, defining "native" in human terms can be a real sticking point. Where does one draw the line? Equally contentious is the highly charged question of if and when to pull up the drawbridge? One can't, of course. It's a free country and, within the constraints of current local planning laws, you can move and build where you wish. Still, you might muse on the following paragraph from Salman Rushdie's novel The Moor's Last Sigh for its pertinence to the Bay.

"Have you noticed that Benengeli is defined by what it lacks - that unlike much of the region, certainly unlike the whole Costa, it is devoid of such excrescences as Coca-Loco nightclubs, coach parties on guided tours, burro-taxis, currency cambios ['fraid one of these recently sprouted in Byron Street], and vendors of straw sombreros? Our excellent Sargento, Salvador Medina, drives all such horrors away by administering nocturnal beatings, in the village's many dark alleys, to any entrepreneur who seeks to introduce them. Salvador Medina dislikes me intensely, by the way, as he dislikes all the town's newcomers, but like all well-settled immigrants - like the great majority of the Parasites - I applaud his policy of repulsing the new wave of invaders. Now that we're in, it's only right that somebody should slam the door shut behind us."

In a recent discussion paper produced by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Taking the devil out of development, Byron Shire Council ranked second, after Sydney's Warringah Council, as the most-complained-about council in Australia. It's no coincidence that Byron and Warringah are two coastal councils subject to immense pressure for development and redevelopment.

The ICAC paper stated :"One only has to read the local paper or attend a council planning committee in an area which is subject to development pressure, in order to understand what issues arise in the development assessment process, what emotions are inflamed and what can be at stake.

"For an applicant, a development consent may represent the key to an improved quality of life, a new business, an improved income or a significant profit.

"For residents within the locality of a proposed development, a consent may represent a loss of views or sunlight, overlooking of what was once private open space, more traffic and on-street parking, an increased potential for anti-social behaviour, more noise or an adverse impact on their streetscape…"

On another beachwalk, I caught myself humming, an aimless spill of jaunty notes that filled me up and at the same time made me feel lighter. I scanned the horizon for whales, for as my friend Rod Gibson, the Poet Lorikeet of the Bay, has written: "They sing to each other with eerie noises beneath the membrane of the sea." At one point I became aware that I was expectant, on the alert for something - movement, action, a flicker, a flash, a glimpse, a curiosity or distraction, a heart-expanding display, a defining moment. During my life's long interlude here I have savored the pep-ups, the ephemeral highs of such "trips" (one overcast afternoon on Tallow Beach I was thrilled to see a silver fish leap forward five times in high arcs; one evening, lying on the same sands, I saw a stunning succession of falling stars; one dawn a swarm of cobalt-colored bees blanketed the orange trumpet vine out back, and one sizzling spring high noon on deserted Tyagarah beach I was rivetted by a wallaby in the surf) and occasionally pine for more.

Yes, I told myself after this grateful inventory, forget the cinemas and the retail therapy! In addition to the satisfying pleasures of small-town living, it was the natural world with its marked contradistinction to a sprawling metropolis, which attracted thousands of "immigrants" like me to this place. If you'll indulge me in yet another nature analogy (this time an avian one, for I am a bird lover) -- leylines or no leylines, and twin cinemas notwithstanding, I see clearly in my crystal ball that Byron is in danger of becoming such a trussed-up goose that very soon it may not be able to lay any more golden eggs.

Oh well, I guess golden eggs are not to everyone's taste. And even if they are, there's always the air-conditioned comfort of the twin cinemas in which to guzzle a Coke, watch an American blockbuster and temporarily forget about your significant loss of small-town community amenity, identity and diversity; to turn a blind eye to what must incrementally but surely become the diminution of the power of this place.

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