An Old Ship Offers a New Perspective on Relationships

Ladder leading to pictureThis post is part of the “Step Into Pictures” series that offers you a new way to explore both difficult relationships and those you treasure. Visit the Step Into Pictures Archive to learn more about it.


The bow of the TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu in South New Zealand
The bow of the TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu in South New Zealand

Click on picture to see enlarged view

If you haven’t already planned a trip to New Zealand for this winter (which of course is their summer), it may be too late. However, you could have a second-best chance to visit Queenstown if you use this picture as an escape to a place where majestic mountains surround a clear lake.

Lean on the rail of TSS Earnslaw, a 1912 Edwardian vintage twin screw steamer plying the clear waters of Lake Wakatipu. It is the biggest boat on the lake, and the largest steamship built in New Zealand. Read More

Step Into Pictures – New Zealand Mountain Road

June 14, 2013

. . . A New Perspective on Relationships
Number 9

What might you talk about with someone if you were walking down a road leading into the beautiful New Zealand Alps, with mostly treeless valley and snow-capped mountains in the distance?


Ladder leading to pictureThis post is part of the “Step Into Pictures” series that offers you a new way to explore both difficult relationships and those you treasure. Visit the Step Into Pictures Archive to learn more about it.


Click on picture to see enlarged view
New Zealand Mountain Road
When you practice driving on the “wrong” side of the road on a lonely mountain road in New Zealand’s South Island, you don’t need to worry so much about oncoming traffic coming in your lane.

Step into this picture now, or continue reading to learn more about it . . .

I had a difficult time writing about this picture because I wanted to accurately identify the place where I stood in the middle of the road in 2006, taking what seemed to me to be a perfect mountain-road picture. I remembered that it was between Christ Church and Queenstown in New Zealand. Nearby was a stone church overlooking a lake and in front of the church was the statue of a dog.

Searching for a lake, a church, and a statue

Since I didn’t remember the name of the lake near where this road headed into the New Zealand Alps, I first tried Google Earth. There I found three roughly parallel lakes running north-south. When I couldn’t identify the lake, locate the church, nor see the dog’s statue, I decided the smartest thing was to wait until my husband got home.

Bob remembered the lake was called something like “Toledo,” and when we checked Google, we saw that there was a “Lake Tekapo.” A little search found the now world famous “Church of the Good Shepherd” carved by early pioneers from the rock terrain at the end of the lake. It commands an unsurpassed view of the lake and mountains from its picture window.

Fortunately, Bob was the designated driver, for it takes a bit of practice driving on the ”wrong” side of the road. However, when we got onto this dirt road, with no other traffic, he let me try it.  I naturally wanted to keep to the right, as I have done for more than half a century. So I could understand why the rental agency didn’t completely trust drivers like me to stay left: they taped a prominent yellow “Keep Left” arrow on the dashboard!

Sheep thief

As I read more — thanks to Google, one can discover information far beyond one’s original search — I discovered that in 1855 “James Mackenzie, a Scottish shepherd turned sheep stealer, discovered the basin that now bears his name when he, with the help of his dog Friday, drove flocks of sheep inland to avoid being discovered.”

Authorities were finally able to capture Mackenzie, but had a hard time taking control of the sheep due to his highly intelligent dog. It is alleged Friday continued to drive the sheep without his master’s control until finally being disabled by the authorities.

Since we saw several demonstrations of the skills of these dogs, I can believe a dedicated dog could avoid the authorities for a good long time if he put his mind to it.

Smart dogs, dumb sheep

Today New Zealand is home to 3 million people and 60 million sheep, so sheep dogs are obviously essential! [See Statistics of New Zealand] In fact, local farmers were  so grateful for their dogs that a bronze memorial to working collie dogs of Mackenzie Country was commissioned in 1968 and now stands on the shores of Lake Tekapo near the church.

I can’t resist ending this story with an experience we had when driving near Bluff, the southernmost end of the country. We saw a flock of sheep being driven down the middle of the road from one field to another (the practice allows a field to lie fallow and regrow before sheep are returned to it). Behind the sheep were several barking dogs — inside cages in a pickup! Valuable dogs didn’t need to get winded running after dumb sheep.

Plan a conversation walking down a dirt road

If you could invite someone to join you on this road, what do you think you would talk about? How could the open road influence your choice of topics?

Incidentally, I have used this picture as a gift I sometimes give to complement my book,  Ask Yourself Questions and Change Your Life. On the picture I have the question, “Do I know where I am going?”


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Dealing With Stumbling Blocks in Life

March 8, 2010
In the path of every person there are barriers large and small that we come upon unexpectedly. How do you handle your stumbling blocks? Learn how I approached my possible cancer diagnosis.

Visual Viewpoint: Where is My Ship Taking Me?


In this picture of the paddle-steamer HSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu at Queenstown, New Zealand, I knew where I was heading; to a sheep ranch across the lake. Now I’m on a boat, metaphorically speaking, and my landing point is unknown. In fact, as far as my body is concerned, it will be at least a few days before I’ll know in what direction I am sailing.

I was very much aware of such uncertainty for people who are in the process of getting a diagnosis for cancer when, about twenty-five years ago, I co-founded The Wellness Community—Foothills in Pasadena, California, which is part of an international support program for cancer patients and their families. During my approximately fifteen years with the organization, I served on the board and gave many workshops. Later I co-founded the nonprofit CancerOnline website (no longer active) where I wrote thousands of words offering encouragement and information.

What I said time and again was that it is important to have hope and to participate in treatment decisions. I gave lots of advice that seemed, to an observer of the experience of others, to make sense. People seemed to like what I said.

However, if you’ve been following the blog, you will know that now I get to see whether all that advice applies to me as well. A couple weeks ago I said that life is what happens when you’re making other plans. I made the comment when I was called back for a diagnostic mammogram because I had had an “anomoly” in my first exam. So last Thursday I went in truly expecting it would be a false positive.

For those who don’t know what that means, it’s when a test looks as though the results aren’t good, but they are. I’d told hundreds of women that there are many false positives. I had only had an “anomoly.” That sounded much more favorable than if the original mammogram had indicated a large mass, or if I could actually feel a lump. So I went into the exam last week taking my advice that it was probably just fine. Only an anomoly.

Now, because of that exam, I have learned that I have a suspicious mass in my breast. That sounds so ominous, doesn’t it, a “suspicious mass”? I watched as they did a sonogram and it didn’t look terribly big to me. It’s strangely shaped and less than an inch. But that’s still awfully big if it’s malignant and I’d rather not have it hanging around if it’s going to keep growing, even if it’s caught early. So I expect, if it is cancer, that in the end I will be fine. However, I’ve been around the cancer scene too long not to be aware of the potential for uncomfortable treatment, hair falling out, and all that stuff that no one wants to have to go through.

Now I have scheduled a biopsy for this Thursday and I will get the results this Friday. The answer will help determine what direction my ship is sailing this year.

When friends ask how I’m doing, I report that it’s an interesting experience to notice whether all those thousands of words I’ve written for others might now apply to me. I’ve discovered that they do. Not only do I know that diagnosing cancer early means a far greater chance of cure and survival, but there is always the possibility that the biopsy will show that it won’t be malignant. I’ll just have to wait.

However, there is an additional thing I want to share. If you have seen the video called “Heal Your Relationships by Strengthening Your True Self,” on the homepage of Support4Change, you will know that the true self is able to observe what happens to the body without being attached to it. It doesn’t identify itself based on whether the body feels well or looks good.

I can honestly say that I am reacting to this intrusion in my life with greater acceptance than I would have been able to pull off twenty years ago. Guess that means I’ve made progress, though I admit that my ego still has greater control over me than I’d like. In fact, the more I recognize my ego in operation, the more I become aware of how it wants to run my life, like claiming that I should be immune to the vicissitudes of life — such as needing to deal with the bother of cancer. However, the first step in getting rid of the ego is recognizing when it’s active so that the true self can make decisions and take actions the ego may not like.

This evening I was talking with a colleague of mine who has had cancer and who became blind a few years ago. She has a much harder time accepting the blindness than she did accepting the cancer diagnosis. Our discussion led to the observation that we all have stumbling blocks along whatever path our journeys take us. Some are there because of challenges placed in our paths by illness and loss. Others we place there ourselves when our ego says, such things may happen to others, but they shouldn’t happen to us. Our true self accepts them as the reality of what lies in our path, and then proceeds to deal with them to the best of our ability.

I’d love to hear from you about how you have dealt with stumbling blocks in your own life.

In Need of a Wide-Angle Lens

October 8, 2008
Taking a picture in the great out-of-doors often requires stitching pictures together.

Visual Viewpoint: Scenery in New Zealand Always Presents a Photo Opportunity

This entry could also be filed as one of my “visual viewpoints” you may have seen in earlier posts.

Countryside in South Island New Zealand

I’m slowly learning how to take a series of pictures and string them together, but this is the best I could do at the time. Obviously I need to learn how to get the horizons lined up. Anyway, you get the idea.

There were several spots along the road where I would insist my husband stop the car and let me take a picture. Despite the reversed travel directions, we did fairly well on the roads with our rental car and particularly liked the traffic circles, which New Zealanders seem to know how to maneuver better than Americans.

When looking at Wikipedia just now in wanting to be correct in using the term traffic circle, I found that “a roundabout is a type of road junction at which traffic enters a one-way stream around a central island. In the United States it is technically called a modern roundabout, to emphasize the distinction from the older, larger type of traffic circle.” But something I found most interesting was that, “Overall, roundabouts are statistically safer than both traffic circles and traditional intersections,with the exception that cyclists have a significantly increased crash
rate at large roundabouts. Roundabouts do not cope as well with the traffic on motorways, highways, or similar fast roads.”

No matter whether or not you like roundabouts, I’ll bet you’d do well driving a car in New Zealand, if for no other reason than that you can take yourself to glorious places like the scene above, stop, get out, and take a picture — without disturbing the travel guide’s schedule that stops only at the places he or she thinks are worth stopping at.

Almost a Romantic Afternoon in New Zealand

October 6, 2008
Discover the importance and pleasure of dating, whether or not you are already married.

Visual Viewpoint: An Inviting Boat, But No One to Rent It From

This entry could also be filed as one of my “visual viewpoints” you may have seen in earlier posts.

Quiet river in Christ Church New Zealand

It’s amazing how easily one forgets where one sees something on a vacation when the trip was a month long and almost two years ago. My husband says this picture was taken in Queenstown and I am quite sure it was Christ Church, New Zealand. If you know, please tell me, since I could also be wrong.

But we are in agreement that on this cool Sunday (the coolest summer they have had for years, according to the locals) we were walking around town and came across this delightful scene. A boat welcomed us to take a romantic ride down the river and through the town. But where was the owner? It was obviously designed for tourists. He (or she) must have been on a break or left work early that day.

To say it was “almost” romantic shouldn’t be taken to mean that the trip to this amazingly beautiful country wasn’t romantic in itself. It’s just that it would have been even more exciting had we been able to add a rowboat to the list of all the vehicles on which we road during that trip.

Toward the end of the trip we wrote a list of more than thirty, possibly closer to forty. If I can find the list we kept as we went along (from ferry, jet, and elevators to jet boat, cable car and private plane), I may write about them for this blog. Too busy to find it today, but some time in the future I just might find it and see if you can send me a longer list. Not for bragging rights. Just for the pleasure of seeing how many different vehicles for getting from one place to another you have been able to take advantage of different on one trip.