Watering the garden in my underwear.

The most dangerous bird in the world.

We burn all our paper by-products in a pit in the back yard.
So I’m standing there. Beside the fire with a lighter in my hand just about to light the paper, when I see out of the corner of my eye a black figure standing beside me. No noise, no sound, not even any crumpling of bushes or dry leaves. No warning, none whatsoever. Just a feeling.
I look up.
My blood runs cold.
The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
I’m face to face with a stretched up 2 meter cassowary in my back yard, considered to be the most dangerous bird in the world. He has 2 chicks in toe.
Male cassowaries rear their young, protecting them and teaching them what to eat and what not to. The male cassowary can loose up to two thirds of his body weight when sitting on eggs that the female has laid in a basic nest, if you could call it that.
The male creates a shallow ditch in the rainforest floor with his 3 pronged feet. There are huge claws on each toe that can disembowel a wallaby; or a human, the male cassowary, scratches and scraps around until he is satisfied with his position he has chosen to hibernate on 3 to 6 dark green eggs for a couple of months.
Last year, same time, Elvis would come to our house for fruit. He supplements his diet with a visit. He is very territorial with a keen ear for dogs, cats, lawn mowers and domestic violence, he tends to shy away from those places. He likes our property with no fences to get tangled in and bananas, yes, bananas, as if from heaven …. every once in a while.
Elvis is a native cassowary that lives on fruits and seeds and lives by the river in Far North Queensland.
Even though I have caught him drinking from the frog pond on occasion, and he doesn’t mind a hose down on a hot day, he is still a wild bird. A big one, with claws. The inside claw on both of his three pronged feet are what can do the damage. They are scary long, dangerous, frightening, a hideous weapon.
Cassowaries are named to help with identification and with as little as 1200 left in the wild in Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea, it’s vitally important to be able to identify the birds so we can help them survive.
Elvis was named after Elvis Presley, the King of Rock so naturally his consort is Pricilla. I think we should name his two chicks this year Lisa and Marie. Only one chick is female and one is male. Marie can be Mario and Mario looks like a mini Elvis, so cute with its pips and squeals of excitement.
Last year Elvis brought Pricilla up along the river bank a few times to visit. She’s a bigger, wider bird than he. She wasn’t very impressed as she hasn’t been back for some reason that I don’t understand. There are still many things to discover about cassowaries.
No one knows exactly how old Elvis is. Cassowaries have been known to live up to 65 years of age. One thing we do know about Elvis is he is a magnificent male in his prime years. He is an excellent father and a well tempered bird. He batters his eye lids and opens his beak as if to talk when he greets me. He sneezes and grunts, a very low deep growl from the gut.
He ran up the driveway once. Little useless wings flapping, shiny black feathers ruffled, ground thumping as he chased off a supposed foe. He’s such a show off! He strutted back with pride, he had accomplished his mission.
The flightless birds have good memories and are related to emus.
Elvis first appeared at our house 4 years ago.
There was a chick that wandered through the back yard, beside the river about ten years previously and I had often wondered if we would ever see an adult as there are cassowaries often sighted further up the river.
I was watering my garden at that time in my underwear when I felt a presence beside me. I turned my sight on a huge, fully grown, shiny black cassowary. I froze in fear. It stood beside me like it knew me and like we were best friends. Hardly, silently I dropped the hose, turned my back on the beast and quickly strut to the front door, hoping and praying it would not knock me down before I reached the safety of the house. I didn’t look to find out.
Feeling relieved, from the safety of my elevated veranda, I peered over the balustrade to see where or what the bird was doing. I’m sure he was hot on my heels. But to my surprise, he had hardly moved. Merely turned around to watch me in bewilderment. He blinked at me like an adoring cat, then started pacing under the veranda.
Cassowaries are known to jump as high as 2 meters and when I ran to the kitchen to scramble for a banana or a piece of fruit for the bird, I had a horrid thought that he might jump up on to the veranda!
I’ve seen a cassowary get into my neighbours kitchen and jump up on the benches while the occupants barricaded themselves in the adjoining room to watch the unpreventable carnage through a crack in the door. The kitchen looked like a bunch of drunk pirates had been in there. The cassowary had its fun smashing jars open to consume the contents, scoffing a bowl if fruit consisting of a whole bunch of bananas, a large paw paw, several exotic fruits such as star fruit and rambutan. The avocados were swallowed whole and he actually jumped up on to the bench to view the top cupboards, scrambling and slipping and making a hell of a racket as he did so. Luckily he couldn’t get the fridge open. That would have been a nightmare.
Leaving what couldn’t be managed he slid all over the kitchen floor. The cassowary eventually left the way it had entered but that’s not until it was satisfied it had totally trashed the kitchen with nothing more to be scavenged.
Cassowaries can consume a lot of food.
Mainly fruit but also bugs, fungi, some rotting flesh they may come across on the forest floor. They have found rocks in the gut of cassowaries during postmortems. They pick up and swallow pebbles to help crush food in the stomach which aids digestion. I have seen them eat seeds out of their own droppings. Totally gross, I agree.
Elvis jumps for a banana. I didn’t teach him this but he lines the banana up shifting from eye to eye, crouches then jumps, snatches it out of my fingers and lands with a thud. It’s awesome, it’s trust, he knows he’s safe here. He doesn’t live in my territory, I live in his.
Many years ago I helped rear a couple of cassowary chicks until they they fought, kicking each other, making a hell of a racket and then fled to find their own territory. They say that cassowaries have a good memory. Could Elvis be one of those chicks? It is possible he really did know and remember me that day he walked up to me in the garden?
The horn on the top of the cassowary’s head was thought to be a ram to get through thick, spiky forest. Now we know that it helps regulate their temperature. Along with the wattles and foot prints which leave unique honeycomb patterns along with other individual markings that help to identify or recognise an individual bird.
After four years I now water in the mornings. I hang washing or do gardening at that time as well. I avoid going out in my underwear. I don’t want to be in the shed when he turns up. I would be cut off from the house until he left, if he knew I was in the shed, I dought he would leave me until I gave him some fruit. So my chances of a direct encounter have to be considered as to what time of the day, what month Elvis might rock up and who he might bring with him. Living with a famous cassowary family is certainly for the brave.

(1455 words)

Josette Salan

A bold move, a gamble that payed off.

There’s a Goddess painted on a closed roller door and a peacock on another. I’m at the market entrance. My shop front door. The Original Kuranda Markets in Kuranda, Far North Queensland. The village in the rainforest is still to wake up. It’s quiet except for the bird calls and insects buzzing. Nature at her finest. A car wizzes by, there is life. Keys rattling, braking the peace of a misty mountain morning, a perfect 26 degrees, it’s a beautiful day to open the shop.
A delightful emanation of incense permeates the senses as I go in and turn the lights and music on. I’m touching something magical. This is Abra Kadabra Kuranda, and it smells good. Gentle undertones of sage and sandalwood helping me to focus and get the shop organised for the day.
It takes about forty minutes and requires about a months training to know how to set up the shop properly. It’s the start of my work day, but it doesn’t feel like work. Colourful locals walk by greeting each other by first names, I know most of them. There’s a social hush over the village before the Kuranda Scenic Railway and the cable car brings holidaymakers to my doorstep from all corners of the globe.
Music is usually Pink Floyd or Fiona Horne as they’re about the only tunes I can listen too all day without going mad. Soon, there will be a shop full of people. All nationalities, languages, cultures, ages and dispositions.
You see, hear in Kuranda we are half and half. Half black and half white, and in our town two halves make a whole.
Originally starting out with a SEVS/ NEIC state and federal combined scheme to help the long term unemployed gain and retain employment back in the 1980’s, to start their own small business enterprises. I became a success story of that scheme. With the help of government aid, I registered and opened a small outlet in the Original Kuranda Market and started trading.
Having dabbled with being treasurer of the local Amphitheatre and President of the associated amateur theatre Focus, been a “Meet and greet” lady for the village, an initiative by the local Chamber of Commerce and giving Yoga classes in the cemetery, I realised my calling was, and that I needed to concentrate on the opportunity I had been given.
By this stage, I was determined not to be Jack of all trades but rather a master of one. My shop not only provided income for myself and one or possibly two other people in an area with high unemployment figures, but it was my saving grace. I had found my vocation and my identity through the expression of my retail outlet, my commercial creation in the rainforest.
The first years I couldn’t go wrong, then the introduction of state GST, all of us traders thought it was the end of our businesses. Without the support of the local community and a good accountant I doubt I would have gotten through it at all.
Then came the global financial crash in 2008. My turnover wasn’t paying the bills, living off rice and cabbage, I had to come up with a business plan. It was do or die at that stage. It was scary times to be in business. I took the plunge and went bigger, taking on a double shop at the head of the markets. It was a gamble, a big call. I felt confident I had established enough local clientele to get me through, what we call, the quiet season. Having developed good relationships with wholesalers and gained enough experience in retail to keep my valuable little retail outlet going. I moved to a prominent position at the entrance of the markets.
Comments like: “this is my favourite shop in the village” and “my children love your shop, we can always find something appropriate in here and your always open for us.”, “ I love your shop”. These kind of comments instill me with pride and confidence as well as a desire and a responsibility to please my customers the best I can.
As a business owner in a small, rather unique tourist village with a high Aboriginal population, ones duties often go above and beyond that of which you would normally find in other towns or cities.
The shop is arranged for easy pram, walker, wheel chair access. We love the kids with disabilities coming in, they’re funny and they love the colour and fragrance stimulation. It’s good for them. Sometimes the kids just stop and look around after being completely overstimulated with sugar, they slow down, mouth open, wide eyed and just take it all in.
A wonderland of colour and scent.
When I’m working in my shop I wear many hats. Among them and besides being a shop keeper I am a tourist information bureau. I’m also the complaints department, ladies room directional officer, long lost acquaintance adviser, mobile phone finder. A teller, a tailor, a cleaner, a councillor, a boss and mentor, just to name a few.
I have trained and provided employment and resumes for many a local teenager. One of my employees went on to be a CEO in a large international corporation, another went on to be a forensic pathologist with the Australian Federal Police, some were just happy to have a job and some training on weekends and school holidays.
With a long retail history in the village and with over a million international travellers frequenting the village every year, I have found that I don’t necessarily have to travel the world, it comes to me. Who would ever have thought that I could come this far?
I feel I have been blessed in many ways or rather, many opportunities have come out of my little retail outlet both for myself, my employees and my community. A picturesque rural village with a quaint populous of talented and diverse residents that enrich my life on a daily basis.
Weather it’s a social chat, a deep conversation, a helping hand or just a friendly “good morning”, Abra Kadabra is a part of Kuranda’s identity. Serving the needs of the community and show casing a little part of our world, to the broader world.

Currently my lovely shop is in hibernation. Bearing down on me is a whole level of stress that is unprecedented. Being through past trials and tribulations I live in hope.
The Corona Virus pandemic has forced me, my business associates and employees to think differently about business and how it will be when we all emerge from our cocoons. The world will be different and we, the older generation will be the ones to guide, support, train and employ those that come after us.
The ones that will have to face the responsibilities and challenges of a brave new world.

Composed by:
Josette Salan/ Sole trader/ Proprietor of Abra Kadabra Kuranda.

Sacred Symbol “Om”.

Om or AUM has over 100 different meanings and is one of the oldest and most sacred symbols on the planet.
Om has and never has had any negative connotations to it whatsoever. It is a complete and completely positive vibration that permeates the whole universe with an upward movement.
Chant OM. The yogis and sages say it leads to Nirvana.
Originating from the earliest known civilisations, as individual as your own hand writing, Om is pronounced, chanted, written and drawn in many different ways but the meaning and the result is still the same.
Om is the sound of the infinite. Said to be the essence of all Mantras and the Vedas. Om symbolises the entire universe in both sound and form.
The holy trinity “AUM”-
“A” stands for Creation.
“U” stands for Preservation.
“M” stands for Destruction.
Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva.
The 3 states of awake, dreaming and deep sleep. Heaven, Earth and the Underworld.
Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. The list of trinity’s goes on.
All words produced by the human vocal cords can be pronounced within the sound of AUM.
Hindus believe that Krishna’s out breathe is one big Om and is the manifest universe unfolding. Krishna is yet to breathe in.
AUM is the sound of the Sun and stars. It’s the sound of ascension, of the infinitely expanding universe and it uplifts the soul.
It is the primal vibration that pervades every living thing.

(245 words)

Lotus Flower.


The Lotus is the spiritual flower. One of the most ancient and deep seated symbols on our planet. Sacred to Hindu, Buddhist, the Egyptians as well as many other cultures and religions. They believe that the remarkable beauty of a perfect, unblemished, untouched lotus is a representation of a pure heart and mind.
In Christian society, the lotus is a symbol of fertility, grace and of pious or lofty thoughts.
There is strength in the lotus having grown out of murky waters and there is hope in its symbolism which helps to overcome struggles in daily life.
The different colours of the lotus have an influence on their meaning.
The white lotus is purity and devotion.
The pink lotus is specifically purity and softness of the heart.
The blue lotus is ascension.
The red lotus is passion and the purple lotus is enlightenment or rebirth.
Green lotus flowers are given as a gift for a new start or someone trying to improve their life.
The plant is both medicinal and edible.
A native bright yellow lotus was revered by the North American Indians being a valuable food source for them. Lotus root is a common ingredient in Asian cooking.
The number of petals relate to numerology. The eight petaled lotus represents the eight fold path to enlightenment and the Chakras.
The lotus with a thousand unfolded petals represents reaching enlightenment.

(233 words)

Flower of Life.

Believed to have a secret symbol hidden within the middle of the pattern, also said to be the most significant and sacred pattern in the universe. The Flower of Life represents creation and the cycles of life. It’s sacred geometry reminds us of the unity of everything, we share the same DNA. Some depictions very much resembling an atom.
Typically consisting of nine overlapping circles forming patterns of perfectly symmetrical flowers it’s the fundamental pattern contained within a circle that represents everything plant, animal and mineral. The stars, skies and planets, everything in existence including ourselves.
A variation of the Symbol is seven overlapping circles recognised as the Seed of Life that represents the 7 days during which God created life on earth or the Egg of Life that’s similar to a multi cellular embryo in its early stages. The Fruit of Life consists of 13 circles and is the blueprint of the universe, the basis for Metatrons Cube and molecular structure.
It is the Star Aurora , a Merkhaba, , The Star of David. Discovered on Egyptian tombs representing the Eye of Ra dating back 6,000 years. Leonardo da Vinci studied the Flower of Life and derived the golden ratio “Phi” from the symbol.
Today the intriguing pattern and its deeper meaning is sort after and revered now as much as it has been studied and utilised extensively throughout history.

(236 words)

Tree of Life.


There are actually a number of things the Tree of Life symbolises and many cultures have held the symbol extremely important and sacred and still do. The Celtic Druids adapted it from the Norse, whom had a slightly different interpretation to the Celts. The Norse saw their ash tree as the source of all life, it’s branches leading to nine different lands.
The Celts, when clearing land for settlement they would leave one central tree which became the Tree of Life. This tree provided food and shelter for both humans and animals. Important meetings were held under the tree believed to have special powers. The tree housed their ancestors and they would not inhabit an area that did not have a central Tree of Life. To the Celts, the tree seeds and regrows. The seeds contain the essence of the previous tree. In this way the tree is immortal. A symbol of strength and growth, a fresh start in life, good health and branching out to a bright future.
Persia once spread from Ireland to China. The Tree of Life theology quickly spread.
In times of conflict, to cut down the opponents tree was deemed to be one of the worst crimes committed.
The Bodhi tree in Buddhism is revered as the Buddha became enlightened under the Bodhi tree and therefore represents the path to enlightenment.
The Peepal tree is India’s Tree of Life. The Hindus see the tree reflecting life in all its aspects. As the tree grows and the Supreme gets more involved in worldly affairs, it becomes more distant from the Source.
To the Mayans, the tree connected Heaven, Earth and the Underworld. Spreading out in the four directions, a cross in the centre of the Mayan Tree of Life is the source of all creation.
The Egyptians believed the first Gods were born under the Tree of Life.
Taoists describe a magical peach tree with fruit of immortality.
The Quran mentions the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden and two other supernatural trees. The Infernal Tree(hell), the Lote Tree(the Uttermost boundary).
The garden of Eden that Genesis in the Bible refers to is the same Tree of Knowledge or the Tree of Good and Evil that gave eternal life.
One of the most popular symbols used today, it’s important to remember just how special trees really are.

(400 words)

The most famous incense in the world.

Nag Champa: Agarbatti.

Satya Nagchampa Incense Sticks(15gms x 12 Packs)

Nag means royal, regal or lofty in Sanskrit.
It’s a respectful prefix used to show that something is revered or honourable.

Champa or Champak is a flower.
Himalayan Magnolia, Michelin champaca.

Agarbatti literally means fragrant stick.
Agarbatti is an ancient method of hand rolling incense.

For a long time the recipe was secret.
Only Satya Shrinigar’s /Shrinivas Sugandha Ashram in India was producing and exporting the fragrance to the world.

The Sai Baba of the 1960’s, you know the one with the frizzy Afro hair and the big, beaming smile? Well, he asked the universe for its most heavenly scent and on his hand he manifested “Vibhuti” or holy ash. They took this blessed or holy ash into the laboratory and broke it down into twenty one all natural ingredients ranging from resins, to spices, to florals.
Only in-house devotees knew the recipe, hand rolling the incense and guarding the secret until inevitably generic brands started popping up in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. There was so much demand that the Ashram could not meet the needs of the market anyhow. Demand grossly out weighed supply.
So by the 90’s there were many different brands and qualities of the unique fragrance that is known throughout the world, in every language and culture.
A pure gift, put in the hands of humans, unfortunately had side affects of greed and possessiveness. In subsequent years, the original recipe as been scrutinised, analysed, plagiarised to the point where the true intention and blessing of the Original is lost.
Many believe that you have to burn the Original. That it’s only the Vibhuti that bestows the blessing, the miracle, the magic.
I do know there is something about Nag Champa that is unlike any other incense I have ever experienced. For me it opens doors, clears my mind, stills my emotions and inspires me to go “Mmmm Arrrrr” or “Ommmm”.
Whether you believe it or not,
Nag Champa is said to be a gift from the heavens for those of us that struggle on the earthly plane.

(360 words)