I was born in Whakatane, New Zealand, in 1950. However, I spent my early years growing up in the gorgeous seaside town of Tauranga where the beach was our backyard and we rode our bikes everywhere. However, in spite of the physical beauty of Tauranga, overall it was a pretty shitty childhood - for lots of reasons - and I write about it at length in my new book, Sundowner of the Skies.
As soon as I could, I left home. At 16 years of age I moved to Hamilton where I spent the next four years doing a Diploma of Teaching and Bachelor of Education. My two electives were Pure Maths and English Literature; the latter I almost failed at but I shone at Maths. I love working with numbers so it is not surprising that one of the most satisfying jobs in my life has been doing the accounts at our family business (a wholesaler of bicycle components).
I have read books all my life, except for the years in the 1970s I spent in India where I only read religious texts. I didn't even read a newspaper or watch television. In 1979, while in Poona, India, when I was a Rajneeshee, I assisted Bernard Gunther in the compilation of Neo Tantra: Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh on sex love prayer and transcendence (Harper & Row, N.Y.). For this project, we poured over almost all the transcripts of Rajneesh's talks.
In 1980, I decided to come back to earth and settled in Brisbane. Within a few years, I was married and had two children, Eamon born in 1981, and Natalya born in 1983. Natalya was born at home - with only a lay-midwife and her assistant in attendance - and was Queensland's first water birth.
When I was pregnant with Eamon, I went to a short story writing course, and that was the beginning of The Serpent Rising: a journey of spiritual seduction - a memoir of my experiences in India in the 1970s. You can read more about this journey on that page.
In late 1989, we moved to Maleny in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, about 100 kilometres north of Brisbane. Maleny is home to many writers, artists and craftspeople and in the 1970s it had attracted alternative lifestylers and hippies. Not surprisingly, I felt very much at home. Maleny was also a hub of co-operatives (although most did not survive) and shortly after arriving I joined a new co-operative, Black Possum Publishing Co-operative. I was an editor of several of their yearly anthologies and the co-ordinator of their last production Flights of Fantasy. And during that time I also self-published Coming Together - a collection of my own poems.
For much of 14 years (1991 to 2005) I became involved in intentional communities and spent time at Crystal Waters Permaculture Village near Maleny and also Kookaburra Park Eco-village up at Gin Gin, near Bundaberg. Perhaps a part of me was still searching for a sense of belonging and community that I lacked as a child. However, I found them to be just microcosms of mainstream society, and in some respects worse, with the same problems of domestic violence, bullying and substance abuse. I found such places riddled with conflict - for many people their dream of a better way of living can turn into a nightmare. All these experiences became grist for the mill for my writing!
It was while I was living at Kookaburra Park that I decided to stop making excuses and do what I really wanted to do and that was write feature articles. Since 2002, I have written articles on a range of issues including my father's flying adventures in the 1930s and 1940s. It was a long-form feature - Sundowner of the Skies Mary Garden takes flight with her father, published in 2005 in the Australian Financial Review , that set me on the journey of writing my book, Sundowner of the Skies, a memoir/biography of my father, who was one a famous pioneer aviator. Sundowner of the Skies took years of research and I even gave up at one point and went back to university to do an editing course. Somehow I ended up doing a PhD Blogging in the mainstream: Australian journalist-blogs and public deliberation.
And it is not surprising that I love cycling. Cycling is in my DNA. My father once owned a bicycle shop in Christchurch in 1924. In the early 1980s I married someone who had been a racing cyclist and who had a bicycle business as a wholesaler of bicycle components. Our son, Eamon, took over this business in 2006 and enticed me on board to do the secretarial work and the accounts. After a long break, I took up cycling again in 2010 and since then have done a number of the 10-day Cycle Queensland rides as well as several rail trails in New Zealand and Australia. All the guys at work ride their mountain bikes in the trails around the Sunshine Coast. My brother and his partner over in New Zealand are mad keen mountain bike riders. And my daughter, Natalya, and her partner, Michael, who live in regional Victoria are also keen cyclists; Michael is also a bicycle mechanic! They also have two adorable children, so I am now a grandma. I am their Gran Marie.
I have a fairly restless spirit and move a lot. I love buying houses, doing them up, and then selling them. However, for most of the last 20 years I have lived in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, which is cycling paradise. It also has an alternative edge. I've never been able to fully shake off the part of me that was a hippy - a child of the 60s - who joined tens of thousands of Westerners who went to India to search for a better way of living and so-called enlightenment.