Ever since living alongside muttonbird rookeries on King Island and Phillip Island, award winning author Robin Stewart has felt the urge to migrate at the end of April; just like the muttonbirds. These remarkable birds leave their breeding islands in Bass Strait at the end of April to fly north across the Pacific Ocean to the Bering Sea, then return south in September – a total flight of around 32,000 kilometres.
Triggered by this amazing migration, Robin, accompanied by her husband Doug, a German shepherd, two Siamese cats and a 40 year old pet stumpy-tailed lizard, travelled north from Phillip Island to the small sunny town of Mitchell in outback Queensland. Month by month, Robin takes us on a remarkable journey of self discovery; a life in which she experiences many surprises and challenges, and discovers the timelessness of an ancient land.
Desert tree frogs share the bathroom, echidnas live beneath the house, there are encounters with snakes and goannas, butterflies, and a wealth of birds. This outback environment is relatively free of pesticides and pollution and rich in biodiversity. Yet Mitchell is in the grips of a devastating seven-year drought. Will the rains come, transforming the land and its people?
Robin’s Double Life reveals an outback community with its river, warmth and abundance in all the things that really matter in life. Robin meets colourful outback characters and a Jack Russell terrier that burrows her way into the heart of the story. Sally refuses to be owned, is her own free spirit. Her untimely death is revealed in the postscript.
Sitting snug in a loop of the Maranoa River, Mitchell is a micro-world and this probably contributes to its feeling of security and strong community spirit. Neighbours care about one another. Locals offer newcomers and travellers a friendly smile and say, ‘G’day’. The slower, more peaceful pace of life allows a sense of contentment and wellbeing. Such is Mitchell’s spell, such is the lure of its artesian spa that draws travellers to this part of south-west Queensland and then tempts them to stay.
Mitchell is a place Robin Stewart is proud to call home, a place where she feels a deep sense of belonging, yet always there’s the pull of an island ‘down south’ with its muttonbirds: Robin’s other reality. Throughout the summer the Stewarts live in tune with the muttonbirds, revelling in the birds’ nightly return to the island. Beachcombing along golden beaches, watching the silvery pathway of the moon across water, living on an island populated with penguins, seals and other wildlife ensures plenty of interest.
Although Robin prefers to think of Mitchell as a lifestyle choice, in fact it was a heart condition triggered by cold winds that propelled her to make the leap between Phillip Island and outback Queensland. Even in the depths of winter in Mitchell she can walk and enjoy being outside – without angina. The warm, dry climate of outback Queensland agrees with Robin, gives her a sense of freedom and inner peace.
Through her double life, author Robin Stewart discovers the true meaning of community, abundance and what it means to be Australian.