It's Beautiful Here in the
With Catherine Mack.
I first met Catherine about 15 years ago through my sister Katie when they moved into a share house together in Melbourne. They were not just housemates, they became instant friends. We recently spent a lot of time together as our paths crossed in Queensland and it is a pure joy to be in her orbit. Catherine has a lightness about her. She is not only terribly creative, she also radiates all things calm, clever, and kind. I am so grateful to Catherine for sharing with us a glimpse into her life and her recommendations for the place she and her family currently call home - Sydney's Northern Beaches. xx
(We did this interview while Sydney was still in lockdown)
Introducing Miss Catherine Mack...
Name: Catherine Mack
Star Sign: Virgo (just)
Hometown: Torquay, Victoria
Where do you live now? Northern Beaches, Sydney
What took you to the Northern Beaches?
Chasing the sun. I love Victoria but I just don't have the thick skin for those long bitter winters. The frosty mornings call my name and remind me of my youth but I also feel my spirit shrink when I’m not in the sunshine. We’d never lived in the Northern Beaches but I’d worked here before, so vaguely knew of the insanely breathtaking beauty of the sparkling water and cliff top curly roads coupled with the laid back lifestyle. Even now, after living here for just two years I can see a huge change. An influx of people moving from the city has changed the landscape here a little bit.
Describe yourself in 3 words or less…
Right now, hungry!
Describe the Northern Beaches in 3 words or less…
Ridiculously expensive realestate.
What is the most special thing about living here?
Nature. It feels like we are so far from the city despite a 50 minute drive to get into Sydney CBD. The access to so many beaches within a 10km radius. The mixture of sprawling national park, surf beaches and calm Pittwater pockets. It’s truly spectacular. When I do have to go into the city now I can’t wait to get back to the little northern peninsula.
How are you travelling through lockdown?
A dance between up and down. I feel so grateful to be living so close to the beach but my stamina for positivity is really wearing thin some days. When it feels never-ending and it’s a grey cold day, it hits me the hardest. The collective darkness sometimes feels like it will never lift but when I take a step back and ground, I find it a lot easier to stay level-headed and let the feelings flow without labouring on the news. It’s an important time to continue practices of meditation, getting into nature, ocean swimming, walking with a mate, chanting, appreciating what’s around… The other thing that I’ve really noticed and taken away as one of the lessons of this strange time is the impact that creativity can have. When I’m in the flow and doing something I love, the rest of the world quickly melts away.
What has been the biggest adjustment through this time?
It has really just been the mental challenge of the reduced freedom. I’ve always placed such a strong emphasis on being able to travel if I’ve wanted to… feeling free. We had been bunkering down for the last few years after having a baby and I was really looking forward to getting into that Mediterranean ocean sometime this year but with the hand break on any plans, cancelling holidays and continually pivoting it just feels a little claustrophobic when I think about it too deeply. The biggest adjustment is really not watching the news and pulling myself out of social media consumption cycles. Easier said than done sometimes! I think we all made travel plans that got cancelled, then made new ones which also got cancelled - so now we're all just in a waiting limbo, a holding pattern. It feels different now without those things to look forward to, but it catapults us into the ’now’ rather than just wanting to get to the other side. Another good lesson to enjoy today.
You are such a talented creative, always with so many ideas and inspiring projects on the go… can you tell us a little bit about what you are working on at the moment?
That’s so funny because I feel like my ideas are few and far between… it must look like that from the outside but I definitely feel like I am someone who isn't abundant with ideas but the ones I get I really invest in and run with... if I really believe in them (hmmm... not mentioning the novel I started to write a few years ago ha!). I do really relish diving into a creative project. At the moment I am producing our second TV show which we will shoot at the end of the year. Finding locations and navigating the world of shooting in a lockdown and getting all of the contracts ready - lots of paperwork. I’m wrapping up my podcast as the season has come to an end. And working on an older idea that I’ve pulled out of the woodwork from a couple of years ago now that I have the time and space to get it on its feet, and I’m about to direct and produce some social commercials for brands. It’s easy for us in lockdown because Rick my husband and I can work as a Directing/Producing/Editing team. Our first show (that Rick wrote and I produced) ‘Australia’s Sexiest Tradie’ will air on 7Mate September 8th so we will have a little lockdown screening night (just Rick and I ha!). We’ve both seen it a thousand times throughout the editing process but it’s been months so hopefully will get surprised.
I love listening to your latest podcast - Night Light - how did the idea for this come about?
Thank you! Thank you for listening!! The concept really just came to me at the start of the pandemic when I just felt that there were so many wildly talented, incredible creatives who we are just sitting at home not able to flex their creative muscles. I love working collaboratively and I wanted to create a different medium for the actors and creatives that I know, so that we could continue to contribute to that creative landscape but in a different way.
In the past working as a health coach I’ve created personalised meditations for clients so it just became an extension of that but I set myself the task to find the world’s most beautiful stories and then match them to the voices of some of Australia’s most talented creatives. It’s a beautiful project but it is a limited run because the workload is enormous. We had funding for the first season and I added on an encore second season because there were some beautiful voices I really wanted to get up there that hadn’t fit into the first run, but now it’s almost all done and dusted.
It must be so fun collaborating on creative projects with your husband Rick! How do you guys go working together?
It’s really great most of the time! Being married we have a shorthand and can understand a lot about what the other person is asking before they actually ask but on the flip side that professionalism is often lost and a slightly bossy tone (usually from me ha!) can definitely be heard in a little home office! It’s really nice being a part of each other’s projects and sharing the success and hurdles along the way.
What does a normal day look like for you in Avalon?
At the moment it’s really just working from home and then trying to escape to somewhere in nature every day whether that be one of the beaches or a bush walk. There are so many incredible National Park walks that I am yet to find so this has been a good time to slowly explore the local area and do a different one each week. I love watching the sun go down with my daughter at our local little beach or getting up early and doing the Palm Beach Lighthouse walk. This weekend is rainy, so we will no doubt get cabin fever with our daughter at home.
Can you share your fav places in the Northern Rivers for:
Best coffee: Girdlers! (Medicinal mushroom cacao - I don’t drink coffee anymore after being so addicted when I lived in NY I’d have 4 a day)
Market produce: Beaches markets! The Friday market is one of my favourite things. Local produce and crafts - the boobie ceramic mugs are a strong favourite as well as the gluten free shortbread.
Sunrise spot: Newport Beach because you’ll avoid the crowds who gather on the headlands at Avalon. Bring a warm drink from home and have a spot all to yourself.
Sunset spot: Anywhere on Pittwater - Clareville is particularly beautiful when not crowded.
Long lunch: Berts
A few drinks: The Newport or Bar Elvina.
Dancing: At home on the deck.
Bilgola Beach pool
Surfing for me is Kiddies Corner Palm Beach because I’m still shaky on the long board and get intimidated by the giant waves!
Kuringai National Park, and the Palm Beach lighthouse walk
Art/culture: Head into the city for that.
Taking out-of-towners: Jonah’s for a fancy lunch and then a hiking afternoon up to the lighthouse, finishing with a pizza and bottle of vino and sunset at Paradise Beach or Clareville.
Any other Northern Beaches secrets you can share??!!
Finding the little beaches like Paradise or Clareville is always nice. Looking at a map and just heading to any shady spots to explore. Do everything midweek - weekends are a little gross especially in summer!
Are there any other local creatives here who inspire you, and who?
Natalie Marie - the most exquisite fine jewellery that I’ve ever seen. I’ll have one of everything in there please! I have a ring that I got after Coast was born that I wear everyday and adore.
Have you been missing travel this past 18 months?
Desperately! We travelled up to Queensland just before the lockdown which was magical to get away but it’s made it all the more bittersweet coming back here and even though it’s another type of paradise it does feel so claustrophobic not being able to move freely.
Where is the first place you will visit when the world opens up again?
The list is endless! The bottom line for us is always to follow that sun… Things are a lot more limited with a toddler but I think somewhere with white sand and clear water. I guess that will mean the Northern Beaches in summertime ha!! My heart aches for those small cobbled European streets and salty sardines on the water. I can’t wait to find myself in Italy and France again, but this time to explore it all with our daughter now.
Window or aisle seat?
Aisle!! I pee every two seconds on the plane.
What 3 things are always in your suitcase?
Water filter if it fits :)
Are you more a hotel or an Airbnb kind of gal?
Both! I love the ease of a hotel and the fresh clean sheets and room service. But I love the space of an Airbnb. I’ve had my share of dodgy Airbnbs that don’t look like the advertised photos so I always feel that a hotel is a much better bet. But again, with a toddler, Airbnb is the best option!
Any stand-out favourites?
I’m dying to go back to Big Sur and stay at Post Ranch Inn - the most incredible hotel I’ve ever seen. We had dinner there but haven’t ever stayed, but the dinner was honestly one of the most incredible experiences of my life - it was as if we were sitting in the clouds watching a pastel sunset fade into a midnight sky before we were invited to go out onto the deck where an astrologist showed us the sparkling stars. I’ll never forget it.
Who or what is inspiring you right now?
So much! Mainly people right now. A new friend I just clicked with immediately - we went for a hike today - she’s feisty, strong, connected and hilarious. We went into the bush and got heavily reconnected with nature. My husband - the calmest person I know who keeps me together when I get overwhelmed consuming too much of the media. My friend Kate (your sister!) I just received a beautiful unexpected present from her in the mail and I swear she is my 'kindness muse', she is how I strive to be as a person in terms of thoughtfulness. I’m researching an idea for a project around startups, so I feel overwhelmingly inspired from all directions at the moment looking at what people build - especially in hard times.
What is on your stereo?
Podcasts! African drumming!
And what are you reading?
The Midnight Library was my hands-down book of the year - I’m re-reading it (in audio form narrated by Carey Mulligan) because it just made me re-evaluate life in such a potent way. When I was first learning to surf I would listen to it at sunrise on the 20 minute drive to Palm Beach and back and I just couldn’t put it down. Also by the bedside is Untamed by Glennon Doyle (such a must read!) and a bunch of self help books that bore me after a page or two but I want to eventually get through them. My lockdown goal is 10 pages a day - of any of those books. I got swept up in Where the Crawdads Sing last week, it’s really beautiful too.
Words you live by…
“How do you want your day to be? Because ultimately your days will create your life.”
This quote from a friend, Sally Jane Douglas, just hit me in the heart. I feel a real sense of scheduling and ‘getting through’ the days at the moment, coordinating work or being with our daughter between Rick and myself, rather than actually living. Because the days are passing, so quickly. Coast our daughter is growing, time is vanishing - and for what? Replying to an email - scheduling in a zoom. I know we have to be realistic, but we also have to live because this is it.
You can follow Catherine, here.