Yoga with a view

By Vita Forest

One of the views from Barangaroo

One of the views from Barangaroo

Today I did my first ever outdoor yoga class.  How lovely it was – the breeze on our bodies, the grass beneath our feet, the harbour wrapping around the hill – because, that’s right, it was at Barangaroo Reserve on the Stargazer Lawn.  (It does seem a little that I spend a good part of my free time at this park…)

Last week when we were there for a birthday picnic for Lucy, my sister pointed out that they were holding yoga sessions there every Saturday through October, so today I managed to make it to the last session.

I got up early (for a weekend), slathered myself in sunscreen (this is Australia people), and packed my backpack (deciding on a beach towel rather than a yoga mat as I also planned to do some walking).

I caught the train to the city.  Occasionally, I fret about writer’s block, but then I catch a train.  Apart from the people engrossed in their phones, this is what I saw;

  • a flash of mauve, scarlet and magenta – Jacaranda next to Flame tree next to Boganvillea.
  • wild weedy daisies bobbing their golden heads along the strip of grass beside the train track.
  • a trio of fisherman fresh from their exploits on a ferry wharf on the harbour, carrying all their equipment.  This included a fishing rod, a bucket sloshing with their catch, and some folding chairs.  Their chairs being more comfortable than Sydney Rail’s, one of the men opened his up and proceeded to sit and relax in it among the poles of the train’s standing area.  As we passed over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, he flipped his cap backwards too.  He could have been at a barbecue.  (Being a witness to these sort of events are one of the reasons I love public transport).

I walked down from Wynard, joining the yogis on the lawn.  Some of them were sunbaking on their mats as we waited.  I picked a spot in the shade of the Harbourmaster tower, which cut a blade of shadow across the lawn like a giant sundial.  As the practise went on and time passed, some of us had to peel off and move to the other side of the group to stay shaded.  We downward dogged, warriored  and lion-posed it (sticking out our tongues to Balmain as we did the last one).  On one downward dog, I glanced behind me and saw a familiar black schnauzer tied to a pole.  Scanning about on the up dog, I saw that Saskia had joined us.  I noticed the ferries and the spinnakers of yachts as we saluted the sun, but most of all,  the changing layers of wispy clouds above us in the blue sky.

We lay on our backs for savasana and closed our eyes.  I felt the wind on my cheeks, and heard a train on the Harbour Bridge, the clanging of cranes, and then, the clicking of a camera shutter moving in a circle around us.,

I suppose we were a sight to behold.

This week

By Vita Forest

Stairs at Barangaroo Reserve, look at that sandstone!

Stairs at Barangaroo Reserve, look at that sandstone!

This week I have been

  • READING The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard.  For the third time.  Oh my goodness… It really is an experience.
  • WRITING
  • MAKING cupcakes with lemon icing for Lucy’s birthday.
  • VISITING Barangaroo Reserve for one of Lucy’s birthday celebrations and a barefoot rock scramble.
  • WATCHING The Beautiful Lie on ABC. (Anna Karenina set in modern day Australia.  Very good indeed).

In The Cutaway, Barangaroo

Would the Jacaranda step forward please?

By Vita Forest

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Late October, November.  Sydney Springtime.  In the Japanese Spring, they watch the progress of the cherry blossom buds during Hanami.  Here, we wait for mauve bell-shaped flowers to dazzle us. It’s time for the Jacaranda trees of Sydney to have their moment in the sun.

There are months when you don’t notice these trees, with their diminutive ferny leaves and bark that looks like dried cracked mud.  They stand quietly and patiently among the evergreens, before losing their leaves in yellow drifts, while incubating their surprising bunting.  At the moment, there is a faint purple hazing appearing over the canopy of the trees as the buds ripen.  Soon it will change from the merest watercolour-thin tint, to a solid gouache opaqueness.  The Jacaranda in full bloom.

Then you will see the Jacarandas across hills, across bays, across the harbour. Bursts of purple signalling through the scenery, making the green around them sing.  The fallen flowers will carpet the grass beneath them, amethyst over emerald, like a coloured shadow.

The tree is not a native here.  It hails from Central America.  There are lots of stories about why there are so many Jacarandas in Sydney. One of the most popular credits a bygone trend of giving new mothers a Jacaranda sapling to take home from hospital along with their new baby. Hard facts seem hard to find, but look around – they are here in abundance.

To some, they signal end-of-year exam time, in our family, it means birthday season.  Some people hate the slurry of fallen blossoms that make pathways treacherous and car roofs sticky.  Perhaps it is a tree you like to admire in someone else’s yard or in a park.  But take a ride on a Sydney ferry in a week or two and I defy you not to enjoy the Jacarandas having their moment in the spotlight.

 

I am Georgie, I am Lu

By Vita Forest

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There are books that need a second reading and there are books that you love the first time around.  This is different for everyone, but why?  Perhaps it is your own life that must be aligned to fit the book.  Do the characters speak your own thoughts back to you?  Is the emotional tenor tuned in to within a hair’s breath of your wavelength?

Dirt Music by Tim Winton is one of my very favourite books.  But it was not always so.  I used to prefer Cloudstreet – that sprawling tale of two families sharing a house in Perth.  With a talking pig and a mulberry-stained tent in the backyard.  But my preference now lies with Dirt Music.  The first time I read it, I admired it, but the second time, I loved it.

It tells the story of two lost souls – Georgie and Lu, who stumble into each others’ way.  Perhaps I love it because of Georgie – stuck in a bad place, having lost her direction, purpose and sense of self.  I am Georgie, I thought.  Another friend felt the connection to Georgie too, but found it too close to the bone, and for that reason, remained deliberately detached.  Or maybe it was because of Lu – the sole survivor of a terrible accident who deliberately provoked the wrath of the Gods (both local and spiritual).  I am Lu, I thought, as he noticed the tiniest details and avoided reminiscing.  Or was it the sum of its parts – the contrast of the brutal, ugly township and the transcendent scenes of nature, or the small poetic moments of yearning, like Lu leaving the imprint of his lips on Georgie’s window, or Georgie eating the red dirt found in an otherwise empty envelope sent from Broome.  Whatever it was, on my second reading I got it and Dirt Music became a “book to own”.

Dirt Music also contains a sense of hope sometimes missing from Tim Winton’s other books.  The characters are on a quest that they can’t articulate, but in the end, there is redemption.  I remember reading of someone finishing The Riders and being so frustrated, they threw the book across the room – before realizing what an amazing writer Tim Winton was, to provoke such a reaction.

Last year I saw an interview with Tim Winton by Jennifer Byrne.  There is something about him too.  Despite his eloquence he is very self-depreciating, an attractive quality in this world of narcissists.  When asked about whether his new book Eyrie was a change of direction for him with its urban setting, Winton ruminated for a few moments before drawing parallels to his earlier work and concluding, “It’s the same old shit really.”

Perhaps this is why, as Saskia would say, we are “a little bit in love with him.”

Do you have books that needed a second reading before you loved them?

Stargazing

By Vita Forest

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On a hot Wednesday night, I lay on the floor, my bare feet resting on the sofa.  Zadie (the cat) walked up to me and paddled her feet on my belly before lying on my chest and closing her eyes.  Max came and lay beside me and put his feet up too.

“Ah nice,” he said, looking up at the ceiling.  “Look you can see the stars!”  and you could too – those glowing stars that I had stuck on the ceiling from atop a ladder.  At night they bring a smile to my face when I turn out the light.

We lay there basking in the starlight.

Lucy came and sat beside us, talking to her dad on the phone.

“Lucy you are disturbing our serenity!  Please go and talk somewhere else!”  She grudgingly moved on, accompanied by Zadie.

“You can see the sunset too, ” noticed Max, and it was true, over the top of the sofa, you could see the warm glow on the lamp in the dining room.

“And the moon is square tonight,” we continued.

Ah serenity!

On Thursday, about midday, we were writing a procedure about How to make an origami cup, or How to make a paper cup, or even just, How to make a cup.  Between writing up Step 3 and Step 4, those faster kids who were not helping others came to sit on the floor to wait.  Paulo lay back exhausted from all the thinking and all the writing.  It reminded me of our indoor stargazing from the night before, so I told them the story.

Soon the floor was covered in small people lying on their backs, looking up at the sky.  There was a rectangular moon this time, and even the remains of a spider.

Ah serenity!

This week

By Vita Forest

Orange Grove Market

Orange Grove Market

This week I have been

  • READING Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
  • WRITING
  • MAKING a Hedwig owl soft toy to go with Pigwidgeon (for Lucy’s birthday).
  • VISITING Orange Grove Market, Leichhardt.
  • WATCHING The Principal on SBS.
  • SPOTTING pelicans off Tunks Park, Cammeray.

Beware of wand thieves and sunburn

By Vita Forest

On the way to Shelly Beach

On the way to Shelly Beach

Last weekend, Lucy and I met some of my old high school friends and some of their children for a day out.  Heather, Venetia, Gemma and I (the adults) were keen to do a big walk somewhere beautiful.  The children (Ava, Jasper, Bob and Lucy) were not so keen on the walking part, but came anyway with the promise of icecream.  We settled on the Manly to North Head walk and met at Circular Quay to catch the Manly ferry.

When we arrived, we walked through Manly to the surf beach.  It was a beautiful Spring day and the beach was busy.  Before walking to Shelly Beach, we checked the sunscreen situation.  Bob was prevailed upon to apply some more (he hates it so much that he has been known to wear long sleeves in Summer just to avoid it).  The females admired the ocean waves, the surfers and the clear blue sky, while Jasper and Bob turned away from the beach and admired the real estate.  I pointed out to Lucy the small child-height statues dotted along the rocky wall that she used to toddle between as a two-year old.

Sculpture of a snorkeler, Shelly Beach

Sculpture of a snorkeler, Shelly Beach

We climbed higher and looked out over the ocean (making a slight detour when a water dragon appeared in our path, cocking its head and waiting to see whether it had to run.  It did not).  There was some confusion as to whether we could walk through the bush, Venetia’s instructions were via the streets, so through the streets we went.  (Apparently you can walk through the bush, but it was not well sign-posted). Up the hills we went and  entered the Sydney Harbour National Park at North Head.  We didn’t see any bandicoots but we did see this sign.

We didn't see any bandicoots, they are nocturnal after all.

We didn’t see any bandicoots, they are nocturnal after all.

The bush there is thick, dense scrub.  You can’t see far into the distance on the track, but all at once you feel a cool breeze, and the vegetation suddenly breaks open and you are standing looking along the cliff line.  There are some old military sites to explore, including observation posts cliffs facing out to sea.

Ava collected a good solid stick that she swished about as a wand (she had just watched Harry Potter).  At one lookout, another child came over.  She held it out to him to inspect and to her astonishment, he snatched it and ran off!  Luckily there were plenty more wands to be had.  After that, we were on the lookout for wand thieves.

The view North

The view North

Signs indicating the distant existence of a café pricked the interest of the girls, who were deflated to learn we had brought our own lunch.  They chewed on snacks as we stepped along the mesh path over the Hanging Swamp.  The spring flowers were putting on a fine display – flannel flowers, grevilleas and bottlebrush.  Ava wanted some spells for her new wand, preferably one that would help us fly and so avoid the walk in the hot sun.  She asked Lucy if she knew any.  (“Not Avada kedavra,” I instructed. “Or Sectumsempra!”)  The girls settled on Wingardium levisoa and Obliviate.  Ava tested this last one by giving her Mum a small punch and then using the Obliviate spell to see if Gemma would forget her naughtiness.  Unfortunately for Ava it did not work…

The

The Path through the Hanging Swamp

After stopping for lunch (outside the cafe), we visited the Quarantine station cemetery.  It was was brimming with wild flowers which dwarfed the crumbling monuments that stood on the hill looking back towards the city.  Heather even found one grave for a Edward Kelly (a not so famous one we presume).  We continued past  the Quarantine Station (“Ghost tours!” said Jasper) and on to the lovely Collins Beach, into penguin territory.  After a brief paddle it was back to the ferry wharf where we were herded on to a ferry back to Circular Quay.

Wildflowers in the cemetery

Wildflowers in the cemetery

Lucy and Ava waved to the passengers on passing boats, and Gemma reminisced about doing the same with her sister on car trips when they were children.  If anyone waved back, they were “allowed” to come to their birthday parties!  Gemma always collected more waves than her sister.  Jasper closed his eyes but opened them a crack when Ava gleefully announced that her brother was asleep.  By this point, we were all grateful to be sitting down.

At Circular Quay, we all indulged in the long-awaited reward of gelato before Lucy and I had to say farewell and rush off to try and make the kids’ 5pm handover.

We all slept well that night.