Neptune’s son

By Vita Forest


 

Max

Shrieking though the crashing surf

Slings strands of seaweed

Festoons his shoulders

Drapes his head

with Rapunzel’s hair gone green or

A khaki feather boa or

Rusty rapper’s chains

Strung with salt-filled beads.

 

Max

Rolling and leaping over the breakers

Flinging a length of kelp

Around and

around

Over his head

Like the blades

Of the curious open-topped helicopter we watch

Tracing the coastline overhead.

 

Max

Amid the islands of kelp floating

In and out on the waves

Throwing himself backwards over the

Foaming breakers

Like a

Happy seal

Falling back against the force of the water

Grinning fit to burst.

This week

By Vita Forest

Gardens at Vaucluse House (can you spot the bird?)

This week I have been

READING 

  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  • Policy documents for school

WRITING Distracted

MOVING classrooms and

PREPARING for the new school year

VISITING

  • The White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale for Vile Bodies
  • Vaucluse House for some barefoot, lounging about under a tree kind of sketching 

WATCHING

  • The Shawshank Redemption and The Princess Bride with my kids
  • Lion with Briony and friend 

DISCUSSING with my kids why Australia Day is hurtful/offensive to parts of our population 

BUYING school shoes for Lucy for her first year at high school…

MAKING a week’s supply of Jamie Oliver’s Black Rice pudding with mango, lime, passionfruit and coconut. Mmm

Plant stand at Vaucluse House



Distracted

By Vita Forest

 

Did he have water?  Had he put sunscreen on?  Was he at least taking a little bit of food?  I was distracted by Max getting ready, Max who had forgotten to take a water bottle on the previous scorching day, that stinker, that heatwave, and had managed by slurping from various taps and bubblers but had come home parched, lips cracked, cheeks red.

I had been distracted by Max, checking his phone, throwing back a glass of milk, checking his phone, cleaning his teeth, checking his phone.  We were leaving early to drop him at the other train station where he was to meet his friends before I went up north for some Zumba with my favourite Latino instructor, the one I scour the timetable for, who I travel for, who brings a smile to my face with his high-energy antics.  But I was distracted by Max, so I slid my feet into my slip-on shoes, the wrong shoes, the unsuitable shoes, but I was distracted.  We got into the car, Max – cap jammed on his head, skateboard jammed by his legs, idly spinning its wheels with his right pointer.

“They’re already there,” he updated me, checking his phone.

These school holidays Max has become a true teenager, preferring his friends to his family, taking his opal card and flying all about the city on trains, buses and boards, following rumours of skate-parks, cheap food and branded shoes.

“Do you remember when I hated teenagers?” he asked as we waited to pass the local roadworks.

I saw him again, hunched in the corner of a bus seat on a ride from Lucca to Barga in Italy, glaring when the aisles suddenly filled with loud local teens, shouting, laughing, full of joy and private jokes, delirious that school had ended for the day, unconcerned with the ears of other passengers like Max, who found them obnoxious and unbelievable.  Their mindless chatter, their supreme confidence, their lack of consideration.

“I hate teenagers,” he had announced, all of eight years old.

“Huh!  Now we are probably like that…” and I could imagine Max’s gang up the back of the bus, shouting over each other, one-upping each other, skateboards flipped up beside their too-large bodies.

I was distracted by watching Max as if through a stranger’s eyes, jumping out of the car at the kerb and sloping up to the traffic lights, waiting for green, then running, running off to meet his friends so they could make the next bus to the beach.  I was remembering how at Pilates the day before, I was chatting to an old acquaintance, catching up on news, when I became aware of a woman standing beside her waiting.  And then was introduced to her daughter, Max’s age, who I remembered as a curly-headed pre-schooler, all grown-up now (or looking that way).

As I lost sight of Max, I turned on the radio and became distracted by the story of a man in Noosa telling an appreciative crowd about his three angels – his adoptive mother, his adoptive grandmother and his birth mother.  How they watched over him when he couldn’t cope and how they led him to meet an unknown brother who was there in the crowd today!  (I blinked away tears – items on Radio National always get me in the guts).

Then I was distracted by Ted Hughes reading his poems at the Adelaide Festival years ago.  The Thought Fox, which we had done at school and Song for a Phallus, which he almost sang, and struck by the violence and brutality and passion of Lovesong.  I was distracted by learning that after the break, he had actually met up with Sylvia to discuss her Ariel poems – they were not new to him at her death.  I was distracted by remembering reading Ariel for the first time in the cool quiet of the library of UNSW, my lecturer warning that “it will be an experience”.  She was right.

And so I sat in the car, listening and thinking, then distractedly turned off the engine when it was time and walked into the gym thinking of Sylvia, Ted, Max, that pre-schooler now woman.  Then I looked down at my feet and gasped – the wrong shoes!  No Zumba today.

 

 

This week

By Vita Forest

 

This week I have been

VISITING Kiama for a holiday with a rotating cast of characters – Max, Lucy, Fleur, Betty and Briony.

WALKING

  • from Gerringong to Kiama with Fleur, Lucy and Max (Lucy, Max and I did most of it barefoot too…)

  • into the strange world of Bombo Headland with Briony – massive waves smashing against the rock columns, very dramatic!

    SWIMMING in the beautiful waters of Kiama’s beaches and rock pools


    SEEING the Kiama blowhole “goin’ off!”


    SKETCHING at the same time as my sketch pals – they in Sydney, I sitting in the seabreeze looking back at the pines around the Kiama showground.

    WRITING Southerly Buster

    GETTING lots of inspiration for future posts

    READING

    • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (How wonderful to visit the world of J.K. Rowling again and this is one of my favourites!!  I was not the only one enjoying J.K. Rowling – there was also Fleur reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Lucy reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban too – a very Hogwarts kind of time)
    • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

    GENERALLY relaxing

    Southerly Buster

    By Vita Forest

     

    In the pool at dusk

    shafts of sun break diagonal

    through glitter-edged clouds hunkering in from the west.

    I float in the pool and note how

    Max swims like he talks

    thrashing and splashing

    dives designed to disturb the peace

    with the biggest amount of bluster.

    Lucy examines blue-shelled snails

    strolling on slick black rock at water’s edge

    peels one off and peers at its secret inside suction system

    puts it back and it trundles on.

    We burrow our fingers in the soft swaying strands of moss

    green and warm from the sun

    Alive.

     

    The clouds rear over the hills and rain falls hard.

    You almost can’t believe the change

    The downpour

    The ‘steady drum of rain’

    Bucketing, pouring, pelting, crashing, smashing,

    as I sit safe on the balcony

    cocooned in my cage

    a cage barred with falling water.

     

    Then it’s over.

    As quick as it began.

    The world smells fresh and green

    and I watch a man climb out of his car and

    perform a magic trick

    whipping off his boardies

    in public

    under a tucked-in towel

    slinging them in the boot and

    driving away.

    And I wonder

    could I manage that manoeuvre?

     

    The blue is peering down through the grey again

    at the black dog racing along the beach

    kicking up clods of yellow sand as it goes.

    This week

    By Vita Forest

    This week I have been

     

    READING

    • Island Home by Tim Winton
    • A Field Guide to getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

    WRITING Gargoyle

    VISITING

    • Barangaroo for The Beach at The Sydney Festival
    • Real harbour and surf beaches to cool off as Sydney’s temperatures got ridiculously high
    • The Domain for Symphony under the Stars with Max and Lucy and school friends Gemma and Ursula and Gemma’s kids Ava and Jasper where we were

    LISTENING to the Enigma Variations by Elgar and most especially Nimrod (one of my favourites) and of course the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky as we were

    WATCHING

    • fireworks (some people had sparklers and Gemma brought glow sticks)
    • the bats fly over the Domain
    • Lucy turn over and over doing forward walkovers in any spare patch of grass wearing glowsticks at her wrists

    HEARING about Max’s adventures travelling around town by public transport to visit numerous skateparks with his “squad”

    STRUGGLING to sleep as the temperatures stay high through the nights

    Gargoyle

    By Vita Forest


    And Uriel says No, the man over there was not who we were waiting for.  A definitive NO, he was not a sketcher, he was full of rage and swearing and a moment ago, before we arrived, he had been shirtless, not a sensitive arty type, not one for contemplation.  No.  He was NOT part of the group.

    Katerina sets up her stool smack in front of her subject.  She doesn’t look for a convenient corner or ledge or wall to lean against.  She doesn’t need a wall at her back to give her power, to give her anonymity, to blend into.  Katerina plants herself right in the middle of the stream, an island the curious will have to circle around it.  She owns it.

    Who knew a stool could do that?

    I crane up at a stone gargoyle gripping the wall with its six clenched toes.  It could be an owl, a bat, a creature from a nightmare.  Its toes are straining anyway, gripping that wall, about to launch, about to take off.  And a woman from over the sea, from another land, wants to capture me as I capture the gargoyle.  I am trapped on the ground with my sketchbook, mid-sketch, as it is trapped on the wall, about to take flight.  With gestures she makes her request and at my wry nod, comes to stand beside me, to embrace me, to drape her arm around me, as her friend takes the photo (quicker than my sketch), before she too, comes inside the camera’s view finder to stand with me and save the encounter for posterity.  What will they say about this moment?  My friend…  An artist… An Australian…  Will the caption and the tales told last longer than the time it took to take the photo, to construct this story of intimacy and relationship?  Was I like a wild animal momentarily tamed?  How brave to touch the now anaesthetized form of the king of the jungle.

    I move to get a fresh perspective, and hear Tomas giving Winona a lesson in perspective.  He tells us that to be expressive, you don’t need to worry too much about perspective.  That’s lucky.  Buildings are hard for me, scare me a little.  I decide to scare myself and sit on the stone floor with the comforting bricks of sandstone at my back and look through an archway to my subject beyond.  My spot is cool and shady but people can and do stroll by, some nonchalantly glancing down at my sketch, surreptitious, furtive, curious without wanting to disturb or invade, playing it cool except for the small girl who peers down, leaning her hands on her knees unabashed and we smile at each other before she runs off, footfalls ringing on stone.

    Around us, bells sing and chime.  Up in the tower, someone plays their song and sends it out over the rooftops, over the hills, how far?  The notes tumble and ring against the tiles and the glass and the stone, trickling down to the green green grass, emerald in its brightness, a stage we all face where tourists sprawl before drifting off again, before the heat of the sun becomes too much.

    We skulk around the edges, in the shadows, looking in, looking up, looking through, looking past and measuring, recording, watching, the whisper of pencil on paper, the clench of finger muscles, the crick in the neck.  The buildings are at once intimidating and playful, orderly and rambunctious, authoritarian and welcoming.

    This is where I came to see my friend’s choir, where I came for a lecture, where Josie Alibrandi raced John Barton in that movie (as Lucy reminded me), where students for years and years meet, and Tomas came in the past with his family on silent Saturdays and abandoned Sundays when they were the only ones around, and this is the place where brides and their entourages visit for the atmospheric backdrops to the beaded and brocaded.  And now we sit, facing in, around the periphery and study and record and express.

    We draw.