This week

By Vita Forest

Auburn Botanical Gardens


This week I have been

WRITING  

READING The Piper’s Son by Melinda Marchetta (I just love this book)

EATING Gyoza dumplings when

VISITING Auburn Botanical Gardens for Hanami and some


SKETCHING of the cherry blossoms and other lovely things 

CELEBRATING Betty’s upcoming nuptials with a Girls Night In complete with drag queen 

LEARNING how to use a hammer drill (sorry neighbours)

PRACTISING our class play to be performed next week

FIXING props damaged in said practice 

Selfies with cherry blossoms

Hanami in Auburn

By Vita Forest

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On a Saturday full of wind and bluster, we journeyed out to the Auburn Botanical Gardens for the Cherry Blossom Festival.  On Friday the winds had been so strong that powerlines had been blown down, a fence at the local tennis club toppled, and at sport, the kids had thrown their hats in the air to see how far they would fly before they landed.

I feared the blossoms would have been blasted from the branches, scattered like pink confetti over a suburb or two, but when we arrived, we could see them, still firmly clinging to the trees.

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We went by train, my daughter Lucy and her friend Bianca, and a bunch of sketchers, backpacks full of paper and pencils and paint and ideas.  We talked expeditions past and future, we made plans, we swapped stories.

When we arrived at the garden, the wind was blowing and the pink flags were flying.  Pink was the colour of the day – pink blossoms, pink flags, some pink hair, even the volunteers wore fluoro pink vests instead of the more usual yellow.

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Even the volunteers were in pink.

I was remembering my last trip to the gardens a couple of years ago with a busload of Year 1 children – here is where we did origami, here is where we took a photo – on a bridge over the water – and not one child got wet.  Here is where Marvin barrelled across the stepping stones without knocking anyone over.

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We had learned about Hanami – the festival celebrating the viewing of the cherry blossoms and here we were experiencing it ourselves in Sydney.  It is all about being in the right place at the right time – the trees only bloom for two weeks or so, blink and you’ll miss it.  In Japan they give updates on the progress of the blossoms on the nightly news (“buds opening”, “flowers starting to appear” etc) and even display weather maps charting the display of colour.  It is about being in the moment, that ephemeral moment when the blossoms open and world turns pink.  Strange then to see so many visitors at Auburn with their selfie-sticks and iPhones – as if they will only see it all later after they have posted it on Instagram.  I was not immune to capturing the moment myself – look at all these photos…

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An abundance of selfie-sticks

We walked over an arched bridge and watched as a volunteer sprinkled bread from a bucket.  The water was full of the open mouths of carp fighting for what the geese didn’t get first.  We strolled along the cherry blossom avenue noting the way the sun shone through the blossoms and a few happy bees trundling over the flowers.

The sketchers peeled off, finding places by the lake, by a zig-zag bridge, near the moon gate, so close to a cherry tree she could hold a twigful of it to study and draw and protect from the wind.  The wind!  The wind that followed us around the lake, climbing the rocky steps to a lookout, ruffling the undulating hedges that resembled the sinuous body of a dragon, splaying the fringing needles of a conifer into star bursts.

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There be dragons…

I sat on a hill, a little removed from the cherry blossoms and watched the world go by with my sketchbook.  I noticed the way the wind sent the bundles of pine needles flicking and sparkling.  I noticed how the magnolia flowers swayed majestically on their strong vertical branches, I noticed a sweet looking toddler with two fountaining pig-tales stumbling about the slope, under the careful eye of her father.

I drew trees and saw how the base of each pine tree was set in a tiny pool of mulch.  I drew a line of cherry blossoms, noticing how the trunks were gnarled and twisted before the tips of the branches thinned and reached skyward.  I drew mounds of grass, thickly planted and arranged in tight, round clumps.

And then I drew people – people with their selfie sticks, people with their iPhones, occasionally people just chilling under the trees, seeing life in real time with their own eyes.  It was the perfect time to be in the moment to feel the wind and the sunshine, watch the flocks of birds wheel over the lake, hear the throb of the Taiko drums in another part of the garden.

So much in “the zone” was I, I did not see Lucy and Bianca sneak up behind me, was not aware of them until Lucy leapt at me, causing an unplanned scribble on my page.  They danced on the hillside behind me, did walkovers, stole snacks from my backpack.  They had visited the tiny zoo and had seen a peacock, an albino wallaby, an emu, but not the wombat.  The wombats were hiding away in their cosy burrow out of the light and the wind.  When the girls had eaten all the snacks, they were off again.  Off to catch the sumo wrestling just about to start in another part of the garden.  Later they explained the rules to me and demonstrated the hand motions of the winners and the bowing etiquette before a match started.

We regrouped and shared our sketches; pages of blossoms and lakes and bridges and trees.  And after a lunch of gyoza dumplings by the lake, our little visit to Japan in Sydney was over.  It’s fun being a tourist in your own town.

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This week

By Vita Forest

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Picnic lunch atop Du Faurs Rocks at Mt Wilson, Blue Mountains

This week I have been

WRITING Mobile Tales 9: in which Christabel learns a disturbing fact about whales

READING

  • Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
  • The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith

WATCHING Big Little Lies

VISITING the Blue Mountains with Vastra and Saskia where we did some

WALKING to

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Magical pool at the base of Minehaha Falls, Katoomba, Blue Mountains

  • Minnehaha Falls in Katoomba
  • around the clifftops of Leura
  • around the shops of Leura…

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  • around Mt Wilson through shady ferns and by bright wattle blooming amongst blackened trees

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Cathedral of Ferns, Mt Wilson, Blue Mountains

LISTENING to

  • Whipbirds and
  • Bell birds and
  • Crimson Rosellas and
  • screeching cockatoos breaking the monumental stillness of the silence at Du Faurs Rocks, Mt Wilson

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Oh and saw this currawong at Du Faurs Rocks, Mt Wilson

PICNICKING

  • on a clifftop in Leura
  • on a clifftop at Du Faurs Rocks at Mt Wilson

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RELAXING in the winter sunshine with a cuppa and our books

 

 

Mobile Tales 9: in which Christabel learns a disturbing fact about whales

By Vita Forest

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The whales!  Those alluring, majestic glamourous creatures which Christabel La Mouse spent far too much time watching and admiring from the deck of her galleon…  It was all very well to be high above them safe in the good ship Possession as it sailed on the ceiling, but Christabel had just read something very disturbing.

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Whales slumbering amongst the coral

Her whales spent much of their time slumbering amongst the brightly-coloured corals of the Booth Seat.  Or curled lazily atop a rocky outcrop called The Couch.  Or occasionally sitting on The Tabletop and blinking peaceably as they quietly meditated.

What all these places had in common were that they were below the surface of the sea.  Deep down in the water.  So far down that they required her to use her spy glass to see more than a black or white smudge in the depths of the ocean.  Which could otherwise have been mistaken for a boulder, or the shadow of a cloud, or an underwater cave.

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A boulder?

But her book, this book she had chosen to read in order to learn more about these magnificent creatures, insisted that they were not fish at all.  That they did, in fact, breathe air as she did.  That they needed to come to the surface of the sea to take great gulps of it and to expel stale air out of their bodies in a violent, shooting spout through a hole located along their backs!

It was a lot for a small mouse to take in.

Imagine such a sight!  Imagine the whales at the surface of the sea, where the good ship Possession floated…  It made Christabel fairly quake in her boots just to think about it.  Was it really possible?  Could the authors be mistaken?

Her whales never rose to the upper edge of the sea where it met the air.  And for this, Christabel was grateful.  They instilled equal parts fascination and terror in her small mouse heart.  What would she do if they came close enough to touch?  Was it really possible they were known to capsize ships?  It was a disturbing thought.

Christabel peered through her spyglass and trained it onto the top of their sleek sinuous bodies.  Perhaps it was beyond the limit of her spyglass, perhaps it was her own weak eyes, but she could not make out a breathing hole along their spines.

This pair seemed to be a special case.  Were they yet unknown to the scientists who spoke so authoritatively about spouts and breaching and plankton?  She would need to read further.  (And be alert for any mysterious jolts to the hull of the galleon.)  Possibly (she hoped) these whales were different.

The world was indeed a mysterious place.  And perhaps it was a good thing that there were still things to learn.

Especially about the sea.

Especially about whales.

 

This week

By Vita Forest

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This week I have been

READING

  • When Rosie met Jim by Melina Marchetta
  • Ferragost by Melina Marchetta

ATTENDING a school art show (those Kindy artists are amazing)

CLIMBING down stone stairs and a metal ladder and rock scrambling to go

SKETCHING at the level of the harbour at Cremorne Point and

FEELING the worries of the week wash away in the sun and the wind and the sound of the waves

WATCHING

  • Rice by Michelle Lee at Griffin Theatre (intriguing theatre – go and see it!)
  • some great teaching at my school during Teacher Observation sessions

PICNICKING on a crunchy baguette and goats cheese in the local park with Lucy

 

This week

By Vita Forest

From Castle Cove towards Middle Cove

This week I have been

WRITING Everyday more geckos

READING The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (just delightful!)

GETTING to school early for our performance group’s big audition (you may be interested to know that we had Ivan of Will you take the risk?  fame read half the introduction (the other girl reader was back too) – so they both got their moment of “Fame and Glory” and both did a fabulous job!)

FINDING out later in the week that we were successful and will be performing at the Sydney Opera House later in the year!

The Succulent Garden with the Sydney skyline behind

SKETCHING in the sunshine in the Succulent Garden in the Royal Botanical Gardens

The Succulent Garden, Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney

WALKING in the bush of Castle Cove with Saskia and Rowdy as we continue our exploration of this beautiful part of Sydney

A fallen bird’s nest amongst the ferns, Castle Cove

Everyday more geckos

By Vita Forest

For the last two weeks

A strange phenomena

A gang of geckos in my classroom.

They march up the walls

Keeping watch over the rubbish bin.

They peer at the whiteboard

Their sticky toes hugging the frame.

Some particularly curious ones watch me work at my computer

They must tell their friends –

Everyday more geckos.

And on the back wall by a Boy table and under the Indigenous language map

An army has appeared

Everyday more geckos

One clings to the clock and listens to its tock

They crawl up the windows

Every size, every colour, every pattern

When will it end?

Everyday more geckos.