Seventy-two Seasons

By Vita Forest

In the gardens of Konchi-In

We learn that there are not four seasons

There are seventy-two

And right now

At this very moment

We are in the season

Where the flat leaves of the lily pads in the pond

turn to yellow and brown

 

Walk the same paths

Watch the same scenes

With eyes open

 

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The acorn

By Vita Forest

On that first day

In the gardens of the Imperial Palace

(In the part that you can visit

If you are ordinary

And not royal)

Lucy found an acorn on the pathway

Gleaming in the rain

We looked around but could not see

Totoro

Perhaps he was atop one of the lush leafy trees

That dripped rain onto the soft grass

and the beds of thickly-planted iris

Perhaps he still had his wide black umbrella

And did not need our smaller paler shelters

Translucent as raindrops

Forest sprite

By Vita Forest

One day,

While focusing on where

I placed my feet

Amongst the rough uneven rocks

And crawling roots of ancient cherry trees

On the slopes of the Kumano Kodo,

I heard behind me the sound of a

Strider

Fast approaching

Heels ringing on stone.

I glanced behind me

And met

The eyes of a small boy

Who blinked and passed me by

Without a word

Continuing on at the same fast clip

He favoured,

Up around the corner and

Sailing out of sight

Amongst the trees

While I continued slow and crablike

Testing the moss between the rocks

With my pole and two-pronged stick

Finding the firmest way.

And I wondered

Had I imagined him?

This small child

improbably alone

Was he a forest sprite?

floating through the forest

with such confidence?

But later

At a lookout

I saw him again

Swinging his legs

as he munched on a snack

and looked out

At the mountains that receded

in layers

Far into the distance

He sat apart from the

weary walkers resting beneath a shelter

He sat and ate and looked

and waited

His face splitting into a grin

When the rest of his family

Finally

Caught up.

He had proven his point

He was as fast

As the wind.

Stretching rainbows

By Vita Forest

Sitting under hats around the table

Blindingly silver in the sunlight

Waiting for the ripening buds of leaves

to burst into green shade

Two ten year-old girls creep closer

Slatted against tree trunks

Pressing their grins into calloused bark

Stifling laughter

Remembering them at six, at seven

When their mouths held gaps and Tahlia astonished

with her description

of a dog’s soft wet nose

And their two heads bent over a stretch of rainbow

Building waves of red and yellow and green

When their hair was longer

And their legs were shorter

Eryldene 2018

By Vita Forest

Under the red pavilion

In the quiet of the garden

Brushing my pencil over the white to

Build the retreat out of triangle and square

Stretching up a pink angophora

from the bottom of the page

Listening to the lorrikeets against the softly misting rain

And the scratch of the brush turkey beneath the camellias

Under the deep roof of the verandah

Sipping tea

Cosied under a knitted posy

Spreading scones with cream and jam

And coaxing out the rough bark of a jacaranda

As I chat to Kate

Sipping coffee and eating scones as

she waits for her paint to dry.

Fox prints

By Vita Forest

Have you read Margaret Wild’s Fox?  It is a searing tale of friendship, jealousy, temptation, grief and loss.  Did I mention it’s a children’s picture book?

My class has been examining it closely.  Noticing the similes, the use of present tense, the metaphors, the personification, the colours used by the illustrator Ron Brooks, the layout of the pages and the unusual scratchy lettering.

This week,  after a boring old handwriting lesson (“check your pencil grip, stay on the lines, sit up straight, trace slowly and carefully, form your letters in just the right way”) we changed gear to explore how Ron Brooks’ lettering contributed to the story.

He experimented and took some time to get it just right.  Brooks ended up writing the text by hand and using his left hand (he is right handed), hacking out the words, tracing some of the letters over and over, writing them down and then up the sides of pages, on diagonals, in capitals (screaming).  In short, breaking all the handwriting rules.

We looked at the book again and focused on the writing, looking not at what it said but how it said it.  The kids had a play on little whiteboards, swapping their usual writing hands, using capitals where they should have used lowercase, reversing their letters, looking away when they wrote, turning their boards upside down, writing over and over in the same space.  Then they chose a piece of coloured paper, a handful of oil pastels and went away to make their marks as one of the three characters – half-blind, trusting Dog, griefing, wary Magpie or sly, jealous, lonely Fox.  The stipulation – they could only write the name of their character, nothing more, nothing less.

Miss Sadie, rather cheeky and daring, stared me in the face and screwed up her paper into a ball.  I stared back at her and said, “Yes!  If you are Fox, that might be just what you would do.”  (They have witnessed one of their classmates do this same action on a rather regular basis when he is distressed and in the midst of a meltdown).  Suddenly, there was scrunching, there was ripping, there was smudging, there was scraping.  Some of them wrote their character’s name just once, others repeated the lines over and over and over again.

Another happy accident occurred when I handed out some black mounting paper that I had cut in half to what I thought was a good size to frame their work.  It turned out it was too small.  “Stick it on an angle,” I advised.  And the artworks looked better than they would have with a neat black border.

The next day, we sat in a circle and held up the artworks for others to see.  The students went around the circle and explained what they did, how they did it and why.  Amongst the “I did it coz that’s what I felt like” there were some gems.  Kelly left space around Magpie’s name because she was left all alone.   Sharni wrote Dog’s name without looking at the paper because Dog was blind and Lana ripped away a piece of Fox’s signature because his heart was broken in two.

Don’t tell me kids can’t understand difficult stories…

Domain concert

By Vita Forest

Remember hanging upside down

sweat blooming behind our knees

hair a trailing shadow flame

hands trailing the ground in surrender?

The fig leaves have heavy bodies

Snap when you bend them

snap and spray

They have solid reliable edges

Like the bats

journeying above us

black umbrellas darting  over

pink seashell sky

I lie back on the picnic blanket

and watch them as fireworks glitter overhead

and ants get drunk

in forgotten gulps of champagne