This week

By Vita Forest

Clifftop walk at South Curl Curl


This week I have been

WRITING

READING About Grace by Anthony Doerr (Man oh man, I nearly stopped reading and skim-read the last part.  The main character really irritated me…)

VISITING

  • a cafe by the river with some teaching buddies.
  • the Northern Beaches for a walk and then a swim in the pool at South Curl Curl.  I enjoyed it, the kids not so much…

North Curl Curl

  • the harbour for a picnic afternoon tea with Lucy.
  • Lane Cove River Park for a walk with Briony and my parents.
  • Barangaroo for some sketching and where I was

LISTENING to Alice Chance’s Aurora Eora in The Cutaway – a sublime soundtrack which turned the empty space into a cathedral.

Barangaroo


WATCHING Hidden Figures with my friend Diana.

Not even the beginning

By Vita Forest

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“You mean this isn’t even part of the walk?” face sweaty, voice grim.

“That’s right.”

I walked on.  We would not turn back, not now, no way.

But now it was THE walk, not a walk from the station, not the walk down the hill but THE walk.  See – the dreaming poles marked it.  It was not the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end but it was the beginning.  There was mutinous muttering from Max and Lucy, Fleur whispered she could take them back.  But no!  We were going to do this walk and we were going to enjoy it…

The kids took off their shoes to wade through the water at Werri Lagoon and did not put them on again on the other side.  They stalked on grimly in barefeet.  And I thought why not? And pulled my shoes off again too.  The grass was soft and buoyant and the wind from the sea felt good on my bare skin.  We stepped along up the hill, away from the beach, away from the shrieks of the swimmers and the drone of the cars and into the silence.

The complaints stopped as we climbed the bare grassy slopes that hid the town and the road.  The kids fell silent and felt the breeze, saw the blue water sinking back from the black rocks, saw the green hills rising away into the distance along the coast and the wildflowers buzzing with butterflies and crickets.  All you could hear was the booming breath of the sea, rising and falling and the hundreds of birds hidden in the undergrowth.

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“Is this The Shire?” they asked, but we didn’t come across any hobbits.


Further on, pelicans flapped by lazily in formation, so close you could hear the air against their wings.  I stopped and stared up at the hill rising to the west and even though it was “just grass” every blade was alive in the wind, not a solid monolithic mound but a writhing, dancing collection of stems, each one clutching a fist full of rattling, plump seeds.

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Later we went off the track into a stand of remnant rainforest – the rainforest that used to run all the way down to the sea.  We sat enclosed in the shady room fretted with tree trunks and ate fruit.  I climbed down deeper and found a circular cairn built around the sinuous roots of a tree that was totally enclosed by the scrubby foliage around it.  Cradled inside it like a snow dome.  Someone else had visited too.

I had promised them cows and we saw some, staring and edgy at Max’s frenzied hooting.  We were disturbed to see an anxious calf on the wrong side of the fence.  We wondered how it had got out and how it would get back?  Barbed wire was strung tight across the top of the fence and the gate we eventually passed was locked.  There was also wild fennel, identified by rubbing its lacy leaves between finger and thumb and inhaling deeply.  Aniseed.


We peeled eggs under a tree at lunchtime and looked back across the path heading south.  And after lunch we came to the stile, THE stile and I told them the story of how, years ago, I had looked at this stile, every day, every time we came down to the beach, the stile in the distance on the headland, near the dry stone walls.  How I’d watch walkers climb over it and hike along the headland, coming from who knew where?  How I stood rooted on the sand, small children at my feet.  Them.  And I had wondered – what had those people seen?  Where had they come from?  With their backpacks on their backs, while I watched, anchored to the beach.  Now I knew.  They were us.  Ten years later but there we were, walking out of the wild.  Walking north along the track.  It was us all that time.

We stopped again at Easts Beach, Lucy tumbling and dancing on the sand and falling into the splits.  Max watching critically and remarking, “When she laughs, her bum shakes.”

And it did.

Max and Lucy swam in the surf (Neptune’s son). I made do with a paddle and Fleur with a siesta under the tight shade of a juvenile pine.

Walking on, I watched a bare-chested man saunter past the “No dogs on the beach” sign carrying two black Chihuahuas, one tucked under each armpit.  He carried them into the water where they bobbed serenely, safe in his arms.

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Can you see the Chihuahuas?

I guess they were never on the beach.

At the end we found we were all sunburnt despite hats, sunglasses and slathered sunscreen.  There were red stripes where we had been absentminded with the lotion.  And my toes… well they appreciated the cool dip at sundown in the rock pool at Blow Hole Point.

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And Fleur said that she doesn’t know if she would do it again.

But she’s glad she did it once.

At Bombo

By Vita Forest


On Wadi-Wadi land, where Charmian swam, we walk out to Bombo.  We fill up our water bottles from the last tap, pull our hats down low and sling our thumbs through the loops of our backpacks.  The sun grinds down, shadows crouch and hide from its glare, pulling their knees up to their ears.  It’s nearly noon.

We crouch on the cliff and watch the surfers below as they bob lazily, straddling surfboards and squinting out at the horizon.  Watch as one paddles, then stands and streaks along just in front of the curl of a wave.  An admirer claps and a friendly dog rubs her snout into our open palms.  Watch as another surfer scuttles down a goat track beside us, board beneath his arm, runs, runs down the spit of rock, runs at a retreating wave, then hurls himself onto the fizzing foam.  The sea is wild today.


We walk on and pause to see A View.  A long-haired boy heaves rocks, chucks them with all his might so they land, just past his feet.

Heavy.

“I can do this,” he explains, “coz now I’m six.”

The water boils and roars and surges high through the red columns.


His mother shouts, “Stop throwing rocks!  There are people about!”

And high above on the rocky hill, built with boulder and facing the sea, a shriek, a whoop as the sea slaps down those reckless climbers who sauntered past us moments before.  We make sure they emerge again.  No need to call for help.  Just yet.


We follow the path deeper, between the tossing grass and humming insects which scatter yellow as we approach.  Into the bowl of the headland, into the hollow, the hole, the crater between the land and the sea.  See how the water rises?  Angry, foaming at the bit.  Seething.  We dare not climb the columns as I’ve done before on another calmer day.  We stand back and feel the spray as the sea finds a crack, smashes hard on solid rock.  It will hold, I imagine, I trust, I hope.  Fishermen peer out to sea behind the barricade of boulders, slinging a line out to sea like a grenade.  The water exploding with a Boom! against the cliffs.


We pick our way across a desert of red rocks.  Sun scorching down, burning the backs of our necks.  Lizards scurry at our shadows and I stamp hard, warning off the serpents.  I had seen one at this very spot.  Not rainbow but a killer, red and black.  Red for danger!  It lay on the path, soaking up the sun before sinking back into the waving grasses off the track.  Sinking back like the sighing sea as we tiptoed past as far away as we could manage.  We pick our way across the desert of red rocks, calves flex as we balance on those boulders.  Like those surfers on the sea.


 

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

 

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