This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

WRITING Crow

READING my old novel in preparation to rework it.

LISTENING to an inspiring interview with Tim Smit on Radio National (he instigated The Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project in Cornwall).

VISITING

  • with my old high school gang for a lovely meal and great conversation.
  • with Saskia and friends for another lovely meal and great conversation.
  • with family – to see my cousin up from Victoria.
  • a local national park with an Indigenous guide.

DANCING in the school hall for a very fun Zumba class.

MAKING 3D whimsical flowers with my class (potted up in strange receptacles in the style of Shaun Tan’s Eric).

STARTING our senior dance group’s rehearsals.

PREPARING for Parent/Teacher interviews next week…

 

Skubiszewski on the wireless 

By Vita Forest


Car coasting, gliding, sliding

down the slick road

for the millionth time

when the chiming through the speakers

alerts me to this moment

– Here.

Skubiszewski

(apparently)

Pulls me back to my body

To my seat

To the reverberating space between my ears

Clear as two hands

Firm on my shoulders

Listen

It says,

And I thumb up the volume

Be here 

in this jaunty, curious place

And I look past the rainspeckled glass

As the car descends

And we are floating,

Drifting with the fog that is

Rising in sheets, in veils

Come up from the river

Ssshhh

The trees are grey lace layers

Looming and swaying apart

And we are swimming through a cloud in a car.

Mobile Tales 6: A rainbow of reading

By Vita Forest

In which Christabel solves a puzzle and resolves to rearrange her bookshelf.

Peering through her spyglass one day, Christabel watched the undertakings in The Lounge Room with great interest. The smallest human was seated on the ocean floor in front of The Book Shelf and was sorting those precious rectangular receptacles of Knowledge and Stories into piles.  Christabel could not quite understand the categorisation.  Whereas her own small library (residing on two precious shelves in her cabin) was arranged by subject and author, the Human seemed bent on an entirely new system.  The treasured volumes by Melina Marchetta were split asunder and placed in four different piles, however the Neopolitan novels of Elena Ferrante remained side by side.  What was the logic?  The largest human swam about too, picking up and volume here and a volume there and examining the books with a critical eye.

It was the spine of the book, not the covers the humans were taking particularly note of.  Why was that?  The author and title could be gleaned just as easily from the front cover (and generally more easily too, being in larger print).  Christabel watched as the human picked up Eleanor and Park, and uncoupling it from Carry On, moved it to the first pile of books.

Then all at once the puzzle was unlocked.  These books were Daffodil, Sunshine, Egg Yolk and Fresh Butter. Carry On was placed with Turquoise, Deep Ocean, Midnight Sky and Glacier.  The new classifier was colour!


In the distance began The Yellows (rather small but imbuing that far-away corner with a cheery glow). Then the books progressed through The Oranges and into the drama of The Reds.  From there, it was a flicker into The Blues and then a lazy dappled wave over into The Greens.  This was Christabel’s favourite section.  She even held out her own green-gloved paws against the books to see where they would slot (third from the right Fangirl).


The Greens moved from a verdant jade through to an almost golden khaki, then onto The Browns proper.  A swift muddling of Greys and then into the solidity of The Blacks (where all Elena Ferrante’s tomes firmly sat).  Some books were most difficult to decide a place for.  The J.K. Rowlings in the collection were from that early multi-coloured era where each spine was made up of four lozenges of colour.  Which one to choose?  Christabel did not envy The Human those decisions.


When it was all done, she ran her eyeglass quickly along the finished shelves and delighted in the rainbow of colours.  Who cared if the books were not arranged by author?  Or by height?  What delight to make the books themselves a work of art, a pleasing object to look at!

And the smallest Human had made finding a treasured volume somewhat easier by writing out lists of books on colour coded paper to remind the reader that The Handmaid’s Tale had, in fact, a red spine and The Tao of Pooh, a blue.


Christabel snapped her spyglass back into itself and slotted it back into its holder.  She stared down myopically at the ocean floor for a moment, deep in thought.  All at once, she banged her palms lightly on the edge of the ship.  It was decided – she would emulate the Human creature – she would make a rainbow in her own cabin!

And with that decision made, she rushed downstairs to do just that.

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.

 

 

Mobile Tales Despatch 5 – Christabel and the Huntsman

By Vita Forest

In which our heroine has an encounter with a being from another land.

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Sometimes strange, unidentifable beings appeared in the night sky.

On one such occasion, Christabel was alerted to the presence of the creature by the sudden agitation and interest of the whales.  They were both looking up from the ocean floor, their eyes wide and ravenous, as if, by willpower alone, they would erupt from the water and leap into the very sky itself.  They were swimming back and forth, their bodies rippling through the water, their eyes never leaving their prey in the sky.

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(At first Christabel was quite overcome – were they looking at her?  Were they formulating a plan to seduce her down below the waves and in between their jaws?)  She blinked to disrupt the green dazzle of their stare and then noticed that the force of their eyes was not fixed on her, but on something beyond.  She swung the eyeglass through a half revolution and pointed it up to the sky rather than down to the ocean.

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And there it was, the four green eyes of the whales replaced by the eight black gleaming eyes of an alien in the sky.  Christabel quivered with fright and almost dropped the eyeglass.

“Do not be afraid,” came a high silvery voice most befitting a creature from the celestial realm, “I mean you no harm.”

The voice was comforting in a strange sort of way and Christabel placed a green-gloved paw to her chest to slow the clattering drum of her heart.

“What manner of creature are you?” she whispered back, pulling the eyeglass away from her face and taking in the new heavenly body in its entirety.

It was dark against the sky, a star emitting delicate rays from its centre.  Only this star seemed to be made of darkness not light.  If Christabel squinted, she could see that the rays flickered and danced because they were, in fact, legs.

Christabel rummaged through her memories of rainy day reading, flicking through the heavy pages inside her head until she alighted on an image.

“Are you in fact… a crab?”

She knew crabs had many legs as this creature did and the same disc-like body.  But were crabs creatures of the air or of the element of water?

“Oh no!” came the reply, “I am a spider.  I took a wrong turn I fear, sliding through a crack towards the light and now I find myself here, hunted by those beasts below.”

At this, the rays of its legs shivered slightly, as if every one of its eyes were meeting every one of the whales’ below.  Christabel shivered herself.

“They cannot swim to the surface,” she called, “You are safe if you stay in the sky.”

“I see a ledge over yonder,” said the spider swiveling to starboard, “Is it a safe haven?”

Christabel turned to see what the spider was referring to.

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“Oh no!” she exclaimed in realization, “For that is the moon.  It is cold and benign now but at any moment it can explode into a light so bright it could burn and consume you whole!  You cannot shelter there.”

“Where do you suggest I go?”

Christabel thought.  What the spider needed was another crack.  Not a crack in but a crack out.

“The Wall, ” she called, “There!” and she pointed beyond the icy moon to the place where The Ceiling met The Wall, where a rectangle peppered with clouds sat nestled in a hollow surrounded by cracks.  “Could you squeeze through there?”

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The spider contemplated the option for a moment, blinking all eight eyes.

“I believe so,” it answered, its voice tremulous with hope.  “I think I have the strength to make it.  Goodbye and thank you fair sailor”

“Farewell!” answered Christabel, “Safe journeying!”

And she waved her lacy handkerchief as the spider, slowly and precisely, inched its way across the heavens on its velvet tiptoes, a slow comet carefully arcing across the sky toward a new universe.

Mobile Tales Despatch 4 – a fishing expedition

By Vita Forest

In which Christabel is alerted to a passing school of Parmesan cheese.

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Christabel opened her eyes, suddenly alert. If she was not so suddenly distracted, she may have pondered that it was indeed strange that it was her eyes that reacted to the stimulus, when it was her sense of smell that had been awakened.  Her nostrils prickled.  Yes, there could be no doubt.  The People Below were eating cheese.  The sharp, tangy aroma drifted up to the galleon on the eddies from the deep, spiralling up past the domain of the whales, leaping up from the very surface of the water and through the open window of Christabel’s cabin.

She leapt from her slumber (an afternoon siesta – these late spring days could be so draining) and spun around in order to locate her Cheese Hunting Equipment. An operation of this sort demanded nerves of steel, the right tools (kept near at hand and in good working order) and a skill honed over years.

Luckily Christabel possessed all three. For though she verged on the jittery, there was nothing like the promise of Parmesan to sharpen her resolve.  As luck would have it, Christabel had, that very morning, found a delicate length of black cotton floating by the good ship Possession.  She had fished it out of the water with her butterfly net, attached it with a sturdy knot to her existing fishing line, and added a sharp hook made from a silver pin to its end.  All this before the heat and humidity sent her scurrying below deck with a wet hankerchief draped over her face.

Now she tiptoed up the stairs carrying her periscope and fishing line. She peered down into the depths of The Tabletop.  They were still eating, The Three.  When there was three, there was more chance of mess, more chance of pebbles of Parmesan to fly from the pasta, from a travelling fork, from a moist morsel of bolognaise sauce.  The conditions were perfect, she just had to bide her time and hope that the table was not cleared too quickly (or too thoroughly).

The meal progressed slowly, with the garbled sounds of speech rising upward, causing the ship to rock slightly and spin on its anchor in the ceiling. Christabel was forced to move from the port to the starboard side, but she quickly set up her watch again.  She was not flustered, she would remain calm and patient.  It would not do to fish too early or too late.  Timing was everything.

As the minutes passed, she tuned her ears to the slightest flick!the slightest pat! which signalled a wayward crumb of cheese on The Tablecloth. She located three.  Would there be time to get them all?  Was it better to concentrate on one?  Different scenarios and options scurried about her mind – but patience, patience! she reminded herself.

At last the opportunity came, one of the people left for The Kitchen carrying her plate, one left for The Bathroom and the other one left to answer a phone. There were two plates left abandoned, simply wallowing in cheese!  Christabel swung the fishing line over the edge of the ship and watched the line unravel, watched the silver hook, spin lower and lower, until…

It hit the plate with a tiny Ping!

She stopped.  Would the whales be alerted?  She had to work quickly.  She worked the hook around and around, drawing circles over and over again and catching up a bounty of cheese as she did so.

There were footsteps – she must hurry!

With all her might, Christabel heaved and heaved her catch up off the plate, up off the ocean floor, up through The Deep, through the currents, through the shallows, until it burst out into the air and over the side of the ship.

She sat on the deck of the boat for a moment to catch her breath.

Success!

There would be feasting tonight…

Mobile Tales Despatch 3 – in which we learn of Christabel’s clandestine pleasure

By Vita Forest

In which we learn of Christabel’s clandestine pleasure.

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Do not imagine that the fact that the Good Ship Possession is firmly anchored to the ceiling, limits in any way the interest that Christabel La Mouse finds in her surrounds.  Not at all.  For the sea is full of life.  A great percentage of all living things live there, so Christabel has read somewhere or other (and if something is written down, it is generally true).

There are of course, the comforting creatures of The Deep who reside on the Tablecloth, the school of flying fish who live near the Distant Doorway and The People who swim about freely as far as the spyglass can see.  But most intriguing of all (as well as most terrifying), are the elegant, the graceful, the beautiful, the monstrous – those leviathans of the deep; the whales.

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The whales fill Christabel’s heart with fear.  Their size!  Their strength!  Their razor-sharp teeth!  The hooked talons of their claws!  But as well as making her tremble, the whales fill her with fascination.  (How often is it thus?)  And so Christabel is careful to maintain control, to not lean too far over the edge of the ship, to avoid succumbing to the siren call of the whales, to the hypnotic glamour they exude.

She knows all about these creatures, of course.  You can find a plethora of information about them in any handbook on ocean voyaging, in countless tales told to children (to entertain, but also to warn youngsters about surrendering to the temptation of diving down and curling up in soft white scales, or along an ink-black tail).  Christabel must constantly remind herself that if she lets go, if she gives in, these creatures would indeed EAT her, would not see her as a kindred spirit (as she feels she is), but as a tasty and unexpected supplement to their diet.

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There is The Elegant White One who chirps and hums – perhaps as a means of detecting distance, or maybe she is composing a tune (it is so hard to tell), or it could be she is calling to those other pods of whales that must migrate past their little corner of the world at some point.  (Floating on the warm currents of the Tabletop or perhaps breaching the surface of the sea with a young calf.  Just imagine!  And yet, she really mustn’t…)

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And there is The Masked One who chews pieces of cardboard and paper to keep her teeth in good working order (and perhaps to terrify any quaking prey who witness such violent crunching of her jaws).  This one likes to curl up in the depths of the Tabletop, perhaps atop a sewing basket, or any whale-sized white rectangle left about.

Christabel knows the danger, and yet, these dragons of the water with their white whiskers and their sinuous bodies, curling up in spirals among the rocky floor of the Cushions, are nothing short of mesmerizing.  It is shameful to admit, and she would never report it in any official despatch, but a good part of her day is spent observing the goings-on of these enthralling creatures.