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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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.

Because I am early…

By Vita Forest


Arriving early I walk through Hyde Park, hear the busker singing loudly of love, admire the arrangement of winter plantings, ringing the fountain with tight purple and green ornamental cabbages.  See a backpacker taking an entire park bench for his pleasure, reclining on top of a sleeping bag, resplendent in his happiness as he luxuriates in the winter sunshine, backpack at his feet.  I look at the statues in the fountain and think of Greek Gods and how we will be into them next term.  I think of Alexander on his Outing getting stuck down a hole in this general vicinity and being raised up again with water from that very fountain.   I see the cathedral with its circles and triangles and gothic spires and think, I should really try and draw that someday.

I walk through the tunnel of fig trees and turn back to see the Archibald Fountain shining, being the light at the end of the tunnel, sun hitting the sparkling water and remember how I had drawn that tunnel of trees long ago, at high school, the branches arching up to meet above the paving stones drawn into the distance with excellent perspective.  Remembering how at night the trees were filled with fairy lights and then reading the sign that warns the unwary stroller of the possibility of “tree failure” if there be storms.  Just imagine.


I walk behind a shrieking girl clinging onto her Dad as he stomps along, daughter’s hands clasped around his waist, yelling “Where is she?  Where is she?”  Daughter hysterical with delight as yet again he turns to find she isn’t there.

Because I am early, I cross the road and take the boardwalk over the water on top of the indoor pool.  Remember how once water lilies grew in this pool, reeds, bulrushes.  What happened to them?  I wonder, and how long ago was that?  But still, the boardwalk is there, reminding the walker of jetties, piers, ferry wharves, the sea.  The museum floats upside in the water as I walk toward it on the boardwalk that I choose to take, up high above the footpath, above the pool, above the street.  I take these adventures where I can find them.

I am still too early so I sit in the sun and watch a toddler marvelling at the world – A stick!  Another one!  I can scrape them in the dirt!  Wow!  His Dad crouching down beside him, seeing the world through his son’s eyes.  And later they mount the boardwalk, enjoying the slight ringing of their feet on the wood and the boy is almost stunned when the fountain shoots sudden water out from under his feet arching out from the wood and into the pool.

Can the world get any more amazing?


 

 

This week

By Vita Forest

Fig tree on the way to Bush Bank Steam Mill, Kiama


This week I have been

READING

  • reports!
  • and Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (nearly finished)

WRITING

VISITING

  • Vivid in Sydney
  • Gerroa with Sui-Sui and Alessandro and

REVISITING

Bombo headland

  • Bombo Headland
  • Kiama

Dry stone walls, Kiama

  • Gerringong (for a mighty fine burger – thanks Betty and Bob for the tip!)
  • Minnamurra Rainforest and

Suspension bridge at Minnamurra Rainforest

    DISCOVERING a new place in Kiama (my children were most surprised such a place exists)  – the ruin of the Bush Bank Steam Mill

    Bush Bank Steam Mill ruin

    SEEING lots of wildlife including

    • two lots of whales off the coast!  (From Gerringong and Bombo)
    • Fairy wrens at Bombo

    Jenny wren at Bombo Beach

    • Lyrebirds at Minnamurra Rainforest
    • Cows at Kiama (maybe not so wild)

    Cows with a view, Kiama

    • Wattlebirds, lorrikeets, king parrots, rosellas and more

    EATING lots of delicious cooking at the holiday home in Gerroa

    RELAXING after some very busy times at school

    Lex and Ruby

    By Vita Forest

     

    Springing from the sandstone

    Slicing into the water

    Fingers first

    Feet last

    The water cold and clear and shocking.

    He pushes it behind him in great armfuls

    Hears the pop and fizz of fish chanting in the shadows

    The quiet burble of water filling his ears.

     

    He erupts from the water

    And she watches from the window

    Sipping tea, spying.

    Enjoying the water streaming off his shoulders

    The flick of his head sending the hair off his face

    The spout of water he spits from his mouth

    Returning it to the harbour.

     

    She watches as he strokes off towards the zoo

    The spirals of steam stroking her face

    Like his hands did

    Not long ago.

     

    He swims

    His eyes at the level of the water

    Now above, now below

    Rising and dipping

    In, out

    Air, water

    Alternating clarity with blur.

     

    Then he sees it

    Spinning across the surface

    A bobbing brown bulb

    A traveller

    That fits in the palm of his hand.

     

    He sweeps it before him

    Bats it, flings it

    A ball, a toy, a message in a bottle

    A promise.

     

    Back on land

    Scrambling over mossy rocks in bare feet

    Cradling the bulb

    Slick and shiny in his fingers

    Until under a fall of scarlet crescents

    he sees the dark soil.

     

    Searching for a stick and

    Digs, scrapes, turns up the earth

    Pushes in the bulb

    Finding it a home.

     

    Not knowing what he has sown

    A plant, a garden, a love, a tribe, a story

    All there

    beneath the warm earth.