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.

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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.

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

There’s a poem in that

By Vita Forest

There’s a poem in

The way we hate vegemite

And the way others don’t

The excuses she makes for missing

every single meeting

The vibrating cat that sits perched on my lap

Like a humming loaf

The scarlet red of the flowers on the coral tree and

the way they fall apart if you remove them from the tree

The smiling girl in the photo who just last week

tried to kill herself

The rock that you step over on the path

In the shape of a heart

The shriek as we leap the channel surging back to the sea

And land heavy-heeled in the retreating water

The light patter of rain

On the hood of my new black raincoat

The bowl full of  shells

That sits in the middle of the table.

Poems

everywhere.

In the Temple of the Unicorn

By Vita Forest

On Saturday, after Ghost netting at The Australian Museum, I took my last visit using my unlimited season ticket to The Lady and the Unicorn exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.  Sunday being the last day before those great tapestries were rolled up again and sent back again across the seas to their home in France.

You pass under red banners decked in garlands and into a darkened chamber with spot-lit quotes by Rilke in framed gothic window silhouettes on the wall.  You walk into the dimly-lit inner hexagonal room and are immersed in the mysterious, peaceful world within it.  Each wall bearing a different tapestry.  The tapestries hang side by side, across from each other, conversing among themselves, reflecting details and differences, harmonious even as the components alter as you look harder and closer.  Visitors’ heads swivel and get lost in the world of animals  and plants and women floating on their blue islands on fields of red.

In the centre of the room is a split hexagonal bench, each side facing a different tapestry.  You can sit on both inside and outside the hexagon and look forward and also back across to the tapestries behind.

It is unknown what the real purpose of these medieval images are, allegories to the senses seems most likely, as in each tapestry you can note the Lady showing the unicorn his reflection (sight), or playing music (hearing), or feeding a bird (taste), or holding the horn of a unicorn (touch) or inhaling the scent of a flower (smell).

I sit on the bench looking inwards and across.  From here I can see three tapestries easily.  Can search the upper reaches of each one for the heron and the eagle.  I overhear a lady wearing a unicorn brooch tell her friend that she has an eagle in her life too.  An eagle she has watched plummet and dive to catch and kill another more fragile bird.  She talks about the satisfaction of finally getting here, to this room, to this place, after all this time, on the day before the exhibition closes.  She talks about ordering the catalogue weeks ago, how it arrived in the mail, how she will go home and read it through and through.

And I remember Fleur who made a special pilgrimage to this gallery to the see this exhibition as a way of celebrating her birthday.  How lovely to sit there amongst the blossoms and the frolicking animals and breathe in the peace on her special day.

I look up at the rabbits, at the foxes, at the dogs, at the goats, at the monkeys that remind me of Mrs Coulter from His Dark Materials (even though they are not yellow).  I wonder if the unicorn is the Lady’s daemon?  If he has to stay near her, attached by an invisible pull so strong that to break it would make them both ill.  (As I sit and write this,  I have my own little white daemon cat sitting beside me lounging against my thigh and nuzzling my hand).

I listen to a very interesting conversation behind me between an elderly couple and a not so elderly woman.  The oldest woman remarks that the unicorn has cloven hoofs like a goat, and a beard like that animal too, is it closer to a goat than the horse it is often compared to?  She tells the story of how her horse once broke a mirror when it saw its reflection for the first time.  It saw her with another horse and wasn’t happy about it.  She points out that the unicorn seems to know it is looking at itself in the mirror.  Seems to know what it sees.  I think that mirror is safe from hoofs, cloven or otherwise.

I watch two children with their pencils and worksheets squatting down in front of a tapestry, pointing up at the weaving and tallying up the numbers of different animals they see, recording their results in neat handwriting on the page.  I watch families stand in front of their favourite image and turn away from it to grin into the lens of a camera, their bodies enveloped in the soft red landscape behind them.

I think that these scenes somehow remind me of Totoro, that neighbour of Satsuki and Mei from that movie, the scenes of forest spirits and children, perfectly comfortable in each other’s presence, Mei falling asleep lying on the belly of the biggest Totoro as butterflies dance and plants sway in the shaded hollow under the tree where they rest.  Perhaps it is the peace, perhaps it is the magic, perhaps it is the sense of everything being just how it should be.

And I wonder if the Pre-Raphaelites saw these same tapestries, and remember that room in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London where I used to sit, all those years ago, that quiet hushed room with the similar dim light and peaceful atmosphere, where full-lipped maidens walked barefoot among equally detailed, recognisable trees, under trellises of roses, pomegranates and oranges.

And I think about the biggest tapestry – To My One Desire, and wonder what that was?  To simply be, in this place, with these animals and plants and women, where everything is safe and calm and timeless and as it should be.

 

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING

  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  • Her Father’s Daughter by Alice Pung

WATCHING Jasper Jones with my kids

KNITTING a tea cosy from some lovely wool from lovely Sui-Sui.

COPING with a sudden switch to proper autumnal weather (quite a shock I have to say).

COOKING a big pot of Albruzze soup

MAKING a gift for a friend with a big birthday coming up…

HOPING to get back to some writing next week