She should be

By Vita Forest

You sat grim-faced in the sunshine

Facing away from the view.

You gave updates on

Your friend’s illness,

Her husband’s wavering mind,

Their fragile son,

Their absent daughter.

 

Your voice rose in indignation

Your neighbour’s arthritis,

The manager’s incompetence,

The man who talks too loud,

The woman who is so fussy,

The friend who is always stopping by

Right on dinner.

 

Look at the boats on the river

The white triangles of the sails – see how they shine!

Sammie turning cartwheels on the grass

The dog snuffling at our feet.

 

Rosa says she couldn’t go away, you say

Too many bookings to look after the grandkids

Couldn’t possibly manage it,

Couldn’t possibly.

 

She could just say No!

Does she even want to go?

 

And Thea in that big house

can’t manage

will have to sell.

If she isn’t stressed now

She should be.

 

But you are healthy and Rosa too

and Rosa’s husband

You can still do what you like.

 

Yes my foot is better

Yes I saw the sails

And the rain has stopped falling, But

Did you know?  Did I tell you?

Your childhood friend

That laughing boy

Dead.  Dead now.

Terribly sad.

Alcohol.  Drugs.  Divorce.  Hadn’t seen his kids in

Years.

Moved back in with his Mum – no friends

Dead.

 

No I hadn’t heard.

A glint of triumph

I am silenced remembering that freckled boy.

 

Then Sammie comes and leans against me

slings her arm across my shoulder

blows a butterfly-kiss on my earlobe

and the sails still shine in the sun

and the wind breathes its warm breath on my cheek.

This week

By Vita Forest

 

This week I have been

WRITING School saga

READING Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (I haven’t seen the mini-series yet, any good?  I will write more about this one soon).

WATCHING

  • Beginners (a gorgeous movie by Mike Mills)
  • Beauty and the Beast with Lucy and her friend (which other “Disney princess” could Emma Watson play but the book-reading Belle?)

HOLDING a class-worth of parent-teacher interviews (see School saga) phew!

MISSING my usual classes at the gym to hold the parent-teacher interviews and therefore

FEELING stiff and stressed.

PICNICKING near the river on Saturday on a rare sunny day.  We have had an extremely wet March, may April be drier…

 

This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

WRITING A stroll at twilight

READING two “old” books 

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (an actual old book – an old classic and this edition itself over one hundred years old, with very thin pages inside a  stiff, maroon hardcover, the pages sewn together and with black and white illustrations of key moments appearing at intervals through the text.  Something I really like about this book is its size and weight – you can easily hold it in one hand, perhaps as you take a walk, as Elizabeth Bennet liked to do).
  • Hamilton the Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter (enjoying the content and even the look of this book -it’s a pretend “old” book, looking as if it were made in the 18th century, complete with rough-edged, thick pages and coming encased in a parchment-coloured hardback cover complete with title in what looks like gold leaf. I am also admiring the chapter descriptions such as this one for “Chapter 1  – on the Origins of Revolution, Both National & Musical, with Reference to Opening Numbers & White House Raps” love it!)

DESIGNING costumes for our performance group 

SKETCHING inside at the Museum of Contemporary Art as the rain continued to come down


SEEING one of my old students visiting there too

LOOKING after Max, home from school on Friday after a miserable night during which he was sick about 9 times in 6 hours… Needless to say we both spent much of that day sleeping.

DRIVING Lucy all over Sydney for social engagements…

WATCHING Sherlock Season 3 (he’s alive!)

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.

This week

By Vita Forest

Sunday sunrise at Curl Curl


This week I have been

READING

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  • Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit

WRITING

  • At Bombo
  • Programs for school including one on Poetry incorporating David Chapelle’s short film of Sergei Poluntin dancing to Take me to Church by Hozier.  I am excited!

EXPERIENCING Sydney’s extreme weather this week – storms and heavy rain on Tuesday, crazy-high temperatures on Friday and Saturday.

VISITING the water to cool off on the weekend… Murray Rose/Redleaf Pool in Woollahra and Curl Curl Beach.

WALKING AND TALKING with Saskia at Curl Curl after a swim.

BUMPING into an old student and family at Curl Curl (it was all happening at Curl Curl…)

MISSING outdoor sketching due to the extreme temperatures.

MAKING

  • time to relax.
  • time for yoga.

Saturday morning at Refleaf pool, Woollahra

     

     

     

     

    This week

    By Vita Forest

    In the quadrangle at Sydney University


    This week I have been

    WRITING Mobile Tales Despatch 5: Christabel and the Huntsman

    READING 

    • The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (Phew! What an experience, great ending too).
    • A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit (another gem).

    WALKING 

    • part of the Great North Walk at twilight and seeing herons, tawny frogmouths and water dragons.
    • over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and around Barangaroo with Briony and some old school friends.

    SNORKELLING at Shelly Beach, Manly in the crystal clear water amongst schools of fish and a teeny tiny seahorse – magic!

    VISITING Sydney University with my sketching pals and 

    GOING out of my comfort zone with an architectural subject (as another friend said “challenging but good”).

    VISITING 

    • the MCA for the Tatsuo Miyajima Exhibition (poignant and introspective).
    • the dentist…

    WATCHING 21 Grams again (what a great film).

    MAKING a chair cover for Max’s armchair.

    ENJOYING my staycation – Sydney is a great place to be in summer.

    Only a matter of time…

    By Vita Forest

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    It’s the last day of the year, and earlier in the month it was the end of Lucy’s primary school days, the end of an era for Lucy and the whole family – that rollercoaster of nine years that began when Max started at that school and ended when Lucy left it.

    I remember clutching Max’s hand on the first day and being herded into the school hall, where for the first time the Kindergarten rolls were called and the tiny four and five year-olds climbed onto the stage to join their teacher and their new classmates.  They turned back to find us beaming – all grown up now.

    I remember their first music lessons at the school; Max clasping an enormous guitar and the thin shard of a pick, Lucy in a tribe of tiny violinists who played Busy, Busy, Stop, Stop as they walked in a circle, knelt on the ground and even lay on their backs.

    There were intense new friendships for children and parents, some of whom are still my most trusted confidantes.  There was the amazing realisation that Max could read.  There was watching the stunning progress of the Kindergarten kids that got me interested in changing careers and becoming a teacher.

    There were pregnancies (some planned, some not so much), some met with congratulations but others with clapped mouths and shrieks of horror.  There were births and babies sleeping in slings, sitting in prams and standing on their own two feet (now they too attend the school).  There were parents there everyday, somedays, never anymore as they returned to work, retrained, moved away.

    There were new buildings, new friendships, new teachers, new trees rising up above the new garden beds.  There were murals, markets and music.  I wrote articles for the school newsletter (the first public outings of my words in years), took single children out to read beneath a tree as Lucy drew pictures, listened to groups read, assembled class artworks, worked in parent teams on gardens, working bees, musicals and farewells.  I helped build a tranquil frog pond under Saskia’s leadership.

    We dug in the garden, I went digging in the costume room, now I’m digging in the past seeing Lucy taking little skipping steps up the hill, holding hands on our way to collect Max, Lucy and Max both in school uniforms carrying hefty backpacks and wearing monstrously large hats, dropping the kids off and shooting off to university, dancing with Lucy at her farewell dinner in the hall I had helped decorate the night before.

    There were the bad days – death, illness, fractured friendships, affairs, divorce.  There was pain.  There was manipulation.  There was despair.  But there was also growth, support, determination, resilience, confidence and mastery.

    Lines blurring, waiting in the playground, helping in the classroom, working briefly as a casual teacher at this school where a uni friend taught, where she had gone to school, where my kids went to school, where I was crossing the line from parent to teacher and back again.  (A few years later when I was entrenched elsewhere, Max was chatting to his teacher about the fact that I was also a teacher and she pulled out the list of casual teachers and found I was still on it.  A little out of date).

    There were Trivia nights (where we won the “Best Dressed Table” category twice – once as bikies, the second time as Scots).  There was one fundraiser where I strode in alone, announcing to some acquaintances that I was now a single parent and no longer had an “other half”.

    I watched tiny children morph and grow, now taller than me, entering puberty before they entered high school, changing.

    I stood emotional with other parents, thanking class teachers for all they had done, now I’m on the other side but know that feeling, that trust, that sense of time flying away and measured by children growing, growing, growing and learning, learning, learning.

    At my school, we make a human archway for all the school leavers to pass through on their way out the school gate for the last time.  As I held hands with one of my students, I imagined Lucy as one of the laughing kids stooping beneath my arms, imagined Max, imagined myself – we’re all grown up now – it’s time for a new adventure.