This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

WRITING school reports!!

THINKING about ideas for poems

SHARING and LAUGHING at writers’ circle

VISITING The Strand Arcade with sketch club and

TRYING not to sample too many of the delights on offer…

LISTENING to two of my boys play Despacito on the trumpet and saxophone

CRAMMING a lot into a short week of school.

DRIVING my children all over the place on the weekend…

WALKING with Vastra on a brisk, early winter’s evening.

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This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING school reports!

READING Fire by Kristin Cashore

WATCHING Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock with the kids (Max is studying it at school)  Wow!  Is it our new favourite Hitchcock??

VISITING Vivid in Chatswood with the kids and enjoying the atmosphere while eating a gelato from Gelateria Gondola (the best).  We liked all the music-making, interactive fun.  No doubt we’ll get to the city sometime too.

SKETCHING with my niece Pippi in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney.  Then we went

LOOKING in the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Pippi’s first visit.  Her verdict – “There were lots of butts, some of them were quite detailed…”)

PLANTING some lovely things on my balconies after being inspired by our apartment’s gardener

UPDATING our block’s garden.

LOOKING forward to seeing it all in bloom.

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING

  • The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
  • Tom Appleby Convict Boy by Jacki French with my class

RETURNING to school after the holidays

DECORATING the back wall of my classroom with a forest of multicoloured trees and hand- drawn ships of the First Fleet

GETTING the kids in the performance group to try on some of the costumes

WATCHING The Handmaid’s Tale Series 2

ATTENDING my Writers Circle and discussing a chapter of my novel

PICNICKING at Cremorne Point with Sui-Sui and Alessandro

WAKING early on Sunday morning and painting a drawing ifThe Grounds of the City with watercolours

VISITING Barangaroo with Molly and Pippi for The Finders Keepers Market

DISCUSSING with an artist at the market how you have to be bold and brave to use watercolour (she was!)

SITTING with the sun on my back on the sandstone slabs of Barangaroo and

TAKING a photo for some young lovers as they posed on the Rocks with Sydney Harbour Bridge as a backdrop

THINKING about a new poem

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (but only a little bit because I have been)

WRITING

VISITING

  • The Grounds of the City with Max and Lucy (Steampunk meets Fantastic Beasts Oh and the food was delicious!)
  • The Anzac Bridge on Anzac Day (Lucy and I (and Max and Briony for a bit) walked from St Leonards to Rozelle following part of the route of The 7 Bridges walk with a few adjustments.
  • lovely work colleagues and ex-colleagues.
  • Gelateria Gondola for the most sensational choc-orange gelato…

WATCHING

  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society with Betty (very lovely).
  • Sami in Paradise at Belvoir St Theatre (it’s been a while since I’ve seen something from this fantastic company – absolutely brilliant!)

ATTENDING an Open Mic Night with my Writers’ Circle group (we all read from our novels) and Sui-Sui and Alessandro.  Very inspiring!

SEWING costumes

GETTING ready to return to school tomorrow…

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING The Amber Spyglass  by Philip Pullman (I cannot recommend this trilogy enough!)

WRITING, WRITING, WRITING

VISITING

  • Op shops for costumes for our performance group
  • School
  • That lady and her unicorn at the AGNSW
  • Middle Cove for some spectacular views
  • The Coal Loader at Waverton for some

SKETCHING twice in one week!

MAKING costumes for our performance group

ATTENDING my new Writers Circle (getting lots of great ideas and encouragement).

PICNICKING by the harbour with Lucy and Max.

GETTING a bit of rest.

Fire stick

By Vita Forest

We had met at the cafe near the station and looked at sketches  from previous occasions – Neil’s idyllic rainforest scene, drawn and coloured on an iPad, Tomas’ panorama of Cockatoo Island in scratchy blank ink  and Fiorella’s book of treasures – page after page of details  – a chair, a gnarled stump, a delicate tree fern.

We had drunk our coffees and teas and set off to find our own sweet subjects – what would catch our eyes today?  I love meeting up again in a few hours time and seeing howal though we all start at the same spot, our eyes take us in all sorts of different directions.

I started with a tree, an old twisted dead thing whose bark twisted over the trunk.  Whose trunk was scarred with the stumpy remains of branches from long ago and pocked and grooved with deep fissures.  I like a tree with character.  I also  liked that I could fit the whole tree on my page, composition being something I’m trying to improve on.  So I got out my trusty graphite lead and shaved it to a point with my knife and sat cross-legged on the grass and drew that tree in the shade of another tree, a living tree whose leaves shaded me from the hot sun.  Ants crawled along my knee and a breeze swept through carrying with it the smell of smoke.

Sydney is burning.  Parts of it.  The autumn so far has been summer hot and the bush fire season has extended.  We have hardly had any rain and there’s lots of dry branches and leaves turning into brittle fuel on the ground.

When I finished my drawing of the tree, I walked further into the park and along a path that edged a gully.  Down one side of the gully they had done some back-burning.  Possibly yesterday.  The smell of smoke hung in the air and here and there little scribbles of grey smoke rose from still smouldering coals.  The other side of the gully was still a lush green but this side looked scorched and barren.

I put my bag down on the path (away from the blackened leaves beside it) and began to draw this surreal scene.  There would not be too many opportunities to draw the effects of fire.

I hope.

I noticed that the fire must have scorched over the earth and then been extinguished almost immediately.  There were trees with one side of their trunks burned, the other side spared.  There were piles of charcoaled grass but here and there a stem of fern still stood (though it was blacked and shriveled as if drawn in ink).  I stood and drew the stand of rocks beneath the trees, the charred remains of strappy grass and the flaky ash that had crumbled over the soil.  Pedestrians marched past, some turning to look down the slope, a few stopping to snap a couple of photos.

I stood on the side of the path and remembered my dreams of fires and my concern one time that saw me taking my keys and walking outside at midnight – just to make sure I couldn’t really smell the building burning.  And later I sat on a seat with Fiorella, swapping stories and showing each other the contents of our pencil cases and talking about the plants that need fire to germinate.

And I remembered peering down that charred slope and seeing a kookaburra dive into the ashy dirt and snatch up a lizard as a cloud of smoke slowly rose around it.

There is life there yet.

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung

WRITING my novel

CONDUCTING 27 parent teacher interviews! (Nearly finished) while

CONTINUING to teach 28 children and therefore

FEELING exhausted…

ATTENDING a local writers circle (which was very inspiring)

SLEEPING in on the weekend and

SWIMMING at Balmoral Beach (the hottest temperatures in April for forty years)

MEETING for a coffee with Vastra and Saskia