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.

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

     

     

     

     

    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.

     

     

    Gargoyle

    By Vita Forest


    And Uriel says No, the man over there was not who we were waiting for.  A definitive NO, he was not a sketcher, he was full of rage and swearing and a moment ago, before we arrived, he had been shirtless, not a sensitive arty type, not one for contemplation.  No.  He was NOT part of the group.

    Katerina sets up her stool smack in front of her subject.  She doesn’t look for a convenient corner or ledge or wall to lean against.  She doesn’t need a wall at her back to give her power, to give her anonymity, to blend into.  Katerina plants herself right in the middle of the stream, an island the curious will have to circle around it.  She owns it.

    Who knew a stool could do that?

    I crane up at a stone gargoyle gripping the wall with its six clenched toes.  It could be an owl, a bat, a creature from a nightmare.  Its toes are straining anyway, gripping that wall, about to launch, about to take off.  And a woman from over the sea, from another land, wants to capture me as I capture the gargoyle.  I am trapped on the ground with my sketchbook, mid-sketch, as it is trapped on the wall, about to take flight.  With gestures she makes her request and at my wry nod, comes to stand beside me, to embrace me, to drape her arm around me, as her friend takes the photo (quicker than my sketch), before she too, comes inside the camera’s view finder to stand with me and save the encounter for posterity.  What will they say about this moment?  My friend…  An artist… An Australian…  Will the caption and the tales told last longer than the time it took to take the photo, to construct this story of intimacy and relationship?  Was I like a wild animal momentarily tamed?  How brave to touch the now anaesthetized form of the king of the jungle.

    I move to get a fresh perspective, and hear Tomas giving Winona a lesson in perspective.  He tells us that to be expressive, you don’t need to worry too much about perspective.  That’s lucky.  Buildings are hard for me, scare me a little.  I decide to scare myself and sit on the stone floor with the comforting bricks of sandstone at my back and look through an archway to my subject beyond.  My spot is cool and shady but people can and do stroll by, some nonchalantly glancing down at my sketch, surreptitious, furtive, curious without wanting to disturb or invade, playing it cool except for the small girl who peers down, leaning her hands on her knees unabashed and we smile at each other before she runs off, footfalls ringing on stone.

    Around us, bells sing and chime.  Up in the tower, someone plays their song and sends it out over the rooftops, over the hills, how far?  The notes tumble and ring against the tiles and the glass and the stone, trickling down to the green green grass, emerald in its brightness, a stage we all face where tourists sprawl before drifting off again, before the heat of the sun becomes too much.

    We skulk around the edges, in the shadows, looking in, looking up, looking through, looking past and measuring, recording, watching, the whisper of pencil on paper, the clench of finger muscles, the crick in the neck.  The buildings are at once intimidating and playful, orderly and rambunctious, authoritarian and welcoming.

    This is where I came to see my friend’s choir, where I came for a lecture, where Josie Alibrandi raced John Barton in that movie (as Lucy reminded me), where students for years and years meet, and Tomas came in the past with his family on silent Saturdays and abandoned Sundays when they were the only ones around, and this is the place where brides and their entourages visit for the atmospheric backdrops to the beaded and brocaded.  And now we sit, facing in, around the periphery and study and record and express.

    We draw.

    Only a matter of time…

    By Vita Forest

    img_15041

    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.

    Overheard… in the playground 

    By Vita Forest


    Eric: Ms F! Ms F! There’s a banana and a cockroach in the funeral.

    Me: What?

    Eric: There’s a banana and a cockroach in the funeral!

    Me: I have no idea what you are talking about.

    Eric: The funeral, you know – where you stand?

    Me: Where you stand?

    Eric: In the boys’ toilets…

    Me: Ah the urinal.

    Eric: Yeah, the funeral.

    (Much laughing…)