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

Queensland Bottle Tree, Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney


This week I have been

READING 

  • Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (finished at last).
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (highly recommended by Sui-Sui, I have just started).
  • The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rolland and Adam Grubb (now I know what to call myself!)

SKETCHING a Queensland Bottle tree at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Succulents at the Royal Botanical Gardens


VISITING The Powerhouse Museum with my class (great fun!! My little group just loved revisiting their early childhood in The Wiggles exhibition). 

MAKING an astronaut/aviatrix costume (my sewing machine and table are covered in silver glitter – looks like Tinkerbell has been for a visit).


EATING Belgian Chocolate gelato in Chatswood with my kids – sensational!

WALKING with my kids on a gelato expedition and later in the brisk winter air with Vastra and Saskia.

FINDING that our dance performance group is “all coming together”.

DIRECTING a little play with my class and watching them shine!

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

    This week

    By Vita Forest

    From Clive Park

    This week I have been

    WRITING Lex and Ruby

    READING Lucy’s assignment pitching a movie based on the life of Lin Manuel Miranda – very entertaining!

    MARKING mountains of assessments… (it’s report time)

    WALKING as a break from all the marking

    MAKING bacon, eggs, mushrooms and toast for Sunday brunch

    VISITING Clive Park in Northbridge again to show my kids this lovely spot


    TRYING to decide who to cast in my class play.  Decisions!  Decisions!

     

    This week

    By Vita Forest


    This week I have been

    WRITING

    READING Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

    WATCHING Dance Academy Season 3 (Aaah!)

    WALKING with Saskia and Rowdy from Neutral Bay to Mosman Bay around the headlands and

    SEEING this sign at Kurraba St Wharf and


    VISITING the pool at Cremorne Point (alas not for a swim) and

    ADMIRING the banksia flowers along the path and


    SEEING this winsome little creature in the Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens at Cremorne


    PICNICKING at Clive Park in Northbridge with some bookish friends and

    ADMIRING the view (friends, food, books and beautiful places!) and


    CELEBRATING the good life.


     

    This week

    By Vita Forest


    This week I have been

    WRITING Eye Contact

    READING Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (it’s gonna take me a while but it’s a ripper!)

    WATCHING The Eurovision Song Contest with my kids.

    VISITING The Finders Keepers’ Markets at Barangaroo with Lucy and Briony and

    DRINKING hot cider (Mmm Mmm)

    SPENDING Saturday at school for some Professional Development on Spelling (do you know what “schwa” is?)

    MAKING a whole bunch of tools out of silver foam for a Steam Punk inspired costume for our dance group.

    TALKING and WALKING by the harbour with Lucy one day and Saskia the next.


    CELEBRATING Mothers’ Day on Sunday, hope you all had a good day!

     

    Eye Contact

    By Vita Forest


    Sean trundles along with the herd, following the signs to the Sistine Chapel.  He has lost the others.  He glanced away for a moment and when he turned back, they were gone.  They must have been pitched away from him on the tide of tourists they are travelling in.  Too late to even throw him a life line.  He supposes they will meet again at the exit, when they are all spat out some squalid hole in the wall like the rest of the waste products.  Why didn’t they make a plan?  They should always make a plan.  There are so many people here.  He feels giddy.  If he really needs to stop, he will have to fight his way to the side, cling onto some statue and get out of the pull of the current. 

    Every surface seems to be busy.  The clashing colours of the clothes of the tourists pressing onwards, the paintings smothering the walls.  The noise too!  It ricochets off every surface.  He is being pelted with syllables from all sides.  He can’t understand most of it.  He would just like to rest.  They swing out of a gallery and into another corridor, but even in this between-space there is no relief.  The walls of the corridor are decorated too.  Can’t even rest his eyes before the next room!  There are fat babies balancing on towers made of fruit and veg – not how Phoebe would describe it, but it about sums it up for him.  Pattern crawling over everything like a disturbed ant nest.

    The floors in these places were so hard.  He should have worn his hiking boots.  Tomorrow he will wear them.  He can feel each step jolting all the way up his spine.  Hiking boots…  Not for walking over peaceful, green fields, but to cushion the blow his heels make when they slam down on hard, city surfaces.  Both inside and out.  If it wasn’t marble floors, it was cobblestones.  What were they thinking?  All very impressive, as long as you didn’t have to walk on it.

    Green fields…  He liked what they did in Austria.  Climbing up from the lake, walking through the arch of the trees, balancing on boulders to cross the streams, the smell of crushed pine needles prickling their nostrils.  There was still snow on the peaks of the mountains and the water stung their feet with its iciness.  He and Phoebe had paddled barefoot into the stream, shrieking.  Later, they sat looking down over the valley.  He cut thin slivers of apple, passing them over to Phoebe as she leaned back against a tree.

    That had been a good day.

    He sighs and treads water in the bottleneck at the narrow doorway at the end of the corridor.  If he loses his footing he will probably drown.  He glances out the window and sees the Papal gardens.  He would prefer to be out there in that soft greenness.  He could snooze under a tree and wait for Phoebe.  They should have arranged a time to meet.  They could be waiting all day now.  The others wouldn’t mind arranging a time, setting a limit.  He knows their interest in museums is minimal.  The Vatican is just one of those things you have to see.  When in Rome… ha ha.  He wonders if they were as bored by his suggestion of bush walking? (or hiking or whatever it was called over here.)  Possibly.  They are all being so polite.  It wouldn’t last.  This gentility.  They should set times to meet up.  If they had done this earlier, say in Austria, he could have climbed just that little bit higher and seen what was making that sound they were hearing.  Bells?  Was it goats?  Bells hanging from their necks as they strolled through the long, wet grass? 

    He’ll never know.

    He supposes he could just get out of here, have a quick coffee and sit on the steps in the sun to wait.  Close his eyes.  Shake his ankles out.  They would all have to come out the same exit surely?

    The crowd spills out into a huge open room.

    And suddenly he is there. 

    This is it.  He thinks flatly as he glances up.  The Sistine Chapel.  Woo Hoo.

    First things first.  He looks about at ground level and spots some bare wood – a space has opened up on one of the benches that line the walls.  He makes a dive for it and sinks blissfully down, leaning back on the cool, hard wall.  So there is the ceiling.  There is the altar painting thingy.  Yes it’s good.  He can see why it’s on the list of things to do in Rome.  His feet hurt.  He can feel the blood descending to his toes, pooling there as if his feet were made of stone, like Jesus and his mates out on of top of St Peters.  He will have to rest there for a while.  He can’t move.  He looks at the ceiling and then folds his arms and looks at his watch.  He wonders where the others are.  Maybe they aren’t too far behind him.  Mike and Louise anyway, he can’t imagine that Phoebe would get here this quick.  He leans his head back against the wall and closes his eyes.  He can’t block out the noise.  The whispering.  The oohing and ahhing.

    All these people from all over the world.  He is one of them.  One of the multitudes.  These all-devouring tourists.  It is making him queasy.  Going to a place where they can’t speak the language and trying to have the right experience.  Sucking it all in during their three or four days.  What he would really like to do, if he is honest, would be to go on a three or four day bushwalk, by himself.  Take a tent and camp beneath the stars.  Alone.  He needs some space.  He needs some time. 

    He is still not sure what was happening with Louise.  That time on the train to Sorrento…

    They were sitting two across, facing each other.  Louise and Mike on one side and he and Phoebe on the other.  Phoebe was asleep, her head leaning on his shoulder, her jacket worn backwards over her chest like a blanket.  She felt the cold, that girl. He had the window seat, looking out at the scenery.  Mike sat across from him, reading some book or other and Louise was there beside him.  Sean had glanced away from the view and back into the carriage.  His eyes had flicked over Mike and were on their way past Louise, when he realised she was staring at him.  She was sitting right next to her boyfriend, studying him.  If Mike had glanced up, he would have thought she was just looking out the window.  But he didn’t.  He was engrossed in his book.  Sean had let his eyes pass over Louise and down the train, as if he was counting the passengers, as if he was looking for an old friend, as if the blood wasn’t rushing to his face.  His eyes drifted back and there she was, still staring at him.

    What?   He wanted to snap.  What are you looking at?

    But he didn’t of course.  He looked out the window again and stared grimly outside, as if he was being dared.  Which he was.  She was sitting over there, staring at him, laughing at his discomfort.  He rubbed his hand over his chin and willed his vision to stay outside the train.  He was intensely aware of Phoebe’s head on his shoulder, of the gentle little puffs of her sleeping breath that only he could hear, of her hand resting in his.  He must have moved.  Phoebe stirred and opened her eyes.  He had pulled her close and kissed her rather passionately on the lips. 

    And that was that. 

    He had tried not to think about it too much.  What was the point?  There was enough friction on this trip without thinking about that, without reading anything into that.

    But here he is, momentarily alone and thinking about it again.  He is sitting in the Sistine Chapel with very, very heavy feet.  He opens his eyes and runs them over the crowd.  The place is packed.  There are people standing in the centre of the room, craning their necks back, mouths open.  There are people walking to and fro, trying not to collide with those who have stopped.  There are others sitting on the benches that line the walls. 

    And there she is.

    He catches his breath sharply.  In a sudden break in the crowd, he had seen through to the benches on the opposite wall.  To Louise sitting on a bench on the opposite wall.  Staring at him again.  Is he simply being paranoid?  His vision is blocked again as a tour group leans into the tide of people and forces their way toward the exit.  The leader holds a yellow flag above her head as if going into battle.  They move on and he can see her again.  No, he is not being paranoid.  She is leaning back on the wall, not looking at the ceiling.  Ignoring the ceiling, staring over at him.  He has the solitude to test her this time, to really make sure.  He holds her gaze.  He holds it as it is crossed by gaping teenagers, retirees, parents dragging kids, people of all nations.  The whole world.  The whole world rushing past.  He looks through them and finds her staring still.

    They sit across from each other, their gaze stretched tautly from wall to wall.  They sit and look as they have not looked at the ceiling, or the altar, or the statues, or anything else in this museum. 

    Then all at once, Louise slowly leans forward away from the wall and rests her elbows on her knees and clasps her hands.  Moving in closer. 

    Closer to him.