No princesses around here

By Vita Forest

On Wednesday we had school photos.  We were called out during my maths lesson and marched up to the top grass under the trees.  We were arranged in three rows with me slotted in at the side and Milly gamely balancing on a high step brandishing her broken arm in front of her.  We were adjusted and readjusted – some children just did not want to be that close to certain other children and of course the child who has been known to lash out at others when he gets riled up was placed right in the centre of the group with bodies pressing in on him from all sides…

The camera snapped away and before anyone came to any harm, it was over.

Then we lined up again to have individual photos. On the way we checked our hair and our shirts and our collars, and tried to get our fringes to behave, and tried to decide whether plaits should be swept forward or behind our shoulders, and whether glasses should be left on if they catch the light, and whether the boys shirts should really be tucked in when they really look so much better tucked out…

I led the class in its snaking line down past the play equipment and up the ramp into the hall.  I sat on a stool  with my kids looking on and smiled at the camera and was asked to repeat ‘Cocktails!’ and ‘Holidays’ and ‘Weekend!’ (that is what teachers like apparently).  When I was done, I went out of the hall and found some shade and waited for my line of kids to feed into the production line for their photo and get popped out the other side.

A boy or two ambled up and sat down to wait and then a rather cranky looking girl.

‘What’s up T?’ I asked.

‘She made me say “Princess’” she scowled.  ‘Then “Cheeky Monkeys” but “Princess!”  Alan did you have to say “Princess”?’

Apparently not.  Apparently the boys got to say “Elephant’s Undies” and other such manly things.

The survey continued as the rest of the class trickled out, there were no “Princesses” among the boys, only the girls were asked to say that word.  My sassy girls of eight and nine continued to discuss the outrage of being asked to say “Princess” – I mean, As IF!

We went back to the classroom and continued on with the presentation of their free choice speeches.  The best speakers will go on to the next round and may eventually represent the school at an inter-school competition.  There were some excellent speeches from some of the little characters in my class.  Some of the topics chosen included – ‘why our school should not get a pool’ (the rest of the class took some convincing), ‘Termites and how great they are’ (after this girl’s garage collapsed after, you guessed it, termites destroyed it), and my personal favourite – ‘why this public speaking competition is ‘the worst’’.  Stacey, who wrote and presented this gem ended it by saying, ‘But Ms F, I really would like to get through to the next round!’ (and she did.  She’ll get a merit award for it next week too).

Later that day we were hunted down in the computer room.

‘Come quick Ms F!  We want you to hear the band!’ (The band for our performance group, the band who are rehearsing together for the third time).  Again we left our tasks, again 28 children lined up in two rather wonky lines and again we left the great indoors and wove around buildings and play equipment and garden beds and bins, lured by the fabulous music that wafted through the empty playground beckoning us on like the Pied Piper.  My class sang and even danced as they recognised the song and we moved ever closer to the source of the music.  The band was arranged outside of the hall under the trees (they couldn’t be inside today  – it was School Photo Day) and when we arrived, they began again, with my pal, the fabulous band teacher, conducting them with gusto.  It was peaceful under the trees, the bass player lounging against a wall, the saxophonists blowing gamely into their instruments.  The tune was there and the tempo, it was an exhilarating start!  We all applauded and I told them how thrilled I was.  And then we stood up again and lined up again and walked back to the computer room for a very short lesson…

And later that afternoon we were outside again with our lovely art teacher (because she couldn’t be in the hall because it was School Photo Day – very tolerant, flexible people are teachers) and the kids were painting trees and lying on the grass and talking about mixing colours and the shapes in the bark and how one tree looked like a person or maybe a peace sign and some kids painted the trees red with yellow leaves even though they are brown with green leaves and I just thought, despite how tired I felt, that this was, after all, a good day.

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Neptune’s son

By Vita Forest


 

Max

Shrieking though the crashing surf

Slings strands of seaweed

Festoons his shoulders

Drapes his head

with Rapunzel’s hair gone green or

A khaki feather boa or

Rusty rapper’s chains

Strung with salt-filled beads.

 

Max

Rolling and leaping over the breakers

Flinging a length of kelp

Around and

around

Over his head

Like the blades

Of the curious open-topped helicopter we watch

Tracing the coastline overhead.

 

Max

Amid the islands of kelp floating

In and out on the waves

Throwing himself backwards over the

Foaming breakers

Like a

Happy seal

Falling back against the force of the water

Grinning fit to burst.

R is for… Red

By Vita Forest

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Scarlet, cherry, ruby, burgundy… there are so many words that call themselves red.  And my world is festooned with it.  In the garden, the tomatoes swell and hang heavy on the vine.  Ripening from green to red in the hot summer sun.  The chillies are little streaks of scarlet too, concentrating their fire inside each tiny cone.  The capsicums positively glow, and underneath drooping leaves, the prickly skins of magenta strawberries hide.

And flowers!  Nasturtiums send their snaking tendrils across the gravel path, gold and orange and cherry red.  At the centre of each petal, the colour deepens to burgundy.  I hold a flower up to the sky and watch how the light glows through the fluted skin of each bloom and pick a bunch for my bedside.  Each morning, the nasturtiums have colonised the path even more, stretching, reaching, flinging across the gap, trying to get to the other side.  Occasionally, a wheelbarrow will slice through a strand and end its progress, but I will not have them cut back.  Ramsey sighs and presses his lips together at this instruction.

“They will trip you Madam,” he predicts pessimistically.

“They will not,” I retort from deep within my vortex of happiness.  I need the colour, I need the wildness, I do not want it tamed.

Rory noticed my fondness for these radiant jewels and passed me one of their speckled, round leaves.

“Eat it,” he ordered.

“Truly?” I frowned.  Sometimes I feel I know nothing.

He folded one up and crammed it between his teeth chewing slowly.

I followed his example, my eyes widening at the peppery heat in my mouth.

He laughed and handed me mint to cool my insides down.

I can practically see the garden growing, practically hear it.  The sun sending beams of light and heat down to the upstretched greenery, until seed pods pop – insides bursting free, fruit swells and strains against its tightly stretching skin, buds are peeled open, petal, by papery petal.  And insects hover and swoop and suck and drown.

Each fallen peach is crawling with drunken wasps and bees, drawing up the nectar, fighting the birds for each precious drop.  (Have you ever eaten a warm peach fresh from the tree?  It would send you wild with desire too.)

All my senses are heightened.  My eyes are drawn to every bead of red amongst the cooling green of the leaves, the colours singing against each other.  There is even a bird that carries this contrast with it – the king parrot.  Green and red, red and green, they fly in pairs and chime to each other through the trees.  The sound seems to ring through my head.  And who can walk through the garden without sniffing the rising scents in the air, dizzying me as much as the insects that zigzag ecstatically amongst the fruit trees.  And eating!  I hardly need dinner after sampling the harvest, the cornucopia we work amongst, a warm red tomato here, a streaky-skinned capsicum there, biting into it, crunching into it, juice dripping off my chin.

If I close my eyes and sit very still, I can feel the sun working its magic on me too.  Coaxing out new shoots, unclenching all the knots and tightness in my back, expanding my chest.

I am a seed carried on the wind.  I am a fruit splitting in the sun.  I am a tendril uncoiling.

 

 

 

J is for… Joy

By Vita Forest

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Pip is lying under the edge of the big fig tree, head resting on her bag, trying to keep cool, trying to study, trying not to think about Sam.  Speaking of Sam, a shadow falls across her body and she squints up into the sun.  Hallowed by the heat haze is a very Sam-like shape, hair sticking out in all directions, long arms hanging by his side, skinny jeans, even in this heat.  Sam.

She sits up and shades her eyes with her hand, “Hi.”

“Hi,” he answers, “Wanna come for a swim?”

Pip looks down at her book then up at this silhouetted vision again.

“Sure, she says, “I’ll just grab my things. Whose coming?”

He shrugs and grins at her, “Just us I think.”

She looks down as she packs up her bag so he won’t see her blush.

“Oh.”

 

The bus is hot and old and crowded, no air-conditioning.  The windows are pushed open as wide as they can go.  They hang off a pole together near the door, taking big gulps of the breeze that blasts through the bus every time the doors open.  At the Junction, a lot of people get off and then they move to a seat.  Pip is very aware of the entire right side of her body pressing into the entire left side of Sam’s.  Shoulder to shoulder, tricep down to elbow, hip to knee.  Does he do this to every person he sits next to?  Or is it just her?  They chat merrily away, like they usually do, but Pip feels the heat rise to her face and concentrate along that line of contact down her right side.  Sam holds her gaze for just a moment longer than is necessary, or is she just imagining it?  Perhaps today is the day.  The bus barrels down the hill and Pip grips the top of the seat in front of them, Sam grabs her elbow as the bus swings around a corner.  Their eyes meet.

Today could be the day, thinks Pip.

 

They leap off the bus and run down the hill to the sand.  They peel off sticky clothes and run to join the hordes in the water.  Pip sinks underwater as a wave crashes over her.  She feels her body relax and cool in the thrumming silence.  She rises up again above the water into the heat and the light and the noise.  Sam is there beside her, hair slicked back by the sea water, grinning at her.  She takes a deep breath and watches the waves driving in toward them.  There is time, she thinks, time to find his hand underwater.  Time to pull him toward her, time to wrap her arms around those shoulders, those shoulders of his! Time to lean in…

“Pip!”

Sam grabs her shoulders and pulls her down as the wave crashes over them.  She splutters and coughs and finds his hands underwater.  She grips them tightly.  They rise to the surface again.  She looks at him.

Today is the day.

 

Hats off to…

By Vita Forest

Hats off to some fabulous blogs

Hats off to some fabulous blogs

Earlier this week I had a surprise.  Jen from A Venturing Girl has nominated me for the Blogger Recognition Award!  Thank you Jen and please check out her lovely blog too.

I only started this blog in July, so am pretty new to the blogosphere, but am enjoying it so much.  It has been a wonderful way to connect with so many people – around the world and here in Sydney, both on and off-line.

Jotterizing started as a place for me to practise writing, to become disciplined, to explore topics of interest and to connect with like-minded people.  You can read more on this here.

Some advice to new bloggers…

  • schedule it into your week/month/whatever time-frame and stick to it.  Give yourself permission to post things that you don’t think are perfect.  This is not your novel, this is your blog – get it out there!
  • be prepared to be surprised – ideas for posts come from the strangest places.  Be open.

It’s been wonderful seeing what others out there are doing too.  So many creative and hardworking individuals.  Thank you for your generosity and bravery.  I’d like to nominate the following blogs for the Blogger Recognition Award:

The Daily Think

A Narcissist writes letters, to himself

susannevalenti

Follow your bliss

Daily (w)rite

Through open lens

The Stone Soup

Things we like

James Radcliffe. com

A little bird tweets

The Renegade Press

Aniket Sharma Photography

Glitchy Artist

Friday Madness

Ann Wood Handmade

If you blog appears in the above list, here are the rules of the Blogger Recognition Award:

  1. Select 15 other blogs you want to give the award to. You cannot nominate yourself or the person who has nominated you
  2. Give a brief story of how your blog got started
  3. Give a piece or two of advice to new bloggers
  4. Thank whoever nominated you, and provide a link to their blog
  5. List those you’ve nominated in the post and comment on their blogs to let them know you’ve nominated them.

If you haven’t seen the blogs above, take a look!  They are great!

 

Stargazing

By Vita Forest

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On a hot Wednesday night, I lay on the floor, my bare feet resting on the sofa.  Zadie (the cat) walked up to me and paddled her feet on my belly before lying on my chest and closing her eyes.  Max came and lay beside me and put his feet up too.

“Ah nice,” he said, looking up at the ceiling.  “Look you can see the stars!”  and you could too – those glowing stars that I had stuck on the ceiling from atop a ladder.  At night they bring a smile to my face when I turn out the light.

We lay there basking in the starlight.

Lucy came and sat beside us, talking to her dad on the phone.

“Lucy you are disturbing our serenity!  Please go and talk somewhere else!”  She grudgingly moved on, accompanied by Zadie.

“You can see the sunset too, ” noticed Max, and it was true, over the top of the sofa, you could see the warm glow on the lamp in the dining room.

“And the moon is square tonight,” we continued.

Ah serenity!

On Thursday, about midday, we were writing a procedure about How to make an origami cup, or How to make a paper cup, or even just, How to make a cup.  Between writing up Step 3 and Step 4, those faster kids who were not helping others came to sit on the floor to wait.  Paulo lay back exhausted from all the thinking and all the writing.  It reminded me of our indoor stargazing from the night before, so I told them the story.

Soon the floor was covered in small people lying on their backs, looking up at the sky.  There was a rectangular moon this time, and even the remains of a spider.

Ah serenity!

The best thing ever

By Vita Forest.

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A detail from a starry sky

Today at school we did a “best thing ever!”  It’s a nice way to spend an afternoon.

My gang of six and seven year olds were preparing the background for an artwork that will be used for fundraising for the school.  I decided we would use their favourite background.  This involves getting a thick white crayon and drawing stars all over a piece of white paper.  “I can’t see what I’m doing!”  and “I’m going to do it under the table so I can see!” and “You can feel it with your fingers!” are some of the comments you hear around the classroom.  Some of the stars are  snowflakes – eight-pronged, made of straight lines shooting off in all directions, others are celestial beings of the scribbly spiral variety.  Some artists arranged theirs in neat grids, while others have stars cascading over their page in a more haphazard fashion.

We first did this artwork earlier in the year when we were making book covers for all the exercise books they would use.  There’s a green one for Spelling, a yellow one for Maths and this blue one for Handwriting practise.  At that time, Master Billy exclaimed on putting brush to paper, that it was “the best thing ever!”  I was glad to hear he still feels this way six months later.

With Bach wafting around the classroom, the children came up to the art table clad in oversized t-shirts and stood before a glimmering pot of turquoise dye.  Brandishing brushes like magic wands, they streaked blue over the paper’s surface and there, right in front of their eyes, the stars burst forth.  Magic indeed!

One of the class Mums came to chat after school and oohed in delight too.

“The simple pleasures!” she exclaimed.

What more does anyone need?