Summer sketching

By Vita Forest


I perched on the slope on my plastic bag seat and stared at the paperbark that Katrina had pointed out.  She knew my fondness for old trees, gnarled trees, trees that had lived a little.  The branches radiating out, the bark twisting and peeling.  My book balancing on my knee and my pencil sharp.  I started mapping and tracing, scribbling and hatching with Lucy beside me, laying back on the grass.

A light fall of rain forced us under the canopy of another tree.  I adjusted my layout and with a bit of artistic licence, the drawing continued.  Lucy curled up on her side, reading her book.

Then we crunched over the gravel drive where the carriages used to circle and admired the dense sprays of flowers, buzzing with butterflies, swallows swaying over the grass and even a duck paddling its feet in the fountain.  Sunflowers ripe, clutching their black seeds, petals losing grasp, rusty grass swinging in the welcome breeze come up from the harbour, through those leaning pines.  They reminded me of the ones I had drawn in Kiama, ringing the showground, sprayed by the sea.

We sat on the verandah, gentile in cane chairs and I sketched again and Lucy read again.  Katrina sitting symmetrical to the path to the fountain, us on the right, the immediate foreground a burst of sunflowers stretching up above the grasses.  And I wondered how the others could stand to stand out there in the sun to draw the house?  The heat that drew lines of sweat down my nose and back, that smeared Katrina’s paper as she leaned her arm against it.  We sat in the shade and welcomed that unreliable, capricious breeze that wound its way up from the water now and again.  Lucy tested the grass, the soft velvet grass with a couple of cartwheels, a couple of walkovers and decided it was “good”.

And later we all tramped back down to the pond, resplendent in pearly  lotus, in mauve waterlilies.  We posed for photos, sketches under our chins and admired each others’ efforts and swapped stories and made plans.   And later, as we left, Lucy and I noticed some seeds underfoot and looked up to see the overhanging branches of a pomegranate tree, positively dripping in scarlet baubles of fruit.

This week

By Vita Forest

Lotus pond at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney

This week I have been

READING Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling 

WRITING Neptune’s Son

GETTING to know my new Year 4 class!

TRYING to sleep in very hot humid weather

VISITING the Royal Botanical Gardens to do some sketching

COVERING lots of school books for Max and Lucy

HEARING all about their first week at school (Lucy’s first week of high school)

A Lotus flower

I is for…Ibis

By Vita Forest


I is for …Ibis

After visiting ArtExpress (fabulous) at the Art Gallery of NSW, we stopped to peruse the gift shop.  I always like to look at the shops at art galleries and museums.  They are usually full of strange and unusual items.  This one had dachshund book-ends and fibreglass rhinos, pizza slicers disguised as bikes and colour-in maps of three major cities…  And also a picture book called Alphabetical Sydney, which is kind of apt at the moment with the A to Z challenge and all.  I flicked through to “i” to see what Hilary Bell and Antonia Pesenti represented for that letter.  I is for Ibis, they thought.

I is for ibis… I thought, and a mind-map exploded in my head with arrows pointing down the road to the Royal Botanical Gardens, to bins in school yards, to my son Max, to Ancient Egypt and a dog called Merlin.

Let’s follow the path.

Leaving the Art Gallery of New South Wales and turning right, you can stroll down into the Royal Botanical Gardens, a most delightful spot for a picnic, or a walk, or anything at all really.  (Except if you are a thirteen-year old boy – Max grumbled along saying how boring it all was, walks were just dirt tracks and trees in the bush, or grass and trees in the Gardens…)  You can walk through the ferns and the palms and the camellias and the garden beds, down to Farm Cove and look out across the harbour.  Or sit under a shady tree near the ponds and mark the swish of an eel’s tail just beneath the surface of the water.  There are other forms of wildlife in the Gardens too, there used to be a whole colony of flying foxes, but these have been dispersed elsewhere (Centennial Park Betty tells me).  We saw cormorants nesting in the safety of a tiny island, sulphur-crested cockatoos squawking through the trees, and of course, a couple of ibises.  These birds seem to be a fixture in our city and have adapted to city living quite happily.  They walk jauntily along the ground, creeping closer to picnickers, hoping to swipe a scrap or two in their hooked beaks.  They are also very successful in school playgrounds, where they grip the sides of bins with their claws and rifle through rubbish, looking for some tasty leftovers.  They don’t attack people, but neither are they put off by a spot of chasing by irritated children.

As we ate our lunch in the Gardens, after ArtExpress, after the gift shop, after seeing Alphabetical Sydney, an ibis wandered close to us and got chased away by a roaring, barefoot Max.

“Which god is the ibis?” I asked.  He couldn’t remember.  But when he was about six, he knew the Egyptian Gods backwards.  He read countless books, he wrote in hieroglyphics, and he built pyramids out of Lego.  He still has a couple of brass statues he bought with birthday and pocket and busking money.  There was a local new-age shop he used to haunt, which stocked Egyptian artefacts as well as crystals.  Max would study the statues in order to plan his next purchase.

“How much is Anubis?” he’d ask.  “What about Seth?”

He had serious and complicated discussions with the store-owner about the merits of the various gods.  A small white husky sat on the counter listening.  His name was Merlin.

So, due to the passing of time and interests, I have had to look up the name of the ibis god.  It’s Thoth, the god of knowledge.  And there ends our path for the letter “i”.