Lil’ green bug

By Vita Forest

  
I was idling in the traffic on the narrow two-lane road through the bush, thinking of places I had to be and people I had to see, when a tiny pale green triangle caught my attention.  A little planthopper bug floated by, like a tiny ship with a tiny green sail (but no owl or pussycat in sight).  It landed on my windshield and stood almost horizontal on the hot glass.  The breeze from the bush blew through the car, as I watched the bug rocking back and forth on its tiny white legs with their deep bend at the knee.  It seemed to be dancing to the music – a Scarlatti sonata for keyboard playing on the radio set to Classic FM.  Swaying on those tiny knees, as delicate as an eyelash.  Could it feel the music through the glass?  My sap-speckled windscreen was transformed into a translucent dance floor.  In time with the string section, the bug strolled leisurely across the glass in a long, sweeping line, and my world narrowed and slowed to this tiny creature waltzing across the window to the accompaniment of Scarlatti.

I noticed the paleness of its wings, paler than the deep verdant green of the ferns curling in the shadows on the roadside, cooler than the grey-green of the eucalypts above us – white with just a drop of apple-green mixed well in.  Its spidery legs flickered forward, and I took a breath before the traffic moved on, and my mind returned to those places I needed to be and those people I needed to see.

Thank you little green bug!

Here and now

By Vita Forest

Collaroy Rockpool

Collaroy Rockpool

Last week was fairly typical February weather in Sydney – the kind of weather that drains me of energy.  High temperatures and high humidity, what my mother calls “stinking hot!”

After such a week, it was tempting to stay home and do not much.  But on Sunday Max and I ventured out with Briony on an expedition to the Northern Beaches of Sydney to get us some surf.  We ended up at Long Reef (Briony’s favourite).  But after we had parked the car, picked our way down the road, and walked over the reddish sand hills, we arrived to find a sign planted squarely in the sand saying “Beach closed”.

The water sparkled and the day was hot, but there was no safe spot to swim, the waves were big and dumpy and there were dangerous currents – so we were told by the lifeguard.  Perhaps they would open the beach in half an hour or so.  Or not.  The surf would be rough all over.  Cyclone Winston from Fiji you know?  (The butterfly effect of it being felt on Australia’s East coast as big seas and rough surf).  But maybe Collaroy might be better, though it could be weedy.  And it did have a rockpool.

We decided to chance Collaroy rather than standing in the sun, staring longingly at water which may or may not be safe in thirty minutes.  So we trekked back to the car over the hot, heat-hazed sand and drove north.

It certainly was weedy at Collaroy – the breakers rolled beach-ward green and prickly with the stuff.

But there was a rockpool…

The pool was divided up with lane ropes, the central section home to the local swimming club, while each side was free for more leisurely swimming.  We walked past the swimming club’s sausage sizzle, and leapt out of the way of a swell of water rising so high, it carried an esky out from under the serving table.  Swimmers bobbed breast stroke  up and down the lanes, trying to swim straight, as the water rolled through, showing who was really in control.

As Max and I waded in, a thuggish 4 year old wearing goggles and a floaty on his back, tried to cut off my progress, but I would not be thwarted.  The relief of the cool water!

Collaroy rockpool

Collaroy rockpool – later than our swim with a higher tide and comparatively calm water.

We moved over to the far side of the pool closer to the sea.  There was a row of kids clinging onto the chain link loops of the fence on the side of the pool.  This was in order to catch the waves that were rushing in, smashing on the rocks, then crashing over into the pool.  There was surf in the pool, its forced diluted somewhat by the rocky headland, but still strong enough to knock a grown man into the pool.  (He emerged unharmed, cap still wedged on his head.)

Max and I sat on the ledge while Briony watched from the safety of the water.  We would follow the heave of a wave from out at sea, then wait as the crest rose over the headland and smashed, bubbling foam over the concrete barrier, carrying us forward with it.  We yelled and laughed as we surrendered to the power of the water – the danger of it, the lack of control.

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Look at those waves!

It’s times like this that I am happy I am still agile, still fit, still able to heave myself up out of a pool and into the way of a churning wave, into the path of a roaring sea dragon.  It reminds me I am alive.  It cleans out the cobwebs, all the tiredness, stiffness and lethargy of the last week gone.  Everything  brought  back to the here and now, sitting beside my son on a concrete barrier and waiting for the water to carry us away.

 

 

 

Marble Treat

By Vita Forest

Cloud watching

Cloud watching

On Thursday, Darcy became the most popular kid in the class when he was able to correctly describe what a “long shot” was, thus earning the class their one-hundredth marble in the jar, and hence their first “marble treat” of the year.

Due to peanut allergies, dairy intolerances and a desire to encourage healthy eating habits, I don’t do food rewards.  Instead we do experiences, and one of the best of these was passed on to me by my friend and colleague Betty.  The whole class gets a little early-mark for lunch and takes lunchboxes, drink bottles and hats (and sometimes even picnic rugs) and ventures through a gate, into a lovely grassy park-like area, beneath some shady paperbark trees, for a private picnic.  This area is usually “out of bounds” as it is located behind the school hall (and therefore out of sight of teachers on playground duty), so stepping onto this hallowed grass is highly exciting for 5 – 7 year olds.

So as Friday lunchtime approached, we took our provisions and set forth in two lines beyond the gate and into “out of bounds”…

The kids sat beneath the trees and pulled out their sandwiches and sushi.  A gentle breeze wafted through the gathering and some kids looked up through the leaves to the sky beyond.

“Look at the clouds!  It looks like an ice-skate!”

“I think it’s a dragon breathing smoke!”

“No, it’s an elephant, it has a trunk…”

“I think it looks like an atomic bomb,”  The last from a very worldly seven year old.

“It’s changing!”

And it was.  We watched the cloud pictures blow about, the breeze obviously stronger up there than down here on Earth.

When eating was done, there were handstands and cartwheels from the girls (even a one-handed one from Desiree).  The boys started a game of Survivor Tip, dodging each other around the tree trunks.  There were smiles and shouts and laughing and squeals and everyone playing together.

Then the bell rang and it was time to go back and join the rest of the school again.

“I wish we could just stay out there,” someone said wistfully as we crossed back “in bounds”.  It was very tempting, for me too.

All it took was fifteen minutes, but what a refreshing little break we had.

Swimming Meditation

By Vita Forest

Another hand-written post from the holidays…

Kiama rock pool

Rock pool at Kiama’s Blowhole Point

This morning I did a swimming meditation at Kiama’s Blowhole Point. The water was clear and clean, magnifying the dappled base of the pool – rocks, moss and seaweed. At the end of each lap, my fingers sank into soft moss and my toes kicked against limpets. I counted my laps back and forth and watched the pelicans spiralling up in the sky and the rogue waves surprising the figures lounging on the rocky headland, momentarily flooding the pool with white water.

Two old men greeted each other while they rested between laps, commenting on the quality of the water (better than yesterday). A woman floated on a surf-mat, fingers trailing in the water while the skin on her back sizzled. Toddlers paddled in the shallows while their parents sat up to their waists in the warmer water. A curious helicopter flew north, red against the sky. Children flung themselves shrieking into the deep water, and a girl stood Amazonian and strong, toes gripping the pool’s edge, as a wave smashed around her ankles.

Back and forth I went, watching surfers in flippers leap off seaweed-shrouded rocks just at the right time, paddling furiously away from the jagged black basalt headland before the waves crashed again. I swam on my back north to south, and on my front south to north, keeping the worst of the sun’s glare out of my eyes.

I looked up toward the lighthouse and reflected how so many of the views in Kiama are from the low-angle, turning humans into monumental figures against the horizon – a boy on a scooter, a couple standing on a hill, and a girl riding a horse near the showground. I looked up from my low angle in the water, up over the grass toward the end of the headland, and wondered if I’d ever, in my whole life, see the blowhole spouting water so far up into the sky you could see it from the mountains.

This week

By Vita Forest

Kiama

Surf Beach, Kiama

This week I have been

READING The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (I’m afraid I would not recommend it. Saskia lent it to me to see if I would feel the same way she did about it. And I did. Thanks Saskia!!)

WRITING with a sharp lead pencil in my notebook as I’ve been –

VISITING Kiama and its surrounds on holiday with Betty and Saskia

SWIMMING in the glorious glittering ocean and in the beautiful Blowhole Point rock pool.

WATCHING dolphins swim around the rock pool at Blowhole Point!

WALKING around the coast at Kiama, two legs of the Kiama Coast Walk, the track at Minnamurra Rainforest.

CHATTING with Betty and Saskia.

PLANNING lots of writing.

LISTENING to Opera in the Domain in Sydney with some lovely work colleagues.

WAITING to get somewhere to write up and publish these posts! (working on the iPhone did not prove easy – any tips?)

Low on cost, high on life

By Vita Forest

Shelly Beach Manly

Go to the beach

It’s summer school holidays here in Sydney.  We tend to look for adventures that are low on cost but high on fun.  Here are ten things we do to explore, relax and have fun without breaking the bank.

  1. Have a picnic, day or night in a beautiful spot.  Sometimes we will have night-time picnics sitting on a rock overlooking the harbour – hard to beat!  Picnic with friends, or by yourself with a good book. Cost: food and drink (prepared at home).
  2. Take a swim at the beach.  It costs less than going to a pool and you get to enjoy the natural world too.  Cost: Free
  3. Take a walk in the bush or in the city, there is so much to explore.  Check out local council websites to find hints from the locals about interesting walks in the area, join a Meetup group of like-minded walkers.  Cost: Free or token payment for Meetup groups.
  4. Take public transport.  Step lightly, catch a train, bus (or if you are in Sydney – a ferry).  Take a trip to a new place and spend the day, take time to look out the window on the way.  On Sundays, we use our Opal cards for $2.50 all day travel in Sydney and its surrounds (up to the Blue Mountains, down to the South Coast or Southern Highlands etc). Cost: $2.50 on Sundays, more during the rest of the week (but maximum $15 for the day).
  5. Visit an art gallery.  We are lucky to have lots of excellent free art galleries here – the MCA, the Art Gallery of NSW, the White Rabbit Gallery, the Brett Whiteley studio, to name just a few.  Cost: Free
  6. Visit your local library.   We have fantastic local libraries with books, of course, but also excellent DVD and music collections.  Our recent “Alfred Hitchcock Film festival” was sourced through visits to local libraries.  Cost: Free
  7. Take time to read.  What could be more enjoyable than having time to read?  Sleep in and read all day, or take your book on a picnic (see Number 1).  These holidays, Lucy has been working her way through Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles, while Max is enjoying the Skullduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy.  Cost: Free (from a library) or raid your own or a friend’s bookshelf.
  8. Listen to a podcast or the radio.   These holidays I have been listening to interesting interviews on Radio National, including discussions from festivals that have taken place earlier in the year.  Lots of food for thought.  Cost: Free
  9. Do some craft.  While listening to the radio…  My Ann Wood boat building continues, I have also finished a cowl for Lucy and made some Christmas decorations.  Check out Pinterest for ideas.  Cost: craft materials or look in your cupboards and make use of old supplies.
  10. Be on the look out for free events.  At this time of the year, the Sydney Festival is on with lots of fantastic free events (Fabulous Flying Fox anyone?).  Last night we joined thousands of people for a picnic at the Domain to enjoy Symphony under the Stars.  Cost: Free

What do you do for a low-cost high-life adventure?

 

Down the rabbit hole

By Vita Forest

Detail of Square, 2014 by Zhang Dali

Detail of Square, 2014 by Zhang Dali

Yesterday Lucy and I “hopped” (geddit?) on a train and went to explore the White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale.  It is a private gallery specializing in 21st Century Chinese art, and its owner, Judith Neilson, generously opens its doors to the public for free.

The current exhibition is called PARADI$E BITCH and explores ideas of spirituality, enlightenment and the afterlife with issues of culture clash – East meets West and traditional meets high tech, old versus new.

Which way is up?

Which way is up?  Eternity, 2014 by Xu Zhen

When you first enter the light-filled entrance atrium, you are confronted by Eternity, 2014 by Xu Zhen, where replicas of Ancient Greek statues, are topped by replicas of classical Buddhas.  So, reclining draped figures that could be the Three Graces, are “reflected” upwards into vertical columns of a stylized serene Buddhas.  Both types of statues are missing limbs and heads but are completed by their opposite, they are joined at the neck as if the other is their head, where their thoughts reside.  Which side is up?  How can one balance on the other?  As you can see, it is rich in metaphor.

Detail of Eternity, 2014 by Xu Zhen

Detail of Eternity, 2014 by Xu Zhen

The exhibition continues over three more floors in a wide range of media – neon signs, animation, drawing, sculpture, photography and installations.  One of our favourites was Cage, 2006 – 2011 by Li Hui, a small dark room that you entered via a sliding door that was closed behind you.  When your eyes adjusted to the darkness you became aware of “cages” mapped out with wire-thin green lasers.  The effect was so startling that we found ourselves stepping over the lasers as they gave the illusion of solid lines.  They were not real but they looked real.  Lucy amused herself by squeezing through the “bars” of the prison on her belly, trying to move from inside to out without being caught in the laser’s beam.

Outside this area was Square, 2014 by Zhang Dali, an art work created to mark the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.  Pigeons alight on a collection of life-size ghostly figures, modeled on members of China’s rural poor who come to Beijing to search for work.  There are no pigeons in Tiananmen Square and these people don’t exist officially, so gallery-goers walk amongst ghosts.  It was a combination of unsettling eeriness and dreamy peacefulness.

Square, 2014

Square, 2014 by Zhang Dali

We also liked the slowly spinning paper sculptures by Mia Liu entitled Guggen’ Dizzy, 2013, which were made from painted tickets from the Guggenheim museum.  The designs slowly changed as you watched, inviting you to slow down and reflect on this modern-day mandala made of disposable materials.

Guggen' Dizzy by

Guggen’ Dizzy, 2013 by Mia Liu

Afterwards, we sat beneath the gently swaying birdcage installation in the Tea House, listening to the soft clink of the cages above us.  Lucy slurped on a large foggy glass of lychee iced tea with real lychees bumping around at its base  (she used chopsticks to remove the soft balls of white fruit once she finished drinking).  I had a white tea with the tightly wrapped tea leaves slowing unfurling inside the glass tea pot to reveal a scarlet Amaranth blossom in their centre.  I nearly applauded!

A highly recommended outing.  And do stop for tea.

Grateful

By Vita Forest

Seen this year

Seen this year

It’s time to look back at 2015 and be grateful for the year that was.

In 2015 I am grateful for:

  • my children and family.  My children continue to develop into insightful, quirky and genuinely good people.   They impress me with their resilience and energy.  My family as always, loyal and down to earth.
  • my friends, new and old, for their inspiration, honesty, support and acceptance.  Lots of laughs this year.
  • my job, this is the year I won a permanent teaching job.  Phew!  Makes life a little easier and it’s
  • meaningful work, where what I do has real effect, where I work with inspiring people who care and make a difference, where children feel valued and have the opportunity to shine in their own special way.
  • my home, never underestimate the value of having a peaceful nourishing place to refresh, reflect and relax.  A place to feel safe and in control.
  • my health, both physical and mental.  Not much you can do without it.
  • my creative outlets and the satisfaction they provide.  Whether teaching, writing, crafting, knitting, designing, choreographing, directing or blogging, creativity has made me feel alive right to my nerve endings.
  • books and their opportunities for escape, new understandings, experiences and delight.  They have been the source of many lively discussions with family, friends, students and even strangers.  At school this year we devoured Fearless, Matilda and Harry Potter (amongst others).  At home I discovered the wonders of Barbara Trapido and Cheryl Strayed.
  • adventures both near and far, beach holidays, bush walks, art galleries, museums, gardens, city and coastal walks, festivals, music and visits to Canberra to see my friend Fleur and to float in colour in James Turrell’s Perceptual cell.
  • the great outdoors. I am lucky to live in Sydney where nature spoils us.

What are you grateful for in 2015?

This week

By Vita Forest

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This week I have been

  • READING
    • Brother of the more famous Jack by Barbara Trapido (another “book to own” friends…)
  • WRITING
  • MAKING individual Zen gardens with my class.
  • VISITING my parents’ place for the celebration of 3 close-together family birthdays, including mine.
  • WATCHING North by North-west on DVD with the kids as we continue our Hitchcock festival.  We think this is the best!

 

Literary cats provide their own special kind of assistance

By Vita Forest

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Meet my cats.

There is Isaboe (black and white, freckle on her nose, likes to chew cardboard boxes and wears a mask.  She is named after the kick-ass heroine from Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles).

And there is Zadie (one month younger than Isaboe, but larger and fluffier.  White, currently shedding fur.  Everywhere.  She has a long elegant tail like a feather boa and is rather chatty – chirps and hums as she follows me around.  She is named after the novelist Zadie Smith).

Here they are when they were a little younger and could share the top spot in the cat tower.

Yin and Yang cats

Yin and Yang cats

But let me take you back to last Saturday…

I awoke at 6.30ish and thought I may as well get up (the kids were still asleep and I wanted to fit in some report writing).  While I made a I made a cup of Earl Grey tea, my phone beeped and I saw that a friend from school was also up and about.  She was bemoaning the fact that due to the good weather, she could not start on the school reports as her kids’ cricket would not be cancelled.  Another friend texted from bed, What are you doing!?  Been out dancing and partying.  She was not going to start hers anytime soon. Just about to start, I let them know.

I carried my tea to the table and spread out my piles of Maths tests, report outcomes, notes and lists of children’s names.  Then the cats came to help.

Zadie lay across the Measurement tests.  Isaboe sat expectantly on the class list.  The non-furry children slept on.  I managed to pull out a pile of tests and began grading them.  My phone beeped again.  Another friend had arrived at school with her takeaway coffee to get to work on reports.  It was 7am.  What were we thinking? another texted, she was sleeping in too.

I put down my phone and returned to the tests.  Zadie’s ears pricked up at the sound of the paper clip being removed from the paper.  She started to bat it across the table, flicking it under the sheets of report outcomes, which she then had to scatter to find the paperclip.  I found it for her and threw it across the room.  She bounded after it.

Isaboe blinked at me then curled up neatly again with her tail wrapped along the length of her body.  I sorted tests, I wrote grades for each student for outcomes in Number and Algebra, for Measurement.  Zadie leaped up on the table again and dropped the paperclip near me.

Dogs play fetch with sticks, Zadie uses paper clips.  I threw it again and texted my friends about my “helpers.”

“Go back to bed!” advised one, “The cats are trying to tell you something!”

“Bring them into school!” said another, “They can help me!”

After a few rounds of batting the paperclip along the length of the table like a hockey puck and skidding across the floor to collect it when I threw it for her, Zadie decided enough was enough and sprawled across the Maths tests I had spread in front on me.

Very.

Helpful.

Then I heard a door open and Max burst onto the scene.  Lucy also appeared, rubbing her eyes.  They grabbed the cats and gave them a good morning cuddle.  Papers shuffled and fell on the floor.  Cats leaped from the table, children’s voices argued over what we should have for breakfast.

At least I had made a start…

Maths tests are super comfy

Maths tests are super comfy