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.

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.


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.




This week

By Vita Forest

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

This week I have been

    • On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.  You can never read this book enough times.
  • MAKING up a dance with my buddy teacher for Year 5 and 6 dance auditions next week.
  • VISITING the beach twice this weekend.  Happy days!
  • WATCHING Labyrinth with my kids and sister Briony.  A trip back in time.
  • PRESENTING at the Parent Teacher information night for my class.
  • FINISHING covering all the class exercise books with our home-made book covers.

    Can you spot the monkeys? (QVB Chinese New Year decorations).


By Vita Forest



9am in the morning and it’s already 28 degrees C.  Driving through the drowsy streets and parking the car a few blocks away, not even attempting the crawl into the car park.  (It’s the Saturday before Christmas and all that.  But we still need groceries).

Unloading my pull-along shopping trolley and pulling it behind me under the trees and the high rises.  Glancing at the current crop in the shared veggie garden at the side the apartment block near the park (cherry tomatoes, beans).  A white haired couple walking hand in hand, he in long grey pants and a tie, she in crisp white linen.  A stroll in the cool of the pine trees.  Crossing paths with a swaybacked pregnant woman, pushing a pram.  Empty at the moment, perhaps brought along just in case?

Doors sliding back at the entry to the shopping centre like lips stretching into a fake smile.  A blast of cold air and competing pop songs greeting me.  Shoppers striding back and forth, past scrolling billboards and an older couple sitting primly and silently in tall black winged armchairs.  The ambient music of the centre entreats us to go “walking in a winter wonderland.”  Sweat dripping down by back, lips pursed in concentration.

Swinging off the main path and around to the escalator down to the supermarket.  Santa cocooned in scarlet and fur, awaiting visits from children in the line already stretching out of sight.  At the front of the queue, a woman, her long hair straightened, holding two chihuahuas…  Detouring to the toilets and almost running into a Dad and Daughter.

“Stop!” she squeals at him and bends down slowly to carefully lift the yellow elastic strap back up over her ankle from where it has fallen under her heel.  Her sandals are blue and yellow and she really likes them.  She stands importantly and rocks back and forth on the heels.

In the dumpling shop, the workers stand around a spotlit bench in white robes, gloves, caps and masks.  As if they are performing surgery.  “Christmas dumplings!”  a sign shouts, the casings are green and red but “ALL natural!”  apparently.  Christmas trees flashing with hot white lights, Sale!

Entering the supermarket and loading my trolley with cherries and nectarines in season.  Remembering the cheese, forgetting the rice.  Paying for the haul then getting outta there, back onto the hot street beneath the colourless garlands of lights strung between the buildings, resting during the daylight.  Back along the road toward the station, the yellow and grey train streaking by over the bridge while the cars duck under it.  Past the teenage boys slouching past on scooters and skateboards.  Past the park where a toddler claps her hands as her parents feed the pigeons forming a fluttering grey puddle around her.  Past “that house with the garden”, neatly trimmed lawn lined with pots and clipped fuschias and roses.  Five pots of the footpath “Chilli and Basil plants” written in texta on a piece of cardboard.  “Ring the doorbell to buy.”  The succulents squatting in terracotta beside them.

The whirr of a machine across the road and a cloud of white dust drifting across the front garden.  Turning my head to see what they are doing and tripping and going flying hard onto the footpath, my trolley tipped behind me.  Crawling to my feet  and inspecting my knees and legs for grazes.  Tilting up the trolley and dragging it around the corner to the car.  Driving home again,  the heel of my hand burning where it hit the concrete.