M is for… Monolith

By Vita Forest

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Ewan sits still on the black-leather-excuse-for-a-couch.  Why did they choose it?  Certainly not for comfort.  His buttocks hardly make an indent in the seat, there is so much stuffing.  And the backrest is so far back that he has to sit forward, perched on the front, as if he is about to take off.  Which he is, he supposes.

The receptionist smiles at him again.  He nods to her.

No, she could not help him.  He’s just waiting.  No, he would not like a magazine or a glass of water.

He puzzles her obviously.  So be it.  He sits so still and stares out, past the mockery of an ikebana on its pedestal, through the glass doors to the people rushing by outside.  Marching up and down the street, eyes glued to their phones.  It was a wonder they didn’t bump into each other.  It was quite a skill really, when you thought about it.

He senses it to his right, just in front of the lifts.  Pride of place.  Why was it here in this sterile waiting room?  What did it add to the ambience?  But he would not look at it.  Not yet.  It might put him off his game.

He will sit and wait, thank you.  He will wait until the time is right.  Ewan is tall and thin and bald.  His cranium catches the light that bounces off the streaky marble floor.  Everything is so hard here, every surface, every face.  But perhaps he is just imagining that.  He feels a pulse throbbing in his left temple.  He rubs his knees with his hands and takes a deep breath.  He nudges the bag with his right foot, feels the hard edge of the axe with his shoe.

Steady on!

The lift dings.  He looks over and through his creation.  The lift door opens, but it is not him.  Not the doctor who walked around the gallery waving his important hands at Ewan’s work.  Not the one who chose his sculpture for this lobby (to go with the uncomfortable couch and the awful ikebana – what was he thinking?)  Not the one who took the sculpture and ignored the invoice.  The invoice that Ewan needs to be paid.  The doctor who is not available when Ewan calls, who will return his call soon.  The one who took his work, the work that is standing before the lift, like a dare.

Ewan blinks and sees that the waiting room is free of waitees.  It is just him and the receptionist now.  This is it, he thinks.  He bends down and slowly unzips the bag at his feet.  His eyes flick up but she is on the phone, tapping away at the slick computer on her desk.

He grasps the handle of the axe and with one fluid movement lifts it out of the bag and charges at the sculpture.  He sees it now, its beauty, its perfection, the love he poured into it.  He sees it all, just before the axe swings forward and hits home.

 

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!

Crafting with cats

By Vita Forest

It's lucky we are so cute

It’s lucky we are so cute

Visitors often note how tidy my apartment is.  Part of it is aesthetic.  But part of it is necessity – I have two curious cats.  Take today, for example.  Today I tried to craft with cats.  I am attempting to make a little army of elves and fairies for my class.  It is proving difficult.

HOW TO CRAFT WITH CATS

Food tents are essential

Food tents are essential

WHAT YOU NEED

Your usual equipment but also –

a food tent

takeaway food containers

METHOD

  1. If you are painting, get a small-necked jar so the cats cannot fit their heads into it to drink the dirty water.
  2. Only put a tiny amount of paint on the palette and wash up any surplus immediately – paint may be tasty.
  3. Do not leave small pieces of felt on the table.  (While washing the palette – see Step 2, Zadie pounced on a tiny mauve fairy cloak and chewed it into a mangled mess.  Put all cut-out pieces straight into a takeaway food container and secure the lid.
  4. Leave all unpainted tiny wooden dolls in their thick envelope shoved inside a bowl and with the opening folded over.  This prevents any possible fairy-napping.  (Zadie is a well-known fairy-napper.  Folk made last year had to be resettled in new accommodation once they returned from their adventure with the cats.  Now they live on top of the dry goods on a high shelf in the kitchen).

    Cat-free accomodation

    Cat-free accommodation

  5. Once painted, place wooden dolls to dry under a food tent to avoid inquisitive paws.  Note – curious cats may still attempt to push through the mesh and bite along the wire frame.
  6. IMG_3297[1]Attempt to cut patterns out of large piece of felt on the table.  Tussle with a cat while forming scallops with your scissors as she bats the edge of the material.
  7. Fight off cat claws as she tries another tactic and leaps up from below.
  8. Attempt to cut the felt by placing the material inside a plastic bag.
  9. IMG_3291[1]Attempt to distract the cats by rolling a Christmas bell across the floor.
  10. Give up and write a blog post instead.

Melbourne Micro-story

By Vita Forest

I was here

I was here

Above is my submission for Chart Collective’s “I WAS HERE True micro-stories set where you stand” initiative.  I made the meme yesterday, adding some appropriate theatrical bling by way of a photo of an old dance costume of Lucy’s.

There were a lot of restrictions on this piece of writing (which I like as you may know).  These included:

  • the stories had to be true
  • they had to be set specifically in Melbourne
  • and the real doozy – they could only be up to a total of 300 characters long (that’s right, not words, but characters. 300 words is hard enough).

This last rule meant I did many drafts, and then cut and cut and cut, until I distilled my memory into only three typed lines.  There could be no lazy words, no padding.  This post is already about three times longer than the text could be…

If chosen, they will be printed on posters and displayed near the site where they took place.  I really love this idea, reading stories directly related to the place where you are standing.  They were submitted anonymously, so you have the inside scoop if mine gets picked.

Maybe I should start an online Sydney equivalent – a blogging event about places in Sydney.  Let’s call it Sydney in Sixty (that is 60 words).  Have a go, then reply to this post and send me the link.

Hey let’s go!

By Vita Forest

Can you catch a soot sprite?

Can you catch a soot sprite?

School is back and Year 1 has just begun to watch Hayao Miyazaki’s film My Neighbour Totoro. It hits a number of important buttons for this term – Japan, Narrative, Comprehension Strategies, Visual Literacy and Fun.

If you don’t know it, My Neighbour Totoro is a classic Studio Ghibli animated film made in 1988, which you really should check out.  It tells the story of two small girls who move to rural Japan with their father while their mother recovers from an illness in hospital.  They become aware that their new home is haunted…

If you think this sounds scary, you would be wrong.  In fact, one of the wonderful things about the story is the way the characters deal with the idea of ghosts and spirits.  There is no tiptoeing about.  The two young girls are delighted to discover that their new home may be infested with soot sprites and set about trying to catch one, laughing and shouting all the way.  When they report to their father that they think the new house might be haunted, he replies with relish, “Really?  I’ve always wanted to live in a haunted house!”  And when they hear strange noises at bath time, the trio respond by laughing as raucously as they can and having a huge water fight in their bath tub.  These characters might be frightened, but they shriek their way through it and out the other side.

Before we started watching the film, we looked at a few stills from the film and came up with some questions.  One of them was “What is that bunny thing?”  Some of my children thought it might be a panda, a bear or maybe a cat.  Whatever it was, it looked friendly they decided, particularly as a small child was lying on it’s belly.  I showed them the title of the film and they thought the bunny thing might be called Totoro.  If it was their neighbour, it meant it lived near them, maybe even next door.

We watched half an hour of the film and the children laughed in glee as the characters raced about their new home and tried to scare out soot sprites.  They particularly liked the two girls Satsuki and Mei and how they ran everywhere and shouted so much.  We noticed how the Japanese house was different to the ones in Australia, how the farms were growing rice and how they took their shoes off before going inside.  But they also noticed how the sisters teased each other, laughed and pulled faces, just like they do here.  The excerpt finished with Mei chasing two small Totoros about the yard, like a couple of chickens, and coming to a slapstick stop as she crashed into the bushes into which they disappeared…

We continue the film next week.

What have I learned from blogging? Reflections of a newbie blogger.

By Vita Forest

Having fun with Diptic - how do you make your illustrations?

Having fun with Diptic – how do you make your illustrations?

As a teacher, I spend quite a bit of time reflecting on how lessons went, how successful programs were, how effective certain strategies are with my students.  I thought I would apply the same logic to this blog.

I started this blog in July for a number of reasons:

  • to have a place to do some writing.
  • to make myself write regularly.
  • to explore and experiment.
  • to connect with other people.

This is what I have learned so far…

  • some discipline.  I committed to writing at least one post a week and have done that.  Instead of writing being something I did when everything else was finished, and if I had any energy left, I have prioritized my writing and built a kind of routine.
  • it doesn’t have to be perfect.  James Clear has written some very good articles about creativity and the fact that you need to do a body of work.  Sometimes it won’t be amazing, but producing something regularly is much more effective than waiting for inspiration to hit. I have become more fearless and open and hit that Publish button with relish.
  • sometimes it’s good to have constraints.  (Actually make that all the time).  Whether it’s word limits, time constraints, or a very particular designated topic in a blogging event, limitations of some kind seem to bring focus, and paradoxically, they free up the mind from the paralysis of the open-ended. (So far I have participated in two blogging events, producing An unfortunate meeting with a fairy and He loves me, he loves me not… )
  • unexpected topics have a way of cropping up.  I thought I had to have everything mapped out, but sometimes I start writing about one thing and it turns into something else.  And that is OK.
  • how to make visuals I get to create my own images (mainly photos doctored in Diptic).  This is another way to be creative that I hadn’t expected.
  • feedback and community are fantastic.  I have now completed two novels.  I send them out (occasionally) and wait indefinitely to get any response from agents or publishers.  Sometimes it has been positive, but more often its impersonal, months later and in the form of standard rejection letters.  Blogging is a way to instantly connect with people from all around the world, and I really appreciate people taking the time to read, Like and respond to my work.  It’s so helpful (and I have to say I get a buzz out of it!)  Maybe one day, someone will publish my novels, but until then, I’m loving the blogging.

Now I’m going to try and transfer some of my newfound discipline to the rather tedious and often soul-destroying task of sending out my second novel to agents and publishers.  Because nothing will happen if I don’t DO something.

So that is what this newbie blogger has learned so far.  How about you?  What have you learned from blogging?

 

Is reading a deal breaker?

By Vita Forest

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My friend Vastra is another who did not think “when I grow up, I want to be a single mother…” but somehow ended up as one too, despite her best intentions.  Unlike most members of the various “First Wives Clubs” that I belong to, she decided to try diving back into the dating pool again.  (Interestingly, our male counterparts are all “settled” in new relationships, some even engaged and married.  Us females appear to be enjoying our freedom too much.)

Vastra was careful.  She was on Narcissist Alert and avoided men in certain occupations entirely.  She was not going to waste her time.  The man who neglected to mention he already had a girlfriend was definitely not an option, but another seemed more promising.  They met a few times and everything seemed to be going well, but then she discovered the deal-breaker.

He did not like to read.

Not even non-fiction.  Not even magazine articles.  Not even magazine articles on topics he was interested in, carefully saved for him by his new friend.  Other quirks had been forgiven, but after this discovery, they parted ways.  Gently of course, she was “not ready”  she didn’t want to “rush in.”  Which really meant “I want a man who reads!”

She didn’t realize “must like reading” was one of her prerequisites for a relationship.  It had seemed too obvious.  Not worth mentioning.  A given.  We pondered this story at one of our dinners and agreed she had done the right thing.  We have all had time to ruminate over what is important and what we don’t want again (when and if we are ever ready for again.  Don’t believe the Rom-coms – the single life is a good one).

Being a reader is important, being the kind of person who understands that sometimes you just absolutely have to stay up late to find out what happens next.  The kind of person who lends you their books as a sign of trust and friendship.  The kind of person who has “walked in another’s shoes” as Atticus Finch would say, and maybe learned a new perspective in the process.  Someone who may even change their original prejudices after experiencing a new world between the pages of a book.  Someone who has expanded their mind through reading.  Being a reader makes you empathetic, makes you curious, makes you a thinker.

These are the kind of men we are after.

PS. When I asked Vastra is she minded if I shared this story, she said, no worries – there is no likelihood of her ex-date ever reading this as that would require him actually reading something.  And that is not likely to happen…

Is being a reader a deal-breaker for you?