This week

By Vita Forest

 

This week I have been

VISITING Kiama for a holiday with a rotating cast of characters – Max, Lucy, Fleur, Betty and Briony.

WALKING

  • from Gerringong to Kiama with Fleur, Lucy and Max (Lucy, Max and I did most of it barefoot too…)

  • into the strange world of Bombo Headland with Briony – massive waves smashing against the rock columns, very dramatic!

    SWIMMING in the beautiful waters of Kiama’s beaches and rock pools


    SEEING the Kiama blowhole “goin’ off!”


    SKETCHING at the same time as my sketch pals – they in Sydney, I sitting in the seabreeze looking back at the pines around the Kiama showground.

    WRITING Southerly Buster

    GETTING lots of inspiration for future posts

    READING

    • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (How wonderful to visit the world of J.K. Rowling again and this is one of my favourites!!  I was not the only one enjoying J.K. Rowling – there was also Fleur reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Lucy reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban too – a very Hogwarts kind of time)
    • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

    GENERALLY relaxing

    Into the Labyrinth

    By Vita Forest

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    I was looking for the labyrinth.

    I had parked in Centennial Park beneath an oak tree, grinding acorns into the dirt as I walked away, past the joggers and the promenaders, the dog walkers, the horse riders, and the soccer games with their shouts and piercing whistles.  I looked across the ponds, noting moor hens and ducks, and turned down the avenue of paperbark trees.  The noises of Saturday sport gradually receded behind the thicket of Lachlan swamp, I checked the map on my phone, I was nearly upon it.

    It is hard to see the labyrinth from a distance.  At first I looked straight over it.  Then I noticed the large flat disc, like a giant coin lying in the green.  The stone labyrinth.  It is a replica of the famous labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral, the same pathway, the same pleasing geometry.  This Sydney labyrinth opened in 2014 and anyone is free to use it.

    Labyrinths are different to mazes.  Mazes are designed to trick and baffle, to confuse and unsettle.  With their single pathways, labyrinths are instead a calming journey where you don’t need to solve problems to find your way through.  Instead, by following the path, your mind calms, allowing you to see more clearly, be more present.  It can be a walking meditation, a way of moving into the present moment as you move toward the centre.

    I walked closer to the labyrinth.  There was a group practising tai-chi further off, but apart from them, I was alone.  I found the entrance and began my journey.  The path looped back and forth changing direction, so unless you are constantly looking up, you lose track of your orientation in the park.  I guess that is the point, you are focusing on where you are in the journey, not where you have come from or where you are going.  By locating the labyrinth in a clearing, you also don’t anchor directions to particular trees or other features in the landscape.  It began to rain lightly as I walked, and all I was aware of was the surface of the stone, the turns in the path and the light fall of rain on the brim of my hat.  It brought the focus to a smaller and smaller point.  Suddenly a couple of noisy groups descended toward me, breaking my focus.  I reached the centre and left them to it.

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    The labyrinth had quietened my mind.  I walked around the swamp in the light shower, noticing the luminous green of the ferns, the stillness of the paperbark trees.  Then I came across a track going through it and entered the thick foliage.  It too brought to mind the labyrinth, the sense of enclosure, the blocking out of the world outside.  I watched spiders spin silent webs beneath shady leaves, I saw signage covered with splatters and realised the swamp was home to a colony of flying foxes, hanging upside down from the tallest branches like giant black seed pods.  I walked on, aware of the screeching of the few creatures up past their bed times, into the centre then out again.

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    I emerged near the labyrinth and decided to walk it again.  The gentle rain fell and the tai-chists had moved beneath the shelter of a fig tree, silently stretching, turning and bending in unison.  I entered again, this time aware of the honking of a flock of geese that were pottering around the clearing.  My focus came down again, to my feet, to the path, to the gradations of colour in the stone.  I soon lost track of where I was, what point of the journey I was at.

    You move toward the centre then away again, you travel on a familiar path but further in or further out.  Like life, I suppose, you never know exactly where you are on your journey – the beginning, nearing the end, retracing something that feels familiar, but is seen slightly differently through a altered lens of time or experience.  You don’t know if you are going forward or backwards, sometimes it feels like you are moving further away from your goal, only to find you swing back towards it again.

    I guess sometimes we need to surrender and let things take their course.  You will land in the centre where you were aiming for all along.  You just have to take the journey.  You just have to give it time.

     

     

     

     

     

    A big space full of nothing

    By Vita Forest

    View from Barangaroo

    View from Barangaroo

    “Smog is a mixture of smoke and fog,” Lucy informed me today as the train sped into the city through the smog.  They are doing a lot of back-burning around Sydney at the moment and the smoke was thick again.

    We walked down to Barangaroo to meet our pals for a picnic, the smell of smoke in the air.  But over the course of the day, the air cleared, the sun shone, the sky was blue.  Another summer day at the end of autumn.

    “Is this north?” Lucy asked, pointing forward.  When I answered in the affirmative, she observed, “So we are walking towards the Arctic circle.”

    Which we were, I supposed.

    We waited near The Cutaway.  Lucy saw something bright and yellow floating in the water and bounded down the sandstone blocks to see what it was.  When she reached the sometimes-submerged rock, she kept going, despite the green moss, despite the slipperiness, and so slid and fell.  She stood up gingerly and inspected her hands and her seat as she climbed up again.

    “It was a lemon,” she announced as she watched the heel of her hand swell and purple into a bruise.  She’s a tough one.

    We sat in the sun and waited for Sui-Sui and Alessandro, for Saskia and Rowdy the dog.  The phone pinged, updating us on their progress, closer and closer.  Sui-Sui and Alessandro arrived first, hauling treats in an esky.  It was their first trip to Barangaroo.  I advised them to check out The Cutaway while we waited on Saskia, and in they went.

    “What’s so good about The Cutaway?” asked Lucy, “It’s just a big empty space full of nothing.”

    “Like my life… ” she added,  “Just kidding!”  Brat.

    They returned and the phone rang again, Saskia was around the coastline minding a shady picnic spot by the water.  We joined her and Rowdy, spreading out picnic rugs and food.

    Our colourful lunch

    Our colourful lunch

    We lazed in the sun or shade and watched the boats streak past around the headland and caught up on news.  We ate quinoa salad, tuna and corn fritters, mandarins and grapes and my new favourite chocolate cake that Lucy and I had made yesterday.

    Rowdy made friends with the steady parade of promenading pooches and their owners that passed by.  Lucy recovered from her fall and climbed trees, leaped on rocks and did cartwheels.  She took Rowdy for runs around the headland and up and down stairs.  In the process she earned a fourth piece of chocolate cake (it was very tasty).

    We talked about books and movies, parents and friends with babies, markets, studies and future trips.  The cake got smaller and smaller.

    That pretty salad

    That pretty salad

    “Look!” shouted Saskia pointing behind us, “A native mouse!”

    “It’s a rat!” corrected Alessandro.  But we agreed it was still cute.

    The thermoses were empty, the tea was drunk, the last slice of cake disappeared.  We rolled up the picnic rugs and said our goodbyes.

    “Now we are walking towards Antarctica,” said Lucy.

    And we were.

    Barangaroo

    Barangaroo

    The A to Z of my A to Z challenge 2016

    By Vita Forest

    The changing colours of Skyspace

    The changing colours of Skyspace – for the letter S

    Well, the April A to Z challenge finished just over a week ago and I am still processing the roller coaster that it was.  I learned a lot and spent the month fairly buzzing with creative juices.  Here are links to all my output.  Some travel, some artistic adventures and lots of flash fiction.

    Enjoy!

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    A is for… Art

    B is for… Bed

    C is for… Cinderella

    D is for… Doorknob

    E is for… Everything

    F is for… Flowers

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    G is for… Gabriel

    H is for… Home

    I is for… Ibis

    J is for… Joy

    K is for… Kiss

    L is for… Love

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    M is for… Monolith

    N is for… Narcissist

    O is for… Old-school

    P is for… Peak hour

    Q is for… Quentin

    R is for… Red

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    S is for… Skyspace

    T is for… Train

    U is for… Unconscious

    V is for… Venice

    W is for… Wedding

    X is for… Xanthe

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    Y is for… Yearning

    Z is for… Zone

     

    Q is for… Quentin

    By Vita Forest

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    I was waiting at Central when he approached me.  A young guy, articulate, clean, homeless.

    “Can you spare some change?  I’m hoping to get some accommodation.”

    I thought for a moment.

    “Yeah, ok.”

    He smiled and nodded and I fished in my bag.

    “How is your day going?” he asked.

    “Pretty good,” I answered, “How about you?”

    “OK,” he said, “I’m tired.”

    I nodded, “Well, hope that helps.”

    “Cheers,” he said and raised his takeaway coffee cup to me.  “What’s your name?”
    “Olivia,” I answered, “What’s yours?”

    “Quentin.”

    “Nice to meet you Quentin.”

    “Nice to meet you.”

    He moved away, flashing his smile at the pedestrians waiting for the lights.  Adding to his housing fund before the lights changed.

    I waited, leaning on a column.  Looking for the people I was supposed to meet.  Looking at my phone to see if there were any messages.  Checking I was in the right spot, checking the time.

    Quentin came back.

    “Are you waiting for someone?”

    “Yes,” I answered, “They are late.”

    “Are you from Sydney?”

    “Yes, are you?”

    “No, Wollongong.  South Wollongong.”

    I nodded and watched the stream of people ascending from the depths of the station.

    “Do you work?” he asked, pulling his cap down over his neat hair.

    “Yeah, I’m a teacher.”

    “Oh!  You like kids?”

    “Yeah, most of the time.  It’s school holidays now, you know?”

    “Hmm,” he was looking out at the crowd too.

    “English or History?”

    “Primary,” I answered, “So – everything.”

    “I work too, when I can, labouring, building, that kind of thing.  But it’s hard to get a break.  I’ve been trying to get accommodation for a year and a half now.  You know, a room. A bit of privacy?  But the wait is so long.  So I get a hostel when I can, hopefully soon.  I’m so tired.  My eyes are killing me.  I just want to sleep,” he flashed me his smile again, his perfect teeth.

    “What was your name again?”

    “Olivia.”

    “I’m Quentin.”

    “Good luck Quentin.”

    And he went back to work, looking through the faces of the people that streamed up the ramp and stopped at the lights and caught his eye for a moment.  While I slouched against a column and checked my phone for any new messages.

     

     

    P is for… Peak hour

    By Vita Forest

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    After visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art, I had emerged from the building into the city at dusk.  The sun was setting over the Opera House, tingeing all the windows around the harbour an apricot pink, a busker with tight black curls and ripped jeans sang Bright like a diamond into a microphone, and the sharp salty sea-scent tickled my nostrils as I walked closer to the water.  I people-watched and moseyed along, past the tour groups with their matching badges, past the neon signs flickering to life and into the station.  Into Peak Hour.

    This was the second time that day I had forgotten the time, forgotten the place.  I would not have chosen to leave at that exact moment if I had thought about it.  The museum was staying open late, I could have gone and looked at another floor.  Or perhaps had a picnic outside on the lawn, looking at the city lights and enjoying the balmy autumn night.  But no – I was at Circular Quay station, in the thick of it all.  Peak Hour on public transport in the city is something I don’t experience anymore, so it’s something of a novelty.  I felt something of a tourist in my own town, or an anthropologist observing a fascinating foreign custom.  There were so many people and they were so BIG (my class are all tiny folk who make me feel quite gigantic).  There were strange conversations to overhear.  A man near me was talking in an authoritative voice about “strategizing” and “calibrating”…. something to do with government agencies.  It all sounded terribly impressive.  There were lots of people in suits, lanyards hanging out of pockets, women in very high heels (which are also extremely foreign to me).

    And they all had iPhones…  Something else that is absent from the schoolyard (if they are there, they have to stay in bags on silent, out of sight, until after the bell rings).  This was something I had noticed earlier on my sketching expedition.  I had almost thought I could start a new blog entitled “People on phones” and just upload different sketches of people on phones (maybe I still will…)  Everyone was looking down at their own private screens, some listening to private music collections, others surfing radio stations.  Some people were checking the share prices, others were skimming through their Facebook feeds – wedding photos, holiday snaps, unbelievable offers.  They were disappearing into their own private little worlds, they were blanking out.  There were very few of us aware of the people around us, aware of the view out over to Balmain as the train went over the Harbour Bridge (I do try and notice these things).  Their hands were clutching their phones like security blankets.  I suppose they are in a way.  If you ever find yourself alone, waiting, or too early, you don’t have to look awkward or anxious anymore.

    You can just pull out your phone and disappear into it.

     

    G is for… Gabriel

    By Vita Forest

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    Phoebe wandered through the rooms of the Victoria and Albert.  This is why she was here after all.  To see some art, to get inspired.  She should be happy, she really should.  But there she was, weighted down in her chest by loneliness.  Who knew that when she wasn’t there, the slightest little thing could trigger this almost crushing nostalgia for home?

    Clear blue skies, the shriek of lorikeets, she was even thinking about how the chocolate tasted different.

    Good grief! as her friend Rory would say.  Friend… That was another thing.  So far today, the only person she had spoken to was the woman at the ticket desk who hadn’t even looked at her.  No wonder Phoebe was feeling a little bit wobbly.

    She walked through another gallery.  A sculpture gallery.  It was full of scenes of violence.  Silent violence.  Frozen violence.  But violence.  It was as if some fairy had stopped time at the exact moment that the blade was about to pierce a neck, or the fingers were about to crush a windpipe.  Muscles clenched, adrenalin flowing, mouths screaming in agony.

    Amongst all this mayhem, some kind of art class was sketching.  They were sitting cross-legged, leaning sketchbooks on their laps and hatching and cross-hatching away.  Looking up, looking down, the sound of the soft brush of the lead on the paper.  Phoebe walked between them, as fascinated by the living as she was by the stone.

    Will you be my friend?

    She wanted to lean against that beanied boy and sketch the struggle with the snake behind him.  She wanted to lend someone a 4B pencil and borrow someone’s scarf.  She wanted to know all the in-jokes, who always left their homework to the last minute and who was going out with whom…

    Will you be my friend?

    Maybe she wasn’t cut out for travelling.  Maybe she should have just stayed at home.  It took so much energy.  Working out the smallest things – how to buy a train ticket, what the five pound note looked like, where to buy decent bread.  But she was being ridiculous.  This was what she had spent the last year saving money to do.  She should damn well enjoy it.

    Phoebe passed through a set of glass doors that sighed as she pushed them open.  She found herself in a cool, dim room lined with tapestries.  Pre-Raphaelite, she thought.  She strolled through the hush, past the angels with thick feathered wings and draped robes, past the maidens walking in a garden or perhaps it was an orchard.  There was fruit.  What kind of fruit?  The Pre-Raphaelites liked their nature didn’t they?  She could probably recognise it if she looked.  She sat down on a bench in front of it.

    The door opened behind her.

    An apple.

    She could hear someone’s feet moving across the cold wooden floor.

    Will you be my friend?

    They came and stopped in front of the same tapestry.

    A pomegranate.

    And sat down beside her.  Right beside her.  Phoebe turned her head in surprise.

    Gabriel looked at Phoebe and smiled.  Would she remember him?

    Phoebe stared at him, raising her hands to her cheeks in astonishment.

    “I know you,” she whispered.  “I know you!”

    “Good,” he grinned.  ” I hoped you would.”

    Phoebe was shaking her head, “You don’t understand – this is amazing.  I’ve bumped into someone I know in London!  It’s like, a miracle.”

    And the draughty room rang with the sound of their laughter.