On Ghost Nets

By Vita Forest

Ghost nets – that’s what they call the lost and abandoned fishing nets that float the ocean, moving with the tides, travelling large distances and trapping fish and birds and dolphins, sharks and turtles.  At the Australian Museum, there is a display of Ghost Net Art, made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to raise awareness of this problem and to turn something destructive into something wonderful.

I visit the museum with a bunch of sketchers, fanning out through the rooms armed with sketchpads and pencils and watercolours and brushes.  I am attracted to texture, to roughness, to coarse surfaces, woven rope, splintered wood, twisted wire.  And so I find myself among the ghost nets, read the stories, read how these massive artworks came to find themselves suspended from the ceiling and crawling up the walls of the Australian Museum.

I stand in front of a giant crab, a huge disc of netting and woven spirals and multi-coloured ribbing stretched over wire.  I sketch out the outline and begin to map out its limbs and scribble and hatch the barnacles of its body as it hangs breathless against the wall.  I stand in front of it, where the light haze dims and brightens in time to the story on the screen beside me that starts up again and again at the touch of a child’s finger.  Across the way, a projection of Bangarra dancers twist and contort, and children shriek and try to catch the slippery bodies of fish made of light that dart beneath their feet across the floor.

And when I finish my scribbly, gnarled, ancient crab, I sit on the floorboards, too tired to stand now, not wanting the bench, the angle is just not right for the fish, the cod, floating high above our heads.  So I sit on the floor, out of the way, but still visible to the boy who slides down beside me to peer at my paper as his mother reads about the crocodile spirits, about the men who could hitch a ride on the back of a crocodile without fear.

‘That’s good,’ he whispers when it’s time to go, when he is called to stand up, to climb up and follow her away.

And I think about the legend of the cod and the crab who watched each other and fell in love.  And I think about the people combing those northern beaches for nets not shells.  And I think about them stretching and cutting and twisting the nylon into new shapes, new stories.  And how I am taking the ghost nets and stretching them out in a new way on my page.  And wondering if we could make something this shape, this size at school out of other thrown-away things.

And I think about the ghost net that caught me this week, floating unaware beneath the surface of everyday life, waiting, hovering beneath the flow of it.  And how I was gutted and let down, thrashing in my net, struggling to take a breath, to remember the good, until I was cut out in time, set free to slither out into the clear, warm water again.

And I think in the end, that’s all we can do – scoop up the ghost nets whenever we find them and take them out of the water so they won’t catch anyone else and try to turn them into something beautiful.

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This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

WRITING school reports!!

THINKING about ideas for poems

SHARING and LAUGHING at writers’ circle

VISITING The Strand Arcade with sketch club and

TRYING not to sample too many of the delights on offer…

LISTENING to two of my boys play Despacito on the trumpet and saxophone

CRAMMING a lot into a short week of school.

DRIVING my children all over the place on the weekend…

WALKING with Vastra on a brisk, early winter’s evening.

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING school reports!

READING

  • Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
  • A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

VISITING Culburra  for the long weekend with Sui-Sui and Alessandro where we went

EXPLORING Nowra and touring beautiful old Meroogal

STOPPING for a drink at the fabulous Steampunk Dog and Monocle in downtown Nowra

COOKING up a storm at the beach house in Culburra

MOTORING up to Gerringong for a burger and chips and

MEETING up with Betty and Bob  who had the same idea!

EXPLORING

  • Crookhaven Head
  • Callala Beach
  • Currarong

STOPPING into lovely Kiama on the way home and seeing dolphins, a stingray and a rainbow.

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING

  • The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
  • Tom Appleby Convict Boy by Jacki French with my class

RETURNING to school after the holidays

DECORATING the back wall of my classroom with a forest of multicoloured trees and hand- drawn ships of the First Fleet

GETTING the kids in the performance group to try on some of the costumes

WATCHING The Handmaid’s Tale Series 2

ATTENDING my Writers Circle and discussing a chapter of my novel

PICNICKING at Cremorne Point with Sui-Sui and Alessandro

WAKING early on Sunday morning and painting a drawing ifThe Grounds of the City with watercolours

VISITING Barangaroo with Molly and Pippi for The Finders Keepers Market

DISCUSSING with an artist at the market how you have to be bold and brave to use watercolour (she was!)

SITTING with the sun on my back on the sandstone slabs of Barangaroo and

TAKING a photo for some young lovers as they posed on the Rocks with Sydney Harbour Bridge as a backdrop

THINKING about a new poem

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (but only a little bit because I have been)

WRITING

VISITING

  • The Grounds of the City with Max and Lucy (Steampunk meets Fantastic Beasts Oh and the food was delicious!)
  • The Anzac Bridge on Anzac Day (Lucy and I (and Max and Briony for a bit) walked from St Leonards to Rozelle following part of the route of The 7 Bridges walk with a few adjustments.
  • lovely work colleagues and ex-colleagues.
  • Gelateria Gondola for the most sensational choc-orange gelato…

WATCHING

  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society with Betty (very lovely).
  • Sami in Paradise at Belvoir St Theatre (it’s been a while since I’ve seen something from this fantastic company – absolutely brilliant!)

ATTENDING an Open Mic Night with my Writers’ Circle group (we all read from our novels) and Sui-Sui and Alessandro.  Very inspiring!

SEWING costumes

GETTING ready to return to school tomorrow…

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING The Amber Spyglass  by Philip Pullman (I cannot recommend this trilogy enough!)

WRITING, WRITING, WRITING

VISITING

  • Op shops for costumes for our performance group
  • School
  • That lady and her unicorn at the AGNSW
  • Middle Cove for some spectacular views
  • The Coal Loader at Waverton for some

SKETCHING twice in one week!

MAKING costumes for our performance group

ATTENDING my new Writers Circle (getting lots of great ideas and encouragement).

PICNICKING by the harbour with Lucy and Max.

GETTING a bit of rest.

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung

WRITING my novel

CONDUCTING 27 parent teacher interviews! (Nearly finished) while

CONTINUING to teach 28 children and therefore

FEELING exhausted…

ATTENDING a local writers circle (which was very inspiring)

SLEEPING in on the weekend and

SWIMMING at Balmoral Beach (the hottest temperatures in April for forty years)

MEETING for a coffee with Vastra and Saskia