A rabbit goes a marketting

By Vita Forest


I sat on Katrina’s special collapsible portable stool, that weighed almost nothing and folded to fit in her backpack.  I sat in the shade and looked out at the sunny side, the side of the building, the side with the sunbakers, the coffee takers, the side with the arched windows and metal pipes and picturesque bricks and the old boiler that could have been part of Howl’s moving castle.  Maybe it had broken off on one of his jaunts and he hadn’t noticed it yet with all that creaking and banging and carry on.  Perhaps it had found this spot in the sun by the railway track and decided to take a rest til he came back.  There was plenty to see here after all.


There was a small boy wearing a milk crate on his head and a woman in a floral silk robe belted about her waist  that billowed behind her as she strode along in her fluffy magenta slippers.  There were dogs of all sizes pulling their owners along by their straining leashes and children making trains of upside-down milk crates lined up in a row.  There was music drifting outside from inside the huge metal shed where a man on a cello stroked its strings with a long bow as the shoppers wandered by, their bags full of watercress and tomatoes and home-made pasta sauce.  There was the smell of coffee and sourdough bread and the patina of flaking paint on the sturdy old brick walls.


I sat on my friend’s stool, placed just so, right across from the boiler, in the shade not the sun, against the rippling corrugated iron wall, not as sketchable as the sunny side, not as warm either, truth be told, but sometimes you gotta suffer for your art.  I sat and flicked a blade across the tip of my pencil, sharpening that graphite to a point (how I love a sharp pencil to work with) and my knife slid down the pencil and my eyes slid across the tracks and the pavement to the boiler and I thought about how I could draw it (all the while aware of the blade of the knife of course, all the while taking care not to cut away a finger or a thumb).  And I sketched out the composition, the segments of the cylinder, how it would fit on the page.  And I sketched in the milk crate seats in front of it and I noticed that someone had just sat down on one of those milk crate seats and had set down a few items on a milk crate table and looked like she was there to sit awhile so I started to sketch her in too.  And as I quickly drew in the angle of her head and the slope of her shoulders I noticed her place a clump of green on the ground for her dog I presumed, her dog on a lead, there were so many dogs, but a dog eating greens?  I looked again and saw that the animal with its harness and leash and thick brown fur was not a dog, not a dog in the slightest, but a large, placid rabbit sitting in the sun at the market and eating its morning tea while its human ate hers.

I have never seen a rabbit out for a walk on a leash.  I have never seen a rabbit relaxing in the sunshine as dogs sauntered by, not seeing, not sensing, not bothered by the rabbit nibbling fennel fronds on the concrete.  Perhaps they knew each other, saw each other every week, here at the market, doin a bitta shopping, hanging out in the sun.  I didn’t notice any animal greetings but I noticed passing children doing double takes and stopping to crouch and look and gently stroke the rabbit and one sat quietly and was rewarded by having the rabbit carefully lifted and placed on her lap to pat and whisper to and scratch behind its long velvet ears.

I mapped out the girl and the rabbit then sidled back to Katrina (very subtly of course) and brought to her attention the furry friend that was Not A Dog.  She had not yet noticed the rabbit, she was drawing the boiler and the roof and the windows and wasn’t up to adding any people, not yet, that would come later.  Then I sidled back and kept on drawing and delighting in the nonchalant girl who sat there self-contained but not self-conscious in the sunshine with her juice and her pastry and her rabbit on a leash.

Had they walked far? I wondered as I scribbled in her boots.  Had they hopped all the way? (while I shaded her cardigan).  Was this a regular excursion on a Saturday morning in September?  Did she have a favourite stall for her nibbly greenery or did they try the rocket from the Hawksbury one week and the radish leaves from down south the next?  Would I draw her looking up or looking down at the rabbit, stroking its head, or holding her drink, or leaning on her elbow?  People always move so you have to work fast, adjust, approximate, make it up.  She sat and sipped her juice and I scribbled and drew and tried to get it down before she up and left with her bunny and her bags.

Nell strolled by with a coffee and her photogenic stalk of broccoli and a bunch of lavender and peered over my shoulder.  She hadn’t yet decided on a setting for her sketching, on a subject, on a place to sit awhile.  I brought the bunny to her notice and she laughed out loud and leaned against the wall and watched the girl with her bunny sitting under the boiler and said, “There’s a story in that.” And maybe there is and maybe this is it or maybe there’s something more to come.

So Nell wandered off to find her own sketchable moment and I drew in the milk crates and the drink and the table and the shadows and the sunglasses, but before I could go and ask if I could pat her rabbit and what its name was and how they came to be at the market that day and did they come often and a million other questions, before I could ask all that, she picked up her rabbit and her rubbish and put them both carefully in her calico tote bag and walked away.

So I sat and drew rivets and rust instead of rabbits and shivered in the shadows while drawing what was in the sun.

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Mobile Tales 9: in which Christabel learns a disturbing fact about whales

By Vita Forest

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The whales!  Those alluring, majestic glamourous creatures which Christabel La Mouse spent far too much time watching and admiring from the deck of her galleon…  It was all very well to be high above them safe in the good ship Possession as it sailed on the ceiling, but Christabel had just read something very disturbing.

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Whales slumbering amongst the coral

Her whales spent much of their time slumbering amongst the brightly-coloured corals of the Booth Seat.  Or curled lazily atop a rocky outcrop called The Couch.  Or occasionally sitting on The Tabletop and blinking peaceably as they quietly meditated.

What all these places had in common were that they were below the surface of the sea.  Deep down in the water.  So far down that they required her to use her spy glass to see more than a black or white smudge in the depths of the ocean.  Which could otherwise have been mistaken for a boulder, or the shadow of a cloud, or an underwater cave.

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A boulder?

But her book, this book she had chosen to read in order to learn more about these magnificent creatures, insisted that they were not fish at all.  That they did, in fact, breathe air as she did.  That they needed to come to the surface of the sea to take great gulps of it and to expel stale air out of their bodies in a violent, shooting spout through a hole located along their backs!

It was a lot for a small mouse to take in.

Imagine such a sight!  Imagine the whales at the surface of the sea, where the good ship Possession floated…  It made Christabel fairly quake in her boots just to think about it.  Was it really possible?  Could the authors be mistaken?

Her whales never rose to the upper edge of the sea where it met the air.  And for this, Christabel was grateful.  They instilled equal parts fascination and terror in her small mouse heart.  What would she do if they came close enough to touch?  Was it really possible they were known to capsize ships?  It was a disturbing thought.

Christabel peered through her spyglass and trained it onto the top of their sleek sinuous bodies.  Perhaps it was beyond the limit of her spyglass, perhaps it was her own weak eyes, but she could not make out a breathing hole along their spines.

This pair seemed to be a special case.  Were they yet unknown to the scientists who spoke so authoritatively about spouts and breaching and plankton?  She would need to read further.  (And be alert for any mysterious jolts to the hull of the galleon.)  Possibly (she hoped) these whales were different.

The world was indeed a mysterious place.  And perhaps it was a good thing that there were still things to learn.

Especially about the sea.

Especially about whales.

 

Everyday more geckos

By Vita Forest

For the last two weeks

A strange phenomena

A gang of geckos in my classroom.

They march up the walls

Keeping watch over the rubbish bin.

They peer at the whiteboard

Their sticky toes hugging the frame.

Some particularly curious ones watch me work at my computer

They must tell their friends –

Everyday more geckos.

And on the back wall by a Boy table and under the Indigenous language map

An army has appeared

Everyday more geckos

One clings to the clock and listens to its tock

They crawl up the windows

Every size, every colour, every pattern

When will it end?

Everyday more geckos.

We need that girl

By Vita Forest


While carrying a bag of cat litter through the supermarket

I was startled when three pigeons swooped up

the Jams and Spreads Aisle

Over the Fruit and Veg

And across to the Frozen Food section.

 

Three birds!

In this underground supermarket!

Taking off and flying over the shelves in formation

As if migrating together over rows of tall buildings

All the same height.

 

And I thought

How did they get in?

And I thought

How will they get out?

 

And I thought

We need that girl from school

That wide-eyed uncertain girl

peering sideways, talking hesitantly

But she certainly knew what to do

That time on playground duty when a group of breathless girls

Ran to report

A mynah bird in the classroom!

It couldn’t get out!

 

I advised opening blinds and windows

And carefully herding it toward freedom.

But this girl, this uncertain girl

Marched into the classroom

Swooped down on the anxious mynah

Cradled it in her hands

Walked determinedly outside

And released it.

“Wow!” I thought

(“She has chickens,” I was told.)

 

But today

we need that girl again.

In the underground supermarket

Can someone make the announcement on the loudspeaker please?

She is needed in Aisle 12

Near the Frozen Fruit.

 

 

This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

WRITING 

READING The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith

DRAWING at May Gibbs’s old home Nutcote

WATCHING The Hundred Foot Journey with my kids

PICNICKING with Lucy, Max and our old buddy Fleur on a fine spring day

CELEBRATING 

  • my Dad’s birthday 
  • Diwali

LISTENING to Hamilton some more…

ADMIRING the Jacaranda and Grevillea Robusta trees in bloom

    Mobile Tales Despatch 2 – in which our heroine simply listens

    By Vita Forest

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    Christabel La Mouse awoke in her snug cabin on the Good Ship Possession and listened.  She liked to do this before she opened her eyes, before she really started the day.  She snuggled deeper into her cosy woollen eiderdown and simply listened.

    To port there was the occasional sliding swish! from the Deep Distance which must mean rain.  (There were huge creatures called Cars and when their swift feet touched water they made that delicious swish!  So Christabel had learned at school.  She was yet to actually see one).

    To starboard was the chatty murmuring gurgle of the Refrigerator in The Room Beyond.  It was a kind of hotel for the food that arrived in The Home, including, and most importantly, cheese.  Christabel lived for those days when, on one of her fishing expeditions, she managed to secure as the catch of the day, a tasty morsel of that supreme delight.

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    And directly below the ship, down deep on the rain-pitted surface of The Table, was a busy sort of brushing-kind-of-scratching, that stopped and started in an irregular fashion. It was That Person with the Paper and the Pencil.  Christabel sometimes liked to watch this (when she was not so cosy and tired, of course), for onto a flat white rectangle, tiny scribblings would pour from the end of the tool the Person used.  They were hard to make out, what with the currents passing over them, the distance between Christabel and the pages and the Person’s quite atrocious handwriting.  Her spyglass did not work on such occasions, and the spinning of the ship did not help.

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    Still it was a comforting sort of scratching whisper.  Every now and then there was a pause and a Ting! which Christabel knew meant the Person had stopped to take a sip of her milky tea, chiming her pencil against the china as she did so.  Perhaps one day she would find some implement to assist her in discovering what the Person wrote.  But now just now.  Now was the time for a little more sleep wrapped in her eiderdown in her cosy cabin.

    One must always prioritize rest.

     

    Mobile Tales – A Despatch from The Good Ship Possession

    By Vita Forest

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    In which we first meet sailor Christabel La Mouse aboard The Good Ship Possession.

    Christabel grasped the side of the ship in her soft green leather gloves, took a deep breath and peered over the edge.  It always took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the distance.  Through the gentle eddies that spun the bow softly this way and that, descending deep into the silence of the drop-off, before flattening and nudging out into the dark expanses of the

    Tabletop and Tablecloth.

    It was dark most days down there, with its rain-splatter circles, the sort you would see on the surface of a still lake if you were sheltering beside it, beneath a pagoda, with a cup of green tea and the time to stop and notice such things.  The dark memories of those raindrops were sprinkled over with animals – horses, does, butterflies, and, Christabel’s particular favourite, the hummingbird.  There it was!  Right below her today.  For the hummingbird had the unsettling habit of moving about.  One day she would look down on the port-side to see the reassuring little creature, only to panic at its apparent disappearance.  A quick scamper to the starboard side of the ship however, revealed that the bird was still in the depths of Tablecloth, merely having hovered over a little.

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    Or was it the ship itself that had moved?  But no, the galleon did not change course, though it spun on the axis of its anchor which had curiously been flung from the top of the mast and lay wedged securely into the Ceiling above it.

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    Most disturbing of all was the morning Christabel had leaned over the side of the ship in her usual morning ritual and found that the Tablecloth had been completely erased.  No raindrops, no animals, nothing but the bottomless void of white that seemed to have no beginning and no end.  The Tabletop.

    She had spent the remainder of that day resting in her cabin below deck, curtains drawn, with a cold compress resting on her forehead.

    Luckily the Deep Darkness of Tablecloth returned the next day, complete with its cantering clouds of horses, butterflies and hummingbird.

    Christabel straightened her back and pulled out the spyglass from the strap across her chest.  She faced north now and turned the brass cylinder in front of her eye until the flying fish came into focus.  They lived across the expanse, closer to the Distant Doorway and were sometimes battered most ferociously by the breeze that blew into the room on warm days.  When the door was closed, they circled lazily, as they were doing now, always maintaining a respectful and steady distance between the members of the small school of four.

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    Christabel lowered her spyglass and smiled.  It would be another calm day on the Ceiling.