Climate Change Summer

January in Oz and the temperature’s rising.  Hordes of tourists gather on the coast.  The beaches are covered with their gear – surf boards, paddle boards, boogie boards, jet skis, sun shelters, deck chairs, bright towels and clothes.   They say it’s fun.

On the roads cars crawl bumper to bumper through dusty roadworks – highway duplications designed to bring yet more tourists to the coast.  Abutting the roads new housing estates are being constructed for those who desire a permanent sea change.    Shopping malls too.  Today in my neighbourhood residents are advised to seek alternate routes for a mass clearing of trees is taking place on the main road.  The clearing is to make way for another vast shopping mall.

In the mall constructed last year babies bawl and toddlers scream with rage as they are denied the toys and sweets they were showered with at Christmas.

They call it fun,
progress on steroids
– it’s getting hotter.




Towards the new year

So much of my creative energy during this past year has been spent reworking old ideas and finishing up old projects.  I haven’t been able to fully move on from them even though they have ceased to nourish my creative spirit.

Although events in my outer life have shifted I’ve been feeling stuck between the old and new.   Mid year I moved to a cottage in a part of the State I haven’t lived in before.  Although I’ve been out and about seeing new sights I haven’t really engaged with this new environment.  In private moments I find myself wishing I could go to the empty beaches and bush tracks I walked for so long and which are now so far away.

On lonely beaches
drumming in the solstice
– windswept prayers


Such a strange contrary urge for the old area had gone stale for me and doors were closing in my face left, right and centre.   I was totally ready to move on…

yet here I am – still not fully embracing the new.

Yesterday I got utterly sick of doing the same old same old.   During a break in the rain I jumped in my car and drove out to a nearby seaside town.   It is a town rich in history.  The streets are lined with beautiful old Victorian mansions and there is an atmosphere of grace and elegance to the place that is missing in many Australian towns.

Several galleries are dotted along the main street.   I visited one after the other.   In one I saw exquisite prints local artists had created in the printmaking studio behind the gallery.    In another I saw very commercial art that didn’t appeal to me yet was inspiring in its competence.   In the third I came across an exhibition of contemporary landscape painting.  Very small oil paintings in one uniform size lined a long wall of the gallery. The rest of the space contained one large painting, the gallery owner’s desk and a large storage area.

Walking the length of the gallery I stopped in front of each painting.   Because of their small size each little painting invited intimate inspection – a slowing down and taking the longer look.    By the time I retraced my footsteps and left the gallery I felt I’d had a meaningful and soulful conversation with a sensitive, creative soul.

In a reflective mood I returned to my car.   Rain was approaching and the first drops splattered across my windscreen as I drove to a lookout.    There I pulled out the new Smart Phone I got last week.   It was time I figured out how to take photos with it.

IMG_20181215_161456_278  The colours of the rain soaked landscape and unusual shapes of the old buildings captured my imagination.


The visual art I’d just seen had loosened something in my mind and the veil of the old that had been clouding my perception began to lift.   For the first time since moving here I began to get glimpses of how I can live and create in this new environment.

Moonlit solstice
lighting the way forward
– the old year ends




Snow on the Heartbreak Hills

Only two or three times in my life have I seen snow falling.   The last time was when I lived at the base of the Heartbreak Hills – so called for the heartbreak the early settlers experienced when they attempted to farm the barren slopes.

One cold winter’s morning  snow floated down whimsically as I drove up the hill to the university where I was doing the final year of a Visual Arts degree.  Outside my studio it had collected in tiny drifts in the gutters.  The studio was freezing so I went and stood in the rotunda to watch the spectacle instead of working.  The enigmatic man who was either the love of my life or a case of mistaken identity joined me. Snow fell in delicate flurries and landed on the pines that marked the perimeter of the campus.  Beyond them the Heartbreak Hills were transformed into a fantasy of tiered white mounds and indistinct dark shapes.

The art faculty was a weird place at the best of times – dreamers, fantasists and moody malcontents mused and brooded in its shadowy recesses.   In the snow we drifted into the silent voids and white spaces of our own interior landscapes.   Pretty girls danced past disguised as alpine damsels.  The boys beside them were indistinct cyphers in their heavy hooded jackets.   My grumpy supervisor appeared in a WW1 leather flying hat and thick fur lined gloves.   ‘Living in a winter wonderland’ he sang as he skipped into his office.   The enigmatic man beside me assumed a gallant, noble air as he escorted me to lunch in the cafeteria.

The day and the mood suited my purposes perfectly.   The theme of the art I was making was hybridity and the way we in the West think our cultural roots go straight back to ancient Greek when, really, they can be traced to many sources.   My theory work was going well but I was struggling to produce art that reflected this idea.   In the transformation of the physical environment people around me slipped out of context and revealed hidden aspects of their personality.  Soon after lunch the snow stopped falling and I went to my studio to paint.

The snow melted overnight.  The next day everyone reverted back to form and we all got on with our final semester’s work.   By the end of the year I had a body of work that supported my ideas and the enigmatic man had proved himself to be a case of mistaken identity.

Winter mountains –
swirling snow drifts  

– certainties shift

Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash



A memory #writephoto – hidden

I took one look at Sue Vincent’s photo prompt for this week and was immediately transported back in time to sunny days lazing about beside a river that looked very similar to the one in Sue’s photo.   The one main difference was that the buildings were much further away from the river I knew.


I haven’t thought of that place in years and years –

Back when my oldest kids were young my best friend owned an old farmhouse on a few acres on Melbourne’s fringe.   There was a tract of Crown Land beside her property that she was able to rent for just $8 a year.    A meandering river formed the far boundary of the portion she rented.

On warm sunny afternoons in the school holidays I would drive out to the farmhouse with my kids.    My friend’s kids were of a similar age to mine and attended the same alternate school.   They were great friends.   One of the skills they perfected at the alternate school was the making of the good ol’ Aussie damper made famous in old bush yarns.  The recipe is a simple one – add a pinch or two of salt to some flour, add water and mix to form a stiff dough.

As the more domesticated of our collection of wild children made up the dough my friend and I would gather up the other things we needed for our picnic – chiefly a water bottle, a box of matches and enough newspaper to get a fire going.

Once the dough was made my friend would pick up the mixing bowl and we’d set off.    First we walked through her garden where bees buzzed around scented flowers then we’d climb through a hole in the fence and set out across the Crown Land.   Here garden plants gave way to tall eucalypts and native grasses.    The two older boys in our midst led the way talking loudly about their derring-do on wild adventures that occurred mostly in their imagination.   The two older girls followed behind chatting in a learned fashion about books and romantic heroines.  Their hippy skirts trailed out around them as they swept grandly through the golden afternoon.   The two younger children walked closer to us and my friend and I slowed our walking pace to match theirs.

Down at the river the kids would clamber about on the rocks closest to the riverbank while my friend and I gathered firewood and built a little fire.  Once it had burned down to form a few coals we’d call the kids back to cook their damper.   This they did by wrapping the sticky dough around a stick and holding it out towards the fire.   With luck they’d cook this mess into something vaguely edible but more often than not they would sear the outside to black charcoal while the inside remained doughy.  Needless to say not much damper was actually consumed.   The picnic was more about being beside the river and forgetting about the outside world for a while.   Both my friend and I were sole parents so we both relished this time away from routines and work.

In my memory we spent many afternoons by the river but I think really we only went down there a handful of times.    I do remember the last time we went.    It was during a long summer drought so we didn’t light a fire.   The river had dwindled to a series of muddy puddles and the air was hot and dry.   We had taken the kids down that day simply to get away from our hot, stuffy houses.

Shortly after that visit both my friend and I went through major life changes which saw us both selling our houses and moving away.    It wasn’t so long after that either when my friend and her youngest child died in a terrible fire which burnt the old house they lived in to the ground.

Such are memories.

In my mind a lot that happened during that time has been buried under the weight of the years that followed.   My kids are grown now and the alternate school and hippy skirts were left behind long ago.    Occasionally we hear news of my friend’s two surviving children.  The pain of loss separated us years ago and we never found our way back to the easy connection we once had.

How strange that this memory should have unfolded so completely in response to Sue’s photo.  Visual images can lead us to some unexpected places.

How strange too that so much of it concerns fire – both the pleasant little cooking fires we can gather round and the out-of-control fires that sear our lives and changes things irrevocably.  My heart goes out to the people who have suffered so terribly in the Californian bushfires.   Having lived through some terrifying bushfires in Australia the photos I have been seeing of the California fires are all too real.   This morning I woke up thinking that perhaps it is time we turned to indigenous people and learnt from them about their cool burn methods of fire management.    I wrote about this earlier this year
Even more importantly we need to get serious about climate change and work together to bring about real change on this issue.


Light on tree ferns

2018-11-12 11.27.29-1-1-1

I find the play of light on tree ferns quite magical.   It is so easy to imagine fairies dancing around the fronds – even when the tree ferns grow in a park like these which I photographed today in the local Botanic Gardens.

2018-11-12 11.27.43-01

I took the photo below in a natural bush setting some years ago.   The magical feeling is even stronger.