On the 26th January, the Gnome Convention was held at Glenbrook Park. This annual event is put on by the Rotary Club of the lower Blue Mountains and we look forward to it all year!
It is whimsy at it’s best. We were entertained by the extraordinary bush poet, Greg North. If you haven’t experienced his act, you are missing out! Check him out here!
Brendan Kerin had us enthralled with not only his music, but stories. Did you know that the Didgeridoo’s actual name is Yidaki? It originated from the top half of Australia and was named the Didgeridoo later on as that is the sound it seemingly makes.
We bought Gnome Hats, and had a grand time amongst the gnomes and fairies. It is my birthday today, and I bought this delightful Green Man incense burner (the smoke comes out of his head) for $15. We all need whimsy in our lives, and knowing that the money raised goes to charity is extra incentive to get your gnoming game on!
It’s almost time to get back into the craziness of Term 1 of Homeschooling. We have had many days at home, decluttering and organizing, reading and resting. One of my daughter’s friends came to stay for a few days, and my heart nearly flipped out of my chest when I heard them talk as we went for a walk. They chatted about how they were both their mum’s last chance. How we were both down to one follicle. They talked about being miracles. I am glad they both understand that they truly are! Sydney has been hit with many days of searing temperatures, and we have sought comfort in the southerly winds offered by the coastline.
There have been a few visits to Luna Park. I purchased an annual pass for my daughter a few months back, and it has proven it’s worth. She can enjoy the rides and then swim next door in Nth Sydney pool to cool off afterward. If I go once a month, it works out to $8 a visit. At the back of Luna Park, you can walk to Lavender Bay, and visit Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden. On the way, you will uncover treasures such as these.
We took some little fairies there to replace those that were pinched behind magical little doors. It seems they have gone again, but I will continue to replace them when I go there. It’s a bit like life; your gifts may be stolen or crushed, but you keep on getting up and giving it all that you have. You must.
A friend was bitten by a bee at Luna Park the other day. I thought she was having a lend for a split second, as you don’t expect to find a bee by the water! She wanted me to pull out the stinger, but I thought I might make a hash of it, so we hurried to the First Aid room. The first aid lady was efficient and friendly, and as the stinger was taken out of her neck, I assured my friend that it was good luck to be stung and it meant she was incredibly sweet!
My daughter and I have met all kinds of characters on our city adventures. She complimented a fellow on his bright hand-painted shirt and it turned out he was an artist from the Southern Highlands. We waved at the lucky travellers on a cruise ship as our ferry went by, and met a lovely elderly man who comes down to Circular Quay most days to watch the boats and people. On Saturday, I dropped my daughter’s friend back into the city to meet her parents, and the girls noticed that a sky-writer had written TRUMP in large letters, spearing the blue film above us. This started a diatribe from the ten and eleven year old’s, unscripted and delighting everyone waiting to cross at the lights. Many were women on their way to march at Hyde Park. I am glad our young girls have a voice, and feel able to use it. I am glad that they can debate and know that their opinions shall be valued.
January has been a time of crushed ice, cold drinks, cold packs and swimmers. It has been a time of parades at Luna Park, park dates, pools and oceans. It has been a pilgrimage or two to the Secret Garden and dancing to buskers we meet. In Melbourne, it has been a time of mourning. Sydney stands with you in your grief over what occurred in the Bourke St Mall. I hope you can feel the solidarity. There but for grace and timing, go any of us day-trippers, who think nothing of walking along a boulevard or mall. Now more than ever, we have to hold onto one another. To donate to the appeal for victims of this travesty, click here.
I had the privelage of meeting two of the warmest and gentlest people at the beginning of the year. Cristina is a felt artist from Chile who met her beau in a wondrous collision of fate, and together, they run The Magic Weave. They asked me up to The Creative Arts Centre in Glenbrook to partake in needle felting recently. Though I was excited, I was worried my non-existent sewing skills may let me down. To my delight, there was no sewing required! It was meditative, working the fibres with the needle, before turning them into gnomes, snowmen and angels. Cristina had the packs ready and waiting, and the whole process was like witnessing magic!
There is such joy in learning a new craft, and I must say, I never knew I could be skilled with a needle and pile of wool and felt! Cristina and her partner, Frank, are excellent teachers. If I can pick it up in a few hours, so can you! I hope you get the opportunity to visit them in the lower Blue Mountains and catch one of their classes.
When our children went to home school classes run by Casula Powerhouse, we would gather at the coffee shop. Some of the parents would seize the opportunity to do their work on laptops. Some brought their textbooks along and studied. Some would sit and chat over coffee, and some would walk by the river. One of our group organized for anyone interested to go to pottery classes whilst our kids were in classes. Brilliant! Here is what I have learnt.
It requires more focus than you first realize. You have to work the clay with your hands, deliberately and with intent.
Ladies who gather around a mound of clay talk about a wild myriad of subjects, and it feels like sharing your soul with your tribe.
Things go awry, and it’s okay. Legs wobble, bowls are misshapen, and dishes crack when fired.
It is nerve-wracking to send your baby to it’s first firing. You also learn the fine art of surrendering when you relinquish your object to the kiln after glazing. You have no idea if it shall survive. Indeed, you have no idea what colours it shall be, nor the depth of those colours.
The image of what you wish to create often differs from what is done!
Scooping up your pieces of pottery-which cracked in the kiln-you are awestruck at their beauty, and imagine what you can create with them.
Pottery is a metaphor for life. We start off with an idea of what we can create, and do our level best to make it happen. Circumstances change, people have their turn shaping the clay and there is mess. We put the rearranged piece in the kiln and hope for the best, knowing we have done all we can. We read the colour on the bottle of glaze, and try to imagine how it shall look, before spreading it on in liberal strokes. Whatever we end up with, we take pride in having created it with our own hands, however wonky it may be. Life is pretty much like that. If we wanted cookie-cutter perfection, we would have to look to mass-production, and life shouldn’t be like that.
I was asked along to a talk at the North Sydney Community Centre this past week, to hear Wendy Whiteley and the esteemed journalist, Janet Hawley, talk about the paradise behind the lush tome, Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden. Janet has written a heartfelt and intelligent book about her friend, and also of the remarkable history of Lavender Bay. Jason Busch’s photography is outstanding! It is the ultimate coffee table book. Wendy appeared first, her hair wrapped in an elegant black scarf, a sprig of lavender pinned to her jumper. She had a commanding presence, and hypnotic crystal-blue eyes. Janet Hawley sat next to her, an elfin lady with a dulcet voice, and to our delight, Costa Georgiadis from Gardening Australia was the interviewer. He confessed that he had only been to the garden for the first time the day before. He had fallen under it’s spell in an instant, and plans to help out there for many a year to come.
The garden in question was started over twenty years ago, after personal tragedy touched the artist and muse’s life. Wendy’s husband, the great artist Brett Whiteley,died in 1992, after which Wendy turned her attentions to the wasteland in front of her home. Her daughter, Arkie, was an ethereal spirit, and fine actress. She encouraged her mother’s endeavors; buying her plants for the project. Tragically, she succumbed to adrenal cancer. Losing her only child saw Wendy turn to the garden once more, for comfort and reprieve from the agony of her loss. The garden was built on land adjoining Wendy’s home, which was owned by Rail Corp and later leased to North Sydney Council. It was neglected and overgrown with weeds. Wendy used her own money to turn it into paradise. Visitors from all over the world come to relax in this spectacular garden, and all that is asked is that they’re respectful and take their rubbish when they depart.
In a sensible outcome, the State Government has extended the lease to thirty years, with a thirty year rollover clause. Wendy would love to be given assurance that a stable of sturdy volunteers shall keep up the garden after she departs, putting in money, resources and time. She needs to have a website constructed, so that people can have a central point to gather information and leave feedback. The Secret Garden will also require a generous soul to manage its social media. This glorious garden is her gift to Sydney. I believe that a dream team of volunteers shall come forth, and help out in the decades to come. I hope that the State Government can commit in the longer term to her vision regarding the necessity of parkland by Sydney Harbor, to bring in tourists and for the pleasure of locals. How awful it would be if Sydney were to lose it’s soul to developments suffocating every square patch of green land. It was a daring act by Wendy, to create our first guerrilla garden, and I am in awe of her commitment. She turned a wasteland into a place brimming with life, and her grief into an exquisite garden. I shall never forget meeting the iconic Sydney artist with the hypnotic blue eyes and the wondrous Janet Hawley.
I had always loved felting, and longed to learn how to do it. It was one of those things you have a curiosity about, and throw on your bucket list. After twenty years of hankering, I finally had the opportunity to do something about it! There I was at the Gnome Convention in January,when I felt pulled toward a market stall, selling the most beautiful felt angels and castles. I got talking to the felt artist, Cristina, and she offered to come to my home to hold a workshop. I turned over her details many times, keeping the slip of paper on my desk. Life was busy as usual, and I became annoyed with myself as the weeks passed. I had to get over my mental block, and stop seeing holding a workshop as an indulgence. It’s silly, the limits we put on ourselves! I contacted Cristina, and a date was arranged.
Cristina and her partner, Frank, came early one Sunday morning, and I felt as though I had known them forever, such was the ease of our conversation. The other attendees arrived, and we began. We concentrated on wet felting. I felt the stress leave my body as I arranged felt onto a line of bubble wrap. There were no other thoughts, nor anything to do, other than gently playing with the fibers, in order to make them compliant to being styled. The ladies shared experiences and laughed as we rolled our precious bundles of wet felt.
It was a tremendous thrill to make something with our own hands! Hands which spend their days working, gardening, hugging, picking up after others, cleaning and generally being of service. Those hands were on their own time, and they were creating pretty and colorful felting! We shared stories, and our eyes welled up upon hearing Frank and Cristina’s love story.
Cristina also showed us how to make flowers, balls and jewelry. It is the start of a beautiful friendship, and I am going to attend more of her workshops in the future. To see what all the excitement is about, visit Cristina’s Etsy shop.
I was able to take what I learned and show my daughter, much to Cristina’s delight. It is her dearest wish that her knowledge be passed on and the art of felting continue for a very long time. Seek out an artist at your local markets and adopt them! It is one of the best things I have ever done!
It was as much my daughter’s day as it was mine. A day of remembrance. To contemplate what was taken and what has in turn been bestowed. She has had her life altered as a result of that July 25th long ago. This term, I can’t commit to taking her to drama classes in the city, as I have to attend to this chronic pain once and for all, and have viable pain management strategies in place. She doesn’t complain when I can’t take her out, nor does she wonder why I fall silent on the way home after a long day. She comforts me when she sees the mask fall and views the agony in my face. I haven’t been able to do all that I want with my daughter as money has gone on maintaining my health. I can’t run like other mothers, nor skate or ride horses with her. Her life has been shaped in so many ways by what happened to me. I didn’t tell her the date’s relevance, yet she knew it was a big, important date.
Being a ham, she had to strut into a bank through its turning doors, pretending to be a banker. To the mirth of the employees, she shouted, “this isn’t my jam!” and ran out. She then discovered this chess set, and was annoyed that a King was overtaking the others. She sought to rectify things.
We spent the afternoon hanging out, having fun. I have learnt that it does no good to not acknowledge the memories, nor try to have an ordinary day on the anniversary. What I needed was to see beauty; to be pulled out of my own mind. It helped!
As we left home at noon, I was flooded by intense gratitude. All those years ago, I would have given anything for what I was able to do this particular morning. Wake in a comfy bed in a secure home, then shower and dress. Have a nutritious breakfast and a pitcher of water. To look forward to the day. All the things you take for granted… As dusk fell over the city, winter began to bite, and I felt the cells in my body grow anxious. Dusk was when the final torment began. We walked to the Lyric Theatre, and stood enjoying the celebrities walk the red carpet, my daughter eating a croissant. I lovingly brushed the pastry flakes from her hair, and tried to avoid embarrassing her by crying out of sheer and giddy joy.
The award show surpassed all expectation. It was thrilling to see Matilda receive thirteen awards. The Australian Theatre for Young People won an award for the sublime Sugarland. Supporting the Arts is incredibly important. It takes us out of the everyday, into a world of unequal splendor. It is no coincidence that musicals hit the height of their popularity during the Great Depression and wartime. We need to transcend the drudgery once in a while. We need the Arts to give us different perspectives and to provide commentary on the times we live in. Griffin Theatre’s The Bleeding Tree won Best Play, and when accepting the award, it was hoped that the piece about domestic violence would be viewed in the future with a shaking of the head, and the utterance of “this is how it was back then.”
When Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director, Stephen Page was honoured the JC Williamson Award, his speech left us spellbound. There were magical performances from musicians, musicals and dance companies. Water escaped my eyes and I gave thanks that I got to see this night of celebration, and as I slumbered that evening, July 26th rolled around without fan fair. I also got to see the dawn. The evening reinforced that we must tell our stories, not only for our own sake, but for everyone’s. I look forward to somebody in the future stumbling across my work and saying ‘things were different back then! Thank goodness we live in better times.’ Times when perfect storms in a young person’s life are abated, before they are consumed by a wave. We are on our way. No more secrets, nor hiding of abuse.
If you have a painful anniversary coming up, I would advise you to acknowledge it. Write about it, or create art around it. Plan a special day with loved ones who get it. If that’s not possible, then go out by yourself. Eat and drink delicious things. View beautiful things. Talk to strangers. Whatever you do, don’t curl up alone with the memories. In my view, such a day has to be tempered by art; it’s potency diluted by loveliness.
When I need my courage strengthened, I intend to go to the Art Gallery of NSW to see Frida’s paintings, letters and photographs.That steely gaze is affirming for this gal. Fortunately, my daughter adores her as much as I, and indulges me. Whatever will I do when the exhibition eventually closes? I will have to absorb as much courage, conviction and Frida as I can, whilst her glorious work is here.
When I was seventeen, I was informed that I would be crippled and then die if I didn’t have risky surgery. I hadn’t had time to digest this information when I came across the extraordinary visage of Frida, gazing at me from the newspaper. I cut out the story, continually gazing at her face. ‘The Broken Column’ spoke of my own wounds. I couldn’t believe that a woman from another era had captured my experience. She was a storyteller of the highest order, unafraid of revealing her pain. She touched death with each stroke of her brush. All the things we commonly run from, she embraced. I had found my heroine. When I heard that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s work was coming to the Art Gallery of NSW, I could hardly breathe. I had waited twenty years for this moment. I took my daughter, and she was as entranced as I. She knew how much Frida has meant to her mum! We stood in silence at each painting, holding hands. Frida inspired me to paint my body cast. Rather than viewing it with disdain, my former cocoon was kept out of respect.
Frida was unafraid of confronting what would ordinarily remain hidden. She paved the way for a legion of young women. I remain in her debt.