Thursday, December 27, 2007

In which the sea is silent

There is light in abundance now, though there have been summer storms.
Entering the sea without a splash, I slip along the sandy bottom, holding onto the corrugations, until I am under and past the rolling swell, all scales shining, deep in the sea.

The sea speaks not.

I listen, and hear only the vague distant clinking of things colliding, the repeated hush, hush hush of waves rolling along the surface.
There is almost complete silence, and it seems at this minute, that it ever has been.

Are you there, I ask.

The sea speaks not.
I hear nothing.

From down here on the sandy floor, I look up towards the sky, with not much more than a sand whiting for company, and even it looks at me in a startled way with one big eye and swims off. The surface billows silver, from down here in the blue, and the sea speaking not a word. So silent. I hold my breath for quite some time.
Air flows from the lacy fronds in my chest, into the flow of my blood: tiny rivers. The quiet continues.

Boats drift across the horizon.

On my return to shore, I turn to see one green wave folding in on itself, the sun flashing through, curling along with its plume of white. I frame it between my two hands, and press it hard into a shape, a concentration of the green, and the light and the salt, and form it into a pointed thing, a shard, like a piece of the universe.
This shard I plunge it into my heart: I lodge it there, where it will be safe. I plunge it there, with all the grace I can summon. I don’t cry, like a child, I hold it there, firmly.
A sharp fragment of green, embedded in my heart. I feel it with each breath.
I will hold it there, ever onward.

I can wait, I tell the sea.

I turn to leave then, my footprints thread the sand , pocked from last nights rain.
At the top of the cliff I look over the horizon where a million silver suns are shining. The stone that seems to have found its way into the palm of my hand travels an arc as I throw it, all the way, into the surface of the silent sea.
The words I say unheard by all but wind and water.

I head up the hill for home

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Carols by Candlelight

The best way to travel around here is by ferry.
We are going to participate in some carolling, on a huge and spectacular scale.
Ordinarily not really somthing I would do, but hey...

there has just been a summer thunderstorm to clear the air,
and a warm breeze blows.

At one point in the journey through the Botanical Gardens, (Royal, no less)
I begin to wonder, where exactly I am, is this my dry hot town?
Rain returns and makes the world green. For a moment I dream I am by the Thames again, at Sion House.

This peculiar sensation continues, even in the presence of the Surly child.
We seem to be in a dream-state. Warm breath rises from the garden beds.

We make camp near the Art gallery. On dusk the thousands of fruit bats lift from their homes in the trees in the Botanical Gardens, and take to the air. They all have a foraging place, some where. Some are on the way to my house for the night, to feast on my banksias.

The moon watches.

Fireworks are sure to clear the air of any bats who have been tardy in getting away...

and even the surly one is softened by Away in the Manger. She sings, she smiles, she manages not to turn anyone into stone with her gaze.
Who'd have thought. It must be Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

december here

The world is full of colour now. Cicadas sing their raucous chorus, Heat rises from the wondrously damp ground: it rains.
The eucalypts are washed, jacaranda and agapanthus shine their violet-blue.

I drive along Barrenjoey road, through Bilgola bends, summer washes over me. The scrub by the side of the road still smells like bright light there.
The light enters me , and shines until my chest hurts.
I am immersed in December: once, it was my favourite time. I feel ambiguous towards it now.Sometimes it breaks my heart completely.

The season for presents: in the spirit of things, I give out trees.
Banksia Spinulosa: even in infancy, their upward reach has such integrity.
All the corporate gifts are trees, I make a comments about "projected growth" on the little cards. The company celebration is by the harbour, on a wharf. The night is sultry. My face is made of glass.
The corporates smile at their little trees.

My mother is ill. She seems the same on the outside, but inside is a potentially explosive thing. She has gone about organising her business, and instructing me what to do with her things. She has given me goggle-eyed Santa, which is older than me, its origins somewhere in Antiquity. I remember goggle-eye santa from when I was a baby, but he wasn't my favourite.

Goggle-eyed Santa now belongs to me.

There will be surgery for the mother, on Tuesday.

She has also given me this snow bauble. inside is a sleigh,deer, snow. It is hanging on my tree, next to goggle eye and the bird. I take care so that none drop onto the floor, which is wooden, and not a surface for colliding with, if you are an antiquated bauble.

Elsewhere is bitterly cold: this is the hot, blue, singing world, here, where I am.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

summer fish, winter fish

December 8th, 2007.
8am, GMT,
7pm, Eastern Summer time.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

indigo sea

It is hot in my studio, storms roll by.
I am using indigo pigment to make pictures:
My hands and face are blue.
I think of flower buds and lighthouses and faraway headlands.

It may just be the indigo in my eyes,
But I feel very much like crying.

Monday, December 3, 2007


I had been thinking that things would be alright, when I ventured forth into the deep.
It rained in sheets, and the sea, dark green, was warm and silky, yet rose and tossed about.

I headed for the northern headland, below, kelp rose from dark places dimly lit.
All Bronze Whalers lay timid and quiet, hidden in even darker clefts, fearing the noise and commotion above.
In the shelter of the cliffs, the water shifted about, more restless than malign.

I thought I passed my love, sitting on a peak of water, feet trailing: I ran a finger along the sole of his foot, he smiled.
Fish bright, I spun into the open sea.

I had been mistaken, the sea was spiteful, and pulled me this way, cackling and shrieking with that familiar pitch: a warning not to take anything for granted. I knew then I was foolish.

Firmly, the water pulled, and when I made to look up to the horizon, dark waves blocked my view.
Oh, the water was soft and warm, but cruel, tried to pull me down, bend my bones, thrust me sideways. Always the sandy bed shifting one way, and then another, shadows in the dim.
Entangled and trapped, nevertheless,
like all good fish, I continued, and all the way, was pulled and tossed. It is dark, in the open sea, the surface spined with silver where the rain drives in, the fresh rain lying on the surface like a blanket.

At the edge I find
the longest piece of seaweed in all the world, torn from the rock garden by the whim of the water. I drag it up, and make a wreath on the sand. An offering.

I know you're there, I call, silently. You are with me always. I will never give up

I walk up the wet sand, and away.
The ocean fills my every space.

Friday, November 30, 2007

the academic year is over...


Four hundred and fifty assessments to grade
takes a long

when one of them
has three components.which makes another fourhundredandfifty, and I'm not even good at numbers.

Here are some pictures to look at.

a bernard palissy plate

blue sky in glasgow

horrid boots in Russia

perhaps a decent post might get written soonish.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Friend Jane

My friend miss jane the bowerbird is a very talented little friend.

Being the Bowerbird she is, she will swoop upon and seize the smallest scrap of plastic waste. She will leap from a moving car for a bottle lid. Run bravely through lanes of traffic to secure a broken plastic toy. The eyes light up when they see the small stash of plastic I may have gleaned for her. For she is not only a bowerbird, but an artiste. One with the assemblage skills of a reconstructive surgeon, I might add.

So it was with enormous delight that, in the first leg of the Sculpture by the sea walk, that her beautiful wreath installation swung into view, lit by the sun on a grassy slope overlooking the sea. It was an absolute festival of children, who were examining each wreath with the wonderment and interest that they usually reserve for that chocolate display right next to the cash register in the supermarket: the one with the seductive sparkly rainbow colours.

Each wreath, using discarded waste materials, commemorates all the public gardens which no longer exist in sydney, due to the drought, to water restrictions, to global warming. And not only that, she has given workshops to little children AND provided a catalogue of all the pieces....which are so funny...she should write copy!

All this, and can surf too.
On her very pretty surfboard, which, I believe, matches her swimming costume, so she is quite the visual spectacle in real life too.

Bravo, Miss Jane!
Visit her via the link: This Bower My prison, at right.

(its late, and I cant find my linking code)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

fish times two

So, I am a northern/southern fish now, with head in one and tail in the other.
So clever, this duality. When the sun shines, it really is night.
When the leaves are bursting with unaccustomed rain, they are also yellowing simultaneously, falling from the trees, onto the heads of those who stand beneath them. How very kind of the weather her in the south: the heatwave took a few steps back, and ushered in eight days of rain, to keep me within the sheltering grey canopy of sky.

Such sights my eyes have witnessed. Even the world, in its state of flux, can remain fixed in some way: I can still stand in front of a Mark Rothko and feel distance falter, an embrace of something vast, the wide warm breeze of my past.

I can smile in recognition at renaissance paintings at the National Gallery. Perhaps now I read them in a different way, but all the times I have stood here occur simultaneously. I feel like a spy, taking pictures, since I am not allowed, but I do anyway.
Veronese. He liked blondes, so maybe that is why I like him. Possibly, it seems a reasonable enough excuse to like an artist.
Something which strikes me in the National Gallery is the range of people. Naturally, there are eight million tourists of all nationalities, but there are also business men in their lunchbreak, bankers walking about together discussing paintings. I spend much time looking at all the people, listening to them talk.

In the Victoria and Albert, lurking in various corners, there are other kindred madpersons, scribbling and painting. We smile in recognition. One mirror image of myself, painting a splendid little 13th century madonna in painted wood, just looked up from her work and into my eyes, saying "she has been in my head for this past eight months... I had to come and do something with her..." and of course, i knew what she meant, having just sought out Beatrice in glass, for the very same reason.

Very hard it is to attend to the small matter of grading assessments at the moment, a mountain of them, when I am so distracted by thoughts and visions of faraway places, and those who dwell there.

Monday, November 5, 2007


The world is so big I seem to have no words for it.
Having been out there in it, I feel strangely silenced.

I journeyed forth and found myself in places I would never have expected, l
it with lights I never knew were burning,
whipped by wind I never knew could blow.

To travel so far and find my own self standing on some quiet shore, to hear my own footsteps clatter along the streets of unknown places, to gaze at the universe within a Victorian glass perfume bottle in a dusty vitrine: these things need to settle in my head.

I opened my mouth, and all my words have blown away.

For the time being.

Friday, November 2, 2007

in THIS life

In a wonderful adventure, somewhat like a chapter from the magic faraway tree, this fish found itself adventuring to the real-life home of the Life family. Tis an amazing thing to do, for certain.
People have asked me what have been the highlights of my trip, and I would have to say my encounterings of people, really.
Scotland is the most wonderful place, it is like a place only ever imagined, except that it is real and all around you. the Scots folk are extraordinary, really. Ones you know, and ones you don't. Folk in the street, in homes, in places. My visit to the home of dear Isabelle was one of my highlights.
Interesting how you can tell almost exactly what a person is like: Isabelle is as sweet and lovely as I had imagined.
Sometimes too, there is a surprise that one does not expect. In this case, I encountered a person so beautiful that I have thought of her often since, and she has made me smile, this Daughter Life. She is one of those characters from literature and history who would be described as pure and good. Her face shines with the passion of her beliefs, and her pathos and kindness, it is lit with her goodness.
I know instinctively that she would shy away from attention of this sort, but I was so impressed with her that my thoughts keep returning to the lives of the cold and poor in eastern Europe, those for whom she has done much. I felt the world was a nicer place for me having discovered her in it.
Cassie and Sirius, the most loved cats in Scotland, appeared to love her almost as much as they loved Mr life and Isabelle. And so grown up they are getting. (next thing they will be off for university before you know it, clever and cute they are.)

Sometimes you read about a family so lovely they seem too perfect.
I am happy to report that everything about the Life residence is even nicer in real life: Thanks for you wonderful hospitality you gorgeous persons and catlets!

So, now to plot and plan my return. Edinburgh a fine and beautiful place by moonlight, Glasgow wild and wicked: somehow, I have to get back.

So when the water became dark enough, the fish headed right down to the bottom where it could no longer see.

I told you, said the ocean, that I would be here all along, just blacker in this form.
Its embrace was like ice.

Armed with new scales the colour of winter, the fish curved its body into an arc and shot to the surface, flew in to the sky and with an immense flick of the tail turned into a bright hard point of light which settled on the surface of the sea.

We shall love each other for ever, the water and the fish could be heard to say, wherever we are on the globe.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

just a thought

This is Vladimir Nabokov's actual typewriter.

He also collected butterflies, and these are his own authentic specimens, displayed in his own house, which is still inhabited by Nabokovs upstairs. I found myself there, having taken a wrong turn.

What meaning have these literary artefacts ?
I could only venerate them as objects in their own right, they seem not to add to my reading of any of his novels.


Sunday, October 14, 2007


Sankt-Peterburg is a constant amazement, inside and out. Much of its beauty only recently re-emerging into public view.

Most of the churches are desanctified, though. There isn't much religion here, but I beleive you can hear mass at St Catherines.

Always a beautiful face everywhere you look, angels on the street and in the air.

and angels buying ballet tickets, with their mothers. How lovely he is. Look at that face, no wonder mothers so love their sons.
I miss mine.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

in which the fish surfaces in the River Neva

By the time I came to the surface, I found myself to be a long, long way from home, the water dark and cold, my scales lost their silver and become shades of black and green.
I shook myself off, and set about adventuring.

I knew where I was immediately.

In the Hermitage, I whiled away six hours, goggling my wide eyes at every turn. I didn't even cover half the collection. I lurked in the lesser visited rooms, and discovered quiet treasures.

Having been thus dazzled, I was given to thinking that had I, once upon a time, glanced into these rooms agilt and dazzling, clutching my scrap of potato in my hand, and seen these wonders, I may have had thoughts of a revolution too.
But that's just me.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

in which the fish laughs

"You do look your very most splendid",
said the fish to the sea,
"I am overwhelmed to be leaving you: almost entirely, but not quite".

"Oh, but you are not leaving me", said the sea, with a whisper like fizz in the azure light of day,
you are not. I am with you always, in manner of speaking.
Perhaps not in my grasp, as I would like, but I will seize you as I wish,
if I wish, if I wish",

said the sea.

But the fish slip-silvered away,
laughing with glee
and was gone in the flick of a tail.

and a sillier fish
you never will see.

Photos: Playing, by fifi and jane Bowerbird.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

If you have ever had a months worth of Very Important Things to do and only five days in which to do them, you may know how I feel.
It probably doesn't help that it is very necessary to maintain a facade of being completely in control of everything.
But it isn't nice to be waking at 4am hyperventilating as you realise yet another potential crisis you hadn't planned on.


I am trying my best to keep calm. I can't now even comfort myself with the vision of myself standing in one of the corridors of The Hermitage. I am sliding into panic mode.
Here it is 28 degrees and the light as bright and sharp as ever it could be, and the floor of the ocean visible through its turquoise curtain. The flags are out, the shark net bobbing around in the blue, swimmers lazily lapping out there for fun, all the way. The biannual Music festival on the beach almost here, the lifeguard returned and ready in place for drownings.
Russia and Glasgow seem like figments of my imagination. Actually, I myself am starting to feel like a figment of my own imagination.

I have cooked 7 dinners and only 20 more to freeze. I have ordered lunches, booked babysitters and cleaners. Obtained copyright to use the images in my paper. Almost finished editing. Written course content. Locked all my assessment marks i my office and givn away the key.Bought small plastic bottles and a little travel clock. I have not finished writing ALL course content. I haven't graded the 120 assessment tasks from three weeks ago.I haven't written the extensive instructions manuel. I havent checked whether I will be presenting using windows or mac. I haven't timed the latest version of my paper. I haven't checked to see wher my polarfleece hat is. I haven't bought locks for my bag so I don't get drugs and bombs in my luggage. I haven't photocopied the work I wish to take. I haven't decided whether to buy some civilised clothes to wear in scotland or just look like an uncivilised idiot. So much to do. So little time.

Her are your presents. You may choose which things are yours,

Friday, September 28, 2007


this is a going-away-party, and I is handing out some presents.

books for ampersand duck and meli, (look at the cover!) and for Pavlov if she comes by,

shells and blossoms and stones, for jane and 3rdcat, and for arcturus the feather, to hold onto and fly, for shauny the smooth rock from the south coast.

The grevillea is for isabelle, tho she may think them prickly, and for meggie who will love them, and Jelly who may be home soon.
Perhaps Babby for Shoufay though I wish I could give her more,

for the new guys, the laughing one and shula and suse, for rise and molly, precious from the sea,

for little thing, this perfect day, and for Ganching also, who likes a nice view.

some treasure for everyone.
Sorry if your'e left off, I am very sleepy.