Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Playing the pipe organ

In the babasiga blog I wrote that I would post something here about music, so here goes.

Recently I visited St Paul's Cathedral, an Anglican church right in the heart of the Melbourne, opposite Flinders Street Railway Station. Their pipe organ and choir are renowned for excellence in maintaining the musical traditions of Europe. The organ has four keyboards for the hands and a pedal board for the feet, was built in England, shipped to Melbourne and first played there in 1891, renovated and fully restored in 1990 back in England again!

Now the accompaniment of hymns using an organ is common in the main churches in Geelong, though not all of us have expensive pipe organs. I play an organ or piano on Sundays - but easy ones, though at times I have played the majestic big brother of one. And Faure, Saint-Saens, Albinoni can sound fantastic. BUT - this instrument has problems - I. it dominates the style of music and 2. it depends upon specialists to play it. Not many kids are learning the pipe organ these days to take the place of the oldies.

Because I like to hear the human voice, I sometimes stop playing for a verse. Though people sing on, some tend to worry that the electricity has gone ka-foot or I've collapsed, but then I tune in on the last note of the verse and we all carry on tunefully.

Okay, I'll get on my high horse another time about other kinds of music for churches.

There are mistakes in the pictures here - can you spot them?
Not just the coffee spot, but the pipes are upside down, and the choir does not have girls or women! Hmmm.

Cropping, negative, playing with photo-edit

Using a couple of the pictures I posted this week on Babasiga and here, I tried to get different compositions, and shapes. I guess if I had photo-shop I would never get any housework done at all! In earlier times I used a photocopier a lot, enlarging, cropping, finding new shapes, then making a new painting. But that certainly takes time. I like to start with 'reality' then find abstract shapes and textures eventually.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fyansford near Geelong

Just near near Geelong is a very hilly location named Fyansford, with a tiny river with two bridges. The Cement Factory is above this little hamlet, the chimneys now knocked down.

Nostalgia and my Mallee family

I found a photograph of my Mum. Also a painting I did of my Mum's father when I was a kid. It's out of proportion I now realize. He was sitting by the fire with our pet dog Tip in my parent's home. I was about fifteen when I painted it - a long time ago!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Another poem for Daffodil Day

Here is a poem I wrote about my brother Douglas a few years ago. It is relevant to Daffodil Day when we siblings were asked to consider taking part in a bone marrow transplant, but in the end it was too late anyway.

You and I
I received a phone call last night
You know what is was about
I am afraid for you and for me
You love life, walking amongst timber
I feel your night pain tied to tubes
You smile your confident smile
I am not so sure, not sure at all
You haven’t read the literature
I have read a fraction
You have ten per cent chance they say
I can give you that chance
You can take the running on zero white cells
I am a person who freaks out in imagining
You are in the present tense
I am in the future
You trust implicitly in men of knowledge
I fear the professor and his students
You act jolly with nurses and their rhythms
I just look through the 10th floor window
You say it’s a beautiful day outside
I see pollution, nuclear testing, disease
You and your children phone me expectantly
I love you, don’t get me wrong
You wait patiently still running on empty
I cannot look you in the eye if I refuse.

When the doctor brings the test results
the wife disbelieves, turns away,
cleans the house.
The mother demands answers, gossips,
chills with her words.
The daughter shouts knowledge, reads,
compares, is angry.
I the sister question the future,
am breathless in empathy.
The patient knows, accepts,
watches football, is silent.

Stump-jump - a poem

from Wendy
I wrote this a while ago, and am not sure if I have already posted it. It relates to an earlier post on Mallee gum trees.


The stump-jump plough lies rusting
near hard Mallee roots,
knotted and dark-red as dried blood,
a mound where the dust settles
after a storm rolls in.

In the town the priest puts away golf-clubs,
genuflects before he sits down
at the mahogany desk to write,
“Now who can tell me the way to Babylon?’

These are hard dry people
used to dry hard times,
immoveable as mallee roots,.
Dare he jump over them
as the plough did
in earth-breaking days?

He is city soft, cushioned as thistledown,
or occasionally a tumbling thorn-bush
swept by the North wind.
Mismatched, they pass one another.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Four gum trees near the bus stop

We were discussing eucalypts lately so I drew four gum trees two minutes away from our home, while I waited for the bus. I did a quick pen sketch, then later at home I copied it using coloured pencils - orange, brown, blue, black - but my scanner thought it was black and white, which is unusual as the scanner usually behaves nicely!

That's our house with the TV antenna. A kind of Californian bungalow, but fake brick. A former owner gave it the pretentious name of 'The Manor' which it is not!
I heard a super discussion on the ABC radio this morning about two kinds of middle to upper-class people - the culturalists and the materialists. Not the very very rich, just the professionals and others who probably have mortages. The materialists have super silvery clean huge houses with kitchens like science laboratories, like some of the Macmansions that are mushrooming in the newer suburbs or town houses and gentrification in the inner suburbs. The culturalists have books, travel artifacts, herbs and spices hanging in kitchens, rugs from Persia, real or not, and I suppose a kind of bohemian ambience. Well, we are certainly not in a Macmansion. I suppose lots of second-hand junk and colour around puts us into the culturalist league! Plus computers and some high-tech. Though not upper-class!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Daffodil Day Poem by Janine

Each year Daffodil Day promotes awareness of cancer and one of my friends, Janine wrote this beautiful poem which was awarded 2006 Poetry Outstanding Entry.

Janine McGinness-Whyte
On seeing your chair

That huge green recliner
You could fall asleep in

Drink an afternoon beer
And study the form guide

A memory rouses-
Of shifting the furniture

To find shards of glass born
From your hand’s broken clasp

You hid the evidence
Like a guilty child

My honest father, lying,
That he had bitten his tongue

Denying the tumour
That slurred speech

And allowed cups of amber
To smash on the tiles

Judge's CommentsProust once said that writing is like a telescope, bringing the distant close. In general, this is true of memory, and I think it is specifically true of Janine McGinness-Whyte’s poem. Recalling a domestic incident, the poet enlarges, and brings into clear focus, the character of the father who is mourned. The short rather sharp lines, and diction, enhance the shard-like properties of loss, shattered glass and memory. Judge Jennifer Harrison.

A writers' gig in Melbourne

As part of the Melbourne Writers' Festival, the students of the Box Hill Institute ran a program with readings, discussions on landscape, the body, horror, grunge. I went along and there were a few oldies there, but mainly young people in their twenties including a Fiji-Indian girl, Vandana Chand, who now lives in Melbourne. She read a beautiful piece of writing about memories and imagination. I quietly did some pics of Rachel Mathews, Helen Milte Bastow, Barry Dickens, Paul Haines and Cameron Rogers.
The strongest piece of writing for me was by Maree Eggleston, a true story published in an anthology about midwives.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Nostalgia - the Mallee tree

They say one-fifth of Australia used to be covered in mallee gum trees. Now, even the area we call Mallee - north-western Victoria - is rather bare. The roots are large, very hard and good for firewood. I have lovely mallee root bookends given to me by a friend Mima, but the wood is generally too hard to carve. The first picture is of a typical mallee tree, the kind near my hometown of Swan Hill. The second picture is of a stump-jump plough - in my grandfather's time, invented so that farmers wouldn't damage their ploughs. Peceli used to say that Mallee farmers were like mallee roots, very strong, resilient, and that you don't bash into them, but like that plough, just ride along with them without damaging yourself in the process! For six years Peceli was a minister at Hopetoun, a memorable time with inspirational and friendly wheat farmers. They are having a rough time this year as the rains came one week, but barely at all since then.

Green Turtle Dreaming art exhibition

I visited the Green Turtle Dreaming exhibition at the Geelong Art Gallery as soon as it opened last week, intent to see how artists depicted this important subject. It's really beautiful with detailed paintings, story-telling, drawings of related arts and crafts, music.

Over five years a connection has been made between Eastern Indonesia and Northern Australia following the migration of the green turtle. Men and women from the various communities have written legends and stories about the turtle, stories of resilience, betrayal, vulnerability. The project commenced as part of an Asia-Link campaign to connect the communities.

Isn't it lovely to forget South East Asian politics and think differently!

The pics are of the three artists, and part of one of the paintings.

A consequence of the project has been the creation of education kids, choreographed interpretations, performances of the music at a Rainforest Festival and it will go on.

In the Present Tense - panic

Here's something for Moody, after reading his story of lifts and stairwells with a group of Japanese students visiting Sydney.

In the gleaming silver foyer of a Melbourne tower, I stand outside the lift waiting. I have a consultancy task with two people who are on Floor Twenty three. Waiting for the lift to come to Ground Level.

I am in the toilet of an unfamiliar building. Two weeks ago. The latch won’t budge. I breathe deeply and wait, then carefully manipulate the latch until it sweetly slides open.

I am in a squalid smelly entrance hall to a twenty-storey high rise, accommodation for the poor of Melbourne. Our friends have a flat on the 19th floor. My husband reassures me, it will be fine. A notice on the wall says, If the lift fails, phone such and such between 9 a.m. Monday to 5 pm. Friday. It is Saturday. A flock of Muslim women and children push into the lift. They get out at Level 14 and I run with them, and climb stairs to 19. Two hours later I walk down 19 floors in the stairwell and my husband thinks I’m barmy.

I am going through the airport tunnel to Gate Two in order to board the 747. There are no windows or sky. Only the smile of a familiar lad from Labasa who is a steward reassures me.

For thirty years I had travelled back and forth to Fiji, enjoying the flights. This panic regarding planes is something new to experience.

I have bouts of bronchitis and the doctor prescribes Ventalin. But isn’t that for asthma? Twice I have to stop the car, lean over and breathe slowly and deeply.

I am visiting the Animal Health Laboratory a week before it opens. Years ago. We are guests looking about. I go through a locked door with a shower for staff, a second locked door. The inner space for scientists to study dreaded animal diseases. There are no windows. I rush back through doors and shower and passages and watch a video downstairs while I wait for friends.

I am on a bus, fully loaded and sit in the second last seat, upstairs. I demand a seat near a door. I must get to Sydney and even further for a music symposium. I’m given a small seat near the door downstairs.

I listen to a favourite radio program. I am twelve years old. The heroine has been kidnapped, tied up and bundled into the boot of a car.

I am learning to play a Rachmaninoff Prelude. I am eleven. My piano teacher tells me the composer imagines what it’s like to be inside a coffin, buried but still alive and he needs to practically bang on the wood.

Another piano teacher, a nun this time, sends me to the Catholic school classroom, an alien place. I practice scales and then find the door is locked. It is out-of-school hours.

I am six. It’s a summer of blinding dust-storms. I walk alone, returning from Primary School, terrified, trying to find my way back to my mother, feeling the fences with my hands, but lost in the orange dust.

No, I will not go to the 23rd floor. They can come down and we can talk at a café. There are tables and chairs, sunlight and space. Yes. My heart lifts and the day is delightful.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The movie 'Ten Canoes'

Yesterday I saw a stunning movie 'Ten Canoes' as a fundraiser for a local Social Justice group. There were about three hundred people there which is most unusual for a theatre.

This naturalistic story of Aboriginal life is set in the distant past, with two stories, one filmed in black and white, the other colour. A story within a story. David Ulpilil narrates in English but otherwise the Aboriginal Ganalbingu language is used with sub-titles. It was filmed in the Arafura Swamp region of north-eastern Arnhem Land.

It's an amazing film, the story unfolding gently with lots of humour and strong tragedy as well. Dayindi (Jamie Gulpilil) covets the pretty youngest wife of his older brother. To teach him the proper way, he is told a story from the mythical past, a story of wrong love, kidnapping, sorcery, bungling mayhem and revenge gone wrong.

It's a must see film, absolutely.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Two drawings from (a former) life

I found a bundle of very old drawings. We were rather fussy students then, trying to be realistic - and get good grades with our folios! They were huge drawings so I folded them down just to get a sample.

In Geelong there are at least four institutions for art students. I. The Gordon Institute of TAFE (Technical and Further Education) 2. a Fine Arts school down by the Barwon River, and 3. the Brougham Art School. Deakin University had a fabulous Fine Arts major about fifteen years ago - (which I did as a Mature Age student), held at the old RSL Mill in Pakington Street, but the bureacrats massacred the best courses and went the way of IT, Business Studies, etc.

The Kindness of Strangers - Part Two

Despite a very ordinary brown cover, this Lonely Planet travel book is wonderful reading. Lonely Planet - from Melbourne - kindly gave me a free copy to use in a Geelong Writers' gig for Pako Festival. The editor is Don George.
The Kindness of Strangers
Published October 2003
ISBN: 1740595904
US$14.99 - AUS$22.00 - UK£7.99
Part of the series: Journeys: travel literature.

The blurb: A timely collection of inspiring tales, The Kindness of Strangers explores the unexpected human connections that so often transform the experience of travel, and celebrates the gift of kindness around the world.

You are alone in a foreign place, you don't speak the language, you have lost your wallet - probably stolen - you have no money and no documents. You are slightly hysterical and then out of the blue a stranger appears and rescues you for no reason other than goodness, giving you back the trust in mankind that only small children and dogs have. This collection of tales is about those unexpected gifts and how they affect our lives. So kindness isn't extinct after all.
- Isabel Allende

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Water restrictions in Geelong

We are on Stage One water restrictions in Geelong. That means garden watering only on alternate days, hand watering from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at night. Automatic only midnight to 4 a.m. and who's going to get up all night! Hand-washing of cars. No washing of cement paths. We are getting a little rain at nights but no downpours to fill the reservoirs and in the catchment area.
I liked the pic of a tap in Papua New Guinea, a water project funded from our Australian Uniting Church. I like the leaf bathroom/or is a toilet behind the tap? At one time we had charming bathrooms with woven bamboo walls and lots of sunlight.

Spooner cartoon about catching planes today

This is for NZM.
After reading a blogger's difficult and not really funny story of airports and flights in Europe a few days ago, I found this cartoon from the Age, Melbourne.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A sketcher watching a sketcher

A young girl was sketching under a tree almost bare of leaves as she sat, with her shoes off, in one of the courtyards of Federation Square. So I drew her, drawing other people.

The kindness of strangers

Yesterday I was up in Melbourne and after I finished my consultancy task, I wandered around sketching. I sat down at an outdoor table and quickly drew the old State Theatre with its minarets and star studded dome because it is so different from the end wall of the Federation Square mega-art buildings. The proprietor of a coffee shop came out and said 'Would you like a complimentary cappuccino?' 'Oh no, I'll pay for one,' I answer. 'No, no, it's free for you. We opened our shop today. It's been our dream for years to open up such a shop,' said the woman. A lovely creamy hot cappuccino came out and the husband of the woman came and chatted and told me stories about the State Theatre when it was for movies in the 50s with a starry sky interior. Now it's chopped in half for theatre and a disco or something. He said he doesn't like modern ballet such as Rite of Spring only the old classical styles. Charming people. Thank you Colin. The cafe is Pitzky at 27 Russell Street. Colin said the site was recently a car park and a Rolls Royce used to park in the spot where the cafe is now!

Friday, August 11, 2006

What is the value of a Klimp painting?

Gustav Klimp's 'Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer' is indeed a lovely painting but it cost me 20c to get a copy via the net! (Dial-up!) It was sold for USA$135 million! Kerazy! A composer of a song might get $30 for his composition. An author of a brilliant book might get $4000 for a literary novel, yet a painting such as this one is sold for millions! It's out of control.
The 'View of Geelong' sold to the Geelong Art Gallery for A$3 million has now been unpacked and will be on view in two week's time. Again, is it money well spent? Rice or was it Webber - the previous owner, could have just donated it surely....

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A handbag as a dog's breakfast

Okay, we don't make airport jokes at this time with the horror of the possibilities of crimes on planes, but I do feel sorry for the men and women and children at Heathrow having to empty out their backpacks, small cases, and handbags. I know that my old black handbag looked like a dog's breakfast one time at Melbourne airport as I watched the scanner detect it all! They kept insisting I had scissors. No, I did not, said I. Yes, you have. And there it was tucked inside a kid's zipper bag where I kept my pens, pastels, crayons for drawing. They confiscated the scissors. So, what's with so many spectacles? Well, perhaps someone says, I need them all, for the sun, for the shade, for reading, for driving. I am sorry for people who are a bit tense or even claustrophobic about flying - without a book, a crossword, their pod, diary, notebook.

Barwon River in Geelong

A much travelled postcard to Tahiti and back, so it has the marks of age, yet the tranquil Barwon River flows on.

I wrote a short story in response to this postcard and it's posted on this blog - in the May archives - May 28th - if you would like to read it. The story is entitled 'Figures in a Landscape'.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Western Beach in Geelong

The western arm of Corio Bay had a lovely walking track. The suburb of Drumconda has many mansions so the lucky people have a view over the bay very day! I did some quick sketches on the way to visit a friend.

Stone carving workshop in Geelong

The Interfaith group in Geelong is a network of men and women from a variety of faiths such as Hindu, Sikh, Bahai, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Byakko and others who are committed to respect and peace.

On Monday evening a local stone sculptor inroduced the group to carving soapstone so talc went everywhere! When polished later and oiled, the little carvings were beautiful stones with symbols such as the Tree of Life, fish, the earth, coiling fern. Steve Singline, the teacher kindly emailed me a photo he had taken.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A tree in Angahook Forest

A pic I took a while ago. The kind of tree I like. A bit bent and strange.

Mothers and Daughters

Here are three pieces of writing about mother-daughter relationships. I wrote them prior to my mother's death but I never read them to her.

What was I feeling?
Love, happiness or pain?
When she told me
'Yes, I do love you.'
I didn't suddenly feel
a rush of happiness.
No, it was strange
how those words gave me
a hollowed cradling of pain.
It was so late;
the years had been silent.
Now in her dependence
she realised, the strange
daughter she had raised
was like herself,
the voice,
the skin,
the tendency to butt into conversations
and the ability to be a nurse,
after all.

If Only
If only I knew you in childhood summers when you galloped over dry Mallee paddocks on your favourite horse, your red hair flying. Now you lean towards the television from your sunlit corner seat, straining to hear the newsreaders’ litany of grabs of violent deeds.

If only I observed your watchful gaze over hospital patients during war years, your attentiveness through long nights, assisting in the cycle of birth and death, and five children of your own. We took your skills as the norm, protecting us from clean.

If only I was sensitive to your view of the feminine as homemaker, your acceptance of a nurturing role. Stamina we took for granted, a focussed heart and magical hands which drew the extended family like spokes in a moving wheel.

If only I had conceded our indifference. Gallivanting to Nepal, Montreal, Suva distanced us. We prattled of foreign adventures, ignored your inability to leave, as you stayed still, always there. We fell, bruised, confused, and called home, reverse charge.

If only we took the time to notice your pain, your shy eyes as you stood alongside Dad in his community focus and civic duty, laughed at his stories a hundred times. Dad died, you were alone and your role dissipated in confusion.

If only we had become good friends years ago but we were both affected by different paths and agendas. Yet we women, both mothers, are in a treadmill society where others set rules and fracture, and we pick up the pieces.

Now I see you as a friend not the role of ‘mother’. If we do not love one another we are like dead branches in a drought-parched land.

Seasonal blessing

When spring buds gently appear
may new forms surprise you
with their unexpected breath.

When summer flowers open out
and wave their coloured flags
may you have a discerning eye

When autumn leaves drift softly
may their maps of silver lines
grace your footsteps.

When winter’s chill sweeps under foot
may we all be reminded of blue skin
and that bones are brittle.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?

Tao Te Ching thought of the moment: Chapter 15 …. “Who can wait quietly while the mud settles? ” (I read this in an artist's blog. Thanks.)

The Australian census is to be filled out tomorrow evening, but I've started checking out the questions today even though I'll do it on-line Wednesday morning just in case I have visitors sleeping here overnight!

What boring questions, and so many are about employment and wages, oriented to the fixation of economics. Some on language in the home - English only or another language, and on religion there's no category for a 'seeker' who explores every which way but loose!

There should be questions such as
'Are you happy?'
'Who is your neighbour?' (Not literally though!)
'Are you satisfied about the current way Australia is going?'
and of course
'Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?'

Mungo National Park
What is the connection between these photos (from a RACV magazine – Australian Picture Library) and the Census?

Well, I think they put things into perspective. Where is beauty to be found? Where is Australian history to be found? Men and women lived in this area, north of Mildura, over 40,000 years ago. In 1968 a woman’s skeleton was found here that can be carbon dated as from about 40,000 years ago, and in 1974 a skeleton was found of a six-foot male, of similar age. They pre-date modern human behaviour in Europe by 10,000 years. Mungo man had been given a ritual burial and sprinkled with ochre and Mungo woman had been cremated. It is probable that tribes lived in this area who feasted on fish and rich vegetation. There are stories of a flightless bird four times the size of an emu and giant kangaroos.

This makes our little census and its puny questions seem rather ordinary!

On the other hand, a census assumes that each and every person in Australia is of consequence!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Old Hands and Girl with Citycat

As I'm a left-hander I could only draw my right hand twice! The other drawing is of a Fijian girl holding Citycat. We had two cats, Citycat and Bushcat. The second one would never come inside the house. That drawing was copied - sort of - from a photo. The kava bowl sits nearby so there must have been a party.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Visit to Narana Creations, an Aboriginal Centre

Yesterday our church women's group visited Narana, an Aboriginal spiritual and educational centre in Geelong. After afternoon tea in the cafe, the other women shopped in the art and craft centre and I wandered around and drew emus, the outdoor meeting circle,and a rock garden then I bought two postcards of Aboriginal art.

I met Peceli's friend Vince Ross there. Now that he is head of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, he joked, 'Wendy, now it's a long, long way to fall!' I remember what a quiet, shy, respectful man he was in 87, (the day of the Rabuka coup) when a hostel was opened, a gift from the Uniting Church to the Aborignal community in Geelong for tertiary students. Vince is a really lovely guy.
Acknowledgments: 'Frillneck' is by Loretta McDonald and 'Reaching for Above' is by J. Leon, both from the culture of the Worini people of coastal New South Wales.