Monday, May 29, 2006

Dance like there's nobody watching

Dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never get hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
Live like it's heaven on earth,
And speak from the heart to be heard.

I don't know who wrote it, but I've heard it a few times.
The pictures are of a gum tree, Geelong Railway Station and a beach in Fiji.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Figures in a Landscape

From Wendy,
A fictional story, no drawings. Readers can make up their own picture.

Figures in a Landscape

The Barwon River is tranquil, shining silver, but in the distance the landscape is flattened as in a Chinese ink painting, by a mist in the hills, a mist amidst the hollows. Can I replicate that style in my own painting? I put my stool down, easing it into the damp ground then clip rough-textured paper to my board and lay out my brushes and inks in a tray.

Dry-bush reeds will provide a good foreground, the large S curve of river and banks a middle-ground and the foggy banks beyond, a smudged background. The river is barely astir except for a young boy poling his small white boat along. A dot in the mid-ground. I work carefully, drawing outlines in 5B pencil, then brush pale colours as flat sheets of watery ink, not bothering about details and dark areas at this stage.

The girl comes slowly along the path, her lemon dress almost sculptured to her thin body. On her shoulder she has slung a woven bag, the kind you buy from Asian hill tribes – possibly Thailand. It is patterned in yellow, turquoise and white diagonals. Her straight, shiny black hair with a bold fringe is striking as it frames her pale face. She seems fragile, vulnerable, perhaps the way I felt when I was a young woman her age.

I would love to put her in the picture. In her paleness she would enhance the pale tints of the landscape. A Pale Figure in a Landscape.

She walks up to me as most people do, stands behind me and watches me at work. She does not speak, just watches the ink wash become a smudge of distant banks.
Eventually I decide not to be anxious about the intrusion – I am a very private person really and do not like being disturbed.

Maybe she will oblige me. ‘Would you mind if I paint you into the picture? If you stand over there, perhaps look at the water or the distance?’

‘Oh no. Not now,’ she says. Her smooth hair swings as she speaks and her hands lift lightly in a gesture implying she might agree if pressed.

‘Okay, I was just wondering.’ I am used to knock-backs.

She considers the matter for a while and then says, ‘Alright. I suppose so. It doesn’t really matter one way or another. Where do you want me to stand? I can’t stand for too long though. My parents will expect me back at the car-park in twenty minutes or else they’ll worry about me.’

I am surprised because she is not a child. Perhaps in her early twenties, she hardly needs a caretaker. She has a classical face without makeup, small breasts, a lean body, and she wears sandals. When I notice her wrists are scarred and bruised with pin-pricks barely healed, I am dismayed that she may be damaged. An addiction may account for her ethereal look.

She stands quietly for me and then I notice her reflection in the water caught in the stillness so I will paint that too. I work quickly now, aware that she is not a trained model and may become anxious after maintaining a pose for more than ten minutes. Yet she is excellent, her eyes fixed on the distant haze. Now I can see the nearby water is moving ever so slightly. Life often moves so delicately.

‘That’s fine,’ I call out. ‘Excellent. Come and see.’

She throws a pebble into the water shattering the reflection and the rings eddy right into the bank.

‘That’s nice,’ she says, ‘but it’s really not me at all. Not like before…’

I am puzzled by her attitude.

The weather is changing as a rain cloud shadows the river.

‘I’d better go back. You might read about me in the papers one day,’ she says. As she walks she flings her head, raises a hand to pull off the swathe of black hair, and pushes the wig into her shoulder bag.

When I see her smooth hairless head, I am shocked but now understand. The eternal question. Life rips at us and we approach death in fear and trembling.

‘I’m not afraid any more, ‘I hear her say, ever so faintly.

Vegemite, fish soup and cassava pie

from Wendy

Food fights

On the television this morning was a scene of children having a food fight. I said to Junior, ‘I don’t remember you kids ever chucking food around and at each other.’ He answered, ‘You never fed us enough. We wouldn’t waste any of it!’ Oh dear, I don’t think so. They all grew up to be over 90 kilograms and about six foot tall!


Then he said, ‘No one would swap sandwiches with us at school.’ I wonder why. Didn’t anyone else like vegemite and wilted lettuce sandwiches?
The Kraft company is having trouble at present, putting staff off. It makes Vegemite, the great Aussie food icon, which my brothers and I all grew up on, eating it on toast for breakfast for years and years.

White or brown sugar

In Fiji where there are four sugar mills, ordinary people eat a light brown sugar, and white sugar is rarely seen. When one Fijian guy came to Australia he stayed overnight at the YMCA and at breakfast was given steak. On the table was a container filled with white sugar, and he thought it was salt, so he just sprinkled it all over his steak. Hmmm. Rather sweet and people were watching, but he just kept on eating, not to miss out on a huge steak.

Fish soup

We were drinking kava the other night and T was telling us about the time he stayed in a very posh hotel. He and his partner had ordered fish. Well, in Fiji it is customary to drain the dish – even a large plate – if there is liquid or any kind of soup left. This was a restaurant with white linen tablecloth, etc. and T.s partner said, No, don’t pick up your plate and drain the soup. It’s not done here. So he saw a straw near his drink, so he just used that. The hovering waiter just raised one eyebrow. Later when the waiter brought the two dishes of icecream sweet to the table two straws were daintily placed into the icecream!

A muesli bar

The two Tasmanian miners who had been trapped underground for fourteen days told their story on TV last week For the first six days the only food they had was one muesli bar one of the men found in his pocket. They waited two days without eating, then broke it in half. They ate it very very slowly. Unfortunately one man dropped his piece into the rubble and couldn’t find it again. When the rescuers eventually made contact and a pipe was made, clean water, Sustegan, and eventually food was sent down to them in a pipe, while the rescuers carefully exploded the rock under them to make a tunnel to free them.


A staple food in Fiji is called cassava which is a white root vegetable without much taste, and when raw is actually poisonous. It seems to be pure starch. One time I grated it, boiled it, to make a starch to add to dye for screen printing! We buy it in Geelong at a Chinese grocery, frozen, and it comes from Thailand I think. We eat it about once a week. It’s not as nutritious as dalo (taro). Cassava can make a tasty kind of cake though by adding sugar and coconut cream.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pacific Island dancing

from Wendy
I did some pics of Tongan dancers, a vakamalolo Fijian sitting dance - part of a graduation party celebration in Geelong at our house, and two of Peceli jumping on stage with a Cook Islander at the local ethnic festival.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Crossing cultures in a Geelong conference

A conference on multicultural and cross-cultural ministry organised by the Uniting Church was in our city of Geelong this last weekend. The chairman was Rev. Liva Tukutama, originally from Niue, who is a minister in Canberra. Over 150 people from as far away as the Kimberleys and Perth came to the Geelong Conference Centre in Eastern Park, only 10 minutes walk from our house. It seemed that about half of the delegates were Pacific Islanders - originally from Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Niue. It was great to see Sudanese young men, men and women from Sri Lankan background, Chinese, Korean, and several Aboriginal people from the Aboriginal and Islander Congress.

Friday night
On Friday night the welcome service was at Wesley Church in the city area of Geelong and I met many people I haven't seen for many years. The service started with a loud didgeridoo drone and an acknowledgement that we were on Wautharong Aboriginal land and Barbara Abley, who was once the Mayor of Geelong, welcomed the delegates to Geelong. Then leaders from various ethnic groups led the service.

About 18 Fijians from Melbourne came to our house by midday for lunch and preparation for a presentation of yaqona at 4 p.m. as part of the Conference. This meant rehearsing the chant, the dance movements, preparing the costumes. Our son was included in the performance as a warrior and had to learn the dance. Also an Australian theological student became a warrior for the day. We drove to Narana, the venue for the afternoon/evening program and rearranged the furniture, put out mats and masi. The hall was circular and decorated with lovely Aboriginal art and craftwork. The Fijian presentation went very well, with proper protocol and grace and the young men danced and performed perfectly. Vince Ross then told his story to the meeting and some of the stories about Narana.

We went home before the barbecue and mixed kava for a friend, then more groups of friends from Griffith (a town in New South Wales where there are many Islanders) and other places - who were in the conference, came to our home to drink yaqona until nearly midnight.

One excellent speaker was Rev. Jason Kioa (originally from Tonga) who is the Moderator Elect or Victoria. He had an amazing story to tell, how he was once in the Maribyrnong Detention Centre as an illegal immigrant and after three years of court cases when he was not allowed to work, he and his family were allowed to stay on in Australia. Then he commenced his studies towards becoming a minister. After several years, he now has the high status as the incoming Moderator of the Uniting Church in our state of Victoria.

Musician Amelia Koh Bulter taught songs from the new Multicultural Songbook and during the final worship played lots of great world music on the piano. Earlier we had sung a song Bahasa Kasih/The Language of Love with verses in Indonesian, Tongan, English and Korean.

Discussion groups talked about youth-elder difficulties, language use, migrant clergy, how Sudanese refugees find the culture so difficult especially in relation to their women, ethnic groups sharing church property with the criticism of leaving pork fat on the floor, etc. The topic of sexuality did not get much time though a few minutes of heated talk showed that there are still different attitudes regarding gay leaders in the church - some have a view to be inclusive, others say no.

There is a difference between the term 'multicultural' and 'cross-cultural'. The first can mean separation into ethnic groups, the second is about moving across barriers to include people of a variety of cultural experiences. Both are the reality of experiences within the Uniting Church. Young people seem to prefer the second model while their grandparents still cling to keeping their cultural difference in church organisations and practice.

The conference concluded with worship and communion led by an Aboriginal minister. One of the main themes of the conference was the relationships between the Aboriginal and Islander Congress and the rest of the Uniting Church.

Some of the best moments of the day were in simply talking with people over coffee and muffins, making new friends, exchanging email addresses and phone numbers. Though much of the talk up front was predictable, it was enriching to hear the stories of many people from all over Australia in their struggle to cross cultures and push the boundaries away from dominant hosts and to be more like a family of brothers and sisters.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A poem from book by Geelong Mood Support Group

from Wendy
Last weekend I attended a book launch 'Out of the Blue', a collection of stories and poems that were touching, authentic, and beautiful. A friend helped this group of writers towards publication and about sixty people attended the launch. Margaret Clark, an energetic, almost frenetic, writer of fabulous children's books was guest speaker and spoke of her passion to write since she was a child. Several of the contributors read their poems and stories, some shyly, tentatively. I asked permission to publish one of the pieces in this blog. It's called 'Blue' and is by a man who goes by the pen-name of 'Redelf'.


by Redelf

The colour blue has immeasurable hue, from pale blue, sky blue, to navy blue, which at times is also called indigo. Iridescent and cobalt blue. Dark blue and midnight blue, bordering on black. Then there is electric blue, saxony blue and periwinkle.

The Italian call it azzurro. Woad blue was used by the Celts as a body paint.

We have Pacific blue, blue spruce and a tree named Blue Pacific. The blue seas contain many denizens of blue: the blue whale, blue shark, blue-ringed octopus and the mako with a bluish back all his own.

Dark blue for Oxford, light blue for Cambridge. Royalty is said to be blue blooded. Blue babies are born with bluish lips.

In Australia a fight is termed a ‘blue’, a court summons and a man with red hair are called Bluey.

The blue ring on a target and the blue ball in snooker are both worth five points.

Cheese is blue. A damson plum is blue, there are blue beans, bluegrass and there is a flower called blue salvia.

A wisp of winter smoke is blue. A red fire can be turned blue with copper wire. The whites of a person’s eye can at times be blue.

An iceberg is blue. Some stars are blue. Earth from space is blue.

Emotionally speaking, sad is blue. At times our heart feels broken and blue.

We’ve all heard the expression ‘once in a blue moon’. Does the blue come out of these or do all these come from blue?

The Krishna’s say that we know only one thing about God, he is blue.

Poem 'Krishna on-line'

from Wendy

I am intrigued by pictures of the Blue Krishna and the mythology of this Hindu God, and of course many people in Fiji are named after gods.

I wrote this poem after someone on Fijilive forum starting writing about spirit and body. The pic is 'borrowed' from the internet where there are hundreds of pics of 'Blue Krishna'.

Krishna On-line

He is offering unframed empty spaces
so I post a message signed Milkmaid
saying 'Flesh and bones are real; we are physical.'

His reply is nonchalant, multi-syllabic,
seamed with abstractions like spirit…
consciousness… nirvana.

I make one concession about society -
that it's full of holes that suck
and write particularly about injustice.

'I'll go and milk my cows now,' I jest
but he is not laughing, just
pontificating about eternity and black holes.

I itch to reply again, to scratch his skin
Krishna, eventually silenced,
withdraws from the forum.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Poem 'Multicultural"

from Wendy

There's an optimistic view of multiculturalism at times, but at other times...


At the station they line up.
‘You really are minimalist’, says Lefraques.
Thong answers, ‘So what? I don’t care!’
Lace-up stands up proud and shiny,
Prim and proper, self-esteem intact,
Nearby lethargic Desert Boots leans
Against a pole as a dog lifts a leg.
Sandals backs away in fright,
Bumps into Blandstones without a ‘Sorry’
And eyeing Jellybaby’s bright luminosity
Winklepickers kicks her hard.
The whole line becomes a brouhaha
Then with a cat-like grin, xenophobic
Brogues smirks at the disarray.

Poem 'Sea's Edge' written at Queenscliff

from Wendy
I wrote this during a church weekend camp at Cottage by the Sea, Queenscliff.

Queenscliff: The Sea's Edge

Sketchbook in hand, I walk a narrow path
in a thicket of bent, charcoal grey tea-trees,
intent upon shape, texture and line.
There's no orderly form, no rhythm,
just awkward wind-shaped trees.

In the pearl light of the sky behind,
Is there a Madonna there?
I want to see the face of a saint
in the white-on-black negative spaces
because I demand a vision.

Unsteadily I walk down the steps,
plough through deep sand,
contemplate the ocean's breathing,
scribbled patterns left by the tide,
(perhaps find a meaning)
or just a restful silence before
more questions chattering.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mushrooms in the back yard

Numerous mushrooms have come up amidst the grass and dropped gum leaves near my Hills Hoist clotheline. They look healthy when they are new but so far I haven't been game to cook them. As children we used to go mushrooming on the farms near the Merrin Creek over the river from Swan Hill and my mother would cook up a batch in real butter. These days we buy small mushies at the supermarket because we are not game to use the ones we find ourselves.

The quick pic I did this morning in pencil etc. has been transformed with Photoedit so they can vary from ordinary to spooky!

Spiral staircases

The spiral staircases in lighthouses have wonderful shapes so I found a few pics of views of spiral staircases from above. Maybe I'll do something with them - make collages or stencil pics sometime.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Lighthouses near Geelong

Three lighthouses I have noticed are in Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale because the Rip has been a dangerous place for shipping over two centuries with many ships wrecked in the area. The Rip is where the Bellarine Peninsular is almost joined to the Mornington Peninsular.

A week ago I went on the Queenscliff ferry across the bay to visit elderly aunts in Mt Eliza. This saves a long trip by road, but the ferry cost with vehicle was $58 each way with three passengers. A 45 minute trip across and usually there are dolphins following the ferry. From Sorrento where the ferry docked we drove through Rye, Rosebud, Dromana (haunts of my childhood summer holidays with Dad, Mum, four boys, me, and pet dog - from the Mallee sand to the beaches,) to Mt Eliza where the Melbourne suburbs reach on the eastern side.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Walking track Barwon River

We prepared a picnic of coffee, biscuits, cheese and eggs and drove to the Barwon River to explore the walking tracks where joggers and folk with their dogs get exercise. It started off as sunny, but soon rain clouds made us run. The brick building with the tower is deserted. Perhaps it was an old powerhouse. This area once had many tanneries and woollen mills beside the river.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sculptures on the Geelong Waterfront

When you look down the main street of Geelong towards the sea you can see the Waterfront sculptures entitled 'North'. They've been there about five years I think and we used a pic of them for the cover of the book 'Around Geelong' published by the Geelong Writers Inc.

Because of the vicinity of the yacht club and hundreds of boats, I think the sculptor had in mind the shape of sails. I think they are impressive.

Of course big business being what it is, there's a plan afoot to spoil the sea view down Yarra Street by supermarkets and co by putting a high bridge full of shops across the street stopping the view of the sea! There is opposition but I guess money counts and the multinationals will probably win.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A fern, a gum tree and tee-tree

A tee-tree near the sea in pen, a fern etching and a pastel drawing of a gum tree trunk.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A quiet sanctuary in Geelong

Balyang Sanctuary is a quiet walking and picnic spot near the Barwon River with plenty of bird life and a lake.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tongan girls at a funeral

Yesterday I went to a Tongan funeral in our Geelong East church. Mr David Ila Prescott, one of our friends aged 85 died last week. About 280 people attended the funeral, a three hour service, and we had an elaborate meal afterwards.

The picture is of three of the girls wearing black and wrapped around in pandanus woven mats, the custom for formal occasions such as a funeral.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A quilt of owls

from Wendy
When visiting my aunt in Mt Eliza yesterday, she showed me an exquisitely made quilt of about thirty individual carefully stitched owls. This was made by her artistic beautiful daughter. I would love to have a photo of it. Anyway, I said, put it on your wall. 'Oh no, we have so many pictures already.' Soft landscapes of the Australian bush, pretty flowers, in a very femininely decorated house. My ego went down of course when I contrasted these delicately designed spaces with my own mayhem of multi-purpose office/lounge spaces frequented by people drinking kava or reading large newspapers.

Anyway, about owls. I found my pastel drawing of an owl that stared at me. One day I had sketched it as it sat on a branch in a small tree in Ryrie Street Geelong. Now,I don't like that stare, and it still looks at me from its frame in our lounge room, follows me around the room in fact.

Normally I dislike feathered creatures near me, shudder when I think of their feathers or beaks touching me. This possibly comes from an incident when I was about five, staying on a wheat farm in Annuella with a small friend's grandmother. I was chased around the paddock by a clutch of turkeys!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Come fly with me in Australia

from Wendy
A relative told me of a crazy experience, flying from Perth to Melbourne, so I rewrote his anecdote. The map is to show you the vast distances across Australia and the extent of their return trip.

Come fly with me

'You'll just have to hold my hand. Stop me from panicking,' Kathy instructed as Hedley bought return tickets - Melbourne to Perth - for a week's holiday. Kathy's a nurse, Hedley's a potato farmer, and they've been a couple for two years. So far, holidays had been by car to Tamworth for the music.

'No worries,' he answered with a smile. 'It's only a four-hour flight.'

They had not booked on the cheaper no-frills plane, but in the one with the excellent track record. The trip to Perth went sweetly as Kathy sat in an aisle seat, not too far back. She breathed deeply and just grabbed Hedley's hand. The week in Perth was beautiful, using a rental car, with a trip to Busseltown, no cooking to do, lots of sightseeing.

On Sunday they arrived at the Perth airport by midday and had two hours to wait.

'Bad news,' said an official-looking woman with a white stripe in her hair. 'The plane has engine trouble in Adelaide. Won't be coming. 'There are a hundred and twenty passengers booked. We'll get you out of here. Meanwhile have a two-hour bus tour of Perth this afternoon. You'll leave at midnight!'

More peering at the sights. Kathy just shrugged and looked, while Hedley put on his sunglasses and slept.

At midnight there was news. 'We've organised to get you all back to Melbourne,' said a different airport staff officer, a man with a hint of make-up on. 'With just a little detour.'

Kathy complained, 'I have to get back to work!' Hedley also had to get the spud crop dug up.

'There's twenty seats available in the morning, so we've put most of you on the detoured flight that goes via Cairns, ' said another staff officer, with plucked eyebrows.

'What! Cairns is at the top of Queensland!' shouted Kathy.

'Don't worry Madam. We're not charging you extra for the longer distance.'

'Hey, wait a minute. Cairns isn't even near Melbourne!' muttered Hedley, calculating.

Well, that's the way they went, flying over the Northern Territory, into Queensland and landed at Cairns. The clothes Kathy wore were too heavy as the place was muggy and hot by morning. They flew to Brisbane, stopped an hour, then to Sydney, waited two hours, then to Melbourne. It took 24 hours from Perth to Melbourne! Kathy was too exhausted to worry now about her claustrophobia.

Dirty and tired, but not hungry because of all the snacks at each stopover, they drove home to Geelong, dumped their cases in the lounge room. Hedley put on the kettle for a cuppa. Kathy lay on the sofa, shoes chucked away. She pressed the TV remote control.

A program was just starting. This is your life. Sixty years of our wonderful Australian airline Qantas. Happy birthday!

'And, I still call Australia home,' sang Hedley in a gritty kind of tenor.

When she threw the TV remote at him, he dodged. The teacups flew in the air and smashed on the polished parquetry floor next to the discarded airline tickets.