Sunday, 10 June 2018

Slowing Down

The weather on Tasmania’s west coast is often wet, wild and windy, but I managed to pull three fantastic days out of the hat for my mini-break during this week. With no intention of taking part in the tourist ventures Strahan is famous for, namely the Macquarie Harbour cruise and Abt Railway trip, I walk, read, write, take photos, collect rocks and leaves, and eat.

The process of a long walk is an interesting one. I start out just walking, intending to go from here to there, but partway in there is a shift from simply admiring the surroundings, the bigger picture, as smaller details catch my attention and cry out to be noticed. My eyes change their focus, my pace slows, and I stop. I enjoy the spectacle of a grand vista, a stunning view, but it’s the finer details that always fascinate me. Since I was a little tacker, the seemingly infinite varieties of moss, lichen and fungi have been a source of much delight, so to find a fungi wonderland on the Hogarth Falls track makes the whole trip particularly rewarding.

My amateur photographic attempts are rewarded with ducks mid-flight over the water, fungi I’ve never seen before, water dripping off feathery moss, lichen on gravestones which have been standing for a hundred and sixty years, clear tannin stained water, mirror images in the harbour so clear the waterline disappears, smooth pebbles with markings both bold and so fine I marvel at how they came to be.

The seabirds busy themselves near the water’s edge, the trails of their footprints crisscrossing the sand patterns on the beach lashed by the waters of the Southern Ocean. A massive lump of bull kelp, stem still intact, stretches out like the entrails of some marooned monster, twisted strands of dark chocolate brown rubber, with folds of translucent orange where it catches the sunlight. 

 The longer I wander, and wonder, the more I see. Not just because of time spent observing, but in focussing on what is directly in front of me, details stand out. Intricacies of texture, size, shape and colour delight the senses, highlighting the cycle of life of each organism, the importance of these little things which make up the whole, and the crucial link between them.

By slowing my pace, I don’t just look, I see. I don’t just hear, I listen.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Imagine That

The mug on my desk has a chip on the rim. Emblazoned with Albert Einstein’s famous quote Imagination is more important than knowledge it was a favourite, so there was never any question of tossing it out once I could no longer use it for my cuppa. It now holds my pens and pencils, and reminds me every day of the importance of looking beyond what I merely see, challenging me to listen to my heart and not only my head.

The creative process is a long and winding road, with enough highs and lows and twists and turns to bring you undone unless you believe you’re on the right path.
Finding ways to negotiate that road, particularly in the times when I feel dry and uninspired, is what keeps me forging ahead, however faltering my steps may be.

‘Write what you know’ has long been a premise from which to start, but for most of us our lives are fairly routine and ordinary and on the surface wouldn’t appear to be of much interest to anyone else. To quote Jean-Jacques Rousseau The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless. If it were not so, the whole realm of literature and film and music and every other artistic endeavour you could think of, wouldn’t exist.

But throw in some other possibilities, little tangents, head off down some unexplored sidetrack somewhere, ask ‘what if…’ and see where it leads. For writers, those two words can conjure up all sorts of scenarios, bringing disaster, mayhem, conflict, and all manner of unexpected joys or tragedies into an otherwise ordinary world. For all artists and artisans, whether visual or not, those words can open up other ways of approaching a task, especially when the ‘usual’ way of doing things no longer has the impact or holds the sense of fulfilment it once had.

All too easily we lose our inner sense of wonder and curiosity when our childhood years are behind us. We experience moments of it here and there, where something resonates deep inside, and wonder in those moments how and when and why we let all slip so easily. We don’t need to recapture our youth, we simply need to capture those moments when they come our way, and be thankful.

Think outside your head
travel through imagined worlds
never seen before

Monday, 2 April 2018

Flushing out the Funnel

I was becoming suspicious of the perfectly round hole in the garden bed by my back porch. Having hosted a tiger snake in that bed for a couple of weeks during the hot weather, I knew it wasn’t his, he was way too big to fit down there. It was about 2 – 3cm in diameter, and after my son telling me of his close encounter of the eight-legged kind in what sounded like identical circumstances, the time had come to take action.

I’m usually a live and let live kind of person when it comes to creepy crawlies, but when they’re in the vicinity of the house that’s a whole other ball game. My solution went like clockwork. A dribble of petrol down the hole, I wasn’t sure if I was going to set light to it but I didn’t have to. Overcome by the fumes what immediately vacated the hole was not only a super-sized spider, but a rather ominous looking Tasmanian Funnel Web. I didn’t think quickly enough in the moment to get something like a matchbox to put next to it to indicate its size, but looking at my ruler today, and trying not to do the fisherman thing of making it sound bigger than it was, I reckon it would’ve been about 10cm round, including the legs that is.

I have to admit it wasn’t until about a year ago that I even knew Tasmania harboured this species. Thinking they were endemic to Sydney in particular, I had always made my visits to that fair city very brief, having seen one once at the bottom of someone else’s back porch steps, and never wanting to repeat the experience.

So today, on April Fool’s Day no less, there I was, staring Mr Funnel Web in the face, well not quite that close, and I was thankful for his groggy state courtesy of the petrol fumes. My determination to mark the occasion with proof dispelled any fear, and I moved him from the garden bed to the path where he seemed happy to pose for the camera and move about, no doubt somewhat puzzled as to why he’d been unceremoniously flushed out of his comfy hole.

And then I chopped him in half with the spade.

What? You thought there was going to be a happy ending?

Over the years my encounters with Huntsmans, White-tailed and Wolf spiders have had me convinced I’m on some sort of hit list because of my swift disposal of such intruders within the four walls of my fortress. A Huntsman in the car while you’re driving in peak hour traffic is not the time to get on good terms with arachnids, however fascinating they may be, and a very distinctive wolf spider web in your favourite armchair is a telltale sign the contract out on you is still very much alive.

Did this latest inhabitant bear me any ill will? Was he just biding his time at the bottom of the steps? Did he intend to mount those steps and explore more than the garden? Unfortunately for him, if there was the remotest possibility of such a scenario, he had to go. Funny thing is, I’ve seen those distinctive holes before, but now I know what lurks beneath, I won’t be so complacent.

Live and let die.