Thursday, May 26, 2011

a story of sullen despair

A Sunday afternoon picnic at Box Hill, Tom Roberts

While at the National Gallery of Victoria a few months ago, I shamefully found myself almost more interested in the annotations than the paintings themselves, so much so that I took notes.

I read about the artists camp at Box Hill in the 1880s where Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin had guests like Arthur Streeton come and stay. The Victorian Gallery holds a number of works painted at the site. The letters the artists wrote to each other are so vivid and heartfelt.

Take this, written by Tom Roberts while he was in France, to McCubbin.

"I feel more than sorry that these days are over, because nothing can exceed the pleasures of that last summer, when I fancy all of us lost the ego somewhat of our natures, in looking at what was nature's best art and ideality. Give me one summer again with yourself and Streeton - the same long evenings - songs - and dirty plates - and the last pink skies. But these things don't happen, do they, and what's gone is gone."

It's bizarre to think Box Hill is now complete suburbanised and is comparable to somewhere like Eastwood in Sydney, with its Asian influence.

But what truly blew me away was this description of the Australian bush by Marcus Clarke in 1896.

"The Australian mountain forests are funeral, secret and stern. The solitude is desolation. They seem to stifle in their black gorges a story of sullen despair."

I just looked up the entire quote. It goes on, quite relentlessly. Enjoy.

"No tender sentiment is nourished in their shade. In other lands the dying year is mourned, the fall leaves drop lightly on his bier. In the Australian forests no leaves fall. The savage winds shout among the rock clefts. From the melancholy gum strips of white bark hang and rustle. The very animal life of these frowning hills is either grotesque or ghostly. Great grey kangaroos hop noiselessly over the coarse grass. Flights of white cockatoos stream out, shrieking like evil souls. The sun suddenly sinks, and the mopokes burst out into horrible peals of semi-human laughter. The natives aver that when night comes, from out the bottomless depths of some lagoon the Bunyip rises, and in form like a monstrous sea-calf, drags his loathsome length from out the ooze. … All is fear-inspiring and gloomy. No bright fancies are linked with the memories of the mountains. Hopeless explorers have named them out of their sufferings—Mount Misery, Mount Dreadful, Mount Despair. .... In Australia alone is to be found the Grotesque, the Weird, the strange scribblings of nature learning how to write. Some see no beauty in our trees without shade, our flowers without perfume, our birds who cannot fly, and our beasts who have not yet learned to walk on all fours. But the dweller in the wilderness acknowledges the subtle charm of this fantastic land of monstrosities. He becomes familiar with the beauty of loneliness. Whispered to by the myriad tongues of the wilderness, he learns the language of the barren and the uncouth, and can read the hierogylphs of haggard gum-trees, blown into odd shapes, distorted with fierce hot winds, or cramped with cold nights, when the Southern Cross freezes in a cloudless sky of icy blue. The phantasmagoria of that wild dreamland termed the Bush interprets itself, and the Poet of our desolation begins to comprehend why free Esau loved his heritage of desert sand better than all the bountiful richness of Egypt." 

Monday, May 23, 2011

souffle time

We finally have fast internet, which means uploading videos is really easy. So you're getting a bit of a documentary look at the life of Sophie.

This one was taken back in February on our staff retreat. It was about 8pm on Saturday night. We'd just eaten an amazing slow-cooked roast lamb and Kris was baking raspberry souffle. You're guaranteed to want some by the end of the video.

As an aside, I get to work with these lovely folk each day; pretty awesome bunch.

fish n chips

The weather's getting pretty cool down here, so I thought I'd remember warmer times. This video was taken at Dromana Beach on the Mornington Peninsula back in March before Kris and I saw the band Georgia Fair play at the local pub. There are actually three videos in the series. The birds get progressively more aggressive, but the third and final video was a bit of an anti-climax. So you'll just have to enjoy Part 2.

Warning: squeals and lame jokes abound.

Friday, May 20, 2011

a sweet house in Thornbury

Above my head looms a piece of orange and white striped twine, and from it hang postcards and art, coasters and business cards, photographs and illustrations.

Next to me is a flowering gum, picked from a shrub near my house, sitting in a bottle I bought in Brighton a few weeks ago. There's a half-crocheted granny square from Brown Owls, a mandarin and an apple.

I can see the words "instol", a Romanian misspelling of install, on a receipt by our neighbours' friend who put an antenna on our roof. We now have television. I keep forgetting.

There's a poetry zine I picked up at a bar in Fitzroy the other night while enjoying mulled wine and hot chocolate with Kris.

Nearby sits an envelope. Inside is a DVD and some brochures about a woman who I'm writing a story about for Eternity. She's about to go to Rwanda.

There's a half-used Moleskine notebook, a stapler, speakers, a glass, a bookmark, a pen, a handful of bobby pins and some wooden owls.

This is my desk, in my new room, in my new-ish house, in my new-ish life in Melbourne.

I realised the other day my mail redirection service has ended. Bit of a bummer really, given I haven't really got around to notifying people of my new address.

But it gave me a moment to reflect on the whole idea of redirection. I realised my mail has been redirected, but so has my heart.

I actually feel like Melbourne is home now. I love this place, even its strange cloudy, grey days. And the people, well, they're swell. I feel like there's enough going on that I won't be too listless, and the times when I'm free are a blessing.

I've also come to accept that I'm a fairweather cyclist. If it's too cold or raining, Gavin sits on the porch, and the tram ticket comes out. And that's ok.

Work is great. I feel like I'm in a rhythm now, although semester is about to end, and so the rhythm will inevitably change as the students drift. But with drifting comes opportunity for regrouping in new ways. I'm hoping to host regular breakfasts and mid-week hangouts in the uni break. Sometimes I feel like no one understands what I actually do for work. And that's ok.

So take this picture of my desk. Things on it will shift, and mandarins will be eaten, flowering gums will wilt. Crochet will be also attempted, notebooks filled up, poetry read and glasses filled. And life will go on.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

seeker lover keeper: sally holly sarah

This is the beautiful project of Sarah Blasko, Holly Throsby and Sally Seltmann. Such a great idea.

I love how the songwriters don't sing their own songs. You can analyse each of their styles and see how they go singing to others'.

It also warms my heart that these girls are genuinely friends, and not rivals. There should be more of this in the music world.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mother's Day

I don't think I've ever had a more perfect mother's day. I was in Sydney for another commitment, and decided to surprise Mum by just turning up on her doorstep. It worked a treat.

On Sunday I enjoyed brunch with the family, followed by a wander through the Gordon markets and a cuppa in the backyard before flying home. You'll have to excuse the iphone photos. Still just a little bit obsessed with Instagram. The first 12 images are all taken at the fabulously low-key Gordon markets; if you're ever in the area on the first Sunday of the month, you  must visit. Make sure you say hi to Mimmet the dog and her endearing owner.