Musing on Melbourne Part Two

window dressing

Looking at a map of Melbourne’s city center, you see a mostly rectilinear geometry of parallel and perpendicular streets. Vintage maroon and green trams travel the City Circle route, which marks the boundary of the free tram zone. It is on foot, though, that you’ll find the wonder of this city. Step inside those straight lines and you’ll discover a magical universe where around every corner is another surprise.

The State Library, a popular place to congregate for an al fresco lunch.

Melbourne is a very youthful, hipster city. The first things I noticed were women wearing fashionable yet sensible shoes instead of the towering black ankle booties you find on every young woman in Sydney and the absence of prams.

As I discovered two years ago when we first moved to Australia, there is a rivalry of sorts between Sydney and Melbourne for who makes the best coffee. Don’t tell Sydney I said this, but so far the best coffee I’ve discovered was in Melbourne at Brother Baba Budan , part of the Seven Seeds family. It’s a tiny little place with more chairs hanging from the ceiling than sitting on the floor. At any time you’ll find it jam packed full of coffee lovers, and the coffee is well worth it. Pick up a packet of beans to brew at home. The Adado Gedeo Ethiopia was a revelation.

cocoa and fairy floss at Hash

Another unique, hot beverage experience awaits you at Hash Specialty Coffee & Roasters. It’s a thick, Italian style hot chocolate served in a beaker, which you then pour over the lofty mountain of fairy floss (cotton candy). Myself, I skipped the spun sugar and went straight for the pudding-like chocolate.

Spicy BBQ Pork Bowl at Paperboy Kitchen

Melbournians are spoiled for choice when it comes to food and drink, and we sampled as much as we could in a week. One night we met up with some American friends for pre-dinner drinks at the Gin Palace, a moody, speak-easy kinda joint, with intimate seating arrangements of low, plush couches, and novel length list of martini choices.

After that, we moved on to Meatmaiden, where, as you can guess from the name, they serve a lot of meat. The food was delicious and beautifully presented. One of the highlights of the visit had to be watching the tables full of very large and hungry footy players. They devoured an awful lot of food and, as we got there late, there was a lot of the menu missing. The chef was very kind and sent us some on-the-house goodies.

Another popular spot was Naked For Satan in Fitzroy, a suburb just northeast of the city center. Leon Satanovich ran a vodka still in this building during the Depression. Because of the blasting heat, he worked in his undies. Folks who came to taste his vodka used the code phrase “let’s get naked for Satan.”  We sat on the rooftop terrace, watched the sun go down and feasted on Basque inspired small plates.

On our last day, we had a farewell to Melbourne meal at Terra Rossa on Flinders Lane. We had the Margherita pizza with fior de latte. Mmmmm!

Wunderkammer

Between meals, Melbourne is a literal cabinet of curiosities, starting with Wunderkammer, which was exactly that. It was filled with skeletons, fossils and minerals, taxidermy, mounted insects and strange little contraptions.

l’uccello

My favorite find, the one I dream of, was l’uccello Vintage Haberdashery & Fancy Goods in the Cathedral Arcade. It was a textile artist’s heaven. Plus, I just like to say “haberdashery.”

l’uccello

It was overflowing with vintage ribbons and buttons, with silk embroidery floss, Liberty of London and French General fabric.

l’uccello

And the Holy Grail of textile arts, something I never expected to see in real life, Sophie Digard scarves and necklaces. I’m having to fan myself right now; I feel faint thinking of it.

As I left l’uccello, I wandered in another shop next door. Fascinated with the collection of objects and the fanciful curating, I was snapping photos and wondering why there was no proprietor. I was alone in the shop until a woman whispered past me and said, “I didn’t see that.” “Didn’t see what?” I asked. The photos. Apparently I wasn’t to be taking photos. It seems a few months back, some extremist Christians had been in, snapped photos and then publicly denounced the shop owner as a Satanist. I couldn’t see anything in the shop that would give someone that idea, but I put my camera down and followed the woman into her shop, the Muses of Mystery.

Muses of Mystery

I had to scratch my head, wondering why the other guy’s shop was targeted. I had a lovely chat with Vikkhi and an enjoyable wander around her shop.

Haunted Bookshop

Another place I found in a local guide and was keen to visit was the Haunted Bookshop. I’m pretty sure the fellow behind the counter is the resident haint. When I asked to see tarot cards he might as well have chased me out of the store rattling chains and howling for all the help he gave. He made it abundantly clear that I was not welcome there. Maybe it was the camera.

 

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Musing on Melbourne

National Gallery of Victoria

I struggle to breathe when I think of what tomorrow brings. I feel like all the oxygen has been sucked out of the air. I vacillate between wanting to bury myself in some activity that wipes out all other thought, and thinking, “no-no-no, I have to do SOMETHING!” Tomorrow I will do a thing, a starting point; I will go to the Women’s March in Sydney. I will dress in black to signify my state of mourning for my country of origin. For today, I will pretend that all is well, and I’ll go on a little mental journey to Melbourne.

I discovered Melbourne last June when I accompanied my husband on a business trip, and I fell in love immediately! I was enchanted with the old world charm, the colorful laneways, and all the twisty-turny places where you can discover delightful surprises.

Our adventure began at the Historic Port Authority Building, an example of Neo-Grec architecture, which was completed in 1931. The granite and marble-filled building is now an apartment space, where we enjoyed an Airbnb stay. I could have spent the day looking at each fine detail of this building, but the husband was doing a lot of heavy sighing, so we went out the door and into the city.

The Forum Theatre

The city center is laid out in a what’s known as the Hoddle Grid, oriented 70 degrees off from true north.  The main streets which run NE to SW and SE to NW are lined with stunning architecture.

Town Hall

Wandering off from those straight lines you’ll discover the laneways, little alleys that run between the main thoroughfares and sometimes veer off into dead ends.

I immediately lost my husband to the graffiti covered walls.

The street art is one of Melbourne’s main attractions.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Among the architectural highlights are the churches. I’m not a religious person, and yet I find myself fascinated by sacred architecture.

Go Go Bar

Our hosts were serious foodies and gave us many good suggestions for places to eat. Nearby was the popular Chin Chin. When we got there, the wait was only 15 minutes, so we went downstairs to the Go Go Bar and had an amazing espresso martini. By the time we were seated the line was snaking out the door, around the corner, down the laneway. The food was worthy of that line, but I am so glad we arrived when we did!

Walking down the sidewalk on the way to dinner, I caught a glimpse of glowing light through the stained glass of the Cathedral Arcade and had to duck in for a quick photo.

The Royal Arcade

The arcades are beautiful shopping centers dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

One of the selling points of this city, for me, is you can find a farmers market almost any day of the week. We hopped over to the Queen Victoria Market on Sunday. There we discovered the Brazilian Festival where they were smoking a lot of meat!

A lot of meat!

I spent a good few days wandering this beautiful city and really barely touched on it. What I did see is too much for one blog post. I’ll be back with some highlights of the amazing food, beverages, and some quirky little shops I found. In the meantime, I’m planning our next trip there, which will include revisiting some of my favorite spots!

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A South Coast Journey

A year ago, (Yes a year. I don’t procrastinate, not at all.) our friends were flying off to Perth for the holidays and insisted that while they were gone, we should take their car and go on a road trip. So Christmas day we packed up the car and pulled out onto the highway. They’d given Craig some driving-on-the-other-side-of-the-road lessons in the days previous, but he was still quite nervous. I wasn’t allowed to knit, as I had to be his second set of eyes to make sure he was doing it right. He didn’t really need my help, but it made him feel better.

We drove south on the A1, leaving the city behind. The freeway cuts through the wooded Royal National Park, then comes to the city of Wollongong on the other side. Keep going past the town and suddenly the landscape opens up and you’re surrounded by green rolling hills. The sheer expanse of space made me feel as if I’d just been released from a small closet where I’d been kept locked up for several months. At that moment I thought, “oh, I’m not going back.”

Soon we started seeing signs for kangaroo crossings. My main goal on this trip was to finally see a kangaroo! I hoped the first one I saw wasn’t roadkill. We drove through places with wonderful names like Jerrawangala and Ulladulla, words I want to repeat again and again just to feel the syllables roll around in my mouth.

southcoast-nsw-2-of-25In late afternoon we arrived at our Airbnb rental at Dolphin point. After meeting our host and having a short rest, we walked to the nearby beach, where the waters from Stony Creek River meet the ocean. We walked down the short beach, crossed a narrow inlet onto another large expanse of sand, and across that to the lagoon. The tide was coming in, so we left our belongings a good ways up on the sand, and waded into the water. There was a sandspit on the other side that we wanted to get to and look out on the ocean from there. The river was intent on making its way to the open sea, so we lifted our legs and let it carry us. Once to the other side, we discovered it was pretty much a straight vertical climb up, and it was all we could do to hold our ground and not be swept away.

southcoast-nsw-3-of-25Craig wanted to go ahead and follow the current around the spit and out to sea. That didn’t sound like a good idea to me. Aside from drowning, I was also worried about our cameras we’d left back on shore. A quick glance over told me we’d better hurry back. The water was close to lapping at our cameras now. Even swimming across the current rather than trying to swim against it was obviously going to take me far from where I was trying to go. We eventually made it, just in the nick of time. By this point, the “large expanse of sand” was a small island.

southcoast-nsw-5-of-25According to my itinerary, the next day was when I would finally see a kangaroo. We set off for Pebbly Beach, known for the abundant kangaroo population. The beach was mostly deserted except for other folks who read the same reviews of the beach that I did. On the way back from the loo, one went hopping by and was gone before I realized what was happening. I spoke to a local who told me that, indeed, it was a big kangaroo hot spot, but they usually show up for four o’clock happy hour. So we decided to continue our trek south to see what we could find.

gabe-the-wombatAt Batemans Bay we found Birdland Animal Park and my new boyfriend Gabe.

southcoast-nsw-6-of-25Craig found a different kind of friend.

southcoast-nsw-8-of-25And wallabies!

southcoast-nsw-9-of-25The next day we turned back north and drove to Jervis Bay to our next Airbnb. It was a just perfect size tiny cabin in our hosts’ backyard, surrounded by flowers and chickens. Our hosts recommended Orient Post Bakehouse for truly amazing fish and chips, and invited us by in the evening for a drink. That’s one of the things we appreciate about Airbnb, is the chance to meet people and make new friends. We ended up staying until midnight or later drinking wine and chatting with our hosts, two other Airbnb guests from Germany, staying in a caravan out front, plus two of the hosts’ friends from Ireland who were there visiting.

southcoast-nsw-11-of-25The next day we went to Hyams Beach, where it’s said to have the whitest sand around.  Hmmm. Not exactly white, but it was a gorgeous beach!  On the way to the beach, we stopped off at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum in Huskisson. A year later I don’t remember everything that we saw, but I know I found it interesting and there were lots of things from boats and an old ferry.

For lunch we went to Greenwell Point for oysters. There are several stands were you can buy oysters shucked and served with lemon. And we’re told that there are people just on the side of the road selling them too. We did see some signs, but apparently they were sold out. It’s a popular attraction, so go early if you want oysters.

southcoast-nsw-17-of-25There are lots of fishing boats around, and that attracts one of my favorite birds. I got such a kick out of this greedy guy. All that mess he’s swallowing looks painful, doesn’t it?

southcoast-nsw-19-of-25Next up, we visited Currarong to find the shipwreck. At the beginning of the trail we found this obsidian black river. Somebody told us that it’s the tannin from the tea trees that turns the water black.

southcoast-nsw-21-of-25At the end of the trail we found the shipwreck. On a stormy night of March 27, 1928 the S.S. Merimbula ran aground at Whale Point. The next morning, the fourteen passengers and 35 crew members rowed safely ashore. These are the remains that have washed up here.

southcoast-nsw-23-of-25Following Lighthouse Road down to the southern tip of the Currarong peninsula we found Point Perpendicular Lightstation. For awhile we were the only people there. It was so quiet, the only sounds coming from the wind and sea and gulls. The late afternoon sun was glorious.

Finally, it was time to go search out some dinner. Nowra is the nearest town of any size and most likely to have a few restaurants to choose from. We learned something about Christmas week in Australia. Everything is closed. Well, not quite everything. We did find an Indian restaurant that hit the spot.

southcoast-nsw-25-of-25On the final day of our holiday, we thought we’d make one last side journey on our way home. We drove over the twisty windy roads of Cambewarra Range to arrive at Kangaroo Valley. We had brought along a little picnic and stopped to dine beside this peaceful river.

This Christmas, we’re heading south again. This time we’ll have home base at Batemans Bay, and take some short trips from there. I’ll try real hard not to wait another year before I post pics!

Happy holidays to all!

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Blue Mountains Road Trip

blue-mountains-2-of-20After almost two years down here in Australia, we finally made the very short trip to the amazingly beautiful Blue Mountains. What we were waiting for, I do not know. We set the tone for our holiday away by having a leisurely morning before we jumped in the vehicle and headed west.

Our first stop was in the village of Wentworth Falls. A friend had recommended that we absolutely needed to stop at Conditorei Patisserie Schwarz. Oh. My. Goodness. That was very good advice. We had a lovely lunch consisting of the Aussie staple food, meat pie, and Schwarz’s soup of the day, which was I believe Hungarian Goulash. I’m not certain, but I am certain it was all delicious. Before we left, of course, we had to buy pastries for the road!

Feeling chockers (very full!) we got back on the road, but not for long. We took a little jaunt to visit the actual water fall of Wentworth Falls. I’m not going to lie, I’ve seen bigger, much bigger waterfalls, but it was stunning scenery. I didn’t realize just how much I’ve missed the mountains.

blue-mountains-4-of-20The bird life in the Blue Mountains was extraordinary.

blue-mountains-5-of-20Continuing on, we came to the Three Sisters rock formation. According to a version of Aboriginal legend, the three sisters of the Katoomba tribe, living in this valley, fell in love with three brothers from the wrong tribe. A battle ensued and the girls were turned to stone for their protection. Unfortunately, the witchdoctor who did the deed died before he could turn them back into girls.

blue-mountains-9-of-20We found another glorious view at Govetts Leap near Blackheath. You can’t really tell from this photo… well maybe a little bit. Look over to the far left. See that bit of yellow? Great swaths of this color filled the valleys and hillsides. It was almost like taking an autumn leaf-peeping drive in Utah.

hedgehog-fabricI couldn’t resist stopping at Blackheath Haberdashery & Fabric. Really, I just love any place that has haberdashery in the name! I did find this super cute Japanese fabric by Sevenberry. I also took a quick peek in the House of Wool; they had a sweet collection of yarn.

blue-mountains-16-of-20As evening drew near, we arrived at our destination, Jenolan Caves and the Cave House hotel. The accommodation was built in 1897 by architect Walter Liberty Vernon, in Federation Arts and Crafts style. The simple, yet comfortable rooms are decorated to be reminiscent of the late Victorian, early Edwardian era. No TV. No wi-fi. It was wonderful. We had more delicious food in the grand dining room at Chisolm’s restaurant in the hotel.

blue-mountains-13-of-20After dinner, the young woman at the front desk urged us to walk down to the Blue Lake, so named because of the light refraction caused by dissolving particles of limestone. While strolling along we were treated with a sighting of the resident platypus. A perfect ending to a perfect day!

blue-mountains-19-of-20The next day we started off with more yummy food! The dining room served up a huge buffet, with sausages, bacon, beans and toast, yogurt, fruit, muslii, and of course coffee, tea, orange juice, and milk. Oh and there were even pastries, but I had been spoiled by Schwarz’s the day before.

After another lazy morning, we took our cave tour. They have several different caves you can tour, all for different fitness levels and adventure seeking levels. We viewed Chifley Cave, a very moderate choice.

blue-mountains-20-of-20My favorite formations in the cave were what they named “shawls”, these bits that look like fabric draped across the way. The other highlight for me was the precocious little boy who chatted up our guide and was full of witty remarks.

Apparently this is where I stopped taking photos, with the Nikon anyway. I was in such a state of relaxation, that it just did not occur to me. We left Jenolan and headed northwest to Bathurst to stock up on provisions for the rest of the weekend to be spent in a cozy little cabin that we found on AirBnB.

All in all it was a heavenly weekend full of rest, de-stressing, and reconnecting . And best of all, now that we know just how quick and easy a trip it is up to the Blue Mountains, our plan is to make many an escape up there on hot and humid summer weekends! There are so very many more sights to see and little villages to explore!

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Finding a Light in the Darkness

a-light-in-the-darkness-1-of-1As the misty, morning light edged into my consciousness, the waking nightmare seeped in beside it. I reached immediately for my phone, for a connection to the outside world, comfort. My husband is off in New Zealand on business. Squinting at the phone through sleep and tear crusted eyes, I found first a letter of condolence from a dear friend in Scotland. His dry wit even in the face of this tragedy allowed me to start the day with a smile and a chortle before the tears returned.

I was uplifted when I opened Facebook and saw hopeful messages there. People are mourning, as I am, and they are asking, “how can I help to make this better?” This is a frightening turn of events; a hate mongering, racist, misogynist, xenophobe is actually president of our United States, and a whole lot of hate mongering, racist, misogynist, xenophobes put him there. That’s the real scary part, that there are that many out there. I think of my friends of color, my Muslim friends, and those in the LGBTQ community, and imagine how much more compounded their fear must be.

And yet, we have to keep going. We don’t have to sit back and accept this, watch our world crumble, and give over to the despair and hate. The question is, “how do we make a difference?” I want some kind of concrete plan, a to-do list of tasks I can complete and when the list is all checked off the world will be a brighter place. My in-box is so full of emails exhorting me to take action, sign the petition for this cause, donate money for that one. I find it all so overwhelming.

As I read those thoughtful posts in my Facebook feed, I’m reminded that it is love and compassion for others that will pull us through this and create a better world for us all. Just as humans are soft, malleable creatures, so too is our path forward. Yes, we need to sign petitions and donate money, services, time as we can, but we need to spread love too. The way forward is in each individual interaction with our fellow creatures. Just as hate and enmity spreads, so too does love. I have to believe that today. Isn’t that the American can-do spirit? The attitude that made our country great? We can do this. For fuck’s sake let us do this.

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Hallowe’en Down Under

rookwood-cemetery-9-of-33 It’s All Hallows’ Eve in the northern hemisphere. My own little grandgoblin is probably just finishing up trick-or-treating. Hyped up on sugar she’s giving her mom fits, dancing in circles and crying, “but I don’t wanna go to bed! Just one more piece of candy? Puhleese?”

I still can’t quite get my mind around the idea of Halloween here in Australia. Halloween is a harvest festival, one last blast before the nights get long and dark and cold. It doesn’t fit here where the nesting magpies are swooping and the the flora is in full flush and it’s just about time to hit the beaches. Halloween is a relatively new phenomenon here in ‘Straya. It’s only been in the last decade that it has started to take hold.

Which is why I was unprepared last night when I glanced out the window to see two ghoulish tots climbing the mountain of my front stoop with their plastic pumpkins, calling, “trick or treat!” I froze for a moment, dumbstruck, then ran to rummage through the cupboard looking for that package of cookies I bought to make Halloween witch cupcakes for a party I didn’t go to. I couldn’t find them and had to disappoint the little monsters. The little boy shook his finger at me and told me to do better next year. I looked at the parents and said, “I’m sorry. We were told that you all don’t trick or treat here.” “Yeah nah,” she told me, “there’s heaps that go around here.”

Last year, we were told that trick-or-treating isn’t a thing here, that some households do it, and the kids only go to houses that are decorated or to friends’ houses where it’s been prearranged. We were at a party last year, so were clueless as to what may have been happening on our street. An internet search for answers brought up a great debate between supporters and detractors, those who shamed me for disappointing the little ones, and those who made the Halloween is un-Australian Facebook page.  Apparently Halloween is growing in popularity; some point to the Americanization of Australia through social media, television, and film where Halloween shows up regularly. I did see many etiquette lists that said stick to the decorated houses if you want treats, and that if you don’t want trick-or-treaters, don’t decorate. Well that makes sense, but had me wondering if the kids mistook all the real spider webs for spooky decor. I swear I swept them down a day ago!

After the kids climbed back down the stoop, I closed the door, drew the blinds and hid in the shadowy recesses of my lolly-free house. A short while later I heard a rumbling, a great horde of children screeching, “trick or treat!” as they grew nearer.  I started shaking. I had visions of the scene in Frankenstein where the angry villagers come over the hill carrying torches, intent on mayhem.

The roar of that sugar-hungry mob reached a deafening pitch as they came closer. I cowered in the corner of my sofa, glancing over at the door, wondering if I should throw the deadbolt, latch the chain. I held my breath and peered through the blinds as they reached the front of my house. Whew! They passed by! I could breathe again. I listened to them swarm on up the block. A good fifteen minutes later I could still hear them in the distance.

I thought, “yeah little kid, I’ll remember next year. I’ll remember not to be home.” But now I kind of regret not having decorated the porch and bought heaps of lollies to hand out. One of the arguments I read in favor of the holiday was that it brings communities together, helps you get to know your neighbors. I would love to gain a reputation with the kids as the scary witch who hands out the best treats. We have been wondering how to meet more of our neighbors; I think I missed out on a great opportunity.

Hmmm…. I bet Halloween decorations are really cheap right now!

 

 

Art in the Cemetery

rookwood-cemetery-32-of-33

Rookwood Cemetery is amazing to behold. Located in Lidcombe, historic Rookwood is the oldest and largest cemetery operating in Australia today. The cemetery was founded in 1867 as “The Necropolis at Haslem’s Creek”. Today it covers over 314 hectares and is the resting place of over a million people from 90 different religious and cultural groups.

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In the early days, the local residents of Haslem didn’t appreciate their suburb being so closely associated with the cemetery, so petitioned to change their name. According to the website, in 1878 the residents settled on the name Rookwood, for the many crows in the neighborhood. By 1913, the cemetery had once again adopted the name of the suburb where it lay, so the suburb name was changed to Lidcombe.  Rookwood stuck.

rookwood-cemetery-2-of-3           Rachel Sheree Peace in Death

Each spring, HIDDEN – A Rookwood Sculpture Walk is held at the cemetery, an opportunity for the public to experience the beauty and cultural significance of a historic site that they might not visit otherwise. The thought of the late afternoon sun falling over artwork tucked in among the gravestones being too much to resist, I grabbed my camera and took an excursion out west.

rookwood-cemetery-13-of-33George Catsi & Anne Kwasner Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

While for the most part I’ve appreciated the ease of traveling around Sydney on public transport, there are some places that are a bit more difficult to get to. What would have been a 20 minute drive (on the left side of the road; something that still gives me a lot of anxiety) took over an hour plus three modes of transport: light rail, train, bus. Four actually, if I include the 9K I put on my feet with all my wandering from here to there. The closest bus stop was still a few blocks from the cemetery. Feeling cocky about my adventure as I hopped off the bus, I soon found myself having to backtrack almost a full lap around the block when I came up against a cement barrier blocking my access over the A3.

rookwood-cemetery-22-of-33Michael Garth Expiry Date

I was still feeling pretty jaunty when I walked through the gate and saw the big sign pointing the way toward the general office, where I was headed first to pick up my map of the art exhibit. Apparently, I hadn’t studied the website close enough, and Google maps didn’t show the “general” office, just some other buildings that I guessed were the right place and weren’t. I walked in the direction of the arrow (the direction I thought it was pointing; now I’m wondering…), until I came upon a building I hoped was the office. It was an office, a closed office and not the one I wanted. I pulled out Google maps again, hoping, and reoriented toward a different wrong building. Did I mention this cemetery is over 314 hectares? Just when I’d about given up hope of getting a map I saw another “general office” sign pointing the same way as the signs for HIDDEN. I went thataway.

rookwood-cemetery-20-of-33Adam Galea Speak with Dead

I saw the first installation and near it another camera-wielding visitor. When I inquired about the whereabouts of the general office, she pointed up the road another 200 meters, shaking her head and looking at her watch. It was five minutes past closing. This very kind woman told me she was just finishing and offered me her map. I am forever grateful to her, because I would still be wandering around lost in there, trying to find the art.

rookwood-cemetery-16-of-33Linde lvimey Bella Donna, (Deadly Night Shade)

She pointed out the section where I’d find most of the artworks, in the oldest part of the cemetery. I thanked her for her kindness and trundled off. Hot, irritable, thirsty, needing to pee, and already so very tired of walking, I juggled my camera, map, and a heavy bag slung over my shoulder. Each time I lifted the camera to take a photo, the wind blew my hair and the map into the frame. I was really wondering if any of this was worth the effort and thinking that perhaps photography isn’t my thing. I was ready to say, “fuck it” and call an Uber.

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Then the wind blew again and the spirits whispered, “no, stay.” The light was starting to take on that golden glow and was playing hide-and-seek with the shadows around the worn and crumbling graves. The tall grasses and wild flowers growing in this unkempt section of the cemetery convinced me to stop, take a breath, and continue my adventure. I had all the time in the world now. Well, until they locked the gate with me inside. Keeping that in mind, I located the next artwork.

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Making my way deeper into the quiet, forgotten areas, I felt more at peace myself. This portion of the cemetery stood in stark contrast to the gleaming granite, manicured lawns, and oft-frequented area where I had entered the grounds. Here nature was given free rein, the ravens, magpies, and butterflies the only other visitors. Now and then I’d come upon a withered bouquet left on a timeworn grave, and wonder who it was honoring their long dead ancestor. Or was it someone who pities the forgotten ones, and transplants bouquets from other areas of the necropolis?

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I wanted to sit and contemplate the artwork, the leaning headstones and toppled angels. There were no benches to sit on and I hadn’t thought to bring a blanket. I didn’t dare rest my derriere on a tumbling grave, for fear I’d tip it clean over. Or, those spirits I felt on the wind might whip through my hair, knock me down, take my breath and follow me home for interrupting their repose.

rookwood-cemetery-5-of-33Robert Hawkins The End of the Conversation

Having come to the final artwork, I decided, since I was halfway there, to continue to make my way overland to the far side of the cemetery and catch the train instead of going back to the bus. In the distance I could see a tall fence around the perimeter. Another thing I hadn’t reckoned on. Was there a gate on that side? It was getting late; I didn’t know how long it would take me to trek back to the east entrance, and my feet were starting to cry. I was beginning to feel a little panicky; I do have a fear of being locked inside creepy places, like that time at Gilgal Sculpture Garden in Salt Lake City.  My phone battery was dying, I wasn’t sure an Uber could get to this section of the cemetery, and I knew I couldn’t scale that fence, even if I wasn’t wearing a dress. I asked the local spirits to puh-leeese let me out! I’ve never been so happy to see the other side of a fence in my life.

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The HIDDEN Sculpture Walk ends on Sunday, but even without the art this cemetery is a beautiful place to visit. When I grow a pair of ovaries I’ll drive back out there, leave my camera at home, and just visit the residents.

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Harvest Festival

As I sit bundled up under sweaters and knitted throws, looking out on a cold, grey sky, I’m calling up a warmer day last month when we journeyed out with our mates to experience the Autumn Harvest Festival at Rouse Hill House and Farm. The house and farm are part of Sydney Living Museums, a group of historic structures and gardens, such as Vaucluse House that I wrote about last year.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (2 of 27)I’m afraid I went with notions of the familiar American harvest festival, expecting big orange pumpkins, some hot apple cider, and maybe a hayride.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (1 of 27)We did get to eat scones with jam and fresh cream while sitting on hay bales! These were proper scones, not the fry bread that Utahns try to pass off as scones.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (6 of 27)And there was some beautiful harvest bounty.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (7 of 27)I sought out orange where I could find it. (over in the corner. the carrots)

Rouse Hill House and Farm (1 of 4)This looks more like spring! But I still have a lot to learn about planting and growing here.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (9 of 27)There were stalls with lots of yummy things to eat. Eat Me Chutneys rescues “unsold, wonky and bruised produce and convert it into epic chutneys.” We got some of the tamarind and fig. It was indeed epic!

Rouse Hill House and Farm (3 of 4)I found myself enchanted by the lovely displays. I’m a sucker for things in jars. So is my husband. Several jars followed us home.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (4 of 27)Things in beakers also win me over!

Rouse Hill House and Farm (11 of 27)I didn’t try Loli’s Organic Nut Butters, but they looked delicious.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (4 of 4)I can not tell you how badly I wanted to ring this bell in front of the old schoolhouse. If they hadn’t put that sign there, I wouldn’t have even considered it.

Rouse Hill House old photo (1 of 1)Rouse Hill House was constructed in the early 1800s. Six generations of the family lived there up until the late 1990s when it was opened as a museum.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (18 of 27)Today, the house on the hill is abuzz with visitors.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (21 of 27)The house and farm is built on the site of the Battle of Vinegar Hill, a convict uprising in 1804, led by Irish political prisoners and named for the battle that took place in Ireland in 1798 between the British Redcoats and Irish rebels. It was sobering to look out on the quiet open space and think of the strife that unraveled there so long ago.

Rouse Hill House and Farm (22 of 27)I find it quite thrilling to travel down these old roads to find the history there. There are many more Sydney Living Museum sites I hope to visit, including homes, a barracks, the mint, and more. I’ve learned that in some they have candle-lit tours available! Now that sounds fun!

 

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A Change of Season

nature - autumn (1 of 1)Peeking through the bank of native trees outside my study window, I see splotches of the red and orange of a deciduous immigrant. The sun sparkle dances off the leaves creating tongues of flame licking at the blue above. The ground beneath the trees is wet with puddles reflecting leaves and sky, remnants of the rain that pelted us over the last few days.

nature - autumn (2 of 6)According to the calendar, we’ve passed from autumn to winter here down under. The Aussies count their seasons from the first day of the month in which the equinox or solstice occurs. Yet, there are not actually only four seasons here. That’s an idea the Europeans brought with them. In fact, season is not so much a matter of calendar or even temperature as it is of other natural indicators. A couple days ago, we were bundled in wool sweaters and socks with the heater on, and yesterday I had the window open, and the scene from that window looks like autumn.

stitched wheel of the year (1 of 1)I’ve been stitching an embroidered wheel of the year, one meant to represent the seasons of both the northern and southern hemispheres. This awareness and marking of the seasons is a primary tenet of my personal spiritual practice. As I tried to force the Australian seasons to match up with the northern hemisphere round, it became clear that the seasons aren’t just flipped.

Even in the northern hemisphere, “spring” may arrive before or after the Vernal Equinox. As I chose symbols to embroider for each season, I could see how the seasons meld one into the next, and the date of the equinox or solstice wasn’t necessarily an indicator. What is spring in Texas is still winter in Utah. Of course, others will tell me that “spring” in Utah means snow. And in Colorado the locals refer to second and third winter, those heavy, wet snowfalls that cover the land then melt the next day with the return of the sun.

nature - autumn (4 of 6)As I enter my second winter here, I continue to try to wrap my mind around the idea of Australian seasons, to take my brain out of the four season European paradigm, to take a more intuitive approach. I’m learning about the seasons by marking the daily weather conditions in my calendar, and by being aware of which native trees are blooming around me as I go on my walks.

nature - autumn (6 of 6)These kind of natural indicators are how Australia’s Indigenous people have been counting the seasons for the last 50,000 years. The Aboriginal idea of seasons has traditionally been connected to food supply, need for shelter, animal behavior, and the land itself.

seasons of the year D'harawal PeopleI went on an internet search wanting to understand Australia’s seasons from the perspective of the Traditional Land Owners. I found this chart that shows we’re now in the time when the Burringoa, or Red Gum, is flowering. I’ll remember now that when the wind blows drifts of pollen into my living room it’s Tugarah Tuli.

I find nature’s cycles comforting; they ground me in place and time. Now nature tells me it’s time for cuddling on the sofa with afghans, and for baking bread and simmering pots of soup. As I watch the seasons change again and compare this June to last, I’m feeling a growing sense of familiarity in this still new-to-me land; I feel my roots reaching a bit deeper into the Australian soil.

Seed Stitch

I *recently* (ok, ok, it was way back in March) had the opportunity to indulge my love of textile art. When I saw the open call for Seed Stitch Inaugural Contemporary Textile Exhibition I could feel that old tug to submit something, but having no finished work with me and not even a WIP, I decided to just go to the show. The theme was one dear to my heart: the re-emergence of textiles and its transformation from a domestic craft into a genre of fine art. Soraya Abidin curated the exhibit, which included artists from around Sydney. From this group, the Seed Stitch Collective was formed; they’ll go on to make this, hopefully, an annual exhibit.

Seed Stitch textile art exhibit (14 of 18)Gunung Sari by Soraya Abidin

Soraya‘s works are “born of a love for the primitive practices within [her] Malay cultural heritage,” and is informed by spiritual and ceremonial practices, Islamic arts, and crafts of the Orang Asli (the indigenous people of Malaysia).

Seed Stitch textile art exhibit (15 of 18)She embroiders in natural raffia and embellishes with gold leaf. In her artist statement, she says her “artworks are in response to the absence of nature in the digital world.”

Seed Stitch textile art exhibit (7 of 8)Avenger by Soraya Abidin
Seed Stitch textile art exhibit (6 of 8)It Rained All Summer by Carole Douglas

Carole Douglas works with found objects, natural dyes, reused cloth. In her artist statement, she states,  “…I am inspired by old textiles and the honouring of lineage that is imbued in each piece,” the hand of the maker and the stains left through use.

Seed Stitch textile art exhibit (10 of 18)Wandering through the exhibit, I found myself drawn to the lines of hand-stitching central to several pieces. I am always in awe when I see the detail, the careful spacing, and the uniform stitches. It makes me want to grab a piece of cloth and get lost in the meditation of needle pulling thread.

Seed Stitch textile art exhibit (4 of 18) Symphony by Jessica B Watson

Jessica B. Watson creates her stitched collages by painting onto translucent silk, then cutting out the shapes and stitching them onto a larger piece of linen or hemp. Her piece, “Symphony” came about from a summer’s evening wade at the beach, and finding herself standing in the midst of a school of brightly coloured fish.

Seed Stitch textile art exhibit (3 of 18)You can see how her hand-stitching contributes to the overall movement of her design.

Seed Stitch textile art exhibit (5 of 18)Pelican Party by Jerome Speekman

And of course I loved this panel of stitched pelicans! Jerome Speekman got into his ex’s embroidery basket one day and discovered he was really good at this! Since then, he’s been creating beautiful “needle paintings” like this one.

Seed Stitch textile art exhibit (6 of 18)Just amazing! I wish I had such patience.

Seed Stitch textile art exhibit (12 of 18)Topology of Memory by Emma Peters

Emma Peters works with raw and local materials and natural dyes, and incorporates new technologies such as digital printing into her pieces that draw on the tradition of heirloom quilting to tell stories and hold memory.

Seed Stitch textile art exhibit (13 of 18)Detail from Topology of Memory series.

 Seed Stitch textile art exhibit (3 of 8)Exhale by Suzanne Davey

This piece by Suzanne Davey makes me feel like I could spread my wings and fly.  “Exhale” is created using fabric, steel, resin and thread, and explores qualities of light and movement in textiles.

The Seed Stitch Collective will be having another exhibit in November at Barometer Gallery in Paddington. I’ll be there for sure!