Daily Prompt: Through the window

Go to the nearest window. Look out for a full minute. Write about what you saw.

I don’t have to get off my chair for this prompt;  the nearest window is twelve inches from the back of my computer screen.  Or rather it’s a bank of windows which ‘look’, as they say, onto the front yard and the street.  But I look, and I can’t see much of either.  In a full minute, I see a small green forest, a patchwork of trees, some planted by us, others by nature.  Leaves of diverse shapes sway in a light breeze.  To the right are seven-lobed maple leaves and conventional one-lobed leaves of an unidentified shade tree which made its home where carnations once grew.  To the left, three rich green ash trees grow up beyond the roof.  The blue-grey needles of the spruce provide the only contrast, its branches inversely arching as it towers into the sky, blending with the blue heavens where today there’s no sign of fires or storms.  A good day.  From a small drawer beside the window, I take out a camera to photograph the scene and a black currawong flies into the frame and sits on a branch, keeping his eye on me.  I move to get a better view of him but he doesn’t trust me and jumps to another branch, then another, and flies away.

In this full minute I neither saw nor heard another human.  But now, as I write, toddlers are squealing and mothers chatting in the flats opposite.  Always a comforting sound, like a promise.



Weekly photo challenge: Love

My son recently married a girl who likes to write on typewriters.  At their wedding reception, a love letter, barely begun, sat on the roller of a typewriter near the bridal table.  Everyone was invited to write the letter.

Here are the opening lines:

Luke and Rebecca Wedding_letterintypewriter

And here are the newlyweds reading their love letter:

Luke and Rebecca Wedding-readingloveletter


Ailsa's travel photo challenge: Walls

Six years ago I was in Collioure on the south-east coast of France, wandering around the outer walls of the Château Royal.  An artist had attached his paintings to the wall and I couldn’t take my eyes off them.  Alas, I didn’t buy one because my friend, another local artist, didn’t think they were the best.  But I loved this photo and have had it stuck on my wall at home all these years.  I plan to return to the region this year and perhaps this time I’ll pick up a small painting to stick to my wall.  If you like the colours, take a look at the blog header above where you’ll see the painter’s inspiration:  between blue sky and sea, under terracotta roofs and above ancient cobbled streets, the yellow and pink walled houses fill souls with sunshine and Matissey urges.

Art for sale, outer wall of the Château Royal, Collioure, France
Art for sale, outer wall of the Château Royal, Collioure, France

Check out Ailsa’s beautiful wall photography here:  http://wheresmybackpack.com/2013/01/25/travel-theme-walls/


Daily Prompt: 10 minutes' writing (and 30 minutes' editing).

What do librarians think about?  Every week I exchange words with them and every week I walk away wondering:  do they ever read the books that put food on their tables?  Where is the quirkiness that goes with bookishness?   They have, instead, certain employer-imposed behaviours that can make or break my day in a two-minute encounter.  National Library librarians are silent and serious, always well-dressed, sometimes helpful, seldom more knowledgeable than me about the book I seek.  National University librarians are closer to retirement, slow to attend the counter and slower to answer my questions.  Public library librarians are young and energetic, more of them male, more of them migrants, at once serving two customers and aiding three other librarians. But of all the librarians that fill my week, none can compare with the women in the little Catholic University on the corner, five minutes’ bike ride from my house.

The Catholic librarians are a special group.  Quiet, controlled, suspicious, pale-skinned and small-smiled.  Employed through a joy filter.  Practical women who can explain the system without expression or superfluity, leaving me to wonder if they ever read more than the call number.

And yet!  When I need to fire young imagination or teach literacy through literature, all I need is the Catholic library, the most excellent of all for tutors like me.  If I need to teach perfect pronunciation to adults or social justice to children, there are posters listing the books I need.  Shelves are loaded with children’s literature and mind-changing novels and histories, filled to the ceiling with up-to-date books by broad-minded authors,  about family and culture and  difference and music.

The women behind the counter, did they acquire these books?  Surely they are mistresses, hunting out secret pleasures to please their book-lovers.

When they don a pious mask and slip behind the counter to take my book selection, scan it, swipe it and push it back to me with a small comment and a smaller smile, what are they thinking about?

Saint holding a book, inner courtyard, Catholic University


Daily Prompt: Home, Soil, Rain

Today’s Daily Prompt asked for free associations with the words
home, soil, rain.

My home has not burnt down in the last few weeks, but several homes in south-east Australia have been in the path of merciless bushfires, and now some people have nowhere to lay their heads in peace.

A large 40,000 hectare bush fire is burning in the Warrumbungle National Park. Fires have destroyed more than 30 homes in New South Wales. (FILE:AAP)

Photo:  A large 40,000 hectare bush fire is burning in the Warrumbungle National Park. Fires have destroyed more than 30 homes in New South Wales. (FILE:AAP)

The soil in my yard is dry and a large crack has appeared in the ground at the side of the house.  The lawn that grew in spring has died.  In open farmland and bushy forest, the long grassy stalks are thirsty brown fire fuel.

Cracked earth, My yard, Canberra
Cracked earth, My yard, Canberra

In 1908 Dorothea Mackellar published a poem about this country, which many of us think of in weeks like these.   It’s called My Country and is famous for its line ‘I love a sunburnt country’.  A couple of later stanzas are on my mind:

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart around us,
We see the cattle die –

But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold –

Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze…

Dickson Wetlands, Canberra
Dickson Wetlands, Canberra
Rain will come again.  It will fill the cracked earth, soften it and quench its thirst.  Rain (and firefighters) will douse the uncontained fires still burning as I write.

Ailsa's photo challenge: Up

Up on the roof of the outdoor heater (which we’re NOT using right now – 42 deg yesterday), it’s a cool place to mate.  If you’re a dragonfly.

Dragonflies hanging loose
Dragonflies hanging loose
Dragonfly love

My son Josh and I both took photos of the dragonfly couple, but his were better and he’s happy for me to post them.  Thanks Josh.

I don’t ever forget that Ailsa inspires me with her photo challenges.  Check out her shots looking up to Edinburgh Castle:  http://wheresmybackpack.com/2013/01/18/travel-theme-up/


Daily Prompt: Take Two

Run outside. Take a picture of the first thing you see. Run inside. Take a picture of the second thing you see. Write about the connection between these two random objects, people, or scenes.

This was the instruction for yesterday’s daily prompt.  When I read it, I thought ‘I can do that’.  I immediately took my small camera from its small drawer and walked outside.  My husband was sitting at the outdoor table with his cereal bowl and glass of juice.   But my eye fell first on his computer.  I clicked.

Brett at Breakfast

I turned round, stepped back through the door and the first thing I saw was washing waiting to be folded, but the instruction is to record the second thing.  I turned my head;  it was the console radio that I saw, that I always see, with its photos of Renaissance architecture in Lyon, and a photo of my mother.  Not long before she died.  Click.

Console radio, c1949
Radio console, c1949

I have to find a connection.  It could be the old glass vase and the new glass tabletop.  It could be the Chain of Hearts growing above and over the radio console and the star jasmine growing like a triffid over the deck rail outside.  Or it could be a connection to do with men.

My father listened to this radio at a quarter to the hour, every hour, beginning at 5.45am with the first major news bulletin.  He would turn it up so it could be heard from the kitchen where he was eating breakfast, and I would wake and groan.

By contrast, and yet similarly, my husband reads the news on his computer while eating breakfast.  The technology has changed but the need for these two men to know the latest world news is the same.

There’s a broken thread in the connection:  the radio hasn’t worked for years.  When I inherited it from my family home, my husband, a former radio technician, said he could fix it.  But after opening it up and fiddling long inside, he wasn’t able to get it going.

The actual radio in the radio console is beneath the flowery frame, but if I remove the clutter, you can see it.  Looking closely at the panel, I remember something:  this Handel radio was made for Queenslanders.  See how the station indicators are bolder?  And I notice there’s no row for the Northern Territory, but there’s one for N.G.  Is that New Guinea, I wonder?

Handel radiogram, 1940s
Handel radio, c1949, now silent

A thought tickles me:  I imagine one of our sons in thirty years with an inherited computer, opening it up and operating on it in the hope of reliving his father’s newsreading breakfasts…



Since the day Ailsa suggested a theme of multiples, I’ve been noticing them here and there.

Tuesday, lunchtime in the city:  I saw 3 people wearing sunnies in 3 different ways:  one wore them on the back of his head, another had them across her forehead and a third had them under her chin.

Wednesday, 3.30am in bed:  I couldn’t sleep for worrying about the 140 fires burning in NSW.

Wednesday 4.30am in bed:  The 5 stars of the Southern Cross and its 2 pointer stars were so bright I could see them through sheer white curtains without my glasses.

Wednesday 2pm, arriving home:  I received a postcard from a French friend that’s identical to the postcard she sent me last year.

Thursday 9am, my room:  A string of 4 Indian elephants, their rumps decked in bells, a Christmas present I bought for an elephant-loving student before the lessons were cancelled, hangs on the wall and drifts in the breeze, its tinkling bells disturbing the dogs next door.

Thursday 9.30am, my desk:  I remember this photo in my father’s war album of 5 beautiful boys.  I’ve never posted it on this blog because I’ve seen it in multiple places.  It was probably a postcard the soldiers bought as a souvenir.

Shoeshine boys, Egypt, 1940s
Shoeshine boys, Egypt, 1940s

Daily prompt: Quote me

If you would not be forgotten
as soon as you are dead and rotten,
either write things worth reading
or do things worth the writing.

Benjamin Franklin

This is simple. How can anyone not take this advice?  Especially when there are two choices.

I know of things worth reading that can’t be read, things written in French that non-French speakers are missing out on.  I write those things.  In English.

And when not rewriting someone else’s things, I do things worth the writing (which must then, according to B. Franklin, be worth reading).  Visiting France in its secret villages.  Tutoring little kids, big kids, young and old adults, Italians, Swiss, Croatians, Chinese, Koreans, Australians.  Redeeming my father through his war photos and poetry and paintings. Committing to a daily task of observing unusual things.

You can do this.  Don’t be forgotten.