Changing Seasons: January

Cardinal Guzman has put up a photo challenge that seems challenging enough for me as a non-photographer.

He has two versions. I’ve chosen the easy path:

    • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
    • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

This morning I was in the Botanic Gardens here in Canberra and was stopped in my tracks by this Corymbia ficifolia. Family: Myrtaceae. Dwarf orange. Sometimes called Red Flowering Gum.

The Canberra Botanic Garden has nothing but native plants. The gardeners have found ways to grow plants from all parts of Australia, even rainforest plants in a lower part that is reached by stone staircases, a place that’s kept dark and wet to encourage rainforest trees and ferns to grow. And up in the bright sunlight there are trees like this orange Corymbia ficifolia, a native from a small area near Walpole, way down on the very south-west coast of Western Australia, and here it is growing on the opposite side of the country in a different climate. Bravo, Botanic Gardeners!

The photo is my interpretation of January in Australia. Bright orange native flowers, clear blue sky, hot morning.

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New Year's Day in Australia

We escaped to the beach on New Year’s Day (yesterday).  I’ve spent every New Year of my life in Australia, and take the summer holiday mood for granted.  But since I’ve been blogging I’ve seen countless photos of New Years from the other side of the world where it’s snowing and the trees are bare and people are indoors in front of a warming device.

As I sat on the beach watching holidaymakers do what relaxes them, I was struck by the difference in the world’s seasons.

Beach cricket
Beach cricket

On most New Year’s Days, good-weather days in the fullness of an Australian summer, there’ll be families and friends playing beach cricket (or football or volleyball…).  Rubbish bins are the wickets, the bat and ball are bright plastic, easy to see against a sandy background.

Hot dog
Hot dog

Dogs on this beach are allowed off-leash.  There were three running free, in and out of the water and in and out of the cricket game.  The one standing in the shallow surf here, a hyperactive apricot poodle, tore up and down the beach and even ran right across the back of my legs as I lay peacefully reading Chekhov on the sand.

Kayak carriers
Kayak carriers

A few people messed about in kayaks, rowing out to the deeper water and back again, then putting them away beneath the trees.

Love letter in the sand

But not everyone was having a good holiday.  Someone on this beach had a disappointing Christmas-New Year and wrote about it in a five-page letter, stabbed it onto a sharp broken branch from where it worked its way loose and drifted down to the urine-soaked sand beneath this rocky overhang at the far end of the beach.  I read the five pages, recognised the pain of unrequited love, and scattered them again beneath the tree.  Together, he said, they had come this far, but she had kept moving and left him behind.

Would she one day (before the next high tide) stroll past this overhang, see his writing, and change her mind?

View from Blank Canvas, Batemans Bay

When we were weary of the beach, when we’d walked far across the rocks, far from cricketers and mad dogs, examined every rock pool and cooled our ankles in the clear water of several two-metre wide beaches formed between rocky outcrops, we went hunting for food.  Long lines emerged from the popular fish and chip shops.  But there was another choice;  a longer walk brought us to a small restaurant, Blank Canvas, where for a couple of hours we sat at a table, enjoying fish and chips and this view between two gnarly trees.

A good start to the year.

*****

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One trip EVERY month: October – Who says Canberra is boring?

Some months, rather than leave town, I go tripping around my local area and have just as good a time as if I’d taken a trip to the sea.  This weekend, just by walking and riding my bike around the suburbs and by the lake, I’ve seen a few odd things that make me appreciate this beautiful unboring city.  Yesterday, for example, I knocked on this door.  Clearly the resident is not afraid of anyone:

Bang the door

Then I went to the lake to watch the weekend sailors.  Let me give you a bit of the history of this central ornament of the nation’s capital, in honour of its 50th anniversary this week.  Lake Burley Griffin is an artificial lake formed by damming the Molonglo River.  The capital’s designer, the American architect Walter Burley Griffin, is immortalised in the name of the lake.  He had included it in his original design in 1912, but the lake project didn’t begin until 1963, and finally the formal opening came in 1964.  Residents and visitors have flocked to its shores ever since.

Lake Burley Griffin edge tufts

For me, it’s a body of water which is neat, if unnatural;  it invites us to sit beside it but not to enter it.  The water quality is frequently reported as unsuitable for swimming, and therein lies the disappointment.  But I must remember that the Molonglo River is narrow and unspectacular, hardly a suitable river for a nation’s capital, unlike the Brisbane River in Brisbane or Sydney Harbour in Sydney.  Here’s a photo taken earlier this year as I was walking beside the part of the Molonglo which still exists where the lake ends (begins?);  you can see it opening up into the lake on the right:

Molonglo River opening into Lake Burley Griffin
Molonglo River opening into Lake Burley Griffin

Thanks to Walter Burley Griffin, instead of a stream that even I could swim across, we have a nice big lake.  Yesterday I went to watch sailboats sail on it, an excellent antidote to the busyness of life.  The weather was heavenly, an ideal spring day;  blue sky, warm air, light breeze.  If you were fishing, which I wasn’t, there was no need to hold on tight to the rod.  No need to hold it at all, in fact:

Lake Burley Griffin, fishing rods, boats

Many of the national institutions are situated lakeside, including the Australian National University.  One of the university’s sculptures by the water caught my eye with its aluminium birds roosting on the dead branches of this old gum tree.  From a distance they give the impression of a flapping flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos, a familiar sight around here.  But a closer look reveals the metal birds also resemble hands reaching up to the sky.  The commissioned sculpture, called Witness, is by Indonesian artist, Dadang Christanto.

Witness, Dadang Christanto, 2004, ANU, Canberra
Witness, Dadang Christanto, 2004, ANU, Canberra

After seeing unreal birds in a dead tree, I turned round and saw real plants in a dead car.  Another piece of ANU ‘art’.

Back in my suburb, I was riding my bike past a neighbouring house where a sheep is both pet and mower.  She was very happy for me to take her photo but didn’t understand the concept of standing back from the lens.

Brown sheep

And then she smelt my leather bag and began to nibble it…

Brown sheep nibbling bag

Check out the reflection of me in her eye!  Now that’s odd.

All in all, a good spring weekend tripping around my town.

Marianne sends out the challenge to take one trip EVERY month.  If you’re reading this, Marianne, I say a big THANKS for the inspiration!

*****

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