Changing Seasons: September

On 1st September the Australian spring officially sprang. While those north of Canberra may think it might as well still be called winter down here, the inhabitants of this capital can see the seasonal signs that temperatures are slowly slowly creeping up.

Before yesterday, before 6.12am yesterday, I could’ve said I’d lived in Canberra for 20 years and had never seen the sun rise over Lake Burley Griffin. Now I can say I have. I rose at 5 to get to the lake for the ephemeral moment of joy at 6.12. It wasn’t the cloudy, fiery sunrise of the previous morning (see Brand New Day), it wasn’t breathtaking like the dawn seen by rowers in winter fog. There were no orange clouds and no pastel mist; it was an absolutely clear sky giving me a brilliant start to the day. Sure, the temperatures were not springy. It was 3 degrees when I left home at 5.45, barely 1 degree down at the lake, then after an hour of sunrise-watching it had warmed up to 4, but back home it was down to 2.

Still, this post is about the signs of changing seasons. If the dawn temperature has improved little since winter, it’s evidently spring when the trees are slowly putting on their new clothes. Some even burst out in flower before leaf. A close look at the branches highlit by the new sun reveals tiny prunus bouquets here and there.

Moments before sunrise,  facing the moon
Sunrise, Lake Burley Griffin. Two long shadows, one is a tree, one is me.

That moment when the ball of fire that is our sun appears in full over the horizon is always a head-turner. It’s hard to believe I didn’t feel the earth move even though it did.


The Changing Seasons photo challenge comes from Cardinal Guzman.


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Changing Seasons: June

June in Canberra.

It’s officially the first month of winter in Australia. Here in this part of the country that’s more wintry than most, many of the trees are leafless, the maximum today is 13, feels like 8, the public servants still run morning, noon and night even when the wind is blowing at 35 knots, and if you’re standing beside the lake taking photos of the landscape, you get wet.

Cardinal Guzman’s ‘Changing Seasons’ challenge: check it out for more seasonal photos.

Weekly photo challenge: Half-light

From Core of my heart, by Dorothea Mackellar (1908)

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land –
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand.

It was Friday, the end of the week, the end of the day, the end of my birthday. My family had picnicked on fish and chips by the lake, and then in the half-light of the evening the younger ones pulled out the Frisbee. The blue of the sky and water dimmed as they played, and I thought of my opal-hearted country.

Twilight frisby

I joined in the game briefly, but was frightened, like a girl, of the speed of the thing tearing towards me, and rather than confront it, I ducked, but duckers are no fun. Not wanting to spoil their game, I returned to the table to pack up. Besides, half-light is not enough light for catching a hurtling object.

When I turned round, three of them were standing at the water’s edge. The green of the distant trees was darkening and Black Mountain was indeed nothing but a silhouette. The sky and water were now mauve, and one of my sons had dropped onto all fours on the lake’s stone edge. Was he going in?

Is he going in?

I could hear them laughing, which was some comfort. The February evening was warm, and he wouldn’t be too chilly if he ended up in the drink.

It takes two

Ah! It was the Frisbee that had gone in! Clearly, it takes not just one good man, nor two, to rescue a plastic flying disc. Here was my son, his father holding him by the arm, his brother holding his leg. But was his arm long enough to draw the Frisbee to his side?

It takes three

Yes! The Frisbee lives, to be played with another day. And although he was as far over the side as possible without actually being in the water, nothing more than his arm got wet. Neighbouring picnickers applauded his amazing feat! Then, with the light all but gone, we retired to the house for supper.

Frisby rescued

Thanks WordPress for the inspiration. And thanks also to an evolving scientist for reminding me of Core of my heart.

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!


One trip EVERY month: September

I haven’t left town this month, but I have visited the National Museum which gave me plenty of opportunities to snap photos. Ours is a museum of social history.  Neither the content nor the architecture is traditional, which is obvious even before arriving at the car park:  the introduction to the building is this giant 30m high loop, part of what is called the Uluru line: Entrance NMA In the foyer there are great glass windows looking onto the lake, and an artsy window dressing which produces the best shadows. window_Nat Museum As I moved up into the galleries, Eternity caught my eye.  Arthur Stace famously wrote this single word in beautiful copperplate writing on the footpaths of Sydney between 1932 and 1967. Eternity NMA Stace described an experience in church which prompted him to write Eternity half a million times over 35 years:

John Ridley was a powerful preacher and he shouted, ‘I wish I could shout Eternity through the streets of Sydney.’ He repeated himself and kept shouting, ‘Eternity, Eternity’, and his words were ringing through my brain as I left the church. Suddenly I began crying and I felt a powerful call from the Lord to write ‘Eternity’. I had a piece of chalk in my pocket, and I bent down right there and wrote it. I’ve been writing it at least 50 times a day ever since, and that’s 30 years ago … I think Eternity gets the message across, makes people stop and think. (courtesy National Museum of Australia website)

From reflecting on eternity I was taken back in time to the largest of all marsupials, the extinct Diprotodon.  After all, it wouldn’t be a museum without a skeleton.  Here’s the Diprotodon in and out of its skin:

An unmissable object in the Museum is an old windmill, its sails turning slowly and windlessly, old technology driven by new. It’s a Simplex windmill from Kenya station, north-east of Longreach in central Queensland.  The windmill provided water for stock from a shallow bore, from the 1920s until 1989, when a deeper artesian bore came into service.  It was one of two windmills on 25,000 acres!  As the windmill owner, John Seccombe, who donated it to the museum says, Australia couldn’t have survived without windmills. windmill NMA One of the saddest sights in the museum was this gate, a reminder of times when some children were raised by institutions: Boys Home NMA There were other objects like leg irons and old pistols that remind us of our darker colonial past:  and a convict bi-colour ‘magpie’ uniform, designed to deter convicts from escaping.  But imagine the situation if, in 1788 and later, the roles had been reversed, and it wasn’t the English arriving to claim this land for the crown, but the Aboriginals arriving to take the land from the whites.  Gordon Syron, an indigenous artist painted that ‘what if’ scene in The Black Bastards are Coming, 2006: Black Bastards are Coming_Gordon Syron_2006 NMA Out on the museum terrace, one of the best spots to get a quiet waterside coffee, I was contemplating eternity when a man and dog came past on a surfboard (lakeboard?).

Before I go, if you’re wondering about the header image, it’s part of Martumili Ngurra, 2009, hanging in the museum foyer, painted in acrylic on linen by six Martu women from central Western Australia.  Ngalangka Taylor, one of the artists, says:

“When you look at this painting, don’t read it like a whitefella map.  It’s a Martu map:  this is how we see the country.”

The painting shows tracks and roadways and geographical sites related to mining and pastoral activities introduced in the 19th century in their part of Australia.

More next month.  Until then, see some other monthly trips on Marianne’s East of Málaga.  She challenges us to take one trip EVERY month.