In Wellington, New Zealand, there’s a wooden church that’s a church by name but not by nature. From the outside, it’s small, cream, nineteenth-century, Gothic Revival. Quaint.
When the ‘open’ sign is displayed, visitors are welcome. And when they step inside, many exclaim ‘Wow!’. They don’t expect to see an interior composed entirely of rich native timbers like kauri, rimu, totara and matai. The eye goes straight to the vault, which resembles the upturned hull of an ancient vessel. And visitors don’t expect an old church to smell so good. The timber has not lost its fragrant essence over the centuries. It reminded me of a small cedar box I own; I’ve had it for thirty years, yet with each opening of the lid it releases a heady fragrance forcing me to inhale deeply. And so it was when I entered this church. I wanted to return, to worship. But it now serves only for concerts and events like weddings.
Ailsa has posted a challenge this week for photos evoking a particular fragrance. For anyone who has been inside Old St Paul’s in Wellington, this photo will have you breathing and remembering.
New Zealand, Auckland Art Gallery: I was there this afternoon. When I saw this painting, I thought of the ‘Eerie’ photo theme…
In nineteenth-century literature and paintings I’ve come to expect bereaved women to wear black, so when I worked out that the women and girls in white were not celebrating but grieving, I was a bit shocked. All these white dresses suddenly took on a pallour that moments before had in my mind been the colour of a wedding or communion. It’s particularly sad to see, not men, but women bearing the small white coffin.
Frank Bramley combined social realism with painting en plein air, out of doors. There don’t seem to be any male children in the cortège, but there are some boys in the group of children off to the right, who seem to belong to fishing families. Their ruddiness suggests they are healthier than the girls, who look a bit grey, as though they may all be afflicted by the same curse.
If ‘eerie’ means strange and frightening, the suggestion of something lurking that we might not want to know about, then this photo is it.
Infinite – like grains of sand on the beach, the number of numbers, stars in the sky, dots on an Aboriginal painting . . .
When I bought this painting in Fitzroy Falls, NSW, from the artist Marie Barbaric of the Dunghutti Nation, she wrote its story on the back of the canvas for me:
One day an elder of our Nation was walking with his daughters, they came to a waterhole and the father told his daughters to wait by the pool till he returned from hunting. . . . While he was away a hunter came from another tribe and wanted to take one of the sisters for a bride. . . . The sisters ran to their father, and to help hide them from the young hunter, he threw his daughters to the stars. . .
I was about to throw out this old shaggy bath mat when I walked past my dog’s bed and had a brain flash, thinking his bed could do with a bit of extra padding. I threw it down and invited him in. The result was saturation shagginess and saturation relaxation.
Check out the floorboard at the bottom left: looks like a conehead relaxing!
This month in Canberra we have the flower festival, Floriade. And this week Floriade carries on into the night, beginning tonight. I’ve just come home from a fun evening watching circus performers and crazy light shows. Problem is, at night the flowers are coloured by swinging beams of red and blue and green and purple light, so I have no idea what colour these tulips really are.
But I thought it was all ideal for a ‘lines and patterns’ theme: the gardens are planted with flowers of different heights to form geometric patterns, and the ferris wheel behind them makes a great show of light lines glowing on and off as it turns. Slowly. Very slowly.
I’m at home sick today. When I lay in my bed this windy afternoon I saw clouds sailing through the sky and camellia bushes swaying to and fro past my window frame. I immediately thought of the photo challenge to find an unusual point of view. I don’t usually photograph on my back, but I thought I’d give it a try.
When I was 19 and foolish I went swimming alone in an unpatrolled sea. A rip caught me and dragged me out of my depth, where waves dumped and submerged me three times. There was nothing beneath me but water. The fourth wave dumped me on the shore.
These days there are instructive signs at beach entries. Clearly, large numbers of beachgoers were not washed ashore as I was, were not given a second chance. Now lifesavers are trying to warn and educate poor swimmers:
Since then I’ve respected the power of the sea and have retreated from its depths. But I’ve learned a lot by observing it from the edge.
Late one October afternoon, I was returning from the Louvre when an orchestra began to set up in the square I was passing through. I stopped to see what they would play; as they began Danse hongroise by Brahms I nearly floated with love for Paris. And that was despite my swollen and aching feet; moments before, I had been desperate to return to my apartment to take my shoes off. (The Louvre is immense and I’d walked miles viewing its exhibits.) But I didn’t want to forget these musicians playing me live classical music for the price of a coin donation, so I snapped them and responded eagerly to their proposal that I buy their CD of pieces by Brahms, Dvořák, Bizet and Albeniz.
The CD cover says simply “Classique Metropolitain” without naming the musicians. Pity. I’ve played it frequently since that day and never tire of it. It’s particularly good when I’m translating, when I don’t want to hear the words of songs sung.
Ailsa proposed this travel theme of ‘Play’ after seeing some people play football waiting for a traffic jam to clear! Take a look.