Memories Versus Minimalism

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Recently I read an article on a local paper that had suggestions about how to decorate your home for Christmas with minimal decorations. Although I like to reduce clutter, I think this is a step too far. Wiping out all the reminders of past celebrations, especially if it helps you to remember people who are not around anymore, is a little bit harsh.

While Ellie and I have some simple modern decorations in our family room, we still like to have a corner of the house devoted to tradition and to remember the good times and those who made them special. Many of the items that we use as decorations were gifts or  inherited from relatives or friends, such as the objects in the winter scene I created on an old china tray in our front living room. I had fun with dachshunds chasing a hare under an “ice” tree and happy Christmas geese who’d managed to dodge the pot.

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Hanging on a faux stag horn candlestick are some Santa balls that are reminders of a happy celebration with our mother. These were among the baubles on a large cut Christmas tree (a Monterey Pine) we decorated for a family party. I think we used every decoration we owned on that tree, plus some inexpensive papier maché ones we bought at a two-dollar shop. We dressed up in costumes from the 1890s that Ellie sewed or were put together from charity shop finds of blouses with mutton-chop sleeves. All our guests came in costume, including an uncle looking very dapper with a fake moustache, straw boater hat and striped blazer.

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Pillar candles and bowls of evergreen plants, like ivy, from our garden, decorated two tables, with an ivy swag running along the stair banisters. Ivy swags were also draped around the fireplace, with bowls of Cyprus pine on the mantelpiece. Below this hung colourful woolen Christmas stockings. As it was summer pillar candles filled the fireplace. We did not turn on the electric lights and used candles and old oil lamps as lighting. The only concession to modernity was a hidden stereo playing classic Christmas carols.

Ellie and I made the Christmas crackers (bonbons) from gold, silver and Florentine paper. Inside we included homemade crepe paper hats, small inexpensive gifts, like little wooden scoops, sets of dice or decorative bottle stoppers and some really terrible jokes. We had the traditional roast dinner followed by plum pudding and there was lots of merriment. It was one of the most enjoyable Christmas parties we have ever had.

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The candy cane also hanging on the candlestick is an old family decoration that came from our grandparents and brings to mind childhood celebrations with our father. I also made the large red heart from salt dough during a craft session with a friend. So many good times to remember.

Maybe I’m being sentimental but I don’t want to eliminate all of the past just to embrace the latest trend, which seems rather cold and the opposite of the festive spirit. Keeping some old decorations means you can still hang onto your special memories while you make new ones.

I hope everyone has a wonderful festive season.

Kat

I love schmaltzy Christmas songs and here’s a medley that includes a great version of Brenda Lee’s Rocking Around the Christmas Tree performed by Michael Bublé and Carly Rae Jepsen.

A “New” Recycled Christmas Tree

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At this time of the year I always like to cheer up our home with some Christmas decorations and try to be a bit creative by reusing old ones in a new way. I wanted a change from the music stand tree we have had for the last few years but buying a new one was the last thing on my mind, as recently Ellie and I have had a lot of expenses after dealing with our mother’s funeral costs. So what to do for a change without spending any money, as well as sticking to a recycling ethic?

I remembered that several years ago a small potted camellia tree had died because the roots had become pot bound and we left it too late to replant. It was a lovely shape so I cut off the dead roots and leaves and put it in the studio for a while to display some bird nests that had fallen in the garden. When I became tired of the clutter I put it in the roof because I did not want to throw it out. After some careful maneuvering I managed to get it out of the roof in one piece. Once the spider webs were removed I could see that it would make an interesting Christmas tree. If you have any trees with dead branches that need pruning these would work as well.

All I needed was a container to stand it in and found that it looked good in a white indoor plant container that we already had. Anything reasonably large would do like a ceramic pot, a vintage milk can or a huge glass jar or vase. I decided that as the planter had a wide opening I would put a narrower container in this to hold the tree in place. What to use that was the right size? I came up with a unique solution using an old WWI brass mortar shell case. Not something that everyone has kicking around but a tall jar would also do the trick. I put marbles around the tree trunk to stop it from wobbling in the shell case (you could also use small pebbles or sand) and packed newsprint paper around the container to stop it from falling over in the planter. A layer of white polyester stuffing for toys etc., that came from our craft supplies was used to cover the paper and hide the shell case. It simulates snow. Anything fluffy and white could be used, like cotton wool or you could use sand or pebbles, depending on your theme.

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Now it was time for the fun of decorating the tree. I used the same decorations that had been on the previous tree, but added a mass of aluminum butterflies that were in storage. All of these were bought on sale. Because I try to stick to a colour scheme of silver, white with a touch of gold, it is easy to add or make more matching decorations. We also have some large silver glass balls, but with dogs this is risky because they will go for any baubles of this shape. I don’t want to have these crashing to the floor and smashing into tiny smithereens so left them off the tree.

With stars, angels, tiny Santas and musical instruments, the silver fir trees and butterflies, a peace dove and a white horse, the tree looks really great. We don’t have any suitable Christmas lights, but at night the silver decorations really reflect any light in the room and the tree glows. These also reflect the bright sunshine of a summer’s day.

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In the front hall I did something similar by hanging a star and some embroidered butterflies on a single branch sitting in an ultramarine blue glass vase. Gold and white glass ornaments were placed on mum’s vintage aqua glass platter. The decorations look lovely with green and aqua vintage glass vases and a colourful Italian hand painted platter. These were found at op shops or were gifts. Again I just used what we had already.

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On the front door I hung a wreath made from a plaited straw circlet that had once been part of a Swedish Christmas mobile. I decorated this with some green and cream ribbon that came from a florist’s arrangement. It looks summery and cost nothing.

Reusing old stuff is a fun and inexpensive way to make the festive season brighter. Nature is also a great supplier of tree materials and decorations, from dead branches to evergreen leaves. If these can be found in your own garden so much the better. You can also put any vegetable matter back into your garden as compost or mulch.

Just because you don’t have a lot of money does not mean you can’t have a beautiful and fun celebration. Never forget that your creativity is beyond price.

Kat

One of the best Christmas songs is How to Make Gravy by Australia’s Paul Kelly. It is happy, sad and touching all at the same time. Here’s a live version.

Creativity Is For Everyone

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There is nothing nicer than getting a creative gift, especially when it is something you have always wanted. But what if you were only encouraged to pursue a certain creative pursuit because of your gender? I recently saw a Christmas gift catalogue from a well-known supermarket chain that did exactly that. It advertised a ukulele under the heading “gifts for him”. Was this saying that only males have the will or the time to play the ukulele, while females are engrossed in using some kitchen appliance or other “suitable” item chosen from the same catalogue?

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Being a ukulele player, it got me really steamed, as there are just as many female players as male ones. In this day and age playing a musical instrument and doing other creative activities should be gender neutral. Ukuleles are relatively cheap compared with many musical instruments and make great Christmas presents for every age group. They bring happiness and no one should be denied the pleasure of playing a uke just because of their gender.

Why won’t the type of stupid thinking seen in that catalogue just die a natural death? It’s an annoying hangover from the bad old days when women were allowed a creative hobby whereas men could have a career in the arts. In western society, up until the last century girls were discouraged from many creative fields, unless these were small-scale, fairly passive and genteel, like sketching with watercolours and needlepoint work.  Large-scale oil painting and sculpture was considered beyond the capability of the fairer sex, unless you had very enlightened parents or grew up in the family of an artist. Those women who bravely defied convention made it possible for later generations of girls to follow their dreams and we should make sure this type of discrimination remains in the past where it belongs.

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As children Ellie and I were always allowed to follow whatever creative path we chose and were able to try out many art forms. For Christmas we were often given various types of paints and other materials, as well as craft kits, so that we could experiment and find our creative passion. Any gifts of money were used to save up for something that we really wanted, like my first guitar. No one ever told me that this was a boy’s toy (I have also seen guitars advertised under “gifts for boys”). It works the other way as well because I know men who love needlepoint and have no qualms about doing what was once considered women’s work.

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Creativity knows no boundaries and if someone expresses an interest in any type of artistic area it is good to encourage them by giving a relevant gift. It does not matter whether they take this up as their life’s work or go on to do something else. It just helps that someone thought it was possible for the recipient to undertake a particular creative activity.

Everyone should be allowed to try out any creative endeavor without being subjected to gender stereotyping. The advertising world may be stuck in the past but the rest of us have moved on.

Kat

On the subject of ukulele players, here’s a video of the very talented Taimane Gardner playing a Surf Medley with guitarist Jazzy Jazz and Cajon drummer Jonathan Heraux.

 

When Everything Comes to a Stop

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Sometimes life deals you a blow and you are forced to drop everything to get through a difficult time. The past three weeks Ellie and I have been dealing with the death of our mother after a long illness. I don’t want to go into all the details but I will say that our creativity has helped us get through this distressing period. Ellie and I did all the planning for the ceremony and wake ourselves and if it wasn’t for all the creative organizational skills that we have learnt over the years, I doubt that we would have coped.

We decided to have a wake at our place and got on with the preparations. In this type of situation it is extremely comforting to separate yourself from everyday life. I did not want to talk to too many people because explaining what had happened became exhausting. Instead I practiced some songs Ellie and I wanted to play at the ceremony. This was very soothing and made us feel a lot more relaxed.

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The wake was to be held in the late afternoon and to limit the amount of work and stress we outsourced many of the necessary tasks. We ordered sandwiches, party pies and quiches from a local cake shop in advance and ordered wine from a local supermarket that also supplied the glasses for free. As we were having this in our home cleaning the house and moving around furniture kept us busy without being mentally or emotionally taxing and we put out some of our mother’s crockery and a tablecloth as a reminder of happier times.

As the front Japanese garden was in a bit of a state we had a gardener do all the weeding and pruning. Luckily I had done most of the back garden so it only needed a bit of spruce up and some quick fixes that did not require a lot of effort on our part. We put some tan bark mulch over the bare area that needs to be paved and shoved some pots of herbs where the garden surrounding our lemon tree had been destroyed by the dogs. We covered the old outdoor furniture with tablecloths and cushions to make it more inviting for those who wished to go outside.

Writing the eulogy and gathering photos for a slide show at the wake was very cathartic and gave us both something to focus on as well as bringing back a lot of happy memories of our mother. This was where my love of writing really helped. It was good to remember some of the amusing or unusual episodes of her life, as well as her achievements. I would have found it much harder to write the eulogy if I had not been writing regularly.

It also made a big difference having had performance experience with the ukulele. I was not nervous about the public speaking or singing aspect of the ceremony. This would have terrified me in the past but when it came to the day Ellie and I were both able to stand up and honor our mother’s memory without falling apart.

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You never know when you will have to hold an event under stressful circumstances so if you have creative and organisational skills it makes a big difference and reduces panic. For such an occasion things don’t need to be perfect and a lot of what we did was smoke and mirrors, with the mulch, pot plants, the textiles and lots of flowers inside (most were sympathy gifts).

At such times it’s funny how you notice the little things. I heard this beautiful bird song and looked out the window. A Song Thrush was singing in a Manchurian Pear tree outside. I had not seen one of these in years. It was glorious and uplifting to hear.

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When you feel sad it is good to go outside. Melbourne has been having a long hot spell and the sun has been shining nearly every day. The foliage looks green from recent rain and it is wonderful to enjoy the outdoors before it gets too hot. On the way to see our solicitor we had time to spare so stopped outside the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. Ellie and I sat on a park bench near a huge Moreton Bay Fig tree. These are one of my favorite trees, which I always wanted to climb as a child.

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We did not have enough time to walk around the gardens but sitting under the trees outside was pleasant. Butterflies were flitting over some Agapanthus plants nearby and it was very peaceful, even with lunchtime joggers passing by every few minutes. After about a quarter of an hour we headed off to the city to deal with the more mundane aspects of life and death, but I kept that tree in my mind. Strong and full of life no matter what happens as the days and years pass.

Kat

Photogenic Places: The Grampians, Victoria

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Every country has its photogenic places. Often the traveler is drawn to see overseas sites before visiting those of their home country, which is a shame. In Victoria there are many scenic areas and while I have not visited all of them, what I can say is that those that I have seen are often quite beautiful and sometimes spectacular. If you love taking photographs for inspiration or pleasure there is nothing better than finding such places in your home state or country.

In the spectacular scenery category is The Grampians, a mountain range in Western Victoria. One very hot summer Ellie and I did a weeklong tapestry workshop at Halls Gap, a town beneath the towering Pinnacles that we could look up at from the place where we were staying. As we had never been to this region before, one day we took off to explore the ranges above. Everywhere we looked there was something of our ancient land to photograph. It was quite a hot day (37 degrees Celsius) so we did not walk as far as we would have liked. But we managed to journey through the “Grand Canyon” and along the “Wonderland” walk. Near the car park were incredible rock features and pools. There was hardly anyone around so we had much of the landscape to ourselves.

Ellie took the following series of photos with her trusty, classic Nikon SLR and Fuji film.

The Grand Canyon

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Wonderland

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Rock features near the Car Park

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The Big Head

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Due to the heat we did not get to the scenic lookouts at the top of the pinnacles. Here is a drone video that shows the majestic and breathtaking view from the air. You can see the long narrow canyon and the huge rock walls of the mountain ridges and the gap between the mountains where the town nestles. It’s a special place.

So if you know that there are amazing places in your country or state don’t hesitate. As the natural world or cities are constantly changing, at the first opportunity get out and see the sights while you can and take lots of photographs.

Kat

Dreams Change: For Some of Us a Lot

 

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From the Universal Self Instructor, 1883. In the past you were encouraged to pursue many interests.

I was going to write a post about how your dreams can change but then I discovered something that made me realise that this might not be true for everyone. Some of us are wired to pursue a variety of interests, as opposed to those who focus on one or two things throughout their lives. Neither of these ways of thinking is wrong, just different.

I have been talking about having many interests on this blog for a while, but I did not realize this was a sign of people with a particular type of brain. I only recently found out that I am a Scanner thanks to another blogger, Yarn and Pencil, who included a reblog on her site, which describes Scanners, the name given by Barbara Sher in her book Refuse To Choose (2007), for those who have many interests. Sher points out how the ideal of the Renaissance thinker has been superseded by the modern obsession with specialization in a single field where diversification is discouraged. It was a relief to know that to have multi-interests and the desire to try new activities is a specific type of mindset and not the result of being flighty or indecisive.

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Not this kind of Scanner

It also does not mean that you lack determination. I have always finished what I started, even when taking some time off to do something else and have tried to gain skills and knowledge, even when I decided I didn’t want to make a particular activity my life’s work. That is why I chose to work in an artistic area because it allows you to use a lot of the knowledge gained over the years.

Version 2On John Williams website I read that as a Scanner you need to concentrate on one idea and develop this in order to make a living and be successful. But this does not mean that you should give everything else up or stop from being curious about the world. I wish I had known about it years ago. It would have stopped a lot of agonizing. I think that it must be hereditary because both my grandfathers and father had many interests. So does Ellie. It seems to have hit our side of the family more than any other branch.

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It explains why time management and goal setting are more difficult for some of us. Our brains are constantly jumping from one interest to the next. So if you are a Scanner you must also be a juggler. This is the hard part and I know this from bitter experience and many extensions of course projects at University. If you have a looming deadline it is not the time to suddenly go off and pursue something else. With many interests it is still possible to concentrate on one thing at a time when necessary and avoid distractions, especially the Internet. Just because there is a smorgasbord of information available 24 hours a day does not mean you should look at it all the time. Get the thing that is most pressing out of the way no matter what and then you can move onto something else. It’s a case of keeping all your balls in the air in a balanced way so that one does not cause everything else to crash to the ground.

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Sometimes it’s difficult to see the end of a project so it’s left uncompleted. This type of problem affected the most famous Scanner of them all, Leonardo da Vinci. I don’t think he ever considered the Mona Lisa finished. In fact a lot of his work is unfinished but this did not make him less of an artist, anatomist, engineer, designer etc. I have some unfinished canvases in the studio that have been sitting around for a while. They are not part of any specific project so I did not need to finish them in a hurry. I will get back to them eventually, but it goes to show that without some type of pressure it is easy to let creative endeavors slide. DSCN4665

That is why some of us find it difficult to write long essays or works of fiction because the end seems a long way off and there’s plenty of opportunity to get sidetracked. Short stories and poems suit me better. At the moment I have been writing songs again after a bit of a break. This type of writing satisfies both my musical side and love of words and is short enough for me to write quickly. I return to work on a song if it is not quite right after letting it sit for a while. It is actually good to be able to move between activities, as you can come back and see things from a fresh perspective. Version 2

While you can have many diverting interests it is probably unrealistic to think that you will be good at everything and it’s best work on your strengths. Although I like learning about at a lot of different things, I do try to develop my artistic and musical talents more than anything else. My interests in nature, mythology and folklore, other cultures, history, movies, fiction etc. help to stimulate the imagination and provide inspiration.
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These are mainly my own thoughts on dealing with multiple interests. We are all different and one person’s experience will never be the same as another’s. If you want to pursue several dreams, it is not impossible. Just believe you can and do the work, no matter how long it takes.

Kat

Here’s ELO with a great song Hold on Tight (To Your Dream) and a very weird video.

A Hand-Made Halloween

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Over the past ten years in Melbourne the festival of Halloween has become more widely celebrated and seems to be getting more commercial with large public events in many shopping centres. The St Kilda Town Hall even has a hugely popular Haunted House experience. We are increasingly getting Halloween themed catalogues in our letterbox advertising elaborate and expensive decorations and costumes, as well as the usual treats. Before all this commercialization most local Halloween celebrations were limited to home parties where decorations and costumes were usually homemade and trick or treating was rare.

Magazines used to be the main source of ideas for making party decorations and costumes. We have that really old party magazine from the 1890s, mentioned in a previous post, which has a wonderful section on Halloween, as well as the more recent Australian Women’s Weekly Home Library publication, Perfect Parties. No one was expected to spend a fortune and it was so much more fun and creative to make things.

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As children Ellie and I had a Halloween Party. As there was little available in the way of decorations, except for plastic spiders and orange and black balloons, we invited some friends for a sleepover before the party and had a great time making decorations for the family room and garden. Out of black card we cut black cats, owls, bats, broomsticks and the like and hung these from sticks of bamboo to create mobiles.

In one corner of the garden we built a witch’s house against the side fence with a sheet of corrugated iron for the roof and bamboo poles (cut from the garden) tied together with twine to form the walls and a window. We painted a sign that said “Witches Hollow”. In front of this structure dad made a tripod from wooden poles and hung a cast iron camp oven for a cauldron over some unlit wood. These days you can have a fire in a metal fire pit. Probably one with a wire safety grill is best to protect from dangerous sparks.

A decorated table is a wonderful centrepiece for a Halloween party. You don’t need to buy special tableware. Our grandmother gave us a vintage tablecloth with embroidered black cats, but you could make a tablecloth from orange fabric or just use orange crepe paper decorated with cutout black cats, bats, owls etc. She also made us a beautiful cake decorated with black cats. It is easy to make cupcakes and decorate these with black cat sweets, jelly babies and snakes, together with orange or chocolate sprinkles on plain white icing. There are so many creative ideas around for making Halloween food these days, especially online. Fresh fruits and vegetables, like pumpkins, turnips and tomatoes make great table decorations and are a reminder of the autumnal origins of Halloween, even if it is spring here. And you can use them to make a soup or put them on the barbeque after the party.

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Black Cat Cupcakes

Only recently in Australia has it been possible to get large orange pumpkins to carve at Halloween. Supermarkets now have these to buy for the occasion. We had to make do with the green kind. Our grandfather carved a jack-o-lantern out of a pumpkin and fitted it with an electric light bulb to put on the front veranda. He also had a very old papier-mache mask of a skull and put a bulb in this as well. They looked wonderfully spooky to welcome the guests. Now front porch decorations seem to be becoming more elaborate and more common here, but you don’t need to buy frightening manikins that cost a heap. A homemade scarecrow could look just as creepy especially if you give it a scary clown face.

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Most people who came to our party had homemade costumes. I created one from a long white satin bridesmaid dress that I had worn the previous year. Over this I wore a filmy pale blue robe of my mothers and made a cone-shaped hat from white cardboard, stuck on some gold stars, attached a filmy white scarf from the peak and stapled some hat elastic to keep it on. With a wand made from a piece of silver painted dowel I was a Sorceress. Mum made Ellie a skeleton costume by sticking white electrical tape to a black polo neck top and tights.

Guest’s costumes ranged from the usual witches or ghosts, to someone dressed as a pea pod with green balloons for the peas. There were some very creative costumes, such as a hand painted skull and crossbones outfit and a witch doctor, who had lots of small handmade mojo bags attached to a belt. I remember we all had a great time dancing to pop music and playing Murder in the Dark, which still seems to be a popular party game. Of course there were prizes for the best costumes and little bags of treats for everyone to take home.

With a bit of creativity you can avoid a lot of the cost and over commercialization of Halloween and still have a great party. And if it is for just for adults, substitute more appropriate food, drink and entertainment. Be as crazy as you like. Why should kids have all the fun?

Kat

Probably one of the best songs ever written about a ghost is Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights. The famous “red dress” video of this song has had many millions of hits on You Tube so here is the “white dress” version.

Keeping Your Childhood Wonder

When you are a child it is so easy to find the world a wondrous place. So many things seem magical, especially the natural world. Everything is new and an adventure. I think that it is important not too lose this sense of wonder in life. If you become too cynical and apathetic it can have a negative impact on your creativity.

Our creative vision is most often stimulated by the wonder of things. When I was quite young I would do paintings and drawings with little difficulty. Often these contained images of plants and flowers, animals, mythical creatures, family holiday destinations, or characters from stories, films or history. There was a never-ending supply of subject matter. Here is a pastel drawing I did as a child of some Sea Lions, followed by a recent drone video of the colony at Seal Rocks near Phillip Island and The Nobbies. To me they are still amazing creatures to watch.

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My childhood drawing of Seal Rocks

Such things still make me excited like a kid and would not want to lose this feeling. One summer night not so long ago I went outside around midnight. It was still moist after a summer storm and suddenly a large Grey-headed flying-fox, Australia’s largest fruit bat (wingspan up to 1 metre or about 3 ft), swooped right over my head. I could have touched it. I had never been that close to one before and I was exhilarated. After this encounter I would look out for them and was lucky enough to see a classic scene of  bats silhouetted against the sky during a lightning storm. These creatures are wonderful and we are privileged to have them in and around our city. It is good to notice your local wildlife and remember that humans are not the centre of everything. My experience motivated this poem.

Flying Fox

Flying Fox, the beat of swooping wings

Above my head

A wild bat wonder

Flying Fox, across the lightning sky

I watch at dusk

No gothic horror

© Copyright theartistschild.com 2017

Here is a video of the colony of Grey-headed flying foxes at Yarra Bend Park in Kew, Melbourne, followed by another of the bats flying across the Melbourne skyline at dusk.

Reconnecting with your childhood imagination is an effective way to get ideas as an adult. Some people have entire careers reliving their early fantasies. Things that grabbed you as a child can still be inspirational. Collecting seashells at the beach was one of my favorite childhood pass times. Their shapes and colours were so beautiful and it was like finding treasure. The only time I ever bought a shell was a Cowrie shell as a souvenir from a trip to Sydney. These shells are uncommon in Victoria. I still have it and its strong colour has lasted because I keep it in a dark box. It is a lovely subject to draw with the spotted markings.

The excitement of being given or finding something unusual can still bring on a sense of childlike delight. My grandfather gave me a rock containing some fossilized shells when I was a child because he knew that I was interested in such things. I still love fossils and have collected a few mainly as holiday souvenirs. I still get a buzz when I see interesting fossils in museums or books. Prehistoric Ammonites with their spiral shell shape remind me of the shells of some freshwater snails. I carved one out of a small piece of talc stone with this type of shell so it is also permanently frozen in stone like a fossil.

The ingenuity of inventions might be what tickled your early imagination. My father had inherited an old Remington portable typewriter (1929 model) that fascinated me as a child. I would try to type things with two fingers but this was a slow exercise. When I got the chance I learnt to touch type and it has made the writing process so much easier, as well as using computers. Keep that childhood thirst for knowledge. Learning any form of technology gives you so many more creative options and it helps if you are keen to embrace new methods.

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Sometimes you find that when you get really excited about something there are always people who think you are strange. They can’t understand your enthusiasm. But if you lose your joyousness just because of what people think it would be very sad. Being indifferent means that it is difficult to get involved in the creative process.

I hope I will always be able to maintain the childlike passion of a David Attenborough when he describes fabulous wildlife and never become bored and jaded. There is so much in this world that is wondrous.

Kat

Here’s The Pointer Sisters who know how to get excited!

Distance: Our weakness and Our strength

I love drone videos. They make it possible to view vast areas of our country from the air. While Victoria is a small state it is nearly as big as the whole of the United Kingdom, Australia being the sixth largest country in the world. We are the only single country Continent and it is like an immense island. Here you get used to driving long distances in a day. In the past Australia was isolated from the rest of the world by the “the tyranny of distance”. It is still often a lengthy journey for travellers to come to our land but worth the trouble.

The natural beauty of our countryside is dramatic from the air. It is wonderful that there are now so many creative drone enthusiasts to bring such views to a wider audience. I found the following drone video that shows the contrast between the coastal City of Melbourne with inland farmland and forest areas of our national parks. This a quick way to take a short tour of our state.

Kat

Wisteria and Witches

It’s October again and in Melbourne we are now in the middle of spring. As I mentioned last October when I started this blog, we have the strange combination of the Spring Racing Carnival and Halloween celebrations. There is nothing more typical of Melbourne than scenes of costumed witches, wizards or zombies mingling with the more traditionally dressed amongst the stunning roses at Flemington racecourse on Melbourne Cup day.

Over the last two weeks I have been busy doing some badly needed gardening. At this time of year the air is sweet with the smell of blossom. Our garden is full of the fragrance of wisteria blooms, which cascade from the branches like waterfalls of white flowers. They are fragile and could be easily destroyed by a spring storm so I have taken photos to remember their beauty.

With all of nature’s exuberance it seems strange to embrace the autumnal mood that surrounds the festival of Halloween. One of the disadvantages of living in the Southern Hemisphere is the topsy-turvy nature of traditional festivals. But at least daylight saving gives us longer hours of light in which to party during these celebrations.

Fun costumes make both race days and Halloween parties more enjoyable. I am a big fan of DIY costumes for both the creativity and uniqueness. As I have mentioned before, you don’t need to sew or spend a lot of money to wear a great costume. A good eye for a bargain and for reworking existing items is invaluable. In the past I have created my own Halloween costumes from clothing found at op shops (thrift or charity stores), weekend markets and by using fabric offcuts, cardboard and paper scraps to make accessories.

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Illustration by George Cruikshank for The Witches Frolic by Thomas Ingoldsby

Items that can be reused with different accessories are worth collecting so that you will never be stuck for a costume idea. Witches or wizards costumes are a favorite for Halloween and easy to create with black clothes. Using the same long black dress and a charcoal grey cape found at a weekend market, I can transform into the medieval witch Morgan Le Fey or Samantha Stevens from Bewitched wearing her flying costume. All this requires is a change of headgear.

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For the Morgan Le Fey costume I made a type of hat known as a Hennin (seen in gothic paintings) from cardboard covered with black silk fabric and gold paper. It was decorated with gold braid, glass jewels and gold glitter glue from a craft store. I pinned an old black silk scarf as a veil from the top of the hat. To turn the outfit into Samantha, a blonde wig (try to find a better one than mine as it itches) and a witches hat from a party shop are all that is needed to change the look. Black boots complete both costumes.

A simple way to make a witch’s broomstick is with a length of thick dowel and a pile of flexible twigs or thin bamboo (whatever is easiest to find). Just divide the twigs into four equal bundles and tie each securely with some twine. Place the bundles around the dowel and wrap them all tightly together to form the broom. You can wrap ribbon, fabric or raffia over the twine to hide it. Then you’re ready to fly.

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Whether it is spring or autumn, these are great seasons for festivals and celebrations before the weather gets too hot or cold.  And if you live in the Southern Hemisphere or a tropical location, enjoy the contrast of the light with the “Darkness” of Halloween. You will have the best of both worlds.

Kat

Ukulele virtuoso, Taimane Gardner from Hawaii, taps into the Halloween mood with her haunting instrumental, Rings of Saturn, although she lives in the tropics.