Tag Archives: flowers

The Stunning Water Tower Walk: Pearl Beach, Australia.

It’s hard to believe this breathtaking bushwalk is simply known locally as “the Water Tower Walk”. That sounds so plain Jane and understated. I’m not even sure there’s a sign, although it’s probably on the map.  That said, you either have to be local and in the know…or lost…to find it!

Rowena Mt Ettalong Walk

Here I am snuggled into the bushes with my Nikon photographing the view.

Yet, this walk is literally awesome, packed with knockout views, especially for the contemplative soul. Moreover, you never know what you’re going to stumble across on  the wildlife front. Much to our surprise,we’ve actually seen an echidna, which we didn’t even know were living in our local area. We’ve also seen a flock of stunning black cockatoos, although I only heard them this time.

Since we’re in varying stages of being cooped up in lock down like a flock of old chooks, I thought I’d invite you on a virtual bush walk. This way, you can ease into my shoes and hopefully get a sense of the magic.

However, before we get started, I’d better give you some directions. As it turns out, a quick Google search for a map actually told me its official name is : The Mt Ettalong Lookout Walk and its official address is 135 Patonga Dr, Pearl Beach NSW 2256. Well, that’s all well and good if you want to write it a letter. However, if  you’re in the car and looking out the window, you just need to look out on your left for the water tower. Take it from me, you can miss it and if you reach the Pearl Beach turn off, you’ve gone too far. The water tower is camouflaged in the scrub.

BTW, to help you get your bearings, I thought I’d better remind you our seasons are upside down for most of you. That means, we’re heading into Winter here in Australia. Now, I’m constantly running out of frigging daylight, because I stay up too late and miss half the day. So, this will tell you that we’re arriving about half an hour before sunset when the light is at its magic best, although there were definitely spots  where the light was gone, and needed the morning sun.

Track Mt Ettalong Lookout

From the road, this half hour walk appears pretty understated. There’s just the water tower and a bit of bush. Definitely no multi-story car park, luxury hotel or other travesties you expect anywhere worth visiting. Just nature. However, walk further down the track, and you’ll soon see stunning water glimpses through the gum trees  on your right.

Mt Ettalong Lookout through trees

Further along, you’ll see a little track across to a series of natural rock lookouts. By the way, there are no safety railings to spoil the view, until you reach the lookout at the end. So, you need to watch your step and be careful. Otherwise, it will be you being rescued and appearing on the 6.00 pm news…or worse!

“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the

ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on

underwater,you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the

ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and

staring at the outside of the tent.”

― Dave Barry

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The View from the first lookout over Pearl beach and across to Lion Island and Broken Bay.

 

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a

drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be

missing something.”

― Mother Teresa

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Pearl Beach viewed from the Mt Ettalong Walk. During these times of social distancing, I’feeling particularly struck by images of the lone individual., as captured in this photograph, which would improve in the morning light. 

Alongside the view, you’ll also spot a few wildflowers. If I came here more regularly, I’d have a better idea of what to expect. However, since I only come here randomly once a year or so, it’s always a bit of a lucky dip. This time I spotted a star-shaped purple flower which I couldn’t identify, as well as the stunning Fushia Heath (Epacris longiflora). There was also a touch of wattle, and some Banksia seed pods still clinging tenaciously to the branches with others being trodden under foot.

Tree beside the path

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”

― Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam

You could come here just for the ocean views, and be in heaven. However, the trees were almost equally magnificent. Please don’t mistake me for a tree hugger. I’m more of a tree gazer, photographer and philosopher. I’m currently reading Julie Baird’s sensational book: Phosphoressence. She’s introduced me to the Japanese concept of “forest bathing”, or shinrin yoku. Unconsciously, that’s what I was doing on this walk, although I’ll take the liberty of translating it into the Aussie vernacular and call it “Bush Bathing”. Mind you, that’s something you need to approach with extreme caution in a more literal sense in the Australian bush. There are not only the legendary snakes and spiders you’ve no doubt heard about. The leaves on many of these plants have adapted to rough conditions and are tough, scratchy and even vicious. So, they’re clearly not something to embrace in a literal, physical sense and most definitely not naked. Indeed, this could well explain Australians’ bizarre toilet paper hoarding fetish during the coronacrisis. There was no way we were turning to our native flora as an alternative.

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“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

― William Shakespeare

Anyway, back to the trees. They were absolutely breathtaking, and I often struggle to understand how a simple tree could be so majestic and awe-inspiring. Meanwhile, I almost felt the size of an ant, dwarfed by this kaleidoscope of twisting, turning branches back-lit by the setting sun.  Their arms are reaching up into the omnipresent sky like a classroom full of kindergarten kids, where each of them has the answer to the question and desperately want to be picked. Moreover, being on top of a headland, these trees have wrestled with the wind and their branches have warped and twisted into an array of chaotic, misshapen forms, and I can almost hear the music playing, enchanting the branches to dance.  Of course, the effects of the late afternoon sun known as “the magic hour” by we photographers,  further illuminates their magnificent splendour. Gazing through my lens, I zoom in and absorb it all. It’s food for my soul.

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A jumble of branches.

Or, perhaps I’ve just been in lock down for far too long, and I’ve almost forgotten that the sky is blue. Or, that the sky exists outside at all, and hasn’t become a ceiling. That carpet hasn’t suddenly replaced the grass, and the world isn’t a square box after all.

I wish I could actually take you on this mesmerising journey in person with me. However, I’ve done my best to try to record it for you and, as I said, to ease you into my shoes. So, when I wasn’t standing stationary sticking my camera up a gum tree or gazing like stout Cortez across the sea, you would hear my footsteps rhythmically crunching over a carpet of crushed rocks and decaying detritus left, right, left, right. The track was uncharacteristically damp, because we’ve actually been getting some rain lately, and there’s a slighty musty smell of decaying leaves infused with eucalyptus, that scent we know as “Australia”.After all, this is our scent, our fragrance, even our deodorant. (Actually, we don’t go that far with the eucalyptus. Or, at least I don’t. Cough lollies are my limit.)

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As you can see, this spot is almost pure nature. Nothing’s been planted in neat little rows like peas in a pod. Rather, there’s raw, chaotic diversity and a freedom of spirit without pretence. I felt a million miles away from home, and any thought of covid 19 which has been stalking all of humanity around the entire globe. After all, there was no need for social distance. It was just me, myself and I, the birds, the trees, the awesome profound views across this vast stretch of water, the enormity of huge timeless boulders all  around me as well as the dramatic drop over the edge. This doesn’t quite count as a cliff, but if you fell down there, you might never get up, especially if no one knows you’re there.

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However, regardless of how deeply I was “bathing” in these scenes and senses, reality was always going to stick it’s ugly head in.  With the setting sun, came responsibilities. Dinner wasn’t about to cook itself and fly magically onto the table. Moreover, I also had a zoom meeting to attend. Indeed, it was going to be rush, rush, hustle bustle when I got home.

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However, at least I’d got out. Spread my wings. Broadened my horizons. Finally, done some exercise. Moreover, once the Palm Beach Lighthouse was lit and the street lights were coming on, it was time for me to go home. After all, even a child knows they need to be home before sunset.

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Well, I hope you enjoyed our virtual walk. Have you been out on any special walks recently? Or, do you have a favourite walk which you would like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Meanwhile, I hope that you are well, and keeping safe both from the virus but also all of its associated stress and the effects of isolation, job loss and just sense of things being turned upside down and inside out.

Best wishes,

Rowena

G- Geraldton, Western Australia.

Welcome to the latest stopover in my series of Places I’ve Been for the Blogging A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’re be leapfrogging once again across the globe leaving Florence behind and heading off to Geraldton, Western Australia which might just need a bit of an introduction. Geraldton’s on the coast about 429 kilometres North of Perth. By the way, we’ll also be visiting Greenough, a little to the South.

Although it seems hard to believe now, I ended up living in Geraldton in my mid-20s after packing up the car and heading over there with a friend on an impulsive whim. Not that I was actually heading for Geraldton. I was actually heading for Perth, and somehow took a right hand turn and kept going. However, isn’t that always the way? That it’s just like John Lennon said:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Well, it isn’t that way for everyone. After all, there are those people who stay in the same seat all their working lives and never deviate from the plan.

However, I wasn’t being quite as carefree and fly with the wind as I thought. As it turned out what I’d put down to my stressful job in Sydney, turned out to be fluid on the brain, or hydrocephalus. So, I wasn’t just trying to escape from the rat race, but from myself. Or, to be precise, this alien invader which essentially all but killed me off, and sent me and the Mitsubishi Colt back to Sydney to start over and my Geraldton chapter came to an abrupt end. Indeed, it was ripped straight out of the book.

Naturally, even going back to Geraldton on this virtual tour is unleashing a kaleidoscope of memories, the way it does when a soldier returns to the battlefield. There were so many hopes and dreams which weren’t just tied up in that move, but were contained inside that beautiful, watery head of mine where I could actually do laps back and forth if I wanted to. Or, if the wind built up, I could even surf inside my head. How’s that for a unique talent? Isn’t that what everyone is striving for??? To be the very best at something and utterly inimitable? Humph! Perhaps, I should’ve picked a different box. Tried tap dancing instead. Having harbour views inside my head proved rather problematic.

Yet, there is always beauty. A bright side.

Geraldton has the most magnificent sunsets over the ocean, and a few white clouds just totally pulls it off. Moreover, in Spring Geraldton comes to life when a kaleidoscope of wildflowers explodes like fireworks across the landscape during wildflower season. There were also very special friends and nights out at restaurants and simply just being. There is always light and never complete darkness, no matter how we might feel at the time.

Anyway, you didn’t come to Geraldton to muse about my head. However, travel is as much about stories and those people you meet along the road, as it is about checking off your checklist.

I don’t know whether we should arrive in Geraldton by plane so you can have a sense of the local fly-in fly-out culture. Or, whether we should fly into Perth and drive up in what was my Mitsubishi Colt. While it’s probably been recycled into steel cans by now, I haven’t forgotten what it was like to overtake a massive road train in that little car better suited to inner city driving. I held my breath and muttered a few prayers as I pressed the accelerator almost to the floor to gain momentum. The steering wheel shook in my sweaty palms, and it felt like I was almost flying in a dodgy rocket. Yet, somehow we made it and drove on.

Geoff Greenough tree

The Leaning Trees are scattered throughout the Greenough area just South of Geraldton. The leaning trees are a bizarre natural phenomenon caused by the airborne salt content blown in with the winds off the Indian Ocean. The tree trunks lie horizontal to the ground and have become somewhat of an icon.

Before I moved to Geraldton,  the real estate agent warned us about a few things. There was this story about the wind being so strong, that you hang your washing out in the morning and pick it up from next door in the afternoon . My aunt also told me about these mysterious trees, which are bent right over and grow along the ground because the wind is so strong.  No one mentioned the balls of tumble weed which swept along the beach like soccer balls. They were visual proof that I was now in the wild West, and my days of swanning around Sydney’s Whale Beach were long gone.

However, what the real estate agent didn’t mention, was the heat. Being from Sydney, I thought I knew heat. However, the heat in Geraldton was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. In Summer, it was like living in a kiln, and it wasn’t uncommon for the temperature to hit 46°C in the shade.

To give you some idea of what it was like living in that kind of heat, there was an open air-car park in town where I parked every day for work. In that car park, there was only one covered car space, which in the manner of country towns, might’ve amounted to a couple of strategically placed sheets of corrugated iron. This shelter was certainly nothing approaching  a shed let alone a garage. Yet, in that intense heat, this shelter was hot property and a bit of a battle broke out for that parking spot between me and the guy who worked next door. I don’t remember actually meeting the man, but I knew his car, and as the temperature soared, we were getting to work earlier and earlier battling it out for that space. Humph…I wonder if he’s had it to himself all these years since I left? I doubt it.There’s always someone ready to take your place, especially in a car park.

Another really lovely aspect to life living in Geraldton, is the crayfish or lobster. For many it’s a way of life to put out a craypot and catch their own crayfish. Yum!

The Greenough River flows just South of Geraldton. I stayed stayed out there in a cottage on the river for a couple of weeks. I remember waking up before sunrise and photographing the black swans gracefully gliding upon its glassy, ink facade. It was incredibly serene and my friend was blown away by the photos. Geraldton with it’s railway line along the waterfront wasn’t always recognized for it’s breathtaking beauty. Unfortunately, I can’t quite put my hands on the photos atm,  but I’m on the lookout.

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Speaking of the Greenough River, I highly recommend visiting the historic Greenough village. It was my understanding that the village flooded and moved to higher ground, leaving the original village behind as a form of time capsule. When I was over there, the village was rather understated and almost blending in with the paddock like an old farm ute slowly rusting into the soil. Indeed, that’s what I particularly loved about it. I could discover and explore it for myself and feel like I’d found something, even if it wasn’t lost.

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Of course, we’re wandering all over the place in my usual style travelling from memory, rather than using a map and proceding in a logical sequence. However, I suspect reigning in this wandering spirit and subjecting it to a list, would strip away its soul and isn’t worth it, even if you would get from A to B faster and save a bit on petrol.

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St Francis Xavier Church, Geraldton

Culturally speaking, Geraldton was an interesting and a surprisingly diverse place. Part of that was thanks to the wind, which attracted windsurfers to the area from right around the world. That’s what took one of my close friends there and she still hasn’t left. The local farming and cray fishing industries also brought wealth to the area, and it was well known not to judge a book by their cover around town. That a farmer might come into town straight off the farm in their dungarees, yet have the ready cash to buy a brand new ute or tractor.

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A front view

 

This takes us back into town, now we’re off to St Francis Xavier Cathedral, which is absolutely magnificent. It was designed by architect and priest John Hawes, who built a series of Churches throughout the region, although this is clearly the jewel in the crown. really looks quite out of place in an Australian regional city.

Rowena Geraldton Gaol

Next, I thought we might go and visit Old Geraldton Gaol and Craft Centre. As you can see I got myself into a spot of trouble. These days, the cells are usually occupied by craft artisans, although the place is like a ghost town atm. Closed down thanks to preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

While I was checking out the Old Gaol online, I came across this fantastic video of the Pink Lake from Midwest Adventure Tours. To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember going there, and I’m kicking myself. So, I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did!

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed Geraldton. It’s been quite a journey for me, even cathartic.

I hope you and yours are keeping well and virus free.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sources

Greenough’s Leaning Trees

Photo of St Francis Xavier Cathedral – Nachoman-au CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=391469

Weekend Coffee Share – 17th February, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you after another week? I things are going well and you’re ready to face another week with a smile, and not a sense of impending doom. I’m not a morning person and Monday mornings usually hit me like a concrete slab crashing down to earth and of all the places it had to land, it was on on poor little ol’ me.

Anyway, I don’t want any of you to think of me as a “snowflake” or even from the “snowflake generation”. While I had heard of this term before, a conversation with our 13 year old daughter brought it back to mind. She told me that my generation were the snowflakes, not hers. Well, in case you’re not familiar with the term, the term “snowflake generation” was one of Collins English Dictionary‘s 2016 words of the year. Collins defines the term as “the young adults of the 2010s, viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations“.

The reference originally hails back to Fight Club’s Tyler Durden who blurts out:“You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same organic and decaying matter as everyone else”

While I’m here, there are two other bits of teenage slang you might appreciate. Firstly, there’s “boomer”. According to my kids, this has now extended beyond the original baby boomer generation to include anyone who is clueless, especially when it comes to global warming.

As far as being a “Karen” is concerned, the urban dictionary writes:

“A Karen is a kind of person who is unhappy when little things don’t go their way. They are a, “Can I speak to your manager?” kind of gal. The bitchy soccer mom of her friend group that nobody likes.
“Do you see her over there? She’s such a Karen.”
The Sydney Morning Herald’s, Julia Baird, tackled the Karen issue in the Saturday paper and raised some interesting points. For starters, there’s no male counterpart to Karen giving the term a sexist stance. My question is that if girls and young women are using this term (and just let me add that I’ve never heard a male use the term), what does that say? I’m planning to have a chat about this with my daughter and perhaps also her bestie. After all, her mum’s name is Karen.
If you’d like to check out Julia’s article, you can click HERE. By the way, I’d also like to point out that Julia was in my Australia Women’s History tutorial at uni and shes a really top-notch journo and well worth reading.
Anyway, I can’t believe that I actually posted this without mentioning Valentine’s Day! What is wrong with me? Have I developed total amnesia? Well, I think it’s probably been more of a case on being so focused on my research that I forget what else is happening. Moreover, I’ve shared the Valentine’s Day stories a few times in the real world and have moved on a bit since Friday. However, I did want to share with you how Valentine’s Day for me has changed throughout the years. Here in Australia, it’s not as big as in America and it’s more something for singles. When I was younger, I’d go to great lengths to send someone I like an anonymous card, which reached its zenith when I had a backpacker write two in German and another backpacker posted them for me from Berkeley, California. I didn’t think things through very well because I invited both of these prospectives to a dinner party at my place. They’d never met before and surprise! surprise! They’d both received Valentine’s in German from Berkeley, California. Well, I just hope they saw it as a joke.
Those days are gone now that my husband and I have almost been married for 20 years. That said we went out for dinner at a scrumptious local Italian restaurant, but that was also after driving the kids around and doing an emergency dash to buy my son a belt to hold his formal pants up. They both went to a formal Valentine’s day dinner with their youth group. BTW before I get off the subject of Valentine’s Day, each of them received something like 5th hand plastic roses which had done the rounds at school. It looks like Cupid wasn’t having much success.
Meanwhile, my research into the stories of WWI stories continues. I’m still not sure whether it is taking shape or just growing into something like a massive mushroom cloud about to envelope the earth. Yet, at the same time, there are such gaps in the historic record or difficulties trying to find out where someone was wounded or died and to me with my very strong sense of place, these details matter. Moreover, since I’m writing non-fiction, I can’t just make it up either. However, that works both ways and most of the time the real stories and the raw emotions which go along with them, are so much better than anything I could manufacture.
One of the challenges I’m facing is my lousy sense of direction and spatial relations. There are people like my Dad who only need to go somewhere once, and they’ll always find their way back. Of course, it makes perfect sense that there’d be outliers at the other end of the  spectrum who can’t even find their way out of their own driveway. That’s me. So, compounded by the fact that I live way over here in Australia and can”t just jump on a plane and walk around the battlefields of France, I’m having a lot of trouble tracking down where everyone was. Moreover, since I’m focusing on individual stories, I don’t have that big picture stuff and that understanding that these were big groups of people moving around under the direction of Captains, Generals etc. They weren’t wandering round the French countryside like lost sheep. That said, prior to the Battle of Amiens 8th August, 1918, all the Australian divisions on the Western Front hadn’t fought together before so you had to check what they were up to and even then you have to ensure they were still there, weren’t in hospital, or on furlough. You can’t assume anything. So, you can see how writing these seemingly simply stories can get rather challenging.
Tonight, I posted a few photos of the magnolia flower out the front. This magnolia is known as a “Little Gem”. However, it’s flowers are massive and would easily fill both hands. They’re the size of a saucer. Anyway, after researching these incredibly intense WWI stories and accounts of the battlefield, the magnolia flowers almost assumed an ethereal glow.
Anyway, unfortunately, time is running away. Or, to be honest, it ran away a few hours ago and I’ve made no effort whatsoever to catch up and am about to start paying for it.
So, I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.
This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.
Best wishes,
Rowena

Magnolia Daze…Something’s Alive in the Garden.

I’m stone cold sober.Yet, I’m visually intoxicated by this massive, white magnolia flower, with its graceful petals imitating a dancer’s silhouette. Isn’t it absolutely beautiful?!! For me, it’s particularly appealing because our garden has been little more than scorched earth during the last few years of Australian drought. So, just seeing a blade of green grass is enough to send me troppo!

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Thankfully, however, the garden is feeling relatively happy at the moment. We’ve been having very heavy downpours, localized flooding and if we had frogs, they’d also be doing the happy dance.

However, unfortunately, you can have too much of a good thing. Last weekend, the rain and wind was so heavy that our back roof was leaking like a sieve and we had to clear out more stuff than the average sod keeps in an entire house. Numerous local trees were blown over and even our fledgling lemon tree (which is protected on three sides) was left bending right over looking and feeling like a weeping willow.

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All of this rain, also renewed my hopes for a spot of colour in the garden and being able to cook with herbs freshly picked from the garden like one of those swanky TV chefs.  Yes, the pots are still sitting out the front unplanted a few weeks later, but at least they’re out of reach of the doggies. So, there’s a chance they’ll survive.

However, after seeing interviews tonight with bush fire survivors who’ve lost everything, a beautiful garden or even a pot plant, feels like a luxury indulgence. Yet, at the same time, even when the battle is at its worst, we still need to pluck out anything which lifts our spirits. Raises hope. There is never just all doom and despair, there is a ray of light somewhere. Moreover, as a photographer myself, I can appreciate that the darker the shadow, the brighter the light.

So, how is your garden going? I think it’s still officially Summer here, although the actually weather is very unpredictable. What are the seasons doing in your neck of the woods?

Anyway, I’d love to hear from you, even if my response may be a little slow due to my current research load.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I love how you can zoom into your subject with the camera and blot out all the messy, ugly or simply distracting background junk. Your perspective, indeed your world, is only as wide as your zoom, which might be a be dangerous in other contexts but is great for a crisp photo.

Red Door, Patonga…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Thursday Doors.

You know you’re sadly door-obsessed when you go to a place of stunning natural beauty, and your heart skips a beat when you come across a red door. I’m sure many of you relate to my experience and perhaps Thursday Doors has become the equivalent of AA  for the door-obsessed. A safe place for us to share our passion for doors and all the stories they tell. Moreover, doors also have a metaphorical appeal…an open door, closed door and what these mean to the journey.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”     

Alexander Graham Bell

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Patonga

This week our love of doors takes us to Patonga, on the NSW Central Coast 91 kilometres North of Sydney and a short drive from our port of call last week,  Pearl Beach. By the way, Patonga is Aboriginal for “oyster”.

Patonga has a delightful sleepy feel to it. As you drive down the hill into the village, the beach is on your left and a jetty heads out into the bay. You’ll spot a few fishing boats and there was a father and son fishing from the end of the wharf without catching anything. You see scenes like this around the world, and only the backdrop changes.

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This red flower, which I took to be an Australian native, turned out to be a weed hailing from Madagascar…Mother of Millions. I wonder if it’s seen the movie. 

“Red is uplifting.”- Jerry Lewis

After going for a bit of a walk along the waterfront, we drove around town and that’s how I came across this red door in a side street just back from the Hawkesbury River. I have to admit that there was an instant tick inside my head…”That’s Thursday Doors done and dusted.”

Before I head off, I’ll leave you with this quote from Oscar Wilde. Although it pertains to red roses,I’m sure the sentiments could be extended to red doors.

“A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.”

Oscar Wilde

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0 Please pop over and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Mother & the Stolen Roses…Friday Fictioneers.

“Put those flowers back you dirty, little thief!” screeched the elderly widow, praying at her husband’s grave. “Nothing’s sacred. Little guttersnipe stealing from the dead! Where are her parents?”

I ran as fast as my little legs would go, clutching the porcelain roses close to my chest determined they wouldn’t break. We couldn’t even afford a stone for Mother’s grave, and father had made the wooden cross himself. Yet, Mother deserved the very best, and I fully intended to give her a proper stone etched with all our love when I grew up.

Meanwhile, the stolen roses were it.

….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt.PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Old Flame-Friday Fictioneers

Margaret made Bill his cup of tea…Twining’s Australian Breakfast.

“What’s wrong with them, Bill? Can’t they read? NO FLOWERS meant NO FLOWERS! It was hard enough to bury you once, but over and over again, petal-by-petal? Just stick a knife in my heart. NO! I’m NOT being a drama queen. Got a friggin rose caught in the walker. Almost broke my neck. I COULD’VE DIED.”

“All those flowers… Didn’t they know, you NEVER gave me flowers?”

“Flowers in death, but not in life… A bunch for every birthday and anniversary you ever forgot…”

“I hate flowers. Burn them all!”

……

A few years ago, a neighbour’s husband passed away and she had an entire room filled with flowers, and the whole prospect of what to do with them, really troubled her. One morning, she popped over and gave me an arm full of dead Arum lillies. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about receiving them either. What was I supposed to do with them? I knew them out. I lamost always give people a photo frame when they lose someone close. Flowers just become another death.

That said, I love receiving them, and while they’re good, they really do cheer you up.

This has been another contribution fot Friday Fictioneers hosted Rochelle Wisoff-Fields PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson.

xx Rowena

Up the Garden Path, Port Arthur.

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Although I’d never heard about the stunning gardens at Port Arthur before our visit, I was happily led up the garden path. Indeed, the gardens were a serious, botanical feast…especially for a brown-thumbed sod like myself unable to convert our sandy soil into a floral paradise.

It’s hard to comprehend that stunning, specialist gardens were growing in such a brutal, violent penal settlement. However, line most things, one thing led to another.

In 1849, several scientific groups joined together to form the Royal Society of Tasmania for Horticulture, Botany and the Advance of Science, the first Royal Society outside of Britain. Members had connections with Kew Gardens and other nurseries. This society  took responsibility for managing Hobart’s Government Gardens, later to become the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.
Among Royal Society members were numerous Port Arthur administrators and officials including Commandants William Champ and James Boyd. Many plants were ordered from England. Cuttings, tubers, corms, rootstock and seeds were also collected by plant enthusiasts on the eight-month journey to Van Diemen’s Land. The genes of some of Port Arthur’s plants map the ports of call in South America, South Africa and India. Boyd alone ordered hundreds of plants, including dahlias, marjoram and fruit trees.

 

As early as the 1830s ornamental trees were planted at Port Arthur. By 1838 the avenue leading to the Church from Tarleton Street was lined with young trees provided by the Governor of the day, Sir John Franklin. In 1846-47, Commandant Champ developed Government Gardens as an ornamental garden primarily for the enjoyment of the ladies of the settlement. The gardens were much admired and reached their peak in the late 1860-70s. After the closure of Port Arthur the gardens were neglected until reconstruction began in the 1990’s.

‘The usual afternoon walk was to be Government Cottage Garden where the officers’ wives, their children and nursemaids used to assemble. They were charming gardens. Lovely green lawns and gay flower beds – even a fountain in the centre – all beautifully kept.’

E.M. Hall, 1871-7.

 

The plants at Port Arthur have been catologued and their stories reproduced in a stunning online catalogue. I found it rather intriguing to read how seeds, cuttings and bulbs from exotic species found in Britain, India, South Africa and more arrived onboard ships in Tasmania, finding their way into the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hobart as well as these gardens in Port Arthur.
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I might not know the botanic name for this rose but I did manage to photograph it. I could curl deep inside and wrap myself up in that petal swirl.

These days it is impossible to conceive the trafficking of plant materials across international borders when you can’t even bring plants, fruits and a swag of other items into Tasmania from the Australian Mainland…at least, not as your average Joe. Quarantine is very important in Australia and Tasmania in order to keep out exotic diseases and  pests.

“Port Arthur is beginning to look springlike. The oak trees are bursting into leaf and there is a profusion of bulbs in bloom in the paddocks which at one time were old gardens.”

The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) Thursday 30 August 1934 p 5.

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Anyway, I thought I’d share a few stories about the various plants at Port Arthur.

Quercus robur (English oak, common oak)

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The trees that surround Government Gardens and line the avenue up to the Church are mostly English oaks. This is the most common forest tree in Britain.

The botanic name robur means ‘strength’ in Latin, and refers to the hard timber for which the trees have been valued since prehistoric times. Sir John Franklin, the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land from 1836-43, provided the Port Arthur Penal Settlement with young oak, ash and elm trees, some of which may survive today. Deciduous European trees were some of the earliest brought to the new colony, bringing a sense of comfort and familiarity in an otherwise foreign landscape.

Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove)

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A native to western and south western Europe, including the British Isles. Commandant Champ wrote a letter to his mother requesting her to collect the seeds of wild flowers when walking in the woods and send them to him.

 

Lupinus polyphyllus   (garden lupin)

This plant was discovered in the north-west of North America in the 1820s by Mr David Douglas, who also introduced the Douglas fir to Europe.

Seeds of ‘blue and yellow lupins various’ were being advertised for sale by Mrs Wood in the Hobart Town Courier by November 1829:

‘This splendid lupine is now become so common that we can hardly conceive how gardens must have looked without it, though it is not yet quite twenty years that seeds of it were first sent to this country…’

Melianthus major (honey flower)

A common plant in colonial gardens, Melianthus would have been admired for its unusual leaves and growth habit, as well as for its large red flower spikes, unlike any plant found in traditional English gardens. It is native to South Africa, and was collected by sailing vessels on their way from England to the Australian colonies and other trading ports.

Myosotis sylvatica (forget-me-not)

The forget-me-not is so common in Tasmanian gardens that many people consider it weedy and tend to pull it out. A common flower in woodlands throughout Britain and Europe, this would have been one of the early introductions to the gardens in Port Arthur.

The following poem appeared in an April edition of the Launceston Courier in 1829, and captures the sentimentality that people at this time had for the forget-me-not:

There is a flow’r I love so well

That grows within my garden plot

My willing pen its name shall tell

The lovely blue ‘forget-me-not’

‘Tis not within the rich man’s hall,

But near the honest peasant’s cot,

Where grows the lovely flow’r, we call,

The modest blue ‘forget-me-not’.

It does not boast a rich perfume,

The rose-bud’s glory ‘t has not got;

It does not want a warmer bloom,

The brilliant blue ‘forget-me-not’

Through life I’ve lov’d this simple flow’r

Nor ever be its name forgot

In prosp’rous time or adverse hour

The humble blue ‘forget-me-not’

And should I die an early doom

Let no false tear my mem’ry blot;

But let there spring around my tomb,

The azure blue ‘forget-me-not’

Salix babylonica (weeping willow)

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Weeping Willow at Port Arthur 2017.

The weeping willows that once grew in this garden, and in many other sites throughout Australia and Britain, were taken as cuttings from a tree growing on the grave of Napoleon Bonaparte on the island of St Helena. A quick growing shade tree popular  for ornamental plantings, willows have also traditionally been used medicinally and for basketry.

In 1845, the Commandant of Port Arthur investigated which Tasman Peninsula outstations had suitable conditions to plant willows for basket-making, and supplied these with cuttings from his own garden.

Rosa chinensis (China rose)

China roses were introduced into the west towards the end of the 18th century, and enabled the many cultivars of rose available today to be developed. China roses have the quality of repeat flowering, although they bloom most heavily in the spring.

The roses growing in Government Gardens include ‘La Marque’, a variety released in 1830 with large, fragrant, white flowers.

Solanum aviculare  (kangaroo apple)

Thomas Lempriere, the Commissariat Officer at Port Arthur from 1833-48, wrote in his journal about the culinary value of various native plants. He stated: ‘the Solanum…or kangaroo apple, is a very handsome plant and the fruits, when perfectly ripe, pleasant to the taste’. –1838

In 1828 the kangaroo apple was featured in an  article in the Hobart Town Courier, which commented:

‘…we have had occasion, this season particularly, to remark the great luxuriance of what is called the Kangaroo apple, or New Zealand potato, a species of Solanum common to this country and New Zealand… a beautiful evergreen shrub, with dark verdant leaves… It is covered with small round apples, which when ripe eat exactly like bananas, and a sort of yams grow at its root, it is both ornamental and useful.’

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed our meanders through the gardens at Port Arthur. Adding a few details to my photographs, has become quite a long and interesting journey, even for this serial plant killer.

If you’d like to check out the Port Arthur Gardens’ Plant Guide, please click: here.

xx Rowena

Sunflowers…Sowing the Seeds.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult it’s been for me to plant a few seeds.

That’s because these are no ordinary seeds.

These sunflower seeds were grown in Australian Quarantine from the seeds brought back from the MH17 crash site in the Ukraine.

You’ll no doubt recall MH17 was the Malaysian airlines flight, which was shot down over the Ukraine  on the 17 July, 2014.

Therefore, these seeds represent each precious individual whose life was tragically cut short through terrorism and war. More than that. They strangely represent hope. Hope that their legacy will gone on. A reminder that love conquers the grave and they won’t be forgotten. Faith that the goodness in people will triumph over the bad.

Personally, these seeds have come to have additional meaning about sowing goodness into our young people, especially the battlers, and helping them to grow up straight and tall on the inside.

Many of the Australians who died on board were teachers. Teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a vocation. It means having vision and seeing the sunflower blooming in each and every child…even before the seed has been planted. Ideally, that faith continues through the storms.That can be and usually is a very challenging, but also rewarding, thing.

The Maslin Family, who lost their three children in the crash, started a fundraiser in their memory for children with dyslexia. Their youngest son,Otis, had dyslexia and treatment is long term and expensive and so is diagnosis.

Putting all of these people together, the sunflowers for me came to mean giving kids who are struggling to read and learn that helping hand to do their best. Reading might always be difficult for them, but even if you can simply give someone the capacity to read, fill out forms and read the day to day stuff, it would change their world completely. It would set them free in ways those of us without dyslexia have never considered.

For some reason, this has become very important to me. It’s become my heart. Not because I’m a writer and I live, breath and devour words, but also because I know what it’s like to be on struggle street, not knowing if you’re ever going to get out.

Although quite different to dyslexia, I was born with hydrocephalus which went undiagnosed until I was 25. At that point, my neurological symptoms spiralled dangerously out of control. I couldn’t put my finger on my nose, was falling over a lot, forgetting the basics and getting the sequencing of basic tasks out of whack in a way that was almost funny if it wasn’t so disturbing. This increased pressure on my brain obviously wasn’t good.

Yet, I was lucky. I had surgery and had a shunt put in. Over time, most of my symptoms have eased and if it wasn’t for the auto-immune disease, I’d be back on my feet.

There is no surgery or quick fix to cure dyslexia and other learning difficulties. I guess that’s what I like about what the sunflowers represent. That you plant a small seed yet from that tiny thing,  big, bright happy sunflowers grow…yippee!!

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On Sunday, a year after receiving the sunflowers, we planted 12 seeds in a seed planter and we had a little ceremony out on the back lawn, using an upside down laundry basket as a table. We had our stunning red climbing rose in full bloom as a backdrop. Nothing symbolises love more than a red rose other than a human heart.

If you would like to read about the sunflower seeds, click here

I was too anxious to plant the seeds last year. Actually, this wasn’t anxiety but more of a reality check. That’s because I am a serial plant killer and our front yard is currently littered with dead bodies following my most recent splurge. I always vow to change but my track record speaks for itself.

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Mind you, sowing the seeds is only the beginning. Seeds don’t magically turn into sunflowers overnight. They require tender, loving care and that correct balance of wet and dry soil, sun and shade and exposure to the elements yet protection as well. My husband found the sunflower seeds inside the other day and said: “they’re meant to be sunflowers, not cave flowers”.

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Initially watering the seeds in the kitchen sink. Overdid it a bit.

So, now I’m watering them with the spray bottle morning and night and have covered them with a sheet of plastic creating a mini greenhouse and am leaving them out in the sun by day.

It’s only been four days so far. So, still too soon to see any shoots poking their heads through the soil but I’m doing my absolute best to help them along.

I hope you will join me on this journey.

BTW if you would like to find out more about the Mo, Evie & Otis Foundation or donate, please click here: Maslins Set Up Dyslexia Fund.

xx Rowena

Forget-Me-Not…The Legend.

Every Spring, a field of forget-me-nots appears in my parents’ front yard.

In some ways, they’re not the most showy of flowers and aren’t unlike lantana in appearance, which has become a weed of plague proportions throughout the Australian bush.

Yet, there’s a sweetness about them and although the flowers are quite small and seemingly insignificant, they’re a brilliant blue and for so many of us, there’s that sentimental connection. They remind us of someone, perhaps somebody who has passed away and they remind us of once upon a time.

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Walking Through the Forget-Me-Nots. Photo: Rowena Curtin.

What I didn’t know, was that there are a few legends about how the forget-me-not received its name.

In one German legend, it is said that as God was naming all of the plants, one tiny blue flower did not want to be overlooked, so the flower called out, “Forget me not, Lord.”

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In a different legend, it is said that a boy and a girl were walking by a river that flows into the Rhine. The girl saw a lovely flower growing just by the water’s edge. The bank of the river was steep and the water swift.

“Oh, the beautiful flower!” she cried.

“I will get it for you,” said the boy. He sprang over the side of the steep bank and, catching hold of the shrubs and bushes, made his way to the place where the flower grew.

He tried to tear the plant from the earth with both hands, hoping to get it all for her who was watching him from the bank above.

The stem broke and, still clasping the flower, he fell backward into the rushing stream.

“Forget me not!” he cried to her as the waters bore him down to the falls below. She never did forget her blue-eyed friend who had lost his life trying to get her a flower.

“Forget me not!” she would say over and over until her friends called the little blue flower by this name.

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Not unsurprisingly, forget-me-nots remind me of my Mum and Dad but also my Mum’s Mum for some reason. I could see her liking them and she was a very sentimental person and like my Mum, she also had the most incredibly pretty blue eyes.

So when I saw a forget-me-not tea cup, saucer and plate for sale on eBay, I had to have it. However, the forget-me-not seems to be associated with tragedy because although the tea cup arrived safely in the mail, it fell and broke shortly after. Indeed, I’d only used it once. It sat on the sideboard in pieces looking sad and forlorn, for some time and I wondered whether I should simply throw it out but how can you forget a forget-me-knot and eventually my husband got out the Superglue and fixed up a host of my mistakes. Like so many of us, it bears the scars of experience but through this near loss, it’s gained appreciation and an understanding that even a tea cup doesn’t need to be perfect!

Do forget-me-knots have a special meaning to you? Any stories? I’d love you to share!

xx Rowena

Sources

Project Gutenberg Classic Myths Retold by Mary Catherine Judd with drawings entirely from classic sources http://www.gutenberg.org/files/9855/9855-h/9855-h.htm#xxxviii

The River by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). August 1850. Steel etching. Illustration for chapter 47, “Martha,” in Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield.