Tag Archives: Pittwater

Y – Yachting Holiday – Hawkesbury River, Australia…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to my series: Places I’ve Been for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.

Today, we’re jumping back into our time machine and re-setting the date for the 13th December, 1982. We’ve just arrived at Mangrove Creek, where we’ll be picking up the yacht and sailing down onto the Hawkesbury River. Of course, you’ll be meeting my Mum and Dad, my ten year old brother and my 13 year old self. By the way, you might notice that my Dad bears an uncanny likeness to British actor, John Cleese. I always used to wonder why people used to say to him:”Nudge, nudge wink wink, say no more”. However, the world’s full of so many mysteries for a kid, and this was just one of many which were never sufficiently explained.

My apologies for the lack of photos. My 13 year old self wasn’t much chop with the camera, and the camera wasn’t much chop either. I’m pretty sure I was still using my Kodak Instamatic, which had the cartridge of film you put in the back which you dropped off at your local chemist for processing. My parents and brother have also requested not too subtly, that I don’t post their photos on Facebook or the blog, and I mostly honour that request.

Anyway, on the 13th – 18th December, 1982 our family spent five days onboard a yacht slowly sailing from Mangrove Creek along the Hawkesbury River into Pittwater.  Mangrove Creek is a tributary of the Hawkesbury River which flows into Broken Bay not far from where we now live at Umina Beach on the NSW Central Coast.  We also stopped off at a picnic spot called The Basin where they have a shark net set up for swimming. My Dad flew over the Hawkesbury River once when he was young and saw loads of sharks in the water. So, beyond The Basin, swimming was out.

My Dad’s had an almost life long interest in sailing, and has since become a fully-fledged sailor. That is, even if he hasn’t completed the Holy Grail…the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

However, back in 1983, he hadn’t quite gained his stripes. So when the bloke hiring out the yacht asked Dad if he could sail, he could give an honest “yes”. However, I only found out a few months ago, that Dad didn’t actually know how to stop the boat. Of course, this was only a minor detail, and thankfully, everything went swimmingly well. My Dad in his typical try his hand at anything fashion, pulled it off and we were right.

By the way, “she’ll be right, mate” is something of an Aussie creed. It’s more or less  the reverse of catastrophizing where you just take everything in your stride. Of course, the little Aussie battler who’s even had it harder than most, will always triumph in the end. If they don’t, they’ll probably just find their way down to the pub.

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One of the things I clearly remember from the trip, is that the yacht came with a dingy out the back with a pair of oars for rowing out to shore. While Dad took us out for a bit of exploring, clearly the idea was to go out by yourself. However, Dad had this thing about needing to pass your rowing licence first. Of course, my younger brother who was more sporty and better coordinated, received his licence straight away, and was able to scoot off without me. However, it took me a few goes, which I was naturally unhappy about. Indeed, I was a ball of angst…sad, angry, jealous, disappointed…every intense emotion you can think of under the sun. Of course, being 13 and the eldest didn’t help either. Well, eventually, I also managed to get my rowing licence and loved exploring the little bays and beaches along the Hawkesbury River as well.

 

Another indelible memory, was when we sailed across the heads into Pittwater battling against strong winds and a larger swell. Indeed, I still remember the slap of the salty wind in my face, and my hair taking flight. As the yacht keeled right over with the gunnels in the water, I was helping Dad with the ropes and loving every minute. The exhilaration of speed and flying into the salty, ocean wind was incredible. However, my mother and brother were both below deck and couldn’t stand it. After my difficulties getting my rowing licence, it felt particularly good to be outdoing my brother at this point, even if he was younger than me. This was my moment of triumph, but I also truly loved sailing.

Above: we went out sailing around much the same area on the 19th December, 2010 with my parents and our kids almost 27 years to the day after our family sailing holiday and now, even that’s 10 years ago.

Although we’re now mostly a sailing family, we’ve only ever had that one family holiday sleeping onboard the yacht. Indeed, we still haven’t christened Dad’s current yacht, which is quite a shame. It would be rather magical to fall sleep on nature’s water bed, don’t you think?

Have you ever been out on a yachting or boat holiday where you’ve actually slept onboard? Or, perhaps you’re more of a day sailor? Or, you love your land legs. Either way, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sailing With the Sea Plane.

Yesterday, we went sailing at Sydney’s Palm Beach with my Dad. For sailing affectionados, the yacht was a 34 ft Catalina. Given our close encounter with the sea plane, I should also clarify the yacht wasn’t a WWII aircraft.

More of a photographer than sailor, it was my job was to sit in my Princess seat, making sure I didn’t fall overboard. Same with the lad, except now that he has his level 2 sailing certificate, more was expected from him…especially knowing the difference between port and starboard,  stern and bow. Actually, even I know that.

You could say that the Catalina has a few bells and whistles. This includes an in-mast furled mainsail, which means you just need to use the winch to get the sail up and down. By the way, I’m merely ballast on these sailing trips, so that’s the full extent of my technical expertise.

Jon & Geoff sailing

Geoff and Mister finally out in the Laser. Sailing on a much different scale.

Yet, sailing on the Catalina is obviously much more luxurious than our humble Laser. At the same time, I miss being right on the water, though I love not having to keep a constant eye on the boom. Ouch!

Naturally, we’ve been out on the Catalina before. However, we’ll dubb yesterday’s sail: “Who Has Right of Way?”

Dad was letting the rest of us steer, which was great fun but we don’t know all the intricacies of sailing etiquette. This meant we were constantly checking …especially being the Christmas holiday break. There was a huge cacophony of craft on the water. A veritable fruit salad of yachts, water skiers, kayakers, paddle boarders, ferries and even the sea plane thrown in.However, being under sail and something about being under a starbord tack, the lot moved out of our way…even the ferry.

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While I know I said I was ballast, I did have an extensive turn steering the yacht. That is, under my father’s much needed supervision. You could also say that I had considerable assistance from my husband and son. I have no sense of direction and could get lost in a paper bag.

Yet, since I can drive a car, you’d probably think steering the yacht would’ve been second nature…a proverbial piece of cake. However, steering a yacht is a very different kettle of fish (thought I’d sneak that one in too!). After all, the road has lanes, which prevent me from swerving all over the place. However, you obviously don’t go sailing in the local pool and there are no marked lanes. Moreover, there’s no auto-correct built into the steering either. So, every time I over-correct, I have to compensate.

It wasn’t pretty.

Indeed, no doubt to the trained observer, our meandering yacht appeared very confused. Indeed, perhaps the Water Police were all set to arrest the “drunken sailor”. Not that I’d had a drop. Indeed, I was stone sober.

That’s when my Dad kindly suggested:”maintaining some kind of course and not moving the steering wheel quite so much”!

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Our son having a contemplative moment inbetween giving his mother advice.

Meanwhile, my son wasn’t so kind and my husband “helped” whenever we passed another craft.

I didn’t mind. I have no ego and would rather bumble along having a go, than staying in my Princess seat being decorative. After all,when you carpe diem seize the day, you get used to wearing egg on your face. Moreover, you get less and less self-conscious when you step out of your box onto someone else’s turf and don’t need to get it right. Be perfection personified. You can just be your pure, unadulterated self in its shining glory.

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As it’s hard to photograph yourself sailing, I photographed this passing yacht.

By the way, if you’re not into sailing, you might not fully appreciate its complexities. That there are actually many restraints and limitations you can’t appreciate from land. So, you’re not as free as a bird and sailing isn’t a surrealist dream.

Far from it.

Rather, all of your senses are constantly switched on looking out for other craft, reading the wind and maintaining an equally keen eye on what’s going on beneath the water. You’re especially needing to monitor the depth of the water and changing underwater landscapes. After all, while the dangers of crashing into another boat are more obvious, you don’t want your keel getting stuck…or worse. Fortunately, the yacht has sonar which provides a depth reading and underwater map, taking away much of the dodgy guess work. Yet, you still need to be alert and Captain the thing. Machines are simply there to assist, not take over.

Consequently, sailing is like watching that proverbial duck gliding along. Serene and peaceful from a distance, there’s a lot of work going on beneath the surface to keep the yacht moving, safe and on track.

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It’s not a bird or a giant Australian mosquito. It’s the Sea Plane. Photo c: Rowena Curtin.

However, all these safety concerns ramped up a notch, when I noticed the sea plane coming in to land. The sea plane flies from Rose Bay on Sydney Harbour to Palm Beach and is an incredible site to watch…theatre in motion.

I was tracking the sea plane through the lens, when it suddenly took a sharp turn and we were staring eye to eye. That’s right. The yacht was smack bang on the runway.

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That’s when Geoff asked Dad who had right of way…the yacht or the plane?

If you don’t sail, you might not appreciate that sailing is like a game of chess. That determining who has right of way, is an intrinsic part of sailing and this fundamental rule can determine the safety of the players. One false move could prove deadly…especially when it means taking on the sea plane head on.

At this point, I didn’t care who had right of way. I was all for exit stage left. After all, as Geoff’s uncle, a returned serviceman, used to say: “Some rights are worth dying for. The right of way isn’t one of them!”

However, although it felt like the sea plane missed us by a whisker, there was never any doubt. The plane was in like Flynn.

Mind you, I felt sorry for the pilot trying to land in that dog’s breakfast, wondering how many of them actually looked up? Indeed, did they even know it was there?

Of course, this is where I came into my own. The rest of the world might have disappeared, but my zoom lens was fixated on that plane tracking its every move. Indeed, it was glued. The plane was zooming in closer and closer just about to land and my trigger finger was going ballistic.I was in photographic, wow! wow! heaven.

Just as well Geoff was steering! I was so single-focused that the lens could’ve smacked straight into the sea plane before I’d registered any form of contact.

What a day! Sailing, photography, scenery, sea air…

Oh happy days!

xx Rowena

Lugubrious Dark Gully, Sydney.

Yesterday, we levitated out of our post-Christmas slumber to go sailing with my Dad. His yacht is moored at a mysterious location known locally as: “Dark Gully”. Before you start thinking he’s a pirate or smuggler of sorts, Dark Gully is in Palm Beach, a place made famous overseas by the hit drama series: Home & Away.

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Map of Palm Beach, Sydney. The Left or Western side is Pittwater with still water and the right or Eastern coast has waves.

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Mind you, just because Dark Gully gets its name from being sheltered from the sun, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its mysteries. Top of the list, is a sandstone cave which has a window and a door. Of course, it doesn’t take much imagination to view this mysterious hide-out as an Aladdin’s Cave. A treasure trove overflowing with some kind of stash more interesting than broken boat parts, tangled fishing lines and last year’s empties. Unfortunately, despite extensive surveillance while we were living in the area, I’ve never witnessed even the twitch of a twig outside that place. I swear they come and go by moonlight and yes, the moon is on that side of the hill.

By the way, speaking of not seeing things in the area, the late George Michael lived just over that hill and I didn’t see him coming or going either. Not that I was operating some kind of amateur surveillance or stalking operation down there. As far as I was concerned, the water was always an empty, black ink. Of course, I sort of knew there were flying mullet, stingrays and sharks lurking beneath the depths, but I never saw much action on top of the water. There was just the huge yacht which moored a few metres away from our boat ramp  every Christmas. Humph… there could well have been activity there. However, I was too busy photographing the moon to notice. Yes, that’s right I was stalking sunsets and moon rises with my camera, not celebrities I didn’t know were there.

Next up…sailing at Dark Gully and you can also read about exploring Dark Gully and Palm Beach in this previous post: Exploring Palm Beach…Our Borrowed Backyard.

xx Rowena

Sailing to the Soul- Quotes Day 2.

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.
Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. was an American Catholic writer and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion. Wikipedia
Born: January 31, 1915, Prades, France
Died: December 10, 1968, Bangkok, Thailand
Today, we are going sailing so I thought I’d find a good sailing quote to share with you.
opti Pittwater
When it comes to sailing, I must confess that I’m much better at photographing sailing and being ballast than actually sailing the boat. Steering isn’t exactly my strength and I have no sense of direction and when it comes to reading maps, I’m better at turning them into origami masterpieces…paper aeroplanes, flapping birds and the like.
All the same, I love sailing with the wind rushing through my hair and that sense of absolute freedom. It’s fantastic!

I would like to thank Olive Ole from https://travelmuch.net/  for nominating for the 3 Days 3 Quotes Challenge.

Olive lives in Denmark and produces a stunning travel blog with some very striking images. Being Australian, I really appreciate being able to explore other parts of the world with her.  So don’t hang around here – go check her out!Let me talk you through the rules of the challenge:

  1. Three quotes for three days.
  2. Three nominees each day (no repetition).
  3. Thank the person who nominated you.
  4. Inform the nominees.

On Day 2, I am nominating three people who are into sailing or water sports:

Destination Everywhere: https://mrssuvi.com/
I hope your week is smooth sailing.
xx Rowena
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Sailing…We Are Sailing!

“You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way”.”
― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Yesterday, we went out sailing with my Dad over at Pittwater. Pittwater is part of the Hawkesbury River estuary on the Northern edge of Sydney. We started out at the Palm Beach Marina, motoring up to Newport for petrol and then sailed back down via Scotland Island.

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Mister heading to the boat.

The royal “we” in this instance being Geoff, Mister and myself. Miss spent the day with Grandma. She is still developing her sea legs and is best going at her own pace. We, on the other hand,  longed to feel the wind in the sails, the gunnels in the water and feel ourselves suspended off the edge of the known universe.

Well, that’s my idea of sailing but to be fair, we’re sailing around Pittwater. We’re not out at sea and it’s something akin to sailing in a bathtub…not a lot of risk but you certainly get a taste of something sensational.

While I’ve experienced these thrills a few times, we’ve probably had more experience with a lack of wind. What sailors call: “the doldrums”. Of course, this is quite a different wrestling with the elements.Not only is it extremely frustrating when you’re going nowhere and longing for that thrilling breeze. It can also make for a long row home and brings home  emphasise the beauty of petrol power as well.

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Diesel…A sailor’s insurance!

Indeed, we did use quite a bit of petrol power yesterday.

We started out from the Palm Beach Marina and then motored down to Newport for petrol. It seemed funny having a petrol stop while “sailing” but motoring can be your salvation.

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Wild Oats X.

 

 

While at Newport, we spotted Wild Oats X. Not quite the same as seeing the mighty Wild Oats XI winner of eight Sydney-Hobarts 2005–2014 (eight) but still a thrill.

 

As much as I was there to enjoy the sailing, or indeed motoring, naturally I was also there to soak up the view with my eye. Feel transformed, rejuvenated, inspired in some way. For me, this is as much about photography, writing and just having what I’d call something of a spiritual relationship with the sea, the sun and just being out in the vast outdoors. I had a really overwhelming sense of space and even emptiness out there. When we set out, we were the only boat out on the vastness of Pittwater. At least, it seemed that way. Yet, Pittwater is part of Sydney, a world class city with over 4 million people. Whenever I’m out there, I think of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and that rustic river experience. I’m definitely not in a big city.

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Optimus on Pittwater.

Leaving Newport, we spot a group of kids learning to sail on a small boat called the Optimus or Opti. The kids are learning to sail on these at sea scouts. They look like bathtubs with sails attached but they’re great to learn on.

Up until this point, Dad or Geoff have been steering and we’ve been under motor but now it ‘s time to unfurl the mainsail and Mister is at the helm steering the boat. He’s doing a great job, although he’s more used to using a tiller where you have to reverse your directions to reach your destination. He seems to adapt automatically. Dad starts talking to him about ” and “starboard” “red light”, “green light” and while I joke about having difficulty knowing my left and right, I realise I need to master this lingo myself today and I’ll be having a steer too. Or, what Dad calls “a sail”.

Indeed, it’s now my turn.

I am actually the least experienced “sailor” on board. Knowing that I don’t have great fine-motor skills and navigation has never been my strength, I am a bit cautious but this is like learning to drive in the back paddock. There’s barely anyone out here and it’s a great opportunity to get started. Indeed, it reminds me of my first driving lesson in a way. Although the yacht isn’t bunny-hopping through the water, I’m definitely over-steering and we’re swinging  backwards and forwards towards my marker. I’m also so focused on trying to keep the bow on course, that I don’t have the mental energy to lookout for other boats. I am 100% focused on that spot. You know what it’s like when you’re learning to drive. That’s why you have an instructor!

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The yacht we were on yesterday was a Catalina and quite a different experience to being on a laser or even a smaller yacht. It’s much more substantial and a much more “civilized” affair. Even under sail, you weren’t constantly ducking and weaving to avoid the boom as you went about. Indeed, almost the entire trip I was poised up in my princess chair truly living the life.

Well, I was until my hat blew into the water. Being more aerodynamic that a sail, the wind ran off with my hat and was unceremonious dumped near a decrepit hulk. Of course, with  view towards rescue and recovery, being close to another vessel wasn’t good. Fortunately we were under motor when the hat went but even still maneuvering ale yacht around to retrieve a flimsy bit of cloth which may well be sinking, wasn’t going to be easy.

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Rescuing one very naughty hat.

Meanwhile, the sea gulls which had made the hulk home, took an instant dislike to my invading hat. To them, no doubt it was perceived as a potentially dangerous UFO. They started swooping at it with plover-like agro as it floated helplessly by. While Dad has his doubts, Geoff plucked the hat back to safety and I was given another “I told you so”. Yes, Geoff had told me that you can’t go sailing without a cord on your hat but like a resistant teenage girl, I didn’t want a cord on my hat. It’s my everyday hat and when you’re not sailing, a cord looks a bit dicky on your hat once you’re out of pre-school.

So after a perfect day, we headed back home. Grateful for how all those magic ingredients miraculous came together. Or, indeed, thankful that my Dad had researched the weather and the wind to boost the odds.

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Palm Beach Marina.

Watching the sun sparkle across that magic diamond carpet, such a deep and brilliant blue against the golden sand bathing in glorious golden sun, we headed home.

We are sailing, we are sailing
Home again
‘Cross the sea
We are sailing
Stormy waters
To be near you,
To be free

Sailing, Rod Stewart

Have you ever been sailing? Where did you go? Any tales of the high seas?

xx Rowena

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Selfie.

Look What I Caught!…Yacht at Sunset Palm Beach, Sydney.

Photography is like fishing.

Sometimes, everything goes your way and it’s like the heavens are twisting and turning, metamorphosing into the most magical images right before your eyes and you just can’t believe your incredible good luck!

Conversely, there are those incredible disappointments when you return home empty handed, hopes dashed against the proverbial rocks.

Of course, this pain is much more intense when you’re traveling and can’t wait, go back or replay. It is what it is.

Or, if you’ve experienced some kind of technical “blip” and screwed up. This is far worse because instead of thinking about what might have been, it was and it was your own stupid ineptitude which killed the moment…just like flushing a tropical fish down the proverbial toilet. You could see and almost taste perfection and then all you had left was the ashes. Ouch! Such pain! Of course, images of Munch’s “The Scream” come to mind here and almost do it justice.

Anyway, today was my lucky day! While we were catching the ferry home, it was like a miracle. The entire sky was lit up with incredibly photogenic sunburnt orange. Indeed, it was so intensely beautiful, that it almost didn’t look real. I mean, you’d have to think the sky had been photoshopped if it wasn’t there right in front of your very own eyes. I took a swag of shots including this slumbering yacht parked at Sydney’s Palm Beach. It was all completely unplanned and pure luck…or perhaps, serendipity.

Needless to say that my trigger finger is suffering from extreme over-use. I just couldn’t stop carpe diem seizing the moment.

Surely, I must’ve died and gone to heaven only now I’m back home and tomorrow will be a very rude shock…

Monday morning!!

Oh! The cruelty of it all!

Think I might just close my eyes and “Play it again, Sam”. After all, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever”! (John Keats)

xx Rowena

The Morning After…a Walk Along the Beach.

“You see but your shadow when you turn your back to the sun.

Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Last night, as we watched the full moon rise over a sprawling landscape of twinkling lights, I felt such a mixture of hope and dread, like you do when, for whatever reason, you become intensely conscious transience. As much as you desperately try to hold onto the known, the familiar, the beloved; you know your efforts are futile. Change is in the wind and you’re losing your grip. Like that mysterious world at the top of Enid Blyton’s: The Magic Faraway Tree, you don’t know what’s coming next. Whether it’s better or worse, or just different. All you know is that you can’t turn back. That door is shut. Indeed, it’s so firmly shut it’s like that world never even existed and has escaped to the realms of dreams, legend…fantasy even.

I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam,
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
Forever.

Kahlil Gibran, Sand & Foam

Even though I’ve conquered many hurdles, especially in relation to my health, I’m definitely no Captain Courageous. Oh no! I can withdraw inside my cocoon just as much as the next person but I’m also starting to figure out what works for me and that if I don’t want to wallow in the mud, there are things I can do to lift myself out.

When you lose something precious, it is all too easy to forget what you still have. What is left. It’s understandable that I’m upset about losing our escape hatch at Palm Beach but we actually live 700 metres away from the beach, an absolutely smashing beach. Umina Beach fronts onto Broken Bay, just North of Sydney and has a postcard view of Lion Island, Pittwater and across to Palm Beach. Indeed, I can even wave to the Palm Beach Lighthouse and I swear that sometimes it even waves back.

Walking, I find, is also very good for clearing out the soul and after several weeks of rain, the sun returned yesterday and gave another encore performance today. Knowing that Winter is just around the corner, I’m grabbing these sunny days with both feet and getting out to the beach…carpe diem: seize the day!

Wally the Wandering Wombat and Ernie at the beach. But where's Bert?

Wally the Wandering Wombat and Ernie at the beach. But where’s Bert?

So after school drop off this morning, I went down to Umina Beach not only for a walk but to do a photo shoot.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been involved in a project to promote awareness of my auto-immune disease which involves photographing Wally the Wombat whose wanderings from the UK and around Australia are being well-documented. Dermatomyositis can affect children as well so I headed off to the beach to photograph Wally with Ernie from Sesame Street.

Memorial to the lives lost in the Christchurch Earthquake. On the 3rd anniversary of the earthquake, a single red carnation on each chair in remembrance of all those who died. Photo: Joyce Majendie

Memorial to the lives lost in the Christchurch Earthquake. On the 3rd anniversary of the earthquake, a single red carnation on each chair in remembrance of all those who died. Photo: Joyce Majendie

I also took along a cane chair.

I am currently putting together a farewell to Palm Beach series based on the image of the empty chair. The empty chair has been used to symbolise loss and grief in various works and Geoff Le Pard reminded me of that when he told me about a memorial to the victims of the Christchurch earthquakes called 185 Empty White Chairs with a chair to represent each person who died in the quake. I Googled it and was quite moved by the memorial and loved how they’ve used such an eclectic array of chairs, including a wheelchair, which have all been painted white. It was very evocative.

Vincent Van Gogh:

Vincent Van Gogh: “Van Gogh’s Chair 1888”

So here’s to new beginnings…I think! That and being thankful for all that we do have, even at timesof loss and transition when it’s so easy to forget.

xx Rowena

Umina Beach looking across to Lion Island and Palm Beach.

Umina Beach looking across to Lion Island and Palm Beach.

Chair and foam

Chair and foam

The tide shows no respect for what's been left upon the shore.

The tide shows no respect for what’s been left upon the shore.