Tag Archives: road less travelled

Walking Through Christina’s World…A-Z Challenge.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

As you might be aware, I’m currently taking part in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, and my theme is Writing Letters to Dead Artists. Yesterday, I wrote to American artist, Andrew Newell Wyeth regarding his iconic masterpiece, Christina’s World.

What I discovered, has been a Eureka Moment. Indeed, I’ve not only jumped out of the bathtub, but also leaped out of my skin. You see, I live with a muscle wasting disease called dermatomyositis, and a complication which causes fibrosis in my lungs, leaving me short of breath and prone to infection. My situation is extremely rare and even world-wide, there are only a handful of people who walk in my shoes. So, it’s also equally difficult to meet anyone who gets my situation from the inside out, without having some kind of medical training. Clearly, this isn’t something you can bond over with a stranger at the bus stop.

Christinasworld

Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World

However, then I stumbled across Christina’s World. Not only is there the connection with Christina and her muscle weakness, but very late last night, I found out Andrew Wyeth experienced a chronic lung condition. What the??? I was absolutely gobsmacked!  Somehow this painting had brought about this very intense cosmic fusion between artist, subject and observer. I’m not even going to estimate the chances of this happening. They’re so infinitesimal, that you’d need a microscope to find them.

So, clearly you could understand why I was so excited about finding this work of art. It was like I’ve been travelling along the road less travelled forever, and suddenly meeting  two fellow travellers, and having someone to walk with. Not that I’ve been alone, but you get my drift.

That’s why I’ve come back to Andrew Wyeth today. While the whole point of this challenge is to visit a new artist every day, I felt this connection deserved so much more than a fleeting, one-off letter exchange. That the three of us needed to sit out on Christina Olsen’s front step, or which ever step it was, and chat. Or, simply inhale and exhale the same air, and not even say a word.  Me being me, I’d have to add a sunset. I’m not sure whether we’d be facing the sunset in real life, but sharing a Ginger Beer with two dead people is hardly what I’d call “living in the real world”. So, I can paint the sky any way I please, even neon if I get the urge. Well, that is, unless some of these Wyeths feel like giving me some painting lessons, or doing the job for me.

However, while we shared these struggles, we also shared our strengths. None of us were victims, who let circumstances chew us up and spit us out. Rather, we are survivors, battlers to the very end.

Despite her great mobility difficulties, Christina was out in the field picking blueberries and getting herself around without a wheelchair. She wasn’t sitting on the porch waiting to die.

As a young boy, Andrew Wyeth was frail and too unwell to go to school. However, encouraged and taught by his illustrator father and brought into his wider circle, he painted and mastered his craft trying various techniques until he found his own voice in egg tempera. Yet, his lung deteriorated further.  In 1951, he had major surgery to remove a portion of his lung. He survived two near death experiences, and they even had to cut through muscles in his painting arm. This would’ve devastated many. Wiped them out. Yet, within a matter of weeks, Wyeth was back at work again. Indeed,  Trodden Weed (featured image) was completed in March and if you’re familiar with Wyeth’s paintings, there’s all his usual attention to detail in blade after blade of grass. He didn’t slack off.

Of course, I don’t know for sure what Wyeth was really trying to say in Trodden Weed, which has been described as an “unconventional self-portrait”. However, based on my own experiences of medical setbacks, it could well signify that he’s back on his feet, even if he is wearing Howard Pyle’s boots. That he’s going places, and that his heath problems aren’t going to hold him back. Indeed, he certainly didn’t paint himself sitting in a chair out on the porch. No! Here is an artist, yet a man of action, much like Rodin’s The Thinker, if not so muscular.

Rowena skiing downhill Fri

This sense of perseverance is something I’ve experienced myself, and I’ve pushed myself in ways that defy logic. I’ve always been a writer and photography has also been an omnipresent part of me. Yet, since my diagnosis I’ve also taken up the violin, done some adult dance classes, and even gone skiing. Each of these activities defies logic. While I’m certainly better than I was, I still have days when I even struggle to walk around my house, and my lung problems aren’t trifle either. So, I’m not superhuman, but it does show that there are forces at work which we don’t understand, and it’s worth getting out of our comfort zones to stretch what is possible as far as we can. I’m just mighty grateful that Australia’s largely flat, and I’m not living in Switzerland!

So, it is little wonder that alongside Christina’s World, I also relate to Brendan Graham’s modern hymn: You Raise Me Up, in such a personal way. For, along with Andrew Wyeth and Christina Olsen, I have also conquered mountains. Mountains beyond the physical and into the spiritual realm and I know I haven’t merely done this on my own strength. (By the way, I actually had the privilege of meeting Brendan Graham when he came to Sydney.)

Anyway, the day is done and I still have to move onto today’s artist…Guo Xi, which is starting to look like a very brief encounter indeed.

andrewwyeth-masterbedroom 1965

Andrew Wyeth, Master Bedroom.

So, I thought I’d let Andrew Wyeth have the last word. You see, it’s a great irony that after spending most of his life in the shadow of death, that he somehow managed to live a very long, full life and passed away at the grand old age of ninety-one. How did he do it? That’s a side to Andrew Wyeth’s genius, that I’m truly wanting to pursue further. Was it something he did? Luck? The will of God? When I get to heaven, I’ll be lining up Andrew Wyeth and Stephen Hawking side-by-side and asking questions… “Please explain!”

Have you ever had an experience like this with a work of art, or a book perhaps where the artist, writer, whoever knows your innermost struggle in such a personal way? Please share it in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I just wanted to mention someone who walked with Andrew Wyeth in a very personal and unique way. That is Joyce H Stoner, a Conservator who worked with him on his paintings for the last 12 years of his life. Here’s a link to her reflections http://samblog.seattleartmuseum.org/tag/joyce-hill-stoner/. She talks about him in such an illustrating, personal way that even if you’d never seen his paintings, you’ll enjoy it.

She also appeared in this this detailed interview of his works.

 

Theme Reveal – Blogging from A to Z.

My apologies. I understand that the theme reveal for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge was some time ago. However, let ‘s  just  say, that I was thrown by the changes this year, combined with the usual mayhem on the home front, and hence my grand announcement was delayed.

This year at Beyond the Flow, my theme will be: Travelling Alphabetically Around Tasmania, colloquially known as: “Tassie”.

I don’t know whether you’ve ever tried travelling anywhere alphabetically before. I certainly haven’t. Indeed, since leaving school, which can be synonymous with alphabetical seating, my aversion to doing  things alphabetically, has even extended to my filing cabinet. Nothing is filed alphabetically in there. It’s more a case of most used at the front, and dead files at the back. This makes perfect sense to me…unlike travelling around Tasmania alphabetically, which is madness in any other realm than cyberspace.

Although I have no sense of direction, thrive on serendipity and am “creative”, the whole concept of travelling alphabetically grates on me. I don’t like waste and clearly we’re not travelling via anything approaching a direct route. Indeed, by the end of the month, I suspect our path is going to resemble something of a spider’s web and a route way beyond the famed “road less travelled”.

I wonder how Siri would cope with that??

She wouldn’t!!

Neither would an accountant.

As you might be aware, the challenge kicked off on Saturday and I started my journey at A for Ashgrove Farm in Elizabeth Town , which is located on the Bass Highway, roughly inbetween Devonport and Deloraine in Northern Tasmania.

Today, we’re moving on to the seaside town of Bridport in the North-East, and could well be picking up a few bottles of wine along the way. After all, wine and cheese are old friends. Mind you, I will point out that we won ‘t drink and drive.

You’ll find that my commentary won’t address the usual touristy blah-blah-blah and be incorporating much of what I’ve gleaned from my husband and his family and historical references. You will also find quite a few historical references and anecdotes.

After all, you can easily Google the rest.

If you are doing the Blogging A – Z April Challenge, please share your theme below along with a link to your theme reveal of A posts.

After all, the best thing about this challenge is sharing and caring  and building new connections.

Enjoy!

xx Rowena

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Paradise…Driving from Hobart to Port Arthur.

If you’re planning to drive straight from Hobart to Port Arthur like a bat out of hell, think  again. Adjust your watch to “Holiday Time” and prepare yourself for a very stop-start journey. Perhaps, even more stop than start. Otherwise, you might as well just get out your pencil and ruler and play join the dots.

“The creative process is not like a situation where you get struck by a single lightning bolt. You have ongoing discoveries, and there’s ongoing creative revelations. Yes, it’s really helpful to be marching toward a specific destination, but, along the way, you must allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root, and grow.”

Carlton Cuse

At the same time, Port Arthur is a destination you don’t want to miss. More than an education, it’s an experience. You do need to get there.
So what did we find along the way?

Dunalley Bay

dunalley-bay

Dunalley Bay, Tasmania.

I’m a sucker for a great beach and another photo opportunity. What can I say? I’m an absolute addict but at least my photography addiction isn’t hurting anybody (just don’t ask the rest of my family!) We really loved the streaky ripple effects in the sand here. Of course, it also helps when the weather cooperates so nicely.
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Father & Son at Dunalley Bay.

The Tessellated Pavement State Reserve

The Tessellated Pavement State Reserve is located on the Tasman Peninsula near Eaglehawk Neck.
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However, before we get too bogged down in geological explanations, let’s just pause for a moment and fully absorb the stunning view before we tackle the stairs. I assure you that you don’t need to be a photography addict to go absolutely crazy here and wish for something with far more grunt than your phone camera.
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Now, getting back to the tessellated pavement…

Unless you’ve been here before or you’re a fully-fledged geologist, you could well be asking…

“What on earth is a tessellated pavement and why should I stop here, especially when time is short?”

tessollated-pavement

 

Well, here’s a brief geology lesson…

A tessellated pavement has nothing to do with concrete footpaths. Rather, it’s an inter-tidal rock platform. Tessellated pavements are a common coastal landform. However, on the Tasman Peninsula an unusual set of geological circumstances have resulted in something truly amazing.

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The kids also enjoyed exploring the rock crevices for anemones, little black crabs    and more.  

The flat-lying siltstone was cracked by stresses in the Earth’s crust, possibly between 160 million years ago and 60 million years ago. The resulting cracks (joints) are seen as three main sets, one aligned to the north-northeast, a second to the east-northeast and the third to the north-northwest. This jointing, exaggerated by processes of erosion, has created the ‘tiled’ appearance.
When seawater covers the rock platform, fragments of rock are carried away. Near the seaward edge of the platform, sand is the main cause of the erosion.
When combined with wave action the erosional process causes ‘loaf’ or ‘pan’ formations.1.”
Anyway, that’s enough geology. You can read more about it here. I’m more interested in getting down those stairs and getting seeing what I can see through the lens.

The Tasman Blowhole

tasman-blowhole

The Tasman Blow Hole.

In case you hadn’t worked it out by now, I have quite a thing for photographing intriguing rock formations. Add surging water and kaboom!!  You have photographic magic. Time to fiddle with the settings on my camera to experiment a bit…fast, slow. Thank goodness for digital photography where you can experiment to your heart’s content without going broke. Our honeymoon in New Zealand had some hefty financial after shocks processing 50 rolls of film. Ouch! That could’ve paid for a backyard wedding.

Doo Town

Located 79 km southeast of Hobart, Doo Town is a holiday village in Pirate’s Bay where the house names contain “doo”. This “phenomenon” began in 1935 a Hobart architect, Eric Round, placed the name plate Doo I 99 on his weekend shack. A neighbor, Charles Gibson, responded with a plate reading Doo Me then Bill Eldrige with Doo Us. Eric Round later renamed his shack Xanadoo.[1][2]
I first visited Doo Town on my first trip to Tassie in 1995. I’ve never forgotten the bus driver introducing us to Doo Town.  Being a procrastinator, I’ve never forgotten “Gunnerdoo”. Indeed, it would be a very apt name for our current home, which is a renovating dreamer’s homage to an endless list of unfinished projects. Indeed, it has way too many applications to mention!

Tasmanian Devil Unzoo

We didn’t have time to make it here but I wanted to give it a mention. You can read more about it here.
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Although I advocated taking your time and stopping rather than driving straight to Port Arthur, you will need plenty of energy to cover the vast distances at Port Arthur. So, you’ll need to pace yourself to ensure you  don’t come to a grinding halt. We very nearly did.
xx Rowena
Sources

Taking the Road Most Travelled… the Pacific Highway.

Being beyond the flow, I usually take the road less travelled. However, when January comes round each year, our family is usually on the road most travelled…the Pacific Highway.  Just like birds fly south for the Northern Winter, we head North for the Australian summer chasing the sun and often the surf.

The long summer holidays can be a bit difficult for us with the kids and so Geoff usually takes time off work and we go to visit family near Byron Bay, on the Gold Coast and onto Brisbane and Ipswich.

Before I push the pedal to the metal and get started on a series of holiday snapshots, here’s a bit of road-building history.

Location Pacific Hwy.svg

see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Highway_%28Australia%29

The Pacific Highway is 960 kilometres long and connects Sydney and Brisbane and was completed in 1958. While the Pacific Highway has evolved from what seems like a one-lane goat track and now has stretches of freeway and numerous by-passes, there are still plenty of cracks in the bitumen. You see, the Pacific Highway might lead to paradise but it certainly isn’t the Yellow Brick Road. It still has hundreds of kilometres of single-lane road and it has a dreadful accident record.

Yet, the Pacific Highway is also a bit exciting. It has always meant holidays for me.

My earliest memories of the Pacific Highway were driving up to Newcastle in the old Morris Minor to visit my grandparents. I remember waiting and waiting and waiting as traffic stopped while they blasted through the Sydney Sandstone to build the toll road. I later remember stopping to pay the toll just North of Hornsby. Subsequent trips in the HR Holden were less eventful although my brother and I held some fierce battles in the back seat. This was long before the days of in-car DVD players or electronic games. We didn’t even have air-conditioning.  I’m not sure if we even had a radio but Dad used to sing We’re off to See the Wizard from the Wizard of Oz, Oh What a Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma and the  Jamaican Farewell. I think all dads have their quirks.

Anyway, perhaps my favourite holiday of all time was when I drove solo from Sydney as far North as Maroochydore in my not so stylish Mitsubishi Colt… my first car. It took me at least a week to reach Brisbane as I stayed in Newcastle, Port Macquarie and Byron Bay.  I then stayed with my grandparents in Ipswich and visited friends in Maroochydore. I particularly loved staying at the Youth Hostel in Byron Bay and it was still in the day when Kombis with surfboards on top were still lined up around the beach and Byron Bay was still a hippy paradise. I made a new friend and we had our Thelma and Louise experience heading out to Nimbin and visiting my favourite and very inspirational primary school teacher. He showed us round the local Steiner school and I still remember all the butterflies out there. It was a magical place and I wasn’t quite the same when I went back to work in the Sydney CBD in my poky little office with no windows.

That was the life of a single Rowena…poet, writer, photographer and dreamer.

My husband has his own memories of travelling along the great Pacific Highway…especially in his first car the legendary Datsun 120Y. The 120Y might have been a fairly ordinary, small car at the budget end of the market but in our household it’s legendary. Geoff took the 120Y on an outback adventure covering 4500 KM in just two weeks and even made it out to Birdsville and back. That is truly in the outback or as we Aussies like to put it “out the back of whoop whoop”.

Anyway, Geoff was driving up North on the Pacific Highway in the legendary 120Y. He’d reached Macksville, which is just over halfway to Byron Bay, when he was turning a corner and felt the back end of the car steering all by itself. For those of you like me who aren’t mechanically minded, this was serious. Geoff pulled over and discovered that the wheel was only attached by one wheel nut, instead of four and was about to fall off. He was lucky not to have a serious accident. He had had the tyres replaced before the trip and the mechanic hadn’t tightened the wheel nuts properly.

Geoff and I in the Sprite.

Geoff and I in the Sprite.

My first trip up North with Geoff in the Austin-Healy Sprite was also memorable. Geoff was taking me up to meet his Mum for the first time. This isn’t so much a story of the Pacific Highway as we were diverted due to flood waters at the end of the freeway and had to take the New England Highway. We were driving over the Tenterfield Ranges after dark through pouring rain when the car kept getting caught in potholes ripping the exhaust pipe off. Reapplying the exhaust pipe in the dark and in the rain was great fun especially as it was very easy to get burnt. I remember a lot of stop start driving waiting for the car to cool down and plenty of frustration. I also remember wearing a raincoat in the car. For some strange reason, historic British cars aren’t that watertight. While I was discussing the romance or otherwise of our first long trip together in the Sprite, Geoff implied that I’d travelled in relative comfort. The previous trip up North, he had worn his wet weather motorbike gear because he didn’t actually own a roof for the Sprite. This wasn’t as bad as it sounds because you didn’t get wet driving over 80 KPH but there are a lot of 60 zones between here and Byron Bay.

There’s obviously a lot they don’t tell about these cute little sports’ cars.

Our trips up North have certainly changed since we had the kids. When they were babies, we seemed to stop for eternity breastfeeding at McDonalds, which was great for nappy changing as well. As the kids have grown bigger, there’s the attraction of the McDonalds playgrounds. We now try to break things up a bit and eat packed sandwiches or stop at some local food spots. We are very fond of a bakery in Bulladelah. They have the best cinnamon buns I’ve ever tasted.

These days, even I am starting to dream of an A to B drive straight to Byron Bay. Actually, I’d just like to click my fingers and magically be there. After all, it’s a ten hour drive from the Central Coast to Byron Bay and about 13 hours to Brisbane. That’s a lot of games of I Spy.

Stay tuned for a series of postcards from our trip starting out with a Postcard from Coffs Harbour.

Do you have any stories about travelling along the Pacific Highway or another road trip?