Sunday, 17 February 2019

Australia Blog #2 - 18 February 2019: Tasmania's Huon Valley and Glaziers Bay

Irrelevant Australian Fact #2:
In 1832, 300 female convicts mooned the governor of Tasmania. It was said that in a “rare moment of collusion with the Convict women, the ladies in the Governor’s party could not control their laughter.”

We have arrived back in our Australian/Tasmanian home – Glaziers Bay in the Huon Valley. We are staying in our cabin here for five weeks. It is the same cabin we stayed in for a week last year. The Huon Valley is tranquil, lush, expansive, mercurial – all these things and more. 

In our first week in the cabin, we have experienced hot and cold Australian temperatures, prompting us to use both the air conditioner and the heat pump, depending on the weather. There have been frequent showers and some heavy downpours. All rain is welcome here, to alleviate both the drought and to help control the bushfires. The fires are under control in this area, but the rain helps with what the Tasmanian Fires Service calls “the mopping up”. It is not unusual to have sunshine, fog, rain, and wind all within an hour. As they say here, “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes!”

It has been productive time for both Bill and me. Bill is working his magic with quilts, colour, and fabric. I’m revelling in both the photography – 1600 + photos so far – and in the opportunity to write. I am convinced that the Huon Valley works magic on artists of all stripes. It’s something in the air – or the local hard cider or the local gin!

We are only about 45 minutes’ drive from Hobart, so it’s easy to ‘slip into town’ for a touch of urban life. Most of the time, however, we stay in the Huon Valley. The closest village is Cygnet, about six km away, where we do a lot of our grocery shopping. Our refrigerator is small, so we buy only one or two days’ worth of food at a time. The rhythm of life is very pleasant and relaxed. I especially like waking in the morning and seeing the entire Huon Valley stretched out below me. After I’ve listened to the CBC news and ABC news with an earbud on my iPhone, I’m ready to start the day!

Our dear friend Susan has arrived from British Columbia for three weeks. She’s staying at various AirBnBs in Tasmania. We’re looking forward to spending time with her and sharing this very special part of the planet with her.

I’m planning to include photos of Hobart and the famous Salamanca Market in next week’s blog post. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these photos of our adopted neighbourhood.

Randalls Bay

Graces Road Cow

My healthy breakfast: Tasmanian eggs, yogurt, and blueberries!

"Not Tonight, Honey" Tasmanian honey

Franklin, across the Huon River from our cabin

Fishers, D'Entrecasteaux Channel

Renault Megane, Cygnet

Moss, Graces Road

Property across the road from our cabin

Green Rosella parrot in front of the cabin

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Australia Blog #1 - 11 February 2019

Irrelevant Australian Fact #1:
The performance by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra 
at the 2000 Olympics opening ceremonies was actually a prerecording 
– of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Greetings from Australia! Bill and I had a smooth flight from Toronto to Sydney, leaving Toronto at 8:00 pm on February 5 and arriving in Sydney at 9:30 am on February 7. 

Four movies help pass the time:
• Crazy Rich Asians– great fun and eye-opening. Looking forward to more movies by its director, Jon M. Chu.
• Anthropocene– disturbingly beautiful documentary that accompanied the recent exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario of the same name by Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, and Edward Burtynsky.
• Fahrenheit 451– 2018 HBO Toronto-made remake of Ray Bradbury’s 1953 classic – even scarier now than when I first read it many years ago. Loved Michael B. Jordan.
• Mary Shelley– wonderfully told story about the author of Frankenstein. Critics didn’t much like it, but I thought the cast did a fine job, especially Elle Fanning in the lead role.

Between movies, I played Scrabble and Solitaire on my iPad and ate uninspired Air Canada food. You know, the usual survival techniques!

Being back in Sydney was a delight – as always. I love this city – my home for a year in the early 1970s – with a passion. Sunny skies and a temperature in the high 20s contrasted with the winter drudgery of Belleville.

Sydney pulsates with life and energy. Bill and I wandered Thursday afternoon, all day Friday, and all day Saturday. What a treat! A highlight was having lunch at the Graze restaurant in the Museum of Contemporary Art. Our outdoor table overlooked the Sydney Opera House – what a great combination: excellent food, beautiful location, and loving companionship! See photo above.

On Sunday, we flew to Hobart, Tasmania, and then we drove to our little slice of paradise in the Huon Valley. Actually, Bill drove; I helped navigate. We are comfortably set up for five weeks in the same cabin we stayed in for a week last year. At one end of the cabin, Bill has his sewing/quilting equipment set up, and at the other end, I have my photography and writing equipment set up. Welcome to the next five weeks!

Blessedly, the bushfire situation has improved from a week ago. Rain and cooler temperatures helped the fire fighters bring the fires under control. Vigilance is the watch word, however.

Next week, I plan to post photos and thoughts about our first week in Tasmania. For now, I hope you enjoy this selection of Sydney photos. I tried to avoid clich├ęs!

As always, thank you for reading my blog.

Fire Juggler, Circular Quay

Fire Juggler Audience

Lunar New Year Decoration, Circular Quay

Busker, Hyde Park

A Guy, Hyde Park

Mr. Tycoon, Hyde Park

Couple in the Central Business District (CBD)

Keeping the Plumbing Straight in the CBD

Sydney Fish Market

Statue in the ANAZC Memorial, Hyde Park

Statue in the ANZAC Memorial Museum, Hyde Park

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Tasmanian Grace

"I would love to see a survey of blood pressure on the mainland versus blood pressure in Tasmania. My life in Tassie [Australian for Tasmania] slows to a crawl and my pulse matches it. Days stretch to feel twice as long and I have shown over a decade that I can generate more quality words in my manuscripts from half a day's work in the peace of the Huon Valley than several days committed to working on the mainland"

- Fiona McIntosh, Australian Author

Ah yes...the peace of Tasmania’s Huon Valley...

Dear friends and readers, 

Bill and I plan to spend much of the next two months firmly planted in the beauty of Tasmania’s Huon Valley. Located about 45 minutes southwest of Hobart, Tasmania’s capital, the Huon Valley is a slice of heaven, with local saffron-infused gin ensuring that time drifts by really, really smoothly. 

There are serious bushfires currently burning in Tasmania. One of the largest is in the Huon Valley near where we plan to stay. At the moment, the fire is on the other side of the Huon River, about 10 km from our place. We are monitoring the situation. The Tasmanian Fire Service (Link) has a stellar reputation. 

Meanwhile, please send your prayers to those who have lost their homes and livelihoods; to those who live in ‘Watch & Act’ areas, our hosts Jane and Philip among them, ready to evacuate on a moment’s notice; and to the incredibly brave and resourceful firefighters who are performing miracles.

I look forward to blogging thoughts and photos about our time in the Huon Valley, along with our visits to Sydney, Hobart, Launceston, Burnie, St. Marys, and Canberra. 

And then, I look forward to returning to springtime in Ontario in early April.

BTW, I’m planning a small exhibit of new Tasmanian photographs in the Corridor Gallery of the John M. Parrott Art Gallery in Belleville in June and July of this year. Title of the exhibit: “Tasmanian Grace”. I’ll post details in the spring.

Meanwhile, Bill and I are heading off on an adventure!

Enjoy these Tasmanian photos from our 2018 trip.

Up the road from our cabin, Graces Road, Huon Valley

Huon River view, near our cabin

Huon Valley looking north from the front of our cabin; dawn

Bush near our cabin

Mail boxes, Huon Valley

Flowers, Salamanca Market, Hobart

Sheep paddock near New Norfolk, south central Tasmania

Sheep, Lisdillon, east coast of Tasmania

Blue canoe, Lisdillon, east coast of Tasmania

Coastal view, Lisdillon

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Shaking with joy...shaking with grief...

Very sadly, the Pulitzer-Prize winning American poet, Mary Oliver, died recently (1935-2019). I give thanks for the many wonderful poems that she has left behind.

You can listen to Krista Tippett’s enchanted 2015 interview with Mary Oliver here.

And here are excerpts from some of my favourite Mary Oliver poems, accompanied by photographs.

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body.

to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

...If the world were only pain and logic, who would want it?

...I was thinking:
so this is how you swim inward,
so this is how you flow outward,
so this is how you pray.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
         love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

...Tell me, what is your plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Thank you, Mary Oliver. Rest in peace.

All poems taken from Devotions/The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.
 (Penguin Press, 2017)


Sunday, 20 January 2019

Glorious Glanmore House!

“Sometime the best hiding place is the one in plain sight.”
- Stephenie Meyer, Novelist

It takes me less than ten minutes to walk from our home to Glanmore House, Belleville’s National Historic Site (link) on Bridge Street East. 

Despite having lived in the Bay of Quinte area on and off for decaades, I am embarrassed to say that, until recently, I had never visited Glanmore House. I had driven by it hundreds of times, and my dear friend Lindi is a passionate Glanmore House volunteer and advocate. (You can find Lindi’s delightful blog about heritage architecture, “ancestral roofs”, here.) Yet somehow – mostly through benign neglect – I had just never gotten around to checking it out for myself. 

Glanmore House was hidden in plain sight for me.

Talk about missing a treasure!

All that changed two weeks ago when I finally decided to break my inertia by hauling myself and my camera over to Glanmore House for a visit. 

And what a fine place it is! Sumptuous and superbly curated, it is a celebration of Victorian and Edwardian sensibilities, not to mention a test of the staff who have to dust all those beautiful bits and pieces on display – those many, many ostentatious, gaudy, fabulous. bizarre, lovingly preserved bits and pieces! My goodness, but wealthy Victorians DID love their collections! 

The house, built in the ornate Second Empire style, was built in 1882-1883 for the wealthy Belleville banker, John Philpot Curran Phillips, and his family. Four generations of the family lived in the house until 1971, when the City of Belleville purchased it to become a museum. Fully restored to its original grandeur, it is a time traveller’s delight. Its dedicated staff and volunteers keep it filled with energy and delights. Kudos to all involved. 

I approve of my tax money supporting such a treasure. 

Please don’t ignore it for as long as I did. 

A technical note about the photos below: I have recently switched from JPEG photos to RAW photos, giving me much larger files to play with. I have also begun using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC software to edit photos. For those not familiar with the process, it is the equivalent of little boys' switching from short pants to long pants. It’s all a little daunting and I’m on a steep learning curve, but it was clearly time to up my game. So, up it, I did.

I hope you enjoy the resulting photos.