Category Archives: Celebrations

Edge, Alignment and the Sacred

Edge and alignment, what do these two words relate to in photography?

I’ll begin with edge:

edge
/ɛdʒ/
noun
noun: edge; plural noun: edges
1. the outside limit of an object, area, or surface. “a willow tree at the water’s edge”
synonyms: border, boundary, extremity, fringe; margin, side, lip, rim, brim, brink, verge; perimeter, circumference, periphery, contour, outline; limit, limits, outer limit, bound, bounds; literary marge, bourn, skirt, “the edge of the lake”

These photos of The Chapel, Montville Sunshine Coast, were taken in March 2015. Used solely for weddings, The Chapel (below) sits back from the Montville escarpment; the beautiful onyx floor leads you to the window and beyond.

inside wedding chapel Montville

The eyes are drawn towards the window giving the illusion of standing before a cliff

Below, the wedding signing table area sits on the edge of the escarpment; the views to the Sunshine Coast a perfect backdrop.

Wedding Chapel Montville Sunshine Coast

Wedding signing table outside chapel overlooking the Sunshine Coast

Then we have alignment:

alignment
/əˈlʌɪnm(ə)nt/
noun
noun: alignment
1. arrangement in a straight line or in correct relative positions. “the tiles had slipped out of alignment”
•the route or course of a railway or road.
plural noun: alignments
“four railways, all on different alignments”
•Archaeology – a linear arrangement of stones. “there were originally at least four massive stone alignments running from west to east”

When I saw Archaeology – a linear arrangement of stones, ley-lines sprung to mind. If you’re unfamiliar with ley-lines, they are the linear or geometric alignment of stones, hedges, mounds and so on, connecting ancient sacred and natural sites.

However not all alignments lead to a sacred site so I’ve resorted to a little (okay a lot) poetic licence with this stone pathway bordering the sandstone chapel – a sacred wedding chapel.

chapel pathway

Edge and alignment between the chapel and the stone pathway

Another angle (pardon the pun) of alignment is how the roof meets the sandstone wall. Edgy contrast and perfectly aligned.

roof side view wedding chapel

Roofline edge aligns perfectly with the chapel’s stone wall

Below is a shot of one of the leadlight windows around the sandstone chapel; the wooden frames provide contrast and align with windows on the opposite wall.

wedding chapel window

Leadlight window of The Chapel

Well that rounds up my trio (I added sacred) – edge, alignment and the sacred all in one 🙂

Treasured Moments

Without a treasure chest hidden in the basement, attic or a random beach somewhere, my treasure isn’t so much about:

  • squillions in the bank, although it would be lovely,
  • jewels,
  • a yacht – oh spare me the seasickness, rogue waves, sharks and the kraken!
  • the best job imaginable although this is currently debatable
  • my never-to-be-revealed secret super power

it’s more about social connection with family and friends, the sharing of special moments, support when times get tough, food, laughter and fun.

For the assignment on Treasure and close-up, it was all about Easter 🙂

Brown egg

Coloured brown egg

One such treasured gathering is the family’s annual Easter egg hunt. As in previous years it begins with the colouring of hardboiled eggs on medium heat. Patience must be your BFF because it’s time-consuming and can get messy with the dye mixture. It’s also tempting to handle eggs before they’ve dried thoroughly.

Hint 1: use white eggs to highlight colour

Hint 2: wear something other than white

Hint 3: if it’s a rainy day hide the eggs quick and hunt like it’s your last before the rain cleans the dye right off the eggs

Next year I’m reverting to colour coding the eggs, much more fun – and fair 😉

Mother Nature’s Moment in Motion

Mother Nature contains the elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth, something which we see in motion all the time – gentle breezes to furious storms, changing seasons to minor temperature variations, and dust to downpour.

She dazzles us with her abundance and bounty, holds us within the circle of life, and terrifies us when she unleashes her destructive power. There seems to be nothing she cannot do.

The second passage from the Dorothea Mackellar (1885–1968) poem, My Country written when she was 18-years old, sums up my own love of Mother Nature (and country):

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

Depicted below is a photograph taken under a canopy of trees. T’was a moment in time where I honoured the ebb and flow of Mother Nature. I gazed up to the canopy of trees dotted with sky blue, smiled and with outstretched arms, spun wildly around, and around, faster and faster.

I then sat down and waited for my brain to stop spinning and my eyes to regain focus – such was this moment in motion.

Mother Nature in Motion

Spinning around with hands held wide under a canopy of trees

From spinning under the Her canopy, to a gentle meandering stream making its way to the pond. Can you hear the trickling and burbling of the water as it cascades over the rock?

Mother Nature Movement

Mother Nature’s water element moves downhill towards a pond

These are but two of Mother Nature’s Moment in Motion.

After breathless wheezing and head spins, I finally blew up the last of a million pink and white balloons and took this photo. Taken several years ago on my daughter’s birthday eve I love the shadows and simplicity of the pink and white balloons.

I particularly like the way the white balloons tone down the pinkness of the others. The shadows from the afternoon sun create a mood I think, and gave the balloons more definition. What this photo doesn’t show is the entire lounge room was covered with them and with my cheeks burning, I was lying breathless on the floor.

Balloons

Pink and white party balloons to go with the red velvet cake

Next came the baking of the lusciously delicious (and all other adjectives describing something out-of-this-world), red velvet chocolate birthday cake. I can’t remember whether it was a Nigella Lawson recipe or someone else’s – all I know is that it was a pleasure to bake, my daughter loved it, and was yummy to eat.

The photo on the left is after red colouring had been added to the thick chocolate mixture while the photo on the right is after buttermilk had been added – oozing with moisture (I always use one third less sugar than recipes state).

Seriously, licking the bowls clean, as well as everything else splashed by the mixture, had never tasted so good!

When the cake was sufficiently cool I spread cream-cheese frosting between three layers of chocolate cake, covered the outside of it, and sprinkled gorgeous pastel marshmallows over the top – the lime coloured ones seem to stand out against the yellows, whites and pinks. I also added shredded coconut to the sides – yes I know – OTT!

Definitely HAZMAT for anyone not into sugar, yet a cake baked with love, from beginning to end.

When the cake was cut (sorry no photo quality too poor to show – I was too busy salivating at the time) the red seemed to pop with the pastel marshmallows, cream cheese and shredded coconut (phew) providing a nice if not messy, contrast.

Red Velvet Cake Topping

Pastel marshmallows provide a colourful topping for the red velvet cake

Okay, I’m hungry now 🙂

Tale of the Empty Nester

Smearing butter on his toast with single-minded focus, he drops the bombshell, “Mum, I’m going to live with dad.”

The moment I’d secretly been dreading had arrived. The glass, coffee plunger I held slips from my grasp and shatters on the tiled kitchen floor. I fumble about for the dust pan and broom under the kitchen sink, and sweep up shards of glass and my broken heart. “When are you leaving?” I ask.

He stops crunching on his burnt toast to look at me, “I’m moving after the grad ceremony tonight. Dad said he’d help me.”

“Tonight?!” Horrified, I take a deep breath and plaster a fixed smile on my face “What are you taking with you?”

He mumbles something about clothes, laptops, new job and university but all I hear is my heart as it continues to split in a million pieces – I wonder if he can hear it too. My throat tightens and I squeeze back tears, ignoring the bitter taste in the back of my mouth, telling myself it’s for the best.

My last baby was leaving home, and I had nothing to fill the emptiness with. I look over to the letter rack and see the torn, food splattered page of his favourite recipe – tears well in my eyes.

Back in his room he opens his wardrobe and pulls out clothes, books, electronic gadgets, and bits and pieces onto the floor. God, was it so awful with me? He can’t wait to get out of here! I cry in my head.

He was ready for his new life, I wasn’t.

The front screen door slams shut and I hear plastic garbage bags being dragged along the cement path towards the bin. Alarmed I call out “Hey! What are you throwing out?”

“Stuff I don’t want.” he shouts back.

When he was newborn people described him as an old soul. I believe that. Wise beyond his years – and that grown-up humour that shows through unexpectedly, I shall miss our debates, his kindness, his slant on life.

I shall simply miss him.

After graduation I will be alone in a too big house for one, with only echoes of memories for companionship.

My urge to rummage through the green bags was strong, For Pete’s sake wait until he’s gone, so instead, I busy myself with doing nothing in particular.

Today is his high school graduation night. We pile into the car and drive to school, arriving at the school hall with minutes to spare. My eyes scan the crammed auditorium with its wall to wall families gathered together for a night of speeches, awards, and reflections. My imagination hijacks me and my heartache spirals deeper as I imagine these surrounding families head home with much backslapping at their superior parenting skills.

At last the ceremony is over and I see my son weaving through the crowd towards me. Clutching his award with his mile-wide smile, he hugs and kisses me, handing me his award for safekeeping.

“Sorry Mum, can’t stay – gotta go, bye!” and with that, spins around hurrying off to his new life and new home. There’s nothing left inside me. It’s just a huge hideous void of nothingness as I watch his retreating back disappear in a sea of families and school mates.

I arrive home numb with grief – sounds clichéd but that’s how I feel, and I sit on the well-worn couch in silence wondering whether plucking wings from flies was an option. Then I remember the garbage bags in the wheelie bin.

I trot outside and pull the heavy bags from the bin, dragging them back inside. I sort through the eclectic mix of contents in the lounge-room, Salty tears drop on his old magazines, unopened gifts, books, trinkets, calculators, stationery, and his Year 12 jersey. I blow my snotty nose and sort into ‘keep’ and ‘bin’ piles. The keep pile grows; barely an item makes the bin.

In his bedroom I straighten the crumpled quilt, with its sailing ships and cloudy sky, plump up the matching blue pillows, and howl bitter tears of loss and disappointment.

The time of the empty nester had arrived as it always would, and with it, my new normal.

Epilogue

Time is never static although it might feel like it, as the saying goes time waits for no man (or woman). Time doesn’t stand still, it continues to move and memories begin to fade into the background.

Months and years passed, new memories were created with family dinners and get-togethers, movie dates, new friendships formed and outdated ones left behind, there were white-knuckle driving lessons, and attendance at his university graduation ceremony.

I’ll be there for him one day in the future when it’s his turn to become an empty nester.

Time-travelling with my Sensory Memories

There are many life experiences that will stay with me to the end. Anchored and stored right here in my vault of sensory memories, all it takes is for a tiny trigger to spark a memory and I’m off time-travelling.

A song might play linking me to a significant time in my life. Before I can grab my party hat my memory will drag me back there.

When I watch a much-loved Christmas movie such as The Polar Express or Miracle on 34th Street, tears well in my eyes before the movie even starts and all because of my recollection of Christmases past.

I remember the birth of my children (which mother doesn’t right?) – it was pain first following by an absolute forever love.

Ah the time-travel.

A blueprint of a mechanical time-machine prototype, is currently being designed somewhere around the globe and it can’t be good thing – look what happened in Back to the Future and The Time Machine – it works out but gee what a mess!

Memory Jar for all occasions...

A Memory Jar for all occasions…

Much better the time-travelling sensory memory we have, or is it?

Some of my memory highlights are:

When I hear a crow’s low clucks/gurgling I’m there, stuck in the jungle with Predator – best get to the choppa now because this memory will be baaaack!

Listening to a favourite guided meditation I hear three clicks of a pen. The door to the outside world bursts open and I’m kicked back out on the street. Now when I listen to it I’m primed and ready for the pen, a bit like that poor dog of Pavlov’s – then it’s to the outer reaches of the greater reality (and possibly a little time-travel).

Snapping twigs. In the twilight hours a twig snaps à la Blair Witch. Then there’s silence. Moments later another twig snaps. I look at the back door – it’s open, and behind it, darkness. Pulse rate rises. Another twig snaps. Sweat forms on my brow. I think I hear jungle drums but it’s my pounding heart. The third twig snaps and within two seconds all doors and windows are locked and every light in the house switched on and left on.

Rapid huffing and puffing mixed with grunting and wanting to die from the excruciating pain, my youngest was born to the soothing voice of rocker Jimmy Barnes singing Ain’t no Mountain High Enough. Because every last drop of strength was focused on one thing and one thing only, I couldn’t pick up a mallet and hammer the radio to smithereens. I like Jimmy, really I do, but there is a time and place people, a time and place.

When memories are activated they’re usually a mixed bag of the good, the not so good, the fun and unfunny, and whole lot more. I’ve chosen to create more new fun and interesting memories so I can roll out the ‘remember whens’ at dinner parties and family functions until the end.

Well, I’d best be off to create new memories of the fun kind 🙂

 

Some True Blue Dinky Di Aussie Christmas Traditions

Merry Christmas

 

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year, and even more so now that my family has expanded by four grandchildren. Every year my Christmas countdown in Brisbane begins in October when the beautiful jacaranda trees are flush with blue-mauve flowers. Although not native to Australia (South American actually) we love them. As a matter of fact so loved are these trees that in Grafton NSW they honour them by holding a Jacaranda festival each year in October.

Blooming Jacarandas mean only one thing to me – Christmas is coming and it’s coming soon…

As my countdown to Christmas continues and the Jacaranda flowers are spent, now bordering many flower beds are the blue and white flowers of the agapanthus, aggies for short, a stunning flower with roots (pardon the pun) leading all the way to South Africa … Oh joy oh joy Christmas is coming.

Reruns of movies like The Polar Express, Santa Claus 1 through to 3, The Muppet Christmas Carols, The Night before Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street set the tone – you’d be right to say they’re not Australian but they sure bring in the spirit of Christmas for me.

I remember with fondness the white Christmases of long ago when as a little girl growing up in Europe I would smell cinnamon, orange, and nutmeg wafting through the air, and oh those delicious gingerbread biscuits – now sold Australia-wide in an Aldi supermarket near you, and remember eggnog being the drink of choice as the tree was decorated.

One evening as the snow glistened outside I was invited to go carolling with the neighbourhood children. With our lanterns lit and our best voices on, up and down the streets we trudged through the newly fallen snow. We’d stop outside each house sing then wait for the chocolates and sweets of appreciation to be thrown down to us. It was so much fun trying to find chocolates and lollies in several feet of snow…at night. Bet the adults are still laughing about that.

Sometimes I reminisce and think how wonderful it would be if I could experience just one more white Christmas, particularly whilst listening to Bing Crosby crooning “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” or “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” Central Park in New York City at Christmas is on my bucket list, and keeping fingers crossed, it will be a white Christmas.

Okay now to some true blue Aussie Christmas traditions…

Our way of compensating for the lack of cold weather, snow or logs on a fire in December (apart from Melbourne where weatherwise, anything’s possible at any time of the year) is by celebrating Christmas in July. July’s Christmas includes all the trimmings of stuffed turkey, ham, roast vegetables, and plum pudding with custard. Venture to Australia’s snowy mountains in July and if luck is shining down upon you, the weather will be close to that of the northern hemisphere’s winter. Here in the ski fields at the end of the day, you’ll find people full of good cheer around open fires though the mulled wine might have something to do with it.

There are many of us who still write Christmas cards with snowmen, icicles, fir trees covered in snow, people ice-skating on frozen lakes, and pictures of Santa and cute reindeer pulling their sleigh through the snow. In the Land Down Under not only would Santa melt from the sweltering heat wearing his thick red winter woollies, his reindeer would die of heat exhaustion before the last sack was loaded onto the sleigh  – seriously the reindeer union and the RSPCA would have a field day.

Nope, no reindeers and sleighs for us. Here we have ‘six white boomers’ (boomers: large kangaroos) a song made famous by Rolf Harris back in the ’60’s. I’ve seen our Santa pulling a surfboard and doing the right thing by slip, slop, slapping on that sunscreen, wearing boardies and hat, as he zipped across the southern skies. Yes – he’s our man!

It’s a far cry from the drunk Santa I remember riding in the back of a ute in a small country town many years ago. He was last seen swigging on a long neck bottle of beer trying hard to articulate “ho ho ho and a Merry Christmas to all” and stay upright at the same time.

Carols by Candlelight are a huge tradition here and originated in south-eastern Australia back in the 19th century. During the lead up to Christmas many families take their blankets, picnic dinner, and their best singing voices to the Carols at the many venues around towns and cities of Australia. It might not be the same tradition as carolling in the snow for sweets, but it’s near enough. Carols by Candlelight is a wonderful way to spend precious time with family and friends.

As Christmas Day closes in the temperature continues to rise as does the humidity in the more northern parts of Australia – here in Brisbane the humidity can be so high if I don’t put my makeup on in the cool of early morning, the makeup tends to slide off my face – this morning was a case in point.

You know Christmas is here when you start hearing the almost continuous, loud shrill sounds of cicadas on hot, cloudless days. Apparently The Australian Green Grocer Cicada can generate the loudest sound (120dB) in the insect world, and is actually louder than 120dB – the equivalent of standing next to a speeding train or the siren of an ambulance. So when I say ‘the loud shrill sound of a cicada’ here in Cicada country it’s loud.

There are still traditionalists who insist on cooking the turkey, other roasts as well as roast vegetables and gravy in the stifling heat (I used to), as well as have the fruitcake and custard. Not everyone has air conditioning here so a cool breeze is often at the top of one’s wish list.

So what’s on the menu for a traditional Aussie Christmas lunch? Well it’s come to pass that we’re quite sophisticated these days thanks to Master Chef, My Kitchen Rules, Good Chef Bad Chef, The Chef and the Cook, and the many different cultures, but at the end of the day the following menu items are pretty much part and parcel of Christmas lunch:

1. Prawns; either thrown on the barbie or presented on ice with lemon wedges, and tartar sauce on the side;

2. Fresh Fish from the market; arrive early (if you’ve never had this experience before you’ll know what I mean when you do);

3. In the old days it was tossed green Salad, bowl of beetroot with onion, and some asparagus, In this modern day and age it’s tossed green salad, fresh beetroot salad with goat’s cheese and mesculen, no asparagus unless it’s freshly grilled;

4. Snags and lamb chops – lamb cutlets if you can afford it; for barbie only except in places of total fire ban. While some still cook these, I prefer baked chook the Maggie Beer way, and thinking ham cooked a la Nigella style (cooked in ginger ale) will be on the menu next year;

5. Pavlova;

6. For ‘afters’; Down the beach or backyard. Must haves are beach towel, togs, thongs (which have nothing to do with lingerie), sunscreen, cricket bat and ball, and maybe catch a little beach volley ball in action;

7. An esky full of beers; on occasion you may be lucky enough to find room for other items but don’t get too excited;

8. A few bottles of bubbles for the girls;

9. Still wine for the more refined;

10. Cocktails for the even more refined;

11. More beers for the esky;

12. A nap; and

13. A laid back attitude.

Christmas lunch done and dusted, Boxing Day can find many of us watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race (a firm favourite of mine), or there’s the Boxing Day Test Cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), where Aussie pride always shows through and many prayers are said asking the Great Cricket God to help us give the English a sound thrashing.

It’s not all sailing, cricket and Frisbee throwing, scores of families use Boxing Day as the day to do nothing but get together again and eat leftovers, either at home, at an overcrowded park, an overcrowded beach, or by a friend’s pool.

When the spirit of Christmas is upon me it calls out to me to make time and connect more with my friends and family, to enjoy their company, to laugh with them, to remember how lucky I am to have what I have, and to feel that feeling of peace welling up inside me that I want to share with everyone. For me the spirit of Christmas has nothing to do with the big budget items placed under a tree or fancy decorations; it’s a feeling that’s available all year round but every day life often gets in the way, around Christmas time the feeling of the spirit of Christmas bursts through the roof and high into the stratosphere. Every Aussie Christmas I’ve experienced has been about the coming together of people, the magic, fun memories, the generosity of people, looking at life once more through the eyes of a child, and the making plans of a better year ahead.

However you spend Christmas, may it be all that it can be and more 🙂