australian fauna

June – July 2016: Scenes from my sketchbook

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Inspired by the super cute superb fairy wren, a bird I see fairly frequently when I visit my parents’ house.

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Easter Sketching

It’s Easter Monday here in Australia, and after a lovely day yesterday driving along Victoria’s beautiful Great Ocean Road, we’re having a quiet day at home. I spent some time this morning enjoying a coffee (long black, made in a plunger – whenever my friends visit and try my coffee they politely refuse any refills and never manage to finish a whole cup, which suggests to me that my preference for dark and slightly bitter drinks isn’t universal – but it but it works for me!), and reading more of Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation (1961). I’m reading a 2007 edition by New Directions Books, New York, with an introduction by Sue Monk Kidd.

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27 March 2016. iPhone 5C snapshot taken out of the car window (from the passenger side, of course!) on the Great Ocean Road near Separation Creek and Wye River. The trees bear the marks of a bushfire that tore through the Otway Ranges in late December 2015 and early January 2016. The eucalyptus trees are terribly burnt and yet sprouting green leaves on their trunks (a survival mechanism they have in response to the fact they do tend to catch on fire). Behind the twisted and tortured looking trees here is the vast greenish-blue expanse of Bass Strait, and if you drew a line directly southwards from here you’d cross one island then end up in Antarctica.

Merton is one of those writers I simply cannot read in one sitting. A single paragraph from him can be so laden with rich meaning and depth that more often than not, I might make it through about three pages before I have to set it down and journal my thoughts as I read. I have a notebook set aside for taking notes and quotes from books – that’s a useful habit that I picked up in my university days. I know everyone learns differently, but for me I find that handwriting quotes and my own personal responses to a text enables me to delve more deeply and memorise pithy sayings. By writing it down I tend to remember it and be able to plug it into the neural networking system… I vaguely expect that at some point in my life I will have amassed enough information to categorise everything, ever. I can’t even talk to people these days without running a mental sub-routine that is trying to analyse the content of their speech and apply to them an ontological category: “Hmmm, this person is talking about coffee, but I suspect that they are a member of the … subculture, their religious self-label is … but I think they’re also heavily influenced by … philosophy…” Yeah, I don’t know. The things that amuse different people, I guess. (more…)

NaNoWriMo Journal 2015: 12

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The next three days are going to be busy. It’s 10.30 am now, and ideally by 3 pm this afternoon I will have 36,666 words, at least, to compensate for the busyness of the upcoming weekend. It’s not particularly realistic for me to aim for 6,100+ words in a single day, though, and so I will just have to do what I can. I’ve strapped up my wrist because it’s starting to hurt from typing and I really don’t want to injure myself.

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19 November 2015 – bandaging my wrists, to give them greater support while typing for long amounts of time, is easier said than done in a household run by cats.

I had a stressful start to the day. After moments like that it’s exceedingly difficult to rein in my anxiety and calm down enough to get through the day. It’s even harder to then sit down and look at my Scrivener session target knowing that I need another 6,000 words in the next few hours!

My story is, thankfully, proving relatively “easy” to write. Oh yes, in true mid-NaNoWriMo form I’m looking at it like it’s possibly the worst book ever written (then I recall the time I read Moon People, which takes pride of place on my bookshelf, and I can say with confidence it’s at least on a par with that book, and that book is mighty popular), but the story and its characters are many times more interesting than my Nano 2014 story. That’s positive. I see a lot of potential in this story and I think it deserves a second draft attempt once Nano is finished.

Meanwhile, I’m finding new and creative ways to procrastinate writing, and I don’t just mean my obvious increase in WordPress usage of late.. Last night I amused myself making diptych portraits of my Anglo-Ukrainian husband with images of historically notable Eastern Slavic people who had the same hairline and similar facial hair to him. I’m not sure he found it that funny but the important thing is that it made me laugh.

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This guy is Fyodor Pirotsky, Ukrainian electrical engineer and inventor of the electric tram. Those of you who know my husband will note not just the freakish physical resemblance but the fact that The Husband is also an electrical engineer of Ukrainian heritage who works in the tram and train industry. Image source: Wikipedia.

Current word count: 30,916 / 50,000 words

Today’s writing soundtrack: Nothing… Just the birds singing outside and the cats snoozing by the window. I found this list of Australian suburban birds and their songs quite interesting. We get a lot the birds listed around here: wagtails, wattle birds, cockatoos, galahs, blackbirds, doves, magpie-larks, corellas, magpies, ravens, wrens and more. I love how their songs subtly change throughout the seasons. Right now there’s a huge flock of rainbow lorikeets screeching outside my window.

Currently Reading

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Here are the books currently taking up space in my reading pile. The top three are from the library and I’m yet to make any real progress in them. On the bottom, I’m borrowing a friend’s copy of Surprised By Hope. I bought Human Universe by Professor Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen just recently and so far it’s incredible. Tales from the Dead of Night: Thirteen Classic Ghost Stories, selected by Cecily Gayford, was my birthday present to myself last year and it is fantastic. It includes ghost stories by such authors as E. Nesbit, Ruth Rendell and Rudyard Kipling. This is my third time reading through the collection, many of which come from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. There is just something about the way late 19th Century writers composed their tales that really draws me in. Without having intended it, I have found that roughly half of my most-favourite books come from Europe in the 19th Century, usually Russia and England, but some from other countries, too.

Hence the fact I picked up the 1830s and 1840s short story collection by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (or, if you prefer the Ukrainian translation of his name, Mykola Vasyliovych Hohol). Now, I won’t enter into the debate of his ethnicity or nationality, as those discussions are beyond me. Because my husband is part-Ukrainian I find it interesting learning about Eastern Slavic history, and have found that these old Russian novels are a really interesting insight into the culture. I particularly love the writings of Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov are novels that were life-changing for me.

So far I haven’t read much of Gogol’s works. I have read some of Dead Souls though I’m fairly certain I never finished that. I have also watched two different film adaptations of his story Viy (Вий), a somewhat terrifying horror story. The 1967 film is said to be quite faithful to the original story, which I haven’t yet read. I also saw the 2014 version at a Russian film festival held at ACMI in Melbourne, Australia. I must’ve been one of five non-Slavic people in the whole audience (the others being a handful of our Anglo-Celt and Anglo-Asian friends – I love our multicultural city!). The 2014 film had rather steam punk vibes about it, and plot-wise had some similarities with the 1967 film, but only loosely so, and was a mix of Russian, Ukrainian and English elements. It also, in my mind, inspired moustache goals that I have since insisted the Husband fulfil. He’s not convinced.

The other two books on the pile, The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the lost world of the Celts by Graham Robb is, as far as I can see, a history of Ancient Gaul and Druidry and the spread of Christianity through ancient Europe. Where Song Began: Australia’s birds and how they changed the world by Tim Low is an evolutionary history of the unique and diverse birdlife of our continent. I look forward to delving into these books.

References:

Cox, B. and Cohen, A. (2015). Human Universe. London: WilliamCollins.

Gayford, C. (2013). Tales from the dead of night: thirteen classic ghost stories. London: Profile Books.

Gogol, N. (translation from 2014). Petersburg tales. Richmond, UK: Alma Classics.

Low, T. (2014). Where song began: Australia’s birds and how they changed the world. Melbourne, Australia: Penguin.

Robb, G. (2013). The discovery of Middle Earth: mapping the lost world of the Celts. New York: WW Norton & Company.

Wright, T. (2007). Surprised by hope. London: SPCK.