An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of art & life ...

An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of life ... or just ramblings from the mind of a working Mum with far too little time to think!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Coastal Flora

It’s September school holidays in Brisbane and we have just returned from a few days at the beach.

Well, a few rainy days ‘near’ the beach, as we did not exactly get to lie in the sun on the beach as we had planned, or even swim in the usually brilliant blue ocean as it was cold, windy and wet for most of the time.

However, we did get to smell that wonderful, welcoming salty smell of the sea, and listen to the soothing sound of the waves crashing onto the shore as we lay in bed at night, and we did sink our toes into the fine, white sand on the beaches and lick the best hand-made gelato off dripping cones along the boardwalk …

And I did get to go on a couple of oceanside walks, in between rain showers, with my camera over my shoulder.

The flora along the coastline is so lush and so colourful and the gloomy weather seemed to exaggerate the vivid colours when viewed through my macro lens.

Or perhaps it is just that usually when the weather is bright and sunny at the beach, I am too busy photographing the magnificent colours of the ocean to even notice the abundance of coastal flora at my feet!

This time, every tiny bit of floral colour stood out against the muted palette of greys provided by the unseasonal grim weather and I realised just how much beauty and diversity there is amongst the vegetation alongside our beaches.

Standing on a rocky point and looking out over the Pacific ocean I thought how fortunate I am to live in Brisbane - so close to the ocean and all these wonderful beaches! 

Brisbane is situated along the floodplain of the Brisbane River Valley, between beautiful Moreton Bay and the Great Dividing Range, with barely an hour’s drive south to the incredible surfing beaches of the Gold Coast and just over an hour’s drive north to the as yet unspoilt beaches of the Sunshine Coast.

Caloundra, where we spent the last few days, is a beachside town at the southern end of the sunshine coast, right at the foot of the distinctive Glasshouse Mountains, discovered and named by Captain Cook on his voyage to Australia.

The town of Caloundra has changed dramatically from the days when it was known as the Queensland Retirement Town, filled with old low-rise beachside units, cheap eateries and fishing tackle shops, to its current reputation as a scenic seaside resort town, catering to discerning holidaymakers from all over the world.

With the development of high-rise hotels and apartment buildings and all the facilities that go along with that level of sophistication, Caloundra has still managed to retain its charm with beautiful, unspoilt beaches, crystal-clear waters and the friendly laid-back lifestyle for which it has always been known.

Even the old red-roofed lighthouse still has pride of place, having been recently returned to its original position high above the town – now an historical place of interest!

Towards the end of our short seaside break, the weather cleared just enough to allow the sun to escape the clouds and magically turn the ocean from the bleak, grey blanket it had been masquerading as into the brilliant blues and greens that we know and love.

We did not get our swim in the ocean, but instead I discovered the beauty of the coastal flora ~ and we did leave Caloundra rested and soothed by the sea for another few months.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Friend's Gift

Sometimes the most memorable moments of all are those not anticipated. Often the best gifts we can give to others is the gift of our time ~ our patience.

I seem to have gained a reputation of late for holding things up due to my inability to walk past an interesting flower without needing to stop and “quickly” photograph it. 

Usually this entails having to return to my car to retrieve my camera to take the shot, which inevitably requires shooting from a few angles as I look for the right light. This could take up to twenty minutes, or so the story goes, until I can move on and resume what we were doing.

My husband is particularly intolerant and sighs deeply when I appear for our morning walk with a camera over my shoulder, though he would insist that he is extremely patient with my photographic endeavours.

Mindful of my reputation, I arrived at a friend’s house last week for a long overdue catch-up over coffee, and after spotting a bright red bottlebrush in full bloom, I greeted her and tentatively asked if she would mind if I very quickly grabbed my camera and photographed the bottlebrush.

A good forty-five minutes later I was still happily exploring the garden, following my friend who was excitedly leading me from plant to plant, explaining why she had selected that particular plant and waiting patiently while I photographed each one. 

Later, when I thanked her for her patience with me, she waved it off, insisting that she had gained so much more by being forced to take the time to stop and look at her beautiful garden, at the whole world of colour and beauty that was right there on her doorstep - something she had not done since she had chosen the plants at the nursery quite a few Springs ago!

What a wonderful gift her patience was!

It made me think of all the times I have shown impatience and intolerance towards my children, being too busy to indulge them in their spur of the moment diversions, diversions which might have led to many unrepeatable moments of joy and happiness.

We only have one opportunity to live each moment and once we let the moment go, we can never recreate it. I know it is impractical to keep diverting each time something comes up. I, for one, would never get anything else done!

However, we do need to keep reminding ourselves of the importance of living in the moment and of having the patience to sometimes just let things happen.

Monday, September 13, 2010

In search of Monet

I have written previously of my fascination with Claude Monet, the quintessential Impressionist painter who is possibly best known for his dreamy water garden paintings.

I love the fresh way in which his paintings managed to capture the fleeting impressions of moments in time where the dappled sunlight filtered through the trees and flowers, creating rippled reflections in muted colours on the surface of the water. 

His style was neither polished and ‘finished’ nor realistic, and his subjects were most often elements of nature, providing him with an endless palette of colours.

From time to time, I have tried to find ways to incorporate some of Monet’s impressionistic style into my nature photographs, usually by following the sunlight as it dances through the petals and leaves, softening edges and running the colours into one another. 

A few days ago while paging through a book of Monet’s paintings, it suddenly occurred to me that I could achieve a similar effect by photographing the reflections of trees and flowers on a surface rippled with slow movement, a kind of inverted world transfigured by water. This could be especially effective if I got the light and shadows right.

Yesterday, I had a rare couple of hours to myself and I decided to head off to the local Botanical Gardens to experiment with reflections.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon with a slight breeze, plenty of light and shadows on the lake, and gardens filled with gorgeous spring colour ~ perfect for what I wanted to achieve.

I’m not sure if Monet would approve of the results, but I feel I am just a little bit closer to understanding how he felt when he looked out across the elaborate water garden he created at his home in Giverny, and then painted what he saw.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thoughts on Eternity

Yesterday was the anniversary of a dear friend’s untimely death from cancer and the end of the first week of Spring in Australia.

Always, at this time of the year when delicate blossoms appear on the trees laid bare by winter and the air is filled with the heady sent of jasmine, I find myself thinking about life, loss and eternity.

As with most of us, I have experienced the death of loved ones from young – grandparents, my nine year old brother, friends – but somehow the death of this friend six years ago really shook my world.

She left behind a 9 year old child, a little girl who I had known and loved since her birth and had become extremely close to during the 5 years of her mother's illness. Sarah lived with us for over a year after her Mum died and experiencing that depth of loss through Sarah’s young eyes changed everything for me.

I remember a few days after the funeral, Sarah and I were walking through a grove of trees on Lindeman Island, when suddenly hundreds of butterflies appeared, filling the air with their fluttering wings. They seemed to be following us as we walked, some briefly landing on our shoulders. Sarah became really quiet, then turned and just looked at me and we both instinctively knew that her Mum was there with her and always would be.

Life is on-going and love is eternal, and eternity is not something in the future. Eternity starts here on earth and we need to live our lives holding on to that which we love and cherish.

I learned much about myself and about what is important in life from Sarah during that time, and it is good to be reminded of these lessons each year in the Spring ~ a time of new beginnings when the earth is dressed in green and sparkling with new life.

And now when I see Sarah, tall, confident, beautiful and all grown up at 15 years old, I still remember the delight on her little face when she looked up at me that day on the island, surrounded by butterflies, knowing that her mother's love for her would continue into eternity.

Spring always brings a reminder to: 
~ Take the time to laugh
~ Be kind as everyone is fighting their own battles
~ Tell those I love that I love them, often
~ Share all that I have

~ Love with my time, my hands, and my heart
~ It is the little things that are infinitely important
~ Celebrate each and every joy
~ Know that peace comes from within myself

~ The people we love live on in our hearts forever
~ Eternity is now and here on earth

I love this quote on life from Kalil Gibran:

“The reality of life is life itself
Whose beginning is not in the womb
And whose ending is not in the grave
For the years that pass
Are naught but a moment
In eternal life
And the world of matter
And all in it
Is but a dream”

And this from Antoine de Saint Exupery, from his wonderful book ‘The Little Prince’:

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly”