Dobell Park, Wangi Wangi, 28th January 2011

January 28, 2011 at 5:41 am | Posted in Social Responsibility | Leave a comment
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It was a national holiday two days ago. Many locals and some visitors came to Wangi’s Dobell Park to celebrate Australia Day. The day was filled with activities – children and adults of all ages playing cricket and throwing frisbees, swimming in the lake, picnicking – generally having a good time.

Today, I had to wait for a prescription to be filled by the chemist, so I wandered over to Dobell Park to sit at a picnic table and enjoy the lake view. Yesterday’s hot northerly had changed to a cooler southerly. Dobell Park is open to the south and gets its full effects. And the breeze today certainly had plenty to occupy itself with.

Forgive me while I make a list of what the wind is tossing about and what remains lying about on the grass and in the garden:

Empty beer stubbies and Coke bottles;

Fish-and-chip and hamburger wrappings and;

Plastic wrappers, water bottles, straws and caps;

A cardboard carton that had held a “slab” (a dozen bottles) of beer;

Soft drink cans and flavoured milk cartons; Empty cigarette packets and plastic food containers;

At one end of the park, an old pair of shoes and a single “croc” shoe.

Among all this detritus, what really got me were the paper plates and disposable plastic cups being tossed about by the wind – they were emblazoned with the Australian flag.

So, is this how we Australians demonstrate pride in our country, by turning a lovely lake-side park, named after a local Australian icon (Sir William Dobell)  into a rubbish tip? I am ashamed and disgusted.

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What Creative Expression?

January 24, 2011 at 12:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

From the time I was very young, I wanted to write stories or play the piano, or draw or paint. I wanted to do something that would express a creative side, instead of the practical side that I usually demonstrated. I did the usual drawing and painting that any child does, I tried to write stories like Enid Blyton, and at college I learned to play the recorder. My skill and talent in all of these activities was, at best average. I became convinced that I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. I believed this until I was in my mid-fifties.

That’s when my new husband encouraged me to do what I had wanted to do most in my life – write. I was great at writing assignments and reports, but I wanted to write stories, maybe even novels. So, I went to a creative writing course at the WEA – and I discovered that I could write! What I did there gave me the confidence I needed, and I was off and running. Since then I have written short stories, memoir, poetry, novelettes and a novel and I am still writing.

I discovered after all those years is that at least I can write. I just hadn’t had the opportunity or the confidence to do it. It didn’t matter so much that I wasn’t creative in other ways. Then I started thinking about some of the other things I have done at various times in my life.

When I was a teenager, I made wall hangings using shells I collected at the beach. When my sons were little, I made romper suits and shorts, and knitted jumpers. In my thirties, I took up leatherwork, and made the usual belts, wallets and key-cases, as well as an intricate bag and many bible covers for myself, family and friends. My early fifties saw me doing woodwork, designing and making key racks, pen holders and lots of animal fridge magnets. I even sold them at markets. I also built shelves and a table in my little cottage, and fences and garden edges in the yard. I also made pegged rugs from old clothing in the style common in early twentieth century England. Through much of that time I had also been a teacher, then principal, working out ways to best educate the children and adults in my classes and school.

I had been expressing a creative side of me all the time and hadn’t realised it.

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Bluebottle Beach

January 8, 2011 at 9:45 am | Posted in Nature | 1 Comment

The long wide stretches of wave-washed beach are usually speckled here and there with small pieces of kelp, pebbles, an occasional shell and water-worn coal wash. Today, the water lines are also marked with irregular rows of invaders. Bluebottles, tumbled and washed ashore by the rolling waves, have been defeated by the sand. In ones and twos and in groups, they lie dead, their long tentacles bunched, broken or stretched towards the retreating waves.

Bluebottles on the beach

We walk carefully, because we don’t want to get stung, and we keep out of the water near where they are gathered and where more swirl in the waves. I take photos of them as we pass; their blue, deeper than a cloudless sunlit sky, contrasting with the sand, whose colour I cannot name.

Bluebottles are common on Australia’s ocean shores, especially along the eastern coast. They are marine invertebrates with an air-filled bladder that allows them to float wherever wind and tide take them.

One long tentacle, up to about 80cm, and several smaller ones hang from the bladder. These tentacles have rows of stinging cells along them that can deliver an intense, painful sting. They are used to kill small marine animals (eg shrimp) and are retractable, bringing the food up to special polyps to be digested. During periods of constant onshore winds, coastal beaches become the last resting places for the bluebottles.

One short stretch of beach is clear of the stingers.. The contours of the beach and the direction of the wind have created an oasis where we can safely splash about in the wate. I can take photographs of the waves and the foam and the sun-bright ripples.

© Linda Visman January 2011

Cicada Summer

January 3, 2011 at 6:37 am | Posted in Nature | 2 Comments
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Black Prince cicada on spotted gum

Empty cicada shell on tree
I heard a squawk, a bit like a chook being strangled, and looked up into the tree. An obviously young kookaburra hopped about on a branch, calling to its parent. Then I heard a familiar chuckle, coming from the next tree. The adult kooka had a large black cicada in its beak, but didn’t fly across to give it to the youngster. It chuckled again, and I realised it was calling for its baby to fly over for it.

The young one was the same size as its parent, and I marvelled at the speed that they grow. It hopped up and down a couple of times, getting up the courage to make the leap. The parent called again and the youngster took off. It flew a little unsteadily and landed right next to the adult, wobbling a little It then grabbed the live cicada, lifted its head and swallowed it whole. This was a really great incentive for the youngster to practice its flying. The kookas have done well this year; a veritable feast of cicadas has ensured many well-fed young.

The cicadas have all been Black Princes; no Greengrocers or Double Drummers among them. They have been plentiful and the noise they make is often so deafening that people have to almost shout to hear what someone is saying, even when standing beside them. It is the males that create this noise by vibrating their tymbals, drum-like organs found on their abdomens, to attract a female. That penetrating noise lets you know it really is summer, in light to heavily wooded parts of Australia – and we have plenty of trees where we live.

One day before Christmas, as I went out our back door, I saw something drop from the top of one of our large spotted gums. It was a cicada. When I looked more closely, I could see that the pale smooth new surface of the tree trunk was spotted all over with the black insects, gripping the bark with their claws. As I walked past, to get to the clothesline, some took off and flew all around and above me. I noticed quite a number on the ground, dead and dying. The ants had been at most of them, and only the hard shell of their heads, complete with popping eyes, and their brittle, clear, black-laced wings remained. They had mated and died; the final part of their life cycle completed.

It was only a few short weeks since they had emerged from the ground as nymphs in their original brown protective shells. The nymphs had lived for anything up to seven years underground, feeding on sap from tree roots. Then, something tells them it is time to emerge to mate. They clamber up a tree or post and shed their shell casings. These look like empty insect-shaped armoured tanks, clinging to tree trunks. They are no longer of use, and the cicadas that emerge take to the air for that last short, burst of life. 

(c)  Linda Visman

03 January 2011

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