S is for Seashells and Stones

April 22, 2014 at 10:11 am | Posted in Australia, Family, Family History, Nature, Travel, Ways of Living | 4 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

seashells &stones

 

I love shells, and I love stones too; shells and stones of all shapes and sizes and textures. The beach is made up of fragments of shells and stones and many shells and various kinds of rock have their own beauty.

From the time I was about six or seven years old, we had access to the beaches of  Shellharbour and Kiama in eastern NSW. Like many kids do, I collected shells. I always wanted to create something using them, but didn’t know how.

When I was about fourteen, I worked out what I could make and drew the outline of Australia on a piece of plywood. I filled in the outline with small shells I had collected from the beach – mainly from Shellharbour. Then I drew the more complex outline of the British Isles on another piece of board and filled that in with small shells too. Both were finished with a couple of coats of varnish.

My shell map

My shell map

I hung them in my room, where they stayed until I got married and left home. I forgot all about them for a long time.  Almost 45 years later, as I was checking through a cupboard at Dad’s, I was really surprised to come across the one of Britain. It was in fairly good shape and had only lost a few of its shell.

Mum was also a shell lover, even more than I was. She  decorated objects with shells too. Dad made things from wood for her – a small wishing well and a wheelbarrow are two I particularly remember. She covered them with shells and made very attractive ornaments from them.

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Wheelbarrow: made by Dad, decorated by Mum

Mum also took things like mirrors and pictures, and dressed them up with shells – small or large, depending on the size of the mirror. I have the small mirror that hung in their bathroom for many years, and another from their bedroom. However, the one from the front room was just too big to keep!

One of Mum’s smaller mirrors

Mum also bought larger shells that she particularly liked, and a couple of wall plaques that featured seashells. Dad kept everything after she died in 1994. When he died last year, all the shell items except those that I been given, were sold as part of his estate.

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A few of Mum’s shells

After Dad retired in 1981, he and Mum made occasional trips around the state, towing a small caravan. On those trips, Mum was always on the lookout for nice shells, and rocks too. One of the pieces of rock she collected from out west served for many years as the front doorstop at their home. It now resides on our verandah.

Mum's quartz door stop

Mum’s quartz door stop

I have collected unusual stones and rocks for many years, not by following slavishly in Mum’s footsteps though. I gained a love of them after I’d been married and living out west, far from my parents for some years. I learned a bit about the types of rock, like igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic and so on, and usually had some stones and rocks around the place.

My piece of petrified tree branch.

My piece of petrified tree branch.

For a few years, Mum and Dad collected small pebbles, and Dad polished them in a tumbling machine he made himself. He made bracelets and pendants for Mum from polished stones. I now own one of each of them – nobody else among my siblings is interested.

Pebbles on the shore, Lake Macquarie, NSW.

My youngest son is a geologist – I think he loves stones too. Maybe I had some sort of influence on that – I’d like to think so.

I haven’t gone into why I love shells and stones here; maybe it would be too hard to sort out any particular reasons for it. I just know that I love their beauty, their colours, their textures and their composition, and I am amazed at their variety. Rocks are the basic component of our world, and if they weren’t here for us, we wouldn’t be here either.

 

Gorge in Karijini National Park Western Australia

Rocky Gorge in Karijini National Park Western Australia

 

Do rocks, stones, seashells affect you at all?  What do you like or even dislike about them? Do you collect natural objects, or make things from them?

 

© Linda Visman  22.04.14  (709 words)

 

 

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Dairy Country – under threat from development

April 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Posted in Australia, Destroying nature, History, Nature, Society, Tourism, Travel, Ways of Living | 7 Comments
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I love the area in which I grew up – the Illawarra area of New South Wales, Australia. However there is less and less of it to love these days as housing and industrial developments reach out into the lush and productive dairy lands that were once among the best in the country.

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We took a drive through the remaining pasturelands last week, while we were in the area visiting family (especially my 91-year-old father). The lush grasslands and areas of bush are beautiful.

The ocean in the distance

The ocean in the distance

 

We took quite a few photographs so that we can look back at them one day when the productive dairy country is covered in houses and industrial sheds.

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The area lies between the mountains of the Great Dividing Range and the Pacific Ocean, visible in the distance.

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Housing estates are growing around the towns to the north, south and east.

Houses encroach on the dairy lands.

Houses encroach on the dairy lands.

Dry-stone walls, a relic of the British heritage of the region, are seen less and less. But this one is proudly maintained.

Stone walls

Stone walls

 

A sense of humour is essential in this industry, where prices for milk are low, but the work to produce it is hard and long.

Rue de Moo Poo

Rue de Moo Poo

When Europeans first came to this district in the nineteenth century, cabbage tree palms were in abundance. They provided a vital source of food for the indigenous people. However, clearing of the land, heavy tractors, and the hard hooves of cattle, all of which pack down the soil and make seed growth almost impossible, have reduced their numbers considerably. Most farming areas are now bare of these palms, though they do grow in gullies and better soil parts of the mountainsides.

Cabbage tree palms

Cabbage tree palms

These days, it is not economically worthwhile to maintain many dairy farms to a level needed to keep them viable. The developer’s dollars become more and more attractive to families that have farmed for several generations.

A decaying farm

A decaying farm

I wonder just how much longer these farms will be able to remain, fighting against cheaper imports and low prices for milk at the farm gate. I know that we will be very upset by the loss of this beautiful and productive dairy country to the destructive dollars of the developers.

 

 

(c) Linda Visman April 2013

Photographs by Dirk Visman

An A to Z of places I have been

June 9, 2012 at 12:07 am | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Nature, Writing | 4 Comments
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This post was inspired by a creative writing prompt on Strangling My Muse.

A          Armidale University, where three of my sons graduated.

Old Burra copper mine and engine house.

B          Burra, a lovely little historic country town– the longest I had lived in one place (six years) since 1968.

C         Canberra, the national capital, designed by Walter Burley Griffin, and home to many repositories of national importance.

D         Dapto, where my family came for a couple of months in 1954, after we arrived in Australia.

E          Earning a living as best I could.

F          Finding out about inland Australia on a four-month caravan trip in 1980.

G         Going into the depths of despair, and climbing out again.

Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira

H         Hermannsburg, the birthplace of famous Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira, where I taught for four years, and became school principal.

I          Imagining something better, and finding it.

J         Jousting with cancer and winning.

K         Kiama, which was a lovely little place when I was a child, but is now suffering the blight of urban growth.

L          Lake Macquarie, the largest coastal lake in NSW – beautiful!

M         Moss Vale, almost an English village in an Australian setting – well, it does rain a lot!

N          Narromine, where I found out the meaning of passion.

O          Observing the magnificent night sky in remote Central Australia

P          Perth, the capital of Western Australia – not so long ago the only capital city with a country town atmosphere.

Q          Queensland – coastal and inland – a state of natural beauty and destructive mining.

R          Realising a dream in the self-publishing world.

University of Sydney

S          Sydney University, which I attended for one term in 1966.

T          Teaching the children, and learning about indigenous people and life (and about myself) in the small and remote community of Ampilatwatja.

U          Underground in an old gold mine.

V         Valuing the joys of birthing and being mother to five wonderful children.

W         Wollongong, a once-thriving city, now trying to re-invent itself after losing most of the region’s manufacturing industries.

X         X-ercising my right to vote, to protest, to be involved in the life of my town, state and country.

Y         Young Hospital, where my youngest child was born.

Z          Zooming in on a Dreamtime place in the desert.

Linda Visman

8th June 2012

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