Monthly Archives: October 2013

Derby sand flats landscape from air 1Ten months ago, I started this blog not really knowing how it might take shape. It was a case of eyes closed and jump in with an anything-and-everything approach.

The initial intention was “whatever sparks my interest”. I worried that it might be a bit amorphous. Much of the content produced thus far could conceivably be syphoned off into categories for their own ‘special subject’ blog. It’s become a mix of poetry, photography, efforts at drawing, travelogue, writing, food and the occasional rant. It has developed a life of its own. It demands that I feed it often and regularly, much like a newborn.

It’s a great place for me to collect bits and pieces that spark some of that creativity which lives in all of us. Theoretically, the action of collecting thoughts online should mean a tidier desk, but some habits are hard to break.

So on this 200th scribble, here’s to the mish-mash of self-expression, sharing what it means to be human in a sometimes hostile world, and putting stuff out there to those who are kind enough to drop by.

Many of us are familiar with the Japanese haiku form of verse. Here’s another one, with which I was unfamiliar until recently. Shadow Poetry has a good explanation of Tanka.

There are, of course, many more subtle components of the verse than its 5-7-5-7-7 or 31 syllable shape. You can always aspire to reaching higher expression of the form. In the meantime, it’s fun and satisfying to play with it as a container. If, like me, you are in the habit of writing down the odd phrase that occurs to you, the Tanka provides a good starting point to use the idea.  In this case, my phrase was the sound of one frond dropping.

Four Trees

photo from istockphoto

you don’t hear the sound

that silence before the fall

only with the break

that crack of separation

the sound of one frond dropping

Lynn Buckler Walsh



POEMSThis is the cover of our high school poetry text. It was edited by John Palmer and published by William Brooks & Co.  This particular copy was decorated and annotated by my good self, age 17 or thereabouts and is a survivor of the odd book cull over the years.

With its paste-on characters, doodles, glossy pages, worn corners and a broken spine, it’s showing its age, but still provides pleasure in the gleaning.

For readers who are not familiar with any Australian poetry, today’s offering is from the late Judith Wright, poet, environmentalist and Aboriginal land rights activist.

The poem is The Company of Lovers. The scribbles are my high school notes. A clean copy is provided below for easier reading.

Judith Wright - The Company of Lovers


We meet and part now over all the world,

We, the lost company,

take hands together in the night, forget

the night in our brief happiness, silently.

We who sought many things, throw all away

for this one thing, one only,

remembering that in the narrow grave

we shall be lonely.

Death marshals up his armies round us now,

Their footsteps crowd too near.

Lock your warm hand above the chilling heart

and for a time I live without my fear.

Grope in the night to find me and embrace,

for the dark preludes of the drum begin,

and round us, round the company of lovers,

Death draws his cordons in.

Back in my first days at university, I took a lot of English Literature subjects for someone who was also working towards graduating with a Geography major. In the end, I suspect the number of English classes surpassed the Geography ones.

It was the seventies. Unsurprisingly, I guess, Women’s Studies was on offer. One of my lecturers was the most radical woman I’d ever met at that stage of my life. Her classes were politicised, her clothes, her hair, her very presence in the academic halls were statements amidst the men’s tie and shirt brigade. I loved how what she taught was on the edge of the usual course fare. You could not ignore her. You could not get away with being in one of her classes and not thinking.

She is now Head of School at the same university. This was one of the texts for the course.  It’s been well dipped into over the years. The collection includes Denise Levertov, Gwendolyn Brooks, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath (of course) and Margaret Atwood, better known today for her impressive body of work as a novelist.

“After All You Are Quite” was written circa 1965-1972.

Margaret Atwood - After All You are QuiteMargaret Atwood - After All You are Quite

More in the ‘see what jumps out of the anthology at you’ series.  Again, from the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.

Josephine Miles was born in 1911 in Chicago. The link will take you to her biography. Her academic and writing career is more impressive given that Miles suffered debilitating arthritis for most of her life, making it impossible for her to use a typewriter. Her poems were committed to paper using a pen, in movements that were “slow and painfully deliberate” according to an oral history recorded by Ruth Teiser and Catherine Harroun. They conducted interviews with Miles in the late seventies under the title Poetry, Teaching and Scholarship.

This poem – On Inhabiting an Orange – was written in 1935 when she was 24 years old. She died in 1985.

On Inhabiting an Orange - Josephine Miles


The walk from Bondi Beach in Sydney to Tamarama Beach provides its own sculptural marvels all year round.

This spectacular coastal landscape also hosts the annual Sculpture by the Sea festival, an event that this year will attract close to half a million visitors.


Thursday was the first day and it was good to be there before the visitor numbers build. It was a magical day. Temperatures were on the cooler side, heralding the end of the worst of the bushfire crisis in the Blue Mountains. The skies were clear and Sydney was turning it on big time. To top off the magic, we stopped for a while to watch two young humpback whales apparently competing to show off their breaching and flipper slapping skills.

Here’s but a taste of the 107 pieces on offer this year.


buttress (2012) – Michael Le Grand  ACT


horizon – Lucy Humphrey NSW


horizon (with surfer)


moon buddha – Vince Vozzo NSW


flow – Alison McDonald QLD


goodnight Uncle John – Eko Bambang Wisnu & Ida Lawrence Indonesia / NSW


pallet pavilion – Clayton Blake VIC


folded 3 – Andrew Rogers VIC


sacred space – Dale Miles NSW


passage secret – Silvia Tuccimei Italy


plastic world – Carole Purnelle and Nuno Maya Portugal


fetch – The Winged Collective VIC


girl pointing – Matt Calvert TAS


moment of clarity – David Hashimoto NSW


bubble no: 5 – Qian Sihua China


fallout – Stephen King NSW


a shared weight – Elyssa Sykes-Smith NSW

I’m still coming off the high of earlier this month when I spent a couple of days steeped in the poetry of others and rediscovering the desire to write my own.

I’m spending time dipping into the old texts and newer volumes that I’ve purchased over the years.

First stop was my old Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.  A university text. 1973. First edition no less, although its thumb-worn state belies any value it might have had if I’d left it on the shelf more often.

This poem by the late Seamus Heaney stopped me in my tracks last night. There is so much going on in a mere four verses. Oh the skill!


November 1998 – Tibet – Lhasa

The early morning flight from Chengdu was spectacular. The glossy black and white pictures that I’d pored over in my high school geomorphology text paled in comparison. Glaciers, moraines, lakes, snow, cirques, arretes – they were all up there in the thin blue air. Some peaks were so high they rose above the clouds.

At the airport, it was bags loaded onto the bus then a communal push-start to get us going on the next leg which, over a distance of 60 kilometres, took as long as the flight. We bumped our way through the post-glacial landscape of wide flowing streams, swampy marshes and smooth river rocks. Prayer flags adorned the corners of white washed houses with yaks, goats, sheep and pigs in nearby enclosures.

Our hotel was a three-level concrete block structure with no lift. The entry steps were covered with a painted wooden portico. A heavy woven mat protected the foyer from the cold outside.

Despite spending a few days in the higher climbs of Chengdu, we were not yet acclimatized to altitude sickness. As we were checking in, our 12 year old lost consciousness briefly. Just as she was coming to, an old man appeared from nowhere and carried her up the stairs with us following quickly behind. He laid her on the bed and disappeared.

We were hatching plans to go and buy some canned oxygen from the markets outside when he returned with a container of yak butter and proceeded to apply the butter between her toes and fingers, under her ears and around her hairline. Surmising it could do no harm, yet still somewhat bemused, we thanked him for his care.

We spent the next day or so taking it easy as each of us succumbed in varying degrees to the symptoms. We got very good at sourcing provisions of dry biscuits, toilet paper, tissues and water to supplement our own supplies of Gastrolyte and black tea. The fact that our room was a good distance away from the bathrooms and toilets on the floor added to the adventure.

It was a couple of days before the first patient had the strength to take a shower by which time ….. well you know what butter does when it’s left out of the fridge for any length of time.  We both remember that shower and appreciating the warmth and light of the sun shining through the window.

Once we were all well enough, we took the long walk up to the Potala Palace to wonder at the golden halls lit by yak butter candles. Our fair-haired girls attracted much attention, none the least of which was from a group of Chinese Army recruits who, one by one, had photographs taken with them wearing their hats.

Potala Palace - Nov 1998

And my last, but not least memory of being in Lhasa?  Every time I look at the photograph below, I’m reminded of the kindness of this woman who asked if we would like a photograph of her with our children. No common language was spoken between us. A monetary exchange was refused and there was no luxury of an email address to which we could send a copy to reciprocate her gesture. She took and gave pleasure in that one moment. 

Why do we travel? This.

Potala Palace rooftop

Here’s a revised edition of one of my favourite stories gathered from the tumblr blog of our 2012 trip to Madagascar.

We clambered up from the Manampanihy River after an afternoon boat ride with our host and his over-excitable duck-crazy dog.

A game of ‘le ball” was being played among the young men of the district on a decidedly uneven pitch defined only by the corners of the field dug out in the grass.

The children watching the game came scrambling noisily down the river bank with much hilarity to meet the vazahas.


After watching the game for a while, we began to make our way towards the path to our bungalow. Suddenly there was a voice calling out to us.

It was the match referee.  Noticing that we were leaving, he had blown his whistle and stopped the game.


He approached us, gave us a welcome handshake and a warm smile and thanked us for coming.

Then it was back to his work as a referee. Another whistle and game on.