A Street Library Story

Our ‘chooks and books’ themed street library

A few days ago we installed our newly completed street library and I am over the moon about it! If you have ever thought about doing something similar then all I can say is, GO FOR IT. Here is my street library story… plus a few tips I picked up along the way.

Street Library in Pearl Beach NSW

I remember seeing a street library when I was on holiday last year. It was in Pearl Beach on the Central Coast of NSW. At first I was casually curious but then my imagination kicked in and I started dreaming about how wonderful it would be to install something similar in my area. The concept of a street library captures so many of my interests: community, creativity, simple living, recycling and books.

Ever since I learned to read I have had an avid interest in books and libraries. Having hundreds of books at my fingertips in my primary school library was like being in a wonderland. The freedom to read meant I could soar above my small existence, travelling widely in my imagination and meeting characters who surprised, inspired and challenged me.

What I love about libraries is that they can be as humble as a pop-up book selection for early morning commuters at the local train station or as jaw-dropping and grand as the Public Library in New York City. Most of all I love that libraries are for everyone.

A few months ago I watched The Public, a film written and directed by Emilio Estevez. The story is about a public library that had become a haven for the homeless in a large US city. The characters in the story wrestle with the various perceptions of the role that a library has in a community. The story takes a while to build but once the momentum picks up it is compelling viewing and has a great ending.

Here is a link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMRfBlhMjoA

Around the same time I read the novel Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes which sparked my interest in mobile libraries. All through history and around the world there are devoted librarians who take books to communities in remote places on bicycles, donkeys, horses, trucks and mini-vans. Like many other librarians they believe that libraries serve everyone, young and old, people from all language and cultural backgrounds, city folk, country folk, rich and poor.

Inspired by the Little Free Library movement in the USA that started in 2009, Street Library Australia shares the dream of encouraging communities to read through making books easily and freely available.

This dream resonates with me and as you can tell from my long-winded introduction, many paths have led me to install our own street library. As with most ideas I have, I spend a lot of time, (often months!) mulling, researching and imagining before I get practical. With Coronavirus restrictions in place this year and local libraries shut down, I finally had the impetus to take action.

My first port of call was to peruse the official Street Library Australia website: https://streetlibrary.org.au/ It has a wealth of information about how to make street libraries a reality. I also started following Street Library Australia on Instagram to gather more ideas.

While ordering ready built street libraries via the Street Libraries Australia website is an option, I decided to keep it local and approach Blue Mountains artisan and woodworker, Peter Kabanoff, to see if he would be willingly to custom make a street library for me. He was so keen to be involved in the project and constructed exactly what I had in mind. He uses recycled materials in all his creations which also makes me really happy!

Our locally made street library – thanks to Peter Kabanoff

I have documented my personal street library process below. I imagine it will be different for everyone. Hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes.

  1. Construct the library – This was the biggest hurdle for me because I am not very handy at making things. I would suggest either ordering your street library from the Street Library Australia website (a men’s shed put them together so it supports a good cause), make it yourself or find someone handy to make it like I did. If you are making it yourself, check your measurements carefully and be prepared to make the construction weatherproof. The Street Library Australia website provides detailed instructions if you decide to build it yourself.
  2. Decide on a theme – This was the fun part for me! In reality you don’t have to have a theme. You can just paint the street library however you want just as long as it is given a few coats of weather proof varnish at the end. We love our pet chickens so I decided on a chicken theme. The beloved Chiquita, Anouk, Esmerelda, Querida and Mel are now immortalised on our street library!
  3. Sketch the ideas – If your theme has a few parts to it, then definitely do some preliminary sketches and decide exactly what you want it to look like. I tossed out so many of my ideas (because I had too many!) and had to narrow things down. My daughter helpfully reminded me to keep it simple!
  4. Paint the library – I painted a base coat and then pencilled in my images once it was dry. Then I used lightfast paint (Jo Sonja paints from our local art shop) and brushes of different sizes to paint first the background and then the foreground objects. Most of the painting needed a couple of coats to achieve the coverage I wanted.
  5. Do the text next – If you include text like I did, you can either use lightfast paint and a very fine brush. You will need a steady hand! I decided to take a chance on Posca pens (also from our local art shop). The white one worked really well but the black… keep reading!
  6. Lesson 1 on varnish – Varnishing is an essential part of the process because it helps to weatherproof the street library. I used a marine strength varnish and applied two coats 24 hours apart. Here’s where things got a bit sad. My white Posca pen text looked AMAZING. My black Posca pen text ran everywhere with the application of varnish. This was even though I had used both pens in the same time frame and they had the same amount of drying time. I have no idea what went wrong but the black pen smudged. Once the damage was done, there was no way to fix it so I just had to get over the disappointment.
  7. Lesson 2 on varnish – Applying varnish is quite an art in itself. Who knew? Obviously not me. I knew to STIR the varnish thoroughly before using it (don’t shake it like paint because then air bubbles will form all over your surfaces). I also knew to use a BRUSH rather than a sponge to apply the varnish, again to avoid the dreaded air bubbles. My mistake was not to take enough care with my application. I was so excited to get it finished that I did not check carefully for spots that dribbled and needed brushing smooth. By the time I noticed these spots the varnish was dry and I couldn’t fix them. Sigh!
  8. Order an official Street Library Australia sign – This is optional of course, but I decided to join the movement! Signs can be ordered from the Street Library Australia website and do not take long to arrive in the post. I glued mine on with a strong adhesive. I narrowly missed out on gluing my fingers together… wear disposable gloves, dear people!
  9. Mount and secure the library – I needed help with this but not everyone will. The main idea is to secure the street library to its spot so it can’t be easily removed or knocked over. Pick a spot where it will be fairly visible and accessible to passers-by. Make sure it is at a good height for little ones to browse too.
  10. Fill it with books – This was by far the best part for me! I had collected a pile of books that I love. I made sure they were quality reading and in good condition. Some were donated for the cause, some were ones we had read and outgrown, some I found inexpensively in op shops. I ended up with a good range for all ages and interests. I printed flyers from the Street Library Australia website that explain how a street library works and placed a flyer in each book. I also printed out my own stickers for each book to say where they had come from just in case they ever wanted to come back.

Making my street library dream come true has been such an enjoyable process and I suspect that the joy I have experienced has been a little contagious. I hope our street library continues to bring much happiness to our community and perhaps beyond.

Mel sitting atop some of our favourite chicken themed books while Querida and Esmerelda dream of adventure!

If you think you have caught the street library bug and are local to the Blue Mountains area, Peter Kabanoff is happy to make a bespoke street library for you. Here’s where to find him:

I am still thinking about whether to register our street library. What do you think? If you also have a street library story, I would love to hear it. Post a comment or email me.

Anouk and Chiquita being bookish. We all know chooks can read.

On The Soul Side

It is always a pleasure to discover a new gem in the Blue Mountains and today delivered.

On the Soul Side is a fledgling café and espresso bar located in one of Katoomba’s most iconic hotel buildings, The Gearin.

As I stepped in the door, Dave, the café owner offered a cheery welcome and in between making coffee and serving customers he chatted generously to me about his unique vision for the new venture.

The café inhabits the old pub space and features an array of swoon-worthy vintage collectibles. The first item to catch my eye was a sensational red Chevron typewriter. What a beauty! Other pieces include a mini locomotive, a retired telephone box and handcrafted models of boats, ships, submarines and planes.

The history of the hotel is palpable and while efforts are being made to restore some of its tiles and fireplaces, there is a wonderful cosiness and charm about its ageing beauty.

The other soul component of this café is good music. Dave has the best tunes playing through the week and also a space set up for local musicians to jam on Friday nights.

On the Soul Side certainly has a whole lot of soul. As I was leaving I stopped to chat to a local artist drawing in chalk just outside the café door. There is a sense of community and creativity here that resonates with me.

I am looking forward to my next visit and watching the chapters of this café story unfold.

Find On the Soul Side on Goldsmith Place in Katoomba, just next to the train station. And on instagram: https://instagram.com/on_the_soul_side?igshid=16vp2og1zjayp

Tenebrae

tenebrae – Latin for ‘darkness’ or ‘shadows’

‘Wit’s End Bay’ by Charles Wysocki

I have been missing in action on my blog for a while. Here’s why. The past five months have been tough on our Blue Mountains community. Over the summer we confronted the most extensive bushfires in our memory. Before we could even imagine how to recover from those, the coronavirus pandemic dealt its bewildering blows. With each event we have had to hang on to daily news briefings to figure out what decisions needed to made next. I lost count of the number of times either event has been described as ‘unprecedented’.

The consequences of each event are far reaching and the fact that they happened back-to-back for the Blue Mountains has deepened the impact. We’re still reeling, as a community, but also individually. Like many others, I have been juggling family, home, work and study commitments in the midst of these extreme events. To be honest it has been challenging.

Call it writer’s block if you like but what I have learned about myself during this time is that when I am in ‘survival mode’ the Creative Writer part of me shuts down and hides in a bunker so deep and dark that I can’t find her. I feel so much disappointment and frustration about this.

Leading up to Easter I sensed she was finally, slowly emerging and I wrote this poem.

Tenebrae

No more words

Tear down lecterns
Shut off screens
Board up mouths

Give up
sighs
platitudes
consolations

Hush them all

Be still
as comforts are
snuffed out

Silent
as shadows
shroud

Let wicks
go cold

Enter the tomb
within

Be empty

Wait

©Belle Perry 2020

When I was in high school I read The Plague by Albert Camus and memories of it resurfaced over the past few weeks. Coincidentally I discovered this brilliant article by writer and philosopher, Alain de Botton: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-camus-plague.html

Bushfires and coronavirus may leave us feeling fearful, overwhelmed and exhausted. It is warranted and to be expected. It is difficult to sit with such feelings and I suspect many of us are navigating them daily.

What I take from Camus’ novel is that in the face of the absurdity of suffering, kindness to one another is the best and only answer. As Alain de Botton explains more eloquently,

“Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.”

Let’s continue to support each other with soft and grateful hearts through these ‘tenebrae’ times.

Waiting and Wonder

I remember waiting for the mail when I was in my late teens. I had a boyfriend in Canada and we wrote to each other for 2 years. Our hand written letters would take about two weeks each way. They would be several pages long and I’d read his over and over while I waited for the next letter to arrive.

These days, the idea of having to wait for anything is most unsavoury. No one likes waiting for a train or in a queue for the check out. Hardly anyone waits at home for dough to rise or for clothes to dry on the line. Advertising is littered with words like ‘instant’, ‘fast track’, ‘express’, ‘tap’, ‘click’ and ’24/7′. Around the clock we have immediate access to movies, books, music, food, messages, news and money.

But is waiting always bad for us?

“…isn’t waiting itself and longing a wonder, being played on by wind, sun, and shade?”

Annie Dillard Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

As Annie suggests, perhaps there is something special about anticipation.

The season before Christmas is called Advent and for me Christmas isn’t completely Christmas without it. The word Advent comes from a Latin word which means ‘approaching’. It is a time of looking forward; of preparing for the celebration to come. It is also a time to reflect and remember.

Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and we mark it by decorating our home with a Christmas Tree and an Advent Wreath. Each of the four Sundays focuses on a theme starting with Hope, then Peace, then Joy, then Love. Every Sunday a candle in the Advent Wreath is lit for each theme and we take time to reflect on what the words mean to us.

Our Advent Wreath was bought from Ebony and Ivy in Glenbrook a few years ago, but you could easily make your own. You can use any pliable branches or greenery from the garden and place them in a circle on a large round tray or platter. In the middle of the wreath place four red candles (Hope, Peace, Joy and Love) and then a white candle in the centre. The white candle is called the Christ candle and is lit on Christmas day along with the other four. The Advent Wreath makes a beautiful centrepiece for any table.

We also have a homemade Advent calendar of little cardboard boxes that count down the 24 days until Christmas. I write messages for each day and leave treats as well. My children are getting older but they still enjoy it.

We like having a Christmas tree and this year we found the loveliest tree made of woven vines and branches. Local artisan Branching Out Designs makes them here in the Blue Mountains and also runs workshops to show people how to make their own.

Here are some other options for eco-friendly Christmas Trees:

  • A couple of large bare tree branches in a pot can look very chic and minimalist.
  • Stack some of your favourite books in a tree formation.
  • Make a tree shaped wall-hanging with branches and string.
  • You could also buy a real potted tree each year and then find somewhere suitable to plant it. Getting a tree native to your area would be ideal.
  • Also check out #ecochristmastree on Instagram for more ideas.

We had such fun decorating our tree today. Keeping decorations simple, spending less and being eco-friendly is important to me and thankfully my children are catching on.  Here are some ideas:

  • Instead of tinsel, make paper chains or bunting.
  • Make your own wreath or garland from items in your garden.
  • Make origami stars to hang on the tree or string some together.  
  • Felt is also an easy material for making tree ornaments.
  • When buying ornaments or decorations look for those made from wood, ceramic, fabric, metal or paper.
  • Buy local and fair trade!

One of the best decorations at Christmas is music. It sets the mood and reminds us about the Christmas stories and themes. There are many beautiful songs and compositions inspired by the Christmas season. Making a Christmas playlist is a great family activity.

Follow this link to listen to our Christmas compilation for 2019. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4V0PSEpncXPQyUcV7Jj6tB

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and the theme is Hope. I have been listening to this beautiful song about Hope sung by Katie Noonan:

https://sonichits.com/video/Katie_Noonan_&_Tim_Freedman/Maybe_This_Christmas

What does Hope mean to you and what do you hope for?

Goldilocks at the Paint Store

Colour is our daylong obsession, joy and torment.

– Claude Monet –

I am such a Goldilocks when it comes to colour. Orange makes me feel itchy and uptight. Purple and red can be so overbearing. A small amount of yellow is cheery but too much is depressing. Muted blues and greens are usually my ‘just right’ colours. Ocean colours make me feel relaxed and peaceful.

Our painter dropped over this morning. He is about to paint the exterior of our house except I still can’t pin down the colour I want for the walls. My Goldilocks syndrome is in full swing. He encouraged me to look for houses I like in the area and go door knocking.

So later I knocked on a neighbour’s door and asked what colour they had painted their weather boards. It was Shuttle Bus (Taubmans). I bought a sample pot. I quite like it. At least I think I do.

So far I have tried: Tranquil Retreat (Dulux), Milton Moon (Dulux), Endless Dusk (Dulux), Silver Night (Haymes) and Miller Mood (Dulux). None have been quite right.

When I found the Shuttle Bus chip at the paint store my eye was also drawn to another one: Mountain Stream (Taubmans). I tried full strength and half strength. Sooooo pretty. But will it work on my weather boards?

Or is it just the name that I like?

Sometimes I daydream that my perfect job would be assigning names to colours. A bit like naming babies. When I was naming my babies I had enough reserve names for a whole army. In the end I only needed two (four if you count middle names). Naming paint colours seems like a good use for all those extra names.

I wonder why paint colour names grab me more than the colours themselves? Here are some I totally dig:

  • Washington Cherry (Porter’s)
  • Library Red (Porter’s)
  • Twig Basket (Behr)
  • Blessing (Behr)
  • Poet (Berger)
  • Skin Deep (Berger)
  • Tiptoes (Dulux)
  • Sea Drifter (Dulux)
  • Water Music (Dulux)
  • Seachange (Dulux)
  • Equanimity (Dulux)
  • Flooded Gum (Dulux)
  • Sealock (Haymes)
  • Bali Garden (Haymes)
  • Wavelet (Haymes)
  • Cool Jazz (Haymes)
  • Sea Salt (Benjamin Moore)
  • Wild Blue Yonder (Benjamin Moore)
  • Picnic (Sherwin Williams)
  • Julep (Sherwin Williams)
  • Raindrop (Sherwin Williams)
  • Indigo Batik (Sherwin Williams)

About seven years ago we had the interior walls of our house painted. We still laugh over the name of the colour in our lounge room. It is a lovely neutral called Self Destruct (Dulux). We went for half strength. We like the colour but what a funny name!

Here are some other amusing names for paint colours:

  • Roman Holiday (Porter’s)
  • Possum Breath (Porter’s)
  • Thousand Drums (Porter’s)
  • Dear John (Behr)
  • On Vacation (Behr)
  • Soul Search (Behr)
  • Stuck on You (Berger)
  • Almost Time (Berger)
  • Press Release (Berger)
  • Mexican Standoff (Dulux)
  • Scallywag (Dulux)
  • Wiggle (Dulux)
  • Cheesey Grin (Dulux)
  • Sneezy (Dulux)
  • Cuddle (Dulux)
  • Snoop (Dulux)
  • Foxy Lady (Haymes)
  • Pitty Pat (Haymes)
  • Emotional (Sherwin Williams)
  • At Ease Soldier (Sherwin Williams)
  • Proposal (Benjamin Moore)
  • Fancy Pants (Benjamin Moore)

If you are on a paint colour quest for your home and you feel a bit queasy about it, here are a few tips I have learned so far:

Looking at paint colours online is almost a futile exercise. They don’t look anything like they do in the light of day plus if you have a blue light filter on your glasses or phone, then everything will look more yellow than it is.

Having said that, there was a silver lining to my hunt for paint colour. I discovered a fabulous website called Encycolorpedia. They have the low down on every paint colour you can imagine. https://encycolorpedia.com/

Better yet, go to the local paint store and peruse the paint chips. Get a feel for the colours that you like. Narrow it down to two or three colours and buy some sample pots. Find pieces of cardboard A3 size or bigger to paint. Start with a white primer and then two coats of each colour. Allow 2 hours to dry. Look at these over a few days and in different lights.

Do consider how a colour makes you feel. And try not to get too distracted (like I do) by its name.

If you are still bamboozled (as I was!) talk to a colour consultant. They are amazing people who can help you work out what to do with your colour dilemmas. The consultants at Thornton & Blake are wonderful! You can find them here: https://thorntonandblake.com.au/ and here: https://www.instagram.com/thorntonandblake/

The staff at Paint Right in Springwood are awesome too: https://paintrightspringwood.com.au/

Or go door knocking.

That is all I have for now.

Thank goodness for patient painters. I recommend ours: https://www.bluemountainspainting.com.au/ https://www.instagram.com/bluemountainspainting/

What are your favourite paint colours?

My Old Friend, Haiku

Haiku is one of those gifts that keeps giving. 

I first encountered haiku as a child, under the sensitive and wise tutelage of my primary school teacher. It totally captured my heart and has never let me go.

Haiku floats my boat for so many reasons. 

I could write a book about it but that would take too long, so let me try and condense my enthusiasm into a few lines:

What is haiku?

Haiku is an ancient form of Japanese poetry. It is distinctive because its poems are short, only 17 syllables long, distributed between 3 lines in a 5-7-5 syllable arrangement. One haiku is meant to be no more than the length of a single breath. 

Authentic Japanese haiku adheres to very specific guidelines. For example, each haiku must describe an image from nature and make a reference to season. It must also contain some kind of interesting contrast or an element of surprise.

For the most part I stick to the rules of haiku but as a non-Japanese, contemporary poet, sometimes I stray a little, which apparently is allowed.

Why do I love it?

For starters: Simplicity. Clarity. Focus.

Reading and writing haiku declutters the mind! Haiku is deliberately spare and considerate. It does not crowd the reader with too many words or ideas at once. Each haiku contains just one image to see and one thought to consider. In many ways haiku is like a snapshot; it frames a single moment and then slips it into a telegram.

Also: Therapy – Mental. Spiritual. Emotional.

Haiku knows that beauty and nature will console and heal. Haiku slows down time and fosters an awareness of the environment but also senses and feelings. It is an exercise in being completely present. It is an invitation to be still, contemplative and open to fresh perspectives. One could argue that reading and writing haiku is an exercise in mindfulness or meditation.

In addition: A Good Workout

American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-) advises: 

‘Think long thoughts in short sentences.’

The discipline of writing haiku is a boot camp for my development as a writer. It forces me to choose the best words and to convey my message in the most concise way. It is the height of minimalist yet poignant writing.

A famous haiku poet, Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), said that to write good haiku one needs to have the eyes and heart of a child.

In other words, haiku needs to be highly inaginative, instinctive and uncomplicated. These are challenging goals but they produce compelling writing.

Not to forget: Surprise!

I love fresh insights. Haiku is all about ‘aha’ moments. It celebrates delight, wonder and unexpected revelation. Sometimes these surprises come from contrast, irony or paradox.

Finally: Connection. Wholeness. Circle of Life.

Haiku draws connections between truth and beauty, experience and thought, imagery and emotion, spirituality and nature, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the minute and the vast. Haiku explores the relationship between order and transcience through its focus on seasons. Haiku offers serenity and hope in the face of a complex and sometimes terrifying world.  

My latest haiku:

as blue as the bay

my heart in the morning light

a whale migrating

©2019BellePerry

Manifesto

A manifesto is a public declaration that spells out a set of ideals and intentions. Have you ever thought of writing one?

Manifestos are often produced by groups, such as political parties, religious associations and art movements to make obvious their views and plans. But individuals can write them too.

A while ago I started to think about the value of writing a personal manifesto. I wanted to sit myself down and get some things clear and straight. I needed to regroup and reset.

At the time I felt that my life was messy, gridlocked and overwhelming. I thought it might help to pin down what I value and how I want to move forward. I figured if I ever felt lost again I could read my manifesto to get back on track.

It took a few days to draft and refine what I wanted to say to myself and finally my manifesto took the shape of this poem:

Manifesto

like haiku

live in a hut swept clean

in a garden with a fence 

on a hill with a view

like a hand written letter

unfold the past with care

wrap goodness in ribbons 

burn the rest

shake the ashes off your shoes

trust yourself

to remember

to decide

to bear up

to heal

to learn

like a lighthouse

pummelled

sweep the darkness

beam through 

be true

like water

finding its course

be sure

and deep too

like dirt

holding seeds

of hope 

wait long for rain

be tender

gaze on each day 

with its newborn face

wonder at the Earth

who tends to you

look now in the eye

hear its pulse 

let it smell your fear

ruffle its mane

be leisurely

over cups of tea 

sit with silence

let mystery linger

count your breath 

and all your bones

balance all

that pulls

and pushes 

tango with possibility

dine with diversity

fly daydreams like kites 

grasp adventure

like the hand of a beloved

listen to the broken parts

they will tell you

what is needed

you will have the courage

to live forgiveness

to believe in pearls

to expect beauty 

in the wild

to give love away

to let it run 

through your fingers

like honey 

and not call it back

to be all

you were imagined

to be

©2019Belle Perry

Lewers Gallery

At the foot of the Blue Mountains, Lewers Gallery also known as Penrith Regional Gallery is one of my favourite places to visit. There is so much to love. First of all, the regular exhibitions are FREE. There are three main exhibition spaces and a small gift shop.

Secondly, there is a gorgeous garden to explore: a variety of trees, exotic plants, all kinds of flowers, a mini bamboo forest, a veggie patch and an old water tower. Also throughout the garden are a number of sculptures. Look out for birds too. They love the garden!

Thirdly: the heritage house! I love historic architecture and this little house is dreamy. Everything has been beautifully restored and maintained: stunning floor to ceiling windows, original fireplaces and floorboards, plenty of vintage details, ornate chimney stacks and a wrap around verandah.

Fourthly, Lewers Café is a winner. Art and food are a magic combination and Lewers Café offers a delicious menu and friendly service. The café overlooks the garden and there are outdoor as well as under cover options for seating.

To top everything off, Lewers Gallery takes art education seriously and offers a range of engaging workshops for students of all ages as well as professional development opportunities for art educators. Check these out on the website: https://www.penrithregionalgallery.com.au/whats-on/

The house and studio spaces at 86 River Road, Emu Plains were bought by artists Gerald and Margo Lewers in the 1940s and a number of their art works can still be seen around the property. The Lewers were leaders in the Australian modernist art movement and their home became a hub for other artists during that time.

In 1979 the historic house, garden and art works were generously donated by the Lewers family to become a regional gallery. From 7 September to 17 November 2019 there will be a special exhibition at the Lewers Gallery to celebrate 40 years since that generous donation was made. The exhibition is aptly named ‘Gifting’.

Can’t wait to see it!

Glow Worms and Waterfalls

A few weeks ago a friend in Hazelbrook invited me to see some glow worms near her house. I had never seen glow worms so I was very keen for the new experience. We met at the end of Alexander Avenue where the walk to Horseshoe Falls begins. It was just getting dark and it was winter cold so we had on our thick jackets as well as torches to light the way. Within a few minutes we could hear water cascading and not long after that we saw a path off to the left with a sign to Horseshoe Falls. We didn’t follow that. We kept to the right and headed further down the track until we reached a large rock overhang and a waterfall which I believe is Horseshoe Falls (the signs are a bit confusing!). At first we couldn’t see many glow worms but as darkness set in and our eyes adjusted, our bioluminescent friends started to light up the cave like little stars. It was mesmerising!

Glow worms are unique to Australia and New Zealand and prefer the dark, perpetually damp walls of caves, tunnels and rock overhangs. Glow worms are technically not worms but they are the larvae of predatory fungus gnats. At night they emit a glowing blue-green light from their abdomens attracting other insects for them to eat.

Apart from this cave in Hazelbrook there are other places in the Blue Mountains to observe glow worms including a canyon near Mount Tomah and a tunnel near Lithgow. In order to preserve these magical glowing larvae and their habitats, it is important to follow a few guidelines when visiting them:

  • Avoid shining any light directly on them, this includes torches and flash photography.
  • Keep as quiet as possible.
  • Don’t pollute the air, ground or water of their habitat.

After visiting the glow worms with my friend, I was keen to go back in the daylight and see more of the walk. I am glad I did because it is so beautiful, especially in the morning sunshine. I started down the track and turned left at the Horseshoe Falls sign this time and discovered some falls which I think are called Fairy Falls. Then I found my way back to Horseshoe Falls and the glow worm cave. I stayed there for a while to relax and daydream in the peaceful surroundings.

Just beyond Horseshoe Falls is a sizeable shelter crafted from sticks and bark. Very creative! I wonder who the builder is and if they ever come back to admire their handiwork.

I also discovered there were many more paths to follow and another two waterfalls (Oaklands and Burgess) to find but I had to get home. If only I had all day to go exploring! Ah, next time. Soon.

Shibui Bowls

The power of literature is evident in that a Japanese novelist who I never met instilled in me a love of pottery bowls. In high school I read Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata and was introduced to the Japanese concept of shibui in which a functional, ordinary, even old-fashioned household object is valued and admired for its simple beauty and subtle detail. In hindsight, I think this way of thinking was one of the precursors to my interest in simple living.

About ten years ago when pottery wasn’t considered to be that hip, I spotted a gorgeous blue bowl in an op shop. It was beautifully crafted and signed with the potter’s mark. It was only $5. It was a turning point. I became a restrained, discerning but enthusiastic bowl hunter. Over the next few months and years I developed a small but lovely collection.

To this day my shibui bowls bring me a great deal of quiet joy not only because I think they are beautiful but also because they are so functional. They are handcrafted and earthy. They are my partners in hospitality. They make my home feel warm and cosy.

What’s your shibui thing?

Michael Leunig

Michael Leunig is an Australian cartoonist, writer, painter, philosopher and poet. His commentary on political, cultural and emotional life spans more than forty years and has often explored the idea of an innocent and sacred personal world. The fragile ecosystem of human nature and its relationship to the wider natural world is a related and recurrent theme.

His newspaper work appears regularly in the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. He describes his approach as regressive, humorous, messy, mystical, primal and vaudevillian – producing work which is open to many interpretations and has been widely adapted in education, music, theatre, psychotherapy and spiritual life.

Quoted from : http://leunig.com.au/

In 1999, Michael Leunig was declared an Australian Living Treasure by the National Trust of Australia. What a great decision! I have been a fan of Michael’s work for a while and a number of his books sit well-read on my bookshelf. Every New Year I buy his calendar and I also follow his instagram https://www.instagram.com/leunigstudio/?hl=en.

I noticed last month that The Sydney Film Festival 2019 featured a documentary called The Leunig Fragments about his life and work. It was directed by Kasimir Burgess. I was so disappointed to miss it and hope to see it one day. Here is a trailer:

Two years ago I had the privilege of seeing Michael Leunig in concert with Katie Noonan at the Sydney Opera House. It was called Gratitude and Grief. Michael and Katie’s collaboration was magical. The concert combined poetry, music and illustration. Michael would read one of his poems then Katie would perform it as a song. While she sang, Michael drew an illustration for the poem and the images were projected onto massive screen so we could watch as he worked. It was a unique and thoroughly entertaining experience! Here’s a taste:

Not long after I saw the concert I wrote this poem.

Our Living Treasure


Each
tender stroke of felt tip
every 
‘toon and curly quip
a spark
a rustle
a wink
a gift

on the brink
he sends out
a cappella notes
like doves to bless
and declare
our state of undress

Poet, Prayer, Prophet, Sayer
like that Holy Jester
of camel and needle fame
our Antipodean Fool
dusts off
old bones 
celebrates
the odd
the out of tune
the precarious

The Loon
knows our bitter sweet 
capacity
teaches our fickle hearts
veracity
knows the crux 
of our ferocious woes
and the antidotes
of those
knows righteous rage
and fringe dwelling
slow-dances with shadows 
and truth telling
sows wild blooms
in deserts of tears
and beckons a smile

©2019 Belle Perry

The Scrabble Dream

So I have a little Scrabble habit: Not only do I love to play but I also must work out the combined score of all the players after each game. I reckon anything over 500 is worth celebrating!

I come from a long line of Scrabble enthusiasts. It is such an entertaining game of word knowledge but also skill, strategy and luck. Every holidays we play, sometimes three generations represented around the board, and our Scrabble dictionary is pretty shabby from so much use!

In the photo above you can see one of my favourite op shop finds: a vintage Scrabble set. It makes me so happy. It has wooden tiles and trays and is in top notch condition though it was missing an ‘i’ when I bought it. Copyright on the box says 1953 by Selchow & Righter Co. Bay Shore, New York.

Recently I watched a wonderfully quirky film called Sometimes, Always, Never. It features a particularly hilarious Scrabble playing scene. In fact Scrabble is delightfully woven all the way through the film. Here is the trailer:

Scrabble was born in New York in 1938. The inventor of the game was Alfred Mosher Butts, an unemployed architect and amateur artist. He tried without much luck to market the game and finally in 1948 he sold the rights to entrepreneur James Brunot who came up with the name ‘Scrabble’. Brunot also set up a Scrabble factory in Connecticut. The game didn’t fully take off until 1952 when an executive from Macy’s, the famous department store, played the game while on holidays. He loved it so much, he decided to stock it in his store. There was such a demand for it that Macy’s turned production over to Selchow and Righter, a company that had previously rejected the game. https://www.nytimes.com/1993/04/07/obituaries/alfred-m-butts-93-is-dead-inventor-of-scrabble.html

Scrabble is now popular all around the world and over 150 million Scrabble sets have been sold. There are Scrabble clubs, associations and tournaments. There are variations of the game: Travel Scrabble, Scrabble Cards, Deluxe Scrabble, online Scrabble and Large Print Scrabble. There are Scrabble dictionaries. There are Scrabble tea towels!

If you think a Scrabble tea towel might enhance your dish wiping experience or make a great gift for a special Scrabble friend, The Turning Page Bookshop in Springwood have them: http://www.indies.com.au/TheTurningPageBookshop

I bet the ongoing success of Scrabble was beyond Alfred’s wildest dreams when he first invented the game in 1938. It reminds me that we should never underestimate the potential of our ideas, dreams and creativity.