Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is a new year and yet like many I feel I have lost a swathe of time since the onset of the pandemic declared by WHO three years ago on March 11, 2020. The absence of this blog for over a year, and many other activities I used to enjoy, concrete examples of how discombobulated life became and how life changed.
It’s like emerging from a time warp and no doubt there will be plenty of science fiction lovers who’ll agree and writers already penning work to add to the existing plethora of novels and films about evil viruses and zombies!
The last three years meld and become easily confused when recounting or remembering events, particularly outings, yet these were normal occurrences pre pandemic. I’m in my 70th year, but the confusion is not all down to ageing or the brain tumour diagnosed in late 2020 and now my constant companion with unpredictable and unsettling effects.
Covid-19 and the variants still developing and circulating a global problem, creating an historical ‘era’ much the same as the two twentieth century world wars or the 60s and 70s Vietnam War. Many of us experienced dramatic changes to routine, lifestyle, family and friendship circles with some changes becoming permanent. History will record and label it!
The cliched tide may have turned, people may be in denial the virus is still deadly, or are too tired to push against the policies and acceptance of ‘personal responsibility’ replacing behavioural rules put in place for the common good. Suffice to say, authorities (and most in the community) have accepted the roller coaster ride of active cases and deaths much greater now than during the ‘lockdown years’ and the inconveniences of higher than average ‘sickies’, cancellations, and staff and material shortages.
I too move out of my comfort zone more often, accept invitations and attend events when I can, and look forward to catching up with friends. Ironically, any recent cancellations have been due to Melbourne’s mercurial weather and the necessary but often disruptive Big Build.
Days of extreme heat discourage travelling too far from home or negotiating replacement services and the extra time involved. Even the daily walk with my beloved Josie has had to be cancelled in deference to her poor paws suffering on hot concrete paths, and her permanent fur coat.
Climate change is the other global disaster we have to live with and sadly, a disaster ignored for too long and not fixable with a vaccine, wearing a mask, or socially distancing. But, I digress because this post is an appreciation of still being alive and healthy enough to celebrate the area I’m lucky to live in and enjoy and spend a few hours with a dear friend!
Living bayside has enabled me to use walking and nature as a therapeutic balance to the misery of Covid and climate change and adverse health news!
The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
The weather and health smiled and my good friend Lisa Hill who organised the outing I wrote about in my last post, researched and organised another fabulous day. On Thursday, we explored some of the public art in the City of Kingston.
Kingston aims for their public art program to reflect and celebrate the area’s history, stories and cultures and sense of place. The public art they fund/commission can be ‘ephemeral, temporary and permanent’. They receive advice from the Arts and Cultural Advisory Committee (ACAC) which is made up of community members with experience and/or expertise in the arts and cultural sector, as well as City of Kingston councillors.
I was a foundation member of Cultural Arts Reference Group, City of Kingston (2004 – June 2005) the forerunner to ACAC so I’m glad to see there is still some form of input from community members involved in the arts – although most people think of visual artists and not writers when you mention public art, evidenced by the Council’s website and map suggesting a tour of twenty ‘easily accessible’ sites; all are murals or sculptures.
As we planned what sites to visit, Lisa said there was a suggestion you could explore the trail by bicycle, walking, or car. I’m not sure whoever put the map together tested the suggestions. Individual pieces are accessible to the public who live in that suburb – some highly visible like the one in Mordialloc that welcomes people if they enter via Nepean Highway, but we could not have looked at the handful of art work we chose without the car. If using public transport, walking or cycling, it would be a long day indeed like one of those tours you pay for shuttling from place to place with brief, timed stops.
Updated suggestions on tackling a tour of the twenty listed on the map could provide information or links to the various routes if walking, cycling, or travelling by train and bus.
On the Trail of Public Art
From Mordialloc, we set off for Moorabbin to seek Horscroft Place Pocket Park, home to the impressive Butterfly Renewal murals and The Monarchs sculptures, a project completed last year. Pocket Parks are being developed throughout Melbourne under the Victorian Government’s Suburban Parks Program. Kingston Council received $700,000 to develop Horscroft Place Pocket Park and the final concept developed in consultation with the Moorabbin community who opted for an environmental theme mural for the brick walls along the northern side of the site, a seating area, shady trees and a homage to the Monarch butterflies often seen in the area.
While we were exploring and taking photographs, a man stopped to chat. He shared how much he liked the butterfly theme because ‘you see plenty of them in the area’, but he thought they were called Painted Lady, a species of butterfly mostly found in Australia. It is a similar colour, as is the Red Admiral butterfly too, and both are often confused for the Monarch, which is larger.
Lisa’s car is fitted with GPS, which is just as well because neither of us knew that part of Moorabbin well and the pocket park is a small area, connected via a pedestrian and cycle thoroughfare, to the much bigger and more obvious Moorabbin Reserve, home of St Kilda Football Club. There is also access to a shopping precinct and other facilities on South Road.
We parked in the carpark at the Reserve and a lovely local lady directed us to the art work we were looking for – ‘a short walk away‘. It was out of sight from where we were standing and with the art trail map info fluttering in my hand, we set off!
Horscroft Place is mainly a street of small businesses and factories and there is the ubiquitous high rise development being constructed. The park will be a boon for the workers and new residents – a place to rest, sit, meet for a chat, perhaps eat lunch or morning tea. Once the vines grow on the colonnades it will be an even more pleasant and attractive walk to enjoy.
Perhaps too it will encourage people to value and appreciate indigenous flora and fauna and the importance of breathable, open green space.
Every moment is a fresh beginning.
Our next stop was in Clarinda to see the Bundle of Sticks on the wall of Clarinda Community Centre that is co-located with Clarinda Library. The Centre opened in 2005 and the Library 2004. The 2008 work by Dr Elizabeth Weissensteiner commissioned and is based on an Aesop’s Fable to illustrate we are stronger together than being quarrelsome and going our own way.
“The design represents the strength of a community that has a shared identity and purpose. The work celebrates the values of the people of the area, multiculturalism and unity.” It is on the wall at the Viney Street entrance and less visible than the photograph on the website suggests because trees and shrubbery have grown.
Thank goodness Lisa had been to an author event held at the library and knew to check all sides of the building!
The art work is visible to passersby in the residential street. There is a parking area at the front of the library and in the nearby shopping centre and the Viney Street entrance an easy stroll. I hope locals and visitors take the time to pause and ponder the timeless message of the artwork and the fable. Aesop’s Fables have a moral behind each tale and were a staple part of my primary education in Scotland in the 50s and early 60s. I have a picture storybook given to me either as a birthday present or a school prize.
The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been concealed by the answers.
We had decided before heading out that with the time available, and expected weather change, we’d make art work neither of us had seen a priority, with a plan to end up at Waterways housing estate to enjoy a late lunch and the lovely view lakeside from The Nest Cafe in Waterside Drive.
Waterways is 8 minutes in the car, and 23 minutes on the bus, from Mordialloc but I’ve only been there a handful of times. Apart from the lovely lake and the super popular restaurant, it is a housing estate with attractive homes but narrow streets. Parking, like everywhere in Kingston is a problem. I visited a friend by bus years ago. She was one of the early residents and for a long time regretted moving from Parkdale to Waterways because she had to rely on her car for work, shopping and medical appointments. Access and exit to the estate, in her opinion, hazardous. I’m hoping the new freeway and extended bypass and intervening years have improved this situation, but I doubt the parking has improved.
C’est la vie, and the story of so much modern development when the demand outpaces delivery and developments go ahead while infrastructure and thoughts on the future, seem an afterthought. However, I’m a water viewing junkie and to me the lake, birdlife, trees, shrubbery and parkland are beautiful, well worth a visit, regardless of the art trail. Location is the selling point for the estate!
Ironically, the last time I visited Waterways was with Lisa in 2019, when pandemic fears were a whisper in some media circles. My breast cancer returned December 21, 2019, but fortunately, after the lumpectomy I bounced back enough to enjoy a delayed Christmas lunch with Lisa at The Nest.
We sat at a table overlooking the water, and could see some of Greg Johns Excavator series, but I paid more attention to the antics of the ducks and moorhens and other birds. This return visit we were taking a closer look at the sculptures, but also seeking new art work and will stroll away from the cafe.
Greg Johns was commissioned in 2002 by the Waterways residential development ‘to create a body of sculptures that responded to the development’s wetland environment.’ He created 5 birdlike creatures, ‘excavators‘, referencing the diverse and plentiful bird-life in the area. He used Corten steel, his signature material because it is a stable, rusted surface that continues to develop as the sculpture ages.
I photographed 3 of the 5 metal ‘birds’ on Waterside Drive in close proximity to The Nest, but snapped some live ones too. The moorhens, ducks and swans friendly and relaxed around people. There have been 105 different species of birds recorded in this area, much valued by Bird Observers Clubs.
We walked to the Westbridge boardwalk further down Waterside Drive to find the Waterways commissioned art work by artist Ken Blum. The 4 carved wooden sculptures reflect the wetlands and history of the local area, acknowledging the Boon Wurrung as the traditional owners of the land.
There are two carvings of birds representing the ancestral spirit of the indigenous custodians and two portait carvings revealing faces of two indigenous people. The portraits are placed as sentries to the wetlands and are primarily carved from cypress logs with chainsaws, axes and chisels.
Large stone platforms sit atop the sculptures to prevent water from rotting the trunk of timber. These 4 sculptures were my favourite – visually striking yet blending into the environment naturally. They belonged but stood out!
They are an important reminder of the Boon Wurrung’s connection to and then violent severance from the land by colonialism. Important in this referndum year when we will be asked to give our indigenous peoples recognition in the Consitution and a stronger voice in government on matters important to them. Recognition of our history and inclusion of the indigenous voice in decision-making crucial if we are to move forward as a nation.
When I saw the first portrait I saw resilience through tears of grief and pain, and Lisa commented on the fracturing of indigenous society. We both had a visceral reaction, which I believe is an important purpose of public art, not just to decorate or please.
Art can be subtle, overt, confrontational and nuanced. Woven naturally into the tapestry of our day to day lives, it helps build a culturally rich, tolerant, diverse and respectful society. Not just of people but the natural environment – from my first visit over a decade ago, it is heartening to see how native flora has thrived at Waterways.
Stories are the secret reservoir of values: change the stories individuals or nations live by and tell themselves, and you change the individuals and nations.
Ben Okri, Nobel Prize for Literature
The two birds I believe are an ibis and an eagle but we couldn’t find a plaque. I have read about Bunjil (Bundjil), the Ancestral Wedge-tailed Eagle, the creator and Waa, the Ancestral Crow (Raven) the protector, they feature in many indigenous stories. They are Moiety Ancestors of the Kulin Nation.
It’s important people seek out information from the Boon Wurrung and there are a range of resources accessible through Google as well of course visiting in person, the Koorie Heritage Trust or the Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum.
The chances of disinformation, propaganda or downright fantasy/lies much more frequent with the changed media landscape. The plethora of social media sites often the ‘go-to’ for information, but not the most reliable. Local libraries are still free and much more trustworthy!
The ambience of Waterways and the boardwalks and paths around the lake made us forget the closeness of the freeway and that at the last census the estate recorded a population of 2,422 because there were so few people about. We had the paths to ourselves.
In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked fish pond… If we don’t give some attention to upkeep, our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant, or blocked…As artists, we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them — to restock the trout pond, so to speak.
The time spent with Lisa exploring some public art in Kingston is a lovely memory day and it has helped me attempt to return to blogging, a pastime I enjoyed because I do love writing and sharing information if I’ve been lucky enough to travel or participate in something special.
However, this first post after a long absence has been a challenge to remember how to format and upload, plus learning and navigating changes and updates to WordPress. Apologies in advance if there is a blooper and well done if you’ve made it this far.
I’ve been writing regularly and posting form poetry and photography on Instagram and Facebook but more often than not it is doggerel or random thoughts needing a lot more work to shape into what I hoped to say but ‘practice makes perfect’ another instruction I remember from childhood and it is lovely to write for pleasure rather than deadlines or to teach.
I wish I had visited Butterfly Renewal & The Monarchs before my last Instagram post because it would have been relevant. I’ll finish with the poem and a wish we all learn to self-nourish and nurture the ability to enjoy replenishing our creativity!
by Mairi Neil
Sweltering heat each breath an effort
yet like a floating scrap of paper
buffeted by the hot north wind
you flit, flutter and dance from flower
to flower. Pirouetting from geraniums
to agapanthus, to lavender and rosemary …
a sip of iced water gives me relief, but
my computer screen demands words,
a deadline squeezing joy from a task
begun with passion – before today’s heat.
Time more your enemy with a lifespan of
a week, or months if you are lucky…
with minimum effort you flit and flutter
quenching your thirst, supping nectar
your drinking straw provided by nature –
oh, little butterfly, do you ever flutter
for pleasure in this topsy turvy world of
global warming and indeterminate seasons?
are you constantly searching to lay your eggs
and propagate – diligently seeking perfection?
Some humans become prisoners of work or greed –
but your timetable imposed by Mother Nature…
your exotic, colourful Monarch cousins travel
2000 miles from Mexico to California to breed
the timeline of their migration a line of dead
as farming, pesticides and global warming
extract a toll that you, fluttering in pale anonymity,
are perhaps yet to feel – I envy your energy
my fingers hover, try to capture thoughts…
it’s still too hot but you brighten my day!