I've been interested in the possibilities of crowd sourcing since I came across Louise Hawson at
After the success of her project in search of suburban beauty around Sydney, she financed an overseas trip to photograph 52 suburbs around the world by crowd-sourcing. I don't have what it takes to seek public funding for anything, but I do have what it takes to friend-source ideas. For that, all you need is a kind of laziness, a desperate need for ideas and a collection of friends with their fingers on many pulses.
My first venture was prompted by a comment from my brother-in-law when I was wondering what to do with my Broken Hill house. Renting it from 1100 kilometres away began to give me nightmares and the real estate agent didn't want to deal with it because it was too humble. I sent out an email to my network of wise ones, laying out my dilemma and asking for suggestions. This email provided me with an offer from a Broken Hill friend to paint it, or manage it, a variety of financial wisdoms, and a contact number for a potential buyer. So I sold my beloved little corrugated cottage and slept soundly again.
When I was laid up in Warsaw with an immobile leg on the fourth floor of a lift-free apartment in winter, I needed entertainment. So I asked for musical suggestions. My reliable network responded instantly, and I became acquainted with the Tallis Scholars, Joseph Tawadros and Anouar Brahem, and reacquainted with Joni Mitchell and a number of classical pieces that had slipped off my aural radar. The magic of iTunes meant I could download to my legless heart's content.
My latest invocation of friend-sourcing was the other day. I woke up startled into a sitting position in the middle of the night: I'd suddenly realised that I needed presents to take overseas for 5W women who have offered to show me around Vienna and Budapest. Once upon a time I was an imaginative gift-giver, but that skill has disappeared with any semblance of youth. So once again I hit the send button on a group email. By the end of the day I was well-stocked with suggestions, business names, websites and the offer of a companion-shopper. I was shamed most by a friend currently in Laos, recently in Taiwan, who reminded me of a shop 9 km from my village. Yesterday, I made my first gift-purchase there, a locally made dyed silk scarf which weighs nothing and takes up no space, two crucial characteristics.
Yesterday I walked around Mullimburra Point with a fellow blogger. For six months I’ve enjoyed her country, as she reveals it in her wonderful blog,
Her country is so close to mine, only a few beaches up the coast, but so different in geology, beach shape, beach-wrack, grass, trees (Eucalyptus tereticornis, instead of Corymbia maculata), bird life and hinterland. Even the kangaroos behave differently. One large fellow stood on our track, narrowed to a sliver by low shrubbery and grass, and was very reluctant to make way for two intrusive pedestrians. Gulaga loomed across the sea further down the coast, and banksia roots wove intricate patterns on the path, chipped to a rusty orange where the mower had passed over them.
Thank you, Christine. I’ve lived in the vicinity for forty years, and never walked these tracks. Thanks too for lunch, waterlilies, lotus, conversation – and a lesson in frugal packing.
This is certainly the season for fungi. One of my preoccupations this morning was the aesthetics of habitat. Leaf litter, grass, pebbles, sticks and moss created a delicately-coloured background for the tiny yellow, pale orange, creamy-brown and tan colonies underfoot along the Brunderee track, and for the scalloped vessels just above the lake.
I often hear a program on Radio National that piques my interest, but I'm tardy and I never get around to participating by tweet or email or voice. Luckily, I'm a blogger, so I can cogitate at my leisure, and in this case use the theme of parks to trawl through memories going back to my childhood. Here are five parks that mark different stages in my life.
The park near Spacerowa, Warsaw
On my second visit to my Warsaw grandtwins, they are 7 months old and it's summer. Most afternoons I wheel them along past the Dolna flower stalls and into the park near the Spacerowa bus stop. There, paths wind through dense shade, lifted up by massive tree roots. In the lake a fountain shoots into the air. I head for our willow tree, spread the rug and haul the infants onto the ground. During my two month stay, they use their park time to crawl, sit and finally stand. They eye off dogs and birds and passers by and sometimes chase after them. They eat twigs and grass and puffed rice and squished bananas. They watch the wind in the grass and roll around on top of each other like puppies. Once I put Janek on the swing while Maja sleeps: I haven't yet learnt how to juggle them both. I'm in babcia heaven: I have them all to myself for a few hours, watching in adoration. Then it's time to buckle them into the stroller and head home, singing nonsense songs to them as they become grumpy and doze off. For a brief time each day I justify my existence as a grandmother in Warsaw, in the park near Spacerowa.
Umberumberka Dam, Broken Hill
Once upon a time when I was fifty, I lived in Broken Hill. When I felt the need to be near water, I packed a picnic and exam papers that had to be marked and headed out beyond Silverton to Umbumberka Dam. Suddenly I'm past little hills and looking out over a vast expanse of desert, with the road snaking between red dirt and low scrub. Just before the bitumen ends, the turn off to the dam winds up a hill, and I'm back in the land of water, sparkling blue and wet under a thick blue sky. I grab the thermos and my bag, pour a coffee, settle on a stone seat at a stone table and begin work, feeding my eyes on water between papers. In pouring rain, the creek runs vigorously and water plunges down the nearby gorge. I never see this, because the road from Broken Hill becomes impassable.
Apex Park, Berry
In Berry just north of Nowra, there's a fenced park with a rotunda. It was there we pulled out of bumpertobumper traffic one Easter weekend when my forty-year-old daughter was still bottle-fed. It was there we unloaded the ebullience of four children in a vain attempt to eradicate yippees for the rest of the journey to visit Sydney grandparents. It was there we stopped on the journey back from a Sydney hysterectomy and I sat with a lapful of pain and letters, resting and relishing the concern of friends. It was there I tasted my first artichoke heart in a picnic prepared by my bottle-fed baby when she came south for a rare visit many years later. Visiting from Warsaw last Christmas, my grandtwins picnicked there, sitting back to back, and eating from hands curled around their supply of puffed corn.
Granny Smith Park, Ryde
I'm twenty-eight and a new parent. I put my daughter in the red and white striped stroller and set off down the Bridge Rd hill to a piece of empty grass called Granny Smith Park. It's not like nowadays parks: no swings or slippery-dips, no little cubby-houses, no merrygorounds, no flying fox, just a sweep of tussocky grass down to a depression which becomes a swamp, even a creek, in heavy rain. This mothering thing is new to me. I'm used to spending my days in classrooms, not angsting over how to treat a three month old. But here we are, out in the sun, halfway between where I live now and where I grew up, in a park name after a relative who grew a new kind of apple.
Lane Cove National Park
One of the highlights of my year as a child was the Sunday School picnic at the Lane Cove river. I can still feel a tiny bit of the excited anticipation that filled the weeks leading up to the Day, and the anxious watching of weather in the few days before. I can see again the grassy slopes we rolled down, the food canopy pitched amongst the rocks, the long flat where we raced in sacks, carrying eggs on spoons, and in the tumble and confusion of the three-legged race. The swings and whirly platform were tame by today's standards, battered and worn, no primary colours, but no worrying about public safety either. Children devoured watermelon and lurid cordials and white bread sandwiches with devon or egg fillings. Romances began and flourished and ended. Mrs Sulc knitted whole jumpers – in Czechoslovakian, my mother said, intrigued by the speed of her fingers. In the afternoon there was the excitement of rowing up the river in hired rowboats.
When I was older, I rode my pushbike down for a day's boating with my brother and his mate, my eventual husband. Our courtship picnics took place there too: it was close enough to my work place at Macquarie University for a snatched lunch and lounge. Then – and this was forty years ago, when the river was clean – we'd take our daughter down to swim, and we picnicked there with our Sydney children and their grandparents. Much later, when I was revisiting childhood places in 2000, I hiked through the sandstone bush along the river from De Burgh's bridge. Once a rackety wooden construction high above the gorge which made my stomach drop, it was now a six lane swoop, the river flowing invisibly far below.
Photos, except the twins, were all purloined from the Internet.
Tides were wrong for beach walking today, and the 6 am sky was luminous, so I headed along the path behind the dunes onto the headland. I needed to stretch my legs, particularly my left knee, after a weekend bum-shifting under sail.
The creek at the south end of Jemisons was brimming, although not open, and it harvested the pink sunrise clouds. The headland path, churned up by car wheels, was green and puddly. Looking down over lake and ocean to Gulaga, two tracks gave me the kind of option that always leaves me wondering “what if …?” I didn't really hesitate and agonise, but when I came across a clump of fresh white mushrooms, as big as breakfast plates, I thought idly “Aha! If … , then …”. And the next faint thought was, of course, “But what would I have stumbled across if I'd chosen the other option?”
Pelicans, shags and egrets congregated where the meeting of sea and lake offered a feast. The lake encroached on land, disappearing the place where I used to sit and read. Each path I chose offered up mushrooms. The creek below Borang gleamed in the sun. Two kangaroos observed my approach and then splashed into the bush through deep puddles by the track, leaving a trail of bubbles. My walk ended with a prone and otherwise pristine white mushroom.
The place between sea and land is a place rich with treasures. Some of the treasures are large or gleaming, some a miscellaneous tangle, some show life extinguished, others are subtle and barely visible.
Since the rain, the tideline has extended up the creek, and the marks it leaves are different there – grass roots hanging over a sand collapse, a series of horizontal lines preserved as the level in the creek drops, a kangaroo footprint captured mid-leap, sculptured sand reminiscent of the formations at Lake Mungo, wave movements fixed in the sand under tea-coloured water, a panoply of exposed rocks, and close to the sea, a golden gleaming rush of water returning to ocean.
Today we have solid sunshine for the first time in a week, after rain ranging from intermittent to downpour. Mushrooms love this combination of wet, then warm. On the grassy patch near the creek where there are usually a number of kangaroos lounging, I found two colonies. Their round orangey-brown or creamy-brown heads rose above the thick fresh grass, still damp from an overnight shower. They reminded me of my last walk in Warsaw last September, my last encounter with mushrooms. But then many things remind me of Warsaw: now that I'm getting closer to my return, my two worlds begin to palimpsest each other.