A busy week, and updates still to come on the bits that are writerly, but in the meantime, here is a glimpse under the sea. Look for the octopus in the first few seconds.
Yesterday I posted about an amazing dolphin encounter. Today the water was a little choppier, and I knew it was unlikely I would see such action again, as the dolphins are harder to spot on choppy days. And I was right, I did not see a single dolphin this morning. But what I did see took my breath away. I had heard of a lone seal visiting my beach, or a little south of it, but had never been lucky enough to spot it.
Today was my lucky day! Just before my turnaround point, the seal was there, fishing, very very close to shore. You can see it throwing its fish around. And, about 3 minutes 40 in, you can see its reaction when a dog barks.
What a way to start day 3 of lockdown. Yet again I’m counting my blessings that my one hour of exercise is at my local beach.
Greetings from lockdown. In Western Australia we are on day 2 of a five day snap Covid 19 lockdown.
I am lucky enough to have the best beach in the world (imho) at the end of my street and, with one hour of exercise outside the home allowed each day, you might guess where I would exercise. And, this morning, I was extra lucky to have an amazing dolphin encounter while I walked. A pod of dolphins just a few metres off shore, flipping and splashing and even some leaps. There was at least one baby dolphin (calf) in the group, and I suspect some teaching was happening. Amazing!
Back home, I shared some snippets on my personal Facebook and Instagram accounts, but later, I decided to splice them together into one video. Here then, if you need some beach peace – or some dolphin excitement – is what I saw:
I’m still smiling when I think of my morning. Wherever you are in the world, and especially if you, too, are in lockdown, I hope this dolphin magic makes you smile, too.
2020: the year of time simultaneously racing by and standing still. It is hard to believe it is late August already, and yet so much has happened this year, and looking back to February (when 2020 was just starting to look interesting) seems an age ago.
So what have I been doing since I last posted? Quite a lot – my day job (I teach future teachers at university) has been busier than ever this year, mainly because of the impact of the pandemic on my students’ studies. I’ve also been working on what I hope might be a new verse novel, and I was lucky enough to actually visit a real school last week. Thanks to the staff and students of Yanchep Beach Primary School for welcoming me so warmly.
Although it hasn’t been the ideal time to launch a new book – no booklaunch or other physical events during a pandemic – Worse Things has been read and shared and talked about lots online, which is really pleasing. Some highlights:
- Tamara at Tamara Reads admitting she sobbed uncontrollably while reading it.
- Writing WA calling me master of the verse novel genre in their review.
- Being interviewed by my wonderful friend and writing colleague Teena at In Their Own Write
- And chatting my other wonderful friend Rebecca at Alphabet Soup
I have also been delighted by the people who have told me they’ve read and enjoyed it, and lots of posts on Instagram and other social media by readers spreading the word. Thank you!
Lastly, in between all this busyness, I have been walking lots. I am fortunate to live in Western Australia where, although we must remain cautious about Covid 19, our current situation means I can move around the state. My daily walks, mostly to my much-loved beach, are a form of meditation for me. If you are on Instagram, you can see the glimpses I share, hoping to spread the beauty to those who can’t wander far from home. In the meantime, here’s a glimpse of a wintry beach.
Thanks for dropping by.
It’s Poetry Friday, and I’ve been thinking about stairs. Why? Because I seem to keep stopping at the bottom of them of late. My recent treks have seen me pondering (and climbing) these stairs
on Rottnest Island, a place less known for its stairs than for its gorgeous beaches and, of course, quokkas. But the stairs form part of its military history and thus I climbed them as part of a tour.
Closer to home, I often climb these stairs
when I leave my beach – and often pause to snap them, even though I know it isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last. They are my favourite stairs because of their location, but I must confess to preferring going down than going up.
I also, recently, came across these stairs on my morning walk closer near the Swan River in Perth. From the bottom I called them rainbow stairs, but wondered whether someone had just spilled paint down them.
From the top, however, I could see some deliberateness, including the yellow heart at the bottom.
Lastly, at my dayjob I work on the fourth floor, and must confess that I take the lift far too often, but this week have challenged myself to climb the stairs at least once per day. It’s hard work, but I’m hoping it will get easier. Maybe when I love the stairs more there will be a photo, but for now, you’ll just have to take my word.
So, with all these stairs featuring in my thoughts, it seemed logical to attempt a poem about them. Here it is.
Beckoning me up
Calling me down
Depending on mood
I do like stairs
When I’m halfway up
I wish I’d stayed down
Or just taken the lift.
(Poem copyright Sally Murphy, 2020)
It’s Friday, which means it’s Poetry Friday and, once this post is written, I will have managed to post every week this year! Of course I do realise it’s only week 3, but still a good sign that I’m going to do better this year).
First up, thanks to everyone who visited last week, when I hosted the weekly round up, and for all the lovely comments and messages of support for Australia. Like many Australians, I am blown away by the generosity coming from around the world – not just in the form of donations, but also messages of solidarity and hope as well as so many statements urging leaders to wake up and take more drastic action to prevent climate change and start saving our planet.
Onto the poetry. This week I set the goal to write something – anything – every day, preferably before heading out the door to my dayjob. And I managed to write something everyday. More pleasing, most of it was poetry, including progress on a verse novel I started before Christmas. Early days, but it’s just lovely to be creating.
On Monday, on my early morning walk, I spotted some words carved into the footpath – obviously done while the concrete was still wet. I snapped a photo and walked home pondering what would lead to someone carving those words there. More often you see initials, or paw prints or – and I love spotting these – the prints of leaves that have fallen onto the setting concrete. I was so taken by these words that I didn’t even notice some spelling quirks (which is most unlike this teacher!).
So, when I sat down after breakfast to write, it didn’t surprise me that my thoughts went back to that footpath. I wanted to explore not the meaning of the words, but the intention of the scribe. Here’s what I came up with:
The poem reads:
Chance to make my mark.
Don’t have one.
Asking for trouble.
Something to make people wonder?
Grab a stick
(Copyright Sally Murphy, 2020)
It was only later that I remembered I had written on a similar topic before and went searching for those poems, first drafted on a visit to Rottnest Island (off the WA coast and home to the world-famous quokkas). I was there on a retreat with SCBWI pals, and on a sketch and scribble we stopped under this tree, which, from memory, may have been a young Moreton Bay Fig. I was drawn to the many names carved into the trunk and initially a bit cross that people would do this to a tree. That’s where this poem came from:
The poem reads:
The Name Tree
You are a thing of beauty
stretching grey-brown limbs skywards.
A testament to your will
against stiff sea-breezes
and salty spray.
But I don’t get why your trunk
must be scarred
by careless humans
wanting to leave a sign
that they were once here:
Ron + Therese
Hadly, Tony and
all were here.
But now they’re not
and all that’s left of them
is their marks
scratched into your bark.
(Poem copyright Sally Murphy)
After I’d written that I had a little longer to sit and think. At the time I was working on a collection of poetry with paired poems, each pair looking at the same topic from differing perspectives. So I started to wonder what the other perspective was here. And I started to think about why we have this urge to leave our mark. Tony’s name was the most prominent, and I started to think of him as a small boy wanting to make a big mark, in the hope those who read it would imagine him as perhaps bigger, more accomplished than he saw himself. This was the result:
The poem reads:
The Tony Tree
from nowhere special
that anyone will remember me
for anything in particular.
if I carve my name
in this trunk
then in years to come
someone will read it
and know I was here.
They will wonder
who Tony was
and where he was from
and what he was good at
the me I could have been.
(Poem copyright Sally Murphy)
On another walk on Rottnest, this time alone, I came across some rocks on the shore where, again, people had been carving their names. I sat on one of these rocks and just breathed in the amazing view, but I couldn’t help but again wonder about the need to leave a mark. I had no urge, but my younger self probably would have, and I wondered what could justify needing to carve like that. What would someone crave that would really speak to future visitors? This is what I wrote:
The poem reads:
Why carve your name
on a rock
on an isolated beach,
leaving nature scarred for all days?
stopping to view the scene,
Tammy woz here
or that Max
found a stick
just right to gouge his name?
Will they want
to know who Lizzy was
and, if they do,
will they ever
learn the truth?
I have the urge to carve
and so I do,
leaving my words for all to see:
Contemplate, while you can.
(Poem copyright Sally Murphy)
I imagined some philosopher, wanting people to use those rocks to seize a few moments for quiet contemplation, but can also see now that that ‘while you can’ could also be a bit of a warning – ie contemplate this natural beauty while it’s still here. And it’s only while I write this post that I wonder if my imagined philosopher was also the person who, years later, left those words in the path for me to see?
So I am poeming once more – with new poems and reconnecting with older ones. – and this is good. Just in time, too, because this week I am having an ‘In Conversation’ with my amazing poet friend Rebecca Newman at Paperbird Bookshop in Fremantle. If you are nearby, drop by to hear us chat all things children’s poetry (or as much as we can fit into one session!). It’s a free event, to celebrate the end of Rebecca’s residency at Paperbird. You can book here. And, if you are across the country or across the world, I’ll share some highlights next Poetry Friday.
Phew. What a long post. I’m sure you are itching to see what other poetry goodness has popped up around the blogosphere today. the roundup is over at Reading to the Core, thanks to Catherine who is hosting this week.