Precious Painting; Precious Times

youngjune2b
Me as Young Artist – by Edward Broomhall

I was delighted to receive this photograph of attending an art class in my childhood from my art teacher at that time.

Thanks Edward!

I remember this experience and this jumper so well.

It was one of my favourite jumpers, due to the multicoloured randomness of the pattern, and the soft feel of the wool.

I remember painting a self portrait to capture how special it  was and will never forget that painting day.

I think that will be a poem one day for sure.

**

I have written my early childhood up to when I was twenty and am letting that percolate for a while before deciding where to definitely finish the story of growing up or whether to continue into student hood for my first book.

Work progresses on Magic Fish Dreaming!  It is now with the designer and prepress, and in a few weeks will be at the printers.  Wow.  Right now I am madly planning launches and ‘selling the book’ events and have a huge number of places to call and some maybe to email.

I have completed half of my mentorship for the Australian Society of Authors picture book emerging writers mentorship with Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright.  It has been fantastic working with my mentor.  Here we are at a meeting before the Leigh Hobbs’ Visual Literacy lecture at the state library.

DSC_0091colourmentor.jpg

I’ve learnt the value of having my manuscripts sit for a couple of weeks or more between each draft, and day dreaming, walking and thinking of solutions to the challenges in a meditative and relaxed state. It will be enlightening to reflect on this process and look back at how much my storytelling has improved.

Just a couple of months ago I met John Marsden at the Rainforest Writing Retreat.  It was enlightening to attend and experience his participatory class.  This was packed with lots of drama exercises, writing exercises, and memorable stories which imaginatively communicated his knowledge and expertise in not only writing but education as well.

 

Attending this workshop and retreat made me feel so much closer to the writing community and that I can and will contribute to World Literature.

Another highlight of the writing retreat was taking a long adventurous walk to a waterfall with Robyn and Jillanne (both pictured below) and spending time with Writelinkers there as well.  I came across some Magic Fish Dreaming and blog fans which was amazing.

writingbuddies.jpg

Jillanne and I have become closer friends after spending time together at the Writing retreat.  She is one of many writing sisters who I am happy to know.  Jillanne, Robyn and I did some critiquing of each other’s work, perched in front of an open fire.  Truly unforgettable times.

I loved this retreat so much.

Well, that will be all for a while, have so much work to do, to make sure Magic Fish Dreaming is out before Christmas.

The only other news is that I am so super proud of the students I tutored last semester who achieved brilliantly in their creative writing units at QUT.  Maybe one day I’ll be attending their book launches.

All the best everyone,

June

juneandjillanne.jpg

Sugars and Stars

teapot

Could Aunty really fit as many sugars in her tea as stars in the sky? We began our counting.

**

The scene is  a visit of Papua New Guinean ladies who are mum’s friends.  She sure liked her sugar.

This could be an opening line, or a memorable line somewhere in the middle.  The scene originally featured in a play I wrote based on memories of growing up PNG in Tasmania.

Yours Truly, The Girl with the Flower in Her Hair

Excerpts from notes for my Memoirs (c) June Perkins

Ash Forest Recounts

Ashforest1

I was working on a story about Ash Forest for my memoirs or a storybook and came across this document in my archives.

I was seven when I wrote this and attending a small school of ten students at an alternative school run by friends of my parents.  We spent a lot of time writing, doing art, and travelling all over Tasmania for our excursions.  We went on many excursions, and one truly memorable one was Ash Forest.  We always wrote about them on our return.

Funny the things I chose to remember in this recount and the things I didn’t expand.  Who was the artist I saw?

Why mention her or him and not say anything in detail?

There are gumboots, food, people, possums, blue beetles, and the things children do when exploring and building in a forest.

And what of the planned poem that was never written.  Did I write it on a lost piece of paper?

It might make my parents a little sad to read this because my passed away brother is enjoying this game in the forest with us.  But this might have been a happy memory for him too so perhaps it will also make them smile.

In those days I was always called Junie, not June, and my brother William, was Billy.

I am glad to have so many journals and old essays to mine for ideas. This is an interesting way to get in touch with the inner child.  Have you tried it?

(c) June Perkins

Ashforest2

Reminder Notes and the Beads of Time.

PIC09512.JPG
Sophie’s Beads – These are my friend’s Beads .. they are very precious to her. This image makes me think of her, proud Kalkadoon woman.

Forever making notes; writing down lists of things to do, remembering the phrase ‘the inbox is never empty.’ So much to learn; so much to do; so much to remember. What to do but begin?

Today I think of the first time I did a self portrait. I was in an art studio with my classmates and must have been eight or nine. I stood in front of a mirror with my multicoloured jumper that might have come from my grandmother. She was a grandmother I didn’t know very well.

She was later to surprise me, and she and grandfather, gave me a red typewriter.

The multicolour jumper became my focus. I wasn’t so interested in my face, and my curly hair but I did paint them. I wanted to remember that jumper.

Lately I’ve been studying writing. How to experiment with an idea and achieve something more. My writing exercises tell me to take this memory and work with it.

(I) DRAFT#1

She beads her memory.

Faceless girl, guided by her paint brush, avoids the mirror that might make her glimpse into her own eyes,and remember she has no grandmothers to visit as they live in far away lands.

Her paint brush takes her to the rainbow and the luxury of having so many colours at her disposal, and an easel.

The strands of time beckon each bead.

The faceless girl is just one bead on a necklace, the others are her paint brush, and the paints, and the goal of self portrait.

Later she will learn of the yellow facepaint of the mekeo, and see an image of her mother’s village. She will add another bead to the strands of time.

Later she will write letters to the faceless girl and tell her to see more of the nature around her, to remember the wild rivers, and the environmental Priest who runs peace group at college, and the friend with dark curly hair who will drown in the river.

….

I will keep working with this idea. It all began with a discussion with Edith (see previous article on mindfulness in writing), about how she spins stories, and how I thought I would bead them.

I like this idea very much. It will be rolling around in my head all week! …. Now to leave my blog and do some more association exercises – another short story is being born.  I think it’s time to remember all I can about beading, and do some research.

Do you ever find images that hook you into thinking of ways forward with your stories?

(c) June Perkins

Sandra’s Rainbows

‘Erriba’, Matthew Lawson, Flickr Creative Commons

My first memory is of puppet shows my brother and I would put together behind Sandra’s couch in Devonport, Tasmania. Our family and hers would watch as we unfolded our story. They were for Baha’i children classes.

The next I have is of perching on a small orange car and racing down the extremely steep slope of the driveway of her home. We weren’t supposed to do this, but we did until the parents caught us. My brothers sometimes thought Sandra was too strict, she wasn’t afraid to be like a second Mum when they were naughty, but I liked her for that.

When I first knew her she was a dance teacher, and single mother. At her home was a studio she taught from. I remember when I was little that she always wore beautiful perfume that you could catch the scent of whenever she was near you. She glided along like a dance teacher and often wore vibrant scarves around her head.

She was one of the first Baha’is my family ever knew. She was my first religious education teacher.

She gave us books every year which were for Baha’i holy days or our birthdays. We shared them and read them all. They were often full of important lessons about how to live life, but we liked them because they were so well illustrated and had hard covers.

Sometimes my nearest in age brother and I went to stay with her to give my parents a break, especially when they had a new baby in the house. Our parents trusted her. At those times she played ABBA for us and cooked us fish. I remember having a blue dory at her house and can still taste it even now. We spent a lot of time with her children on those visits.

Her son liked to play violin. Her daughter danced in shows of her mother’s dance school. Her children taught us to play card games like gin rummy. Her daughter when she was older worked at a riding school. She took me there for a treat and I was able to ride a horse for the first time. I thought it was the best day of my life in the whole world, as I was into reading stories like Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty at the time.

We always asked her children, who were a little older than us, to give us dizzy wizzys, where they wizzed us around and around until we felt like throwing up. They were our show rides.

I remember her moving into the mountains to a house in Erriba with a killer tourist brochure view. She had a restaurant there, and my Mum and I went and waitressed there one Christmas to help her out. It was so busy! We slept in the house overnight rather than travelling back to our home. It was a beautiful home made of wood that had a strong and pleasant smell.

I wrote a few poems at Sandra’s Erriba home. The mountain, where that house existed, was often covered in rainbows.

Many years later I saw her again in North Queensland. She was on holidays visiting one of her daughters, who had married an African man and had three children now. We had a long chat about where life had taken us all. My children and her grandchildren were playing and chatting.

At that time she was working at a Baha’i School in Africa, and training teachers in virtues. She was smiling. She had given up most of what she owned and to live a frugal life, but I could tell she was very happy and dedicated to her work.

Just recently I heard her daughter has cancer via facebook. I realise that I need to ask my Mum, who she was always a good friend too if she has heard about this. Perhaps just now Sandra might need a good friend.

 

What Sandra wrote to me after reading this via email.

Dearest June,

I am deeply touched by the story of your memories of me! It is surprising what we remember and forget… the things you remember about me… colourful scarves…perfume… I have no recollection of this.

I remember going to your place in East Devonport to take children’s classes and I remember being so thrilled when you read your first book, “Blessed is the Spot” when you were about 4 or 5. I remember wondering if the first words that a child learns to read are Holy Words, does that have an effect on the child’s developing intelligence?

And then when you were demonstrating a love of language and beauty, I wondered was this a result of early connection with the Word of God. I remember loving you children very much and always being happy when you came for a visit. I remember having picnics at the Devonport Bluff with your family and calling your youngest brother Baby Paul and watching how accurate he was at kicking a football even at the age of two.

I remember going to visit you in that house on West Tamar Road, several times. And I remember when you and your mum came to help in the restaurant in Erriba. Your mum lent me a soda syphon.

That house in Erriba has had several owners since then, The present owners are Ron and Maggie Burns (former entertainers). They have set up a “Appin Hall Children’s Foundation” (check out their web-site) and converted the place into a respite centre for sick children and their carers.
I live next door (about 800 metres away.)

I commend you on this project to record your memories. Perhaps more things will come to you as you write.

Do keep in touch!
Lots of love
Sandra

 

Inspired by the Who Shaped Me project for ABC Open this month’s Pearlz Dreaming blog theme will be about the people who inspire me and there are lots of them!

Today I Remember 2#

forlinkedin2

Where were you born?
I am often asked that.
What country please?

And if I say Papua New Guinea
the next question is Where?

And I have the village name ready,
‘Maipa Vilage’
and a story about the yellow face paint of the bush mekeo
but no real picture of where it is?
See I left there when I was two.

Sometimes people then want to insist
but you want to go back
don’t you
to understand who you really are
and the next question
is why haven’t you done it yet?

So I try to explain my Papua New Guinea is
my mother’s Papua New Guinea
in snatches of motu
and village language
never deciphered.

My Papua New Guinea walks
around dressed in my mother’s life
which is itself dressed
in experiences of a new land.

She is sometimes Papua New Guinea
missionary raised girl
and other times she is changing
to world citizen lady
whose heart can travel the
mountains and make hibiscus grow in
a cold frozen land.

My Papua New Guinea is married to Australia
and she is in my bones
although she has her origins in England.

I am Tasmanian raised.
If you ask me about that place
then I can answer you.

I can tell of you wallabies
at Cradle Mountain
and a crow stealing my sandwiches
and a cold plastic mattress
slept on with a too thin sleeping bag.

And collecting crabs
with mum and my tall pale skinned Dad
with glasses perched on the end of his nose
and the cracking of the skin
after we boil them.

And meeting English grandparents
visiting from New Zealand for the first time
awkward and strange
and they want to be called by their first names
but we don’t and can’t do that
as my mum would find that disrespectful.

And the times my mum gave me gifts
whenever she was mad at me
or wanted to apologise
she always seemed to avoid words
like ‘sorry.’

Or the times Papua New Guinea saved us
because she was in my mum as she chased away burglers
with a bush knife
and we toasted waffles in
a waffle iron over an open fire place
to celebrate our small victory over oppression.

But my Tasmania is also filled
with memories of people
calling me names
because of colour
and living with a grumbling stomach
because the food has run out
and being told ‘you have to do better to be treated the same.’

My Tasmania is a place where my Mum is lonely
striving to make friends and going back to school
and every time she goes forward
she is tested
and tries to be strong.

She rings Papua New Guinea when I am little
speaking three languages
all in one sentence
punctuated by homesickness tears.

And sometimes I am mean to her
and wish I could take that back
and throw those memories into
the wide river and they
would skip across
and disappear into the ash forest.

But then there is the day she sends
me grass skirts
and I know all is forgiven.

This gift does not mean anger.
This gift means acceptance.

In me Papua New Guinea and Australia
dance.

(c) June Perkins

Walking the past in the present

nestedhands2e

Time is a culturally bound construct. We may, based on what culture we are born into, think we move chronologically, but in many cultures we carry the memory and ancestors with us in stories, songs and myths and a belief in the presence of spirits.

The past walks with present and the present with the future.

We can use our memory, past, wisdom to assist the present if only we pay attention to it.

In writing of lands I have lived and traveled through in an organic and intuitive process I find connections that make a spiral, even a circle, rather than a straight line.

Whilst we physically can’t change the past our understanding of it can dramatically change based on the patterns we find there.

I like the idea of spirals more than circles because in a spiral you can progress even as you seem to circle back to where you once were, but you are still moving forward.

**

My Papua New Guinea is not a physical memory of a landscape or extended family members, but is carried in the life and story of my mother and precious photographs from an anthropologist.

It is walking beside my brother in a grass skirt with a shell necklace; it is in the culture dance groups my mother starts for her nearby grandchildren and other Pacific friends.  They combine forces as there are not many from any of their cultures living in Tasmania.

I think of my mother listening to the songs of Papua New Guinea, of the Maipa Fakai, and Maipa Angapu, whilst learning the new songs of Tasmania.  I wonder if she has PNG soul bones or Tasmanian ones now and would she only discover how she truly felt if she left Tasmania to live in another space.

**

What is it to be Tasmanian raised? What is it to have her soul bones? I am proud that my generation is the one that saved her wild rivers and saw her become more than the apple isle.

She has come to embrace herself as a tourist destination and yet still struggles with the highest unemployment in the country and is still making peace with her Indigenous inhabitants.

She is a place of beauty, but which many young people leave for opportunity, but which others feel they can never leave.  She reminds me of the Cassowary Coast.  She reminds me of the struggles of people on the Sunshine and Gold Coast, who are also trying to stop development that affects the natural beauty of their areas.

Why can’t we have opportunity and soulful nature’s beauty in one package – is it at all possible to have the package together?

(c) June Perkins, word and images, Extracts from a much longer work in progress

Fruits of Memory

DSC_0481
June Perkins – Fruit Picking

Hand after hand reaches into a pot of strawberries
it’s impossible to resist
and soon they are all gone
but their taste lingers on and on
forever,
and I can’t even remember what else we learnt at that youth weekend
except that community is sharing the fruits
of labour.

Foraging brothers find blackberries, peaches,
banana passionfruit, sometimes I am with them
sometimes I am not following
because they have a way of crossing into
yards we are not supposed to
their hungry stomachs make it
hard to resist.

Returning after many years to my childhood home
I make trips to tourist fruit pick
with my children – who have been growing up
on mangos and paw paws
now for a brief time
they are in a place where raspberries, blackberries
and strawberries like to grow.

(c) June Perkins

Now I am exploring more about landscapes of fruit, and fields…. I was often hungry as a child and sometimes my memories revolve around experiencing food

Life’s Landscapes 2 #Neighbourhoods

DSC_0474
Blackberry – June Perkins

Aunty Glad is in the land of blackberries. They hide on the hills around her. My brothers gather them for her.  They like to forage and pretend we don’t live on a busy highway.  When they give her the blackberries, which they sell to her, she makes them into pie and gives it to us.

Aunty Glad is not my blood line Aunty. She is the grandmother stand in for my mother who misses her mountains, and the pigs she cares for. She is my spirit line Aunty, adopted by my mother, who often thinks of her own  distant tiny mother, who is in some ways like the tiny glad.

Aunty Glad is part of a couple with Uncle Bill,  and their land is a house at the bottom of steep hill. We are the neigbours with stand in grandchildren they will never have. Their son has just divorced and is childless. He will die young from cancer, not that long after they have.

Before that Aunty Glad is my lesson in caring for the Elderly.  She moves away from the land of blackberries, to live with her son.  I visit her new house to look after her when her son is away, all by myself.  She gives me raisin toast.  I clean out her bird cage.  When she is sleeping I play by myself, pretending to be Joan of Arc.  I go outside for a moment and walk on a thin brick wall. 

I wish I had asked Aunty Glad where she was from, where she grew up, if she had lived in the country or the city. I don’t know what other family traces are left.  But she is a part of the landscape of my childhood.  She is part of the trail blazed by fields of fruit…

(c) June Perkins

My first memories are of people without their landscapes, but as I think more deeply I recall something from the environment.   Aunty Glad is forever the lady of the blackberries.  Initially I find my Tasmanian memories of landscape vague, but as I focus more deeply I see the beach scapes, park scapes and neighbourhoods.  I begin to remember the Cataract Gorge, the Basin, the Ash Forest – and that environment comes alive. 

 

 

Life’s Landscapes 1 #Tasmania a beginning

botanical girl3
Textures of Memory – June Perkins

If I show you the landscapes of my life what will we find but places connected with spiritual twine that surface in memory and beckon me to hike through them once more. There will be town and country with layers of invisibility and the seen. And each landscape, like, dreams has its own symbolism, history and texture.

Beach scapes of Tasmania in my memory are free of people and  are bountiful places to go foraging for crabs.  They are spaces close family friends took the whole family to heal after my brother was damaged in an accident.   They are places with sand dunes to hide in.

In these spaces I am with a friend’s younger sister cycling to a fishing spot.  We don’t have rods, just simple hand lines, and we catch more fish than I have ever caught before or since.

Park scapes of Tasmania are filled with old statues of historical figures, small trains you can pay for a ride on, and swans. They are grand and huge in comparison to our backyard, but when I visit them now they are like shrinkies of the great outdoors my spirit now embraces.

city park figure2
City Park – Launceston

Moving forward in time I find the sandstone streets of Hobart, the markets and the sound of the bells.  In this space I am moving away from family, becoming a young adult who hikes Eagle Hawk Neck with other students (most of them overseas ones) who stay in the college over the summer.

I am catching the bus from Hobart to Launceston, regularly, but not as regularly as others as I work on the weekends as a kitchen hand to pay my way through university.  On those bus trips I am staring at the landscapes rolling past. Rolling hills, groves of trees, hay bales – sometimes it’s dry and sometimes green.

My friend Paulien, from Holland,  tells me it reminds her of Europe.  Her family are in the landscape of my memory too.  They take me on holiday, caravaning.  We spend time with other families who do this regularly.  We go for a nature walk.  Paulien remains my friend today.

We reconnect in the new landscapes of Far North Queensland as she meets my family for the first time.  I take her to the beach for a BBQ with her travel companion.  In a new beach scape we share stories and she encourages me to keep on with my creative dreams.

She sees the landscape as so different from her own, and is fascinated.  We travel to waterfalls, and past the cane as well. It is precious time where the past and present merge.

**

I decided that to keep myself sane whilst editing older works and learning the ins and outs of ebook technology I would do a regular free write of a memory on this blog.  Then this becomes a resource for future works.  I want to capture memories as they happen without worrying too much about structural concerns.  This will keep my love of writing alive.

They are more like meditations to find meaning and connection.  When I write of spaces I am trying to show you without telling you how to feel, and yet each of these places has a feeling for me, based on the people and experiences I had there.

These free writes, first drafts # help me to breathe as I go through that process of refining other pieces and allow me to capture insights into life.  I can see this one becoming a much longer piece and will continue on with the idea of life landscapes until it runs out of steam.  The other thing I want to do a lot more of is READ!

What are your life landscapes?

(c) June Perkins