aboard the M/V sonofagun, Darwin, Australia, life

Some pics (but no birds)

Sadgroves Creek

Sadgroves Creek

Sadgroves Creek

crocodile trap...occupied this morning

Last night the mesh door of the trap was up; the following morning the mesh door had dropped…i.e. someone was inside the trap. We scooted over to have a look, but it was a very small crocodile, impossible to see or photograph in the dark centre of the trap. I didn’t even try…I’ve taken pictures of bigger crocodiles swimming, out in the open, around our boat, so this little lizard wasn’t exactly front page news.

Sadgroves Creek

Although I can hear them everywhere, I don’t have the thousand-dollar lens that will help me get a photograph of a bird hidden in the mangroves from the distance of my boat…so until I’ve worked up the nerve to push my little dinghy into the tangled mangrove roots and sit quietly until I find some birds (or maybe some big reptile finds me, first?) I don’t think I’ll have any bird shots for you…

Sonofagun in Sadgroves Creek

Last, a recent photo of ol’ Sonofagun in her new neighborhood…

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weve moved!

Okay, so it’s not quite the huge job that moving a house on land would be, but still, this is a big change for us! From being moored right in front of the yacht club that we use as our “landbase”—with mangroves on one side, the wide open Darwin Harbour and a flat horizon in the distance on the other side—the F/V Sonofagun was towed almost to the top of Sadgroves Creek last Wednesday. We’re now one-and-a-half kilometres away from the yacht club, and the trip ashore is five times what it used to be!

Despite the huge distance I now have to go to get to work (and the nasty new outboard motor that I have had to learn how to use, because rowing ashore would take over an hour) I am loving it here. The spot is deep among the mangroves of a National Park. Sheltered from the Southerly winds and choppy water of the Top End’s “Dry Season”, I’ll be able to work in peace and quiet all through this windy time of year. The mangroves here are denser, deeper—hemming us in on both sides, and no horizon line to rest one’s gaze upon—and there are so many more birds moving through the foliage…not just the usual sea eagles, kites, terns, gulls, pelicans or cockatoos, but little passerines, small and brilliant blue kingfishers, rainbow lorikeets by the hundreds, frog mouths and maybe even night jars. There’s much more activity in the water, too…fish (and lord-knows-what-else) constantly splashing, gurgling and boiling the surface of the green, glass-smooth waters of the creek. We are also just two boats away from the floating crocodile trap that sits at the intersection of the Sadgroves’ headwaters, so I guess we’ll be seeing many more of those big lizards, now, too. Hoo boy.

The nights are darker, and we can no longer see the lights of the city—the stacked Lego towers of illuminated units or the blazing halogen lamps from the industrial wharves—nor hear the constant rumble of bulldozers and forklifts. Almost no traffic on the water where we are, as most yacht people live along the bend where the creek opens up into Francis Bay (you can see the dense lines of white boats in the satellite image)…the only dinghies that go past us are Captain Seaweed’s (he’s at the very top of the creek, and spitting distance from the croc trap) and a few weekend fishermen. It’s like we’ve moved to a sleepy little town in the mountains, after the hustle and bustle of living in Francis Bay, where a fishing ramp unloads speedboats all day, most days of the week, and the big fishing trawlers, work boats, and tugboats come and go, creating huge bow waves in their wake that used to send us rolling like a barrel.

I’ll try and get some pictures to do the place justice! I really hope to capture what it’s like to live up a quiet, green, serpentine creek…surrounded by crocodiles and miles of tangled mangroves.

aboard the M/V sonofagun, Darwin, Australia, life

We’ve moved house! (boat)

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blogging, life, Online Shops

I’m 6! I’m 6! I’m 6 years old today!

Six years ago, completely clueless and feeling like a total dumbass, I started this blog.

Thank you for being here, for holding my hand, for commenting, and for giving me frequent thumbs-up signs to boost my confidence. I no longer feel like I am talking to myself, or into the void. The Smallest Forest has become a relaxed and welcoming place for me express myself and share things from my life with others. Do you remember the post where I marveled that I had somehow attracted 1,500 followers? In a fraction of the time that it took to reach those early readers, TSF now has 10,000+ followers. My word.

Almost as though they were sending The Smallest Forest a birthday present, Society6 has just offered us all $5 off each item plus FREE SHIPPING. Offer lasts until April 13,  2014, at midnight, Pacific Time.

Please click the button below to avail of the promotion.

April 2014 S6 promo

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aboard the M/V sonofagun, books + poetry, Inspirations, life

dragonfly

giant dragonfly

The dragonfly at rest on the doorbell—
too weak to ring and glad of it,
but well mannered and cautious,
thinking it best to observe us quietly
before flying in, and who knows if he will find
the way out? Cautious of traps, this one.
A winged cross, plain, the body straight
as a thermometer, the old glass kind
that could kill us with mercury if our teeth
did not respect its brittle body. Slim as an eel
but a solitary glider, a pilot without bombs
or weapons, and wings clear and small as a wish
to see over our heads, to see the whole picture.
And when our gaze grazes over it and moves on,
the dragonfly changes its clothes,
sheds its old skin, shriveled like laundry,
and steps forth, polished black, with two
circles buttoned like epaulettes taking the last space
at the edge of its eyes.

The Vanity of The Dragonfly, by Nancy Willard

Update: Yes, it’s real, I found it half-drowned in a rainwater collecting drum the night before. I took it out and set it in a pot plant for the night, but by morning it was dead. It was easy to find and identify, simply by Googling “large dragonfly”. It is a member of the dragonfly family Aeshnidae, called ‘Darners’ in English. This one is Epiaeschna heros, called a Swamp Darner in English. It occurs, as a native taxon, in multiple nations. In many places in the U.S. it is classified as vulnerable, in some states it is ‘imperiled’ or ‘critically imperiled’.

What I find most intriguing about this particular dragonfly is that it has the markings and colouring found on Darners in North America. The Australian Swamp Darner, Austroaeschna parvistigma, is black and dull-coloured. I understand that this family of dragonflies is migratory, though it is hard to believe that my nighttime visitor came from quite that far away!

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Kakadu wildflowers

I got very little in the way of creative work done this past weekend. I took my bicycle to town for serious repairs. From there I walked to the optometrist to get my eyesight checked (and she confirmed that my perfect vision is, alas, a thing of the past) SO I then got fitted for my very first pair of glasses…the cheapest frames they had, and still the bill came to 350 smackeroos…which stung, I tell you…OUCH!!!). On another day there were trips—on foot—to post offices, to the bank, and an all-day lunch with a friend…

Tomorrow, it’s off on foot again to pick up my bike, and another visit to the bank…don’t forget that I must take the tides into account, and this week the lowest tides are smack in the middle of the day, so if I want to be ashore anytime before 3 p.m., I have to leave the boat at 11:30 a.m., and find ways to kill all that time. *sigh* Where did my weekend go?

BUT! Look what I found in my flickr sets! Never-before-seen photos of a trip Kris and I took to Kakadu in late July, some years ago. Can’t believe I never posted about the trip, or shared these. Some gorgeous wild country out there…and lots of small wildflowers, as I discovered once I started looking for them.

a prehistoric home overlooking the wetlands

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Kakadu wildflowers

Kakadu wildflowers

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Darwin, Australia, Inspirations, photography, travel

Snapshots of the Northern Territory

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aboard the M/V sonofagun, Darwin, Australia, life

Happiness is an unmade bed

dude in red egyptian cotton 2

On my days off, our pussycat, Dude, crawls into bed as soon as Kris gets up…4:30 a.m. on work days. Dude likes to sleep on Kris’ pillow (like many single pets, he thinks he’s human) beside me. When I get up a little later I don’t have the heart to disturb the warm ball of golden fluff lying so still and contented in our bed, and so let him be. The virtues of a neatly made bed are overrated, and I would much rather enjoy the sight of a small lion with its head on a pillow, dreaming a small lion’s untroubled dreams.

As February gives way to March, and time rills on irrevocably, I have been taking more photographs, doing more sketches, and spending more pampering time with Dude, in general. I am making the most of what time is left before we have to say goodbye to this sweet-tempered and gentle cat…the best cat we’ve ever had.

Kris and I have got a big 5-year trip looming…by sailboat to South Africa, and then to South America…that we’ve been planning and preparing for, for years. We’re nearly ready and when we go in 9 months’ time, we won’t be able to take Dude with us (the good news is that a lovely older lady has already asked to take him, so he’ll go straight to a loving home) For one thing, the boat’s not cat-safe…we would probably lose him during an ocean passage; secondly, if he does survive all of South Africa, the Amazon, the Caribbean, and return with us, Australia’s draconian quarantine laws wouldn’t allow him back into the country.

The trip, of course, will mean leaving so much more than Dude behind. But I am focusing and steeling myself for this little one, I think, as practice for the bigger partings to come. If such a tearing apart can be practiced.

2014 is shaping up to look like The Year of Letting Go. It’s a hard lesson, and doesn’t ever seem to get easier with each loss or loosening.

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life, music + film

songs for mom

In the months before her death, my mother gave us kids the task of tracking down a long list of her favorite songs…songs that reminded her, I suppose, of special times and people in her life.

These are some of the songs she asked me to get…my brothers have other lists. Sa Ugoy Ng Duyan (In the rocking of the cradle) by Lucio San Pedro/Levy Celerio, is the one, she said, that would remind her of me…a lullaby she sang to me, and that I sang back to her when I was a older. The music was played at my parents’ house yesterday, where friends gathered to hold a party around my mother’s urn. One of my friends shared this about her visit to the house:

“16 years hence, i once again find myself up in the quiet, wooded villages of Antipolo , amongst the company of old friends from the art circle, most of whom have chosen to live reclusive lives away from the big city. We were gathered in a private “wake” of the mother of another good friend. It was a wake like no other : the banter light, the atmosphere warm and tender, and talk was eclectic : of diving, art, of wine and food, and of the Antipolo of old. It was an evening which left no moment for sadness, just for loads of laughter and the ocassional teary eye. It was as if Tita Lina was still amongst us, puttering around in her kitchen and serving bottles of wine, Except that now, her cremains were in an urn in the foyer. But even in death, trust her to bring us, friends who rarely see each other, together in a magic circle honoring her memory.”

Awesome. That’s exactly as she would have wanted it, because death is a merciful and wonderful thing worth celebrating, and what miserable creatures we’d be without it.

“We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.” -Jorge Luis Borges

Thanks to everyone who took the time to drop me a line, yesterday. I am fine. I am actually quite light-hearted and relieved that Mom finally passed away.

As some of my friends may know, I have been praying for death to come and take her away from the misery that living had become…blind, unable to walk, her body filling with waste liquids, what little peace she had shattered by painful and long dialysis sessions, sitting alone in the eternal murky twilight of that bedroom both day & night…an existence without meaning or anything to look forward to, it was like she had been buried alive.

True, I was desperate to see her one last time before she died, but when that plan fell through and she passed away, the urgent need to visit the Philippines evaporated with her. I was only going over there to see if she wanted help in dying sooner, which I would have helped her with.

So, there’s really no reason to be sad…we are alive, let’s carry on with living, cram our days full of the people and activities we love, be audacious with our life situation, knowing that when we’re tired and our bodies have failed, death will come to lay a blanket over all that, and make it all better.

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Mom

oh antic God
return to me
my mother in her thirties
leaned across the front porch
the huge pillow of her breasts
pressing against the rail
summoning me in for bed.

I can barely recall her song
the scent of her hands
though her wild hair scratches my dreams
at night.   return to me, oh Lord of then
and now, my mother’s calling,
her young voice humming my name.
—from oh antic god by Lucille Clifton

 

Rizalina Arzadon Quintos Uhing
27 December 1947 – 9 February 2014

life

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