A Summer Storm

Storms are a fairly common occurrence during summer in the mountains. This summer has been notable for series of days of above average temperatures, pressure and temperatures building until a storm breaks.

The weather forecast included a reference to the chance of an afternoon storm. Early on in the day this seemed optimistic at best – bright blue skies with the odd white cloud. But the heat continued to spiral and the air took on the stinging quality of a hot day.

Low rumbles on the horizon provided the briefest of warnings as birds started to screech and scurry off to more protected locations. Then the storm hit with ferocity – heavy rain that beat with gusto upon the roof, the tin reverberating with the intensity of the drops. Faster and louder, still the rain bucketed down. The gutters poured litres into the rainwater tank until it too overflowed with the heavy influx.

A brief reprieve then it was back, a brittle edge to the rain now. Not quite hail but it was a close call. Thunder continued to rumble around in a panoramic fashion. A spike of lightning offered the briefest warning before the whole house shook with the growl of noise.

Then, just as quickly as it started, it stopped. Trees heavy with moist leaves held still until the next gust of wind released some of the rain in a torrent of drops. The sky still grey and glowering, as if undecided as to whether it was quite done yet. The clouds seemed to drift off as quickly as they had gathered.

The noise of the storm was replaced by the screeching of scores of black cockatoos, wheeling across the sky as they headed for a few tall gum trees. I watched as they flew along, shouting as if to scold the sky, before they settled atop several trees. More calling out and chiacking as they fluffed out feathers, momentarily looking like large feathered fruit before taking to the wing again.

What are summer storms like in your part of the world?

[Photo: yellow-tailed black cockatoos perched high in a gum tree after a storm]

An Elongated Pleasure: Springtime in the Mountains

Not long after I moved to the mountains I read an article in a local magazine which mentioned in passing that springtime comes a little later to the mountains. This is particularly true in the upper mountains where it takes longer for the ground to warm up as the days start to stretch and lengthen.

By mid August this year, I could spot the signs of spring in my neighbourhood. Bright bulbs were beginning to appear and there were buds hinting at further delights to follow in many trees and shrubs. The vagaries of warmth, sunlight and soil allow for a staggered display of bulbs and colours. My morning walks have been a continual delight as one side of a street will have a blaze of daffodils for a couple of weeks, and as they fade a mix of daffodils and snowdrops appear on the other side of the road. My scant collection of daffodils gave me much joy before fading, and I still have delicately scented freesias emerging from their thin stalks.

From my kitchen window I can see a cherry tree. One of my annual delights is to watch it change, ever so slowly, from stark branches to branches with a rippling of buds. The buds swell incrementally before erupting in a joyous bloom of bright white petals, tinged with pink. Hanging out clothes nearby one morning I was struck by a thrumming sound – the blossoms were vibrating with bees. I take photos of the blossoms, from the tight buds to the open blooms, to remind me of its beauty long after the leaves have tickled their way down the branches, scattering the blooms on their way.

Azaleas have been beautiful this year, and the rhododendrons have been vibrant masses of colour. I have a couple in my garden, scattered at the edges. It is always a surprise when they erupt, seemingly overnight, with big flowers that demand attention. In the neighbourhood there is one with soft yellow flowers that I love to look at. A couple of my neighbours have magnificent white daisy bushes. When the sun hits the flowers they are almost blinding, wonderful white beacons. People stop to ask for cuttings, keen to strike some of their own.

In winter I planted a few pansies, dotting them in the yard near windows. Their bright happy petals have lifted my spirits during the shortest days of the year, bringing splashes of orange, yellow, purple and magenta into dull days. They are beginning to fade now, just as the jasmine gets ready to blossom.

What spring delights have you enjoyed this year?

[Azalea hedge erupting in blossoms]

 

Mini Mountain Moments

Some observations from my recent wanderings.

  • Spotting a unicycle in the back of a ute.
  • Stray beanies left on the steps of a shopfront. A sign that spring is on its way?
  • Smiles. Lots of smiles.
  • Standing quietly and feeling a tangle of languages and moments and experiences wrap around me. ‘When I was in Spain …’ ‘Have you seen …?’
  • The click-clack of luggage being hauled along by tourists across the paved footpaths.
  • Hissing buses taking tourists around the sites, their faces smudged against the glass.
  • Backpackers carrying what seems like their own body weight on their back, foreheads covered with bright scarves.
  • Phones and cameras wielded with enthusiasm at the many look outs and beauty spots, as well as along the main streets in the villages.
  • Long term locals identifiable by their easy walking gait up the steep stretches of Katoomba Street.
  • The elasticity of time. People completely relaxed, with all the available time in the foreseeable future, or in a rush, trying to jam as many experiences as possible into a tight timeframe as if on a manic kind of quest.
  • Changeable weather. The high clouds sometimes dart across the sun providing shade before moving on and a blinding light follows.
  • A feeling of acceptance that is difficult to define. An attitude that whoever you are, that’s okay.
  • Sighting a recorder (the musical woodwind instrument, that is) lying in a display of bright spring blooms. I thought later that I should have taken a photo for #MyISpy but when I went past the next day it was gone as someone else must have spotted the musical potential.
  • An assortment of tantalising aromas from the wide range of restaurants and cafes.
  • Murals tucked into the many alleyways, just waiting to be discovered.

What have you spotted, heard, smelt or felt in your neighbourhood lately?

[Photo: Butterfly Walk, Katoomba]

A Late Winter Walk

Whilst this winter hasn’t been particularly harsh, it seems as though it is finally beginning to relinquish its hold. This is no guarantee that remnants of winter won’t linger on for months, or make surprise appearances such as snow in October, but there is definitely more than a hint of spring in the mountain air.

The incremental lengthening of sunlight, day by day, helps winter to recede. There has been a run of days with more sunlight than rain, and plants are responding by sending out shoots, forming buds and generally bracing themselves for spring. The high temperatures during the day are reaching double digits. Frosts are still in occurrence but they are less frequent and their intensity is diminished.

A late afternoon walk around my neighbourhood further fuelled my suspicions. Daffodils are out, their bright yellow heads nodding politely in the breeze. Camellias are still blooming, their graceful branches weighted down by white, pink and magenta flowers. I brushed past a hedge bristling with daphne blooms, a sensory delight. Lavender plants are sending up spikes, a portent of perfume to follow. The fruit trees are budding, new growth sprouting along the branches. There are flower beds with pansies and violas and calendulas, and daisy bushes are starting to open their bright faces to the sun. Early bristles of hebe plants provide a soft flush of colour against foliage. There are bright flares of wattle in flower, always heartening to see. Rhododendron trees are studded with tightly budded flowers, ready to unfurl. Some early starters are out already, delicate petals with splashes of colour.

But once the sun dips below the horizon the cold creeps back in.  Wood smoke curls its way into the air, fragrant and comforting. There are still stacks of wood alongside most houses, ready for the variable weather ahead. Galahs and cockatoos swoop and pirouette in the air above, probably keen for the spring growth to provide some variety after winter pickings. Kookaburras gather in the tall trees and laugh as the day fades away.

Are the seasons beginning to change in your neighbourhood?

[Photo: wattle in bloom]

Blogging – what, why and where?

I was recently asked to put some words together in response to this question for a post on the Writers in the Mist blog. This blog is hosted and managed by the fabulous staff at the Blue Mountains City Library, and includes pieces contributed by my local writing group.

One of my fellow writers, Therese Doherty, also responded to the call and you can find her interesting and thoughtful response here. Therese’s blog – Offerings from the Wellspring – can be found here. The byline for this great blog is ‘creativity and connection in a living world’ and her posts are beautifully written, considered and encourage deeper reflection.

The Blue Mountains City Library also has a blog for readers – Readers in the Mist. There are book reviews, articles, news and entertaining infographics like the one in this post.

So below is my response to why I blog, and the original post can be found here.

Why did I start a blog?

Earlier this year I gave some serious thought about what mattered most to me and creativity was high on the list. I thought starting a blog would offer a creative outlet as well as creating discipline with regular posting – it would help me to write more. Which it does!

Why did I choose the theme I did?

I thought about what I liked in other blogs and what I wanted to blog about. It came down to wanting to share aspects of mountain life as well as writing about writing. So the Monday posts are about musings from the mountains, and the writing related posts appear on Thursdays.

How often do I blog?

Twice a week. This did feel a bit ambitious at first but I have found a rhythm and actively seek new material and experiences to blog about, which fuels my creativity, which creates more blog material! Before I started I made a list of possible blog topics and I keep adding to this as the ideas roll in. I keep the blogs short – usually around 400 words – which also keeps it manageable.

Why did I choose this blog site?

My blog is on WordPress.com. I set up a blog for serial fiction there a few years back and found the site easy to use. It works well across devices which is handy as I travel a bit for work and write a lot on my tablet and phone.

What is it like to get feedback on posts?

It’s really encouraging. I have received some great feedback and it is interesting to take a step back and review what generates a higher response. One of my best posts was a writing book review (Still Life with Teapot) and anything that includes a reference to writing morning pages usually gets some feedback. I am still learning but putting in lots of tags definitely helps. I also enjoy reading and following other blogs, and provide feedback too as I know it makes my day to know that someone has taken the time to read my blog.

Tips for new bloggers?

Content matters most. Blogs are a great way to get your voice and your interests across. Some will get a better response than others, and it is important to read what others are writing too. I have come across some really great blog posts and found inspiration and learned a lot from more experienced bloggers. I now feel more engaged as an active writer in a virtual community.

If you are thinking about blogging, I’d encourage you to give it a go. There are many benefits to creating, writing and putting your work out there, and to be an active part in a writing community whether it’s local or online or a happy mix of the two.

Why do you blog?

[Photo: dog in a bathtub reading The Land for some inexplicable reason atop the newsagency at Gunning, NSW]