Saturday, 26 April 2014

Illuminating the darkness when all other lights go out

My love of lighthouses goes a long way back.
Some of you might remember my post early this year about our trip down the peninsula, here.
Since I spied Cape Schanck Lighthouse in the far distance, I’ve often mentioned a special day trip to see it.
A month ago, hubby came home and surprised me with the news that he’d booked a night’s stay... at the lighthouse!

Well, we’re back from our unique and exciting visit.
This will be a self indulgent, lighthouse image heavy post. Some photos are a little grainy, as they were taken at dusk and dawn, and other times, the wind buffeted my attempts to keep my little camera as still as possible in my hands.

Hubby had the week following Easter off, and we were booked in for mid-week.
I’d been biding my time oh so patiently until, finally, the day arrived.
I was as giddy as a schoolgirl at a Bay City Rollers concert (circa 1975) – now, that dates me, doesn’t it?

Totally assured that Jack was in good hands – our son and his lovely girlfriend. And, after a very long, furry cuddle, we set off, leaving them with a list of care/food instructions and emergency phone numbers.

As the weather at Easter was overcast, I was a little worried that the grey would stay. But, as we drove further down the coast, the clouds cleared, and turned into a very pretty day.

Gotta love a road trip :)

Two hours later, my heart leapt and my stomach flipped, when I beheld the red-capped beacon as we drove onto the property.
There it stood.  Cape Schanck Lighthouse.

One of the oldest (still) active, and best maintained, lighthouses in Australia.

We would be staying in the cosy Inspector’s Room,

adjoining the old Head Keeper’s Cottage.

The grounds were bustling with visitors. Even a classic Jaguar club arrived in the afternoon, each owner vying to place their car in the best photographic position in front of the lighthouse.

Finding it hard to contain our excitement, we dropped our bags off at the cottage and made our way up to the star of the show -
the lighthouse.


 And, out to the viewing platform nearby, to marvel at the deep blue rocky view.

A tour of the ex-Assistant Keeper's Cottage, now museum, was included in the cost of accommodation.

We spent a good hour among old lighthouse machinery and equipment, viewing photographs and reading the history of the light station, its keepers and their families over the years.

By 4pm each day, visitors must leave. After that, only guests staying at the cottages remain, and the fenced property is then locked.
Should there be the need to go out for a drive or dinner after that time, a key to the securely padlocked gate is provided.

Apart from one other couple who were staying in the cottage behind the museum at the other end of the grounds, we had the place to ourselves!
Private. Isolated. Peaceful.
Just us, the ocean and the lighthouse.
Give me that over a noisy, busy, populated resort any day.

We explored the vast area and enjoyed the views from different vantage points until late into the afternoon.

Biding our time until sunset, we crossed our fingers that clouds wouldn’t obscure the sun, and hoped that we would be rewarded with a fiery spectacle.

Choosing to save our pennies for a hearty fireside breakfast at our favourite little café in Flinders the next morning,

Flinders Bakehouse Cafe

we decided to have an early dinner of instant cup of soup/noodles and a slice of bread.

Sitting at the little table outside our cottage, we ate in silence and listened to the sea in the near distance.  Calling.

Suitably rugged up, we stood in anticipation on the platform as time drew near.

The sun slowly dipped over the horizon, painting the lower sky in flame coloured hues, as a purple tinted dusk drew near.

We stayed for a while, exclaiming at the ever-changing glow.

Then, we took a long walk on a dirt track, past tangled trees,

to get a different perspective of the lighthouse.
Watching in awe, as the remnants of the day greeted the coming night.

In that very special liminal time and space.

With its light guiding our way in the darkness, we walked back to the lighthouse.

We stood, peering out over a now charcoal coast, lost in our own thoughts.
The handsome white-washed silent sentinel keeping us company.  Its tall thick walls ghostly pale in the torchlight.

Sending out reassuringly bright beams out into the inky blackness - just as it has for over 150 years - while the waves crashed ominously and relentlessly over the rugged rocks below. 

Finally, we said goodnight to our watcher of the dark, and retired to our old cottage.

After our busy day, sleep came quickly.
In the middle of the night, I awoke and adjusted my eyes to the ebony gloom of a strange room.
The wind had picked up and was playing a mournful tune around the windows, as it pulled at the old net curtains with unseen hands.
Deliciously eerie.

We got up before the light of dawn.
With our hands wrapped around mugs of hot tea, we glimpsed bush creatures snuffling in the shadows just beyond the cottage porch light.

Greeting the lighthouse, we welcomed the new day – blustery, drizzly and misty.

In the growing silver-grey light, we decided to follow the dirt track and head further onwards to the 350 metre long wooden staircase and boardwalk.

We’re nothing if not intrepid.  Standing at the top of the damp and slippery stairs, we debated as to whether we'd descend.
We did.
The biting wind clawed at our hair and threatened to rip away any apparel that wasn’t well secured.

But, there’s something that makes one feel, ALIVE, in such situations.
Every one of our senses was tingling.
And, just for a moment, it felt as though we were the only people left on earth. At that hour, in this strange, remote location.
Just we two, the elements and the distant lighthouse keeping vigil.

Looking back up the boardwalk, there it stood. The powerful lantern still shining in the dim, early morn light.

At the very end of the boardwalk is a tiny bay, or pebbled beach, with a most haunting atmosphere.

The dark basalt (volcanic) rock which makes up most of the rugged coastline around the cape, adds to the mysterious vibe.

Standing at the very tip of the cape, in the near distance, you can see the aptly named Pulpit Rock, which sits upon a large tidal platform known as The Devil’s Desk.

This coastal monolith is a photographer’s dream, and has been the subject of many stunning photographs in all light, and at all times of the day.
Best reached at low tide – which, at the time we were there, it was not.

Over millions of years, rocks have been pounded and tumbled by unrelenting waves to create a mass of smooth dark stones of varying shapes and sizes.
The sound of the pebbles rolling around as the water surges backwards is indescribable, and almost unnerving.

I have attempted a very short video of the beach here, and at 32 seconds in - after the second wave - you can almost hear the stones tumbling in the surf, just above the wind.

Rogue waves are known to sweep in suddenly and, threaten to sweep unwary spectators into the rolling surf.
This wild, unpredictable and treacherous stretch of coastline has seen many wrecked ships before the lighthouse was built in 1859.

Although, it is of course, far more hospitable to the marine residents that dwell within it's depths.
Seals, fairy penguins, whales, gulls, albatross, myriad fish, crustaceans, squid and octopus - to name just a very few.

We carefully made our way back up the long boardwalk and up the track to our now familiar limestone sentinel.

Its light dimming as the leaden clouds slowly gave way to a soft blue, and the promise of another cool, yet sunny day.

A few more lasting moments gazing across Bass Strait, and out to the Southern Ocean, as the wind began to die down, and the tide ebbed further away from shore.

Finding it very hard to tear myself away from the handsome landmark, I sadly made my way back to pack up and tidy the cottage room.

One more race up to the lighthouse.
Patting the cool, white exterior and stretching my eyes upwards, I whispered,

Driving home, the briny scent of the sea lingered in my nostrils and the kiss of salty ocean spray mingled with tears on my cheeks.

We will return.

He will always be here.  Standing at this place of history, mystery and magic.
Where stories are told. And, some un-told.

Just one more...

Monday, 21 April 2014


One too many hot cross buns, an indulgent amount of chocolate eggs and an oh, so delicious Lindt bunny, I now feel like this lovely lady.

And, I enjoyed every mouthful.

'nuff said   ;)

Monday, 14 April 2014

Misty Moments

Just a short post as I continue to prepare for the big Easter market this weekend.

A late night finishing up glazing for today's firing, has my brain as foggy as the photos I took on a recent evening walk.
The condensation was so very thick, that the heavy moisture played havoc with the camera.

But, the atmosphere was deliciously eerie.

The wheel is turning, and the nights are cool. An extra blanket goes on the bed.
Soon, the whole mountain will be painted in golden-russet hues.

Autumn is here.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Leviathan Love ~ Part 2

Just as the sea and the song of the whale called to me recently, so has the yearning to get back to sculpting. To have my hands forming in 3D again.
And, it somehow felt right that the gentle, giant denizens of the deep be my first subjects.

A few weeks ago, I briefly sketched a simple guide to refer to.

Then my journey began.

The first whale came to life in my hands pretty quickly. Then, one after the other was born.

 whale without a tail

Once completed, they were tucked under a blanket of plastic to ensure slow, even drying. The flippers are very fragile at this “green” stage and required careful handling as the sculpts dried.
The plastic was removed in the last few days before going into the kiln.

 a curious onlooker

Once bisque fired, my pod await glazing, belly up safely in a sea of foam and padding.

Last weekend, whilst the glaze kiln was cooling down, hubby and I visited a salvage yard. It was like they used to be - before rustic, or rather “vintage”, became trendy and ridiculously expensive.
This wonderfully cobwebbed, dusty Aladdin's cave was filled with old furniture and (once familiar every day) bric-a-brac, that propelled me back to my childhood.
And, out back had odd assortments of gems that might mean nothing to one, but would appeal greatly to another.  One man's junk, as they say.
I came out with a few short lengths of old wood and some rusted objects that were once part of an industrial or mechanical workshop.

As much as I can, I would like to incorporate the element of found objects, along with salvaged/reclaimed wood, with my sculpts.
And I’m always on the lookout for old/vintage books about the sea, birds, animals and related poetry, to include in my work if and when it seems fitting.

May objects and words inspire me to create a story around them.

Having painted animal portraits years ago, I was very tempted to spend more time than I should in creating realistic pieces.
Trying to keep them simple and stylised, rather than real, and knowing when to say “done”, was the trick for me.
And, to remind myself that there is a certain price point that people are willing to spend at a market – even if it is an art & craft market.

My "stylised" whales were created with that in mind.

Here are two that I’ve mounted and finished. The others are still waiting patiently.

I used glazes, or rather, underglazes, with a chalk/matte finish, and chose not to overglaze with a gloss finish.

I really like the tiny rainbow that fell across the base here – an echo of my past, living on the “Rainbow Coast” of W.A.
It also highlights the "Head of the Bight" Whale Sanctuary :)

And so, I hope to be able to juggle my requirements to keep my usual market wares in stock, while finding time to sculpt.
As winter approaches, and markets become scarce, it will hopefully be a good opportunity to do just that.
Perhaps, it would be nice also, to approach a few galleries to see if they’d be interested.
But, I know it’s a tough and competitive art world, and I’m wary of high hopes and ambitions in these uncertain economic times.
So, I hope I’m not getting my ambition mixed up with my aptitude :)

There are times I feel very daunted and doubtful in my ability. But, that I have to overcome.
My artistic ventures were never supported when I was growing up, being told that I was "never good enough". And after all these years, doubt still gnaws at the edges of my sometimes fragile art-ego.

But, to sculpt. To feed my creative soul. It has been good - very good to do so. And I’m cautiously pleased with myself, and my muse.
For now.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Leviathan Love ~ Part 1

Our recent trip down to the peninsula reminded me how much I miss the sea.

For over sixteen years, we lived on the southernmost tip of Western Australia.
1986 - scanned from my archives... a cardboard box :)

A wild and gloriously rugged coastline, with an uninterrupted horizon of cobalt and indigo blue that stretched out as far as the eye could see. Next stop would be Antarctica.

We were just minutes from a pristine and (well, back then) very private beach known only to the locals and but a few visitors. Where the sand was so fine and quartz white, it squeaked as you walked.
A little bay of blue, bordered by boulders on both sides. A tiny secret harbour where the light danced and shimmered in the aqua-green shallows.

 2000 - having the beach to ourselves, and loving it!

Looking out over the gloriously vast, cold waters of the Southern Ocean, I would think about the myriad creatures swimming within that deep blue.
Sharks - often gorgeous Great Whites, at salmon run time – dolphins, orcas, seals, penguins, turtles, stingrays, beautiful array of fish and minute sea life, and of course… whales.

Since Albany's bloody history of whaling ended in 1978, whale numbers have grown, and they now breed and feed safely in the sheltered and protected waters off the coast, migrating between the warm northern waters and the cooler seas surrounding Antarctica. Where sadly, for too long and for so many, it became their last journey.

I have long been a supporter of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. And, consider Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, a hero.
He is no pencil pushing head of an organisation behind a desk.
This huge hearted vigilante, and pirate for the seas, has perilously placed himself between whales and harpoon ships for over 30 years.
I consider myself very fortunate to have met Paul in Fremantle years ago, when I donated food supplies for their Antarctic campaign, Operation Migaloo.
He and his brave, tireless, dedicated crews defend not only the great leviathans of the seas, but all that dwell within the depths.
It is they, the creatures of the sea, who are his clients.

On April 1st 2014, the world woke to the news about the ban on whaling in the Southern Ocean. Making the “research whaling program”, which has killed thousands of whales in the spurious name of "science", illegal.
A momentous and hard won victory for Paul, his incredible conservation society and their many supporters.
Whilst wildlife organisations and governments were calling for an end to whaling, it was the Sea Shepherd who laid their lives on the line, every season, to ensure as very few whales as possible were slaughtered, and that the whalers “quota” not be met.

They fight at the front line. True soldiers for the sea.

Sea Shepherd’s public campaigns influenced the Australian government to act, which brought about the International Court of Justice final decision.
It is Sea Shepherd that I take my hat off to. And will continue to support, as they keep a keen eye on the Southern Ocean next season to ensure Japan abides by the decision.
Should they return however, the ships bearing the familiar black eco-pirate flag will be on their heels.
Now to stop whaling in the north.

One day soon, may whaling be relegated to the history books for all time.
Also, an end to the cruel slaughter of the dolphins in Taiji, senseless shark finning and culling, remove baited drumlines and longline fishing, the worldwide closure of oceanariums/sea worlds - the list of cruelty is almost endless and overwhelming.
But, time, determination and the passion of organisations like Sea Shepherd and millions of supporters will help win out in the end.
It can be done.

*I'll post Part 2 on Friday.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Dog Days: April

If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.
~ Woodrow Wilson