My autumn/fall reflections

It’s perfect autumnal/fall weather at the moment as the southern hemisphere slides towards winter (never as scary a proposition weather wise as it is in the northern hemisphere).

pelican on a pole

When I spotted a pelican perched on top of this sign on one of my daily walks, I had to take a photo. It looked so blissfully comfortable. They are the most extraordinary looking birds, all pouched beak and heavy rounded body with a disproportionately small head and intense eyes. It turned its head to give me a withering stare, but fortunately chose not to fly away.

We are blessed that our city is interwoven with a network of paths for walking and biking and right now it is a pleasure to walk at any time of the day.

At school (in the northern hemisphere) students are loving the warmer weather and relaxed atmosphere as they enjoy being back at school full time. They are right into pulling funny faces and the delights of hula hooping. The top class take turns with a school ipad and are now learning how to produce statements on their photos!


Acrostic affirmation…!

Yesterday I spent my usual zoom lesson chatting with my Class 1 students (I am in the ipad!) and listening to their acrostic poems. I was pleasantly surprised to find they have a very positive approach to their acrostic self naming as you will discover in the example below…!

Early riser
Never give up

Here is another equation poem in a picture. If you have a better ‘equation’ caption, please let me know!

Finally, my kindergarten friend with the blue glasses and so many quotable quotes, has learned my name and calls me Celia frequently (even though I only see him once or twice a week after school).

One afternoon last week, he decided to get up on top of the low perimeter cement block wall that frames the playground, while other children played on the equipment and several older students were timing each other, doing laps around the outside. In the midst of all the noise and chaotic activity he was concentrated and immersed in his own world, carefully placing one small foot in front of the other. As he turned another corner he looked over at me and stated, “Look at me, Celia, I don’t even have to use my aeroplane arms to do this!”

I think part of the joy I felt was the realisation that much of what we tell our students as teachers, does go in and really sticks!

Remember not to put your legs in a ‘w’

Coming back from a toilet run today, a little girl slipped her hand in mine and announced, “My teacher told me not to put my legs in a double u (w).” I was caught slightly off guard.

I need not have worried, she chattered on and the meaning became clear. “It’s bad for young hips,” she declared, “they are still growing and they haven’t formed properly, so it might hurt them.”

“Oh, of course, that’s right. Your teacher is very smart to tell you that.”

“Yes, she is. She’s the cleverest and best teacher in the whole world.”

Absolutely. Unequivocal praise. I think only a child can say that and mean every word.

As it’s April and everyone is talking about poetry, I decided I would choose poetry for my next writing unit in our weekly zoom lessons. I am not sure if there are any poets who write in the Khasi language, but I am finding that poetry can be quite universal even in your second language. Classes this week are going to write an acrostic poem using the letters of their name (abbreviated name only, as some of them have inordinately long names like Naphibanrisuk or Wanriehtngen). I am looking forward to next week!

Today I was looking through some papers and found some past examples of short poems from students. I helped them out with a bit of line editing, but I was impressed with some of the results.


I like fruit
Apples the most
Let’s plant a tree
Fruit keeps us
Fruit is
Tasty and sweet.

I love vegetables
fried by mum
So many kinds
We need them all
Every day.

Heavy laden trucks
So very, very big
Carrying heavy loads
I love big trucks
So much.

I like to swim
On hot days
In the river
With my friends
Water makes me clean.

Doodle cats formed from the numbers 1 to 9

Thank you with a riot of colour..!

Day 31 – what colour is gratitude? It’s definitely every shade and hue you can think of!

I’ve loved every moment of this month and the writing, even the (sometimes) struggle to think of the right words to convey thoughts, emotions or a situation. This is my fifth (I think) year of slicing, three times from India and this is the second time from Australia. Being in a different time zone from most, means I usually publish my slice just before bed, when everyone else is still doing their morning routines.

I am continually thankful for the opportunity to slice and appreciate the writing of others, to comment on as many as possible and to relish the depth and diversity of topics on any given day. It was also great fun to take part in one of the zoom catch ups and put voices to a few faces and writing that I’ve become familiar with! I hope we can do some more of those.

When in doubt I add some photos of our little school in India as I am so thankful for all the students and teachers there who bring me such joy (along with a few headaches!)

The joy of learning
Phonics with bottle tops
Loving on Ruby
His first year of writing class – working on his brainstorming of ideas

We are just finishing up our explanatory writing topic. Some of the topics chosen include: how to wash dishes, how to wash your clothes, how to paint a picture, how to play chasey, how to clean the school grounds and how to cook rice.

Our new students really know how to do their actions now
We have a different student photographer every day, some of them have captured some excellent shots
No words needed
They love to do art and I love to teach them
One of my teachers sent me this great shot
Hula hoops always a favourite
Equation poetry

I saved the one above till last because Margaret talked about the success of using a photo and equation poetry in her class a few days back. I sent the idea over to India and they came up with this!

SOL22 – A heartfelt thank you to all the wonderful organisers at Two Writing Teachers, it’s been another amazing challenge!


Day 30 – today’s colours, the greenish tinge of water and black plumage with a slash of red…

feathered grace

I have been wanting to write a slice about swans all month, but I needed some decent photos. Today I spotted a pair in a large pond just inland from the river (which of course is called the Swan River). Council workers were mowing the grass with loud noisy machinery. The swans moved into the centre of the pond. I hoped fervently they wouldn’t fly away.

On my way back, they were still there. The workers had finished and were standing by their machines. I walked down around the pond and the swans… just looked back at me. I was enchanted. I am not a fan of fairy tales but The Ugly Duckling was always my favourite. There is just something so graceful and solemn about these gorgeous birds and the way they move on water. I used to enjoy watching white swans growing up in England, but black swans are a step up in the elegance stakes.

That’s a duck behind them!
Don’t you just love their red beaks?!

Close up, I was able to see for the first time, that they are not totally black like a crow, but all these subtle shades of brown, sienna, umber and cream. Their feather patterns are exquisite.

There is very little difference between the male and female
Just noticed the reflection of the curved neck on the left
From a distance they appear much darker

The photos took quite a while to take because swans tend to preen their plumage a lot or plunge their heads underwater in their search for food. These ones were continually nibbling on the green algae below the surface around the edge of the pond. Without the full curve of those supremely elegant necks, they are not quite so photogenic.

Black swans are native to Australia and in particular to Western Australia (where I live currently). They have a river named after them and are the state national bird and also feature on the state flag and its coat of arms. They are definitely not endangered and are always close to water. On land they are a lot less regal. Like all swans they mate for life and both take care of their young.

This is my swansong :

Glide by
Over the water
Your neck graceful poised
The lustre of ebony feathers
Your beak ruby red
Skim the surface
Ripples reflect


Aussie colours

Day 29 – no russet red and gold leaves right now… but a myriad shades of green and pink….

As we enter autumn (fall) there are no carpets of brightly coloured leaves to crunch underfoot, but still plenty of colour, like these lilly pilly fruit, abundant against their shiny marble green foliage.

Lilly pilly fruit comes in all shades of pink

Many urban streets are planted with varieties of flowering gums. Some of these flower in autumn like the ones in our street.

This photo does not do justice to these pink flowers!

Frangipani blooms scatter across the footpaths as the weather turns cooler. I always gather a few recently fallen flowers on my walks. Their scent is intoxicating.

Some trees grow gum nuts that hang in ghostly clusters from their delicate branches.

I have been discovering more about how indigenous people in this state divided the year into six seasons according to changes in the weather and local plants and animals. We are currently right at the end of Bunuru season or the second summer. This is traditionally the hottest time of the year.

April will be the start of Djeran or autumn with cooling temperatures. This is the season for red flowers like the red flowering gums that line our street.

The colour that sums up Australia is probably red. Red dirt roads abounded when I first drove around Australia. There are still plenty of them in remote areas. The Nullarbor Plain that stretches east from Perth to Adelaide in South Australia is covered in red dust. I drove across it once with a friend before it was sealed. It’s 1,200 km or 780 miles of red dust. Red dust coated the inside of our car, got into our noses and ears and stained our clothes, even with the windows closed.

Much of the state of Western Australia is red. It’s full of iron ore and my research tells me rocks that contain iron will rust and it is the oxides produced in this process that turn the soil red.


Pelican rhythm

Day 28 – colours for today – black and white due to the subject matter and the bird involved.

I’m walking along a wide bend of the Swan River, soothed by the peaceful lap of the tidal water and the occasional water bird. I catch a glimpse of a pelican riding the ripples. They are such unique looking birds.

‘”Oil is above all a great temptation. It is the temptation of ease, wealth, strength, fortune, power. It is a filthy, foul smelling liquid that squirts obligingly up into the air and falls back to earth as a rustling shower of money. To discover and possess the source of oil, it feels as if after wandering long underground you have suddenly stumbled upon a royal treasure. Not only do you become rich, but you are also visited by the mystical conviction that some higher power has looked upon you with the eye of grace and magnanimously elevated you above all others, electing you his favourite. The concept of oil expresses perfectly the eternal human dream of wealth achieved through lucky accidents, through a kiss of fortune and not by sweat, anguish, hard work. In this sense, oil is a fairy tale and like every fairy tale, a bit of a lie.”‘

I am listening to a podcast and this quote is taken from a book written quite some time ago by a Polish journalist, Richard Kapuchinski. I’ve never heard of him till now, but I find the flowery quote riveting. His book is called Shah of Shahs and is about the last Shah of Iran.

This pelican was further down the river

This same podcast has updated me during the past week on the current world crisis with an historical overview of Russia from the days of Stalin up to this chilling moment in time.

Today, the podcast airs a discussion between two historians and a political economist who has just written a book on oil and how it affects the situation in Ukraine.

On my return home, my mind feels overwhelmed by the evil machinations of so many people in power and the dulling sense of history repeating itself. The water is being whipped into undulating waves by a strong autumn wind. Beak on chest, the pelican rides the waves and keeps moving forward. How does it succeed without any apparent effort?

Pelican riding the waves

My unease persists, the feeling that I should be doing something. Later in the day, I hear about a woman who is getting into her car in Poland and driving to the border. She brings women and children back with her to safety, the few she can fit in on each trip.

I suddenly realise that she has found her pelican rhythm.

At my weekly zoom staff meeting in the afternoon, we discuss all the usual issues, daily classroom happenings, a few problems and how to solve them. Then one of the teachers tells me about a boy who has fallen on a rock at home over the weekend and cut his chin quite badly. His mum hasn’t taken him to a doctor. She is applying ‘home remedies’ (some kind of poultice made from leaves). I ask her to take him to a local clinic tomorrow and make sure the wound is not infected and to check if anything else needs to be done. I am as far away from the school as I am from Ukraine, but now I can do something.

I’ve found my pelican rhythm.

Close up of the pelican

Pelican so still
ploughing into wavy swell
eyes forward feet hidden
I think
that’s how you succeed
in weathering the storm

And a postscript to yesterday’s post, this is Ruby in her basket ready to go to school!


The school cat

Day 27 – the colours of an ordinary black and grey striped tabby who brings joy to our classrooms…

When we had to return to Australia, I was concerned about the welfare of our little cat, Ruby, who had been with us for about three years. She is a very affectionate cat but had never really spent time around the students. She also took time to warm to people who were not familiar to her.

At first she was fed by one of the teachers who lives close by and tended to hang around when other teachers were at school during the day, but I was sure she must be feeling lonely. One time last year she disappeared for nearly a week. People in the neighbourhood are capable of doing strange things. We once had a kitten stolen by a stranger who stuffed him in his bag and we never saw him again. It is rumoured that some people eat cats as well as dogs.

I finally discovered that there was one teacher who was keen to look after her. She lives at home with her mum and sisters and they all like cats. It has been an amazing match! She lives within walking distance of the school and every day she brings Ruby with her in a basket and takes her home the same way at the end of the day. Ruby has adapted to being inside when she is in Fresilia’s home and then roaming free as usual at school.

The Tiger Who Came for Tea is one of her favourites!

As you can see she is now right at home with all of the students.

She loves listening to reading.

Watching an online phonics program that we use at school

I think she fancies herself as a bit of a phonics expert.

She’s also in charge of the library.

She definitely makes a great therapy cat.

She has pretty much become part of the furniture.

I am so delighted that she has become another part of our school community.

I now get regular updates and photos of what Ruby is up to and I’m so grateful that she is an integral part of the school. The photo below says it all…!


Harriet’s quilt

Day 26 – the colours used to describe this quilt are pumpkin, merlot and slate grey..

I follow an artist/designer called Este MacLeod who often suggests different colour combinations for artists to play with, that she has found through studying the work of historical artists. Recently she chose the above combination and the quilts of Harriet Powers.

Harriet Powers was born in 1837. She made the quilt below and at least one other after she was freed from slavery. She used an applique technique with dyed and printed cotton fabrics stitched onto cotton. The quilt is made up of 299 pieces of fabric, divided into eleven picture panels that each tell a biblical story. When she had to sell the quilt for five dollars because of financial difficulties, she told the buyer what each of the panels represented. This is known as the Bible Quilt.

I enjoy the simple narrative style of this quilt and the overall use of muted colours with the contrasting slate blue grey and the touches of merlot red and pumpkin.

Her other known quilt is the Pictorial Quilt which is divided into fifteen panels , some of which are biblical and some of which relate to contemporary historical incidents.

We again find the same significant blend of colours and simple design. It’s a soothing restful combination with just the contrast of the brighter pumpkin orange catching the eye here and there.

Here are three examples of other artists who have now combined this blend of colours into their own unique design.


A lesson in balance…

Day 25 – the colour for today is a little boy’s bright blue frames.

I have just started a part time job helping to look after kids at a school while they wait for their parents to collect them. On my first day, the coordinator warned me about certain children and what they were likely to do… run off, disappear without warning, not get to the toilet in time, the ones who needed to be kept separate because of teasing and bullying, a little boy who is a selective mute, one who has to be addressed on his level eyeball to eyeball if he throws a tantrum.

She then opened the medicine cupboard and showed me where the epipens were and other medication that might be needed. Apparently the school is nut free and kiwi fruit free. Peanuts are a daily snack at our school in India, no one has an allergy and behavioural issues are minimal. I realise how fortunate I’ve been.

I briefly contemplated throwing up my hands and walking out. It’s not as if I have to work and I am about four decades older than any of the other staff. I decided that was being a quitter.

There is a little boy from kindergarten who is there every day. When I say little, I mean he is tiny and looks incredibly fragile. His manner is quite serious and self-assured. He plays diligently with whatever toys are available, sometimes with others, often alone. He wears these amazing glasses with bright blue frames.

Today he was crouching down on the floor. At first I thought he was having trouble getting up. He stretched his legs out behind him, then his arms out in front and arched his back . Finally he had both feet and one hand on the ground and his other hand was raised as if he was trying to reach the low table nearby.

He tilted his head sideways and deep brown eyes gazed at me through those blue frames.

“My teacher said this is how you do a balance.”

My day was made.