A wistful sunset

Day 14 of colour choices – the palette of melancholy

A wisp of sun
Another evening gone;
Melancholy is the hint of sunlight
Through a hedge;
A memory of something I should have done.
The pace of the day slows, drags,
Ready to tip me into bed;
Summer slides into autumn,
Its colours fade through shades
Of brilliant vermilion
To softer hues;
I remember this time a year back –
And wonder if I’ll still feel burdened
This time next year
By what the world has to offer.

I’m not sure where this poem came from? I wasn’t feeling particularly melancholy this evening….



Mary Delany…became an artist at the age of 72

Day 13 exploring the colours of an amazing collage artist….

Today I discovered an artist I had never heard of before. I have come across quite a few new female artists in the past few years. This is the first one I know of who began her art at the age of 72 and was born more than 300 years ago!

Her name is Mary Delany and she lived in England. Her flowers look as though they are skilfully constructed with watercolour, but they are in fact made out of coloured paper, hundreds and hundreds of carefully drawn and cut out pieces that exactly match the botanical likeness of every flower she copied.

She told her niece that she had found a ‘new way of imitating flowers’ and she called it ‘mosaick’ work.

Fabulously rich shades of crimson

She worked on a black background and layered small pieces over larger pieces to create the lifelike tones and shades. A botanist saw her work first hand and described it as stunningly accurate.

Such subtle layers and shades of pink

Each flower was given its Latin name and signed with her collaged initials ‘MD’. She was a talented artist who practised drawing, painting and fine needlework in the years before she started her collage work.

A cornflower (also known as bluebottle) with her initials in the corner

The flower above was created with several shades of blue – cobalt, wistful blue and wedgewood blue. The names themselves sound like poetry!

She created almost a thousand pieces of art in a span of eleven years, before failing eyesight meant she had to stop collaging.

Her great-niece gathered this fragile and exquisite collection together into albums and presented them to the British Museum where they are now very popular with visitors.

I’ve saved this one till last as it represents something that is close to everyone’s heart at the moment.

I do have one question that has not been answered in the article I read about her. Where did she find all those unbelievable shades of coloured paper nearly three centuries ago?!


When we lived under plastic…

Day 12 of colour experiences…. living under plastic!

A chance remark today reminded me of the time we had to relocate for various reasons, a few years after we started running our school in India. My husband had to quickly construct a makeshift dwelling (hut) that was a living room, bedroom and kitchen all in one, on the rented land where he had built the school classrooms. Our shower and toilet were located down the path. As it was only going to be temporary, we had a green plastic tarpaulin stretched taut over the top to act as a roof, secured by pegs at various points (or tied to a tree or two). We did have a couple of sheets of tin over our bed area.

It is incredibly wet during the monsoon season (which lasts over five months) and over the next three years, while our current house was under construction, our makeshift roof would leak around the edges and sag at various points with the weight of the rain. It ended up being covered in masking tape in an assortment of colours and shapes in an effort to control minor leaks. By the end of those three years another couple of tarpaulins had been added to the mix in an effort to keep the water out.

We were fortunate that there is not a lot of wind during the wet season or that roof would not have lasted as long as it did. The worst moment was during a storm one night when a sudden gust of wind blew one corner of the plastic off and water poured in. The power went off and I used a torch to grab my laptop and a couple of other electronic items and my pillow and ran up to one of the classrooms for the rest of the night!

Fortunately I did not have to wait much longer till we could move into our house and relax at night to the sound of rain beating down on a tin roof!

Our plastic roof in its early days.

The hut has now been remodelled into another wonderful classroom with its own colorbond roof.

And today I was reminded again of how thankful I am to be able to sleep under a roof that is secure and leakproof.


Cat watch…

Day 11 of stepping into colour – shades of grey and tabby with a hint of red…

Trying to think of a suitable caption for this photo…. any suggestions?

I was thinking something along the lines of “Why pay for surveillance cameras when you’ve got me?”


A shimmer of dawn

Day 10 of experiencing colours – this time at dawn…

A brisk walk just before the sun is promising to rise… on another scorching day, making the most of dawn being just a touch later as we slip into autumn.

A big bird silhouettes to my right, winging in across the wetlands beside the river. It touches down effortlessly and almost soundlessly. A pelican. Surely one of the most original of birds. That massive beak with its huge throat sack folded onto its curved neck. It joins two other pelicans in a stately swim through the brackish water.

Splatters of pinkish cloud smooth their way up into the sky, just ahead of the emerging sun.

The spidery green foliage on both sides meets in an overhead embrace, enclosing me and other walkers in a tunnel filled with the rank smell of the wetlands. Moments later, we reemerge into fresh air and the bright dazzle of light reflecting off the glassy sweep of the next river bend.

Two man kayaks line up across the water waiting to be flagged off. The smooth even strokes of the oars mark perfect time with twin splashes each side. The boatshed catches the first rays of the sun as other rowers carry their boats down to the shoreline.

The distant hum of traffic reminds us that it’s the start of another working day.

An early morning walk into the freshness of a new day never fails to restore hope.


Give me a home among the gum trees…

Day 9 … the colours of a true Aussie icon….

I fell in love with these trees when I first came to Australia…. they are magnificent and distinctive. They have wonderful names, like stringybarks, ironbarks, peppermints, boxes, ghost gums and scribbly gums. They are all part of the eucalyptus family.

Their trunks shed strips of bark as they grow each year – reddish brown ribbons peel off and hang from the ivory, sandy or salmon hued trunks for weeks on end in and around summer. Then all of a sudden they shimmer, bare and smooth as pebbles once again.

Their leaves are evergreen, the strangest misty grey blue colour tinged with a hint of green. They are thick and tough to the touch but often sweepingly long and elegantly pointed. A few types are small and almost circular and bunch closely around the branch. They can be used to make oils and for medicinal purposes. They are a koala’s exclusive diet.

The flowers of a eucalypt are initially covered with a little cap, this is what their Latin name means. They grow in profusion on fine pinkish red stems. These flowers burst free of their caps during summer, fluffy explosions of iridescent orange, red, pink, yellow and green offset by their dusky grey green leaves. They are just glorious.

This one reminds me of the swirling skirts of a flamenco dancer! The one on the left still has its cap on.

Their powers of regrowth after a bushfire are phenomenal, although they are highly flammable and dangerous and can cause a fire to move at high speed. I have also been told that they should not be allowed to grow close to buildings as their roots can undermine the foundations and they tend to grow quite rapidly.

Trees are a part of the earth’s lifeblood and gum trees or eucalypts are a very special part of the Australian landscape.


‘A Small Kindness’….is ‘a visual flourish of color’

Day 8 where kindness equals colour…..

Stacey MacAnulty’s book ‘A Small Kindness‘ has quickly become one of my favourite children’s books and Wendy Leach’s illustrations are the icing on the cake when it comes to colour. The book flap describes them as ‘a visual flourish of color in this poignant book’.

I read a review somewhere online that recommended the book and its delightful message of children passing on love from one classmate to another through the simplest of gestures. Only later, did I spot how at the beginning, all the children save one are shaded in sepia. Page by page, colour is passed on to the next child through a small act of kindness. This is repeated until all the children and their classroom are coloured in ‘just like a game of tag and everyone won‘.

It starts with Alice and finally returns to her at the end. The simplicity of the dialogue and the appeal of the illustrations encompass a universal message that it pays to be kind and to ‘pass it on’.

I ordered a copy for our little school and asked the teachers to share it on the first morning of the new school year last month, just to underline what we hope school is all about for our students and how important it is to be part of a loving, caring community.

It’s the colour the world truly needs right now.


…Green and brown and…..

Day 7 of enjoying colour…

A slice hardly ever pops out at me, the way this one did this morning, complete with colours to fit into my theme!

I was on a zoom writing lesson with my class one students as usual on a Monday morning.

Last week I had asked them to describe an object as ‘show, don’t tell’ for their homework. One by one they read their description to me, their classmates and their teacher, for us to try and guess.

There were some good descriptions, including:

“It has horns and is orange and gives us milk and eats grass.” I’ve yet to come across an orange cow.

“It’s made of wood and it shuts with a lock and key and it’s blue.” His front door is blue, but I pointed out that most doors, including those at school, are not blue.

The next little girl leaned into the ipad screen and spoke rapidly…

“It’s green and brown and gives us air.” Thanks to the connection and being an ESL student I somehow misheard ‘air’ as ‘eggs’ and was trying to imagine a green hen, as I repeated her words back to her. Her teacher corrected me. I was stumped.

That’s me in the ipad!

But not her classmates. “A tree!” they chorused enthusiastically.

Of course! For the first time, I have heard a tree described by its colours and what it gives us. I was suitably impressed!


Student writing colours my world!

Writing is not part of our curriculum, but I’m determined that our students should learn and be encouraged as much as possible in the area of free writing. I think it will help them to improve writing answers for their endless tests and exams (which they need to learn by heart).

Last year was very much a stop, start kind of year, with students often being forced to stay at home with no access to the internet, so free writing was not really an option until the last few weeks of the school year.

This year has got off to a much more promising start. I have started off with personal narrative to remind students how to recall something that happened in their holidays and then how to take a slice out of that memory and finally to construct an interesting story out of the seed or portion of the day that remains.

They have also begun to learn how to use an interesting hook or line of dialogue to draw the reader into the story. We’ve looked at and practised some examples together. I’m also guiding one of the local teachers how to run the classes, as we meet via zoom once a week.

One of my zoom writing classes!

For the first couple of weeks, it seemed that the ideas were just not getting through and students continued to produce their endless lists of every event that happened in the holidays. As these are kids from very poor families, they generally do very little or go anywhere, so their outlines tend to be fairly repetitive and uninteresting! They also do not speak English outside of school.

Then suddenly towards the end of last month, something started to blossom and they began to catch on. They were able to compose some very simple but great little stories that have now been edited and published and will be added to our small school library for the enjoyment of other students.

Class 3 students
From Class 4 students

Yes, these two books have truly coloured my world, just like the warm soft glow of their charming illustrations!


The colour of slicing…

Today I’ve taken time to read through more than usual of the slices from the past three days. With around 300 slices per day, at present, that’s a lot of reading and commenting to get through in between completing other tasks and necessities! So when I come across a short poem or a six word slice, I inwardly murmur, “Thanks for helping to make the task a little easier!” This doesn’t mean I don’t want to read the longer slices, just that they inevitably take longer!

From day to day, I vary whether I start from the top or the bottom or somewhere half way down. I check out the little avatars of different slicers and try to remember… okay yes, I read yours yesterday, so maybe I’ll read someone else’s today. I look for as many first time slicers as possible, as I remember how reassuring it was when someone commented on my original slices. I also check for interesting or appealing hooks. I know from experience that if you publish just after or before someone, that person is quite likely to read your slice.

Gond style fish painted by our students

I enjoy finding the friendly orange segmented SOLC logo and seeing how many slices have already been posted, when I hit my publish button. Being on the other side of the world (in western Australia), I know I can post on the actual day, or risk leaving it a few hours into the following day, as we are around twelve hours ahead of the US.

I relish the different pictures or headers writers have chosen, their colours, formats, ingenious compositions and layouts. I enjoy the handwritten slices, the cartoons, diagrams and other inventive ways that are used to present various pieces.

Definitely slicing gives you all the colours. My only regret? It’s just impossible to read everyone’s slice every day…!!

How do you go about choosing who to read next?

experimenting with shades of green