Category Archives: Mystery Art Making Writing Tours

Mail Box Spotting and Front Yard Art

“The mailman, if he’s extra tired, would pass them in his sleep,
It’s safest to address the note to ‘Care of Conroy’s sheep’,
For five and twenty thousand head can scarcely go astray,
You write to ‘Care of Conroy’s sheep along the Castlereagh’.”
A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson,
“The Travelling Post Office”
The Bulletin, 10 March 1894

A homogeneous, common, admittedly ageing, urban letterbox.

Most countries tend to have standardized mailboxes with uniform colours.  Japan makes them original. They have things like Kawai and mascots with amazing boxes, customized according to their location.

One of the first things that people see when they visit you at your house is the mailbox. Not every one is satisfied with the standard variety of boxes available in the hardware store. Mailboxes can be turned into amazing front yard decorations. Building creative affairs does not require large investment. All you need is an imagination galore which is free.

If you are not up to making a unique mailbox you can kill time mailbox spotting. Sunday drives may not be in fashion now but humour me. I thought of my parents as I drove around back roads looking for  letterboxes with character.

When we were kids we were fairly easily entertained. I grew up in Gippsland and have memories of the long trip to the city. To keep us occupied my mother had us play various versions of  “I Spy With My Little Eye’ or we identified the makes of cars passing by. Now, sadly, children are occupied with a device and there is less conversation.

This is not my father but he had a very similar rig when he was delivering bread to outlying places.

On our Sunday drives, up and down laneways and byways, we took in all kinds of detail; checking out what improvements people were making to their places. Having delivered bread to outlying farms with a horse and bread cart, Dad knew the region well and people had all sorts of unusual boxes to leave the bread in.

Head out this weekend.  Just for a change, pack the thermos and a picnic and go mail box spotting. Look for weird and wonderful letterboxes.

A collection of found letterboxes! Well! They were not actually lost! They were found in backroads around Castlemaine and beyond. While no addresses are shown, if your letter box appears here and you would rather it not be shown, I will remove the image.

Like these sisters, you could always go on a bike ride and look for unique mail boxes. Aim to see as many unusual letter boxes as possible, take lots of photos and keep a sketch book filled with fun ideas for front yard art.  Decide which is your favourite! Believe me! It is quite addictive to do this.

Share some photos in the comment box here or on Facebook. Head to an Office Works, print the best photos quite cheaply and randomly post them in more traditional letterboxes, like this one, to remind people just what a statement they could be making with their letterbox.

Make a Mailbox Happy and Improve your Mood

Painting, sculpting, dancing, making music, and all the other artistic pursuits have benefits that go far beyond pure enjoyment or cultural creation — these activities can also strengthen your brain and improve your mood.

Since the inception of emailing and texts mail boxes around the globe have lain empty, gathering bills and cobwebs, lamenting the lost art of letter writing, waiting for Godot to come, deposit something and make them loved again.

The therapeutic benefits of unsent mail are quite well known. They are a powerful journalling tool! When running courses I promoted letter writing as a way of firming ideas for a novel or script. I also had participants write formal letters to themselves and posted them weeks after they were written. When my 35-year-old son moved to Berlin and was taking time to settle to his new life I took to writing to him and including silly drawings and fun stickers. He enjoyed the looks on the faces of people in cafes when he said that he was writing a letter to his mother.

A Brisbane postman makes fake letters for a dog. Pippa the dog always runs towards Martin Studer, a postman from Brisbane, whenever she sees him – she loves getting mail! In fact, the pooch enjoys it so much, the postman even writes tiny letters especially for her. He does not want to upset the good girl. “Sometimes, Pippa comes out for the daily delivery but there’s no mail for her to collect,” Studer writes on Facebook. “So I have to improvise.”

“I’ve been on Pippa’s run for the last 2-3 years,” Studer told Bored Panda. “I have always written something to her.  She LOVES the postie. It really makes her day when we come by.”

I totally understand how Pippa feels. I have vivid memories of the letters, resplendent with foreign stamps arriving. I had friends in America and Canada and still have a small skunk brooch that my Canadian pen pal sent me. Much later, when I was running Soul Food, some participants sent parcels and they were greeted with delight.

There are sites, like Snail Mail Pen Pals, that will connect people to pen friends but there are plenty of innovative ways to find a pen pal and engage in snail mail exchanges such as these. A recent article talked about reasons to do art even if you are bad at it. My daughter and I love sending ridiculous postcards from our own airport before boarding to go overseas. We usually add embellishments to the name of the recipient, some of which are best not mentioned here. Mail Art is a fun place for a budding artist to start.

In a post on Miss Pelican’s Perch, Lori Gloyd remembers the work of Nick Bantock and the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin and Sabine. She brainstorms and considers 

“I got to thinking maybe I could tell an epistolary short story on my break. It will be a challenge since I don’t have access to Photoshop, my favored tool of visual creations. I may have to go old school with pen and paint. And then there’s the question: from whom shall the correspondence come, to whom shall they go, and what story shall it tell?”

Here is a list of more Epistolary books.

“Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. “

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

Pullman Philip 2

Wise words from Philip Pullman, who received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005:

Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. If you don’t give a child food, the damage quickly becomes visible. If you don’t let a child have fresh air and play, the damage is also visible, but not so quickly. If you don’t give a child love, the damage might not be seen for some years, but it’s permanent.

But if you don’t give a child art and stories and poems and music, the damage is not so easy to see. It’s there, though. Their bodies are healthy enough; they can run and jump and swim and eat hungrily and make lots of noise, as children have always done, but something is missing.

It’s true that some people grow up never encountering…

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Become Rock Nerds

Majestic mountains, breathtaking canyon views, gorgeous arrays of sea stacks and beautiful sandstone arches are but a few of Mother Nature’s wonders that beckon photographers worldwide. These geological features lure artists of all kinds to paint, preserve, photograph, or sculpt. They’ve been cut by rivers, uplifted by faults or folds, carved by the wind, and eroded by time.
Russ Burden

When I was out taking some photos of this anticlinal fold in the Kalimna Park, just behind Castlemaine, I was asked if I was a rock nerd. I laughed! That is a term I associate with someone like Tim Minchin, but I confess I have been looking at rocks quite a bit lately.

A new global craze has kids all over the world getting outdoors to play hide and seek with hand-painted rocks. Kids are naturally interested in rocks. How many times have we witnessed students climbing on large boulders, collecting rocks, or throwing pebbles in the river?

The painted rock craze has been praised as a cheap and easy way to get kids away from technology and outside.

The hidden rocks are typically small, flat garden stones with a simple picture or a nice message painted on either side.

The rocks are hidden in parks, with photos posted on a Facebook page so other parents can take their children to find the rocks, then re-hide them somewhere else.

Rather than paint them I am happy to keep a small collection in the garden this lovely statue.

Educating students on rocks and minerals is an important and fun part of  science curriculum. This activity will lead to many more fun things to do and may result in an interest in photography and  a growth of interest in geology.

 

Two Feuding Volcanoes

The land around here is ancient. About 480 million years ago it was all under the sea. Then a couple of tectonic plates collided deep underground, squeezing everything like a vice.

I love the idea of sitting on the top of Tarrengower reading the story, as told by Justice B Nelson, and published by Culture Victoria, of two feuding volcanoes named Tarrengower and Lalgambook (Mount Franklin)

“A long, long time ago, long before anyone but the Traditional People walked our Country, our lands, rivers, mountains and animals alike, all had magical life. They had personalities, purpose, speech and they could think for themselves.

Tarrengower in the Dja Dja Wurrung means to be big and heavy and indeed he was just that; big, bold, wise and a very proud old volcano who had become very tired throwing out rocks and lava and preferred to sit humbly watching over the plains.

Another volcano called Lalgambook was a young, loud and cheeky volcano that started to challenge old Tarrengower’s wisdom and authority, and began grumbling and building up anger towards the old volcano. But Tarrengower, being the wise old volcano that he was, decided he should just try to ignore this cheeky little volcano.

Lalgambook grew even angrier that Tarrengower wasn’t acknowledging his threats and started to put on a display of smoke, ash and brimstone to impress the land and animals who were also watching, but this didn’t intimidate the wise old Tarrengower. Instead he just laughed at Lalgambook.

Lalgambook became so frustrated that he began to throw large rocks at Tarrengower who grumbled with annoyance at this cheeky volcano and Tarrengower now began to taunt young Lalgambook by telling him he wasn’t very strong at all because the rocks couldn’t reach him.

Lalgambook exploded with great fury, spurting out lava and smoke high into the sky and hurled gart gart in Tarrengower’s direction, but still could not reach him. This caused Lalgambook to completely blow his core!

Tarrengower’s anger eased and he just grumbled at this cheeky little volcano who was now just coughing and spluttering with no energy left at all.

All the rocks thrown by Lalgambook at Tarrengower can still be seen today and have formed what is known in the present day as the Guilford Plateau where the Jaara people would perform ceremonies on the Bora grounds also known as Yapene.”

Re-told by Justice B Nelson – Dja Dja Wurrung, Jaara
Content in Culture Victoria is free for educational use.

Copyright of this story
The writers, photographers and the State of Victoria

In Game of Thrones men have maintained a watch on the wall for thousands of years. The fire tower on top of Mount Tarrengower has been consistently manned by firespotters, long term occupants of the tower, since the days of Oliver Ralph in the 1950’s. Most recently Peter Skilbeck has been on the watch!

The Advance Maldon Association brought the tower that stand on the top of Mount Tarrengower from Bendigo to Maldon to attract visitors to the area after the goldmining had almost ceased. The tower was originally the poppet legs of the Comet Mine in Bendigo, and was brought to Maldon by rail in 80′ (24m) lengths. It was carried up the mountain on a timber jinker drawn by a team of horses, along a track cut from Butts Reserve to the summit. A Mr. William Adams put up the money for the project, approx. 600 pounds. During the Maldon Easter Fair, held annually since 1877, the lookout tower is illuminated. Prior to the 1950s, this was done by wiring up over 100 makeshift lanterns, using stone ginger beer bottles, hemp wicks and kerosene. The bottles were hidden in a disused mine shaft until the next Easter.
Source: Fire Lookouts Downunder

The viewing distance from this tower is up to 100 km in all directions, except northwards to Bendigo and Mount Alexander where it is about 30 km.

Take the time to visit Mount Tarrengower and the cheeky younger volcano across the way. Learn about the spirits of volcano’s and draw upon their energy.

Volcano Folklore:

Land of Volcanoes

Merapi Volcano Spirit Keeper

Volcano Eruption Myth

Volcano Folklore

This page is only meant for educational use!

Unknown Goldfields Miners Grave

‘Since Saturday morning, the scene (on the goldfields) has greatly changed – then a tent would be seen here and there, but now they are becoming inconveniently crowded … On Saturday, dozens were arriving at a time; on Sunday, hundreds; Monday and Tuesday, one continuous line of new arrivals.’
Argus, 8 November 1851

KALIMNA PARK is a bushland reserve on the north eastern outskirts of Castlemaine comprising 175 ha. During the gold rush the area was almost totally denuded and the ground turned over. In time, coppice regrowth has produced a box-ironbark woodland with a characteristic ecosystem of plants, birds and less visible wildlife.

Gold miners often led an itinerant life, following rushes from lead to lead, so tracking their movements can be difficult. In a remote part of this reserve lies the grave of the unknown miner dating back to the gold rush (circa 1850s). I certainly needed my local guide to find this grave, tucked in a remote corner of the park. It is hard to imagine what life was like for this miner seeking gold in what was a remote part at this time. If this hapless miner made his fortune it didn’t bring him any glory! More sadly the gold rush proved to be a second wave of dispossession for the Dja Dja Warrung people. Already marginalised by the first white settlement, the discovery of gold destroyed vast tracts of land and much of their traditional way of life.

The destruction of their environment and subsequently their traditional lifestyle was a major cause of grief for the Aboriginal people. Traditional food sources such as berries and plants, as well as the native animals they depended upon for meat were all destroyed as the Europeans cleared land and stripped huge areas of timber for their own needs.

May They Have Found Peace

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms
Maya Angelou

 

On a quiet country back road, near the Newstead General Cemetery, lie two burial markers of interest. One is simply called Chinese Ground.

Chinese gold digger starting for work, circa 1860s. Image courtesy of State Library of Queensland: 60526 .

The Chinese were not welcome on the Australian goldfields. They were thorough workers, often picking meticulously through the discarded tailings or abandoned mines of other diggers. They were viewed with suspicion as few spoke English, and they were regarded as idol-worshippers. Chinese mining methods used more water than European methods, and such practices were not appreciated in a country known for its heat and droughts. Furthermore, few of them traded their gold in the towns, preferring to store it up and return to China with their wealth. The colony of Victoria was the first to introduce Anti-Chinese immigration legislation, imposing a poll tax of £10 per head for each Chinese person arriving in Victorian ports in 1855. Within a few years all other colonial governments had enacted similar laws to restrict the number of people from China entering the colonies. This did not stop the Chinese from arriving in droves and spreading out to goldfields in New South Wales and Victoria.

Tensions came to a head on 30 June 1861 in NSW at Lambing Flat. It is estimated that around 3 000 European diggers banded together in a rowdy gang called a “roll up” and, armed with picks, whips, knives, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon, converged on the Chinese camp. Chinese tents and equipment were destroyed, gold plundered, and dozens of the men themselves had their pigtails, or ‘queues’, cut off – a matter of great dishonour for them – or worse, they were scalped. An unknown number of Chinese were murdered: although the official death toll for Chinese was given as two, eyewitness accounts suggest between 30 and 40 were killed, and several hundred more injured.

Given that an angry group of European and American miners met in Bendigo in 1854 and declared that a “general and unanimous rising should take place… for the purpose of driving the Chinese off the goldfield” it is not hard to imagine that the Chinese here in this region suffered similarly.

The other stone, not far from the isolated Catholic Ground is inscribed with the words “A tribute to those who lay beneath may they have found peace”. After substantial rainfall this part of the world is truly beautiful. With only the sound of nearby grazing sheep I think it is a good place to lie and rest.

Germ of Australian Independence

Much is made of the Eureka Stockade, a rebellion that took place in Ballarat. However, 160 years ago, in 1851, 15,000 protesters gathered on the Forest Creek diggings in central Victoria to object to higher gold license fees. This gathering took place at what has come to be known as the Monster Meeting place at Golden Point. While the Eureka Stockade has a place in Australian history many believe that the Monster Meeting actually started the chain of events. Miners became stronger political force and were stronger and stronger in demanding their rights as citizens as well as miners.

Many of us are guilty of taking hard won rights for granted! Few Australians would think to stop and give thanks to these miners who defied establishment and won democratic rights.

Gratitude is the art of receiving gratefully, of showing appreciation for kindness great and small. It is easy to show gratitude when you receive a gift or an obvious benefit and, alas, just as easy to forget to show gratitude for seemingly less personal benefits.

1. Keep a gratitude journal this month. In honour of the people who met here keep a list of things you are grateful for and things worth fighting for.

2. Each time someone does you a favour make it a practice to look them in the eye and thank them.

3. Think of ways to repay those who have made sacrifices that have been beneficial to your lifestyle. How can you give more than you take? What legacy can you leave? What will your footprints be?

Treasure Hunting in Blanket Gully Road

Ochre was the most important painting material used traditionally by Aboriginal people. It is mined from particular sites and is a crumbly to hard rock heavily coloured by iron oxide. The source material was traded extensively across Australia in the past, with some material traveling many hundreds or even thousands of kilometres from where it was mined to where it was used. It comes in a variety of colours from pale yellow to dark reddish-brown.

Follow Blanket Gully Road until it comes to a T intersection and you enter a very different world from the new housing estate, on the outskirts of Campbells Creek, that you pass to get here. This is a corner of the world full of stones, ochres and pigments. It is not the ideal place for the dog or the little people but it is a surreal landscape full of treasure for the artist.

Nature’s Rock Art

In ancient India lived a sculptor renowned for his life-sized statues of elephants. With trunks curled high, tusks thrust forward, thick legs trampling the earth, these carved beasts seemed to trumpet the sky. One day, a king came to see these magnificent works and to commission statuary for his palace. Struck with wonder, he asked the sculptor, “What is the secret of your artistry?”
Eknath Easwaran

The sculptor upon taking measure of the monarch explained the process. Nature is yet to reveal the secret of its artistry. Perhaps she will reveal it to you if you talk to one of these stone people!

 

While Waiting for Godot promotes contemplative practices. Take the time to check out Contemplative Practices for inspiration.

Leanganook (Mt Alexander) Stone People

Rising 350 metres above the surrounding area, Mount Alexander (Leanganook) Regional Park is a prominent landmark offering magnificent views and a natural forest setting for picnics and bushwalking. It also provides important habitat for several rare or threatened species.

On a bitterly cold winter day the mountain took on a spiritual quality. It was enough to simply check out spots like the camping ground and commune with the stone people. The stone people, as the ancient one’s of this planet have much to teach us.

DawnEagle Summers tells us that “the stone people you find in your travels will tell you about their gifts, if you listen to them. They each bring their own lessons to our lives, whether they are a precious stone, gemstone, or just a piece of tumbled granite out of your driveway.” She says that once you begin to explore their world, you will learn more about them and suggests that we try carrying a few Ancient Ones in our pocket when we go out to face the world, to help your energy, or to learn from them. She says that stones love to talk with us, to help us, and they want others to know that they will share their teachings with us, if we but listen.

I will wait for another day to spend some time at dog rocks listening to those ancient ones and creating art.   The sniffers were not entirely happy to be confined in the car so we did not linger. Happily they did get out briefly, on lead, at the picnic ground.

Try spending meditative time with a stone person and enhance knowledge of indigenous culture by making dreamtime story stones.

As an aside, while googling, I happened upon this wonderful local concept.

Little Habitat Heroes is a group which invites children to become little habitat heroes. The group, based in Castlemaine, aims to plant indigenous species,  reduce erosion and improve biodiversity, encouraging a return of local wildlife. They wish to foster an ongoing stewardship of the site with regular events to maintain and nurture the growing habitat.

I acknowledge the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of this land. Through their cultural traditions and stewardship, Aboriginal people maintain their connection to their ancestral lands and waters. Take the time to check out ‘Set in Stone’ for something about world famous indigenous rock art.

Remembering Old Roadside Stops

When travelling long distances which is common in Australia (given the size and isolation of the country) sometimes it’s best just to pull over and have a rest.

 

While waiting for Godot I decided to head out and wander up to Leaganook (Mt Alexander). Coming back on the old highway between Harcourt and Taradale I came across one of those old road stops, in the style that I remember from trips to Melbourne with my parents from Gippsland. It was a long trip to Melbourne and Mum had invariably packed a thermos and her tin with the fruit cake we loved.

As I wandered about a flood of memories rose! I also remembered those carefree days in the early sixties when my parents had their first portable bar-b-que and we stopped at places like this picnic ground at Leanganook  on the slopes of Mt Alexander (Leanganook). I think we mainly had sausages wrapped in white bread with tomato sauce, but somehow it tasted so much better than sausages cooked on the wood burning fire, or under one of the earliest portable, electric cookers at home. Life changed for Mum when she afforded that household luxury.

When I take people out on my mystery writing/art making tours I will remember to include time at places like this.

Winter on Mt Franklin (Lalgambook)

Mt Franklin, known as Lalgambook to the Dja Dja Warrung people, is a small volcanic crater that offers ideal place for a picnic set amongst plantings of huge conifers and deciduous trees that create an exotic atmosphere. It offers a fine example of a breached scoria cone. The breach, through which the road now enters the crater, is thought to have been caused by a flow of lava breaking through the crater rim. Lava from Mount Franklin and other volcanoes in the area filled valleys and buried the gold bearing streams that became the renowned ‘deep leads’ of the gold mining era.

 

 

Since I walked away from the city and the life I had known, Mount Franklin has become my point of reference. Up close its size belies its presence on the landscape. It continues to be a marker for me!

Inside the crater of this ancient volcano, once described as a hellish place, it was cold and damp. Other than a solitary camper, huddled for warmth over a fire, we had the place to ourselves. No doubt because pagans have a gathering here, and dare to have a good time, rumours abound about witches inhabiting this place. Bollock to such naysayers! Today I found only welcoming nature spirits, beckoning me to come back, telling me that it is now an idyllic place to retreat to and decompress after a build up of minor annoyances.

Dig out the frisbee, pack a picnic, pile the kids in the car and head out for a nature fix. Allow 30 min max to get to Mt Franklin from Castlemaine. And do pop into the nearby Chocolate Mill for a warm hot chocolate and to replenish the stash you hide from those kids!

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