Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
September 2019
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You may have noticed, in the post about my friend Lisa’s funeral on the 12th, that I mentioned her two teenage children. While Lisa was in hospital they came and stayed at my place (a) because they couldn’t really stay at their home alone and (b) because I live much closer to town than they do, and so could take them in to hospital to visit their mum and get them to their schools.

Well, with Lisa’s passing, they and I are embarking on an unexpected new phase of our lives, as they are now living with me on what looks to be a permanent basis. Nearly three years ago, Lisa asked me if I would be the guardian of her children should anything happen to her; I’d said yes, and/but although I knew she wasn’t well, I never thought that I might end up having to actually do it. Nevertheless, here we are. They are lovely children, which is making things easier, but obviously there are big changes that we are facing. The three of us are thus trying to figure out our “new normal” and how to make this work, and I think we’re doing okay so far; I only hope that I don’t let them or their mum down.

I’m not totally sure what the future will bring, which makes me a little nervous, but I’m told that driving lessons are on the agenda … which makes me REALLY nervous!

Creative Prompt #2 – The secret life of the Mona Lisa

This week’s Lee Sargent “creative prompt” is “The secret life of the Mona Lisa”. As Lee wrote in his weekly prompt email: “You know what the painting looks like; just go away and write a short play about what she does when she’s not posing for paintings!” Well, I didn’t go for a short play (and the prompts are intended to allow you to take whatever creative approach in whatever medium or art form you want), but I had to stop and think about what might be a fitting spare time occupation for the owner of one of the most famous faces in history.

I haven’t quite carried this off as well as I’d imagined it in my mind, but it’s clear enough to convey what I wanted, I think.

[Production notes: initial pencil sketch, inked with Artline 200 0.4mm black pen, scanned to computer, and Da Vinci himself supplied the remaining finishing touches via Pixelmator.]

12 of 12, June 2019

The past month has been challenging and sad. My dear friend Lisa, who has been unwell for some time, passed away on Saturday 8 June, after being in hospital for nearly 3 weeks. The funeral was today, and I’m going to use part of this 12 of 12 to do a little reminiscing.

I only started to get to know Lisa 6 years ago, and it took a while for our friendship to develop. Over time, however, we became very close friends and a significant part of each other’s lives. I know she had faced some challenges in her life, and that there were things that were a struggle for her, but she was a strong, kind, determined, generous, smart, funny, and insightful person, and she is going to be missed.

Her favourite colour was purple and, although they’re a bit pink, we got a bunch of purple flowers for her funeral that reflected this. She also liked proteas and we managed to track down some flower heads to lay on the coffin too (unfortunately the lovely protea bush that Lisa had growing in her garden reached the end of its own life earlier this year).

Over the years we exchanged gifts at birthdays and Christmas, and she knew my interests well. I loved the spreadsheet t-shirt she got for me; she was amused by the fact that I have spreadsheets for a large number of different purposes. I actually wore it to the funeral.

Her most recent Christmas gift was a wonderful addition to my penguin collection (and reflected her own love of quirky timepieces),

And a couple of years ago she found a mathematical watch … and was really proud of herself when she figured out, ahead of me, what was going on with the 6 position (I kept reading the x as a multiplication sign; she realised — despite her own hesitations with matters algebraic — that it was actually the unknown pronumeral x and that you had to solve for it).

She also bought a pair of penguin necklaces: hers said “Best” and mine said “Friends”.

She loved elephants and had a huge collection. I’d carved an elephant thing for her for each of the last three Christmases, and I’ve kept my favourite of the three to remember her by. The other two were cremated with her today, along with her half of the penguin necklace pair.

The funeral went well, I think, though it was hard for everyone. Lisa’s Mum spoke about Lisa’s early life, I spoke about the last few years, and her two teenage children did a wonderful job when they concluded the eulogies. The children and I put together a photo montage, which my brother turned into a proper slideshow with music, which also included the theme song for her beloved Hawthorn football club.

During the afternoon tea following the service, one of my sisters gave me a little “pocket heart” which was a kind gesture I appreciated.

In the early evening I needed to go for a walk, for lots of reasons. There was a misty rain about, and the mountain was obscured, while the bridge is lit up in red as part of a winter arts festival.

Late in the evening, after Lisa’s two children and I had had a counter meal together at a nearby pub, and as I tidied up some bits and pieces that had accumulated in the last few weeks, I came across my copy of Rainbow Valley, bookmarked at the point that we’d reached when I used to read a chapter to Lisa on the phone each night. As Lisa’s illness worsened this ritual went by the wayside, and so it remains unfinished. Among many other things, our evening chapters will be missed.

Creative Prompt #1 – There’s something odd in the barn

So, Lee Sargent (pop-culture artist (as also shown here) and occasional setter of challenges) is sending out a “creative prompt” each week, with a view to inspiring people to be creative in whatever way they feel inspired. There are lots of reasons why it is foolish for me to contemplate signing up for such a prompt, so I signed up*. This week’s prompt was “There’s something odd in the barn”.

I happened to be on a professional learning trip when the prompt arrived in my inbox, and I had a few spare minutes stuck in a hotel room in the evening. A little lateral thinking and some klutzy finger painting on my iPhone using the extremely good (and Tasmanian-made) app Procreate resulted in the following contribution to the theme.

* I have told myself I don’t HAVE to do it EVERY week. Sometimes I even believe me about this.

You can sign up for Lee’s creative prompts too, if you like: visit https://leedrawsstuff.com/creative-prompts/

[Production notes: finger-painted using Procreate Pocket on an iPhone 6 while in a hotel room.]

Misty sunrise

We had a District Scout hike/camp this weekend, with surprisingly mild and glorious weather considering that we were half-way through May. On Sunday morning we were treated to a misty sunrise through the trees and it just had to be photographed.

12 of 12, May 2019

A rather miscellaneous collection of photos for this month’s 12 of 12.

Over breakfast I finalised the preparation of the lesson I had been asked to give at Church today.

This is the view from the room in which I taught the lesson. I reckon it has the best view of any chapel in the world (based on the sort of small statistical sample from which no such conclusions can confidently be drawn except by those who are totally biased). And the lesson went well, I think.

It was also Mother’s Day, so the ladies at Church got to wear chrysanthemums.

In the afternoon I went for a walk, and came across a flock of cockatoos …

which were startled into flight by some other walkers.

Continuing the bird theme (briefly), there was a flotilla of tiny cormorant chicks paddling about on the water and occasionally diving beneath (cormorant chicks is my best guess; I am not actually certain what they are). 

A different view of my favourite mountain.

I took this photo because I was surprised to see things in bloom in autumn (and then I felt like an idiot, because hadn’t I worn a chrysanthemum in the morning!).

A view of the Derwent River and the Tasman Bridge.

I like the colour contrasts in the next shot, and the abstract water patterns.

When I got home I finished preparing dinner for the extended family: vegetarian bolognese sauce and a non-vegetarian bolognese sauce (and a non-vegetarian bolognese sauce without onion for someone who doesn’t do onion) … and, yes, of course you can cook Italian in a wok.

My brother came bearing a gift (although the photo doesn’t do it justice): he’d sculpted this really amazing scene of penguins on an iceberg in the ocean (complete with killer whale), out of polymer clay and some other touches. It is only 10cm in diameter, and is really cool. At 7mm tall, these are probably the smallest penguins I have; just over a week ago my sister delivered to my front door (initially anonymously) what I think is, at 50cm, my biggest penguin (included in the bonus 13th photo).

(The “12 of 12” project involves taking 12 photos on the 12th of the month (actually, it usually involves taking more). Some days the day is just an everyday day; some days things are a bit more adventurous. I have been doing this since 2009, and this is episode 117.)

Sunset at Lewisham foreshore

I haven’t explored the Lewisham foreshore before, but took a short stroll this evening just before sunset. It was quite peaceful and beautiful, and I think it will be worth visiting again, and with something more photographically competent than my phone (the phone hasn’t done too badly, but I could have had a bit more fun with one of my “real” cameras).

Sunset over the bay

Circumstances meant that I took my evening walk late in the afternoon just as the sun was about to set. As I strolled around the southern edge of Lindisfarne Bay, the sky glowed spectacularly, lighting up the water as well. Lucky I had my phone with me; pity I didn’t have a better camera (and you have to imagine the dragon boat that was silhouetted beautifully at just the wrong time and position for photographing).

Because you can never have too many hikes

The weather over Easter has been awesome, and with a good friend and her husband visiting from Queensland in search of hikes, I grabbed my brother on Monday and the four of us headed down to the Hartz Mountains National Park. It was here that we realised that the weather wasn’t universally awesome … or, at least, that “awesome” has multiple applications, and that in this case it was going to apply to the awe we felt about the much cooler temperatures and rather stronger winds that we experienced when we got out of the car.

So we rugged up and set off anyway.

We visited Lake Esperance and Ladies Tarn, and various other little tarns along the way, with clumps of pineapple grass and the occasional cushion plant.

With the summit cloud lifting, we then started heading up to Hartz Pass, having some close encounters with pandani on the way (as seen in the next photo). The climb to the pass is steep (both up and down!) and when we reached the saddle we were hit with a strong gale hurtling up from the west and channelling through the gap. Walking was occasionally unsteady and we were grateful for the small sheltered spots that we passed and for the views which rewarded us.

We reached the summit at about 12:45, and found ourselves a sanctuary on the eastern side of an outcrop, where we had a yummy lunch of cheese and rolls that Jill and Clive had brought along. The clouds were racing overhead and sometimes getting lower, so we headed back down, although our fears of worsening weather did not actually eventuate.

Mount Snowy.

Summit crag with the distant mountains of the southwest (Precipitous Bluff, one of the south-west’s distinctive peaks, is towards the right end of the horizon).

Distinctive outcrop, with Hartz Lake below.

Clouds heading over the summit towards Geeveston.

Return from the summit.

Precipitous Bluff, from the slopes of Hartz Peak.

Dolerite outcrops on the way back to the pass.

Skeletal branches of alpine plants.

View back to Hartz Peak from the pass.

Cushion plant and dolerite (not totally in focus, sorry).

Sunlit pandani at the pass.

On our return to the car park we decided we had time to pop in to Arve Falls, since Jill and Clive hadn’t been there before.

And then it was time to head homewards, via Geeveston for a hot chocolate, and then a pleasant dinner together in the evening.

I really needed the two hikes (well, three, kind of) that I’ve had over Easter. They’ve been good for my psyche.

An afternoon jaunt up Collins Cap

Easter Saturday dawned pleasantly, allowing me to take the APs for a morning drive (through interesting countryside, but I didn’t take photos). In the afternoon, having returned them home, the day became more spectacularly autumn blue mild, and I couldn’t let it go to waste. I threw some snacks, a drink, a map, some warm tops, my good camera and my tripod into the car, and headed up to Collinsvale. Having squeezed into the last remaining car parking place I loaded my gear and started up the Myrtle Forest track, its dense rainforest dark and gloomy despite the sunny day (it shelters on the southern side of a hill, and so loses the sun quite early).

I made my way steadily higher—well, unsteadily higher, as the track got steeper—and started to be rewarded with a little more sunshine and the beginnings of some great views of the Wellington plateau. It was a relief to come out at the top of the track (I was dripping sweat, and my glasses kept fogging up), but it was a false relief because there was still another 160m of vertical altitude change to go in order to reach the summit of my target: Collins Cap.

By now, though, the views were spectacular, and I reached the peak, with its big rock cairn, about 1.5 hours after setting off. I rewarded myself by taking lots of photos, having a couple of hot cross buns and a drink, and popping down over the side to find a geocache. In the photos below, the peaks of south-west Tasmania are in the far distance of the first couple of photos, and the prominent peak—that has a photo to itself in the fourth photo below and is the backdrop to the second of the selfies—is Collins Bonnet (why Collins had mountains named after his headwear is your responsibility to Google!).

The late afternoon sun and resulting shadows created interesting effects on the nearby slopes, and the views of Collinsvale below and the Derwent River in the distance were also impressive.

I started heading back at 4pm, finding the downhill much easier on the heart and lungs, but perhaps just as painful on the knees. A fire had obviously gone through some of the area, as there was a forest of dead trees which had its own stark beauty.

I had a couple of brief stops to try to get some waterfall photos, but the one annoying thing about the expedition was that both the batteries of my good camera were flat … so I had carried the good camera and tripod to the top to no avail. Fortunately I had also carried my good little camera, but it is limited in what it can accomplish by way of time exposures.

Although I suspect some of my muscles are going to complain tomorrow, I really needed this walk for some rejuvenating mountain/sky/green/water/rocks.