Thursday, January 22, 2009

I am falling in love with Tasmania

(You can see the photos that go with this entry on my flickr stream - just don't have time to post them here now)

The Salamanca Market

Several weeks ago I was put in contact with local sandsculptor Peter Bignell, and the plot was hatched: dump 4 tons of “brickies” sand on the periphery of one of the biggest and nicest weekend markets in all of Australia (by all accounts) and see what happens.

Fortunately, the weather takes a turn for the better, and so has my health -- my lungs are returning to a healthier state. The bad news is that something - perhaps the heavy coughing - has done a number on my back and I am walking like an old lady. I have to double over when I cough to keep from whimpering.

A whole lot of carving happens. As well as a fair amount of shopping (but you will have to wait until I get back to Texas to see what I bought.) We had official buskers licenses and the bucket of coin - my half of which comes out to something like $80 (AU). Which as is later turns out it just about the amount I will spend at the Salamanca health clinic and pharmacy...

Richmond and the Barby

It is Sunday and my hosts take me to the historic village of Richmond - site of charming cottages, the oldest bridge still in use in Tassy (maybe all of Australia?), a watermill, several sweet galleries/shops -- and a really scary old jail. Cells where women spent as many as 21 days in solitary for “insolence.”

We meet up with historian/muscian Peter McFie, who has written loads of scholarly papers on the area -- a very interesting gent who sports certain features that remind me very much of someone I used to love.

From Richmond we head to Dodges Ferry for a barbecue with other art society members. Peter shows up with his guitar and I break out the uke and we play and sing until late around the campfire. For the first time I really feel at home on this far far away island.

On the way back to Connelly’s Marsh we see three wallabees and two possums - which are actually a lot cuter than the ones we have in Texas.

Wildlife Park

I see the devils. They are cute, fuzzy and endearing in a bumbling, slightly cross-eyed way -- right up until feeding time, when they growl and tear at (thankfully unidentifiable) carcasses with their amazing jaws. They play tug o’ war with entrails and eat every last bit of what they are fed - fur and bones and all. Something like 80% of them have been wiped out by the contagious facial cancer and while isolate populations will hopefully survive, they appear to be on the path to extinction in the wild. This idea saddens me more than I expect it to. The Thylocine (aka the Tasmanian Tiger) is already extinct - the last known specimen died in captivity in 1935. The wildlife park shows a video - it looks more like a dog than a tiger and its jaws open to an alarming expanse. The narrator is convinced that they still exist in the wild, but the wild spaces are getting fewer and farther between, I think.

For now I am staying with Peter and Rachel D. They have a lovely home/studio on the water at Park Beach in Dodge’s Ferry. Their water view shoots directly south between two land masses and at times you can feel a wind coming directly from the south pole. It’s a cold one.

We turn on the TV the morning of the 21st to witness the 44th president on his parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. The Aussie commentator is excited. Ted Kennedy is down but not out and the world rejoices at the choices made by me and my countrymen/women last November. Clearly, they are as delighted (and perhaps a bit surprised) as we are by the man we have chosen to lead us

Workshop Time & Steel's Island

At last it is time for me to do what I came here to do. I get to go to work.

The day of the first sand sculpture workshop is sunny and fine. The wind stays down and the participants are plentiful and enthusiastic. They represent a wide variety of ages and skill levels, which makes my job interesting indeed. Some students have traveled far and will only be able to stay for one day, while others are local and expect to participate all four days. Peter D has created some interesting flexie forms from thick plastic fastened by snap ties which he expects to be able to slide up and over after filling. I am skeptical but willing to be pleasantly surprised.

The 2.5 hour session is somewhat chaotic but deemed a success, and after the beach is cleared I am taken to the store to pick up supplies and then (finally!) to my private accommodations at Steel’s Island.

In all of my travels, I have stayed at some wondrous places including 5-star hotels; nevertheless, this is without a doubt the most wonderfullest place I have ever called “home (for now).” A 2 BR cabin, situated right on the beach. All the comforts and no one close enough to hear me belting out ukulele tunes. Sliding glass door that opens up to my own vegetated beach path down to the water. A kukaburro laughs at me and I laugh right back. Can this be more perfect?

Of course, the only thing that could make it more so would be someone special with which to share it. And that person, in the shape of Peter McFie, shows up with his guitar and a bottle of champagne. We walk the beach at dusk, seeing not another soul. When the time comes for him to leave, he doesn't.

This place is pure magic, I tell you.


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