I've been to Brisbane to spend Christmas with my daughter, son-in-law and grand-daughter. We haven't really had strong Christmas traditions within my family. From time to time we've spent Christmas in the Philippines, and often one or more of us has been away at Christmas time. But over the years we've accumulated a collection of Christmas ornaments for the tree from various countries - brought out in the years when enough of us are together to warrant a Christmas tree, and carefully packed away by Three Kings.
This year I selected a few ornaments to keep for myself, and took the remainder to Brisbane to be kept by my daughter. A small happening, but one that seems laden with significance. It's a change in the centre of gravity for the family - young children bring such a sense of the future and of continuity (and, inevitably, change).
We made a day trip to Stradbroke Island - a large, still relatively undeveloped and unspoiled island off the east coast of Brisbane - that we reached by taking our car on a ferry. Somehow, that makes it feel like a very significant excursion.
My main association for Stradbroke prior to visiting had been as the poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal's country.
'We are as strangers here now, but the white tribe are the strangers.[Oodgeroo Noonuccal, We Are Going]
We belong here, we are of the old ways.
We are the corroboree and the bora ground,
We are the old ceremonies, the laws of the elders.
We are the wonder tales of Dream Time, the tribal legends told.
We are the past, the hunts and the laughing games, the wandering camp fires.
We are the lightening bolt over Gaphembah Hill
Quick and terrible,
And the Thunderer after him, that loud fellow.
We are the quiet daybreak paling the dark lagoon.
We are the shadow-ghosts creeping back as the camp fires burn low.
We are nature and the past, all the old ways
Gone now and scattered.'
Given the stormy clouds and winds on the day we visited it was easy to imagine the Stradbroke Island of Noonuccal's poem and its many generations of inhabitants,
though I also loved the modern walkways along the cliffs and coastline that give easy access (particularly on rainy days!) to views of such grandeur.
My admiration for GoMA
I'm continuing my admiration affair with the Queensland Art Gallery and, in particular, the Gallery of Modern Art. GoMA currently has an exhibition, 21st Century: Art in the First Decade which collects together some of their own works with some past favourites and new works. What I admire so much is the way the Gallery has made art accessible to so many people. When I visited Brisbane in November I went to see the retrospective of the couturier Valentino's work. There were queues out the door, and many groups, particularly of young women, had dressed up in their best to visit the exhibition. This time there were lots of families with children as GoMA had taken great care to select a number of the works that were participatory and child-friendly. We spent more than two hours in the Gallery with a delighted three (and-a-half) year old, and all left wanting to see more.
Amongst all the wonderful exhibits there was a huge table of small pieces of white lego with which anyone - grown-ups and kids - could and did build. Some people had built inspirational pieces which others added to or built around, or even destroyed (though I saw no-one doing this!)
There was a wall of ribbons, each printed with a wish from a Brazilian child. You could take a wish, tie it around your wrist, and add a wish of your own, written on paper, rolled into a small tube and inserted in the holes from which ribbons had been removed.
A room two-thirds filled with purple balloons was great fun. Five people at a time were allowed into the room and could move through the balloons. Everybody emerged with grins of delight and hair flying every-which-way from the static electricity generated by contact with the balloons. Everybody watching had almost as much fun as the participants.
The weather and the beach
While I was away it rained...and rained...and rained.
We drove from Brisbane to Lennox Head to visit an old friend and drove through what seemed to be sheets of rain. At one point we had to make a detour because the road was covered with water too deep for my small car to drive through. The rain mainly ceased while we were in Lennox Head, but the wind and choppy water meant that swimming at the beach was not appealing - the beach was even closed for swimming for some of the time.
Fortunately, the beach has pleasures other than swimming.