Friendship and ‘A Time to Talk’ with Robert Frost

As we all know,

Christmas is fast approaching,

the silly season has begun,

in gift shops,

in department stores,

kids unable to settle in the classroom,

grass is brown and dry,

barbecue grills are being checked,

sunscreen is stockpiled,

food is flying off the supermarket shelves,

chlorine levels are dosed,

wrapping paper is being unfurled,

groups are having break-up parties,

bells jingle in the hands of Santa as he strolls through the mall,

queues in to the carpark,

queues out of the carpark,

tempers rise,

decisions have to be made about Christmas lunch,

European or Australian,

the temperature is predicted to be in the high 30°s Celsius,

the air-conditioning struggles at midday,

birds welcome the water in birdbaths,

dog water bowls appear outside cafés,

hats and beach umbrellas are selling fast,

flashy new decorations for an old tree,

family car washed and waxed ready to collect grandparents,

music is Christmas themed,

commercials blare out what we need for a happy fun festive season,

there is more than one man behind Christmas,

the wealth in the world prefers to use a generic symbol,

An old lady sits alone on the edge of her bed,

tears in her eyes,

sad for what is lost,

sad for who has gone,

that t-shirt-stained boy who sits on a park bench,

heatwaves shimmering off the concrete path,

wondering if he will see his Dad,

wondering if he will get a present,

put it under the tree he created from twigs,

we need each other,

we need our friends,

text a lunch date,

money spent at Christmastime isn’t going to mean much,

if there’s nobody to reminisce with in the new year,

friends share your life whether it seems like it or not,

they are part of you.

© Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

“A Time to Talk”

 

WHEN a friend calls to me from the road    

And slows his horse to a meaning walk,       

I don’t stand still and look around    

On all the hills I haven’t hoed,          

And shout from where I am, What is it?             

No, not as there is a time to talk.      

I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,          

Blade-end up and five feet tall,         

And plod: I go up to the stone wall   

For a friendly visit.

 

Robert Frost (1874–1963)

Poetry Collection “Mountain Interval” 1920

 

Christmas Koala 001

Exquisite Corpse Parlour Game

Scribbles Masterclass Melbourne May 2018 05
Test your memory and see if you can name any poets from the lines I picked randomly during a timed exercise (see below) “Like gold to airy thinness beat” is from Valediction, Forbidding Mourning by John Donne (1573–1631)

This game can be adapted for writers, artists, poets and movie fans!

 

  • There are two versions.  The version attributed to the Surrealist Movement is when the weirdest possible head, torso, legs of the Exquisite Corpse are drawn by three different players, each folding over the paper so the next person can’t see the results until it is unfolded at the end of the game.

 

  • “Consequences” is the original name of this literary pen and paper parlour game which has been played since the 1800s Victorian Era.  A random sentence is written near the top of the page.  The paper is folded over then passed to several other participants who add to it and fold until it reaches the last person, or the bottom of the page.  The paper is unfolded and the whole “story” is revealed––often with hilarious results.

 

  • Alternatively, photocopied lines from classic poems (see above) can be cut into strips and jumbled into a bowl.  Each player blindly chooses nine strips but uses only seven to form a poem.  The mind takes over, sorting and assembling into a reasonably cohesive format.  The verse pictured above is what I put together in a recent Masterclass during a timed exercise.  My Exquisite Corpse earned the comment “feels Gothic and dark”.

 

  • To quote Academy of American Poets: “The only hard and fast rule of Exquisite Corpse is that each participant is unaware of what the others have written, thus producing a surprising—sometimes absurd—yet often beautiful poem. Exquisite Corpse is a great way to collaborate with other poets, and to free oneself from imaginative constraints or habits.”

 

  • Minor changes have been added to Exquisite Corpse over time, from using a single word to including famous lines from books and movies.  For example, you can jot down your favourite movie quote, fold over the paper then pass it on.  See what you can pitch with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Hugh Jackman.  In book mode, an amalgamation of Germaine Greer and Nora Roberts could prove interesting.

 

  • The following formula for fun was kindly supplied by WordPress blogger Life After Sixty-Five who wrote––“Here is my favourite version of Exquisite Corpse, though I have played the version where a human body is drawn”–– 

    He (male name, fold) – someone we all knew, or someone famous
    met She (female name, fold) – could be someone famous, or someone playing the game etc.
    at (place, fold)
    He wore (description of clothes, fold)
    She wore (description of clothes, fold)
    He asked, (question, fold)
    She replied, (answers question, fold)
    And along came (person, fold)
    And so they decided to (decision, fold)
    And in the end…(finish, fold)
    “…the gales of laughter at the silly stories…”


Language Is A Virus
website has the history of Exquisite Corpse and suggested books on the subject.  They started a poem which has been running since 2000 and you can add to the silliness.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Exquisite Corpse Quill and Inkpot

 

Postcards Postcrossing the World

Postcards are alive and well and received by countless friends, family and complete strangers around the world.  Complete strangers?  This is where Postcrossing comes into the picture.

I first learned about Postcrossing, a postcard exchange group, from a quarterly Stamp Bulletin and joined free-of-charge.  The five-step guidelines are easy to follow, the website makes it simple to set up a profile and tweak your settings.  Navigate around and check out the stunning and prolific cards received and uploaded by Postcrossing members.  Everyone abides by the rules so things flow smoothly between more than 69,000 members in over 200 countries.

Postcard 017SEND: There’s pleasure in finding and choosing suitable postcards and stamps uniquely representative of your own location.  Clever members can match a postcard to followers hobbies.  It took a couple of weeks for the first postcard to hit my letterbox but I could start mailing out straight away.

RECEIVE: The beauty, variety and quantity I received, often from places I’d never heard of, was impressive.  English is universal although you can specify countries and language.  Handwritten, never laser printed, it takes a certain skill to describe something about yourself and your town on the back of a small piece of cardboard!

Postcrossing Logo

The Postcrossing project was created in 2005 by Postcrossing Founder Paulo Magalhães as a side project when he was a student in Portugal.  From 2008 to 2017, 40 million postcards have been sent.  Naturally Paulo loves to receive postcards and finding one in his mailbox always makes his day!

Postcard 007Right down to the different shapes of the stamps, and in some cases, distinctly long addresses, I was hooked on the fun.

The Postcrossing website has stats and charts to follow the progress of your postcards and I only had one go missing in action.  I think the British postcards were the quickest to arrive and I’ll be diplomatic and not say which was the slowest.  Larger countries sometimes lagged, perhaps because of sheer volume – or misguided postal cuts.  In Australia, there’s an infinite variety of unique postage stamps and supply doesn’t look like declining any time soon.

This world-wide concept stands strong, despite the challenges of internet and social media.  Stamps are still stuck on postcards, timeless messages are still written on the back, and they are still physically mailed to a real address.

Postcard 016Postcrossing friendships are possible via their blog, forum and meet-ups.  Due to work commitments, I closed my Postcrossing account and gave many of my postcards to a collector.  I kept a few colourful ones to wistfully gaze at on a quiet day.

Post a postcard!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

Want more? The Snail Mail mega toons postcard edition

Wobble Jellyfish

Pirate Ship 02
Wrecked

Wobble Jellyfish was wobbling along under the sea when
Swoosh, whoosh, splash!
A wave stranded her on a sandy beach.
It was midday and it was hot.
A seagull eyed her suspiciously.
Wobble Jellyfish hardly had time to take a breath when
Swoosh, whoosh, splash!
She was slopping along in the bottom of a plastic bucket.
Wobble slowly blubbed her way up and peeked over the side.
The water park was full of wet, squealing children.
She saw a huge swimming pool ahead and got ready to slip overboard.
With a squeeze of her tentacles, she oozed up and over the edge.
Plop!  She missed the swimming pool.
This water was cold and bubbly and swirled Wobble up, up and over.
The fountain tossed her around and around like a washing machine.
Wobble waved her tentacles helplessly then plopped back into the water.
She grasped hold of a long purple ribbon dangling in the foam.
The person wearing the long purple ribbon stood up.
Aagh!  The young girl swung her long plait to get rid of Wobble.
Wobble soared high and fell with a splat on the hard ground.
A water canon spray hosed Wobble off the pathway into the gutter.
The force of the water swished her straight down the stormwater drain.
It was dark and stinky and slimy in the drain.
Wobble wrapped her tentacles tightly around her body.
“Oh, ooh, oooh, I want to get out of here,” said Wobble Jellyfish.
Many empty water bottles floated past and she grabbed one.
It was a bouncy ride, up and down through the pipes.
The bottle got jammed between the bars of a stormwater grate.
Wobble sucked in her jelly belly and squeezed through.
Now the water was quieter and flowed more smoothly.
Grass lined the bank and the sun shone on a long stretch of clear water.
It made Wobble feel relaxed but the water was not salty.
She longed for the tang of the ocean, the surge and swell of the current.
A boy’s face loomed above her and another plastic bucket scooped her up.
The ride was sloppy and jerky hanging from the handlebars of his bike.
Wobble heard lots of voices talking and saw cheerful colours flash overhead.
Swoosh, whoosh, splash!
Wobble was sluiced over the side of the bucket into a square glass tank.
The first thing she saw was another jellyfish.  He was very small.
“Hi,” he said.  “I’m Irukandji, or Iru for short.”
Wobble thought his smile was unfriendly.
She didn’t like his long, quivering tentacles and backed away.
Something sharp poked her side and she wobbled around to look.
It was a large starfish.  He said “My name is Spike.”
Wobble slubbed and blubbed “I’m not surprised.”
She introduced herself and peered closely at Spike “You’re a beautiful colour.”
Spike showed her around the glass tank.
He was proud of the rocks and the seaweed and a tiny pirate ship.
“But they are not real,” said Wobble.
“They are to me,” said Spike.
That made Wobble cry but nobody saw her tears because of the clean tap water.
“We have to get back to the sea!” she said.
Wobble saw blurry people lift the fish tank “Up ya go!” and “In ya go!”
The light dulled as a heavy canvas was pulled over the back of the ute.
Water slopped everywhere as the old ute bucked back and forth along the track.
The canvas was lifted and Wobble, Spike and Iru blinked at the bright sun.
The tank was hoisted up and carried along the beach towards tall cliffs.
At the base of the cliffs, the blurry figures stopped.
Wobble could see large rock pools and waves splashing over them.
Spike and Iru were very quiet, hardly daring to move.
Wobble rose to the top of the fish tank and blub blubbed excitedly.
The fish tank moved again, closer to the waves and the sea.
A huge sparkling wave rose up, curling and churning towards the rock pools.
The blurry figures leaned over and tipped the tank.
Swoosh, whoosh, splash!
Wobble, Spike and Iru caught the wave and rode it high into the air.
They tumbled and mingled with the fresh, cool, salty water.
Whoo hoo!  shouted Wobble and Spike and Iru.
Seaspray carried them higher and higher until the wave rolled back into the sea.
Briefly they touched, careful of Iru’s stingers, then turned towards home.
Wobble Jellyfish had the tiny pirate ship wrapped in one of her tentacles.
She was going to show it to a real sunken pirate ship.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Jellyfish 03
Wobble
Star Fish
Spike

Dragon Daisies

IMG_3194A
Dragon Daisies

In the middle of my grandpa’s paddock is a hill.
In the middle of the hill is an amazing glowing cave.
In this cave lives a dragon with bright eyes and shiny scales.
This dragon loves daisies almost as much as her dazzling jewels.
I always take a big bunch of daisies for her silver vase.
The dragon sniffs and I try not to laugh as petals stick to her snout.
I visit the dragon on windy days when she likes to test her leathery wings.
I have to duck my head as she flaps around and around the cave.
Swish!  Whoosh!  The daisies scatter.
I visit the dragon on hot days with an extra treat of frozen oranges.
The dragon chews wildly, scattering me with orange peel confetti.
Plink, plunk!
I visit the dragon on cold days and her fiery breath keeps me warm.
The daisies are scorching, I smell smoke.
“Be careful!” I cry as flames lick my wooden chair.
We cough and cough until I brew soothing cups of rosehip tea.
Next day I huff and puff as I tug a new chair up the hill.
The dragon has fresh daisies and does a happy twirl.
Oops!  Her tail spikes through the chair and it won’t come off.
She wiggles, the chair wobbles, I tug too hard and …
Oh!  The chair flies through the air towards a farm tractor below.
“Watch out!” I shout and wave my arms.
The dragon covers her eyes with trembling wings.
Crash!  A small figure jumps up and down and I know it’s my grandpa.
He must know where I borrowed that chair.
With a rustle of unfolding wings, the dragon stares at me.
“Time for me to go,” I say and pat the dragon’s claw.
Next afternoon, I sit on a solid stone but it scratches my legs.
I see the dragon’s head droop onto a rock pillow.
Even the daisies are wilting.  “Why is she so tired?”
I tap my chin thoughtfully.  “Dragon needs to snuggle.”
My arms and legs are working fast as I scurry around the cave.
Scooping up gold coins, I make a twinkling trail.
It circles the dragon in the shape of an egg.
Next I gather jewellery and gems and sparking diamonds.
My hands tingle as I pile everything into the oval shape.
I mix the treasure together and make a glittering nest.
The dragon barely blinks as I cover right up to her bony elbows.
She puffs steam, snuffles and falls asleep.
I tiptoe out of the cave and can’t wait for tomorrow.
“Do dragons hatch eggs?” I wonder.
In the middle of my grandpa’s paddock is a hill,
In the middle of the hill is an amazing glowing cave.
In this cave lives two dragons with bright eyes and shiny scales.
The new dragon flaps tiny wings,
The new dragon guzzles frozen oranges,
The new dragon burps little flames.
And the new dragon is called Daisy.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Draw-a-Dragon 01
Dragon Daisy

The Shadow Bird

Bird Shadow 06
Shadow Bird

First Bird went peck, peck, peck.

Second Bird went peck, peck, peck.

First Bird is annoyed.

He looks in the window,

He hops along the path,

He sips from a water bowl.

And Second Bird is always there.

When it rains, Second Bird goes away.

But not for long.

One day First Bird flies straight at Second Bird.

Ouch!

First Bird is taken to the vet.

His beak hurts,

And he feels lonely.

First Bird looks out the window.

There is Second Bird looking back.

Second Bird waits until First Bird is released,

And they fly away together.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward