Friday, August 29, 2008

Beautiful Coral

Staghorn Coral with Nudibranch

A few weeks ago I got to go snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, on a mid-shelf reef called Mackey about 20km east of Cape Tribulation. I went out with a company called Ocean Safari who do the half-day trip here (the Rum Runner does the full day trip but I'm too fragile a sailor for eight hours on the water). I was very nervous but as soon as I got up close to the coral reef, I forgot to worry about my breathing and floating challenges.

Looking around at the incredible diversity of colours, shapes and textures was utterly entrancing. I was soon reminded of the crocheted coral I discovered at The Institute for Figuring at the beginning of the year. By the time I got back on the boat I knew I was going to have to find myself a crochet hook: I just had to try making some coral for myself.

Fortunately my friend Freya in Cape Tribulation had a crochet hook for her dreadlocks , and plenty of yarn for making gorgeous knitted fairy wings. I borrowed a ball of variagated pink/purple and began. Since it was about 30 years since I last crocheted, it took a wee while to get the hang of it again, but then I was away, trying to imitate what I had seen in the water and at the IFF. Then I discovered wunderkammer's wonderful Sculptural Crochet Primer and my repetoire began to expand hyperbolicly. When I got to town and could get other colours of yarn, my growing collection of coral bits started to look a lot more like the real thing. These photos are just some of my earlier efforts. I'll post some of the current, even spunkier stuff soon.

Crocheting coral is such a fun, satisfying and interesting activity that its hard to tear myself away to take care of other things like blogging, housekeeping, sleeping or even reading. It's the same obsessive passion that I have for making books and letterpress, that I have had for knitting, embroidery, gardening, studying and other pursuits that litter my life story. You could call me a dilatante but in keeping with my usual obsessive behaviour I am also researching reefs and learning as much as I can understand about what they are and how they work... and how they are at risk of extinction from pollution, climate change and other human influences.

One of our guests at the Hideaway this weekend a microbiologist who studies coral and I asked him how much the Great Barrier Reef had changed since he was here in the early 1990s. Unlike all the local people I've talked to he didn't hesitate to express his shock and horror at the degredation of the GBR. The main thing cause, he says, is over fishing. With most of the big fish (including sharks) gone, algae smother the coral and kill it, interrupting the whole complex food chain.

The Reef is still so beautiful, so amazing, that it is easy to think everything is alright. But there are many days when I walk down to the beach and am horrified to see fishing boats right up close to the shore here, in amongst the reefs. Although the Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Area most of it is actually not legally protected from commercial (or any other) fishing.

I'm not sure what I can do to make a difference except stop eating fish altogether, continuing to pick up trash when I see it on the beach, minimsing my personal carbon footprint as much as possible and sharing what I am learning about corals with anyone who looks vaguely interested. Which, dear blog reader, may include you! If you are more than vaguely interested, this site has some suggestions for how to help save coral reefs.

Blue Sea Star and Staghorn Coral

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cape Tribulation Moai / Rob's Place

Rainforest Hideaway is a wonderfully creative environment. Although I am not making books at the moment, I am making lots of other things, as well as writing plenty of poetry and prose. Rob is also eternally creative with several projects on the go at any one time. His latest passion is for building giant concrete scultptures like Rapa Nui moai (Easter Island heads). Here's some photos of the first one coming into existence, accompanied by a poem I wrote called Rob's Place.

First Rob made the framework of reo bar

Rob uses everything he finds here.

Looking at a gnarly rootball

he sees Medusa’s throne, and makes it.

Deano from next-door welded the reo bar

We live with massive slabs of fallen trees

dragged in from the forest,

smoothed and sealed into muscular furniture.

Rob sculpted the head with three layers of chicken wire

The living room is decorated with driftwood au natural:

a lifesize giraffe, a baby rhinoceros head, a giant melomy fleeing.

Only the frog in the lightshade is real.

I helped by climbing inside to fasten the chicken wire to the reo bar.

Spiders and bats, branches and vines

all come inside, recognizing a sympathetic habitat.

We breakfast with the brush turkey.

Applying the first of two layers of concrete

Outside, narrow tracks lace through the forest,

past structures that seem to float among the trees

but human presence here is not tentative.

Ready for the final layer of concrete with iron oxide to make it dark, then alayer of potting mix porridge, and whole thing wrapped in cling wrap to cure as slowly as possible in the warm weather

Ask Rob’s towering, earthy avatar,

the stern moai rising from the ground

to preside over sunny expanses of water.

Unveiling a week later

Hiding away in the rainforest,

offering a seductive, sensitive vision of belonging

Rob’s place imagines forest life into reality.