Dawn Gathering

Two years ago, we attended the opening of the biennial Ten Days on the Island festival on the beach at Devonport. This year, we gathered just before dawn, on the pataway/Burnie foreshore to celebrate mapali.

Following a Welcome to Country ceremony, Dave manganeer Gough took us on a journey to the beginning of time and the creation of the first palawa or Tasmanian Aborigine. As the beat of Taiko drums bounced off nearby rocks

we learned that moinee, the great creator, came down the sky bridge, the Milky Way to lutruwitta/Tasmania, collected some soil and ochre and took it back into the sky. There, he formed the first palawa and sent him down the sky bridge back to lutruwitta. Unfortunately, he had legs with no knee joints and the tail of a kangaroo and was unable to sit or lie down.

On hearing the pleas from palawa to help him, moinee sent down his brother, drumadeene the star spirit,

who cut off his tail, rubbing animal fat into the wound for healing and gave him knee joints.

There was much rejoicing,

fires were lit

and a trio of dancers performed to the beat of more drums.

A penguin rookery inflated in front of the drummers

and the penguins cavorted on the sand before retreating in fear from the humans.

Another story followed, that of a young warrior, niyakara, who leaves his village to hunt tara/kangaroo. He sees the village women collecting maireener shells at the water’s edge

and three warriors he doesn’t recognise are watching them.

Assuming they are up to no good, niyakara gives chase but their running strides become bounces and the three transform into kangaroos and bound away.

Three large flags, signifying the strong connection of the palawa and tara, fluttered in the light breeze

as the fires diminished and celebrations came to an end.

A few days later, we visited Makers’ Workshop to see the exhibition, Making mapali. Hundreds of artists and collaborators, along with Goldberg Aberline Studio, worked for months to bring the event to life, it was fascinating to see the detail and hours of work involved. Community participants developed abstract sketches inspired by the night sky for the sky bridge lanterns. The drawings were then digitally overlayed in Photoshop to create the unique Milky Way design.

Even the firesticks are a work of art. Made from paperbark, wattle, native grass, eucalypt leaves, banksia nut, moss and reed pods they were used carry fire, see at night and ward off bad spirits.

The inflatable penguin rookery was most impressive with colours of the rocky North West shoreline, reflection of light across Bass Strait, native grasses and penguin feathers representing an abstract interpretation of the coastline. The Goldberg Aberline Studio hand-painted the circular sample fabrics and enlarged penguin feather, then photographed and printed them onto 500 metres of fabric that has been sewn together and hand-finished.

maireener shells, also known as rainbow kelp shells, are used by Tasmanian Aboriginal women to make traditional necklaces.

The tara flags were created using a similar process to the sky bridge lanterns, combining drawings by students from Parklands High School to express the movement of the tara as well as the transformation of tara to palawa.

Bayviews birthday

One consolation of having another birthday is the excuse for a return visit to our favourite restaurant, Bayviews, overlooking Burnie foreshore. After ordering a bottle of Josef Chromy pinot gris, we were presented with a tempter of trevalla sashimi with lemon & lime dressing in lettuce cups.

Hopeful of a spectacular sunset, the evening sky was too clear and there was nothing but calm waters across Bass Strait.

The view was forgotten as entrée arrived; pepperberry and beetroot cured salmon with pickled vegetables, gin & lime sorbet, avocado mousse, horseradish cream & sumac for me

and lemon pepper dusted southern calamari with a salad of fresh vegetables, bean shoots, herbs & roasted peanuts, horseradish mousse & house made sweet chilli sauce for M.

A delicious palate cleanser of rose, honey & apple jelly

preceded the main course. I couldn’t resist the rolled belly of Scottsdale pork with cauliflower & truffle oil velouté, Joseph Chromy pinot gris poached apples, dehydrated pork skin & fennel remoulade.

M opted for a succulent chargrilled eye fillet served with a potato, mustard seed & aged parmesan croquette, wilted baby spinach, tempura onion rings & red wine jus. A side dish of steamed greens with burnt butter dressing completed a perfect feast.

We had no room to spare in the dessert stomach, we will make up for that next time.

snakey summer

We have become accustomed to sharing our summer garden with tiger snakes, they have the perfect home around the pond and they have been very polite lodgers. Last year Michael had reconfigured the ponds and surrounding rocks and plants and, apart from a brief visit to check out the new design, no-one actually moved in. Our latest resident appeared early in the summer, curled up in a favourite spot to capture the morning sun.

The weather has been unseasonal this year, with a very wet and mild November making the process of warming up quite difficult. Tasmanian tiger snakes are darker than their mainland cousins in order to absorb more heat but there is still a need to flatten out and speed up the process.

The rocks hold their warmth, a great place to stretch in the sun

until it gets too hot and then there is a shady grevillea to retreat to.

Being extremely vulnerable while shedding their skin, snakes are usually discreet about it. We were very surprised when we came in from gardening to find she had done so out in the open.

After a while, she changed her morning sunning spot, perhaps realising it warmed up earlier than her usual position.

One morning we found her completely out of her comfort zone and wondered if she had been caught unawares the previous evening as the temperature can drop quickly once the sun starts its descent. She flattened out on the stones for a while

and finally made her way, very slowly, to her usual place under the box hedge.

Her home was actually in the rocks, we would see her go to bed each night around 5.30pm (no, we didn’t read her a bedtime story).

A few of weeks ago, we noticed she was looking dull, she was quite restless and her eyes were cloudy, a sure sign another skin shedding was imminent.

We kept a close eye on her movements and the camera within reach in the hope of witnessing and filming the shedding experience. It wasn’t to be, our last vision of her was in her tired, old skin and we haven’t seen her now for three weeks.

Hopefully, she has taken her shiny new self out to the forest to find a mate. Maybe she will return next year?

Highland Restaurant

There are so many wonderful things about staying at Cradle Mountain Lodge and if you enjoy amazing food, the Highland Restaurant is the place to be. We wandered in for breakfast on our first morning, expecting the usual buffet. Not being a fan of buffets, I was pleasantly surprised to find, thanks to social distancing rules, full table service instead. The restaurant had been tastefully refurbished since our previous visit but retained a light, airy and welcoming ambience.

Despite the inclemency outside, the lake was tranquil

while the log fire added warmth inside.

We started with Spreyton fresh juices, a seasonal fruit plate and freshly baked croissants.

I opted for a simple omelette while Michael indulged with smoked salmon, capers and spinach, cheekily adding a pair of poached eggs atop the sourdough.

Returning that evening for dinner, we were awed not only by the flavours of fresh Tasmanian produce but also by the creative works of art presented on our plates. For entrée we chose pepperberry and gin cured ocean trout, beetroot foam & citrus crème fraîche and wallaby scallopini, tomato, king brown mushroom & truffle.

We couldn’t resist the Scottsdale pork belly, Tasmanian scallops & apple rémoulade and beef fillet, truffle mash, buttered asparagus & black garlic for mains.

Of course, we had saved room in our dessert stomachs. Already impressed by the artistic talents in the kitchen, they excelled themselves with the sweet offerings. The coconut panna cotta, pistachio sponge & moss seemed inspired by nature

and the chocolate forest floor with chocolate fungi & chocolate floss was truly spectacular.

We waddled back to our cabin, convinced we wouldn’t need to eat for a week. It turned out that wasn’t the case, we were back for breakfast in fine form. This time we followed the fruit plate and croissants with a Mountain Breakfast – bacon, sausage, eggs your way, tomato, mushrooms, spinach, sourdough, sautéed potatoes & house baked beans.

With a menu that changes seasonally, I think the time is nigh for another visit.

elf escapades

I first became aware of the ‘elf on the shelf’ in December 2019 when a friend at work, who has two young boys, showed me photos of the mischievous little imp and his shenanigans. I was so enamoured with the charming chap, I hoped to find him wrapped as my Secret Santa gift that year. He wasn’t. With no young children in the household, I have been able to live vicariously through said friend as she has shared the nocturnal antics of the elf with me.

A picture book written by American Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell in 2005 sparked the phenomenon of the ‘elf on the shelf’, telling the story of a scout elf sent from the north pole who reports back to Santa each night to help him compile his naughty and nice list. When the elf returns to the household each morning he surprises the children by appearing in different places and getting into all sorts of predicaments.

The magic begins when the elf is adopted by a family and given a name but if the elf is touched, his powers will disappear. You can speak to the elf and tell him your Christmas wishes so he can let Santa know each night.

The story ends when the elf leaves on Christmas Day to stay with Santa for the rest of the year until the following Christmas season.

I know I am not alone in my appreciation of this enchanting concept but it seems there are some with a different viewpoint. In 2011, a Washington Post reviewer described it as, “just another nannycam in a nanny state obsessed with penal codes”

and a year later, a psychologist referred to it as a “dangerous parental crutch”, with much the same reasoning as what he terms the “Santa lie”. I wonder how many adults today are suffering because their parents let them believe in Santa Claus for a few years?

Professor Laura Pinto has had a lot to say on the subject, none of it from a child’s perspective. In summation, she “suggests that it conditions kids to accept the surveillance state and that it communicates to children that “it’s okay for other people to spy on you, and you’re not entitled to privacy.” She argues that “if you grow up thinking it’s cool for the elves to watch me and report back to Santa, well, then it’s cool for the NSA to watch me and report back to the government”. I find that very sad in a world where the innocence of children seems to be of diminishing importance and childhood itself is increasingly fleeting.

An article in December 2019 by a Sun-Herald senior writer takes it to the extreme. She laments that, “The unintended consequence is it traps parents in an exhausting game, while teaching our kids to be comfortable with surveillance” and “have you considered how hard it might be to stop? Realistically, you are committed for the rest of the Christmas season and every year after that until all the children are old enough to know it’s not real”. So, it’s all about the parent and how difficult it is to do something that brings joy to their offspring for a few days each year of their childhood.

This came next, “If this all sounds like hard work, you’re right. Social media is full of exhausted parents racking their brains over the elf”. Is it so hard because it involves a little ingenuity and doesn’t require a mobile phone, iPad or laptop? Perhaps a little less social media and a little more interaction with your children would make for a more satisfying experience.

Here’s the kicker, “the real deal breaker for me is that the Elf on the Shelf is a creep. The idea of having a doll in your house that spies on you and rewards you with presents seems like a great way to prime our future citizens to accept ubiquitous surveillance and focus on being good little consumers”. This is not how children think, it is the flawed workings of damaged adult minds.

Christmas lost its magic for me many years ago but small things, like the elf on the shelf, stir something that I am very happy to feel again. I am looking forward to seeing the little fella in December.