So I guess this is Day 2 (Warning: long!)

I’m going to work backwards through the day and hope that I both remember the day’s events and stay awake long enough to report them. just spent a couple of hours sharing bottles of South Australian Rosemont wine (shiraz and merlot, for those who care) with two retired couples currently residing at the B&B where I have a beach house for one night on the western coast of the Tasman Penninsula. One couple is from Western Australia, and one from New South Wales. One woman attended a one-room school house with one teacher and 14-20 other children when she was in grades k-8. Her husband has driven trucks, raised chucks (chickens) and done a variety of jobs until his retirement 5 years ago. From the 4 delightfully friendly, open, interesting, and funny people I learned such valuable information as, “to the Aussies from other states, people from Queensland are called banana benders, South Australians are referred to as crow eaters, residents of Western Australia are sand gropers, and folks from Victoria, being from so far south, are referred to as Mexicans. Though I will admit to having missed ocassional words here and there, I think I am doing quite nicely following the conversation in their language. On my way across the lawn to my abode, I was finally able to see stars in the sky as this is the first even partially clear night since my arrival. I was expecting to be totally disoriented and to recognize nothing, but the first things I saw were Orion and Taurus in the north amidst a lot of other stellar nonsense. In my brief viewing, I recognized no constellations in the southern sky (the only otehr area visible) but saw a lot of really bright  stars above the gum tree canopies. Beautiful!

I met Jeff and Lisa (the sand gropers) when I finished my sunset walk along the beach after I had made and eaten some supper. I saw them sitting and drinking wine in the diminishing daylight and chatted them up (as they say). That led to the convivial hours that followed. We watched the sky together for a while, noted that another fire was burning to the north, and the smoke was drifting south an fuzzing up the sun. Very sad.

Because it is the height of the summer season, and this is a 3-day weekend (I don’t know why) I did not have a lot of choices when I decided yesterday to begin my exploration about as far south as I could go in Tasmania. Consequently, I ended up with a lovely two-bedroom fully equipped cottage, a sandune and 25 meters from a beautiful semicircular white sand beach. Tough luck. But I DO wish I had someone(s) with whom to share it. I’m not even here long enough to make use of all the rooms!

I drove here via a couple of natural POI’s, fascinating erosion-generated rock formations called the Tessallated Pavement and power-of-the-sea phenomena named respectively the Tasmanian Arch and the Devil’s Kitchen. The former was one end of a very long (maybe 1.5-2 miles?) white sand beach, which I walked as the sea-breeze was in full mid-afternoon force and kicking up some nice breakers. The beach was desserted when I set out, but half a dozen surfers and a couple of dog walkers materialized on my return leg. I was wishing I could telport all my blizzard-expecting family and friends here to take off the chill. I think I’m beginning to understand why they call this place “Oz.” (It really is Oz, not Aus, as I first suspected when I heard it pronounced by a native). It is surreal!

En route to points south, I drove through many kilometers of charcoal covered trees, the results fo the recent spate of bushfires that raged through the area last month. I saw only one man-made structure that had been destroyed by the blaze, and a remarkable number of houses (this area is quite sparsely populated, but percentage-wise…) that were completely unscathed and surrounded by verdant vegetation in the midst of burned trees. The burned areas were not all contiguous, but I imagine that some sort of fire control measures were exercised to protect people’s homes so thoroughly.

Prior to wending my way down along the Derwent and onto the Penninsula, I visted MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) north of Hobart. If you are unfamiliar with this unique institution, check out Richard Flanagan’s article about David Walsh, its creator, in the January 21 issue of The New Yorker: Tasmanian Devil. I will say at the outset that I did not enjoy the museum, per se, though I found it incredibly compelling, extremely imaginative, and literally unique. I was discomfitted from the moment I entered the first gallery (one is instructed to work one’s way from the bottom up to the fourth level) which was enormous, dark, labyrinthine and filled with various kinds of frequently disturbing art works and sound installations. I will admit that, having negotiated the drive, being alone, being awake since 3AM, and being far from home had me predisposed to disequilibrium, but having talked to other people (including my wine companions) my reaction was not at all unusual.

There was one installation that I actually actively liked, and the only one I could even pretend to understand. It was a room-sized intermittent curtain of water sprayed from jets two stories up such that the water spelled words. The words dissipated into normal spread-out drops as they fell. The words evoked topics from news headlines, and the whole thing was meant to represent the rapidity and mutability of the information overload to which we are all subjected in the digital age. I learned later that there is  Google feed into the controls of the jet streams such that the words reflect current topics in the news. Pretty cool!

Much of the art works, sculptures, paintings, videos, material and sound “installations,” depicted or evoked dsitrurbing themes, or treated serious material (abuse, death, sex) in an ironic or brutal manner. What irked me most was that other inherently beautiful or intriguing objects, such as ancient greek, Egyptian, or Venetian artifacts, or abstract works that had potentially cheerful themes, were all tainted by the darkness (literal and figurative) of the entire museum. I really wished I had someone with whom to discuss the experience. I think it was one worth having, but it wasn’t what I would call “fun.”

The museum is situated on lovely grounds overlooking the Derwent River, with all sorts of nifty architecture and landscaping design elements, all non-traditional, of course. One drives up a hill through a vineyard to get to the place, and this being high summer, all the grapes are getting ripe, so all the vines are shrouded in white cheese cloth-looking stuff to keep the critters off the goods. 

So now we’re back to this morning, which was spent solidfying driving directions (Avis was out of GPS units. Curses!) and booking the next few night’s accommodations. I will not have internet access for at least tomorrow night.

I hope the “worst storm since 1978” doesn’t prove to be that awful and that you are all safe, warm, and have power food and water. And I wish all for whom it is relevant a happy snow day!