Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas and all that ...

is just another day, to me.
Once, I had family who came, and it was good.  Roast ham with pineapple and cloves and brown sugar.  The turkey. Cranberry sauce and brandy butter.  Bon bons. Roast vegetables. Glass baubles and lights on the tree. Carols. Chocolates. Eyes lighting up, It all went well.
Until it didn't.
Later, reduced, older children travelling home, listening to ABC radio who gave  regular updates on the Christmas road toll as if it were some kind of record they were eager to breech.   Fear - imagination? - did not eclipse relief,  but certainly reduced pleasure.

None of that fits where I am now.
Now I ignore the crassness, shrug off the rancid commercialisim, and am aware that what the celebration is about, fundamentally, down to the nitty gritty., is the birth of a baby. Some people think that this particular baby was divine.  Other don't. I don't think that it matters.

Like sunsets or stars, tides, rainbows, babies - humans through to  mice, cockroaches or other- are an extraodinary phenomena:  always miraculous.
I like to think that at Christmas we are celebrating the importance of the most vulnerable in our world. The least influential.  And, arguably, our sttrongest hint that life continues to have confidence in us.  I am happy. at Christmas, to celebrate babies.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Indolent in the Garden

There are some lovely trees in the garden, like this oak. Its branches spread perfectly for a tree house: it just needs children.
Large parts of the ground have had ivy over them, and it has climbed many trees.  Mainly, I am severing the ivy stems and hoping for good luck, tho' I understand that  if robust enough it can live from the tree itself, not from the earth.    I am careful in trying to rid this gum tree of it, because its bark is so tender.  
 Oops: not much of the gum there on the left. It is a beautiful tree, taller than the oak.  Within the undergrowth there, there is a large fallen limb.  So far I haven't tried to move it.  And behind the gum tree there is a lemon tree abundant with lemons. I must find someone to give them to.

Jasmine, honeysuckle and ivy have romped unchecked, and I'm doing my best - um, every now and then -  to make them behave in a more orderly manner...from time to time.   The honeysuckle is the worst culprit.  In some places it has created ugly, knotted nests high in the branches, and I have no hope of sorting that out. It has caught up fallen branches and woven them in to an impenetrable decaying...mess. Amputation, always a last resort, will turn out to be the only solution, I fear.

The above was not meant to be underlined: that was just a gremlin. I don't argue with them. I wonder if anyone knows what that plant is.
Bad colour. These blossoms - rhododendron surely? - were vibrantly purple, without the pinkishness of the photo.  But, what were they doing coming in to bloom in November., 2 or 3 months too late? A huge bush: I clamber inside to chop the old and the dead, and find some privets.

 Once, boysenberries were planted.  Now I am enjoying that foresight.
I didn't expect that I would enjoy the ripe boysenberries, as I am doing.  But, in the interim I have been tossing minced beef  -only  $6 a kilo - at the magpies, kookas, currawongs + small miners - (mynahs?)  - and others, and can see that I may distorted their world in doing so. Or not.
A smallish brown - grey bird - oh, maybe 20 - 40 cm - has a pure clear song of notes when he is at the rear, waiting for mince. The clarity and beauty of his voice penetrate to me within, to the advantage of the other birds hoping for handouts.
 He snatches food in mid air like a miracle, his reflexes astonishing to watch. His beak is large for a smallish bird, and has a hook at the end, which, I assume, is to pierce the eggs of other birds. Alas.
It occurred to me that that is what I do: take the eggs of other species.

I'm still blundering about here.
Logging on to my site, it says there are a number of comments waiting for moderation. Looking at these, they go back to 2011.
As far as I recall, I have never asked for moderation. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My husband and I once wanted to buy a cedar breakfront cupboard/bookcase for books and glasses. Each time we went to the auctions the price had increased yet again.  We gave up and bought this old cupboard as a "make-do until we grow rich".
The wood is somewhat mismatched, although one end looks almost like oak.  It is very coarsely grained, and the whole piece looks rather crude and rough and almost home made.  Perhaps that is why I have never seen another like it.  Or, perhaps it was always such a cheap piece that others simply threw theirs out when they could afford better - when they grew rich..
But the hinges - there are four of them, are quite beautiful.  Over the years this has become one of my favourite pieces.
Simple and unpretentious.  Both ordinary and beautiful.
In this it reminds me of the youtube flash operas in malls and supermarkets. No stage to separate, no fabulous costumes, just very ordinary people with an astonishing streak of beauty in their voices.
This flash performance is actually an advertisement, so it is better produced than most.  If you have the few minutes to watch it, I feel sure that you will enjoy it.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pink Owl

I was 5 years old when my mother's friend took us from our minute rural village: sandstone cottages in a bush clearing near the Cudgegong River on the far side of the Great Dividing Range,  for a holiday in the megalopolis of Sydney,   She took us to Taronga Park Zoo for the day:  such excitement, such astonishment, such thrilling views of the exotic, outlandish, bizarre and beautiful only before known through stories. We gawped.
The evening train back to her home in Killara was a puzzle. We had to stand, crowded and shoved. On our morning trip the train had been relaxed and empty.  What had changed?
"It's pink owl," she bent down to answer my question.
Pink Owl!  What did this mysterious, arcane term mean? "Why is it called that?" I asked.
"Because that's what it is," she said a little crossly, no doubt tired, impatient and regretting her timing.
I was astonished.   I knew the adult world to be prosaic and mundane: yet, here was a poetic, magical name for a rather unpleasing phenomena.  Pink Owl: the evening hour, when people rushed for home.

Our minds, or mine certainly, try to impose meaning, or patterns onto the incomprehensible, the mysterious, the unknown.  And, on the whole, I'm happy with that.

Later in the holiday, I awoke one night in the double bed I shared with my two sisters. I pondered as to whether the bed had side rails or not.  I could not remember, so I decided to roll over towards the edge to find out - (one might have thought that the youngest should have been in the middle,  or, that I might have had
 more common sense...but, ...). As became obvious, there were no side rails, I landed on the floor, and for some time had a scar down the length of my nose. I can't remember that it hurt: my memory is of everyone else being concerned while I was not.

Forty five years later, when my husband died quite suddenly, this scar immediately resurrected and jagged down my nose again.  Although I had long forgotten it, I recognised it's path precisely.  It was a reminder that the body has its own history, its own dynamic, its own life, memory and agenda.
And it has been little nudges like that that have reminded me of how little I know, or will ever know, and how much I may misunderstand, and how my mind ( which feels like myself, ) does its best to understand to comprehend and find paths through this complex, complicated, glorious, extraordinary, difficult  existence that we find ourselves in.  Pink owl.
And, on the whole I'm happy with that.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


I have no interest in ghosts, neither believing or disbelieving in them.  I have been told that there are ghosts here, but I haven't met them and don't want to, although I'm told that they are benign and the shades of people I'm fond of.  Perhaps my disinterest deters them ...in which case I'll keep it up. I quite like being on my own and have no wish to share with anyone, even the disembodied.
The house once belonged to my lovely aunt.  The garden has been greatly neglected over the last few years.  It was a pleasure to uncover bluebells under layers of weeds, which then cooperatively flowered. Revealing hidden treasures feels attractively like "The Secret Garden", although I sometimes have a magpie walking along as my companion instead of a robin.  I doubt that I will make much of a dint in such a large untidy space, particularly as I am fairly indolent by nature... well, really lazy, actually.  But, I do enjoy cleaning up a huge mess much more  than daily dustings.
I feed the magpies and kookaburras cheap minced beef - maybe quite the wrong thing to do.  I do not feed the crows...ravens? . . because they tend to bully the others. This is possibly quite unfair, as each bird is obviously out for himself alone, and we are all victims of our own personalities to some extent, aren't we?  I may have overdone things with the magpies, because I found one in my kitchen this afternoon. Fortunately, he followed me outside without a fuss.  Memo:  Keep the back door shut.
The library here is small, so I resorted to Gutenberg on the computer where  I enjoyed reading many by Josephine Tey.  Although the denouments tended to be rather weak, I found the writing to be a great pleasure: it was similar to enjoying Agatha, Poirot and Sherlock on telly for the characters,costumes and furnishings rather than for the plot.
I also read "Mrs Miniver", one of 1940's top sellers, and found it so peaceful and inconsequential and full of whimsy and occasional sharp insights. Who wouldn't enjoy her description of  "a half opened leaf like a little pointed paw"?  Out my window I could see unfurling leaves precisely like that.
I am considering no longer dyeing my hair darker.  My hair has a very fine texture: a slight puff of wind and at best I look like a dandelion, at worst like struwwelpeter.  All I've asked of it for the last x years is to be neat, so I brush it back into a sort of bun. This must be close to the least flattering style one could choose, but it is certainly neat. When grey of course it is also very ageing, so a change of colour would seem to need a change of style.
I watched "Jam and Jersualem" to be inspired re older-women's styles: unfortunately, they were all dreadful. Good looking hair obviously needs good grooming,  As, (see above), I am indolent and poor at day-to-day housekeeping, this seems to be an ask too far.   And, this year Hillary Clinton has sometimes adopted my bun-style "do", affirming that it is the most practical. What to do?
How one "presents oneself", if that's the correct expression, is so much a product of the culture. I have been watching old family films, in which my mother in law at age 56 in 1952, looks exactly like a respectable matron of the time should look, and very like the way she looked at age 78, when I first met her.  She looks old enough to be the mother of her granddaughters, who are now older than she was then...(her family was very age spread out, I hasten to add: her older grandchildren are close on my heels).  Does any of this kind of thing matter?  I'm not sure.
A light globe fell out of its fitting one night and bounced unbroken on the floor. "They are trying to contact you," I was told. Stubbornly, I resist.  Perhaps I am being foolish - not for the first time - and they. whoever they are or were -  can provide me with all the best answers.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I am somewhere else.
Having lived 40 years in the one house, I am now, for 6 months, living somewhere different: a tiny, old weatherboard cottage. Front door with windows on either sides, like a child's drawing.  Corrugated iron roof.
 The topography is different: coming from the flat country, I look out the windows to see myself half way up the trees. From the back window, the land falls sharply down to a lower area where there is a tall, rangy gum tree, a fine oak whose lower branches spread out as if waiting for a child's tree house, a splendid fir.  Possums bounce on the roof at night. Magpies visit, looking for treats. King parrots have been busy at the spring blossom:  what is that about?  Is it like the way that the little girls used to tip up and drink the sweetness from the camellia flowers?
The rooms are few and small. With ten foot ceilings, the rooms feel like cubes. I find it astonishing that 4 of them have fireplaces, although one is bricked up.  And none of these rooms was the kitchen.  What kind of workman's cottage was this, where they had fireplaces in the bedrooms?  I have seen much grander houses where this wasn't so.
I am living with someone else's furnishings, collections, artifacts.    This is not how I would necessarily like to present myself, which is interesting in itself.  It is somewhat like going out in public in someone else's clothes.

There is a coincidence, in that the house block, at 4/10 of an acre, is slightly larger than those neighbouring.  Of course there are also multi-acred estates nearby, so I am seeing this through a small prism. And what I see is that I have always, always lived in slightly larger spaces. I find this to be odd.
 Another "always, always" is that I tend to get sunny weather on holidays. Odd and pleasant coincidences.
There are probably odd and negative "always" too, but I refuse to collect those.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Walking Tiptoed

Yesterday Cat at http://thereandbackbytricycle.blogspot.com.au/ triggered a memory of a story I read as a small child, and that although I had forgotten it or where it came from, its name had floated up in my mind intermittently ever since.
"The Thing that Walked Tiptoe" came from a book called "The Dawn Shops": such a magical title. Could you buy "sunrise" in such a shop? Obviously it would have been full of mysterious and magical wares.
The story - you can google it - is of an elfin "thing" who yearns to be and play with real children.   It practises trying to walk on the ground - its kind walks above it - and eventually manages to walk on tiptoe.  Its family makes it a dress, and a hat to cover its long ears, and it confidently sets off.
Shockingly, a group of children jeer at and reject it, but it finds a lone child in a meadow, with whom it plays happily all day.  However, at the day's end, the child reveals that it has known all along that it is not another real child:  its ears poke through its hat and it walks on tiptoe.
Saddened that all the work and effort went for naught, the thing flees to home.  It doesn't see the positives of the child enjoying playing with it while also accepting its true nature.
A sad little story.  But what a parable.  Hiding or disguising your unique qualities in order to try to fit in.  Not an uncommon story.
Of course I didn't see that when I was a child.
But perhaps my subconscious did, and that's why the story lingered there while my memory deleted it.
Sometimes among my students I have young ones who are easily distracted.  Among these are some whose distraction consists of constantly watching other children.  I have sensed - and, I might be wrong - that they were appraising and trying to learn how these others were so easily being average children.   Is that lucid?
I used to work with individual children across quite a wide geographic area.  Thousands of children, in total. It seemed to me then that the eyes of most  5 year olds were completely open and trusting:  but, by six, an almost imperceptible shadow of wariness was there.  Losing their self -  acceptance?  Learning to stretch their toes to the ground and hide their long ears under a hat?  I wonder.

They eyes of some monkeys, like the one above, are unbearably sad.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Congratulations and thanks to these companies


The anti-piracy legislation before the USA government at the moment will greatly reduce access to information on the internet.


"These bills could prevent you participating online again ....a 'consumption only' internet is starting to look like the goal of these bills."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A small but important dilemna

I've known M for about 20 years - although not very well.  So that not having seen her for years was not unusual.  I can't remember how or why we met, or how we made any kind of connection: mutual acquaintances possibly, or  just random.
She was around my age group, and I knew that she was an adopted child of a family with some social prominence.
"I was cherished," she said.  "Cherished".   A wonderful childhood memory.
She was warm and chatty and artistic: 2 items together were 2 items together, she said:  but 3 created a whole different entity.  Puting 3 together, you needed to watch what you were creating.  She painted pleasant and skilled watercolours.
 I don't think she would have known anything of my background, because she liked to talk, not question,  and she liked to socialise in groups, (which I don't).   She visited me here, and was always welcome to visit me here: but that hadn't happened for a long time.
Her adult life, I gather, had not really been very happy.   Her husband was not simpatico, and she clung to the social group that she felt she belonged to - and why not? - altho her husband didn't fit in, and finances made this increasingly desperate in the decades since her husband's death.  This from others, not from her.
I asked a mutual friend about her a month or 2 ago, and she said that she had moved to some kind of seniors' centre.
Today, in the online newspaper, there is notice of her funeral. 
My particular dilemna is that I have a copy of Khalil Gibran that M lent me. 
It had been given to her by her beloved daughter, who committed suicide as a very young woman/girl.
What do I do with it?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The perils of being an early adopter

I don't know how I came across Hypochondria Jones blog from 2005


But I thought it was sad and funny, and would like to read more of her.   I regretted that most of the few responses seemed to be from sleazes. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Surprise! Things change.

The waters of Nakhodka Port were the black of death, non life, Styx, some anti-life force, when I first saw them.  The water rippled sluggishly, weighted down with oil and rubbish and jetsam.  An arc of settlement around the harbour showed faded peeling pastel stucco, as the revolution, or Stalin, proscribed in its destructive path across eastern Russia.
What changes this to the photo above, which I would once have thought to be a fanciful dream?
Relinquishing fear?
Capiltalism seeing and exploiting an opportunity?
Ecological enlightenment?
All of the above?
None of the above: just the force of history?

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I watched "The Bear Man of Kamchatka" last night.  I slightly envy, but mostly admire, people like Charlie Russell who have forged themselves such admirable lives.
Once, in a Moscow restaurant, a man tried to convey, with astonishment, to his - say 11 year old - son, that I came from somewhere as exotic as Australia.  He and his son came from somewhere as banal as Kamchatka.  (Irony alert - we were both agog).  At that time I was adept at illustrating my provenance by drawing a kangaroo.
3 or 4 of us had made a group. Jules was a NZedder in his 70s, well heeled.   Jules took us to a Russian nightclub. At the hotel desk he asked for a cab. "What?" said the receptionist.  "A cab!  A cab!" said Jules.  Her face closed and turned away.  "We don't have those in Russia," she said.   "Taxi", said I.  "Oh yes, " said she.  And there it was.
The nightclub was a fairly disspiriting affair.  Rows of healthy, unsophisticated,  glum looking girls dancing  in high heels and socks, who occasionally twirled so that their skirts rose to display the awful Russian underwear.
We didn't look for a cab/taxi back to the hotel: caught a bus or a tram - I forget which - and got off when we felt it was about right.
We walked to the corner, turned it, and there before us was the splendour of the cobbled Red Square, with the excessively gorgeous St Basil's cathedral illuminated in its centre.  On our right was the  grim structure of the Kremlin.  The clock struck midnight, and we saw the mechanistic changing of the guards at Lenin's tomb.

Going to Europe later was something of an anticlimax.  Well, a disappointment, by and large, although I enjoyed myself and learned a lot, largely through the Americans I met who befriended me everywhere, talked, argued, informed and. among other things, took me to "Hair", to stay with them at a Cambridge college and to take brass rubbings. Why am I not more generous to Americans when I have enjoyed them so much?   On the other hand there were these handsome, healthy, well built young men, oozing with privilege, who would  accost one outside American Express offices,  confidently asking for handouts, as if entitled.  They are probably all bankers now.  The other side.

Taxi, police, beer... close to universal words in my experience,

My father was...yes, we have long generations in my family....in Canadian logging camps in the 1920s.  He had photos  - my niece should have them now, but perhaps she has mislaid them - of twin grizzly cubs who used to turn up each day to be fed porridge by the men.  Their mother lurked watchfully in the trees.  So, Charlie has not been alone, or even the forerunner in knowing that grizzly does not necessarily mean "grizzly". It's about time we stopped all the killing, don't you think?