You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Friday, 29 June 2012

of Littletree and the Faerie Goddessmother

One of the more profound honours in my life is to be goddessmother to a certain little lady who happens to be one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met, and she's only nine years old.

I remember the moment back in the summer of '02-03 when I read in an email from Majikfaerie that she was going to have a baby. A physical presence landed in my belly and in my heart. I knew from that instant that we were part of each other's lives, that I had a charge and a responsibility come into the world. I had to wait a bit to get to meet her and to find out what an amazing person she would become.

Oh wow, did I luck out in the goddessdaughter department. Littletree is sweet-natured, funny, thoughtful, kind, caring, and so bloody smart that the whole world had better join me in hoping that she continues, as she grows up, to use her powers for Good and not Evil. And that's not even to mention her incredible sense of fashion and style. I can't imagine what will happen when she is old enough to go op-shopping by herself.

I've been away visiting Majikfaerie and Littletree in Northern New South Wales. And, of course, no trip to... well, anywhere in the realm of civilisation, really... would be complete without a trip to the op-shop. As I was travelling light without checked baggage on an aeroplane, I couldn't indulge in acquisition and had to live vicariously by shouting Littletree a couple of tops she found in the kid's clothing racks. Here she is modelling our prize treasure - this purple bolero.

I did have access to a wide range of technological appliances while I was away, and I was even brave enough to try something new, but the prospect of putting together a blog post on an unfamiliar, fancy, modern laptop was a bit overwhelming.

Littletree was mystified by the concept of technophobia. She couldn't understand why I couldn't use a computer, when of course, 'it's SO SIMPLE!' We talked for a bit about the nature of phobia as irrational fear, and some of the funny names for specific phobias, such as 'triskadekaphobia' - the fear of the number 13. She seemed to reach an understanding of my feelings when I told her about how when I was a young adult, I had many epileptic episodes caused by the noises and lights of computers. However, until I was 25 I didn't know that I had epilepsy, let alone about medicating it, and so all I had was a scary sick feeling that often happened when I was around computers.

Of course Majikfaerie, my blogging inspiration and mentor, was always ready with her camera to record and blog our adventures. So you can click on the links to see our trip to Fingal Head, or this post with the hair setting in rag curls, just for the super cute photos. But I think my favourite bit was this one where we are doing a crossword puzzle. This was one of those truly spontaneous meaningful moments. I was just filling in some downtime with the puzzles in the back of a random magazine. It didn't occur to me that this might be something that Littletree would be interested in sharing with me - or many kids her age for that matter. But she just came up to see what I was doing and put herself on my lap and was soon absorbed in the patterns of letters joining to form words. We worked together for much longer than her usual preferred span of concentrated attention. When she finally said, 'Okay, I need a break!' she hadn't lost interest, but was getting tired and possibly hungry or thirsty.

I was a bit sad to be so far away from home and in a foreign, sub-tropical climate for the day of the Winter Solstice, which is a special one for me on the Wheel of the Year, but the Majikfaerie household made up for it with a special Winter Solstice Feast dinner. Later, the grown-ups paid homage to Hekate, goddess of the moon and the long, dark, cold nights, both of the seasons of the Earth and of our souls.

And now I am home, which is enveloped in a bright grey misty fog, or a foggy mist, I can't tell which, and we turn toward the coming Spring.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Good Morning Sunshine!, and No Milk Today

I like to go outside and say good morning to the garden soon after I get up and have a cup of tea (that which becometh Before All Else).

Good morning, dawn sky.

Good morning, little yellow-orange sunshiny flowers.

The rays of the sun reach the tallest limbs before they climb down into the garden.

This is the Possum Hilton tree. I'll be damned if I can work out where a whole family of possums hide in there during the stark winter days. Wally should take a lesson from these possums.

An autumn treasure - two gorgeous little orange surprise mushrooms growing among the thyme bush. I do love the strange and wonderful world of fungus.

I'm also starting to grow a nettle forest in this one little patch. I'm imagining a pot of nettle soup, with potatoes and pumpkin. 

I'm still not sure how they got here. I noticed these distinctive-looking weeds starting to pop up a little while ago, just in one patch in the middle of the backyard. Some part of my brain thought they looked like stinging nettles, but another part of my brain couldn't come up with an explanation for how such a plant should have appeared in my yard. They haven't been here before. I can't even think of anywhere near here at all where I've ever seen them before. So I just plucked a few like I would any regular weed. Within about twenty seconds the identity of the stinging nettle was confirmed.

There was a surprise of a different nature out the front of the house. For a few years now, I've been getting milk, dairy and some other products, such as free-range pork, fruit and veg, or bread, delivered by Aussie Farmers Direct. They have provided an excellent service, and it was a godsend in the days when even getting to the shops and home again with shopping was often practically Mission Impossible. I love the philosophy and aims of the company, and I've been happy to support them. Deliveries come on Wednesday and Saturday mornings in the wee hours, and are waiting on the doorstep when we get up in the morning. Just like in the old days. Isn't that awesome?

Only this morning, someone was up earlier than us, and all we found on the doorstep was an empty bucket in which I had left out the cooler bag the night before. No milk today!

This was probably likely to happen at some point anyway, what with leaving groceries unattended on one's front doorstep not being a very security-conscious thing to do in modern times. But yes, of course it's disappointing when it happens. At first I imagined some drunken lout stumbling home from a Friday night on the town and helping himself. A little later it occurred to me that a homeless person might have taken it.

On reflection, I think this is the most likely explanation. There is a park just 25m or so away in which homeless people often sleep. They don't usually cause any trouble. But you know what, it was really particularly cold last night, so they would have been feeling pretty miserable and needy. And there was really no negative energy out there on the doorstep with the empty bucket, and no sense of violation in losing our milk. No use crying over stolen milk, either, apparently. It seems to fit that it was taken by someone who really needed it, and I reckon good on 'em. We hadn't even actually run out of milk yet anyway, so we weren't even inconvenienced by the need for a milk bar run in order to make morning cuppas. I really hope that milk and cheese and butter is helping someone feel a bit better today.

I know that it's bloody rough out there during the winter. I'm thankful for my blessings. Pondering such matters, I thought of the Vinnie's CEO Sleepout that is coming up soon on June 21 this year in Melbourne. This is my favourite fundraiser idea for the charities who support homeless people - in this case St. Vinnie's. This is people really putting their money where their mouths are. It might only be for one night of the year, but it is a long, dark, cold night, even if not a particularly dangerous one, and I feel that it's a meaningful and sincere gesture on the part of the financially advantaged individuals who take part. Hats off to all involved.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Literary Review - Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

I didn't expect to be writing children's book reviews for my blog, but it just goes to show that I have no idea what to expect from blogging at all. We're all in on the journey of discovery together, and it just so happens that one of the most exciting things that's come my way lately has indeed been a children's book. As usual, I will tell you the whole story of how this came about.

Quite simply, I went to the library to return some books - a fairly regular event in the life of Lady Demelza. There is often a trolley full of books and magazines out the front that have been withdrawn by the library and are sold to the public for a tiny price. Usually there is not much of great interest there, which I find very reassuring, as I would like to think that the library is keeping its really cool stuff in stock. Sometimes the outdated magazines make good art fodder. But on this particular day, an unexpected treasure trove of artistic delights was waiting for me. It seemed that the library had done a cull of the children's picture books and there was a whole shelf full of them for sale for 50 cents each. The grocery shopping expedition was delayed considerably as I sat down and went through them all, and oohed and aahed a lot, and selected nine volumes to purchase.

I've been starting to notice lately, usually while trawling the op shops, that there is a lot of extraordinary artwork floating around the world in the form of children's book illustrations. I started to plan a blog post celebrating these art works... and it's still in the planning, and may be available at some time in the future. I got sidetracked by one particular book that I love so much, I'm giving it its own blog post.

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara is a very simple book for the littlest learning-to-readers. It's a story of witchcraft and empowerment, of recycling, cats, tea, and the importance of textiles in the domestic environment.

Artist and author Kazuno Kohara has used a simple palette of black and white on orange to produce these marvellous illustrations from linocut prints. I really love linocut printing as an art medium. It's something about the complexity of content that can come through such simple form. I love the rough little scratchy bits left behind by the linocutting tools - a visual representation of the physical motion that went into producing a static image. I have made a couple of lino prints myself when I've had access to equipment, and I loved the process and the results.

The story begins with a little girl who moves into a delightfully crooked house along with her cat. There's just one little inconvenience - the house is haunted.

Warning - spoiler alert. I am going to give away the plot at this point. I'm counting on there not being any members of this book's target audience following my blog.

This girl isn't bothered by such a trifle. In fact, she's quite capable of dealing with the situation, and is delighted to find an abundant ghostly population in her new home. She knows just what to do. After all, she's not just an ordinary little girl. She is a witch. It's all in a day's work.

With the help of her feline familiar, she catches the ghosts, and pops them in the washing machine. They dry in the sun, and then are put to work as a variety of household textiles - curtains, tablecloths, bedding.

We see here that while waiting for the ghost sheets to dry, the little witch is curled up with a book, a cat, and a cup of tea. That's how we can tell she's a real witch. That's exactly what witches do when they are hanging out. The cat even has its own cup of tea. Very cool.

We can tell that the ghosts are happy with their new purpose in life (afterlife?), as they have little smiley faces - though they did look a bit disturbed by the whole capture-and-launder process.

Being a real witch in the modern world, I am often terribly offended by the stereotypical construction of witches and witchcraft that is propagated by the media. You know what I mean - the Hollywood witch, the Disney witch, the evil cackling storybook antagonist. Not only do I find these representations personally offensive, it makes me sad for all of us as a culture, that our history has been distorted and so many hard-won truths lost to us.

I do commend Kohara on her efforts in rectifying this situation, though she has stuck to a rather traditional costume theme in regards to the witchy garb. I'm not a fan of the tall pointy black hat myself, but I do understand that many modern witches really love the iconic fashion statement. Not to mention the Harry Potter fans. I'm a little more concerned about the costume that the cat familiar apparently needs to don in order to carry out his witchly ways - it looks more like a cat burglar costume than a cat familiar costume. But I am willing to accept that it just makes a neat, simple visual device in a very simple, visual medium of storytelling.

This simple story has distilled the essence of the empowerment that is the conscious practise of witchcraft. This girl is self-contained and independent and so wise that she requires no guardian. When confronted with the supernatural and mysterious, she is not intimidated or frightened. She understands the nature of the ghosts, and exactly what to do with them. The basic act of transformation we witness in the ghost entities is the highest aim of alchemy and the very essence of the nature of witchcraft - to transform that which is undesirable into something useful.

I love that she goes into the kitchen and uses such a wonderfully modern magickal tool in her spellworkings. A front-loading washing machine becomes the modern cauldron or alchemist's crucible. This is the way of the modern witch - to bring the new into our sphere of faith and practise.

All this in just 157 words, 24 pages and three colours. Wow.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

my Peppermint Winter Wishlist

It's that special time again - the seasons turn, and each one brings a new issue of Peppermint.

It's not the sort of thing I indulge in much anymore, now that I have eschewed consumerism and devoted myself to thrift and recycling - making a 'material' wishlist like the ones we would start working on as christmas and birthdays approached when we were kids. But seeing as everything in Peppermint magazine is respectably sustainable and environmentally friendly, I shall let my imagination wander to an alternative universe where money isn't an issue, or where Santa Claus really does deliver. I really have been good this year...

* some of these socks. Extra long, and named after a Fire Goddess - oh, yes, they will keep me warm through winter.

* a pair of shoes like these. Yes, he can make them in maroon.

* a gorgeous animal costume jacket from this etsy shop. I realise these are not available in my size, let alone my colour. But I could give one to some appropriately-sized little munchkin - friends and family are always producing plenty of these - and then just bask in the joy of how cute it looks.

* this mineral mascara.

* some lovely virgin coconut oil for my home made body products.

* a trip to Sydney to see this exhibition at the Australian Museum.

However, I can get some instant gratification! I found a wonderful blog that I have started following - check out My New Roots for fabulous, yummy wholefood recipes.