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

Thursday, 30 August 2012

on praying for Rain

Oh, the rain has come.

Oh, blessed be, the blessed rain has come.

I've been praying for rain. Yearning, longing, keening for the rain.

Once, while complaining about the weather, I pointed out that this area is supposed to be a rainforest. Ah, yes, well. Apparently this is the dry season - albeit a relatively brief one.

It rained shortly after we arrived here, but that was oh, more than six weeks ago now, surely. It only took a week or two for me to notice the lack of rain. A couple more to feel a little concerned. And then soon, rather disturbed, just quietly thank you.

I feel that the rain is a physical necessity for me. If it doesn't rain for a while, I feel a desperate thirst that just cannot be quenched by drinking. It's the thirst of the land and the air. Obviously, I would not last long in a desert environment.

Rain makes everything all right. Rain makes everything better. Rain makes the world fresh and clean, even in the inner-city streets. In the sound of the raindrops falling to the earth I hear the eternal peace of the oneness of the universe, the very pulse of the goddess. The most brilliant, ecstatic moments of my life have been in the rain. Dancing in the rain. Swimming in the rain. Walking really hard and fast through a rainstorm until you're running wet with rain and burning up with a raging heartbeat. Just smelling and hearing the rain.

My heart is filled with gratitude for the opening of the heavens. Already I feel greedy for rain and I'm praying, I'm begging for it to stay the night, please at least to greet the dawn. I will bring the sleeping mats and spare blankets out here to the verandah and sleep, warm and dry, in the fresh moist air. Or maybe I won't sleep much, but just listen to the raindrops.

Oh, the blessed rain has come.

Monday, 27 August 2012

of forgotten Needlework and the Bush Babies in Limbo

Op-shop rummaging has yielded some delightfully retro results lately.

I must give credit to Majikfaerie for the discovery of this gem. She spotted it in an op shop in the big town and knew I would want it. Melba Art Needlework Book, published by Hawksworth & Osborne at 24 Flinders St. Melbourne, and retailed at one shilling. We couldn't find a date of publication, but I reckon it was around about the time when a book like this would have cost one shilling. Now I thought I was pretty knowledgable about textile art techniques, but there are stitches and methods in here that I have never heard of before. Alston stitch, Craig stitch, double cape plait stitch, oyster stitch, thorn stitch, rambler rose stitch. Can you imagine how exciting that is for me?

At a jumble sale style op shop in the village, I came across a plastic bag stuffed with bits and pieces that seemed to be the chucking-outs of someone's crafty-sewing things collection. Jackpot! Why is a retro sewing manual, or even the advertising, so much more inspiring than a modern one?

And there were also cross-stitch kits.

I loved cross-stitch so much when I was a kid. I didn't really take to early lessons in knitting, crochet and the textile arts in general when I was young. But one day during the early high school years I came across a cross-stitch pattern, and I was hooked. I loved that each stitch is so precise and perfectly governed by the pattern and the perfectly regular weave of the cloth. It's like maths, where there is only one right answer, and there's a very safe pattern of steps that will get you there every time, if followed correctly. I could lose myself in tiny stitches for hours at a time.

Then I grew up. Somewhere in my early twenties I realised that I have great gifts for design myself. I decided that I really should just work on my own designs. I thought it was a waste of my time and my talent to follow a pattern that somebody else had already made. I figured I could design my own cross-stitch patterns. Well, I could, and I still could, but I just haven't gotten around to it, and I haven't done any cross-stitch in all these years. I am aware that I miss it.

When I found these cross-stitch kits in the pile of retro chuck-outs in the oppy, a half-forgotten little piece of my heart cried out - please. Oh, okay. I don't need much convincing when I'm in a jumbly op shop. I could see that someone had bought the kits and opened them, unfolded everything, and then at some point stuffed them back into their cardboard envelopes. One day, it was the last time she did this, and the kits ended up at the op shop.

I've told you about the sadness I feel for beautiful works of handmade art that I find languishing in dusty piles in corners of op shops. Those pieces at least had been finished, and all the ends trimmed off, and laundered and put to use, for goodness knows how long. Imagine how devastated I feel for the efforts in these cross-stitch kits that have never even made it into the light of day. I don't know what I can do to right this tragedy, but I am compelled to rescue these pieces. I take the responsibility for finding them a loving home or a new purpose in life.

It was only once I got home that I opened them up to find what exactly was inside.

This little butterfly and rose are actually finished and ready to be cute little patches on something or other. The ladybird is incomplete, the thread still dangling from the last stitch that was put in place, and threaded to a needle that is pushed through one edge of the fabric in readiness to pick up where it was left off. All the kits have all their leftover threads included. And all the instructions and patterns. Somebody looked after these kits.

This large piece with a Spring Garden theme was about one-quarter completed, and then folded up and put away long enough for the accumulated dirt and dust of time to clearly mark the shape of the folds, and the rust from the needle to stain the fabric.

One thing I really love about cross-stitch is the back of the work. I used to plan my stitches, executing them in an order that would result in the neatest possible workings remaining on the back of the fabric. It creates an alternative image, an accidental, other-wordly art.

This May Gibbs kit was a great find. It looked so new and modern, just like a similar kit bought in shops today. Then I noticed the notice advising that royalties from the sale of this kit support spastic and crippled children - so that dates its production to a time when it was politically correct to use words like spastic and crippled - surely no later than the early 1980's. These bush babies are adorable. Of course they are, it's May Gibbs. It's so nearly finished. I can finish it.

The threads have all been organised onto cardboard holders and neatly labelled. So much care and respect. What could have happened that this lady would abandon all her careful work?

I'm going to rescue these babies from their limbo and bring them into the light of the world.

I have even bought some steel wool so I can clean the rust off the needle that was in place and use it to finish the work. Sometimes I wonder if my urges for thriftiness are getting out of control... it would have cost the same to buy a new packet of needles as I spent on the steel wool. But to know that I am stitching with the very same tools as the first stitcher used... ah, now that's romantic. Sentimentality wins the day.

Monday, 13 August 2012

What Littletree said...

Out of the mouths of babes... or of one babe in particular, my darling goddessdaughter Littletree.


Littletree comes inside from playing outdoors.

Me: Watcha bin up to?

Littletree: I was playing an imagination game. I imagined that our treehouse was a community and Leonard and Penny and Howard and Raj and Bernadette and Sheldon and Amy were all there. And - hey, well, you know how Penny really likes drinking alcohol? - well, she was getting addicted to alcohol and we were trying to get her to stop drinking so much alcohol and have a break.


During goodnight snuggles.

Littletree: Demelza, I'm really glad that you are my godmother. I'm glad I didn't have someone who was really strict and all, like, (screwing up face, wagging a pointing finger and using a screechy voice) 'You get into your pyjamas now girl!'


Littletree: Hey, um, what's cellulite?

(fortunately I had some that I had prepared earlier ready to show her.)

Littletree: Oh. Is that it?

Me: Yes sweetie, that's what cellulite is.

Littletree: Oh. Well, why do people say that it's something bad?


Littletree: I've never known anyone Uncle CJ's age who just sits in a chair and watches TV so much before.

Me: Yes, Uncle CJ is getting old and tired now. He used to do lots of work when he was younger, before he got sick, but now he rests a lot.

Littletree: Yes. Uncle CJ is amazing. He is very intelligent, and he is an engineering person.


I had just shown Littletree a shortcut for getting back to a previously viewed website while looking at pictures of microbes on the Internet. This was a highly unusual turn of events, as usually it is she who is showing me how to use a computer.

Littletree: (one hand flung theatrically across her heart, the other patting my head) Oh, you're growing up so fast!


Littletree: (referring to a recent conversation about coffee consumption) Uncle CJ, do you drink a lot of coffee?

Uncle CJ: Yes. I drink a lot of coffee.

Littletree: Uh-huh.

Uncle CJ: Really, a lot.

Littletree: Yeah, I hear you.


In the car, driving home after being out shopping.

Littletree: Hey, can I tell you about dragons?

Me: Sure sweetie, we'd love to hear about dragons.

Littletree: Okay, I'll just get out this book about dragons. (pulls an imaginary book out of thin air.) This book has all the information about dragons... (reads aloud from imaginary book, running her finger across the imaginary page)... There are different species of dragons, some are Sapphires and some are Emeralds. The Sapphire dragons are the boy dragons and the Emerald dragons are the girl dragons. A Sapphire and an Emerald can have a baby dragon together, and the baby dragon could be a Sapphire or it could be an Emerald. So you see, two Sapphire dragons couldn't have a baby together... (suddenly pauses and looks up from imaginary book, as though a thought had just occurred to her) oh, well, unless they were gay.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Mornings with the Black Dog and the Blogger Dashboard

I didn't wake up so well this morning. As soon as I was conscious I felt irritated, disconnected and anxious. My mind was running over in circles of negative thought. I felt the shadows of the night's dreams - quite a string of disconnected anxieties - still present in the morning light.

This is something I'm used to. It's a common feature of a depressive illness - to wake up in the midst of the hardest emotions, and to struggle to rise out of them somehow to reach the realities of the day that is unfolding. Taking care of how I wake up is an important part of my mental health management. The discovery of the blogosphere was a remarkable boost to my morning experience, possibly the best one since I discovered tea-drinking in my late teens.

First thing, when I wake up in the morning, I make a cup of tea. I often dream of having someone to make a cup of tea for me and bring it to me in bed - oh, surely, the very definition of luxury - but in the meantime, the thirst for tea will win out over the cozy cocoon of the bed sooner or later, and I get up and make it myself. Then I check my Blogger dashboard and read all the posts in my blog list.

The main purpose of this is to focus my brain on the things I want to be thinking about, rather than letting it just run a cognitive riot. All the blogs on my blog list are selected basically for this reason. There's something about each one of them that reminds me of the things that are important to me. Somewhere in the day's accumulation of posts will be something that I can really connect with, or inspires me, or just reminds me to be grateful for the good things in life, for the strengths we have and the beauty in life than shines through even the sadness. Perhaps several things on a busy day. I am so thankful to all these talented and thoughtful people who are sharing these gifts with the world through their blogs.

Today, it was this post here at Lulastic and the Hippyshake that did it for me. This lady is generally one pretty brilliant blogger, but this story of her daughter as an Olympic athlete competing in the Toddler Heat of the Breastfeeding Olympics is just gold. To laugh out loud that early in the morning - priceless.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

of the Unstuffed Wombat, and the Teacup that Couldn't

A couple of recently discovered op-shop treasures.

Once upon a time, someone took a linen tea towel printed with a picture of wombats and made it into a wall hanging, adding a backing layer of fabric, highlighting features of the image with sewing machine embroidery...

 and stuffing one of the wombat shapes into 3-D relief with some polyester filling.

It's a wonderful creative effort, but I don't think it really worked out. The lump of stuffing pulled the shape and line of the cloth all out of whack. It just wasn't going to sit straight or flat.

But I wanted that beautiful tea towel. Out came the quick-unpick...

I was stoked when I spotted this funky little cup. Like many tea-drinking enthusiasts, I'm quite particular about the vessel from which I partake. I don't like mugs, but the traditional tea cup is too small, and life is too short. I'm always looking out for something pretty and pleasing in design, with a nice low shape. And this one is a very handsome shade of pink (i.e. it goes with my wardrobe).

It ticked all the boxes - until I tried to make a cup of tea in it. It was dreadful. It tasted like hot paper. I tried a few more times over the next few days, making sure I did everything the same as I did when making tea in my regular cup - the same tea, the same hot water, the same brewing. But every cup of tea I made in the new cup was just awful. I'm certain that it's haunted by a spirit that doesn't like tea. Sometimes things just don't work out.