Tired

 

I am tired.

Tired :(

Tired :(

Tired from a miserable cold,

but, most of all, tired of the lacklustre thinking which pervades  social policies, and by implication economic policies. I am tired of a welfare system which is itself tired and past its use by date, and is plain. just. not. working for the benefit of us all. I am tired of policies which divide us into deserving and undeserving,  and which are more concerned about balance sheets  than supporting real needs. I am tired of a system which has a built-in  unemployment rate, and  which then adversely judges the unfortunate unemployed or unemployable. In that number I count my daughter who is too unwell to work, and my sister who saves the State thousands and thousands of dollars a year by voluntarily caring for our elderly parents. [ Yet, social and economic policies deem them  both worthy of only a pittance for their living costs and well-being.]

In the US, we have just seen a landmark decision which confirms people are equal in love. Before I die ( let that be a long way off! ), I would LOVE to see that same unconditional, equal LOVE  extended to  decisions which confirm we are equal in our right to a basic guaranteed (living) income; which confirm we are equal in our right to be free of the gnawing  anxiety of how we will pay for the necessaries of  life. ( You may say I’m a dreamer… ;) )

How this can be achieved I am not sure,  but one way  which is currently being researched  is the Basic Income Guarantee. My nephew writes about this concept in his excellent, thought-provoking  post,  Money for Free, http://radicalblues.com/2015/06/27/money-for-free/

His post begins ” Check out this great new documentary on Basic Income (BI) from Dutch current affairs program Backlight. ….The documentary presents a series of vignettes on BI that provide a good sense of what’s been tried in the past, what’s being done today and what might be possible in the future.”

And if the idea of BI seems too radical or too preposterous,  here’s a little reminder that one of the most important books of  the 20th century, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, was made possible because the author  was given a year’s guaranteed income, so she could complete her novel.

Okay, time to stop sniffling about tiredness ; time to sit in the sun and have another cuppa, and re-energise. Oh, but one thing which makes me less tired is knowing  there are young people in the world who care about achieving justice in our societies.

© silkannthreades

Welcome, stars of the New Year

If you were to look at a New Zealand calendar, there’s a good chance you would see 18 June marked as Matariki ~ 18 June being the official start of Aotearoa’s New Year. I have written previously about Matariki, the traditional Maori New Year and its connection to the star cluster, Pleiades, as well as its connection to  my life.  You can find the post at this link.

https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/matariki-and-my-mothers-birthday/

This New Year, instead of a re-hash of my own limited knowledge of Matariki,  I  invite you to join me over at Juliet Batten’s  blog, http://www.julietbatten.co.nz/musing-on-matariki/ , where you can see the wonder of one of New Zealand’s own seasonal events through a different pair of eyes.  Juliet is the author of  ‘Celebrating the Southern Seasons, Rituals for Aotearoa’. In her book, she writes with wisdom and clarity about our inherited ( Pakeha )  festivals, and how we can attune them to the seasons of New Zealand, and the traditional observances of the Maori calendar.

Despite Juliet’s clear instructions  on locating Matariki in  our southern skies ( “start with Orion, move diagonally down to the left, past Taurus and look low” ), I have failed to do so: mostly because I am functionally illiterate when it comes to reading the stars, but also because, this year, the weather has, so far, been distinctly unhelpful. Like this, in fact, ~soggy ~

Soggy boggy rhubarb

Soggy boggy rhubarb

with both night and day cloaking themselves in the same dark, dense, water-logged fabric.

Now, whilst I may be failing at star-craft and Pleiades-tracking, I have  spotted the return of another visitor, this Matariki. It’s none other than SOFIA, the ultra sophisticated and ultra modern star-gazer, from afar.

Sofia, a stratospheric observatory, is a joint venture  between Nasa and the German Aerospace Centre and will be based in Christchurch until July 24th. There will be 18 missions during the six-week deployment, each lasting ten hours. Although the main focus this year is Pluto, I am sure the crew on Sofia will get some fine glimpses of the Pleiades.

This is a photo I took of Sofia during her visit in July 2013. My old post on Sofia can be found on this link. https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/2408/#comments

Sofia

Sofia

If it weren’t for the dripping state of the landscape,

Dripping Nandina

Dripping Nandina

I would have been out getting you a new photo of Sofia. But, as it is, I  prefer being indoors,    salivating over   gazing at the stars of my kitchen laboratory:

Tarte Tatin ( the first I have made );

Golden Tarte Tatin

Golden Tarte Tatin

Apricot and Feijoa Cobbler;

Sundrop Cobbler

Sundrop Cobbler

Poached Quinces;

Celestial festive quinces in honour of Matariki

Celestially arranged festive quinces in honour of Matariki

Piping hot pumpkin soup;

A little sunshine dips into the pumpkin soup.

A little sunshine dips into the pumpkin soup. (Do you see the pink monster at the window waiting for her turn at the soup bowl?)

Hmmm……looking at my kitchen creations, does anyone else get the impression that I am hungry for the sun? Thank goodness, the solstice and the rebirth of the sun are nigh. :)

Happy New Year. :D

© silkannthreades

 

You can’t keep a good peony down

Kerry’s beautiful  peony retrospective the other day, and her query about peonies in New Zealand, sent me scurrying into my own peony archives .

This is what I found: 6 posts with photos and/or references to peonies. My peonies were one of the first subjects to feature on my blog when I began Silkannthreades in 2012.

Back then I was looking for a way to see this ~

Paeony at the Back Door

in the midst of a physical and mental environment like this ~

Bedraggled as a winter- worn peony

Winter- worn peony plant

 

https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/be-it-ever-so-humble/#comments

https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/for-you-dear-mother/

https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/moments-of-whimsy/

https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/3238/

https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/3472/

https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/3971/

In my archives, I re-discovered that one of the first people to help me  start my journey of  blogging transformation  was   Cindy Knoke.

Unfolding opulence

Unfolding opulence

Another paeony at the back door.

 

 

Welcome back Sweet Peony

Welcome back Sweet Peony

Making the most of one sweet peony

Making the most of one sweet peony

 

Since those early days in 2012, Cindy has liked and/or commented on almost every one of my  approximately 360 published posts. Many of you are friends with Cindy, too, so you will know  I am not the only one she supports and encourages and enjoys spending time with on WordPress. She is a phenomenal blogger and friend.

So this post I dedicate:  to  Cindy, for being a stalwart  from the beginning; and to Kerry , for inspiring me to dig deep into memory roots, and reflect on her words:  “nothing keeps the peonies from blooming again.”  (You just can’t keep a good peony down. :D)

Some readers will know from Kerry’s latest post that her neighbourhood is feeling the anxiety and stress of having two escaped convicts in the area. Please keep Kerry and her community in your thoughts.

 

 

 

If it’s dreich, try pot to plate

Dreich  ~ yes,  dreich, that’s the right word to describe today.  Dismal, dreary, bleak, a winter’s day at the end of May.  Outdoors, the colours are first dulled by the grey wash of sky, then smeared by the gloom of the atmosphere. Dreich, it is; maist dreich.

What’s a body to do but wrap up warmly and take a solid meal of soup, served without fuss or finery, straight from pot

Pot of barley vegetable soup

Pot of barley vegetable soup

to plate. Slop and dollop.

Plate of soup to cheer the dreich of day

Plate of soup to cheer the dreich of day

A dear friend showed me how to make this soup-stew. There isn’t a defined recipe. What goes in, aside from the barley and broth, depends on what is in the cupboard. In this case I have potato, pumpkin, two kinds of sweet potato, peas, broccoli stalks,  parsnip, carrot, onion,  celery, and bacon. The flavourings are salt, bay leaves and tarragon, and lots of black pepper.  The soup takes time to cook but time = very satisfying fodder. Even more satisfying, as an accompaniment, would have been a wee dram of that other time-dense barley concoction,  whisky.   Alas, there was none of that in the cupboard. ;)

© silkannthreades

Family matters

I have been busy, offline:

learning about a network of family in New Zealand, Canada, and Scotland that was previously unknown to me; reveling in the new-found solidarity of knowing where I come from; knowing where I stand in the world.

David Millar, my great, great-uncle, born in Scotland, settled in Mangawhai.

David Millar, my great, great-uncle, born in Scotland, settled in Mangawhai.

I have been busy, offline:

celebrating the birthday of one our longest lived family members, my father; he turned 95 in early May.

I have been busy, in real life:

helping my sister put together a creative activity programme for our 92-year-old mother; it is already producing wonderful results,

Painted Lady inspired by Pauline King's art, painted by Mother

Painted  Collage Lady, inspired by Pauline King’s art,  by Mother

including an increase in my own desire to explore painting,

Playing with Paint by Gallivanta, inspired by Pauline King

Playing with Paint by Gallivanta, inspired by Pauline King

and to play.

In moments of down time, I have played with Facebook and WordPress,  and the camera on my mobile phone.  Using the WordPress app was interesting, but not particularly satisfying. I am happy to be back on my laptop, where reading, commenting, and writing are all so much easier. I am happy to have access to my usual camera again.

These recent days, offline, have been enriching. But were mostly made so because of  the wonderful inspiration I gain from my WordPress family. In particular I would like to thank Ellen Grace Olinger for encouraging my interest in colouring and colouring pages, and Pauline King,  The Contented Crafter , for her artistic support and guidance.

Family matters, in real life, in digital life, in history, and in the here and now. Bless you all.

ps: Having written this post, I went to read the newspaper and found this in my horoscope ~”Family matters are favoured today.”  Indeed! For once the horoscope and I are in agreement. :)

© silkannthreades

 

Differing Sensibilities

To state the obvious: when people of different cultures and differing sensibilities meet for the first time, there can be life-changing outcomes.

I am thinking here:

of the literary fame that followed  Flaubert’s romp through Egypt; of  Maxime du Camp’s ground breaking travel photography;

Stele at  Karnak, Egypt, Calotype taken by Maxime Du Camp, French writer and photographer (1822-1894)

Stele at Karnak, Egypt, Calotype taken by Maxime Du Camp, French writer and photographer (1822-1894)

of  Edward Lear’s beautiful sketches of the Nile;

Edward Lear, near Malatieh, 1867.

Edward Lear, near Malatieh, 1867.

and of the courage of New Zealander, Ettie Rout, who, though demonized in her own country, fought strenuously and eventually successfully for the issue of free prophylactic kits to our World War One troops.

On a quieter, more gentle scale, there is my own life-changing encounter. It goes like this: –  with music if you wish, by  Omar Khairat  https://youtu.be/re78QlR0rhI

                                       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 I once lived in an apartment complex in Cairo. At the front of the building there were two small, square gardens, separated by hedges, and a concrete slab path, leading to the five storey stairway, at the building’s entrance.  One of the gardens became MY garden. It actually belonged to all the apartment dwellers on our side of the building. No one seemed to mind that I supervised its care. The garden opposite ‘mine’ was claimed by the building’s caretaker and his family. It was their domain.

Our caretaker or Bowab, Ahmed*, was of a weather-worn, indeterminate age. Perhaps in his 60s,  perhaps not. He had lived in the city for many years, yet he remained a country man at heart.

"The Banks of the Nile" by Sayed Mahmoud http://www.wissa-wassef-arts.com/bm.html

“The Banks of the Nile” by Sayed Mahmoud http://www.wissa-wassef-arts.com/bm.html

He didn’t have much time for the refined and tidy rows of my city garden. Grudgingly, he would admire the salvia, the gazanias, or the begonias, or whatever was the flower of the season, but it was his own garden that held his heart.

He was very proud of his creation, and knew each plant within it. He delighted in introducing me to the new, and usually self-sown, arrivals in his garden. But Ahmed’s greatest pride was reserved for his small collection of ‘baladi’ roses.

He had a half-dozen of these ‘baladi’ rose bushes growing in the centre of his garden, under the partial shade of a small pine tree. I don’t know how to translate  ‘baladi’ precisely.  I like to think of it as meaning an ancient rose of Egypt, as opposed to the newer  varieties that grew in my garden.

Baladi kittens with a touch of Egyptian Mau http://www.emaurescue.org/index.php

Not Roses but Baladi kittens with a touch of Egyptian Mau ? http://www.emaurescue.org/

 

Ahmed was rightfully proud of his ‘baladi’ roses. They were exquisite in their shape and colour, and scent. And, almost every morning, after I had walked my children to school, Ahmed would be waiting in his garden to give me the first rosebud, or buds, of the day.

Over time, this early morning meeting developed into our own special ‘baladi’ rose admiration society. In honour of the rose, and in the best tradition of meetings, our proceedings followed a protocol. Each meeting began with the presentation of the rose. I, then, gave a vote of thanks, after which the floor was opened to discussion. The words were almost always the same, but, to the utmost limits of my limited Arabic, we extolled the virtues of the ‘baladi’ rose. We exclaimed over its merits, and we expressed sorrow for the poorer relative who inhabited my garden.  We shook our heads over my outwardly lovely roses because they could never know the true joy of being a ‘baladi’ rose. In quiet accord on the overwhelming superiority of the ‘baladi’ rose, the meeting would end with another vote of thanks from me, accompanied by  an appreciative inhalation (aka a jolly good sniff) of the rose’s perfect perfume.

We loved those roses, Ahmed and I. We were devastated when the ‘baladi’ roses, perhaps tired of city living, decided to curl up their roots, and die. We talked about buying replacements, but, though Ahmed seemed to search everywhere, no new ‘baladi’ roses came home.

Strangely, the loss of the ‘baladi’ roses did not herald the end of our admiration society. Each early morning, as I returned from the school trip, Ahmed would present me with a rose or two picked from my own garden. The thanks would be the same, but we would wrinkle our noses over the paucity of the rose’s aroma, and we would commiserate over its deficiencies; its lack of integrity and stature, when measured against the one true standard of roses; the ‘baladi’ rose.

That same year of the death of the ‘baladi’ roses, my family and I left Egypt. It was hard to go; to leave my on-loan garden, our street,

Trash collection, our street, Cairo

Trash collection, our street, Cairo

our friends.

Shopping on our street. What's on Gallivanta's list?

Shopping on our street. What’s on Gallivanta’s list?

It was hard for them to let us go, too. The night we departed for the airport, Ahmed was there, by the taxi, waiting to say goodbye.  He first shook hands with my husband, and then crushed him in a bear hug. As he released my husband, I saw Ahmed surreptitiously wipe tears from his face. I turned away. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t know how to say goodbye to the giver of roses. As a woman, I couldn’t offer him the bear hug hiding shyly within me.   That was out of the question. I had not, in all our day-to-day contacts, even dared to offer a hand in greeting.  Perhaps a smile and a thousand thanks would have to do. But, before I could prepare my face and words, Ahmed stood in front of me, hand outstretched. Briefly, but firmly, we shook hands.  I didn’t hear his words. I didn’t hear mine.  I was conscious only of tears and the rough, earthiness of his palm.  There were no ‘baladi’ roses to give, yet, in that short, final meeting, we exchanged a priceless rose in a class of its own.

*Ahmed (real name not used )

© silkannthreades

 

 

 

Love Handles ~Love in ten lines

I am not one for blog challenges. I undertake very few ( too lazy, I am ;) ). But what’s a girl to do when  the lovely blogger you persuaded to find a special totem pole in Oregon, nudges invites you to get busy on the ‘Love in Ten Lines ‘ challenge.  Well, not much you can do, except hop to, and fall in line.

Here are the rules for the challenge

  • Write about love using only 10 lines.
  • Use the word love in every line.
  • Each line can only be 4 words long.
  • Nominate others who are up for the challenge.
  • Let them know about the challenge.
  • Title the post:  Love in Ten Lines
  • Include a quote about love ( this can be your own)
  • You may write in any language

And here , Britt Skrabanek,  is Gallivanta’s response to your gauntlet. It’s a photo poem ( phoem?) , called Love Handles.

When you choose love

When you choose love

or love chooses you

or love chooses you,

 

Remember love has handles

Remember love has handles,

 

for love needs holding.

for love needs holding.

Love is not froth
on the chai. Love

is earthy, love is

is earthy, love is

the china cup, love
is the pot, love

 

pours the tea; love

pours the tea; love.

 

Yesterday, I spent some time at the Canterbury Province Field of Remembrance in Cranmer Square, where our Anzac Day will be commemorated on April 25th.  In the Field are 632 simple, white crosses, one for each man and woman from our region, who was a  casualty of war in 1914-1915.

Canterbury Province Field of Remembrance, Cranmer Square, 2015

Canterbury Province Field of Remembrance, Cranmer Square, 2015

As I walked around the rows, I thought of the unprecedented grief which sat at family tables that year. The cup not used, the plate not laid, the tea not poured, the meal not cooked, the empty chair, the hand not there to tousle a child’s hair….. there was grief; there was love with nowhere to go*.

Grief has softened with the years, and love has found a place again. Some of that love is in these crosses, all with handles;  most not known to us personally, but handles which we can whisper quietly, and hold faithfully  in our collective soul.

For those of you reading in New Zealand, you will know  there are many ways in which we are being encouraged to remember the centenary of the Gallipoli landings. One way which I have found meaningful is to place a virtual poppy on my relatives listed in the Auckland War Memorial  Cenotaph Online Database.  Perhaps that is something you would like to do for your family, if you have not already done so.

*  “grief is just love with nowhere to go” ; a saying I read this week in an interview with Cambridge author, Helen Macdonald. It is my love quote for Love in Ten Lines.

© silkannthreades