Monthly Archives: May 2014

On a cake and a prayer

In the small hours of Tuesday morning, I settled into bed and into my 15 minutes of  dedicated, purposeful reading with my current book   Heaven on Earth by Stephanie Dowrick. My bookmark was placed, from the night before, at page 118, and, when I pressed open the pages, this is the prayer that greeted me:

Watch, dear Lord, with those
who wake or weep tonight.
Let your angels guard those who sleep.
Tend the sick.
Refresh the weary.
Comfort those who are dying.
Soothe the suffering.
Have mercy on those who are distressed.
We ask this for your love’s sake.

Augustine of Hippo

I know very little about Augustine of Hippo. I don’t know exactly when he wrote this prayer.  I don’t even know if I like him, or his ideas, or would have liked him way back when. But it moved me deeply  that someone, a hugely long time ago (somewhere, perhaps between 386 and 430 AD) wrote the words that I needed to hear, that I needed formulated for me, in 2014.  It moved me that, on the very day I needed them most, they appeared before me. But, in truth, it was more than being moved; it was more as if Augustine himself,  scroll in hand,  had reached through the ages and said, “Here, take this, I wrote it for you, right here, right now.” Was it a miracle ? (Unlikely)  Was it timely? (Certainly)  Did the prayer work? Possibly, but evidence suggests not for the bone-tired sister I had in mind. But, for me, it did bring some peace and rest and I have repeated this prayer every night since.

Last Sunday, the recent, particularly stressful weeks of  letting ‘nature’ take its heart-breaking course with my daughter’s mental health came to the inevitable conclusion; and she was hospitalized for the sake of her health and well-being. No fun for anyone: not for the daughter, crying uncontrollably; not for the mother listening, helplessly, on the other end of a phone thousands of kilometres away, across land and sea, and not for the on-the-spot aunt, trying to cope, in utter weariness, with the complex needs of elderly, frail parents and a troubled niece.

A few days on, a few prayers later, another phone call to my daughter and I hear words that cradle me: “Mum, they keep bringing us little cakes. They are so delicious. It’s so good to eat cake again. ”  Thank you, thank you, anyone who wants to be thanked. My daughter is delighting in cake once more.

This is only the beginning for my daughter’s recovery. It may even be a false start. Years of less than perfect mental hygiene do not vanish at the pop of a pill or two. Many of the bloggers I follow are affected by mental health issues; by health issues; many are weary; many are caring for family; many are grieving. There is nothing unusual about these situations. They are part of the human condition. As Stephanie Dowrick writes  on page 150 ” First Noble Truth: In life there is suffering.  We free ourselves whenever we ask:  “How can I help?”

And, I would add, by asking, “How can we help each other?”  By being “Angels” for each other? By prayer, by care?  By simply being there, and here, and taking time to listen, to read, to be compassionate and to lighten each other’s load? And by reminding ourselves, over and over, that in life we can also find joy and laughter and fun….and cake. 🙂

Helping  make the Christmas Cake; circa 1988, New York

Helping make the Christmas Cake; circa 1988, New York

© silkannthreades

 

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Is it Mess?

Right about now, over at the home of  Muse-ings , vsperry will be orchestrating order in an area of her garden which she describes as “A Fine Mess”. I would simply leave out the word “Mess” and call it “Fine”, or, as in the case of my own garden, refer to the “Mess” as  ” Channelling one’s inner  “Piet Oudolf” (with apologies to Piet 😉 ).

For the greater part of the summer and fall, this wilderness of mostly self-sown plantings was the scene from my bedroom window.

Wilderness plantings

Wilderness plantings

It was a sight that gave me much pleasure, for all the weeds, entangled foliage and seeming disorder.

Unruly pleasure

Disorder?

The garden bed was not carefully planned like one of Piet Oudolf’s masterpieces (OBVIOUSLY), but I did have a plan of sorts, which was to let the garden follow its own course and,

Unruly or following its own rules?

Following their own rules?  Lightly organised chaos?

thus, provide a dense and closely woven safe haven for the monarch caterpillars, and a well-stocked larder for the bees and their larger selves,  the humblebees.

A haven for a caterpillar?

A haven for a caterpillar?

My plan was a success buzz vis-a-vis buzz the bees, but a failure as far as the monarchs were concerned.  Not one of the many caterpillars made it to butterfly status. That was a disappointment, after my successful monarch season last year, where I helped raise at least twenty monarch butterflies. I don’t know what went wrong this time; perhaps we had too much rain; too little sun? Or, as  Russel Ray pointed out to me, my wilderness garden may have provided a haven for the social wasp, arch-enemy of the monarch.

So, with winter approaching and no longer any chance of monarchs, I embarked on a clean up of the little plot.  It now looks like this. Clean and tidy….and dull.  Not a “Mess” but also not “Fine”. Not yet, anyway. There’s good manure in the soil, and worms, and caterpillar plus bee frass,

so, in a few months, it may provide solace for my senses once again. And, later, much later, the monarchs may be tempted to return. I hope so. I know the bees will come.

Virginia, how is your clean up going? There is no danger that your garden will succumb to DULL. 🙂 It will be clean, tidy and finer than ever.

© silkannthreades

(Mem.: mail system undergoing change; write encouraging post )

I am delighted…

with my newly arrived  Persephone Books ;

In love with My Persephone Books

Delighted with My Persephone Books

with their dove grey  jackets,

their carefully  selected endpapers,

Endpapers

Endpapers

and matching bookmarks,

Designer Bookmarks

Designer Bookmarks

and I’m  smitten with the cute  Lil packets they came in.

(Mem.: Refrain from vigorous mail opening.  Reduces ability to decipher messages written on envelope.)

And I am also delighted to report that the happy Lil mailing pouches were able to land, safe and dry, in a new mail box.

And the mail person aka as the postie was most likely just as delighted to be able to  place the mail in a secure receptacle, at long last.

Prim,  Proper, Practical

Prim, Proper, Practical

However, I miss the  old mail pail. It was full of character

Will this start a new trend?

Will this start a new trend? (Query: it didn’t; possible design flaws? )

and gave me a laugh but, unhappily, it was also full of water whenever it rained; which was frequently, during March and April and the first part of May. So, it had to go, back to hibernation in my neighbour’s garage.

Because the shared mail pail worked out well for my neighbour and I, we decided we would continue with our joint mail box. It seemed the economical, practical thing to do. (Mem.: ponder that an incident of vandalism, which could have produced fearfulness and distrust and heightened security has led to an atmosphere of greater trust and openness. …)

( Query: What was the postal delivery system like for Delafield and Woolf circa 1930s, when people exchanged letters almost as frequently as current trend with text and tweets;  Answers possibly found here: “Robin’s letter arrives by second post, ”  and  here and here

W H Auden ” This is the Night Mail “

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door……..

Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to Hebrides —

Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring,
The cold and official and the heart outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and printed and the spelt all wrong….

(Mem.: Consider consulting McCall Smith on  why  W H Auden still matters  ; and whether they can say if the post still matters. Suspect it jolly well does. )

© silkannthreades

 

Looking and seeing…it all stacks up.

This post was inspired by Clanmother’s On the Road Book Club and her 2014 Reading Programme …..

and by The World According to Dina on the subject of landscapes, and the difference between looking and seeing………

and by my miscalculated comment to Ms Vickie Lester of Beguiling Hollywood   that I would struggle to find time to review her book, It’s In His Kiss, because I only had about 15 minutes free, each day, in which to read.(  Yeah Right!  No wonder I wasn’t a maths scholar.)

SO, I thought I didn’t read much and that I didn’t have much time to read. But when I looked around me, this is what I saw.

Morning scene

starts with a read of  The Press and a page of poetry. The Press comes with breakfast coffee; the poetry comes as a prelude to bed-making, always read as I sit on the edge of my unmade bed, facing the morning light.

Somewhere, between doing the laundry and the breakfast dishes, I steal a moment with my current living room display book.

Portrait of a Garden

Portrait of a Garden

And, as the day progresses, I  flit from page to page of books and magazines that arrive in the post or are delivered by hand of friend

And when I need a change of pace, I read your blogs and write my own and catch up with reading that can only be done via my computer…Facebook, email, It’s In His Kiss, international news sites….

Evening falls,

new duties call and old ones unwind for the day,

and, eventually, some time closer to 2 a.m. than midnight, my head finds the pillow once more and I do my “15 minutes” of dedicated, purposeful, slow, daily reading.
Last month, I finished Common Ground and, this month, I began Heaven on Earth.

Thus the day passes, from word to word, from page to page, from book to book, without much rhyme or reason, but quite nicely all the same, thank you.

Clanmother says that “reading is the catalyst for transformation”. Despite the random  nature of my reading habits and choices, I find almost everything I read transforms me, in some way or another. I love the ideas and experiences that come to me through the written word.

I thought I read so little but, indeed, I read a lot

Little by Little it adds up to a Lot.

Little by Little it adds up to a Lot.

and that realisation transforms my view of myself in my home landscape.

My Reading Canvas

My Reading Canvas; much richer and more substantial and varied  than it first appears.

 

Thanks Clanmother, thanks Dina, Klausbernd, Selma and Siri,  thanks Ms Lester.

ps There are some days when I truly don’t get any reading done apart from my 15 minutes at bed-time and there are other days when I barely manage that.

pps To add to Mr Muldoon’s statement/question “Why Brownlee left”, it occurs to me that  Brownlee was needed to turn the earth in another corner of the world ie Christchurch. Who would have guessed?  😉

© silkannthreades

“It’s In His Kiss” in my kitchen

Life has been a bit complicated lately. Almost, but not quite, as complicated as life for my*namesake protagonist, Anne, of It’s In His Kiss by Vickie Lester.

It's In His Kiss  (copyrighted image)

It’s In His Kiss
(copyrighted image)

So, like Anne, unable to find  answers to many of my worries, puzzles and questions, I resorted to kitchen therapy….yesterday.

“Anne found her comfort zone in her pajamas, sitting in her **father’s
kitchen watching him make dinner, which on this evening was chopped
grapefruit and oranges and mango, pancakes, and sausage.”

Now, although my Dad is a great cook, being far distant from me, across the Tasman Sea, I, comfortable in my pajamas, had to make my own comfort food… banana, bran and chocolate chip muffins. Not that my Dad would have offered  muffins as comfort food. He would have made a substantial roast dinner. But, hey, we do what we can. And, then, I made a feijoa and  apple crumble.

The feijoas,

remember these,

Feijoas (Pineapple Guavas) 2014 Harvest

Feijoas (Pineapple Guavas) 2014 Harvest

gave a nice sharpness to the sweet apple, and the rich buttery crumble topping.

Comfort Crumble in the Kitchen

Comfort Crumble in the Kitchen

Baking done, I am back to reading  “It’s In His Kiss”; where Anne has been up the creek canyon ( i.e. Beachwood Canyon…it’s real, even if the plot is imaginary ) without a paddle, but with a very fine Ferrari instead. And she has just been given the keys to a very fine house (people in Hollywood are so randomly generous… or are they? The Ferrari already seems like a double edged sword. ) Will the keys open any useful doors?  Will they bring answers or more questions? As Ms Lester says in her book blurb……“Anne Brown must find where the truth lies. Truth. Lies.”  Where does the truth lie? Six feet under? Is there truth in the lies? Does the truth lie? Is there any truth at all?

If you can’t wait to find out,  It’s In His Kiss  is available now at an Amazon near you. Oh, and have a muffin….

Muffins for Sustenance

Muffins for Sustenance

.. for sustenance. It’s In His Kiss is a high energy murder mystery ( with food scenes that will make you hungry…for more ). 😉

* Anne is only my “namesake’ protagonist because I imagine it so. She’s a wonderful character but was not written for me, or about me, or because of me. Just wanted to make that CLEAR.

** Anne’s practical, “business-as-usual”, loving father is Bob; Manny’s  the uncle. So far, Manny seems a trust-worthy guy, except when he’s behind the wheel.

© silkannthreades

For the Mother in all of Us

For my Mother

Blooms for May and Mothers

Blooms for May and Mothers (sasanqua camellia in my garden)

and the Mother in all of us on Mother’s Day, 2014.

The Cradle  Berthe Morisot http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Berthe_Morisot,_Le_berceau_%28The_Cradle%29,_1872.jpg(January 14, 1841 – March 2, 1895)

The Cradle
 Berthe Morisot  (January 14, 1841 – March 2, 1895)

White sasanquahttps://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/tea-and-cake-a-birthday-sampler/Mothering Sunday

White sasanqua camellia   for the Mother in all of us

For a short history on Mother’s Day and the older celebration of Mothering Sunday click  here.

And click  here to read  the 1914 proclamation of Mother’s Day by Woodrow Wilson, and for the history of Mother’s Day in the US click here. Mother’s Day founder Anna Jarvis fought against its commercialisation and died penniless.   Her white flower of choice for Mother’s Day was the carnation.

© silkannthreades

The importance of May 8th

Today, 8 May, is the birthday of  Henry Dunant , founder of the Red Cross and joint  recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

Today, also, marks World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, which since 1948 has been celebrated internationally on Henry Dunant’s birthday.

Another celebration that takes place every year on 8 May is my father’s birthday. 🙂

Although the idea for the Red Cross arose  in 1859 and was formalised in 1863, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was only established in 1919, in the aftermath of World War 1.  So the IFRC  was almost as brand new as my father when he arrived into the world in 1920.

In the  Christchurch Press, for the day of my father’s birth, there is an item which mentions the Red Cross Society in the US, providing hostess houses for the 3709 war brides of the American Expeditionary Force. The newspaper also has articles about ongoing peace and treaty negotiations and on war graves decisions, as well as the influenza outbreaks which were, once again, causing concern in New Zealand.  In 1920 the world may have been nominally at peace but the First World War was still very much a presence in everyday lives.  Yet there would, undoubtedly, have been an expectation that babies born after ‘the war to end all wars’ would live their lives in peace.

I am sure, my grandmother, holding her new-born baby, that day in May, did not  imagine that a couple of decades hence her boy would be in uniform.

 

In uniform; 1940s; my dad, closest to the kerb

In uniform; 1940s; my dad, closest to the kerb (Street Photography)

Nor would she imagine that, by the 1980s, her son would be working, in his post retirement years, for the Fiji Red Cross.

 

A favourite photo of my father at his Red Cross desk.

A favourite photo of my father at his Red Cross desk.

That’s the trouble with kids; you never know where they’ll end up or how they’ll turn out, but I think my grandmother would say she raised a good lad. 😉

Happy Birthday Dad. Happy Birthday Red Cross. You’ve both reached a grand age and I’m glad you have.

Postscript of fun facts: The Red Cross has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize three times ( four, if you include Dunant’s Peace Prize http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/themes/peace/libaek/index.html ).

© silkannthreades