Category Archives: Art

From my desk ~ Chelonian Tales with a Difference

This is a post about two chelonians ~ Torty and Myrtle.

Torty is brown; Myrtle is purple.

Torty is a real chelonian.  Myrtle is an imaginary one.

Though time and reality and colour separate Torty and Myrtle, both are bound by the restorative  powers of compassion, kindness, and caring friendship.

Torty is New Zealand’s oldest survivor of World War One.  The story goes that, in March 1916, she was wandering near a bombed hospital in Salonika, Greece, when she was run over by a French gun wagon. A young New Zealand soldier, a medic on the hospital ship Marama, saw the accident and dug out the tiny tortoise from the wheel ruts. Torty’s shell had been gouged by the iron wheels of the wagon, and she had lost some toes. Her rescuer, Stewart Little, took her back to the Marama,  dressed her wounds, and cared for her. When the hospital ship left Salonika for New Zealand, Torty went to.  She became a favourite with the wounded, bedridden soldiers. On arrival in New Zealand, Stewart Little smuggled her ashore and cared for her for the next 60 years, until his death. Torty eventually found herself living in a retirement home with Stewart’s daughter-n-law, Elspeth, where she brought joy to residents and visitors alike.  When Elspeth died in 2015, Torty was given a new home with Stewart’s grandsons.

The story of Torty is told in Jennifer Beck’s  engaging  “Torty and the Soldier”,

Torty and the Soldier by Jennifer Beck

the last part of which reads:

“Stewart Little’s military service did not distinguish him from thousands of other Kiwi soldiers who served in WW1 in different ways. However, his simple act of kindness in a foreign land has provided the last living link with those who lost their lives in that war a hundred years ago.”

Our other little chelonian,  Myrtle, is an unusual hue for a turtle. As I said at the beginning, she’s purple; a rich, deep, decidedly purple, purple.

She is a fictional character, first created by author, Cynthia Reyes, 27 years ago,  to help her little daughter manage bullying at school,  and her ‘burden’ of  difference. Thanks to encouragement from Cynthia’s family, Myrtle has come out from her private shell and into the public sphere. She’s now the  star of  her own book.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle by Cynthia Reyes

In “Myrtle the Purple Turtle”, we meet a joyful, happy young turtle who loves her ‘turtley’ life until one day she bumps into a rude, bully of a turtle, who questions her authenticity ~ She’s purple! Turtles aren’t  purple! How could Myrtle be a turtle? Upset, bewildered, and hurting, Myrtle tries to un -purple herself, by rubbing her shell in the green grass. In the process  of trying to change her true self, her world is literally turned upside down. Lying on her back, stranded, Myrtle is finally rescued by  her three friends, Hurtle, Snapper and Gertie. They stand beside her, turn her over, and gently restore Myrtle to her feet. And, with kind words and compassion, the three friends help Myrtle understand that  we are not all the same, and therein  lies the wonder of each of us.  “We are all different from each other!” (declares) Myrtle, happy once again.

“We are all  different from each other!” #loveyourshell ( Can you spot all the chelonians? )

In  turtle terms, Myrtle’s life is only just beginning. I hope her longevity will rival that of a real-life turtle. I hope, like Torty, she will bring pleasure and comfort to generations. Torty’s legacy is one of loving kindness, reaching above and beyond the horror of war. May Myrtle’s legacy be a firm, friendly, loving stand against the ugliness of bullying, as well as against the demeaning of difference.

Both Torty and Myrtle are beautifully illustrated: ” Torty and the Soldier” by Fifi Colston; “Myrtle the Purple Turtle” by Jo Robinson .

And just because I can: –

As a tail-piece to these Chelonian Tales, let me remind you of the original, purple Myrtle. She was not a turtle. In the 19th century she became so popular (supposedly) that many people gave her name to their daughters. She’s a true beauty and she was the very first  purple Myrtle I  ever met.

Here  is her portrait by Robert O’Brien http://www.treeguides.com/ who is the excellent illustrator of the Texas A & M Forest Service’s   Trees of Texas resource/identification guide http://texastreeid.tamu.edu/content/TreeDetails/?id=55  ( Bob O’ Brien kindly gave me permission to use his illustration for this blog post. ) Myrtle’s  full name is Crape Myrtle, or Crepe Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica. She’s hardy and resilient and, although she is a native of China ( and Korea ), she is the Official State Shrub of Texas.

Crepe Myrtle by Robert O’Brien (with permission)http://texastreeid.tamu.edu/content/TreeDetails/?id=55

 

One last note: if you ever see the stories of Torty and Myrtle side by side, look at the colour schemes in each book and consider what they might mean, and how they make you feel about each story. Colour matters. In its difference, and its harmonies, it adds beauty and meaning to our world.

 

© silkannthreades

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From my desk ~ Gandhi Jayanti

Today is a day for birthdays ~ my son’s; Anne-Christine’s; and Mahatma Gandhi’s. To celebrate, I am re-posting an article I wrote on this day four years ago. The original post and comments can be found here .  Enjoy.

In my garden there are native and exotic plants, long plants and short plants;

Choisya

Choisya

plants that are standard and non-standard; and some that are self-fertile and some that require cross-pollination. I have plants that are variegated, plants that are colourful

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

and plants that are plain. There are weeds, and refugees from other gardens, and some uninvited guests. Each plant has a unique history, a story to tell, and most contain, in their gene pool, the essence/quintessence of some far off land and ancient culture. There is no homogeneity in my garden, except at that most basic level of planthood; that  fundamental point, whatever it is, that makes them living, breathing plants and not living, breathing animals. Yet, despite the variety and complexity of my garden inhabitants, I find that, if I provide them with water and food and treat them equally with politeness and respect, mixed in with a little song and a few sweet nothings, they thrive. Yes,  even with the most basic of provisions, they thrive.  They don’t fight or squabble, put each other down, rip each other apart for competitive advantage or napalm each other.  They are a miracle of good neighbourliness and co-operative, companionable living, willing and eager to share their environment with birds and bees, wild life,  and humans, too.

The multi-dimensional, multi-cultural and peaceful nature of my garden, reminds me that this time, thirty-five years ago, I was preparing to start the Michaelmas Term at Oxford University. I was a  young seedling transplanted from a small island in the Pacific to one of the most wonderful cities in the world. I was about to flourish, and enjoy one of the best years of my life, within the nurturing environment of the Oxford University Foreign Service Programme.

For one academic year, I , along with several dozen others, from all curves of the world, lived and laughed and learned…. and, yes ,sometimes, drank too much and, sometimes, loved unwisely, and sometimes, cried.  We were a microcosm of the world; we were all faiths, all cultures, all social and political classes, all sizes and shapes and ages, and, as you can see from the photo, all hairstyles 🙂

Foreign Service Programme in West Berlin

Foreign Service Programme in West Berlin (and I am very difficult to find in this photo)

Our common ground was in our education and our human-ness. We were nourished and cared for by the University, our daily needs provided for, and most of us were generously supported by that most British of  British institutions,   the British Council.  And, for  that, one, much too short, year, we were, despite our differences, the embodiment of good and peaceful co-existence; the way our world could be.

This post is written today in honour of the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi who was born on October 2nd, 1869.  Today is a national holiday in India. Worldwide, it is the UN International Day of Non-Violence.

http://www.un.org/en/events/nonviolenceday/index.shtml

to hear Mahatma Gandhi speak click here

Blossom in Peace

Blossom in Peace

For a good read on ‘things British Council’ and the mess of war and displacement, try Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivia_Manning

Michaelmas 

is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel and also denotes the first term of the academic year.

© silkannthreades

From my desk ~the great debate

Here it is ~ the great debate which is swirling round my head as I sit at my desk ~

‘A Stitch in Time saves Nine’ or ‘Mending be Darned’.

What say you?

Behind me, I have a pile of darning, occupying an armchair. The pile is many inches high. It stares at me accusingly no matter  where I place it. I try to avoid its gaze but, like Mona Lisa’s eyes, it follows me everywhere. It’s been like this for months. I hear it mocking me, in multiples of 9; “Not stitched in time, 9×9; not stitched in time, 9×10…”

Not stitched in time; more than 9 stitches required

I am not a natural mender. Darning doesn’t come easy, although it should, because I come from a line of excellent darners.  My mother was a diligent darner, and could always be relied upon to mend anything. My aunt was a skilled darner. It was a pleasure to watch her work. Her needle and thread wove magical, near invisible, lines  through the runs in my school stockings. ( Yes, stockings, with a suspender belt…..I am of the pre-pantyhose generation)

My mother’s well-worn darning mushroom, and my aunt’s darning which is barely visible from a distance.

Did they enjoy darning? Well, there is a certain satisfaction  in making something whole and complete again, but I suspect it was necessity and frugality, not pleasure, which drove their darning needles.

Frugality and necessity should drive me, too, but, in front of me, there’s a computer which begs me to use my fingers and my mind outside the domestic realm. It makes me want to say, “Mending be Darned” and “Go create something new”.

So I do, make something new; a  phone photo, for my friends, for myself, of the clematis growing vigorously near the garden gate.

New Zealand clematis by my garden gate

That makes me happy.

But, truthfully, so would a stack of neatly mended clothing. If only I could bring myself to do it.

(Oh, shush, you there behind me. I can hear your sotto voce recitations, “Stitch! stitch! stitch!….  A stitch in time saves 9, a stitch in time saves 9…”,

and don’t you dare start on the 9 times table again. Remember, I know where the nearest recycle bin is! It’s temptingly close by.)

Sigh, the debate is not over yet.

From my desk ~ on the road again

I am on the road again.

On the road ~ inland from Mt Hutt, Canterbury, New Zealand, (photo credit to my brother)

Not in a literal sense but in an imaginative one.

I am exploring new territory in my creative journey by attempting poetry and prose readings.

Would you like to listen in? My first two readings have a New Zealand theme.

 

Reading out loud to myself or to an audience is something I haven’t done in a long while. It brings back warm memories of bed time stories, evenings by the radio, school plays, Bible readings, and some not so pleasant memories of  terrifying speech giving.

I would like to thank Clanmother  

and Wendy L. Macdonald

and my daughter for the inspiration which they have given me to pursue the spoken word again.

Now, on any journey, it’s handy to travel as lightly as possible. So, this week, I have not only been shedding the weight of my voice from its inner sanctum, but I have also been setting free some of my precious history.

I like to farewell treasures with love and appreciation, when I list them for sale. I do this by recording them in little tableaux. Here are two of my favourites. Together they speak to me of long journeys, strength,  and the courage to adventure, in the company of family and friends, and even strangers.

Commemorating the Centenary of Canterbury in Irish Linen

Time repeats its path…..in 2018 this 1979 calendar will be up to date again.

ps I would be grateful for feedback on my voice recordings. Is my voice clear to you?  Do I speak too quickly? Is it easy to understand the meaning of the poems and the prose?

Adventures

Like many bloggers this year, I am looking at Christmas through the lens of Advent.  For me,  it  is a way to salvage some of the sweetness of the holy season, as well as a way to ease the despair which often engulfs me at this time of year.

For daily Advent reading, I am following  Kerry’s Advent My Way https://lovethosehandsathome.wordpress.com/2016/12/10/advent-my-way-10/.  My own Advent story happens each Sunday. It involves fresh flowers and a reading.

Here’s how it looks so far.

For the first Sunday in Advent, the reading was a quote from

“Into the Darkest Hour,” by Madeleine L’Engle

‘It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss —
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.’

First Sunday in Advent

First Sunday in Advent

The second Sunday in Advent went like this

“After Annunciation”

‘This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child.’
—Madeleine L’Engle

Second Sunday in Advent

Second Sunday in Advent

For this third Sunday in Advent  I chose an excerpt from “Christmas Bells”, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the American Civil War.

‘  And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” ‘http://www.potw.org/archive/potw118.html

 

Third Sunday in Advent

Third Sunday in Advent

After the second Sunday in Advent, I felt spirited enough to set up a nativity scene, and make a Christmas tree with favourite books and ornaments. I had fun.

Oh Christmas Tree

Oh Christmas Tree

© silkannthreades

 

 

An artist-in-residence

I have an artist- in – residence?  Do you?

As a way of bringing a lighter, brighter look to my house, I have let her creative spirit have free rein in my domain.  There are new paintings everywhere.  And some of her old ones, too.

They make me smile. They remind me that spring is nearly here; that the magnolia is about to bloom again. They remind me that my dreary, old soul will soon be revived by  longer hours of daylight;  longer hours of sunshine.

Here’s a look at some of my artist’s work. Do you know who she is? If you are long time reader of this blog, you have met her before.  Of course, she isn’t physically in residence, but what fun it would be if she really were.

The little girl in me

The little girl in me

Portrait of Gallivanta's Magnolia

Portrait of Gallivanta’s Magnolia

More Magnolias

More Magnolias

Just the two of us

Just the two of us

Dog in residence

Dog in residence

Jack, the perfect artist's model-in-residence

Jack, the perfect artist’s model-in-residence

I haven’t taken photos for a while. I am out of practice. It shows.  I think I need a photographer-in-residence!

 

 

© silkannthreades