Category Archives: Domestic

Coming up daffodils

Two months and two days after my mother’s funeral, we buried my dear canine companion, Jack.   We wrapped him up in my muslin skirt and his old towel, and placed him carefully in the hole we dug for him in a raised garden bed. We covered him with sweet, soft soil, and wept,  before giving him a makeshift headstone, a remnant of the many earthquakes we had been through together.  That was 6 months ago, on March 6th.  Today Jack is coming up daffodils ( soon to be followed by tulips, plus unavoidable weeds! ), thanks to a friend’s gift of miniature bulbs. We planted them in Jack’s grave a few weeks after his death.

daffodils in raised garden bed

Coming up daffodils

I miss my small friend.  We loved each other for 13 years. I love him still.

My parents loved Jack, too. I like to imagine he is keeping them company wherever they are. And that they are giving Jack treats, as they once did, subversively, at the table;  behaviour utterly discouraged by me; completely encouraged by my mother and father. Jack’s particular favourite was toasted crumpet crusts from my father’s hand, but vegemite toast crusts were almost as good. It was the hand that mattered more than the food, sometimes.

Vegemite crusts, treats
Jack anticipates the drop
Gran, Pop, dog  collude

Puppy by chair leg

A treat or pat always welcome

When the bulbs start to die away, I will scatter wildflower seeds on  Jack’s grave. They will bring joy in their flowering.

Schnauzer on lawn

Remembering Jack in Summer.

ps Jack died at home, on his bean bag, after being particularly unwell for about a week. His heart failed, and he was gone.  I was with him.

pps The ornamental duck was a Christmas gift from my children many years ago. It has led a hard life in the garden!

The dishes in the sink

Dishes in a sink

Dirty dishes sit
Unrepentant in the sink
Always messy, sigh!

This is not a haiku. It’s just a verse. It could be worse!  As could the post-midnight mess in the sink.  But as the dishes and I glare at each other, I find myself moving from complaint to contemplation. Dirty dishes, I decide, are inevitable, a necessary part of life. Much like the inevitable death of my beloved mother who, unlike me, would never have left dishes to sit in the sink for half the night.

My mother, Kathleen Alice,  passed away on 14th December, 2019, in Cairns, Australia. She was in her comfortable recliner chair, holding my sister’s hand, listening to one of her favourite songs, Isa Lei.   She was 97. Until the last few weeks of her life, my mother seemed to derive purpose and joy from  drying (not washing!) dishes. I need to up my game, take a tea towel out of my mother’s book of life.

One step forward, one step back

It’s   ‘best foot forward’ and  one step closer to  the special occasion mentioned in my previous blog post , but before  we get there,

One step closer, best foot forward

I want to take one step (plus several hundred more) back to a  dear character who entered my life in 2012.  If you are a long time follower of my blog you will have met her before but I am sure you will agree that renewing acquaintances is often as much fun as making new ones.

So, let me introduce you to ~~~~~~~~

Mrs Cockalarum

who arrived  on  Christmas Day , complete with name.  She is, in her regular domestic life, a decorative paper weight, only, most of the time, she decorates a chest of drawers and no paper comes near her. A dull life

She has a few animals to keep her company, including some of her own kind. However, every now and again, even a paperweight can do with a change of scenery and a new point of view, so I decided to take Mrs Cockalarum on an autumnal excursion.

Starting indoors, we tried out the floor,How's it down there?

then a higher  peachy perch, At the High Table

but her view was obscured so we went outside, where she dusted her feathers with the light scent of alyssum andSweet Alyssum

pecked at the sweetest red berries. Berry Good

After which she looked at the world from a seat made of corn and silken tasselsA sweet corn spot

and took a swing in a hanging basket.Swinging along

Today, the world was full of surprises for me and Mrs Cockalarum, not the least of which was finding this in the tree outside my house!How surprising!

Footnote: The berries are called New Zealand cranberries. They are delicious but are not much like any  cranberries that  I have ever tasted. Their real name is Chilean Guava ( Ugni molinae (Mrytus ugni)). Apparently the berries were a favourite with Queen Victoria. Mrs Cockalarum and I have given our unroyal seal of approval, too.Chilean Guavas

© silkannthreades

Another footnote:  Are you wondering about the word, Cockalarum, like I was?  I am not sure I would like Mr Cockalarum (wherever he is), yet Google tells me that cockalarum heroes were popular in their day. I have seen  Seba Smith’s Major Jack Downing  referred to as a cockalarum hero. Whether or not that is true, he is certainly an interesting character, a  “beloved American hero, whose name was synonymous with Yankee Doodle…”.

 

Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~ at rest

My garden: festive feijoa

I retreated into silence last night to consider whether it was time to end my quest. My original intention was to post every day of Advent. But that has not happened to this point and, during my little retreat, I decided  there would be no more posts after this one.

After 15 posts (16 including today’s) on silence, my quest seems to have come to a natural conclusion. For now, I am replete with silence. I feel no need to continue.

My quest has been an enriching experience. I am immensely grateful for your participation in my search for silence. Through silence and contemplation, and with your wonderful companionship, I have for the first time, in a long time, been able to create an accepting, peaceful, space in my heart and home for Christmas.

As Linda (Shoreacres) writes in her post Homes Made for the Holidays ” Christmas is coming, after all, and its spirit will find a dwelling in even the smallest or poorest of spaces.”

And so it has, already. In the silence, it came to me.  From my humble home to yours, I send love and best wishes for peace and goodwill now and always. Happy Christmas.

 

The interfaith tree in my dwelling space, 2018; this tree, fully decorated, was given to me in 2016 by a Buddhist friend. The skirt of the tree and the embroidered white cloth come from Christmas celebrations in Cairo. The green prayer beads were a  Hajj gift from a friend in Egypt. The beads help to remind me of another Christmas tree; a fully decorated  Christmas tree given to us by a Muslim friend for our first Christmas in Egypt.

Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~the web of years

In silence, understanding, the tapestry of my life

In my quest, I begin to understand how the woof of many  silences is woven through the warp of my life. The  unfolding pattern surprises me, delights me, comforts me, saddens me, enriches me.

 

In the light of the silent stars that shine on the struggling sea, 
In the weary cry of the wind and the whisper of flower and tree, 
Under the breath of laughter, deep in the tide of tears, 
I hear the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years. 

from the The Loom of Years by Alfred Noyes (1902)

ps The image features a selection of gifts received over many years. The wooden sculptures come from Malawi.  They were given to me over 30 years ago and have travelled to many countries with me.  Faithful friends, I call them Thomas and Sarah.

Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~the silent guest

 

the unseen guest, the silent listener, be present at my table

Who is the unseen guest at your table, the silent listener to every conversation?  The traditional response is Christ; “Christ is the head of the home, the unseen guest of every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.”

My silent guest list changes for almost every meal. Sometimes the guest is an absent family member, or a far off  friend. At other times, I eat in the company of  loved ones who are no longer living.  Often, it seems to me, my little table is a host to a multitude of  absentees. They outnumber those who are physically present.  It would be crowded and noisy, if it weren’t for  the guests’ gentle, profound, and caring, silence.

 

This post is dedicated to Eileen at Laughter: Carbonated Grace , and to all those who will be missing a loved one at their table this Christmas.

 

PS This is my attempt at a flat lay photo. The two flower photos in the centre of the image are not mine. They were a gift from my photographer friend, David Dobbs.

Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~ silent stars

How silent to me, yet heard by the bee

 

Borage is the silent star of my garden. Silent to me, but a siren song to the bee. How  differently we hear silence.

“How can one who does not hear a sound contrast noise with silence? Most people use their ears so constantly, they do not realize that the skin of our bodies is so sensitive that we perceive countless vibrations in the air and in objects we touch. For instance, I am extremely susceptible to the noises of machinery, whistles and the irritating jar of multitudes out of step. In the peace of my little garden I usually can escape from disturbing vibrations, but at present I am greatly annoyed by the metal hammers pounding on the new subway that is being constructed through Forest Hills.”

from The Beauty of Silence (1935) by Helen Keller

PS I will be silent again until Monday. Thank you for being with me on my Quest.

Silence ~an Advent Quest ~ the dark side lit

By my bed, a floral candle, comfort.

In silence there is darkness, anxiety, fear.  In darkness, lights fulfil their promise.

In silence, I remember the darkness of the first Christmas; the anxiety, the fear. I remember the Star of Wonder, the guiding light.

‘By my bed, on a little round table
The Grandmother placed a candle.
She gave me three kisses telling me they were three
dreams
And tucked me in just where I loved being tucked.
Then she went out of the room and the door was shut.
I lay still, waiting for my three dreams to talk;
But they were silent……..’

from The Candle by Katherine Mansfield

 

Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~ food for earworms

The silence of one but which one?

Silence, food for earworms, not always pestilential ones.

These lines happily tunnel through my stillness:

‘One is one and all alone
And evermore shall be so.’

from Green Grow the Rushes O

Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~ in silence delight

Angel of the Morning

Let your life come amongst them like a flame of light, my
child, unflickering and pure, and delight them into silence.’

from The Child-Angel , Rabindranath Tagore

Angels, as I know them, come in many  guises. This little one, who has endured significant travails, was a gift from one of the many angels who supported and loved us at the White Plains Presbyterian Church, Westchester, New York.  In silence, I delight in  angels.