Tag Archives: classics

Out of the Gloom come Gems of Loveliness

Continuing on the theme of   surprises ,  it is surprising what gems of loveliness can be found, tucked away,  in the gloom

There be GLOOM!

There be GLOOM!

of the back rooms of our lives.

Inspired by a friend’s gift of plums from her backyard tree,

Plums, pretty and perfect

Plums, pretty and perfect, rich gems of juicy fruit

I was fossicking in the attic,

in search of my books on  JAM , plum jam, when my eyes lit upon the long-forgotten face of Sister Wendy Beckett,

contemplative nun, writer, broadcaster and art lover, who recently appeared on Desert Island Discs, talking of her life, her love of  Schubert’s Serenade , and confessing to the sin of being nasty to her little sister 😦

I was thrilled to see her again and to reconnect with her meditations on peace, and  to realise how greatly she influenced my understanding of art,  in the days before online art galleries and Wiki and blogging.   What a remarkable person, I heard myself saying, communicating, as she does, so clearly, from the silence and  physical confines  of her world. …

not unlike this poem, of which Sister Wendy, defender of Classics and Latin, would surely  approve, which my daughter wrote for me, in  the solitude of her nights in   Far North Queensland

To a  Peony

(in which my daughter remembers the day, when she was extremely sad, and her mother gave her a sweet-scented peony from the garden )

Welcome back Sweet Peony

Welcome back Sweet Peony

Dark leaves, put forth thy anniversary.
Honey may burn; thy nectar rises up
like sugar syrup in a warmer cup,
ribbons the water. And say how can it be,
thou growest so magenta, when the hew
of thy first stock was white? Unless it was
among the hedgehogs and the heucheras
the lost  god stopped and wept his ancient dew.
Colours stand faster in the dimming air;
so in the long grey drizzling afternoon
of dying hope, was thy expressive bloom
placed by a gentle hand into my care;
I see it still, in my mind, in the gloom
unfolding endless petals in my empty room.

*td* (first draft)

© silkannthreades

Me, the Tree, and Helen

I have been to many places in recent months, engaging with a  number of our city’s beautiful  trees, all the while forgetting, until today, that there is a tree in Christchurch with which  I am closely connected. The tree is a Liriodendron tulipifera and it was planted by myself and a friend on 22 October 2000, in the grounds of the Cathedral Grammar School, on Chester Street West.

The Tulip Tree is now 12 years taller;

Tulip Tree The tree was planted to commemorate the site of Helen Connon Hall.Commemorative Plaque It was the first and, so far, only time I have planted a commemorative tree, and it was a special occasion in my life. For a moment, I felt almost royal.

The tree planting idea came from  a wonderful group of women who organised a  successful reunion of “old students” of Helen Connon Hall; the university hall of residence once occupied the ground on which these school playing grounds now stand. And the games go on My friend and I lived at Helen Connon for one academic year, 1974, and that was its final year as a hall of residence, and its only year as a men’s and women’s residence. So, we represented the youngest and the last of the Hall’s occupants. (Not often that I get to be the youngest at an event!) It was the final year, not because we trashed it, although the shenanigans created by the excitement of a mixed residence were plenty, but because the university had completed its move from the central city to its new site at Ilam. The town facilities were no longer required.

Helen Connon Hall was the first residential hall at Canterbury College (later to become the University of Canterbury). It was opened in 1918 and was for female students only, except for that one last year of its life as a residence.

So that is me and the tree. What about Helen?

Typically for me and, no doubt, most of the populace, I had no idea, when I lived in the hall named after her, who Helen Connon was. In fact, I still didn’t know much about her when I helped to plant the tree. It was only after the publication, in 2004, of Margaret Lovell-Smith’s excellent  book, “Easily the Best, the Life of Helen Connon  1857 -1903”, that I began to appreciate her magnificence, and her influence on women’s education. She was a carpenter’s daughter who became, in 1880, the second woman arts graduate in the British Empire.  In1881, she became the first woman in the British Empire to earn a degree with honours; MA with first-class honours in English and Latin. And she did that right here, in Christchurch, New Zealand. As well as being a fine academic, she was a leading figure in education, as a teacher and  Lady Principal of Christchurch Girls High School. For more information, link to  http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2c28/1

 Helen Connon Helen ConnonI don’t know what Helen Connon would have made of me  and my ignorance of her but I think she would have been pleased that I was the first woman in my family to earn a degree. Nothing fancy, but I did it. And my daughter was the first person in our family to obtain an honours degree in Classics. So, we are slowly catching up with Helen Connon, the trail blazer, without whom my education, my mother’s and my daughter’s would most likely never have happened.

As for the tree; I think she would be happy with our choice. It was chosen for its longevity and its shade qualities and suitablility for its school playground home. Helen Connon believed that mental and physical education went hand in hand. Additionally, photos of her own garden show that she spent much of her life surrounded by beautiful trees.

Activate;

Physical Education

and contemplate.Contemplate

© silkannthreades