Tag Archives: Fiji

The Night is Black

At this time of the year millions around the world are preparing for the triduum of  Allhallowtide, which encompasses All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. For many the preparations will include stocking up on candles for the rituals and  traditions that involve candlelight.

Millions more have begun another celebration, today, which also requires light; light to vanquish darkness and evil and despair. This celebration is the annual, five-day  festival of  lights, namely,  Diwali.

Having grown up in Fiji, where Diwali has long been an honoured occasion (and now a public holiday), I have a love for Diwali which outstrips any affection I have for Allhallowtide.   Seeing the houses decorated with beautiful Diwali lights was a yearly highlight of my childhood.

So, this week, in accordance with  my family’s customs,  I will light a Diwali candle (candles if I can find more than one).

Light a candle

Light a candle

I will listen again to the gentle singing words of Rabindranath Tagore’s Invocation to Diwali 

and consider the significance of Diwali, so eloquently expressed here:  “The night is black. Kindle the lamp of love with thy life and devotion.” (Rabindranath  Tagore)

Until night falls, however, I will keep watch with the dear, little lights that are ever present , and need no darkness to make them shine.

Little Charlie, a  new  (de) light  to brighten our lives

Little Charlie, a new (de) light to brighten our lives

 

Candelabra

Candelabra; shining light on the shadows

And, if I can organize myself sufficiently well, I may even make a special sweet treat for Diwali;  a rhubarb and apple crumble with freshly picked rhubarb from my garden.

Join me, if you will, in lighting a candle, for the night is black, and we need all the light we can get. Happy Diwali and may the light of the lamp burn brightly in all our hearts.

© silkannthreades

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Patience, patience….

My aunt went on, “I don’t know what will become of Sadie. Will you take her home with you and look after her?” “One day, I will,” I replied.  But, for now, she can remain in quiet retirement. She has earned her rest.

Do you remember Sadie Rosemary? The family doll of long years and multiple identities?

Sadie Rosemary

Sadie Rosemary

About six weeks ago, I visited my aunt at her retirement home. She said it was time for me to take care of Sadie; to bring her home with me. The “one day” we spoke of, on previous occasions, had arrived. It was now. No excuses!

So, I swaddled Sadie in her orange shawl, gathered her close, like a newborn babe, and presented her to my aunt for a farewell kiss and, then, with tear-salted smiles, we were off. Off, by car, across the Plains, to begin another chapter in the Life of Sadie Rosemary. It will, most likely, be a staid chapter but Sadie won’t mind. She’s a patient, placid sort, used to sitting about, and letting what will be, be. And, in the process of sitting and being, she’s experienced an enormous amount of life; much more than you would believe by simply looking at her baby-sized self.

Sadie came to life in Japan in the 1920s. Still brand new, she was shipped out  to New Zealand (much like any other settler of the early days), where she found a home in Papanui with two young girls, only a little older than herself.  They all wore matching knitted dresses, home-made in New Zealand. 🙂

Pretending to ride a horse

Pretending to ride a horse

Later, when the little girls grew up, one of them, the one with curly-whirly hair,  went to Fiji, and Sadie eventually joined her, to be cared for by two more little girls; my sister and I.   Sadie, being a  celluloid doll, was not supposed to do well in the heat and moisture but, somehow, she survived more than twenty years in the tropics without exploding or disintegrating. Which meant that, one day, she was able to fly ( in a jet plane, no less! ) all the way back to New Zealand, where, after a certain amount of reverse culture shock, she settled down to a time of quiet contemplation, in the home of her very first companion, my aunt, ( the one with tidy hair and beautiful big bow). In a small, country town they grew old souls, together,

My aunt and Sadie; growing together

My aunt and Sadie; growing together

until that moment, last month, when my aunt said “Now, Sadie, NOW is the time for your next home”.

And, so, here she is, safely home, yet again. To a place where she is snug and content,

Sadie Rosemary, safely home, yet again

Sadie Rosemary, safely home, yet again

and as deeply loved as ever she was.

But quietly, quietly,  I ask, ” Sadie, Rosemary, Sadie, who will take care of you next? ” And from the pale blue eyes there comes a whisper, “Patience, patience; the time is not yet.”  Such wisdom from a doll of long years. 🙂

© silkannthreades

The gifts of a lifetime

In my previous post I mentioned Barbara, giver of the Happiness Kit.

Long before the Happiness Kit came into my household, Barbara (and her family ) gave us other gifts: the gift of thoughtful words, like these,

Barbara's Words, School Magazine 1944

Barbara’s  student words about our duty and responsibility to establish a saner world for our children: School Magazine 1944

and the gift of Angela, otherwise known as my sister-in-law. This coming week it will be Angela’s birthday. This post is my birthday  gift to Angela. ~

I write a lot about reading; reading books, in particular.

This is where my official reading life began;  Lautoka European School,

My brother; the advance party on the reading path.

My brother, first row, 4th from the left; the advance reading party; my mentor at L.E.S.

a small school, in a small colonial town, on a dot of an island, in the vast Pacific Ocean.  My reading ‘prowess’ was acquired, staid word upon staid word, with the assistance of the utterly dull, ‘what-have-these-people-got-to-do-with-my-life’  Janet and John readers, and a young teacher who, whilst relatively benign most of the time, once had the audacity to strap some of us on the back of our legs for failing to recognise the word of the day on the blackboard ~ “BARK”.  I was offended, and still am to this day! WOOF! 😀

Despite this unfortunate hiccup in my early reading days, my enthusiasm for reading did not falter. I attribute that enthusiasm to the pre-reading skills that were nurtured at home,

Playing with Mother aka reading readiness

Gallivanta playing with Mother aka reading readiness

and at  my mother’s kindergarten, through play and story-time. I don’t remember being read to, but I do remember the books that were read and that I later learned to read by myself. Many of those books remain on my bookshelves.  Here’s a sample:

As I was learning to understand, and love, the written word in Lautoka, about 200kms to  the East, another young girl was already well on the road to reading her way through the world of books.

In May, this year, that young girl, now all grown up as Angela Namoi, was awarded the  Pixie O’Harris Award for Distinguished and Dedicated Service to the Development and Reputation of Australian Children’s Books at the  Australian Book Industry Awards.  It was a fitting honour for Angela’s hard work and enormous contribution to children’s literature.  But more than that, it seems to me, the award acknowledges how from the smallest of beginnings, a few, simple written words, be they Janet and John or Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie, come riches far greater than any we can possibly  imagine when, in that magical nanosecond, we first decipher those squiggles on the page before us.

Angela puts it like this in these excerpts from her acceptance speech for the Pixie O’Harris award.

This is a huge honour and something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie by Pixie O’Harris was a favourite children’s book of mine – who’d have thought that I would one day win an award bearing her name.

There are people to thank!……….

My parents are Australian, but I was born and raised in Fiji. My father was a missionary so we had very little money. Although our clothes might have been sewn from old curtains, it’s thanks to my mother’s excellent sense of priorities that our house was always full of books.

Growing up on a small island meant we were exposed to influences from absolutely everywhere. We read books from all over the world and I was always fascinated by the variations in language, and how connected that was to geography.

This has fed my passion for diversity of voice, so I have greatly enjoyed working to ensure the Australian voice is heard LOUD AND CLEAR in the wider world!

My early experiences confirmed the importance of books in a child’s life. The stats are there for everyone to see – broadly, a child who has books in their home is a child who will do better in life. I believe this passionately.

 

To that I would add: Congratulations and Happy Birthday Angela. You are much-loved.

Related but separate: two examples of Australian Children’s Literature

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

and  The Arrival by Shaun Tan

There are many more. Next time you read a children’s book, take a quick look and check its country of origin. You may find you are in the good company of an Australian. 😉

© silkannthreades

 

 

 

Now is the hour

After my brief break to honour  Anzac Day, I am returning to my blogcation story.

Two nights and three short days have passed. Now  it is time for my friend to embark on the next stage of her journey. It is time, it is the hour, for us to say goodbye, just as we have  done before. We know the words well. They are words that are integral to an island childhood of many farewells, and, sometimes, few returnings.

Words, as integral as the liturgies, the creeds, the  hymns and Bible stories my friend and I  absorbed,  filtered through layers of cultural and religious and missionary ambiguities and diversities. The miracle is that  we absorbed and retained any of the Anglican faith at all, surrounded as we were by every religion, and interpretation of it, that one could imagine. For example, Diwali was almost as much fun as Christmas; the sounds of the   Call to Prayer were more part of our day than the ringing of church bells; fasting could mean Ramadan or Lent, missionaries could mean Methodist or Mormon, and so on; but, as children, we simply accepted  all the differences of faith with equanimity, as part of what made our community specifically ours.

As a parting gift, and in memory of those early shared bonds of faith, my friend gave me an extraordinarily beautiful book “The Scrolls Illuminated”, illustrated by Australian artist  Fiona Pfennigwerth.

The Scrolls Illuminated, illustrated by Fiona Pfenningwerth

The Scrolls Illuminated, illustrated by Fiona Pfennigwerth

Fiona takes 5 ancient texts from the Bible and uses her understanding of Australian nature, and the Bible, to bring the texts  ” across time, culture and geography to those of us in the 21st century “at the ends of the earth” – and anywhere between.” She enriches old stories of faith by adding a unique Australian filter; much as we children grew our faith through a particular Pacific lens.  The book was  the project for Fiona’s Honours and PhD studies in Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

And the result of her talent and study is Joy; pure Joy.

I commend joy Ecclesiastes 8:15

I commend joy
Ecclesiastes 8:15

Update:

Yesterday we commemorated Anzac Day. “Now is the Hour”/  “Po Atarau” has been  sung as a farewell to our troops as far back as the First World War. It was also sung when passenger ships left Fiji. “Now is the Hour” became a huge international hit in the late 1940s, thanks to Gracie Fields and Bing Crosby.

© silkannthreades

 

Looking Back

Still on the subject of my blogcation; first there were the  Preparations  and, then……..

My guest arrives….

We look back.

From 2014 to 1966

From 2014 to 1966

Mr Carter's classes

Mr Carter’s classes

The Two of  Us at Malolo Street 1966

The Two of Us at Malolo Street 1966

Mr Hodge's Sunday School Class 1964

Mr Hodge’s Sunday School Class 1964.  St Peter’s Anglican Church ,Father Butler’s residence, Drasa Avenue.

The Beginning

The Beginning : ‘When I was Three I was hardly me. When I was Four, I was not much more.’  A A Milne

Update: It has been a difficult week. It is tempting to look back to the past and think all was perfect. It was not. As a child I was dumbfounded, and unbelieving, when I realised that, at the age of five, I would be going to  Lautoka European School and my best friend would not. Fortunately, those policies were changed within the next few years as Fiji headed towards Independence, and my friend and I were able to spend a short time together at the renamed school. It became Drasa Avenue School.

The events of my current week, and  those contained in my post, seem to relate well to this quote

“Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind, spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies.” 

This is the prayer inscribed on the bronze memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson in   St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland. Robert Louis Stevenson was, amongst many other things, a witness to the colonial history of the Pacific Islands. Clanmother writes (and recites) about Robert Louis Stevenson’s connection to  the Pacific  here.

© silkannthreades

 

Precious Jewels….fake or fine?

Jewel

“late 13c., “article of value used for adornment,” from Anglo-French juel, Old French jouel “ornament, jewel” (12c.), perhaps from Medieval Latin jocale, from Latin jocus “pastime, sport,” in Vulgar Latin “that which causes joy” (see joke (n.)). Another theory traces it to Latin gaudium, also with a notion of “rejoice” (see joy).” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=jewel

Precious jewellery from my grandmother

Precious jewellery from my grandmother, perhaps inherited from her mother.

“Sense of “precious stone” developed early 14c. Meaning “beloved person, admired woman” is late 14c.” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=jewel

My mother's autograph book; her own entry for 24 July 1933

My mother’s autograph book; her own entry for 24 August 1933

Another beloved, admired jewel in ‘my book’, who brings joy and rejoicing, is dear, true friend  Lisa Brunetti . A few weeks ago, I asked if she would permit me to use one of her paintings to illustrate a poem  written by my daughter. Yes, of course, she said, and sent, not one, but eight, beautiful photos of her work. Such generosity of spirit and kindness warms my heart to its core.    And, for those of you who already know Lisa, sending so many samples via her ultra slow internet connection was not a simple matter. It took time and considerable effort. Thank you, Lisa, friend with a soul as beautiful as a rare Ecuadorean Emerald.

My daughter’s poem needs some final editing before it is ready for posting on my blog, but here are a few lines, to put a sparkle in your eye, until the final version is available.

Lark of lizards, plastic little gecko,
how I love the echo of your calls,..

…so often past the midnight have I seen
you, gaudious gelatinous-fingered gecko,
munching moth-mouthed on the meshing screens

Geckos and their lives were an integral, and much loved,  part of my childhood in Fiji. As they talked and stalked their way along ceilings and walls, or simply rested, stilled and waiting,  they kept us company. On long tropical nights, we watched each other, and together listened to the radio and each other’s words. My daughter, in Cairns, is learning to enjoy and understand  their companionship.

No geckos for me, on this cold, hail-ridden, third day of autumn, in Christchurch. Instead, this  bright jewel came to my window during a brief respite in the storm. I smiled at the way it looked at me, and  I said “Kia Ora, welcome to my window.”

True Friend or Autumn Leaf?

True Friend or Autumn Leaf?

But, then, I wondered if I had chosen the wrong greeting because, it seems to me, this little one may not be our native Orthodera novaezealandiae,

but its South African Springbok rival, Miomatis caffra,

that was accidentally brought to New Zealand in the 1970s.

The endemic New Zealand praying mantis …  is currently wide spread through out most of the country, but faces the threat of at least local extinction in many areas because of the competition from the Spring bok praying mantis. If nothing is done to protect our native praying mantis, within a few decades we may no longer be able to observe its intriguing way of life in our gardens. http://www.canterburynature.org/species/lincoln_essays/nzmantis.php

Pray tell me are you jewel or thief?

Pray tell me are you jewel or thief?

Pray tell me, someone,  if this gorgeous creature is jewel or thief? True friend or autumn leaf?

[I wonder if our rugby board knows that the rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand has taken a leap off-pitch, and New Zealand isn’t winning. The Spring Boks are taking out the All (Green) Blacks big time, and on our own home turf.]

One last diamond to add to my post:

Before this month ends,  I will receive a visitor from across the Tasman Sea. We haven’t seen each other for more than a decade. In fact, we have seen each other only once or twice in the last 45 years. But we are bonded by a shared childhood and our friendship has endured. I wonder if either of us understood the sturdy ring of truth in these words, when Jennifer penned them in my autograph book on 15 June 1967, in our island home, Lautoka, Fiji.

A Diamond Friendship

A Diamond Friendship

Mother's Autograph Book 1933

Mother’s Autograph Book 1933

May your friendships be blessed jewels in your life.

© silkannthreades

Christmas in past years

Many of us will have a photo, like this one, which I found whilst rummaging in my store cupboard this morning.

Sixties Santa and Sixties Me ?

Sixties Santa and Sixties Me ?

I think I am about 4 years old in this photo which would date this Santa meeting  to Christmas 1960. However  this date of 1960 doesn’t gel with the information I have on the photographer,   J Ambrose, who was apparently at  137 Armagh Street only in  1962 and 1964.  So, perhaps, I am older in the photo than I imagine I was.

Early Photographers in Christchurch

Early Photographers in Christchurch

I don’t remember meeting Santa, or having my photo taken with him, but I do remember that short-sleeved cardigan I am wearing. I loved it, with its lacy pattern, soft beige wool and shiny, faceted, glass-like buttons. My mother’s sister made it for me, and my only sadness over it was that it was hardly ever cold enough to wear it in my childhood homeland, Fiji.

The Santa photo, though, was not taken in Fiji. It was, I expect, taken during one of our ‘home-leave’ visits to Christchurch. And, I am thinking that Santa and I probably greeted each other at Santa’s corner in Hay’s Department Store  “Hay’s – the friendly store where everything is different!” http://lostchristchurch.org.nz/hays-building-oxford-terrace-c-1959    Hay’s no longer exists. It became Farmers in 1987. And the buildings which Hay’s, followed by Farmers, used to occupy no longer exist either, because they  had to be demolished after the earthquakes  (2010/2011).

Now, moving on from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern one… as Santa must do, for, after all, we are amongst the first in the world to see Christmas Day.  [ Which begs the question, “Why doesn’t Santa live at  the South Pole?” It would be more convenient and fuel-efficient, considering the direction he has to travel.]

I digress….here are some photos of my first ever Northern Hemisphere winter.  This is the house in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York, where I spent Christmas in 1977. We didn’t, to my great disappointment, have a White Christmas, but, in early 1978, when this photo was taken, Mother Nature made up for the lack of snow on Christmas Day.

Valhalla 1978

Valhalla 1978

In February of that year,  I went from scarcely knowing what snow looked like to experiencing the  Blizzard of 1978.  I don’t believe I will ever forget the extraordinary day we walked in the middle of Second Avenue, Manhattan.  It was completely, and eerily, devoid of traffic. I didn’t own a pair of boots back then but I did have wooden clogs, with rubber heel and toe plates, and I found they were excellent  for negotiating the slippery pavements. ( Yay for Clogs! Does Santa have clogs? He should 🙂  Sinterklaas has a pair, I am sure.)

And here is the final photo from the cupboard rummage; me, in the aftermath of the Blizzard, in my friend’s garden at Valhalla. I cut a Santa like figure, don’t you think?

Is Santa lost?

Is it Santa?

© silkannthreades