Tag Archives: mothers

Happiness in a Bag

By my bed, I keep a little bag of happiness, tied up with a faded, frayed ribbon of palest blue.

Happiness in a Bag

Happiness in a Bag

It was given to me, many years back, by a special member of our extended family. Her name was Barbara. I am not sure if she made it or if she bought it, in aid of one of the many good causes she supported. It matters not; it is a lovely hand-made gift of home-spun wisdom, which always makes me smile and remember the giver.

So of what does Happiness consist?

Happiness Kit

Happiness Kit

Very little, it seems; an eraser, some cents, a marble, a rubber band, a piece of string,

Makers of Happiness

Makers of Happiness

 

and a kiss,

A Happiness Kiss

A Happiness Kiss

to remind us that someone always cares about us.

The kiss in the kit bag was originally a Hershey’s Kiss but it disintegrated long ago. ( I didn’t eat it, truly I didn’t.)  The little kissing rabbits belonged to my mother, and, before that, to her three maiden great-aunts. They have been loved for generations but not yet  been loved quite as much as  the Velveteen Rabbit, it would seem.

And that is all there is to it; my little bag of happiness. Simple, isn’t it?

© 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

Rubens and the Quince..a Retrospective

There are some images which, once imaged on one’s inner eyeball, are almost impossible to erase.  Rather like the earworm, but with eyes.

Take this, for example, which I stumbled upon whilst looking for ways to prepare quince.

“I love the quince’s shape, its generous curves and bulges. It is a voluptuous, even magnificent fruit to look at, like a Rubens bottom.”(Nigel Slater)

Why, yes, Nigel Slater, why yes, I now see that it does, but, sadly, this revelation means  I will never be able to look at a quince in the face again, and certainly not with a straight face, on my own visage. If you would like to see the connection between quinces and Rubens, gaze on these beauties that my forager friend brought me, a few weeks back,

Quinces, faire  and fulsome

Quinces, faire and fulsome, with bay and pear and lemon

Quince, faire and rubenesque

Quince, faire and rubenesque

and, then, check out  the works of Sir Peter Paul Rubens.

Not withstanding the mirthful imagery, Mr Slater did provide an excellent recipe for cooking quinces, first by poaching, then by baking them to persimmon-toned, bejewelled  tenderness. The fresh, delicate, faintly rose like perfume of the quinces filled the kitchen during the slow cooking process. And it made me think how this aroma, so rare for me, and many other modern house-persons,  was, once, long ago, a  more common scent in New Zealand homes.

Poached and baked quinces in Haddon Hall bowl

Poached and baked quinces in  Haddon Hall bowl

 For, even as early as 1820,  the plans for the Kerikeri mission station garden in the North Island of New Zealand contained quince trees.   I wonder if the rubenesque appearance of the fruit crossed the mission’s collective eye . Perhaps they were more interested, as most early settlers were, in the basic food value, rather than the aesthetics, of their garden produce.

George Butler Earp, who wrote  Hand-book for Intending Emigrants to the Southern Settlements of New Zealand, (1851) 3rd ed, W S Orr, London, said of New Zealand gardens  (in 1852) that ” no English garden, however expensively kept up, can for a moment vie with the beauty of a cottagers’ garden in New Zealand in the beauty of its shrubs, to say nothing of the vines, melons, Cape gooseberries, peaches, all English and many tropical fruits, which will grow anywhere in the greatest luxuriance.” (Source: Cottage Gardening in New Zealand by Christine Dann)

I think that Mr Earp’s enthusiastic  ‘anywhere’ may be an overstatement, but, in the beginning  years, settlers had little choice but to make their gardens grow, wherever they found themselves. It was a matter of survival. However, once the  northern hemisphere newcomers had worked hard, and worked out the upside-down growing seasons in  New Zealand, and understood  what grew well, and what didn’t, on their patch of soil, they would have had sufficient fruit to make the jellies and jams and pastes  that they remembered from the old country. (Imagine the excitement of writing home to Mother that you had made your first batch of quince jelly with fruit from your own garden 😉 )

And, if harvests were good, there may have been enough surplus fruit to make  taffety tarts, quince pyes, or apple and quince shortcake.  Or other such scrumptious treats, filled with memories of absent mothers and grandmothers and lands left behind.

Apple shortcake, minus the quince, was a favourite of my young days. For me, it holds the essence of good meals, in the kitchen, and a long tradition of excellence in family baking.   I don’t know if my/our recipe dates back to earlier generations but both my grandmother and great-grandmother were skilled producers of food for the table and pantry. They may well have made shortcake.

Great grandmother circa 1927 working hard on the farm.

Great grandmother circa 1927 working hard on the Harewood farm. I don’t know if she cooked or grew rubenesque quinces but she made a fine parsnip wine, or so I am told.

And, finally, a little more nonsense about the quince…..to counter balance the visual earworm of a Rubens’  posterior, however beautiful it may be.

© silkannthreades

Epiphanies, real and imagined

Monday, 6th January,  was the celebration of  Epiphany   for those people, churches, cultures, countries that follow the Gregorian calendar for feast days.

The sky was heavenly blue

Heavenly blue sky for Epiphany

Heavenly blue sky for Epiphany

and, nearer to me, the flowers were blue-hued too.

And,  every which way  I turned,  I saw more manifestations  of blue,

until I felt as though I were swathed in  the most precious of  precious-blue fabrics, in much the same way as Mary, the Madonna, is often depicted, cloaked in a mantle of Mary-blue,

Federico Barocci, The Madonna and Child with Saint Joseph and the Infant Baptist ('La Madonna del Gatto'), probably about 1575 © The National Gallery, London

Federico Barocci, The Madonna and Child with Saint Joseph and the Infant Baptist (‘La Madonna del Gatto’), probably about 1575 © The National Gallery, London

or  ultramarine , as it is more properly called.

And it felt good; it felt blissful to be luxuriating in an aura of ‘divine’ blue-ness, as I went about my small tasks and errands, dressed, in reality, not like an artistically rendered Madonna but like this…

Glad Rags or Ordinaries

Glad Rags /Ordinaries

Epiphany Dressing

Epiphany Dressing

in very ordinary, cotton garments that are showing their age, and mine. Yet, oddly, they are garments that might be considered, by some, as slightly more glamorous than what Mary was actually wearing in Bethlehem, and thereafter 🙂 . I wonder about that. I wonder what Mary thought about her clothes;  or if she thought about them at all.  I wonder,  if on the day the Magi came with their gifts, Mary felt as if she were wearing the plainest robes, or as if she were wrapped in  the ‘richest’ cloth her world had to offer?  And I wonder if she would  be surprised at how we have dressed her through the centuries; would she say, ‘But you are dreaming..”, or would she say, ” Yes, it was so; exactly so.  I was beautiful.”

To be continued….possibly

© silkannthreades

The journeys we take

For a number of reasons, my Christmas has been unfurling more slowly than ever this year. I am still writing Christmas cards both for myself and on behalf of my mother, who remains unwell.  Once upon a time this slowness would have stressed me greatly but, in recent years, I have acknowledged  that Christmas is as much about a journey/s as it is about an event or destination. That understanding of Christmas  means I feel  free to adopt a pace that is suitable for the purpose of the journeying.

And, in Christmas, there are several journeys. There is the obvious spiritual one which  takes a lifetime…I am guessing…and usually cannot be rushed. There is the journey  home, to the stable to be counted, to be accounted for and, sometimes, to account for. Then, there are the Magi travels of discovery and inquiry  and seeking  ( the perfect light 😉 ) and these can be life-long too.  Another  journey which,  perhaps, contains the essential truth of every voyage we undertake is ‘the flight into Egypt’; the journey where we leave behind the familiar and the known and step in to the new, the unknown, the unseen, where we may find safety and we may not.  Sometimes, we take this journey by choice, sometimes, it is by chance but, by chance or by choice, it is rarely a journey embarked upon lightly.

This Christmas, our home was blessed by the presence of voyagers; my brother and his wife and their two sons who came from Sydney to be with us. With both our families we counted for 7 at the s table. We rediscovered the pleasure of familial ties, and we parted, unsure of what the year ahead holds for each of us, yet certain that we have one another for the road as yet uncharted.

The Emigrant's DaughterGraham, Thomas Alexander Ferguson, 1840-1906. Graham, Thomas Alexander Ferguson, 1840-1906 :The emigrant's daughter. 1861. Ref: MNZ-0084-1/4. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22843811

The Emigrant’s Daughter Graham, Thomas Alexander Ferguson, 1840-1906. Graham, Thomas Alexander Ferguson, 1840-1906 :The emigrant’s daughter. 1861. Ref: MNZ-0084-1/4. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22843811

With my brother’s tribe came a foreign traveller, far, far from his birthplace; a small soapstone (  Kisii stone)  hippo; come from the fields of Kenya to settle with us on  the plains of Canterbury.

Welcome, little one, what a journey you and your makers are on. What a journey we are on.

© silkannthreades

All the parts of the whole picture

About a year ago, I observed that, when I brought flowers in to the house, I often placed them against the backdrop of a favourite photo in a book

or against the landscape

of a print of a  loved painting.

Heuchera, Hebe  and Catmint

Heuchera, Hebe,  Catmint and  Yorkshire painting

Once I realised what I was doing,  I decided that the overall effect, of my relatively thoughtless juxtaposition of plant and paper, was pleasing. And I felt that  I could add another layer to my floral tableaux  by creating a digital image of them; one that made them seem as though  the real and the printed record were almost fully integrated.

So I began my   image making, recreating and rearranging the scenes before me. And, although the results are of variable quality, I have  great  fun messing about with flowers and photos and other people’s beautiful artwork.

An Impression of Clematis and Catnip

An Impression of Clematis and Catnip

Fragrant settings

Fragrant settings*

Today, I am finding this creative activity  beneficial as well as  fun. It is helping me to focus, to be mindful, to be at one with the  Serenity Prayer   ….. Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other….

or  to smile at its amusing Mother Goose version:-

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

The other day, I mentioned that my mother was unwell and needed a wheelchair. She is now in hospital, undergoing tests/scans, receiving physiotherapy treatment, and help with pain management. Yesterday, she was walking again with the aid of a walking frame and hospital staff. This is all happening thousands of kilometres from me but I know that  she is in good hands. When I spoke to her on the phone the other night, I could hear, in the background, laughter and kind voices encouraging her into wellness.

Everlasting Ivy

Everlasting Ivy*

Floral notes :

In Britain, the ivy is the last plant of the year to bloom and is in full bloom by early November. It is a welcome source of nectar as the colder days advance. It was once looked upon as a woman’s plant. In New Zealand ivy is  considered, by many, as a garden nuisance. Since I can’t seem to eradicate it, I have decided I may as well put it to use in my vases. And, if I ever take to drink, it will supposedly protect me from drunkenness.

Resources for this post:

The Floral Year by L J F Brimble, published by MacMillan& Co. Ltd 1949 and dedicated, amongst others, to Enid Blyton

The Garden Design Book by Anthony Paul and Yvonne Rees**

Tricia Guild’s Natural Flower Arranging by David Montgomery and Nonie Niesewand *

© silkannthreades

Matariki and my mother’s birthday

NASA Matariki 2012 small_0Today is a special day. It is my mother’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Mum! My mother and my father live in my sister’s home in warm, tropical Queensland.  But my mother’s birthplace is just few kilometres east of my present home in Christchurch.  It was raining ( I think) on the day she was born, and it is raining on this day, too. It seems that  some things, weather wise, have not changed  in 91 years 🙂

Something else that has changed little in all my mother’s  decades, and for decades before her time, and which will change little in decades to come, is Matariki, or the star cluster Pleiades.  In New Zealand, in traditional Maori culture, when Matariki appears before dawn in late May or early June, it is a signal that heralds the New Year, in accordance with the Maori lunar calendar. This year, Matariki was on 10 June.  When my mother was born, Matariki  apparently disappeared from the night sky around  19th -21st May and reappeared in the first new month ( Pipiri ) of the year, about 17th -19th June.  So, by this reckoning, I can say that she is a New Year baby,  born under the ‘little eyes’ or ‘the eyes of god’  ; two of the interpretations of the meaning of Matariki.

Despite all the clear instructions on how to find Matariki in our New Zealand skies,  I have completely failed to do so. When I look at the night sky, I am immediately lost.  However, there is one bit of star-gazing that I can do, and have done, for as long as I can remember, and that is to notice the first star of the evening.  And with that noticing comes a little verse that has been sung over the centuries by many a child and, undoubtedly, many a mother too.

“Star light, star bright, The first star I see tonight; I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight.”

I have wished many a wish on that first star of the evening sky, though what those wishes were I no longer remember. Perhaps they came true, perhaps they did not.

One wish that my mother had, a very long time ago was to have her travel diary published. She kept a comprehensive diary ,and many letters, of her early married life in Fiji but publishers were not interested then, and most likely still wouldn’t be.

However, with the POWER of WordPress at my finger tips, I am going to make my mother’s wish come true, on her birthday, and  publish a small extract from my her first rough copy manuscript !!!!

“It was our first winter at home (Christchurch)  after almost two years in a warmer climate, and we were feeling the cold dreadfully. Dealing with gas and electricity rationing and a fuel shortage did nothing to relieve our feelings, or the cold! On one particularly cold, wet, bleak afternoon I sat shivering before a small fire, nursing aching chilblains, and thinking gloomily of better days. Beside me on a desk lay a bundle of letters, written to the home folks, while we were away, and on an impulse I picked one up and began to read. Gradually the gloom dispersed and I was back again in the warm, happy islands of Fiji. Thoughts flitted through my head as bright as the hibiscus flowers and the myriad gay little birds of that tropical land where we had been so happy.”  September 1951

A Happy Birthday and  a Happy Matariki to my mother for all seasons, and for all time. Have a lovely day in warm sunshine. Is it fun to have your work published? 🙂
For the star gazers; a link to the heavens 🙂  (http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/matariki-maori-new-year) ( http://www.astronomynz.org.nz/maori-astronomy/taatai-arorangi-maori-astronomy-2.html)
The first image is apparently one from NASA and seems to be used by many of the websites I have looked at whilst researching Matariki.
© silkannthreades