You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Monday, 31 December 2012

Lady Demelza's Year in Books 2012


This year, for the first time since primary school when such lists were pretty much compulsory, I've kept a list of all the books I've read.

I was inspired by the various blogs I was reading. Many bloggers were publishing their reading lists, and I really loved seeing everyone's lists. In fact, I have found several amazing, gorgeous books that I would not have ever heard of but for a mention on a blog I was reading. I thought it was such a good idea that I tried it too, and I must say, it has been very enjoyable to keep this list throughout the year. I like that I can now place exactly when I read a book, and compare it to other events happening in my life at the time. When I started by typing in the first title here, Love Times Three by the Darger Family, I immediately remembered laying on my bed, reading this book and listening to the sounds of the New Year's Eve revellers lurching around the streets outside. I remember that New Year's Day was hot, so I stayed in bed in the cool room downstairs, reading the Dargers' story. I remember feeling outraged at the injustices these people face, and angry at the world for being the kind of place where prejudice and persecution are normal.

So, without futher ado- ta da! The complete Lady Demelza reading list for 2012.

1. Love Times Three by the Darger Family
2. Why be Happy When you Could be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
3. Gift of the Gob by Kate Burridge
4. The Green Wiccan Herbal by Silja
5. Blogging All-In-One for Dummies by Susan Gunelius
6. Mister God, This is Anna by Fynn
7. Dispatches from Blogistan by Suzanne Stefanac
8. Handmade Soap by Tatyana Hill
9. The Natural Soap Book by Susan Miller Cavitch
10. Made in France by Agnes Delage-Calvet et al
11.The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr - my review
12. Making Children's Clothes by Emma Hardy
13. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolley
14. How I Came Into My Inheritance and Other True Stories by Dorothy Gallagher
15. The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith - my review
16. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
17. The Woman Who Lives in the Earth by Swain Wolfe
18. The Alchemist's Daughter by Katherine McMahon
19. The Forgotten Affairs of Youth by Alexander McCall Smith
20. Planted Junk by Adam Caplin
21. Adventures in Mosaics by Meera Lester & Marsha Janda-Rosenburg
22. The Dreamtime by Ainslie Roberts & Charles P. Mountford
23. Mutants: on the form, varieties & errors of the human body by Armand Marie Leroi - my review
24. The Cleverness of Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith
25. Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara - my review
26. A Woman's Europe edited by Marybeth Bond
27. The Superior Person's Third Book of Words by Peter Bowler
28. At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
29. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
30. The Etymologicon - A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth (the Inky Fool)
31. Preincarnate by Shaun Micallef
32. Dingo - The Story of Our Mob by Sally Dingo
33. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
34. Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt
35. Magic and Witchcraft by Nevill Drury
36. Avalon Within by Jhenah Telyndru
37. Searching for Mary Magdalen by Jane Lahr
38. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
39. Daughter of Two Worlds by Audrey Oldfield
40. Notwithstanding by Louis de Bernieres
41. Old World Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi
42. Winter Hours by Mary Oliver
43. The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley
44. Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck
45. Edward Trencom's Nose by Giles Milton
46. The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey
47. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
48. Hung Like an Argentine Duck: A Journey Back in Time to the Origins of Sexual Intimacy by John Long
49. Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant
50. The Keeping Place by Isobelle Carmody
51. The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff
52. Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

The award for THE most amazing book I have read all year would have to go to Mister God, This is Anna by Fynn . When I read this book I had to rush around telling everyone I know - "You HAVE to read this book before you die!"

The crappiest book I managed to get all the way through to the end of this year was The Superior Person's Third Book of Words by Peter Bowler, and that was only because I am so strongly attracted to big words. Given what Peter Bowler did with this book, I think it would be more appropriately titled The Complete Wanker's Third Book of Words.

I'm currently reading The Stone Key by Isobelle Carmody, but seeing as I'm up to page 147 out of a total of 996 pages, I don't think I'll be adding this one to the list before midnight tonight.

If you know of a really amazing book out there that I should read, I'd love to hear from you.

*Linked in with Click Clack Gorilla's Book Lover Blog Hop.

Friday, 28 December 2012

of Things Remembered and Suddenly Found

It was a late night for the Maroon Household last night. Yesterday afternoon, Mr. CJ managed to bang his head hard enough to be concerned about a concussion. The thing to do in these situations, of course, is to keep the person awake for a decent amount of time, twelve hours being a pretty good rule of thumb. So we prepared our favourite caffeinated beverages and settled in for a late night.

We watched Pirates of the Caribbean, and some Stargate SG-1. I read my current library book, Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks, which caused me to occasionally open the computer to google things like interictal personality syndromepalinopsia and the relationship between spirituality and temporal lobe epilepsy. I kept an eye on Mr. CJ to make sure he wasn't falling asleep. He's fine, by the way, and didn't fare any worse than a nasty headache. Amongst all these noctural activities, I somehow had a thought, a memory, come to me quite strongly.

I was thinking about a series of books that I loved to collect and read as a child. I was such a little bookworm. I have no idea what made me think of it, but I suddenly remembered these books that I loved. It was a series of detective mystery stories where the kids are the detectives and solve the mysteries that even the adults can't work out. The main character had the particular gift of a photographic memory. He could see something, and remember it so perfectly afterwards, that he could draw a picture, and we were to know that the picture was an exactly faithful reproduction of what he had actually seen. The clues would be in the picture, and we had a chance to try to work it out for ourselves, or look up the solution in the back of the book.

And when I say we, I mean me, because I didn't know anyone else who read these particular books. Most of the books I was reading - the Trixie Beldens and the Famous Fives - I could share among my friends. But nobody was interested in these particular mystery stories.

What the bloody hell were they called? I kept asking myself as the memories of the books, and the times I spent with them, flooded through me. I wracked my brain and came up with the first name of the main character - Hawkeye. Well, that was actually his nickname, on account of his photographic memory. I knew he had a last name, and a female friend who was his partner in crime-solving - but I couldn't remember any more names, or any useful clues like the title of the series or the books. I figured this was a bit vague even for google. I realised that I had never seen these books around since my childhood, though I often come across copies of most of my favourite childhood books. I mentally shrugged and let the mystery of the unknown mysteries go. It's okay to not know some things.

Today, I had to go to the hospital to pick up a prescription for Mr. CJ at the outpatient clinic. It takes them a little while to fill the script, which I fill in by perusing the hospital book stall. I was halfway through the racks when I came across this.


I resisted the urge to exclaim 'you've got to be fucking kidding me!' aloud.

So the mystery is solved. The dynamic duo I had so admired were Hawkeye Collins and Amy Adams.

This sort of things does happen quite often, really, where you think of something or someone you haven't thought of for ages, and then it, or he or she, just sorts of pops up sometime soon after. Sometimes I think I shouldn't even be surprised any more. But in this case, the object concerned was something that I hadn't seen or thought of for more than twenty years, and it turned up in real life in less than twelve hours. That's pretty impressive.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Art in the Wild - Reel Wimmin

I've travelled, and been to galleries, and studied the Masters and perused expensive art books, but after all my adventures, I must say that the most amazing art is often not found within these traditional boundaries. I love to notice and discover art in the wild, scrawled on city walls and stuck up with blu-tack in the most unexpected places. I discovered this piece of writing on such a scrap of paper, on the wall of the toilet in a share house in Scotts Head, New South Wales, and recorded it in my journal on August 17, 2000. The celebrity references clearly indicate its vintage. I have no idea who the author might be - if you think you might know who she is, or maybe who melina & giselle might be, I would love to hear from you.

Alternative spellings are rendered true to the original.

*****

REEL WIMMIN (inspired by melina & giselle, & Arnie movie bimbos)

And I say 'fuck you, fuck you' to the smarmy smooth images of long-legged blonde bimbos, tottering moronically round Arnie Schwarzenegger movies... just 'fuck you' for parading your one-mold-fits-all icon of Barbie doll superiority in all of our faces; cos I can tell you right  now that REEL WIMMIN don't sit anywhere near your ridiculous mindless models, no way chickie babe, us reel wimmin explode like flowers from your cardboard cut-out examples of womynhood. We're not clones, we're not pre-packaged vials of anorexic plastic... we're short and black and gay and deaf and wide and middle-aged and yellow and pregnant and gap-toothed and fleshy and freckled and black-eyed and afro-ed and teenaged and flat-chested and Moslem and wheelchaired and musclebound and indigenous and hook-nosed and Hindu, and 10 million other variables besides, cos we're multi-coloured lollies to your stale dry Barbie crackers, and we're proud to be real. Yeah, and you betta believe that us REEL WIMMIN don't inch around office desks in restrictive prison-cage clothing, we don't burst with cosmetic surgery outta Hollywood sequins, we're not slinky, sophisticated, seductive or demure, no chance honey, we're running and leaping out of our minds and mini-skirts, reeling and dancing stiletto-less to the sun and the waves, flinging arms and legs and hearts around in joyous celebration of life, as we skateboard tuff-legged down careering rainbow rivers of our own creation. We're witches and warriors and wanderers and whores, we're nuns and electricians and mothers and martial artists, we're downtrodden and triumphant, we're goddesses and junkies... and with seaweed in our hair, stars in our teeth, dirt on our hands and food in our mouths, we tear tumbling down your elongated ribless plastercast molds, till they're revealed in all their vapid futility, yeh we take Christie and Elle and Naomi and Kate, and we lick them, and smash them hurtling shattered out of our headspaces, as we lay back and bask in our own innovative, imaginative, independent, individual REEL WOMYN-hood.

*****

Amen, sister. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

the Story of Christmas

Long, long, ago, when the world was young and humans were just getting themselves together as a species, people paid a lot of attention to changes in the natural world. It was necessary for survival. So they noticed that the days grew shorter each day. They watched the point at which the sun rose on the horizon, and noticed that it was a little further along each day. Then came a time when the night was terribly long and cold, and when the sun rose in the morning, it did so at the same point on the horizon as yesterday. Some people probably even worried that it was never going to come back. Maybe this was the end of the sun's life? There was no way of knowing back then. So they watched, and maybe they prayed and chanted, and on the third day, the point of sunrise was a little further out again, and the day was a little longer. The sun was on its way back, and the people rejoiced. There was no way of reckoning such back then, but by today's calendar, that day would have been December 25th.

This went on for many thousands of years. Civilisations and cultures grew, and the people found stories that told the mystery of the cycle of the seasons. Most cultures around the world developed some concept of a Sun God. Peoples of northern and western Europe developed customs and rituals such as bringing an evergreen tree indoors throught the period of solstice, and having a feast to celebrate the returning of the light. The ancient Egyptians had Osiris, who was born on December 25th, of a virgin mother. When he died, he stayed dead for three days, before being resurrected. Sound familiar? Remember, these stories go back many thousands of years earlier than the story of Christ.

The Phrygo-Romans had Attis, also born of a virgin mother on the 25th of December. The Persian god Mithras is also a Sun God, and was also born on December 25th, also of a virgin mother. He became very popular among the higher classes of Roman society around two thousand years ago. The Emperor Constantine was a member of the cult of Mithras, and celebrated Natalis Sol Invictus - the Birthday of the Invincible Sun - on December 25th. He was already well into his forties when he decided to convert to Christianity. Despite the fact that Christians were regularly persecuted and fed to hungry lions at this stage in history, the boss converting meant that all of Rome became a Christian Empire, and the Catholic Church was born.

It wasn't easy converting a whole empire of decadent, pagan Romans into Christians. They would persist in practising celebrations of pagan festivals, such as Saturnalia, in honour of the god Saturn, and of course the impressively named Natalis Sol Invictus. You can't blame them, it sounds like heaps of fun. Then, in the 4th century CE, Pope Julius I came up with a brilliant idea of assigning Decemeber 25th as the Feast of Nativity, or a celebration of the birth of Jesus.

We don't know the date on which Jesus was born. But we can be absolutely certain that it wasn't December 25th. Think of the story - room in the manger, shepherds in the field - definitely not the middle of winter. Clearly, Jesus was born sometime in the spring or summer, but that was not at all relvant to Pope Julius I, who was just looking for a way to bring the pagan hordes into line with the company policy.

But the people still kept up the pagan practises like bringing green trees indoors, or going around town singing carols. And that didn't hurt the church any, as long as those people paid their tithes and shut up about Mithras. Life went on. The Empire as a political entity collapsed, but the religious arm went out around the world with the colonisers, force-fed to native peoples at the point of a sword, or a gun.

Now, this is a very sucky story - but I would have been able to accept the mishmash we have now for what it is, a reflection of the intricacies and shifting politics of human society. But then something else happened to throw another seasonal spanner in the works. People discovered that the world was round, and that there was something on the other side. Eventually, they found that something, and lots of white European people moved to the Antipodes. Once they got there, they celebrated Christmas in the middle of summer, and just about all was lost.

I think I would be able to deal with Christmas if I lived in the northern hemisphere, and it was actually winter. I would be able to appreciate the tree, the fire, the feast and the carols, and not quibble too much over whether we mark the actual Solstice or the return of the light a few days later. But I live in Australia. It's the middle of summer, the sun is blazing at the height of His powers, and people still pretend that it's midwinter, and bring in trees, and cook big chunks of roast meat, and dress up in woolly velvet suits. This situation is just too ridiculous for words.

I think I would even be able to get into Christmas if it actually were Jesus' birthday. While I'm not at all impressed by the cults that have taken over the world in His name, I don't have a problem with Jesus. In fact, I love and adore Him, and I accept Him into my heart and soul as my spiritual Lord and Master. It would be cool to celebrate his birthday. Even if the date December 25th had just been chosen randomly, just so that we could celebrate His birth every year even though we don't know the actual date, I could have gone along with it. But it wasn't like that. The adoption of December 25th as a Christian feast was another tactic in the vicious and violent suppression of the pagan peoples throughout Europe,  a deliberate corruption of our true heritage. There's no fucking way I'm going to celebrate that.

It's been, oh, more than fifteen years now, I think, since I worked all this out and decided to reject Christmas. A lot of people think that this is sad somehow, that I am missing out on something. I don't see what I'm missing out on. I do have Yule, which happens on 21-22 June in my southern world. I have friends, and family, and I celebrate having them in my lives and spending time with them. I often give people gifts, and often receive beautiful gifts. I still have all these things in my life. They didn't disappear when I rejected Christmas. I wonder about people who think they need a socially-approved season in which to celebrate these wonderful aspects of human society. It seems to me that they don't believe these positive qualities of humanity actually exist within their own right, but require a specific season, and specific rituals to be performed, to be brought into actuality. It looks to me like a sad life where Chirstmas is only allowed to happen once a year. I have the joy of that spirit any day, any time I think about all my loved ones and all the precious strings of love that hold us all together. All I'm missing out on is a huge dose of bullshit that's been fed down to us through the centuries.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

What Littletree said, Part 2

I was lucky enough to get the chance to spend a week with one of my most favourite people, Littletree, and collect these sage and wonderful gems.

*****

Littletree was a little overwhelmed by how big the airport was.

Littletree: It's such a long way to walk from the building to the car.

Me: Yeah, it is. Sorry about that.

Littletree: Oh, don't apologise. It's not your fault. You didn't build this stupid place.

*****

I had just told Littletree a cute, funny kid story about myself when I was five years old. The climax of the story involved me presenting my Nana and Pa each with a piece of fruit cake. Littletree loved the story, and laughed and smiled, and then became quite serious and thoughtful.

Littletree: One day, if I become a grandmother...

I had the feeling that she was about to make one of her profound pronouncements, and listened carefully.

Littletree: ...I'm going to have to warn my grandchildren that I don't like fruit cake.

*****

While pondering how to get the fruit down from a tall tree, one that is not a good shape and inclination for climbing.

Me: We'll just have to get our thinking caps on.

Littletree: Oh, that's good, because I brought my thinking cap with me.

*****

Waiting to cross the street while walking home.

Littletree: Hey, Demelza...

Me: Yes?

Littletree: When we get home...

Me: Hmm, what?

Littletree: Please don't tell me there's a spider on my pillow.

Fortunately, this was a request with which I had no problem complying.

*****

Littletree was writing a postcard to a family she knows, and started with all their names.

Me: That's great sweetie. I think we might want another comma after A's name, as well.

Littletree: Oh no, because A and B are twins, and so I can't put a comma between them.

*****

While discussing colonial history.

Littletree: My great-great-grandparents were alive in the time of slavery.

Here I realised that Littletree had picked up a common misconception about the place of slavery in history, and thought I had better set out correcting it.

Me: Actually, the history of slavery is a lot more recent than that. Even, say, when Uncle CJ was alive, when he was young, there were slaves in this country. Well, they weren't called slaves, they were just called servants, but really they were slaves, because they didn't have any choice in it.

Littletree: Oh my god! Is Uncle CJ  really old?

He's only forty-eight. We worked it out.

*****

We were waiting to cross a busy road, when a car pulled up and the driver motioned for us to cross.

Me (once we were safely across the road): That was nice of that driver to stop and let us pass. That's been happening a lot since we've been walking around town. I don't usually see so many nice, kind drivers. Maybe it's because I'm walking with a cute kid.

Littletree: Yeah, I can't help it. I do have cute power.

Me: Oh, that's not something you have to help, sweetie. It can be a good thing, as long as you use your powers for Good and not Evil.

Littletree: What does that mean?

Then I had to explain what I meant, that I was kind of joking but also explaining the moral lesson in the saying.

Later that day, Littletree was pretty tuckered out. She was telling us about a dilemma she was experiencing, in which she wanted a chocolate treat from the shop, but was too tired to walk there. Mr. CJ pointed out that as he had to go out later to get milk anyway, he could give her a lift to the shop in the car.

Me: There you go, honey. It looks like you can use your cute powers to get Uncle CJ to drive you to the shop.

Littletree (quite strongly alarmed and disturbed): Oh no! I couldn't ever do that!

Me: Well, okay. But why not?

Littletree: Because you told me about how I have to use my powers for Good and not Evil!

*****

More of What Littletree Said is here.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

of the Travelling Sister

I'm the luckiest girl. My baby sister came to visit me!


Well, she's not a baby any more of course. She's all grown up, with qualifications and a passport that has seen more stamps than the lady at the post office. She's so busy flitting around the world that this is her first visit in eight years!

Yes, we are aware that we don't look much like sisters. We don't sound like sisters either. Aya has a posh London boarding school accent and I have an ocker drawl that grates even on my own ears.

The short story is, we have different mothers, so technically we're half-sisters. For most of our lives we've lived in different countries, and if I added up all the hours we've actually spent physically together, it wouldn't come to much. But there's more than that with us. We've always had a connection, regardless of time and space. We are spirit sisters, perhaps more than kin. We are both always a part of each other, even when we don't connect on the physical plane.

It's a mystery, the depths of human connection, and it makes me the luckiest girl.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Confessions of a Bloglife Crisis, or, This is Not an Abandoned Blog

...despite recent appearances to the contrary.

I certainly haven't forgotten about my blog. Indeed, it's been the elephant in the room of mind all this time since my last post. I haven't had any shortage of adventures or inspirations to blog about. Ideas for blog posts are still coming thick and fast. But they don't get through the minefield of my brain to see the light of day. It's not that I don't love my blog any more. On the contrary, I've missed blogging terribly, to be honest.

Obviously, I have a problem. What I have discovered recently, however, is a name for my problem. A nice, cute, modern little name that fits neatly into an online search box. It helps, when blogging about a topic, to have such a name for it. My problem is perfectionist paralysis. It's not a new thing in my life. Perfectionism has always been one of my more challenging personal neuroses. Blogging just gives me yet another platform on which to experience and observe this particular brand of emotional baggage.

I can never get a blog post quite right. There will always be something I should or shouldn't have mentioned in context, or the thought that I couldn't quite express in words clearly enough. Later, after I've published a post, I might think of a way that I could have improved it. I could, if I wanted to, edit a post. But I know the nature of perfectionism well enough to know that if I started on that road, it would never end. I wonder about the integrity of a blog that is regularly edited, and and I really don't want to go there.

The labels really drive me crazy. I understand that they're useful in navigating a blog, and that one day I'm going to need them myself. But I can never decide on the right labels for the things I'm talking about. I second-guess and go back and change them, but I can't clarify a system that works for me. It seems impossible to divide the experiences of life up into categories like that. Any one action or thought reverberates throughout all the dimensions of my life.

All these things only even get to be considered if they get through my even bigger problem - deciding what to blog about. I don't really have any idea who my audience is. It's not really one of my intentions to upset or offend people by blogging. But obviously, it's not something that one can avoid in the big bad world of the Internet. That scares me. It scares me to think that the things I write about here go out into the world and I can never get them back. The world might be a very different place at some point in the future. I can have no idea of the potential consequences of blogging about sensitive issues, the spiritual, religious, political, the deeply personal, no idea of the standards by which I might be judged by a yet-unimagined future society. One solution is to stick to blogging about the easy things that don't offend anyone - op shop treasures and gardening. But that is just not in line with my personal goals for this blog. I continue to be inspired the most by the people who are really, honestly sharing the hard things, the big things. The ones who are dancing with the elephants in the rooms of their lives. These ones remind me that by staying safe, I am not living and embracing life to the fullest.

All these doubts and fears have conspired and colluded to leave me with a pile of half-started draft posts of great potential, and a suspiciously long absence in the chronology of this blog. This is not a good outcome.

These were all the reasons why I didn't want to take on the responsibility of a blog in the first place. But I have found that it is something that I simply must do. I don't have any solutions to these problems, any insight beyond noticing how they limit my expression. I don't have a particular strategy for going on blogging that will address all these fears I have. I'll just go on, and keep working it out as I go, just like everyone else. But, you know, they say it helps to start by admitting you have a problem.

Monday, 1 October 2012

of the First Adventure in Jam-making, and Outrageous Success

I've often thought of making jam, especially when there happens to be a local glut of some fruit in particular. Or when I find a recipe for something tantalisingly exotic, like White Peach and Rose Jam or Blueberry and Blackberry Jam. I've often read through the recipes and instructions for jam-making, and visualised myself performing the actions described. At some point, however, I would feel overwhelmed or discouraged, and come up with a story about why it might be a disaster - anything from burning myself, to bugs that survive my sterilisation procedures, to failing to comprehend the setting point.

Somehow I'd been feeling a bit inspired and adventurous when I went shopping at the greengrocers, and found strawberries for 69c a punnet. Of course I bought six punnets, and then I had to find something to do with them. When I found a recipe that used 500g of strawberries to make just one jar of jam, I reasoned that I had little to lose if it didn't work out.


I washed and hulled and halved the berries, and mixed them up with 350g sugar and the juice and zest of half a lemon, and put them on the stove to get slowly up to a boil. Meanwhile, there's a glass jar boiling on the other burner to sterilise it.


Soon I had a frothing red mass of liquid, bubbles and steam. I was amazed at how the mixture became a liquid so quickly - I hadn't actually added any water. It seemed a stretch to imagine it thickening into jam.


But thicken it did, and then you know what, it started to look just like jam. I did that test with a spoonful on a cold saucer to see if it set as it cooled - and I don't know if I was more amazed that my jam had worked, or that the cold saucer test worked just like I had read about it.


And now it's jam in a jar. Not only did it turn out all right, I reckon it's the most amazing, delicious jam I've ever tasted.


And you know what people, if I can do this with strawberries, I can do it with other things too. I can make jam! It's a whole new world of sweet fruity goodness to explore. Excuse me while I dither with excitement.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

of the Garden, and what it's been up to while I was away

It was wonderful to come home. I love this house so much. And the garden - well, the garden has a life of its own and has had its adventures during  my absence.

The fruit trees, including the enormous cherry plum, have had their blossoms come and go - I missed the bridal shower breezes of the early spring. I missed a terrific storm, I hear, and a season of cold, bitter winds.

Thanks to the attentions of my neighbour the compulsive gardener, the backyard was cleaned up within an inch of its life, and my herb garden - that is to say, the Garden of Things that are Undesirable to Possums - was blooming extravagently. The California Poppies in particular had advanced in their efforts for world domination and had to be thinned out considerably in order to reveal the beautiful herb garden that has developed out of my truce with the possum. I transplanted some into pots so they can go live in my mother's garden.

This rosemary was just a tiny cutting when it first came here - and now look, it's grown into decent, respectably prominent shrub.


The lemon balm and the mint have grown rampant and are begging out to be harvested. It's always nice to have fresh herbs for a herbal tea, but I feel inspired to look at making some syrup or tincture, something a bit more adventurous and Crafty.


This was my special bonus surprise - an experimental broccoli seedling has yielded a lovely little head!


And how did the possum miss that one, you might ask? Well, that was the strategy of my experiment. I planted the seedlings below the extremely aggressive and unfriendly spikes of this palm.


I found some breathtakingly stunning colours in the geranium foliage.



The rose bush had been neglected and was overdue for its winter prune. I set right to cutting it back, and suddenly realised that I had been given a beautiful rosewood wand.


And it's been raining. I feel like I'm starting to breathe again.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

of an Exercise in Following Instructions, and Faith in Practise

"Take three seeds, and put them in the bitterest place."

I had been praying deeply, asking for guidance. There's been Stuff going on, people, major Stuff. And when I wonder, 'what will I do?", this is what I do. I turn to the Goddess and ask her to show me the way.

And this what what she had to say. "Take three seeds..." It soon became clear that She wasn't going to talk to me anymore until I had taken on this message.

It's not so common for me to receive such concrete, deliberate instructions in my spiritual guidance. I was intrigued, piqued and puzzled. Um, what does that mean? So I pondered.

It sounded like I had been presented with a Quest of sorts, a mission to carry out just for the sake of following Her wherever She may guide me. I thought of a book I had read a little while ago, a beautiful children's story published in 1872, The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.

In the story, the little princess meets her Grandmother, apparently a spirit-woman, ghost, or perhaps an angel, living in the attic in her castle. The Grandmother gives the princess a golden ring and tells her to use it to call on her if she ever needs help. When things go bump in the night, and the princess is frightened, she takes the ring and follows the fine, long, invisible thread that leads from it. She trusts that the thread will take her to her Grandmother, and she follows it, even when it guides her outside, up the hills and into the dangerous wilderness, on and on and finally into the mountain through the mines that were built by miners and goblins.

It's a story about faith, crazy faith that doesn't make any sense at all, but works out in the end. It's how I live my life and make choices, to some extent. I follow the invisible thread of Grandmother's instructions, Her guidance, even when it takes me into the wilderness, or dark and scary places. I often have no idea why I must do the things I do, only that I know the Goddess has asked me to. I choose to obey, knowing the consequences of choosing otherwise.

This task bestowed upon me seems abstract and trivial, but it is not for me to question these Mysteries, only to have faith and to follow. During my preparations, someone would occasionally ask me, hey Lady Demelza, what's that you're doing? And my answer was always, I have no idea, I'm just following instructions.

First I had to translate the rather vague description into a tangible act, an event that would mark my devotion to my Beloved Grandmother. 'Take three seeds' is literal enough, but where, oh where on Earth is the bitterest place?

First I turned to my most recently discovered magickal tool - the google search engine. Who'd'a thunk it, right? Google tells me that the bitterest place on Earth is the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. And while it looks like an incredible place, I thought that an intercontinental trek might be taking things a bit too far - geographically as well as metaphorically. I had to refine the parameters to the local area and engage my own Magickal Answers search engine.

What is a bitter place? It's unusual to ascribe the quality of bitterness to a geographical location, rather than something more or less tangible - a food, or a feeling. I thought of salt. I thought of thick black mud, mangroves, lagoons and swamps. I thought of rivers running brown with natural tannins. I thought of the nighttime and the winter. I asked everyone else what they thought of in response to the phrase 'the bitterest place.' There was much debate and checking of maps, but eventually we settled on Lake Tyagarah, a coastal lake which is home to a natural forest of tea trees. If you've ever accidentally tasted tea-tree oil while using it for medicinal or therapeutic purposes, you will understand how I made the connection.

From there, the synchronicity kept lining up. We discovered that the lake is by a three-way crossway, hence a place sacred to Hecate, who reminds us to honour the bitter experiences in life. Two of those streets were called Black Rock Road and Grays Lane - suitably dark and gloomy. When we finally got close to the site we were looking for, I saw this sign and shuddered. A bitter place indeed.


I didn't even know that they used 1080 poison up here. I saw enough of its effects while living in Tasmania, where it is widely used to kill native wildlife, and the beloved family pet often becomes collateral damage. I won't go on about it any more or I'll just get upset, but you can follow the links I've put in if you want to know more.

We got closer. This was the next sign we saw. Um.


A short walk along a scrubby path, and suddenly I was here, at this picture-perfect, shining lake. It struck me as odd that I had come looking for a bitter place and found myself in such a stunningly beautiful place. But that has always been the lesson of bitterness and the things in the shadow - to realise that they are beauty too.


The three seeds came from an apple, the sacred fruit of the Goddess. I would have found pomegranates or olives to be acceptable offerings, but on the day, apples were easier to come by. I took my apple down the lake's shore and cut it crossways, revealing the Five-Pointed Star, the Pentagram at its core. I scried for a message in its shape, as I like to do with the middles of apples like this.


By the edge of the lake, the roots of this tree formed a miniature of the mud flat I had been imagining.


Here I buried my three seeds, anointed my third eye with the waters of the lake, and said my thanks and blessings.

But... what happens next? What does it all mean? 

Buggered if I know. I'm just following instructions.

Friday, 7 September 2012

in which our Heroine is Sucked In by Dodgy Marketing Claims

Our trip to the big town the other day has certainly brought to light some interesting labelling procedures.

Littletree's friend Miss J was out with us for the day - and I am happy to report that she scored a great haul at the oppies, going home with a whole new outfit and shoes. When she announced that she felt hungry and wanted a snack, I suggested we just nip up to the supermarket on the corner. We needed bread, so I found that, and then asked Miss J to just find the nearest suitable snack. It happened that we were right by the section with tinned fruits and all those little snack packets that involve fruit to some degree. Miss J picked out some jelly-fruity thing that you suck out of a plastic packet. We asked Littletree if she wanted one, and the clever girl! - she asked straight away "Does it have chemicals in it?" Miss J dutifully read out the ingredients, I assured Littletree that they sounded okay to me, and she accepted.

Then we were heading straight for the checkout when we went past the 'health food' section - the bit where they have packets of nuts and seeds and gluten-free things. I noticed some biscuits on special, and grabbed a pack.


Sorry about the blinding flash on that shot. The brand is Macro, which is owned by Woolworths, and the biscuits are described as a 'recipe without nuts' - White Chocolate & Berry Macaroon.

None of thought to check the ingredients - not even the extremely vigilant Littletree. We just accepted that it was 'healthy' because it was in the 'health food' section. Yes, I should know better by now. Well if I'd needed another eye-opener, I'd found it.

Finally, Majikfaerie actually looked a little further at the packet. She read out the ingredients, and shocked us all right out of our socks.


Coconut (preservative (223)), sugar, wheat flour, white chocolate chips (10%) (sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter (29.5%), milkfat (9%), vegetable emulsifier (322 from soy), glucose, mixed berry pieces (7%) (strawberry puree (23%), blackcurrant puree (9%), raspberry puree (4%), blueberry puree (4%), invert sugar, humectant (glycerol), sugar, wheat fibre, gelling agent (440), acidity regulator (296), natural flavours (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry)), margarine (animal fat (tallow from beef or sheep), water, emulsifiers (471,322 from soy, 435), flavour, acidity regulator (270)), currants, egg powder, whey powder (milk), natural flavours (vanilla, coconut), raising agents (500,450).

Did you notice that? Other than all the numbers. I won't even start on those. I mean the TALLOW FROM BEEF OR SHEEP. Can you believe it? Coconut biscuits that are NOT SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS. Macro is supposed to be a brand that creates choices for those with dietary restrictions, but apparently they haven't noticed that a large number of health-concious people are, in fact, vegetarian.

If you happen to be one of those people who have a serious nut allergy, or a child with such, you might have been feeling reassured by the prominent 'RECIPE WITHOUT NUTS' claim - unless you made it to the fine print to discover that 'this product has been manufactured in a peanut and tree nut free facility. Whilst we have strict protocols in place and have tested for peanuts and tree nuts where possible, the raw ingredients in this product cannot be guaranteed totally peanut and tree nut free due to limitations in current testing technologies.'

I checked the Woolworths website to see if I could find out anything more about these biscuits, or about this whole nut-free gimmick, but I couldn't, because, according to the website, these biscuits do not exist. I tried every permutation of words on the label in the Woolworths search engine, only to be told repeatedly that no products match the description I had given. I did discover this claim about the Macro brand - "Woolworths are proud to bring the Macro Wholefoods Market product range to families and health conscious shoppers. Macro Wholefoods offer great tasting, nutritionally sound and quality products at an affordable price. Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are kept to a minimum without compromising on taste."

Oh, really? Back to the label. Just ONE of these biscuits contains 11% the daily RDI (recommended daily intake) of saturated fats, and 9% the daily RDI of sugar... and who ever eats just ONE biscuit, right?

So, we've got allegedly nut-free sweet biscuits that can't be guaranteed to be nut-free and are not suitable for vegetarians. Woolworths is happy to put them on their shelves but not to admit their existance on their website.

Nobody felt hungry anymore.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

of the Healing Powers of a Soft Cloth

Yesterday, there was a trip to the big town to check out op-shops. Excitement much?

I found this cloth printed with pictures of babies doing all kinds of baby things. So cute. A lovely little gift for a mum with little ones.


Then I happened to notice the label.


ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Use only as directed. For the temporary relief of pain and fever. Consult your healthcare professional if symptoms persist. Panadol is a registered trademark of the GlaxoSmithKline group companies.

I always knew that textiles have inherent healing qualities.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

on praying for Rain

Oh, the rain has come.

Oh, blessed be, the blessed rain has come.

I've been praying for rain. Yearning, longing, keening for the rain.

Once, while complaining about the weather, I pointed out that this area is supposed to be a rainforest. Ah, yes, well. Apparently this is the dry season - albeit a relatively brief one.

It rained shortly after we arrived here, but that was oh, more than six weeks ago now, surely. It only took a week or two for me to notice the lack of rain. A couple more to feel a little concerned. And then soon, rather disturbed, just quietly thank you.

I feel that the rain is a physical necessity for me. If it doesn't rain for a while, I feel a desperate thirst that just cannot be quenched by drinking. It's the thirst of the land and the air. Obviously, I would not last long in a desert environment.

Rain makes everything all right. Rain makes everything better. Rain makes the world fresh and clean, even in the inner-city streets. In the sound of the raindrops falling to the earth I hear the eternal peace of the oneness of the universe, the very pulse of the goddess. The most brilliant, ecstatic moments of my life have been in the rain. Dancing in the rain. Swimming in the rain. Walking really hard and fast through a rainstorm until you're running wet with rain and burning up with a raging heartbeat. Just smelling and hearing the rain.

My heart is filled with gratitude for the opening of the heavens. Already I feel greedy for rain and I'm praying, I'm begging for it to stay the night, please at least to greet the dawn. I will bring the sleeping mats and spare blankets out here to the verandah and sleep, warm and dry, in the fresh moist air. Or maybe I won't sleep much, but just listen to the raindrops.

Oh, the blessed rain has come.

Monday, 27 August 2012

of forgotten Needlework and the Bush Babies in Limbo

Op-shop rummaging has yielded some delightfully retro results lately.


I must give credit to Majikfaerie for the discovery of this gem. She spotted it in an op shop in the big town and knew I would want it. Melba Art Needlework Book, published by Hawksworth & Osborne at 24 Flinders St. Melbourne, and retailed at one shilling. We couldn't find a date of publication, but I reckon it was around about the time when a book like this would have cost one shilling. Now I thought I was pretty knowledgable about textile art techniques, but there are stitches and methods in here that I have never heard of before. Alston stitch, Craig stitch, double cape plait stitch, oyster stitch, thorn stitch, rambler rose stitch. Can you imagine how exciting that is for me?


At a jumble sale style op shop in the village, I came across a plastic bag stuffed with bits and pieces that seemed to be the chucking-outs of someone's crafty-sewing things collection. Jackpot! Why is a retro sewing manual, or even the advertising, so much more inspiring than a modern one?






And there were also cross-stitch kits.

I loved cross-stitch so much when I was a kid. I didn't really take to early lessons in knitting, crochet and the textile arts in general when I was young. But one day during the early high school years I came across a cross-stitch pattern, and I was hooked. I loved that each stitch is so precise and perfectly governed by the pattern and the perfectly regular weave of the cloth. It's like maths, where there is only one right answer, and there's a very safe pattern of steps that will get you there every time, if followed correctly. I could lose myself in tiny stitches for hours at a time.

Then I grew up. Somewhere in my early twenties I realised that I have great gifts for design myself. I decided that I really should just work on my own designs. I thought it was a waste of my time and my talent to follow a pattern that somebody else had already made. I figured I could design my own cross-stitch patterns. Well, I could, and I still could, but I just haven't gotten around to it, and I haven't done any cross-stitch in all these years. I am aware that I miss it.

When I found these cross-stitch kits in the pile of retro chuck-outs in the oppy, a half-forgotten little piece of my heart cried out - please. Oh, okay. I don't need much convincing when I'm in a jumbly op shop. I could see that someone had bought the kits and opened them, unfolded everything, and then at some point stuffed them back into their cardboard envelopes. One day, it was the last time she did this, and the kits ended up at the op shop.

I've told you about the sadness I feel for beautiful works of handmade art that I find languishing in dusty piles in corners of op shops. Those pieces at least had been finished, and all the ends trimmed off, and laundered and put to use, for goodness knows how long. Imagine how devastated I feel for the efforts in these cross-stitch kits that have never even made it into the light of day. I don't know what I can do to right this tragedy, but I am compelled to rescue these pieces. I take the responsibility for finding them a loving home or a new purpose in life.


It was only once I got home that I opened them up to find what exactly was inside.

This little butterfly and rose are actually finished and ready to be cute little patches on something or other. The ladybird is incomplete, the thread still dangling from the last stitch that was put in place, and threaded to a needle that is pushed through one edge of the fabric in readiness to pick up where it was left off. All the kits have all their leftover threads included. And all the instructions and patterns. Somebody looked after these kits.


This large piece with a Spring Garden theme was about one-quarter completed, and then folded up and put away long enough for the accumulated dirt and dust of time to clearly mark the shape of the folds, and the rust from the needle to stain the fabric.


One thing I really love about cross-stitch is the back of the work. I used to plan my stitches, executing them in an order that would result in the neatest possible workings remaining on the back of the fabric. It creates an alternative image, an accidental, other-wordly art.


This May Gibbs kit was a great find. It looked so new and modern, just like a similar kit bought in shops today. Then I noticed the notice advising that royalties from the sale of this kit support spastic and crippled children - so that dates its production to a time when it was politically correct to use words like spastic and crippled - surely no later than the early 1980's. These bush babies are adorable. Of course they are, it's May Gibbs. It's so nearly finished. I can finish it.


The threads have all been organised onto cardboard holders and neatly labelled. So much care and respect. What could have happened that this lady would abandon all her careful work?


I'm going to rescue these babies from their limbo and bring them into the light of the world.

I have even bought some steel wool so I can clean the rust off the needle that was in place and use it to finish the work. Sometimes I wonder if my urges for thriftiness are getting out of control... it would have cost the same to buy a new packet of needles as I spent on the steel wool. But to know that I am stitching with the very same tools as the first stitcher used... ah, now that's romantic. Sentimentality wins the day.

Monday, 13 August 2012

What Littletree said...

Out of the mouths of babes... or of one babe in particular, my darling goddessdaughter Littletree.

***

Littletree comes inside from playing outdoors.

Me: Watcha bin up to?

Littletree: I was playing an imagination game. I imagined that our treehouse was a community and Leonard and Penny and Howard and Raj and Bernadette and Sheldon and Amy were all there. And - hey, well, you know how Penny really likes drinking alcohol? - well, she was getting addicted to alcohol and we were trying to get her to stop drinking so much alcohol and have a break.

***

During goodnight snuggles.

Littletree: Demelza, I'm really glad that you are my godmother. I'm glad I didn't have someone who was really strict and all, like, (screwing up face, wagging a pointing finger and using a screechy voice) 'You get into your pyjamas now girl!'

***

Littletree: Hey, um, what's cellulite?

(fortunately I had some that I had prepared earlier ready to show her.)

Littletree: Oh. Is that it?

Me: Yes sweetie, that's what cellulite is.

Littletree: Oh. Well, why do people say that it's something bad?

***

Littletree: I've never known anyone Uncle CJ's age who just sits in a chair and watches TV so much before.

Me: Yes, Uncle CJ is getting old and tired now. He used to do lots of work when he was younger, before he got sick, but now he rests a lot.

Littletree: Yes. Uncle CJ is amazing. He is very intelligent, and he is an engineering person.

***

I had just shown Littletree a shortcut for getting back to a previously viewed website while looking at pictures of microbes on the Internet. This was a highly unusual turn of events, as usually it is she who is showing me how to use a computer.

Littletree: (one hand flung theatrically across her heart, the other patting my head) Oh, you're growing up so fast!

***

Littletree: (referring to a recent conversation about coffee consumption) Uncle CJ, do you drink a lot of coffee?

Uncle CJ: Yes. I drink a lot of coffee.

Littletree: Uh-huh.

Uncle CJ: Really, a lot.

Littletree: Yeah, I hear you.

***

In the car, driving home after being out shopping.

Littletree: Hey, can I tell you about dragons?

Me: Sure sweetie, we'd love to hear about dragons.

Littletree: Okay, I'll just get out this book about dragons. (pulls an imaginary book out of thin air.) This book has all the information about dragons... (reads aloud from imaginary book, running her finger across the imaginary page)... There are different species of dragons, some are Sapphires and some are Emeralds. The Sapphire dragons are the boy dragons and the Emerald dragons are the girl dragons. A Sapphire and an Emerald can have a baby dragon together, and the baby dragon could be a Sapphire or it could be an Emerald. So you see, two Sapphire dragons couldn't have a baby together... (suddenly pauses and looks up from imaginary book, as though a thought had just occurred to her) oh, well, unless they were gay.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Mornings with the Black Dog and the Blogger Dashboard

I didn't wake up so well this morning. As soon as I was conscious I felt irritated, disconnected and anxious. My mind was running over in circles of negative thought. I felt the shadows of the night's dreams - quite a string of disconnected anxieties - still present in the morning light.

This is something I'm used to. It's a common feature of a depressive illness - to wake up in the midst of the hardest emotions, and to struggle to rise out of them somehow to reach the realities of the day that is unfolding. Taking care of how I wake up is an important part of my mental health management. The discovery of the blogosphere was a remarkable boost to my morning experience, possibly the best one since I discovered tea-drinking in my late teens.

First thing, when I wake up in the morning, I make a cup of tea. I often dream of having someone to make a cup of tea for me and bring it to me in bed - oh, surely, the very definition of luxury - but in the meantime, the thirst for tea will win out over the cozy cocoon of the bed sooner or later, and I get up and make it myself. Then I check my Blogger dashboard and read all the posts in my blog list.

The main purpose of this is to focus my brain on the things I want to be thinking about, rather than letting it just run a cognitive riot. All the blogs on my blog list are selected basically for this reason. There's something about each one of them that reminds me of the things that are important to me. Somewhere in the day's accumulation of posts will be something that I can really connect with, or inspires me, or just reminds me to be grateful for the good things in life, for the strengths we have and the beauty in life than shines through even the sadness. Perhaps several things on a busy day. I am so thankful to all these talented and thoughtful people who are sharing these gifts with the world through their blogs.

Today, it was this post here at Lulastic and the Hippyshake that did it for me. This lady is generally one pretty brilliant blogger, but this story of her daughter as an Olympic athlete competing in the Toddler Heat of the Breastfeeding Olympics is just gold. To laugh out loud that early in the morning - priceless.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

of the Unstuffed Wombat, and the Teacup that Couldn't

A couple of recently discovered op-shop treasures.


Once upon a time, someone took a linen tea towel printed with a picture of wombats and made it into a wall hanging, adding a backing layer of fabric, highlighting features of the image with sewing machine embroidery...


 and stuffing one of the wombat shapes into 3-D relief with some polyester filling.


It's a wonderful creative effort, but I don't think it really worked out. The lump of stuffing pulled the shape and line of the cloth all out of whack. It just wasn't going to sit straight or flat.

But I wanted that beautiful tea towel. Out came the quick-unpick...


I was stoked when I spotted this funky little cup. Like many tea-drinking enthusiasts, I'm quite particular about the vessel from which I partake. I don't like mugs, but the traditional tea cup is too small, and life is too short. I'm always looking out for something pretty and pleasing in design, with a nice low shape. And this one is a very handsome shade of pink (i.e. it goes with my wardrobe).




It ticked all the boxes - until I tried to make a cup of tea in it. It was dreadful. It tasted like hot paper. I tried a few more times over the next few days, making sure I did everything the same as I did when making tea in my regular cup - the same tea, the same hot water, the same brewing. But every cup of tea I made in the new cup was just awful. I'm certain that it's haunted by a spirit that doesn't like tea. Sometimes things just don't work out.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

of Winter Warmth and Feline Friends

The attentive follower may have noticed that things have been a little quiet lately here at The Maroon Diaries. I am very pleased to report that this lapse in blogging was not due to any health problems or techno-avoidance issues. Rather, I've actually been busy HAVING A LIFE. Yay for Lady Demelza!

The Maroon Household made a collective decision to go North for the winter. This is wonderful for me as it means staying with my darling goddessdaughter Littletree, whom I adore more than life itself. The climate is the wonderful thing for Mr. CJ. With many of his health problems being arthritis-related, July and August can be a pretty miserable time for him. Up here, he gets to hang out on a sunny verandah rather than huddle by the fire... while I complain about the unreasonable heat. Yes, I am very sad to be missing out on the winter... but I have lots of happy distractions here to make up for it.

I wish I could find a way to explain and express just how awesome and amazing Littletree is, but I just can't. She so often has me speechless. But here's a little something that might give you a hint.

Littletree would love to have a pet, of course, but such companions are not so practical for a frequently-travelling family such as hers. She has to make do with enjoying the attentions of the various pets that belong to other people in her community, and sometimes come to visit. That's how she came to develop such a bond with Boo-Boo the cat. I'm so glad Boo-Boo's mum had a camera on hand to capture this.

Kids will often do little play-acting and role-playing skits like this in their play time. But I really don't think I've ever seen anything quite like this. She absolutely becomes Molly the Cat, and sometimes she and Boo-Boo are perfect mirror images. I'm just astounded.


Thursday, 12 July 2012

of the Grey Zippered Slip, and What Became of It

I started off with this grey slip of a dress, found in the op shop for $1. It's a lovely soft grey marle, and I saw potential for a slip or nightdress worthy of the Maroon Wardrobe. Someone thought they were so cool and clever and punk when they decided to add that short black zip to the neckline with the working on the wrong side and the zip so prominently exposed. I beg to differ.


It also features this darling logo that indicates the size printed inside the back. Yes, it's printed on the inside, so no-one will see it, but I will know that it is there.


First, I dyed the whole thing maroon. Duh. My intention was then to replace the zip with a strip of lace, and to add to the length by adding some doilies at the hem. I hadn't gotten any further than intending such when I wore this piece, layered over a longer tiered skirt, on my trip to Fingal Head with Majikfaerie and Littletree. During our picnic lunch, Majikfaerie suddenly started a bit and said 'Did you put that zip on there yourself?' in something like disbelief. She had noticed how obviously wrong it was. Well you can rest assured now, dear Majikfaerie. I have resolved the situation and removed the zip. The most common form lace comes in in my house is the doilies that I collect in the op shops and then dye with the leftover dye when I dye clothes. So I just found one that was the right length and stitched it in place. Yes that is just a hint of see-through-y-ness along the slit in the fabric where the zip had been inserted. Ooh la la.


Handling the fabric while working on the insert, I realised how very fine and delicate this soft cotton knit is, and that it probably wouldn't hold up well to extra weight being added to the hem. So I abandoned the idea of the lacy doily hem and left well enough alone. And... voila!


Saturday, 7 July 2012

of the Work of Nimble Fingers

These beautiful works of art were formed by the patient fingers of a generation of anonymous women.

I have no evidence that all these pieces were created by women, but I'm confident that it's a reasonable guess. In another generation, I might not be so sure.




I have found these treasures in op shops everywhere, with an eye out always for the pretty, handcrafted details on a tablecloth, pillowslip or doily. I can't bear the sadness of the thought of these items being unwanted. I scoop them up and take them home and adore them, and honour the women who have created art with needle and thread since the beginning of human culture. I wonder who the woman who created each piece was, what she was thinking of and hoping for as she stitched. I wonder whether, when she folded the piece for the last time, she knew that she was doing so. I wonder whether she is still alive somewhere, or has passed on.




I wonder at the circumstances of the creation, the adventures, and the eventual assignation to the charity bins of each piece. Some are stained or damaged, but some are so pristine and precious. I haven't often paid more than a dollar for pieces like these. Maybe three for the larger tablecloths.




I'm often asked, 'What are you going to do with them?' To be honest, my plans as such for most of these pieces involve some degree of cutting them up, turning them maroon, and/or turning them into other things. Is this a terrible desecration? Or is it a wonderful way of recycling beautiful things into useful things? Does it make a difference if the piece is damaged or compromised to begin with? I really don't know.