Saturday, October 31, 2015

On those things we disinterestedly enjoy

This, friends, is a tapestry – a rather large tapestry in fact – hanging on my wall, that I both like and am embarrassed about. I bought it from a Salvation Army shop when I was driving through Nowra on my last holiday, because I saw it on the wall and liked it. Since then though, some days I look at it and think ‘that is so daggy Alison’ (and given the origins of the word “daggy” there is some truth in that) and ‘it is not even retro cool, it is just out-of-date uncool’ etc. But then I look at it again and I decide I still actually like it. I like the impressionism of the trees and shadows and the light. I am wont to think the Heidelberg School fellows would not entirely disapprove. And I like the colours (a greyish green is my current obsession). Then on the back it says ‘Returning Home’ by WE Mitchell, 92,500 stitches. Perhaps because my life is founded on metaphors the idea of sheep returning home through a dying light appeals to me. I do very much like the idea of sheep (the actuality of sheep, particularly the tall, big-headed Australian merinos blundering about when they have just been shorn is a little different) and of the great Shepherd.

I painted the frame of this tapestry though, as it was wooden with gold edges, and there was a little too much gold blazing in parts of it.

I find there’s a temptation on blogs and social media, at least for me, to edit out, or somehow apologise for, those things that, while I shamelessly enjoy them in private, I know are not in any way going to make me look artsy or stylish (I view enough blogs to know all about mid-century and Scandanavian décor and bright abstract wall art and what is hip and what isn’t – and often feel aware that what I like is not quite that, even while I like some of that but it's just not what I have ended up with in my little house where the only thing in the loungeroom that was bought new is one bookshelf).

At the moment I am re-reading The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, because it was a book club book, and I am very much enjoying revisiting it. I was intrigued again by this little portion, which has affirmed me somehow in my liking of a sheep tapestry, so I am herewith embracing it and showing it to the world:
Of course I know that the Enemy also wants to detach men from themselves, but in a different way. Remember always, that He really likes the little vermin, and sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves that ever. Hence, while He is delighted to seem them sacrificing even their innocent wills to His, He hates to see them drifting away from their own nature for any other reason. And we should always encourage them to do so. The deepest likings and impulses of any man are the raw material, the starting-point, with which the Enemy has furnished him. To get him away from those is therefore always a point gained; even in things indifferent it is always desirable to substitute the standards of the World, or convention, or fashion, for a human’s own real likings and dislikings. I myself would carry this very far. I would make it a rule to eradicate from my patient any strong personal taste which is not actually a sin, even if it is something quite trivial such as a fondness for county cricket or collecting stamps or drinking cocoa. Such things, I grant you, have nothing of virtue in them; but there is a sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about them which I distrust. The main who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring two-pence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forearmed against some of our subtlest modes of attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the ‘best’ people, the ‘right’ food, the ‘important’ books. I have known a human defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

My nephew turns two

If you've been reading for a while you will remember the story of my nephew. Well, today he turned two and became the world's most gorgeous two-year-old (proof below - before and after a hair cut). What a little blessing he is. These days you'd never know his early days were so tenuous.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sara Groves - Floodplain

I succumbed to impatience and bought the pre-release of Sara Groves's new album, Floodplain, once I realised that just buying the CD when it was available in Australia would be comparable in  price. She had me with the line "some hearts are built on the floodplain".

I need to keep listening more closely to fully grasp it. But here are some of the lyrics so far, which show why I love Sara (at least I think these are the lyrics, but I could have it wrong).

These patches of joy
These stretches of sorrow
There is enough for today
There’ll be enough tomorrow


How much foolishness and folly
Are allowed in your graceland?
How much doubt and melancholy
Till I’m lost?

As I fall asleep
I have a waking dream
You are standing in the driveway
As I come up the street
I can tell by your movement
You’re not angry
You are waiting there for me

~My Dream

So take up what we’ve be given
Welcome the edge of our days
And in bright sunrise and sunset
By our youth and by our age
Thank God for our dependence
Here’s to our chasm of need
And how it binds us together
In faith and vulnerability

~This Cup

Free days

I’ve been back at work for four days already after my “health retreat”, which is what I called my few days off, with my tongue half in my cheek. But it was very good to have the time off to recalibrate a few things.

Since tearing my calf muscle the running necessarily fell by the wayside, and it was a little difficult to get back into it because I needed to have the time to do that by intervals, which I didn’t really have before work, but during the week off I could just take it slow and make sure the leg would allow me to run without needing to stop. The physiotherapist also told me it would take two to three months to get my fitness back, and I thought ‘what??!!’, but he is probably right because I have been slower than usual.

I also did a lot of home jobs – cleaning up some more plants and pruning the enormous camellias away from the gutters and the neighbours and cutting back the neighbour’s tree in turn, painting more small furniture and picture frames in chalk paint (which doesn’t mean black paint you can write on in, it means a self-priming paint in any colour that you can slop on anything – an op-shoppers best friend!). I am so grateful for my little place here. It’s probably not much by the standard of some Canberrans, but after leaving Sydney, where I couldn’t afford anything at all, I feel like I have a mansion. I have friends living in the inner-west of Sydney with four children in a house smaller than mine (though it would be worth almost three times as much). And once upon a time I might have dreamed of a cottage with a big garden, but the reality is that big gardens are a lot of work on weekends when you have a full time job, so I am happy with my little garden beds and pots. (Some friends from church gave me two Japanese maple trees in pots a few weeks ago that he had grown from seed. Boy was I excited. They are lovely, and the larger size costs about $150 in Bunnings. He didn’t want these ones because they aren’t the right colour and have green leaves, whereas red are to be desired I believe, but I am happy to have my trees with green leaves. I have a box elder maple in the garden which is an environmental pest here and is right on the fence so I will need to get it out, and I am not sad about that now that I have these two other maples.)

The one thing I regret is that I didn’t spend as much time sitting and reflecting and processing as I thought I might, but a week goes quickly. I wanted to sort more through some personal stuff and at work they keep asking me whether I am coping with some of the material we are dealing with and do I need professional supervision of some sort, but so far I feel that I am coping. (The person I work for in this professional standards business goes on “retreat” regularly, but they need to deal with things at a different level to what is required of me.)

So that was the week off. Then yesterday I went on a bushwalk with some colleagues, just out to Booroomba rocks, south of Canberra. It’s beautiful out there and we had a fabulous morning. I am very happy to have found some bushwalking enthusiasts and they were calling it “Ali’s Bushwalking Club”, so I am chuffed that I had a personal bushwalking club, even if it was two people for a day. They are already asking where we are going next, so maybe it will become a real club: bushwalking for weekend sleeper-inners who just want to do a little exploring. When we got to the Namadgi National Park visitor centre there was a group of walkers sitting under the trees with drinks out relaxing and I said to my friends ‘they are probably finished’, because the problem I have found with bushwalking clubs is that they want to begin at some ridiculous hour on a Saturday morning. We met there at 10.30 am, which is much more civil (I just have to get some good clothing to make sure I don’t get any more sun, instead of the old dregs I dug out).

Here are some pictures. None of us are into taking selfies, but we decided to give it a go, with varying success. It was hazy and the light was not the best, but you get the idea. We carried on with the clichés about refreshing our souls and restoring our perspective etcetera, but it works.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Book of Good Thoughts - Page One

I dug out an old fountain pen a few days ago and scratched this out on the first page of my little Book of Good Thoughts.

(After the rage these calligraphy pens were back when, I couldn't find the right ink cartridges to fit it now and my penmanship is blotchy, but we shall work on it.)

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Tales from family history

My Aunt was going out to Yass on Thursday, so on impulse I decided to go along for the ride. Without looking it up again beforehand, I had a recollection that I had ancestors buried in Yass Cemetery, so we went and had a poke around. The cemetery is quite large and without prior research we just had to wander, but it is also very picturesque and it was quite lovely just strolling about. In it we found the graves of my great great great grandparents and some of their descendants (I've worked out since that my great great grandfather, their son, should be there too, but I didn't see him), then I found my great great grandfather on the other side and his brother (and now I know that great grandfather, his son, should be there also, but I didn't see him either, so I need to go back someday).

But when I got home it got very interesting after I stumbled upon the tale of of my great great great grandfather Jeremiah. After being caught in armed robbery stealing clothes, he was sentenced in York to seven years transportation to Australia and sailed on the ship "John 1" in 1832. He was granted his freedom here in 1838, married and had 15 children (two of whom were still born).

Then, when he was 73 years old, he shot himself. The inquest into his death is actually recorded online. My great great grandfather Hezekiah actually carried him in off the verandah and spoke at the inquest.

It's something amazing when your ancestors can become alive as real living people through their stories. I wonder then how it affected Hezekiah to carry his dead father inside, who had killed himself with his (Hezekiah's) gun.

I love making these discoveries and connections to the past.

Jeremiah's death was reported in the Yass Newspaper on 2nd August 1884, as:
Jeremiah Crossley, aged 73 years, a very old and much respected resident of this district, committed suicide at his residence, Wargeila, this morning, by shooting himself. He had been suffering for some time past from acute rheumatism, and during a severe attack of pain he committed the rash act. Great sympathy is expressed for his widow and family.
Jeremiah's headstone reads:
"O never shall my soul despair,
His pardon to secure,
I know God's only son has died,
That pardon to insure."