Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spontaneous Poetry

My habit most mornings, during my coffee break, is to read something from the pile of books on my bedside table.

This morning I opened Natalie Goldberg's WRITING DOWN THE BONES at random and found a piece where she'd written poems on demand at a stall, like a school cake stall. Any topic, a page of poetry, no crossings out, for 50 cents a poem.

It was amazingly popular, she said. People queued up to buy her  poems all day — kids, men, women, old and young from all walks of life. The next year she did it again and charged a dollar.

Years later she got a letter from a man who still carried the poem she'd written for him around in his wallet. It and some photos of his family were the only possessions he took with him when he joined the coastguard service.

What a beautiful idea, selling spontaneous poems at a stall.

And how brave. Half the time I can't think what to write when someone asks me to sign their book.
But maybe I'll try it some time.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My favourite Easter picture book

I made some paper earrings for a friend the other day and the colours reminded me of my favourite easter picture book when I was a kid, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. It was my mother's book, and I have it still.

The story is very sweet, and with a nice moral to it — mother rabbit, despite having 21 kids and living in the backblocks of the country, still gets plum job over noisy show-off buckrabbit boys and frightful snobby city rabbits. Basically by using her kids as slave labour.

The story is about being selected to wear the magic gold shoes and being one of the five Easter Bunnies who deliver the eggs to the children of the world. It's a huge honour, of course, and everyone wants it. But when the country bunny Cottontail says that one day she will be an Easter Bunny, the others laugh at her.

So fast forward and our Cottontail is a mother of 21 little rabbits, but she applies for the job and again she's laughed at for dreaming foolish dreams. Even the wise old rabbit who does the choosing asks her gently if she shouldn't be home looking after her kids. But our girl has the kids well trained. Working in pairs they do everything that needs to be done, from cooking and cleaning to dancing, making music and painting cheery pictures.

The illustrations are lovely, aren't they? They're simple but quite detailed and with a limited palette of colours, and quite unusual colours, at that.

For me then and now, they're entrancing, but more than that, the story is quite touching.
The job of being the easter bunny is hard and exhausting and little Cottontail doesn't have an easy time of it. After all her deliveries are done, there's still one more job for her — to take an especially beautiful egg to a far-distant mountain where there is a sick little boy, who is very good and never complains. She travels far, over high mountains,  and is climbing the last, highest mountain when she falls... but saves the egg. But it's almost dawn. How can she ever find the energy to climb the mountain again, in time.

Then the wise old rabbit appears and tells her she's not only wise and kind and swift, but she's brave. And he gives her a pair of magic gold shoes. And suddenly her aching feet are no longer tired... and she takes the beautiful egg to the sick little boy and is soon home... where her house is in perfect order, and all her kids are still asleep in bed.
It's a gorgeous book, and even though it's older than me, it's still in print, which goes to show that I'm not the only person who loves this story.
Happy Easter. Do you have any favorite Easter stories?

Friday, April 22, 2011

On ducks...

 I found these ducks in a box of my mum's things and thought they might be nice for a small Easter post. 

Mum was an infant teacher and made and collected teaching aids all her life and she didn't often throw things away. These ducks are probably older than me. Anyway they got me thinking about the ducks of my childhood.
My folks were into self-sufficiency -- a kind of pre-hippy thing, and we had loads of animals, and among the various kinds of poultry, we had white muscovy ducks and lovely browny Khaki Campbell ducks, and I bet you can guess which ones I liked best.
Yep, the Khaki Campbells. They seemed somehow gentler and more friendly than the other ducks. They were my dad's favourites, too. There's something about ducks. They make me smile.
I especially loved the ducklings, little balls of cheeping tortoise-shell fluff. Sometimes not all the eggs of a nest hatched, but the mother and ducklings had moved off. In those cases my sister Jan used to hatch them herself, wrapped in old woollen jumpers and placed in the electric frypan on the lowest setting.

When the orphaned ducklings hatched, they used to follow us around, cheeping like mad. The best day was when they first discovered water. They took to it like... yeah, that. Absolute joy and delight.
These days people are coming back to self-sufficiency, but though many of my friends grow their own vegies and some fruit and some keep chickens, nobody I know keeps ducks. It's a shame. Joyful creatures, ducks. Though possibly a bit messy for suburban back yards.
What about you? Any experience with ducks? Grow your own? Yearn after a little self-sufficiency? Or do you prefer your ducks roasted?

Monday, April 18, 2011

The power of gratitude

I came across this wonderful little video. Sometimes the simplest things can be the most life-changing. from hailey bartholomew on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A splash of scarlet

My study looks out on a fence that's usually covered by Virginia creeper and each autumn it really comes into its own. I love this time of year when one by one the deciduous plants —which are all exotic species in Australia — change color. 

I particularly love the way the Virginia creeper twines through other plants, leaving a splash of scarlet — in this case over the bronzed green leaves of my self-sown tree fern.

The Virginia Creeper is always the first. Now I'm waiting for the Japanese Maple.
What about you? What signs of the new season — autumn down under or spring in the Northern Hemisphere — are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spider and bee

When I recently went away for couple weeks, I left a matching small and large spider sharing a web near my front door. When I got home there was only the bigger spider there. It's doubled in size and is quite lovely -- in a creepy sort of way, with a velvety grey abdomen, a black and white speckled thorax and a little black heat. And the web is delicate and simply gorgeous in the misty rain. I'll try and get a photo if we get some rain or mist later.

I photographed it this morning in the process of devouring a bee. You can see the bee hanging in the web at the bottom of this pic. It's been there for at least a week.

Today, as I was watching, the spider made its move, gathering in the nicely ripened bee.

And the poor old bee is now history.

I'm wondering how large the spider will get. And also whether the smaller web-mate that was there went the same way as the bee...

And whether the spider, only a foot away from the path to my door, will deter door-to-door sales people. :)
Or maybe my friends. :(