Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Last Page

Recently, Z, who's growing at an alarming rate exclaimed that all his clothes are shrinking. He gave us a fashion parade and put what didn't fit him into a bag I took to the op shop.

On the verandah of the op shop is a box of free things that are yours to claim if you so desire. On top of the box was a book called The Pirates' Tale that I took home for Z.

Most of the pages are stories unto themselves, such as:
A pirate found a house and opened the door and went in. It was dusty. He tidied it and dusted it.
And then:
One day the pirates got better and sailed away to the mountain and saw a shark and caught it and the pirates' new cat said, 'Meow meow.' The pirates said, 'Be quiet, new cat.'
And a few pages later is the last page; relief in a world of Hollywood endings:

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Photographs of

holiday trophies:
and the riches of the Homecoming Queen:

Monday, 29 December 2008

The Sky Fell

I took this photo last night, on our last night of camping. PJ and I dreaming aloud to one another by the fire, Z sleeping snuggled up between us.

I moved my legs and saw the flames and had to take a photo; not just of my desires but of the metaphor.

The sky fell into our tent every day and reminded us what we'd forgotten. 

We listened.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The Flying Fox

Our end of the year gift from ourselves to ourselves was a flying fox from Z's cubby house to the house deck. 

Here is a short film that PJ made yesterday. Please accept it as a curtsy, as I bid you leave for a few days and exit screen left.

Hooray for holidays!


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Crowd Control

From Metro:
He could be forgiven for looking just a bit sheepish, but this shepherd has learned how to control his flock using just a poster of a wolf.

Farmer Du Hebing couldn't afford another dog after his old one died and had a brainwave after visiting a local wildlife park.

"They had a flock of rare sheep and as a joke one of the keepers had put a picture of a wolf in the enclosure."

"But I noticed that the sheep never went near it," he explained.

Now Du has got his neighbours wondering what the flock he's up to every time he moves his sheep.

"People laugh and point but it works - and the poster eats a lot less than any sheepdog," he said.

Monday, 22 December 2008

What I Talk About

When I was googling just now in search of a site to link the title of this book to, What I talk About When I Talk About Running, I came across Geoff Dyer's review of the book on the NYT site. 

"Come and have a look at this," I called out to PJ, and showed him that when you double click on any word of Dyer's review, a small question mark appears above the word. Click on the question mark and a small window pops up with a dictionary or encyclopedia definition of that word. Has this feature been around a while on the NYT site? I don't know, but it's the first time I have seen it.

This is how Murakami writes. He guides us through the journey of his life, pointing out the incidentals.

The best parts of his journey are when he draws parallels between the slog of a long distance runner and the stamina of a novelist. I loved the parts where he talks about writing; how he came to write, how he came to run, and I don't think there are enough of these passages, especially in the second half of the book where he falls into too dense descriptions of his training towards triathlons.

It's not that these parts were boring, because they weren't, I was engaged from cover to cover, but he is a runner first and foremost and then a swimmer and a cyclist, and this is clearly evident in the prose.

I am not normally a fan of Murakami's writing, but as this is nonfiction I thought I would give it a go. And because I too filter the world according to a theme (a colour), it appealed to me to read a memoir based on a single subject (running).

My conclusion? This is by no means one of the best books I read this year, but I'm really glad I read it.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Backwards and Forwards

I woke early today and caught the train down to Melbourne. I met two of my sisters for coffee including A who's holidaying from NYC. Oh my beauties! I love them so much.

Afterwards we went to the home where our grandmother, who has Alzheimer's lives. We all sat around her in the courtyard eating cake in honour of her 84th, kissing her soft plump cheeks. She was conscious but doped in a daze.

It is so hard to see her like this; to remind ourselves what she was once like, to see our grandfather nurture her like a baby. But it's even harder to see our mum, now motherless for the most part. Mum graduated from her course last week and said she missed her mother terribly, and wished she could share her life with the mother she once had.

It's so hard not to ache, and at the same time it's so hard to feel entirely present, because we want to remember our grandmother like she was.

On the train on the way home, a mother and young daughter got on and sat in the seats in front of me. When the train started moving the child asked why we were going the wrong way. "We're not going the wrong way," the mother replied. "Our seats are just facing backwards."

This small exchange has stayed with me ever since: the correction of navigation with perspective.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Mother

Cuba's gone broody. She's pretty much gone off her food, she's stopped laying and she spends all day sitting on her empty nest. We spoke to our chook-loving friend J, who put us onto her chook-loving friend T, who came over this morning with 8 fertilised eggs.

We put them in Cuba's nest and she slowly fluffed up her feathers and with her beak, rolled them under her body. She didn't stop to think about whose eggs they were, she knows what she has to do, and she's doing it.

Just like me, I thought, and the way I fluff my feathers for a child who is not mine.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Better Red Than Dead

An interesting fact: In the US, the sale of red hair dye has gone up 17% since 2000.

I have had red hair for nearly a decade. It is by far my greatest indulgence.

For the last couple of years I have wanted to stop dyeing my hair with chemicals but haven't been able to find a natural colour that looks like this.

And look at this! Can you blame me??

Photo taken by PJ against the hairdresser's wall when he picked me up after my appointment.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

BEK

The end of yesterday's post, about my watching all those college teen flicks and my confusion at being addressed and courted as a male viewer, reminded me of this cartoon by my favourite New Yorker cartoonist, Bruce Eric Kaplan.
Here are some of my other favourite BEK cartoons:


Monday, 15 December 2008

Inspiration Point

This is the view from inside the tow truck on Friday night. I was on my way to pick up PJ who had been working in Sydney for a week. The rain, the rain, the dead car battery. Even though I was several hundred meters from the airport, PJ had to take a cab to reach me.

We made out while we waited for the mechanic. The rain, determined, the windows, fogged.

We were Kate and Leonardo in the steamy car that caused the Titanic to sink. We were shipwrecked, we were stranded, we were stuck. We were the love interests of every college film ever made, parked overlooking the city at Inspiration Point.

As a young woman I always found these movies terribly confusing, the way they assumed the viewer was a male. The glorification of the female's body, the holy grail crescendoes when the male got see it. 

I was her, I was her, I was him.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Tea Bag Coffin

Where do tea bags go to die? Usually squashed on the side of the saucer next to the cup, or if you have a little less decorum the table will probably be just fine. Jonas Trampedach has been observing the behaviour of tea drinkers and has evidently been learning a lot. Consequently he has developed a solution to the bag dilemma that is as simple as it is ingenious. With the Tea Bag Coffin the drinker can tidily bury the bag under the cup and out of the way. RIP.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

These Are My Mistakes

I have just started reading Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Here's this from page 19:
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but the world is made up of all kinds of people. Other people have their own values to live by, and the same holds true with me. These differences give rise to disagreements, and the combination of these disagreements can give rise to even greater misunderstandings. As a result, sometimes people are unfairly criticized. This goes without saying. It's not much fun to be misunderstood or criticized, but rather a painful experience that hurts people deeply.

As I've gotten older, though, I've gradually come to the realization that this kind of pain and hurt is a necessary part of life. If you think about it, it's precisely because people are different from others that they're able to create their own independent selves.
Reading these words makes me want to write publicly about a recent fight I had with one of my sisters.

Some brutal things were said that sliced and pried and beheaded. They were projected in anger but were propelled by love. Families, especially close ones like mine, are perhaps too concerned with each other's happiness, but with the dynamic of four sisters, maybe it just goes with the territory.

I guess this post is part confession, part acceptance and part apology. I said things that were unkind and I wrote hurtful words I can't retract. These are my mistakes and when I've finished analysing them with regret, I will add them to the list of other mistakes I have made. I will look at them from time to time and I will feel sorry, but also OK about the fact that I made them and did them and yelled them and penned them, because they are mine now.

I have learnt that people's definition of honesty can vary hugely and, even though I reeled at some of the things that passed between us, I am thankful for her arrows that reached their target because even though they hurt, they needed to.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Blank

To celebrate my 200th post, I would like to thank the 200 blank screens that have provided me with a space to call my own. For me to fill with my thoughts and photos, my titles, my longings, my troubles, my wonderings, my time, my recipes, my readings, my family, my best bits, my lumpy bits, my pleasures, my frustrations, my ideas, my love, my videos, my funnies and my self, that often only comes into view when I sit down to write, like I'm looking in the mirror.

And I would like to thank you of course, dear reader, for joining me in my Meg-shaped corner of the Internet.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

When We Lost Teeth

Z lost another tooth!

When I was growing up, when we lost teeth, the Tooth Fairy would visit and leave us some money and a poem about how the tooth was lost.

It looks like that same fairy visits Z now.

Click for bigger.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

I Heart Nadia

I heart Jake Bronstein. And I heart the Internet.

About three weeks ago, blogger-to-the-stars, Jake Bronstein, asked his readers: When was the last time you received a love letter? All you had to do was leave your address as a comment on his blog and a letter hand-written by one of his interns would be snailed to your heart.

Thank you, Nadia! Your love was successfully received.

Click for bigger.

Monday, 8 December 2008

The Basket Club

A-tisket, a-tasket, a brown and yellow basket...

Twelve years ago I found this basket at a trash & treasure market and it brought me much much joy. It was simple, practical, could stand up on its own and wouldn't bang against my legs when I hooked it onto the handle bars of my bike.

When I carried my basket I felt happy. And when I carried it, I noticed so many others happy and carrying their baskets. And so I made up 100 of these cards to give out to fellow happy basket carriers.

My mum wanted to be a member so bad that she bought herself a picnic basket so I would give her a card that she then displayed proudly in a frame.

It was a small gesture, but it meant the world to me.

Congratulations goes out to my mum today! As she has just found out that her book, Alzheimer's: A Love Story, has been accepted for publication by Scribe.

You are an inspiring human being, Mamman. Because of your actions and your words.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Two Lives

I went to the library with one objective: to find a feminine book to read. I saw this book, opened the cover and read, "How had the pair of elderly Jewish lesbians survived the Nazis?" Jewish lesbians against the Nazis? I was sold! 

And I was sold and sold and sold throughout the whole book. I loved reading about the intricacies of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas's relationship, I loved reading about their romance in its historical context, I loved how Janet Malcolm laid bare the research techniques of the investigative biographer, and I loved reading her dissections of Stein's writing, and about other Stein scholars.

One of the most fascinating episodes in the book is the story behind an important finding of the Stein scholar, professor Ulla E. Dydo. For more than two decades Dydo compared printed Stein texts with manuscripts looking for errors. 

While reading Stanzas in Meditation, Dydo came across something truly odd:
In the manuscript, she found that almost everywhere the auxiliary verb "may" appeared Stein had crossed it out and put in the word "can." ... In addition, when the month of May appeared it was crossed out and "day" or "today" was substituted. The revisions make no sense and are clear disimprovements... Why had Stein subverted her work in this way?
The answer came to Dydo in a dream. In it, she recalled an incident that Stein records in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, in which Toklas finds a forgotten Stein novel that features May Bookstaver, the woman whom Stein had loved before Toklas. Toklas became so enranged that, according to Dydo, there are no "mays" in Stanzas in Meditation because Stein had been forced to remove them.

This afternoon while we were eating lunch on the deck, our two chooks came and fought over the crusts we threw them. Dirt, who's the more friendly, personable of the two, grabbed one first only to have it stolen by Cuba. "Go Alice!" I heard myself call out, as I had unthinkingly associated boisterous, likable Dirt with Gertrude and the quiet, fierce Cuba with Alice.

Explaining to PJ and Z what I meant and blogging about it now, I am reminded of the Stein quote: "Human beings are interested in two things. They are interested in the reality and interested in telling about it."

Saturday, 6 December 2008

We Walked

Today PJ and I joined the Great Dividing Trail Association on their last walk of the year. We met at 8am for breakfast inside the volcanic crater of Lalgambook (Mt Franklin) and then walked 14 km to the picnic spot, a beautiful bend on the Jim Crow Creek.

Our walk leader, the very knowledgeable and very lovely Barry Golding stopped us every so often to talk about our surrounds; geologically, archeologically and historically in terms of the land's original owners, the Djadjawurrrung.

While several of us pooled our food for lunch, Barry asked us what we had learnt.

I learned, among other things, about Murnyong, also called the yam daisy; a perennial herb similar to radish in shape that was a preferred food of the Aborigines in central and western Victoria. I learned that I don't like what wearing hats does to the acoustics of how my voice sounds. I learned that some people are happy to talk about their limps and some are not. I learned that lines in rocks in Australia run North South. I learned that sharing food with people is one of the best things you can do.

Friday, 5 December 2008

The Opposite of Hope

Last night PJ and I went to Z's end of year school concert even though Z had a fever and stayed home with his mum. I'm so glad we decided to go anyway as it was a great night: a colour-filled, hodge-podge programme followed by supper made by the parents.

Last year when we were considering what kind of school to send Z to, this is exactly the kind of school we hoped for. Sitting in the hall last night I was very aware of how, as parents, we have such high hopes for our kids. I was also very conscious of my usage of the word hope and how many times it was spoken or sung during the night.

I hope you enjoy tonight's performance. I hope you have a great Xmas. I hope my muffins turned out OK.

I like PJ's definition of hope. That to say I hope is to negate accountability and presume that things will change by external means.

When we say I hope, we are really saying that we are powerless, that we have already given up. Hoping that things turn out a certain way is like believing in God or like being superstitious. It is rejecting responsibility. It is a passive aspiration.

And of course I don't feel passively about Z or about any of the other kids at his school or about any of the other things in my life that I feel hopeful for.

In Eastern philosophy they say embrace hopelessness; that we need to smell the shit, know the shit, and stop deluding ourselves.

Am I deluding myself? Am I ready to live without hope? Is the opposite of hope really despair?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Ketchup on Everything

I once broke up with a guy who later told me he wondered what would have happened had we ever wanted to move in together because he didn't think he could have lived with all my red things.

I mentioned this to PJ before he and Z and I moved in together and he laughed dismissively saying he loved me and we'd work it out.

I found the above illustration on I love you but... – a site capturing people's idiosyncrasies and the way they can sometimes give us the shits.

The ketchup on everything made me think of my red predilection and PJ's attitude towards it. And the way family and friends sometimes do maddening things that we accept because they're a small part of a big package that we love.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Chalkboard

On Monday night while I was teaching, Z asked PJ if they could make a film.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The Blog Baton 2

Last night I taught my last class for this semester's blogging course. It took me a while to wind down afterwards, I was so excited and happy for my students.

As PJ and I sat having a late dinner, our neighbour A came over with this bunch of Russian kale from his garden. And again I got to thinking about sharing and mindfulness and how these things make up the backbone of communities both virtual and actual.

Here is a snapshot of what some of my students created:


And from last semester: The Blog Baton 1.

Monday, 1 December 2008

The Continental Drift

Movember is an Australian-based moustache growing charity event held during the month of November to raise funds and awareness for men's health. 

My friend A's contribution:

I'm Sorry, Paul

I'm sorry Paul Hawken, but I cannot finish your book.

In 1993 when you published it, the world was a very different place, but your research and findings are nothing new these days. The things about which you wrote are known by all of us, which is great news; that what was once relegated to a niche market is now centre stage of the mainstream.

But what makes your book too frightening to read is that even now, 15 years after publication, nothing has changed.
Business has three basic issues to face: What is takes, what it makes, and what is wastes, and the three are intimately connected. First, business takes too much from the environment and does so in a harmful way; second, the products it makes require excessive amounts of energy, toxins, and pollutants; and finally, the method of manufacture and the very products themselves produce extraordinary waste and cause harm to present and future generations of all species including humans.
Your premises and propositions are all valid and true and important, but because I know how the next decade and half pan out, they are rendered irrelevant.

Your 1999 book, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, was referred to by Bill Clinton as being one of the five most important books in the world at that time. Time seems to be the key factor here, especially with texts that are specific to a particular period.

And so, I shall pedal up to the library now and return your book to the shelves where it will sit among the other important texts that testify how much has changed in our lifetime. Or how much has stayed the same.