Three things: The blues, plums, and toxic masculinity

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Some very satisfyingly blue hydrangeas we found on a neighbourhood walk this week. 3.5 metres of Ikat fabric that I bought at the Oxfam shop recently. I think I am going to make this skirt and maybe some pajama bottoms. And a terrible photo (a windy day and a two-year-old trying to climb up me as I took the picture) of one of my lovely blueberry bushes. At my flat I am slowly growing a hedge of them and all of them have given me a handful of sweet fruit this year.

My friend was afflicted by inudanated with plums and gave me about 10 kilograms this week. There’s a crumble in the works for a BBQ this weekend, some fruit leather to dish out as treats into the winter, and a number of jars of chutney to distribute to unsuspecting friends. I am also chipping away at a green bean glut.

I am really appreciating the podcast ‘Men‘ by Scene on Radio (who bought us ‘Seeing White‘). You should listen to it. And ‘Seeing White’.

 

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Three things: Nuart, treacle berries, The Peace of Wild Things

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Last Saturday L. and I combined our love of walking with our love of city life with our love of art (lots of loves) and went on a street art walking tour. In April this year and last (and for 6 more years to come–yay!) Aberdeen has welcomed street artists to produce something for the Nuart festival and much of this work has weathered the months since then. L.’s favourite art piece was Bordalo II’s ‘Endangered Dreams’–a unicorn (Scotland’s national animal–nearly extinct because of plastic waste ;^) ) constructed entirely from plastic. Do you see the wheely-bin lids and the Connect-4 grids? L. was also chuffed to sneak around under the city centre in the tunnels, seeing where graffiti artists from around the country come to practise their work before putting it up for real. A street corner I walk past almost weekly had a mural of two nude women with their heads covered it by Milu Correch. I had noticed the mural, but not the langstane–a standing stone that would have been used by witches–across the road that the mural was ‘speaking to’. If you live in Aberdeen and haven’t already done this tour, you should! They are every Saturday until the end of September, from 1pm for about 90 mins. It’s not a great one for buggies or wheel chairs or people unsteady on their feet as there are steps and steep roads. If you can’t go this year watch out for it next year.

It’s treacle berry season! My first try of this berry was a few years ago, and being someone who often prefers slightly under-ripe fruit to over-ripe, I picked one a little firm… and it was the most revolting and bitter thing! But I learned from that experience that the best ones are squishy and impossible to hold in one’s hand. They must be eaten then and there. Gently pull them from the plant, and squeeze the oozey flesh out of its skin and onto your tongue for a chocolatey, treacley treat. We have one of these plants (Leycesteria) at our flat, but the one in the picture is on our walk to the butcher.

A poem I am returning to daily…

The Peace of Wild Things, by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Three things: Reindeer, socks (finally!), and transitions

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I have a new favourite animal. Reindeer! I promise you will all have ‘Jingle Bells’ stuck in your head before this paragraph is through, but bear with me. Look how soft their antlers are! On our holiday in Aviemore a few weeks ago, we visited the nearby reindeer herd. We did the cheap option which was a few pounds to go and visit a handful in a paddock. The pricier option looked awesome (head up into the hills to see them in their natural habitat), but we were not prepared for the colder weather up there. However, the cheap option was great. Thanks to the excellent reindeer exhibition I now contain a lot of facts about these incredible creatures. Like, did you know that they really cannot be kept domestically because their diet mostly consists of lichen. Grass is just too rich for them to live off long-term and lichen only grows wild. Also, they are the only deer to have furry noses which stops them from getting frostbite. And, my favourite fact–they have tendons in their feet that rub over bones as they walk, making a clicking sound. In white-out conditions, the clicking communicates their location to the rest of the herd so that they don’t lose energy vocalizing. They are the most docile creatures I have ever come across. So docile one had an entire finger of S.’s up his nostril for a minute before any of us did anything about it.

I finished my socks! They are so cosy and finishing them off makes me want to start a new pair right now. I used this pattern, which I think will be one that I return to again and again… which makes it sound like I knit a lot of socks. I think I started making this pair 3 years ago.

We are living far enough from L.’s school that he has to be driven there and back. I don’t love driving and I have realised a part of the reason why. The drive doesn’t take long enough for it to feel like a proper transition space. One minute we are at school, and the next we are at home. Although in our flat we were only a couple of blocks away, the walk home would be slow and stilted as friends peeled off to their own homes and little things of interest (sticks, stones, creatures, trinkets) came into our frame. This lovely in-between space was one where L. could let go of the school day and I could hear a little bit of it of him without that being the point of what we were doing. What was the point of what we were doing? Well, getting from A to B, mostly. But there were–are–other things stacked on top of that, including time outside, quality time with one another, physical movement, etc. None of which we get with our car commute right now and I am really feeling it. L. wants more quality time than I can give him before dinner. I need more time to myself because car-time is cutting into my alone time. We all need more outdoor mindless movement time because limbs are getting thrown about mindlessly inside. The longer I live, the more I realise that a most of life is about navigating transitions. In fact, I would go so far to say that these transitions are actually the stuff of life–rather than the stuff of life (work, school, dinner, playgroup, small-child-parenting, teenager-parenting, retirement, partnership, death) being the stuff of life, if you know what I mean. I guess this is just the old cliché: ‘it’s the journey, not the destination’. Many religious traditions recognise these liminal spaces as sacred thresholds that reveal truths about ourselves and the world. Celtic spirituality would call them thin spaces where Divine presence touches real life/time and so it is more accessible to us in these spaces. At architecture school, one of the components of most of our projects was the design of a detail. A detail in this context is the meeting of two or more elements that show a transition of sorts. For example, the way two walls of different construction methods or materials come together; or how an opening like a doorway or window transitions between a wet space and a dry one, or between an exterior space and an interior one. These details are specifically designed and studied in part because they need to practically work–nothing lets the rot in or the heat out like a poorly designed roof-wall transition. But they are also important because how they work says something about the architecture as a whole. Yes, they are beautiful in and of themselves, but done well, the make the whole body make sense. So yesterday I started a new transition tradition in lieu of our walk home from school. We run about the garden playing a made-up version of dodgeball for about 1/2 hour. This is not altogether my idea of fun, but it is serving all the purposes–quality time, outdoor time, physical time–so it is life-giving to me in that sense. Annie Dillard can lead me on out: ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. what we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing’. These small particles of life really are the big parts of life.

 

Three things: Internet-free activity, brambles, and patterned home decor

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We moved from one house-sitting arrangement to another and had to set up phone+internet again. It’s been a while since I’ve lived without these services (and as people who know me in person, smart phones and I are not best of friends) and this time we waited three weeks for it… so I managed to get many other things done in my life. Including, crucially, a 1086-piece silhouette puzzle of Darth Vader and friends. OK, so actually I can only claim credit for about 8% of the finished product, but that’s still about 86 pieces, and I was also present for the many moments L. grabbed pieces from my hand and blithely clicked them into position. Is this a skill all children have and adults lose over time? Have you done a puzzle recently? I didn’t think I would enjoy the feeling of ‘wasting time’ in this way, but actually, it helped some of my creative ideas for other projects click into place in my head. Also, it was in a way an opportunity for quality time with my family. A friend of mine confessed to me that she liked to partake occasionally, and, at the time, was working on a big one that she did on the family’s dining room table after the kids were in bed. She had a big plasticky table-cloth that she pulled over the top so no-one–not kids nor guests–were any the wiser about it. Do you remember how people used to frame their finished jig-saw puzzles? Well, I was just away to figure out how to do that (just kidding! but I was proud enough to take a photo!), and when I returned, L. had dismantled the puzzle and had started sorting it into piles to do all over again. As nonchalant as a Buddhist with their sand mandala.

It’s bramble season, y’all! One of my favourite forage-ables, due to its ubiquity and deliciousness. In New Zealand blackberries are widely kept under control with herbicide, so as a child I rarely got to try wild blackberries. If you have some growing in your own garden, you can keep their aggressive fecundity at bay by pruning back the season’s new growth. You can tell which canes these are because there will be no buds or fruit and they will be very tender on account of their fast growth. A bonus for pruning in this way–and now is a good time for it–is that you can get at your fruit much easier once it has ripened. Have you seen this short clip about brambles from David Attenborough’s ‘The Private Life of Plants’?

While doing up our flat, I pulled up a corner of the carpet in one room to investigate what was there and was met with this unusual linoleum that was patterned to look like a rug. It was the strangest floor covering I had ever seen and although I wished I’d known about it earlier, I am not sure the colours did enough for me that I would have exposed it sooner. Then the following week we visited the Highland Folk Museum where I saw a similar lino flooring in the 1950’s (I think) home. There was a ‘lino rug’ in the bedroom (not pictured) and then this unusual visually textured pattern on the floor in the loo. I don’t remember anything like this from NZ but perhaps I am too young. Where we are staying now has lots of lovely wall patterns too which work well on these walls with their high stud heights.