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Monthly Archives: January 2013

In Richard Blanco‘s poem, read at Barack Obama’s second inauguration ceremony, he writes of

one today

one sun

one light

one ground

one wind

one sky

and

one moon

under and in and on and through we all live our lives.

I particularly loved this part.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

See and read the whole poem here.

With thanks to Patti Digh and the many gems she shares in her regular Poetry Wednesday posts.

I’ve been thinking a lot about superiority and judgement and how we can be so quick to criticise an individual or a community when things don’t conform to our own personal behavioural norms, beliefs or cultural expectations. How we uncritically absorb the door-stop news spins of political leaders and others without so much as thinking to check for facts or additional elements of the story. How we gravitate towards views that validate us, often at the expense of other human beings.

Half of a Yellow Sun

I’m reading a list of books curated by Patti Digh for the 37 Days Book Club. This month’s book is Half of a Yellow Sun the second novel of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  It’s a novel set in the 1960s with a background of the birth and demise of Biafra as a nation. 

In 2009, Chimamanda Adichie gave this talk at TED where she spoke about The Danger of a Single Story. 

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.  Chimamanda Adichie

Commercial mango growers are happy this summer season.  The fruit has remained on the trees for the right amount of time. Trays of beautifully sweet and fleshy mangoes are readily available. Neighbourhood backyard trees are groaning with the weight of less fleshy fruit but the bats, parrots and possums aren’t fussy.

On this glorious summer morning, where the heat seems to have turned down a notch or two, a mango in the fridge was begging for attention.

Apart from the obligatory cup of espresso, I was looking for some brain food to kickstart my day. I need to complete a few hours of work today to meet a deadline tomorrow. This little concoction has done the trick.

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Take one mango. Lay it on a bed of low fat yoghurt. Scatter liberally with blueberries then sprinkle with a mix of ground almonds, linseed and sunflower seeds. Who knew a bowl of antioxidants could look this good?

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Close your eyes to listen to this instrumental piece from Joni Mitchell. Beautiful!

one week last summer - Joni Mitchell

image: musicnotes.com

From the CD notes for this track on her 2007 album Shine.

I stepped outside of my little house and stood barefoot on a rock. The pacific ocean rolled towards me. Across the bay, a family of seals sprawled on the kelp uncovered by the low tide. A blue heron honked overhead. All around the house the wild roses were blooming. The air smelled sweet and salty and loud with crows and bees. My house was clean. I had food in the fridge for a week. I sat outside until the sun went down.

That night the piano beckoned for the first time in ten years. My fingers found these patterns which express what words could not. This song poured out while a brown bear rummaged through my garbage cans.

The song has seven verses constructed for the days of that happy week.  On Thursday the bear arrives.

Alto Sax: Bob Sheppard.  Piano and all other instrumentation: Joni Mitchell.

Thanks to HonestlyKyoko for uploading this to YouTube.

Some weeks ago, I heard Anne Summers on the radio promoting her new venture – an online interactive magazine called Anne Summers Reports. It’s free, interactive and available for download as a pdf. Support to keep it going is via reader donations. The first issue is worth a look.  There’s a feature article on David Gonski and this 15 minute video clip from the 2012 Women in the World summit.

In her tribute to Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep mentions Clinton’s ‘unheralded shadow diplomacy’.  It’s an inspiring speech that provides insight into the importance of apparently small behind-the-scenes interactions of people in positions of power. Of course, Hillary Clinton’s role puts her in a place where she can make a difference. Yet I don’t doubt that across the broad spectrum of economic capacity and living standards, and education and age and place, there are countless unheralded acts that happen every day to support and promote the human rights of girls and women.

Some of those acts require courage in the face of threats to life. This girl came out of the shadows and almost paid the ultimate price for standing up for the right of girls to have an education.

In 2011, Malala Yousufzai was interviewed by CNN.g9530_malala.indd

“I shall raise my voice. If I didn’t raise my voice now..when will I raise my voice?”

“I have the right of education, I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up”.

We can think it’s overwhelming. We can think we can’t possibly make a difference. Or we can act in small ways to move closer to a collective tipping point for change.

Yesterday afternoon there was a change in the weather. A burst of humidity around lunch time heralded clouds, gusty winds and so few rain drops I don’t know why I’m mentioning them. Still, the dip in temperature was enough to feel comfortable enough to generate some heat in the kitchen and use some of the oversize mangoes taking up space in the fridge.

IMG_0797I often get the cooking process cart before the horse (to be polite) and find myself well into the commitment phase before checking that all the critical ingredients are in the pantry. I’m sure that this sultana-free chutney will be a perfectly good accompaniment to our home cooked curries.

Here’s a link to the recipe I used. Minus the sultanas.

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The clever jars with lid handles? I found them on my last visit to Sydney at Daiso Japan in the Mandarin Centre in Chatswood. Everything in the store is $2.80.  Make sure you have time to spare if you venture into one of these stores. Consider this a vortex warning.

Before Christmas, we took the car ferry over to Stradbroke Island and spent a relaxing couple of days with friends.  I couldn’t resist posting this photograph of Dan and Rob fishing on the ocean side of the island. So much space and air to breathe.

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Click on the photo for a larger view.

When I visit antique centres, I enjoy trawling for unusual small objects and then going on a hunt to hopefully discover their origin. One of my first finds at the wonderfully eclectic Woolloongabba Antique Centre was this small metal enamel tray, labeled in the dealer’s shop as Belgian. Excluding the handles, it measures 20cm x 14cm at the widest points of the tray.

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Looking for internet clues, I discovered the name of Max Dannhorn, a German manufacturer of magic lanterns and optical toys.  He also designed a range of enamel trays with metal surrounds, which he commissioned Villeroy & Boch to manufacture.  I found reference to a larger version of the tray (three times the size) here at Easterbelle’s Emporium in Arizona.  The tray was manufactured somewhere between 1895 and 1905.  That’s as much as we can guess.  As to who has owned it and where it’s been over all those years?  That mystery is part of the pleasure.

David Astle - per davidastle.com

Take a look at this sweet face.  Seems like such a lovely person doesn’t he?  Yet every Friday morning, with thousands of others across Australia and elsewhere, I go into battle with this man.  The name is Astle. David Astle. Commonly (though he is anything but common) known by the alias DA.

DA is a setter/compiler/composer of cryptic crosswords. He rises above other setters by producing a national word duel every Friday morning. I cannot begin to describe the unbridled (and unfounded) optimism that comes from staring at his list of clues and clean blank squares on paper – pen in hand and coffee at the ready.

Coffee and the cryptic

Once I would just look and run away. Over time, the fear has dissipated, replaced by a nervous excitement apparently triggered by the sound of the Friday papers hitting the footpath.

Let the world know that once I actually completed a DA puzzle. There are some days when the pen ink doesn’t get a run at all.  Sometimes DA enjoys a bit of a show off just because he can. It’s tough when you remain bamboozled even when attempting to deconstruct the answers.

Today is a 50% day. So far.  That’s a happy result for me. As long as my brain cells still have the capacity to noodle out just one or two of DA’s clues, I can rest comfortably. Just so you know I’m not the only one with this sad obsession, here’s a blog by three crossword aficionados dedicated to cracking the DA conundrums.

If you’d like to go direct to the source, here’s the DA Blog.  Watch out for random anagrams! And you can find him on Twitter @dontattempt.

“There was all the difference in the world between this planning airily away from the canvas and actually taking her brush and making the first mark.”  To the Lighthouse

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Virginia Woolf  (Roger Fry 1866-1924)            copyright expired

I haven’t read Virginia Woolf’s fiction since I was a student of English at the University of Queensland and to be perfectly frank, that’s a while ago. Browsing through some of those surprisingly un-musty books, I gravitated towards  To the Lighthouse for a revisit.  I remember it as the most enjoyable and accessible of those on the reading list.

I’m bringing fresh eyes to my reading of the novel this time around.  Much of my interest in Woolf as a student was centred around romantic notions of the Bloomsbury Group – creative, intellectual and in some cases troubled individuals.  I had a similar passion for the The Algonquin Round Table in New York during my Dorothy Parker stage, excited by the idea of shared creativity midst behaviours that went beyond the edges of contemporary conformity.

In 1928, a year after To the Lighthouse was published in England, Nettie Palmer  wrote a review for the Brisbane Courier.  Here’s a link to the full review.

I’ll leave the reviews to others. I’ve not yet completed the revisit with Mrs Ramsay, this mother of eight who outwardly, calmly knitted together her family and pairs of socks, and inwardly carried her personal burdens alone.

The Brisbane Courier            4 August 1928

“Praise and blame alike mean nothing. No, delightful as the pastime of measuring may be, it is the most futile of all occupations, and to submit to the decrees of the measurers the most servile of attitudes.”                            A Room of One’s Own


It’s early in the day. Around 100 kilometres south of Bribie Island, you can see and smell the smoke from fires that have been burning for a few days now. Coming off a night of gusty winds on Moreton Bay, it’s very still. The smoke sticks to the air as the humidity rises on another day of a heat wave affecting the entire continent of Australia.

Bribie Island fires 9 Jan 2013 Photo: Glenn Barnes - Courier Mail

Bribie Island fires 9 Jan 2013
Photo: Glenn Barnes – Courier Mail

There have been, are, and will be more severe fires across the country as these conditions continue.  Bushfires are part of the Australian landscape. The written history of this country documents the worst of them.  Lives lost. Fauna and livestock killed. Properties and possessions destroyed.

What feels different over recent years is the frequency and intensity of the fire events. We are seeing fire storms that the best trained fire fighters can never control.  The question as each summer approaches now is “where will the big fires be this year?” not “will there be big fires this season?”. After the devastating 2009 Black Saturday fires in Victoria, the descriptor ‘catastrophic’ was added to the lexicon in the Fire Danger Ratings across all states.  Something’s changing and it’s beyond time to wrap our combined national and international actions around that fact.  That means embracing the work of the vast majority of scientists and their findings on climate change and its impacts on all of us.  Quickly.

For an overview of the current over the top temperatures being experienced across Australia by James West from The Climate Desk head over here.