Buttons and bread


Buttons are small daily objects that quietly connect things. They join things up, they hold us together. This blog features buttons as a way of reminding us of the little things that lie behind the actions we take to build strong communities.


The other part of this blog’s title represents the nourishment we get from participating in community life and that we can offer to others also. It is not the nourishment of the exotic, but the everyday sustenance of regular connections, ongoing work and play – bread rather than caviar.

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Warmth in winter

It’s been a mild winter till the past week or two. Today was really windy and wild, with squalls of rain interspersed with a cool sunny spells. With the grey skies and subdued colours in the landscape, it’s lovely to see the blooms of red hot pokers around warming things up. I have been looking out for the plants over the past couple of weeks.
Here are some pictures.

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Writing lives, reading lives

This afternoon I went to a book event at Sophia, the spirituality centre at Cabra, featuring Mag Merrilees (who has featured in this blog many times). It was a lovely event, with readings and talk from Mag about her writing life, and including some moving and funny excerpts from various of her works. I was struck by the dedication and time that Mag has spent creating her works, how hard it is to get published and also by the commitment she shows to working with others, her longtime buddies in her writing group, some of whom were there today. Another example of the benefits of not doing things by oneself when you can do it with friends.

This was followed by a splendid afternoon tea, and then a chance for those attending to say a word or two about favourite books of theirs. Books are so important to many of us, certainly to me, and it was a treat to hear the variety of books mentioned by those present, and the stories about why they love the book, in some cases the particular actual book, that they spoke of. There were novels, poems, current issues, indigenous themes, Australian books, philosophy, meditation, children’s books – a whole array of titles, some of which I would love to read, some of which I have read, and some of which I wouldn’t like at all! I didn’t have a paper and pencil with me, so I am going by memory a bit, but here are some of the volumes that people spoke about:

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One hundred
The House by the River (poems) by Diane Fahey

Illusions by Richard Bach

Alla Prima 2 by Richard Schmid

Alla Prima ii
Position Doubtful by Kim Mahood

Position Doubtful Kim Mahood

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

in the skin of a lion

Deep Time Dreaming by Billy Griffiths


The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran


Talking to my Country by Stan Grant


Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird

Silent Land

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

Lion witch wardrobe

and there were others…

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A mark that holds a moment

I went to the Jam Factory today and saw an exhibition there by the glass maker Clare Belfrage. It was lovely work – you will get an idea from a few of the photos below (as usual click to enlarge) – but I was struck by the video that was made of her speaking about her work. She emphasised nature and the big world around us, and the importance of wonder: being lost in it and able to hold it as well. She spoke of having seen a spine of grass moved by the wind making a perfect arc on the ground – a mark that holds a moment. I think there are many marks that hint at time and place, many things that if we really notice them, are pointers to the physics that underlie them and the, well, wonder, of the world around us. It is all a bit schmaltzy to try to write about it – I keep coming up with cliches (the old SBS catch phrase, The World is an Amazing Place) – but these things are after all the (pearl) buttons and (fairy) bread of everyday life, the tiny glories that enrich daily life, so what the hell. And I have noticed nature drawing on the ground too – here is a picture I took on a walk a while back (along with some I took at the exhibition today)…

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Magpies (but not as we know them)

I went to the Impressionists exhibition at the art gallery this week and was particularly struck by the picture by Claude Monet of a magpie sitting on a gate in a snowy landscape. It’s a terrific picture, but the magpie is not like the bird I know and love and have written about here before. So I’ve looked it up, and it turns out there are magpies in the world that aren’t even black and white. I am shocked. So, thanks to the internet, here are some pics of the other maggies around, plus a couple of pics of the Monet in the Art gallery. My grateful thanks to those who took the pictures that appear below (click on images to enlarge).


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Tatty roses

Here it is the middle of winter and there are still roses in gardens… July. Roses. What is this? They are not the gorgeous blooms of spring and summer; they are holding on gamely to bushes that need pruning; they are mostly faded and tattered, even in bud. But still they are beautiful. Those blooms with scent still smell lovely. The colours are delicate and a bit muted perhaps. They are still there regardless of frost and the desire for dormancy.

They make me think of getting older and more worn myself, and seeing other older folk and people who have had lives that are difficult. We too have lost our youthful bloom. We’re a bit worn out, grey haired, figures gone to hell, arthritic, our faces lined, skin softer, eyes maybe see less well or are wiser/wary/worn. But still we are beautiful in our own way, like the roses; we bloom regardless of frosts and drought and cold winter weather; we’re alive alive-o…

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Big waves, little birds

Last weekend I spent some time at Carrickalinga, a fantastic beach south of Adelaide, on the wild (weather) side of the Fleurieu Peninsula. It’s a long sandy beach, two actually, with rocky outcrops between them and at the far ends. The waves crash onto sand and rocks; the wind blows; there are steep, rounded hills behind.  Signs along the beach tell people to look out for the Hooded Plover, a small bird which nests on the sand along the beach, and which is vulnerable to walkers and dogs and all manner of other things as a result. There are few of them left on the Fleurieu and it was great to see such care being taken, with instructions about what to do, how to help, what to look out for. See below for the pics I took of what I think are these wee birds – scurrying along the beach.

It was fab being in such a wild and beautiful place, with nature big and small everywhere about. On the last morning I climbed a fairly steep hill, with long views in all directions. The sound of wind and waves was a backdrop, and the salty atmosphere. The big sea spread out for miles and miles was both awe-inspiring and kind of comforting, in the same way it can be a relief to know how small we are, and our worries too.

Here are some pictures (click on them to enlarge)…


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Ripples over time (more from small towns)


I went to Auburn early last weekend – on Friday arvo instead of my usual Sunday morning. This was so that I could go with dad to the opening of the renovated Auburn Institute that evening.

The Institute was built in 1866 and funded by subscription of townsfolk of the time – ie people contributed a share of the cost. It’s since been used for all manner of purposes. In my time it was the setting for the end of year school concerts. Each class put on a play of some kind, and it was truly a highlight of the year – I remember having to have a rest in bed after getting home from school before the concert. This was because it would be a late night and lots of excitement, and it was the thing people did with kids back then. Of course we didn’t appreciate it at all! We were far too keyed up to rest! I have mentioned one of the school plays here before…

As well as school plays, the Institute was used for dances – there was a period where regular ‘old style’ dances were held there when I was a teenager – waltzes, barn dances and the like. And when I was younger the teenagers of the time had dances there too (not old style!). There were other theatricals too – The ‘Auburn Players’ had yearly shows for nearly 30 years from the early ’70’s – they were ridiculous funny melodramas usually, with all kinds of unlikely folk treading the boards, and used as fundraisers for many local groups and organisations. I used to be a ‘waitress’ for some years (there was a dinner along with the play). The hall was also used for many a wedding reception (my two sisters’ to name but two), and it was the polling booth to vote the first time I cast a ballot. There was a library in one corner of the building for some time – I spent lots of time there. There was a table tennis club that met there for a while I think, and lots of deb balls (thankfully they had dried up by the time I got to the age!).

The place was managed by a local committee for years and years. Dad was on the committee for ages throughout my childhood – either secretary or treasurer (he did either of these roles in many local organisations for years). In the 1960’s sometime, ownership of the hall was passed to the local council, which continued to own it till just recently when they handed it back to the town again. This was linked to the renovations in some way, and there is renewed interest in getting it used more.

Dad was one of the people who were asked to participate in the opening ceremony – cutting the ribbon. I think he got the guernsey because he is the oldest person in town now, and perhaps because of his associations with the Institute committee in previous times. Three older folk and two young ones were part of the official ceremonies on the night. The young ones were relatives of people who had made a contribution in previous generations. It was terrific to have that connection between the old and young.

It was a really lovely night – people got frocked up, and the schoolkids were there in their red and black (for Auburn) handing around the food while the adults mingled and talked.

I felt little ripples of connection through time – all the people who have contributed to town life for 150+ years, and those who are still making things happen, whether they have lived in the district for years or just a short while. It’s easy to think that we don’t make much difference to things as we blunder and wander through life, but times like last week remind me that our little contributions add up and create all sorts of practical and not so practical outcomes – buildings and activities for sure, but also feelings – of connection and hopefulness, pride and happiness.

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