Buttons and bread

Buttons

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.

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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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Celebrating the glorious eucalypt

Two posts this week – I also wanted to mark National Eucalypt Day, 23 March. There are so many beautiful gum trees – some of which have featured here before  (and here). Here is a close up of some glorious blossom to mark the occasion.

Gum tree close up

I hope you can find a way to enjoy a gum tree today!

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The dancing has not been cancelled

NLNL poster

It’s another weird week of keeping away from others as much as possible to try to contain the spread of the dreaded virus. All in a good cause but not easy! I heard from my pal Claire, who has been running a fitness type group called ‘No Lights No Lycra’ in Goodwood for a few years now. They have worked out a way to continue with the boogie through the wonders of technology, so those in the group can continue dancing, same time each week to the same music, but at home in their own room! This kind of thing is happening a lot (using technology to keep spirits up and challenge inertia I mean). I had my first Zoom meeting earlier today (thanks for organising Nel!) – and have definitely upped the ante on my use of technology overall. So creative ways to do social social distancing and keep having fun!

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The Goodwood NLNL group when they could do it the old fashioned way (in the flesh)

Here are a couple of links to Claire doing her video intro (can’t work out how to get it out of sideways mode!) and and post dance sign off (right way up). Thanks Claire – and let’s all have a dance to something this week hey…

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Birthdays (97 and 2)

It’s time for my yearly post about dad’s birthday. He turned 97 during the week and we celebrated with family visiting over two weekends, three blowaway sponge cakes at different times and grandchildren and great grandchildren at hand. It was a happy time and more special still as contact reduces due to the virus. He is such a good person to be around – his gentleness and humour, dry wit and sidelong glances, are precious to me. As well as being dad’s birthday, the 16th was also my friend Romi‘s grandson Etienne’s 2nd birthday. Although he was across the other side of the world (in the UK), I like to think of their joint celebrations at either end of the geographic and time scales drawing us together in a sort of way.

Here are some pictures:

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Pandemic and pathways

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Path through the Moreton Bay Fig trees at the Botanic Gardens

The covid-19 virus is the big news this week – I have heard people talking about it on the tram, and in the street, as well as among my friends, and it’s of course on all news bulletins. Restrictions are beginning to take effect, limiting cultural activities and travel among other things. It’s hard to know quite how to handle it all, apart from good hand hygiene, and trying not to worry too much. I caught up with my friend Megan earlier in the week – and she put me onto this excellent poem. It is a bit on the ‘spiritual’ side, but lovely…

PANDEMIC

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

Lynn Ungar

And of course, there is still beauty aplenty everywhere. I was at the botanic gardens today and was struck by all the various paths that have been created – some by makers and planners and gardeners at the garden, some by nature itself (the water courses of the creek, the light on water) and some just by repeated footfalls… Here are some snaps (click to enlarge as usual):

 

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Tenderness

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The East tent at WW, just before the start of a session…

It’s been a funny old week at my place. I am on holidays (hooray), and it was Writers Week, one of the highlights of my year, but my plans were somewhat derailed by… my leg, which has been misbehaving. I won’t go into the whole box and dice of what’s happening – it’s all still a bit ‘in process’ – but it seems that I have a disc problem in my back that has brought about the leg difficulties. This meant that I only went to a bit of WW, and that I have been ruminating on the health system from a much more patient-angled perspective than is my wont. It has also meant that the sessions I did go to at WW were quite impactful.

Here are some observations. When you are unwell you feel tender. You think about life and death and worry about big things going wrong. You feel delicate and uncertain. The health system – gigantic, busy, impersonal – doesn’t seem to have time for the equivocating, nervous, bundle of discomfort that is you. I went to one of those gp long hours surgeries on the weekend and waited ages to be seen. I was then bundled through in a trice, looked at by a guy who didn’t listen to my story and obviously had the pressure of heaps of other people waiting in line behind me.

I went to my own doctor during the week, where my experience was entirely different. She took heaps of time and got the whole story. She examined my leg and knee and back and looked things up. She did reflex tests and strength tests. She really paid attention, which is soothing in itself. I was so relieved to be there, even though she was obviously concerned and I got sent off for scans and then more scans. It was a relief to discover the source of the problem in a disc rather than anything more systemic or sinister and she then organised for me to get a specialist appointment next week. Her advocacy on my behalf was wonderful and such a comfort. The whole process, over two days, had me feeling that there really were two of us working together on my health. Her obvious care about me, for me, was like a balm. It soothed my inner tenderness.

I recall an idea of Alain de Botton talking about how we deal with, cope with pain, where he suggests that the health services would ideally be Temples of Tenderness for people, where they are treated with exquisite thoughtfulness and care, rather than being part of a never ending dollar driven factory, where the workers do their best but are left unsatisfied and the clients or patients similarly. Noone’s tenderness acknowledged.

Interspersed with all this was my attendance, in truncated form, at Writers Week. I went to the session with Helen Garner and was reminded of an essay of hers which I love. It’s about ballet dancers. She goes to watch them for a week as they rehearse – their beauty, their incredible rigour of work and preparation, the terrible stress on their bodies, the marvellous results of this work – and closes the essay with this gorgeous paragraph where she sees the dancers as a metaphor for life itself:

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Later in the week I caught a session with Sophie Cunningham and Michael Christie talking about trees. Sophie has written a book of essays called City of Trees, and Michael a novel, somewhat dystopian, called Greenwood. They of course talked about the fires and the destruction of trees and of their importance. They provide shade and nourishment and succour and support in so many ways. They ease life and are life. They are often amazingly robust (Sophie, in one of her essays, writes of the six gingko trees in Hiroshima which survived the atomic bomb blast in 1945 and are still alive now), but they are vulnerable too – and especially so to the large systemic assaults that come with climate change and our own actions and inactions. 

The great gingo tree at Anraku-ji stands behind a rather uninspiring apartment building

One of the surviving Gingko trees in Hiroshima (thanks to the internet for the photo)

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Scott Ludlum (chair of the session) with Sophie Cunningham and Michael Christie, plus part of the deaf interpreter (she’s fantastic, so sorry I couldn’t get her head in!) at the session on trees…

This has all had me thinking about tenderness, the word and the ideas associated with it. I saw a fantastic exhibition some years ago called “Tender” – a set of sculptures, woven out of shredded banknotes (legal tender) of birds nests, by Fiona Hall. It is an amazing bringing together of ideas about power, money, beauty and nature – and the tenderness of life, the ease with which it can be broken and yet its strength too.

So, to finish, life is a glorious concoction of strength and weakness, possibility and finitude. It opens up, and it ends. But in the meantime life goes on in such precious ways. May we all be aware of each other’s tenderness, our soft hearts and soft imperfect bodies. May we cherish each other and our time here in the glorious world, aware of all the other life around us and creating little temples of tenderness wherever we go.

(This post is for Pam with thanks…)

 

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First night, leap day

Yesterday was leap day – that curious day in the calendar that I have marked here before. It was the first day of Writers Week this year, and also the first night of the Adelaide Festival, with a free concert in Elder Park to mark it. I went to WW in the afternoon and caught up with friends as well as listening to speakers. It was a beautiful day and it’s such a great setting. Afterwards I went with Nel to Elder Park where we chose a spot for the blanket and then I went off for a walk while Nel stayed with the rug. We were joined a bit later by Michelle too. It was a fab night – heaps of people in a happy mood, there to listen to Tim Minchin, who was witty and warm, followed by fireworks on the river (right next to us!!). I rarely see fireworks (they don’t feature at New Years in Auburn!) – so this was thrilling too.  I took heaps of pics on my walk around the park before the concert – here are some of them… (plus a youtube clip of Tim to give a flavour – he sang this song as part of the encore)

 

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Discovering the creek

The Brownhill Creek Association are an amazingly active and positive group who have worked in and around the Brownhill Creek Reserve for many years. The Suzanne Elliott Charitable Trust has partnered with the Association in a small way, and we heard this week from the inimitable Ron Bellchambers, Community Liaison Officer for the group (and fantastic community worker) about another project in the offing (which will no doubt feature here at some point down the track).

While he was with us he spoke about the project they did last year, to commemorate a local resident of Mitcham and the first Labour premier in South Australia – indeed it was apparently the first stable Labour government in the world. He was in office from 1905 – 1909, and was quite obviously a dynamo. Some of the initiatives of his government include the establishment of free state secondary schooling, the introduction of a minimum wage and a wages board, establishing a state tourist bureau, and state supported public transport (the Municipal Tramways Trust). He started life as a stonecutter and worked on the parliament building in that capacity before becoming an MP.

I was very inspired by hearing about all this – and in particular about the present day work of local groups and individuals. They are a bunch of local people building relationships to create positive, progressive and inclusive places for people to meet and live and work and play. Most of this work is voluntary – just folk with an interest in their local community, the environment, education, indigenous matters, local history and more (just the diversity of the people who have been part of the projects is fantastic). It reminds me that nothing comes from nothing – or to put it more positively, getting together, meeting, talking, exploring and doing things with others creates change (very appropriate in thinking about Tom Price – who was very much an activist, and led a coalition Labour-Liberal government when in office).

I have been thinking about it all since hearing from Ron the other day and I went to Brownhill Creek today to have a look myself. It is a really lovely place, about 5 minutes from the middle of suburbia, and with excellent walking trails and a beautiful sense of peacefulness. What an asset to have such nature in our midst (click the photos to enlarge)…

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