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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Sparrows as little gifts

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Zoomed in (and thus a bit blurry) shot of a sparrow taken at Rotary Park on the night of CHO’s January dinner. Waiting for scraps from our fish and chips…


I have noticed sparrows this week, those unobtrusive, dull, everyday birds, which nonetheless have a sparkiness and strength to them that really shines through. Birds, including sparrows (and like other animals), are relentlessly themselves too – no self-consciousness. They are like little determined gifts in a day.

I’ve just ripped the house apart to find a poem by Louise Nicholas, a local poet, about a sparrow hopping around outdoor cafe tables. You know how they keep their eyes out for crumbs, a bit like seagulls at the beach waiting for leftover chips or bread. Here it is:

Bird at The Edge

Into the labyrinthine dip and curl
of our coffee-shop conversation –
your philandering husband, my aching feet,
the high price of housing, the low line of televangelism –

comes a sparrow
that hops at the edge of our despair
until it charms an opening, a parting of the waters,
then taking its fill of pear-and-ginger cake crumbs,

flies away
and returns with the gift of a single feather
as though to remind us that sometimes
what goes around comes around by the very next post

and that even the marketing crassness
of, “Buy Jesus, get Moses free!”
can shed a little lightness of being
on this otherwise deluded and doltish Sunday.

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Letter to self (from Pam)

I caught up with Pam on the phone recently. She wrote posts for this blog quite regularly in the early days, including some of the most viewed over the years such as Pam’s ode to the ghost gum and“Clay has a memory”. She moved back to WA a few years ago and is much happier in her life. Of course there are ups and downs, but being close to most of her kids, and in a place she loves, with friends around her, is a marvellous thing. I asked her to think about doing another post, and she sent me the following – a letter to herself that expresses this sense of her having found herself and being on her own side. What a grand thing. She also sent some photos of Bunbury I think it is, where she lives, which I’ve added below. It looks like a great place. Good on you Pam, and greetings from sunny South Australia! 

To my dear Pamela Naomi,

I wanted to write you a letter my dear friend. I have been there from the moment you were born. What an amazing baby you were – you did all the right things, such gorgeous little slanted eyes. Your childhood was a bit tough, but you made it through with such strength and determination; you didn’t always follow the right road, falling off occasionally. Your dream was to have babies which you achieved without any problems. Most have grown up now and have their own families. They have their complaints about you, such as not having Christmas tree presents (which is so not true!), but you did the best you could which in my opinion was good. You loved your kids and you were a great mum and I’m proud of you for that. Now you are 54 you are a strong, beautiful woman, contented and living in a place you always felt was Home. You are at peace with your life, what is and what was. You have searched for the person you were meant to be with most of your life, but you found her in yourself. She was there all the time. So, my dear Pamela, I will sign off now – remember I love you now and forever and I am so proud of you.

Love from

Pamela Naomi

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The hum of quiet action

I went to a birthday party last night – lovely evening and lots of nice people. I ended up speaking to quite a few folk I either didn’t know very well, or at all. One thing that came up a few times was the things people do to keep ‘the good life’ ticking over. By this I mean how much community association goes on, groups for enthusiasts, support for causes, sharing of produce, environmental action, working bees and on and on, outside of work, outside of much organisation and with no fanfare. It was very inspiring.

Here are a few of the things that were mentioned:

Wendy’s tree of avocados, big crop (and worth a lot this year if she sold them), are mostly going to be donated to a small school project supporting a venture in East Timor.

Hannah’s dress was made by From Found a small local business employing local women from refugee backgrounds and using pre-used and recycled fabric. Win win win everywhere you look – and the dress was lovely.

Sue does two days a week at her local council’s environmental project weeding out blackberries from creeks on one day and putting little red gums in tube stock the other day.

And then my favourite (as it links with a CHO theme of the moment), Jan, who decided, on the basis of initially no knowledge at all, to keep a beehive in the garden of the block of units she lives in. She took them on a while back and has 100000 she tells me, with two queens. They produced  (I can hardly believe this is what she said) a whopping 37 kg of honey from them last year. As she knew nothing when she started, she hooked up with the Beekeepers Society of SA, and got support from them – a mentor to help her learn, and regular meetings held monthly. I just love that people do these things. Jan took a punt, and got support from people who have an enthusiasm and want to share it and now there are happy bees and lots of honey where before, in her little corner of the world, there was none. These things are examples of making things happen – fragments of world alteration. The quiet hum of life in the ‘burbs is people doing things: no fuss, no accolades, just making life better.

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Making biscuits

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Photo from the internet with thanks to whoever took it (I forgot to take a pic of my creations, but they looked much like this)

Up at Auburn again this weekend, and did the usual cooking for dad. Apart from the regular stuff, I decided to try making Anzac biscuits as he often mentions them as a favourite that his mum used to make. We don’t have any recipes from Nana Becker, and he could only tell me that they were the chewy kind rather than the crunchy kind. I tried to find a recipe that would be chewy, but failed – I will have to do some more research. (They ended up crunchy but still very tasty.)

Anyway it got me thinking about baking, that underrated skill, and the pleasure its results have given so many people over so many years. Nana’s Anzacs, Mama’s (my other grandma’s) shortbread, my aunt’s cockles, and mum’s many biscuits – in particular almond nuggets, chocolate chip biccies, chocolate biscuits (for Christmas), and melting moments (flavoured with lemon peel). My mouth waters thinking of them – and I’m not even mentioning the cakes. They are all simple simple simple to make, and use basic ingredients, nothing difficult to come by or expensive. They were everyday specialness – made with love and filled with memories and happy vibes. It’s just a pity about the excess fat and sugar!

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Greeting the new year at the beach

It’s that time again – mid January and CHO comes back from holidays for our first dinner of the year – fish and chips at Christies Beach. It was a sweltering Thursday night this time, over 40 degrees… so we were more than ready for a swim after eating at the park. Amazingly good turn out, all things considered (again a swim was an enticement) and we had a lovely time. It was great to see some ‘regulars’ and to meet some new folk too. Caught up with the news in everyone’s lives – Llew’s travels, Shelley and Sally both telling stories at the local 10x Nine event later in the week, gardening update from Gail (the beans, the tomatoes, the zucchinis, the fruit…), Max has grown now that he is 2 and as sweet as ever, and more.

After tea we went down to the beach and wrote in the sand: the thing we want to let go of this year close to the water so as to be quickly washed away; and the thing we wish for in the coming year further out. It’s a lovely ritual, and followed by a swim, made for a special and happy night.

First up, some pictures from the park…

And now a few from the beach (with thanks to Sarah for taking most of these while I was in the water!)

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Making things (happen)

As a bit of a follow up to last week’s blog post and the power of working with others to create change in the world, I read something that I found interesting and inspiring during the week. On the surface it is about art, but it is also about changing the world and making things happen, a bit at a time and also on a larger scale. It’s about living an active and collaborative life and reaching for ways to make things better. The book it came from is called Draw your Weapons by Sarah Sentilles, and she is referencing someone called Elaine Scarry, who wrote a book (in the 1980’s) called “The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World”. Here is the quote:

“Art – bringing a physical object into the world where there previously was not one – illustrates on a small scale what’s possible on a larger scale… You imagine ————– and you paint ————. You take something from inside your mind and put it out in the real world – from my head to my hand, from my head to your hand – which means that what was once inside your mind is now shareable. Imagining a city, you make a house… Imagining a political utopia, you help build a country. Imagining the elimination of suffering in the world, you nurse a sick friend.

…[T]he creation of an artifact – a sentence, a cup, a piece of lace – [is] a fragment of world alteration. And if you can make these smaller changes, …if you can alter the world in fragments, just think what can be imagined together, what might be possible in community: a total reinvention of the world.”

Another angle on this is that those fragments of world alteration that we are all part of here in our everyday mundane and ordinary lives, ‘change the world’ because we are part of the world, and if things change here the world as a whole is a little bit different as a result. I love this thought as I beaver away at work or in the community – it doesn’t seem like much, and in many ways of course it isn’t and can’t be – but we are in the world and our little moves forward are part of the big picture.

(Pictures today from the internet, illustrating lace and cups as per the quote above, plus the covers of the books mentioned.)

 

 

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Kulila

I went to the Art Gallery last night and saw the exhibition of Aboriginal art that is part of the Tarnanthi Festival. It was all really beautiful and thought provoking, and I could have spent hours more time there (but they closed!). One of the pieces was called ‘Every face has a story, every story has a face: Kulila!’. I have taken photos of it above, including the comment made by the artists, and a list of their names. (Here is a link to a page on the Art Gallery’s website that includes more info and better pictures!)

I was particularly struck that the word Kulila means Listen. The women work together to make their sculptures and talk over their lives while they do so, so they can make their lives better. What a gift this must be, to talk and listen and make together, something women have been doing for a long long time.

The rest of the title of the work also affected me – every face does have a story and every story does have a face – this is something that I know really well from work; talking and listening to lots of different people with lots of experiences and stories and faces over a long period of time. And the listening, exploring, working things out does make a difference, does make things better (often), as the artists’ statement above says… not just for the ‘faces’ – the individuals involved, but also for the ‘stories’ – the issues and concerns and social challenges that people live with and through. Working together creatively, listening to each other, leads in quiet ways to a different world.

 

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