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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See it slant

A slightly ‘on the slant’ photo of the front cover of the Ochre Poets 10 year celebration anthology…

I went to a fab community event on Friday night after work – the launch of a local poetry collection. The Ochre Coast Poets have been meeting down south for 10 years now, reading and critiquing each other’s work and producing/developing/encouraging some really good poets and poems. Kylie, who has featured previously in this blog (for example here and here and here) is one of the poets, and she invited me along to the launch.

It was a really good night – held in the Seaford Library, with all covid procedures in place, but still a good turn out. The book was introduced and launched, the editor spoke and then the poets read. They went, as the book does, in alphabetical order, and it was just terrific to hear their work – moving, funny, poignant, true in the particular way that good poetry can be. The poets mostly read poems that feature in the book – so we could follow along as they read. Of course hearing things out loud is a particular pleasure with poetry too, and now I associate their voices with the words that I read to myself. At half time we had a great supper and a chance to talk and mingle a bit, then more poems.

What was really striking to me was the beauty that comes from really paying attention to what is around us – poems about birds (as you can imagine the “parrot feather” in me, likes them particularly), about pets, about students in classrooms, about the pain and challenge of daily life, about music, about getting older, relationships, even social commentary made vivid by the attention paid, and the crafting of the words. The ability to see things freshly and from another angle was striking – to “tell the truth but tell it slant” as Emily Dickinson says so memorably. And what the poets were seeing is often life down south, places that are familiar to me (like Colonnades shopping centre and the Aldinga Scrub), lives that I recognise. It was wonderful.

I got to thinking about the idea of looking at things from different angles, and that combined with a sort of shyness about asking people I don’t know for a photo, meant that I got a whole lot of shots of the backs of people’s heads! Different hairstyles, sometimes faces of those they were talking to, sometimes side shots. I did take a photo of Kylie, and have also included one of her poems, a really lovely one about kids getting older, growing up (you may have to click to enlarge to be able to read it). It was a terrific night, the book is excellent, and I was so happy to be there.

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I went for a walk in the Botanic Gardens recently and on the way there saw a colony of flying foxes that have made their home in the park nearby. They are a strange and eerie sight these creatures with so much cultural baggage attached to them – from ideas about blood sucking to Batman the superhero. All these things, and the creepy film music I associate with them, went through my mind and clashed with the glorious blue sky and spring day. Their wings are wild! They are so un-birdlike. They hang upside down like squirming bags of – what? They are very noisy too. This species is the grey-headed flying fox, and they mostly live in the eastern states. This camp is fairly new – apparently they are moving further afield as their traditional territory is threatened. They are classified as vulnerable and there are lots of signs around telling about them and reminding people not to touch them if they are on the ground and to be careful (for fear of diseases we might catch from them I think, or being wounded by them in some way) (no doubt there is more danger in the other direction in truth). I really liked them, the strangeness of these chattering bird/rodent-type things with their leather wings to greet me as I walked into the gardens.

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From the sublime to the ridiculous

The Banksia rose has been flowering over the past few weeks in Auburn. It’s a great big plant that grows up the side of the shed, and it’s quite lovely. I took a few pics of it, showing the gradual spread of the blooms as the weeks passed, and a close up of the beautiful creamy flowers, with a hint of bright blue sky, but have to laugh as dad’s rubbish bins are placed right in front of it.

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Geraniums (day and night)

Geraniums (and pelargoniums) are so cheerful and robust. They are flowering pretty much everywhere at the moment – great for one of my occasional posts about flowers in season. They have the disadvantage for this blog of being brighter and more intense in life than in photographs. I don’t know why it is (maybe the quality of my camera (which I love and don’t want to speak badly of)), but I see these vivid daily pleasures and snap away – and the picture is more subdued in tone – a tad disappointing. I have been experimenting though and have discovered that pics taken at night are sometimes more intense, and sometimes just eerier – so here is a selection, taken at both times of the day…

First the daytime shots – they look good next to each other here, but you compare them to the bushes you probably have in your garden or next door in the neighbours – pale pale pale.

And here are the night shots. Not sure quite how I managed to get some of them so bright (helped for sure by street lights)… Some of the low light pics have a kind of cushion-y feel about them to me, their leaves quite striking too. Click on any of the pics to enlarge – the night shots are better when bigger I think…

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Connecting with country

Yesterday afternoon I had a special experience, going down to Yundi, a little settlement of sorts down towards Victor Harbor, for a walk and talk in Warki country. It was part of the Nature Festival, which is happening at the moment, and Liz a dear friend whom I used to work with, was part of making it happen. The Warki are a ‘lost’ tribe of local Aboriginal people who lived there and whose name was subsumed, along with a host of other smaller groups, under the general term Ngarrindjeri (easier for Europeans to learn one name rather than 18 apparently). Mark Koolmatrie, an indigenous guy from Raukkan, has been researching it all, and took us for the walk. It was beautiful watery country – dams and swampy areas, lots of plants, and a beautiful peaceful feeling. The dispossession of the old people happened a long time ago – over 150 years – and it’s hard to get specific information, so it was wonderful to have this name back again. Mark’s warmth, enthusiasm and humour made it easy to imagine folk there in this beautiful place, going about their business, leading productive lives for so many generations. It felt very special to be there with a good group of people, wandering through and then eating a lovely afternoon tea around the fire. Mark did a smoking ceremony at the start of the day, and we passed the message stick around to introduce ourselves. The pics above give a bit of a flavour of the afternoon. The painted walking stick was made and given to Mark by one of his kids for father’s day recently. There are also a couple of pictures of reflections in water – the dams were really gorgeous. There were also some stunning trees – note the very stringy stringybark…

I felt so grateful to be there, finding out about local indigenous people and thinking about the lives that were lived here for so many many years before being uprooted so harshly; trying to find ways to acknowledge painful history and to relate to Aboriginal people more respectfully, more curiously, more hopefully now.

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Alive Alive-O

This week was the anniversary of Howard Florey‘s birth, and close to two years since I was ill and in need of antibiotics. It’s a bit weird to think I might have died, since I didn’t, but very easy to feel lucky lucky lucky in having a good gp and access to antibiotics and hospital care and friends and to have got through it all. Pam, my doctor, gave me a silver coin after the event, created in 1998 by the Australian Mint on the centenary of Florey’s birth and it sits on my mantlepiece as a kind of guardian of the house.

Florey coin, on my mantlepiece – with the young Elizabeth in glasses peeking over the postcard behind

I wanted to mark Florey’s birthday, and Pam’s great attention and care again this year, so I made a ‘zine’ for them both, with my pal Deirdre. It was great fun, and appropriate as Deirdre is pals with Pam too – they have done arty things together. Pam put me onto zines as well, sort of, through telling me about Austin Kleon whose zine making technique was crucial to the whole thing. Its theme was poems written by doctors or poems about doctors, and artwork (done almost entirely by Deirdre) that was impressions of penicillin (thanks to the internet for showing us what it looks like sort of). It was fantastic fun to do and I feature it here as another part of my own ‘antibiotics awareness week’, in honour of being alive, alive-o (I still haven’t got quite to grips with the new editing features of wordpress and can’t turn the pics around so you can read them more easily, but hopefully you’ll get the drift).

There is something very satisfying about making things – perhaps it’s partly the idea that making something that wasn’t there before is a ‘fragment of world alteration’, using creativity and imagination. It’s also really fab to be able to link things that were never linked before – I don’t imagine Lord Florey could ever have anticipated a little book made for him and a general practitioner in the city of his birth 122 years after that event. Or that Gerald Murnane would imagine that part of his poem about William Carlos Williams would have been in said little book. I never imagined it myself before I did it.

So, moral of the story is, use antibiotics wisely, stay well (especially in these viral times), and indulge wherever you can and in whatever ways take your fancy, with fragments of world alteration, big and small…

(And as a final addition to this motley collection of inspirations and creative endeavour – a fabulous video of Patti Smith’s song ‘People have the Power’ released this week to encourage voting in the US election.)

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Shoots (more signs of spring)

In Auburn this weekend, and the vines everywhere – our back yard and throughout the town and district – are shooting. Tender green leaves emerging from seemingly nowhere; old and decrepit root stock (or newer vines for that matter) bursting with new life. It looks great of course, against blue skies and green half grown crops, and is the usual excellent spring metaphor at the same time. How can we ourselves burst with new ideas/ways of thinking/activities/life, from our same old root stock? How can we show our ‘new leaves’, let them grow and flourish, let ourselves grow and flourish, help each other grow and flourish??? (I think I must be full of the joys of spring!) (Note the birds nest among the pics above, which appeared in a previous post, now has vine leaves growing around it again.)

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Lemon the chook getting ready for bed

It has been a week of visiting – catching up with folk I haven’t seen for a while, doing things I haven’t done for a while. Some will appear on the blog over the coming weeks (once I track down photos, or think a bit more about what I want to say), but today I am reflecting on the idea of visiting in itself. I went (a sweet visit, my first for ages) to today’s meeting of the ACCBC (which is now called something else, but I can’t remember what) at the South West Community Centre, where the topic of the day was conviviality and visiting people. It was fantastic to see this interesting, dynamic group of folk again, and to hear their stories of visits that made a difference, or didn’t, but which provoked reflection or stories. I felt very grateful to be there – and that we can meet at all in these covid times.

Some themes to emerge were: The challenges of connecting with people – even those we ‘know’ – the story of the trying to connect with a loved father, but not knowing how, or being able to; the Covid-related stories (visiting on Zoom; not being able to visit dear friends interstate who are struggling with health problems – the pain the pain; and perhaps my favourite story of the day, of the grandchild who yells at her mother to ‘open the door! why don’t you open the door!’ when she sees her granddad visiting at the window during lockdown). The generosity of visiting – the woman who visited a friend in a psych ward and really struggling, three times a week for 10 weeks and took her out to lunch each time; the Aboriginal people from remote country who had too many folk who wanted to make a visit, so bought another (cheap) car so that everyone could go; finding a friend around the corner through volunteering. The value of persistence in visiting – the working out of things over time; eventually sharing a drink with a person it has taken time to get to know; the building of trust and bonds with time – meeting new people too.

Afterwards I came north on my weekly visit to dad’s. We had a late lunch of toasted sandwiches and a new neighbour dropped in – another visit. Later I went to see… the chooks – today’s post starts with a photo of my favourite (and now very old) hen, known as Lemon (as she used to escape the hen house and roost next to the lemon tree). It’s always a treat to see her!

(The above photos are of the people attending today’s session – I can’t work out how to caption the pictures in this new WordPress editing program – so they will have to remain nameless – but it gives an idea of the day and the people)

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It’s spring and the birds are making nests. I have seen a pair of murray magpies building in a tree near Kaye’s as I went for a walk in the past week or so. The photos below show them poking around in the nest as they build. The were coming and going with pieces of twig etc in their beaks as I watched. Some pics show them perched near the nest too (you have to look closely though!). You can see by the very blue sky what a glorious day it was too. I also discovered some old nests in Auburn – one in the banksia rose bush (the first couple of shots below), and one when I was pruning the glory vine out the back (the next two). I also have a photo of a nest a client gave me that I kept on my filing cabinet for years (it has a piece of egg shell in it). It is wonderful to see life unfolding – and birds are so fab for this – their industry and the beauty of what they make along the way, the hints of life (for mostly you can’t see the babies themselves as they are high up and well protected) (I have climbed up once though), their song. This week’s post is dedicated to them.

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Flowers in the desert

This week’s post features photos taken by Maggie and Laurie (from the Trust) on their recent trip to the north of South Australia. They found this amazing carpet of Sturt’s Desert Pea flowers near Roxby Downs, and sent through the pictures. Isn’t it glorious? (The photo with the car gives an indication of the size of the patch – who knows why the plants grew so prolifically in this particular spot – but what a thing to see!)

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