January 1st, my traditional walk to see in the new year, and all was bright, dare I say, promising. And then I caught myself, not hoping for too much, just focusing on that moment of sunrise, welcoming in the day/month/year. So many of us are being reserved and not expecting much that is different and yet clinging to a small shred of hope that things will begin to ease somewhat this year. I can’t even imagine what it was like for the world to live with polio for 12 years before there was a vaccine for it. We are all pretty weary. I can hear it in people’s language and tone. Even for those of us who have not suffered severely, we have still been effected. In our case here in the Centre of Australia, the virus has really only just arrived to a great degree. We are living with a mask mandate, lockout and regulations too numerous to mention. Because things are so bad in the southern states our supply of food and other things have grown more inconsistent. But not desperate.
The last few months of 2021 I meant to write a kind of ‘catch up’ post for the year. I like for the blogs I follow to catch me up every now and then on what they have been doing and how their life has gone. But I didn’t. So here is a bit about my last year with a few suggestions for this year. My journey learning to paint with pastels continues, though the end of the year saw quite a few bumps and delays in the development of things, partly because I took a course for 6 weeks. Briefly, I learned a few things however mostly it was a refresher in basic colour theory, value and composition. These were valuable but I realised when I finished the course that the style of work the artist taught wasn’t taking me in the direction I wanted to go. Also, I realised all of the participation in the Facebook group (required) was just too time consuming and not productive for me. So I took myself off, back into my own direction and I can feel it is the right thing to do. But now I need time to be doing it without travel and without quarantines and PCR tests soaking up time.
Reading proved to be a handy diversion for all the liminal time presenting itself this year. I thought I’d share with you the titles of my favourites and a very brief explanation in case you are interested. There were a few books that were good but I hesitate to recommend in the current climate of disease and death, so I won’t, and a number of disappointments that I either finished and was disappointed in how they were resolved, or just didn’t finish at all. My feeling is, life is too short to read a book that just isn’t doing it for me. So I don’t. A couple of years ago I started to realise my favourite genre was memoirs. However, this year I refined my search to ‘well written memoirs that read like novels’, and then I got off on a little tangent of well-written-memoirs-about-hiking. Goodness knows I wasn’t expecting that. I’m not a hiker but as you know I do like a good walk, so perhaps I’m living vicariously with this type of book. Whatever the reason, I hoovered through the last three selections like nobody’s business. Here’s the list, commencing in Jan 21, finishing Dec 21:
- The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B. Edwards – this is an older book and reads like a memoir, though the author insisted it wasn’t – life on the island of Guernsey around WWII. It is not exciting but it is a good story and written in a way I could picture everything about the place and people and the voyeur in me enjoyed it.
- Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover – makes a person look at their own family differently, I suspect.
- The Dog Who Came to Stay by Hal Borland – a lovely dog story with a nice ending (trust me)
- The Salt Path by Raynor Winn – I ate this up. Great story and very real people with very real struggles, hiking the Southwest Path in England.
- The Silent Wild by Raynor Winn – The next chapter of life for the two people of The Salt Path. Almost as good, and still well worth reading.
- A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson – This made me chuckle and the story and factual information along the way was very interesting to me. It is about hiking The Appalachian Trail in the eastern USA. If you’ve seen the movie (and I don’t advise it) read the book, it is so much better.
I have kept up the garden I built in May 2021. Probably typical of most gardeners, whether novice or experienced, I tried a few new things—had some failures but a few successes. I’m sure I would have been more successful but I’m not a real gardener, to be honest. I think I might do more except for the heat. Working in the heat depletes me and consequently, I have no energy for other things. However…with fairly consistent, but minimal, effort I have become the Queen of Greens! My best efforts other than with herbs, have been with beets and chard/silverbeet. Also rocket/arugula grows like crazy, but a little of that goes a long way with me. As you can see in the photo, Don’s lime tree has filled in the espaliered branches nicely and we are hoping next season to see some limes on it. In a year when our grocery stores have not been able to keep up consistent supplies of fresh vegetables, the silverbeet has proved very handy. It has about finished now that we are into the very hottest part of summer and I will let things rest until March or April when the weather cools a bit again.
Just over a week into the new year I walked the same path at the same time of the morning as on the first day, noting that the sun was already rising later, which augers well for those of you wishing for longer, warmer days in a few months, and those of us wanting cooler weather as well. Far in the distance I heard a human voice, calling out—loudly. I thought perhaps they called a dog as sometimes people let their dogs off leash to run about in the early hours when no one else is about. But the shouting continued, as if a one sided conversation was happening. I squinted into the dawn lit path ahead (see above photo for approximate lighting) and eventually a small figure appeared, shouting and gesticulating in the direction of the hills, and walking briskly. Being the only other human in sight I decided to err on the side of caution in case the person was drunk or unwell, and I quickly changed route. Reasonably certain I had avoided any possible problem, I walked briskly in the same direction as the other person was headed but on parallel paths, rather than the same path. About two thirds of the way home I had to cross over and again heard the shouting voice. When I turned she was only a few feet over my shoulder and suddenly quiet. It was a young, maybe 20 year old indigenous woman, not appearing drunk and in fact quite tidy and attractive looking. But so close… I wondered how, almost like an apparition, she had made up that distance and was just over my shoulder. As soon as I was passed her she veered onto a different path and began loudly talking again, but not shouting as before. I had seen enough to know she wasn’t wearing earphones or carrying a mobile phone, and then I realised…she had been talking to the spirits of the land. Some of the more traditionally raised indigenous are taught to talk to the spirits, especially if they are moving through someone else’s land. They are telling the spirits what their business is and telling them to behave, which was why she had seemed to shout at the hills and valleys along the path. Once I realised what was going on and she meant no harm, I thought ‘I want some of that!’ I want to shout at the spirits and tell them to ‘shape up, stop messing with us and let us live without all your tricks and surprises’. Maybe this should be added to our armoury in dealing with the pandemic. It might be a bit loud, but it wouldn’t hurt anyone and it might make us feel better.
Meanwhile, be well.
This is such a nice post which summed up pretty much how I feel about the end of last year, and “not focusing on too much” for the new year. I’ve been reading a lot of history, which has been eye-opening but also assures me that what we are enduring isn’t anything new. Similar events have happened before, and we find ourselves shifting to life life differently. It’s all part of the experience, and there are no mistakes in that.
Reading is such a delight! The last couple of weeks have produced bitterly cold temperatures here, and for the first time in a couple of decades I have begun reading again. Like you, I’ve decided if a book doesn’t appeal much by the time I’m one-third into it, I put it away. In the past I stuck it out – miserably flipping pages and then wondered why I pushed through with no miraculous outcome. Thank you for giving me a few more to put on my “to read” list!
I’m glad you are enjoying some reading time again, Lori. I’m already into a new book that looks like it will be on my next shared list…Wintering by Katherine May, which strikes me as something you might find interesting in your current cold spell. It is about all kinds of ‘wintering’, not just the weather and she writes beautifully. Take care. xx
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Methinks it will take more than one quiet read of the book of your year just ended to be on the same page again . . . but I am happy to have your days oast so well described across the spectrum in front of me. Instagram photos seen can point the way but are insufficient to enter feeling-worlds. I have read your story of the indigenous woman in her own world more than once . . . a tale which could only happen or perchance only noticed in that red-hued entre you call home . . . thank you for taking us there in word and picture . . . be well waiting for life to become more livable . . .
I’m wondering if we will ever be on the ‘same page’ again. I say that with cautious hope but realistic doubt at the same time. The young woman talking to the spirits was quite a special experience for me, almost magical. It’s difficult for us ‘white fellas’ to have genuine positive interaction with the indigenous here, even though we are on the ‘frontier’ of the transition between cultures. My husband has had a lot of experience during his years in education and he tells me things, but my direct experience is limited so I treasure it when it happens. Best to you, Eha.
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I love the idea of letting the spirits know what’s going on. Perhaps our lack of doing it explains many things about our world.
Your trees are wonderful, very expressive. Going your own way is a good idea, while using the knowledge you learnt and relearnt. I get what you mean about Facebook groups. I am doing an online course at the moment with a FB group attached. I find I get overwhelmed by everyone’s posts and then feel bad for not taking the time to read them all, and add a comment.
Thanks for your book selection. Have you come across Robert McFarlane’s writing? He writes in a very meditative way about the walks he does. He was my find for 2020.
I left FB years ago for a number of reasons and so had to rejoin to get the most out of this course. But it is a real time waster for me, though probably good for others. We have to feel our own way through these things. I love trees, photographing, painting, looking and contemplating them. Thank you for the suggestion of Robert McFarlane. I have his ‘Lost Words’ book but have been meaning to try one of his less pictorial ones. Am currently reading ‘Wintering’ which is lovely (Katherine May) and will probably appear on a reading list next time I post one–very well written aspects of renewing oneself and observing it in nature. Thank you for your comment, Anne!
As I regard the photo here of what on an Insta comment you described as your “paltry little garden” I’m wishing such a productive manageable patch was mine… you are indeed a real gardener.
I’m haven’t yet begun a start to 2022 blog post… I’ve barely begun corralling my thoughts… I figure the way things are going I have surfeit of time… but as is customary many you express echo mine. Especially ‘well written memoirs that read like novels’… they are indeed a way to be in another’s skin for a while.
What an interesting encounter to begin the year. Not so much the hills and valleys… although I do chat to the garden as I go about my activities… from time-to-time I have invoked my own spirits… I began doing it way before big data algorithms… it was a way of putting things out there hoping thereafter encounter a synchronistic response downloaded from the Universe.
I understand your difficulty at pulling thoughts together. This post was actually harder than most for me to pull together. A number of gardeners talk to their plants and I sometimes do that as well. I can’t stop thinking of that young woman telling the spirits what is what, though. Don told me the reason she went quiet when she got near me is because they know from unfortunate previous experience that white fellas misunderstand what they are on about and think they are crazy and try to lock them away. What a shame when we might be able to learn from them! Good luck with your struggles with the humidity and rain. We are having 41+ temps again this week and hot winds and no chance of rain.
Kim Smith said:
How fascinating to see the changes in your paintings! And your garden photos remind me that I should try again this year to try growing food here. I say every year that I’m going to do it, but I get so wrapped up in my native gardens that I never follow through. I need to experience the thrill of eating food I’ve grown myself.
And your book list — such a coincidence that you mention a book that took place on the isle of Guernsey during WWII. Just before I sat down to read your post, I finished watching the movie version of “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” It was really good and I wish I’d read the book first.
If you want a recommendation, I just finished “Letters from Skye,” by Jessica Brockmole. It’s about an American man and a young woman on the Scottish island of Skye and it’s in the form of letters written between them during WWI, and then letters written by their family members during WWII. One of the best books I’ve read in a while!
The secret to the garden is decomposed cow poo! That is all I used in the rectangle area that I built. In the edges around the courtyard I dug the manure into the soil that was already there. It made a huge difference. I have seen The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie three times! Love it. And we have been to Skye so I will definitely look up the Letters from Skye book! Thank you. Best wishes in whatever gardening you do, I’ll look forward to seeing the results on your blog. xx