Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Just Another Lemon Tree....

European heritage breeds hairs on my chin, and I think too much about marmalade as I pluck them out with pointed tweezers.

Citrus fruit doesn't have enough pectin to produce a set jam on its own...
...But, if you soak the seeds overnight in the smallest bit of water, or slowly simmer them in a muslin cloth with your other ingredients, more than enough of this magic setting agent will be produced.

As I leave the bathroom with its perfect hair removal sun to observe the pot of bubbling syrup, I wonder at the simple ratios - 1:1:1 - liquid : fruit : sugar, coalescing in the pot - they say three is the magic number, after all.

Occasional stirring and lid adjusting, I wonder from where I garnered a love of these antiquated skills, tossing in cloves for hidden depth, I wonder who the role model for this was.... I own the 1970s staple Women's Weekly Cookbook, and little else of this nature, have no childhood memories of preserving, save peach dehydration in a particularly good season, I have not sought out these wifely skills, they have simply been absorbed, like the sugar and heat into the now translucent lemonade lemon rinds in the marmalade pot.

The jam thickens and I wonder that I don't eat jam, but make it still. The sugary condiment is simply not my childhood favourite - cinnamon and sugar on toast. Jam is for scones, and the family disagreement - aestheics vs. propriety reigns - jam then cream then scone or cream then jam then scone? Is butter not made from cream? Does he whip need to be preserved so much that it cannot support the weight of jam?

The ripples appear on the spoonful of mixture on the frozen saucer. Time to bottle. Then to sleep. 10pm is no time to begin making marmalade.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Why I Take My Meds

Every day I take seven pills.

My life does not depend on these pills in any physical way. My heart won't stop, my blood pressure won't increase, they're not keeping my cholesterol down or my blood thin or thick, or stomach acid calm. They're not even adding vitamins to my system for healthy bones and longevity.

Worse than not keeping me alive, they make me fat, tired, compromise my liver, dilate my pupils numb my feet, shake my hands, zap my head if I forget them and shorten my life expectancy.

These are psychiatric medicines. This is polypharmacy. This is the trade-off for many of us living with mentally ill health.

It took perhaps 30 medications, and more combinations of those to find this combination. Believe it or not, the side effect list above is a good one. I can get through a short shift at work. I can concentrate on reading for a short while. I can clean my house, cook dinner,garden, sleep regularly, rather than all day or not at all.

I have dropped a medication for any number of reasons, headaches, drooling, suicidal ideation, lactation, because I didn't feel like taking my pills any more. Some medicines you can't go back to, because their efficacy drops with each time you return to taking them and nobody takes their pills properly, most people can't even complete a 7 day course of antibiotics, let alone forever take an antipsychotic that makes them sleep 18 hours a day and means they can never have a beer again. And when medication cessation is built in to many mental illnesses and alcohol and drug problems are co-morbid in many patients, the impact of the drugs on liver and kidney function surely has to be taken into consideration. There is only one antidepressant on the market which is not processed by the liver. So many of the drugs on the market are simply unsuitable for the clients they are produced for.

Certainly, there is no magic bullet, one pill wonder for any of us, and definitely, for those of us with complex mental illnesses, therapy and lifestyle changes alone are not going to change our brain chemistry. You cannot sun salutation your way out of a manic episode, and while routine helps enormously, you need help before you can establish a routine because most of us begin from the kind of chaos seen in the very worst of teenage bedrooms, or from the kind of life where we stay in bed needing to pee until we also need to eat because we are conserving energy, and those three metres may as well be Katherine Gorge.

These seven pills I take don't even stop my mental illness in its tracks, like you would think pills are supposed to do. Mental illnesses are progressive illnesses, and they can get progressively better or worse or both, over time, in waves. At the moment, I am getting better. I have a team of extremely supportive professionals who I have known and loved to work with for over ten years (note how I say with, they are my doctors, but I feel a partnership with them, and this is extremely important if mental health clients are to become well) .

Every year, spring comes and I pick up a packet of antispychotics, and my pill count rises to 9 because my brain is suspicious of seasonal change and daylight savings time, and as my thoughts begin to swirl faster than all the eddies in the river and the flowers on the trees shine just for me, and I dance naked in the rain in my courtyard in my apartment block, I know it is, begrudgingly swallow those antipsychotics, because the next step in this process is seeking out strangers to sleep with, and calling the bank to extend my credit limit and buying tutus and $400 worth of glitter glue and painting the town footbridge, while talking to the wind, and singing loudly, drinking whiskey and probably not wearing underwear or shoes, before getting distracted from my painting, and the voice of the wind tells me to go up to the local radio station and pass on its message.

This is why we need medication. Because once we learn to recognise and accept the symptoms of our illness, it gives us power to control some of them, and in that way we have some control over our lives.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Well, you can come inside but your friends can’t come



Slowly, I am filling these cracks in this pot. With a stronger more beautiful substance. I keep the old pot because I love it. For all the things it has held. For all the holding it still has to do. 

These cracks can only enhance it. My scars and wrinkles and freckles can only enhance me.

Embrace them, hold them dear, for a thing with no imperfections is a thing with no history, no memories attached. What is a vintage item in perfect condition but something left at the back of an over-shopper's cupboard, forgotten forever. Love and mend your things. 

Like cast iron pans and recipes and books, and music and wine, they get better with age and sharing. 

I cut my hair tonight with paper scissors. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

In My Blood, There is Dust, That Dust is Who I Used To Be, Before The River Swallowed Me...

 We all hope that we are good, do we not, that the things we do in our daily lives amount to a general 'goodness', something more than our tiny transgressions against our past selves and against others, those ethical dilemmas, those decisions we make that hurt for the greater good, of one, of many, of ourselves. Sometimes it is better to walk away, causing injury, than to stay causing carnage, and there is no good explanation. Sometimes there is no good way out. Sometimes life is messy and plans unclear and we all must muddle along, teacups in hand, waiting for the next down-time to come, the new soundtrack, the wind to change and bring with it clarity. A good night's sleep in a clean bed is in order.

Asero Rubra spring from the mulch, stinking starfish growing and disappearing at an alarming rate. Fruiting bodies that colonise the surface for a few days before once again going about their secret, underground business, reminding us that there are many things we do not know, do not notice, never understood.That there is much yet to learn. 

The stewards watch over The Championship, the sheep are wrangled, clipped and turned away, thirty sheep in twenty minutes to win, and the Showgirls here are very different to the ones in the City. The air smells of lanolin, sweat and dung and the hum of shears and skitter of hooves on wooden boards feels like ancestral ground. Shearer's leather boots are always in good knick. Every fleece comes off whole.

The long neglected inks and paints were sorted and made accessible, in hopes that the long winter days will lead to some creative work. If bureaucracy permits. 

And I fish for sentiment among granite and kurrajongs, chase and listen to lichen and moss, notice the tiny changes as they maple keys fly away and the silvereyes twitter in the grass. I have lost a layer of the pyramid, as I do at this time of year. But keep on, keep on, as I say to others, it will come back.

I like to pick apples by the side of the road, and begin a lonely process my grandmother used, and put them in vacola jars, to make pies and stewed fruit to have for times to come. 
                  These feral trees, beside the highway make me wonder why the supermarket fruit needs to be sprayed to death, 
                                 ....their only fault is some spots and irregular size. 

Some rain finally came and with it more fungi, more reminders, and I ate some and admired others, like these, beautiful gilled dancing girls beneath the callistemon.  

It seems the more resignation one feels, the more simple things matter, homemade seed bread and a fancy fresh pulled radish, a new hot water bottle, the growth of pricked out seedlings, bath time, earl grey tea with lots of bergamot. 

Simple home improvement projects like changing the colour of a shelf, because being irritated by your furniture is something that can be changed with a three dollar sample pot of paint, a day at home, soup and a good playlist.

Between flowers, there is foliage to decorate with, and basil seeds to dry, and bay leaves from the pruning to hang up, and a million tiny garden tasks to get the organic matter levels back to where they need to be before a new set of plants go in, 
          Until then, its radishes and silverbeet and the basil which survived the first frost. 
                          Heads to hold up, beds to get out of, even if to migrate to the couch, mail to respond to, calls to make, hot drinks to drink, things to wash, an never ending stream of work to be done, 
                                        We must get on. And will. 
                                                              Because that is the way of things. 
                                                                          Because the battles we fight are fought alone, 
                                                                                          and alongside others simultaneously.

 Frida knew. Keep On Keeping On. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A look at the calendar tells all. Six days home last month. 
Oh, the places these feet went. 
                                     Were rained on, in five suburbs in one day,
                                                                                                    Sunburned in.

From places we felt outofplace, 
                                          where things were just a little too neat, a touch too trendy, 
                                                                                                                          but the wine was crisp as the ocean air

to surprising places, oasis', we didn't know before
                                                                    where we felt calm, and ate the dianella berries, 
                                                                                                                                 and watched the leaves in their dance, 
                                                                                                                                                                                and the angophoras splendid in their new orange skins. 

This week, I welcome a new baby into my life, and am overjoyed in spite of myself.

A wedding, a wedding, secret and sacred. 
                                                       We country girls, even myself, do love a wedding. 
                                                                                             We feel most useful, cooking and calming and fluffing and organising.
Introduced to Stanwell Tops, I am a little in love myself. 
                                                            Where the new fern leaves grow pink, and the cat birds come and eat from your plate.

Then, in Manly, the weather caused the beach to become weed, 
                                                                                        as high as my  knees
                                                                                                                     and only Shelley Beach was saved.
And I made collections in my box of light, and pressed samples as though I had never seen seaweed before. 

Hot chips on the beach, seaweeds in a plastic bottle, talented buskers.

Christmas Eve brought the most beautiful light over the harbour, as I watched some near ones fall further in love.

And I spent time with my church, of flowers, wind and waves, after the obligatory Christmas Eve service.

I am always sorry to leave the sea...

But just as glad to see my country come into view on the long drive home. 

And moreso to see the bouquet of herbs that have not died in the heat and garden of neglect this month. 
Such bounty made a beautiful meal or three.

Monday, December 1, 2014

On Technology

I can't help but think... 
                              That all of this;
                                                                    social media, 
                                                                                                                  Is our spiritual training wheels. 

Almost telepathically, we 
                                    s e n d  m e s s a g e s 
To the furthest flung places. 
We understand intention, finally, 
                                             As we press return and send
                                                                                 And receive little words and pictures in return, 
To our pockets, 
                   our bedside tables, 
                                               our living rooms. 

When we learn to ride a bike, 
we fall off and injure ourselves

And as we wade through these new technologies
                                                                We hurt ourselves and each other 
By getting too big...
                        ...for our boots
                                              or travelling....
                                                                   further than we should
Or forgetting that sometimes we can't speak our minds
For the benefit of all involved. 
                                           ...We learn to be diplomatic
                                                                                  as we edit and censor and chronicle our lives
But we learn it is best to be just as we are, 
                                                           in this world, 
                                                                            in screen world. 
With all our scars and interests, 
                                            With all our dreams and tunes. 
We lean into it, we  l e a r n  into it, 
We mutate.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Risk Is Worth It If You Fly....

Again, time has flown by and busyness makes me neglectful of my writings to nothing.

Projects, projects and prints. Making for market, unusual to have a financially minded venture. 

But the process is progress, 


The work is satisfying, scented of hot lino and ink and spirits...


The garden grows

And grows

And we build things from mud and straw

December will be busy again, and life predictably does not let up until April. Three weddings and two babies to celebrate. 

New lives beginning, new seeds to plant. 

And beautiful music from a human I know...