Monday, 28 October 2013

An Ode to Stuff

I realise this post will seem like a slight (or massive) contradiction with my previous post on Where Treasure Is..  
I have been thinking a lot about the people who lost all of their stuff in the recent bush fires. I spent many days scouring the house for things to donate (yes they are asking that people only give money from now on) and felt good about taking yet more things we don't need here to the op shops who are raising money for the fire victims.

So at the same time as I have been reflecting on what it must be like to lose everything (and some great stuff has been written by others about this: and of how nothing on this earth has true lasting value.. I have been (yes, I hope I can say it without attracting scorn) enjoying sorting through STUFF! Cleaning out one wardrobe has logically lead to tidying up a desk, or a book shelf or a sideboard..and all of this sorting and reorganising is actually one of my favourite tasks - it gives me a chance to discover hidden treasures, and rediscover things that have been overlooked..

Hope that makes sense.  

So here is my ode to stuff, such as it is:
I love bits and pieces.
I cannot lie.
I adore ephemera
Shiny things catch my eye.
I want stuff around me, to have and to hold
I want tangible memories, for when I grow old.
I delight in small pieces
things others would miss
shells, paper and string, ribbons, bags all of this.
It's rubbish to some
I know that for sure
I'm married to one
who wants to see floor.
I try hard to end it 
when it's out of control
I mean to declutter
I need to let go.
Sometimes I can do it
I clean and I spruce 
I bag up the old stuff
and put junk to good use.
I polish dull surfaces
and rearrange china
I move things around
setting new things up, then I
go out to op shops
and find so much more
of treasures and keepsakes
than I ever had before.... 

It's a vicious cycle.
What can I say?

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Where there's treasure..

The bush fire season has come early to our state of NSW. The last week has been particularly treacherous. Sydney skies have been filled with thick smoke. The beautiful Blue Mountains, where I lived for many years and where my parents and many friends still live, has come under serious attack. 200 homes were lost in one day.

Sydney Sky, October 20, 2013.

Blue Mountains Fires, 702 ABC FB page.
While this current tragedy has seen the worst fires for many decades, every year in many parts of Australia, bush fire is a danger people are forced to face.

In 1994 I arrived home from beach mission to an empty house (my family was interstate on holidays) and was faced with imminent evacuation. I set about packing a car with the family's valuables.

Not such an easy job. I remember wandering around aimlessly, opening up wardrobes and cupboards, feeling totally mystified about what to take. Why weren't the things of value more obvious? I filled one box with photo albums. Then (a little guiltily) filled another two boxes with my favourite old books and Victoria magazines. There were possibly some issues of Harper's Bazaar in there too. I can't quite remember.
After much agonising I settled on a painting by my Mum. Some CDs for my Dad and my brother Nate's favourite American football jacket.
The family wasn't that impressed when I later showed them my efforts.

I recalled neighbours up the road telling me that during a 1970s evacuation (the last really BIG mountains fires, since these being experienced now) they had had only minutes to grab possessions before having to get out. Inexplicably, they had filled the back of their car with beanbags. Not even taking out the polystyrene balls to save room. It was the 70s after all! They were still laughing about it, decades later.

Other mountains friends, following a 1990s evacuation, had arrived home when the danger had passed, and opened their front door to be greeted by the family picture wall. It was empty bar one portrait shot of their Mum, who, needless to say, was slightly miffed that every other photo had been deemed worthy of being saved, bar one. Hers.

Now that I have my own house, and have enjoyed over the years filling it with many of my favourite things, I wonder what I would fill the car with if faced with having to evacuate (not likely in suburban Sydney, but you never know.)

I'd make sure the kids were safe. I'd grab a memory stick (note to self: update files on to memory stick) the kids baby books (sporadically filled in, doh) and baby photo albums and probably some jewellery (the ring my grandpa made the only piece I know is really irreplaceable).

But as for the rest? The Wedgwood china, the 50 million books, my favourite soft furnishings and Arch's Thomas train set..?
All replaceable.

I love beautiful objects. I love the way they make our lives enjoyable and pleasing and comfortable and lovely. I feel their strong sentimental and aesthetic value. I rejoice in their beauty and usefulness and cleverness. But I also feel their transience. Their impermanence (kids breaking your china can do that for you) and their fleeting ability to add real meaning to life.

To what matters.

So today there's lots to be thankful for:
  • Amazing fire fighters, giving their time and risking their lives to save lives and homes and bush and livelihoods.
  • The many lives saved even while their houses were lost...
  • The generosity of so many in helping people who have "lost everything". Their pain is real and their losses are great.
  • A bush fire's perspective-giving qualities on what in life really matters: Faith in God.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matthew 6: 19-21

Thursday, 17 October 2013

A Spring Time Party to celebrate 70 years

We celebrated the 70th birthdays of my parents on the long weekend, with a spring garden party in the grounds of their home. The azaleas were in full bloom and the garden had survived a few earlier cold spring snaps and wildly windy days. October weather in the mountains can be anything from a heatwave to a blizzard. Amazingly, this day turned out to be perfect. 
Sunshine - tick.

My brothers had kindly deferred to me as oldest child to give the speech. (What are we? Ten year-olds?) I accepted the honour with good grace. To start with. As the event drew closer my grace gave way to panic and, I'll admit, a few tense text messages were sent warning the boys to have something prepared in case my speech did not eventuate.
Venting helped relieve my writer's block.
Speech written - tick.

Then my Mum, usually unflappable in most situations, had a small meltdown over some cooking malfunctions. I had rung the day before the event and was slightly alarmed to hear Dad say,"For the first time in her life Mum has attempted multiple dessert options... "
Meanwhile, Mum was yelling in the background: "And they haven't worked!!"
I was not encouraged when Mum came on the phone saying: "We won't have enough food, Sah."
It was time to ring the boys.
10pm: Family crisis conference call - tick.

The day dawned bright and sunny. We arrived late morning to give ourselves time to decorate the house and garden.
And to prepare the MOUNTAINS of food that filled the serving tables when we finally put everything together. My brother Nate had made a midnight dash and cornered the late night supermarket on all manner of nibblies. My friend Nic, had made me three dozen of her wonderful macaroons (last seen at my swish soiree), and even Mum's supposedly failed assorted tartlets had come up sparkling.
Food famine averted - tick.

The grandchildren were commandeered as waiting staff. My mum had sewn gorgeous black and cream aprons and head pieces complete with each child's name sewn on to the band. It was very Downton Abbey. They looked adorable, and rather amazingly, worked tirelessly. I'm not exaggerating. The older ones served drinks and savouries, cups of tea, cakes and desserts constantly for four hours. Even the younger ones like Morris (4), Darcy (3) and Archie (2 and 3/4) were busy dashing here and there with small plates of goodies.

The rest of the day passed by in a happy blur. The guests turned up - many friends and families representing past times and places from way back last century. It was lovely to chat with people who had been a part of Mum and Dad's lives (and part of our family history).

It was a great time to laugh and enjoy the company of many. My parents aren't used to having events held for themselves. They had a ball. And they deserved it. They are wonderful people who have given much.
And we love them.

I'm loving Spring.
Do you have any celebrations planned?

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