Slow Writing

Most people have by now heard about the slow food movement, which seeks to counteract the fast food evolution, and to maintain traditional and regional cooking and food consumption.  I’m all for it.

What has been running through my mind lately though is a slow writing movement, if such a thing exists.  Actually, I have just done a quick Google search and see that there are a range of articles and sites on the topic, not all with the same interpretation.   I wanted to write a brief note yesterday to slip in with a payment that I was about to post and contemplated on which paper I should do this.  I have heaps of scrap paper (thanks to my endless printer output), various notepads and then some ancient quality paper notelets with matching envelopes, meant for a day when one sent hand-written letters.  Preferably with a fountain pen, but of course others writing implements are equally acceptable.

My first reaction was that I should save the notelets for ‘best’ whatever that might be.  Then I changed my mind and decided that best was now and I would combine this paper with my best handwriting and use that for my communication.

Remember handwriting classes?  If you are of my vintage, you will.  We had special books with the lines drawn in, resembling the staves on a musical score except that there were only four of them.  The top and bottom lines measured the upper and lower extremities of letters such as h or y and the two middle lines were guides for lower case letters without a riser, etc.  Each week, we practised our loops and swirls, developing our best copperplate script.  Yes, we even used pen and ink, with each desk equipped with an ink well though intially it was pencil only.

How often do you receive a letter?  I mean a proper letter – not just the mass mailout that accompanies the Christmas Card but a letter that is hand written and tells you about the life and news of the sender.  I love the feeling of opening the letterbox and finding a hand addressed envelope that indicates that perhaps there is a personal missive inside.  It is fantastic knowing that someone has actually taken the time to write in what now seems such a personal way.

I have kept many of the letters that have been sent to me over the years (proper letters I mean) and also have the letters that I wrote home to my mother during my travels and time away from home in my twenties and some other times as well.  I am so glad that she kept those.  They are a wonderful record of what I was doing, who I met, the adventures that I had and even where I was.  I can also see the evolution of my handwriting and can equate it with the person that I was at that time.

I use email all the time of course and I love the convenience and the immediacy of it.  The cheapness also.  I send many of my emails late at night when I happen to have a spare moment and when I feel that it is too late to call someone.  I am time poor and look for shortcuts and solutions that impose minimal disruption on my life.  Emails are great.  Texts not so much as I don’t have a smart phone.  Typing texts is tedious and also each small text costs me. 😦

My teenage son can hardly write, which is very sad.  Partly this is because he has dysgraphia and the physical act of converting words into written form is akin to torture for him.  He hates it and his writing looks like the standard that you might expect of an eight year old, and that is being generous.  He had minimal writing classes at school and certainly none of the lessons in cursive writing that I had.  He got through high school with a form of disjointed printing.

Young Donald sees no reason why he should try to improve his writing, as what use is handwriting anyway, and nothing that I say will convince him otherwise.  He will type or text, though the bare minimum at that.  It is sad that he will rarely know the joy of a written letter and will certainly never send any of his own.  I suspect that he is very typical of his generation.

I know that I will continue to be time-challenged, but I will try to write more letters and I have promised myself to bring the nice writing paper out from the closet and to use it.  I might even look for my fountain pen and get it in good writing condition.  Time to write hand-written letters and notes again.

Ode to Mothers

Mother’s Day is approaching, giving rise to what it all means – mothers, acknowledgement of mothers, the relationship with our mothers and then our relationship with those that we mother.

And here I have a confession to make.  Sure when I was a child, I bought my mother ludicrous ornaments and soaps and scents or whatever, and eagerly watched as she opened them.  Looking back I had totally abysmal taste.  As I grew up though I moved around a lot, and lived interstate for a long time.  I lived  a single lifestyle and although I was always family orientated, was also fairly self-absorbed.   Mother’s Day was not something that featured strongly on my horizon.  After all, it was such a commercial event, with the letterbox full  of brochures and the retail industry in your face for weeks before hand.  I didn’t want to be part of that and I was sure that my mother didn’t either.  Mother’s Day faded from focus for me and sometimes I never even registered that it had come – or gone – beyond wishing my mother a happy Mother’s Day in our regular Sunday  morning call.

Time rolled on, and then I was pregnant.  This was a long time coming, given that I was a couple of months shy of 40 at the time.   I was a whole 8 weeks pregnant by the time the next Mother’s Day came around.  To my surprised delight, a friend and his partner sent me a Mother’s Day card.  It made the who motherhood business seem so much more real.  That card was so treasured.

By the next Mothers’ Day of course I really was a mother, with an infant who was a few months old.  Parenthood was a solo venture for me, so I didn’t have a partner to express any sort of appreciation for my maternal efforts, but I had a beautiful child and we had a mutual adoration thing going. We were pretty absorbed in each other and my mother was a big help too, making the interstate trip whenever possible.  She had a special relationship with my son as well.

With each year, another Mother’s Day rolled around and passed again.  Another commercial opportunity that I chose largely to ignore, except that I was a little more aware of it now.  My friend never sent me a card again, so there wasn’t any acknowledgement of my own motherhood, beyond my own reflections.  My son and I moved back to my home state and my mother was so pleased to have us close to her.  We were pretty pleased as well and over the next years that were challenging over many fronts, Mum was always there for us.

But then she wasn’t.  Her cancer was sudden and cruel and we never made those last goodbyes, mostly because we hadn’t quite comprehended that it was really happening.  We were rather a ‘stiff upper lip’ type family anyway and weren’t open about affection and our feelings.  That last morning I reached her a few brief minutes before she slid into a coma.  I’m sure that she knew I was there during those minutes, but I never knew if she heard and understood the words that I softly whispered to her over the next hour as I massaged her hands with cream and gently massaged her scalp and face, easing the transition for us both.

As the saying goes, your never appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone.  So, it was far too late to tell her when I really acknowledged and appreciated all that my mother had not only done but sacrificed for me.  Part of this understanding came from an evolving maturity (so OK – I was a late developer) and part of it, well perhaps a lot of it came from being a mother myself and looking at life and events through totally different eyes.  I was very much aware of what I did for my child, with much of it unacknowledged and un-thanked.  I began to understand motherhood in a way that I never had before.

It’s poetic justice of course that my son, now in his late teens, gives no recognition to the significance of mother’s day.  He always sleeps in on Sundays so there is no breakfast in bed.  I may get a passing hug if I’m lucky, and perhaps he will ruffle my hair on his way out the door with his mates.

I still think that Mother’s Day is unnecessarily commercial and that making an event of one day out of the year is in a way to belittle the support our mothers give us not just through the year but through all of our lives.  I still could have shown my appreciation more demonstrably. I could l have told her how much I appreciated all that she did.

I miss you Mum.

 

 

Words in and out of favour

Do you find that some words resonate with you more than others?  There may be a context in which the word has been used that has an influencing memory for you, or perhaps you just don’t like the way it sounds.  Lugubrious is a word that is as mournful as its meaning and will never provide an emotional uplift.  Perhaps it suits you though when you are feeling blue.

I have been reflecting on words and have realised that for me, not all words are created equal.  Some I quite like and some I definitely do not.  It is by no means comprehensive but I have made a brief list of some that have achieved favoured status and some which have not.  I am sure that there will be words that you could add to the lists, based on your own perceptions.

Favoured words

Bespoke              The term comes from England where it originally referred to custom or tailor-made clothing.  In recent years the term has been applied to information technology and refers to custom services or products.  I would love to be able to afford bespoke clothing from a quality tailor.

Discombobulating           Throwing into a state of confusion.  I never use this word because I probably won’t remember all the syllables but it still fascinates me.  Use it and you will certainly throw your listeners or readers into a state of confusion so its very use would be discombobulating.  Perhaps I should practice it a bit.  Watch out for my next blog.

Pithy     Concise and to the point.  Should be more of it.

Recalcitrant        Marked by stubborn resistance to and defiance of authority or guidance.  As one who has never warmed to the direction of authority, this word describes how I often feel when being told what to do.  My son exhibits a significant level of juvenile recalcitrance.

Segue   seg-wey               The smooth transition from one topic to the next.  If tongue is pronounced tung, why isn’t segue pronounced seg?  Besides being applied to the transition of a discussion, I have heard it being used in relation to dancers, who make the transition from one style of dancing to another.  It has always sounded quite bizarre to me (though a graceful word) and perhaps that is why I like it.

Non-favoured words

Dude                Pretentious and sounds odd on the lips of young people.  Mostly used by kids who are searching for a sense of self and looking to portray a sense of coolness and one of the gang.  I’m not hung up about this but just notice that it does not sit comfortably on the lips of many users.

Frigid               This is a word that has become an instrument of abuse and denigration.  Of course I don’t like it.

Senescent        I am not ageing, I am senescent.  It has a soft sibilant sound but is a little too close to senile so I think that I will relegate this word to the back benches.

Synergistic          I was liaising with an architect once, whose conversation was peppered with this word and I developed an aversion to it.

Wellness             This is a word that surfaced in the last decade or two and is used extensively by the alternative health industry to promote skills and products – wellness as opposed to illness.  To me it smacks of chicanery and I will not patronise any business that promotes itself with this word.

Words themselves contain so much power.  They wound, they delight, they draw us together.  As a celebrant, I love the power of the words that I use in ceremonies, but I will leave that story for another blog.

The Healing Powers of a G & T

As I wrote in my previous post, Monday was the first anniversary of the death of my younger sister.  As one would expect, it was a roller coaster of a day.  I was fine until the first person said ‘And how are you?’

As I struggled to find the words that indicated I was fine, it soon became clear that I was not.  It was a bit of a wet response there for a while as a heap of bottled up emotion overwhelmed me.  It was tiring and exhausting and took me by surprise a bit.  I went up to the cemetery later than planned and it coincided with a visit by my brother-in-law and two of my sister’s colleagues.  My sister was partial to a celebratory gin and tonic, so in my backpack was a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, Tonic and several glasses.  I also took some music.

It was drizzling lightly when I arrived, but that was OK.  It was drizzling and mizzling a year ago as well.  We exchanged our greetings and admired the flowers and roses and one of them remarked that what we really needed now was a G&T.  I made her turn around and whilst they had been talking I had got myself set-up on the adjoining marble slab.  A stiff drink all round, and the mood lightened considerably.  We talked and we laughed and reminisced and admired the view and drank another, this time pouring a little on the grave as well for her benefit.  Why should she miss out on the party?  All the while, the operatic tones of Andreas Bocelli soared out across the valley.

A dear neighbour and family friend is not resting not far away, so I picked a bunch of wild flowers and rampaging freesias  (it’s that sort of cemetery) and delivered them to her grave also.  There was yet another neighbour a few plots away who had a tremendous collection of coloured pencils and used to keep me entertained for hours as a pre-schooler.  I had a chat to her as well.  All in all, it was a comforting visit.

I would not have described myself as a cemetery visitor, feeling that there was little solace in a collection of marble and tumbled headstones and faded plastic flowers.  The setting of this cemetery makes all the difference though.  It is in the Hills, and has a strong character of its own, with many unusual plantings, and different grave decorations.   It’s a companionable place and one that feels appropriate to visit.  We had a bit of a discussion about what to do with her grave, now that it has had a year to settle.  Probably it will have a surround of sandstone built with an infill of soil in order that we can plant a garden of some sort.  A bench seat will be inset at the bottom end, so that there will be somewhere to sit, besides on the adjacent marble slab.  He plot is on the side of a hill, so by the time the grave surrounds are build, the foot end will probably be raised about 60 cms to bring it up level with the head end.  The seat will be set into this elevation.

October does not sound the best of months for my family, but today is the anniversary of the death of our mother.  That was eight years ago now, so it was more a day of reflection rather than mourning.  She was always one for a coffee and cake though so when I met a friend at a beach-side cafe this morning, I had a coffee and slice of cake for mum.

It probably sounds silly, but my remaining sisters and I have been holding our breath around our father this month.  He has recently been diagnosed with asbestosis, and healthwise things have been a bit of a struggle.  There are only a few days left of the month though and in spite of the challenges, Dad is determined and stubborn.  He will be around for a while yet.

Weekend Weddings

My weddings  (I am a celebrant) went well last weekend.  The first was in an old mansion that is now used as a Youth Arts Centre.  It was gusty and windy, so the decision was made to move it inside to the central stairwell, with many of the guests gathered around the upper balcony and looking down.  Others were clustered around the bottom.  Ceremonies on stairs can be very tricky as if the photographer is positioned further down the stairs, he or she captures the double chins and those great views up your nose.

I warned the photographer about this aspect, but noticed that this was exactly what she was doing.  She stayed lower on the stairs the whole time.  She was not a professional wedding photographer but a friend of the bride and groom (B&G) whose hobby is photography.  I know that this is a big saving for B&G as they do not have to pay their friend, or if they do it is a cost-recovery amount but so often I have seen that using friends for this task leads to less-than-optimal results.  In part this is through not having appropriate equipment, and in part in not having the experience and understanding enough about positioning, framing, lighting, etc.

After the ceremony, the guests adjourned to the ballroom for nibbles and drinks while the B&G had the family photos.  There was also Bocce, quoits and some form of croquet happening outside for those who preferred more active pursuits while they passed this time away.  All in all, it was very civilised.  The bride looked stunning in an elegant slim-fitting strapless gown with a fishtail train.  The groom, who was in the armed forces, wore his dress uniform.  This was not quite in the style of Prince William, but the Aussie khaki outfit, with various badges, insignia and bits of braid.

The second ceremony was quite different.  It was in a public park on the banks of the River Torrens, and took the form of a handfasting with pagan elements.  It was not a fully fledged pagan ceremony as the bride was concerned that it may perplex her guests.  It took place within a sacred circle which I cast at the beginning of the ceremony and before B&G entered, I ceremonially washed their hands with salt water to cleanse them and wash away the burdens of their every day life so that they might focus on their promises.  I also called upon the gods and goddesses to bless their union.

Before the exchange of vows, I bound their left hands together with a length of ribbon, explaining to the guests as I did so about the ancient ritual of handfasting.  It was initially a form of betrothal and if the couple were still together a year and a day later and chose to remain in the relationship, then they were considered to be permanently married.  Before that however, either was free to leave.  A sort of cooling off period.  The vows, which were quite poetic, were exchanged while the hands were still bound.  We finished the ceremony with a honey mead ritual, involving the B&G sipping from a chalice of Liqueur Honey Mead, which is absolutely lovely.  It tastes like a mixture of chocolate, orange and honey – a form of liquid Jaffas.

This couple were arranging their wedding celebrations on a shoe string and the Bride had done all the catering.  They had taken a small gazebo down to the park and also carried a dining table down there as well.  The food was laid out on this.  On the grass, they had laid out lots of picnic blankets, and on each blanket was a picnic basket.  I think that there were named labels on each basket and inside there were plates, cutlery, glasses etc for each person who was named on the label.  The baskets looked as though they were collected from various op shops.  The wedding guests were therefore clustered around the picnic area on their blankets.

The wedding cake was a large chocolate cake, and B&G had collected a heap of pretty plates from op shops as well – the sort that afternoon tea would be served on.  This was for the cake and each guest could choose the plate that they liked and could take it home with them – a unique form of bomboniere.  A young woman was singing and playing guitar.  She was so slight and skinny but had a powerful voice.  I enjoyed listening to her for the time that I was there.

I didn’t stay too long, and unless the B&G are friends or there is good reason then I don’t stay too long.  My work is done and I don’t like to impose on the gathering.  It took ages to pack up of course as these ceremonies, with their various props and supports for different rituals are a lot of work to set up and then to dismantle again.   I was a bit tired as well and was happy to head for home where more prosaic tasks awaited like mowing the lawn.

I still have to catch up with this couple again as this was not a legal wedding ceremony that I conducted for them.  They did not submit all of their required paperwork to me before the ceremony so I could not marry them.  What I performed was a betrothal ceremony, with careful re-wording throughout.  When their paperwork has arrived from interstate, I will conduct a small private ceremony for them then.

I am off work today as I have a sore throat and laryngitis.  I shall use some of the time to work on the structure of a renewal of vows ceremony, for a couple who would also like to include pagan-influenced rituals as well.  I think that this is a twentieth anniversary, so it is good to see that some unions last the distance and presumably is still going strong.

******

A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day. (Andre Maurois)

Final Words

Aside

Working tonight on the text for a funeral ceremony that I will deliver on Friday.  Just a small family group, perhaps about eight people, unless some old army mates manage to come.  It is always a challenge to sum up a life in a few pages and to capture the essence of a person such that the mourners feel that you have done justice to their friend or relative.  Makes you consider also the measure of a life – is it what one has achieved, what one has amassed, or who one leaves behind?

Makes me wonder what I will be remembered for.  Sometimes, putting the wording together is like pulling hens’ teeth although it always works out in the end.  I will probably get up early in the morning to edit what I have written and to put the finishing touches.  I am a morning person and so write with more clarity and purpose at that time.  He was an Elvis fan, so I will finish off with ‘Return to Sender’.