aboard the M/V sonofagun, books + poetry, Inspirations, life


giant dragonfly

The dragonfly at rest on the doorbell—
too weak to ring and glad of it,
but well mannered and cautious,
thinking it best to observe us quietly
before flying in, and who knows if he will find
the way out? Cautious of traps, this one.
A winged cross, plain, the body straight
as a thermometer, the old glass kind
that could kill us with mercury if our teeth
did not respect its brittle body. Slim as an eel
but a solitary glider, a pilot without bombs
or weapons, and wings clear and small as a wish
to see over our heads, to see the whole picture.
And when our gaze grazes over it and moves on,
the dragonfly changes its clothes,
sheds its old skin, shriveled like laundry,
and steps forth, polished black, with two
circles buttoned like epaulettes taking the last space
at the edge of its eyes.

The Vanity of The Dragonfly, by Nancy Willard

Update: Yes, it’s real, I found it half-drowned in a rainwater collecting drum the night before. I took it out and set it in a pot plant for the night, but by morning it was dead. It was easy to find and identify, simply by Googling “large dragonfly”. It is a member of the dragonfly family Aeshnidae, called ‘Darners’ in English. This one is Epiaeschna heros, called a Swamp Darner in English. It occurs, as a native taxon, in multiple nations. In many places in the U.S. it is classified as vulnerable, in some states it is ‘imperiled’ or ‘critically imperiled’.

What I find most intriguing about this particular dragonfly is that it has the markings and colouring found on Darners in North America. The Australian Swamp Darner, Austroaeschna parvistigma, is black and dull-coloured. I understand that this family of dragonflies is migratory, though it is hard to believe that my nighttime visitor came from quite that far away!

aboard the M/V sonofagun, Darwin, Australia, life

Happiness is an unmade bed

dude in red egyptian cotton 2

On my days off, our pussycat, Dude, crawls into bed as soon as Kris gets up…4:30 a.m. on work days. Dude likes to sleep on Kris’ pillow (like many single pets, he thinks he’s human) beside me. When I get up a little later I don’t have the heart to disturb the warm ball of golden fluff lying so still and contented in our bed, and so let him be. The virtues of a neatly made bed are overrated, and I would much rather enjoy the sight of a small lion with its head on a pillow, dreaming a small lion’s untroubled dreams.

As February gives way to March, and time rills on irrevocably, I have been taking more photographs, doing more sketches, and spending more pampering time with Dude, in general. I am making the most of what time is left before we have to say goodbye to this sweet-tempered and gentle cat…the best cat we’ve ever had.

Kris and I have got a big 5-year trip looming…by sailboat to South Africa, and then to South America…that we’ve been planning and preparing for, for years. We’re nearly ready and when we go in 9 months’ time, we won’t be able to take Dude with us (the good news is that a lovely older lady has already asked to take him, so he’ll go straight to a loving home) For one thing, the boat’s not cat-safe…we would probably lose him during an ocean passage; secondly, if he does survive all of South Africa, the Amazon, the Caribbean, and return with us, Australia’s draconian quarantine laws wouldn’t allow him back into the country.

The trip, of course, will mean leaving so much more than Dude behind. But I am focusing and steeling myself for this little one, I think, as practice for the bigger partings to come. If such a tearing apart can be practiced.

2014 is shaping up to look like The Year of Letting Go. It’s a hard lesson, and doesn’t ever seem to get easier with each loss or loosening.

aboard the M/V sonofagun, life

shooting sea birds

shooting terns

Some terns, hunting slivers of silver fish in the rough waters of the harbour. They wheeled for hours, diving close by my window in the great gusting winds of a tropical depression. Grey, grey day, though there are patches of blue sky here and there…and blue is a color I haven’t seen in the sky for over a week!




I am holed-up indoors, a little sun-deprived but otherwise busy…mind swarming with ideas and projects…strange and lush images rising in my head like pop-up worlds…godlike creatures and wise old demons parading by, arm-in-arm, to the braying of a hurdy-gurdy orchestra.

Going deeper into my own weirdness these past weeks, unlocking cage doors and setting free the menagerie…

Listening as the distant howling draws nearer…

Getting ready to howl back…maybe even join them.

aboard the M/V sonofagun, craftiness, life, paints and pens

Throwing stones

rainbows on a clotheslineKris has been marbling all day. The clotheslines crisscrossing our deck are hung with drying pieces of rainbow.

the size


first this way...

then that way

a non-pareil

The prints are a long way from perfect, and professional marblers would reject most of the prints he did today. He is still struggling with getting the variables—methyl cellulose size, acrylic paints, surfactant, alum mordant in the fabric—to work right.

Still, there are patches here and there of glorious detail and oh my word, some great colors.

Kris will be opening a one-day pop-up marbling shop and exhibition next month. These printed canvases will be turned into covers for his hand-bound journals.

my favorite


aboard the M/V sonofagun, embroidery and textiles, stuff i've made

Carpe diem…

My four day weekends have been reinstated, so there will be a little bit more crafting and other sorts of making posts on my blog, again. Yippee! I really missed my half-week of personal space.

stalking and stalking

I got up bright and early this morning, limped into the kitchen (the boat is still careened against the side of the Dinah Beach Yacht Club’s wharf, though I have gotten used to walking on a slope and feeling as though one leg is a foot shorter than the other) and made a cup of precariously tilting coffee. The tide was out and a few feet away from the back platform there was this egret stalking finger-sized fish in the shallows. It was an unusual point of view, for me, because we are rarely high-and-dry on a mud flat (thank god!) so I just had to take a picture. Bear with these occasional humdrum nature shots.

Later in the day I did the prep work for a new embroidery. There’s a Members’ Show coming up at Tactile Arts (that’s our local Craft Council Center) in November, and the theme is “Text”. No idea what I will finally put into the show, but I really want to use stitch and thought I’d get warmed to the theme by making an inspirational banner.

The fabric—some kind of valance— is the sister piece of the embroidery, Morir es descansar, and I found the pair at a Red Cross op-shop many years ago:

For the second piece I am using a variation on the imperative “Carpe diem.” So here’s the process I used to transfer the letters to the fabric…and it was much quicker this time than the last valance I embroidered! I flipped the words and then printed them out on regular printer paper. Trimmed around the words, and then roughly basted the pieces of paper to the wrong side of the valance.

I taped the valance to a window, with the paper pieces towards the glass, and drew what I could see of the design onto the fabric using a soft colored pencil (Derwent Inktense, in this case)

Here’s how the design looked after I removed the basting threads and the printed paper words. Because Derwent Inktense is water-soluble, I’m going to have to be very careful when I stitch the letters not to get my sweaty hands all over the drawing and smudge it. I wonder if a spray fixative would work on this the way it works on paper? I might try that, though I don’t want to stiffen the fabric surface, so I’ll test the spray on some other fabric, first. So far so good…

But there has to be a “and then I fucked it all up” part to every process, doesn’t there?

Here’s mine. And then I fucked it all up by trying to use dimensional paint on the first letter (was going to do the whole sentence, but after I saw what I had done on the ‘C’ I dropped the plan). My reasoning? The raised paint would save me from having to do all the padding of my satin stitches by hand, with needle and thread. Also thought maybe the copper coloring would give added interest when stitched over with satin stitches. AND I don’t know why, but metallic dimensional paint always seems like a good idea to me…it’s like I’m dying to use the stuff, but it never turns out the way I’d hoped. You’d think I would learn after a few spectacular failures, but I haven’t. I keep trying to fit this paint into projects.

Not ruined, I can fix it, but now I’m going to have to work harder at covering this mess up with very close, even, careful stitches. Gah.

Ich bin ein idiot, sometimes.

aboard the M/V sonofagun, blogging, life

no internet :(

My mobile broadband dongle up and died on me some time ago…and I wasted a few days trying to get it fixed, looking for a new battery, and so on. Nothing has worked, so I’ll have to buy a new one tomorrow. Apologies for just suddenly ‘dropping out’ of blogging, very frustrating!

Life goes on, though, aboard the MV SonOfAGun…
ginger flower season

It’s ginger flower season, and I was told to take as many as I wanted…

Only good manners and a small bicycle basket prevented me from taking several armfuls of these beauties home.

aboard the M/V sonofagun, art + design, bookbinding, Inspirations, stuff i've made

Five beasts a week…


“There is a kind of lazy pleasure in useless and out-of-the-way erudition.”

Jorge Luis Borges, from The Book of Imaginary Beings


Kris is posting photos on his blog of each and every one of the hand-illustrated mythical beasts in his unique and personal bestiary, Teratologus.

I’m glad he’s finally doing this…there are over 200 beasts in it, and he has painted or drawn them all, as well as compiled as much information as he could about them (and not just from the internet, which is full of incredibly misleading, misinformed, copy-and-paste-from-each-other style research!) Because of the impossibility of reproducing this book with its full-color pages, it can only ever be shared this way. At least a few more people get to see these illustrations…until now it’s been a kind of household treasure that only a handful of friends have ever had the chance to browse.

It was a labor of love for him for at least 15 years…something that he did out of passion, with no other motives or promise of any sort of reward beyond the old-fashioned joys of research and scholarship, and the pleasure of imagining and illustrating each character.

aboard the M/V sonofagun, Darwin, Australia, life

Surrounded by media whores…

monday interview merged

Monday, 25 February, 2013: Dude and Kris pose together on the back deck of our boat for a photograph taken by Daniel Hartley-Allen, to illustrate a full page interview that was conducted and written up by Alison Bevege, and which appeared in  the NT News’ last Monday Interview section. No promises, but I think this is the last of Kris’ capers in the media for a while, they seemed to be coming fast and furious for a while, there…but we’re lying low from hereon, nose to the grindstone, pulling our heads in, and everything interesting that can possibly be said has been said, now, anyway.

Really, the cat makes the picture…you can imagine what an insufferable princess Dude’s become since he appeared in the paper. It’s gone to his head. :)

Thanks to Alison, for a fast-paced, action-packed write up; and to Dan, for the awesome photo. XX Nat

P.S. Kris’ fourth and last book, Out of Census, was printed in Indonesia late last year; it’s about his escape from Czechoslovakia, and his vagabonding around Europe and India. We only have a few hundred copies of it. If it sounds like something you might enjoy, you can get hold of a copy via Kris’ website, monsoon dervish.