Paradise Found

Paradise Found

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

excerpt from Little Gidding, T.S. Eliot

I went away for two years, to marvel at vine-hung jungles up muddy rivers, at tepuys rising like wizards fortresses out of a sea of greenery, at waterfalls so high that half the water had blown away on the wind before a drop reached the ground where I stood. I clung to mules as we descended near-vertical mountain paths in the Andes. I bedded down for the night in bus stations, in traveller’s inns that felt like army barracks, in 18th century mansions filled with antiques, and in a crash pad in New York—eight Latin Americans in one room, of whom one spoke English.

I stayed with locals in disparate settings of 18th century charm, or 18th century poverty…in a clapboard house sinking into the squishy mud on the edge of a filthy canal, in a house in the old slave quarters of a medieval city, where the young prostitutes drank and argued on the old cobblestones, and  I spent one night in a communist-style block of Cuban apartments where the water and electricity came on for a few hours each day, but every resident owned an instrument and the building twitched its hips to salsa music, morning till midnight.

Naturally, when the time came to return home, I was a little worried that life in Darwin, Australia, would seem poorer for all the places I’d been.

I needn’t have worried.

As the old cliché goes, “There’s no place like home.” Back up the creek on our houseboat, SonOfAGun, the mangroves swayed in the sea wind, and morning sunlight lay slick on green-gold water like fine olive oil. For many months I was utterly spellbound.

When Kris and I moved our boat to this spot, I loved it right off the bat: the solitude, the natural surroundings, the quality of the light, the chi of living surrounded by water. I didn’t think it was possible to love this place any more, until I came back from my wandering and found that I did.
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“Paradise Found” was made for the exhibition “Gypsies, Vagabonds, and Wild Mad Women”. I priced it to discourage anyone from buying it and, luckily, no one did. I’m glad, because I want to live with this one for a while. It’s the beginning of what I suspect may be a bunch of love letters to my home and my life.
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It’s composed of watercolours, acrylics, collaged papers (linocut, textured or painted beforehand) and a bit of colored pencil. I’ve just uploaded the image to my Society6 shop, so it’s now available as a fine art print on acid-free rag paper.

Burning the midnight sun

POLLINATE Rechargable solar lamp

I bought a POLLINATE ENERGY Rechargable solar lamp recently, after seeing it in action at a friend’s garden party. I’ve been using it every night, since, and cannot praise it enough.

I connect the lamp to its small solar panel (installed permanently on the roof of the houseboat) during the day to charge it; at night, I disconnect it from the solar panel, and can then use the lamp as a desk lamp (it comes with a stand), a hanging light, or as a handheld torch/flashlight, anywhere on the boat. It casts a warm and extremely bright light.  At it’s brightest setting (it has three: a night light setting, a regular setting you can read or cook by, and a turbo setting good enough to embroider by,) a fully-charged lamp will last 6 hours.

The boat has always been equipped with solar lights, but because they run off a large deep-cycle 12-volt battery, they have wires, and had to be permanently fixed to the ceilings; I can’t move around the boat to work, and the light coming from several feet overhead just isn’t powerful enough to do fine work by. I used to have to stop doing finicky crafts or drawing when evening came, because most LED solar lights are bluish, sickly, and flicker in a way that tires the eyes quickly.

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Since buying the Sunking Pro2 from Pollinate Energy, I have been able to stitch, write, read, paint, and bind books well into the night. I’m no longer confined to my worktable inside the cabin, but free to work anywhere on Sonofagun’s spacious deck, as well. Heck, I could take my needlework with me, camping, if I was so inclined.

Both the lamp and its solar panel are ruggedly built and virtually indestructible. The battery has a lifetime of 5 years, and the lamp comes with a 2 year warranty. I didn’t even mention the 2 USB charging ports, because I don’t have any use for them…my big solar panel and battery set-up handles that.

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And if all of that doesn’t make this lamp desirable enough, then you should know about Pollinate Energy’s mission to provide safe, clean, solar-powered light (among other things) to households in India. When I buy one Sunking Pro2 lamp, in Australia (about AUD130, with shipping), I subsidise the costs of production to make 5 solar lamps affordable for families living in the urban slums of India—so that kids don’t have to study or do their homework by the dangerous, smelly, toxic light of a kerosene lamp, and their parents can do their livelihood work in the evenings by good, bright lights. These lights save on kerosene, on carbon emissions, save eyes and lungs, and won’t start fires…

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They’re perfect, really. I recommend the Sunking Pro2 to anyone wanting a good, bright portable light…not just the odd boat or caravan dwellers and enthusiastic campers, but even anyone that currently owns a large flashlight and buys disposable batteries for it. Check out Pollinate’s website here.

And no, I was neither paid nor prompted to write this. I am only too happy to recommend good products for free, when I come upon them. 🙂

Living. Space.

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Sure, I miss traveling, miss South America, miss the Latino joie de vivre, miss speaking castellano, miss my love, miss the aquamarine magic of the Caribbean…but I have got to say:

Fuck, I love my living room…

Departure

It’s little I care what path I take,
And where it leads it’s little I care;
But out of this house, lest my heart break,
I must go, and off somewhere.

It’s little I know what’s in my heart,
What’s in my mind it’s little I know,
But there’s that in me must up and start,
And it’s little I care where my feet go.

—from Departure, Edna St. Vincent Millay

20 November 2014

Dude looks like a lady…

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I finally stopped by Cathy’s boat and asked her how she and Dude were getting along. She said she was delighted, they’re good mates now. Dude sat on deck, watching me but not making a fuss, and looked pretty contented. Then Cathy dropped a bomb:

“You know Dude is a female, don’t you?”

Oh. My. God. We never thought to look! We were told Dude was male, and accepted that without question! Suddenly, everything made more sense…the gentleness, the quietness, the cat’s docile and homey nature. I roared with laughter, looking at the poor kitty on deck, all these years she’d been misunderstood. I laughed all the way to the shore. I thought of how Kris only ever wants to have male cats, but he also says that Dude was the best-natured cat he’s ever had.
Laughed till I cried. Best joke the universe has played on us, ever. That was a good one.

Dude

spectrum birds in colourwheel treesI made a rather happy painting for a journal today…did this in the morning, and in the hours after lunch, before I went to visit a neighbour on her boat. I’m glad I got it all finished before I went, I don’t think I could paint something so happy now.

I went to have tea this afternoon on Cathy’s boat, just next to ours. Was just trying to be a bit more sociable, and spend a little time with all the folks who have been so nice to me, before I go. While there, I brought up the subject of Dude coming to stay with her, and she told me she had rather hoped I was going to bring him over when I came for tea, and had been very excited. I felt rather abashed…she has been waiting a long time now for Dude…I have been putting it off, first telling her to wait till August, then till September. Now September’s at an end, and it suddenly seemed very selfish of me to keep her hanging on for another month or two. I guess I kept hoping for ‘the right moment’ to announce itself…for when I finally felt ‘ready’ to give Dude up. I realised, sitting with her, that I will never be ready. Now is as good a time as any. So I left her boat an hour or two later, promising to come right back with the cat.

I took my time preparing a crate for him to travel in…weaving two ropes in and out of the holes so they wouldn’t slip, and preparing the loops on the ends so that I could quickly tie the lid onto the crate once the cat was inside.

I picked him up, and started to sob, feeling his silky, soft fur and plump warm body for the last time. The silly sausage was purring…he is such a docile and gentle cat. He didn’t fight when I put him in the crate, and didn’t go wild once he was sealed in. I tied the crate up, and he sat quietly inside, wondering what the game was. He didn’t start to complain until he was in the dinghy. Every plaintive meow brought another flood of tears. I rowed him over to Cathy’s boat, because I didn’t want to traumatise him with the sound of the outboard.

We got the crate aboard, and I handed a bag over with his plate, his water bowl, his biscuits, and his brush, snuffling the whole time. She waited until I had rowed away before she opened the crate up.

I had to go back a second time, with his cat litter. Dude got very agitated, and Cathy and I swapped things—she handed me back the crate and ropes, I handed her the litter—via her dinghy, so that I wouldn’t come too close to the sailboat. As I rowed away a second time, he seemed to be looking for a way to jump over the guard rails and into the water. Cathy distracted him, and then he just sat on the back deck, watching me row away. Since I got back on board, i have tried not to look out the window at her boat…I don’t want to see him looking across the water. I think I’ll sob all night, tonight.

A part of me feels breathless…I surprised myself by just up and doing what had to be done, and it’s only starting to sink in now that Dude is not with me. I’ll miss his purring by my shoulder in bed, the adorable way he likes to sleep with his head high up on a pillow like a person, the considerate way he has learned to ‘massage’ and claw at the bedclothes just next to me, and not into my arm or head, and the sight of him stretched lazily out on the carpet at my feet.

I’ve been reduced to a leaky, snuffling mess. Cats, of course, are not like humans, they are practical and resilient creatures that live every moment fully in the present. He is not suffering the way I am suffering. He’ll be a bit put out, and he’ll look for me and the boat he used to live on, for some time. But on the whole he will settle into his new life with his new human, I think, much faster than I will get used to living without him.

I have got another two months of living here to get through, and my biggest fear is that Dude will one day try to swim across if he sees me on board. I hope, hope, hope he stays at his new home, and that the sight of me coming or going doesn’t make things difficult for Cathy.

This is just one of several tearful separations coming up…October is going to be a weepy, emotional, difficult month. Lots of advice about following your dreams will mention the pulling up of metaphorical anchors…it sounds romantic, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. At least, not when the other end of every anchor chain is fastened firmly to the center of your heart.