Good days

“There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading — that is a good life.”

—Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

weekend

I spent last payday’s wages on books…I went a little crazy, online.

I ordered back issues of the literary journal Granta, collected works by Graham Greene and a novel by William Faulkner. I snapped up some short story collections of Latin American writers, in Spanish. I took out two literary magazine subscriptions: Overland, and The Lifted Brow. I impulsively put Taschen’s massive full-colour art books of Egon Schiele and of Peter Beard, in my shopping cart, and paid for them with my eyes half-shut, and without looking at what the total came to. Then I ordered Dan Eldon’s The Journey Is The Destination, because he was influenced by Peter Beard.

Finally, and already made extremely uncomfortable by this binge of book-buying, I threw the last of my sensibility (and money) to the wind and bought the out-of-print, hard-to-find monograph produced in Germany of the works of Expressionist artist Jeanne Mammen. She was an amazing painter, and so little is known of her…apart from this one monograph of her work, there are no books, illustrated or otherwise, about her.

I know what you’re thinking: did I rob a bank…or am I printing the money at home? This sounds like the online shopping spree of a person with lots of disposable income, but I’m actually just a salesgirl in a shop, I work three days a week, and I send a third of my income to help an elderly parent.

The decision to enrich my life with books means that I give up other things. For the last four days I have lived on pots of coffee and boiled spaghetti with salt and garlic—which is the only thing that I have on my boat— because I can’t afford to go grocery shopping for a week or two.

Do I care? Not really. I love elaborate cooking, and among my friends I am known as a bit of a foodie. Just a bit. But I love books. I love them first. I love them more. If I were to be completely practical and honest about things, food is ultimately just fuel for the body to run on. (My foodie friends will have heart attacks when they read this blasphemy). I could have a whole Instagram account dedicated to what I eat, but can I tell the difference between a five dollar meat pie and a 70 dollar three-course dinner, in the…um…at the…end? LOL

Besides, we all eat too much, these days, so that a few days off food won’t hurt. I don’t mind eating salted chickpeas out of the can with a spoon as my one meal of the day, if it’s because I have just bought some fabulous books on art, or literature.

I found that I didn’t really want to eat, these past four days, anyway. I was lost between the pages of my books—some of which have started to arrive from the booksellers—and wasn’t hungry for anything but beautiful prose and inspiration.

 

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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.