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Thursday, 28 May 2015

Trees and more trees

A fun fact about me: In years past my nickname was TinaTrees, because I helped make a life size tree for a local amateur theatre production of Camelot.  I wasn't the only one working on it but somehow I became associated with it in people's minds. It turned into a major thing, making that tree. King Arthur had to be able to climb around in it, and Merlin had to jump out of a hollow in it with a flash of fire, and yet it still had to be able to be wheeled out at the scene change. I worked backstage on that production too and it was the best fun!  We out the back in the dark all sang our heads off along with the onstage chorus through the whole thing, and I think I cried every night at the scene where Arthur finds out about Guinevere and Lancelot, and laughed every night at the jokes too.  It was a wonderful production. 

Anyway, it's funny that I got that nickname for making a fake tree when I love real trees so much, and yet they didn't know that at the time.  :)

It has been a very tree-y week here. First up, this is the view across our neighbour's place from our north fence-line. I have a love-hate thing going with that pink grass. It is so pretty especially when the light shines through it, but it came in with those little Liquidambers there, I think, and man is it invasive!  Every year the patch gets bigger and it seems to keep seeding for the whole of Autumn/Winter/Spring.  I am going to have to fight hard to keep it off our land, but it hasn't yet quite made it to the fenceline, so for now I just look at it and glory, and worry at the same time.  :)   

Autumn is tree planting time here.  It gives the babies time to establish their roots ready for the dry summers.  Our local Shire does a very commendable and well-organised programme to help people restore the local native canopy and understory.  Each year people register and get given seedlings, and volunteers help to hand them out.  Mum and I signed up to help for one morning this year.

Look at all these lovely babies waiting to go to their new homes!
That's mum there in the second picture, with the volunteer organiser, Jolene.  I tell you what, if you want to meet the nicest and best people in your community, go volunteer at something.  Volunteers rock!

Here are some babies of my favorite tree, the Jarrah. Don't worry babies, soon you will be in the ground and able to thrive and hopefully grow into giants!

And there's me, since I looked unusually neat that day and should get a record of it.  :)

Tree news from Moy-Mel isn't all good.  The Queen Jarrah looks terrible after the Cockatoos came in and savaged her for her gumnuts.  There have been a lot of fires this year and food stocks are lowered due to this, so I think the trees that they can still use for food are taking more of a beating than usual.  I wish they wouldn't bite off all the branch tips as they feed.  They have balded her! I'm not sure she will recover fully from this.  She was already struggling both physically and in spirit.  This is not a happy tree.
In the foreground there is our little gift Liquidamber from mum, which has made it through its first year. It is going to be a very good one for colour!

In other more cheerful news, I got a photo of the amazing beehive we currently have up there.  They are settled on the outside of this tall Marri tree.  Can you see the combs growing down the tree, and the big bunch of bees at the bottom?  I was amazed.

The spot they have nested in is actually a scar from Marri canker, another thing our local trees are facing. Can you see the second big scar further down the trunk? It is natural to them, but with climate change the added stresses are letting this fungus beat the trees and we have no cure for it.   Depressing.  I sometimes wonder how my beloved Jarrah/Marri dryland forest will look in twenty years time, or if it will exist at all.

And here is smiley Rosie to cheer me up.

And here are mum and I out planting with the Friends of Black Cockatoo Reserve group.  That is Flossy I have there, who belongs to another member.  Even if I don't take my own dogs I end up getting down and doggy!  She is a total sweetheart and so soft to pat.

We have been on another controlled burn since my last newsy post. A night one this time.  I love this one of Andrew.
I guess you might wonder why someone who loves trees as much as I do might be willing to set fire to them.  Well, I stopped my car on the way home the other day to photograph this scene only a kilometre or so away from our cottage.
This is where a huge fire went through a little over a year ago.  Those trees are nearly all dead.  Aussie trees tend to be very fire proof, but not when the fire is as fierce as this one was.  Over 40 homes were burned down, and many of the trees will not recover.  And that is why I am willing to light low temperature fires that we control and that the trees are quite capable of recovering from.

And at home, here are my very own babies for this year, awaiting their chance to go into the ground and become trees too. The cycle of life goes on!

While the kitty sleeps on and dreams of summer... 


Sunday, 24 May 2015

Why Paganism?

My first answer to that was, "What the heck else could it have been?"  I was Pagan long before I knew such a thing existed.

I can't speak for all Pagans because we tend to be as varied and colourful as the autumn leaves on a Maple tree. 

Pagans must by nature be fairly independent thinkers, since the road to being a Pagan is not generally an easy or locally common one.  I just never connected to Christianity despite growing up going to Sunday School and such.  In those days, those long long ago days when I was young, Christianity was pretty much the only thing going, so I chose to go with nothing instead, but all the time I thought I had no religion, I was seeing divinity all around me in the oceans and the trees and the animals and the sky.
Then I moved into a share house with some Wiccans, and oh boy, did that open my eyes to a knew world!  Wicca didn't sit quite right with me either. I am more of a polytheist than a dualist, but I did love the focus on the wonderfulness of nature, of respect for our planet, and on the Feminine aspect to Deity.  I liked the way personal responsibility for being a good person was emphasized. I will be eternally grateful to those people for opening my world up like that.   Plus, they were very good fun to be around as well.  Pagans often have a good sense of humour and get a lot of joy out of life.  Also they like to dance a lot.

Generally not like this though.  :)

There are a lot of definitions for what sort of a Pagan one is.  I think I might be a pantheistic polytheistic universalist.  Something like that.  I speak to certain deities and guides who I seek out or who seek me out.  I keep my mind open as to what these deities really are.  They might really be beings from another plane. They might be my subconscious or my higher self, or emissaries from a Universal Mind that I can never comprehend. 

 Brigid by Susan Falcon-hargraves.

I don't mind not really knowing.  As the Taoists say, "The Tao which can be known is not the Tao."  Meaning that we really can't grasp the immensity of our universe and the spirit that rises within.  My deities and guides give me good advice and support in times of need.  They encourage me to stand in my own power and on my own honour. They don't ask of me anything that is outside my personal set of ethics, and as Odin once reminded me, even if he did ask something of me that was outside my moral code, I wouldn't do it.  Pagan gods vary in their formality, but Odin at least likes a bit of honest repartee and independence in his womenfolk.  :)

Image taken from here.

I do tend to think there is something more, some consciousness perhaps that makes up and is made up of the whole universe and everything in it.  How it came to be in order to make all this, both life and all the other wonders that make up our existence, well, I have no inkling, but I think some part of me will go back there one day to continue on the cycle of all that is, and then I will know again.

Image taken by Astronomer, Hakon Dahle.

Anyway, beyond deity, guides, and that ineffable Everything, I also acknowledge the divinity of all that is around me, (though I struggle with seeing it in some humans) and I talk to spirits in trees and rocks and you name it.  They haven't put me away yet.  :)  One day maybe I will be able to interact with them just like Lily does in Land of Fire, but in the meantime I am happy with my quiet meditation times connected to nature.

 Clear as mud maybe, but anyway, that's why Paganism. 

Friday, 22 May 2015

My favorite books: Sheri S Tepper's True Game series.

There are actually three trilogies in this series of books.  I can't quite remember which one of the first two trilogies was the lucky find by my sister, Jen, in a secondhand book store that got me started on Sheri's books, but I now have a full couple of bookshelves of them, every one she ever wrote, even ones she published under different names, in the genres of fantasy/scifi, mystery and even horror.  

I love them all, but I have a special fondness for the books set in the lands of The True Game. This is the omnibus of the first three books.

It's a world where a lot of the people are born to possess strange talents, though some grow up to have none and become the pawns of those with the power.  Their society revolves around rules of engagement that have evolved into elaborate rituals, with the most powerful players pulling together other talented gamesmen to play at wars.  So many rules, but they are broken often. It may be called a Game, but it is deadly for many. 

Peter has grown up an orphan in a school town, where the young are supposed to be protected from the dangers of the machinations that go on elsewhere.  He is waiting to grow old enough to find out what his power might be, or if he will ever have one. He thinks he is a nobody, but powerful people are starting to weave him into their plots, and at first he has no idea why.  The first three books follow Peter's discovery of his talent, and the adventures that follow.         
The second trilogy is about Mavin Manyshaped.  She has the talent of shape-shifting into pretty much anything she likes, a rare gift even in this land of wonder.   I think this is my favorite cover of all the varied styles these books have worn over their years.

Mavin's story is partly involved in the lands of the true game, but the middle book takes her far off to another land, to a strange society living in a deep cavern.  I think, of all the nine separate books, this middle one is my favorite.

It stands alone as a fantastic story.  I love Mavin Manyshaped.  She is so opinionated and strong, and oh, to have a talent like that!  What a wonder it would be!  The trilogy itself takes us further along the story from where Peter's trilogy ends.  If you buy it as an omnibus, it comes as The Chronicles of Mavin Manyshaped. 

The third series of books are the Jinian Trilogy.  Jinian has an interesting start to life in the lands of The True Game, but she has the fortitude to go on and become a force for good.  She has a talent that needs to be a surprise if you are to read it, but it's one I myself would love to have, even more than that of shape-shifting!

This is the middle book of the three, but I think the first one, Jinian Footseer, is my favorite. This series ties together all that we have learned or suspected from the first two, mostly seen from the point of view of this third character, Jinian.  I love Jinian too.  She is wise beyond her years and rather as I imagine Sheri S Tepper was when young, or perhaps how she wished she had been.  :)

Sheri has this amazing knack for building wonderful characters, but in my opinion she is also unmatched for world-building.  These books begin with a planet of strange wonder in which humans are the relative newcomers, but as the series goes on, we learn more and more about this alien land, and as ever, she has a gentle environmental message woven into the books:  Learn to respect and work within the bounds of your planet's needs, or risk losing all.  Considering these were written back in the early to mid eighties, they are farsighted indeed.

Sheri loves animals too, and it shines through all her works. Thank you, Sheri!  I will never write like you because I don't have your complexity of mind or life experience, but oh I do wish I could!

If you've ever enjoyed a fantasy book or even wondered if you would, I'll guarantee that The Lands of the True Game would be a very good place for you  to visit!  Since she has written 35 books, there are plenty more to explore after that!

If you are more of a mystery fan, try her Shirley McClintock mystery series, written as B. J. Oliphant, or her Jason Lynx mysteries, written under the name of A. J. Orde. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Latest news from May, involving baby pics, Fireside Labbies and more.

This morning mum was looking at Photos when I went over to say hello, and I said I'd scan a few for her.

How darling is this pic of her with my baby sister Jenny?

She said I looked like a kewpie doll as a baby. I have no idea why she said that!  :D
 I still have these ears!

This is me at seven on my first pony, Pippi.  He was ex-riding school and way smarter than me.  We look like we're going somewhere in this pic but actually I spent most of my time trying to stop him eating grass, sometimes to the point where I would be pulling so hard I would slide right down his neck and fall off over his head.  He never batted an eyelash, just went on chomping!  If only we'd known then about grazing reins, I'd have had him beaten.  :)

This was taken in the wheatbelt town of Mukinbudin (Muck-In-Boo-Din, known by the locals as Muka) where we lived for two years while my da got his permanent residency as a teacher.  He was at the high school teaching Manual Arts, and mum was at the primary school teaching there. We had a lot of freedom as kids in that small town.  It was lovely if rugged countryside.  Used to going barefoot a lot, the double gee prickles (caltrops) were a torment until we developed hard, leathery feet!

I still remember my poor sister Jenny, only five, crying, "I hate those double geesus!" when she got another foot full of them on first arriving. Our first Christmas there, I got a two wheeler bicycle, training wheels and all, and man did I cry when I wobbled off down the street on my first ride and the tyres were both flat within metres.  :D

We've had stormy weather here the last few days, which we love, and plenty of rain, which we love even more.  Mum's maple is looking a bit battered now but on Thursday it looked like this.  It's the best colour it has ever had!

I saw our baby Magpie the other day. Had been a bit worried as hadn't seen her for a while, but there she is.  You can see she looks more like a grown up now, but her breast is still baby-grey.  I call her 'her' but really we won't know if she is a boy or girl until the feathers of her back either go white (boy) or stay mottled black and white (girl or immature). 
Not a great photo, I know, but she is more wary than her mother, who is looking fantastic now she is over the stress of child-rearing.  I know it is mama because she is the tamest of the family and she has a slight limp.
Cyrano is very happy that the lowering sun has started slanting in onto his bed by my computer again.  :)
Sokka the doll, pattern by Becky Ann Smith is all finished and ready to send off to his new home. I don't have to send him just yet though! I can enjoy him a little longer yet.

Yesterday some lovely friends of ours, that we haven't seen for a decade at least, made the trek up to the hills to see us.  Amazing how time swept away and it was like we'd been together a week ago, not a decade ago. Gavin has been so supportive of my writing journey (and is a fellow spiralling mind to talk interesting thoughts of all kinds over with) and his wife Julie is just an all-around gorgeous human being.  It was so lovely to spend time with them!

I know we all complain about Facebook, but it really has helped me keep in touch with old friends like Gav and Jules, despite my years of illness. For those who are kept close to home for various reasons, life can become very isolated, and Facebook and the internet in general can be a true blessing.  It's no substitute for a hug, but it helps!

I got to show them my books, all lined up in a row on our book shelves.  Always the artist, I rather fancied the spines forming a rainbow of colours, so that's what I designed them to do.  Wonder what the next spine colour will be?

We went out with the Volunteer Fire Brigade again on Friday night. It was our first night-time fuel reduction burn.  Must get Andrew to take a pic of me so I can prove I was there getting dirty too!  In the meantime, here he is. I like the effect of the fire, flash and reflective gear.

The home fire has been burning too.  We lit it for the first time in six months, and it took Rosie and Tuppence mere minutes to get settled in front of it. They do love a cosy fire.

I hope things are cosy round your way as well, and that good friends and interesting things to do are both abundant in your life!


Friday, 15 May 2015

Dogs of My High Pack: Tam Part Two

Here is Part one if you'd like to read that first. Here's my Buffy story if you'd like to read that too.

Oh boy have I been having fun finding photos!  I get a little bit sad here and there but then I find another one that makes me smile and glad Tam was in our lives.  She was such a character!

You can see in these two pics how much her fur on her face changed as she got older.  For some reason GWP puppies have a fuzzy bit on top of their nose, but as they mature all the fur ends up in their beard.   

She never really loved water as much as Buffy or your average Lab, but we did teach her to swim by swimming ourselves and coaxing her in, and if there were ducks to chase, she would go in anywhere.  Also, she always loved to cool her tummy in a nice muddy spot.

When Sally came to join our family as a 10 month old rehome, both Tam and Buffy loved her to bits and it seemed to help their own relationship too.  A happy Goldie in the house could make anyone more cheerful.  :)  I'll talk about Sally another time. It is a bit of a sad story.
Tam always wanted the next thing to happen.  I know they say dogs are happy in the moment but that wasn't true of Tam. With her it was always, "When is it dinner?"  "When are we walking?"  "What fun thing can we do next?"  She loved to be in the car and off somewhere. 

She loved social events where she could get lots of attention...

and beg for treats...

Once Rosie joined the family, we were once more five everywhere we went.  Buffy played with Rosie more than Tam did, because Tam was a bit annoyed that she had to share the love even more, but she was never mean to puppy Rosie.   

I was happy with more doggy company.  For me as far as dogs go, the more the merrier.  Luckily I draw the line at three, but I wouldn't, oh I wouldn't, if I didn't control myself.  I am happiest in a pack, even in a pack of dogs with demon red eyes.   :)

This is my all time fave pic of the three dogs together.   

Tam had to share a lot of the attention in those days. Andyroo and I had three dogs, mum had three dogs, and my sis had two, so family events were rather doggy! (And we loved it!) 

From left to right there are, in front, Rosie, Kelly, Jock, Buffy, and Kate, and the three behind are Tess, Freyja and Tam. All looking at a ball!

Tam still got the ball as much as she could.  She was a ball fiend all her life.  

As she got older she got quite woolly!
But she started to feel the heat in summer so we took to clipping her just for the hot months.  She looked like a Schnauzer!  It always a gave her a new lease of life and she'd be like a puppy again.

And of course she got painted quite a lot! This is the face you get if you tie a dog to the table leg to paint them: 

Unlike Buffy, Tam did age a lot as she got older. Her front feet bothered her, and then her back as well. We managed it as well as we could, but in the end we had to let her go. I think this is one of the last photos we have of her.  She looks a bit like a salty old sea-dog here but actually she was still as cheerful, noisy, grumpy, opinionated and snuggly as ever, it was her body that let her down. I do wonder if she too had Lyme.  She got tick bites that same day as Andrew and I. Perhaps that is what gave her the arthritis.  We'll never know.

 I like best to think of her as she was for all those years, full of life, fun and noise!

Goodbye Tammy, we will snuggle again one day!