Well in my mind’s eye of course!
It’s a busy and overflowing mind. One which races with images, memories and voices, sounds, tastes and smells. One that holds hundreds of lists. One that plots out countless plans, dreams and conversations. One that sometimes gets lost with longing for what I miss, rather than make the most of what I have.
Let me tell you, quietening this mind at night can be a challenge.
But every now and then, it makes wonderful connections. Connections that draw the here and now towards the dearly held images and memories. In a piece of floral fabric I see the curtains that once hung in Nanny and Grandad’s spare bedroom, or the covers of cushions on the their porch chairs. Holding a vintage jug in an opshop reminds me of the jug Nanny served gravy in and I’m taken straight back to a giggly Christmas dinner where Aunty Jackie hoarded the custard, in its saucepan, on her lap. In a dear little baby’s cardigan, I think of my old Nanny Dougall and her incredible attention to detail. A jaunty children’s print takes me back to the family room of my childhood and I picture my Mum at the sewing machine, stitching up matching dresses for my sister and I. Just the other day – a grey, drizzly, cold and lonely day – I found a vintage children’s beach towel that I swear Aunty Anne kept in her linen cupboard in the 1970s for when all the cousins came for the summer. When I bring these things home to Bootville – when I add that fabric to a quilt, or stitch another piece into a skirt, when I serve Julian’s gravy in that jug, and fold that beach towel into a cushion cover, it feels so good. My stitches and the time I devote to them, pull the web of my life closer and firmer, making it into a beautiful pattern that I can pull out and enjoy.
These poignant words, from the talented writer, knitter and sewist at Needle and Spindle (found via the lovely Kate Davies), sum it up perfectly …
“Hand made items preserve time in the same way that fruit is preserved as jam, not as the unchanged strawberry or plum fresh plucked, but as something cooked and processed to preserve the taste of summer. Hand made items embody both the hours of making (time) and memories and feelings of people (the times) within the construction of the object…a true cultural artefact.”
Isn’t that so lovely! And as batty as it might sound, it’s exactly what I felt when I found this gorgeous sock pattern, last Friday night, after coming back to Melbourne from my week’s trip to Brisbane to help care for family. Those rich shades of green and blue, with their lovely straight lines and ordered branches/leaves, reminded me so much of the Norfolk Pines of Rainbow Bay, standing tall, elegant and timeless against the magnificent blue of the ocean, the brilliance of the sunlit sky, and the smudgy mist of the hinterland. Sitting on the sofa in cold Melbourne, so far away, these socks made me feel closer to that which I love, and I knew I had to find me some wool and get knitting!
I had spent Thursday afternoon at Rainbow Bay, with Mum, Aunty Anne and Aunty Cate. In the very small and southern corner of Queensland, where it meets New South Wales. Where I spent hundreds of weekends and summers as a child, a teenager, then as a mum with her own little girl. Oh it was so lovely.
We visited the Dbar cafe for lunch …
walked the cliff top path remembering the ships sunk off the coast of Australia during WW2 …
stopped at the rail and peered down into the rollings waves, hoping for surfing dolphins …
followed the trail down the steep cliff to the tiny cove with its “frog”…
passed the old porpoise pools where the crazy folk stand out on the Point Danger rocks – Uncle Keith always declared every 7th wave would wash any fool who was standing there straight off – put us off for life …
Round to the surf life saving club – where my favourite beer billboard “From where you’d rather be” now adorns the clubhouse!
… and down to the water’s edge …
Mum sat under the Norfolk Pines (just saying now, when we have our land in the Bega valley, I am planting a line of Norfolk Pines) – not the Pandanus ’cause they were heavy with their drupe (that’s the word for their huge heavy fruit – you learn something new everyday, huh)
and I reckon had one of them fallen on her head she’d have known about it – and watched as Aunty Anne, Aunty Cate and I had a lovely long swim.
Oh, it was heaven.
(I wonder if one of these little people standing “at ease” is Grandad!)
Then we hopped back in the car and drove up the hill to the little old school Grandad attended as a wee lad – he tells us all the time about sitting in the hot classroom with the boring school teachers looking north down to Kirra and longing to run away and go for a swim, then south up to Greenmount where he knew the Boicke brothers would be – one sitting on top of the hill watching for the shoals of fish, the rest in the pub down below.
This small corner has barely changed in 30 years. There’s always combi vans parked alongside the park, their backs stuffed with mattresses and cheerful towels draped here and there to dry. There’s always families with tired sandy children, and mums and dads with their arms full of towels and boards and umbrellas. There’s always older folk walking slowly along the paths, looking out at the magnificent view, stopping now and then to sit on the park benches that are shaped like old wooden surboards. There’s always teenage girls strutting along in their bikinis, and teenage boys with their board shorts and rashies, their surfboards tucked under their arms, their faces smeared with zinc. The air is filled with the lovely roar of the ocean, and the occasional shriek of the seagulls. And there’s that smell of salt and coconut oil. Yes, coconut oil!
Isn’t that wonderful? That time-stands-still quality. Oh it melts my heart. The joy is almost overwhelming and I am so very grateful for every moment I am there, filling my soul, replenishing my mind’s eye.
So when I gathered my supplies today – my pattern written by a Londoner, based on a plant that grows in Germany, knit in wool that came from Peru – and headed out into my sunlit, autumn Melbourne garden – that was a full 13 degrees celsius cooler than I had been last Thursday at Rainbow Bay – in a strange but lovely way, all those sights and sounds and stories and happiness met me there in the little green and blue stitches I made on the thinnest needles I’ve ever knit with.
(Nanny’s old wool winder)
And I dream that when I pull these socks on – hopefully before winter’s through! – I will know they belong to me because I’ll be wearing a little bit of Rainbow.