Letters from America These letters are my glamorous aunt’s posts on her adventures and her life and times as a ♦ mature Sydney escort ♦
Sunday 26 January 2020
I can’t write much about the fires: the volunteers, climate change, the failure of political leadership and will, the animals, the forests. And it’s beyond me to do an “I will donate X% of my earnings in January” thing (which a lot of generous escorts are announcing on social media), I just don’t have “the spoons” as they say.
I have deep feelings of loss and I can’t say a lot about anything.
Here is a photo of the beautiful spotted gum forest on the South Coast – it will have been incinerated. I don’t think I can get myself to visit again any time soon.
I spent many wonderful holidays on the South Coast where my grandparents bought a hobby farm when they retired.
Here are links to a couple of small wildlife rescue operations local to my new home, if you would like to donate.
I have been directly affected by the fires too. I’ve been told to evacuate by the local RFS four times now. (I did go promptly the first three times, the fourth time I dragged my feet). We will just have to see how February goes. It’s very dry, hot and windy. There are two fire fronts active close by: one to the South about 12 km away and one to East which has been as close as 5 km when it has been on the move. This is the fire map published on Friday evening:
It’s Australia Day though, so it’s barbeque time, and here is one version of the case to change the date (CW: this Youtube video is probably, as they say, entirely “off brand” lol):
Following on from my earlier post about adventures in the Whitsundays, I wanted to add another image. These are the Norfolk Island pines, with their very distinctive geometry, everywhere on the Whitsunday islands. This is the ridge of the cove at Refuge Bay where we anchored overnight.
So it was Captain Cook who brought the seeds of the pines to northern Australia wishfully supposing they might provide timber suitable for masts.
I have always found it hard to be on the water in the Pacific and not think of Captain Cook, Joseph Banks and all the great naturalists. For quite a while one of my favourite non fiction books was a book called “Darwin’s Armada” by Iain McCalman. It’s an account of the great sailing voyages of Darwin’s peers. It’s absolutely compelling reading (if that’s your kind of thing). It’s ages since I read it but one of the passages that still stays with me vividly is an account of how the Pacific peoples must have experienced navigating, with only the simplest instruments and no charts – what resources, skills and understanding of the sea they must have had.
But then I am very partial to all things Charles Darwin (and his milieu). The Voyage of the Beagle is so engaging. Here is a favourite passage in which Darwin describes interactions with wild llamas.
You have not heard from me over summer, so it’s a long overdue greeting for the New Year.
As some of you know I had some bad experiences last year with a stalker and it has taken the shine off my happy life. During this last couple of months I haven’t been posting.
It was a very dry period leading up to Christmas and the wildflowers on the country block were very few this year. In past years there has been a profusion of colour and variety but this year it was all very subdued. I did see one wildflower that I haven’t seen before though. Although it was quite common looking – simple structure, bright yellow – I am pretty sure it was a new sighting for me.
Here it is:
The natural world managed to be beautiful in the city too. There was a very small, perfectly formed pale green moth on the window sill at Potts Point one morning. Here it is:
And I managed to get a fair amount of snorkelling and diving in over the summer. Be warned this is not a lingerie shot! 🙂 It was taken during a dive on the south side of Botany Bay at a place called The Steps.
There is a gecko that lives somewhere on the south side of my balcony. It must hibernate over winter. Come October November evenings I can hear it start to make the little series of chk chk chk chk sounds that are so reminiscent of warm happy times. It still amazes me that the gecko comes every year twelve floors up to my highrise home.
Another favourite sign of summer is the appearance of great quantities of mangoes at the local shops – flavour, fragrance and texture are all summer.
Well I was a sorry lot this week. I had a bad flu and lay in bed almost the entire time. It’s times like this past week I miss my kittens especially (now in kitten heaven), they were always such sweet company if you were laid low.
I did watch some television on my laptop though, propped up in bed. As some of you know I don’t own an actual television (and haven’t owned one my entire adult life). I finally got to see the BBC series Wolf Hall which was every bit as excellent as I had heard (and I’d loved the book). I also watched some of Anthony Bourdain’s travel and food diaries. So it’s been a quiet week for me. The only thing that didn’t slow down was the rate at which I am obliged to feed the lorikeets. If they know I am home they come and peer in at the windows and gently tap with their beaks at the glass doors. They are absolutely relentless.
I haven’t posted about any flowering trees for a little while. My flowering tree this time is a lemon tree, not from local life but from a set of French medieval tapestries that have been on exhibition at the Art Gallery.
I specially like this tree because it accurately depicts that habit which many lemon trees have of flowering and fruiting at the same time. And the flower of a lemon tree has one of the most evocative scents.
The context of the tapestries is the age of chivalry in the late Middle Ages. But there is no trace of darkness or punishing cloistered religious life that I for one, so often associate with the Middle Ages. Instead it’s a sensual paradise of garden, music and luxury. The mythical unicorn appears in all the tapestries together with the virgin maiden. The story has it that the unicorn is only tame for the virgin lady.
Curiously I found in my investigations that the original unicorn figure – a mythical wild man from Mesopotamia – was civilised only by the temple whore. I was interested to learn in that social reality the temple whore was a respected figure herself, charged with the responsibility of making men into better versions of humanity (than they were when left to their own devices).
Today is the Summer solstice, a suitably brilliant time of the year for earth and sky worshippers. And it’s almost Christmas eve.
My mother loved Christmas when we were children, especially Christmas Eve. And I have very happy memories of her Christmas delight, which was so attractive to children. She specially loved the music, all music, and it was endless performance and harmonies by me and my sisters singing into the twilight night. My mother died in June this year and the last music she heard was this Christmas Eve music. I was able to play it for her from my trusty Android.
This music is the Latin Christmas church song O Magnum Mysterium, O Great Mystery. This setting is by the American Danish composer Morten Lauridsen and is best listened to while you have your eyes closed I reckon (especially if classical music is not your thing lol).
In this Latin song the best thing is the presence of the animals in the scene. It’s not all lofty churchy stuff, it is warm animals with warm breath and animal noises and animal restlessness and tiredness in the straw. And if you listen to the music I swear at certain points it actually sounds the way animals move about when they are tethered, the same rhythm. There is a gentle pagan vibe about those animals round the infant’s manger. And an entirely utilitarian and plausible one too: it would have been cold that night. The Latin verse seems very simple but it conjures the picture:
O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
iacentem in praesepio!
translates (I am assured):
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Animals! They get dress circle and see everything first. Would that we return the respect and treat all animals more lovingly (says a slightly preachy Madame MG :-)). And this is the song itself:
In fact there is another Lauridsen song which I actually think is a more beautiful as a song although not as high art perhaps. It also reminds me of the twinkling Christmas Eves with my mother when we were small, and all the stars and endless enchantment of childhood. But you probably have to be in the mood for classical music and it is entirely forgivable if you are not (even permanently not in the mood is OK too).
Sure on this shining night Of star made shadows round, Kindness must watch for me This side the ground. The late year lies down the north. All is healed, all is health. High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole. Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone Of shadows on the stars.
It’s a beautiful poem by an Irish poet, set to Lauridsen’s music: