January 29, 2015 § 1 Comment
Photos by William Price.
I’ve long been fascinated by the Tree of Life – an ancient image that is sacred in many religions and cultures.
The tree reaches both down into the earth, and up into the heavens. I have read that for some, the branches represent male, and the leaves female. The Tree of Life symbology also incorporates the four directions, as well as the Milky Way.
It can represent the spiritual realm, where the dualities of light and dark, or good and evil do not exist. Think of the Bodhi Tree, under which sat Buddha until he attained enlightenment. In Christianity, the tree can represent the cross, and the blood of Jesus Christ is referred to as the Fruits of the Tree of Life. And of course there is the tree from which Eve plucked a forbidden apple to eat, thus finding herself and Adam banished from the Garden of Eden
Probably the stories that I am most familiar with involve the Norse legend of Yggdrasil, a most sacred tree that is at the center of all life. It reaches far into the heavens, as well as below the earth, therefore connecting it to all nine realms. Gods would regularly visit the tree, and it is from this tree and the tales surrounding it that other trees, such as ash or oak, have come to have sacred meanings and uses.
I first became interested in crafting my own Tree of Life some seven years ago, whilst living in QLD. We bought a good friend of ours an Egyptian representation of the tree on papyrus paper. The accompanying description of its meaning intrigued me deeply, as this was the first time I had seen birds present.
In the Egyptian Tree of Life, there are four or five birds depicted, representing the different stages of life from infancy through to adulthood and death, or for me more personally, the four stages of womanhood: maiden, mother, magii, and crone. All but one bird faces the East. In the Egyptian telling, the East, being where the sun rises, represents life. The West, embodied by one bird facing this way, looks toward eventual and inevitable death. I often look at the birds and think of the stages of womanhood I have passed through, and those I have yet to meet.
My husband, being a very talented artist, helped me draw the first template of my internal vision. Then, taking felt, my preferred textile, I created. The very first Tree of Life I made went to a dear friend, wise woman and mentor, for the occasion of her own Harvest Queen Ceremony. Since then I have made four more: one for my own mother, one for myself, and two sold – not to strangers, but to women who I know or know of in my community. Because of this, I think the pieces have remained highly meaningful, and indeed have become even more powerful in their symbolism and beauty (at least I hope so!).
Each Tree of Life is slightly different in leaf colour, in bird positioning, and of course through the normal variations that occur when making by hand. In this final piece, pictured above, I have tried to reflect the seasons through the changing color of the leaves. Every aspect is made by me: the felt, hand dyed. The leaves and bird shapes, cut by hand. And everything hand stitched in place. After seven years and five different variations, the Tree of Life still remains one of my favourite creations.
January 15, 2015 § 1 Comment
Birthdays are not a big deal for my husband, but they kind of are for me. I know I like to feel a bit special, a bit pampered, and remembered on my own day – so I try to give to others what I would wish to receive myself.
This Monday just past was his special day, but we spent the day mostly apart, driving home from a short holiday (separately), and with him attending a funeral. That night we spontaneously decided to go out for dinner to ‘celebrate’ – though I think the idea was also to save us the chore and work of cooking at home after a tiring day. We chose a family restaurant, full of TV’s showing the soccer, a kids movie area showing -what else- but ‘Frozen’, and with an outside play area too. Perfect for lots of children to entertain themselves and for exhausted parents to sit, dazed-eyed, with a glass of wine.
Today, three days later, I finally got around to the cake. Sol is not a sweets-man, preferring wholesome and often different flavours, and so I decided to make him the cake I prepared for his 30th birthday (over ten years ago now!). Then, we lived in rural QLD, far from family. I invited the only couple we knew over to our sparsely furnished but gorgeous modern “Queenslander’ home, a cornflower blue two level beauty with wooden floors and a massive wrap around verandah. Our guests were clean living folk who appreciated the nutty, not to sweet Choc Walnut Torte that I presented.
I presented the same cake tonight – unfortunately rejected by most of the children due to the amount of nuts involved, but happily devoured by Sol and myself; our little secret. The recipe comes from one of my all-time favourite cookbooks by Holly Davis, which I have owned for many years. I used to be a hard-core macrobiotic eater, and her cookbook ‘Nourish’ entered the market just when macrobiotics was becoming cool. It transformed the original macrobiotic principles into modern, fresh, gorgeous food with clean flavours.
Though not containing many ingredients, the cake is super moist with a few subtle flavours in there. The choc/coconut ganache is my own addition to the dessert.
Rich Cocoa and Walnut Torte (gluten free, dairy free).
4 cups ground walnuts
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cardomom powder, or seeds crushed up
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup maple syrup
2 unpeeled oranges, boiled whole for 15 mins.
combine all dry ingredients in a bowl
blend the maple syrup and whole oranges (yes, whole oranges!)
whisk the eggs to a frothy consistency
gently fold wet ingredients into dry
pour into an oiled, floured cake pan (flour with cocoa)
bake at 170 degrees celsius for one hour
serve with berries, cream and optional choc/coconut ganache.
Chocolate Ganache (dairy free)
100ml coconut cream
100g dark chocolate, dairy free if desired
heat the coconut cream to just boiling
remove from heat and add chocolate
stir till smooth and silky.
January 3, 2015 § Leave a comment
About this time of year, I always think of when I was seventeen. I had finished high school. Completed exams that had been built up for years as the all-important gateway to my future. Christmas was over, and time was hurtling me into January, into a space of limbo between leaving school and the rest of my life, amidst a long, hot summer.
It did not take me long at all to realise that those all-important exams were not so essential after all. No one I met in the wider world seemed to care about them, or even mention them. I felt ripped off. I had bought into an illusion about the ‘right’ pathways a teenager should take, and I felt somewhat empty.
But more than that, I felt purposeless. Exam results were not out for a while, so there were no decisions to be made about University or otherwise. I had a part time job, which kept some rhythm in my life. My friends were all socialising regularly, but after a couple of parties I was over it. There seemed no point to it. I will always remember that January, how I drifted along in a state of discomfort and melancholy, waiting for the rest of my life to begin.
Which brings me to my life now, some twenty years later. And how, every January, after the rush of Christmas and New Years, I feel that familiar melancholy creep into my being. Now that I have children, I look forward to this time, I do. As November and December pass by too quickly and in a blur of busyness, I long for these days where I have no job but to be with my children.
But once I get here, I feel lost. We do lots of swimming and board games and see movies and hang out with the relatives, and that is all fun. But at home, at night, when everyone is asleep, I lie awake, wondering about the big questions of life, and about my place in it.
It may not be a negative thing – maybe January gives me the time to ponder the deeper layers of life- time that I don’t have during the rest of the year. With all the inevitable talk of New Years’ Resolutions, maybe I am performing a natural evaluation of my life and it’s direction. Or maybe I am exhausted and in need of a good break – not just from school routines and my part time work, but from my home and familiar surroundings.
Again I think back to the past, and the two week holiday our family took every year without fail, leaving at 6am each Boxing Day. Somehow that two weeks at the beach served as a break between the year just gone and the one just beginning. All that swimming, exercise, simple eating and laying around was healthy and rejuvenating for me, even as a child.
So this becomes my New Years’ Resolution, of sorts. To go on a holiday – a proper holiday away from home. Let’s see if it helps.