Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blackberry picking weekend picnic, for Shrove Tuesday pancakes

Wild blackberry photo by Cecilia Macaulay

If only my painstakingly cared-for balcony berries were as lush as these irrepressible wild blackberries. My own berries, searching for sun, went trailing over the edge of the balcony where I cannot see them, enjoy them, but most importantly, can't get an idea of how much transpiration is going on, so I let them get woefully thirsty.
Still, now Ive acknowledged my trespasses, they are forgiving me, and putting out green shoots back on the abandoned canes.


According to this ABC interview on Australian Blackberries, this prickly pest plant dominates an area the size of Tasmania, takes $70 million + from our economy, all so I can enjoy a nice blackberry crepe with cream on our Shrove Tuesday. I enjoy imagining an innocent, eccentric Baron Ferdinand von Mueller dancing though the bush, strewing seed, glowing with pride in the imagined gratitude of future generations, who thanks to his effort would have self-growing food in the summer, and never die when they stray off into the bush.

In fact, the Baron was the same extremely capable fellow that established Melbourne's amazing Botanical Gardens, and probably didn't dance much.


Dominic, Katie and Lon picking berries, photo by Cecilia Macaulay

My sister Katie and the gang went up to visit my brother Dominic on the weekend. Pulling out these bushes was one of his jobs, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it, with it looking so pretty and hopeful.

Dom lives in a cubbyhouse behind the pub, at the Whistle stop cafe. He used to just view it while waiting on the platform for the train to take him home from work - that is no longer necessary.
Hey, with all those free blackberries, work is not really necessary either.

So the day before our Lenten fast, 40 days of sackcloth, ashes and repentance, Have a Mardi Gras, or Gross (fat) Tuesday (mardi) gobbling down all the sugar, eggs, butter and rich things we can, while the going is good.

And of course, the blackberries, never forget the blackberries.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

creative balcony garden for Inner Melbourne tea ceremony school

Chiaki's flowery nook with roses and apple

Today I climbed the stairs of Chiaki and Adam's apartment, finally attending real tea ceremony lessons. The first instructions I received were in how to enter the room in a way that was respectful to the simple flower and the calligraphy scroll, the room's only decorations.

Well, its step in on the left foot, since the flowers occupy the right side of the room, and you want to be open to them from the beginning. There is then a set way of approaching, regulated bows and appreciative gazing. All this, 400 years before Alan Pease' 'Body Language' bestseller.

It so happens that the Formal tatami tea room was least flowery room in the whole apartment. Tea flowers are never showy, they always have a beauty that is only revealed after a patient and dedicated courtship with eyes and heart. Today it was a single sprig of tiny white flowers, hanging in an 'artless' container of bamboo.

Western 'Tea' roses picked by Chiaki for the living room.

Much more approachable to me was the prettiness of the rest of the house, which I suspect is the Chiaki Effect: Flowers seem her natural element, like a goldfish in water. The delicate tea roses here are named after their scent, not purpose - their beauty is to frilly and obvious for the serenity of the Japanese tea room.


Even rubbish bins yearn to be objects of admiration as well as utility.
Chiaki Understands.


In the tea ceremony, not one moment, one object is unworthy of our attention and appreciation.
This spills over into life, I hear.

Their second floor balcony has a forest-like backdrop of green, and is blessed by hypnotic dappled light. I can imagine these newly-weds enjoying sunbeam-lit breakfasts on those warm summer mornings, or defragging after a day Serving the Public, listening to Cicadas ringing.

I'm now wondering what are the best tea ceremony flowers to grow in this sheltered spot. Fragrant small gardinias could be good. Maybe a pond with iris, to evoke the warm rainy season of Japanese June, with its fireflies along misty river banks.


I'm quite fond of the view from this window, the neighbours trampoline nestled in suburban greenery. Just looking at this strange object when my spirits are low has a buoyant effect. All that metal and technology for something so gloriously frivoulous. Tea, flowers, jumping up and down. Ephemral joys, to coax us up and onward when we need it. And we all need it.