Tag Archives: canvas

The Saddest Christmas Tree of 2020.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to find a few sad Christmas trees around this year. After all, it’s been a tough year, and when you really think about it, Christmas trees are a mirror, or reflection, of ourselves and what’s going on both inside our heads, and in the world around us. A blank, green canvas, either real or fake, where we plaster bits of ourselves in the form of bright lights, jewelled ornaments, and perhaps even rustic relicts made when we were kids, along with contributions by our own kids and grandchildren, if we have them.

While our tree could well be described as “Rafferty’s Rules” or cluttered eclectic with loads of “character”, there are others who are clearly much more particular and their tree has to be perfect, and might, for example, have a very strict colour scheme. Of course, I admire these trees. Who wouldn’t?! However, I’m pretty sure these are the very same infuriating people who always coloured in between the lines when they were kids, and now throw out their own kids’ Christmas craft. It might not be perfect or ostentatious, but there’s nothing more personal and meaningful than anything handmade.

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about the best Christmas tree. Rather, I’m here to talk about the worst.

This wasn’t something I intentionally set out to do.

Rather, it was thrust upon me when I was out shopping, and I came across this poor Christmas tree parked outside Coles in front of the public toilets. While, as you can see, it did have a few decorations, there were no lights and it looks like it’s just been pulled straight out of storage, and stuck out on display without much spit and polish.

Geoff’s work Christmas tree was also a rather sorry sight.

I thought this tree had taken out the honours for the worst Christmas tree I’d seen in 2020. Then, Geoff showed me a picture of his work Christmas tree. It was a strong rival, especially when you know that they’re going through a difficult restructure and there are voluntary and not so voluntary redundancies, which is particularly hard at this time of year. Indeed, if this tree could speak, it could well sound like Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch: “You’d be a grouch, too, if you lived in a trash can!”

However, some are more particular than others, and have a rigid colour scheme. Personally, I’m pretty sure these are the very same people who always coloured-in between the lines, and didn’t scribble back at school. All the decorations have to be red, purple for example. On the other hand, our Christmas tree is “cluttered eclectic” like the house. We have always had a real tree. However, being able to go outside much at all last December due to the choking bush fire smoke, I was too late to get a real tree and was mighty grateful to pick up a fake one for $10.00 at the local charity shop. The tree looked bad last year, but it looks even worse this year. However, what with renovating the loungeroom and rumblings of Covid, we didn’t get the tree up until Christmas Eve, and it looks so bad, that it won’t be up long after New Year’s. Indeed, to be perfectly honest with you, our tree could use a huge, brown paper bag to stick over it’s head.

However, as much as our Christmas tree is visually challenged, as the saying goes, there’s always someone worse off, and I’m not sure whether to award the prize to Geoff’s work Christmas tree, or to a Christmas tree spotted outside the supermarket and the public toilets.

Meanwhile, there’s our tree.

Where’s a massive paper bag when you need one? This is our sorry Christmas tree in the raw.

Meanwhile, our Christmas tree is a case of people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Our family has always had a real tree. Over the years, my dad’s waxed so lyrically about the scent of the tree in his usually Basil Faulty style (he used to be a close ringer for actor John Cleese), that going fake felt like selling my soul to the devil.

However, the lead up to Christmas 2019 and 2020 hit us hard. Last year, we had the extreme Australian bushfires known colloquially as the “Black Summer”. Although we live well beyond the fire zone, the air here was choking with smoke and with my lung issues, I had to stay in the air-conditioned loungeroom or I couldn’t breathe. It was dire. There were some clear days, which finally allowed me to venture down to the local shops to look for a real tree. By then, however, they’d all sold out and we were excited and thankful to find a $20.00 fake one at the local charity shop. It wasn’t fantastic, and it certainly didn’t have that fresh pine scent which sends my Dad into a spin. However, at least it was green, and we could hang our precious ornaments from it.

Fast-forwarding to 2020, we had a different problem. We found ourselves hosting Christmas for the first time, and while it was only my Mum and Dad, I still wanted the house to be festive and somewhat “neat and tidy”. This was a very tall order, but it pushed us through all sorts of incredible levels of pain, sacrifice and frustration. After finally getting rid of the old piano in the loungeroom, what was meant to be replacing the dingy old carpet with a floating floor, ended up with guttering the room and a massive paint job. Also, with the piano gone, we’ve lost our convenient display and storage unit, leaving a lot of homeless flotsam and jetsam out on the loose. Moreover, while Geoff was working, I started what became a significant purge of books and the clearing of the back room to the point where we’ve moved tables and lounges around and it’s now got a couch and a teenager out there much of the time. The speed of this progress has been an absolute miracle!

All this work didn’t leave much time for Christmas trees, and the night before Christmas, the sad and sorry fake was brought down out of storage, and the teenager who’d once insisted on taking over decorating the Christmas tree (more precision and perfection required), now had to be coerced out of a “why bother” state of mind. I couldn’t blame her. In its naked state, the tree really could’ve used a bag over its head.

How’s this for a magnificent Christmas tree and Santa at our local bookshop, Book Bazaar!

Meanwhile, I came across a beautiful Christmas window display at our local bookshop, and wondered whether I should claim it as our own…

Covid 19 wasn’t on my list when I sat on Santa’s knee last Christmas.

No matter where you are, Christmas 2020 didn’t feature on your Santa list, but it’s been sobering, reflective and it’s got us thinking about what really matters and how we live our lives. What’s important, and what we can go without. So, in this sense as long as we have our nearest and dearest and community among and around us, the rest doesn’t really matter. Indeed, I might even appreciate mediocre attempts to create a bit of Christmas cheer and paint a smile on what initially appeared to be a couple of sad Christmas trees.

How is your Christmas shaping up? Ours is now done and dusted, but that’s another post.

Best wishes and a Merry and blessed Christmas,

Rowena

PS In hindsight, I should’ve covered our Christmas tree in toilet paper this year…a homage to 2020 and also to my youth.

A Blank Canvas…

I don’t know whether I would call it procrastination, avoidance, hyperactivity or just too much prednisone because today I actually managed to clean the fridge.

There has to be some psychological term to explain my latest cleaning frenzy…a category all of its own in DSM IV or whatever the good book is called. I am quite ideologically opposed to cleaning and I only do it when I really have to. That said, I have also realised that now I’m a grown up, I can’t just throw all my crap in my cupboard, force the door shut and believe it’s all just going to magically self-sort. These days, it turns out, I have become the proverbial fairy, wielding my not so magic wand…clunk!

I think I might just blame the prednisone. I’m blaming it for everything right now! It’s a bit like being pregnant!

Anyway, before you get all excited about what rotten remains I’ve “discovered” in the fridge, I haven’t reached the inside of the fridge yet. I’m just talking about the fridge door.

So I’ll get you to sit down with your cup of tea and just think about fridge doors for a few minutes…

The more I think about it, the fridge door is actually something of a canvas. It’s blank. It’s white. You can let your imagination run totally wild.  Sure, like any canvas, of course there are boundaries…limits…a frame. Yet within that space, anything is possible although I would just advise against a completely literal interpretation of my “fridge door as canvas” concept. I strongly advise against painting on the fridge door itself. My daughter has written on our fridge door in permanent marker which at this point of time, is looking way too permanent. After all, the whole point is to be ephemeral. Your canvas is constantly changing, evolving…a melting pot of things past, present and maybe even future.

However, this “fridge door as canvas” concept is a long way from where I started out this morning. This morning my fridge door was looking something in between a dog’s breakfast and a very chaotic whirlwind. As I looked at everything stuck on top of it, I’m sure I could even detect whirly patterns. It was rather disconcerting as I wondered what the state of the fridge door actually said about me? Was this my reflection?

Then I got a bit stuck. I didn’t quite know how you are supposed to arrange all those fridge magnet thingys. It seems a bit anal having them all lined up in neat little rows like Monopoly houses but my ephemera was looking like it had been in a whirlwind. You know how it is. The magnets fall off and you just put them back anywhere before they get stamped on by the hoardes.

In an act which could only be described as desperation, I pulled absolutely everything off the fridge until it was completely and utterly naked…bare. It was actually quite a strange sight and all that white actually looked pretty glary. I needed my snow goggles on to deal with such vast expanse of white. I was in very unfamiliar territory. I, as you will come to know, am the Clutter Queen!

I re-discovered this message from a friend who had helped declutter my kitchen a few years ago.

As much as my fridge door might be messy, it is also glamorously eclectic and bursting with meaning, history…just like me! My entire life story is on that fridge door much of it preserved in the actual fridge magnets themselves. Not that I officially collect fridge magnets but maybe I do after all.

After

Perhaps, the oldest fridge magnet I have, is a hand-painted ceramic painting of a border collie. I bought that at Glebe Markets about 15 years ago when I was living in a converted warehouse apartment just off Broadway and I thought anywhere beyond the inner city was the outback and to avoided at all costs. We are now onto our second real Border Collie.

There is another series of fridge magnets, also from Glebe Markets by artist Liza Paizis. They are heavenly inspired. I love, love, love her work. She has subsequently moved back to South Africa but she is online. I was seriously distracted looking her up!! You can check her work out at http://www.zhibit.org/lizapaizis

Last year, I discovered the Flower Fairies by Cicely May Barker. You can see that I live in my imagination but her illustrations of local village children as flowers as so beautiful…more superlatives! See: http://www.flowerfairies.com/ I have a series of flower fairy fridge magnets which I picked up in Sandford, Brisbane when visiting my cousins.

I also have not one but three Kombi magnets. I have very fond memories of my first visit to Byron Bay back in 1995 and seeing rows of Kombis parked beside the beach. I had sold my artistic soul out to the corporate sector back then and had found visiting Byron so liberating!! Byron was still fairly  hippy.

I have been dreaming of running away in a Kombi ever since. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the ultimate midlife crisis vehicle. I mean if you’re really going to run away from it all, you can’t fit everything into a teeny red convertible. Moreover, a sports car towing a trailer just isn’t a good look! You could literally fit the kitchen sink in the back of a Kombi. It’s my kind of vehicle!

Back when I was still breastfeeding and an active member of the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), we made our own fridge magnets as a fundraiser. We brought in photos, which were turned into fridge magnets in much the same way you’d make badges. That was about 8 years ago and I thought they were so cool. There’s one with my son and aunty posing in front of the laughing clowns at the Marburg Show when he was only weeks old.

Just like getting married, there’s something old and something new…

It seems I have added quite substantially to the fridge magnet collection this year. You know that fabulous feeling when you’re on holidays and buying a fridge magnet has been my way of letting that moment extend… or even last forever.

In January, on our way to Byron Bay, we visited the Pet Porpoise Pool at Coffs Harbour. I just had to buy a couple of magnets there so I could look at the seals and dolphins when I got home. We’d been so up close and personal that we could almost smell their fishy breath from the stands. We all enjoyed seal and dolphin kisses as well although I can assure you, we all washed our faces thoroughly afterwards.

There are also some postcards from Nelson Bay. I went there on an adventure camp with Muscular Dystrophy NSW and went parasailing, quad-bike riding, dolphin watching and chatted and chatted with an inspirational group of people.

Lastly, just a few weeks ago, I bought a couple of fridge magnets from the National Gallery in Canberra, on our way back from the snow. There’s The Rose 1958 by Salvador Dali. I really liked this painting with a huge reddish rose hovering in the sky. I have always been a fan of Keats whose Ode to Melancholy suggests:

“But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud…
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose…”

I particularly liked Dali’s less conventional take on the classic rose. I stuck that on the fridge as a reminder to bounce back when the going gets tough (which it inevitably does for everyone eventually).

I also couldn’t resist Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly 1946. This painting shows a rear-view of Ned riding a horse and there’s a “window” cut into his helmet and you see the clouds in his head. This surrealist image has always appealed to me, as my own head is often in the clouds. We took the kids to see the Ned Kelly Series while we were at the gallery and our son tripped over the protective gutter and literally crashed into Constable Fitzpatrick and Kate Kelly. Fortunately, no alarms bells went off but a copy of painting is also plastered on the side of the fridge. I’m a bad mother!

There is also a magnet from Questacon. We all loved Questacon!!

I also have a few magnets with motivational sayings. There’s the Footprints poem. “The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well. – Joe Ancis and a photo of an elephant’s foot about to step on a mouse with the caption: “It could always get worse!”

I did throw a few magnets out today but even though our son is 8 and Thomas the Tank Engine isn’t quite so cool anymore, I couldn’t throw poor Thomas out. He stays.

I also added a photo of our family taken down at the snow as few weeks ago.

Our daughter’s artwork

But no fridge door is complete without artwork…especially when you have young kids. Our daughter loves drawing rainbows and they really are very good at turning your mood around. How could you ever look at a rainbow and feel sad? I have a self-portrait by our son up as well as something he calls the never-starting never-ending picture. He ended up putting a bloodshot eyeball in it. He’s rubbed dirt in his eye that day and ended up off at the doctor and returning looking like Pirate Pete.

Our son’s drawing: The Never-starting, Never-ending Picture”

As much as I’ve been steadily collecting these fridge magnets over the years, I’ve never thought about them like this before. Done an inventory and joined all the dots. It’s quite amazing really when you consider what a simple fridge door can say about who you really are.

Well, just one last word about what isn’t on my fridge door.

I have a magnetic whiteboard beside the fridge and it is the organiser albeit with a huge paper sunflower made by our daughter stuck to one side. I just can’t seem to stick to the straight and narrow!

What do you have stuck on your fridge door? I’d love to hear your stories too!