Friday, July 30, 2010

The second coming of the stove

Today my kitchen got its smile back.

I live in my grandmother's old house. It was built in the 40's by my grandmother's brother, before he took off for Queensland chasing racehorses and wild women. The slow combustion stove in the kitchen has always been the centre of the room, the centre of the house. When people come inside, out of the rain and cold on a day like today, the first thing they do is go to the fire, and stand warming their backs.

For five years, the stove has been boarded up, cold and silent, and the kitchen seemed lost without it. There was another, electric, stove for cooking, but it was in the room next door, which was irritating, to say the least.

The combination of encouragement from my friend Charlotte, and the arrival of an extraordinarily high electricity bill led me to the rebirth of the stove. Yesterday I pulled down the cardboard covering the fireplace, and Dad and I worked with wire brushes and elbow grease to bring the stove back to useable condition.

This morning we lit the first fire in the stove, and I watched the kitchen seem to join into a circle again. It seemed again a room with a purpose. I baked a cake to mark the 'second coming' of the stove. It was a packet cake, which my grandmother would have disapproved of, believing that they were inherantly inferior to proper home made cakes, but it was a cake nonetheless.

My grandmother, who most people called Nan, was a big part of my life. From her I learned the stories of my family. How my great grandfather and his brother turned the river back into its bed after a flood with horses and scoops. How my great great uncle learned his wife was having an affair when he returned from droving and found another man's shirts in his cupboard. How when she was a child, they had to cross the river 13 times in the journey to the nearest large town.

I spent hours in this kitchen as a child. Always there was the kettle on the side of the stove, simmering ready to make a pot of tea. Sometimes, there was a pot of soup, made with beef bones, carrot, celery and barley. At Christmas, there would be the stubbornly traditional turkey roasting, heating up the kitchen to a point where tempers would fray and homemade orange and grapefruit cordial with ice would be dispensed to all present like medicine in an epidemic.

In the last couple of days, I have discovered that the best way for me to conquer heartache is with hard work. Chopping wood, scrubbing, shovelling: all the aching of the long unused muscles of my arms and back has distracted me from the hole in my chest.

Perhaps all I can do at this point is move in the direction of my dreams, and use the callouses on my hands as mile markers along that road.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

To watch the corn grow...

I have been introduced to the wonderful thing that is wikiquote today, and it has improved my day immeasurably. I'll share with you one of my favourites from English author, poet and artist John Ruskin

To watch the corn grow, and the blossoms set; to draw hard breath over ploughshare or spade; to read, to think, to love, to hope, to pray - these are the things that make men happy.

And how true that is. Whether your 'ploushshare' is a backhoe, or a desk, or a stove, to be happy you need to feel that you have expended your energy in a way that brings you satisfaction. My ideal has always been a more literal version of this quote - to make my life by the work of my hands, to see the hand of the goddess in the turning of the seasons, and feel the warmth of the sun soaked up by the soil, and at the end of the day, to relax in warmth, and read, laugh, make and sleep.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Winter sunshine

Days like these fill me with the urge to clean, to nest. Bright bright sunshine, bare branches, clean eucalyptus smelling sheets on the line, and a cool breeze with the breath of snow off the mountains.
The cats sit with squinty eyes basking in the warmth.

It has been a hard week. My boyfriend of 11 months broke up with me, and all I could feel was the rain of broken dreams pelting down on me. But my friends came to my rescue - kept me alive with tea, honey on toast, and sweet champagne. They reminded me that my dreams were my own, and always would be, and all I have to do is have faith in them.

And I am stronger than I think.