Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Things We Keep

Today I set about cleaning up my study. I know. Again! But after term break, you can't start off with a messy desk. A small, extra desk buried under paper, books and journals, was moved out; a spare armchair moved in. (This is where I'll sit quietly and read in my soon-to-be-tidy study.) Piles of books had to be put somewhere other than balanced on chairs, all bookcases being full; mountains of lecture notes, journals, cards and souvenirs had to be thrown out, recycled or allocated a space. Lucky I knew about Sisyphus.

There was a throw-out pile, a recycle pile, an op shop pile, a 'X might like this' pile. And then there was the problem pile. What to do with all those things I had decided to keep because they were too pretty, precious, unusual or dear to my heart to throw away? And I'm talking years and years worth.
I'm talking about little things like this on a postcard (below left) from a Sydney Writers Festival some years ago:

Where that came from is anyone's guess. I've never been to the Sydney Writers Festival but the poem, by John Mc Mahon, is the kind I'd like people to recite to their 5 year olds at bedtime.

Amongst that same pile of small things was this tiny little book (right) devoted entirely to Longfellow's The Wreck of the Heperus.  A great and epic poem but again, origin of this book unknown. My mother was fond of telling us she felt like 'The Wreck of the Hesperus' if things were getting on top of her so I can't relinquish that, can I.

In the piles to be dealt with there were countless arty-crafty projects planned or started and never finished. Paints, collage materials, pressed flowers, beads, 2 polystyrene heads and packets of wooden dolly pegs I'd bought in case they ever became obsolete. (If they do, I have lots.) 

These (above) must have been from when I decided to resurrect a childhood activity of making treasure maps so authentic my 8 year old cousin and I easily fooled our mothers, on Bribie Island one weekend, into believing that we'd found a real pirate treasure map! Well, they said they believed us... It required a paper picture, the edges torn unevenly, then soaked in cold tea, dried and all the edges burnt over a lighted match.

No worries about playing with fire even then.

More difficult to dispense with was this supplement from The Times in, I think, 2003, following the discovery of a previously unknown novella by Charlotte Bronte.

I was sure it would be a literary treasure beyond imagining but who wants it now? It's no doubt readily available to one and all on the internet. Find it and hit print, I bet. But still I probably won't throw out this paper version from The Times.

Endless unused cards and postcards turned up, carefully preserved but obviously too beautiful for me to give away. How pointless is that? I suspect I feared that the recipient wouldn't love them as much as I did so instead they've sat unseen in a box for more years than I care to confess.

Here are two below. Maybe I'll frame them and swoon over them until, like many things we hang on our walls, I don't see them anymore. Better to find them like this every once in a while and appreciate them all over again.

The one above left is from a platinum photograph  by one P. H. Emerson, (1856-1936) in the Australian National Gallery called Gathering Waterlilies.

The other is a photograph by Frank Hurley - Gathering anemones at Belah, Palestine, 1918

And below, the one that stopped me in my tracks - a copy of the leaflet from my mother's funeral. Despite a haphazard education that ended when she was 13, Margaret Mary Murray (née Malone) loved poetry and could recite it till the cows came home. This, below, was one of her favourites - and one she lived by.

And how do you get back to the clean-ups when you find that?

I know the internet is the source of all things just waiting to be found. However, there is something tangibly beautiful about printed objects that we can hold - and keep.



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