The rose that started it all

Fun, photography, Roses

Meet Skylark.

Skylark. Photo by the author.

Skylark. Photo by the author.

While I’ve always loved roses, and planted many in the many different gardens I’ve had since my early twenties, its Skylark that’s responsible for this current phase, and this project of reflective roses.

I’d handed in my PhD, been out on the town drinking gallons of bubbles and crashed in a inelegant tangle of limbs, clothes and streamers, whereupon I slept prodigiously. For the next forty hours, except for the odd moment of bladder induced wakefulness, and the urgent need for Panadol, I was out to the world.

When I re-entered the world, I was bit bereft. I’d been working six days a week for years on the heavy blue tome and I realised just how much it had come to take over my life. My sister rescued me. Go and buy a new rose, she said, one that speaks to all the fun you are going to have in the future.

Skylark was the rose that came home with me that day.

She, plural, meaning the rose and my sister, got me thinking about the symbolic nature of roses, and eventually this project of a reflective/meditation deck was born. It’s given me a great deal of pleasure, and continues to do so.

The photography is really stretching me. While I had paid a photographer last summer, he didn’t finish the job and then I got inducted into the joys of licence agreements. So I have some wonderful photos of many roses that aren’t going in the deck, which I probably won’t ever use even though I paid for them.

I purchased a new camera, which was an inbetween step between a basic point and shoot and a dslr. I am not happy with it. I get better shots in close up from my IPhone. Still, it’s all good learning, and I spend time with the roses on warm summer evenings. I think I’ll buy a DSLR in the January sales. Of course I will have missed the once bloomers, so this project won’t be finished now until this time next year.

Oh well. If that’s all I have to worry about, I’m doing OK in the grand scheme of things.

On defence and diabetes

Diabetes, Thornless roses

When I was out walking over the weekend, in my ongoing attempt to get safe blood sugar control back, I came across a beautiful array of thornless or near thornless roses. They were covering the back fence of a house that backs onto the reserve where I go walking.

Zepherine  Drouhin and Lady Bank'sRose

Zepherine Drouhin and Lady Bank’sRose

Kathleen Harrop

Kathleen Harrop

Unidentified white climber, Watson

Unidentified white climber, Watson

I began to think about thorns and their purpose. A thornless rose is not exactly an evolutionary dead end, but lacking thorns makes survival more difficult. Without a good set of thorns, what’s to stop a wandering quadruped grazing on the shoots that will become flowers, then seeds? A thornless rose has the most advantage to bipeds like ourselves, with back fences and footpaths and a tendency towards litigation and/or tendencies towards pruning.

It’s only humans that truly appreciate a thornless rose, especially while pruning. And, it’s only through humans that they prosper, as we propagate them. An example of what Pollan might call co-evolution. In his view, it was the apple that seduced Eve. Sweetness sells to humans.

Which brings me to diabetes. I recall reading somewhere that insulin resistance was an evolutionary advantage in the ace age. Prioritise sending sugar to your brain, as that extra bit of mental alertness might just save your palaeolithic life. I wish I could remember where I read this so I could check the references and follow up. It seemed reasonable when I read first. Not entirely sure now. Wouldn’t the ability to shunt sugar to your brain be a handy defence no matter what the environmental circumstances?

Am I the equivalent of a thornless rose?

More to ponder, clearly.

Crochet and the art of slow clothing

craft, Crochet, value

I recently made a blanket for a friend’s new born daughter. When written like that, it seems rather casual and unremarkable. I crocheted the blanket over many winter evenings while watching DVDs so it was actually a very pleasant experience.

Grace's blanket. Motif by Edie Eckman from Beyond the Square.

Grace’s blanket. Motif by Edie Eckman from Beyond the Square.

It was, however, quite a long process, and caused me to reflect on how anyone wanting to make a living from craft could possibly do so. Here’s why. I estimated that it took me around 27 hours of work, and even if you only earn the minimum wage (under $18 AUD), then Grace’s blanket was worth a little under $500, plus the cost of the wool. I can’t imagine anyone being prepared to pay that amount for an item like a baby blanket.

Then I went for a little cruise on Etsy looking at crochet skirts in particular. Skirts can be fairly simple or they can be very complex, which would affect the pricing. Even so, knowing what i know about crochet in particular, they all seemed vastly underpriced. Do we really put that little value on the genuinely hand made?

Since then I’ve been experimenting with the first steps to make my own crochet skirt. I find that the inability to source the yarns here (by which I mean actually finger it in person and give it the neck test) puts me off attempting clothing. The few times I have attempted it its been a disaster because of my inability to make gauge. Plus, I am also trying to teach myself the delicate art of increasing and decreasing.

Here is my very first sample. It’s a simple V stitch that increases by the addition firstly of extra stitches to the V, forming a shell, and then by increasing the chains. While there probably is a pattern like this somewhere in a stitch or pattern dictionary, I am proud to say that I figured this out by myself.

Crochet sample, white second hand cotton.

Crochet sample, white second hand cotton.

I felt confident enough after this to make an extended version in a thicker cotton. As you can see, it diminishes the pattern somewhat and was quite stiff. So while its a nice cotton yarn, it doesn’t have the drape that would be desirable for a summer skirt. Hence my third swatch.

Crochet sample, ecru cotton 5 ply

Crochet sample, ecru cotton 5 ply

Crochet sample, red cotton blend, Panda, 8 ply.

Crochet sample, red cotton blend, Panda, 8 ply.

I’m happy enough with this to now try to move on to the mathematically arduous task of trying to figure out if I can make to fit my measurements. Like I said, this really is slow clothing.


Canberra, Roses, spring
Sarah van Fleet.  Photo by the author.

Sarah van Fleet. Photo by the author.

I made my first trip to the gardens at Old Parliament House this morning and photographed until the sun got too high.  I always feel renewed and soothed by a good garden, and its as if all the fear and angst that I experienced yesterday was happening to someone else.

Of course it didn’t, but its always useful to have yet ANOTHER reminder that these things pass.  As will the roses, but right now I have the anticipation of months ahead.

Fimbriata. Photo by the author.

Fimbriata. Photo by the author.

This is Fimbriata which many, including me, love for the carnation like edging to its petals.

Tonner's Fancy on a pillar in the Rex Hazelwood garden. Photo by the author.

Tonner’s Fancy on a pillar in the Rex Hazelwood garden. Photo by the author.

This is one of the Alister Clark stable of roses, Tonner’s Fancy, doing a splendid job of covering a pillar. Most of his roses are very strong climbers.

Le Vesuve. Photo by the author.

Le Vesuve. Photo by the author.

I’ve written about this rose before, Le Vesuve, in a post exploring anger and its associated emotions. I did do some follow up research on the naming of this rose, which will morph into a post, but for the moment, I am just enjoying her. If I move from the Watson garden to somewhere bigger, I would definitely give her a prominent place.

Looking forward to more dusk light treasures this evening in the species roses.

The first rose of the season

Winchester Cathedral.  Photo by the author.

Winchester Cathedral. Photo by the author.

Woke with my blood sugar right on the danger zone so with this post my goal is purely self centred.  To distract myself from my fear and grief by concentrating on objects of beauty.

Such as the first rose that has bloomed in my garden.  Usually, its Darcey Bussell.  She flowered first in my old garden and I fell for her in an instant.  She is robust and elegant, as one might expect for a rose named for one of the best ballet dancers in recent memory.

This year the debut honour goes to Winchester Cathedral.  A sport from another of Austin’s great roses, Mary Rose, Winchester is white.  While Austin says there are only occasional tinges of pink, I find it does fairly regularly.

Of the roses that are right behind Winchester, Homere has its sepals peeled back and should probably unfurl tomorrow, and my potted Mr Lincoln will be next.  So it’s a blend of reds and whites that grace the first flush this year.  Red for blood, and white for hope.

I am struggling with hope right now.  It feels very temperamental, a bit like my blood sugar really.  Sometime high, sometimes low, and often with no real connection to external circumstances.  I just wish the hope lows were shorter than the highs, and that the blood sugars were the exact opposite.

Keep on hoping, hey?

Tortoises and hares

Diabetes, employment, Stress

I was at the bus stop earlier than the rubbish trucks on their weekly rounds, which should give you an idea as to my level of out-of-whackedness.  No one has ever accused me of being a morning person, until now.

It’s clear and cloudless, and in between passing cars, I can hear all the birds. Lovely.  I’d rather be staying here by the side of the road and listening to the birds.  Instead I am on my way to work early to face up to the repercussions of my unexpected resignation yesterday.

i had been quietly weeping at breakfast for the last week, but yesterday, after a broken night (how do new mothers do it????), it became more like a 1 in 100 year flood.  Like a real flood, this left me in need of major reconstruction.

People break at the worst times, and I am no exception.  It’s  14 days to the deadline.  I am not going to be flavour of the month when I show my face today. But am I supposed to sacrifice my health for a poorly planned project? My blood sugars have been consistently above safe and its entirely due to the unrelenting expectations of performance.  They don’t need a human, they need a machine to meet this deadline at the level of quality they want.  Or at the very least a hare.

I’ve always been a tortoise.  I can do sustained intense levels of analytical work at a slower pace.  But this is not a world for tortoises anymore.  Especially not a diabetic tortoise.

So if you happen know of of a nice, slowish pond somewhere in Canberra that’s looking for a new tortoise, drop me line.  I’d love to know.