The smell of jasmine fills the house from outside. It is the scent of the Goddess of the Night but it is also the scent of my childhood. Australia basically has only two seasons that it likes to liberally intersperse with the odd superstorm. They are:
- The country is completely on fire.
- The country is thinking about catching fire.
Jasmine reminds me of being outside when it is cool enough to do so. It smells like the freedom of childhood summer holidays... of staying up deliciously late. So it could just be the experience of proper seasons that makes me want to inhale the whole world like a whale shark feeding from a net full of fish, but I doubt it. The leatherback turtles and the basking sharks are getting in on it too.
Much class-conscious hand-wringing accompanies the desire to eat seasonally, which is absurd when you think about it. I doubt the leatherback turtles now entering the English Channel are all toffs. Nevertheless, thanks to the insanity of the modern food industry, a million year old biological imperative now carries a premium. The smell of jasmine in the yard is soon to be accompanied by the smell of rosé and Isle of Wight tomatoes and the crunch of radishes with butter and Anglesey sea salt. I am unrepentant in my enjoyment of this.
It is in the celebration of or thanksgiving for food that all spiritual paths collapse -like slow cooked onions- into one. Consider the following writing from Hildegard of Bingen. As a medieval mystic she is particularly interesting in that she would have decidedly Magonian visions and was told by God to write what she saw. This, for instance, could have been lifted from the Charge of the Goddess, and has The Neighbours' fingerprints all over it.
I am the one whose praise echoes on high.
I adorn all the earth.
I am the breeze that nurtures all things green.
I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.
I am led by the spirit to feed the purest streams.
I am the rain coming from the dew
That causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life.
I am the yearning for good.
A signal runs through the world's noise that is never easier to discern than at this time of year. It is not hard to see why some of our earliest calendars set their start dates in early spring because by now the whole universe is roaring to life. It feels like beginnings. It feels like something to consume and be consumed by, to get lost in.
These are my grandparents, Mary and John White, leaving Nauru -which my grandfather ran- for the last time. The opening image is them on their wedding day. Mary was a remarkable person. She worked as a journalist for the Telegraph here in London -still covering cutting edge news such as the appearance of turtles in the English Channel to this very day. That was no mean feat for a single, slightly Jewy looking woman at the time.
When my grandfather was District Commissioner for the Sepik District of New Guinea, Mary introduced the Brownies (Girl Guides) to the country. Just go ahead and picture that. Actual brown girls, sitting in rows on a New Guinea beach, learning various Brownie things like tying ropes or whatever it is they do.
Mary continued to report on various South Pacific matters the entire time she and her husband were living in its various parts. In Nauru she set up a 'news service' which was essentially just her transcribing the BBC because they had one of the only radios on the island. (Today, of course, we would call that rampant piracy.)
As you can probably tell from the photo below, there were aspects of life at the edge of Empire that Mary was not a super fan of. Once, a chieftan's wife gave her a pig as a gift during a visit. She couldn't kill it and so it flew back to the house with them, which is how it became my father's best friend before he was packed off to boarding school in Sydney.
This is my father with some of his other New Guinea friends. He can still speak Pidgin English to this day. No pidgin, no mates.
(I'm assuming the pig washed itself?)
Here is my father two days ago, with MMTP. You may recall me mentioning my little brother was due his second kid? (That's him beside the first one, obviously.)
Mary White, welcome to the world from the other side of it. And from the other side.
The signal continues.