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February & March : Polaroids
The immeasurability of our hours under the sun.
The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
- Ecclesiastes 1 v 9
Facing the Sunrise.
My gardening book tells me that March is the time to be realistic,
“Sometimes you must be tough and if a plant has not come up to expectations, then it must go. There is no point spending time and effort growing something when, no matter what you try, it just won’t grow well.”
My husband has been saying the same for weeks, but my idealism has left scrawny shrubs scattered around our garden. I replant the hibiscus in another area of the garden which glows in the afternoon sun, giving it another chance.
Last week was our autumnal equinox here in Western Australia. The sun moved North across the equator and our days are now shorter. For the first time since moving here five years ago, the intense summer heat is now no longer a novelty to me and autumn’s arrival means that there’s no need to spend the middle of the days inside.
In the northern hemisphere, daffodils are lifting their chins and snowdrops are straightening their spines. My sister taught me that the word ‘Easter’ has Anglo-Saxon origins. During the Christianization of pagan festivals in Europe, the celebration of Spring became the Judeo-Christian celebration of Passover, resulting in the word Easter. The word Easte or Aust means ‘rays of sun’, ‘to face east, and ‘to face the sunrise’. Also, Aust, makes up the word, Australia. This is the only time of year where our weather is the same as each other, we are connected by sunrise, Aust.
Here, the autumn rains are watering the scorched earth. I learn that native gum trees have evolved to carry their seeds in a hard fireproof capsule. During a bushfire, the hard nuts release their seeds and after the first rains, resting on the ash on the forest floor, the seeds begin to germinate. The light that once destroyed now creates. Death’s ruin is not final and the forest begins to rise.
Some of our son’s first steps a few weeks ago were straight into the heart of our garden sprinkler water. He laughed, his palms faced the sky, he stood, straightened, tumbled forward, walking. Then he sat under the showers. I ran to move him, dodging the turn of the sprinkler, circling its spiral fountain, my clothes soaked. His face shone with delight. Droplets of water covered his skin, like beads. Now, his arms still reach for the water whenever the sprinkler turns on.
I was reminded of some words I read recently by Annelise Jolley:
There’s no single neat parallel between parenting and writing. But both are creative; both are non-linear. Neither follow my own or our culture’s expectations for what constitutes productivity. Then again, neither does joy, or sorrow, or rest. Parenting has been one long lesson in inefficiency. What kind of work is measurable? Does it matter less—or more—if it can’t be measured? The word “immeasurable” is interesting; look at it one way and it seems small, as in resisting measure by its unimportance. Flip it over and it means beyond measure, enormous.
Those droplets, small beacons across his face, were reminders of the inefficiency of parenting: damp clothes, more laundry, muddy footprints, sandy shoes.
Yet, small and immeasurable, the drops reminded me of the size of it all, of his delight, of his learning and trying, this is beyond measure, enormous.
In March, scientists detected water contained inside glass beads found on the moon. Deep underneath lunar soil, large amounts of glass beads, possibly formed by asteroid impact, are thought to hold around 300 billion tonnes of water, collectively.
Less than a millimetres in size, one scientist said, "We're not talking about [quantities] anything like Earth, but we're talking about enough to use*,” and I wonder why the first verb I see is “use” and why the articles are debating lunar land possession; possession before delight, ownership before wonder.
Where there is water there is life and there is life here on earth, but are we caring for it well? In a tiny moment the size of a glass bead, I forget again the immeasurability of goodness and the mystery of all that is unseen and unknown.
I finish reading an article debating the importance of the water locked inside these glass beads. I wonder, can’t we just let the beads be, buried and unseen?
Lewis Fry Richardson, a Quaker Mathematician, believed there was a correlation between the length of a country’s shared borders and the likelihood they would go to war. His research The Statistics of Deadly Quarrels (1960) was published after his death, and explored his theory that, depending on the unit of measurement, the length of a country’s border would vary in recorded length.
The Richardson effect shows us that the rivets, lumps, and peninsulas that define our citizenship are immeasurable. It’s the coastline paradox: the more we aim at accuracy, then the more the irregularities show us the difficulty of the task.
So, maybe we can accept that the boundaries of the places that form us are impossible to measure.
Many scholars who understand the context of Ecclesiastes better than I, speak of Solomon’s weariness with life’s monotony. But maybe he knows that the human heart has an appetite for more — more than what we can simply see, more than what we can measure. If it was Solomon who also wrote Proverbs, then he also believed that God bordered the sea inch by inch, down to each grain of sand, that there was a God who knew what the more is, and where it can be found.
I want to know that the hibiscus can regrow, even though the drying desert is encroaching at a speed I cannot measure.
We want to watch children spin under golden rays of water bending over grass blades while water on the moon is monetised.
We want to face the sunrise because we need another chance.
We celebrated all of our household’s birthdays in the last five days, and over the Easter weekend, so this newsletter was a little late to the editing table. Thanks as always for reading. Feel free to leave comments, reflections or questions below. I love reading what you have to say!