Tuesday, 12 August 2008

You stopped and pointed and you said that's a crocus

It's a quiet day at home for me, today. A spot of down time. Doctor's orders. This suits me well and I'm making the most of it. 

But rest time doesn't always have to include couch or bed rest, as a friend said to me yesterday. So I hung out in the garden for a little while and found this. My first crocus of the year.

I just love it. Crocuses are really my sentimental favourites, not that they're even Australian. Why is that important? Because I sometimes feel disloyal loving foreign plants so much. 

At university, my favourite English literature lecturer was the late Dr Axel Clark, son of the also late historian, Manning Clark. Axel had a profound influence on me with his off beat personality and his passion for Australian history and culture. We used to talk a lot and he'd show me ways of seeing that changed so much for me. 

There's an avenue of (I think) birch trees at one of the entrances to the Australian National University and I'll never forget the day I told Axel how I loved walking through them, how I always felt somehow transported by being under their limbs. He said, 'But don't you feel as if they're not very Australian, those trees? They're a bit fraudulent, don't you think, trying to create a European atmosphere in a university in the national capital.'

He was right and I was at an age where I was ripe for seeing new things. I loved all things British or European then and I thought Australia had little to offer, entertaining my own little cultural cringe party. I began to look around and notice native trees and to see that perhaps things could be wonderful here, too. I didn't have to imagine myself somewhere foreign and exotic to feel that the world was beautiful.

That conversation with Axel comes back to me, more than a decade later when I find myself drawn to foreign flora. In the intervening years I've learned to love our natives, too but I still love an avenue of birch trees and I still adore the crocus which I always think, by rights, ought to pop out of a snow drift, not just cold dirt.

Every year, I will continue to be happy to see them pop up in the garden and every year, I'll be glad I live somewhere cold enough to grow them.


While I'm resting, I'm working on a new shawl. The Shetland Triangle by Evelyn Clark. 


After the annoyingly fiddly crochet cast on with just two little stitches, I was off and running. And this morning I remembered how hard red is to photograph. But it's Wollmeise, in Rosenrot, and you'll just have to trust me when I tell you how amazing this colour is away from a camera.


It's not just red. It's got darker patches of nearly-black which just won't show up. But it's lovely, and fast, and it's doing exactly what knitting should do right now - making me feel good.