makar [ˈmækər]
n (Literature / Poetry) Scot a creative artist, esp a poet
[a Scot variant of maker]

Monday, January 2, 2017

I love the end of the year - it brings a sense of closure and introspection and the opportunity to instigate some changes. In the last few days of 2016, I thought about what I want to focus on over the coming year and, in particular, over the next five months before our baby is due. I jotted down a list of what I'd like to achieve in this brief window of semi-freedom, while my third is in full-time education and my baby is still self-contained. It was an ambitious list, but not one beyond the realms of possibility. I'm hoping it will keep me on track. We shall see...

But a list is not a resolution and, by New Year's Eve, I still hadn't decided on one. Where to begin? There are so many things that I could do better, so much room for improvement. And then it came to me: something simple and entirely possible that would improve my well-being and my productivity. I would resolve to write every single day, no matter what. It needn't be a 1000-words of fiction, or anything meaningful or even good; I just need to write, be it a scrawled paragraph of a novel, a new plot-line development, a quick character sketch, a rant about a personal encounter or experience, an observational description of the colours or smells or feel of the day, even a blog post... just write every day.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Helloooo there, strangers! Here I am on the other side of the epic move (not really but it felt epic to me), hurtling towards the end of the year at an alarming pace. I've tried to write a blog post a couple of times, but the words just weren't there. As is the case with so many people, 2016 has not been a bundle of laughs. There have been a few ups and some massive downs. I feel altered by this year and rather wrung out, but also a little wiser and somehow more at peace with myself. Weird, I know. I wonder what 2017 will bring... There is a baby growing in my belly, due mid-year, a novel to re-edit, a new writing project to research, and a thousand ideas for prints to realise. But first Christmas and a birthday, and a new year to welcome in...

Sunday, October 2, 2016

In a few weeks, we will be moving home. It feels bitter-sweet, as many moves do. We have been here six and a half years, the longest I have lived anywhere since I left my parents' house at 19. It's also the first house we have ever owned and lived in together. The children are feeling pretty anxious about moving because they have no memory of living anywhere else. It's exciting, but also a little sad.

When we moved here, all those years ago, we had two children, one barely two and the other only six months old. I was super keen to meet people and, as soon as possible, pushed my pram up the hill to the local playgroup. The first two women I encountered are still dear friends, and I went on to make a whole gaggle of connections with those who frequented the group. It was very relaxed and the emphasis was most definitely on the mums chatting and drinking tea together, while the kids did their thing. Everyone was happy with the arrangement! There was always an abundance of cake and watermelon. It was a great end to a long week, and I looked forward to it SO much.

Of course, things move on and we eventually stopped going when my eldest started Kindy and schedules clashed. As we got caught up in different schools and different commitments, I saw those mums less and less. Some friendships have fallen by the wayside, others remain strong, despite the infrequency of our catch-ups. Such is life. Things move on and change. I have fond memories of that time, difficult as it often seemed.

I will miss this suburb for the beautiful, wild gardens, the big majestic trees, the quirky houses and the quiet streets. I will miss my morning walks under the pink-grey sky, the red-tailed black cockatoos that circle our garden, the call of the kookaburras, the shade of our jacaranda tree, the spectacular light that beams into my kitchen in the late afternoon, but mostly, I will miss it for the good people who live here.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Seven weeks ago, I had a miscarriage. I was 11 weeks pregnant and on holiday with my whole family. My eldest boy broke his arm that week and needed surgery, so it really was a ridiculously shitty week. As my husband said, "at least it all happened in this beautiful, healing place". I could see the beauty, but I wasn't feeling it, and I certainly wasn't healing. In the weeks immediately afterwards, I found myself floored by a deep sense of grief; one that shocked me with its volume and ferocity. As I sobbed over my desk, quietly on the bus, and desperately in the shower, the hot water flushing away my tears, I was reminded of the grief I endured after I lost my mum, over a decade ago. And yet, I had never known the person I grieved for, I had never even seen them because the only scans I had were the ones to confirm that there was no longer a baby inside me. The person I grieved for was an imagined person, an imagined future, demarcated by imagined milestones. And yet the pain was real.

Last week, I went back to the place where I lost this fourth not-to-be child of mine. To begin with, there were reminders everywhere of what had happened. When I looked at the design of the bathroom floor, I saw blood, when I rode past a certain landmark, I felt the cramps strengthening, when I went to the pub, I recalled the moment I realised it was not going to be okay. But it was school camp and there wasn't much time to dwell. And besides, it felt good to be there, in a place that has so many happy memories for me; a place I first visited when I was 6 months old and which I have loved all my life. And then, when it was almost the end of the week, I found myself sitting in the evening sunshine, with some amazing women, holding a tiny baby in my arms, and telling them, without, crying, about what had happened. Only a few weeks ago, I could not bear to look at a pregnant woman or a baby; I could not stop crying and I certainly could not talk about my miscarriage. Going back was the best thing that I could have done.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Some days require cake and today was one of those days. Not because anything was particularly wrong, but just because I had the urge to bake. It calms and centres me. It makes my home feel like a functioning and productive place, a warm and welcoming place. I think I might actually like baking cakes even more than I like eating them! This one is sooo good.

Citrus Polenta Cake

125g fine polenta
225g almond meal (I have also made it with hazelnut meal)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2tsp ground cloves
225g butter (unsalted)
200g caster sugar
Grated zest of one grapefruit and one orange
3 eggs

100ml juice from the grapefruit and orange
50g caster sugar
Grated zest

Preheat oven to 170 centigrade.
Combine polenta, almond meal, baking powder and ground cloves.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and half of the zest. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in between. Fold in polenta and almond meal until well combined.
Spoon into prepared tin.
Bake for 50 minutes.
Prepare the drizzle 5 minutes before the cake is baked. Combine ingredient in a saucepan and simmer for a few minutes. Pour onto the cake while it is still warm. Allow the cake to cool in the tin.
Serve with whipped cream or plain yoghurt.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I have some big things to write about - a miscarriage, a child undergoing surgery for a badly broken arm, moving house - but I don't know what to say about these yet, so I will let them rest and see what happens. I don't feel like doing a lot of things at the moment. I'm not really enjoying cooking and I have lost the compulsion to make art. I'm writing in little scrappy outbursts, but what I write, I like. There's a precision and ferocity to it. I think I am ready to start working on something new.

I don't feel as quick as I normally do. It's as if the world is moving at a pace that I can't match. I worry that I am missing details. I am reading slowly but with pleasure. My favourite time is at the end of the day, when I snuggle into bed with my daughter and read one or two chapters to her. The book we are reading together is far more exciting than the one I am reading on my own! I know this is a tough time and that it will pass. I'm fed up of the rain, of cold fingers, and no energy. I would like some spring sunshine and a new place to explore.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I have a new obsession - printmaking - and it's been keeping me busy in the evenings (and making me stay up way too late). There's something about making with my hands that just opens up the mind and fuels my creativity and enthusiasm for life. Since I've started making visual art more frequently, my writing has felt so much more joyful. It is still REALLY hard work, but I'm not at war with the second draft of my novel in the same way I was a month ago. I had a realisation the other day, while riding on the bus (this is where I have most of my epiphanies; the other place is in the shower!). Writing a first draft is a bit like falling in love: exhilarating, intense, unpredictable and consuming. Writing the second draft is when the passion cools a little and you have to focus on the details in order to figure out the logistics of your relationship. This is the tough part, when the real work begins...

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