Life on a platter

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In a book “Ihmisen osa” (Human’s part – if I’m attempting a crude translation) by Finnish writer Kari Hotakainen, a 80 year old woman meets a writer on a book fair. They start talking, and since the writer is going through a creative drought and the woman desperately needs money although she hates literature by principle as nothing but silly lies, they come up with a deal – the writer buys her life story from her for €7000.

The book is witty and touching, it handles social change and the failure of people to live up to the new demands, which may be unreasonable in the first place. The tragedy of life. We also learn why the woman needed money and that it will be put to good use enabling her eldest child, her dear daughter, to recover from the tragedies of life we eventually learn about in the book.

Yesterday evening I met a woman, soon to turn 83, while waiting for a bus. She was one of those old people who become almost maniacally talkative and once we had exchanged a few casual words she basically poured out the main points of her life’s story during a 15 minute bus ride, and I immediately thought of this book. Here it was, another person’s life, liberated by the age and loneliness of the speaker. Her forced deportation to Siberia as a young girl, lifetime of work as a physical education teacher, two husbands, a bright and smart son that died due a lymphoma when in middle school, around the time she met her second husband. A scene where the man, she had once met due work, came back to look for her the second time, asking for her to marry him. And how the other ladies in the office told her that a man had been looking for her, and her (flattered in hindsight) confusion and general commotion among women over one being looking for her even if there were men left in her life.

I learned about her apartment and how there’s no place to keep the apples now that the house has been renovated. I learned about a piece of metalwork her son had made in school when he was in the 5th grade, still displayed in the front hall of her apartment. I heard about the loneliness after her second husband died just recently, and how she lives the most active of lives, as her home, the lonely and silent apartment filled with shadows of dead people, has become a place to escape from instead of a place to escape to.

So here it was, a life on a platter, for free.

How often it is that we feel awkward and uncomfortable when an elderly person having no-one left to talk to starts pouring out the minutest details of their mundane on a random street corner. I wonder, if we’d feel differently if we had to purchase these stories €7000 apiece. I also wonder if that lady would feel cheated somehow, if she were to read this here, and realise, that what she told of her life so freely has become a blog post.

Passage of time

It’s baffling how subjective it is. Sometimes I can’t help but feel as if there really was no such thing as time. Surely it has not been more than half a year since the last time anything was posted here? In my perception it hasn’t even been a break, as such, I’ve merely been either otherwise occupied or not in the mood or tired or late for bed, and so I’ve been postponing the next post a day or two. Okay, maybe a week or two, but definitely not for months. On the other hand – in terms of internet-time, 6 months is pretty much an eternity, no? And if that is so, Google search is our time-machine – I keep finding all the time threads that no-one has posted in for years when shouting out my questions into the search box. It’s all there, and yet it’s not, as no matter how many replies I were to post – no-one would hear or return to a discussion long lost and abandoned.

In any case, it is spring now, and we can happily skip the all the darkness and cold. Although, this would also mean skipping all the magical snow-scapes, and that wonderful feeling when you have trudge through darkness and bone-freezing cold (so grateful that you were born a warm-blooded creature, and as long as you keep moving, you’ll be okay even if the moisture on your nose-hair freezes with every incoming breath and melts with ever outgoing one), illuminated by the beauty and utter loneliness of a starlit sky, and then you finally get THERE, you step into a place that is warm and lit and has people who smile at you for they were waiting for you. In the winter, illuminated windows are like magic beacons.

Today, however, there are puddles all over the half-thawed land, there are snowdrops, snowflakes (the photosynthesising kind), crocuses and the skin-cancer dangerous blessing of the sun.

Not Right In the Mind

The business at our little Etsy shop has been slow, as usual, but very pleasant (as usual). Just recently I ended up sending a customer links to other Etsy shops selling similar products just after they had made a purchase and an additional custom purchase from us, while being very happy about it all. Doesn’t sound like a very sane thing to do, but the thing was – it turned out that they are on a rather tight schedule, and although it is theoretically possible for a parcel to travel to it’s destination in the US within two weeks, it is not something I would count on myself, if time was of essence. And that’s what I told the buyer.

Now I have an experience of cancelling orders. Actually, this experience is still pending, as the order cancellation is still pending. The Etsy website says, that it takes 48 hours for cancellations to process.

Speaking of 2 weeks delivery time – another customer left a very kind and warm message about receiving their parcel just 13 days after being posted. It’s such a pleasant thing, when the global postal service does a quick and efficient job! Nevertheless – it’s never something that can be counted on with absolute certainty.

If we were an actual business sending out hundreds or thousands of parcels each day, we could have DHL deliver our products with much better certainty of speed and the price of regular postal service. Alas, fur a mere mortal (read: private person), with two shipments a month, the price for express delivery is rather astronomical (more at least 8 times the regular postal service).

Another recent discovery is the imminent proximity of Christmas (the holiday season). I know, again, for a regular normal human being this sounds very awkward, but from a commercial perspective it’s pretty much the time all preparations on holiday products should be well over with. I, on the other hand, while painfully aware of that, am only starting to think of any potential holiday decorations and cards. Too late, I know, but I’m not letting it frustrate me much – there’s always the next Christmas, you know? 🙂

And in the mean while I’m having some lovely ideas regarding birds. Birds as wonderful, lovely, loyal and caring feathery friends. Also, speaking of FURRY friends now, if you haven’t seen it yet, but like dogs (and children) (and cross-species relationships)* you may want to google “dog jumping on mattress video”.

-Maarja

*please, just in case, don’t google any of that other stuff.

Latest Creations

The September rain is mercilessly pelting down my window as I’m doing a quick shop inventory. I’m surprised to find that even the thinner-shelled European Acorn earrings and necklace (which have been up at our shop for over a year now) are still in perfect condition. Many photos at the shop could use re-doing, as some of them are hasty shots with poor lighting, I will have to add that to the list of things that need to be done, and then, if I happen to have a spare moment when the sun comes, it may just be the right moment for this. I still need to re-make and list these beauties (more of these below).

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Yesterday we had some sun briefly, between clouds and rain and thunder. I took this chance to photograph some acorn caps.

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I’m testing whether there’s any demand for size-sorted caps. It kind of makes sense to me, that people who are crafting with natural acorn caps could sometimes use a set of the same size. As I don’t have the space to pick and dry large quantities of caps, I’m trying to focus on small batches and carefully selected sets. Today’s new listings are caps sorted by size, a selection of quadruplets (for caps attached to one twig) and a set of triplets. Also some simpler listings of twigged singles and twins. I used to have mainly 50 pcs listings, this time I’m trying out 100 pcs and more too.

In the mean while some new acorn jewellery has also been made – I added an extra ring to the earring design and used a different type of box. These sets went to a local handicraft shop, though.

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I am now kind of torn between the two types of box design. The corrugated one with a bow on top looks kind of neater and is simpler. The old design involves drawing an oak leaf by hand each time. Which is kind of nice too, but a bit more time-consuming, and sometimes the leaf doesn’t come out as nicely as I’d like. I was already about to prepare for dropping this design entirely, but then I messed up a little the last time I drew an oak leaf on a box, which resulted in a spider and some other playful elements, and it looked like there would be some fun design potentials there.

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Sorry, these last photos are quick snapshots in poor lighting with my phone, just so I’d remember what this particular box looked like.

I hope your Autumn (or Spring) is starting up nicely!

-Maarja

Natural Gardening

Have you noticed how beautiful wild flowers can be? A meadow in the summertime, buzzing bees and butterflies. This image should bring lots of lovely flowers to one’s mind by default, and with a good reason. Of course not every wild plant is particularly good to look at – not that there’s anything wrong with them, but we humans do have (flower) gardens for a reason.
And that’s why it totally baffles me why we keep sowing the monotonous green lawn everywhere – at least that’s what they do where I live, there might be more progressive thinking towns and/or countries in the world (and in some places the lawn is really not an issue – you get dust and trees).

Thankfully the air is full of all kinds of seeds, and given enough time the parks, where the grass is cut twice or thrice a year, tiny patches of beautiful flowers begin to appear, and it is marvellous. Of course, there is a downside to that – sometimes when the “lawn” is damaged or the seeds sown on a fresh batch of untouched soil after reconstruction, etc. the not so pleasant to look at weeds take hold, which is less marvellous. I’ve been thinking, that it would be a really good idea to collect a bagful of seeds from beautiful wild flowers and go about throwing them on the ground wherever there is a fresh batch of soil. The lawn does make sense in some places, of course – it’s pleasant to sit on or do sports on, and if you have a proper garden area with well taken care of cultivars, it is better to surround it with the neutral green, but everywhere else – let the wild flowers rock!

Here are some examples taken at nearby parks:
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One of my favourite sounds in the world …

is the sound of leaves rustling in the wind!

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This photo is not the actual thing, though. It’s a promise instead. Fresh new leaves emerging on a quiet sunny day a month ago. Today is the day of deliverance – the trees are fully leafed and we are having a very windy day.

There have been two highlights today, so far:
1) the moment we – me and my four year old companion (who also happens to be my son) sat on the balcony with windows almost closed, and quietly put together a puzzle to the sound of the wind toying with trees.
2) right now, the day-nap coffee break in the glorious peace of solitude.
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You may have noticed some items at the shop are currently marked as TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE. It’s because my dear sister is currently taking a break due some health problems. We are unsure as of cause at this moment, and hence everything is on hold for the moment. It’s like the time before a thunder storm. The tension and the uncertainty and the feel of impending doom. Some of her items are still up, though, because I have them at my place and and they are ready to be shipped.

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Aside from that and the wind, the lilacs and horse chestnuts are in full bloom all over the town. But we, we have a secret garden of our own as well. Petunias smell wonderful. We got them by happen-stance, but they are now welcome to stay. Their scent reminds me of horse sweat, at times. But I do happen to like how horses smell, so I don’t mind at all.

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Did you know that dandelions in French are called pissenlit, which means piss in bed? It’s a herb with diuretic properties. In Estonian their name translates as “butter flower”, however. Yellow as butter.

IMG_4217People also make dandelion-honey, or dandelion syrup. This is dandelion petals boiled in water, drained and the remaining liquid made into golden syrup. I’ve never made it, but I’ve heard that it smells divine.

If this was a parenting blog, the pictures above and on the right might as well illustrate “projects to do with children”. If this was a lifestyle blog one might call them “simple things to enjoy profoundly”.

-Maarja

When You Take A Closer Look

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I had never before in my life been annoyed by the fact that one edge of a store-bought sheet of cardboard is a mere millimetre or less shorter than the opposite one. I had never noticed how many different shades of WHITE there are. Not to mention the different types of paper – I’m pretty positive I haven’t begun to even scratch the surface of that one.

When you pick an idle acorn passing an oak tree in the autumn you are very unlikely to take a real good look at it. It’s an acorn, what else is there to look at? But if you sit down in the morning, take one box full of acorns and another full of caps and try make earrings out of them, things change. You notice scratches on their surfaces, you check for the tiny black tip, you polish each and every one of them shining and then you find THE right cap and THE perfect acorn. Each tiny detail is suddenly very significant, very important. This is what happens when you make things.

It’s the same with drawing (I have mountains to learn in that area, of course). The great secret to the success, definitely not discovered by me, is the taking a real good look at what you mean to reproduce on paper. Although, I’ve noticed that there are different ways to take “a good look”. You can either go for more realistic representation or a more cartoon-styled one. For the first one you need more details and more realistically accurate observations (a good understanding of shadows would help too – this one here is a reminder to myself). If you go with more symbolic style it might suffice to study other drawings instead. I mean, you don’t need to see an actual Christmas tree to draw this (or an actual cat – although, having enough real life observations might help you size them a bit better):

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But what I really wanted to get as was not that, though. It was the amazement of how much there really is to see and to observe, wherever we look. You think you know English language, or any other language, for that matter? One thing that doing bits and pieces of translating on various subject I had never really given much thought about has taught me, is how little I know. And how taking a closer look, being familiar with some speciality field is related to language. Because when we observe something we create categories and concepts. And when we create categories and concepts we also need to name them. But these names and concepts mean very little to someone who is not looking closely.

I had similar experience with a 1000 piece puzzle recently (look at the very first picture of that post). I had never done one before, and I decided I wanted to do one. So I did. During the process I had to codename my puzzle pieces by shape types and by colour, because these were the very concepts by which to solve the thing, and my mind needed names so I could endlessly mutter to self “now I need a vertical two-knob, now I need a vertical two-knob”. I also got a much better understanding of all the puzzle metaphors. Like what the “last piece of the puzzle” actually feels like or how does a piece of a puzzle click into place. I can tell you – puzzles, at least the one I solved, try really hard at being confusing. I learned about half-way (the vast stretches of blue sky with nothing else on it made this obvious) that some pieces are really similar in shapes – at least when only two edges are concerned. So I had to become super delicate about whether it merely fits or fits perfectly, and even then it was worth checking through the whole row of similar shapes, because if there were two contestants to the place I had to compare them directly.

So now I have somewhat improved my idea of what a really big puzzle feels like. Of course I could improve it even further by doing another one, but I don’t think that’ll be happening any time soon. It really does take A LOT of time, especially if you don’t have proper table space for it.

So, now I can’t help, but wonder each time someone uses a puzzle metaphor I get confused more easily. “yes, it seems like the right answer, but you know if you say that it fits like a piece of a ‘puzzle’ I really, really want you to quickly try out ALL of the similar shapes so we wouldn’t have to break it apart and start all over when it turns out that the pieces we have left over are not at all like the empty spots we have and something must have gone wrong along the way!”

 Of course, it could be that they have an 8-piece toddlers puzzle in mind. But, it so happens that I also have a first hand experience with toddlers, and they really do need to specify whether it fits as if a grown up was solving that 8 piece puzzle or as if a 2-year old was …

(in case you were wondering about the drawing above – nope, not a 2-year-old).

-Maarja