Tastes of Life

The CAN Company’s achievement in 2013 was little short of miraculous. Despite 2 of the 4 members being overseas for several months, and my ongoing health challenges, we managed to compile a book and calendar on the theme Tastes of Life, and stage a fabulous launch on 10 November. I say ‘fabulous’ because the feedback was fabulous.

It all started when I made the comment that, as a result of the side-effect of the medication I was taking, I had lost, not only my appetite for food, but my appetite for life as well. Lyn suggested that we explore what makes individual taste ‘tick’. For food, we have taste buds. Do we have the equivalent of taste buds for other areas of our lives—music, clothes, art, movies, literature, humour, people? Why do different people have different tastes? Do our tastes change over a lifetime? Do we gravitate towards people who share our tastes?

A fascinating topic, though I’m not sure we found any answers. Another of life’s mysteries.

My personal challenge became one of tempting my appetite back into life by offering myself choice titbits in all these areas.

We chose an art deco visual theme for the book and launch, simply because Lyn expressed a liking for a particular font to use for the titles. Being a designer, I declared that the book’s design would need to be in accord. We extended this theme to the clothing we wore to the launch—which delighted the audience.


About 60 friends and relations attended the launch and they appeared to enjoy themselves immensely, especially the ‘performance’ part of the event. At our launches we always sing a selection of songs which echo the theme of the book. In this case our selection ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime:

We’re Happy Little Vegemites  and I Like Aeroplane Jelly (to honour weird Aussie tastes)
Rum by Gum (anon?)
Bottle o’ Wine (Tom Paxton)
The Aussie Barbecue Song (more weird Aussie tastes) (Eric Bogle)
The Honor of Your Company (Tom Paxton) … not on ‘taste’ but a tribute to all the people who have shared our journey with us.

The audience listened with wrapt attention or joined in with gusto as appropriate.

Books and calendars sold well, along with a selection of ‘taste’ cards and other gift items. With the proceeds we were able to treat ourselves to a splendid Christmas lunch, while having enough over in ‘kitty’ to buy equipment, books etc. throughout the coming year.


The CAN Company itself is one of life’s miracles. In December 2014 we will celebrate our 20th anniversary. Since December 1994 we have been meeting at least once a month. Although we are all very different, and not slow to express our views, we have never had a serious disagreement. While I am considered the ‘leader’ the group operates by consensus. When there is work to be done, everyone pitches in without any need for direction.

In 2014 we will adopt a retrospective approach … details to be decided.


Attachments & letting go : Part 1

I haven’t felt inspired to write for the past month. There have been too many things to think about, make decisions about, worry about (pointless though that may be), all the while contending with ongoing health problems. At the same time, I knew that probably the best medicine was engaging in creative projects … writing, taking photographs, making books. None of this seemed possible, as I felt constantly tired.

All areas of my life need decluttering. I decided to make a start by decluttering my computer. This led me to look back through ancient files and I found a folder titled  ‘Carmel’s art and writings’. Some of these dated back ten years. I’m not a person who can just throw everything out without looking at it, and I’m glad of that because some of this work is possibly the best I’ve ever done. I was surprised at the quality and the insights … if I had acted on these, my life might have taken a different (and better) path. But maybe not.

I realised that much of the work had never seen the light of day (outside CAN Company meetings) and an intuitive voice told me “now is the time”.

One year, The CAN Company chose  ‘Attachments’  as its theme. My explorations on the subject led me to ruminate on trees …

“A tree is in a constant state of change … and movement. Before I spent time musing about the matter, I had consciously thought only about a tree’s habit of letting go of leaves, and I’d considered how some leaves become more beautiful after they fall from the tree (a fascinating metaphor to follow). Then I thought of the way a tree drops small twigs and the occasional branch on a continuous basis, always replacing them with others. Further consideration told me that even the tree’s roots are constantly dying and others taking their place … not the main root, maybe, but the subsidiary ones (another metaphor worth following).

“This is just the lesson I need to learn. I accumulate too much. My house is full of books I’ll never read, fabrics I’ll never sew, art materials, recipes, etc. I’ll never use, decades-worth of letters I’ll never look at again, unusual objects of all kinds which ‘might come in handy one of these days’… yeah, sure, provided I remember I’ve got the stuff, and can find it when needed. Each time I take on something new, I should let something else go. Preferably, I should take the initiative in letting go of what no longer nurtures me (or the reverse), IN ORDER to make way for new things … like the tree.”


This is not, strictly speaking, a ‘tree’ but a wisteria vine which grew beside the verandah at our house in Brisbane. It was a constant source of delight to me—one of the few things in our garden that changed with the seasons. 
(To be continued)

Why I gave up housework

(I’ve been slow getting back to this blog because I couldn’t think of anything interesting to write about. Then I remembered that I used to be able to write lots about absolutely nothing, so decided to give it a whirl. I won’t be offended if you decide to skip it.)

In the early years of my marriage I acknowledged that I would never be a good housekeeper. I mentioned this in a letter to a good friend in the USA. She replied, “Well, I’ve never heard any of my friends say they loved their mother because she was a good housekeeper.” That was good enough for me. I passed the comment on to a friend whose husband had been complaining about her poor housekeeping habits. I also suggested she challenge him to name one fascinating woman who had a tidy house. He couldn’t. I’m sure there are some fascinating women with tidy houses, but I doubt there are many … especially if you turn up unannounced. If you think you’ve found an exception, check for the possibility of paid housekeeping help lurking in the background.

I blame my mother for my poor housekeeping habits. She was a meticulous housekeeper, and my sister and I had to help with the housework. The two of us always did the dishes , made our beds and kept the room we shared tidy, swept floors, and I’m sure there were other tasks I’ve now forgotten, Our two brothers were exempt from all this, which I thought grossly unfair. (I can’t recall their helping Dad with outside work either, but perhaps I just didn’t notice.)

My ‘special’ job was to dust the ledges once a week. This was extraordinarily boring because there was never enough dust to make it worthwhile. Once a month would have been more than often enough.

Some children emulate their parents, others take the opposite path as soon as they are able, which for me was as soon as I left home. During my single years I was fortunate in sharing with other girls who weren’t fussy housekeepers either.

(Aside: I also blame my father for my becoming a ‘late person’. He always caused us to arrive at destinations so early that we had to twiddle our thumbs with boredom for ages.)

I don’t want you to think that I have a disgustingly untidy, dirty house (though A-class housekeepers would probably disagree). I’m pretty good when it comes to bathroom and kitchen where cleanliness is important. It’s not that I don’t like clean, tidy houses either, but I’d rather someone else kept them that way.

So that things don’t get completely out of control, we make sure we invite visitors now and again, to give us an incentive to do a general cleanup.

Such an occasion occurred about a week ago. Guests were coming the following day and I suddenly noticed the kitchen floor was decidedly grotty. My husband, who has taken on a number of household chores (bless him) washes it intermittently, and fairly ineffectively (but it would be petty of me to complain). It’s one of those vinyl floors I’ve only encountered in rented houses—the kind that has a sort of indented textured surface, which (I suppose) is intended to make it unslippery, but which captures grease and dust in such a way that it is completely resistant to normal cleaning. In the olden days a woman would have got down on her knees with a scrubbing brush. That was out of the question, of course, but I found some heavy duty cleaner, spread it on the floor, and attacked it with a hard-bristled broom. This worked, but only with great effort. And then I had to mop the floor 3 times with clean water to remove all the soapy scum. Hours later, exhausted, I had a clean floor.

For a few moments I regarded it with pride. Then I realised that, if I were to die the following day, I’d be really annoyed to have spent so much of my last day house-cleaning.

The guests, needless to say, didn’t notice. And my son didn’t give me a big hug and tell me I was a wonderful mother. He has told me on a number of occasions, however, that he’s glad he has such an interesting mother.

Probably I should have just gone to the beach …

Lovely, typical winter sea at Scotts Point

The arrival of the Healing Doll

Some days are just magic. 24th June was such a day.

In the morning post a package arrived. I knew it was no ordinary package because—how shall I say—my name was ‘emblazoned’ on the front. A little scrutiny revealed that it came from Barb Kobe, artist doll maker specialising in Healing Dolls. If you haven’t encountered Barb’s work, check out her website immediately.

Some years ago I took part in one of Barb’s online Healing Doll courses. It was quite wonderful, but (as is my usual habit) I didn’t complete all the assignments, making only 2 out of the 4 dolls required. Though we didn’t communicate a lot during the intervening years, there was  an affinity established between the two of us and I knew I had made a friend. 

Earlier this year Barb invited me to join her new 12-month Healing Doll course.I told her what had happened since I last wrote to her … Ie the saga of the brain tumour. I was afraid I wouldn’t have time to do the course justice, but allowed myself to be persuaded. Clearly, the timing was perfect. It was agreed that I would send Barb a number of my ebooks (which are mostly digital versions of artist books) and she said she’d make me a paper Healing Doll.

I sent the ebooks straight away, and waited eagerly for the doll.

I knew it would be lovely, because all of her work is, but I was totally unprepared  for how lovely it would be. 

 I opened the package and inside was another package, beautifully wrapped in hand-painted paper.


I opened it carefully so as not to disturb anything.

Inside was a truly beautiful folder, collaged with contrasting papers, some glossy, some matt, some textured.




 For some moments I was unable to speak and felt close to tears. I called my husband and son, who were both amazed at what they saw. I told them I was quite overwhelmed that someone I barely know would go to this much trouble for me. What you can’t see in the photos is that everything is hand-painted and lettered, and the finish is exquisite. It’s not just beautiful to look at either. Barb had given me a list of searching questions to answer, and she has been able to incorporate so much of what I told her into the doll. 

There I was, thinking “I don’t deserve this”, when my son said, “She must really appreciate your work”. (In fact, Barb had told me so … she was lavish with praise for my ebooks).

It started me thinking. Maybe all the wonderful people I know, who give me so much, do so because they think I’m wonderful too. I’m not quite ready to say “I’m wonderful”, but I guess I must be OK.

The doll had begun her healing work.


The missing cello

The seach for the missing ingredient


Following is a summary of a story from the Introduction to Arjua Ardagh’s book, Leap before you Look.

Fred had always felt something was missing in his life. After years of research he came to the conclusion that he had lost his cello. From then on Fred became a dedicated cello seeker. He travelled the world, sought out teachers, and attended countless cello music concerts. He even joined support groups of people who were, like him, trying to rediscover their inner cellos. Fred became a professional cello seeker, subordinating everything else in life to the quest.

One day, when he was rushing to yet another support group, he ran into an old friend. Fred said he couldn’t stop to talk because he was on his way to his cello finders’ support group. But the friend brought him to a halt and said, “What’s that thing on your back?”

Well, you’ve guessed it, haven’t you? The thing on his back was a cello. Fred was amazed and overjoyed … he had at long last found what he’d been looking for.

There was a corollary to the story … having found his cello, Fred then had to play it, and practise so that he would get better and better and bring his gift to others.

(If you’re interested in reading the full story, which is beautifully told, go to the Sounds True website  where you can purchase the softcover book, ebook or audio download.)

The lesson to be learned, of course, is that many of us already have what we’ve been looking for. But while we can’t see it, others often can. With this in mind, I asked several insightful friends what they thought my missing cello could be. I’d rather hoped they’d all come up with the same thing, and that my path would then be clear. No such luck. It seemed I had a whole orchestra hanging around my neck.

One said I often needed the affirmation of others, because I couldn’t find it in myself. He pointed out that I already had the affirmation of others … and I had to admit he was right. People frequently praise me and my work, but a critical inner voice says they don’t know what good is. This is really stupid, because many of these people are very accomplished themselves.

Another said it was my ‘artist’. She said everyone else considered me an artist, though I didn’t accept it myself. I protested against this because, though I acknowledge that I have the potential to be an artist, I so rarely practise. You can’t call yourself an artist if you hardly ever create art.

Yet another, the amazing dream coach Jane Teresa Anderson , asked me what I yearned for in childhood. The reply came spontaneously, “excitement and adventure”. “That’s what my life lacks,” I continued, “excitement and adventure.” Jane began to laugh. “I’m sitting with a woman wearing a pirate scarf and an outrageous eyepatch, who’s lived in a very challenging situation for many years, and she tells me her life has no excitement and adventure.” I saw her point, and giggled. I thought about it a little, but then realised it wasn’t the same thing at all. What I had experienced was not excitement and adventure, but danger and insecurity. They can all go together, but they don’t have to. One could discuss this at length, but at another time perhaps.

I certainly don’t yearn for danger. I want the sort of excitement that makes me eager to leap out of bed in the morning.

It doesn’t have to be something ‘big’. Small stones will do.


Maybe finding your true self IS the life purpose?


For some time I’ve had the suspicion that, once you find your ‘true self’ (whatever that may be) it’s probably time to leave this world. Perhaps that thought has been holding me back. After all, I don’t want to leave this world just yet … because there are still lots of things I want to do, and there’s that life purpose. Now we’re in a circular argument. So for the moment, I’ll assume that life purpose involves doing something you love and are especially good at.

I mentioned earlier that I’ve long been bothered by the feeling that there’s something missing in my life. Something special that I’m supposed to do. As a result of feedback from friends, and several comments on this blog, along with some recent events in my life, I’ve been slowly coming to the realisation that what we think is ‘missing’ is something we already have.

Three things in particular have led me to this realisation.

  • The reading of a book called Leap before you Look by Arjuna Ardagh
  • The arrival of a wonderful Healing Doll from dollmaker extraordinaire, Barb Kobe
  • An exercise in the first session of a workshop series, Stepping Outside the Circle, presented by Amanda Moffatt of Bowerbird Creative Programs.

I’ll be talking about each of these in more detail in the next week or so.

On with the journey: finding a life purpose (or something like that)

Sometimes you can think too big (my parents would have said so).

Ever since childhood I’ve wanted something ‘more’, something ‘different’, something ‘special’, something ‘beyond the ordinary’. Probably because of my parents’ attitude, I came to believe that only special people did special things. ‘Ordinary’ people like me didn’t become great opera stars, for instance (they do, of course, but I didn’t know that then). My mother even told me that a friend’s daughter was an opera singer, and that it was a ‘terrible life’.

My parents only ambition for their children was for the two girls to get married and have children, and the two boys to get good ‘safe’ jobs. I suppose that’s not uncommon for people who had been through a world war and a depression. ‘Adventure’ didn’t come into the picture.

My siblings and I, in today’s education world, would have been put in the ‘gifted and talented’ category, yet nobody encouraged us in childhood to consider being artists, writers, scientists, travellers, university professors. Wanting to be anything but ordinary, to my parents’ minds, was ‘having tickets on yourself.’

So I grew up with a yearning that my conditioning told me could never be fulfilled.

Fast forward fifty+ years …

Mine is not a long-living family. My father died at 67, my mother at 71, my sister at 68. Then came my cancer diagnosis. OK, so, for the time being at least, I’ve survived that. But even if I live another 20 years, it’s not long is it. Twenty years is nothing.

Having faced my mortality, I find that I don’t want to die before I do that ‘special something’. Trouble is, I don’t know what that is. Before the cancer thing, I would have said I wanted to be the best artist I could be, but now that doesn’t seem to matter … especially as I haven’t developed any area of the arts to any great extent. There’s a feeling that the ‘something more’ I yearn for is something I haven’t yet discovered.

Or is that just another side-effect of medication!

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on all this over the last year, and in the absence of any answers, I thought I’d better push on with the stones project, even though the impetus had slackened.

Back to wrapping stones.
I explored online, and found lots of people doing lovely things with stones. Then I came upon a Japanese tradition of stone-wrapping

I rather liked this idea of tome ishi, or Sekimori ishi, and made my version as a present for a friend on her birthday. She thought it too nice to put out in the garden and has it on display inside her house.


I think I’ve just had an enlightenment! The paths I’ve really wanted to follow in life have all had ‘stop stones’ on them.

Oh my!

Perhaps my life purpose is to identify and remove them.

(Or could it be that one’s life purpose is to discover one’s life purpose.)