Saturday, May 29, 2010

Close Encounters

I was cooking dinner this evening and went out in the dark to pick some parsley. In the darkness I encountered a gleaming white lattice ball, I thought it was some kind of plastic packaging at first. I touched it (I touched it) and it was moist and slimy and then behind it I saw the 'egg' from which it had sprung, a sort of burst open mushroom. There was another on the verge of emerging under the mint bushes, and as I prodded it with a stick I saw it spring free and open out. I called Martin. It was dark and the photos aren't great but here they are.
There was something intensely alive about it, between plant and animal. Neither Martin nor I had ever seen anything like it before, and I am not ashamed to say that it freaked me out (remember I touched it. Remember it was slimy.) It was alien and other, the smell, the spawning... it looked almost like something manufactured (packaging or a deteriorating soccer ball, rotted down to it's web skeleton), but at the same time, so...not human.
It smelt both sour and oversweet, sort of yoghurty, like yakult.
It was freakish but beautiful too, which is why I kept trying to get the perfect photograph, despite the terrible light.
Martin was smarter than me. He didn't touch it. He did take one over to the neighbours, strung on a stick, to see if they could identify it. Leaving me alone with the other one. I could hear their voices carrying in the night, their nervous (or unnerved) laughter as they confessed it was nothing either of them had encountered before, and I was comforted by the sounds of them, and by the warm lighted house behind me, and my children playing with their reassuringly plastic toys as I fiddled with my iphone, trying to get a photo that captured not only the beauty of the object but the feelings of otherworldliness it aroused on me. But the smell grew more intense, saturating the interior of not only my nose but also my throat and I couldn't bear it anymore. Martin came back and I stood up and re-entered the warm house, leaving him to throw it away.

I googled it (hint, never google "fungus balls", because you medical conditions.) In the end this is what I came up with: Ileodictyon gracile.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Goodbye Friend

Una drew this picture of our family today in tribute to Snappy the turtle, who passed away this afternoon, apparently peacefully, on his log. The girls found him and were devastated at the loss. Snappy has been part of our family for two years, we inherited him from Zoe who inherited him from her brother.

Snappy was a beautiful, peaceable, intuitive pet. He would always swim to the end of the tank we were, and once when out for a walk, he laid his head on my foot, like a puppy. In summertime Martin and the girls would build elaborate worlds for him and the girls to be in together, using pot plants and the paddling pools and various rocks and things. Fred would check in on him every day when she came home from school and both girls would sit by his tank and chat to him. He was a confidante, and knew how to keep a secret. On sunny days during a break in writing I'd take him out of the tank and hang out in the sunshine with him for a while and watching him explore was a mind cleanser. Martin fed him most of the time and cleaned his tank often and so probably spent more time with him than any of us, but we all loved him. He was a part of our family identity and now has entered family lore. He is buried in a box filled with flowers. His grave is marked with stones from his tank and planted up with new plants. Una and Fred cried for about two hours this afternoon. Una cried while she drew, and the catharsis has seemed to work for now, she has cheered. Fred has settled, but she is small and dewy and quiet.

It sounds a bit soft of us but we kept Fred home from school today because she was plagued by nightmares last night. She is in the last clutches of a pretty mild cold, so we justified it that way. Now I wonder if those nightmares were a kind of foreshadowing, as death brushed past the house.

Una was terrified that Snappy wouldn't go to heaven because his eyes were open when he died.
He was a good turtle, I told Una. I don't believe in God but I added, God loves little creatures.
His eyes were open because he didn't need his eyes anymore, Fred said. He has left his body behind.
I say, I think death is peaceful. I think it is peaceful to die.

I have to confide in you now, he didn't look peaceful the way they found him. He looked shocked, aghast, his eyes open, his mouth open. But then Martin curled his neck into his body, and peace found him, and I stroked his neck and said goodbye.

He will be missed. Goodbye Snappy. Good luck on your next big adventure.

Snappy 2 by you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day: two girls and a...

You know you're really a mum when the cards are the best bit.
Una's card:
That's the baby in my tummy of course. Below is what Una wrote inside, Martin told her the letters. The s is just for practice.
Fred's card:

From the mother's day stall at school:

Chocolate fudge made by Martin and the girls from a recipe book Fred picked up free at the supermarket. Here's the recipe.
And my mum (and dad), who were in town for mother's day. We had danishes and croissants for breakfast.

And Mum and Dad also looked after Una on Friday while we went and had our 12 week scan. We were of course not expecting at this early stage to find out the gender, so we were pretty shocked to be told that the sonographer was 85-90% sure it's a boy. Shocked is the understatement. We both came out spinning. And we still are. 'Don't paint the nursery blue yet,' said the sonographer, and we won't be throwing out the bags and bags of girl's clothes just yet either. But oh. A boy. Even the possibility of a boy. Whew. We're still spinning.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Eleven Weeks

Hard to believe there's another 29 weeks (give or take) of growing to go.