All of Earth's Gifts

Leaves from the bush from Paul accented by jonquils from the garden from Posy

Those were happy years. Jean was an extraordinarily considerate and attentive companion, always seeking to please me, and from him I received all of earth's gifts. I always had the privilege of the first violets he had gathered under the dry leaves, the first strawberries from the garden, the first cherries. For my bedside table, he brought the first roses, and to my plate the first March trout. And so, the man who owned nothing under the sun shone on those around him. Through the warmth he radiated, the gifts he lavished on everyone, Jean Carles dealt out happiness.
Emilie Carles, A Wild Herb Soup, Ch 22

Today is my birthday. A month or so ago Paul and I absolved each other of ever needing to provide birthday or Christmas gifts to each other, because a) neither of us really like or need standard gifts, and b) life is too short to worry about present-giving. Gift-giving is, on the whole, in my opinion, a trap and a snare, cynically manipulated by advertisers and turning love into a consumer commodity.  Also, we are not really people who fuss about things. And yet, Paul is a master gift-giver. Flowers from the bush next to my bed, brown paper bags of dried figs and medjool dates because they are my favourite, email commands to go outside and look at the sunset or directions on how to spy the international space station. Views of parrots or the echidna, a picnic by the river, the gentle insistence that I sit on the couch and read a book while he cooks dinner.

Paul may have slightly violated our gift-giving resolution by presenting me with hand-made ceramic mugs on my birthday. His mum's partner is a ceramicist, and Paul has a number of his perfect tea mugs. I always take possession of Paul's favourite mug at his place. Now I have my own. I think maybe it was self-defence. Anyway, he is forgiven, this once.

Also, after he cooked me lunch he took me to his mum's farm, where they have just taken delivery of nine miniature donkeys. Including a baby. I fed them carrots and gave them cuddles. Best birthday present ever.

Like Jean Carles, Paul deals out happiness, and I am a bit lucky to be in the orbit of that sunshine. 

As I think back on this autumn I am acutely aware of the bounty brought into my kitchen day after day from the garden, from foraging along roadsides, from friends and family. More than ever this year I have tried to rely on the gifts of the earth, and not to waste any of it. In truth, the earth has provided masses of food that I have not even been able to manage to collect, although it is there and free for the taking. I started a journey to see if I could live a little in the spaces between the commerce that demands a price for everything. I am beginning to discover that there is a lot of freedom in those spaces, a lot of places where all of earth's gifts are abundant, and where there are rather splendid humans who know that love and gifts do not come with a price tag..


Happy birthday, Jo! xoxo
Anonymous said…
Best birthday wishes, Jo. You and Paul have it sorted. Small joys and all the moments of beauty. They are enough.
Linda in NZ
simplelife said…
Sounds like a very happy birthday.
Cheers Kate
Jo said…
Frances, so good to hear from you! Hoping all is well with you and yours. Thank you!

Linda, you are so right. "Small joys and all the moments of beauty." That is it exactly. Why would anyone ever ask for more. In the same autobiography (which I found in Paul's bookshelf) the author relates that a friend was complaining, after years of hard work, that she still hadn't been able to afford a diamond ring. Emilie Carles asks, "What on earth is the use of a diamond ring to a human being?" Good point.

Kate, it really was. I have always been one to enjoy a very simple life, but it has taken this long for that to be ok, and for me to be able to say an unequivocal No to consumerism and Yes to what I really want. I have spent a lot of years saying Yes to what other people want because I am Nice and don't like to upset people. What I love about getting older (47!) is not caring what other people think any more. This means I am going to dress like a bag lady whenever I want to and never leave the house except for emergencies or temptations like baby donkeys!

simplelife said…
Jo I totally hear you on the being nice, people pleasing stuff .I'm almost 50, gasp, and only just beginning to push back and say no. It's not easy but I can't keep on pleasing others because I'm slowly dying on the inside. I guess I'm learning to be comfortable with others discomfort at my boundaries.
Baby donkeys are always worth leaving the house for.
Cheers Kate .
franarf7 said…
Happy Birthday Jo, you found a good one in Paul <3
Anonymous said…
What a delight to read your post! It is wonderful to find like minded people. It is comforting to my spirit, and gives me hope. Happy Birthday, Jo. Thank you for your blog!
Jo said…
Kate, oh, I am so hearing you. Being nice and being a good and honourable person are two different things, and I wish someone had made that very clear distinction when I was young. Enormous respect to you for setting out on that journey..

Fran, yes, indeed:)

Patricia, believe me it is wonderful to have like-minded people commenting and contributing wisdom. That's why I keep writing! I hope we can all support each other here.
GretchenJoanna said…
Happy Birthday, Jo! When you live every day aware of the gift of Being, and receptive to the tangible and intangible gifts that are lavished on us every day, then a birthday seems a bit over-the-top, doesn't it? But I'm glad for you :-) getting to be stretched to welcome more and more gifts!!

Love from California,
Hazel said…
Happy birthday Jo, it sounds like the perfect day.
I was 47 6 weeks ago and feel the same about finally doing things the way I want. I think I'm feeling that the world is beginning to catch up with what I've been saying to my family and their raised eyebrows for years (Plastic! Straws!) and that gives me some justification and confidence.

Funnily enough, I read another blog with a similar world view based in NW Tasmania and she was 47 a couple of days before me- something about spring 1971!
Jo said…
Gretchen Joanna, being stretched to welcome more gifts, yes:)

Hazel, twinsies! It was autumn 1971 in this hemisphere though:)
Yes, let's do what we want. As you say, what we want is less plastic straws but even that seems to unduly rock the boat..
Do let me know the address of the other Tassie blog.
simplelife said…
Can you share the name of that blog please hazel. I live in that area and I love to find others with similar thoughts to me .
Cheers Kate
Hazel said…
Ah yes, autumn! Of course!

The other blog is I think she's near Burnie?? NW, anyway.
Lisa is lovely. Her blog isn't one for ecological musings particularly, but she gardens and has chickens and knits and is frugal and makes do. I also love her photos of the beach and the mountains, neither of which I have near me.
It's funny, I'd never come across Tasmania much, apart from when the village I grew up in discovered there was another Deddington on the other side of the world! There was much excitement for a while but nobody seemed to know for sure that the Tassie town was named after our village so it all settled down again. And now from what I've seen from your two blogs, I really like it. If only you were a bit closer!
Jo said…
Hazel, the Tasmanian Deddington is undoubtedly named after the UK one - early colonial Van Diemen's Land was full of homesick British Empire Builders with no imagination when it came to place names. I live in Launceston on the Tamar River, which is hardly original, is it?
Thanks for the other blog address, it is gorgeous, isn't it?

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