Monday, December 15, 2008

Crafting magic from a garden

Some of my earliest memories are of my mother cajoling me to go for a walk in our rather extensive grounds. I say 'cajoling' because I would have rather been flipping the pages of a book than walking.

What was there to see anyway? We never left our own private grounds and all there was to see were acres of coconut trees and mango trees bending over with fruit. There were only a lot of other fruit trees of just about every tropical species, passionately collected by my grandmother (a true plantswoman if ever there was one). At least 4-5 of them would be in bud or flowering or fruiting at any given time ... but who wanted to see that? Not me!

Finally, I would give in and we would set off. I wonder whether you can picture us? A very reluctant child dragging my feet behind my mother, our numerous dogs in tow and wondering when I could possibly say, "okay, now let's go back".
But she would linger, plucking a weed ... and then admiring its flower... pointing out a bird or a squirrel... and all the while she would be fashioning some little craft of her own from the wealth of greenery around us.

(the tribal necklace )
Pulling a leaflet out of a drooping coconut leaf, she would soon turn it into a toy watch and a ring for me. Another would transform into a magical necklace that a tribal princess would have coveted.

(top to bottom : ring, watch and necklace )
A coconut leaflet pin-wheel would join the treasure-trove and then enthusiastically tested.



And then she would pick up some baby coconuts which had fallen off the tree. A quick tug to remove the 'cap' and she would fit the top of the coconut with some looped and interwoven coconut-leaf ribs. Ta-dah! There was a whirling, twirling toy complete with music (of sorts).


You wanted music? She would quickly roll some coconut leaves into a make-shift trumpet. A blaring sort of music, but still, music all the same ... with a little stretch of imagination.

This was in the pre-TV, pre-PC days with no cartoon programmes or High School shows which become compulsive watching. All I had competing for my attention was a huge pile of books and comics.


Her impromptu crafting finally worked... it got me to look at gardens at least twice. And then, thrice. Until a time came when I got my own garden and decided to see if I could coax some of that beauty and enjoyment from it.


And, when she visits us now, my mother continues to work the same old magic on my city-bred, too-old-for-toys daughter. Some things never change... and thank God for that!


All photos except the first one were taken by my brother, Jagan. All rights reserved.

42 comments:

  1. I so enjoyed reading this post, it's a wonderful testiment to the importance of family tradition. Sounds like you had a great childhood!

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  2. That is children the world over - not wanting to do what adults do! Luckily your mother had some interesting ways of capturing your attention.

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  3. Wonderful post! So much of creativity with such simple objects. Very artistic, Sunita...loved reading about your Mom! Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Thanks, Kim. Yes, we're very strong on family and family traditions.
    A great childhood in a way. I lived in this huge big house with a big garden and grounds but I had no company. No neighbours, no friends anywhere close by. So you can imagine that I used to feel very sorry for myself. But in its own way, it was a fantastic childhood :)

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  5. Isnt it funny, EG? :D
    And today when I have children of my own,I wonder why they aren't more amenable to what we want to do!

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  6. Thanks, Kanak. My mom is a very gifted lady; very creative and clever with her hands.

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  7. Sunita, you weave magical stories as well as leaves! I love the image of you wandering through what must have been a lovely park, how fortunate to have a childhood in such a place!

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  8. Wow! That reminds me of my trips to my uncle's in village during my childhood. They make so many wonders out of leaves, dropped fruits, and whatnot!
    Thank you so much for reminding me of the sweet memories.

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  9. Very cool and well photographed by your brother. It must have been very fun walking with your mother.

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  10. Yes Sunita I can recall my reluctance to water my mothers plants when she was away. I can remember my childhood vacations on my great grandfathers nutmeg and cocoa estate in Grenada. Pickling fruit from my great gran's bedroom window; running wild with my brothers,sisters and cousins picking fruit. Staying out all day rambling on the estate, eating wild pineapples, mangoes for lunch. I now have to coax my grown daughter to assist me in the garden when she is home on holiday. Yes those moments have played a great part in shaping our lives today. Great post!

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  11. What a wonderful mother you have! I have to say that my children are the same. When they were younger, whenever I wanted to take them to visit a garden, they would moan and say they didn't want to go. I just shut my ears and took them anyway, because I knew as soon as we got there, they would enjoy themselves and find something interesting to look at. I hope one day that your children and mine share that magic with their own kids.

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  12. Thank you, Anne. That was a lovely thing to say but all those crafts shown were made by my mother, not by me. I'm afraid I didnt quite figure out how she makes them. But her interest in crafting made me interested in other kinds of crafts.

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  13. Chandramouli, why dont you post about it? It should be fun, dont you think? I'd love to see the Nature crafts made in your part of India.

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  14. Tina, my mother lives with my brother halfway across the country so I persuaded her to make these crafts again for me. Then I coaxed him to photograph it. Now I'm working on persuading him to photograph a step-by-step tutorial on how she makes these :) I think its worth recording for my children and their children .Or anyone else who's interested.
    Yeah, you're right. It was great fun but at the time, I didnt really see it that way. You see, I just wanted to get back to my books.

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  15. Islandgal, that's so fascinating! Really! Please, please post more about it; you're painting such lovely stories of your childhood at your great-grandfather's place. I'd love to hear more.
    Dont give up on your daughter. I was just the same myself. I'm sure that she's soaking in all the gardening spirit from you anyway.

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  16. Victoria, I suspect that all children are the same. It's just the stories in novels that show children dumping all their fun activities to rush to help their mother in the garden with all the boring (to them) and back-breaking work.
    Maybe the authors are playing out a wish-fulfilment fantasy or are hoping to influence their own kids into becoming Li'l Gardeners.
    At least that's my theory and I'm sticking to it! ;)
    I'm sure your kids will look back on those days with a lot of love and nostalgia ... some day, at least.

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  17. Very interesting, thanks for sharing these memories - the pictures really bring them to life.
    A step-by-step tutorial would be a great idea, I wonder what to call it though? Leaf origami? ;)

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  18. Sunita
    I'd love to see the step-by-step tutorial one of these days. Such a lovely, simple idea.

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  19. Oh Sunita, that is pure magic of the very best kind! My heart is warmed to hear that your mother still continues to work that magic on your own child. All of those crafts are wonderful, but the tribal necklace is jewelry box worthy!
    Frances

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  20. Jamie, ...that's the perfect excuse I need to persuade my brother to speed it up a bit.

    Leaf Origami is a perfect name for it, Julian . How clever! :)

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  21. mom, thy name is creativity..congrats

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  22. A lovely post Sunita, and I would love to learn how to make a tribal necklace.
    K

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  23. Ah yes, Frances. But my mother is puzzled about what was so special about it. Typical!

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  24. Thanks, Ramesh. She just cant believe that so many people across the world find her crafts interesting.

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  25. So would I, Karen. I never learnt how when I was living with her but now I think it is time. I'll post the step-by-step photos as soon as I get them. The necklace seems to be a hit here, doesnt it?

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  26. Amazing, I love it when people make things out of the palm leaves. Some of the less fortunate(homeless) people that live on the beach have been crafting all sorts of things from hats to grasshoppers, swans, etc. I think a seriously dedicated person could really make a masterpiece of art from coconut leaves! Thanks for sharing

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  27. How wonderful that your mother made the garden a magical place for you full of fun & creativity. :) We take these memories for granted as children but learn to treasure them as adults.

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  28. That is amazing to me. My family had nothing of this sort to pass along. What a treasure.

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  29. Amazingly inspirational. It's funny how you can't ever imagine the treasure of childhood, until it's past.

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  30. Making grasshoppers and swans out of palm leaves? Eric, that sounds incredible! Please post photos if you can, will you? More than I , I'm sure my mother would be interested in seeing them. She's always improvising on the things she makes.

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  31. Racquel, you're absolutely right! I wish I could do half as well for my own children but I seriously doubt that I am.

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  32. Barbee, when my mother heard about this post, her reaction was a very disbelieving huff, I'm told. She couldn't understand what was so special about what she had done. But I totally agree with your last statement - "what a treasure!"
    Barbee, I'm sure you're creating your own special memories for your children.

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  33. CG, I used to dread these walks at times because I didnt want to leave those lovely books (filled with stories of enthusiastic children who gardened and generally helped their mother before she could even ask them to ... Enid Blyton has a lot to answer for!)

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  34. I have gotten behind in my blog reading, and I just took a small break from my baby proofing and dusting, and need to get back, but I have to let you know I had fun reading this post. I hope to learn some ways to make toys for our grandson that are better for the environment than most available.

    Your mother sounds like a wise woman.

    Sue

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  35. Thanks, Sue.
    I think you can find quite a few ideas for natural crafts on the Net these days. Maybe you could try Googling for something using items available in your area? Have fun!

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  36. Hi, this post brought me back to my childhood days, when we also have to do those crafts from coconut leaves...nice posts here. Namaste...

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  37. Namaste, Skies. I wish I could see the kind of crafts you have in the Philippines. Maybe you could blog about it?

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  38. suchechi i hadnt read ur blogs b4... but once i started reading... it sort of got me glued to the screen.. really amazing...

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  39. Great! So maybe I can enlist your help to get all those photos I was talking about ;)

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  40. Through pure chance I came across this blog and I love it. Your passion comes through every word that you write and picture that you post.This post of course is more special as it takes me back too to the pre TV days.My mother would make me learn the names of all the flowers that the mali was planting.Things have changed so much now just love the way you put it all.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! I'm glad you've enjoyed it. I think our generation was luckier. Now neither the children nor the parents seem to have time for anything which is non-electronic!

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