Saturday, November 18, 2006



“I would have them all one colour” said Henry about the handmade tiles. We had arranged the colours temporarily into two groups - into sea and sky, and autumn leaves.

Over espresso with our friend, we got to talking about families - about whether or not one likes one’s parents or siblings and, if one doesn’t, does one love them? Does one continue a relationship with a blood relation if the only thing one shares, is history?

In Henry’s case there seemed, after thirty years of trying, to be no more point.

Alone again in our kitchen-to-be we de-segregated summer-sea and autumn-leaf tiles, laying them out to clash happily on the temporary peninsula. An unconcious reaction, no doubt, to the somewhat chilling familial tale we had been listening to.

It was time for breakfast. Julian thrust yesterday’s bread in the fire on a piece of bamboo hand-crafted into a toasting fork.

“It’s like being a grown up and a boy scout all at the same time!” he bubbled, his curls jiggling up and down.

We are excited. After almost three years here, the kitchen is suddenly more than a dream: There are plug-points and a potential layout where electricity and energy move unhindered through the room; Julian will have his granite worktop at last (and his tap); Monsieur Trazic has come to measure for the glass front door through which the burnished light of the low sun will pool onto a terra cotta floor; Bright tiles are waiting to disco on the splashback….

We are happy. Autumn this year is one of the most colourful I have seen and it’s right outside our door. We have come back from a run (Julian’s third in his snazzy three month old Nikes) on which the cherry trees hollered their last scarlet ballad before the frost to a backing group of butternut poplars. I am preparing for a day painting boards with gesso and packing prints. Hopefully there will be time to paint. We are a team.

Over muesli and toast we continued the conversation about families – preferring to think of them as mini-societies; as groups of people who do not choose each-other because they fit together but rather are thrown together, becoming golden opportunities to aspire – aspire ‘cos it can feel impossible at times - to rise above our judgements and perhaps catch a fleeting glimpse of our shared humanity.

I had a sudden urge to build a big area of brightly coloured tiles in Henry's house.



Blogger Katherine said...

Oh these are gorgeous colours - keep the photos coming please.

I think there is something to be said for extending the notion of "family" to people beyond those one shares a bloodline with.

I like the idea of families including people you choose to share your life with in a significant way. I know I have male and female friends who are counted as "family" by me....and some of them are also counted as such by some members of my biological family. So where do families begin and end?

3:02 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

yes Katherine, I also belioeve in this notion of extended family, and indeed have people in my life apart from J whom I consider as just as close as family - in some cases more - and certainly just as important. However, these are people I have chosen and who have chosen me. Of course some believe that one 'chooses' one's biological family too.....

3:18 PM  
Blogger Katherine said...

"Does one continue a relationship......" suggests activity. For the most part I guess the bits of the family we don't have much to do with are those where we've probably made the least effort over time - because of other pressures, distance, etc. That's not to say that one can't enjoy their company now and again and any reminiscing about the mutual bits of history that one does share. I had a really lovely time staying with my cousin in the USA this summer doing just that.

What's much more difficult is making a conscious decision to stop all activity to do with keeping in contact with an individual. Not easy - but possibly this might be the only sane response on occasions.

But what constitutes 'enough is enough' must surely be a different answer for every individual. I don't think there can be one answer which covers all families and all relationships.

3:49 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

absolutely katherine; God forbid there should be any rules. as you say, cutting contact can be, for some, the only sane response, especially if one is being hurt.

When I saw my mum this autumn I hadn't seen her for over two years but very much consider us still 'in relationship'.

this is a huge subject, and I am sorry if these musings come accross as prescriptive or glib. eeek feel like I should rewrite but must pack prints!

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Maggie said...

I feel very strongly that we choose all our relationships, PARTICULARILY FAMILY, before we incarnate, even the difficult, especially the difficult, ones. To me it is about karma. It is said that souls tend to incarnate in groups, that is, until the karma is balanced and clear. All of my most difficult relationships have always had tons to teach me about myself,loving, and forgiving. I am a better person for any engagment that i have chosen to work on in those tough relationships. However, for me the key here is it is all about choice. If i choose not to engage (in a difficult relationship), it will come around again in either another form or another lifetime. Anyhow, it is all good, whatever we choose because we always get what we need at the right time. That's mt 2 cents worth!
PS Ruth, friend are building a house using clay and wood chip, but are interested in HEMP and clay.DO you have any website or other info you can direct them to? Much appreciated.

4:29 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

And a very fine two cente worth it is, maggie! As someone very drawn to Buddhism I am very open to what you say. What seems to be true in either case is that engaging in any long term relationship - so long as it is not abusive - has to be one of the biggest teachers, and maybe walking away is walking away from an aspect of oneself which will always come back to us...?

this subject is too huge for my one cents worth. I meant to talk about tiles!

yes, you can direct your friends to

4:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home