niksen

Hammock (1923) by Henri Lebasque. Painting held in the Matsukata collection at the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, Japan. Public domain.

My well-earned, long break after months and months of hard work is almost over. ‘Sprinter’ sprang and was over before I realised it and even ‘sprummer’ is now almost over.

Apart from spending time with family visiting from overseas, I’ve been relishing doing nothing. I had a stack of books to read and a list of things-to-do-when-I-have-more-time, but I seem to have accomplished hardly any of it. And I don’t feel guilty about it.

One thing I did do, however, was finally catch up on the ‘news’ that, after the Danish hygge and the Swedish lagom, there’s a new loanword on the block: the Dutch word niksen. Just as was the case for hygge and lagom, there really isn’t anything special or unique about either the word or the concept. It’s a verb derived from the word niks, ‘nothing’, and it’s been around (in Dutch) since the 1950s. Some articles seem to imply that niksen is a Dutch concept, which is a bit silly. What is dolce far niente? Or smelling the roses? And, as some of the articles I read point out, the Dutch aren’t that great at doing nothing either. Anyway, I’m all for promoting the benefits of doing nothing but you don’t have to call it niksen to practise it, and doing nothing doesn’t have to literally mean ‘doing nothing’ either …

Not that it isn’t fun to learn a new word in a foreign language. My favourite is still the Japanese word tsundoku. If I can believe what I read on the internet …

Le Pradet, young woman in a hammock (1923) by Henri Lebasque. Painting held in a private collection. Public domain.

changing seasons

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Landscape at Le Cannet, the white trees (1940) by Pierre Bonnard. Painting held in a private collection. Public domain.

The first of March is officially the start of autumn Down Under, but here we are, trying to keep cool in an ‘unseasonal’ heatwave. Perhaps a sign of things to come? Or, perhaps we’re still looking at our seasons from a misguided European perspective? Or, perhaps both.

This year, in our garden at least, I will start using the five-season system proposed by Tim Entwistle, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Victoria, based on his look at nature around him and on the fact that Indigenous communities around this country apply varying categorisations of the seasons.

This is what our five seasons look like according to Tim Entwistle on his blog, Talking Plants:

[Our] seasonal year starts with sprinter (August and September), the early Australian spring. That’s when the bushland and our gardens burst into flower. That’s also when that quintessential Australian plant, the wattle, is in peak flowering across Australia. Next is sprummer (October and November), the changeable season, bringing a second wave of flowering. Summer (December to March) should be four months long, extending into March when there are still plenty of fine, warm days. Autumn (April and May) barely registers in Sydney but further south we get good autumn colour on mostly exotic trees, as well as peak fungal fruiting. Winter (June and July) is a short burst of cold weather and a time when the plant world is preparing for the sprinter ahead. [my bolding]

The new words ‘sprinter’ and ‘sprummer’ are so-called blend words, respectively of ‘spring + winter’ and ‘spring + summer’. So far, these words have not made it into our dictionaries yet. Let’s see if they will catch on …

twelfth night

Last month, I noticed some advertisements inspired by the ‘twelve days of Christmas’. RSPCA Victoria, for example, had a Facebook campaign called the ‘12 strays of Christmas’. Creative, yes. Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, they were advertising in the weeks leading up to Christmas, whereas the twelve days of Christmas don’t start until Christmas Day and end on twelfth night, on 5 January …

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Three Kings’ Day in Flanders, 2010. Image in public domain.

The following day, on 6 January, some Christian churches celebrate the Epiphany, the visit of the three wise men to the infant Jesus. In Flanders, this day is called ‘three kings’ day’ (driekoningendag) or ‘thirteen-day’ (dertiendag).

Around that time, it is custom for children to dress up as one of the three kings (or wise men). In groups of three, they go knocking on doors, often carrying a homemade Star of Betlehem on a stick, and sing ‘three kings’ songs’ to receive sweets in return. Bakeries sell the ‘three kings’ tart’ (driekoningentaart). This cake traditionally contains a dry bean. Whoever gets the bean gets to be king or queen for the day and wear a crown!

Jordaens_Driekoningen

The feast of the bean king (c. 1640–45) by Jacob Jordaens. Painting held in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. Public domain.

caveat emptor

The Christmas panic is at its peak. Let the buyer beware … that in the end most presents become waste.

As a serial ‘no-gifter’ and ‘re-gifter’, I want to share this image (and the new word ‘buyerarchy’ … ) with you. Its message may help take some stress out of things, if not now then next year.

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Image © Sarah Lazarovic.

a little life

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Boy with hand to face (1910) by Egon Schiele. Watercolour held in a private collection. Public domain.

I’ve finished reading Hanya Yanagihara’s novel A Little Life. Oh my, what a book. Such compelling reading. I don’t know what else to say, except: Just read it.

I found two punctuation metaphors this time.

Willem always thought they clearly looked like brothers — they had their parents’ light, bright hair, and their father’s gray eyes, and both of them had a groove, like an elongated parentheses, bracketing the left side of their mouths that made them appear easily amused and ready to smile — but no one else seemed to notice this.

and

He was so discombobulated that he forgot that Willem was already onstage when he called, but when Willem called him back at intermission, he was still in the same place on the bed, in the same comma-like shape, the phone still cupped beneath his palm.