Tuesday, July 24, 2012

RIP Margaret Mahy, Forager

As tears and tributes flow for children's author Margaret Mahy, I thought it would be nice in this little corner of the blogosphere to pay tribute to her life as a gatherer.

In her wonderful, far-reaching essay Notes of a Bag Lady she has written, 'I am a natural scavenger and symbolically at least I live a bag lady life.' In the same essay she describes her foraging:

I am an obsessive collector of pine cones, portable sticks and satisfying small pieces of wood for the fire, but there are other things as well.

Tissues have reduced the number of handkerchiefs one sees lying on the side of the road (though I pass the occasional one with regret), but as a child I used to rescue handkerchiefs from gutters and bring them home triumphant to my mother, who would look at them with distaste, before immersing them in boiling water and in due course  ironing and recycling them. 

These days I collect stones, shells, or small bouquets of wild flowers … Prunella vulgaris, buttercups and daisies, foxgloves, broom, black medic, shivery grass, tansy, plantain and yarrow.

Of course I gather mushrooms if I come across any, along with stems of watercress and wild parsley.
Over the years I have collected many jandals from strips of sand and from in between rocks. Wearing jandals that don’t match doesn’t bother me. And only this morning I found a perfectly good bucket (probably dropped from some boat) and carried it home filled with pine cones. It had a comfortable handle and was certainly more robust than a plastic bag.

And at the same time as this abstracted collecting is going on I am scavenging in other ways too, studying the strips of sand, the rocks and drifts of shell, the surface of the world, in the hope that something will be revealed - something ordinary but capable, if struck against the right surface, of flaring into profitable gain. Once I wrote (and earned money with) a story of jandals swapped over by the sea.

I will think of her now, whenever I see an old jandal lost on the roadside or beach! Maybe I will pick it up and keep it in her honour.

P.S. Notes of a Bag Lady was published in 2003 by Four Winds Press as part of its Montana Essay Series, and is only available second-hand now. Someone should reprint it. It is hilarious, moving, and thought-provoking.


RTO training & consulting said...

Thanks for your contribution to the world Margaret Mahy. You will truly be missed. May your soul rest in peace.

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