Thursday, August 13, 2009

The view from my laptop - thoughts from the kitchen table

I was inspired for this short post by Lynda who posted a lovely photo of the view from her desk. She mentions the banana trees on her wonderful African horizon, something that I miss since we left Tanzania over 14 years ago, yet which is still as fresh in my memory as if it were only last week. To bring touches of the tropics into our lives in an Ireland that seems to be in a constant rainy season (to paraphrase Aslan on Narnia - here it's always raining but never summer ) we have some banana trees in our garden and another banana plant in our sunroom. As I use the kitchen table as my desk, this is the view from my laptop. It is incredibly calming to look up and see an enormous banana tree with two suckers, both sprouted since we got the plant about 2 years ago, and we delight in seeing the speed at which it grows. It has nearly reached the vaulted ceiling in the sunroom now, and I am curious to see if it will grow much taller or actually produce a flower and fruit! I know if it flowers that is the end of that plant, so in a way I hope it doesn't until the suckers are much bigger.
The first two photos show the view - standing and sitting - from my laptop

In the garden we have a number of tropical plants in a bed near the patio, just outside the back door from the sunroom. There's a hardy banana tree, again with two suckers, a plant that dies off at the first frost and starts to grow anew every summer. This year we couldn't tell if it had survived the frost and snow of the winter, as it had completely died off, so we were very pleased to see it putting up green shoots around May. The speed at which it grows thereafter is very impressive, and we live in hope of a nice purple flower and a bunch of bananas sometime in the future.

We have two palm trees in the garden and two more in pots. Even though they are hardy, we bring them indoors for the winter, as they are nice fan palms and brighten up the place. We also have various bamboo in the garden, all near the patio and house, and a row of lavender brings a bit of Provence into our lives. It might seem a bit sad and silly to try to recapture our years in Africa and Asia through the plants in the house and garden, it is a very effective way to bring back happy memories and instantly transport us to our bush shamba in Rukwa, and to the banana and coffee shambas of Kagera, near Uganda.

Indoor banana tree, grown an extra leaf in the past week; garden banana - taken today and exactly one month ago - how much it's grown! ...and spot the bamboos
To recapture another aspect of our African lives, strangely enough the Ikea bentwood chairs in the sunroom evoke our early years there just as much as do the banana plants. I wrote about our Ikea - Africa connection in my post here - quite rational, in case you might think all those years in the tropical sun has somehow fried my brain.

The beautiful capiz shell hanging lamp you see in the corner is from the Philippines, where hubby lived before we met. It had been waiting for a home for nearly 30 years before it found its niche among our jungle greenery. At night the light reflected in the glass casts a warm glow over the entire area.

From my laptop vantage point I can see our shelf of African and Asian memorabilia, each piece carrying a store of memories and places, including the Tinga-Tinga paintings which Lynda will know all about - she has even blogged on that particularly Tanzanian art form. We have many more artefacts that have no display space, and I will have to work out some kind of museum-like rotation to do justice to the Ethiopian icon paintings and Bangladeshi brassware and Lao silk wall-hangings that have yet to see daylight in this house.

Perhaps another extension is the answer as the sunroom is maxed out on memorabilia - the struggle goes on as we strive to balance desirable minimalism with an acceptable level of clutter. I hope the photos give a sense of my lovely vantage point as I write this post and browse the web.

Ethnic artefacts - paintings from Tanzania: Tinga-Tinga poster and paintings, village scene and Kilimanjaro/elephant market paintings; batik of Ugandan musical instruments; Lao pan pipes and flute, African mbira (thumb piano) and Rwandan banjo.


Irene said...

I'm especially envious of your banana plants and wish I had the space and the proper light for one. Alas, I do not. I do have a fig plant indoors that's very successful in a kind of screwy way in that it grows toward the light only, making it a funny looking plant. It was nice to see your sun room, what a nice place to be.

La Tea Dah said...

What a lovely living space! I love the woodwork and your travel-themed decor.


Catherine said...

Irene - Thanks for your comments, it is a nice space, and we are lucky to have the garden too. We have a small ficus benjamina in the sunroom which has flourished since repotting it and moving it from a darker windowsill some years ago. It is now about a metre high and densely leafy. I keep turning it around so it doesn't get wonky, most plants seem to grow towards the light I think. Even the banana has to be rotated every few weeks to prevent it from toppling over!
Keep on dropping by!

Catherine said...

La Tea Dah - Thanks for the nice comments, The woodwork ages nicely, getting that lovely honey glow. The travel theme is incidental as we have to put our stuff on display somehow, and there is a lot more still in trunks, which is a pity. We need a bigger extension! (thanks for the comments on Facebook too, I like your photos!)

Jeannette StG said...

Love your sun room Catherine, looks quite big for Eur.! Much light is coming through all those windows, which is nice in the winter! Living in CA and having had a banana tree, makes me never want to have one again LOL we took out the roots 3 times and still are coming back, they plant itself forth like weeds, and they grow very tall - when they were 12 feet tall I urged my hubby to take them out. before they would take over the whole yard!
I was smiling when you talked about the art of the different countries you have been - the more you travel, the more that becomes a problem (a nice problem). Past few times I've reverted to buying food and kitchen items that we'll at least use:) Good to have you blogging again!