My Neighbour Totoro (Mara)
Unlike many other children’s films, the story Hayao tells, has a refreshing gentleness. A domestic family scene is the basis for unfolding adventures, which are rich in emotional colour but devoid of the intensity of many action packed children’s dramas.
Two sisters Satsuki and Mei have moved with their father to a beautiful rambling old Japanese farm house, adorned by an expansive garden, in the hope that the country air will improve their mothers health.
Satsuki and Mei’s father is a gentle soul who teaches them to see beauty in the adjoining forest and to embrace the unknown with courage and compassion. He invites them to observe the spirit world that pervades all things and to use their imaginations to compose countless nature based adventures.
It is one of the very few animes that does not default to using good versus evil as the basis for storytelling and reflects a mutually respectful and mature relationship between children and adults, a rare depiction.
My neighbour Totoro represents values that I am instinctively drawn to in day to day life and celebrates characters that have a close relationship with forests, gardens and the natural world.
Here in Blampied, I have my very own neighbour Totoro, called Mara. Not me but another Mara: a blonde, horse riding, circus performing and food garden growing Mara, who cultivates and nurtures a very productive food garden when she is not teaching circus skills to locals. I asked her if I could grab my camera and spend a morning photographing her food forest and her hobbit like home… and she braided her hair, carried boxes of fruit and led the way.
I arrive to take photos of my neighbour Mara and her garden just as she and her family are about to sit for lunch. Picked from the garden a few minutes before, a rainbow harvest.
Home grown mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant.
Beetroot, carrot and rocket.
A spicy salsa and a decorative and edible sunflower. This lunch, if only every child could have, if only it were mainstream, what an incredibly healthy community we would be.
I am here to take photos of the garden… but how can I walk pass all this beauty and work? This owner built home with curved textured walls and hanging prints. With caramel floors and lofty ceilings.
With licorice lintels and peppermint flavoured doors.
A hand made mosaic, with hands that are strong and circus flavoured. Hands that climb ropes and unicycles, that juggle balls and spin candy hula hoops.
With crackling paint that catches my gaze, and door handles old and not so very shiny. Not as shiny as the new ones in the shop that whisper silence not stories like these.
I follow Mara out to the white and the bright, to the glaring sun with its fierce bight, as she pours nectarines on the trampoline floor to dry and to twist before coming indoors. With three children living here and many visitors too, there must always be enough for all of them to chew.
Spreading nectarines, giving each one some room, to ensure a quick drying.
The garden is full of fruit trees, many of which have self sown and are producing beautiful fruit and bold crops. This nectarine has not been pruned. Its branches are heavy and some have broken. Its limbs sprawl and stretch out far. The tree has developed a vase shape of sorts simply because the weight of the fruit is pulling branches away from the central stem.
For the bees a garden too!
Sunflowers small and …
Look at all the tiny flowers that make up this inflorescence. The head of a sunflower is not one flower but hundreds. Each small flower will produce one sunflower seed.
Watermelon growing in Blampied’s cool temperate climate. The timing of planting is so tight here. With a tiny window of warm weather it is important to sow seeds the very second that warm weather speaks.
A great place for this to rest, at night the double brick wall will provide warmth harvested during the day.
This pumpkin is really, really thriving as it is growing in a sheltered position, with thick brick walls and laser light roof.
In this corner, a banana palm, sweet potato, lemongrass, a climbing passion fruit and pumpkin which lead to an outdoor bathroom!
Outdoor bathroom with a view of tomato plants.
Shower floor and wall tiles all laid by Mara.
Towel rack detail.
The propagating room where many of the seeds sown are collected on walks and day trips. All seeds are grown not in seed raising mixture but in home made compost.
Oak tree detail with locally sourced seed.
In the kitchen garden, beans climb.
Mara uses micro sprinklers to water the garden and also uses this sprinkler on some of the garden beds. As she wanders to observe her plants it is hard not to give an additional drink to them as she walks.
Beans with house in the background.
Seed head onion.
Mara and granddaughter Jaimie.
More beautiful beans.
Edible flowers sold by Diggers Club, the name of which I can’t remember. They look fantastic tossed through summer pasta dishes, salads, lentil and chick pea dishes.
Fence lines and sunflowers.
Fruit trees and swings.
Plums with yellow centers.
As I photograph I stop to eat a plum and then an Asian pear.
A walk towards house and garden building materials sourced and stock piled over the years.
House detail: straw and render.
Everywhere throughout the garden there are places for children to play, those especially made and others appropriated.
Stone wall built for its beauty and for fire protection.
And now I wonder through the house once more, along its cream coloured walls.
Secret writing desks.
Red crispy doors.
A music filled room…
where music is cherished.