Upside-down and back-to-front

Blog post
Published: 09.09.2009

Now the sun shines. Matilda stretches herself out to expose the greatest possible area of her little body to its warmth.
Now we have crocuses, daffodils and tulips, and the weeping cherry flaunts its outrageously pink blooms.
Now it is autumn in the northern hemisphere. Leaves turn and fall. My favourite time of year. Spring is too pink. Too restless. And one winter each year is more than enough.
(If the poles invert do the seasons flip too, or remain upside down, back to front?)

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Sometimes, when Matilda stretches out in the sun, she exposes her belly — her most vulnerable area. The area where heart and lungs and viscera lie closest to the thin skin of the underbelly. The area of softest fur. The part we seldom see in four footed creatures, who generally present their backs to us. Walking on four feet, their need to see what is ahead of them in the form of foe or food necessitates this position, though some occasionally stand or walk upright. As we do.

With our two feet on the ground, we face the world with our most vulnerable side, our most expressive side. What we call the front. Eyes wide open, ears attuned, hands and arms ready to forage, to hunt, to fend or fight, to embrace, to play, to dance, to make jewellery. We seldom see our own backs, but we observe, from seeing those of others, that they are expressive, too. The slightest sigh is registered by the back, a droop or squaring of shoulders, a quizzical angle of neck, a shrug. And backs register enthusiasm or ennui.

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A brooch fronts the world with a display of its most salient side. Its back is a confidence, kept between maker and wearer. The backs of some brooches are like a gift — an unexpected and secret gift — in their expressive reflection of the ambience of the front. Sometimes, in their aberrant incongruousness, they disappoint. However, even the most mundane back holds essential information regarding the object itself. Information that designates brooch as brooch.  The pin says : wear me.

The dictionary describes brooch (say brohch) thus:

1. a clasp or ornament for the dress, having a pin at the back for passing through the clothing and a catch for securing the pin.

The word (in English) is also spelled broach (still say brohch). There is an illuminating range of meanings for words that all make the same sound, meaning variously:

verb (i)
(of a ship) to pitch and turn in an uncontrolled way, so that the side is presented to the waves and wind.
verb (t)
to cause (a ship) to pitch and turn in this way.

Some brooches do indeed pitch and turn, even to expose the back.

1. Machinery: an elongated and tapered tool with serrations which enlarges a given hole as the tool is pulled through the hole, which may be round, square, etc.
Something we jewellers are familiar with. (I call my broach a reamer, not to be confused with the brooches I make)
2. (in a lock) the pin about which the barrel of the key fits.
3. Architecture the projecting corner of the tower of a broach spire.
4. a spit for roasting meat.
5. a gimlet for tapping casks.
verb (t)
7. to enlarge and finish with a broach.
8. to tap or pierce
9. to draw as by tapping: to broach liquor.
10. to mention or suggest for the first time:The word derives from Middle English broche, from Old French, from Latin brocc(h)us meaning projecting.

Some brooches project further than others.

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When worn, as brooches are intended to be, light illuminates the front in its privileged position — in the lime-light — discreetly awaiting attention or overtly demanding admiration. The front may be noticed, or overlooked, ignored or admired, may be desired, even coveted. (I have coveted a brooch or two in my time.) It may be chilled by winter winds, but proximity to the wearer’s body always warms the back. A warm back is desirable.

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When we walk backwards, does the front become the back?

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Is the back Echo to the front’s Narcissus?