Once, when I told a four-year old what my name was, he said, "That's not a name, that's a letter of the alphabet".

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Call of the Crow

crow at a park in Kyoto, Japan. Taken December 29th 2011 - just before we walked to the cake shop to buy a birthday cake for R.

Sometimes I have no idea of what to write on my blog, other times I have a very definite idea.

I knew yesterday what I wanted to post today. Going through my unpublished comments, I read that someone had asked for permission to use a photo of a crow I had posted back in 2012. I was delighted someone a) wanted to use it for artistic purposes and b) actually asked for the right to use it.

Because the photo is one I took in Japan, it got me thinking about all our trips over there. How fortunate I have been to be able to make a trip over there three times now. (In R's case it's been four times).

The trips have been in different seasons. R's trip was in Spring, so he was able to experience some of Kyoto's celebrations of the blossom season. (That experience is now down on my dream-list).

The photo I took of the crow was taken in winter. So far, my favourite season in Japan.

The crows' haunting calls and sudden silent approaches, punctuated every outing. In Kanizawa as we walked through the gardens at dusk (just before closing time) a whole flock of them landed on a piece of ground, their coal-black outlines accentuated by the snow's smooth whiteness. Our granddaughter attempted to chase them off, her pink coat an eye-catching contrast against the black crows and white snow.

Far from being freaked out, I find crows both fascinating and compelling. Maybe that's because we haven't got them here in New Zealand. My daughter-in-law said that over in Japan crows are kind of seen as annoying scavengers. Which is ironic, because when she came over to New Zealand she loved our seagulls, yet some of us over here kind of think of seagull as annoying scavengers.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Finding The Time

The sign for the number eight - 8 - is the only figure in our line-up of Roman numerals that is impossible to get out of.

It's a loop. Once inside, you can never escape.

Eiffel Tower as seen from Le Jardin des Tuileries - taken June 25th,  2013

The 'F8 Principle' (as I shall dub it for patenting purposes) means that you can opt to physically return to pleasant memories (with the control to come and go at will) and dwell there in your own time loop; skating your own Figure of Eight moves; for as long as you desire.

canal in Arrondissement 19, Paris, June 2013

However, until this invention of mine is actualised, photos will have to do.

left bank Paris, 2013

Maybe there's already an App. A F8 App. Must look it up.

Actually, when I think about it, how would I ever find the time to Time Travel?

Au Trappiste, Paris, 2013

Ah well ... c'est la vie.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Colour Me Spring

kowhai flowers in our garden a month ago

The kowhai is just finishing flowering now. A native tree, it forms part of Spring's full orchestra here in Aotearoa.

The lovely magnolia has recently become a significant flower for our family. It also goes by the name of Tulip Tree.

Dunedin's Botanical Gardens is a favourite place of mine to take the grandchildren.

Illness update: The doctor has prescribed antibiotics. Praise the Lord for antibiotics. And for poppies.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Sick in Suburbia

sunset October 13th, 2014 as seen from Chisholm Park golf course

I was feeling a bit better last night, to the point of thinking I was fully recovered. I even felt motivated to go for a walk. 

At 8.30 last night the birds were still awake and chirping and as we walked, we felt soft, warm bands of air wafting over us like currents of warm water from the gulf stream effect. There was a pretty sunset in the west. The weather was calm. The sea lazy. All was well.

But this morning I woke feeling unwell again. Consequently, all plans to do lots of things today, flew out the window - the window of my bedroom; the one I've left open to ensure I'm not cut off from either the world or fresh air.

Instead of *checking out art galleries and attending midday concerts, I am in bed, medication within reach, listening to the trip-trap of birds' feet on our corrugated-iron roof and the barks of a neighbour's lonely dog. 

However, the occasional bursts of rain showers I can hear make me think that perhaps for today I'm better off in my bed after all.

*Dunedin's Art Festival is on this week with lots of events and exhibitions to check out (if you are well enough to).

Monday, 13 October 2014


swirl of cloud above perched houses.Taken today from out of bedroom window

Just starting to feel better ... seeing  out of the window, gulls soaring on thermals, free of the inhibition of illness, gives me hope that soon I will feel normal again.

Not that I expect to be soaring a thermal, but at least out in the fresh air.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Honing In

sand patterns, Kaka Point beach

Struck down with a lurg. Dosing up on pain killers for an extremely sore throat.

sea lettuce, Kaka Point beach

When you're sick, you hone in on to your immediate circumstances. The present is all you have and even then it's as if you are looking at your surroundings through a haze as your body fights to get well again.

old post, St Clair beach, Dunedin

The brain and mind also get caught up in the body's fight to get well. Even a crossword puzzle would require too much effort.

I distantly tap out these words on the keypad as if my brain is wearing woollen gloves.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Rhodos on Silverton Street

taken this time last year, rhodos. on Silverton St.

Sometimes in the middle of spring I already become nostalgic for winter and its perfect excuse for rest and restoration.

Spring is a deconstruction of all that winter stillness. Churning weeds merrily twirl and leap like cheerleaders among the flowers in our garden, and I know someone has to pay attention and do something about them.

mother duck and ducklings on inlet 

Maybe spring's saving grace is that it does have its cute side.

Friday, 10 October 2014


Arrowtown. Poplar trees by Arrow river; taken in April this year when on a walk with lovely J. 

I remember the river chuckling along beside us as we walked and talked and breathed in the freshness of early autumn.

I love that J. is like me in that she cannot help but gather as she walks - grasses, stones, driftwood, berries, flowers ...

It is in me too this gathering instinct. I got it from both my father and mother. It is in my nature.

Thursday, 9 October 2014


Watched the eclipse last night. We perched out on our small deck, rugged up against the evening's chill.

At the same time, our son in Japan sent us a photo of 'his eclipse' out on the street outside his work - the moon high above the narrow Kyoto street, along with a photo his wife E. had taken of the kids looking at the same moon from their bedroom window.

Spending time looking up is a good way of keeping things in perspective.

taken last year, a kereru with butcher-apron breast, perched in one of the silver birch trees that once lined our driveway. The trees are no longer there, so different roosting places will be required this year. Luckily there are plenty to choose from ...

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Waving Not Drowning

Work is getting in the way of me posting daily. Maybe I should aim for every two days (is that twaily?)

kite surfing St Clair

We have recently worked out that the suburb we live in is actually Tainui, not Andersons Bay as we had thought.

This is good news because our sons all went to Tainui school. It also means that when we moved from the first home we owned, on the flat in Tainui; so close to the ocean we could hear it like a train running past at night; we never actually shifted boundaries (as we had assumed).

Tainui means Big Wave in Hawaiin. I often have dreams of big waves - always have since a small child. I lived the first ten years of my life within the sound of the ocean. Then for decades I lived near rivers. For the last twenty-nine years of my life, I've been back living near the sea.

Maybe my dreams of big waves have always been telling me that Tainui would be where I would settle. I'll settle for that.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Black Swan Gliding

black swan; Sinclair Wetlands

Over the past few months after my mother's death, I jotted down some of the random thoughts that occurred. 
Here are a few of them:

When Your Mother Dies

It feels like my tendons have been cut. I feel disconnected from what used to be normal

When my mother died, an integral part of my world died too

Mum's death is the biggest one yet. My dream of a tsunami – the biggest and highest one I've ever dreamed - is an indication of this. “Look, it's as high as the Longwoods”.

It's a sudden cold wind / that chops at the waters where memory harbours / and tugs at the rope that tethers and steadies. / It is a grey slap of grief that rocks the heart.//

The grief I feel is a primal grief. A child's for its mother. Deeply sub-conscious, one can never prepare oneself for it.

It's a subterranean yearning for the return of that safety a parent provides. It is wanting the world that a parent has created for you, to be restored.

My sense of place has been profoundly disturbed.

Sadness overwhelms because I miss my mother's presence in the world. It seems that nothing can mend the rough, torn hole she left behind her when she left us.

The grief comes in waves.

Is it cataclysmic when a parent dies? It feels like it. Or am I going all weather-news reporter?

The trick is to calm the pain of death's finality and its unbearable sense of separation, with any present joy provided by those nearest who are vital; still very much alive.

When your mother dies you become a kid again. No matter how old you are. A kid whose mother has left them and who just wants her to come back. A kid with an adult's realisation of death's finality with no buffer of innocence or ignorant bliss to protect against the crush of grief that keeps washing in.

I create a timeline. She's a slim, young woman twenty-five years old, with curly red hair – my very earliest memories of her. Then a less slim mother of seven children, who cooked, baked, sewed and gardened. Who fed the hens. Hung out the washing with wooden clothes pegs. Who sang as she worked. Who was harassed and crabby just about as often as she was fun. Then as a too-young widow at 38 years old, she was like a crying child needing her own parents to lean on. Later, a grey-haired nana. Still later, a friend on the other end of the phone, making me laugh. Finally an old woman, a great-grandmother, more daunted, moving more slowly, feeling tired but with her sense of humour still intact, still doing crosswords, visiting Facebook daily and undeniably, still my mother

Things start to draw in a crowd of memories. The clock. The yellow bed jacket.

Today gaining the light to ride the wave.

So I just have to go on without you?


Friday, 3 October 2014

Lavender's Ease

I'm thinking I'll ease myself back into posting on my main blog again, with a trial run of posting a photo a day.

lavender from my garden

Today, workmate J. wasn't wearing her jandals and capris. I knew she'd tried to get into summer gear far too early.

The cold weather is forecast to remain for the next few days. Hopefully we will continue to experience only the flick of the wintry tail as the brunt of it misses us and high-tails it straight up the middle of the island, travelling over the Southern Alps.

Highlight of the day at work was 3-year-old L. explaining that he was playing Heaven. "I am in heaven," he said describing his position in a small hollow in the bark chip area beside the sandpit. He approached me saying, "I'm just going to heaven, will you wait for me?" Turning back to his bark-chip hollow, he said, "Heaven's way up in the sky, I am going to need a tall ladder'.
Lots of thoughts flashed into my mind, most of them concerning heaven on earth and how close they possibly are. Maybe there's merely a thin barrier between the two, invisible to adults but not to children.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Fare Thee Well, For Now ...

Some of you will note that the post before this one was about staying with my mother over the Easter break.

Sadly, it turned out to be the last chance to spend any time with my mum again. She died six days after that entry.

Her death at 83 years old, although sudden, wasn't completely unexpected. She was feeling very tired and unlike herself when I was staying with her and I was worried about her.

It was her heart that gave up and she died peacefully in her sleep. Now, I too don't seem to have the heart to carry on with this blog. It seems pertinent to leave the post about my stay with her as the last one for now.

Maybe I will get back to blogging here in time, but for now I will refer readers to this site (my website) where I will continue with the monthly updates I post on my Photo Journal page.

For now, I am also posting on a blog connected with my latest poetry book Born To A Red-Headed Woman.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Points North

Spent a few days staying with my mother. One evening there in the suburban depths of Palmerston North, we watched the eclipse of the moon, clearly seen from the driveway. 

It was surreal and unexpected; standing there on the flat, grey concrete in the shadow of the street-lights on an otherwise normal early evening, peering above the scruffy outline of Mum's neighbour's shrubs and roof-line, to see the extraordinary sight of the moon turning blood-red. 

Mum has some quaint things in her home, things that have been 'in place' for years. This is a kiwi pin-cushion & cotton reel holder, that my brother made in Woodwork Class, many years ago now.  
I'm pretty sure I made this shell-covered jam jar when I was in my teens. It's been home for the small Christmas cracker novelty for goodness knows how many years now.

I've never fully understood how barometers work - something to do with air pressure ... All I know is Mum taps it daily with a knowledgeable and inquiring expression. 


Mike and Kate travelled over from Taranaki and stayed for the weekend. It's always good to spend time with them. Shame we all live on different islands. 


My sister and her partner came to pick me up and take me back to their place in the Hutt Valley for a couple of days, before I caught the plane back home.

On the way, we stopped at Forest Lakes, near Otaki, for a bit of a wander and some bird watching.

I didn't manage to take a photo of any the of New Zealand dabchicks we could see swimming on the pond, but was rather taken by a spider's nest. I remember as a child opening such nests in order to see the baby spiders pour out like black rain. I was still to learn about the kindness of leaving such beautiful things intact.

 Another stop to look out over the ocean running on to the sands of the Kapiti coast.


 Jill and Dave have chickens and a bountiful vegetable garden that produces very large onions and many other examples of a well-fed garden's glorious munificence. 

 The remainders from a large haul of apples from their apple tree. (Wonky proof of un-modified, organic produce).

Jill managed to pick up an apple peeler and corer at a second-hand shop - for $5. A bargain! 

After peeling and slicing, she boiled the apple pieces and transferred them to jars which were then positioned in a pressure-cooker / canner.

Voila! Stewed apple ready for winter pies.

On Easter Saturday, we drove to a place I had never been before. A place called Ngawai, on the south coast of the North Island. 

On the way to Ngawai we drove through the very green countryside of the Wairarapa. (I've never seen such large mailboxes!)

An extremely photogenic old farm building.


I was intrigued by the line-up of bulldozers and tractors that are used to pull in boats from the sea.

A fan of tractors at the best of times, I thought I had arrived in tractor heaven.


Thursday, 3 April 2014


Last entry re my road trip and then I will stop boring you! 

 Lookout at Tautuku, Catlins

By the time I'd reached my third solo day 'on the road', I was ready to stop somewhere for more than one night. I was looking forward to a two-day spell in the forest with the beach a stone's throw away. I was heading for the Catlins, turning the corner at Invercargill and heading east.

The night in Te Anau had been pleasant enough (great to walk by the lake and acquaint myself again with Te Anau's magic) but the motel's frugal approach didn't really go down too well with me, considering what I was paying. Not top dollar, but enough to expect a little more luxury than it was willing to give. Maybe they thought that having a lake-view makes up for only allowing one hour's internet, no Sky TV and a bathroom dating back to the 70's. It was very clean and tidy and I would normally accept those things, but not when you are paying over one hundred dollars a night.

 patterns on the sand at Kaka Point beach

My third day on the road started with me struggling with the effects of not getting a good sleep in Riverton. I was staying in a nice little ensuite unit at a small camping ground. No problems there. It had an oustanding shower! I liked the manager too - a chatty, friendly elderly woman who reminded me a bit of my mother. (I guess it's the Southland-flavour some people have). And the price was almost half the price of  Te Anau's motel. It was very comfortable and I was looking forward to settling in for a good long sleep. Until my neighbours in the attached ensuite arrived and I realised how thin the walls were.

beach at Kaka Point

They talked on into the night. There was no laughing; it was all pretty intense. I was on tenterhooks waiting for the outbursts of shouting I thought were going to occur at any moment. His voice in particular was a deadly drone I couldn't stop hearing once I'd turned the TV off to settle down for some sleep. I couldn't hear what they were saying, thank goodness, but there was still the constant, annoying, monotonous grumble for me to try and drown out.

I turned on the little radio that in an inspired move I'd included in my luggage, stuck on the headphones which I'd also thought to pack, and tried to let the late-night radio stations block out my neighbour's voices and soothe me to sleep. 

It did succeed in cutting out his persistent bass, interspersed by her whining alto; but didn't send me to sleep. 

FINALLY they stopped their into-the-night deep and meaningful. 

At 2.00 a.m.

My planned early start had been kyboshed by the need to sleep late and I woke feeling decidedly out of sorts. It was already 11.00 a.m. when I headed for Invercargill and brunch at Zookeepers, where toasted sandwiches are still called mousetraps. (None of this panini malarky).

However, just as I was about to leave Invercargill, I received a call on my phone from the camping ground manager. I'd left my phone charger behind. Probably the most common mistake of any traveller.(Well, this traveller anyway). There was nothing for it but to turn around and make the 30-min trip back to Riverton.

sea lettuce on Kaka Point beach

An hour later, charger safely aboard, I looked at the maps we have in the car, trying to work out how to get out to Fortrose from Invercargill. I haven't got the world's best sense of direction, but better signage surely would have lessened the time - it took me nearly an hour. Invercargill; you need more signs pointing to places beyond - especially East. I would have welcomed a clear signpost pointing to Fortrose.

Eventually, a very large, clear, bright sign informed me I had entered the Catlins. Hmmm, yes, all very well, but why did I feel like I'd been put through some sort of intelligence test (at which I'd dismally failed) to get there? I almost expected to see the word, Congratulations!

Kaka Point beach looking towards Nugget Point and lighthouse

By the time I reached my destination, I was weary. I had no time to take the coast route, so the trip wasn't as interesting as it could've been. I'd not allowed myself enough time. That will have to be another trip.

The weirdness of travelling alone had also increased. Sooo, when I couldn't find the guy who had the key for the Lodge I'd booked into (and no phone coverage to read the instructions for collection that were on my phone) it all became too hard. I decided on the spot to simply head back home to Dunedin. It would mean another 2 hours travelling, but now that my  nose was pointing towards home, there was going to be no turning back.I was too near home and the temptation to flee the scene was too strong. (Proving again that by nature I am a bolter).

Fortunately, Kaka Point was on the way to Dunedin. I stopped off there for a welcome barefoot stroll along the beach. It was a much-needed salve for my jaded nerves and dispelled any feeling of being lost in transit. I felt grounded once again.

I stopped at Owaka for dinner where I was served by an earnest young waitress who deserves top marks for her Girl Guide approach to service. However (yes it had been quite a day for the 'howevers') I was served a souless, over-priced beef-burger which consisted of a too-toasted bun soaked in mustard sauce and a couple of pieces of tough beef, all questionably embellished with limp lettuce and too many deep-fried potato chips. The meal was cooked by a cook (again, spectacularly young) who may or may not have been suffering from what the night-before had inflicted upon his person and demeanour. I didn't have the heart to complain to my fresh-faced waitress. When she asked me how my meal was, I choked back the truth and found in me the necesary kindness to muster up a (albeit rather strained) "Good, thanks".

 back to the golden sands of St Kilda beach

Aggie-cat was pleased to see me when I got home. I gave Ruby a pat too when I turned off the engine. She did me proud. All told, we'd been on the road for over 8 hours that day.

Over all, the trip away was great. The time with Chris and Jenny in Queenstown, definitely the highlight.
Having a coffee at 'Aunty Mary's', very, very special.

My writer's tank is full. To the brim. Many impressions, much inspiration  ... I'm ready now to use it all up by writing, writing, writing at a hundred miles an hour. (After another walk along the beach. My beach, this time).


'how this all harbours light'