Saturday, 14 November 2015

Keeping Track

Aptly back-lit by sunlight near the end of the day, my mum's yellow bed-jacket hanging out to dry. It dates back to 1953. She wore this jacket (a rather old-fashioned idea these days, with hospital patients being discouraged from wearing night-wear during the day) for all of her seven stays in the maternity home. On the rare occasions that I wear it, I remember a life well-lived; and never forgotten

Dear Reader,

Personal journal / diary-type blogging (I'm not talking about journalistic blogs or professional blogs, they are another animal entirely) seemed to hit its peak about nine years ago, just before I-phones and Facebook arrived I conjecture. But the personal blog has now tumbled down to the wire. It appears to me that only those who thrive on the writing process; chronicling, recording, journalling; are still writing personal blogs. Or am I out of the loop? I confess I haven't gone on a hunt for new blogs to replace the ones I used to follow / read; most of which have dissolved into the ether.

A lot of of my blogger-buddies are now Facebook and / or Twitter friends. I still have a blogroll and I occasionally read the blogs on it that are still active. However, most of the blogroll is inactive. Occasionally I'll check up on an old blogger buddy only to find that their blog has disappeared. Others are still there, but they speak from the past and it's like flipping through an old photograph album. Still others are faithful blogger friends (and I appreciate you dear friends - you know who you are!) who have been there with me since the start, but they are few in number.

The audience was kind of the point of a blog, but for me, only when it went hand-in-hand with the actual process of writing. The size of the readership maybe at one stage seemed to matter, but in these 'down to the wire' blogging days, not so much.

When I first discovered blogging in the early days of internet, it was a way of connecting with others with the same interests. When I was a kid, one of my hobbies was writing to penfriends (or penpals). At one stage, I had a pod of about six or seven other kids I was writing to – kids from USA, England, Australia, France … Even from the North Island of my own country, which, yes, in those days seemed exotic. With the advance of the internet, interacting instantly with people, no matter where in the world, through blogging, emailing, messaging, brought back that same engagement I remember receiving from penfriend letters, but with the added dimension of immediacy. 

For me, Facebook and Twitter have largely taken the place (and widened) this interaction. And it is a far quicker, more efficient process. One click that you have 'Liked' something tells whoever posted that you are reading and usually appreciating, what they are posting.

Back in the day I would read a blog, comment and expect that they in turn would be kind enough reciprocate. However, at the peak of this to-ing and fro-ing (I guess this would be about 2004 -5 -6?) I found that the whole process of writing a blog, reading other blogs and commenting, was taking 2 -3 hours at a time!

2 – 3 hours was too much to take out of precious time set aside for 'actual' or 'real' writing (i.e writing that didn't involve blogging). If I wanted to keep on writing stuff that didn't incorporate blogging, something had to go. And it did. I gave up reading as many blogs and gave up commenting. As did many other bloggers. Bloggers were suffering blog fatigue. A sudden drop in personal blogging occurred.

When my sister gave me her old Canon, that helped, because I started taking photos, then posting them on my blog and letting them do the talking. In this way, my posts didn't have to involve so much writing and therefore take up as much time.

It also transpired that a lot of my blogger friends (a lot of them writers as well) also found that Facebook was a better way of interacting with like-minds, than blogging – which in the end, only took time away from the real business: writing. However, I wonder if Facebook too is reaching a peak that will soon flat-line?

But that's ok – there's still plain old emails or even phoning. (Not a favourite activity of mine, talking on the phone … Just so you know …) Facebook's almost become a fuddy-duddy thing to do. I don't know what's replacing it, and I don't want to. I'll stick with Facebook for now if that's where friends and family are. (Anyway, I believe I've found it's true genius – locating lost cousins).

All this is a preamble to me trying to work out where I now stand with blogging.

Some conclusions are:

I still enjoy blogging. But not on such a regular basis as before. I don't want to become a slave to it. I like to be free to blog whatever the hell I want, so specialised topics, themes, subjects, regular poems ... and / or certain days-of-the-week posts, are out. That all smacks too much of being beholden, or driven and is not for me.

It seems that blogging has been the perfect vehicle for me to post photographs. But whereas writing is 'what I do' – and to a certain extent defines who I am - photography will always be just a side-line; a hobby. However, in my posts, I can use photography to express myself - without having to write as much as I do when I am working on my novel. (I don't feel like writing huge amounts in a blog post, on top of having just written fifteen hundred words, for instance). This may mean not posting as often. It may also, paradoxically, mean that when I do post, I will write more now, because I won't feel as pushed for time, or that I am working to a deadline.

As far as readership goes. I am no longer going to follow the advice of blogging-experts and try and 'hook in' Facebook friends, or Twitter followers. If people want to read my blog, they will seek it out. If they don't, then that's fine by me. This is going to be an interesting exercise for me – to write as if there's no-one there, and at the same time, as if the whole world is there. In a weird way; it's like starting again. (Google Plus – and I admit I have no idea what that particular mysterious little engine is all about - is maybe another way of reaching people: letting people know I've written something. But even then, I've yet to be convinced it attract readers … I may be wrong. Go on, prove me wrong!)

I will blog because it's what I do. I have always chronicled – from teenage years, I have written journals and kept accounts of what it's like to live in 'my world'. If there are others who find this as engaging or as inspiring or as riveting as I do – then they are my kind of people / reader and I'm happy to have them aboard. 

I will continue to write reflectively, rather than an opinionated account of what I think is wrong with the world. Politics will seldom come into what I write. Facebook is where I vent politically and even there, it's only occasionally.
The posts will be un-apologetically personal. In some instances, as personal as my family will allow. Understandably, they don't like me to divulge too much to the world - especially where it impacts on their own personal lives - and I totally respect that, and willingly (naturally) comply. Therefore, the posts will be personal, but when that intersects with family, I will adhere to the non-full disclosure clause.

I know this sounds upside down, or ironic, or counter-intuitive, but as I have already stated, from now on when I do post, I will be writing more that I have in the past. Photos will still appear, but my photography has lessened and hence the photos will be less. Maybe to a certain extent, I have photo-ed myself out. There seems no point in photographing the sea, trees, flowers over and over again.

My posts may now (I'm still unsure about this – this post is a bit of an experiment) take the form of a letter. Is this me going back to the penfriend idea? Whatever. I want to change my style a little. Time for a cool change. 

Finally, this may sound odd, but I would like to say Thank You to Blogger and the team, for creating the whole concept of Blogging. They won't ever get to read this, but I'd feel like an ungrateful swine if I didn't say 'Thanks' to someone in the 'blogosphere'; that amorphous, internet-webby-cloudy-thingy, who are responsible for this whole blogging era (and consequently, the post-blogging era - whatever that turns out to be). 

My life thus far has been pretty full. Pretty wonder-full. Sometimes I feel it moves too fast for me to keep up, but blogging has become an integral part of my being able to at least 'keep track'.

Take care out there,


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Tea and Sea; Poppies and Trees

Dang and blast it all - somehow this new blog post thought it had instructions to replace my previous published post, which now I cannot retrieve. 

(I see the comments to the previous post have remained intact!  Which is something to be grateful for).

A quick catch-up for those who didn't see my last post:
I was glad to see the back of winter as it was a tough one in several ways. The death of Robert's father (which was relatively sudden) hit us hard. 
To compound the resulting sense of loss, we also had to say good-bye to Aggie, our 17-year old cat. 

I have been working on my novel as much as I can. It's proving to be a bit of a slog. Very different to writing poetry. But nevertheless, there is satisfaction in seeing the work grow - a bit like knitting. Every stitch counts in the end and after a while you can actually see the progress you're making. 

And now it is Spring. 

Chamomile daisies collected by our granddaughter ...

... which she then made into tea.

A blaze of colour. Poppies in Dunedin's Botanical Gardens.

This photo was taken on another visit to the Gardens in winter before Spring bounced in on the act. The soft colour of these tree trunks puts me in mind of deer velvet. 

The Gardens are at one end of the city ...

and as luck would have it, at the other end, is the ocean.

I've been finding lately that as well as appreciating the beauty of flowers and trees in a garden, gazing (as mindlessly as possible) at the ocean breakers, is also a soothing and healing thing to do.

The insistent tides are symbolic of how despite what upsets our circumstances, life still goes on.

I find that watching the ocean's inevitable collapse and re-gather; the sound of its continual rush to collide with the land; is strangely conducive to the act of writing. I don't always remember, but whenever I go down to the sea I try and make sure that as well as a camera, I've got pen and paper.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Last Line

'She gathers from where they tremble among stalks of green grass,
black, grey and white feathers that never rest but fly again from out of her pockets like clouds

or cold flames'.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

swallow, Sinclair Wetlands, Otago, New Zealand

heron, Kyoto, Japan

crow, Kyoto, Japan

gull, Rostock, Germany

two black-backed gulls and one red-billed gull, Wellington, New Zealand

gulls, Dunedin, New Zealand

resting gull, Dunedin, New Zealand

Below is the complete poem:


I walk over the veins of a lawn and sink into the green that flies into every night when darkness turns to frost.

I remember. Through a gate, down a path to a door I will never forget.

The clock has been silenced so that I can sleep undisturbed by any charge of bells into a darkness
as deep as a mad eye.

The flowers bow their ponderous heads. I can see where the rain has fallen.

In the morning I consider the tenacity of the sun,
its bitter light.

I observe an empty chair, straight-backed and wooden in the middle of the room,
how it sits in judgement.

She has nothing in her hands.

I hear a mother who speaks to her baby in a language she does not understand. I know
the mother waits for the baby to grow old. The baby is my mother. This is a dream.

The trees in the garden have no doubts. I regard their umpire stance, the way they study
the sky.
The way they close like great gates.

In the shade of a wall, I have found a broken stone.

Sudden with shadows, the corner of my eye cannot see
where the light begins
its sad cycling.

She gathers from where they tremble among stalks of green grass,
black, grey and white feathers that never rest but fly again from out of her pockets like clouds
or cold flames.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Fair Light

'Sudden with shadows, the corner of my eye cannot see
where the light begins

its sad cycling'. 

Kay McKenzie Cooke

(The line of poetry is the second-last line of the 12-line poem I have been featuring.)

Some photos taken a little over a year ago on a trip to Te Anau from Queenstown.  

Monday, 27 July 2015

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Home Truths

'The trees in the garden have no doubts. I regard their umpire stance, the way they study
the sky.

The way they close like great gates'.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

(line 9 of a 12-line poem)

... dark willows of Lake Waihola, shambolic guardians staggering against the light of a western sky

I had occasion to head south a few days ago. Whenever the compass points south, I am like a cantering horse with the smell of home in my nostrils. I still consider Murihiku / Southland as home, even though I haven't actually resided there for nearly forty-five years now.

Home is of course not just a single definition. I have more than one home.My feet are firmly planted in my home country of Aotearoa, New Zealand. However, there are countries where as soon as my feet touch down on their soil, I feel very much 'at home'. Scotland and Japan, are two examples. Maybe there would be more if I ever explore that idea. 

Within these islands I call home, I'd define TeWai Pounamu / South Island as my home island. And yet, I also have a strong affinity with the isle of glowing skies; Rakiura / Stewart Island. Some of my ancestors were Tangata whenua and Europeans settlers, there.

My husband's turangawaewae (place where he stands) is Queenstown (Tahuna) and Central Otago (Manuherekia). After nearly forty years of marriage, it has also become a place (a district) I call home as well.

For some reason, even though it is on the 'wrong island', I feel a strong bond with the city of Poneke / Wellington in Te Ika-a-Maui / North Island. Maybe because we lived for five years there in the Lower Hutt / Awakairangi (and our three sons were born there). Whenever I visit Wellington / Poneke, I feel at home. This is no doubt helped by the fact that it belongs to all of New Zealand / Aotearoa really, being our capital city.

And then there is Otepoti / Dunedin where I have lived for thirty years; nearly half of my life. It is this city that has truly become my home. My ancestors embarked here from Yorkshire, Derry, Edinburgh and London. One of my grandmothers was born here before her family moved to Murihiku / Southland's south-west coast.  


Today my granddaughter and I walked over the hill from where we live, to the beach-side suburb of Tomo-haka / Tomahawk. 

... 15 minutes by car from the inner city and there are horses by the seaside to engender a feeling of freedom from city constraints, limits and stresses ... 

 ... these pacers were being put through their paces, getting towed behind a car.

... granddaughter didn't want to go down on to the sand after reading notices about being aware of the danger of sea lions . She was happy just to keep a wary eye from a safe spot  ... 

... behind us, the hills of the peninsula ...

... a glinting Tomo-haka / Tomahawk lagoon with peninsula hills behind

... taken from Andersons Bay / Puketahi cemetery - surely one of the most picturesque cemeteries in the world?

.. and home we go ...


Saturday, 25 July 2015


'I hear a mother who speaks to her baby in a language she does not understand. I know
the mother waits for the baby to grow old. The baby is my mother. This is a dream'.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Dreams are weird, but I do like the way they mess with time. 

The above lines from a longer poem try to convey the elasticity of dreams - the unique way they can seamlessly flow backwards and forwards between what in real life is fixed. 

The dreamer wakes to a world that has not shifted, but knowing what it would feel like if it had. 

It is only a few hours before the dream is forgotten. Unless of course the dreamer has written down the dream in an attempt - usually vain - to try and capture the feeling of discombobulation that it has caused.  

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


'She has nothing in her hands.'

Kay McKenzie Cooke

granddaughter in the snow

Taken on one of our trips to Japan to visit our son and his wife and family. 
They are now living in New Zealand. Which is fantastic. I just hope that it doesn't mean there won't be any more trips back to Japan for us.  


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Line 6 of 12

'I observe an empty chair, straight-backed and wooden in the middle of the room,
how it sits in judgement.'

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Halfway through the 12-line poem I have been highlighting / illustrating, line by line, in the last few posts.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Crabapple Jelly & An Aversion to Dawn

'In the morning I consider the tenacity of light,
its bitter taste of sun.'

Kay McKenzie Cooke

crabapples - how I love that word! It appears to me that it is wasted as a description of a grumpy person. It'd be far more suitable as a description for a happy happenstance, or a cheerful deed. As in, "That was such a lovely, crabapple thing to do". Maybe it could replace the word 'gold' in the saying, 'Good as gold'? 'Good as crabapple jelly' has a certain ring to it. No?   

I am not a morning person. I can perhaps pinpoint the exact time when this aversion started. When I was 16 years old, a trip over to Stewart Island meant a 5.00 a.m. start to the day in order to catch the bus. I'd set the alarm, but it was my friend's urgent knocking on my bedroom window that actually woke me, filling me with something akin to raw terror. I'd slept through the alarm! A frantic scramble to get dressed and out the door ensued. 
It was still dark as my friend Barbara and I trudged to the bus-stop through empty and unfriendly streets, our echoing footsteps mocking our haste and panic at the thought that we may have missed the bus.  
My rude awakening seemed to set up some craziness in my brain so that as the sky began to break into light, it was as if the world was in the grip of something cruel. In the pit of my empty gut, lay a sick feeling of cold grey. 
Most likely my sense of dawning horror (or horror of dawn) was simply due to the fact that I hadn't eaten breakfast. Maybe it's more primal than that, dating back to my ancestors' terror of Viking dawn raids. Whatever the reason, since that time I have not not found any dawn I've experienced to be a particularly friendly occurrence. 

Friday, 17 July 2015

After Rain

'The flowers bow their ponderous heads. I can see where the rain has fallen'.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

taken in October in Rhododendron Dell, Dunedin Botanical Gardens.

 flax blades

taken at home one day after rain

winter-faded hydrangeas (taken today in Dunedin's Gardens).

the closest that green comes to being blue

not great photos by any means, but the best I could do to capture these two

I often notice them sitting by themselves after the rest of the flock has flown off


feather-fluffed and cuddling close, they spend time preening each other's feathers before flying off to (I presume) join the rest of their flock. 

like two high-school kids in love, wagging class


'how this all harbours light'