Monday, 30 April 2007

Wicked Autumn



On my walk today I took this photo of the sun as it slipped behind the hills known locally as Flagstaff. The inlet was at full tide. No wading birds feeding tonight. Maybe there was a pale octupus zooming unseen along the silty bottom. Last week there was a photo in the newspaper of a small girl who had discovered one in a stream that flows out of the inlet and into suburbia. Imagine. An octopus at the bottom of your garden. (Unfortunately it didn't survive its adventure.)

The house is quiet without M and his dog Jedi around. I'd got used to Jedi's ways; her groans as she settled her arthritic frame down on to the floor. Her avid interest in what I was preparing for tea. Her jealous looks at the cats sitting on our knees. The evil eye she'd give them as she stalked their progress from lounge to the washing-machine's closed lid, where their food was placed out of her reach. Her heart-wrenchingly begging glances at our plates as she watched us eat each crumb. Her excitement when she realised there was going to be a bone or scrap for her; the skid on the wooden floor as she raced across the kitchen and out the door to eat the treat ...

But it is not too quiet. C is here crashing about with his broken ankle and crutches.

***

Yesterday I spotted this monarch butterfly on a blanket hanging out on the clothesline.


However my attempts at capturing a (South Island) Red Admiral, were not nearly as stunning as my sister's capture of a (North Island) Monarch (see below.)


Monarch butterfly
Originally uploaded by mcdinzie.





I was happier with this photo of our strawberry tree. The fruit must be poisonous because the birds don't go near it, despite how tantalising it looks.



Another poisonous tantaliser in our backyard ... a toadstool so large and top-heavy, it had toppled off its stalk.


Autumn it seems is wickedly fruiting and festering. It is all burnished-amber and flamboyant- scarlet manifestations of death. Decay in all its glory. The last flames as nature readies for the still restoration of winter.




Is it just my imagination or does this leaf look like a pair of full, smiling lips? Plumped full of autumn's collagen maybe?

Saturday, 28 April 2007

... And Yet More

Thanks to S in Japan who downloaded (uploaded?) these for us from his phone. It took him ages too - so a big THANK YOU S - you're simply the best!

M (the groom) fixing white balloons to a power pole so that the wedding guests knew which road to turn down. He's wearing the green sneakers he wore at the wedding.

Another set of directions.
Backdrop to the wedding register signing table.

I think I've got my eyes closed in this photo.
M&K's dog Jedi was never far away.
The beach far below and behind M&K, is a beach that is popular for spotting yellow-eyed penguins as they emerge from the ocean after a day's fishing and waddle back to their sand-dune lairs.
Family group.


After the wedding. Some of the remaining wedding guests among the rocks! The bride and groom having a seat with the guests. In the foreground are the bridesmaids with yellow flowers.

A family photo taken at the gathering that evening. My daughter and granddaughter are in this group shot. (Granddaughter B is proudly holding the wedding bouquet upside down!)

Friday, 27 April 2007

Yay! One Photo.


My lovely sister in law has just sent me this photo.
I hope to have more as well ... but this is great to have for a start.
Click on the image to get a real close close-up (a little too close for my comfort - don't count my wrinkles!) It will also ensure you get a better impression of the splash of paint M added to his suit - and the safety pins.

Wedding

Yellow flowers will always remind me now of M&K's wedding. K chose flowers like these as part of her bouquet.


( Unfortunately, I haven't any wedding photos yet to post.)

The setting for the wedding ceremony was a backdrop of ocean and sky. The walk from where the cars were parked was along a track – like a sheep track – that wandered up and around a bluff. Natural stone walls are a feature of the area around there, so part of the walk was alongside stone walls.
High heels were not recommended shoe attire – as more than one guest found out. As we straggled around the corner, we came upon a natural amphitheatre below a small hillside scattered with pale rocks and covered in long, dry grass. Here, the guests could sit in tiered positions and look out at the wedding party and the ocean. To the east, white waves curved on to a small beach far below. You will be happy to know there was a fence between the cliff face and the ocean, so there was no danger of the bridal party falling off!
Jedi the dog was part and parcel of the wedding party as well and made herself at home wandering among the guests and sitting down in the long grass, looking quite at home and very chuffed.
The weather was perfect. It is a site well known for its exposure to any wind that blows. Which is most days. However this particular day it was miraculously still and calm.
Fold-up chairs had been carried in for those who needed to sit in more comfortable seats. A small table had also been carried in for the signing of the register. The service itself was short and sweet. M&K exchanged the old-fashioned version of the wedding vows. And were married. I cried.
Straight after the vows, Jedi (as if scripted) wandered up to the bride and groom and put her nose in their hands, as if congratulating them.
Son C (one of the groomsmen) was at the wedding on crutches. On Wednesday night he was bowled over by a car which took off from traffic lights just as he stepped out. The light was green for him to cross, and so the car had gone against the lights. He had friends there to witness what was in fact a hit-and-run, because the driver (a female) hadn't stopped, even though C had bounced off the car's bonnet.
And that’s not all - the best man B. broke his finger while playing rugby and on the night before the wedding was in hospital having surgery. He came fresh out of general anesthetic to attend the wedding and looked very pale and wonky. Two Nurofen Plus tablets (which luckily we had in the house because of C’s ankle) were quickly administered.
The happy bride looked very pretty dressed in a white, sleeveless dress with a 1920s look to it. She had her hair pulled back with a veil that flowed from where her hair was gathered up at the back. And the happy groom was dressed in a dark suit he bought new and then (unbeknown to us, his parents, who’d been very impressed with the fact that he of all people had bought himself a suit!) splattered the corner of the jacket and the side of the trousers with bright splashes of primary-coloured paint. When his aunty from Australia rang to wish him well, she asked him what he was doing and he said, “Painting my suit.” He also added small safety pins instead of buttons. He wore it with a white tie and looked awesome.
Son S from Japan (who had lamented that he couldn't make it over for the wedding) surprised us all by walking in the door on the eve of the wedding day, saying,"It's my brother's wedding. I couldn't miss my brother's wedding."At the sight of him appearing like a vision through the door, I did a two-second double take and then screamed. Tears and laughter followed. To us it was as if he had been beamed over, a-la 'Star Trek' ... But for him it had been a tedious, seemingly endless journey of 32 hours. One which he then had to turn around and repeat after a little over 48 hours.

***

When I look out our windows, autumn colours are deepening in the trees.

The light on sunny days is soft and mellow.


Unlike the day I took these photos, the last two days the weather has been fuzzy with soft, light rain as a misty, coastal drizzle sweeps in from the sea. 'Scot's Mist' is another name for it. Despite the (usually cheery) chemist-shop assistant's glum sigh today, and her plaintively expressed doubts that the weather was ever going to lift, I actually like the way the misty rain closes in the city, cocooning us all inside a grey blanket. It sets off Dunedin's stone buildings beautifully. It is autumnal and fitting. Far from being depressed by it, I am instead inspired to write poems about mist and the sound of drowned bells.

***

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Take Five

Have I mentioned my fondness for apples and for tractors?

A wild apple tree and rowan berries.




I also have a fondness for the 20th century method of haybaling, as opposed to the 21st century method with its gigantic, rolled-up bales sheathed in ugly, hospital-green. I was so pleased to see that some farmers still bale the old way. I much prefer the friendlier, chug-a-lug balers and the naked variety of chunky hay-bale.

***

For part of the Easter break, ABM and I went camping.







And as a consequence, my plan to take part in NaPoWriMo this month came to a sudden halt. Any hopes I harboured of writing a poem a day while 'on the road', were tested and found to be unrealistic.



Largely because of my incapacity to concentrate on more than one thing at a time.


Checking out a pair of Paradise ducks with the 'nokkies' .


When I saw this abandoned truck just along from our campsite, I just had to take a photo - abandoned vehicles being another of my weaknesses (image-wise.)

***
It was time to admit defeat, put down the pen and 'take five', at first with ABM and myself on our own

near Lake Wanaka,


and then with his parents in Queenstown. This is the view from their deck, overlooking Lake Wakatipu and towards the Remarkables mountain range.

***

I did manage to write one poem.

On a fantastic autumn day, the kind that reminds you why autumn has such a good reputation, I sat under willows that had leaves just beginning to change colour. I wrote while ABM played a couple of rounds of golf. I discovered that in the time he takes to complete 18 holes, I was able to complete a 'first' draft of a poem I was reasonably happy with.

By NaPoWriMo standards this is officially Day Twelve, however I am only up to Day Four. I am writing ideas for poems in a notebook with the hope of getting back to the writing very soon. Even if there's no time and space to do anything with it, at least the inspiration hasn't dried up.

Another thing that has stalled any hopes of keeping to the mark, was the startling yet deeply exciting news from Artist Son M that he and K are going to get married on Friday afternoon, 20th April. So. As we help them to organise a wedding ceremony that is to take place here in Dunedin, in a week's time, on a windy hilltop with an ocean backdrop, my life is in just a teency bit of a whirl.

Needless to say, I won't be back until the confetti has settled.

***

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Concrete Dinosaur



I wasn't called up for work again today. A good thing as it turned out to be a perfect autumn day. I reminded myself of why autumn is my favourite season. Maybe it has something to do with the lingering aftertaste of summer in its soft light. Life seems to slow down a little as the sure promise of winter's cold stillness ahead is signalled. There is still enough light and warmth around to enjoy, without the taxing brittleness of summer or the boundless energy of spring. (I like it too because mcdinzie and dinzie take photos of dahlias.)

Of course the draw of a walk to St Kilda at low tide was too much.


Two examples of why Dunedin beaches are popular with surfers.



And this is why the St Kilda playground (popularly known as 'The Dinosaur Playground') is so popular with children, and has been for several generations now.


Unfortunately I couldn't spend the whole day playing with concrete dinosaurs. There was a poem to be written!

***

explanations


My father tried to explain perpetual motion
pointing to a bike wheel as it still spun
minutes after the rider had dumped it.

Later I discovered for myself
the suspended animation of fleas
and the perennial nature of wallflowers

as opposed to marigolds. Everyday occurrences
came later, such as vans that deliver clean towels
to hotels, and abandoned cars on front lawns.

***

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Broken Pots and Fantails




I guess in one way or another, we are all a bit like broken pots.



This poem is about someone who was broken in a way that no-one would choose. I wrote it today after having seen last night's '60 Minutes' about a New Zealand woman who spent eleven years in the infamous womens prison in Bankok.

***

back home


She said what she did was silly, reckless,
unwise. She was bored. Needed excitement.
Bankok, mid-nineties, too tantalising
to turn down just before she turned forty.
All she had to do to pay for her trip
was to carry a small package back home.
She didn’t know what was strapped to her leg
but thought she was safe. Who would suspect her,
a grandmother? When caught she remembers

saying, “Oh, is that heroin?” And then,
“So that’s what it looks like.” From there it was
a short, sharp trip to the ‘Bankok Hilton’
with its filth, mud, rats and lack of shelter
from the rain. Where you had to fight and scrap
for some space and a place to keep your shoes
from floating away. Where she watched her friend
die of Aids. Each year her father travelled
over to visit until she said, don’t

anymore Dad. After eleven years,
the king granted her a pardon. Back home
and on ‘60 Minutes’ it is the shame
she says that is the hardest thing to bear.
But thankful now for things like clean showers
and for glass and how it keeps out the rain.
The rain. As water runs down glass, she’s filmed
standing behind it, her face dissolving
as the rain pours down in absolution.


(In this poem I have used the Poetry Thursday prompt of 'absolve'.)


***

Fantail
Originally uploaded by mcdinzie.


All day today I have been trying to catch a fantail - or piwakawaka. On camera that is.

This is my sister's photo of one. (Go here to see more of her beautiful photos.)








Our cat Grommet has also been trying to catch a fantail - but NOT on camera. This is him looking down at me as he pleads - no, demands might be more to the point, just look at that expression! - to be rescued from the roof.



I left him there for an hour, figuring if he got up, he should be able to get down again. He's not a light cat and we could hear him thundering around going from side to side, mewing piteously. Silly feline. So of course, in the end, I had to haul him down. I'm sure he was up there because he could hear the fantails squeaking. In the end, I had to be content with a poem and no photo. (Unlike my sister and her partner, I can't seem to photograph birds.)

***
piwakawaka


You flit,
there is no other word for it,
you dancer, you yo-yo,
as if on the end
of elastic.

I look to see what you want
and yes, there
are insects,
dark specks in lit air
like floaters in a bad eye.

All day your squeaks a wet finger
on glass,
your beige undercarriage
ballast for your black-and-white
tail feathers’ aerial feats.

Yours is an ancient spiral,
a dance that reminds what
has not changed
between the first waka*
and the last.

Between when all was empty
green and now, here,
where you float over
ground ashen with cities
the colour of death.



* waka - a Maori canoe. The maori arrived in New Zealand (Aotearoa) by waka. It is said the bird piwakawaka - fantail - was so-named because it was the first bird to welcome the first waka. And these little, dancing birds do appear to welcome us, but in actual fact when they flit about very close to our heads, they are really chasing the tiny flying insects that have been disturbed by our movements.

(The word 'spiral' comes from PT's prompt for the second day of the Poem-a-day challenge for April.)

***


And here is another autumn reminder. Perennial berries of the cotoneaster plant. Pronounced coton-e-aster - instead, I always like to pronounce it 'cotton-easter' seeing as the berries always appear around Easter.
Maybe it can also be a prompt for the next poem - using PT's prompt of 'perennial'. But that will have to keep for tomorrow.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Deepest, Darkest

Sunday Scribblings




Today I met a friend for coffee. We met at a coffee shop at St Clair beach where because of a stormy southerly wind, the waves were smashing up against the sea wall. I'd say it was a sign that winter is on its way, except I've seen conditions like this in the middle of summer here in this delightful southern city. We have weather here, not climate.

Under the waves of the ocean, the deeper you go the darker it gets. A world without light where strange creatures move. The creatures that belong there move freely, comfortable in their skin. It is the only world they know.

D and I talked of different cultures and how everyone moves in their own world largely unaware of other societies and customs. We are like underwater creatures, ignorant of other worlds above and around us. Until we surface, re-adjust our breathing and take in our own ignorance.

D recently spent three weeks in the slums of Cambodia and experienced what it is like to live with nothing. It has been a life-changing experience. But the biggest culture shock she said is to arrive back in affluent New Zealand, her eyes opened, and realise how much we waste, how much we take for granted and how much we moan about trivial things. And mostly, how ignorant we are of the world outside our own framework.

On my walks recently I've noticed a lot of people are building high front fences in front of their houses. I guess it's for privacy and safety, but I feel sad at losing the friendly sight of yet another front lawn and garden.

I've been reading a bit of science fiction lately. It's a genre where not only the future, but other universes are explored, where as a reader I am exposed to strange and weird customs and beings. Where the human beings of the future are unrecognisable, so different are they to the ones around me now. As I read, I am all the time comparing what I know with my own ignorance.

We each move in our own darkened world, believing it to be the only world. What strange underwater creatures we are.

Local Focal

A very Victorian Presbyterian church on the corner. This church is now empty - not because of disinterest, but because it didn't pass...