Saturday, 18 June 2016

Moons in Junes

protea; represents change and hope

posing tree still in its autumn skirt

we need more rain

cute urban nature sign about seagulls

cute urban nature sign about spring tides

solid, practical sign showing the way to the albatross and penguins and seals - among other attractions

one of my favourite trees and the best thing about it, is that it's all ours

Dear Reader,

The '30 Days Wild' (#30DaysWild) challenge runs until the end of the month. It's a UK challenge that I have butted in on. It requires keeping eyes and *ears out to note nature. Participants are also invited to do various things that require interacting in fun ways with nature. Because going on a picnic doesn't really appeal in the middle of winter (cold grass = cold arse!) I'm opting for the easy road and just keeping my eyes open for the little things I come across in my normal run of the mill activities.

*the quality and degree to which I can hear nature, depending of course upon whether or not I'm wearing a woolly, winter hat. Luckily this year (so far) winter is being kind and I've hardly had to wear a hat on my outings

Apparently the lunar cycle we are in at present, has a full moon at solstice - the first time for seventy years. Seventy years ago my mother was a fifteen year old high-school student, my father a 26-year old flanker for the Orepuki rugby team, and I was seven years away from existence. As a consequence, this is my first full-moon-winter-solstice (if the facts about the full moon are correct, that is. It gets a mite complicated when half the world is experiencing a different kind of solstice to the other half. Maybe it's only half of seventy years ago? I'll stop. I'm only confusing myself).

One thing I am sure about: it's Dunedin's mid-winter carnival tonight - food stalls and a lantern parade, followed by fireworks. My son and his family are taking part in the lantern parade, so we will be there on the sidelines to watch the display - which is always beautiful.

Writing for me at the moment consists of poetry and book reviews. 'Craggan Dhu: (Part One's) ' first draft is slowly becoming a second draft, but still with a ways to go. Like me seventy years ago, maybe - except the novel is far more substantial than just a twinkle in my father's eye!

Really hanging out for that week away in a cottage with no interruptions, appointments, duties or distractions of any kind. Just a grindstone with my nose attached.


Sunday, 12 June 2016

Low Tide Waltz

seagulls and black-backed gulls

gulls over Andersons Bay inlet

winter leaves

Dear Reader,

Another walk to the inlet to see what I could come up with for the #30DaysWild challenge.

At present here, low tide is around 4.00 - 5.00 pm. Despite the inlet not being as attractive as it is at high tide, an ebbing tide does expose the interesting workings of the inlet's underbelly, and never fails to provide entertainment of the avian variety.

Yesterday at dusk, the gulls were indulging in a feeding frenzy. Possibly the result of a glut of mackerel. The inlet can resemble a simmering pot when the mackerel are in and jumping.

My favourite birds to watch diving for food, are the terns. There were no terns to be seen today. Black-backed gulls do throw their weight around, so it's reasonable to assume that the more slightly-built terns are wary.

As I watched the aerial waltz-moves of the gulls, the *music playing through my headphones provided an apt theme tune for the visuals. It was a sweet moment.

* 'Paris, Texas', Ry Cooder followed by 'All Alright', Sigur Ros

Closer to home, the leaves of a tree at the bottom of our driveway caught my eye. The green leaves on the tree seem to indicate a tree reluctant to admit that it is mid-winter. However, today's fall in temperature may hasten the tree to take a reality check. There is snow in the air, I can smell it. Enough to turn any green leaf yellow.


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Ginkgo Leaves at Day's Ebb

the skin-like tones on the bole of eucalyptus tree

dusk over Andersons Bay inlet

sun sinks behind Dunedin city

two ducks on a sunset-stained inlet

Dunedin sunset

Dear Reader,

As part of the 30 Days Wild (a UK nature challenge I'm taking part in from way over on the other side of the world) I took the camera to the inlet just down the road and snapped some shots of a winter early-evening (or late-afternoon, depends whether you are a glass half full or glass half empty kind of person, I guess).

Alert to any sign of wildness in the city, I noted leaves plastered to the footpath. They looked like fallen stars. From their shape, I identified one lot as maple. Another group reminded me of ginkgo leaves I'd seen in Japan. They're easy to identify because they look so much like fans. ... I wondered if I was correct in my identification. I wanted to take photos of the leaves, but there was a woman washing her car at the maples and a group of young people playing basketball close to the ginkgo leaves. I feel far too self-conscious to take photos when there are people about. I just know that they'd wonder what the weird woman was doing.

I saw a flock of birds suddenly fly off, looking like the pieces of an exploded umbrella.

A smudgy-faced ginger cat; no doubt waiting for its owners imminent return home from work; greeted me with a single, plaintive mew.

I heard ululating black-backed gulls. Smelt the mud from an inlet laid bare by the low tide. I saw to the right, a pale new moon in a blue patch of sky, and to the left, the sun fast losing its grip on the southern hemisphere.

I stopped to watch two ducks, trailing placid, silver, v-shaped lines in their wake. Such peaceful birds. I stood there a while, gathering in the calm that often falls at day's ebb. (Just writing that last sentence, makes me feel like an 18th century poet. At that moment I wanted to be an 18th century poet. For one second, I was an 18th century poet).

Then, back to being just an ordinary, 21st century, older-middle-aged woman (just how do you describe someone aged somewhere between middle-aged and elderly anyway? Old? Somehow I'm just not ready to describe myself thus. Not yet.) I set off again, along the gravel track which today was full of glinting, moon-shaped puddles. Every so often I had to duck off to the side to let a homeward-bound cyclist go past. It's a popular area for dog owners as well and I passed a few dogs taking their owners for walks.

I'm sure that having the '30 Days Wild' on my mind meant I saw things I wouldn't have noticed otherwise. The old birds-nest in a bare-branched tree, for example, and the roses leaning against a garage wall, pink and staunch and still going strong, despite it being June. And then there was the five native trees along the boundary line below our driveway; splendidly pulling off their cool, winter looks.

Just as I reached home, my friend and neighbour, N. called out. She asked me if I was going to the Regent Book Sale (a regular, iconic Dunedin event) and would I like to go with her tomorrow? At first I said no, as I am going to go in on Saturday morning. Afterwards, I changed my mind, thinking, why not? Surely both the event and myself can handle two visits?

Going wild at a 24-hour Book Sale, sounds just like my cup of tea.


Saturday, 4 June 2016

Wild Idea

Wind-fish; a gift from a Japanese student (Yuki) who stayed with us in 1998. A little worse for wear now. It used to chime when it was windy, but we found the sound a mite annoying, so one wild, windy night, it was cut free of its metal tongue. 
It was lost in our garden for many years, until our daughter-in-law (also from Japan as it turns out) found it this year, when it was re-instated to something akin to its former glory; hanging from a branch and once more (except this time, silently) reminding us of greetings from Japan.

mossy branch

 purple polyanthus

prism & rainbow 

Dear Reader,

From the other side of the world, I am taking part in this - a UK challenge to a 30-day focus on nature through the month of June.

This is their description:

30 Days Wild is a campaign which challenges you to do something wild every day in June. That’s 30 days and 30 random acts of wildness!

Harder to complete in winter, I daresay, but the idea appealed to me. Any blog posts this month will reflect this '30-days Wild' theme.

One of the ideas is to leave part of your garden to grow wild. In my case that is not going to be difficult. In fact you could say, it has already been well and truly achieved.


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Reflected in a Teapot

bedroom mirror and reflections 

bedroom mirror in black and white

twin beds & candlewick bedspreads 

lamp-stand with fringed lightshade

bookshelf 1

bookshelf 2

coffee cups on holder

coffee mugs on wooden hooks

reflected in a teapot 

salt & pepper shakers 

mantle clock and two scotties 

decorated vase

fabric roses

Dear Reader,

After my mother died, two years ago now, we had to clear her home of her possessions; a sad task. Part of the sadness involved the necessary and permanent disassembling of a home's personality and heart.

This reminder of impermanence may have been on my mind last weekend when I stayed with my aunty (my mother's sister) and the reason why I took the photos shown above, of some of the things that to me seemed to reflect her home's particular personality.
The personalities of homes interest me; but not the House and Garden variety of home so much as homes that by their very nature, show a devotion to the personality of their owners.

Like people, there are no two homes alike.


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Weather Behaving Badly

... typical rolling, rock-and-tussock country, that you see in the Maniototo, South Island, New Zealand. The day we were there, a gale-force wind was battering the tussock - but that's fine, tussock was born and fashioned to withstand weather behaving badly ...

... another photo to add to my 'Small Libraries' photo album ...

... old shed, Waipiata, Otago, New Zealand ...

... more old buildings in Waipiata ...

... cemetery in Hamiltons; an old gold mining settlement ...

... cemetery gates - to be added to my 'Old Gates and Doors' album ...

... rose-hip (which grows wild in these parts) by an iron gate at the old Macraes cemetery. (Macraes is another historic gold mining settlement; except, since the 80's, it has hosted a present-day, going concern. A mining company is gutting local hillsides for any subterranean gold to be found beneath) ...

... rocky outcrop, Macraes - one of thousands of such rocky outcrops to be seen throughout the Maniototo ...

... an attempt at living sculpture at Macraes. Needs a more careful approach to its upkeep and maintenance, but an attractive enough idea and one way to honour the hardy, humble tussock that is so much part of the South Island landscape ...

... Not so living. At the back of the church (in photo below) I saw these Dr Suess-like plants (dead cabbage trees) ... 

... church at Macraes ...

... stone fence made from local schist rock ...

... rocky Maniototo landscape as seen through pines ...

... the green foreground shows the difference that a little irrigation makes ...

Dear Reader,

Recently Robert and I celebrated our Ruby Wedding Anniversary. Seeing as the actual anniversary fell on Mother's Day, we decided to leave the breakaway weekend we'd planned to celebrate, until the following weekend. On the day we had a combined Mother's Day and Ruby Anni. dinner out with what family we have here in Dunedin, and skype-d with two sons who are, respectively, overseas in Berlin and in Wellington, New Zealand.

Then this weekend just past, we took off into the interior of the South Island to celebrate our forty years of marriage. (We both can't quite believe it has been that long already!) It was by necessity an inexpensive trip. (My planned trip to Europe in Sept - Oct. has substantially slimmed down our coffers).

We roamed countryside that is familiar, but nevertheless always a treat to re-visit, with its wide expanses of land and sky, broken by stunning borders of supine mountains, gently folding into the special light that is a feature of this unique place. Rocky outcrops and landscapes, are also a feature. The eye always has something to feed on.

A history of gold-mining and rural settlement also adds interest to the area. Comparatively, it is very recent history, dating back only 150 years. We visited a couple of cemeteries and wandered around what few headstones remain of the (also few) that were erected. Notices list the number of miners and families of miners, as well as land-owners, who were actually buried in these places. The names on the lists amounted to a hundred or so, a much larger number than the amount of graves evident. Some of the names referred to Chinese gold-miners whose bodies were shipped back home to China.

At a place called Macraes, a monstrous quarry has been formed where a company (called Oceania Gold) is mining for gold. Probably in an attempt to keep in good with the locals, and with any public concerned at such intrusive and brutish operations; they appear to have a semi-transparent approach, which includes a lookout for the public to drive in and see part of the work for themselves. Massive machinery can be seen plying the face of a tremendously large gravel pit. (Apparently the policy, and requirement, of the mining company, is to leave the land as they found it).

We could see trucks bigger than bungalows, toting loads of gravel on various looping roadways leading to where the gravel will be processed in order to find the gold among the stones and mud. Despite the size of operations, the work is obviously (and possibly by requirement) being carried out methodically, symmetrically and in as neat and tidy a manner that such an enterprise is able to achieve.

After our weekend away, and back home in Dunedin again, we attended an event on Sunday night at the New Edinburgh Music Clubrooms, in an old church on Dundas Street. Local musician, Matt Langley, was performing both his own music, as well as songs he has composed using the words of poet, Brian Turner. Brian Turner, an established and well-known New Zealand poet, lives in the Maniototo, so of course a lot of his work is about this place. Very fitting for Robert and me to have the Maniototo, where we had spent the weekend, reflected back so beautifully, in music and word.

Also at the concert was my buddy, Jenny, who forms the other half of our Outriders poetry-reading duo, J&K Rolling.

We both spoke to Brian Turner afterwards. He said he had just got back from Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, where he was part of an invited panel of South Island writers discussing (among other things I'm sure; and please be aware that this to a degree is my interpretation of what he said) whether or not there was a divide between the South Island and the North Island (literary world?)

I'm not sure how wide the scope of discussion was - or even if 'divide' is a fair description of the discussion topic. The other panelists were Joe Bennett and Fiona Farrell. The topic heading was: 'Another Country?' Taking the title into account, it's safe to assume that there was at least discussion on how separate the two islands are in relation to writers and readers. I would love to have been there to hear the discussion. I've been looking on-line to see if there has been a report of the discussion, but apart from some reference by some North Island joker about part of the South Island falling into the sea (an indication of how much North Islanders care?) I can't find anything.

Whatever, Brian Turner's relief that he was once more safely and comfortably back on home soil, in the South Island, was patently obvious to both Jenny and me.

And speaking of words, writers and such, after all these recent distractions, it is now back to work on my novel, "Craggan Dhu'; interspersed by visits to the gym and / or walks (and being grandmother).

However, if the weather keeps behaving badly and dishing out this warm and settled autumn weather (apart from one or two errant weather-systems - thankfully short and sharp) it might be walks for me, rather than indoor, gym-work.

It is getting so I am longing for decent winter weather. What I call real weather; weather that warrants a chunky jacket, layers, scarf, gloves, hat. Once that kind of weather hits again, I will be  listening out for the collective sigh of happy Dunedin-ites reaching for their winter gear. Such an elongated warm-weather spell as this one, has a lot of us Dunedin-ites feeling discombobulated. Not all, though, some are reveling in it; as seen by the amount of bared, summer-tan work still on show.

The rest of us more pale varieties of Dunedin-dwellers, however, are extremely unsure if we really want summer to last as long as it appears to want to this year.


Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Large And The Small Of It.

A few things wonderful and grand, small and magnificent, low and lofty that have caught my eye over the past two weeks.

Dear Reader,

I ran out of poetry-making steam before the poem-a-day-for-a-month was over. (NaPoWriMo) But I was pleased to have revved up my poem-engine once again and to have pulled together some material that I can work with and / or add to what I want to go into my fourth collection. (As yet un-named).

I was happy to find that my poetry neurons can still spark and hadn't seized up from under-use.

... and now it's back to prose and fiction again.

My first draft is now on its way to evolving into the second draft. Holes in the plot need to be filled; plot development and character authentication is required. This will most likely keep me busy until the end of our winter.

Third and fourth drafts aren't likely to eventuate until 2017, because in September and October of this year, I will be overseas and not working on the novel. I am going to be with our son and partner and their adorable wee daughter, enjoying a European autumn in Berlin; among other places.

Cannot wait.

But both me and my novel, (working title, 'Cragghan Dhu') are going to have to wait.

The ability to wait is a skill. As my Irish great-granny loved to say; "Payshuns and per-severance".

Gets me every time.


P.S. Recently my friend Jenny Powell and I did our thing as the Outrider poets,  J&K Rolling, and made a poetry-reading whistle-stop in Queenstown, at the library there. It was a wonderful time meeting the locals (some of them international visitors; which was expected as that is the very nature of the place). Read all about it here 

I also aired my prose reading (as well a sliver of poetry) at the latest Southland & Otago NZSA branch's Dunedin (City of Literature) Thistle Cafe Writers Salon reading. (A bit of a mouthful, but I believe I got all the necessary and relevant info. in!) There I read to a warm, receptive and engaged audience. This was what I struck at both the Queenstown event and the Dunedin event. Writers and readers-of-writers (just what would we do without those precious people?) do tend to be supportive beings.


'how this all harbours light'