'Time and place / as elusive as air / as solid as this ground / I stand on. / Here, where I am placed / at any one time'.
Thursday, 31 December 2009
New Year's Happy
Sunday, 27 December 2009
Fancy Flights and Rainbow Fins
Of course flight is no clumsy novelty for this tui and what's more doesn't cost him a penny. The consummate free-loader, here he is helping himself to a feed of honey water.
Friday, 25 December 2009
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Friday, 4 December 2009
Has the Weather Really Changed All That Much? According to Early '80s Entries, Apparently Not.
Thursday, 3 December 2009
cutting the lawns zig-zag
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
What I Didn't Know I Had Forgotten
At nine years old I graduated from writing with a Black Beauty pencil, to a fountain pen. I was the proud owner of a marbled-blue, Osmiroid fountain pen with a rubber, inner tube that constantly needed to be tanked up. Along with the hit of raw ink (pungent yet not unpleasant) I remember the fountain pen’s hand-warmed plastic, the taste of its chewed end and the ease of its nifty, lever-operated filler. Sometime in the late 1960s schools admitted defeat, allowing blue ballpoints to be used for general writing (rather than allowing just the use of red ballpoints for ruling margins) and thus fountain pens became redundant.
My father used to keep a diary, writing in small, navy-blue diaries with a thin, capped pencil tucked into the spine. My mother still has all the diaries, except for ‘1963’ which I’ve manged to get my hot little hands on. The entries tell of domestic details and hard yakka: Monday, 10th of June, 1963: ‘Carted two loads spuds sold a porker to Snow Egerton £8 fed pigs cows Fine can of milk from Milton Herrick’.
The pencilled words are smudgy, faint and uneven, almost to the point of being child-like. The word order is endearingly wonky; after reading a few entries, it dawned on me that the word ‘Fine’ interspersed at random in different entries isn’t an adjective, but a reference to the weather that day. Without my father making the effort to each night write down the day’s work done, we would have no record of it. The work is recorded in endless, pencilled, farming verbs: drafting, tailing, lambing, feeding out, clod-crushing, dagging, topping, crutching, sub-soiling, harrowed, weaned, killed, culled … again nothing spectacular, but they are one of the few records we have of his life.
For years I kept diaries too, full of the mundane. One of the entries in 1984 describes the explorations and discoveries our four-year old son was making as he negotiated the labyrinth of language and imagination: ‘Tarati’ is a regular visitor to our home. An imaginary friend whose mother lives in Queenstown. Sometimes she has green hair and a yellow dress.”
Whenever I read these entries, clear associations flood in. I play with time. I recover the past and bookmark it in order to keep its place in the present.
Writing on a laptop is not as earthy as pen and paper. It doesn’t show the sweat. No holes are rubbed in the paper. Sometimes I have a yen to write with a fountain pen again. One with an old-fashioned nib shaped like a digging tool; not unlike the chisel plough my father mentions in his diary. A pen that I need blotting paper for and an ink-well to fill ‘er up. But even if I did act on this I can’t see myself ever surrendering what has become the norm for me, writing on the laptop. Seeing the letters already formed for your fingertips to pick and choose, is more remote than forging the letters for yourself from lead and ink; in fact it feels like cheating; and compared to this clean, calculated method, manually creating the letters yourself with a pen or pencil is honest spadework. However, achieving effortless crisp and professional writing on the screen, becomes addictive.
Writing stored online, or in a computer’s hard drive, isn’t as easy to take a hold of as writing that’s kept between the pages of a book. At present I am using my old diaries as a research tool in order to re-discover something of the mood of the 1980s and ‘90s when I was deeply into parenting. The diaries, tactile and sturdy in my hand, help me to remember what I didn’t know I’d forgotten. When I read Dad’s diary, the feel of its hard-backed cover tucked in my palm, is part of the pleasure. I read it to recover a father taken away too young, too early. Part of that recovery is to see in the entries, his handwriting with all its imperfection; words scratched out, clumsy arrows to the bottom of the page where he has added something he forgot, the mis-spellings, the lack of punctuation. Such revelations would be impossible in any online written piece, historical or otherwise.
Whether I write in ink, pencil or by tapping on a keyboard, like my father there is also something in me that drives me to chronicle my life; to break twigs and leave some sort of a trail. I’ll let my father have the last word: Tuesday, 12th February, 1963:‘Weaned Goargina, Bobtail, Black Slit Ear Got mower ready for Hay went up Stan Shaws to cut Hay too many thistles cut some up top Hoggett Block Fine’.
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
End Result, New Begins
Friday, 6 November 2009
The Environment Court has declined consent for a windfarm in Central Otago's Lammermoor Range, Meridian Energy says.
Resource consent for Project Hayes, a $2 billion, 176-turbine windfarm, was granted to the power company in 2006 and 2007, but was subsequently appealed to the Environment Court.
A hearing began in May 2008 and concluded in February this year.
In a statement today, Meridian spokesman Alan Seay said the court had rejected consent.
The company was disappointed by the decision and it would be assessing the decision in detail to consider its potential responses.
The 630MW windfarm was planned to be big enough to power every home in the South Island. The first stage would produce about 150MW, with Meridian building more turbines as demand increased.
However, the project was opposed by local residents, who wanted to protect the tussock-clad ranges from 160m-high turbines and 12m-wide access roads.
Several high-profile New Zealanders, including All Black Anton Oliver, artist Grahame Sydney and poet Brian Turner, also spoke out against the proposed windfarm.
nothing to do with you
For a cup of coffee,
you would strike the heart
with an axe, mine stone
for its marrow.
what rolls on into sky. Screw
metal poles into quiet land,
warp and crush
of light and air.
For northern power,
on land nothing
to do with you,
you would trammel
quilted, southern ground, leave
a trail of stains,
thrust twisted crosses
into its soft belly.
Rocks the wind or sun
cannot move, sleep on.
they carry soft gold
we can hear for miles.
calls his dogs. Somewhere,
the blaring throats
of young bulls
we cannot see.
Under our feet the gravel
coughs. Fallen apples
form a wild carpet
below a crooked tree.
The mist freezes
where it wafts, solid
lace. Cold, bloodless
and beautiful. Still for days
on end, the sun a smear
across the sky’s white mouth.
Bulrushes stuck fast
in frozen ponds.
Willows and poplars
as wan as horse-hair.
In summer, the grasshopper
screams. In summer
the road floats
grey. Purple lupins
and orange poppies
When we stop the car
we hear overhead
a pair of paradise ducks,
their alternating cries
the unfenced sound
of a mountain tarn.
Seized by the autumn sun,
valleys do not resist
the line and fall
of riverbeds and trees.
“We call this
our golden season.”
She speaks among art-deco
“Here, we don’t get that fog
they get down river.”
And as the railway station’s
useless clouded window
veils the sky‘s
she talks of a small town now gone,
and the shop she ran for years.
On land nothing
to do with you, somewhere
the sound of a tiny bird.
Somewhere, lovely light,
the sound of nothing, of no-one,
of the air.
Kay McKenzie Cooke
And another poem, below, published in the Otago Daily Times as one of the 'Monday's Poem' choices.
If you say but
they are beautiful
too, he will tell you, yes,
somewhere not pristine,
there is an eeriness,
an artful symmetry like a star
or the centre of an orange.
But here, where wind forms
waves over tussock, how
it chills him, the thought
of these seedless lilies
they say will pit
his falcon-feathered hills.
that stalk and mar
his valleys and till their wind
for power. These bastards,
these pale mills, for as long
as it takes to halt
sway over land
not meant for such rude
points he will tilt at them.
Even cancer cells, he says,
can look beautiful.
Kay McKenzie Cooke
Sunday, 1 November 2009
No - vember.
I will be on Twitter though, so watch the sidebar for any updates there. In fact, why not join in? Discussions and comments range from the sublime to the welcome relief of the ridiculous. I'm finding it a lot of fun. And then there's Facebook ... I'll see some of you there too.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Dragonflies Don't Require Maps
One of the things we saw in Japan was a swarm of dragonflies - something I've never seen before. Dragonflies are cool, and not just because of their name either. I think it could be their style-y flying - that capacity to stop, start, zoom; the way their chassis catch rainbow tints in sunlight. (Try and replicate that, humans!)
With our first-born son
caught up in Kyoto
a flowing elevator
pours us through to another level,
tells us to travel safe
in a voice like light
from a blue sun
in one of the Jack Vance books
in the boot of John and Katherine’s car,
there as excess baggage
because even sci. fi. books
cannot alter their weight at an airport,
after all this is the real world
where another son who travels
arrives before he left
and on Skype when we ask
our middle son
how he is he replies okay
but still in Dunedin.
Meanwhile, back in Japan
we’re asked to please
remove our shoes
to toe our unshod way
along ancient wood
on feet no longer planted
like the floating feet
Kay McKenzie Cooke
Friday, 16 October 2009
the crow / the grey warbler / one whole week
Our wonderful guide for the day we went to see another impressive temple in Kyoto, was Kaori, who read a poem at Steve and Eriko's wedding. She showed us a Shoren-in temple that in the end has to be my favourite (I kept being asked; What is your favourite temple? ) Well ... this one was. Definitely. It seemed a quieter temple than the others we've seen, with its aged wooden walls, homely, peaceful atmosphere and harmony oozing from every grain.
It brought the outdoors into the inside. It housed colourful, decorative screens. And the fact that in one room, over fifty ancient poets' portraits were featured, won it over for me.
At the entrance it has a tree that dates back to the twelfth century which I could've spent all day gazing and wondering at. A great old fellow that Steve bowed to on our way out which seemed a fitting tribute to such an aged one.
And we happened to be there for a Bhuddist ceremony .... that involved fire. Awesome.
That night E wanted to show us her 'home town' - Osaka - so we caught the train and had a look-see at her city, starting with a noodle curry meal at kinryu noodle house.
Osaka is very different to Kyoto. Exciting, vibrant and edgy, it contrasts with Kyoto which guards its history and traditional edge. In Kyoto, no building is allowed to be over a certain height - so the hills that ring the city are always visible and the sky apparent. Osaka is different, but nonetheless has its own strong character. We really enjoyed our brief look-see at its life and energy, bright lights and attitude. (For example in Kyoto, people make way for others, in Osaka you're more likely to be bumped out of the way on a busy intersection.) Steve says most of the Japanese comedians come from Osaka. Interesting ... I think that shows that it kowtows to no-one. It also has its own dialect and terms of speech. I guess if one was looking for an equivalent, it might be London and the Cockneys, or maybe NY?
The family in the subway, heading back from Osaka.
The day before we had James as our guide. James is from Amberley, North Canterbury, but now a long-term resident of Japan. He is a lovely guy and the perfect guide with that low-key kiwi humour to add laughter to an enjoyable walk through the very long fushimi shrine's torii tunnel ( we only got to the halfway point, and that took half an hour).
Near where James lives is tofukuji temple with a stone garden as well as a moss garden.
The first bird I heard in Japan was the crow, the first bird upon arriving back home (nearly a whole week ago now) was the falling-scale sound of our local, little grey warbler. Between them, one whole world.
It has taken me a long time (I’m not there yet, but neither am I rushing it) to stop missing Japan. Having our son and his wife and daughter (and another little baby on the way) of course adds to the feeling of being torn away too soon.
Japan has left a mighty impression on us, for reasons too many to outline here. In fact the frustration of having to pin it all down with clumsy words, has put me off writing this post. Then I decided that all I could do really was a small detail - as in a corner of the whole canvas. (Mike sometimes does this for his Cartoon Moon flickr page - details from the whole canvas. It’s effective too, as I hope are my few reports on what was for me personally an epic voyage.)
Here are just a few memories, filed under 5 memories for each sense:
Sounds: Crows; people calling, "arigato gozimas" - from cheerful shop assistants to bored bus drivers (and everyone in between), cheeping bird-sound over the subway sound systems, chanting monks walking past S&E’s home one morning, the sound of straw brooms sweeping paths.
Sights: dark-suited salary men on trains, paper lanterns, people riding bikes (bikes of all shapes, sizes, models, colours ...) with one hand on the handlebar and the other holding an umbrella, packed-in-tight shoe-box houses, cheesy billboards.
Tastes: Tofu, salted beans, fried chicken gristle, raw tuna, fried stingray fin ... so much variety in the food, so much choice - so sugar-free.
Smells: Incense, cooking from narrow, cobbled alley-ways, tatami mats, ancient wood, warm rice fields.
Touch: Warm toilet seats! ridged bamboo trunks, the bark of a tree dating back to the twelfth century, tatami mats under your feet, the peculiar comfort of a springless futon.
And so much more. Sensory overload!
Steve (who has experienced a few of these switch-from-Japan-to-NZ and vice versa now) suggests my sense of displacement since arriving back home is due to 'the sudden sensory shift. Sometimes takes a while to adjust.' He suggests, ' a bracing walk along St. Kilda beach into a stiff southerly should do it!' He's probably right, but I can't quite make myself take that walk. Not just yet.
Japan and its sensory overloads will continue to remain with us. We will be going back. There are just too many things now on our ‘Next Time’ list for us not to (including, of course, the new grandchild, due soon.)
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
All Agog and Well~Fed
Miyajima Island near Hiroshima is reached via a short ferry trip. We visited in the rain and despite the discomfort of less than adequate footwear (squelchy sneakers and sopping socks) only added to the moody atmosphere of hills, trees, beach and deer ~ not unlike Halfmoon Bay in Stewart Island, NZ ~ if you added to Halfmoon Bay, ancient history, a shrine or two and some un~hunted deer wandering the shopping lanes! as if out for a spot of shopping and a bit of a chat over coffee. That was a wander in the rain on Friday under umbrellas our jeans wet to the knees.
This was the day before, when we visited the Peace Park at Hiroshima. This photo shows thousands of tiny, paper, origami cranes people add to the various monuments as a pledge for peace in the world and the halting of nuclear armament. Hiroshima, the site of an A~bomb attack, is an affecting place with its focus on world peace and graphic, historical evidence of the devastating effects of nuclear war.
We spent a deeply moving time visiting the Museum there, receiving a glimpse of the devastation and horror caused when ordinary citizens going about their daily lives on a summer morning, are suddenly hit with an atomic bomb. (We are also both reading the novel 'Black Rain', which is an effective and enlightening account of that day in August, 1945.)
Despite the bad taste left in your mouth, there is a pervading sense of a non-judgmental hope for world peace, and the brave ability of humankind to rally and recover from such a cataclysmic event.
Both nights we were there, we ate a traditional meal (we are in love with Japanese food!) and on both occasions (both in sharp contrast to each other in their approach and production ~ I might have time to describe these meals in detail at a later date) experienced the warm hospitality and overwhelming kindness and generosity of Japanese people to two receptive, even if at times slightly confused, kiwis.
From there we travelled to the countryside in Okayama Prefecture, to re~unite with S & family at the in~laws.
G is a gardener of some expertise. After retiring, he and N have gone back to G's family land. Note the stone lantern.
Just visible in the upper left corner is the old family home, now falling into disrepair (after all it's over a hundred years old now.) G uses the roof tiles for garden borders.
Mushroom house where very large black mushrooms prosper.
The garden is totally organic. No pesticides were used in the production of this eggplant.
E's pet turtle, now over twenty years old and looked after by her parents. Some parents are left with the cat ... or the dog ... in this case, it's the turtle ~ Okame (which means Mr Turtle in Japanese.) He has free reign of the house and wanders about inside ~ you have to make sure you aren't stepping on him! One of my lasting memories of this trip will have to be waking up to the 'clunk, clunk' sound (identical to a woman in high heels) of Okame's shell on the wooden kitchen floor as he makes his slow and deliberate early morning perambulations.
As well, we visited Christchurch's sister city Kurashiki, which like the Canterbury city, also has a river and willows; but of course a lot more ancient history. The river, willows and bridge are very 'willow~pattern plate'.
I was a little tearful leaving G and N as they are special people to me; we leave S&E&A in their care really so they stand in for us in a lot of ways in the parenting an grand-parenting roles.
I can't leave my report of the visit without mentioning the overwhelming hospitality and meals we had while there. The breakfasts were amazing ~ toast and tea do not come anywhere near to comparing. There was not only the usual (for me) toast and tea, but meat, bread rolls, cakes, boiled eggs, grapes, kiwi fruit (home~grown) tomatoes, beans, peppers, egg rolls with tuna and salmon ... I can't begin to name all that was on the table ... Wow!! Dinner the first night was sushi (hand~rolled yourself) with an array of ingredients to add to the seaweed roll, and sukiyaki the second night with another impressive to the point of overwhelming assortment of ingredients to pluck out from a central pot. Both are extremely friendly and pleasantly lingering ways to eat. We were certainly being thoroughly spoilt.
Before returning to Kyoto, R and I took a little side~trip to reunite with M who stayed with us after S&E's NZ wedding in January this year. She showed us around the castle in her hometown ~ Himeji. She had a friend with her who was fluent in English and who knew a great deal about the castle and its history, so we felt very privileged to once again have our own personal guide. The castle is an impressive piece of architecture dating back to the 17th century (altho' originally built in 12th century and some of the writings and illustrations, weaponry and other historical remnants on show inside date back to that time.)
The day was finished off with a wander around a Japanese garden ~ very peaceful and reflective.
And then it as a train trip back to Kyoto. Only three days left now!
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
'Lost in Kyoto'
So we have been literally lost in Kyoto, but figuratively not so much, feeling 'at home' here from the start. Having family here adds a certain element of familiarity. However yesterday's news of a tsunami hitting Samoa and the loss of life there, with threats of high waves on NZ's coastline made home seemed very far away, and I did feel a little homesick for familiar faces and locales.
Some dancers I went to see with K, whom we got to know when she came over to NZ for S&E's wedding. She was able to translate for me the information about the beautiful costume's ornamental details and history. It was great having my own personal translator!
A tree covered with paper fortunes. This is one of the many temples (Bhuddist) and shrines (Shinto) we have kindly been taken to visit in Kyoto ~ 'temple city'.
Our friend adds her fortune to the tree.
This is a prayer request that had been hung on another notice board ~ we thought it was rather cute. And it was in English too, which helps!
Outside the temple I have dubbed 'the temple on the hill.' Great views over South Kyoto. When we were there with Steve, there were hordes of school students on a school visit, which I guess could have been annoying but I actualy found their excitement and energy only added to the enjoyment of the visit. They sure were noisy! But it was a happy noise.
In this photo you can see how crowded it was. Steve took this ~ we are there somewhere in the front right by the rail. You can see my red top.
Steve also took us around his old hood in the Gijo district. He has written an interesting blog about it as among other things, it is where the Japanese mafia hang out. I am standing in front of the many 'tea houses' (which is a euphemism.)
This is called Kyoto Kitchen by the tourists and is a long, long line of stalls full of food.
I wonder what they sell here?
This guy bakes biscuits as you watch, using a toaster / hot plate apparatus to bake them on.
Any account of Japan wouldn't be complete without mentioning the funny and quirky (to Westerners) things you see here.
... like branch proppers ...
... mannequins to show how smart your trousers can look while deep bowing! ...
... fair enough too I say! ...
... Steve said that paper v scissors settles many scores with his students and is accepted without question as a way of settling dilemmas or conflict ...
And everywhere you go there is always a 'Pig and Whistle' somewhere for ex~pats to meet up and have a beer and play darts.
One of many delicious Japanese meals we have enjoyed. This is at a vegan restaurant. We are being very spoilt. When we don't eat out, we get to eat E's fabulous cooking (and Steve's a pretty good cook too ~ must be in the surname!)
We are off to Hiroshima today ~ a trip on our own. A litle nerve wracking to go without our guides and interpreters.
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