Sunday, 25 January 2009

Third Childhood

A hot, windy day yesterday, with these large carp-kites catching a coastal breeze to emblazon swept-clean, blue skies.

K and I went to the Farmer’s Market and spent a pleasant hour meandering, drinking coffee and sampling a gluten-free sausage each, followed later by a gluten-free pancake each. (At first, just by the way it was written, I thought the pancakes were Free! But - duh - it was announcing that they were (Gluten) Free! Oh well.) We bought white turnips and choy and free range eggs. Nothing like buying local, organic stuff. Later on in the day when I went to the supermarket, I found it full of produce from USA and Australia.

We also bought a bunch of sweet peas, the smell of which brings back the exquisite boredom of childhood summer days, quicker than a wink.

After the market and a natter in the shade at her & M’s place, K and I went for a stroll along the beach. (They are lucky enough to live within a stone’s throw.) She told me of her love of sailing and how one day as a ten year old at sailing class, she decided she’d set her sail for the wide, blue ocean; causing a rescue boat to come tearing after her. She said that her two favourite places in the world to be, would be either on top of a mountain or in the middle of the ocean. Can't say they would be for me ... I like a little contact with the safety of edges, frames and borders.

These are the same poles that I have posted a photo of in the winter when they were seven feet tall with the sand level up to their ankles. As you can see, yesterday they were only two to three feet tall and buried up to their chests. What a huge amount of sand the ocean hauls about.

And finally, here is Casper the Caterpillar who is at the Childcare Centre where I work, chomping his way through a swan plant’s leaves before wrapping himself up into a chrysalis and then emerging as a butterfly. I will keep you posted on his progress. I have a bit of a weird theory that my life echoes the four stages of a butterfly (egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, adult) changing every seven years. At the moment I am approaching the egg stage for the third time. (Do the maths ...) ‘In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf ...’ (Eric de Carle.) Another way of looking at it is that I’m entering into my third childhood!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Bon Voyage to KJ's Book

I received this book in the mail the other day. Don't you just love its cover? Karen Jasper from the blog Options Associates: For A Better World is the author. It is a wonderful story she has written. Congratulations Karen, and I trust you feel proud. May you receive a lot of pleasure from your book making its way out into the world.


Saturday, 17 January 2009

Tī kōuka – cabbage tree

Cabbage trees are a type of tree lily, like agave, yucca, and dracaena. Their tufted heads are familiar beacons in New Zealand landscapes.
The many cabbage trees now growing in paddocks and on bare hillsides are survivors from earlier land clearances and the creation of drainage for farming.
(Thanks to the Te Ara Encyclopedia of NZ for this information.)

It's hard to say how old this stand of cabbage trees is. They are growing on the farm my father was brought up on in Orepuki, Western Southland. I like to think they are the ones that I remember growing outside Granny and Grandpa's house when I was a child ... the ones clumped together in a squat bundle, a friendly, rustling skirt of old, dry fronds covering their trunks. They look big enough to be fifty years old, so it could well be the same stand. As nothing is left of the house, I found it hard to pinpoint where exactly it would have been. And you know how memory plays its tricks. I can only hope that they are the same ones and that I was lucky enough to get a photo of them; for the record.

cabbage trees

as a shelter, the pleasure
is more in the symmetry
of ink-splash spokes,
the clack of rays
against blue air.
Of green slaps in rain
from tousled manes.

Their crumpled trunks,
their solitary stand.
Their rough guard
of windy outcrops.
Their punctuation
of horizons. In the way
these lilies
do not lean, but weather.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

What Has The Dentist's Chair Got To Do With Poetry?

Have you ever had your dentist stop and read you a poem before working on your teeth? That is what happened to me last month. Knowing that I write poetry probably gave him the added confidence that I would be an appreciative audience (plus of course a captive one, in my semi-reclined position in the dental chair!) I guess I appreciated the thought, but couldn’t help other churlish, uncharitable thoughts sneaking in, such as: “Why isn’t it my book he’s raving about and reading from?”
After he was satisfied that I was just as impressed as he was about the poem (it was in fact an excellent poem by the NZ poet Brian Turner) he asked how the writing was going ... (Oh yes, that perennial, curly one!) to which I gave my stock reply; ‘Not so great this year, hoping that next year will be better without as many distractions,’ all the while mentally crossing my fingers.

And now - what do you know, it is next year and I have no more excuses!

A poem of mine was in the local newspaper a couple of weeks ago, but with all the goings-on and general hubbub and excitement of family, visitors, cooking, wedding preparations, Christmas, New Year, two birthdays, sightseeing trips to Queenstown etc and etc. I missed seeing it! (Not really all that surprising.)
I will post the poem below. I wrote it about a caravan holiday (the one and only) my family went on when I was thirteen. It was only a couple of years before my father died (not that we knew that tragedy was ahead) and I wish now that I hadn't been in such a mood ... but of course I was just being a typical snotty teenager. As you can't help but be at that bewildering age. (My siblings would say I was eternally in that state ... all I can say in my defence was that it was rough being the oldest of seven children while craving the peace and space as was / is my meditative wont.)

The (unfortunately faded and blurred) photo (which I have posted before in September on Father's Day; so apologies for such blatant over-exposure) is one taken at Cap Burn the very day the poem describes. As you look at the photo, I am on the far right.

caravan at Cap Burn

At thirteen and in a mood
I try for some reception
on my transistor radio,
finding some comfort
in the smell of warmed,
turquoise Bakelite.

It is summer and raining
and I’m in a caravan
with its musty smell
of disappointment
and damp,
flock sleeping bags.

The rest of my family
have gone eeling.
I opt to stay back with my book,
hearing over the rain
cropping sheep,
a blackbird,

rushing water. Close by
the railway overbridge
still with its steam train
and steel rails intact,
Cap Burn stream

back before it turned
into a rail-trail, cycle track
when in this caravan
pelted by unwelcome rain,
I pretend
I do not care

if my family ever comes back,
but wait for them anyway
to return, soaked
to the skin, smelling
of a muddy creek
and light-green willows.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

This photo was taken at the same locality the next day, when the sun was out again. It was taken by me. I am interested in the expressions on the faces of my family - methinks I was taking a long time to get the photo right; probably shouting instructions as to where everyone was to stand. Some look amused, while others look slightly brassed off.
(Apologies for the quality; it’s a photo printed off a photo, off a photo, ad infinitum - the negative having disappeared long ago.)


Rethabile and Phil's fabulous on-line poetry magazine Canopic Jar has launched its latest edition. I am honoured to be among the poets featured in this issue - go check it out.

Monday, 12 January 2009


Excuse me while I readjust my breathing apparatus.
I feel as if I have re-entered earth's atmosphere again after a journey to somewhere stellar.

These photos are just a sample of what I've been up to in the last few weeks. It has been a whirlwind of family events, with the added dimension of hosting visitors (S's in-laws) from Japan ... with of course S and E's beautiful wedding in the middle of all the excitement. (Pictures of the wedding aren't quite ready for public viewing yet.)

R took this photo just after SEA arrived at Christchurch Airport Christmas Eve. (At last I had her in my grip!)

Of course having A with us, meant Christmas day was all the sweeter ...

Here are the little cousins meeting up for the first time ...

Outings and trips and meals were arranged, executed and consumed, in rain ...

and (thankfully) sun ...


And then all too soon it was time to say good-bye

We will see them again in September when R and I plan a trip to Japan. By that time A will be walking.

As I write this, they are still en route to Kyoto. The house tonight is very quiet.

Clocking Out

 I have been neglecting this blog for some months. I think perhaps I should face facts and accept that it is indeed time to retire this blog...