Saturday, 28 March 2009

In the Offing

*Offing - the name for that mid-line space off the foreshore, just before you get to the horizon. Note: Do you ever reach the horizon?

Today started off with me grumpily vacuuming ... or as every true Southlander - which I do call myself - says, 'luxing (derived from the tradename for the vacuum cleaner called Electrolux.) Whatever it's called, it's no fun! However, come low tidemark, I was outta there. After dropping R off at golf, I headed for the beach with all thoughts of housework banished into the offing*. And the day slowly transformed itself into calmer tones.

After twisitng and turning into a knotted-up, twisted skein, this bunch of kelp has formed a perfect noose! Or, going by the dog pawprints, maybe a dog collar ...

The Sea

The sea is a hungry dog,
Giant and grey.
He rolls on the beach all day.
With his clashing teeth and shaggy jaws
Hour upon hour he gnaws
The rumbling, tumbling stones,
And 'Bones, bones, bones, bones! '
The giant sea-dog moans,
Licking his greasy paws.

And when the night wind roars
And the moon rocks in the stormy cloud,
He bounds to his feet and snuffs and sniffs,
Shaking his wet sides over the cliffs,
And howls and hollos long and loud.

But on quiet days in May or June,
When even the grasses on the dune
Play no more their reedy tune,
With his head between his paws
He lies on the sandy shores,
So quiet, so quiet, he scarcely snores.

James Reeves

I have loved this poem ever since hearing it recited by a girl called Janet (who later became a very good friend of mine) in 1971 in the Dunedin Wool Exchange (which the Dunedin Teacher's College was using as a lecture room.)

I prefer the St Kilda end of the beach (as opposed to the more coffee-set St Clair end) for its drama of kelp and rocks.

The movement of the bull kelp in the water is a calming, beautiful dance of leather straps; coiling, twisting, floating, dipping, diving, waving ....

I stood on the weathered, lizard-skinned rocks near Lawyer's Head, and watched huge masses of the kelp slurp and squirm with each tidal surge.

There are more photos I could post of the rock pools and rocks; of a nest of stones; but I think I will save them for another time ...

and leave you with this croc washed up on the beach by the tide ... or is it a happy sea horse?


A waltz,
this sound of suck
this sight of bronze
fronds, as waves slap,
surge and each tug
of wave through
is like a comb through hair,
fingers through grass and the kelp

again sways as if
in joy or pain. Yet
surely truer to say
this is simply momentuum?
But my eyes do not want my brain
to think but just enjoy
these sounds of tongue
and throat, this grave
and beautiful dance.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Warbler Be Gone

Just as our friends in the north are rejoicing in the return of spring, so we in the antipodes rejoice in the emergence of autumn. It begins with a smell in the air when you are hanging out the washing - a scent of moss and leaf mould. And a mellow timbre that isn't present in the more brittle, strident air of summer. A late grasshopper, the rusty-hinge squeak of fantails ... The appearance of the silent, slightly sinister gaudiness of fungii.

The turn of the seasons is something I never tire of. I am particularly grateful to have been born and raised, and to have lived the majority of my life, in a part of the country where the weather tends to coolness and intemperate, wild moods. I revel in living where gloves, woollen hats, scarves and winter coats are utilised. Even in summer! It makes me laugh. And it is not uncommon here for an unwelcome, wintry blast to arrive in the middle of summer. Bad, bad weather! There's something creative about it.

It's farewell to the grey warbler - our summer visitor - and welcome back to the birds who like our trees for their winter feeding. I was pleased yesterday to hear the return of the bellbirds and tuis around here, and to spot tiny waxeyes feeding on berries.

And fantails under the eaves. (Here I am going to use one of my photographer-sister's photos, as she is far cleverer than I am at capturing quick-moving birds.)

Fantail in New Zealand Bush
Originally uploaded by mcdinzie

The other day I received another lovely surprise in the mail. A strawberry-patterned, hand-made notebook. (Along with some other little trinkets.) It was my prize from Meliors for naming on her blog, three songs that never fail to make me feel happy, and why. Among other things (she is a writer) she makes these beautiful, handmade books.

I will not hesitate to fill the one she sent me with writing. If it wasn't for the notebooks in my life, many ideas, quick impressions and light-bulb moments would lose their grip and slip off the steep edge of my memory.
Check out Melior's blog (link above). The randomness of how I discovered her blog amuses me - it was through a link on our son's wedding celebrant's website. (The degrees of seperation are often far less than six.)

Another site to check out is the New Zealand writer Penelope Todd's - she writes exquisite impressions of life, with photos to match. Something special. DO check it out.

Listening to: The Cat's Empire. (I supplied a cd of their's for work too; which whenever we play it, inspires nine month olds to belly dance! How cool is that?)
Reading; Anne Hepple - delicious 1930s romance writer!
Anticipating: R's spag bol for tea. (With red wine, 'course.)
Writing: A long poem ...
Learning: Basic Japanese. Hai!


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Relish The Thought of Jam and Chutney

Now don't they look just darling?

My sister McD and her partner Dinzie sent us a package the other day. I was scared (after some warning texts from my sister) that the parcel was either going to contain a rather large pumpkin, or Dinzie! ... Instead, inside were five, glimmering jars full of golden and ruby-red delights ... Tomato Tumeric Chutney, Beetroot Relish, Tomato Chutney, Tomato and Marrow Chutney and Blackberry Jam.

We have personally sampled each jar. The verdict? Yummy, tasty, spicy and more-ish. I have just made my lunch for tomorrow ... cold chicken and beetroot relish in one sandwich and cold lamb and tomato and marrow chutney in the other. (But my favourite is the tomato chutney; it's truly something special. Probably a secret recipe!) Wikipedia tells me: ' The Hindi translation of "to make chutney" is a common idiom meaning "to crush". This is because the process of making chutney often involves the crushing of ingredients together.' Also from Wikipedia; 'A relish is a cooked pickled, chopped vegetable or fruit food item which is typically used as a condiment. The item generally consists of discernible vegetable or fruit pieces in a sauce, although the sauce is subordinate in character to the vegetable or fruit pieces. But after reading up on relish and chutney, I still don't really know the difference! (And that's without throwing pickles into the mix.)
And the blackberry jam? Well, it's to die for, and going on my toast in the morning. Blackberry jam takes me back to the wild blackberry days of my childhood, coming home from school to find a note from Mum: 'Down in the gully picking blackberries', then going off to look for her and finding her and Nana, as the note had said, down in the gully; their fingers stained red from filling a basket each with squishy, plump, glorious berries of such a deep red they did indeed look as black as their name suggests.

McD and Dinzie have spent the best part of a year now growing their own vegetables, first of all putting in a mammoth effort to clear a whole bank of gorse (where rats had been happily building nests!) for their garden. You can follow the progress and results on Dinzie's blog.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Locomotives and Locomotion

As promised last post, here is the poem I wrote about the footbridge.

(the fall and rise of Dunedin’s Footbridge)

Just one of tons
that have passed

in one hundred years,
this day
this one wagon whacks it hard,

the freak release
of high, iron flaps
the bridge’s undoing

and it falls,
its back broken,

as the snapped deck
of a skateboard,
the hefty iron bones

of its crumpled spine
gathered up
by workers

and sculptors
to re-twist,

From original plans
engineers design
a faithful clone

right down to the rivets
and shade of paint,
Golden Gate red,

to ride again
the light and motion
above the tracks,

to swim through rain
like a whale

to span the space
between harbour and city;
water and stone.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

(For details about the exhibition, see my last post.)

The exhibition opening Friday night was well attended, with a positive, engaged hum in the gallery. A comfortable, grounded synergy was created by workers and artists meeting on common ground. Being an exhibition about a railway footbridge, meant that there were metal workers and mechanical engineers involved, working alongside and advising the artists, sculptors, photographers and poets.

The featured sculptures were made by talented sculptor, Lawrie Forbes, from (among other iron, railway-related pieces) parts of the railway footbridge after it was damaged by a freight train wagon and had to be destroyed. It was amazing to see how the heavy metal of old rails and parts of the old metal bridge were encouraged to flow, bend and curl.

We bought a paperweight made from part of an old, 19th century railway line. This is a deceptively heavy little piece; no papers are going to blow away from under this baby! It would actually make a good door stop. It was fascinating to see how much the lined-up paperweights looked like the vertebrae of a whale - much like the image evoked in both my poem and Mike's painting.

Other people involved were: Owen Dunne (photograper), Robert Piggott (print artist) and Loeiza Jacq (photographer).

My poem was written out on the wall by Mike.

This is Mike's painting in response to the poem. (He also did a couple of drawings which I will get a photo of later.) He picked up on the whale's skeleton idea and came up with the image of a dog's snapping jaws for the wagon that damaged the bridge. (Yellow and blue are the colours of the locomotives.)
Mike was up all night last night finishing the painting. As his studio is in our basement, he opted to grab a couple of hours kip in our spare bed before getting up again to go down to the gallery and help them set up. Oh well, tomorrow's Saturday so he can sleep all day. (Poets have it easier than artists I feel. There is often a lot of messy, hefty work involved for artists. In contrast, poets just float about in a distracted manner, shuffling pieces of paper.)

Getting the rather large painting down to the studio meant R had to borrow a trailer from his workplace, and a friend's car with a tow bar. We bundled and roped the painting up and drove as quickly as we could because we were both cribbing time from our respective workplaces, and running late.
When we got back to the car (which we had to park over the footpath) a parking officer was about to write us out a ticket. We managed to persuade him otherwise. (Whew.)
Then when R stopped over a driveway to let me out at my work, a woman reversed out from her garage and proceeded to back into the trailer! "I didn't see it, " she said. When I got to work and told them of the mishap, I was reminded that it was Black Friday. "But I don't believe in it," I said. Heads were ominously shaken.
As they say, things happen in threes and our third close call came when we were driving to the opening at five o'clock. As we were approaching the gallery, a car began to pull out into us from the lane in front. R leant heavily on the horn and luckily managed to avert another collision. "Number three," I said and breathed a sigh of relief.

At the exhibition, along with other historical railway artifacts, part of the original, 100-year old footbridge is there for people to walk over.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening and a really good exhibition for people to go along and view. If you are in town, naturally enough I recommend you go along.

Next post will be about about blackberry jam and beetroot chutney. Watch this space!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Bridge Collaboration

This is the poster for an art exhibition; designed to also be part of the Dunedin Heritage Festival; opening on Friday, at the Collaborations Gallery. Photographers, artists, jewellers, sculptors are all taking part ... and a poet - me!
I was invited by the Collaborations Gallery owner, jewellery-maker and artist, Cecilia (Jane) Orr,  to be part of the exhibition and write a poem about this historical, railway footbridge, its demise and (due to skilful engineering and a desire to retain heritage) its subsequent 're-birth'. (I will post the poem after the exhibition opens.)
The fall of the footbridge was due to a freak accident when a train was travelling underneath and the flaps of a container wagon freed from its bolts, flew up and broke the one hundred year old bridge. An Australian tourist using the bridge at the time fell off the bridge, but luckily was okay. (So thankfully, Kiwi-Ozzie relations are still intact!)
As Collaborations Gallery is dedicated to collaborative works and projects, I have in turn asked my son, the artist Mike Cooke to paint a painting in response to the poem.
Here is a link to local tv report on the damage done to the bridge that day in February, 2008. 
I have used the footbridge at various times in my working life, so I am able to appreciate the feeling it gives you of access and height; suspension and strength. The bridge was a special old thing, so I am very pleased to be a part of this exhibition.
Collaboration ... it's a word I am hearing more and more about these days.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Sunflowers and Small Planes

The sunflowers we are growing at the childcare centre where I work are beginning to unfurl. They are well-named, being right into circadian rhythms and following the sun. This one is the first flower to emerge (the petals look so new, they almost appear damp) and was just beginning to turn slightly to the right - or north-west - when I snapped it. I have been a fan of sunflowers ever since seeing the film 'Dr Zhivago' when I was fifteen or sixteen.

Today, suddenly, there was the unmistakable roar of planes overhead followed by a scintillating display of formation flying. I managed to capture their exit after a dazzling display of dipping and curling, with chassis glinting in the sun and trails of vapor raking the background of blue sky. Once the sound of them had disappeared, all that was left was the more grounded drone of lawnmowers.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

And Another Link

Ruth Arnison's Poems In Waiting Rooms (NZ) project has found some funding. This is a project which distributes poems on cards to doctors' waiting rooms for patients to read and to take away with them if they so desire. It is a project that first started overseas and which Ruth has picked up for us here in Dunedin. 
I am fortunate enough to have a poem in the Autumn edition. 


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...