Monday, 29 June 2009

Kindness and Lace

Kindness is what oils this planet's squeaky wheels. Or something to that effect. It makes you feel better about life and yourself anyway. Kind people are to be treasured. And I do. People like Tim Jones, for example, who has been kind enough to give my blog a nod. I thought I better quickly put up a new post. I have been resting on my laurels a bit as far as blogging goes.
I celebrated my birthday on Thursday (yes, the same date that Michael Jackson died, although for us, it was the Friday he died rather than on my birthday.)
Not much fun having to work on my birthday, but I did get the next day off - which happened to be a Friday, and then Monday (today) off as well, which has more than made up for it.
So on the Friday I went shopping. Something I rarely do. I am not a fan. But I had great expectations of doing lots of looking around and maybe being tempted to buy some clothes, or trinkets and such. But by the time I got down town, into a car parking building and set off, I found I was no longer in the mood for that kind of shopping. I started to feel bored just looking at the outsides of the malls. It was time to have a coffee (and write a poem* while sitting there- which I did) and then head for a bookshop (with birthday tokens.) I did have a lovely time choosing my purchases. I even caught up with Sue who has worked at Whitcoulls since the beginning of the 80s (when I worked there!) back when we sold the Farrah Fawcwett-Majors (as she was then) poster. Sue is the long-term, friendly face of Whitcoulls. Continuity is not to be sniffed at, and I was cheered to find some of it on Friday.
Then as I had some time to kill before meeting a friend for a coffee, I ended up at the library (think: comfort zone) where I got out some more books. Poetry books. Catching up on a huge backlog of some-time-I-must-reads. All NZ poetry, my favourite poetry it has to be said. One of the books was Tim's book, 'All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens', which I am enjoying, especially for its Southern references - but not solely, as it is a fine read for many other reasons. I loved the poem about the kea in the Gore Botanical Gardens, 'Tethered Flight' and am presently working on a response to it. I am grateful when a poem stirs and inspires me enough to write something because of it. It's how poetry should work - ripples and reverberations. And I also adore the poem, 'Two Creek Beach' - Tim will know why. It has to do with stamping grounds.
I got some lovely birthday presents, but probably the most surprising gift of all was from my d-i-l's mother, Nuiko, who I met when they came out to NZ from Japan in January, for the wedding. She sent me a beautiful lace cloth she'd made herself ...

(See my initials? Isn't that so sweet?)

I feel like a lucky woman. Even if tomorrow it's back to work starting at 7.15 a.m. and a staff meeting tomorrow night as well as a tax return to do ... Yep, it's back to the mundane. (But at least I have my memories of the bliss of these last four days.)

*walking through the Octagon

How can one not love
this drizzle?
Burns' dark glower
as I rush by
under splattered cover.
Ah, there. See. That girl
in the fake-fur,
tiger-skin hat
smiling to herself
does too.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Monday, 22 June 2009

Wild-Boar's-Head Hunting Trophy Takes Precautions.

On Saturday night our niece's 21st was held at my brother's local, the Beaumont Hotel. There we witnessed the precautions that conscientous Beaumont locals have taken against any danger to local pigs from Human Flu!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Polar Plunged

The time away was great. I haven't got time right now to describe in length, so will leave that until tomorrow.
I planned to get back in time for today's (the shortest day here in the Southern Hemisphere) plunge into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean here at St Clair, Dunedin.

My son Mike also took part and Kate took the photos, and a video. Here we are looking for her among the observers.

The plunge into the high tide waters was invigorating and fun. And just to make sure I was well and truly soaked, a particularly large and mischievious, white-whiskered wave tackled me by the ankles and I fell flat on my face. Fantastic!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Drifting To & Away

I took this photo of a driftwood deckchair two years ago at the place where our son is living in Haast, South Westland.

This photo seems kind of appropriate for me at the moment, drifting as I am from home, by bus, to the borders of our province and crossing over. Into Southland. I am going to Gore. (Cue for a country music track. Maybe Buffy Sainte-Marie's 'I'm Gonna Be A Country Girl Again'.) I am off to see my aunt who lives there, and my sister from Christchurch who has been visiting there for a couple of days already.
My sister sent me a pxt of my most favourite place in the world, as a tease, because alas I will not be able to make it quite that far south this time and she made the pilgrimage to the 'homeland' without me. Tomorrow we travel from Gore through to the borders of Central Otago, to Beaumont. This is where my brother and his family live and where our niece is celebrating her 21st birthday. At the Beaumont pub.
Beaumont is where there is a bridge over the Clutha river, and the threat from one of the evil Power Companies to flood and drown the whole place. For yet another dam. Damn the dam! (The locals have opted to take a positive stance and highlight the beneficial features of Beaumont, trusting that these positive, vibrant vibes may work more against the dam construction than any negative protests. Think: Aesop fable about the competition between the wind and sun to make the old man remove his overcoat.)
Will report re provincial travel and sundry family adventures upon return.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Winter is Great (Number Two)

I couldn't get to sleep last night. For whatever reason, I am going through a patch where my brain just won't switch off. I heard the writer Kate de Goldi say on the radio this morning that anxiety that keeps you awake at night is a sign of an imaginative mind. All well and good, but what benefit is creative energy to a sleep-deprived brain? The myriad of ideas for stories and poems I conjured up last night, are all gone now.

So I responded to the news R brought in with a cup of tea at 7.00 a.m. that snow had forced schools (as well as the childcare centre where I work) to close for the day, with a whoop of delight.
And promptly fell asleep for a couple more hours.

We haven't really moved from the fireside all day. Presently listening to Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt's CD, 'Tuscon Wall'.

Yep. Winter is great.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Heroes (Number Two)

I have been a little remiss on the 'Heroes' theme for June ... let's see if I can do something about that.

This is where I was this morning. At a school a little out of town.

Despite appearances, there were children. However, I am sure posting photos of them without parental consent wouldn't be appreciated; so you will just have to take my word for it.

I was there to take a look at the poetry they have been working on for the past few weeks, and also to read them some of my poetry, as well as answer any questions. I had been asked along as their guest, 'real live poet'.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these country-school kids. I found them to be very switched on to what poetry is all about. They asked some perceptive questions, such as "What would you like to be doing, if you weren't doing what you're doing now?" (I answered that I would like to be the owner of a bookshop.) And, "How did you find your poet's voice?" "Who influenced you the most as a poet?" (I said, my mother for it was indeed she who got me writing poetry very early on in life.)
Of course they were being taught by a gifted teacher who knew what she was doing. The whole impression was of a quiet, industrious, courteous class where the children were participants as well as the recipients of some fantastic learning.
A class enthusiastic about writing poetry is something to celebrate! (Ten year olds who know what a simile is, as well as how to work the rhythm of a line.)
All heroes in my book. (And I'll include my mother in there as well.)

Sunday, 14 June 2009

At Home

I'm not sure what bird this is - I don't want to get into trouble with Dinzie! (who I am indebted to for identifying any wrongly identified NZ fauna on this blog) so will say it's probably a goldfinch. If it is indeed a goldfinch, I will be happy to report this to Forest and Bird, who are wanting members to note the birds that visit our backyards.

S & E's wedding was in January. Since then, remnants of the bouquet have been quietly fading and drying out into shells of themselves, all the light and life that they contained when in full bloom, reduced to a paper-thin essence.

Yesterday the beach looked resplendent under clear blue, winter skies.

Our house is a very, very fine house ...

with two cats in the yard ...

I love the way these wooden bungalows in Crest Street line up.

And this is where R spends a lot of time, de-stressing after a day (or week) at work.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Winter is Great

Saturday's weather was horridible!

And it was good that it was horridible. I like horridible weather. Of course no-one believes me, but it's true. Winter has really always been my secret, favourite season.
Despite the bitter winds outside, our house was cosy-warm and so I sat and wrote. All day.
I wrote poetry. I would have liked to have written of the moment, but the past kept hauling me back to address some issues.
When R got back from his solitary perambulations of inside urban spaces; such as the Museum (he was a bit lost because golf had been put off for the day) I had to drag myself back from the 1960s so that he had some companionship.

Outside, behind our house, the tops of large pines and eucalyptus trees shimmied in the wind. Tucked in behind a hill, we're sheltered from the southerlies

and attracted by the shelter and various, berried shrubs and trees, birds spent the day leaping and springing from branch to branch. Mostly bellbirds, waxeyes and chaffinches.

I've set out a pie-dish with sugar water for them. So far they haven't discovered it, but once they do, I'm sure they'll make it known to all and sundry in birdworld that it's party time at our place.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Two Heroes

The June NaBloWriMo theme is Heroes. When I'm asked to think of personal heroes off the cuff (as I have been on occasion) I never seem to be able to come up with many at all. Certainly not 30.
But I've decided to give it a go, although I won't be posting every day, but will attempt through the month of June to mention a few of my heroes.
I feel compelled to start with my own family. I think of my great-great-grandparents, how they left their own countries and its familiarity for an uncomfortable journey by ship to an unknown country on the other side of the world. Or of my Maori ancestors centuries before that, who left Hawaiki by canoe to make their migratory journey to Aotearoa.
And even farther back, the hordes of ancestors who lived their daily life of ordinary toil, who died having babies or fighting wars. (Some of my ancestors most likely fighting each other, such are the peculiarities of history.) It is a little naive to call them all heroes, because there would be a fair share of fools, scoundrels and cowards among them.
I need to go back to the ones I knew a little more personally. I have heard very little about my great-grandfathers, but have been told a little more (although sadly still not a lot) about two of my great-grandmothers; my mother's maternal grandmother, Alison Butler (nee Riddell) and my father's maternal grandmother, Agnes Reid (nee Barlow). Both fairly ordinary woman I suppose in the eyes of the world, but with admirable spirits. Alison, a Presbyterian, whose parents came from Peebles, Scotland. Agnes, a Roman Catholic, who came from Northern Ireland.
Alison had three sons and a daughter (my Nana.) Her husband (a Cockney named Joseph) died when Nana was three years old. Later she lost two sons in the First World War. She lived a long, quiet, dignified life, spending her last few years in her daughter's home. Her grandchildren remember a calm, church-going woman with a lovely face and long, silver hair; a good woman, a good mother, a good grandmother. Patient, principled and beloved by those close to her, the portrait of her on my auntie's wall shows that she retained her beauty well into old age.
Agnes (married to Michael from Derry) bore eleven daughters and one son (or maybe two, I'm a little hazy on this.) One story my Dad remembered was when the grandchildren were asked to pick up grass clippings after the long lawns had been mowed (by scythe.) They were told that they would be paid by the sackful. They thought this was going to be really easy money. However their hope quickly turned to despair, as each time they brought a sack of fluffed-up grass to her for the money, Granny Reid would press it down, packing it in tighter, saying, "Just a little bit more my jewels, just a little bit more." She and Michael made one return trip back to Ireland in 1911. Agnes visited her village in Ireland (Aghadowey, I believe) where it is rumoured she divined water for a well and became more famous than Lloyd George. (Or so she said when she got back to NZ.)

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Excuse the Metaphors

I thought this piece of driftwood that I spotted on Saturday, looked just like some weird, alien sunbather.

Good news today - a poem of mine has been accepted for the on-line magazine, Qarrtsiluni.
The Introductory piece by Anna Dickie for the June - August edition (with its theme of Economy) is up now and features a place called Tilting. Yep. Tilting. Don't you just love the idea of living in a place called Tilting? I know I do.


We went for a bit of a walk tonight to help Robert's back after a day of sitting at work. The evening was cold and clear, and the stars were out. We looked for the Southern Cross and found it directly overhead, like a centre seam in a knitted hat. We had to tilt (there's that word again) our heads right back to see it. And it was perfect. Just sitting there. Pointing out.

This is what I feel like in the middle of a working week. A little, round, stubby log stranded at low tide with a long wait ahead of me before the next high tide comes to float me away.


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...