Roller Coaster

‘I find it in the one game rose
that has outlasted winter.’

Kowhai and azalea Cross Hills garden

Tragically, since my last post, my brother in law suffered a sudden heart attack. Although rushed to hospital by ambulance, he didn’t make it. I was thankful to be there with my sister so that she had support (along with her daughter and son in law.) However, the effect of such a shocking and sudden event cannot be underestimated.

Such a sudden and devastating shock takes a lot to recover from. But of course, most of all for my sister.

Good and happy memories help.

Prior to my brother in law’s death, he and my sister and I enjoyed a trip out to Cross Hills in the Manawatu. The beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas there, as well as trees and a pond and fountain area, were wonderful to behold.

Cross Hills
Pastoral boundary, Cross Hills, Manawatu

On the way back home, we stopped off at Hansens Cafe in Kimbolton. These street verandahs reminded me very much of the (now long-disappeared) shop-lined, verandah-ed streets of my childhood town.

Viv’s Kitchen’s 50’s decor

Another stop on the way back was to purchase some of Viv’s Kitchen’s famous cream horns.

Part of fond memories I have of my brother in law will always be his love and support for my sister, his kindness and love for nature and animals and the planet earth, his incredible knowledge of New Zealand’s native plants (in fact all things horticultural.) He was always great company. I will miss him a lot. Valhalla David.


After returning home to Dunedin (via the Word Festival, Christchurch) I had occasion to visit the Dunedin Botanical Gardens which (not to be outdone) also has azaleas and rhododendrons on show.

I have found nature to be a healing thing during the rollercoaster of emotions when the happiness of reading and listening to poetry in Wellington, meeting up with my publisher Mary McCallum and other friends, and of course being with whanau, was taken over by the sadness and grief of a sudden death.

Engaging with nature is undemanding and restorative.

Poet Laureate’s Choice event, Christchurch WORD Festival L-R David Eggleton, Bernadette Hall, Owen Marshall, James Norcliffe and Cilla McQueen

Likewise, just as restorative and comforting is poetry and the poets that are dear to my heart – as in the poetry and poets I encountered at Christchurch’s WORD Festival.

Poet and publisher, Roger Hickin in Regent Lane, Christchurch, reading from works he has translated

During my stopover in Christchurch, it was a special treat to be with my son and his family. Robert also travelled up to be with me. Their moral support was as always, immeasurable.

At a special event in the beautiful Michael of All Angels church, I learned that my poem ‘Reg Lee’ (which is included in my latest poetry book, Upturned) was runner up in the Poetry Section of the Christchurch Heritage Competition.

I arrived home with a pile of books – some gifts, some bought

In the week ahead I have a medical procedure to endure, a book launch to attend and friends to catch up with. It seems that the rollercoaster / not-so-merry-go-round I am riding currently, keeps moving. However, I am endeavouring to hang on tight.

And as always in life, the bright spots help.

My sister in the lupins, Waikawa beach

Soon I will be going back up north to stay with my sister again, this time accompanied by another sister (lucky me – I have three sisters.)

Waikawa beach
Waikawa Beach


Since being back home I was one of the ten poets taking part in a most enjoyable event at Dunedin Public Library. Called Ten Perspectives, both established and emerging poets put their skills to the test and wrote a poem on a designated theme. Along with Charlotte Steel, my theme was Contentment. I loved Charlotte’s poem. She writes beautiful, evocative landscape poems – mainly about Central Otago with the fresh, new poem she read out on Thursday night, being no exception.

We were both thrilled that despite never having met or read each other’s work, we both aligned and ‘met’ with the word ‘tussock.’ We both got a kick out of that.

All the poems written to a theme, were beautifully done. A great idea and as stated above, a marvellous occasion. Thanks to the organisers; writers Diane Brown and Michelle Elvy and Kay Mercer from Dunedin Library.

My poem is below:

In Bits
‘I think that like the food we eat we are made of the things that make us feel comfortable. Our routines, our favourite chairs, our pets, our favourite topics of conversation, our opinions – they’re not who we are, exactly, but they allow us to access who we feel we are.’ Ashleigh Young

I find it in the one game rose
that has outlasted winter. In a hammock.
In a memory of a pot of murky Milo
steaming at the back of a coal range.
In that coal range’s wooden fender
pocked with scorch marks from embers.
In a fire guard. In the falling
note of a chaffinch’s song
to mark the end of daylight.

In the colour of a granddaughter’s hair;
the shade of tussock, of bracken,
of sun on ground, of pine, of poured tea. In notes
left on the kitchen bench:
‘Corn fritters
In the warming drawer.’
‘Leave the dishes, I’ll do them later.’

In a lake. In orange poppies. In the smell
of growing cabbages, of sweet peas,
bruised geraniums, kelp, a warm tractor.
In a piece of blue beach glass. The sound of rain
falling at night. In photos of the faces
of my parents when they were still alive,
in the faces of my children now fully grown.
In the smooth gleam of an acorn,
in sun warmed stones.

In the taste of beer. In the view of the city
as you approach from the south.
In the view of the city
as you approach from the north.
In the scent of a sleeping child.
In a piece of cold egg-and-bacon pie
eaten among tussock at the top of a hill.

In the weight of wool. In an afternoon nap.
Toast. Trig stations. Horses. The cry
of wheeling gulls above the rotary clothes line.
The sound of the sea. Contentment.
It comes to me in pieces. Never all at once.
It comes in bits just big enough and no more.
Like the sight from behind of a vintage car,
a travelling time capsule spinning
on narrow, spindly wheels
along Musselburgh Rise.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Despite it all, contentment can be found. We can experience many emotions all at the same time – sadness, happiness, contentment, grief … Nature helps, but the support of family and friends is vital.

He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

3 thoughts on “Roller Coaster

  1. I was really struck by your words,
    It comes to me in pieces. Never all at once.
    It comes in bits just big enough and no more.”

    They definitely resonate with my own experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes, contentment is a multi-headed being, lurking sometimes in things and experiences and events that at first glance are of no great significance. Well observed and beautifully expressed. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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