Directly Corresponds

Appearing as if out of the blue, california poppy ~ an abundance of sunshine-orange reflected in paper-thin, fragile petals of tangerine satin

When clearing the planter from last year’s tomato plants, I decided to leave one plant / weed? I wasn’t sure. I didn’t recognise the leaf. Once the conical-shaped buds uncurled to reveal the flower, I was delighted to be greeted by a california poppy (Eschscholzia californica). A definite favourite of mine, the sight of it taking me right back to the wildflower-strewn, gravel roadsides of Central Otago and the Maniototo on car trips for family holidays through the 80’s and ‘90’s.

And here with your permission – or without – I shall indulge in a little reminiscing re cars. Our cars. All second hand.

  1. Gold-brown. Vauxhall Viva Estate (why don’t they make gold-brown cars much any more? I love that colour for a car). When the back seats were laid down, there was flat space all the way to the boot. Plenty of room for a foam squab and ideal for pulling up on the side of the road on long trips and spending the night there. (Different times eh.)

When the number of our sons numbered only one and then two, we were able to sleep in the car fairly easily. Admittedly it was a bit of a squeeze after son number three arrived.

2) Fire-engine red. Ford station wagon. These cars were new when our first son was a baby and before we even became car owners. I remember those very cars as brand new, stacked on train wagons rolling past our house in Manor Park, Lower Hutt on their way into Wellington. But by the time we bought one, they were in the second-hand-and-fast-becoming-way-old bracket. Especially compared to newer, jazzy Japanese imports. One of our sons bought a sticker for it that read: Classic Car In Waiting. The same son who was mortally embarrassed by its one yellow, scrap-yard front door, installed after an accident with a mailbox. His high school friends apparently dubbed it the ‘licorice all-sorts car’ and whenever I picked him up after school, he’d wait on the side of the street that shielded the offending door from his friends’ view. As finances allowed; always a mitigating factor for us through the 80’s, 90’s and into the 2000’s, our child-raising years; we eventually had the offending door painted.

3) Nissan Bluebird Triple S Twin Cam. White. With spoiler. Sporty-looking. Which pleased our sons. At last we had a car that was cool.

A poem in my first poetry book describes the trips we’d make out of Dunedin heading for a holiday at my husband’s parents’ home in Queenstown.

orange poppy place

Where the summer
is cold,
malignant, we turn

on lights and heaters
in the middle of the day
and a clenched sky
holds the sun
fist tight

anticipation of benign
heat, suspense of sear
on skin, builds

in a loaded car
that sways
like a needle
of a compass,

we head straight
through that wild,
orange poppy place
where grizzled skin
of ancient moraine
soaks up hot light;

where there’s scent
in the sun
of rosehip
and on the road ahead,
silken heat wiggles
above dips.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Kind of similar, these nasturtiums like collection plates for all the sun on offer, unlike the yellow daisies who only show their faces when the sun is shining, looking like little suns themselves. If it is not a sunny day, however, they play dead and remain closed-up, sleeping-in, not waking until it is sunny again. Such sensible flowers.

On sunny days I like to partake of the warmth and fresh air as much as I can, away from my desk inside. I leave the writing inside for dull, grey or rainy days. Or for when the sun has slipped down low in the sky.

Thus for me, any output writing-wise directly corresponds to Ōtepoti non-sunshine hours.

in the distance, Kapukataumahaka, (Mount Cargill) the blue bump his puku (stomach)
warm-fuzzy angels at our kitchen window, made by the grandchildren in Berlin
‘stars’ on the footpath, seen while walking …

A lovely musky smell of beach and warm lupins as I walked across Kettle Park the other day. If you look closely at this photo, you’ll spot a grey heron. I thought, what is a grey heron doing here? Then realised it would be hunting for lizards among the sand dunes and lupins. An elusive grey phantom, it kept far enough away from my now old I-phone camera to ensure nothing but a fuzzy capture as narrow as a folded umbrella.

a familiar corner that for me says ‘home’

A monument opposite the corner in the photo above.

Read about what happened at Parihaka HERE This memorial is to remember and acknowledge that dark stain (among many) on Aotearoa’s history of European settlement.

There is a call for the people of Aotearoa to remember Parihaka on November 5th rather than Guy Fawkes (a deeply British tradition.) Many (myself included) would like Guy Fawkes Day to become ‘Remember Parihaka Day’ instead.

The words on the plaque say it all. In some of the photos my silhouette can be seen – an embedded image, or shadow, that can perhaps be taken as an acknowledgement.

Many of my walks end up here at St Kilda beach. And I can’t think of a better way to express how that makes me feel, every time, than through this poem from my third poetry book, ‘Born To A Red-Headed Woman‘. The title of the poem is part of a line from the Don McGlashan song, ‘No Telling When‘ sung by The Muttonbirds.


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

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