‘A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away’ Eudora Welty

 

August 8th

Blossom against brick

Signs of Spring around our house. Plum blossom is always the first to pop …

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… and it always looks so good against a clear blue sky.

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Starlings seem to have a love affair with power lines.

I am trying out the camera my brother in law has given me. A Sony Zeiss, it is small and compact and easily fits into my shoulder bag. I’m looking forward to using it in Berlin next month.

Meanwhile …

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Musselburgh shopping centre …

I’m using it to take photos of my ‘hood.

July 24th

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Waikaia cemetery looking towards Umbrella mountains

My grandfather was born in the small Southland township of Waikaia, a town that sits by the Waikaia river, nestled between the Umbrella and Garvie mountains.

An aunty and uncle lived there and I remember some warm, summer holidays spent there in the company of my cousins.

By its very nature as a river town, as far inland as Southland goes, surrounded by bare hills, raspberry fields and laced with dusty roads of melting tar, Waikaia will forever be sealed in my memory as a place where as a pre-teen and on into my teenage years, the world began to open out and reveal to me all its weird, frightening, sensuous, claustrophobic and confusing glory.

This is a poem I wrote about Waikaia from my book, ‘Made For Weather’.

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July 14th

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Andersons Bay inlet, Dunedin

A beautiful day today in my neck of the woods. Enjoying the present moment, savouring the light, drinking in the last of the day’s sun. 

When I got home, I wrote a poem. Or, I should say, stitched together a poem. It was that simple. I found some lines I’d written in a notebook; lines I’d written five years ago; lines that like the music of Dizzy Gillespie or that old tin of Rawleigh’s ointment, despite the passage of time, are somehow still strangely relevant, and what’s more to the point, lines which neatly dove-tailed into the photo above, taken today. 


Poem For New Year

Small grey heron

gingerly steps

in water up to its shins.

Basalt boulders

squat like concrete frogs

in dying afternoon

light.

 

A small girl on a swing sings

Justin Beiber.

 

The flag man has hung

Saudi Arabia. White Arabic

and a sword on dark

green flaps and flutters

beyond a cabbage tree’s splatter.

Soon it will rain. Maybe hail.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

July 1st

Noko mai

Nokomai Station road in Northern Southland – in the southern hemisphere, this type of station means a large area of land. A ‘run’ is another name for these large acreages of farmland, or hill country.

To have the time on hand to take a side road is like a gift. It felt like that on a recent road trip with my sister where we were free to wend our way slowly making stops at interesting looking places or roads.. This side road took us closer into hill country and towards where the upper Mataura River begins to wend its way south-east.

 

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trees and the chuckle and dance of an idealistic, earnest, young river. Trees and a river – a balm for both the mind and soul

June 28th

horse walking Tinkertown

winter tolls 

Photographed in Western Southland in a place called Tinkertown – the site of an abandoned gold mining area where twenty-five families once lived.

My heart went out to the lonely horse. At least its absent owner cared for it enough to provide a cover, albeit a slightly ridiculous looking one which I thought made my friend look somewhat like a down and out, 1930’s spy in an over-long, gaberdine overcoat.

I wished I had a carrot but could only offer a warm nose-rub and empty words of endearment.

June 15th

sky to the west

winter sky to the west

sky to the east

winter sky to the east

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with a winter sea in between

The day I took the two sky photos, swifts were flying overhead, darting like dark loose arrowheads.

Late afternoon was beginning to turn to dusk. The air was cool, damp and still.

Winter is so slow. It is the season of reflection and regeneration. Slowing down. Taking note. Hibernating.

Nature hides or scurries. Withdraws and clenches. Winter celebrates the chance to think, turn, look ahead to new growth. Winter, I salute you – your skies, your seas and your suns.

June 6th

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autumn has been downed, winter has arrived

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in no time at all, autumn’s ruby red will fade to winter brown

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autumn in a basket as winter closes in. A time to slow down, keep warm, reflect and regenerate. 

May 27th

across the habour

I look across the harbour towards the city and think about the past. It is perhaps how I gain perspective – for can something fully exist without its opposite? Without being compared? Or placed in context? Everything is comparative.

And so I think about how the place where I am standing looking across at the city, was once swamp, long before it became reclaimed land. I look across at a city easily reached by car or bus within twenty minutes (or walked in an hour). The early settlers to Dunedin, however, would arrive to the place where I now live on boats, or ferry, or barge. Where I now live was virtually an island – known as Goat Island – before it became more connected to the city by land and officially named, Andersons Bay.

A friend told me he had been talking to a ninety-year old man who could remember when the trams ran into the city from Andersons Bay, the point of departure and arrival being from what is still known as The Terminus. And as a boy he remembers the large stables for the horses needed for the wagons and carts used for transport and cartage. 

The distance of the past has the ability to give perspective to our present; we just need to  take time to allow it to speak to us, to listen and appreciate. To let it sink in how transient we are, and what progress has been built upon. We cannot afford to take stuff for granted. We must not become too proud, too self-sufficient, in our post-modern mentality and attitudes.

May 17th

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Mother’s Day

Flowers close

I’m keeping the flowers in the cold, out in the ‘sunroom’ which is a cooler part of the house. If they were in the lounge, they would wither in the heat from the heat pump, or wood burner.

Every day the pink lily opens a little more and its scent fills the room. The gift of flowers will never grow old or fail to delight.

May 2nd

autumn leaves

Lovely Autumn’s open gate leading into winter

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April 20th

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Below are the last vestiges of the toadstool patch I have been photographing for the past month.

Watching these secretive manifestations of the flora-world; strange and beautiful, ugly and unsettling; was a lesson in the rise and fall of nature and of life. As picturesque as they were grotesque, they made for compelling viewing.

Today when I took the last photos, I was tempted to trample the remains – the dreadful, dirty-dishcloth aspect of these strange plants – into the cold ground.

When roaming the paddocks around our house as a country child, if I ever stumbled upon such passive, odd plants, puffed up and begging to be destroyed, I don’t remember ever resisting the temptation to do so – joyfully stomping on them with great gusto. The desire to see what they looked like inside out meant that any higher code of respect or awe, didn’t stand a chance.

Along with the ripping apart of tough, silken spider-nests to watch hundreds of tiny black baby spiders run, or smashing rotten, abandoned goose eggs to smell the pong (and you don’t want to know what we would do if we discovered a bird’s nest) my siblings and I were country kids, often left to roam the countryside by ourselves, our behaviour and attitude unmoderated by an adult’s guidance.

Needless to say, we didn’t grow up to be psychotic killers, without a conscience. Somewhere along the line we all learned that higher code mentioned above, of respect and awe towards nature. Such an attitude was needed to round us off as reasonable, healthy-minded human beings. Even so, today it was probably a good thing I wasn’t wearing gumboots.

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Photo 20-04-18, 1 28 59 PM.jpgkaput (cow pat?)

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Photo 20-04-18, 1 28 36 PMwith no redeeming feature

April 9th

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Not quite done and dusted yet … looking a decided shade of autumnal umber / amber …

March 30th

After a little over a week since I first started to record the growth and slow decline of these monsters of the fungi world …

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… the glorious golden toadstools are beginning to quietly turn up their toes … 

March 27th

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a glorious sight now …

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butterscotch fungi

butterscotch beauties

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March 24th

The plot thickens … Or, perhaps more to the point, the fungi unfurls.

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Let me illuminate.

I described the photos posted earlier this week as puffballs, because to my eye, that is what they looked like.

For those who haven’t seen my latest autumnal garden obsession, please scroll down to earlier entries posted below and take a look at the photos I am referring to.

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So, what I thought were puff balls, are now turning out (or unfurling out) to actually be toadstools.

I think.

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I’m sure even more shall be revealed as the days go on.

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I shall keep you posted.

March 22nd

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fungi are a sure sign of autumn

I took the photos above a week before the ones below which show that the puff balls have expanded a bit more, even beginning to burst at the seams.

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and another ‘family’ starting …

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I’ve never seen ones this yellow (or golden) before … I find fungi fascinating, but also slightly creepy. Is there a word for a feeling somewhere between repulsion and compulsion – between repulsive and compelling? If so, that would describe perfectly my feelings towards fungi – and fun guy(s), when I think about it!

I wonder how much larger these puffballs will grow?

NOTE: As the fungi grew, it was evident that these were toadstools, not puffballs as first thought. The rest of the photos over the next few weeks, record this discovery. 

March 1st

Chinese Garden bridge

Chinese Gardens, Dunedin

February 5th

 

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The other day I went with my d-i-l to collect eucalyptus leaves for a project that I am in the middle of at the moment. It’s to do with horses …  For some reason, horses and gum tree leaves go together for me.

‘… today, this old gum

with its severed limbs, even in the rain

still smells of sun and horses.’ 

(lines from my poem, ‘old gum’)

K. suggested that we go to the University area, as she had seen how the leaves from a large eucalyptus, had stained pale pavement stones recently laid there an attractive shade of orange. This would make them fit for purpose, we decided.

Once there our suspicions were confirmed. They would be ideal. We noticed that in places, the leaves had left some attractive scythe-shaped patterns on the concrete. We weren’t sure if the designers had realised that this would happen … ? Probably not, but surely they wouldn’t mind this happenstance.

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For some reason I didn’t think to take a photo of the stained concrete. But my eye was taken by the fine lines of this building in the area …

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and the line-up of these cottages, now used for the University Childcare Centre.

My project is to stain paper with leaves and flora (for more about this, go to my Blog page). It’s going well. I’m also using coffee to stain paper.

Coffee, eucalyptus and horses. Quite a combo.

December 30th

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Christmas roses and apricots from Christchurch by courtesy of our son, his wife and their two kids, who arrived with a car stacked full of Christmas goodies and their pet cockatiel, Piko …

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December 4th

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seaweed, Monkey Island beach, TeWaewae Bay, Orepuki, Southland, Aotearoa / New Zealand

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November 21st

IMG_1809ice plant – young

IMG_1810.JPGice plant – old

November 11th

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fence posts, miram grass and ice plants; St Kilda beach, Dunedin

Last night I had one of my recurring dreams. One that I have had ever since a small child. In these dreams the ocean is encroaching upon dry land, where up until that point I had been standing, feeling safe in the knowledge that the sea knew where its boundaries lay.

It appears to me this dream’s theme is one of the encroachment of outside forces and removal of safe boundaries. I can usually locate in my personal life, a feeling of being overwhelmed by events or circumstances to which the dream is no doubt referring to.

It seems strange to me that even before anyone had heard of  global warming or the threat of oceans swallowing land, I have had these dreams. Maybe I am some kind of environmental seer. If so, it’s entirely subliminal.

I enjoy these sea-dreams, because even if in the dreams I am engulfed by waves, I am still able to rise above the danger of being swept out to sea, or drowned. In every dream, I survive to tell the tale, even if left feeling bewildered and offended at the betrayal of shifting boundaries.

October 31st

Lyall Bay Blue

A recent visit to Wellington to catch up on family, afforded me many interesting sights, including this one of a painted building in Lyall Bay. It is located beachside and (I think) marvellously captures and reflects the colours and shades of sea and sky and land … However my son informed me that it has received an unfair share of criticism. ‘Garish’. ‘Eyesore’. ‘Bad bathroom tile job’. (I’m guessing …)

Once again, proving true the saying, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’.

October 17th

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… pink tulip …

Along with babies and trees, flowers also have to be one of the most innocent things that exist on our planet.

October 9th

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One sun, one moon, one planet, one solar system, one universe … here we are, this is our place in the scheme of things; a fact we cannot change.

We are all human beings. Equal. Another fact we cannot deny; no matter how some people try to.

The new (9th) Mogwai cd just out is titled, Every Country’s Sun. The name of the cd comes from someone known to the group who was under the impression that every country had its own sun. Wow. Imagine that.

However it is an indisputable, scientific, observable fact that we do not each have our own sun. Even if in the city I live in, it doesn’t always show its face.

(One could say that my city is well-named, being called Dunedin not Sunedin). Maybe the Maori name for my city is a more apt name. Otepoti is the Maori name for Dunedin and when translated, it means ‘place of corners, or angles’. In other words, this is not a straightforward city for the sun to shine down upon.

However the sun shines on us; whether behind cloud more often than not, or constantly burning bright; another indisputable fact is that we are all one under that same sun.

We are all equal and deserving of equal rights.

A gentle, kind young woman attends a neighbourhood playgroup I help out with on a Thursday morning. She is from China and is married to a New Zealander. They have a son who turned one year old a few weeks back. To celebrate her son’s first birthday in the community that she now calls home, R. took time to  decorate the hall with Chinese wall hangings and posters and lanterns. She made beautiful little individually-named biscuits (see in the photo above). So much effort, care and attention went into this celebration that we could all share.

Aotearoa (New Zealand) was first settled by Maori. Then about three centuries later, the British decided they liked the look of the place and claimed it for the British Crown. As with any colonised country, there are historical grievances that are on-going. Some (if not most) have been addressed. But (as with the whole of our planet) there is still a long way to go as far as attitudes towards equality.

My country benefits greatly from all the different cultures and races who have settled here (and still are settling here).

That we are all one under the sun is something to remember every day.

It is something to  celebrate.

September 18th

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outbuildings & puddle

The old high school in Gore (dating back to 1800’s) still stands (just). For many years now it has been used as a theater for the Gore Repertory Society.

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Yesterday in my wanders along the stop bank behind the old school and beyond the bridge which spans the Mataura River, the semi-arch formed by blossom-trees captured my camera’s attention.

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lace at the windows

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For me, the froth and billow of blossom against the old brick buildings somehow conjured scenes from old novels. They’re the wrong colour for buildings in a Jane Austen novel (which I imagine to be built from a pale, sandstone-coloured stone) so I am picturing these ruddier, more industrial bricks as belonging to buildings of novels set in northern England  – the Bronte sisters or Catherine Gaskin for example …

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Old buildings such as these, the ones that grimly cling to their perch, always win my utmost admiration.

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nearby to the old-school-now-a-theatre, Gore’s town clock is an elegant measure of time passing …

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 the change of  seasons …

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… as the river rolls on …

The old school is the one my mother in law attended, boarding here in the 1940’s.

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I also remember in the late 1960’s going along to see my best high-school friend in a school-holiday play. The play was ‘Snow Queen’ and my friend Rose was starring as a crow.

Yesterday I almost expected to see a crow fly out from the buildings. Or a gloved figure in a long dress, shawl, laced-up boots and bonnet, parasol in hand, scuttling along the river bank.

Or a noisy stream of uniformed  schoolkids gathering in groups on the concrete square to excitedly share their latest news. Among them, my future mother-in-law; Joan; a tall, fair-headed girl with a sunny disposition, her future still in front of her; still to be revealed. And my part in that story.

Later in the day I went along to look at the Marilyn Webb exhibition on at the Gore Art Gallery. What a treat.

A quote the artist used to accompany a stunning painting of Lake Hauroko really struck me. It describes how in Maori lore, the old ones describe some places as places where because the gaps in time are smaller, the past and present are able to co-exist.

Maybe one of those places is in Gore, down by the old school grounds, down by the Mataura River.

This place also happens to be just a hop-step-and-jump from the Art Gallery, where Marilyn Webb’s powerful, jewel-like paintings are – each painting a containment of woven threads of light and colour.

September 16th

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pegged

September 11th

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Andersons Bay Inlet as seen from Bayfield Park, Andersons Bay. Photo taken by me with a Canon S3.

One of my favourite views in one of my favourite places to walk. Especially when it’s all moody greys. As soft as the wing of a dove. As the pelt of a grey cat called Minka.

A meditation on grey is a necessary requirement when you live in Dunedin, with its frequent coastal cloud sabotaging otherwise sunny days.

Vitamin D tablets … Morose expressions … Bad-tempered drivers … A feeling of being pinned under grey, velvet paws … Under the butterfly-feeble span of a Lesser Grey Underwing.

And then  … eventually … the sun comes out. And Pow! Everyone is smiling again, driving politely and the place is looking so fine. So damn fine. It always was.

September 5th

It’s a tradition. Every Spring my good friend Ann (whom I’ve known now for over forty years) drops a bunch of spring flowers (their feet wrapped in damp newspaper) either at my doorstep, or if I’m home she hands them over and we have a cuppa and a natter. The flowers are from her garden and always arrive cool , fresh and fragrant; the smell of them taking me right back to childhood and a memory of me standing in gumboots, in a paddock, up to my knees in daffodils.

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snowdrops 

Taken by me with Canon S3 (taken indoors with Super Macro function and flash)

Among the bunch this year were some dainty snowdrops, almost hidden among the more flamboyant daffodils. They also evoke childhood memories of discovering bunches of shy, bell-shaped snowdrops in the shadows under trees, or hidden among long grass.

From our kitchen window I see the daffodils I have growing in planters, bobbing their heads in the wind, their usual exuberance compromised as they tremble under the pressure of this gusty, relentless wind. At times they lean on each other, their heads bowed in exhaustion.

Or so I imagine.

August 29th

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a dandelion in clover!

Taken by me with Canon S3

If someone is said to be ‘in clover’ they are in their happy place. An agricultural expression, it comes from the description of cows being in a field of clover (a favourite food for them).

I found a lucky four-leaf clover in my primary school playground, but my ‘best friend’ was so jealous she knocked it out of my hand and it disappeared back into the patch of clover from whence it came. I learnt early that jealousy of others creates an urge to destroy their good luck or achievements.

I know I often feel like knocking any ‘four-leafed clover’ accomplishment being brandished about right under my nose. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

August 18th

 

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I love this photo for its wildness and the way it captures a moment of collapse and obliteration. A tiny ripple’s final victory as a breaker.

Taken by me with i-Phone 4

August 16th

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This photo was taken in Palmerston North on one of my visits to my mother who was living up there.

It is three years ago now since she died and my heart still aches. As it does for my father who died aged 48 – forty-nine years ago. Time heals, but the grief remains. (A cliche maybe, but cliches are truth).

Spring will always remind me of my parents – Mum because she loved gardening and Dad because he was a farmer and sometimes I would go out with him to help with the lambing.

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This is a photo taken a while ago now, of cards made by my grandchildren and sent over from Japan when they were living there. They are now living in New Zealand.

Things change, come and go, doors open and shut. Some things remain the same through all change. Like the sun rising and setting and nature’s cycle.

‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’ – The more things change the more things stay the same.

Both photos taken by me with Canon S3

July 19th

 

IMG_1419the soft and muted layers of a winter landscape; picnic spot; Lawrence

Taken by me with Canon S3

The chance to take this photo came about because of a flat battery. On the way to Queenstown with our two grandchildren, we stopped in Lawrence for a picnic.

Things were going swimmingly, until Robert went to start up the car again after our little picnic break, only to hear the dispiriting hiccup of an engine without any oomph. That was when we realised that the car lights had been left on. A battery that has been running hard in winter conditions, is never going to last fifteen minutes with the lights on.

Fortunately we belong to the AA. Unfortunately, it was going to take them an hour to get to Lawrence from Milton. Fortunately the sun hadn’t yet moved below the horizon and where we were stuck was a pleasant spot for the kids to run around and explore.

It wasn’t long until we were back on the road again, running smooth and free.

July 13th

inletyellow ice daisy close-up

yellow ice daisy

taken by me with Canon S3

A welcome little bit of winter cheer. ‘Ice daisy’ perhaps an apt symbol for these wintry days.  

The colour of an icy sun, a pale sliver of muted yellow to spark the eye on Monday’s walk around the inlet.

July 10th 

Life is very grandchildren oriented at the moment with school holidays, parents going on a much-deserved, child-free holiday, a grandson’s birthday party, sleep-overs … and all the fun of the fair.

Plus … ta-da! On Saturday, a  brand new granddaughter joined the ranks.

This photo makes me think of her and the beautiful name her parents have given her. We will be visiting them up in Wellington next week. Can’t wait to hold this newest wee biscuit. 

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tidal surge, full tide Andersons Bay Inlet

taken by me with Canon S3

July 7th


Taken by me with Canon S3

Terns, Aramoana Spit, Dunedin

July 2nd

mob of sheep

Another shot from the trip south in the middle of last week. Sheep contained in a small winter-feeding space. When the grass runs out, that is when the farmers start feeding-out. This involves spreading hay out for the sheep to eat.

Back when I was a farmer’s daughter helping my dad out with this winter chore, it involved a tractor towing a wagon of hay bales. It might be done differently these days, but back then the person on the wagon would use a pocket knife to cut through the tight bailing twine that was used to contain the square bales of hay. Once the tightly packed slices of hay were freed, it was a matter of keeping your balance on the moving wagon as you kicked and / or threw the pressed slices of hay on to the paddock, the hungry sheep running towards the scattered hay like kids at a lolly scramble.

When the hay ran out, or maybe just for a change of diet, the sheep were fed oats or pellets.

Other winter feeding options are paddocks of swedes (turnips) or choumolier. Silage is another winter feed option. Silage is grass (or *lucerne in some cases) after it has been left to decompose and ferment in silos, or under black tarpaulins with tyres on top to weigh the plastic down.

I have happy memories of helping my father with feeding-out on winter days; my runny nose sniffing in the smell of mud and hay, my fingers stinging in the frosty air and my toes slowly turning into marbles of ice inside my gumboots.

*called alfalfa in some countries  

June 30th

Drove down to Gore, Southland to visit my aunty this week, relishing the chance to experience the pastoral vistas this trip ensures – especially on a sunny morning after a heavy frost has scraped clean the sky and freshened-up the colours.

Conical Hills winter colours showing in the dusky-pink tinge on the hills near Clinton. Easy to see why the hills have been named Conical Hills.

Taken by me with Canon S3  

June 26th

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back of railway station dunedin.jpg

wagons railway.JPG… the back of Dunedin railway station 

Photos taken by me with iPhone 4

A railway station triptych.

Answering the question; how empty can a railway station be?

June 24th

thymewild thyme that originally spread from the gardens of gold miners in the late 1800’s  

As in the previous post (the post below), I was also asked by someone for this photo (or one similar from a series I took a few years back). They wanted it for their website ‘Wild Dispensary’ which advertises  a range of natural health products, including health products made from thyme extracts. Go HERE for link.

The photo was taken near Alexandra in late October – early November when the wild thyme that carpets the ground and hills around there, is flowering, creating  a carpet of lavender-coloured clumps.  With the weirdly formed grey, rocky outcrops as perfect  contrast, it makes for a unique landscape in one of my favourite areas of New Zealand.

June 23rd

Mt Cargill on DOC NoticeMount Cargill with a scarf of mist Taken by me with Canon S3 in 2012

Have been asked by someone from DoC (Department of Coservation) if they can use the pic. above for one of their Information panels – the ones you see by the inlet, harbour and other such places in Dunedin.

Of course I said Yes.

The photo was discovered in a blog post I’d written way back in 2012. Go HERE for a link to the post.

June 19th

nature table

My nature table full of ‘finds’which I started in May, is getting full.

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The piece of green beach glass is particularly precious …

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This piece of  beach glass was found on a recent walk along the beach with Robert.

During the walk I’d mentioned how I’m always on the lookout for beach glass (pretty rare on our beaches down here).

Lo and behold, not long after that comment, Robert bent down, picked upsomething from the sand and said, “You mean pieces like this one?”

That’s my man!

June 14th

I think I’m going to have to add seaweed / kelp to my list of favourite things …

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June 13th

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A soup of bull kelp. St Kilda beach (Lawyer’s Head) June 2017

Taken by me with Canon S3

June 10th

I didn’t think they were going to come back, but they did. Today.

This is a winter highlight for me – the waxeyes at the bird table feeding on apple, sugar-water and fat.

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Photos taken 2015 by me with Canon S3

June 8th

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taken by me in April this year in the town of Gore, using a Canon S3

These trees look like they are standing barefoot in the drifts of leaves; dipping giant toes into autumn-gold.

I know that by now we’re supposed to have said good-bye to autumn on this side of the planet. But I have the urge to post one more autumn photo before I admit defeat and finally bid my sixty-third autumn a fond farewell.

Our autumn this year seemed to have been a particularly brilliant one, with the colours bright and remaining visible right up to the end.  There was an absence of wind for most of the season, which I suspect aided the ability of the leaves to stick around for longer than their usual length of stay.

June 7th

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Shags. I don’t know which species. Stewart Island shags? Spotted shags? Pied shags? I love the spiky hairdo!

This morning I walked around the inlet as the tide was turning. I saw a tern and a seagull battling it out for sky-space above the water. Meanwhile, a group of nonchalant shags sporting an indifference verging on despondency, looked as if they could care less.

Shags never look happy.  Perhaps this is an impression engendered by their reluctance to fly. Weighed down by cumbersome, oily wings which they are forever hanging out to dry, their lot is not the easy, enjoyable-looking flights that zippy little terns indulge in.  

The shags sit on cold rocks, pondering their fate with a disgruntled, watchful regard. No doubt they need to remain focused on recognising when the time is right to go swimming and diving for a feed, before their eventual, laborious return back to their roosting sites.     

June 6th

Over the long weekend (a public holiday in New Zealand) we travelled south for a family get-together in the town of Gore.

IMG_1345.JPG

on Monday, we travelled even farther south, to Orepuki via towns familiar to us from our childhood days; places such as Nightcaps, Ohai and Tuatapere … stopping on the way to take photos of our maunga – the Takitimus

On the roads and byways, we were faced with frosty patches where the sun never shines and experienced bitter temperature drops after the sun sunk below the horizon. But we also rejoiced under the frost’s aftermath of clear, blue-sky days.

As always when our noses are turned south, a sentimental journey back to our turangawaewae was in order. My sister hadn’t seen the place for a while, so we took the opportunity and travelled to Orepuki, paying a visit to Monkey Island as well.

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May 28th

sunfish

From 2011. A painted bus stop in Dunedin and featuring the sunfish; also called moonfish, among other names including the German name, Schwimmender Kopf which means, ‘head alone’.

It has since been replaced by another painting, which no doubt looks attractive enough, but I can’t help missing my sunfish.

(At least I have the photo. And back when I took the photo, I also wrote a sunfish poem).

sunfish

For a fish which in captivity requires

a round tank so as not to injure itself,

a square, concrete bus-stop is not the best

containment. Yet

like a moon this painted-on sunfish,

despite its grey, lights up the shadowed shelter.

Slate-coloured, a sunfish is named

not as you’d think for its shape,

but for its habit of sun-bathing

at the ocean’s surface. Also

called ‘mola’ (a Pacific-language word)

meaning millstone, for its colour of stone

and how rough and flat and round. At night

sunfish creep, surprising prey, swallowing whole

parties of silent jellyfish.

My sister’s uncle-in-law once hauled in a sunfish

with his net. The largest sunfish ever seen

up until that point, now stuffed and hanging

on the museum wall. In German

the sunfish’s name is, ‘Head Alone ‘

in Chinese, ‘Toppled Car’.

My bus-stop sunfish can never move on

from here, but instead remains transfixed,

paralyzed by shy astonishment.

 

Photo taken by me with Canon S3

May 24th

Looking this morning at the clock on the wall, I saw that it was low tide (the red hand tells the time of high tide and low tide) at nine. Perfect timing for a walk along the beach. Grabbing my coat, hat, scarf and gloves; and camera; I was off. 

tide clock

Low tide is best because the packed sand is easier for walking on. Plus there is the bonus of ‘finds’.

I have been a beach comber all of my life.

Not just the beach either.

I (lightly) comb roadsides, river banks, lakesides, paddocks – anywhere I find myself with the time and opportunity – for shells, worn glass, stones, wood, grasses, cones, feathers, wild flowers … anything interesting, attractive or old.

It’s a trait I inherited from my father – a point accentuated last year when while attending a reunion of members of my father’s family, several of us exhibited the same stone-collecting trait. 

It occurs to me that photography is also a form of  collecting.

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When I was a child at school. one of my favourite places was the classroom’s Nature Table, where pieces of the natural world could be exhibited.

I still like Nature Tables.

Photos taken by me with Canon S3

May 18th

orepuki_trees

The weather-twisted trees of my childhood town.

Photo taken by me with Canon S3

May 14th

quail in tree 2

To come across a quail up in a tree the day I took this photo, surprised me. Normally they are ground-huggers, scuttling across your path to take cover in the safety of the undergrowth.

Photo taken by me with Canon S3

May 12th

A photo from 2011 of a street art piece our son did on temporary boarding of an abandoned shop window in South Dunedin.

I used to pass it every morning on the way to work and it would cheer me on my way with a small smile in my heart – especially knowing who the artist was.

Long gone now, but at least I have the photo to freeze both memory and image in time’s ice.

The idea of a poet winning is especially relevant for me  at the moment when I find myself so out of time to write poetry.

Poet wins! Always. In the end.

poet-wins 2 best version

Photo taken by me with Canon S3

April 11th

Inlet - leaf

This leaf speaks to me of ebb and flow.  Of life’s ebb and flow. Glorious and bitter. How can one human being cope with all the predicaments and anxieties, joy and sadness such as those that arrive all at once; in one minute, in one day, in one lifetime? (And note the tiny feather upper right corner as a symbol of flight – the escape hatch of freedom).

Photo taken by Canon S3

April 5th

purple rose 1

I have this thing for purple roses …

purple rose 2

purple rose 3

purple rose 4

I take special note of purple roses whenever the opportunity arises (a-roses?)

All photos were taken by me on Canon S3

April 4th

autumn leaves in a line

taken by me in Bannerman Park, Gore, Southland, NZ with Canon S3

I had occasion to visit Gore last week and was able to pay a visit to the cemetery. Both my parents, maternal grandparents and an uncle are buried there.

If I can, on the way to the cemetery (walking) I go through Bannerman Park. It is becoming one of my most favourite places in the world.

white flower taken by me on Canon S3

Gore cemetery in autumntaken by me on Canon S3 

Like many other people, I find cemeteries peaceful places. Gore cemetery has an attractive outlook over towards hills that are important landmarks in my family’s history.

 

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looking towards Hokonui hills taken by me on Canon S3

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a conglomeration of trees (taken by me on Canon S3)

April 1st

brick on beachbrick on beach 2brick wall remains on beachPhoto taken by me on Canon S3

Taken five years ago after a particularly rough storm ransacked St Kilda’s beach wall.

The sea will always out – or in.

Brick

One of my mother’s cousins was called Brick.

On account of his red hair.

One day he locked himself in his garage,

in his car …

No need for me to say any more.

Such damage

from storm or despair; to end it all

in such silence. As silent

as a brick broken

on sand  by a lamenting sea.

March 28th

black & white spotted rocktaken by me on Canon S3

This boulder has a striking lichen-patched design. Robert and I came across it about three years ago now, on the Otago Peninsula, Karetai track (where our son Michael and daughter-in-law Kate, held their wedding).

rock of aeons

Some cataclysmic event

spewed or spat you here

(we conjecture

a volcano’s spit-

ball)

to simmer and cool

for an age; an aeon

or two;

in sun and rain,

in part

lichen, in part smooth and pale

as the moon,

in part granite as black as a star,

you lie north or south

-facing depends

on which direction you have chosen

to lean towards; we have no way

of knowing. We can only envy

your jaquard design; nature’s petri dish;

the patches of black-white-grey;

a jester’s funeral attire; and wonder

at how arresting, how natural,

and then leave you there, tagging

your art as pure

random.

                   Kay McKenzie Cooke

March 27th

deckchair

taken by me on I-Phone 5

service

Mid-day church under a singing sun,

a cricket’s clicking reminder

of time’s stop watch measuring. A chair

as empty as a day without sunshine

invites a seat by a praise of purple peonies

like abandoned hats,

or careless fruit. It is an invitation to sit,

to take a risk

of no return, no reward

of continued warmth

from summer’s choir.

All indications

are that the planet will soon turn

its back. Coming down the aisle

to take its pew, see here

comes winter.

                    Kay McKenzie Cooke

March 26th

Thought I might as well keep riding the nostalgia / reminiscing wave …

Steve looks in mirror 5mnth

1981 Taken with a Pentax KM

Me and my son – eldest (of three sons) Steve (we called him Stevie until at five years old he decided he didn’t want to be called that any more). 

March 23rd

At the rate I’m posting photos, maybe I should have called this page Weekly Shot … Daily is not cutting it. But as my Aunty Lorna wrote in my autograph book when I was nine years old: ‘Always aim for the stars Kay and you will never hit a gooseberry bush’.

autograph book

I looked for my autograph book to confirm, and found myself reading messages from long ago.

Lorna's autograph

Seeing autographs from my grandparents and parents gave me a bit of a pang.

Mum's autograph

A friendly autograph – very formal! From my dear departed Mum. 

Dad's autograph

Heart-breaking considering he died suddenly of a heart attack only five and a half years later.( Also on the 27th). Sends shivers.

GranDad's autograph

Typical of Granddad’s humour! Interesting to see how he spelt Granddad …

Nanna's autograph

Written on top corner, on front inside cover of the book. 

Interesting for me to see my nana spelling her title ‘Nanna’, with two ‘n’s’. Also she made a mistake, writing 1933 then realising it was 1963! (A clue right there as to where my absent-mindedness comes from!)

All above photos taken by i-phone 4

March 15th

fiery blue

blue glass container dating back to 1972 (given to me as a present by my friend, Jen Small)

Photo taken by me with Canon S3

The container above no longer exists. Maybe the Eudora Welty quote above should read, ‘A good snapshot keeps’. Fullstop. 

I’m afraid about four years ago, this favourite small, blue glass container that had been in my possession for over forty years, succumbed to a granddaughter’s enthusiastic curiosity.

But at least I have the photo. Almost as good. But it does feel a little like ‘Close, but no cigar.’

March 8th in existence

daily bread

a better attempt from another day

Photo taken by me with I-Phone 4

Last night I hurriedly put all the ingredients into the bread-maker so that we would have a fresh, sweet-smelling loaf of bread, ready to eat by morning. As I drifted off to sleep, I imagined the smell of fresh bread filling our small apartment.

At about three o’clock, I woke to the beep of the bread-maker alerting me to turn it off. The bread was made.

However, something about the smell wasn’t right. It smelt sour rather than the sweet, ‘bready’ smell I’d expected. Upon checking, I was shocked to see a small, mean-looking, hard bulge (the right colour, but not the right height) cowering in the bottom of the machine.

What had I done wrong?

I looked in the cupboard to make sure I had used the right yeast. Oh no! In my haste, I had reached for the baking soda, not the Surebake! No wonder the bread smelt so sour, looked so shriven and ugly.

I think this must be a case of ‘forgive us this day our daily bread’.

February 28th

cat-sign

My daughter in law, Kate, was kind enough to take this photo for me because I didn’t get a chance to when I was last up staying with her and my son in Lyall Bay, Wellington.

Because a neighbourhood cat sleeps by the side of the road and is in danger of getting bowled by cars, a special ‘be aware’  sign was made for the cat.

I say ‘neighbourhood’ cat because I believe the story is that its owner died and so the neighbours now look after it.

Since its owner’s death, however, the cat prefers to spend its time on the roadside.

It’s a kind of happy-sad story.

February 26th

teacup

Rose Jug; Portland Pottery, Cobridge, Staffordshire  4/1957

Taken by me with Canon S3

I seem to be on a bit of a ‘objects’ binge at the moment.

I look at the things I have around me here – things placed on shelves, tables, benches, in corners, by the bed, on the bookshelf, on my desk … and there is not one that doesn’t speak of someone who is dear to me.

I tend to look at things not as the thing itself (a la Wallace Stevens) but as memory spurs; as extensions of the people I associate the things with. Without exception, these things I have around me are either gifts or something handed down to me by a relative. I have had no hand in their purchase.

My aunty gave me the jug featured in the photo above not long ago, and I was thrilled because it is part of a teaset of my nana’s and a deep reminder for me of her. We use the jug for milk . So much nicer than wrestling with the walloping, ugly plastic 2-litre container every time I make myself a cuppa.

Every time I use the jug, or wash it and dry it, I think of Nana; undemanding, placid, peaceful and real. She was always there. She would quietly listen, never proffering unwanted advice or making hasty judgements. Calm and patient, strong and unruffled on the surface, deep down she was also fearful and easily frightened by such things as mice, pigs, blow flies and the dark. (Which us kids thought was hilarious).

Maybe Nana didn’t have the tough constitution of a settler-farmer’s wife (such as my paternal grandmother had) nevertheless, she had resilience and a quiet  strength.

And she made the best girdle scones.

I looked up girdle scones and found out that the Scottish call them ‘girdle scones’ and the Irish, ‘griddle scones’. (I guess my Dad’s mother, coming from Irish descent, would’ve called them ‘griddle scones’. I wonder if my parents ever argued the point over that one? )

Nana always looked neat and dressed nicely. Pastel twinsets and plaid skirts in the winter and short-sleeved, crimplene Osti frocks in the summer. She had her hair done (or set) every week or so. She had her own style – unostentatious, tidy and attractive. Her favourite colour was lavender.

Her quietly spoken, unprepossessing presence was a soothing, easy one. She was there and she was smiley and kind and an integral part of my life. When she died and was suddenly no longer there, I missed her. I still miss her thirty years on.

She spoke little and didn’t go in for anything ‘grandmotherly’ like reading to her grandchildren. Just wasn’t her style. She was largely undemonstrative. I don’t remember sitting on her knee or getting a lot of hugs – maybe she was too busy making pikelets or knitting! Anyway, us kids looked to our cuddly, affable Granddad for hugs and affection. Doing stuff was how Nana showed her affection. Nana and Granddad were not well off, but she was a faithful gift-buyer, giving us thoughtful birthday presents and Christmas presents every year without fail – and for over twenty grandkids, what’s more.

My father’s mother (Granny) died when I was about eight years old, so I didn’t get to know her as well as I did Nana, who died when I was thirty-two. As far as any grandmother role model went, Nana was it. I think she was pretty much perfect.

Children tend not to have any expectations or demands of grandparents. They just accept them for who they are. Just as I accepted my nana as herself; ‘my Nana’. In reality, though, I had to share her with twenty-four other grandchildren! I trust that for my own grandchildren I can be like my nana was for me (not that there’s twenty-five of them. Thank goodness).

February 22nd

img_1114

Blue jay ornament

Taken by me with Canon S3

My father gave me this ornament for a Christmas present on the tree the last Christmas he was with us. Not that we knew that at the time. It turned out to be the first and last time he ever bought his kids something for Christmas. He usually left it up to Mum to do the gift-buying for us kids. 

The blue jay came with a book. Robinson Crusoe. To be honest I was a bit miffed at the time. I’d have preferred a more ‘girly’ book and ornament. But I came to treasure both mightily for their reminder of a lovely Dad who was taken too suddenly and too soon.

I just hoped I showed appreciation rather than the ungrateful shrug of a teenager. However, as I was fourteen years old at the time, I’m thinking that the chances of the former scenario, are not good.

One of my bucket list wishes is to one day see a real blue jay. 

Dad liked birds and I can appreciate how the blue jay ornament he spotted that Friday night in Sutherlands IGA store in Riversdale, 1967, would’ve caught his eye. And the book. (It was probably one he’d be interested in reading himself). ‘Kay likes ornaments and she likes reading’ would’ve been his reasoning. I have no idea what my six siblings got from him that Christmas, but I know that at the sound of ‘Fire! Fire!’ this (it has to be said, rather battered-looking, and in need of a touch-up) blue jay would be one of the first things I’d grab.

And at times, living a Robinson Crusoe existence on a desert island certainly has its appeal.

February 21st

img_1110

Taken by me with Canon S3

St Kilda beach, Dunedin, on a good day can’t be beat. And yesterday, I had it all to myself (practically).

I have these fantasies of spending summer days at the beach, sitting back in the sand dunes, going for a dip when I get too hot, and back again to my towel to lie once more in the warm sand …

But the truth is, most times here the weather is just not conducive to such capers. Even yesterday when I lay back in the warm sand, my left ear (the one facing towards the wind) began to fill with grains of dry sand being blown by the breeze. 

Ah well. At least it was nice to sit a while and forget the planet’s problems. The only thing missing was a takeaway coffee. I reckon someone could make a mint selling coffees somewhere along John Wilson Drive. On a good day. 

February 16th

shop

Taken by me with i-Phone 4

No, not Greece, but St Kilda, Dunedin, New Zealand.

On a walk this morning I noticed this shop, freshly painted and looking grand against a blue Dunedin sky.

February 15th

crocodile

Taken (at Elizabeth’s request) by my i-Phone 4

Where I go once a month to discuss some good poems with some good friends. 

February 12th

desk-photo

Taken by me with Canon S3  

One side of a pen holder made for me by my son, many years ago now. It feature four animal characters. The worried cat character in the photo above is perhaps the one that captures my personality best.

The pen holder (former jam jar) sits on my desk like some kind of mood calculator for me to work out my current status –  today am I the worried cat? smug monkey? friendly rabbit? or tentatively welcoming bear?

Tentatively welcoming today, I think.

February 10th

I cannot believe my oldest granddaughter turns 19 today. Wow. Time, eh. And yet I can listen to a ‘pop’song from the 1960’s and be transported right back to that kid from Southland; there inside me still, despite my grandmotherly look and figure. Inside, we carry the nature we were born with. Unchanged. Our ageing bodies are no indication of how we feel inside, however much we are judged by others on appearances.

I wish my lovely granddaughter a good day. She has the sweetest nature – and always will have, even when she herself is old enough to be the grandmother wishing her grandchild a happy nineteenth birthday.

tomahawk-beach

Tomahawk Beach

Taken by me with Canon S3

The sea always brings me back to thoughts of time. Unceasing rhythms, perpetual motion. Beats to measure time by.

From here on this seagull highway that zips right by our house; this small dip situated between the ocean and the harbour; to view the sea, its dreamy motion, I only need to go down the road a little bit.

February 8th

twilight-moon

Taken by me with an i-Phone 4

Twilight Moon.

Early evening last night, I happened to look up just at the right time and spotted the moon looking all beautiful above a bed of clouds rosy with the dying light.

It reminds me of one night in Berlin when I was staying with my son and his partner and their small daughter. I was watching the sun sink over the roofs of tall apartments with my granddaughter, telling her that the sun was off to wake her grandpa in New Zealand.

“Wake up, Grandpa”, she said over and over. I thought what a good picture book it would make. On one side of the world, the sun sinking and the the moon rising, and vice versa on the other side of the planet. One day I might even get around to making that book for her.

January 24th

matchsticks-in-place

Taken by me with Canon S3

The matchstick bulbs I planted about six years ago now are flourishing, adding accent and warmth to the corn flower-background.

Corn flowers I’ve discovered, need the shelter of corn stalks or wheat in order to grow (their name being a huge hint). Without the support of taller plants, they are too easily floored, brought to their knees by weather – especially any wind and rain. Such a shame as they are a favourite of mine, mostly on account of their particular shade of blue.

Nevertheless, I shall persevere with them because once the sun is shining again, they bounce back, their tousled tufts bobbing like blue buoys in a sea of green.

In contrast, the fiery, feisty matchsticks are hardy and resilient to wind and rain, determinedly bent upon sparking away at being flowers no matter the weather.

There is likely a little bit of the corn flower (easily swayed, easily broken) and matchstick (not taking any crap from anyone) in all of us.

January 23rd

fuschia

Taken by me with a Canon S3

As soon as the sun came out – after a run of nasty, stormy, rainy weather – I ventured forth for my daily shot.

January 22nd

canterbury-sky

Taken by me with I-Phone 4

I thought I could see an angel in the clouds. And if I couldn’t actually see one, I thought that at the very least, I was meant to.

It’s a spiritual thing.

Lately I’m into proving that the spiritual exists.

And microclimates. Because this sky featured here is a Canterbury sky which is different to an Otago (where I live) sky, or a Southland (where I hail from) sky.

I love living in a country where there are so many microclimates.

I once wrote a poem about microclimates. It was published in my first collection, which is now out of print.

In that case, maybe I should haul it out of its musty cupboard…

Here ’tis:

microclimates

Taken by me with I-Phone 4

January 19th

“Where does the time go?” I heard someone ask today. “Day by day”, I thought.

I am breaking my rule of one photo a day because today I wanted to do glass and I couldn’t choose just one among the many glass photos I have. 

I managed to break this particular set down to four.  But I had to be ruthless.

glass-1

My friend Jenny Powell and I have formed a poetry-reading duo called J&K Rolling. (Go to the J&K Rolling page on this website’s menu to read about what we get up to).

One summer we read out at the South Seas Gallery in the seaside town of Brighton, where one of the studios that the resident artist Janet has out at her place, features glass embedded into concrete walls.

glass-2

The glass catches the ocean light beautifully.

glass-3

I am a big  fan of glass and its properties when placed in the way of light.

glass-4

After the reading, Janet showed some of us around her ‘glass studio’. It was during a conversation here that I first heard a quote I’ve never forgotten. It was attributed to the late Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Austrian painter, architect and sculptor. Four words only, but very memorable:’Straight lines are evil’, he was said to have stated. I have remembered (and applied) those words on many occasions since then. 

All photos taken by me with Canon S3

January 9th

img_0900

This is a shot of a pottery pig fashioned by my d-i-l when she was at art school. It has been designed to sit atop a water container (also pottery) with a cork spout. 

I like how it’s possible to see the marks of where and how K’s fingers shaped the soft clay to resemble this curious and cheerful little pig.

Taken by me with Canon S3

January 3rd

Despite appearances, yesterday’s walk along John Wilson Drive (a road that runs alongside St Kilda Beach and which is closed to traffic every day, after 3.00 p.m.) under a blustery sky – was extremely pleasant.

My favourite moments were spotting my husband on the golf course  – which also runs parallel to John Wilson Drive, on the other side to the beach-side  – and witnessing the manifestation of a certain level of self-disgust; apparent in the slope of his back as he walked away from what he decided (as he explained to me later) had been a very bad shot; largely due to him not following a nagging qualm about the line of his shoulders to the ball; and the tiny birds in the lupins. (Were they swiftsor chaffinches?) 

beach-1

Taken by me with Canon S3

January 2nd 

Today when I stepped out of my front door late morning (to be honest, I haven’t been venturing much farther than my front doorstep the last two or three days) I spotted this pink poppy among a swathe of leaning, blue cornflowers sporting their customary air of entitlement.

Outside my front door is as far as I need to go most days. I stand there taking in the air, the sun (rain, wind) the burble of neighbourhood lawn mowers, barbecue get-togethers, scrapping siblings, birds … with the words a friend once said to me ringing in my ears: “You’re such a home body”.  

pink-poppy

Taken with Canon S3 

January 1st

In Japan, bamboo and fir tree arrangements (all arranged in exactly the same way) are popular for doorway decorations for New Year. 

Five years ago we were in Japan with our son and his family for New Year. An amazing experience.

Below is our tiny version of a Japanese New year’s arrangement; a souvenir that we brought back home and appropriately placed outside our door.

It sits on the heat pump cabinet along with some stones (I wouldn’t be a McKenzie if I didn’t collect stones) and two little pottery pigs from my mother’s garden.

Happy New Year wherever you are!

Taken by me with i-Phone 4

jp-ny-deco

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