‘Taking an image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality really is’ Ansel Adams
clamour of yellow (bell-shaped flowers of the kowhai tree)
Taking little wanders in the backyard to check out the progress of Spring flowers (and horrors!) weeds, is one of life’s tiny pleasures.
I often wish I could give up the time I spend on writing and devote that time to gardening instead.
Today I met a friend for coffee in St Clair. The groynes (wooden piles) are looking even more wrecked than the last time I checked the progress of their demise.
I realise that the photos I’ve taken when they were upstanding and intact (albeit weathered and gnarled) are now a record of what once was.
Today the sea was ruffled and a grizzled grey.
My friend and I spoke of cabbages and kings. Of forgiveness and Omega 3. Grandchildren and ageing gracefully – or with abandon.
We left each other perhaps none the wiser, but certainly feeling a solidarity that comes with age.
We talked about swimming and grandchildren. About the different way everyone looks at life. About how in the end, all we can do is to maintain the health of our own minds and hearts, and let everything else be.
It was Friday night and a certain pre-election madness was in the air. A loud-voiced man in a yellow t-shirt was telling everyone he could see, to vote Labour. “Labour is New Zealand’s church,” he said. “Down with the Tories”. I think he was most likely doing more harm than good.
My friend and I said good-bye, laughing when a small dog on the corner suddenly gave a huge yap.”Such a loud bark for such a small dog,” my friend said. Let that little dog be an inspiration for us all: anything worth saying can be said with just one bark, if it’s loud enough.
The Moment A Single Blade of Grass Is Caught by The Sun
dandelion up close and personal
a single blade of grass
From Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem Inversnaid:
“What would the world be, once bereft,
of wet and wildness? Let them be left.
O let them be left; wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”
red hot poker
As Christopher Lloyd wrote in The Well-Tempered Garden
“Many gardeners will agree that hand-weeding is not the terrible drudgery that it is often made out to be. Some people find in it a kind of soothing monotony. It leaves their minds free to develop the plot for their next novel or to perfect the brilliant repartee with which they should have encountered a relative’s latest example of unreasonableness.”
Followed by something I wrote in response:
This was not my experience as I clambered about our steep bank. Thinking and reflecting was a luxury in which I couldn’t indulge, there was far too much hard labour involved in the weeding – toil that was accompanied, I noticed, by rather a lot of old person sound effects.
owl garden ornament
old door handle from my childhood home
door handle from front door of my childhood home
All photos taken by me with Canon S3
An errant blade of grass, the common dandelion, an old and useless door handle, a rusted keyhole … All could be symbolic of the locking and unlocking of the past (or the future) and how much of the present can be caught in the moment the sun catches a single blade of grass.
So far my ms ‘Craggan Dhu’ has been rejected by two publishers. However, I am buoying myself up with the knowledge that in the experience of many a bestseller, multiple rejections before a final acceptance is often par for the course. (Not, I hasten to add, that I expect – not even in my wildest most extravagant of dreams -that ‘Craggie’ will ever be a bestseller).
I intend to make a few minor adjustments; one of which is to change the name of the book. So far, ‘Black Rock’ (the English translation of Craggan Dhu) is winning. This was a suggestion by my husband, and it sounded good to me … but we’ll see. At the moment I’ll stick with ‘Craggan Dhu’ as a working title.
As I write this, ocean-side clouds are rushing to scribble out our previously clear and sunny day. There’s a silent battle being forged between the blue and the grey with the grey issuing a volley of sea fog towards ‘Old Swampy’ (otherwise known as Flagstaff). A smoky trail of steamy grey threatens to engulf the whole city.
At least it’s only weather. As long as it’s not behaving too badly, one can deal with weather,
Time to take cover. make myself a cuppa and enter the world of fiction. For the moment, I have had enough of present reality.
a breakaway to visit the newest grandchild
a stone found on the beach close to our son’s art studio – a stone to mark our granddaughter’s name, as well as our first introduction to her ‘in the flesh’
cheerful signs of Spring! Magnolia buds in Dunedin’s Botanical Garden (and at the same time, a reminder of another of our granddaughters)
while at the Gardens, this photo was just there for the taking (Paradise ducks, in this case the female being the more colourful one)
Dunedin street scene … a coffee in the Octagon and a visit to the art gallery is a favourite Sunday afternoon activity
a Sunday morning top-up of stained glass (St Michael’s, Andersons Bay)
well-worn steel steps in a car park, marking the passage of many feet … going up …
going down …
Someone asked me a week ago how my writing was going and all I could think to reply was, “Grandchildren”.
Yes, family takes up a lot of my time and thinking space. Of course it goes without saying that I wouldn’t have it any other way. The eighth grandchild arrived a month ago. I can only feel blessed.
Another blessing is that the poetry is flowing. (Not the prose so much. It requires a lot more space. Like potatoes as opposed to radishes).
Spring is brewing; a delightful prospect after what has felt like an especially tedious and sun-less winter. Even better, I can see a solid area of writing space opening up for me in the next couple of months. I’m looking forward to using this wall-to-wall writing opportunity and intend using it to sort and file material for Craggan Dhu; Part Two. As well as collecting the poetry for my fourth poetry collection (as yet un-named).
Naming is important. The names all my grandchildren have been given, are beautiful. Like jewels I can tumble in my head, each name different, each name treasured.
Inside Out Winter
Some photos of winter here in the deep south.
The first few were taken on a recent trip to Queenstown.
Grandson and sheep, Lawrence, Otago
Old wheel, Lawrence, Otago
Taken from the gondola, Queenstown
A wintry outlook taken across from our place looking towards Andersons Bay Presbyterian church, now no longer used. Forced to close I believe because of the high cost required to bring it up to earthquake requirement standards.
After two years living in our wee downstairs flat (a really cosy and adorable space making us reluctant to vacate) we moved back upstairs where our son and his family were staying temporarily.
We are happy to be back to a larger space, a view, a conventional, electric oven (rather than convection), a bath, a wood-burner and garden. However we were also loath to leave the convenience of a dishwasher, really great shower, mod.cons. double-glazing and modern, easy-to-keep-clean space.
Our rather tired home is a mite shabby and in need of some major wallpapering, painting and carpeting … but all in good time, and as we can afford …
On a neighbourhood walk recently, this blue garden seat caught my eye … one of my favourite shades of blue …
A well-built fence and somehow very Dunedin. Maybe it’s the peaked fence-post lids that make me think that. Something very upstanding and conservative about them.
Nothing upstanding and reserved about this neighbourhood fence and mailbox, and all the more endearing for it …
Hydrangeas – another favourite shade of blue.
An artichoke plant – next year maybe I’ll remember to pick before the flower appears – but such a pretty flower, it seems a shame not to let it flower.
I wrote a poem about these old kettles. Kettles are very cool.
See the little hearts? My daughter in law Kate made this elephant, and I love it.
And just today I took a photo of these easter daisies. I look out at them from our kitchen window. They are certainly a bright spot in my winter outlook.
Winter is normally a time for hunkering down and reflecting. But it seems I’ve been busier than ever this winter. The calendar keeps filling up with events and appointments and time in the room I use for writing, has been rare.
I’m not unhappy about this.
A busy life is feeding me lots of stuff to write about.
If I was stuck at home with nothing to do, I don’t think I’d have anything to write about.
However, a part of me would welcome the chance to prove this.
Looking Back In Order to See Ahead
On a trip south this week, I stopped at Sod Cottage which is an original new settler cottage dating back to 1860’s. Sited on the side of the main highway south, it serves as a stopping place for anyone curious about what houses may have looked like at that time; both inside and out.
A picnic table outside encourages passers-by to stop for a picnic. However, as there was still frost on the ground the morning I stopped, that idea didn’t appeal.
Farther along the road, I spotted a mob of very muddy sheep in a swede paddock. Swedes are what New Zealanders (especially those in the south) call a type of turnip. When driving past later on in the year, when the turnips begin to rot in the ground, wafts of foul air fill the car. Just another rural experience!
On the way back from my trip to Gore, Southland, I stopped at Lake Waihola as I could see that after a frost, the lake was looking very calm and photogenic.
Such ‘Lake Placid’ characteristics is not always so with Lake Waihola. As it is not a deep lake, its muddy bottom is easily disturbed by the frequent winds that move around where the lake is situated, between two ranges of hills.
Writing-wise, I am continuing to write a poem-a-week for my recollection of the trip to Berlin I made almost a year ago now.
The research for Craggan Dhu: Part Two, will take me another year to complete. But because part of the research involves family memorabilia, I can kill two birds with one stone – tidy up and file family papers at the same time as milling useful ideas and facts for this second novel.
The past continues to infiltrate my present. Early this week I took a book from the Orepuki library (which dates back to the late 1800’s) into the *Hocken Library here in Dunedin. I was informed there that the books in the Orepuki library probably need to be listed to establish their value and usefulness. A job I would be only too happy to tackle. In the spring.
*The Hocken Museum is a valued repository for New Zealand historical data and materials.
Robert and I went for a walk recently, fortuitously choosing what turned out to be a perfect combination of time of day and atmosphere: low tide and near to sun’s set.
The kelp at Lawyers Head was amazing to see, lying in rich-brown heaps exactly where dumped by the ocean’s swinging arm.
There were other things too to take the eye. I started clicking my camera and couldn’t seem to stop seeing colours and textures to capture.
black, glistening rocks taking a breather before the next wash by an incoming tide
cerise seaweed …
rocks stained by the iron oxide in the run-off (so I was informed by someone more knowledgeable than myself)
concrete slab from man-made sea wall, torn away by the ocean …
a popular pooch spot, going by the paw prints …
light strokes over the surf painted by a sinking sun
So. Sent off the manuscript. Four months now to wait until I hear whether it has been accepted for publication.
Meanwhile, I am hatching the second part. I was going to introduce a whole raft of new characters, but the characters already introduced had something to say about that! They want me to keep them on. Their stories are not done. So it looks as though they will remain, but I will also be introducing some new characters as well. Plus a whole new plot.
Imagining Part Two is what keeps me awake at night. I can’t turn off my brain and the onslaught of ideas.
But at least keeping my mind engaged in the hatching and plotting of Craggan Dhu: Part Two, is good armour against any nasty, unruly jolts of anxiety that can sometimes arrive just as I am about to fall asleep – like rapier attacks cruelly aimed to prevent the bliss of sleep.
Such unfounded, indiscriminate anxiety usually swirls around the question of what is the meaning of life, and other such boring, existential questions like who am I really? And what if my life is really just all a dream; some cruel hoax?
Then morning dawns and all is well again; proof that to combat confusion, a good dose of daylight does not go amiss. That, and a walk by the sea.
Flax and Sun
Takitimu mountains backdrop
Te Waewae Bay
Monkey Island beach
This long weekend we took a trip south to ancestral lands.
My novel “Craggan Dhu’ (yet to find a publisher) was ringing in my ears. So much of its grist has been milled from these parts.
The characters in my novel were singing and dancing with me as I stomped the ground and sniffed in the scent of flax and sun. (Well, to be honest, a couple of them were griping, it not being in their nature to sing and dance).
As promised, I have taken myself down to the sea. Twice this week so far.
I wondered why I had left it so long. After all the beach is only a stone’s throw from our place (3 – 4 k’s at the most …)
Then I realised that I actually prefer the beach in the cooler months. Not so many people. Not so windy. The colours muted and peaceful.
I especially love the blues … the white froth adding contrast.
On Monday the breakers were steaming and frothy after a storm over the weekend.
I am posting off my novel’s m.s. to a publisher this afternoon.
Then I shall to the best of my ability, forget all about it and get back to poetry and writing down ideas I have brewing for the second part to my Craggan Dhu saga.
It will be sweet to get back into some in-depth strumming again after so long just picking out sporadic notes.
The timing is right; it is nearly Matariki (the appearance of the Pleiades over the horizon). That is when my writing really hits its stride. The universe and me in tune.
Photos above taken by me with I-Phone 5
From 2011 – detritus on St Kilda beach
I can hear the beach calling me. Its been a while since I’ve visited.
Last night I pulled away from social media, vowing not to return until Spring (and even then I’m not sure I’ll want to join the crowds at the watering hole again).
I want to take time to listen and read. Think and dream. Without the white noise of checking status and Like-ing things people post. Reminds me of the days of intense blogging and the self-imposed obligation I felt back then to read and comment on every blog I followed.
rocks at Cosy Nook
Writing has had to take a back seat lately as I have been busy with getting our apartment downstairs ready for Air BnB placement.
Our son and family who were living in our home, have moved on to another city so we have moved back upstairs into what feels like an manor (after living for two years in the cosy apartment downstairs).
At the same time, however, we can now see all the work needed to update and re-touch the rather faded and shabby interior. (Something we have been talking about doing for ten years).
Cosy Nook rocks (2)
If there’s such a thing as a ‘Magical Places of the World’, Cosy Nook in Western Southland, New Zealand (and just down the road from where I was brought up) would surely comply. Such magical places serve as inspiration for me to get writing.
Yes, I really do need to get back to writing. And back to the beach for a shot of salt and surf.
Photos taken by me with Canon S3
Novel Mountain Climbing
Three Sisters peak, Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown, New Zealand
Yes, writing a m.s. for a novel and getting it all ready to send to a publisher, can be a bit like climbing a mountain.
Not that I have ever climbed a mountain.
But I have written a m.s. for a novel.
Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown
If only I could just wave a magic wand.
Or had staff.
(A magic staff?)
Then I could magically skip the stages to ‘getting the thing published’ and just concentrate on the fun part – the actual writing.
sunset reflected on to Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown
The light at the top of the mountain seems like a very long way away at the moment.
All of the above photos were taken by me with a Canon S3
Seven- Year String Theory / It’s Just A Theory
Feeling a bit like this kite these days – free, yet tethered. Free to write, yet tethered to themes. Themes of forgiveness, celebration, exploration, hurt and grief.
Entering new ground … I am settling into my tenth seven-year stage. One of active participation after the previous seven-year stage which was of a more pondering, meditative nature.
It’s as if for those seven years, I was gathering my strength and confidence for this seven-year stage. (This stage, from ages 63 – 70 corresponds to when I was aged 7 – 14; and then again when I was aged, 28 – 32).
I look back on my life and for me, there is a clear pattern of entering new phases every seven years. These seven years then fall into a twenty-eight year pattern.
I’ve lived through the twenty-eight year sequence twice now.
The first seven years I have titled the Learning years.
The second seven years the Active years.
The third block of seven years, the Weathering years.
The fourth seven-year stage, Celebration years.
After experiencing my third time of living through the Learning (exploring, pondering, meditative, gathering) stage, I am now in my third round of Active years. These years appear to take on the nature of participation, curiosity and energy.
I liken it to the butterfly – the first stage is as an egg – still, waiting, gathering; then as a hungry caterpillar – devouring, participating, working and energetically experiencing; then as a cocoon – weathering life’s harder times, dreaming, passive and patient; then the last phase, which is the butterfly fully formed and celebrating its freedom of flight.
portion of a painting by Michael D. Cooke
This ‘seven-year string’ theory of mine has no scientific or mathematical basis. It is purely something I have concocted for myself in wakeful hours of trying to get to sleep. It amuses me to look back over my life and divide the years lived into these seven year stages.
My first Active phase was when I was aged 7 – 14 and delighting in my roles of daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, friend and school pupil. Simple roles, easy to fulfil. By the time I was into my second Active stage (35 – 42) , I had added the roles of wife, mother, aunt, teacher and writer. Again, delightful roles I revelled in.
Now, third time round, the roles of daughter and granddaughter have been taken away from me. But I have the delight of the added roles of grandmother, published writer and retiree. And I am still revelling.
Aint life just the grandest thing?
I thought I had lost this photo of a little frog we saw in my daughter-in-law’s parent’s garden in Okayama, Japan.
It was one of those moments that stick in your mind. I spotted the wee fellow when E’s father was showing us around their amazing garden – a garden that warrants the term ‘Market Garden’ back here in New Zealand.
Sadly E’s father died a few years later. I am pleased that I am left with fond memories of him and of E’s family home and garden, of the dinner served to us that moon festival night, and of the over-whelming hospitality of her parents. It was a magical time, a portrait worthy of occupying a special position in my hall of memories.
from a few seasons back now, a row of green tomatoes hopefully ripening on our windowsill (if I remember correctly it didn’t work, Dunedin’s day-long length of sunshine quickly waning as March marched on into April).
While going through old blog posts, I came across the photos (featured above) I forgot were in my stock.
I decided to feature ‘green’ – possibly in deference to St Patrick’s Day, which happens to be the day after our youngest son’s birthday. I’m glad though that our son wasn’t born on St Pat’s Day. Not the greatest to every year have your birthday overshadowed by so much mad green.
munted tennis ball washed up on to the St Kilda beach tide line
I spent a successful week’s writing last week.
I achieved it by pretending I was ‘away’ (possibly at a writer’s retreat somewhere).
For all intents and purposes, I was not home if anyone tried to find me. I didn’t answer the phone – anyway, it would only have been scammers or random companies soliciting takers for home heating, or real estate agents wanting to value our house.
I told people I was going to ‘be away’ for the week and locked the door and applied headphones.
I didn’t venture out even to collect the mail. (Although I did sneak away for a few walks and a couple of visits to the gym. Necessary prevention of leg and gluteal muscle atrophy from so much sitting).
My entire week’s focus was on slightly adjusting the ms for my novel – incorporating some helpful suggestions by my ‘readers’. Really happy with the result too. Thank you dear readers (you know who you are).
Now all I need to do is to write out some family trees as an aid to the book – which is going to tax this very right-leaning brain of mine. (“Come on left brain – wake up. Help me out, there’s a chum”).
I’ve been encouraged by my achievement of opting out of society to spend a week fully engaged in writing. I now know it is possible to achieve this without having to leave town. Saves spending money I don’t have on petrol, accommodation and extra supplies. I now know I can assign myself regular Writing Weeks. And I will.
Even a studio or office is not necessary. Just a diary empty of any commitments, locked front door and the appearance of absence, buys me a writing retreat for zilch. That’s win-win in my book (a rhetorical book, you understand, not my actual book).
My actual book is just about there. Will be sending it off with a hope and a prayer very soon.
And then what?
Craggan Dhu; Part Two (and more poetry for collection number four).
A walk around the neighbourhood …
with camera aboard …
painted bus shelter …
brick wall in the Andersons Bay Plunket Rooms corner …
where I sat a while and watched the world go by …
and farther out towards the harbour in the distance, boat sheds and a portion of Dunedin’s wharf-side vista …
until it was time to leave my sunny spot by the ivy-ed wall …
and head on home, past this elegant villa …
with a Lilliput library outside the gate …
A friend of mine is responsible for getting these little free libraries up and running in different places in Dunedin. She is also responsible for poetry cards in waiting rooms nationwide and for poems-painted-on-steps. She’s heading for a Service medal of some description, for sure. Soon I will have to call her ‘Lady’. She’s just that kind of amazing generator for the community … Someone is bound to nominate her. Hell, I might even do it. (If I can be biffed to get my butt up off this sun-soaked wooden seat, that is).
People like my friend astonish me. Where do they get the energy? I need the day to give me a good shove before I can even get going in the mornings.
‘Every morning I wake as if from the dead’ (I think that may be a line from one of my poems, and if it isn’t, it should be).
People like my friend don’t go daydreaming and wandering and sitting on wooden benches watching the world go by. They are the world. The rest of us sit idly by and watch.
Now isn’t there a poem about that somewhere? Written by someone really famous?
Meanwhile … I am mentally revving myself up to make a massive tackle on my novel’s m.s. Feet are skidding a bit in the mud though. I’m needing a bucket of sand for traction.
I have been planning a write-away . A writing getaway. Somewhere quiet in a secret location. Free of charge. But I think that thought just took off with the pig I saw fly past.
Still Coming Up Roses
I cannot believe it!!! (And yes, it does qualify for three exclamation marks).
little mousie brown at the foot of the Peter Pan statue at Dunedin Gardens, his ears shiny from people rubbing them
The latest photos which I put up to replace the first lot that went missing, were also gobbled up by some mysterious interweb quirk …
However, I think I may have worked out that the url for the page was from an old blog and somehow when I updated in a different sequence, the whole thing went wooshing off the cliff … very weird.
Hopefully I’ve solved it by starting up a whole new page that is not connected to any old url.
Look at me getting all techy!
even though this summer has apparently been New Zealand’s second worst on record (I wonder when the worst summer was?) the roses still all bloomed, so it can’t have been all that bad
Squeezing writing time in between catching up with friends and gym and normal life is not cutting it for the my m.s. corrections, so I’m eyeing up somewhere to go for some dedicated writing time, and ordering my calendar accordingly.