Friday, December 31, 2010

Full tank!

Here at the bach we depend on rainwater from a very small tank. With the family here, it goes down fast (even though there is no flush toilet; we have a 'long drop' in the bush). When the level went down to half it was time to ration showers and keep all spare water from the kitchen, ready for the garden.

But the good thing about this summer is the frequent days of rain. The rain makes the garden happy, and the sound of the water tinkling into the tank is music to my ears.

This picture is of the water tank smiling because it's full. We are free to take showers again and for now the garden is satiated.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sand star

I've been playing some more with pohutukawa leaves. It took me a couple of days to arrive at this image. Besides finding the odd red leaf amongst the ample green, I also discovered a few yellow ones. The light green leaves in the centre are the new growth, and the darker green ones around the outside are from previous years.

I try and tune into the materials I'm working with, to see how they would like to be arranged. These leaves definitely wanted to point their way outward. I like their brilliance against the wet black iron sand, and was pleased with the finishing touch of the silver fern leaves, which continue the outward movement of the star.

Riding the surf

Everything's fresh today after the storm, including the surf. It was a bit choppy and not very big, but my new board is nice and fast. I got tossed off once, but also had a long ride that was fast enough to thrill.

Meanwhile, on the beach the wind was cool and the cloud formations in the sky tell of the weather change to come tomorrow.

This is how it is at present; one fine day followed by rain and wind. I'm watching the garden grow apace and observing how the beans, courgettes and tomatoes love the alternating hot sun and refreshing rain. The beans, that were just creamy flowers a week ago, are growing thicker and longer every day, and will soon be ready to pick. Baby courgettes are peeping out under huge leaves and little green tomatoes are sheltering close to the main stems. Falling into nature's rhythms is all part of letting go and releasing the patterns of the year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stillness before the storm

We walked through the wetland to the beach this morning, coming at it from a different angle. A storm was forecast, with heavy rain and high winds, but when we set out it was still cloudy and dry.
There by the cliff wall I spotted a blue heron. It stood motionless, then bent down to catch a little fish. Then it stalked a few steps with great dignity.

The wind turned, the rain began to pelt us, and we ran for cover. Meanwhile the heron stayed calm and still, unperturbed.

I think of how Dylan Thomas compared the herons to priests in the poem he wrote for his [30th?] birthday:
'Herons spire and spear'. I think of how the heron points the way, reminding me to maintain a still centre even in the midst of storms.

Monday, December 27, 2010


When the day turns humid, and the saturated air alternates between pricklings on the skin and actual rain, and I feel sluggish from the late afternoon heat, there's only one solution: to walk through the rain towards the surf.
The waves were bouncing and tingly, and once in I bounced and pranced through the bubbling water. Yipee! Instant energy and refreshment. I returned feeling perky once more, vowing to bring my board next time so I could ride the waves like the people in this photo.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kiwi Christmas Tree

At the bach, space is limited and we are surrounded in native trees. What would be a good Kiwi Christmas tree? I wondered. Down the drive I found some manuka saplings that needed to be removed. After cutting a couple, I bedded them into a small bucket of earth.
Then, out from the loft I pulled out the Christmas decorations that have been used for many years. My granddaughter Sophie (now 16), always used to visit to decorate the tree before Christmas. Mira is only 2 1/2. Could she manage it? First she watched me loop a few of the little angels over the branches of the manuka. Then it was 'me do it' — one of her favourite phrases. And she could do it - beautifully. She observed so exactly and handled each ornament with great finesse.
Manuka is a 'nurse plant'; that is, where the bush has been cut or burned, little manuka seedlings pop up everywhere and grow rapidly, protecting the slower growing forest trees. After 20 - 30 years they graciously die away, allowing the big trees to take over. I felt like a nurse plant myself, a granny protecting the younger generation, knowing that eventually I will topple and make way for them to take over. 

And so we had our Kiwi Christmas tree.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Summer energy

I made this image the day before summer solstice. It expresses the rising energy of the full moon and peak sun. I think of the fish rising also, and swimming rapidly through the sea.
Among the red, yellow and green pohutukawa leaves I've tucked the occasional flax flower. The pohutukawas are slow to bloom on the west coast this year, and their colour is very dark (unlike the scarlet blossoms of the city); but the flax has been flowering profusely since November. The tuis are flocking around to enjoy the sweet nectar, then perch high and sing their hearts out.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Heart season

Summer, the season of the heart, is unfolding gently. I love the feeling of falling into holiday rhythm, being with family, sharing the cooking, swimming and walking.
Pohutukawa leaves are mostly dark green, apart from the new growth which is very light. But amongst the green are occasional red leaves, very bright. I've been picking them and playing with them.
This is the radiant heart image I made. With it I send my love to all, wherever you are, at Christmas.

Summer Solstice magic

In the early evening yesterday, family groups appeared out of nowhere and began walking towards the cave at the south end of the beach. My son Daniel, granddaughter Mira 2 1/2) and I joined them, walking for 30 minutes in the mist towards a cave that felt more like a mirage than something real. 'Cave' we said to Mira, but she had no concept of what that might mean.
At the cave entrance, many people were gathered. Just inside, a spiral trench had been carved out of the damp black sand, and in it we placed tea light candles. The Sing for Joy choir set up against the cave wall, and soon were in full voice, with rhythmic songs alternated with Christmas carols that we sang from the song sheets they'd given out.
It felt like a little dip into winter solstice, being in a large dark cave and singing carols, but also as we came out to a warm sea and glowing sunset, the fullness of summer. Little children, including Mira, cavorted in the waves, squealing with delight. We walked back along the beach, full of song, and slept soundly through the shortest night of the year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A wet, wet world

The rain continues to fall and the ground is now saturated, the stream swollen and the garden plants satiated with the very thing they craved only a week ago. Just after I took this picture of the field below the bach, a gaggle of geese waddled over to swim in the huge puddle.
I walked in the rain today, and took many photos, which I can't post because the dial-up connection is too slow. So I'll have to do word snapshots: flax, whose red tongues took on an intense hue against the dark hill; the rushing stream with its corrugations of white waves that appeared when the water backed up; patterns traced on the sand by rain and seeds; and rows of water droplets, like strings of pearls, hanging from black kanuka branches.
Sometimes the rain eases off (it would be going too far to say 'stops'). I notice that the birds know it's about to happen, because that's when they start singing. Then as the rain withdraws its force, the air is punctured by rapid flights, like the shooting of spears, as the birds suddenly fly directly to the places they've been waiting to reach. I'm reminded of travellers, who've been held up at airports for days, and are at last released to travel once more. Here, enjoying solitude at the beginning of my holiday, I'm not in a hurry to go anywhere. I think of all the Christmas travellers, offer prayers for their safety, and rest in the contentment of being free to sit and observe the many moods of nature.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In praise of newness

The bach has a new roof, completed today. Here it is, a light grey colour-steel; coastal grade to resist the salty sea air. The ceiling space is now clean and packed with 'green' batts to insulate. Every corner has been nailed down to keep it pest free in the future.

I know it won't stay pristine forever, but for now I'm enjoying the newness. The bush too, is fresh and revived with the rain that keeps returning. The leaves are turning happy faces up to the sky. The runner beans are waving tendrils in the air, calling out for higher poles to climb on. Clean water is running into the water tank. What a good way to celebrate the end of the working year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A fine moment

It's been raining for three days. But when I arrived at the bach, the rain rolled back into the clouds. I spread a table cloth over the table on the deck, added a vase of dandelions and some other little yellow flowers, and sat outside to eat a delicious evening meal: courgette and carrot bake, steamed fresh beans, locally grown broccoli, and lettuce from my garden, garnished with red capsicum and tomato slices. The dressing was tangy: olive oil and lemon, and it sang on my palate like a young soprano.
Through the heavy humid air, the piercing of bird song, with little spear-like notes surrounded me. As I sat, the words began to flow once more. They'd been sent into hiding with all the end-of-year business and organising, leaving little space for this blog.
Now the rain has resumed, and the garden plants are sighing with thankfulness.
My holiday has begun.

PS Out here I'm on slow time. My computer is on dial-up and it took 46 minutes to download this photo. So posting on the blog will take patience. I really appreciate your comments; if you haven't done this before it's quite easy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

West coast flowering

I've just had a weekend at the wild west coast, where the weather changed from howling wind to soft rain and then intense heat. The kanuka trees were shaking their heads in the wind, as the wind wound around the high-up bach where eight women gathered to celebrate 25 years of seasonal rituals together.
It seemed that all the blossom would shake away, but it held. And down in the valley below, a pohutukawa was flowering in the warm shelter of the river flat.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Welcome summer

It happened so quickly. Suddenly the cool weather was over and I was peeling layers off my bed and stowing away my winter clothes. With the sun's return, I feel surrounded with benevolence. This is a gentle time, with the sun not too fierce, just warm and easy.
Here is my homage to early summer; a sun circle made from the leaves of the jade plants on my balcony. I enjoy the way that some leaves take on a red hue, while others are quite green, depending on how much sun and rain they receive. Other leaves are marked like butterfly wings or little gems.
I had fun selecting leaves and finding the best way to arrange them. This image took two days of attempts before I was satisfied. I've made it into a summer solstice card and am sending it out to friends. Here I offer it for all to enjoy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


The first pohutukawa started flowering around the city a couple of weeks ago. Along the coast, they are a little slower, and out on the west coast, are still forming buds.
My heart sings when I gaze into these blossoms. They are so generous, such a happy, soft spiky presence! And each stamen is dotted with bright yellow pollen, just waiting for the bees to come and dust themselves as they gather the nectar.
If I were a bee, I'd spend all afternoon rolling around in these welcoming flowers.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The leafiness of trees

Do trees take a rest after all that hard work of spring: putting out buds, pushing them into leaves, then more leaves, pushing out through that winter-hard bark, and finally producing a full canopy? Do they breath a big sigh and settle into receiving full-on energy from the sun, pumping through the veins of every leaf as photosynthesis takes place?
I've just reviewed all the hard work I did this spring. I'd like to think of myself as a leafy tree right now, and rest in the satisfaction of a full canopy.

Why are there trees I never walk under but large and 
melodious thoughts descend upon me?-  Walt Whitman

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Summer beach play

The day began with the morning light making magical patterns on my bedroom wall. The afternoon ended on the beach with Mira. I made a sandcastle while she dug in the sand with a garden trowel I brought along (though later she decided a teaspoon was more fun). As I gathered weed and shells to decorate the sandcastle I was carried back to one I made as a child. I won the prize for the best sandcastle at the Sunday School picnic, and was thrilled. As I watched Mira's intense absorption in digging and gathering I felt there was little difference between us. As soon as I'm playing with sand, I'm a little child once more, lost in time. How strange it is, ageing on the outside yet remaining fresh on the inside.