Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Psst! Don't tell a soul. But I caught a whiff of fragrance this morning and found this . . .
and then discovered that the tulips Mira and I planted are doing this . . .  (one for every year of her life; she turns 4 tomorrow)
And the daphne bush is doing this . . .
More fragrance - and I discovered this . . .
And - 'Don't forget the avocado!' said Mira. We've been watching the big seed for weeks now, and I had given up on it. But look, it's cracking open and shooting high.
Could it be - is it possible - that the shell of winter is also cracking open and giving birth to . . . ? (but don't say a word. We are talking about the most fickle season ever) . . .

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Answer to Stark

It's cold but bright. In the afternoon I heard a song that has been absent for months. Yes, the tui has returned, and here it is, eating the golden melia berries. Usually the tuis like nectar best, but I guess in late winter, a bird can't be too choosy.
 A kingfisher waits on a rock, patiently.
And little Miss Mira requests the pretty plate for her mandarin pieces. Here they are, making a splash of brightness on a stark winter's day.
'Why do the dish and the spoon have hands and feet?' she asks, after studying her book of nursery rhymes intently.
Now, how do you answer a question like that?
I tried: 'Because it's in the person's imagination, who did the drawings.'
Ah-ha, she knew just what I meant!
'I have a friend in my imagination - called Pretty.'
There we have it: the secret to surviving those days when winter seems to be dragging its heels like an old tramp. A friend called Pretty is just the thing to cheer us up. Imagination. It will take us far.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Warming up winter

 How to warm up the winter nights. Take one cup of lentils.
 Soak for a few hours
 Add chopped winter vegetables: carrots, pumpkins, parsnips, swedes.
 Stir in the last of the beefsteak tomatoes from the west coast greenhouse. But first gently fry onion, ginger, and spices such as cumin, turmeric, coriander . . . Simmer for about an hour and let your house filled with spicy aromas.

Send out an invitation to neighbours for HOT SOUP TUESDAYS - you are invited to drop by after 6.30 pm and warm yourself with hot soup at the end of your long day.

Make toast, and serve with quark, cheese, tahini . . . Enjoy the company and the conversation. Winter cheer is guaranteed. Every Tuesday.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Little Miss Fun

When little Miss Fun comes to visit, the winter days are brightened.
We have Conversations.
She tells me about her 'friends'. One is called Rabbit, and the other 'Rainy Day'. That's handy. She'll be seeing a lot of that friend at the moment.
We make things. I was given one of her old socks to turn into a doll. In my button box I found some eyes - not matching, but she liked that. And a piece of ribbon that wanted to be cut into a smile. Some string for hair, and the rest of the sock left open so it could be a puppet. Another friend.
We dance, copying elegant ballet moves. 
We draw. This is Miss Blue Flower, with a friendly yellow cat nearby, and numbers and letters.
And we learn new words. We have conversations like this: 'But warm is hot as well.'
What do you do when you know there's a big gap where there should be a word? Why, you find another one to do the job. And so this book, which is another in a series that I've been giving her from time to time, brings about recognition. She has an important thing to say. 'This book is the same big.'
And then, because it's a grandmother's destiny to work out what is being meant even when it doesn't make sense, I suddenly get it: 'Oh yes, you are so right. It's exactly the same size as the other one at home, isn't it?'
And so a new word -'size' is learned.
Little Miss Fun and her friends brighten up the greyest of winter days.

Friday, July 6, 2012

In the quiet of winter

 In the quiet of winter, I notice things that would pass unseen in the colourful, distracting days of summer. I discover textures, and subtle colours, such as this wall. I notice two brave shoots that have pierced the stony ground.
 The colours of a simple brick wall take on their own beauty in the slanting winter light,
 and a seat invites contemplation.
I sit quietly to observe, as a heron stalks the tide line
and finds a tasty morsel buried in the mud.
Many people have flown to the northern hemisphere in search of the sun. Others have gone to the Pacific Islands. It is school holidays, and the city has emptied out its cargo of frantic activity. But I like to stay over winter, entering my cave of contemplation, seeing what usually would pass me by, and discovering treasure in unlikely places. I've settled into my winter rhythm, and am content.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Serious rain

 As I drove home from visiting a ninety-year old in a Rest Home across the other side of town, the heavens opened.
 My windscreen wipers were going at top speed, but still I could hardly see. Some cars stopped.
 It was a relief to get home safely, but soon I was out in the rain again, clearing blocked drains down the driveway.
 As bucket-loads fell from the sky, I remembered how familiar this was in my childhood. I grew up in Taranaki, under a mountain that unleashed abundant rain throughout the year. In winter we would huddle under the bed-clothes, not wanting to get up, while the rain thrummed on the tin roof. In the weekends we could stay there, listening to the children's request session on our little crystal set radios with headphones.
 Today was one of those days when I was tempted to stay in bed, as it was wet and cold outside from the start. But I had a visit to make. When I arrived, the old person was well and truly tucked up in bed. She had had enough of life today. What could I say and do, but hold her hand, and say that I knew how that felt. Some days are like that. If I recognise such a day, I've learned to cross it off and start again the next morning.
 After the storm had passed, the sun came out suddenly, with brilliance. Every rain drop became a jewel,
 glittering exquisitely. The grey skies had lifted, and in their place
was abundant, clear, open blue. Down from the balcony above rivulets of water still flowed. They were silver and shining in the sun, but eluded my attempts to catch them on camera.

Never mind. Today reminded me how the gloomiest of times can pass. Even when clouds block our vision and obscure all hope, the sun is never far away. I was glad I made my visit. Something lit up in both of us as I sat by the bedside of this dear one.