Monday, June 28, 2010

Red in the rain

The rain has been pouring down steadily and the air has turned grey and fuzzy. But when I look out of my window I see red hot pokers standing up brightly against the dark green bushes beyond. How defiant they are! And the flame tree too, flaring above them. Who thought to plant such fiery colours in this place, I wonder?
Chinese know that the colour red brings good luck and prosperity. Why? I imagine because it lights up the heart and energises the body. Seeing red in the rain brightened my mood and encouraged me to take my [red] umbrella and go for a walk. I returned refreshed and ready to tackle a list of tasks once more.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Finding holly

It took most of a month to locate holly for Winter Solstice celebrations, including the Solstice retreat I'm leading on Saturday. Auckland doesn't have much, and I couldn't find any in berry. I'm pondering on the drama of the holly tree, and how it stood out in the woodlands of Britain once all the other trees had lost their leaves. Its foliage is such a dark, emphatic green.
'Deck the halls with boughs of holly' - yes they brought it inside as a sign of hope and greening in the bleakness of winter. But it's vicious to handle. Did they wear gloves in medieval times, or were their hands just tough? (unlike mine: ouch!)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Winter love

Kawakawa leaves freshen up in winter, relieved of carrying those pesky insects that perforate them all over. Kawakawa, although associated with death for Maori, always reminds me of love because of the heart-shaped leaves and healing properties.
As I went up and down the supermarket aisles yesterday, I was followed by the sound of a tiny baby crying. There she was, in a pod perched on top of her mother's trolley, no longer reassured by her mother's voice. By the time I reached the bread shelves, the little cry had become louder and more shrill. I could hear it right down the aisle.
My shopping was done, and I was able to make for the checkout. But I paused. The sound had become slightly irritating and I was tempted to move quickly out of range. But in winter I slow down, and pay attention to things. I walked down the long aisle to where the mother and her red-faced,wailing little one were waiting at the meat counter.
'Is there any way I can help?' I asked. 'I'm used to crying babies. I have a little granddaughter.'
'She's hungry,' said the mother, 'and I'm trying to finish the shopping as quickly as I can'. 'Well, that's one thing I can't help with. But would you like me to hold her?' And this lovely trusting mother took her precious little six-week old out of the pod and handed her to me. All the baby needed was reassurance, and her cries ceased immediately. I held and rocked her while the mother attended to purchases over the counter. Then the mother took her baby, and held her close while she carried on.
What a gift, to be allowed to help. I received as much as I gave, and went away feeling tender, moved by the flow of trust and love. Maybe winter love has its own quality: soft, gentle, taking its time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Getting close to bumble bees

My jade plant is flowering, putting forth a dome of pink stars.  Bumble bees love it. I'm feeling close to bumble bees since hearing about the short-haired bumble bee which is now extinct in the United Kingdom. This subspecies was brought to New Zealand in a box of mixed bees 100 years ago and still survives in the McKenzie Country of the South Island.

Scientists thought they would breed some to send back to England, but alas, the bees all died in hibernation. What happened?
It seems that at the end of autumn,  the bees usually die off, all except for some queens that have mated and find a safe nest for wintering over. The scientists bred some new queens, and tried to simulate the wintering process. However, because the bees were needed in the UK at a particular time, to match the northern hemisphere seasons, the scientists sped up the process. They put the bees through an accelerated autumn (by cooling down the temperature surrounding the nest) so the bees could begin hibernation in time for their great O.E. [for non-Kiwis, this stands for Overseas Experience]
It didn't work. Bees, like humans, have their own sense of timing it seems.

The original bees travelled here by ship, nestling down in their box in deep slumber while the months ticked by. Maybe that's how they want to go home, after 100 years in a new land. I hope they make it, because they're needed there. I'm told that certain plants are best pollinated by these fat, furry bumbles.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Little suns

I'm enjoying the fragrance of lemon trees drifting up to my balcony; and the sight of their fresh yellow fruit. My friend's mandarin tree is hanging out its little lanterns, and I'm remembering the orange tree from a previous garden, and how brightly the oranges stood out against the dark foliage.
In winter, as the days grow stormy and grey, we need to find ways of storing the sun's warmth. Each time I look at the lemons or mandarins it's as if I'm transferring a little sun inside me. I can eat them too, and so the metaphor becomes a reality.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

More about ants

Well, I've learned that the bach ants are quite different from the town ants, which are definitely Argentine ants, judging by their behaviour and what I've been learning from the Pest Man. I discovered the difference when I found my muffin in the morning, and it was not the same as the muffin it had been the night before.

It had been a raisin muffin; but in the morning it was a raisin and ant muffin (at least what was left of it). An enthusiastic ant trail, of much smaller ants, ran along the walls, across the table and into the feast. But now I knew what bait they would take: not the protein one that I'd tried before, but the liquid sweet bait. Sure enough, within minutes they had transferred allegiance from my breakfast to the new elixir (but not elixir of life; sorry ants).

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Winter warmth

Collecting wood, lighting the fire, and snuggling up on the sofa. The walls warm up and the bach begins to glow. Good music on the stereo, an absorbing book, and I am content. No matter that the rain falls relentlessly outside and winter is turning more chilly.
Every season has its compensations, and the crackling of a wood fire is one of them. I also welcome the opportunity to become still and reflective. Delicious.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Talking about the Seasons

Ruth Todd is a marvellous interviewer, who reads the book, digests it, and then asks excellent questions. I loved talking about the seasons with her recently on Plains FM when she interviewed me about Dancing with the Seasons. Check it out:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Flame tree defying winter cold

From my window I see a flame tree flaring against the backdrop of the sea. The tuis gurgle and creak amidst the branches. In winter we need to find ways of keeping the inner fire alive. Nature offers inspiration in unexpected ways. There is always something to delight in and be thankful for. Gratitude keeps the heart warm, even on the coldest of days.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kowhai flowering In May

The little kowhai tree that I've been nurturing along over the last 17 years, is very happy about all the attention. Here it is, flowering in May! What will happen when the cold nights nip those tender yellow flowers? I'm feeling protective.