Friday, September 30, 2011

Celebration planting

Just after I had the plaster cut off my arm, I walked down the street past a plant shop. This bright splash of colour - a polyanthus - caught my eye, and I thought, I must have that to celebrate!

Then I saw the brick-red pansy with its large cheerful face, and took that as well.
I made room in the big planter pot on my deck, and discovered as I was digging that the last of the hyacinths is now starting to bloom.
And so they are all clustered together, with the little viola I planted some time ago in the middle. This is my celebration pot, expressing my joy at being two-handed once more. I can now do all those little tasks like fastening a necklace, washing my hair, reading a newspaper without using a table, and best of all, when the little one comes round, I can clap my hands and do pat-a-cake with her.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

From the tree tops

The holiday park where we stayed in KeriKeri is surrounded by a mix of native bush and Australian gums.
The gums are mature, and magnificent. Their bark has peeled long ago and the trunks are smooth and white, like new skin.
In the morning, as we were eating our breakfast outside in the sun, we heard the call of the shining cuckoo, coming from high in the tree tops.
This cuckoo, the pipiwharauroa (meaning 'the long journey' in Maori), is the traditional messenger of spring, telling everyone to start planting. It migrates to the western edge of the Pacific in winter and when it returns its high pitched song brings the return of life and growth.

My arm felt rather like those gum trees over the last 6 weeks, encased as it was in its stiff bark. But two days ago it was set free. I was surprised to discover how tender and sore my wrist was after the plaster had been sawn off. It feels like a new leaf, still soft and without much movement, folded back on itself.
Even so, I feel I've been set free, and when I heard the shining cuckoo yesterday, back here in the city, a thrill raced through me at the sound of its happy song.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Those small touches

Our family travelled north to KeriKeri over the weekend, to visit our ailing 95 year old elder. She always loved her garden, but since being in a Rest Home has no plants to tend. We stayed in a 'tourist flat' where the new owners are tending their huge property with great love and attention. They've planted little explosions of spring colour amongst the trees. Here is the bird of paradise, which little Mira (3) calls the 'tui flower', noting that it was probably very sharp to touch (it was).
Here's a fresh basket of alyssum, tucked into a corner on the deck.
A pot of lobelia on a table. . .
And primroses, spaced out along the drive.
Our little one loved the place, with its 'stepping stones' (a new word), and the punga edges, which are perfect for a small one to borrow some extra height from. She didn't know the word for 'I'm taller than you', when she hopped up on the bench beside the deck, so she said, 'I'm older'.
Not really!
Here we were as a family, with ages ranging from 3 to 95, enjoying being together. Our elder has a collection of little ceramic and fabric frogs of all shapes and sizes. She even used to have big ones (wooden) that lived in her garden. With the frogs to share, she related beautifully to her little great-great-granddaughter.
Out hosts at the holiday park were friendly, the Rest Home was just across the road, and all those little touches of spring colour in the environment made it a welcoming place to stay.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Jade plant in spring

Here we are, between blossoming and leafing. As I wait for the leaves to appear on the trees all around me, my attention is drawn to the jade plant on my balcony. Its leaves are brightening, and the new growth is bright yellow, with red tips.
I think of butterfly wings opening. . .
or a fresh young face, cheerful and innocent  -  open to life and the new season.
Anything simple always interests me—David Hockney

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Seeds sprouting

Sometimes I forget that I've carefully planted some seeds - that is, until they brightly sprout. This morning I received this magazine in the post - the spring issue of Organic NZ.
And inside was this article that I sent them many months earlier. It's an excerpt from my latest book, 'Dancing with the Seasons', and includes photos taken at the bach last spring. You may have already seen some of them on my blog.
I've been feeling a bit jaded lately, what with this heavy cast on my left arm, not being able to drive or get out to the bach, and a touch of end-of-season flu. But seeing the sprouting of these seeds reminded me that when hard work has been put in, it does result in sprouting, greening and new life. And in turn, that cheers me up and brightens my day.
PS It's a great magazine. Here's the link if you want to check it out:;jsessionid=434CCA0C0D934BD84B4017B5CD303575.ns101-e01?prnt=cat1960018&productId=500609940&categoryId=cat1960078

Friday, September 16, 2011

My friendly neighbourhood

I live in a friendly neighbourhood. If someone has a surplus, they share it with others. My breakfast grapefruit is from a box- full that a neighbour up the road puts outside his house each year.
Other people create gardens on the street. Here's one, planted with new spring plants, brightening up the walk on the steepest part of the hill.
I give thanks to the unknown neighbours each time I pass by, on my way to the bus stop.
And, if I had a dog, I would have helped myself to these biscuits which were kindly offered outside someone else's gate. I love the sign:
'Free to all deserving canines!! Help yourself to a handful. There is nothing wrong with them - they just didn't suit our Toby's delicate constitution!'
I don't know these neighbours, but I'm glad to live amongst them.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Evening magic

The sunsets last week were glorious. One night I saw the glow of evening making beautiful patterns on the agave plants. I had to be quick, but I managed to catch the magic before it faded.

Sometimes we just need a piece of magic to remind us of the wonder of being alive.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A mythic spectacular

Just before the fireworks began downtown on Friday night, the spectacular Opening Ceremony of the Rugby World Cup took place at Eden Park.
I've just watched it for the second time, on TV on demand. I feel so proud of NZ for putting on such a fabulous piece of theatre, full of mythic archetypes, beauty, movement and power. TVNZ has the video available for 5 more days - so do take a look (don't be put off by the adverts - they don't last long)
The photo is of water on the wild west coast - one that captures some of the feeling of the Opening Ceremony (since I can't access an actual image)

Saturday, September 10, 2011


To my surprise and delight, I had a glimpse of the fireworks last night from my balcony. Sometimes, it was just a flash on the periphery.
Others flared up beautifully, and lingered in the sky long enough to photograph.
And then there were the moments when I received the full display - like spring flowers exploding in the sky, releasing their glory, hope and beauty.
The whole city was celebrating last night. After so many tough times, it's glorious to let fly and be joyful.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Waka sailing in

It's been a beautiful day in Auckland today and the big party to open the Rugby World Cup began on the waterfront at 4 pm. Bunting is hanging everywhere along the streets. This man was hanging out his flags, and feeling proud of the display. He waved when I took a photo.
Now I'm not a  rugby fan, but I do love a big cultural celebration. In the afternoon people were pouring down the streets towards the waterfront: whole families, with everyone dressed in black and silver to support the All Blacks. I didn't feel like tackling the crush, but wanted to get a glimpse of the waka (canoes) coming in to the Viaduct Basin. By walking along to the outer edge of Westhaven marina, I hoped to see something - but this was the best I could do: just a view of all the boats that were sailing out to get a good look - and a helicopter filming from high overhead.
But I got a photo by pointing my camera at the TV once I got home. 600 Maori paddlers have been practising all year for this event. It takes muscle and co-ordination to paddle one of these big canoes. The paddlers did a great job, with their paddles flashing white and brown, depending on which paddle side they displayed.
Once they climbed on to land, they did a magnificent haka. People are still partying down there; the venue is tightly packed and many have been turned away. When nightfall comes, there will be fireworks.
Rugby fan or not, I feel proud to see my country put on such a fantastic celebration.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gift of fragrance

On my doorstep yesterday, I discovered a gift from a dear friend. She was thinking of our family, and the funeral that took place yesterday for my granddaughter's boyfriend of 3 years, and she wanted me to have a fragrant plant that she knows I love: daphne.
Not only is the fragrance of daphne sweet and strong, but it lingers and spreads. Now my balcony 'garden' is being renewed: as the tulips pass their best, the daphne sits between them.
Fragrance carries the energy of love so directly. It's amazing how comforting this sweet smell is, on a day when life seems terribly sad.
Your joy is your sorrow
And the selfsame well
from which your laughter
rises was oftentimes filled with tears.
Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In the Green Lane

Walking around Greenlane hospital this morning, I wondered what signs of regeneration there were to lift the spirits of sick and injured people. The trees are still bare, although the one on the left is showing a brightening of the twigs, which are turning yellow.
But leaves are slower to sprout than flowers. Most of the trees are still in winter, while the flowers are dancing in the spring sunshine.
Magnolias are spreading their heavenly perfume around the streets and hospital grounds.
And I saw my first bee, working the koromiko flowers very happily.
The inevitable flowering of this season eases my aching heart and weary arm. Even the bare trees, that seem arrested in winter's dormancy, will also respond to the rising sap and put out their leaves, all in due course.
Every spring is the only spring - a perpetual astonishment.  ~Ellis Peters

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Alongside the beauty and fragrance of spring, comes shock and grief.
My granddaughter's boyfriend of three years died last night from an accident. He was only 17.
Sometimes the flowering of youth is blasted by tragedy.
Nature is flowering.
I am grieving.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Spring flowering

Flowers were blooming all along the way as I took my morning walk.
A plethora of flowers.
Do not linger
to gather flowers
to keep them, but walk on,
for flowers will
keep themselves

all your way.
—Rabindranath Tagore