Friday, December 30, 2011

Being on tank water

Being on tank water means you don't mind when the rain sweeps across the country, saturating everything in sight,
and even though it's summer holidays when most people are looking for the sun, you just laugh because you can hear the water gurgling into the tank, and the sound is music to your ears,
 because it's just a small tank, and with up to six people here over Christmas, the water level was going down pretty fast, and you were starting to save slops for the garden and restrict your showers,
 but now as constant rain drenches the hills and sweeps up the valley, it's time for delicious rain-water showers once more, which soften the skin and hair,
and to rejoice in the greenness all around as the trees drink happily,
 the carrots stand up straight again,
and the newly planted capsicums are looking lively, knowing that although they were planted rather late, they have waxing moon energy on their side as well as rain-saturated soil,
and you know the rhythm of being close to nature, taking nothing for granted, and giving thanks for the generous gift from the skies. When you are on tank water.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The empress comes to visit

 It's silent here at the bach. No longer is little Mira's bright voice to be heard, saying 'I want to look it', or 'Why, Granny?', or 'I like it.' But in the silence, the empress—known to Maori as kereru (wood pigeon)—has come to visit.
 She's as large as a small hen, and yet she perches in the kawakawa tree with such grace, lifting her head between mouthfuls,
then twisting and turning to find the best way to swoop down on more kawakawa berries.
They look like little candles - 'on a christmas tree' - said Mira, when we were walking beside them yesterday.
The empress finds some interesting angles, using her large wings or tail to help her balance. In the silence here, I was able to approach quite close. After a good feed, she flew away, but as soon as I started writing about her, I heard a whoosh of wings, and here she is back again.

I can see her through the window. She feeds so patiently. It's a lot of work and balancing for each little seed head, but for the empress, feeding is unhurried.
She reminds me to slow down, maintain balance, and take my time. Thank you empress, for your gracious presence.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The flax Christmas tree

Here at the bach, life is simple. There are no shops close by, and we use what is close at hand.

Mira requested a flax Christmas tree. So, armed with 3 books on flax weaving, I came out the the bach to see what I could create before the family arrived.

The black metal chimney looked like a tree trunk, so I started weaving a series of 'streamers') well they are called 'headbands in the book, but this was about improvising), and then I found a way of hanging them and joining them together.

 Ferns made a bright green base
 And then Mira arrived and we added angels and bird and other decorations from the Christmas bag,
And the gold star and baskets at the base, and then I learned to weave a basket to leave out for Santa to fill.
We are having a happy Christmas morning, here at the bach. The sun is shining, the tuis are singing, and we are together. Happy Christmas to you all, wherever you are.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Solstice Solitude

It's summer solstice, and I am having my favourite kind of summer solstice day. I have been quietly wandering the stream and beach, picking up fern fronds, pohutukawa blossoms, and dandelions, and finding a place to make an image for the solstice. This is an old practice of mine, and this year I am blessed with a day of solitude before visitors arrive.
The birds have been singing to me as I wander and gather — grey warblers, tuis, welcome swallows, and a kingfisher.
I've watched bees swarming around the pohukukawa trees, creating buzzing halos. I was so happy to see them, because bees are becoming scarcer these days. I fantasised about the pohutukawa honey that might soon appear on the local stalls. I tried to photograph the bees, but they dived so fast into the blossoms, burying themselves in those crimson tendrils, that I had trouble catching them.
If you look carefully, you might spot an ecstatic bee in the very centre of the picture, rolling around in the flower.
Here's the second sun I made on the sand - you'll see that the background is black because here on the west coast the beaches are made of ironsand.
Wherever you are, in northern or southern hemisphere, I wish you gladness at solstice, and a moment to pause and enjoy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Te Henga magic

I packed, I shopped, I did dozens of tasks, I drove through dense traffic, and finally I arrived at the bach.
Once here, I cleaned, unpacked, cooked, and finally came to a standstill - or rather a sitstill - when I looked out the window and caught a quality of light that makes the casements of my heart fly open.
I slowed down
Birds twittered in the trees
and I became still
and awestruck at the beauty of nature, doing her simple evening thing that she has done for generations.
How could I have forgotten?
How could I have stayed away so long?
I felt as if I had entered a holy presence, here on the eve of the solstice.
May you too be granted a still moment to take in the wonder of nature, whether you are in the wintery northern hemisphere or here in the southern hemisphere summer.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pohutukawas in the city

The city is ablaze with the flowering of our traditional Christmas tree, the pohutukawa.
The roadside verges are full of young trees, in the flush of their first flowering.
Others have grown tall and skinny,
reaching to the sky with their bright offerings,
And some are small and straggly. The main thing is, they are everywhere! and people are still planting them. Some of the huge trees are magnificent, but it wasn't safe to stop and photograph them as I drove around the city today.

Red is such a positive, life-affirming colour. Even though the weather has been rather grey and rainy, our brightly flowering Christmas trees bring good cheer to the city.

Monday, December 19, 2011

And sometimes summer looks like summer

The rain has cleared and the sun is peeping out behind the clouds. From my balcony I look out to the pohutukawa, ablaze with blossom.
The flame tree that stands just to the left, is now covered in green leaves. All winter it flared with scarlet flowers, but in summer the fire retreats and the pohutukawa picks up the theme. This photo was taken 3 weeks ago, and if you click on it you'll see the tui that perched in the uppermost branches, where it sang insistently, all day long. It was probably waiting patiently for the pohutukawa to blossom, for now it is feasting happily on the sweet nectar.
The scallop shell was a present from my granddaughter, the little yellow flowers from my meditation centre, and the pohutukawa 'petals' also gifted from a friend. Together, they make a little icon to encourage the sun to shine, and to stay awhile.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sometimes summer looks like autumn

I picked up red pohutukawa leaves from the beach, sprinkled some jade plant leaves around, and placed a little yellow flower in the centre. Then I realised how autumnal it looked. But the casualness is about summer, and the warmth was certainly there on that day, even though it's danced back into the corners again.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Peony opening

I can't resist photographing the peonies as they open. The buds are so fat and mysterious. This is one of the three I was given, that hasn't yet opened.
This is the other one, unfolding her skirts
and the next day, puffing them out
and here's that tight bud above, several days later, just hanging loose,
and the third one, starting to open.
I wondered if any poets have ever sung in praise of the peony, and voila! I found this exquisite haiku from Basho, the Zen poet of the 17th century. Across time and culture, he captures the wonder of the peony perfectly:

The bee emerging
from deep within the peony
departs reluctantly

Monday, December 12, 2011

Moon, melia and mulberries

Fullness is gathering, as summer solstice approaches. Three signs of abundance presented themselves to me today: the swelling moon, the melia trees which frame it, and are now in full leaf,
and mulberries, a gift from my friends' garden. I've sung 'Here we go round the mulberry bush' so many times, but had never seen one till now. These sweet berries were left over after the wax eyes and blackbirds had eaten their fill.
Last night when the moon was full, there was a total eclipse, visible from Auckland at 3.32 am - well supposedly, but the sky was thick with cloud.

Nursery rhymes are full of 'rounds'; not just the mulberry bush but also others such as:
Sally go round the sun
Sally go round the moon
Sally go round the chimney pots
On a Sunday afternoon

And so, as I eat mulberries one by one, I reflect on the cycles of life: moon waxing and waning, shining and eclipsing; the melia that was bare through winter, then flowering, and now leafy and full, and the berries that have appeared so quickly in my friend's fertile garden; the little child that I once was, listening to nursery rhymes, and the grandmother that I now am, passing them on as I sing them in turn.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Why does seaweed smell?

Can you remember the total absorption of playing at the edge of the sea? Today was our first day at the local beach. I played with leaves, making an image to use on my new solstice card, and the little one discovered a new game: collecting seaweed. There were several different kinds: kelp, a long straggly black one, green clusters, a little sea lettuce, and neptune's necklace (bladder wort). She collected them all.
She's so proud of growing up, and being able to do things she couldn't do last year:
'I'm bigger now, and soon my head will bump the sky, and then the sky will be broken.'
Everything is fresh with a little one: the ideas, the play, and the conversation. After filling the big bucket with seaweed, she wanted to take it home.
'OK. I'll find a plastic bag, and daddy can wash it and put it on the garden.'
'But I want to take these ones (2 special kinds) into my room.'
'That's not a good idea because it will smell.'
'Because that's what seaweed does, especially when it gets old.'
All ideas for definitive answers will be gratefully received!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gifts came my way

It's been a day of receiving - from appreciative people whom I've helped in various ways during the year. Today they brought gifts. This one has never crossed my threshold before, and I wasn't sure what it was. It's a peony, just peeping out of its tight folds, and preparing to open.
I was gifted three of them, in this beautiful bouquet.
Then someone brought me the first pohutukawa blossom, which I added to an arrangement I was making on a white plate. The fine 'petals' were already shedding themselves over my table, as they do, and I rather liked the way they showed up on the white.
I was also gifted these little hand-made flax creations: a fish, on the left, and a flower on the right. It is so tightly enfolded, that it reminds me of the peony.
The thoughtfulness of others is such a pleasure to receive. Now I'm starting to make my own Xmas/Solstice cards, ready to send to the special people whom I want to appreciate. Giving and receiving: it flows on like a river, all part of the joy and openness of summer.