Thursday, January 31, 2013

Carry water

In the dry heat at the bach, at first I flop.
 But the garden is crying with dryness. Weakened plants attract pests. The tomatoes have a serious thirst.
And so I begin to carry water, bucket after bucket, up the steps and into the garden.
I'm glad I'm not a day or two later. The tomatoes are laden, but none of the fruit has ripened. There's plenty of heat, and well composted soil, but water is needed too.
And the courgettes are parched, bravely putting out their sunshine flowers, in which the bees come to dawdle and roll, but the little courgettes are pathetic. They start with a bang and end with a whimper, in the form of a little yellow soppy snout. Two courgettes did form completely, but are distorted (thin, fat, then thin again) and hard.
Up and down the steps I go, in the cool of the morning and the cool of the evening, carrying bucket after bucket of water. Yes, I know what it is to have lost the well.
I even dare to plant a few oak-leafed lettuces, watering them in well.
The flax watches in its own cool way, for it can thrive on little. The rest of the garden heaves a big sigh of thanks as it drinks deep.
And to my surprise, a small poem forms, popping into my awareness like a baby courgette.
And after only 4 days of this, before I leave, I am able to harvest the vegetables that have perked up and grown as if in a hothouse during my visit, and even the first tomato that has begun to ripen.
It all happened so fast.
Pouring glass
after glass
of shining life
into my body;
knowing that 
is not what I do
while waiting 
for the real
It is
the real

Monday, January 28, 2013


 Finally, having found the last mistakes and given my approval to Hong Kong, the printing press is clicking over, and my pages are being printed.
It's been exhausting, being not only a writer but now a publisher (like so many writers, I'm now going it alone because our publishers can't make it work commercially any more, unless we produce cook books or rugby memoirs).
I flee the city for reprieve, but even the bach is scorching, temperatures nearly up to 30 degrees Celsius (that's 83 Fahrenheit)
I am parched. My wells of creativity have run dry. I haven't even written a blog post for a while.
When I reach inside for something green to offer you, or something blue and bubbling like a waterfall, or sparkly like the surf, I find only a dry tangle.
But a few days at the bach, and something stirs once more. But first I crave the juiciest fruit I can find: fresh pineapple and summer blueberries, cool from the fridge. Aah . . .

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Taking refuge

 As I do another round of proof-reading, this time the 'dye-lines' from Hong Kong (I wrote sky-lines so you can tell where my thoughts are drifting to), my mind is wandering. The dye-lines are a mockup of the whole book, but at a low and slightly fuzzy resolution. I've also got the laminated cover, but it shows a silvery tone on the dark areas. My son spotted a typo on the spine, the one place that I hadn't proof-read. I didn't expect the title to be spelled wrong, but I've discovered that the designer can't spell, so if she has to type in words (rather than import my text) the red lights need to flash.

So my mind is wandering back to Huia, and the cool bush walk I took one day, to the Karamatura Valley.
The sun was blazing down, and I couldn't wait to get into the bush. But I had to pause to read the plaque at the entrance. It told the story of how the Te Kawerau a Maki tribe would go shark fishing in the harbour,
an activity commemorated by this impressive carving, like a guardian, at the entrance to the track.
 This area was extensively felled, and the giant kauri trees transported on a  tramway that was constructed through the bush. Here is the remains of one of the logs. If I was standing in the photo, it would be higher than me.
And all the while, along the track, I could hear the river chuckling as it ran over boulders and stones of all sizes. There is something cooling about the sound of a stony river on a hot day. And soothing. Sometimes when working to reel in my book and bring it to land, I feel like a shark fisher. So it feels good to revisit the bush with you today, as I attend to more detailed tasks, knowing it's the last chance to get it right.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Greening again

Huia lies on the southern side of the Waitakeres. It is named after a bird, which is now extinct.
How to care for this beautiful earth of ours was a subject very much on the minds of the seventy people, including families with young children, who gathered to camp, sleep in bunk rooms, hear some inspiring talks, and share our wisdom.
Susan Murphy, Zen roshi and Australian author, was one of our speakers, having left behind the bush fires that raged a few ridges away from our home.
Birds were everywhere in this green place, flitting amongst the tree tops, or calling out across the spaces between,
 as we sat under the trees to listen to one another
 or walked along the bush tracks nearby
or did yoga in the morning before breakfast.
I gave a ride to a local vet, who works at the zoo and is dedicated to conservation. He put a huge chart on the wall, listing all the birds that could be seen in the vicinity, and making a space for us to record what we saw.
As I walked down to the beach one morning, a kingfisher flew across a clearing, dazzling me with its brilliant blue and green colours. I counted 50 oyster catchers at the edge of the sea, and then stopped counting. Two blue herons swooped lazily across the bay. Black-backed gulls stood staunchly, and unperturbed. Walking back through the bush at night after hearing a talk, I heard a morepork (ruru, the native owl) pick up the theme and speak its own story.
No wonder I ended up thinking I was a bird, when I made my mask for the masked ball.
By living so close to the land, trees and wildlife (including mosquitoes and spiders), and far away from cellphones and internet connections, I had become more deeply immersed in the web of life.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A big sigh

  Summertime, and a big sigh could be heard along the coast; a sigh like the tide going out,
and then lazily swishing in again. . .
That big sigh was me, breathing in relief to know that my book has safely arrived in Hong Kong today, after flying through cyberspace.
My computer man returned and tidied up the bits and pieces that remain.
My friends phoned and said, how about meeting us for a swim.
It's just a hop, step and a jump away - but I'm not jumping (or leaping through hoops) any more. I sauntered along the road, and down the steps, and immersed myself in the refreshing water.
Aaah! Delicious.

On Wednesday I'll be taking off for a little holiday, away from all electronic connections. And when I return, I'll show you where I've been.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Welcoming Esmeralda

 She has arrived, and deserved a special welcome. So I cleared my desk, which was bearing the evidence of much activity, with piles of papers everywhere. I cleaned the desk too, and brought in special objects. Because Esmeralda is going to make life a lot easier for me.
 I think of her second name as I-maculate. She is the new, slim-line version, and she replaces my poor, worn-out lap top that died on the job. This is my seventh book. I began on a typewriter, graduated to an electric typewriter, and then bought my first lap top. In the old days, lap tops were heavy, robust, and lasted forever. The only reason I replaced it was because it had become obsolete.
 Ah - Esmeralda is unveiled, and she's smiling for the camera.
My second to last laptop wound down slowly, and was replaced just a few years ago. That one, and the next had batteries that soon ceased to work and so they had to be plugged in all the time.
How did I ever write so many books on such a tiny screen?
Esmeralda is beautiful, slinky and sexy. My blog photos look vibrant and glazed with a satin finish - and so do yours. When I press a command it happens FAST! (I'd been having a cup of tea between commands with my dear old lap top).
She has arrived just in time to help me see the beautifully designed files on screen, for my new book. She will help me check the dyelines (on line files, print ready) when they arrive from Hong Kong.

I have welcomed her in with flowers and fruit. I've given her a name. And I'm hoping for a long and happy relationship - and soon to be catching up on all your blogs. Thank you for your patience, and see you soon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Making marks

 Making a mark. It's such a basic urge, and when I'm at the beach, I can't resist. The sand is so yummy to carve in, and there are plenty of sharp shells around to make the perfect markers.
 Mira can't resist either. At four and a half, she's discovering the power of inscription. 'These are bird footprints,' she tells me,
 and I muse on how our ancestors made their marks on cave walls with pieces of charcoal or red ochre, marks not so very different from these bird footprints,
 made with such total absorption, in magical inner space.
 The sand yields so easily to a little hand. When the Sumerians invented writing, thousands of years ago, they carved marks just like this.
The afternoon slips by as we play under the tangle of pohutukawa branches. . .
We leave a necklace for a mermaid. She will swim out of the sea at dusk and pick it up, and in the morning it will be gone. As will our marks.