Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cool Mango Lassi

 When the weather is warm, day after day, and there's no time for a swim because high tide falls in the middle of the day, then the next best thing is to make a cool mango lassi.
First take a ripe mango, and make it smile.
 Then chop pieces into a blender. (naughty, stop eating those pieces! it's all about to taste even better)
Add homemade yoghurt, and sprinkle with cinnamon.
 Add manuka honey, straight from the jar (I don't use sugar at all these days). Blend, and pour.
 Here's the summer sun in a glass, but cool!
To your good health!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A bare-footed walk

 It's going to be a scorcher again. I've headed out to the west coast, and am hoping I've set out early enough to miss the heat of the day. Come with me, take off your shoes, and let's walk the coastal track. It begins through grazed land. The grass is already hot and dry, but here's a bit of shade for us to cool our feet.
All this heat has baked the whau flowers into seed heads that will soon fly away in fluffy puffs.
 We are climbing the hillside now, and already can enjoy a view of the sea.
 We pass more seed heads, this time the cabbage trees whose flowering is over, except for a few plants on the shady side of the hill.
 The path is hot and sometimes stony, but the thing about being bare-foot is that we are in direct contact with the earth. We can feel how dry it is. It's been weeks since the last rainfall.
 Let's pause, because it's hard work climbing the hill in the beating sun. The view of the sea is soothing and we wonder about a swim, but the tide is going out right now and we will have to walk over scorching sand. . . .
 Ah, but look at this, our favourite stretch of the path; the shady tunnel. We've done the hard uphill climb and now the path leads gently downwards. Through the soles of our feet we can feel the coolness, and also the softer earth surface.
And look, we can see the next bay already. That's where we will end up. We will stop under a big pohutukawa tree on the hillside, eat some lunch, drink plenty of water, and cool off in the shade.
Then we will edge down the track, feeling how slippery it is. The earth almost has a patina on it, here on this side, and we have to hold on to flax leaves all the way so that we don't go for a skid.
There at the bottom is a little shady haven where friends have a small cabin. We will stop and chat, have a cool drink, and hope that the sun has relented a little before our return.
Our feet rest on cool grass. They are thankful.
The camera battery ran out, but our feet don't care. They have made friends with the earth once more, just as they did throughout childhood, and they are happy.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Swim, swim, swim . . .

 Afternoon tide all week, and I haven't been able to resist the sea. This little beach is just five minutes walk away, and it's well used. The locals start tripping down the steps as high tide approaches, all ready to go. Some bring something to float on, and others are serious swimmers and come clad in wetsuits and goggles, all ready to strike out.
 Guess who I was with when this little arrangement fell into place? With the little one, and a playdate who came along as well with her mother, we collected treasure from the beach. Who can find a perfect scallop shell? 'What's a scallop shell?' 'What does perfect mean?'
There's so much learning to be had in this place. An almost perfect scallop was found, and we had fun trying to put broken pieces together but none of them came from the same shell.
 On the next day I met my friend, who lives nearby. We like to swim out a bit, then float and turn and talk, prolonging our time in the water. It's amazing how reviving a swim can be. I emerge refreshed, and ready to work again.
And yesterday, with the high tide getting later in the afternoon now, I finished my swim by doing tai chi on the edge of the sea. Plenty of people about, but the movements are so absorbing, and with this to look at as I moved through the sequences, what could be better?
'What's perfect?"
'It means that there is nothing you want to change.'
That's what this week has been.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Two buckets better than one

 The golden summer continues. While clouds drifted through my weekend at the bach, nothing but a fine drizzle eventuated.
 And so, carrying water up the steps to the garden continues. This time, I brought my new bucket, so that I could carry more water with each trip upwards. See, the bucket is smiling.
 And so are the courgettes/zucchinis. They spring to life so fast once I and my buckets have done their work,
and I can almost hear them sighing their thanks.
 With the ground so dry, cutting back weeds just had to be done, and long grass that was dangling all around the garden. So now the garden, with its punga edges, can look pretty again.
 And in the evening, while Mozart concertos play on the old-style record player (yes, at the bach we take a trip back in time), I try out some Celtic design. The Celts took their cues from nature, and here where I feel so close to the land, I am enjoying entering into their world.
And remembering to pause and marvel at the magic of the light. Here it is, catching the nikau palm, while the dark foliage of tall kanuka trees waves overhead.
Tending the earth fosters awareness. I link back to the four years spent living out here, and the many weekends and holidays spent in this place for over forty years. My love for this land keeps deepening, and even after all the years, I see something new that opens my eyes all over again. What blessings.

'It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.' 
(Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chinese New Year

 We've just passed Chinese New Year. In Hong Kong, where my book is being printed, the celebrations last all week and the printing press closes down. I like to imagine that the ink is drying on the printed insides of the books right now.
My Tai Chi teacher, Master Khoo, is very community minded, and brings out the big dragons to prance in procession for Chinese New Year
 He said I could take his photo and post it on my blog. There's lots of balancing needed when doing Tai Chi, and we have to practise moving our weight from one leg to the other before going into a new sequence. I'm still trying to master this kick.
 I feel quite a novice still, but received a big boost when I went for my first class of the year. Master Khoo had my graduation gift all wrapped and ready, to mark my first whole year of Tai Chi. Because I was away at the beach, I missed the big dinner and graduation that he held in December for all his pupils, most of whom have been coming to his classes for many years.
Inside the wrapping was this old man doing 'Wave Hands Like Clouds'.
'Every year you will receive another statue,' said Master Khoo, 'and after ten years you will have the whole set.'
Whew! That's certainly something to aim for. The Chinese are great on longevity, and not the least bit put off by those students who begin in later life. For them, Tai Chi never ends.
The heron, who practises her balancing acts in front of me, when I do my Tai Chi by the sea, would agree. Seeking the still point is an everlasting quest.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


 Water is the main thing on my mind in this dry summer. Will the bach garden be OK! I didn't get out there last weekend and so it's been two weeks since I've been able to carry my buckets-full of water up to the garden.
I was greeted with a surprise: ripening tomatoes announcing their presence with a great scarlet drum roll.
 Oh yes, the locals told me, we had one big downpour last weekend. It came in the night and saturated the ground. It also turned one of my slender courgettes into a big fat on-the-way-to-being-a-marrow.

This fine weather is too good to miss. Everyone is pouring out to the coast. The surf is up, and now that I've ridden a few waves, my board is free
 and the little one is in for a treat. How do you learn that all rivers flow to the sea? Why, by being taken on an adventure, skimming the water upstream until you meet the waves,
and then skimming back again, so fast, against the current.
 It was noticed by a blog visitor that when I showed the iron ball last week, I did not record the splash.
And so here, is a repeat just for you,
 complete with splash!
On the day I left I gathered more produce from the garden. The plants respond instantly to the copious buckets of water that I gave them night and morning, and I was able to gather another harvest of courgettes, beans and tomatoes. More ratatouille tonight - one of my favourite dishes.
Oh the bounty of summer! - but only if there is enough water to support it all.
I came home to a letter from Oxfam about a woman in Bougainville. Her village lacks drinking water for three months of every year. A small donation will help the villagers to set up clean water systems. I'll be sending mine off tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

First Fruits celebration

 First Fruits is a special celebration, for it's about appreciating the first produce of the season. Also known as Lugnasad by the Celts, or Lammas in the Christian tradition, it lies half-way between Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox.
A Maori saying for this season goes: 'Fruits have now set and people eat the first fruits of the year.' For Maori, berries were gathered: matai, hinau, tawa, kawakawa, and karaka (which needed extensive treatment to remove the poisons in these lush berries).
I gathered up the season's plums, peaches, nectarines, blueberries, apricots and cherry tomatoes for our altar, feeling great thankfulness for the mellowness of summer. My own harvest has been brought in and is being processed in Hong Kong, and I can take a pause and enjoy the richness of the season,
  and to bring a little piece of magic into our circle (thanks to Anissa who introduced me to magic flowers; see
First everyone was given a paper flower to colour with crayons. As they coloured, I asked them to contemplate their hopes for the coming year.
 Then we all folded the petals into the centre,
 before dropping them into a platter of warm water and watching the magic
of our hopes before our eyes.
May your hopes also flower, whatever season you are in.
Happy Lammas/Lugnasad/First Fruits!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ironballs & swimming in the cocoon

In the perfect summer weather of the long weekend, the sun was up, melting the hill, while the bach was still sleeping in the shade.
It's always special when the family comes to share the bach with me. The little one says she loves it, because 'I can swim in the stream, or the sea, but my favourite is swimming in the cocoon.'
 And here she is, wearing her sunhat and so immersed that she looks like another little rock. We all know that she means 'lagoon', but no-one wants to correct her, because we love her version so much.
  The other delight about the family coming out, is that the little one's father picks up on his childhood discoveries in this very same place. We came to live here when he was two years old, until he was six, and after that on the weekends.
The iron sand of our west coast beaches has special properties.
Soon he got to know some other local kids, and they taught him the art of making iron balls.
The secret is to alternate wet and dry sand, and build the iron ball up in layers,
until you have an impressive ball to throw into the lake or lagoon with a resounding splash.
Continuity: I love the feeling of holding this place for the coming generations, and knowing that my son's early years spent out here have given him a feel for the land that lives in his bones. I'm swimming in the cocoon.