Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kiwi Halloween tonight

 Kiwi Halloween tonight, April 30, the night of the dead. Mira and I prepared the pumpkins. She loved popping out the 'eyes' from the inside, and watching the grin appear.
Here they are, together with my black cloth, feathers, and flax woven bands, all ready to pack up for tonight,
where I'll be on Ponsonby Rd with my helpers, keeping vigil for all those who wish to come and light a candle or pumpkin lantern in memory of their loved ones who have died.
I've shed some tears this afternoon, remembering my dear old teacher, Jim Okeroa, who died last year. I always designate a special area for those who have died since the last Halloween. The names keep accumulating.
The event brings up sadness, and yet comfort as well, to be part of an ancient tradition, remembering those who have passed over.
It's satisfying to mark our own Halloween, in late autumn when the nights are growing longer, pumpkins are ripe and the leaves are falling.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Kumara dig with creature

 The kumara garden lies hidden between the dunes and the hill. Kumaras like a light, sandy soil, and so the location is perfect. For Maori, this area was a favoured food basket, where gardens could be cultivated close to the sea. With kumara and sea food, birds to hunt from the nearby forests and eels to catch in the river, it was a place of great bounty.
 The kumara tops are still green, but the season is advancing, the tide is low all day, and it's time for harvest. Will there be a good crop, after the dry summer we've had? Nobody knows, as the answer is buried under the ground.
My friends hold a communal kumara harvest each year, inviting all their friends to join in the fun. Children are especially welcomed, and so this year we bring 4 year old Mira, hoping her legs are sturdy enough to carry her through the stream, over the sand hills, down the beach, and along the path to the hidden bach.
We made it!
Back in the kumara garden, the first task is to tear the foliage off the crop and throw it on a big pile.
 Then the mounded up rows are exposed. The second task is to dig (hands only) in the earth and carefully uncover the kumara.
 I found one!
and so did this little boy.
This one seems to be wriggling free all by itself.  We were told to put any aside that might qualify for a prize: the biggest, the smallest, the strangest, one that looks like a mouse, etc. . .
What's this? We all gathered around, amazed to see such a colourful and large centipede. The gloved hand removed it carefully and put it in the bushes.
The harvest is in, washed and laid out on the grass to dry. Now it's time for hot soup, barbecued spare ribs and lamb chops, salads, cakes, biscuits . . . some provided, and some brought by the visitors. And time to sit and chat while the children run around on a treasure hunt, looking for tiny chocolate treats hidden in the trees.
Whee! It was a long walk, but with a swing like this hanging from a tall tree, who cares. Life is full of adventure, and at harvest time everyone is in good spirits.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


 Life has been too busy, and so I've been craving simplicity.
It was low tide, just before the rain returned with great enthusiasm, when I had an afternoon at the small local beach. A heron, came by, closer than usual.
Oh, for the stillness of the heron! As I watched, I became quieter inside.
And being with the little one slows me down too. She knows how to stop and watch.
 She is collecting shells with care and discrimination now, giving them all to me. And so I sat on the sand, having a play,
 arranging them and as I did so, studying the amazing colour range among them.
A tree is irresistible for this little monkey.
A late Monarch flitters by, and I find that the shell arrangement turns into butterflies too.
Gradually, life is taking on another rhythm, with time to play once more, and enjoy moments of simplicity. (sigh)

Monday, April 15, 2013


The mellowness of autumn is here. As I watch the evening light falling on the flame tree, making the trunk glow like the coals in a warm fire, I reflect on my own harvest.
Yes, carton after carton arrived after being unloaded from the Cap Manuel, that sailed from Hong Kong last month. There was one little glitch. The man dragged the whole pallet down my steep drive, only to discover that he'd unloaded the wrong one from this truck. He attempted to deliver 50 boxes of heavy handles! However, we got the right ones up the stairs and into my living room
where I welcomed them home with hibiscus flowers and bright music. Then opened the first carton to reveal — da daw!
A delicious, new, fresh paper-smell of real book.

'Spirited Ageing' has been well and truly launched, with a big event at The Women's Bookshop in Auckland, last Tuesday evening. The shop was crowded and I was put on a coffee table behind the counter so that everyone could see me and hear my talk.
I was surrounded in well-wishers.
What a glad moment this is, when the harvest has been brought in and now can be distributed to all who wish to partake of it.
I have received so much! One of the contributors made me this little flax kete (kit) to mark the occasion. My water bottle nestles inside just perfectly.

I know some of you have asked how to buy the book. My new website went live today. Go to http://www.julietbatten.co.nz and there you will find the books page. You can contact me through the contact form and I will send you details. You can pay using your credit card on PayPal and it's all very easy. Your book will arrive in the mail about a week later.

I want to thank the bloggers whose words have inspired parts of the book:

Penny from http://lifeonthecutoff.wordpress.com for her funny stories and demonstrating so beautifully how to maintain a positive attitude even when things are tumbling down around you.

Amanada Trought at http://realityarts-creativity.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/z-challenge-reflection-2012.html  for her moving accounts of caring for her mother who has dementia. She took this as her theme for her A-Z challenge in 2012.

Joan from  http://sempiterna-me.blogspot.co.nz  for being a contributor to each chapter. She is away from her blog at present, walking the Camino Trail in Spain.

Anne Eldredge Harris (94) for her inspiring computer art, which you can see at http://www.art.net/~anne/

Barbara Wells Sarudy, who has a marvellous art blog at http://bjws.blogspot.co.nz  Barbara posted a poem by Betty Lockwood about ageing. When I couldn't locate the book in New Zealand, Barbara sent me her copy. So generous! I was able to obtain permission to use the poem in my book.

Check them out: they are all well worth a visit. And thank you to you, my blogging friends, for all your support and interest. I hope to be visiting more regularly before too long.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Adventure with a splash

 When you are four and a half, and your legs are now strong, you are ready for a big adventure. Sometimes you like to go on alone, just to find out what's around the next bend of the stream,
and at other times, you like to go with your daddy and chatter and ask questions, like
 Where did the water go? Where is the stream? The truth is, that the sand smothered it at this point and it would take a big rain storm to show any water around the base of the big sand dune.
 And here it is, the big lake. You have never seen it before. Now you can swim with your plastic ring around your waist, and splash, and make iron balls in the black sand.
 Daddy makes the biggest one you've ever seen. It's so heavy that mummy and granny can't hold it.
 And now for the big splash!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter treasure hunt

Every Easter for  my older granddaughter (now 18), I created a treasure hunt. And now it's the little one's turn. We actually began last year, and it was very simple: follow the yellow trail (See Trails and Treasure). But now, at four and a half, she's ready to learn about signs. So I have to show her what an arrow is, and how to understand it. 
 She's away! running so fast that I have to hurry to keep up. Yes, this one was easy,
 and this one too.
 But then the clues get a little more tricky? Would she spot this one, I wondered? No problem!
How about this? Easy.
And even this one . . .
 This was more subtle, but she quickly got it. I left quite a trail of these, the famous NZ fern, which shows silver on the underside. Maori used them to leave markers along the trails in the bush at night, when out bird-hunting.
 I used them for the darker parts of the route, through the bush,
 And to point the way to her special tree, where in a little nest of twigs and ferns, she found . . .
 treasure! A little pot of bubble mix, wrapped in a rangiora leaf and tied with flax. And inside the sparkly pouch, a fairy stamp and some beads to thread.

Later that day, she said, 'I want to go and play outside.' When I peeped to see if she was OK, I found she was playing with the twigs, investigating the mystery and wonder of signs. I was going to take a photo but in no time at all, it had been turned back into an arrow. Never mind, I recreated it from memory:
I am carried back to ancient times when our ancestors, before they had writing, would have communicated with one another by using signs.

Here you are: a house—for the imagination to roam in, perhaps.