Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The story of the paua shell brooch (Part Two)

Dear reader, I grieved the loss of the brooch. I thought about it every day. I pictured it in my mind. I wanted to call it back.
Then after a couple of weeks, I received a phone call from a woman who lives in Second-Street. She said, 'The wind blew your notice down my driveway. I picked it up and realised I had seen your brooch.'
She found it on the pavement the day after I lost it, and placed it on the gatepost at number 2 Second-Street. 'It might still be there,' she said, hopefully.

It wasn't.
I charged up First Street and down Second-Street in the pouring rain, but the gatepost was empty. I knocked on the door and an elderly man answered. 'Oh yes,' he said, 'It was on the gatepost for about a week, then around three days ago it disappeared.'
I was crestfallen. However, I gave him a copy of my notice, just in case it turned up.

Coming so close to finding it gave me a big pang. It was almost worse than the first loss.
But that's when I started to notice something.
Now that it was decidedly lost, the brooch was more present than ever before.

For shining out of that brooch was my mother's love. I could feel it, as if she were walking beside me. I remembered all the love that she put into the presents she gave each of her five children. Even though she was often worn out, she always gave us the warm glow from her loving heart.

I had lost the brooch and gained my mother.
I had lost the object, and gained the essence.
But there is one more part to the story. Are you cosy here in the firelight? Are you ready for the next, and final part? Soon you will hear it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The story of the paua shell brooch (Part One)

Come, gather around the fire and I'll tell you the story I told at our family winter dinner. 
When I was 16 my mother, who always gave special birthday gifts, asked me if I would like to choose my own this year, now that I was growing up. She took me to a jeweller's shop, where I found what I wanted more than anything in the world: a paua shell brooch. It was circular, with a sterling silver surround, and I loved it very much.
For over fifty years I treasured that brooch. I loved the iridescent blues and greens, and the way they reminded me of the sea. 

In November last year, I pinned the brooch on to my jacket lapel and set off for choir practice. I walked up First Street, crossed the busy main road, and walked down Second Street to the rendez-vous for our carpool. After enjoying a good sing, I looked down at my jacket and discovered that the brooch was gone. Everyone looked under their chairs and around the room, but no luck.

Despite searching the pavements the next day, reporting the loss to the local police, and getting a notice put in the community newspaper, I realised that it was probably gone for good.
I tried one more thing: I printed out a big notice saying 'Lost Paua Shell Brooch, a precious gift from my mother, who died some years ago', and I stuck it to trees, lamp-posts and letterboxes all along the route that I'd taken that night.

Nothing happened. 

I was lost in sadness, feeling the loss not only of the brooch, but of my dear mother too.
But when you lose something, a door may open for something to be found that you didn't expect.
That's what happened to me. Stay warm in front of the fire, and in Part Two I'll tell you about it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Winter magic

 Are you ready for some winter magic? Come and join our midwinter dinner and ritual. It's a little late this year, but at winter solstice some of us were away. Each year we gather around the fire for our midwinter feast and story telling. This year we were not just two families but three. We had the addition of a Chinese mum from Play Centre and her two children. Then there was my friend and her 12 year old daughter. Our 19 year old was sick and unable to be there this year, sadly.
This is the tray I prepared, with little tea light candles from Bali. They were a gift and had been waiting for a special occasion.
What's going to happen?
First we must set to work on our feast.
 We were so hungry that I didn't get to photograph the food. I wish I'd got a shot of the steamed pudding that I made, with blue flames shooting from it (after a little dowse with whiskey). But I'm sure you can imagine it. We had a fusion meal: Chinese, traditional English, and newly created NZ food.
 Then we gathered around the fire. Each person had been asked to bring a story to tell, or a song to sing. My friend's twelve-year old began by reading her speech on fairies. We were entranced! Then my friend shared two photos of her making a wood stack, and read a Mary Oliver poem about wood.
My daughter-in-law held up a Chinese story book about new year, and translated it for us. It was very touching. Her Chinese friend told about growing up in West China, where it was very cold, but excellent for fruit growing. The melons were big and juicy and everyone had big melons stored under their beds over winter. They would sit and eat melons around the fire.
My son told a touching story of finding love, and I told a story about lost and found, which I will share with you next time.
After each person had told their story, they were invited to light a candle and make a wish. 'Oh, how shall I choose?' said the twelve-year old, and 'I can't bear to light it; it looks so pretty just as it is.'
But she did. The smallest ones were too shy to contribute, but they were completely still and quiet, absorbed in the magic.
 And one by one they lit a candle and made a wish. By this time all the lights were out, and we just had the light of the fire and the flickering candle flames. 'Let's finish with a song,' I said, and we all linked hands. 'What shall it be?' I said. 'I can't think of a song.' Then I began 'I go with my little lantern,' a song sung at the Steiner School, and who should pipe up loud and clear and lead the song but our little one (now why wasn't I surprised at that?).
Our family is increasing as we embrace other small families and build our traditions together.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Give me warmth, fragrance, colour

 Times have changed in publishing. I love real books, but to sell my books overseas it looks like I might have to think about publishing an ebook next time.
Ebooks have no smell or touch, unlike these hyacinths which made me dizzy with delight.
 The ebook publishing course that I attended all day got too much for my brain.
The Golden Barrell Cactus is from Central Mexica, and the Silver Torch behind it, from Bolivia.
Ebooks can be sold in both these countries at the click of a cursor.
 Another word for ebook, used by the teacher, is a 'no-book.' I guess that means no touching, no holding, no turning of pages and definitely no smelling.
The coral-coloured hyacinths are just as fragrant as the blue ones, but their colour is new to me.
 Outside the Wintergarden pavilions, where I took refuge during the lunch break, I found these gay maidens cavorting.
 And their rather distant sister, looking down rather disdainfully. I wonder what kind of books they prefer?
After feasting my eyes on these glorious orchids, I headed back for a few more hours of screen-gazing.
I enjoy computer technology. It enables me to reach out across the world. I may even publish an ebook one day. But I need to balance time spent in the digital world with time spent in the world of the senses: touch, warmth, fragrance, colour, weight or lightness, sound and movement.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Silver into gold

In the depth of winter, colour recedes from the bach garden. But a new note is struck. Snowdrops hang their little bells so sweetly. I feel as fresh as a maiden when I look at them.
 Rangiora nonchalantly flips over a leaf, to show the silver underside. One year I wrote clues in ballpoint pen on the silver side, then rolled them into little scrolls for my granddaughter's treasure hunt. She's 19 now and has been too old for such trifles over past years, but there's a little one who will enjoy finding letters on rangiora leaves when she's old enough to read.
 A nikau palm reaches up to a silver sky,
and a flax bush throws out its silver-sided leaf.

In winter, even the colours become simple.

But there is one contrasting note. This golden kowhai tree, which flowers well ahead of its spring due date, was planted on the whenua/placenta of my first granddaughter, who died at 6 weeks old. On July 21 it will be the anniversary of the sad day when she left this world, twenty years ago.

Life is precious; the next generation is precious, and the gold and silver of nature reminds me to be grateful.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Poem at the edge

 Waders dip their beaks
 A child dips her hand
 I dip my pen.
 Feeding at the edge
 We find