Three things: Tourism, Baxter week, and blogging

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On Monday I had a whirlwind trip to Taupō to visit an old and dear friend from the US who is traveling through the country on a hiking tour. For two miles on the Napier-Taupō road I had to slow to 15kms/hr while the truck in front of me set out road cones for future road works. This is a road I have travelled a number of times as a part of the journey to see family members in other parts of the island. That particular two-mile portion is especially beautiful. I traveled at a speed slow enough to allow me to differentiate native trees lining the gorge and take long side-ways glances to the Waipunga River weaving back and forth beneath the road. It was a treat to return to Huka Falls and Craters Of The Moon for the first time in maybe 20 years, with my friend and see it through fresh eyes. The sky and water really were that blue. The roar of the river, so loud we had to keep repeating ourselves in conversation. That seemingly harmless cloud of steam actually screamed out of its vent continuously, reminiscent of air from Chinese restaurants venting into alleyways.

It’s been a big week for those of us invested in James K. Baxter week. I am invested in part because one of our sons is named for the poet–actually, 50% for him, and 50% for his conscientious objector father. We might be adjusting significantly that statistic in light of the recently published collection of his letters in which he admits as a matter of fact that he raped his wife, Jacqui Sturm. Ugh. What a darkness this casts over his poetry and his efforts towards bicultural community. Sturm’s great-grandson, Jack McDonald, published a beautiful piece today that is definitely worth reading. He reminds us of her mana* as a writer and notes her familial and cultural importance too: Without her, our whānau, Te Whānau o Te Kare, would not have survived. And like so many of that generation, her story still needs to be told.

A confession/anxiety: I am finding it hard to bring myself to blog and have done since coming to New Zealand. I attribute this to so many things: the fact S. has given up naps and left me with less alone time, the fact that I now have long stretches of time with him (and without friends) in which to take on projects one can more easily (than writing) take on with a two-year-old and therefore my creative energy is being spent in other ways, the fact that my brain is simply not getting the alone time it needs to make the connections and expand the thoughts I have into something worth writing about. However, the point is that I want to be someone who writes, and in order to be that person, I need to write, even when I have nothing to say or don’t have the time to formulate proper sentences. I’m afraid that if you are reading this, you are subject that. Sorry…. or… you’re welcome? I don’t know?  Maybe you are enjoying reading my ramblings right now more than I enjoy writing them?

*mana=dignity/prestige

Nonsense Poem Number One: Apple Eye

(could be sung to the tune of ‘If You’re Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands)

 

Harry*, you’ve got apple in your eye.

Harry*, you’re the apple of my eye.**

It’s a classic case of Appalachia

Apple-apple-apple-apple-eye.

 

*or the name of whomever you’re reciting this to.

**if you don’t want to just be telling Harry or any old person that they are the apple of your eye, then you can just repeat the first line.

Three things: Traveling, drawing, and ‘The Dream’

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We traveled to Kapiti and Wellington last week to visit lots of old friends and some family. It was such a nice time, I barely took any photos except for a couple of the kids and a friend at an art gallery in a quiet moment between the kids being told off for running and the kids being told off for standing on a piece of an art installation where they were supposed to only be sitting. One great memory captured right there. We returned to the Hawke’s Bay for beginning of the school year, and while it hasn’t been bad, it has felt a little rocky. For me, a part of it has been the weirdness of returning from holiday to normal life and then realising that actually, this isn’t normal life for us. I mean, a lot of it is nice–warm weather, sharing domestic duties with my family, food that I like. But, as I watched L. try to figure things out at school this week, I felt a tiny wave of exhaustion lap at my feet as I realised this period is ‘merely’ a transition and we’ll be going through all the newness of school again in a few months. You know what I think about transitions, right?

I am continuing to work my way through ‘Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain‘, albeit at a glacial pace. One of the unforeseen gifts that the book has given me is a way to help L. with his drawing. He is happy drawing or painting things from his imagination, but he realised very early on that if he were to draw something from life, that the picture did not match with what he was seeing. He found this so discouraging and frustrating, and I, unfortunately, was not helpful in how I responded. ‘There’ll always be a gap between what you see and what you draw, and that’s what makes it uniquely yours. Just keep working on it. It’ll get better’ (uh… how, exactly, Ruth? So I was drawing on that quote from Ira Glass–helpful in other situations but probably not this one), and more useless vagaries. L. was at the mental space where a lot kids give up on drawing. And then at a secondhand bookshop he found a trashy-looking book marketed to people who like pink and princesses and ponies and wanted to draw them following a basic formula. And on a whim I bought the book for him. He attempted a few drawings from it, and although he enjoyed the process, he was again disheartened by what he was producing. I wanted to practise my own drawing skills so together we agreed to do the fairy godmother. When he said, ‘gah, my one doesn’t look anything like the picture!’, I was able to say, ‘what is different about it?’ If he didn’t know, I felt ok about saying, ‘that line is at a 3 o’clock angle and not a 1 o’clock angle’, or ‘that curve needs to bump out as far as this line’. Instead of talking about the fairy godmother as a person (sorry to dehumanize you, Fairy Godmother), we talked about the picture as a series of lines and shapes and relationships. This is the movement from left-brain thinking to right-brain thinking. It is also the shift from thinking that only people with magical fairy-godmother-bestowed talents can draw to knowing that it is a skill that can be learned. It’s been really lovely to share a hobby that we both genuinely enjoy and want to improve at (LEGO, ball games, and ninja fights only really appeal to one of us), and truthfully, drawing with him has helped me to refine my own drawing. In Māori, the word for ‘teach’ is the same as that for ‘learn’: ako. There is no learning without teaching, nor teaching without learning.

The other morning I was the only person home for a few hours and, having starved myself of podcasts for weeks, I binged on a podcast called The Dream. The Dream is about Multi-Level Marketing (think Amway, Mary K, Young Living, Doterra, Tupperware, Herbalife, etc–not exactly distinguishable from pyramid schemes). It explains their history, how they work, why people get into them, who is making the money (clue: those at the top), and who is not (clue: most people), and how they are wrapped up in politics. Really worth listening to regardless of your level of involvement in MLMs.

Things I did not realise but should have

That the tea would always be weaker to my taste.

That my clothes would perish in the sun;

that even my undies, which had survived six years,

would lose their elastic in six weeks hung under this southern sun.

That photos–photos I took of friends, lochs, trains, and snow–

would look nothing like what I saw.

That I could not get into the same river twice.

That I would go in the river again, but it would not be me again,

that the river could not be that river this time.

That the patterns that once looked exotic and strange (at best)

or insipid and generic (at worst) in the homes I’ve lived in,

could actually look like they belonged somewhere (here).

That it would ever be ok not to belong anywhere

and that because of that I always could.

 

 

 

Three things: Fairy houses, plastic-free insulating lunch bag, and Address Tae The Haggis

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‘I could have taken my kids abroad for the holidays and feed them all the best foods and given them all my attention and I would still feel guilty about something in my insufficient parenting’–this is what I tell myself every holiday period.  And this holiday–despite the fact that the kids are literally abroad for their holidays, have been eating very well, and have received almost all my attention (not to mention the attention of many extended family members)–is no exception. Yesterday, after a morning of sheltering ourselves from the heat, we ventured out for a bike-ride a minute away from where we are staying. When I say bike-ride, I mean I watched L. pedal from one end of a straight, flat 200m concrete walkway to the other a million times whilst preventing S. from pushing his ride-on plastic fire-truck into the slimey creek beside us. It was stressful and boring, and I wasn’t sure that any of us actually wanted to be there. Just as the kids were starting to complain of thirst and I was beginning to berate myself for heading out into the sun in the middle of the day, we found ourselves sitting in the only shady spot in sight. We managed to collect from a 1m radius enough bits and pieces to construct this ‘fairy house’. I honestly can’t believe how easily kids will slip into this creative and imaginary space, and how much easier it occurs when we have been doing absolutely nothing worth writing about for hours. It is also surprising to me that we could make such a pretty wee construction using bits found on the world’s most boring stretch of pavement. It was a reminder to me that these extremely mundane, almost frustrating spaces of time, are the spaces of my kids’ childhoods that I really want to protect. And yet it is hard to plan for this stuff. I guess it is helpful to not plan for anything, and then it takes place… I just have to gag the voice in side me that says, ‘do more cool things with your kids or you are a bad parent’. Gaaaah. Anyone else have to do that?

Last week I mentioned the big bag of wool I found at a charity shop. Above you can see an ocean of it that I felted into a large 1cm-thick rectangle. I cut it up to turn it into two insulating lunch bags. They are both still in progress. The one in the pictures will be for a grown-up (the other will have a zip and be for L.) and still needs the interior fabric to be waxed and snapped to the exterior, and I would like to dye the exterior. I have used it a couple of times as is, and it works great. I am pretty stoked with how they’re turning out… but that didn’t stop me rescuing a neoprene lunch bag from a dumpster yesterday!

Today, the 25th of April, is an important day: it is my sister-in-law’s birthday. We are celebrating that tonight. But don’t worry. We didn’t miss Burns’ night. We donned a variety of tartans, and tucked into neeps and tatties* with an extremely bastardised version of haggis (erhm… meatloaf with haggis spices) last night. We also got a kick out of this recitation of Burns’ Address Tae The Haggis. I’m not sure how many more years we’ll be celebrating this poet for, but while the kids are young enough to not be embarrassed by their ageing family wearing tartan bow-ties or tartan blanets wrapped around their waists, I’m going to do so.

*Swede and potatoes. Swede is not in season in the Hawkes Bay so it was by sheer good fortune that we found some from Southland in the supermarket.

 

Nossa Amizada (para Carolina)

I posted this poem a while ago, but I wanted to share with you this beautiful Portuguese translation from a Brazilian friend Carolina and I have in common, Raquel Halm. 

 

Nossa Amizada (para Carolina)

O sol desenha um paralelogramo no ceu cobrindo a grama e logo tera uma sombra
beliscando os nossos pes e a crianças estarão em nossos colos.
Sem palavras de novo, eu balanço a cabeça e sorriu; ela balança a cabeça e sorri, um sorriso vindo

de gerações que eu nunca vi, a não ser nos pequenos retratos ao lado da porta de entrada de sua casa.
Como as sementes de melão secando na janela da cozinha, a chaleira no jardim pronta para o cha,
a dança que dura dois seconds com seu filho ate que dois olhos se tornam amendoados –

as fotos sao fragmentos que ilumina uma fatia no mistério que ela é.
Eu sento aqui, e ela senta la tao poucas palavras são ditas;
não é possível que ela é tudo o que eu vejo dela, e eu tudo o que ela vê de mim

Eu poderia começar adicionar o total de todas a peças – começando com as fotos,
as sementes de melão, a chaleira, a dança de dois segundos com os olhos amendoados–
mas eu não poderei descrever o que realmente esta aqui dentro deste alongamento de luz no paralelogramo.

 

Our Friendship (for Carolina)

The sun stretches a parallelogram further across the grass and soon shade

will be nipping at our feet and the kids will be in our laps.

Stuck for words again, I nod and smile; and she nods and smiles a smile handed down

 

from generations I’ve never seen, save for the tiny pictures by her front door.

Like the melon seeds drying on the kitchen window sill, the kettle in the garden shed boiling for tea,

the two-second silly dance with her son until both sets of eyes became almonds–

 

the photos are fragments that shed but a sliver of light on the mystery of her.

I sit here, and she sits there and so few words spoken;

it is not possible that she is all I see of her, and I am all she sees of me.

 

I could start to add up the sum of all the obvious parts–starting with the pictures,

the melon seeds, the kettle, the two-second dance with the almond eyes–

but I’d only come up short against what is actually here inside this lengthening parallelogram of light.