Three things: Camellia, itchy feet, kitchen colours





On a whim I purchased this camellia from the supermarket. Although I appreciate the dahlia-like bloom, I am having slight buyer’s regret, mostly because the colour isn’t quite what I thought it was going to be and this pinky-red isn’t exactly what I am going for in my garden… but let me not get too picky and particular! I think it may have been one of those “nostalgia purchases”; my mum and dad’s garden alongside their driveway used to have a dozen or so red camellias, and they, in turn, always reminded me of my grandma and grandad’s camellias (pink). I am trying to grow edible plants in my garden, or things that have direct value for wild-life, so do you want to know how I justified buying a camellia? I remembered a wonderful afternoon I spent with my grandma painting the backs of camellia leaves with chocolate, peeling them away when the chocolate hardened, to decorate a cake. Oh, nostalgia, my weakness. (As an aside, I have always liked the German word for “nostalgia”, Sehnsucht; literally, “searching for that feeling you’ve had before”. Isn’t that just it?)

It is always this time of year that my feet itch for other places. Preferably southern hemisphere… or at least somewhere a wee bit closer to the equator. I like how Tiny Happy makes even dreich Wellington appear wonderful under a blanket of cloud. I need to apply her attitude to my Aberdeen…

I have always loved lichen green, and when I saw this lichen beside some dogwood I’d collected, I realised I had discovered my new kitchen colours. We have some very 70s kitchen cabinetry and tile work that is a burnt red, and I think I would like to paint the walls this gentle green.


The kūmara does not tell you how sweet it is

From ‘Māori Boy: a memoir of childhood’, by Witi Ihimaera. The flow of the language, the proverbs, and the phrasings all make me feel quite homesick.

‘It was they who taught me to care, to look after people, to be unselfish, to give more than you take, to look after the kūmara, the royal children who will take the Māori into the future, and to try to stop them from being bruised.

‘And always to have aroha.’

I don’t know why my father’s two simple tellings of storing the kūmara and of purifying the river water with his Pā affected me so much. In the first instance, I think I tried to apply them to my own work, because was writing so different to storing kūmara? I began to think of my work as kūmara, which I could offer to people to enjoy; Māori say that the kūmara does not tell you how sweet it is until you taste it, and I wanted it to be sweet. Second, sometimes I think of the rewriting process as a purifying process, assing a layer of shingle at the bottom to filter out the impurities. Man oh man, my father’s Pā would probably reprimand me for the heaps of shingle I have had to sometimes use to ensure that the words come out clear as the water of the Waipaoa River.  p. 75

kūmara–sweet potato




Three things: Felted stones, ‘insulte du jour’, and music video


We felted stones this week. Once at home and once in “the Rockies” with some friends. A very therapeutic activity and the final product is very tactile. L calls them “pillows for tiny tired birds”. I included a wee piece of lichen in mine which turned the white wool a gentle tea colour, which was a nice surprise.

Once a week for the last few weeks we have been eating a packed lunch in a playground that we share with a group of lunching students from a nearby academy. Nothing like the banter of the school playground to transport one back to a less secure time in life. There is one kid–a bully–who repeats an insult that is new to me: “immigrant”. “You are such an immigrant,” he will say to one of his colleagues. “What an immigrant.” Like the insults of my youth (“girl” or “gay”, for example), it is actually as painful, if not more so, to hear if you are actually an immigrant (or gay or a girl). As an bully’s insult it works perfectly to convey exclusion; it says, “you are different and are not wanted here.” I am certain that I am not what he has in mind when he thinks of an immigrant, but there is possibly no immigrant who fits his description. Needless to say, this has been turning over in my mind for weeks now, and it has made me feel kind of homesick (even for my own country where the same insult is probably heard from school bullies there) and sad to be raising children away from my family. So I listened to this song. And that made me even more homesick. But understood.

Other music I have been listening to this week has included the old self-titled album by the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Perhaps one of my favourite videos of all time is Man on Fire. There is something very satisfying about the synthesis of the music and dance.

Go maximal


Here is a quote from Katy Bowman’s recent book, Movement Matters. I had it in mind when I was writing my This is what a feminist looks like post. Obviously it is not about feminism per se, but there is a connection there–my answer to Question 9 directly relates, for example. Movement Matters is about movement ecology. It is richly layered as it describes our culture of movement and sedentarism, how our own movement affects others in the world, and how we can stack more movement into our lives whatever our lives look like right now. I recommend it! (and I will mention that I am not an athletic person and have no interest in sports or going to the gym… does that help? or put you off?)

“Going minimal” in terms of furniture was a simple way to restructure my habitat. But to be clear, “going minimal” isn’t my objective. Quite the opposite: My goal is to go maximal. 

Perspective is everything, and we are often led by what’s visible. And so we call a reduction–in furniture or the stiffness of conventional footwear or the amount of spending we do each month–minimalism. There’s less stuff, or we’ve spent less, so it must be minimalism. There’s less manufacturing needed, less material, less energy. Minimalism.

But what if we framed and named this reduction for what it can yield–in many cases, more movement, more awareness, more nature, more time with family and friends, more time in nature with family and friends. What if we reframed minimalism of stuff to be maximalism of our natural structure–a robust body within a robust community within a less-taxed environment?  p. 140

Three things: cake, wild garlic, and undercover architect


Ruth Feb 89


So that was the 5-year-old’s cake.  Just so you know, he didn’t want the rest of the candles to spell out BIRTHDAY, because “that would be more than five”. We had a wee party with a couple of chums, complete with toasting marshmallows over a fire. A few days ago, I came across a picture of my own 5th birthday cake. It too was from the Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book (as were many birthday cakes of my youth). Mum said she would sweat blood before our birthdays wondering which of the cakes she would have to decorate that year… well, I think she did a fine job on this robot. Much better than my attempt last year at the same one which looked like an unreliable robot dredged up from a tub of paint.

Wild garlic, welcome harbinger of spring, carpeted a part of our walk in the woods the other day. We picked some and took it home for scrambled eggs that night.

I listened to this fantastic podcast last week and nodded my head through most of it. Amelia Lee has some refreshing advice for making sure that your home–the one you live in now, the one you’re about to buy, the one you are envisioning post-renovation–supports your lifestyle (rather than requiring a life-support to keep it maintained) and is environmentally sound too. She suggests that we be design dectectives and examine our own lives and how we move through them–what works about our homes and what doesn’t? Really worth a listen…