Summer has come at last. . .

It is Monday, Auckland Anniversary Day, and a lovely long weekend. I can hear the cicadas outside chirping, and the sun is shining in a rich blue sky. Aucklanders will be very happy indeed. I have seen quite a few of them, actually, as I made my own way to the customary coastline for a dip and a picnic. So I know that they are all making the most of it.

My lazy weekend started on Saturday, with a long bike ride to my favourite cafe in Morningside. Met my sister on the way back – she’d gone to Pt Chev for a coffee there.

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I did little more than read, tidy up a bit, read, make a few desultory notes about my coming travel, read, and then think it was a good evening to fire up the chiminea again. And while I was firing it up, I bethought me of making my dinner in it. I found my little tagine, just right for one meal, and sliced in some marinated lamb, and assorted vegies. After about three quarters of an hour, sizzling quietly, they were ready.

Oh how I love the sensation of making something from scratch – it takes me back to some very primeval roots somewhere. I was visited by two folks during the course of the evening as the fire died down, and the evening turned pink and winsome.

Sunday morning was a longer sleep-in, followed by a drive up to get vegies from a market garden north of Auckland. Boric’s do a lovely food and cafe area, and I was able to find some very healthy options for lunch.

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After returning and sorting my groceries, I did a bit of front porch hanging out until it was time to actually get a few chores done. My sister and I decided to hop on our non-electric bikes and cruise the coastal streets enjoying the peaceful evening and the pastel views out across the harbour.

Today was the official day off for Aucklanders, and indeed they are out there, at the beaches and waterways everywhere. I just made it to this carpark before the crowds, and had a swim and lunch. Then I moved on to another beach for another dip. Followed by the customary ice cream up at Arataki Visitors Centre on Scenic Drive.

All in all, a very pleasant three days so far. I hope you’ve got a whiff of it from this post. And in case you think it has all been about lazing around. . . I did get in some exercise from the My Peak Challenge booklet I’m doing before the day kicked in. Here, have a wee laugh:

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A trip to Thames, the Gold town

I spent the last weekend with good friends at their home in Thames. This sleepy little town was once bigger than Auckland, with a huge influx of people swarming in during the late 1800s to find gold ‘in them thar hills’. It once boasted hundreds of hotels to support that sudden population, and now most have gone but for a few, in that old wooden style with verandah and porch. Many Aucklanders have moved across to Thames in recent years, because of the exorbitant housing prices in the biggest city. My friends have taken a lovely old bungalow and transformed it into something special – it helps that Rob is an architect by trade. And Robin has a definite gift for spaces and style.

We had a wonderful time catching up, sitting in many of the numerous areas just enjoying the ambience and each other’s company. The newest addition – the sliding window to the outside – proved more than its worth in terms of allowing the flow of conversation to drift between kitchen and outside. And then we had a delicious meal with some of the produce from the garden in a ratatouille, with noodles and chunky tender lamb chops. I was spoilt.

It was a lazy start the next morning, after a storm had buffeted the area, cutting power to many places in Auckland. I decided to drive up the coastline to a beach that Dad had taken us to when we were all able to cram into the back of the old Holden. He had many hobbies, and one of them was to grind and polish semi-precious stones, and then put them into perspex in a table, or make jewellery from them. It was a favourite pastime for us to come here, and wander up and down the beach, bent double, looking for agates. To my joy, I found some, despite the beach being almost submerged under waves from the recent high winds. I also found two baby hammerhead sharks, swept from their mother in the high seas, sniff.

Now I’m back in Auckland, and facing the grind of working behind a desk in the city. Ah, but those memories are still fresh. . .

Visible and Invisible Realms

I’ve been away this weekend, down in the old gold-mining town of Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula, staying with good friends. Driving through the old Victorian streets of this town, with many buildings from the era of the gold rush still evident, I cannot but be aware of the passing of time. And then I look down at my own hands clutching the steering wheel, and find that small jolt of disappointment upon seeing how very old they are looking. There are spots and blemishes where there once were none, and wrinkles that have replaced the plump elastic flesh. It set me to pondering some things.

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It wasn’t so long ago that I was a quite different looking person. A mere ten years between the photos in the pics above if you are merely looking at the external evidence. And yet, WITHIN, I am the same – in fact – I am improved. I’ve had ten more years of adventures and rich life experience, none of which I regret. Personality, spirit, presence, are all quintessentially me, but the outward vessel that contains me, is subject to the ravages of time. To a certain degree I try and stem that tide, but it is a losing battle.

That got me thinking even more (it’s a good hour and a half from Auckland to Thames – plenty of time to ponder.) And here’s where my own expectations of life may differ a great deal from yours, but I’m putting them out there; it’s MY blog after all.

I think of this life on the planet as the visible part – the bit parallel to the pupae and larvae or caterpillar stage. We only ever get to see the caterpillar, and it can sure be flexible and hungry and colourful and moving for much of its life. In fact, in its youngest phase it is the most vital, and then it simply gets slower and fat.

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This world is focussed on the youthful stage of that larvae – the agile, flexible and attractive. But inevitably, that caterpillar has had its fill of life and just wants to curl up and die. And that is all we see. Something has gone from our sight and hardened up and simply moved out of our plane of existence. Away.

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There are caterpillars of all sorts on this plant, and they each know that at some point they will want to do the same. They sense they will have ‘had their fill’ and slow down, and curl up, hanging by tenuous thread to the life they’ve known. And then quite suddenly they are no more. The rest of the larvae believe what they will about that process. . . and eat and eat and eat, never completely knowing or seeing the end result. (Their eyesight is so poor they use their antennae to ‘see’).

This is where the analogy takes a leap for me into new territory. You see, I believe there is an ‘outside of space and time’, – another realm, as it were. We, metaphorically,  place that chrysalis in the ground and mourn the loss.

But life is just beginning. Something completely new is happening: transformation. And outside of the visible realm, this happens:

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The essence that was inside that first wee caterpillar is still there, but there is NO resemblance to the creature that is airing its brilliant wings in preparation for flight. THIS is the creature that was always present, no matter what body it held, however THIS final form is its finest and best.

Truly, I can live with my spots and wrinkles. There is MORE life not less coming. There is bigger and brighter and more brilliant and beyond the imagination better coming. I believe that in a profound ‘its time to cling with a thread to a twig’ kind of way. I know it, like that caterpillar knows that IT IS TIME.

There, I’ve said it. The end. (My blog, remember?)

 

Tick tock tick tock

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I painted this ten years ago, feeling as much a slave to time as I do now it would seem. It feels particularly precious to me right now, because I have so much I want to do. . . and my enemy in this endeavour is my old nemesis, the ticking clock.

If, like me, you have set forth into this new year full of plans and dreams, you might recognise something of yourself in the coming paragraphs. I’m someone who enjoys life, and I do know how to relax and take it easy. But I also have plenty I WANT to do, and in between and amongst all that, are things I NEED or MUST do in order for my life to be bearable. They are completed in order of priority, and the bottom of the list never ever gets reached. Way down there at the bottom are things like ‘dusting’ and ‘sorting clothes’. I’ve recently taken myself in hand, and picked up some things I need to do, and put them near the top of the list. You’ll recognise the words ‘My Peak Challenge’ by now; if you don’t, it’s a hugely successful endeavour, spearheaded by Sam Heughan, to raise funds for blood cancer research, and inspire people to improve their lives. (Mostly by detailed and supportive fitness goals, and nutritional plans and help, although by no means limited to that.)

Now don’t laugh. My day now goes something like this:

5.45 am   Alarm. Spend 10 mins in quiet reflection/meditation
5.46 am   Remember to put on face stuff that needs to wait 30 mins before washing off
5.48 am  Back to quiet reflection
5.55 am   Get out of bed, change, and drag mat out on kitchen floor. Warm ups and
exercises as per MPC guide
6.20 am  Go through the shower, dress, change dress, change mind, back to first outfit, put
on makeup, watch it slide down face.
6.35 am   Make breakfast, pack a lunch, eat breakfast while answering emails/facebook
6.45 am   Clean teeth, gather things together, step outside
6.47 am   See it is about to rain, return, collect umbrella
6.50 am   RUN OUT THE DOOR and briskly walk to bus stop regretting choice of clothes
7 am         Catch bus to work, sitting in usual spot
7.40          Arrive in city, have coffee at cafe near work
8am         Be seated at desk, chat to co-workers, think about lunch and look forward to it

I won’t tire you with the rest, but the morning is TIGHT. Now if I were to do ALL the things the health magazines and articles suggested, I would never make it to work before midday. (Truly, HOW do mothers with children needing to get up too, ever get out the door?)

There is a growing part of me that realises I cannot possibly do as much as I would like, and is quietly rebelling. So some pretty obvious tasks remain undone, while I slip outside onto my satellite chair in the fading light, and simply read. It all comes down to being selective – something I struggled to do when I was younger. THEN, if I was asked out, or someone wanted to go somewhere, I tagged along. I wouldn’t have dreamed of saying no. I was pretty driven. But as I’ve gained some wisdom in my later years, I know I don’t have to attend every event, or tick every box on my daily list. I don’t have to chase every distant acquaintance and try to maintain a friendship with them. That all may seem obvious to you, but it’s taken a while for me to loosen my elastic bands.

I took this today, outside with my street bike, newly restored to going order.

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I am SO going to waste some happy hours peddling the local streets on this one. See – combining the NEED for exercise, with the joy of adventuring. It’s a win:win. And while I’m on that topic, I started the food plan on the MPC website yesterday, and to my surprise, am finding the meals and food choices great. Here’s breakfast this morning:

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I think I’ll go to bed – I can see my blog post is meandering in a very untimely fashion, and I’m wandering off down side tracks. Forgive me for taking up your time (grin).

The Magic of Once Upon a Time

I painted the picture below just over ten years ago, and it fully encapsulates the post I am about to write.

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ALL MY LIFE I’ve loved stories, from the moment my mother turned the first cloth page of a baby’s first book and read to me, and I cannot conceive of how small a world it would have been without them. Neither can I truly grasp what life would have been like had that great door not opened before me. I drew THAT picture over twenty years ago:

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The picture was drawn as I embarked on the first of what has become MANY trips overseas, to encounter new cultures and discover my roots. What coloured and thrilled my heart at the traveling, was that many of the stories, histories, and countries encountered throughout my life were to be realised in truth. I couldn’t wait.

A few years ago, the stats for literacy worldwide indicated that 17% were not able to read. And I am well aware that there was a strong tradition in most cultures of oral story-telling. THAT was how many stories made it into the books. The bard of Celtic tradition weaving long tales through music and song, the tribal elders relating the long saga of the clan, the players and caravans traveling the countryside with costume and exaggerated actions. We’ve got it so easy these days, with stories so well captured in CGI and multi-million dollar production, that we hardly need to use our own imaginations to be taken into another time and place. I sometimes long for a moment around a campfire, with hours of stories related in the flickering light by an aged ancient with rasping voice and waving hands. I am a total SITTING DUCK for a story.

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Still, the older I get, the more I appreciate the range and scope of all the stories that flood my life, and that I can lay my eager hands upon. To not be able to read, is something I struggle to grasp. As a primary school teacher from years ago, I know the part of the day we (the children and I) loved most was the daily reading of a story aloud. The teachers who received the children I taught in the years to come, may well have sighed at their ineptitude in maths or geography, but I know I sent them out with a love of reading and hearing stories. (Oh, and they could all draw cartoons as well.) Somewhere, out there, around one hundred children are well versed in stretching their imaginations and hopefully, are reading books to their own children. (And grandchildren by now!)

Much as I love the many forms of story-telling, from movies through to plays, it is books that are my first and last love.

Within the IMAX of my own mind, I see all the dimensions possible in Tolkien’s series, along with the sound of the music, and the rhythm of the poetry. Delicious though Peter Jackson’s revelation of those stories in film were, nothing competes with the detail and life my own imagination gave them first. The same is true of Outlander. I am utterly delighted with the series that we are so fortunate to have on our screens – it is beautifully realised from the books. Nevertheless, not for a moment does it get in the way of the glory of the vision I saw played out in my own mind upon hearing/reading the books. Neither does the show detract from them. It would be a poor imagination indeed that could not fill out, amend, colour, compensate, and enhance any digitally realised adaptation of a book. If I am unhappy about any aspect of a screen portrayal of a favourite book, I just revert to reading the book version again, reliving the original vision I hold so dear, and am swept away again. This is the glory of being able to READ.

When I came across this postcard recently, from a great, great aunt – obviously living in the workhouse in London, my heart did go out to her. Oh, I hope she had access to some moments of pure escapism like her many times great niece does! How I hope she could escape the drabness of what her address sounds like, through reading. (And I hope she DID get to meet up with my grandfather – the ‘H’ on the card.) What I wouldn’t give to know her story.img_3208

Are we not the most fortunate of beings, to have so much at our fingertips that gives us wide open doors to other worlds? I am so glad that the many authors who keep me supplied are out there, even now, tapping their keys. (My one great nightmare is that I reach a day when I find there are no books I haven’t read.) I cannot tell you how much of my hopes and expectations, language and opinions, have been formed by the countless words that my eyes have sped over. Or how much enjoyment has been derived by reading aloud a choice phrase from a book just read, to someone I know who’ll appreciate it.

I feel I am preaching to the choir. If anyone has trawled this far down on my post, then you must be a reader yourself, and I hope, have had a similar background. I can still remember the day I walked into a person’s home for the first time, and found NOT ONE BOOK on a shelf or table anywhere. It so shocked me, as you see, that I am still amazed by it and typing it up here. I feel the pull of the current novel I am reading, upon me, and so will draw this blog post to a close. THANK YOU beloved authors, for all your labour – keep ’em coming.

. . . and we all lived Happily Ever After!

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A breath of country air. . .

Tomorrow I am back at my temp job in the city, and will hit the ground running. I just know there will be issues to deal with, and plenty of mail to catch up on. Summer has not really arrived yet in New Zealand. . . well, okay. . . it has been humid and warmish, but we’ve got more rain now and so it doesn’t feel too bad not to be on holiday with the teeming millions.

Which is why the last few days I spent leading up to New Year’s Day were so delightful. This was taken on New Year’s Eve.

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I went down south of Auckland – about an hour’s drive – to a large country property (in Mangitangi), belonging to a friend and her husband. I’ve known Beverley for over 40 years, ever since the first day of Teacher’s College when we two newbies met each other over a discussion about where the carpark was. Her father was army, my Dad was police, and we both lived in similar army/police houses, with three other siblings. We have regularly connected over the years, and enjoyed a friendship more akin to being sisters than merely friends.

Now that their two delightful daughters have fled the nest, I get my pick of which bedroom to stay in – and we have more time to do things together again. You should hear the wisdom expressed and the wide variety of world issues that get discussed and dealt with over endless cups of tea! She read Outlander books before me, but of course, once I got hold of them there was no stopping the deep and widespread involvement in all things associated with the show and books. She and I went (with Rhonnie Brinsdon) to the Kiwi Outlander Gathering this last year, and both of us loved it.

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But I digress. . .

Imagine leaving the busy largest city in New Zealand, driving south over the Bombay Hills, and into a rolling countryside of green pastures, hidden valleys, and the serenity of that landscape. It was bliss!!

I lost track of time, we got up when we felt like it, and my closest neighbours were these critters:

Those three days passed very quickly, nevertheless. How very fortunate I am to have such good friends, and to feel so welcome with them. I shall always remember seeing the New Year in as we did, having fish and chips on camp chairs down at the local beach which is Kaiaua.

And waking while it was still dark to see the gorgeous countryside slowly waken to a rosy dawn. A great start to 2017! May  your year be as promising as this one seems to be.

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