Monthly Archives: August 2013

Ring in the spring

The daffodils in this post are for Lizzie Rose Jewellery and Teamgloria , and my mother, because they all love daffodils but daffodils don’t, and won’t, grow in their delightfully warm garden spaces.

The words in this post are especially for Lost in Arles, Heather ,as a way of thanking her for the link to Jean Vanier’s beautiful words in Wisdom of Tenderness  http://www.onbeing.org/program/wisdom-tenderness/234    Jean Vanier is the founder of L’Arche.http://www.larche.ca/en/jean_vanier/

“The curve of the earth lies fissured, its mantle cracked like a poorly cast  bell, yet with the warmth of spring’s caress, a vibration shimmers, swells, seeps, riverine, through the hollows and cracks of the slumped soil.

Fissure

Fissure

In the movement of the spring,  the bulbs, buried fast,  sense the tender loosening, the sweet lightening of their winter bedding. They awaken.   Stretch upward. Outward. Yawn, and smile a happy-sunshine smile.

And , then, precisely then,  we know, deeply, that even a broken bell has its own essential resonance; its own beautiful chime to ring. Listen.”

Essential Resonance

Essential Resonance

Chime of its own

Chime of its own

For those of you who like to know about location and history; we spotted the daffodils on a sun-drenched river bank on the Avon Loop. We were near the place on the river side which was once, very long ago, home to  the Canterbury Rowing Club. The Loop is a heritage area of Christchurch which was badly damaged in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Most of the land on that small bend in the Avon River is no longer suitable for housing, so the broken homes currently there will be removed/demolished. Eventually, the land will form part of a natural recreational park system along the river. It promises to be lovely and, strangely, in its new life it will almost be a reincarnation of its old life, which, beginning in the 1860s, was a wonderful, open space where thousands of Cantabrians enjoyed picnics and the sport of rowing. http://lostchristchurch.org.nz/opening-of-the-boating-season-avon-river

© silkannthreades

Spring things

My dwarf nectarine tree is loving the arrival of spring. It is about five years old and usually produces good fruit. However, this is the first year it has been so smothered in blossom. It looks so beautiful.  It even attracted the attention of a duck; briefly 🙂

Bountiful Blossom

Bountiful Blossom

With so much blossom this year, I decided I could bring some inside.  Such a sweet fragrant vision.

Sweet fragrant nectarine

Sweet fragrant nectarine

© silkannthreades

No Bull ….in my city, yet!

It’s the truth; there’s no Bull in my city.  Not at the moment. There was one. In fact, we had two Bulls.  That was a little over a year ago.

This was one of the Bulls, called A Peak in Darien.

One Bull

One Bull

Here’s the other Bull,  known as Chapman’s Homer.

Another Bull

Another Bull

These Bulls, by Michael Parekowhai (http://www.thearts.co.nz/artist_page.php&aid=70&type=bio ) had been to Venice http://www.thearts.co.nz/artist_page.php&aid=70&type=video&video_id=92 and Paris and then, as promised they came to us, last June, for one month. When they were first promised to us we hadn’t had any earthquakes but, despite the mess our city was in by 2012,  everyone was brave and decided the Bulls should come anyway. And we loved them.  They looked magnificent, indomitable, indestructible in the midst of the messy, broken landscape.

And now we want to have one of them back, as a forever friend.  We want Chapman’s Homer. (Well, we can’t have A Peak in Darien because he’s already been taken. ) The public is being asked to pledge donations to the Christchurch Art Gallery Trust. The target is $NZ 200,000. Many people think that purchasing Chapman’s Homer is a waste of money, but, for me, this Bull, this mighty sculpture is welcome in my city. I don’t  truly understand what he has to do with Homer, Chapman or Keats but he will be a wonderful addition to our cityscape. Much better to have an expensive, bullish  sculpture that thousands will see and visit and admire every year, free of charge. Rather this, than a new multi million dollar stadium that will be used occasionally, and only by those who have the money to buy the tickets.

So, now I am off to contribute to the Bull. Our country prospers on agriculture, so why not have a Bull in the city!

On First Looking in to Chapman's Homer

On First Looking in to Chapman’s Homer

https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/1276  Back the Bull Pledge (The Bull  is currently on loan and on display at the Arts Centre.)

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173746  Keats  “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

http://realruth.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/hitchin-heritage/  a little more about  George Chapman

© silkannthreades

Heavenly Again

We visited the University of Canterbury Staff Club and University Gardens this afternoon. The Staff Club, Ilam Homestead, was damaged in our recent earthquakes but, happily,  it is now  repaired and in use again. We have lost so many  heritage buildings in our city that it is heavenly to see this one, once more complete and seemingly unchanged, in its beautiful garden setting.

Fine and upstanding

Fine and upstanding

The gardens are at their finest in late October, when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom. But, today, we were scouting for daffodils…and found a few…

and also wanting to see the Staff Club, free of the containers and scaffolding that have supported it during months of repairs.

Revived and unencumbered

Revived and unencumbered

And, besides, it was our 31st wedding anniversary and our 35th year of friendship, and, being in these lovely University surroundings, was a reminder of another special and cherished time and place; Oxford University.

That is where we met. When we had free time we strolled in the beautiful University Parks which were walking distance from our base at Queen Elizabeth House. http://www.parks.ox.ac.uk/gallery/index.htm

The University Parks are young by Oxford standards. Interestingly, their development began at much the same time as that of Ilam Homestead, that is, in the early 1850s.  The University of Canterbury bought Ilam Homestead in 1950 after it had been owned for many years by Edgar Stead. It was Edgar Stead who established the beautiful, surrounding gardens and filled them with his world famous rhododendron and  azalea collection.

World famous rhododendrons and azaleas

World famous rhododendrons and azaleas

Stead was also a renowned ornithologist  http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4s41/stead-edgar-fraser  When the University of Canterbury bought the Homestead, it agreed to maintain the Gardens in perpetuity, and its commitment to that agreement means joy and delight for thousands of visitors and passing students each year. And, of course, it is a delight to birds, too, Today, I am sure I heard and saw several of our large, native wood pigeons (kereru). I was hoping to also see ducklings, but I was disappointed in that regard.

Now, as every connoisseur of Oxford knows, a good University must have intrigue and mystery as well as perfect scenery and splendid buildings. Remember Lewis here and Inspector Morse, here ? Our small University, and our University Staff Club (Ilam Homestead) do not disappoint.

For Ilam Homestead was, in one of its lifetimes, home to the Rector of the University, or Canterbury College as it was once known. In 1954 the Rector was Dr Hulme, and his daughter was young Juliet.  At the age of 15,  Juliet was best friends with young Pauline , and, together, they conspired and carried out the murder of Pauline’s mother at a place in Christchurch called Victoria Park. Their reasons were…complicated, perhaps, incomprehensible ; their trial, sensational or should that be scandalous?  Whatever, it was or wasn’t, the infamous Parker-Hulme case became a film, in 1994, called ‘Heavenly Creatures’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavenly_Creatures much of which was filmed at the Homestead and in the gardens. And, from that film and that place and  those times, 1954 and 1994,  we now have some  rich, new traditions and stories; for those events became building blocks and landmarks for Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Kate Winslet and Melanie  Lynskey and Anne Perry;  most particularly Anne Perry, Anne Perry the writer

And, thus are our lives (and marriages/partnerships), like buildings and fine gardens,  constructed, and deconstructed and restructured, and, occasionally, in the process, that which is heavenly appears and sits with us for a time.

A few more photos:

That which is constructed and restructured and gives us foundations and rooms and cornerstones and secret spaces for our memories;

That which is heavenly, if but briefly.

For more history http://www.staffclub.canterbury.ac.nz/history.shtml

http://www.ilamhomestead.co.nz/heavenly-creatures.htm

© silkannthreades

I’m not the only bird

Recently, a few people have asked me if I collect anything, and I have answered, ” Not really.”  Which is true. I don’t have collections in a proper, formal sense, as, say, a stamp collector would. However, after my chocolate exorcism en plein air, Spring Equilibrium I came home with a mind full of fresh air, and  fresh thoughts, and realised that I am not the only “bird” in my home. I live with a flock of them. For, unwittingly, I have been collecting birds for years; birds in all forms, except live. In fact, if my birds were living ones, I would be obliged to apply for a licence to operate an aviary.  That’s how many I own.

Take a peek at some of many feathered friends.

Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather

I don’t know when I started collecting birds but one of my first bird purchases was a book, Birds of Fiji in Colour by W.J. Belcher. It was published in 1972, but the bird studies were painted between 1924 and 1935.( And, yes, our amazing  friends at Amazon still have the book http://www.amazon.com/Birds-Fiji-Colour-W-J-Belcher/dp/B000RH91NS)

Birds by Belcher

Birds by Belcher

William Belcher was born in England in 1883. He came to New Zealand at the age of three and spent the earlier part of his life here before moving to Fiji. He was mostly a self-taught artist  and he painted orchids as well as birds. And, he was not only a painter but a hotel licensee, money-lender, shooting gallery owner and a mechanic, as well. He died, and was buried, in Suva, Fiji in 1949. His collected works are owned by the Fiji Museum.

Birds of Fiji features 25 of Belcher’s paintings. I have selected two for my collage because they represent  very precious memories I have from  my amateurish, youthful bird watching. The illustrations are of the White Collared Kingfisher, Halcyon chloris, and the Blue Reef Heron , Demigretta sacra, or in Fijian, Belo. The White Collared Kingfisher was painted in 1931.There is no date for the Reef Heron.

Kingfisher and Heron

Kingfisher and Heron

I will finish with an observation attributed to William Belcher which is recorded in the Introduction to  Birds of Fiji ” He believed that most people saw only what they wanted to avoid bumping into, whereas only the odd person discovered form and shape.”  Rather apt considering how long it has taken me to realise that I collect birds 🙂 and not just ‘things’ to dust.

My special Penguin

My special Penguin

© silkannthreades

Spring equilibrium

So, what does one do on the day after a night of reckless over indulgence on cake and cookies and chocolate,  in my night kitchen?

Why , one ventures outdoors, of course, because Mother (Nature, that is) knows best how to return equilibrium to body and soul. So, that is what we did on this beautiful spring day. We sat by the water side, at Northwood, and watched the world and its wonders. We were in good company.

There were ducks, both on and off the water.

Come on in; the water's cool.

Come on in; the water’s cool.

And there was a family of ducks, with Mother and Father Duck being kept very busy with the activity of their one, little, early bird duckling.

Up on the rise, a pair of ducks was resting and, perhaps, contemplating, as they watched the dizzy whizzing of the ducks below, if they were ready for parenthood.

Contemplating duckling antics

Contemplating duckling antics

By the water’s edge, we saw two, sweetly serene seagulls, blissfully unaware of the raucous behaviour coming from the other seagulls perched on nearby rooftops.

And, then ,there was the lone Pukeko who came close enough to greet us but  decided that searching for food was a much more profitable way to spend the day. And, would we mind our own business, please!

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Lastly, before leaving for home, we communed with  pretty things, particularly pretty, spring things.

© silkannthreades

In my night kitchen

I am causing mayhem in the kitchen again.

There’s mess and chaos, just as before, https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/kitchen-chaos/

but this time, I am cooking by the light of the moon…not really…..but there is a big, bold moon in the sky which I can see from my well-lit kitchen.

Here is what is happening:

There are cookies and crumbs

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

from  the excellent The Sensitive Gourmet, Antoinette Savill, http://www.amazon.com/The-Sensitive-Gourmet-Imaginative-Cooking/dp/0722537131

And there is divine chocolate cake, and more crumbs,

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

from the Healthy Food Guide http://www.healthyfood.co.nz/recipes/2007/may/gluten-free-chocolate-cake

And, to the cake, I added healthy, blueberry sauce and a helping of not so healthy ice cream.

But ice cream decadence is permissible when the moon is full and round and one is cooking in the night kitchen. Even snakes and dogs are permissible; as long as they are still.

That’s enough nonsense from my night kitchen, except my silliness has reminded me of a wonderful rhyme we loved when we were children :

I went to the animal fair, the birds and the beasts were there. By the light of the moon the giddy baboon was combing his auburn hair. The monkey he gave a jump, and sat on the elephant’s trunk. The elephant sneezed and fell on his knees and what became of the monkey, monkey, monk….

All my recipes tonight are gluten-free and dairy free but definitely not chocolate free.

© silkannthreades

All at sea

This post is for my friend  Bailey Boat Cat http://baileyboatcat.com/ and his beloved Nocturne.

For the past few weeks I have been immersed in family history. Perhaps immersed is too mild a description; it’s more like drowning or struggling to keep my head above water, amidst a sea of facts and documents and wild guesses and endless possibilities…. so, that James was a cordwainer and that James was a postman and the other James was a dairy hand. Or were they? And what about that Robert; farm servant and agricultural labourer, or were they  two, different Roberts? And then, there are the Marys and the Elizabeths and the Marys and the Elizabeths and the Mary Elizabeths, who are sometimes occupied with nothing and sometimes with ‘domestic duties’. Domestic duties? What is meant by domestic duties? Is that short hand for the bearing and rearing of a dozen offspring, in as many years, all confusingly named James or Elizabeth or Mary or Elizabeth Mary and James and Robert or Robert James. After a couple of hours of research, I am begging my forebears to throw me the lifeline of a Hortense or a Hermione,  even a Phryne (Fisher, if possible ), but the best I get is an Isola, which isn’t a bad effort.

Isola? Isola! How did a little girl, born in New Zealand, to Scottish parents acquire the name Isola? Does it mean Island or Isle? I may find out one day but, in the meantime, my mind has sailed away to islands and how we, the families of now and before, travelled from one set of islands to another, on ships and boats with marvellous, exotic names.

In our family history, I find a list of boats, ships and sailing vessels that have held, for varying lengths of time, small portions of our life stories, as travellers and adventurers, workers and servicemen. Here is a small selection of  some of the names: Bolton, Caroline Agnes, Zambesi, Zealandia, Waikato, Mokoia, Neuralia, Ulimaroa, Warrimoo, Pinkney, Adi Rewa, Matua, Tofua, Oriana, Ratu Bulumakau and Seaspray . Each of these vessels has a fascinating story and a genealogy and lineage of  her own. Many of them were sent to watery graveyards or to the hell of a scrapyard. An ignoble end to the fine engineering and craftsmanship of the craft that made possible much of our family lore.

For those who are curious about maritime vessels, here are a few links.

http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?131733

http://digitalnzgeoparser.tripodtravel.co.nz/map/photograph-of-the-ship-mokoia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Pinkney_%28APH-2%29

http://www.nzmaritime.co.nz/matua.htm

This is a photo of myself (the little blonde curly-haired child) with my brother and mother, on board the Matua ( I think) circa 1957. Possibly en route from Fiji to Sydney or New Zealand or, maybe, both.

Matua? 1957?

Matua? 1957?

http://www.ssmaritime.com/Tofua.htm

(note the punkah louvre forced draught ventilation on the Tofua)

http://www.ssc.com.fj/seaspray.aspx

http://www.castawayfiji.com/

This photo was taken aboard the Seaspray (still alive and well, I think) on a trip to  Castaway Resort, circa 1967.

On the Seaspray to Qalito Island

On the Seaspray to Qalito Island

Anchor note: I didn’t  know this when I started my research but I have since discovered that August is New Zealand Family History Month; happy coincidence.

http://www.aucklandlibraries.govt.nz/EN/Events/Events/Pages/familyhistorymonth2013.aspx

From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.

  • Pt. III, The Theologian’s Tale: Elizabeth, sec. IV

Magnolia Poetry

What wondrous life is this I lead?

What wondrous life is this I lead?

Today, Friday, 16th August, is our National Poetry Day. We are encouraged to write poems, read poems and spend our day enjoying and promoting poetry. Writing poetry is difficult for me. And I find poetry difficult to read and understand, as well.

Nevertheless, I am warming to poetry thanks to reading poetry blogs and a wonderful book which I read every day called  “Poem for the Day” ,edited by Nicholas Albery. Today’s poem is from “Thoughts in a Garden” by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678).  Here is the beginning of the excerpt:

What wondrous life in this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
Here, it is not the season for apples and grapes. Not harvest time, but the time for budding and blossoming, as Spring prepares for its official arrival next month.
A poet who wrote of the coming Spring is our own Christchurch poet, Ursula Bethell. Listen to this extract from her poem The Soothsayer, from From a Garden in the Antipodes (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1929)

I walked back down the pathway,
The evening light lay gently on the orchard;
Then I saw a redness on the peach boughs,
And bulb-spears pushing upwards,
And heard the old blackbird whistle
‘Get ready. Get ready. Get ready.
Quick. Quick. Spring.’

I cannot find words to equal either poet but, if I take a very broad interpretation of the origins of the word poem, that is something composed or created, I can pretend that these photos of my magnolia tree are a poem…. a sweetly scented, floral, poetical arrangement  from my garden to honour National Poetry Day.

For those of you who would like to know more about Ursula Bethell and her poetry follow these links

http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/authors/bethell/  and http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Literature/People/B/Bethell_Mary_Ursula/. 

Her poetry is of my land, my knowing, and it speaks to me more easily than Marvell’s words do. Yet, like, me she was not born here, and other places pull on her heartstrings. Her garden gives her a sense of  belonging but does not dispel the longing for other times and places.

© silkannthreades

Canada Dreaming

Where do you sail?

Where do you sail?

Although I grew up  on a very little island, my life was far from little or insular. I am not sure how the term insular came in to being because most island life, it seems to me, is  exposed to the comings and goings of the wider world.  It is in the very nature of an island to be outward looking; with eyes always turned to the horizon at sea and minds dreaming of what lies beyond.

Some  of my childhood dreams revolved around a huge country, namely Canada.  My dreaming was  influenced by a book we had, at home, about a modern (1960s!) Canadian family exploring their own country. The book had a stunning photo of what I thought must be the most beautiful lake in the world, Lake Louise. And I yearned to be like that travelling family, standing by that lake, breathing in the beauty of Canada.

My yearning and dreaming, and, most likely, some suggesting to my parents that we take our next holiday in Canada, came to nought. Nought, that is, unless I count my greatest (ever!) school project, entitled Canada. I completed this ‘master’work  during my last year at elementary school, when  I was about 11 years old.  I remember the hours I spent on it; the careful penmanship, the drawings, the maps, the frustration of the maple leaf  that refused to be drawn correctly; the beautifully straight, ruled lines I made across the pages. Ah, it was a labour of love; and  a labour of  heavily plagiarized content, as well. References, or sources, were not part of a school project in those far off days 🙂

Maybe the project lacked originality, but I adored it, and have kept it safe for more than forty years. Like me, it has travelled the world and rested in many homes. Unlike me, it has stayed in good physical shape and, apart from some discolouration and a few loose pages, it is much the same as on the day I finished it.

Here is a glimpse of the project. As you look at the slide show, imagine a young girl, in an old, wooden classroom, in a little sugar industry town, on a small island in the large Pacific Ocean, studiously and carefully  recreating  the story of Canada. And, for extra fun, imagine also that maybe, just maybe, that circa 1968, there was, in the middle of Canada, on a deeply snowy day, a young person dreaming and writing about small islands in the far Pacific, for I am sure there was one such child.

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Did you look carefully at the brochure   for the Canadian Pacific Railway trains? I put it  in my project because I thought those scenes  were the epitome of elegance and luxury.

Note: to  11 year  old self….how could you do this?????

Erratum required

Erratum required

© silkannthreades