Category Archives: New Zealand

From my desk ~ Chelonian Tales with a Difference

This is a post about two chelonians ~ Torty and Myrtle.

Torty is brown; Myrtle is purple.

Torty is a real chelonian.  Myrtle is an imaginary one.

Though time and reality and colour separate Torty and Myrtle, both are bound by the restorative  powers of compassion, kindness, and caring friendship.

Torty is New Zealand’s oldest survivor of World War One.  The story goes that, in March 1916, she was wandering near a bombed hospital in Salonika, Greece, when she was run over by a French gun wagon. A young New Zealand soldier, a medic on the hospital ship Marama, saw the accident and dug out the tiny tortoise from the wheel ruts. Torty’s shell had been gouged by the iron wheels of the wagon, and she had lost some toes. Her rescuer, Stewart Little, took her back to the Marama,  dressed her wounds, and cared for her. When the hospital ship left Salonika for New Zealand, Torty went to.  She became a favourite with the wounded, bedridden soldiers. On arrival in New Zealand, Stewart Little smuggled her ashore and cared for her for the next 60 years, until his death. Torty eventually found herself living in a retirement home with Stewart’s daughter-n-law, Elspeth, where she brought joy to residents and visitors alike.  When Elspeth died in 2015, Torty was given a new home with Stewart’s grandsons.

The story of Torty is told in Jennifer Beck’s  engaging  “Torty and the Soldier”,

Torty and the Soldier by Jennifer Beck

the last part of which reads:

“Stewart Little’s military service did not distinguish him from thousands of other Kiwi soldiers who served in WW1 in different ways. However, his simple act of kindness in a foreign land has provided the last living link with those who lost their lives in that war a hundred years ago.”

Our other little chelonian,  Myrtle, is an unusual hue for a turtle. As I said at the beginning, she’s purple; a rich, deep, decidedly purple, purple.

She is a fictional character, first created by author, Cynthia Reyes, 27 years ago,  to help her little daughter manage bullying at school,  and her ‘burden’ of  difference. Thanks to encouragement from Cynthia’s family, Myrtle has come out from her private shell and into the public sphere. She’s now the  star of  her own book.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle by Cynthia Reyes

In “Myrtle the Purple Turtle”, we meet a joyful, happy young turtle who loves her ‘turtley’ life until one day she bumps into a rude, bully of a turtle, who questions her authenticity ~ She’s purple! Turtles aren’t  purple! How could Myrtle be a turtle? Upset, bewildered, and hurting, Myrtle tries to un -purple herself, by rubbing her shell in the green grass. In the process  of trying to change her true self, her world is literally turned upside down. Lying on her back, stranded, Myrtle is finally rescued by  her three friends, Hurtle, Snapper and Gertie. They stand beside her, turn her over, and gently restore Myrtle to her feet. And, with kind words and compassion, the three friends help Myrtle understand that  we are not all the same, and therein  lies the wonder of each of us.  “We are all different from each other!” (declares) Myrtle, happy once again.

“We are all  different from each other!” #loveyourshell ( Can you spot all the chelonians? )

In  turtle terms, Myrtle’s life is only just beginning. I hope her longevity will rival that of a real-life turtle. I hope, like Torty, she will bring pleasure and comfort to generations. Torty’s legacy is one of loving kindness, reaching above and beyond the horror of war. May Myrtle’s legacy be a firm, friendly, loving stand against the ugliness of bullying, as well as against the demeaning of difference.

Both Torty and Myrtle are beautifully illustrated: ” Torty and the Soldier” by Fifi Colston; “Myrtle the Purple Turtle” by Jo Robinson .

And just because I can: –

As a tail-piece to these Chelonian Tales, let me remind you of the original, purple Myrtle. She was not a turtle. In the 19th century she became so popular (supposedly) that many people gave her name to their daughters. She’s a true beauty and she was the very first  purple Myrtle I  ever met.

Here  is her portrait by Robert O’Brien http://www.treeguides.com/ who is the excellent illustrator of the Texas A & M Forest Service’s   Trees of Texas resource/identification guide http://texastreeid.tamu.edu/content/TreeDetails/?id=55  ( Bob O’ Brien kindly gave me permission to use his illustration for this blog post. ) Myrtle’s  full name is Crape Myrtle, or Crepe Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica. She’s hardy and resilient and, although she is a native of China ( and Korea ), she is the Official State Shrub of Texas.

Crepe Myrtle by Robert O’Brien (with permission)http://texastreeid.tamu.edu/content/TreeDetails/?id=55

 

One last note: if you ever see the stories of Torty and Myrtle side by side, look at the colour schemes in each book and consider what they might mean, and how they make you feel about each story. Colour matters. In its difference, and its harmonies, it adds beauty and meaning to our world.

 

© silkannthreades

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From my desk ~ on the road again

I am on the road again.

On the road ~ inland from Mt Hutt, Canterbury, New Zealand, (photo credit to my brother)

Not in a literal sense but in an imaginative one.

I am exploring new territory in my creative journey by attempting poetry and prose readings.

Would you like to listen in? My first two readings have a New Zealand theme.

 

Reading out loud to myself or to an audience is something I haven’t done in a long while. It brings back warm memories of bed time stories, evenings by the radio, school plays, Bible readings, and some not so pleasant memories of  terrifying speech giving.

I would like to thank Clanmother  

and Wendy L. Macdonald

and my daughter for the inspiration which they have given me to pursue the spoken word again.

Now, on any journey, it’s handy to travel as lightly as possible. So, this week, I have not only been shedding the weight of my voice from its inner sanctum, but I have also been setting free some of my precious history.

I like to farewell treasures with love and appreciation, when I list them for sale. I do this by recording them in little tableaux. Here are two of my favourites. Together they speak to me of long journeys, strength,  and the courage to adventure, in the company of family and friends, and even strangers.

Commemorating the Centenary of Canterbury in Irish Linen

Time repeats its path…..in 2018 this 1979 calendar will be up to date again.

ps I would be grateful for feedback on my voice recordings. Is my voice clear to you?  Do I speak too quickly? Is it easy to understand the meaning of the poems and the prose?

The Colour of Spring

In my mind’s eye the colour of spring is tender:  pink and white and violet, and dimpled daffodil yellow; diaphanous blue; soft, lush green; all steeped in  warm, lemon honey sunshine.  But that is not often the reality of spring,  particularly  in Christchurch where, in September, the average sunshine hours per day number 5.5.

No, the colour of spring is more nuanced than my mind’s eye would have it. It is frequently overcast with grey,

Spring Grey

Spring Grey

and dim drizzle,  (skip to the end of the video if you  are interested in the cherry blossom)

and shaded skies.

Spring under shaded sky

Spring under shaded sky

But for all that  my spring is not mental picture-perfect, I still love it. And I will take it any way it comes.

I love spring however it is served.

I love spring however it is served;  but I don’t eat daffodils ~ they’re poisonous ~ just saying ;).

 

Does your life have a soundtrack?

Most of my readers will know  about the earthquakes we experienced in Christchurch  in 2010 and 2011 as well as the continuing  aftershocks.  The aftershocks are now minor and infrequent, yet the enormous impact of the initial earthquakes lives with us still.  It is inescapable. It is omnipresent.  The mark of the earthquakes is as good as branded upon us, seared into our being and into our land; indelible, ingrained, forever.

Yet our branding mark is no longer as raw and painful as it once was.  There is healing.  Healing which comes through significant milestones, like the recent  opening of  Helmores Lane Bridge; the only surviving 19th century timber bridge in Christchurch.

After 5 months of  earthquake repairs, and restoration work, the bridge is once again open to pedestrians and cyclists, and sheep! http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/83922014/christchurchs-oldest-timber-bridge-reopens-after-1-million-restoration

I didn’t attend the official opening, but the following day I visited the bridge for the simple pleasure of crossing it, and then standing midway to take in one of my favourite views in Christchurch.

This is what I saw. It was not what I heard.

I added a soundtrack to the video to drown out the earthquake reconstruction din which permeates the air almost everywhere in Christchurch.

The true soundtrack of our lives is an impromptu, improvised, unfinished symphony which I call “Earthquaked.” You can hear a bit of it in this next video ( and, happily, some birdsong, too.)

Unfortunately in my attempt to keep my video as short as possible, I edited out most of the noisiest noise. Hopefully, there’s enough left  to give you an idea of “Earthquaked”, within the first 48 seconds; which is the average viewing time on my You Tube channel. 😉

p.s. Readers who are sharp-eyed grammarians will notice  I have not placed an apostrophe in Helmores Lane.  It is my natural inclination to do so, and the media articles, including one by the City Council, on the opening of the bridge certainly use an apostrophe.   BUT it is my understanding that city councils in New Zealand do not  usually use  the apostrophe in street signage, and the New Zealand Geographic Board does not usually do so in place names. There are exceptions, of course. As far as I know Helmores Lane is not one of them. I am happy to be corrected on this apostrophe.

 

© silkannthreades