Category Archives: Rivers

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

 

 

 

 

Differing Sensibilities

To state the obvious: when people of different cultures and differing sensibilities meet for the first time, there can be life-changing outcomes.

I am thinking here:

of the literary fame that followed  Flaubert’s romp through Egypt; of  Maxime du Camp’s ground breaking travel photography;

Stele at  Karnak, Egypt, Calotype taken by Maxime Du Camp, French writer and photographer (1822-1894)

Stele at Karnak, Egypt, Calotype taken by Maxime Du Camp, French writer and photographer (1822-1894)

of  Edward Lear’s beautiful sketches of the Nile;

Edward Lear, near Malatieh, 1867.

Edward Lear, near Malatieh, 1867.

and of the courage of New Zealander, Ettie Rout, who, though demonized in her own country, fought strenuously and eventually successfully for the issue of free prophylactic kits to our World War One troops.

On a quieter, more gentle scale, there is my own life-changing encounter. It goes like this: –  with music if you wish, by  Omar Khairat  https://youtu.be/re78QlR0rhI

                                       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 I once lived in an apartment complex in Cairo. At the front of the building there were two small, square gardens, separated by hedges, and a concrete slab path, leading to the five storey stairway, at the building’s entrance.  One of the gardens became MY garden. It actually belonged to all the apartment dwellers on our side of the building. No one seemed to mind that I supervised its care. The garden opposite ‘mine’ was claimed by the building’s caretaker and his family. It was their domain.

Our caretaker or Bowab, Ahmed*, was of a weather-worn, indeterminate age. Perhaps in his 60s,  perhaps not. He had lived in the city for many years, yet he remained a country man at heart.

"The Banks of the Nile" by Sayed Mahmoud http://www.wissa-wassef-arts.com/bm.html

“The Banks of the Nile” by Sayed Mahmoud http://www.wissa-wassef-arts.com/bm.html

He didn’t have much time for the refined and tidy rows of my city garden. Grudgingly, he would admire the salvia, the gazanias, or the begonias, or whatever was the flower of the season, but it was his own garden that held his heart.

He was very proud of his creation, and knew each plant within it. He delighted in introducing me to the new, and usually self-sown, arrivals in his garden. But Ahmed’s greatest pride was reserved for his small collection of ‘baladi’ roses.

He had a half-dozen of these ‘baladi’ rose bushes growing in the centre of his garden, under the partial shade of a small pine tree. I don’t know how to translate  ‘baladi’ precisely.  I like to think of it as meaning an ancient rose of Egypt, as opposed to the newer  varieties that grew in my garden.

Baladi kittens with a touch of Egyptian Mau http://www.emaurescue.org/index.php

Not Roses but Baladi kittens with a touch of Egyptian Mau ? http://www.emaurescue.org/

 

Ahmed was rightfully proud of his ‘baladi’ roses. They were exquisite in their shape and colour, and scent. And, almost every morning, after I had walked my children to school, Ahmed would be waiting in his garden to give me the first rosebud, or buds, of the day.

Over time, this early morning meeting developed into our own special ‘baladi’ rose admiration society. In honour of the rose, and in the best tradition of meetings, our proceedings followed a protocol. Each meeting began with the presentation of the rose. I, then, gave a vote of thanks, after which the floor was opened to discussion. The words were almost always the same, but, to the utmost limits of my limited Arabic, we extolled the virtues of the ‘baladi’ rose. We exclaimed over its merits, and we expressed sorrow for the poorer relative who inhabited my garden.  We shook our heads over my outwardly lovely roses because they could never know the true joy of being a ‘baladi’ rose. In quiet accord on the overwhelming superiority of the ‘baladi’ rose, the meeting would end with another vote of thanks from me, accompanied by  an appreciative inhalation (aka a jolly good sniff) of the rose’s perfect perfume.

We loved those roses, Ahmed and I. We were devastated when the ‘baladi’ roses, perhaps tired of city living, decided to curl up their roots, and die. We talked about buying replacements, but, though Ahmed seemed to search everywhere, no new ‘baladi’ roses came home.

Strangely, the loss of the ‘baladi’ roses did not herald the end of our admiration society. Each early morning, as I returned from the school trip, Ahmed would present me with a rose or two picked from my own garden. The thanks would be the same, but we would wrinkle our noses over the paucity of the rose’s aroma, and we would commiserate over its deficiencies; its lack of integrity and stature, when measured against the one true standard of roses; the ‘baladi’ rose.

That same year of the death of the ‘baladi’ roses, my family and I left Egypt. It was hard to go; to leave my on-loan garden, our street,

Trash collection, our street, Cairo

Trash collection, our street, Cairo

our friends.

Shopping on our street. What's on Gallivanta's list?

Shopping on our street. What’s on Gallivanta’s list?

It was hard for them to let us go, too. The night we departed for the airport, Ahmed was there, by the taxi, waiting to say goodbye.  He first shook hands with my husband, and then crushed him in a bear hug. As he released my husband, I saw Ahmed surreptitiously wipe tears from his face. I turned away. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t know how to say goodbye to the giver of roses. As a woman, I couldn’t offer him the bear hug hiding shyly within me.   That was out of the question. I had not, in all our day-to-day contacts, even dared to offer a hand in greeting.  Perhaps a smile and a thousand thanks would have to do. But, before I could prepare my face and words, Ahmed stood in front of me, hand outstretched. Briefly, but firmly, we shook hands.  I didn’t hear his words. I didn’t hear mine.  I was conscious only of tears and the rough, earthiness of his palm.  There were no ‘baladi’ roses to give, yet, in that short, final meeting, we exchanged a priceless rose in a class of its own.

*Ahmed (real name not used )

© silkannthreades

 

 

 

It’s a fortunate day when you come to a good home

 

Nau mai, haere mai ki te whare o Silkannthreades! 

Welcome, welcome to the home of Silkannthreades, in the South Island of Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand . ~

When the early pioneers arrived in my part of the South Island*, they saw a landscape similar to this,

Norman, Edmund 1820-1875 :Canterbury Plains,- New Zealand. / Drawn by E. Norman. Maclure, Macdonald & Macgregor, Lith, London. Lyttelton, Published by Martin G. Heywood, [ca 1855]. http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=8818

Norman, Edmund 1820-1875 :Canterbury Plains,- New Zealand. / Drawn by E. Norman. Maclure, Macdonald & Macgregor, Lith, London. Lyttelton, Published by Martin G. Heywood, [ca 1855]. http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=8818

 which had been surveyed, and made user-friendly for colonial settlement, by criss-crossing it with names like Canterbury, Christchurch, Avon, Armagh, Lincoln…..

 Lincoln, NZ, named for  the Earl of Lincoln, UK.

Lincoln, NZ, named for the Earl of Lincoln, UK.

….. whether any of the sites thus labelled bore any resemblance to their namesakes in the old world, I do not know.

The Liffey at Lincoln

The Liffey at Lincoln.  The Liffey?!!!  perhaps it looked like this somewhere  in Ireland in the 1850s.

I suspect not. Most likely, the nomenclature came about via  some wishful thinking, some lazy thinking, and some self-important thinking, coupled with a desire to impose current theories of civilization on the perceived wilderness.  And whether these familiar names plonked upon the unfamiliar lands helped the settlers adjust to their colonial lives more quickly, or merely made them homesick for the real thing, I also do not know. I imagine it could have been almost as disorientating as our current practice of giving names like Pitcairn ( the Island) to a street  in the middle of an inland suburb in Christchurch!

So, as much I do not know, this I do know:

that, 4th September is a fortunate, white-stone day

because, on that date, fifteen years ago, my family and I stepped off the plane,

and began our life in Aotearoa New Zealand; a country which, to me, needs no reference points other than its own.

We had been globe-trotting for 18 years and it was time to settle down. Not in a place masquerading as a new, improved version of another land, or a place oddly correlated to  memories of distant countries, but in a place uniquely and unmistakably itself. A place we could simply know as home; and a good one, at that.

Rakaia Gorge

Rakaia Gorge (with thanks to my brother for his photo)

Home Thoughts
…..
But if I sing of anything
I much prefer to sing of where
The tram-cars clang across the square,
Or where above the little bay
John Robert Godley passed his day,
Or where the brooding hills reveal
The sunset as a living weal.

I think, too, of the bridle track
Where first they saw the plains curve back
To Alps, of how that little band
Of pilgrims viewed their Promised Land.
…..

I do not dream of Sussex downs
Or quaint old England’s quaint old towns:
I think of what will yet be seen
In Johnsonville and Geraldine.

Denis Glover (1936)

To mark, yet again, the fortunate, fourth day of September, I substituted the traditional white stone with the white pages of a book; the book being  A Good Home . It is written by the witty and wonderful blogger,  Cynthia Reyes, who knows a great deal about good homes (and good gardens).  She would be the first to agree that it is, indeed, a fortunate day when we come to a good home.

Map Legend:

* The South Island of New Zealand was  known as  New Munster from 1840 to 1853. Wikipedia   says that Governor William Hobson named it so, in honour of his birthplace in Ireland. Happily, the South Island now (since 2013!) has official recognition for its original name Te Waipounamu (Greenstone waters).

© silkannthreades

 

O bright day, marked with a still whiter stone!*

My daughter, who rivals Wikipedia in the breadth of her encyclopedic knowledge of random facts, tells me that ye olde Romans would mark fortunate days on a calendar with a white stone.  I like that.

Today, 4th September, is the anniversary of a fortunate day in my life. I have no white stones. I am not Roman ( in case you are wondering 😉 ). But I do have some lovely white markers to place on this day.

This is what is going on my calendar:

a marker to represent my land;

Up the Gorge

Up the Gorge

a marker for my neighbourhood;

In my street

In my street: a clematis paniculata; possibly a hybrid.

 

a marker to celebrate my garden;

Michelia in my garden

Michelia in my garden

and a marker to honour my home.

My home; the centre of my life.

My home; the centre of my life.

Can you guess why this date is a white-stone one for me? If not, tune in to my next post. 🙂

Whilst I am remembering a fortunate day, I must also pause and remember another  4th September, four years ago. It dawned an impossibly beautiful, blue-sky, spring day, but but it was black, black, black, and the Romans would, quite rightly, have suggested a black stone for the calendar.

Pebbles:

A big thank you to my brother for the first photo taken in the Rakaia Gorge.

An equally big thank you to my daughter for her translation of Catullus*

 

© silkannthreades

Indigestion

What to write for this post has been bothering me as much as that vexing, never-ending question of ‘what to have for dinner tonight’. I have all the ingredients, collected during my last excursion into town, but I don’t know what to make of them. I have sorted through several ideas but none of them seems quite right.

I have my lone young magpie,  usually a strange sight in the central city, who makes

me think of ‘country come to town’, or ‘nature reclaiming the spaces we usurped’, though the magpie, like us, is an introduced species. Which all makes me recall the haunting poem by our own Denis Glover,

The Magpies

When Tom and Elizabeth took the farm
The bracken made their bed,
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said.
……..
Elizabeth is dead now (it’s years ago;
Old Tom went light in the head:
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said.

The farm’s still there. Mortgage corporations
Couldn’t give it away.
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies say.

 

Then I have The Bull, Chapman’s Homer. Remember  him?  He’s back. He’s been in seclusion for a while but he’s been let out for some fresh air, and to watch over the renovations on his soon-to-be new home; the Christchurch Art Gallery.

Chapman's Homer outside the City Council building

Chapman’s Homer outside the City Council building

Looking towards the Bull's new home

Looking towards the Bull’s future home, the Christchurch Art Gallery

These items present me with ideas of ‘civilization in nature’; and ‘civilization’ itself; ‘what it is and is not’, and ‘the thinness of its veneer’.

And the entirety has me wondering about ‘cultural collaboration and collision’ and ‘what is left standing When a City Falls’ , and, if what is left, provides a big enough foundation to support a new city. The remains look so terribly small in the face of the vastness of the concrete rebuild jungle.

Confused? So am I. But, perhaps, that is just how it is in our city, where we still seem to be searching for the right recipe to put us back together again.

So what is for dinner tonight?

Brace yourselves. It’s not four and twenty magpies baked in a pie, boeuf bourguignon or smoked eel. No,  I have decided on leftover fish and chips, that traditional New Zealand take away, supplemented with homemade buttermilk corn bread,  which mish-mash is bound to bring on culturally confused indigestion ….but, right now, it’s the best I can come up with.

© silkannthreades

In the lay of the land

Serious questions ~

Who was the bright spark in ancient geekdom who decided that family history should be defined by lines and begats?

Who were the brighter sparks who devised the rigid wheels and stylised trees to chart and constrain the abundant, multi-dimensional landscape of ancestry?

For a landscape it is, our ancestry; a landscape of wide open spaces,

Wide open spaces

Wide open spaces

crisscrossed with highways and byways, one way roads and slender bridges, little lanes, and streets that go nowhere, signposted for all directions.

A landscape of well-defined boundaries, as well as soft, slippery edges, fluidity and possibility.

A landscape that reveals both the neat and the orderly, the tidy rows of heritage,

Orderly family trees

Orderly family trees

and the more common, impenetrable thickets of entwined limbs and leaves.

Impenetrable thickets

Impenetrable thickets

 

A landscape replete with the swathes and layerings of old growth and new.

Old and New in Kaiapoi Domain

Old and New in Kaiapoi Domain

And let’s not forget the twists and turns which lead to small surprises and unexpected delights.

 

Yes, family history is embedded in the lay of the land,

The landscape of ancestry

The landscape of ancestry

entrenched, without doubt, in terra firma;

or so it seems, until the land falls away, alters and shifts and, suddenly, one is all at sea.

Amelia Sims, the scow built and named for my great great grandmother, formerly of the Isle of Wight

Amelia Sims, the scow built and named for my great great grandmother, Amelia Sims, housekeeper Kaiapoi, formerly of the Isle of Wight

Topsail schooner, “Amelia Sims,” (120 ft., 98 tons) at old wharf, Motueka, about 1903. Built in Australia it reached the home port—Kaiapoi—in 1901 and though having an auxiliary screw for berthing purposes sail was its chief means of propulsion. In moderate weather “Amelia Sims” would carry ten or twelve sails and be a worthy sight in deep water.
—Photo by courtesy of Miss Nina Moffatt, Motueka.http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-NHSJ02_06-t1-body1-d4.html

Gallivanting Note

This post came about following a little jaunt in the countryside at the weekend. I traced some family history, found more questions than answers, and discovered, to my great surprise, that my great great grandmother’s second husband built her a ship, the Amelia Sims which was one of the fleet of sturdy  scows which played an important role in New Zealand’s early transport industry.

© silkannthreades

The land that claims us

I’ve been gallivanting; travelling across the Plains, from north to south and back again. I went to Timaru, a port city about 162km from Christchurch. I haven’t been that way in more than 3 years. It’s not very far, in terms of time or distance, but the earthquakes and their aftermath had somehow imprisoned me within the confines of my own city.

Last Thursday I broke free, and, in my trusty little Toyota Echo, I traced the old, familiar route across the wide open spaces; the fields to left and right, the snow topped mountains ever westward, the endless blue of sky above; the rivers big and little and, all along the wayside, the litany of names, the signs of our settlement, our marks upon the land….Templeton, Rolleston, Burnham, Northwood, Bankside, Rakaia, Chertsey, Ashburton, Tinwald, Hinds, Rangitata, Orari, Temuka and so many more…until I met the rolling hills that end the Plains, and the city that sits upon their folds; my destination,  Timaru.

View from Timaru

View from Timaru

Timaru is one of my homes away from home,

Home away from Home

Home away from Home; a place of shelter

mainly because my uncle and his family have lived there for  many years and are always ready to offer generous hospitality to me and my loved ones. Recently I  discovered another reason to feel bonded to Timaru. It was the initial place of residence for the Scottish side of my family when they came to New Zealand in the mid 1870s. It was also the site of our first birthing in New Zealand; from the paternal side  of the family tree, that is. A momentous occasion, perhaps, that first birthing, or, more realistically, just another fact of life for a busy settler-wife to contend with.  Whatever the case, young James arrived in the land of his parents’ choice, on 26 June 1877, followed, not long after, by his twin brother, Joseph.

Years later, a cemetery entry, which is probably that of my great-uncle, records James as a native of Scotland, despite being born and having spent most of his  life in New Zealand.

And, therein, lies the rub; which land claims us? The one we are born to, the one we live in, the one we die in, the one we feel is home, that we feel in our heart, the one we left behind, the one we long for, the one we choose, or don’t choose, the one that loves and protects us, or the one that legally bind us? Or the one that refuses to let us go?

My son, through circumstances entirely outside his control, was born in the US. His birthplace was happenstance; his first landfall, like that of his great great uncle, was an accident of birth. For the greater part of his life he has lived in New Zealand; considers himself a New Zealander and holds, and chooses to hold, New Zealand citizenship. Yet, like a dog unwilling to relinquish its bone, America, the land of his birth, holds on to him, and millions of others like him, whose only wish is to live freely, quietly and privately in the country of their own choice. America  does this via the appalling effrontery of  FATCA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act which compels governments worldwide to hand over, to the IRS, the personal financial information of anyone (or institution) with  Born in America  next to their name. Supposedly this measure is aimed at  preventing losses to the US economy  through tax evasion.  Perhaps it will,  but does catching the tax cheats really require the Government of America to force minion foreign Governments  to trawl the electronic trail of the US diaspora for wicked tax evaders and, in the  dragnet-process,  mangle  the innocents abroad and the accidental Americans?

My ancestors  traversed thousands of miles of unruly ocean to reach New Zealand. They wanted to escape the restrictions of old societies and economies. They came looking for newer, better ways to live. Most people who settled in the US travelled long, arduous routes to get there, too.  They wanted to be free of old ways, old tyrannies, old politics.  When I look at power-mongering acts like FATCA, I wonder if any of us have travelled very far at all.

Which land claims you?

Which land claims you?

© silkannthreades