Tag Archives: birds

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

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

Back to the box, for the record…

Back to the box;  not the tissue box, which is permanently attached to my nose at the moment,  but the one in the living room. Back to the box, to take a look at what other ‘treasures’ it has for me to record, to envisage as my own  personal palimpsest.  TreasuresToday, on top of the box, there is Royal Doulton ware that once belonged to my grandmother. I am the current custodian but I know little about the items other than they date from the 1920s.

The book is a recent purchase of mine from a second-hand store.CopybookIt is a copybook. I love that it is a copybook; that we are being invited to copy the illustrations. It makes me feel like a child again, industriously copying pictures or using tracing paper to copy pictures.  I want to take up my brush and copy this illustration from the book,Copycatsalthough the artist, Shutei ( whose name has the lovely meaning of ‘small teahouse in an autumn garden’), says that cats are a difficult subject to paint. She suggests we  begin with the much simpler white plum blossoms.

I wish Shutei were here to guide my hand, as she did with her own students, but, since she was born in 1894, I think I will have to manage with only her guiding spirit via the book.

Shutei’s book probably had a print run of thousands. Or maybe not. It is still available on Amazon but, then, what isn’t! I have a another type of copybook , that is one out of the box;  literally. I found this account book  in the box in my living room. It was used in my grandparents’ bakery and butchery. It is a record of accounts, paid and unpaid, in 1948 and 1949.

One summer, I think the summer of 1970/71, my sister, and others, used the book for writing and drawing and copying and rough drafts and games, and general amusement. Although it is not a treasure as valuable in monetary terms as the Royal Doulton, it is priceless, as a layered, multi-dimensional record of a short period in our family’s history. It’s also very funny and provides as much entertainment now as it did back in that summer of the seventies.An original, one of a kindTake a look, it’s all in the book…

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Our history, personal and otherwise, is recorded in many different formats. Each has its own value and worth.

This week in New Zealand, we are asked to record the birds in our garden, for the annual Garden Bird Survey.  Last year the top bird in New Zealand gardens was the commonplace sparrow. Other years, the brilliant little silver eye has taken top honours.  If you live in New Zealand, and are reading this post, take a little time  to participate in the  survey. http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/animals/birds/garden-bird-surveys/instructions.  And, then, let’s see which bird tops the charts in 2013. If you want to get more fun out of the survey, as well as recording your answers online, write them down on a piece of scrap paper or a docket and tuck it away somewhere, like a box; it will be a lovely find for you, or someone else, one day.

© silkannthreades

Matariki and my mother’s birthday

NASA Matariki 2012 small_0Today is a special day. It is my mother’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Mum! My mother and my father live in my sister’s home in warm, tropical Queensland.  But my mother’s birthplace is just few kilometres east of my present home in Christchurch.  It was raining ( I think) on the day she was born, and it is raining on this day, too. It seems that  some things, weather wise, have not changed  in 91 years 🙂

Something else that has changed little in all my mother’s  decades, and for decades before her time, and which will change little in decades to come, is Matariki, or the star cluster Pleiades.  In New Zealand, in traditional Maori culture, when Matariki appears before dawn in late May or early June, it is a signal that heralds the New Year, in accordance with the Maori lunar calendar. This year, Matariki was on 10 June.  When my mother was born, Matariki  apparently disappeared from the night sky around  19th -21st May and reappeared in the first new month ( Pipiri ) of the year, about 17th -19th June.  So, by this reckoning, I can say that she is a New Year baby,  born under the ‘little eyes’ or ‘the eyes of god’  ; two of the interpretations of the meaning of Matariki.

Despite all the clear instructions on how to find Matariki in our New Zealand skies,  I have completely failed to do so. When I look at the night sky, I am immediately lost.  However, there is one bit of star-gazing that I can do, and have done, for as long as I can remember, and that is to notice the first star of the evening.  And with that noticing comes a little verse that has been sung over the centuries by many a child and, undoubtedly, many a mother too.

“Star light, star bright, The first star I see tonight; I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight.”

I have wished many a wish on that first star of the evening sky, though what those wishes were I no longer remember. Perhaps they came true, perhaps they did not.

One wish that my mother had, a very long time ago was to have her travel diary published. She kept a comprehensive diary ,and many letters, of her early married life in Fiji but publishers were not interested then, and most likely still wouldn’t be.

However, with the POWER of WordPress at my finger tips, I am going to make my mother’s wish come true, on her birthday, and  publish a small extract from  her first rough copy manuscript !!!!

“It was our first winter at home (Christchurch)  after almost two years in a warmer climate, and we were feeling the cold dreadfully. Dealing with gas and electricity rationing and a fuel shortage did nothing to relieve our feelings, or the cold! On one particularly cold, wet, bleak afternoon I sat shivering before a small fire, nursing aching chilblains, and thinking gloomily of better days. Beside me on a desk lay a bundle of letters, written to the home folks, while we were away, and on an impulse I picked one up and began to read. Gradually the gloom dispersed and I was back again in the warm, happy islands of Fiji. Thoughts flitted through my head as bright as the hibiscus flowers and the myriad gay little birds of that tropical land where we had been so happy.”  September 1951

A Happy Birthday and  a Happy Matariki to my mother for all seasons, and for all time. Have a lovely day in warm sunshine. Is it fun to have your work published? 🙂
For the star gazers; a link to the heavens 🙂  (http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/matariki-maori-new-year) ( http://www.astronomynz.org.nz/maori-astronomy/taatai-arorangi-maori-astronomy-2.html)
The first image is apparently one from NASA and seems to be used by many of the websites I have looked at whilst researching Matariki.
© silkannthreades

Lighting the way to the winter solstice

Apologies, good people, but I must interrupt my tales of the medlar to update you on my beautiful, blossom-ful,  ornamental cherry tree, the prunus autumnalis.  This lovely tree has the delightful habit of producing blossom twice a year; in spring and in autumn/early winter. About 3 weeks ago, it was just beginning its late autumn blossoming and I showed you these photos of it in my post Two Seasons in One Tree https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/2010/

Since early May we have had many days of rain, and few of sunshine.  I haven’t paid much attention to the cherry tree. I have been fixated on the dreary rain and equally dreary skies. So, imagine, my little bounces of joy, when, this morning, I awoke to bright sunshine, a blue sky and the apparition of my prunus autumnalis shimmering all over with delicate, pale pink blossom.  And it wasn’t simply the shimmering that made me joyful. The tree was a-twitter of tiny wax-eyes. These little birds, freshly arrived, in my garden, herald the time of colder days. Much as I dislike the colder days, I  welcome the winter appearance of  these busy, extroverted conversationalists.

I went out to the garden to take some photos and, of course, the birds flew away, but, in the absence of their chatter, I was able to hear the dense, humming chorus of the bees and bumblebees. On closer inspection, it seemed to me that the shimmering of the flowers was not so much from the light, dancing  on the petals, but the movement of the bees amongst the blossom. How glorious.

And, how lucky am I to have this loveliness on my doorstep. It’s a sweet gift from Nature to lift my spirits as we head rapidly to the darkest day of the year; the winter solstice.Prunus Autumnalis © silkannthreades

Two seasons in one tree

It looks like autumn. It feels like autumn. It smells like autumn.Looks like Autumn

The evidence seems clear; autumn is here.

Or is it? Take a closer look at this photo of my ornamental cherry tree.Two seasons in One.

Do you see the blossoms?

I used to think that my cherry tree was as confused as I was about changing weather patterns but, a few years ago, I realised that the previous owner of my house had gifted my garden with a Prunus Autumnalis. A Prunus  Autumnalis blooms twice a year; once in autumn/early winter and, again, in spring. The bees and the birds delight in this tree and its blossom. This year, I may ask my little ‘wildlife’ guests if they will let me share their feasting.  Apparently, the cherry leaves and blossoms are as delectable to the human palate as they are to the human eye.

© silkannthreades

Late Bloomers

‘Leo the Late Bloomer’ is one of my favourite books. (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/225542.Leo_the_Late_Bloomer) Written by Robert Kraus, the story tells us, through the character of Leo the little tiger, that each of us will bloom in our own good time. ‘ Leo the Late Bloomer’ is  usually referred to as a children’s book but I think the theme of the story has universal appeal. So I, on my own authority, have decided to delete the ‘children’ from the book’s description. Sorry, kids, but you can’t keep all the good books to yourselves!

Occasionally, I think of the story’s theme in relation to myself but, today, my attention was caught by the late bloomers in my garden. Here they are, in collage format, because I wanted to emphasize the visual impact of the  blue hues of their lateness.  The actual flowers are scattered thinly in different parts of the garden.Bluetiful

In two of the photos the blueness has not yet emerged; later than late bloomers, those ones. Some of the blooms may, more accurately, be described as stragglers, or long-lasting bloomers, but the plumbago is my true late bloomer having only emerged for the first time this week. But each flower is beautiful and, at this time of the year, very precious. The borage is especially precious to the remaining bees.  In fact, the bees are probably the reason that most of the late bloomers in my garden are blue toned. The colours that we perceive as purple, violet and blue are the colours the bees see best.

Thank you bees, thank you beautiful late bloomers and, as an afterthought, because the word ‘bloomers’ can never quite be said without a giggle in my brain,

No Thank You to those horrible blue garments we once had to  wear to physical education classes. They were bloomers too and were certainly not beautiful, nor intended to be. They discouraged any notion of birds and bees.

© silkannthreades

Waiting for you

PurpleStill on the theme of Waiting, this post is dedicated to my New Zealand born parents who, once upon a time, spent many happy hours at Mona Vale. They would have enjoyed being with us yesterday afternoon, were it not for the fact that they now live thousands of miles away in Queensland. Even though they live in Australia, they consider themselves more” Kiwi” than ever because, like New Zealand’s national bird, the Kiwi, they no longer fly.

Let’s start our stroll at the herbaceous border, near the car park.The Blues

More BlueStill blueWeird and white

Next we cross the bridge and look towards the railway line View to the railway and, then turn the other way, to follow the flow of the river.View to the walk bridge no longer walkable

Here is a seat waiting for youA seat for you

with blue flowers  like little satellite dishes, tuned towards you and the sun.Blue to you

And, if you get too hot, you can move to Hilda’s seat and test drive the perspective of a hundred year old lady.Another seat for you A bird in hand

As soon as you are seated, the birds will seek your company and your ducks will come looking for bread.Ducks will come to callThey are as eager as ever to be fed. There were a few white ducks today. I wonder if they are ever confused by their reflections. Their reflections confused me.Which side is up?

That’s all for now except for a brief stop to smell the roses. They are not at their best but the onesWish you were blue

that remain are harvesting the sunshine.

© silkannthreades

Playing the waiting game

In Christchurch, these days, we are learning to play the waiting game. We wait for insurance companies. We wait for repairs. We wait for phone calls, and on phone calls. We wait in traffic. We wait for businesses to reopen, for buildings to be restored or built. We wait for plumbers and carpenters.  We wait in lines of traffic and we wait for rain……..sometimes we play the game well and with patience; other times, not so much. Our health authorities, worried about the stress levels, particularly the ones generated in those “other times’, has launched a campaign called All Right? (http://www.cdhb.govt.nz/communications/media/2013/130225.htm) ( http://www.allright.co.nz/ )

Today, after almost a week at home waiting for workmen and assessors, and for the house to dry out, we finally decided it would be all right to venture out for some early autumn sunshine. No one was scheduled to visit the house after 3pm, so we were free to flee.

We went to a favourite spot; Mona Vale. Funny thing was that, when we were there, everywhere I looked, I seemed to be surrounded by signs and scenes of waiting. I was still involved in a waiting game.  Follow my photos and see what I mean.

Waiting to fall Waiting to fall

Waiting on a bridge for a breeze to a final destinationWaiting for a breeze

Waiting to fly Waiting for the moment to fly

Waiting for an audienceWaiting for the audience  Waiting for a meal; or a dusterWaiting for a meal

Waiting for Hilda; a special seat for someone’s special great-grandmother from CanadaWaiting for HildaHilda's place

Waiting for someone to remember where they left itNow where did I file it?

So how did you find that variation on the waiting game? Am I playing it well?   Am I doing all right?

© silkannthreades