Yesterday was the sort of sublimely beautiful, fair-weather day that makes me want to drop everything, hop in the car and drive forever. Maybe not quite forever, but at least for as long as it takes me to explore my country from end to end and side to side. But, being the annoyingly responsible person that I am, all we managed to do was a couple of hours of wonderful exploring of the Styx River, and, then, we dutifully came home, in time to bring in the laundry, make the dinner, feed the animals, wash the dishes, dry the dishes and turn the dishes over….actually, we have a dishwasher but that doesn’t make the domestic routines any less domestic or routine.
Normally, or nine times out of ten, I can find a way to be unbothered by the mundanities of housekeeping but, after our gallivanting, I found myself in an unusual, one time out of ten state of grumpiness. My grumps were brought on, not so much by the curtailment of my freedom-travelling aspirations but by reading about a prolific, long dead male composer. (The reading done, between potato boiling and fritter frying, and on top of a week of reading about famous, male writers). And I thought,” Yes,Mr Composer, your music is awesome. You are a creative genius BUT your creativity flourished because someone fed you and cared for you and allowed you to be what you needed to be. Someone like me, Mr Composer. So what if you wrote 50 symphonies and 10 operas, or whatever. Given the right conditions, I might have done the same (that’s seriously, seriously, flawed thinking), but, instead, my oeuvre, my mistresswork is some 30,000 meals, 21,000 loads of washing, hundreds of cakes, dozens of biscuits, thousands of shopping lists and exquisitely made beds, multitudes of beautifully pressed shirts……..so score that Mr Genius Composer, if you can! It will take you thirty years or more, especially if you have one hand stirring the porridge and one eye in the back of your head watching the children. Then, just when you think you are done, you’ll find you have an unfinished symphony because Mother has fallen and needs hours of gentle nursing, AND you still haven’t taken out the rubbish for the umpteenth time. Put that in your fiddle and play it, Mr Composer, you!”
So, having traversed that hump in my grump, I sat down and listened to the sublime music of Mr Composer (truly, truly, I can never equal your genius) and started to research where our little gallivant had taken us. Our first stop was the Janet Stewart Reserve on the Styx River; a destination I chose on the spur of the moment, as we were leaving our driveway. This was our first visit to this Reserve.It was created as part of the Styx River Project which has, amongst its aims, the creation of a source to sea experience and the establishment of a viable spring fed river ecosystem.The Janet Stewart Reserve, covers land which runs parallel with the Lower Styx Road for approximately a kilometre. It also borders part of a very busy main road; Marshlands Road.
The Reserve is home to a specially designed and planted harakeke garden. Harakeke is a type of flax which is used for Maori weaving. The garden is considered a taonga, or treasure, for the Christchurch weaving community.
At the entrance to the garden there is a fascinating woven sculpture.
When you approach the sculpture you realise that the story of harakeke is crafted into the structure.
As you read, you can hear traffic in the distance but the dominant background music comes from the birds, hidden in the bushes and the thick vegetation on the banks of the river.
The Janet Stewart Reserve is a place of creativity, conservation, calm, beauty, nourishment, renewal and responsible stewardship. Who then is Janet Stewart whose name honours this place. A politician, a composer, a musician, an opera diva, a writer? Nope, not all. Janet Stewart was that greatest of all creative geniuses; a Mother.Nothing more, nothing less.
When Edmond Stewart died in 1993, he bequeathed his land to the City Council for the purposes of creating a reserve to be named after his hardworking, resourceful mother, Janet Stewart. The Janet Stewart Reserve is a son’s loving tribute to his Mother. A living symphony of sound and light and wonder, and music to my ears. Next time, I have the grumps I will remember Janet Stewart and her Reserve and all will be well.