Tag Archives: home

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

 

 

The Tendrils of the Sweet Pea

The other day, I wrote a post which featured some clip art from Dover Publications https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/from-oostburg-to-christchurch-we-are-connected/.  This beautiful painting of sweet peas was also included in my free clip art sampler. The painting is by the Belgian Painter and Botanist, Pierre-Joseph Redouté, (1759-1840) who was nick named the “Raphael of flowers”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Joseph_Redout%C3%A9

Sweet Peas by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Sweet Peas by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

In floriography, or the language of flowers, the sweet pea represents ‘delicate pleasures’.  I am not sure what constitutes ‘delicate pleasures’, especially in Victorian terms when floriography was at its peak, but, as this interpretation comes from Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers, I shall assume it has an innocent and sweet meaning. Like a light kiss a mother might bestow on her child’s cheek, or a gentle, hand in hand, stroll with a loved one.

For me, the sweet peas are the sweetest of flowers. Some years I grow them in my garden.

Sweet Peas in my Garden

Sweet Peas in my Garden

They remind me of my grandfather, for the sweet pea was his favourite flower.

They remind me of my wedding day, when all I could find  for a bouquet, in the arid setting of Botswana, was a handful of sweet peas; surprisingly, and almost miraculously, brought forth, rich in colour and scent, from a monochrome, dry earth. On that day, they were, indeed, a delicate pleasure, and a precious connection to loved ones far away.

Whilst pleasing my eye with the delicate, sweet pea painting, I wondered if I could find a poem to accompany it. And, of course, I could, with some help from Mr Google.  Alfred Noyes wrote A Child’s Vision, which begins

“Under the sweet-peas I stood

And drew deep breaths, they smelt so good….”

The poem is a delightful view of sweet peas from a child’s perspective. It  takes me back to my own childhood  fascination with  sweet peas (and snapdragons, too 🙂

Alfred Noyes  was an English poet.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Noyes   Two of his better known poems are “The Highwayman” and “Daddy Fell into the Pond”. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/daddy-fell-into-the-pond/ He was  born in 1880, on 16th September. Yes, that’s right, 16th September. Today is his birthday, or would be, if he were still alive.

Happy Birthday Alfred

Happy Birthday Alfred

Isn’t that a pleasurable and fortuitous discovery :)?  Alfred Noyes lived for some of his life, in Ventnor, Isle of Wight, and died there in 1958. His final resting place was Freshwater, Isle of Wight. And that little piece of information, that Alfred Noyes’s  home was on the Isle of Wight, afforded me a gentle, crinkle-cornered smile. Because, for some weeks, I have been on a voyage of discovery into my ancestry.  I  have been reaching out through the  past and  learning, little by little,  about my great, great, great grandparents  and their life on the Isle of Wight. It’s a fascinating journey, and, helping me to understand my ancestral  home in its modern context, is my lovely, full of spirit,  blogger friend, Bethan, at http://thehouseofbethan.com/.  We have  fun planning my imaginary trip “home”, and, now, thanks to my love of sweet peas, I can add Alfred Noyes’s home, Lisle Combe, to my list of places to visit.  And, since I will be near Ventnor, I will also consider taking  a peek at Keith Brewster’s prize-winning sweet peas,  http://www.iwcp.co.uk/news/gardening/sign-of-sweet-success-50269.aspx

All fun and fantasy aside, it has been a sweetly, delicate pleasure, today, to have one, sweet pea painting lead me, by its virtual tendrils, from my kitchen bench, in Christchurch, to the Isle of Wight;  in which place I know there is a spot, a portion of soil,  that is uniquely mine ; a piece of ground that knows my heart, and my footprint, because of those who have gone before me.

Now, if only I had been a Victorian, with an abundant supply of sweet peas, I could have reduced all these  words in to a small posy . How much easier and sweeter for all of you, my kind, patient readers 🙂

© silkannthreades