Relaxed on a sofa in Sunnydale, West Auckland recently, I was convinced by a friend who'd just had a baby that I needed to visit Amrka again. I did seem to miss the place so much. Immediately, my spirits lifted and my new plans appeared to produce the desired effect. Nothing like an infant in the house to inspire people.
These unicorns by Fiona Rennie-Schwieters remind me of what it's like to travel to far off lands. Mythical, full of colour and conversation, they don't look quite as scared as I am however, but any step out of our comfort-zone is at least a little frightening.
Next year, around July I'll be winging my way over there after paying for trees, planted to cover the carbon. It seems to be the best way to go about Trees for Travel, to get the trees before producing the extra carbon. Especially with the extreme weather frightening us lately, it seems a great idea to alleviate the adverse effects of our behaviour wherever possible
A few of the trees I tend myself have also been claimed by others to plant. A kowhai tree is visible from my bee-keeper friend's upper floor window. It's growing on the grass verge of a neighbour's place. I'm not sure how the totara are going to find homes, except one friend has bought a large property in the country. She tells me when she figures out what to do about wandering stock, cows who eat seedlings, then she could take some of those. The totara at present are about three centimetres tall, that's about six months' growth. Their parent tree behind the plot where they're so dainty is easily 12 metres tall, maybe 15 metres. I think it could be as old as this house, around 90 years.
Failing that we're going to take them into a park and plant them somewhere, hopefully no one will mind. It seems strange to me that trees may need to get planted as if it is a crime to do this, but the alternative seems far worse.
I discovered a fine video today about the argument for and against doing something to change the world, to make it so human beings create less carbon in the air. This is a fine and easy to understand piece of work. It's only a few minutes long.
The artist who made the unicorns, also took me to her son Ollie's exhibition at Method and Manners. His work is inspired partly by his love of community, and China.
The strength and vitality of this work impressed me, along with the diversity and wit. I loved the idea of living in castles connected with bridges, too. One picture appeared to have greenhouses between each tower.
My own visual art and design continues to use objects and images people discard, transforming them into objects of beauty. I have prepared seven hand-made covers for a poetry collection due out hopefully by early next year, Our Mother Flew Unassisted. Three of the covers, front and back are shown below. The ballerina cover will be photographed and used for a print-on-demand and ebook, too.
My novel, Glam Rock Boyfriends is also due to be launched next year, before I take off for the States again. It's been about 13 years since I started that novel. The editor has it now and we're finishing those final corrections, slowly. I include an excerpt from Our Mother Flew Unassisted, and also from Glam Rock Boyfriends, after these images.
Thank-you for reading and please feel free to comment on anything here. Lovely to hear from you.
Excerpt from the poetry collection Our Mother Flew Unassisted (brightspark books) due 2014
'Measuring the Substance of the Universe'
The dance grows bigger than any of us,
somehow entirely new
when I think of you.
Every love exists in impossible times,
defy the ruined temple walls,
bring me news of Gods and fashion.
A sculpture made of computer keyboards
missing all the keys,
illuminated from the back,
held up with spider-thin scaffolding
lit so they appear as beige skyscrapers.
'Borrow that looking ...
art is about connections now.
Conviviality and congeniality
sitting at a table with good wine and food,
discussing things - is there a better way
to start researching a book?'
'When you start working with light,
Bring the light out of the camera.'
everything in nature came out of a relationship.'
Quotes from - Ann Nobel at a discussion about Antarctica photography, at Gus Fisher Gallery 2009
Bill Cuthbert and Ian Wedde at book launch Gus Fisher Gallery 2009
Ruth Padel, Darwin’s great-great grandchild Canvas magazine 2008
Tall Poppy Ph D
'Thrasybulus had counselled him to slay
those of his townsmen who were outstanding
in influence or ability; with that he began to deal
with his citizens in an evil manner.'
27 – 25 BC Livy's History of Rome Book I
found the tall poppies you gave me this spring
pressed under dictionary and atlas
skirts flung to the sky on their hairy stems
we'd placed them in a vase for my celebration
since we found ways to escape beheading
surrendered to underground shade
the other harvest's regular and evenly grows
selected for willingness or a press to conform
congratulations slice clearly so everyone can hear
license to smile and say 'Greetings old punks and new funk
sweet dreams all you lovers and others
tomorrow awaits and we've only got our lives, darlings'
flowers pressed between poetry pages silk to smooth
this doctorate based on kindness to oneself and avoiding scissors
while beauty or talent may be flaunted in some living fields
'aged famous rockers tour the world'
I explain to the homeless man outside our supermarket
by a tree which serves to hold shopping trollies back
(some wander in high winds - steel renegades across traffic)
he wanted news
so I spoke and pretended not to remember him
stood downwind to avoid the stench of ancient unwashed denims
we loaded my groceries into the car boot together
while I talked and he listened as if we'd married
stayed in the same house for reasons of children and accounting
stopped any demands for obedience to each other's rules
but I knew his name and how he liked ice cream
a little melted and yet some still firm
my feelings also thawed enough to take time
- desserts and good conversation require a lull
but he tried to tell me we were fated to be together
as if we'd unwittingly signed up for a soppy romance movie
then soon his buddy whispered he'd told him so
they shambled away in late afternoon gold with leaves falling
I wondered for a few minutes what could've been if I'd chosen him
instead of the vampire with good map reading skills
who knew how to sneak into my room at night
to sit with his smile and wait
my eye gasp polished reaction
over and over again the same secret
known observer a fright - media man in leather without a pen
but he drew fantasies with perfect recall in black and white
so clean these bare stories in the wind and rain
The first poem was published in Poetry NZ and the third poem was published in Jacket magazine.
Now, this is from my novel, Glam Rock Boyfriends (an imaginary memoir). Some chapters have been published as stories in magazines like Takahe or broadcast as a story on Radio NZ, but this short excerpt from a story has not been previously published anywhere. This novel is due in 2014, (brightspark books).
Got all the light behind us now
sun and moon on our side.
You and I found our place to dance.
Never mind what anyone else may say,
for all time ever long we’ll own these days.
- Timeless in Rock by True Rock 1972
A rolled up Melody Maker newspaper in the face, when you're feeling quite pleased with yourself and you're expecting only a cup of coffee from the people you're visiting, is a shock. My (at that instant) ex Mark, stomped out of the room, long reddish hair flying like a war banner after his brief attack. I'd wanted to stay at Joe's place and Mark had wanted to leave.
Tears ran down my face. The rather bare and dishevelled lounge felt cold.
Joe appeared from the kitchen where'd he'd gone to make coffee and asked, 'What happened?'
'Said I wanted to stay here, Joe. And, a-and he pushed that stupid newspaper into my face.' I held a hand to my mouth. Tears didn't stop and my voice sounded whiny.
Joe over to my chair in seconds, he knelt down. After an examination to see if anything was truly damaged, we decided coffee all round could solve everything.
A jug boiling, cups clinked together, laughs every other sentence.
Mug of hot instant coffee in hand, running details of what happened over and over in my mind. Although I'd been provocative, quite uncaring, saying he could go home alone, I paid little notice to that detail, since he'd hit me. Ammunition. Another battle. Mark frequently took my answering back (offering extra information or disagreeing with his assertions), as an onslaught. Tried to shut me up with his own rants. Quite a captive by the time I'd befriended those city flatmates at Joe's, but they presented a way out. Mark now exorcised with kindness and beautiful noise.
Far from tidy houses tucked up in spick and span gardens on the edge of town, exurbia, where tousled farmland met manicured urban sprawl. Now in our city centre, traffic noise, an impersonal atmosphere, anonymity. Faded cream, brown, black and denim, the dominant colours of their flat in a converted house. Bright friends, angles and wangles, life boomed.
Near the town centre, Joe and Pete lived, two streets back from where a Woolworths department store offered stands of goods, uniformed assistants in the centre of each island. DIC a swept-up version of the same establishment, only with more clothing and hats, and posher counters too. Hallensteins sold menswear, suits, or casual walk shorts, and coffee bars offered glass jugs of Cona coffee, warm on a metal stand.
We stood at a counter and asked for what we needed, served by a trained retailer, everywhere we shopped. Almost nowhere massed stock, displayed on the shop floor.
No supermarkets existed in the whole country. The Hamilton Art Gallery a large tin shed run by a musician who sang in a band on weekend evenings. Book shops looked like libraries but were even more conservative. And curved over the one, two, occasionally three storey shops and buildings, the enormous sky of an immense river valley and surrounding dairy farm plains dominated with colour and weather.
Only one stage on the bus to university from their place, my latest friends lucky, even if the walls looked grubby and the cream-ish carpet had holes near every doorway. No one else about at night nor on the weekends, (no Saturday trading), band practise rocked until dotty hours, uninterrupted. Black leads, speaker boxes and amps, beige, black and gold woven synthetic cloth over the speakers; Fender guitars, Gretch drums, sometimes a Gibson guitar, (guaranteed a break for everyone to admire when this instrument first appeared), learning the best names to revere and those to take little notice of; hefty microphones, chrome stands. High ceilings shook with music, high inhabitants did too, and we believed we'd take everything higher where enlightenment awaited us.
Telephones, newspapers, and television, with some radio for publicity, massive waves of word-of-mouth, the fans... fame built slowly. Few music magazines ever mentioned a New Zealand musician. When musos departed for another country they were expected to make it there, or return home and painfully rebuild the following they'd enjoyed before often from scratch, or give up.
A phone connected. 'We only use it during the night to ring out. Think it's a forgotten extension from the shoemaker and mender’s out the front. Don't want them to remember it's here.'
To voodoo the anti-gurus, one afternoon Joe wrote a song about people on the other side of the wall, eavesdropping. Teens drifted about in orange print Indian tops, embroidered muslin pink, purple, reds and blues, white frilly shirts, paisley and pop, sexy boots and beaded jewellery, glop make-up and we rocked pop off its proper perfect perch. Long hair meant so much, early 70s. 'Clown outfits, beardie weirdies, you sluts, impertinent yobbos....' the staid and afraid a chorus.
Shrieks of disbelieving laughter.
Maybe the quiet shoemaker and his staff did stand with glasses held against the wall, spies hoping to hear an orgy, mysterious noise they could turn into whatever they imagined.
We spent our time in talk, cards, cigarettes, music, and enjoyments.
Conversations swelled and ran like rivers, rinsing off parents' prescriptions for a healthy existence, we swam in peculiar waters. Joe and his friends studied philosophy, sociology, and psychology, discussed discoveries, and dug into words as if they'd grow new ones. Sometimes they did. Shadows moved elsewhere. Music a tornado, a flood, startling as a hail storm, but we believed we were gentle souls searching for peace and love, if you believed our badges and printed shoulder bags. No fights or disagreements usually, gently, albeit uproariously, enjoying ourselves. Dreaming of the day when NZ songs would play on the radio. Joe wanted to perform overseas. Slaps of bright colours, shouted rebellion, once upon a time a generation who'd never known a war we had to go to.
In the midst of mind-altering whizz-bang and furious fashion statements, a stray black cat appeared on the bare dirt yard and driveway, every few days. It peered towards the back steps. A huge area behind Joe's, ground turned to dust by years of vehicles going and appearing. Surrounded on three sides with the new, grey rear walls of 1960s concrete block buildings without big windows facing away from the street. The dirt area used for parking, sometimes we sat out there on lounge furniture dragged from inside to enjoy weekend sunshine. Anyway when the cat appeared it was clearly visible. The animal sniffed around our circle at a good distance or stared, but skittered off when anyone approached. 'Here puss, puss, puss. Awww, he's run away.'
Joe and I spent weeks coaxing the black and white moggy closer with tasty offerings from filled rolls we bought around the corner from the bakery, or sardines from a tin. We purchased cat food. His sleek dark coat proved we'd changed his scraggy ways after two or three weeks, but we wanted to stroke him. 'Always wanted a cat,' said Joe with this wistful look.
We decided someone dumped 'our' cat and then local shop-owners and businesspeople shooed it off, city traffic scared the animal, rarely a kind word. The cat shied from our touch as if we were those others. Shrieking guitars and the crash of cymbals from Joe’s, a stereo at full blast, this maelstrom bouncing around the enclosed back yard, (gouts of noise echoed from the high walls), rock and roll probably also put the stray feline shy.
We persisted with soft voices and tasty this and that, relentlessly.
When a new bass player appeared, moved from New Plymouth, he discovered Kentucky Fried Chicken - newly arrived in the country. Stacks of bone-filled boxes out the back in what we imagined were old stables, could've tamed the cat just that little bit more.
I asked the new flatmate why he didn't throw his empty containers in the rubbish bin. He said, 'An Everest cardboard mountain, to celebrate fried chicken.'
My laughter perhaps had him thinking I approved.
In any case, no rats out there, maybe the cat always saw them off.
One day I walked down the drive and there was Joe standing out the back, in his arms, the black and white cat. Joe couldn't stop smiling.
This attractive moggy allowed us both to stroke him but never permitted anyone but Joe to pick him up. Joe crooning, 'Beauty, there's a beauty.'
The cat soon streaked towards him as if they'd known each other for years.
But his cat would only stare at me, green eyes cold, when I called. I only ever touched his shiny dark back once or twice, never anywhere near his head, and only if Joe held him.
Maybe the animal heard me asking their bass player why he didn't throw the fast food boxes away (some kind of traitor).
Between taming the black and white cat and my visits to talk over many cups of instant coffee, Joe and I explored various territory. I'd ask about psychology and he explained patiently, 'Positive reinforcement is when a child is rewarded for doing well. No need to hit or smack kids. If they're rewarded instead for good behaviour, they're more likely to keep on with doing the best thing.'
'How long have people known this?' I stared at him, wide-eyed.
Joe so kind, how he'd waited and hoped with that cat, fed the animal anyway even if it didn't seem friendly.
In the rather run-down lounge, we'd sit around playing cards. Talk burbled and raced. Unreal, as if at any moment it could evaporate, but every time I drove my mum's car down the bumpy driveway, stepped out, then up the three wooden stairs to the little back porch and knocked on the door, there they were, interesting, talkative, beaming.
Spring, warmish air with a jump in it. We sat playing cards. Joe and I side by side on the sofa, our thighs touched. I remember Joe just turned to me in a lull, leaned forwards, still held onto his cards, kissed me soft and inquiring.
I kissed back.
Be great to hear what you think.