Sunday, August 17, 2014

SADness Easing

Yesterday I just couldn't shake the SADness, although I wasn't falling all the way down. The first thing that started the uphill climb was getting a text from Nick and Izzy asking if we were doing anything, and then, as we weren't, they came out to sit by the fire and chat, and look at the moon, and be in the country peacefulness. It was just the kick-start I needed, and this morning I decided to be a bit proactive. I discovered something a while back, when I was working through John Kirwan's book, All Blacks Don't Cry, and website about depression. When I was depressed and people said, "do something you like doing, to cheer yourself up," it made no sense to me because when I am depressed, I don't like doing anything. Through JK I discovered that what I actually need to do is, 'do something I enjoy doing when I'm not depressed, even though I don't feel like it at this time.'

So I grabbed the camera and went for a walk around outside on this glorious sunny, wind free day.
 We discovered the kettle has been leaking, so after a couple of days of drying out, Mac is finally turning the slab of macrocarpa into a bench top!
 Such lovely wood.
 The ducks make me smile just because they are, well, ducks!
 The rhubarb hasn't died off this winter: the stems are shorter and thinner, but they have kept on growing.
 Snow drops are possibly my favourite spring bulbs.
 The tagasaste is buzzing with both honey bees and bumble bees.
 The magnolia which was a land warming gift from my friend Margaret, is finally flowering.
 Dew covered spider webs are always breath-taking.
 The hyacinths re a bit stunted this year, but still fragrant and beautiful.
 And who could fail to see summer in this glorious incarnation of joy?
 Mac was ploughing up a new potato bed, and I got stuck into the vegetable garden, so that when it's time to sow and plant, the beds will be ready and waiting. Gardening works for me in so many ways: just connecting to the earth, but also, the anticipation of harvest, the physical hard work, the sounds of birds and bees all around, the sense of usefulness, of purposefulness.
There's not much to eat at the moment - loads of parsley, a little silverbeet, pak choi, beetroot, miners' lettuce and carrots. But soon there will be lots to choose from, I hope.
Then, tired and sore from the digging, I watched as the light faded from the day. I'm still not out of the woods - but I can see the light over the mountain.

Friday, August 15, 2014


It's winter. I haven't coped quite as well this year as I did last year. For the last six weeks I had to really work hard not to fall into the chasm: if I am not constantly aware and actively keeping my eye on the path, I tend to wander just a bit closer to the edge. Spring is here - maybe - the end of winter is here, anyway.

It's been harder for a number of reasons on top of winter darkness. Financial worries. Friends drifting away as they move to different places, get involved in new relationships, new jobs, new interests - or just tucking themselves away into their own problems. An old amalgam tooth was disintegrating and, perhaps as it's been a long time since this happened, I failed to notice that part of my misery was the particular type of depression that always accompanies the leaching of mercury into my body. (A depression accompanied by deep anger.) Then more financial worry from having to visit the dentist.

And then the death of Robin Williams at age 63. I'll be 63 this time next month. If he couldn't make it through, can I believe that I will?

There's been so many wonderful writing about depression since Robin's death, and so much that I strongly relate to.

I knew that the thing that stopped me actually committing suicide during the half dozen times I really wanted to, was the thought of the family and friends who would suffer if I did so, and the thought of the person who discovered my body, especially after I got to know someone who found her father shut in his idling car with a hose from the exhaust.

I've been doing a lot of thinking as I read all these people talking about their experiences and understanding of depression. I suddenly realised it wasn't just that I cared about other people that stopped me, it was that I realised that I have never considered myself as deserving of having my feelings matter. As a child I was smacked for being angry, sent to my room when sad and told to be quiet if I was happy and dancing around singing or such like - "what have you got to be so happy about," I remember my mother saying once. So I've just discovered that I have this underlying belief that I don't have the right to be depressed enough to kill myself.

When I heard that Robin Williams had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, my initial reaction was jealousy. In my worst times I have often wished that I would be diagnosed with some ghastly disease, so that it would be okay for me to commit suicide, because no one left behind would feel guilt for not doing something / enough to help me. How's that for sick?

So the next step in healing myself has become clear: I need to be able to have feelings of any kind without guilt, without thinking I don't deserve to have feelings. It's ridiculous that whatever I feel, guilt overwhelms it. Guilt because I don't deserve it. Guilty for thinking about suicide. Guilt for being depressed. Guilt for being sad. Guilt for not wanting to do things. Guilt for feeling proud of something I've done. Guilt for loving people 'too much'. Guilt for being happy.

No one should ever feel guilt for feelings. Sometimes the way we act in response to those feelings may be deserving of guilt. But not the feelings themselves. I want to reach a point where I can accept that I am entitled to my feelings, even the suicidal ones. I hope I never reach a point where I actually do kill myself, but I'd like to stop feeling guilty for feeling.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July Reading


Snake Ropes by Jess Richards
I heard of this book when a woman, whose blog I follow, reviewed it:

From blog by Catherine at Still Standing On Her Head

Jess Richards was born in Wales and grew up in South West Scotland. The setting of the book is a mysterious island somewhere far to the west of Scotland. The inhabitants have long been isolated. Their only visitors are the mysterious tall men who come from the mainland to trade for fish and for the women's craft work, being careful not to disturb the culture of the islanders too much. The story is told in the voice of two young girls, Mary who is an islander, and Morgan whose parents have settled there from the mainland, after fleeing something dark in their past. If I had to label this book with a genre, I would say "magical realism". Morgan can talk to the dead, and the myths told by Mary's grandmother become tangled in the story so that it is not quite clear what is myth and what is real.

It's a stunning book, highly imaginative, unlike anything else I have ever read. I highly recommend it. 

I agree. It is a strange but compelling book! It is classified as fantasy, which I guess it is, but is nothing like anything I have read before. I won't say I liked it but I couldn't abandon it either. I haven't decided whether I'll read her second book, Cooking with Bones, which sounds from the title as if it is even creepier!

The Cornish Knot by Vicky Adin

The Cornish Knot is the story of Megan, a widow of 12 months who receives her great-grandmother’s journal written a hundred years ago. She embarks on a journey to trace her family tree, discovering secrets and finding herself immersed in the world of art. She follows the footsteps of her ancestor from Cornwall via Italy to New Zealand.This is the first of a series, The Past Finders, which will all be about 'history, family, love and renewal'. It's an easy read, not badly written, and well researched. However, it is somewhat unrealistic in its unfolding of the story, for the sake of drama - in a real life situation, the story would have unfolded in a much less orderly fashion story-wise, but way more logically in terms of a woman travelling the world to trace her predecessors.

As I say, an easy read, good for a journey, or for curling up with when you are sick, or like me, suffering from a sore back.


Garlic and Sapphires by  Ruth Reichl

 I'm a vegetarian. I don't much like restaurants, especially the posh ones where the food has been artistically arranged on the plate - I get creeped out at the thought of all the fingers involved in arranging it - and I have never read a restaurant review. I also have a horror of big cities. However, a woman I met recently, and who I, so far, really like, mentioned Ruth Reichl, and one of the ways I like to get to know people is to read books they recommend. Well, I'm hooked! I'll be finding more of her books for sure.

Garlic and Sapphires is a memoir about Reichl's years as the restaurant reviewer for the New York Times. It is based around some of her reviews, but is about her discovery of sides of herself that she didn't previously know about, as she develops disguises so she can visit restaurants without getting the special treatment that recognition brought. She writes so well that her descriptions of food that would have me gagging even if I was 3 tables away, make me salivate. She is incredibly funny and insightful, and I can't wait to get my hands on another of her books - I'm looking forward to some cold, wet days in front of the fire!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Today Next Year

A writing prompt asked: What was there about today that you will enjoy remembering in a year's time?

Not the woman
that the council want her
to either chain up her dogs
or build a secure fence.
Not the man
that the bench seats and tables
outside the chippie shop
aren't clean enough.
Not the woman
the concrete path
to the jetty
is in the wrong place.
On this bright
yellow and blue
mid-winter's day
I smile at small boys
dropping rocks
into the sea
with a satisfying splash.
I smile at the curve
 of the blue footbridge
leading the women
pushing strollers
following toddlers
over the water
to the playground.
I notice the leaves
of opportunist
self-seeded plants
sprouting from the top
of the broken palm tree:
like a comical toupee
on a balding man.
There's a shiny
 black and chrome
better than new
nineteen forties car
parked outside the cafe,
a chance to chat
to one, no longer a stranger.

The dog runs into waves
the boy follows
foaming water fills his boots
and, nearly mine.
Gulls run along the sand.
There is laughter and barking,
shells and driftwood.
If this day next year
is as cold and wet and dark
as one expects in July,
these will be the memories
I will take out to enjoy,
to taste, to smell,
to relive in front of the fire.


lemon zest
lime juice
hot drinks
for winter days

honey mixed
with memories
of summer,
hay rides
and shearing sheds

of saxophones
and cool jazz
and long black
barely restrained
wild ringlets

memories and connections
and almost no-one left
to understand them.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Before the Concrete Sets

I have been following Twisted Stitches and Hazelmade and Katwise and loving their clothing for quite a while. Today I discovered that Katwise also has a blog. With crazy writing, and pictures of her crazy clothing and crazy house and crazy buses, and I know that if I hadn't become, in childhood, a terrified-of-being-different, boring, jeans and black t-shirt kind of person who has aged into a boring, grey, fat old woman - this is the sort of person I wish I could have been. Not in quite the same way, because I was never a Grateful Dead fan, but colourful and colour-filled and fearlessly me. Too late now - I'd look a complete dork if I wore clothing like that and danced around singing (badly)and shit.

I wish I had learned to play music. I wish I had learned to sing. I wish I had learned to dance. I wish I had written more poetry. I wish I had worn the clothes I loved and the colours I loved and the fabrics I loved. I wish I'd said to more people, "Hey, I like you - would you like to meet for coffee on Tuesday?"

I wish I hadn't let my life be ruled so much by what I thought I should do. Ruled by fear of looking a fool, being rejected, tripping over my feet, getting things wrong. I wish I'd told certain people to just get the fuck out of my life. Now, I'm so set in my ways that I just can't bring myself to wear inappropriate colours and clothes. My body's not up to dancing or learning to surf or riding a unicycle. I do act 'inappropriately' sometimes, but not as often as I would if I followed my inner voice.

Pretty much I am happy with my life now. I love living here and doing the back-to-the-land thing. I have interesting friends. I have old and loyal friends. I have sons and grandchildren. I have a husband, without whom life would be seriously empty.

But if you are still young, hear me and listen - be who you are, now, before the concrete sets.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June Reading


Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
A funny love story about an old Indian-born English Major and an English born Pakistani woman. The reactions of their families, friends and the local villagers make for a bit of thinking about cultural differences, but it is neither too shallow nor too intense. Not quite 'fluff' but an easy winter fireside read that is quite satisfying.

Gith by  Chris Else
An easy but uncomfortable read. Well written but a bit too creepy for me. An NZ author.

Dinner at Rose's by Danielle Hawkins
Another NZ  author. An amusing romance. Definitely winter-time fluff, but reasonably well written.


The Exercise Book - Creative writing exercises from Victoria University's Institute of Modern Letters edited by Bill Manhire, Ken Duncum, Chris Price and Damien Wilkins

The writing group I go to intermittently has been using this book recently and it has lots of good trigger ideas. There are exercises for a range of genre, and some that deal with revision and editing. A worthwhile book of interest to beginner writers and the more experienced. Sadly though, it still hasn't got me doing the most important thing of all: writing EVERY DAY!

One of the exercises we did was based on The Ian Sharp Poem, which Jenny Bornholdt has used with children in schools. Ian describes himself in third person in terms of various things: a parcel, a toy, a landscape and more. We did our own versions, describing ourselves, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed doing this as I usually hate exercises of any kind, especially the 'you have 10 minutes to do this' kind!

The Cally Brown Poem

Cally Brown is parcel of seedlings
wrapped in wet sports pages
from Monday’s Waikato Times
secured with green rubber bands
saved from last year’s asparagus.

Cally Brown is a sandpit
with buried matchbox cars
a faded yellow bucket
a broken red spade
and a couple of ice block sticks.

Cally Brown is an orchard
with four white Peking ducks
beside a garden with rows
of carrots and beetroot and
broad beans and sweet red onions.

Cally Brown is an old Toyota van
with room for shovels and a scythe,
bags of fallen leaves, new plants,
trees, children and grandchildren,
love, and baskets full of memories

Cally Brown is a home-made book
with crinkly rusted paper
bound with brown hemp twine
embellished with pages from old books
pressed leaves and chook feathers

Cally Brown is a pile of old jerseys
just waiting for transformation
into wild patchwork hoodies
with crazy ribbons, buttons, beads
and totally unsuitable colours.