Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It was twenty years ago today.......

This time 20 years ago I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair beside my mother's hospital bed. She hadn't spoken for a couple of days, was receiving fluid and pain relief only, but still she looked at me with eyes that demanded still more. Just after 11am I realised that she was going to hang on until I did something to release her, that yet again I was failing her. For thirty seven years I had been, not outrageously bad, not excitingly wicked, just a constant disappointment. Still she looked at me out of those hooded eyes, set in a death grey face.

I had tried a few times over the years to talk to her about all the issues that festered inside me: wanting answers to why she found me such a disappointment; why she never hugged or cuddled me as a child; why she told me I was tone deaf, clumsy, inadequate; why she never apologized even when she was clearly in the wrong; why she didn’t stand up for me when I was victimized by a vicious teacher – so many whys. The answer was the same each time I summoned the courage to ask: “I don’t want to talk about it. It’s done with.”

Yet her eyes now told me that she wanted something from me, and that even if she had the energy to talk, she could still make demands with those eyes.

So I said the words I thought she wanted me to say, words I desperately wished were true, “Thank you for everything you have done for me. Thank you for giving me life. Thank you for teaching me so much. I owe you so much. I love you.” Her only response was to close her eyes, take one last rattling breath and then she stopped.

Still I had more to do for her. When she told her doctor she did not want to be resuscitated, his response was that as a Christian he was morally obliged to do all he could to keep her alive, so no, he would not accede to her wish, he would attempt resuscitation. And so after my mother died, I continued to sit by her side for twenty minutes before going and telling a nurse – who then told me that said doctor was not on duty that day, and that all the rest of the staff believed in doing as the patient asked. Ah well.

Still it wasn’t over: my mother lived on in my mind and heart, criticizing and blaming and putting me down. A few years ago I finally went to a counselor again (my first attempt to go to one as a suicidal 17 year old is a whole nother story) and gradually started to come to terms with all my “mother stuff”. I reached a point where I wrote the following poem in August 2007. (Note: my mother was the daughter of an All Black and followed rugby all her life.)

The After Game Debrief

Right into extra time
It was all about you.
Lying grey and motionless
You still controlled the play.

You wouldn’t blow the whistle
Till I had shaken hands,
Acknowledged you as
Player of the Century,
And me – less than second five-eighths.

Even now, two decades on,
You still high tackle into my life,
Scrummaging in my head
At inopportune moments.

It’s time I told you;
The Game’s over.
The boot’s on my foot.
Your ball’s out of play.
My team’s playing live.
You team’s dead and gone.
It’s all over – even the shouting.

Well, it wasn’t quite true then, but HURRAH!! I think it finally is! I did Christmas my way this year and made it through without any bitterness or guilt or sadness. I had a wonderful day with my beautiful wonderful sons and their partners and their children – plus one partner’s brother. They are all people I love and want to know and spend time with for the rest of my life.

And now the time of my mother’s death – 11:15am, 20 years ago today - has passed without tears, or any bad feelings at all. I have lots of friends coming over for New Year’s Eve and there are no mixed feelings. I’m just looking forward to having a wonderful day in the sunshine, and a happy evening with people I care about.

After 57 years, I’m done and dusted with her!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Playing

I always loved the 'mucky play' part of Playcentre, and still I find such things therapeutic. As an adult, doing mucky play without children seems, somehow, not quite the thing. However, 'coming up with excuses' is one of the few lessons I learned at school, and so I have found an acceptable reason for indulging myself!

Finger painting - how can anyone resist the sensual pleasure of sliding one's hands around in slippery, slimy finger-paint?


Take out a bit of aggression by ripping up paper into tiny bits. Then soak it, beat it, and do some recycling while treating yourself to some water play - making paper.


Use the results to make a journal.

Then there are all those National Geograhic maps that come with the magazines, and somehow I just haven't been able to throw them out, just putting them into a box each month. Well, now I have used one, plus a local map, to make a travel journal for a friend who is going on an overseas trip.

The front cover is a map of where she is going, and the back cover is a map of where she lives.

There is another map of her destination on the inside front cover.

The inside back cover is to remind her of where I live.

On the inside I have random bits of leftover papers used for other books - I have become addicted to doing this to the books I make,

just adding an offbeat note, and using some of the scraps I can't bear to discard.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Counting Joys

So, how to change my frame of mind? Maybe focusing on the things in my life that do bring pleasure and joy into my life might help.

I've done a couple of bead workshops at Just Bead It in Hamilton East, and really enjoyed learning new crafts. I could have learned from books and experimentation at home, but I wanted the company, and also the inspiration that other people's choices gave me for future creations.

It was lovely to have S and H come and visit - the plus side of them needing Mac's help to fix their car. Their visit coincided with E's fifth birthday so they were able to join us at the Hamilton Gardens to celebrate, as did S and R who were up from Wellington for the election
weekend.














And, of course, it is always a pleasure to see G and C and the four grandchildren.












Bringing small joy into people's lives were some young people giving away iceblocks to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness day.

That evening Mac, J and I went to our last 'teen tea' as a homeschooling family. It was a great evening, with people we have know basically all J's life, fun, yet comfortable in the way that can only happen when you know people that well. We finished the evening going down to the local park and setting off
fireworks.


J and I have been enjoying the homeschool family days at a local Playcentre - despite the venue, we have 'children' from 0 - 19 attending and having a lot of fun, and it's a great place for parents to chat or to join in the games - our teens are more than happy for adults to play with
them.

J and I also spent a wonderful few hours and the Waitakaruru Arboretum / Sculpture Park. Such a peaceful and inspiring place to go. Although at times 'peaceful' was perhaps not quite the right word as the frogs were in full croak! The glass sculptures (the exhibition) were beautiful, and there were sculptures in the
other parts of the arboretum that
we had not seen before.

Granddaughter T came and stayed another night while G and C went to an adult birthday party. T had admired some clay faces that S and J had made many ago, so I had bought a bag of clay, dug out the clay tools, and we had lots of fun with that.

The next day T, and I went with J to Garden Place in Hamilton. J and the band he plays in, Gentle Jazz, played for about an hour and a half while the runners in a Fun Run gathered for the prizegiving.






T was more interested in the wizard and stilt walkers.












Yesterday S and R returned to Hamilton from Wellington, where they have been living this university year. I haven't seen them yet, but just knowing they are only 35 minutes away, instead of 8 hours, is great.

So much happiness in my life, must focus on that, must not think of the buts and the if onlys!

Must count the joys!

Possibilites

Last week I went with my sister to visit one of my father's employers, who I last saw in 1967. Dad worked on her farm. At 42 she was a white haired widow with three children. When her youngest was just a toddler, her husband had been killed when his tractor rolled on him - no roll bars or safety cages back then. She continued on the farm until she moved into the local retirement village.

We visited her at the retirement village and found a mentally alert, physically sprightly, 94 year old woman who talked about her life with enthusiasm, speaking of the things she was looking forward to, talking of the things she enjoys. Living her life.

Watching my grandchildren and children, I've been thinking about how life starts out with almost infinite possibilities, but future choices narrow with every choice that is made.

I've been thinking a lot about why I am finding the changes happening in my life so difficult. Instead of focusing on the choices still available to me, I, unlike my dad's ex-boss, seem to focus on past choices that proved not so great, and on the choices no longer available to me.

My unhappiness seems to revolve around the loss of possibilities; the loss of dreaming of the future. My future seems to roll out before me as an unchanging landscape, and even though I am very happy with my life and what I have in it, I feel a deep sense of grief for the loss of possibility in my life.

I saw this woman looking forward to small pleasures, enjoying memories of past successful choices. How do I enter this frame of mind?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Workshop

On Saturday I went to a poetry workshop in Tauranga, led by Tim Upperton of Massey University. It was fun, I had good company for the drive over and back, Tim was great, and I came home with that "Yes!!" feeling. But still, since then I have written nothing but the odd email.

I have done workshops before and each time the same thing happens. We are given writing exercises to do, and I do them. Sometimes what I write is crap, other times it is the start of something good. But I do actually write.

Back home, I have piles of writing exercises accumulated from workshops, and also in a number of books, but when I sit and look at them, I read through them, can't decide which one to try, and just can't seem to do it. What is the difference between being at home with writing exercises, and being in a workshop? I don't know but I do know that I want to keep trying - "must try harder" as my old report cards used to say (alongside "talks too much.")

Not that the following is anywhere near good poetry, but considering it was done in two goes, the first for 5 minutes, and the second 3 minutes, I can't help but think I could do well if I just spent time everyday doing exercises and serious writing, crafting and recrafting.

The exercise involved each participant offering a concrete noun (there were 15 of us.) We then had to chose at least ten and write something including those words. My choices were: chain, praying mantis, poem, calabash, clock, flower bud, bottle, handbag, anchor, gold - and this is what I came up with:

On those slipping sideways days when I find
a praying mantis in a green glass bottle
a grief-filled poem in a calabash
a fresh pink flower bud in the bottom of my handbag

On those days
the anchor at the end
of its gold filligree chain
fails to hold the clock
to its timetable.

Not exactly Keats or Elliot, but not bad for eight minutes with ten crazy mixed up words!

Now all I have to do is find the discipline to set aside half an hour or even just 8 minutes every day and maybe I can come up with some good writing!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Creating

My son asked me to make him a new journal, which I did, and that kick started me to make my next year's diary, and to make myself a new journal as well.

The cover is pulled paste paper (ie paper spread with coloured paste, another sheet placed on top, pressed down and then pulled apart). The binding is two needle coptic.

The inside cover is a leaf rubbing using crayon, then dye washed.


I got carried away and stuck lots of 'bits' (paper, feathers, leaves, ribbon etc) on random pages, turning it into a bricolage journal, which is appropriate given the random nature of the thoughts that will be written in the book!


A scrap of glad-wrapped dyed paper.


Another scap of dye-washed crayon rubbing with paper flowers attached.

So that's the new journal - but I need a diary for 2009 as well.....

My 2009 dairy - cloth covered to be sturdy - I fell in love with the pukeko. One cheeky puke was looking through our ranch slider last week!


I print my own pages to get it the way I find most useful and again have random bits of my favourite papers scattered throughout.

And for the second year in a row, I have put one of this years birthday cards from a special friend around my birthday month.

Now I'm off to bed, and will be up early to go to a poetry workshop in Tauranga - if the workshop works I may have to come home and make another book to write my poetry in!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Making Plans in the Sunshine

The days are getting longer and we have had a quite a bit of sunshine, so I am starting to feel a bit better about life. However, I realise that this sunshine improvement won't last and so I'm trying to make a few plans and adjustments to my life to do the best I can to keep the black dog away.


I've decided to invest in some kind of full spectrum lighting before next winter, so have been googling and reading up about that.

I am trying to set myself up with small and large 'pleasures' to look forward to.

I bought early bird tickets for womad next March - for Mac, Jeff and me - and chased the rest of the gang to get theirs, so I have months of pleasurable anticipation waiting for that.

I'm trying to ensure I have at least one day a week when I do something interesting for myself, especially when Jeff, as well as Mac, is working - solitude is okay, but out here in the country it can turn to loneliness quickly for someone like me with a tendency for depression.

This week I have two such events, both to do with writing. There is a free session on self-publishing at Hamilton Central Library, which I hope to get to, but may miss if another meeting goes over time.

Then on Saturday I am stepping outside my comfort zone to attend a couple of poetry writing workshops in Tauranga. I had considered it and then passed, but a woman who attends the Raglan writers' group urged me to go, and so I agreed, more out of a wish to get to know her better than a desire to expose my inadequacies at the workshop!

N is around my age, maybe a little older, and has said a few things that show she has been through and understands many of the issues I am facing at the moment. One thing I have come to realise is that although I love my friends, they are all younger than me by at least ten years - and in some cases by a lot more. This helps me keep my mind working, and slows the descent into old age, but I am starting to realise that I also need mentors for myself as I move into this new stage of my life. I can't do it on my own, my younger friends don't understand what I am going through. Some don't want to understand. Some are actively antagonistic about what they perceive as my lack of gratitude for what I have, and seem to think that I have no business to be grieving what I have lost. So, time to try and develop relationships with some older women I think - and thus the willingness to overcome my fear of a poetry workshop, in the interests of getting to know N better.

I recently read that pessimists are more realistic than optimists in anticipating outcomes, yet optimists perceive their outcomes more positively. While me and my pessimistic mates focus on the negative and see our lives that way, those optimists, despite having foreseen a more positive outcome than actually eventuated, still see their outcomes in a positive light. I have also read that it is not possible to alter one's natural tendency towards optimism or pessimism. But as nothing else seems to have worked for me, I'm trying to change a bit - just please let me know if I start coming across as a born-again Amway dealer!

I've also started making sure that I do some craft work every week instead of putting it off until I have caught up on the housework and gardening - like that will ever happen! I am going to a jewellry making class at Just Bead It - the first, I suspect, of many. I have three shirts to sew, and a pile of material waiting to be turned into Kate-inspired creations. And Tiana wants to make faces next time she visits, like those made by her uncles years ago,

so I'm off to buy clay later this week.

I'm getting out in the garden a lot more. This weekend Tiana and I made a new tepee for the runner beans, and put the birdnetting back up over the starwberries. We also planted a weeping willow twig that I brought back from her house three weeks ago and put in a bottle of water to grow roots - willows are miraculous that way, aren't they? She inspected it the next day to see if it had grown, but it hadn't got quite as as big as their one, which is at least twice as high as their house and about as wide!

Some fine day, before November 14, Jeff and I are planning to visit the Waitakaruru Arboretum and Sculpture Park - they are currently featuring a glass sculpture exhibition.

Today, while volunteering at Trade Aid, two women came in and bought some vibrant coloured handmade paper. It was one's sixtieth birthday and she was off home to make a treasure map, a plan for the coming year, using this paper, maps, magazine pictures, whatever suited the purpose. I like that idea - maybe I'll have a go at that, it's only a month past my birthday. Maybe that would encourage me - or maybe it will just make me feel crap next September!

Whatever - when the sun warms the sea a little more, I'm determined to swim at least once a week at my most favourite beach in the world.


I guess it's all about making dthe best of what I have instead of weeping for what I have not. Sounds easy. Now, please can someone remind me each day of what I need to do?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Depressor

The leper no longer rings her bell
so others can pass at a distance.
The leper is no longer called leper
but a person with leprosy
disfigured perhaps, but not contagious.

The depressed woman looks normal
but her mind is disfigured
and some believe contagious.
Others come close but recoil
sooner or later, becoming distant.

There are those who
would call me depressor:
"Keep your tongue in your mouth;
Keep your words to your self;
Hold your leprous thoughts;
Ring your bloody bell -
Stay away from me!"

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Retirement?

Many years ago, Before Children, I worked at what was then called Social Welfare in the National Superannuation section. I gradually became aware that many men died within a year of retiring from work. I talked to many co-workers about this, and the conclusion we came to was that basically, these men had lost a sense of purpose, and with it, the will to live. If they made it through the first year, they'd generally live to a ripe old age. No statistics to back any of these up, just observation. Women of that generation (who were turning 60 back in the Seventies) were generally not working in paid employment, so never retired, just carried on doing what they always did.

Farmers were particularly likely to die early. The farmer usually lost not only his purpose, but his home and playground. They retired to the beach they'd dreamed of for decades, built a beautiful home that the wife had dreamed of for decades - and he found that there was nothing to do! That fishing, which had been relaxing when it happened just occasionally, was terminally boring when he had to do it for hours every days because the wife chased him out of the house, not wanting him underfoot all day. He no longer had his exercise routine (farming being hard physical work), and his mates. He was lost.

It's over 28 years since I left paid employment, but since I decided to homeschool 22 years ago, I have felt that I had a job, a career, a vocation, even if I didn't get paid money to do it. Before Mac and I had children, I had insisted that I was not going to be a housewife: that once we had children my primary job would be looking after the kids, just as his was earning money. That we should go on sharing the work as we always had.

But here I am, 57 years old, redundant, and untrained for any paid employment. Most of all though, I feel like those farmers: lacking purpose, lacking mates, lacking a sense of day to day usefulness, and living a fairly isolated life.

Living in the country, I feel that there is not much point in trying to get a job: at my age and without any relevant qualifications, any job I could get would be unlikely to pay for much more than the costs of getting there and back. Which might be okay if it was an interesting, stimulating job, but that is not a likely scenario.

I have lots of things I want to do (growing food and developing our land, making books and doing other craft work, learning again to make my own clothes) but it is the people factor that is the problem. I want to be available to my children when they need me, or just want to spend time with me - but that is very irregular, and I will not inflict nagging demands to visit on them the way my mother did to me. I want to spend time with my grandchildren, but with petrol the cost it is that cannot be a weekly arrangement, and with them going to school, weekends are the most practical time - but that is also the only time I have to spend with Mac.

For 28 years my social life has revolved around my children: from antenatal classes, through La Leche League, Playcentre, Kindergarten, homeschool groups, dancing, Jazz Society evenings, almost everything I have done has been for, with, or focused on my sons. I don't really know how to relate to people outside those boundaries, without the excuse, the reason, the purpose, of my sons. Of my three best friends, all made within that world of children, two live in other countries now. And then there are my relationships with my sons, who I also feel are my other 'best friends'. Well, now it seems I need to find new friends - and I haven't a clue how!

In the past I have laughed at jokes about women suffering from 'empty nest syndrome', but now I know it isn't funny, and I think perhaps homeschooling mothers may be hit particularly hard by it.

This all sounds so whiny! I'm trying desperately not to fall into a whiny, self-pitying, weepy heap - after all, there are so many people who would love to have my problems (as someone commented recently to another woman I know who was complaining of problems that would seem insignificant to billions around the world).

However, feelings cannot be looked at in terms of other people's situations. Years ago when I was recovering from a D & C after a third miscarriage, weeping quietly under the covers, a nurse told me not to be so self-centred - that there was a 70 year old diabetic blind woman at the other end of the ward who had just had her leg amputated, so I should be happy I wasn't her. More recently a friend told me that I should be grateful that I see my sons as often as I do, which is more often than she sees hers, and that I don't have the same problems in my relationship that she has in hers. These kinds comparisons and belittling of my pain don't help me feel better, even when I am not suffering a bout of depression.

But depression is an illness, and I have been struggling to keep afloat these past six months. One of the things that helps me keep my head above the waters of depression is spending time with people I care about, but with friends overseas and sons growing up and out into their own adult lives, I need new relationships. I am socially inept, I don't know how to find them, and I am scared of investing in relationships only to find rejection when they too see my depression as self-centred, unreasonable, intolerable.

I can't blame them: it is self-centred, unreasonable, intolerable - and very, very lonely.

I wonder if I will make it through my first year of 'retirement'.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Moving into the next stage....

The last week of the school term started on the Saturday with the music school's annual concert, and foolishly perhaps, I had volunteered to act as stage manager - or Stage Bitch, as I prefer to be known. It made for a long day, as we had to be in town (45 minutes drive) by 7 am to set things up and for rehearsal. We did come home in the middle of the day for 3 hours, but had to be back at 4 pm for more set up prior to the concert starting at 5 pm. After it finished at 7.30, there was pack up - and then unpacking again, back at the university, with drums, marimbas, electric piano and more, to be put away in the storeroom. It was a relief to go upstairs to the staff after gathering for food and drink. We finally got home at 11 pm. It was a great concert, and I got to watch J playing his trumpet with the jazz group - he has come so far. Of course M and I also played with the marimba group, along with our teacher - our son, J. There was a degree of sadness though, as after 19 years, my connection to the music school has come to an end. Next year J will be at university and probably flatting in town - and I will be growing into my next life stage too.

The rest of the week was full of album making and wedding (see previous blog post), until Sunday when we went and collected two of our grandchildren, T 6 1/2 and E nearly 5. I'm not sure I'm ready for this new stage in my life! I love them dearly, they are a lot of fun - but tiring! I must be getting old, as I can't even begin to imagine how I raised four kids without dying of exhaustion. E stayed for 2 nights, but T stayed an extra two nights, and I found that easier to manage.

On Tuesday afternoon, after E had gone, T and I drove to Bridal Veil Falls, 10 minutes down the road, and walked to the bottom of the falls and back.


On the path, T was fascinated by fallen nikau leaves, the strange roots, tree stumps, and odd angles some trees were growing on.


On Wednesday we spent a few hours finger painting, making paste papers (one of my favourite things to do), and making necklaces and bracelets out of beads. The following day we used one of the paste papers that T had made to make a book. T folded pages, and sewed the book together - do I have an apprentice, I wonder?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

and they lived happily ever after......

One of my oldest friends got married on Saturday. A few years ago I wept when she left the country to live in Thailand for a while and Saturday saw me in tears again. This time it was happiness though. She has had a hard life, with her son getting leukemia when he was just 3 years old and her daughter still a small baby, and her marriage subsequently breaking up.

However she rises to the occasion - even when the occasion goes on for years! Her faith in God has helped her, even though I, a born-again atheist, cannot understand it, and she is the sort of person who I consider a 'real' Christian.

Her son is now flatting and has a job he enjoys. Her daughter is married with two children, and pregnant with her third. And E herself has now found well-deserved happiness with an intelligent, humorous, kind man. I am so happy for them both.

A few months ago Jeff and I went and helped E and her daughter put together the wedding invitations and I took the scraps home so that I could make them a matching wedding album.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Green Muse



Haven't been able to make books lately, haven't been able to find the Muse. But my Simon's Rebecca is having a Green Party for her 20th, and that inspired me.

It's hard to see, but the cover is crayon rubbed over some stamps I made from card and string, then treated with gladwrap and dye. (Wet the paper, drop on lots of dye - probably not more that 2 or three colours, here I used just the one. Then spread cling wrap half as big again over the entire paper and scrunch up, pushing till all the paper is covered and there are lots of creases. Leave until completely dry before removing the cling wrap.)

The stamps are of 'rubber ducky' style ducks, which Bex collects, and I also stamped some randomly on the pages throughout the book.

It's lush, it's a sweet hint of spring, it's not only her favourite colour - it's mine too, and I don't really want to give this one away! Still I can make myself another, I guess.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Felted bag

I finally finished a pair of knitted and felted slippers for Jeff - AND a knitted and felted handbag for me!


The handles are pretty even - they just don't look like it in the photo!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Green Glass and Daffodils


Despite a thick, hand knitted beanie
a chill wind bites my ears.
I pick a bunch of daffodils
to put in the green Italian glass
on the kitchen window sill.

The same glass held daffodils
bought every Friday
thirty two springs ago
at the stall outside
Richmond tube station.

Homesick in London,
for my mother’s
antipodean garden.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Another Transition Stage

This year began with so much busyness, that even though I was feeling a sense of loss, I didn't have too much time to dwell on the 'losses' and their deeper meaning. It was all good stuff - after all, if my children didn't find life partners, get married, get jobs, have babies, move away from home - you know - grow up - then I'd feel like a complete failure as a homeschooling mother! Yet there is a sense of loss all the same, and now that things have settled down I am considering my future. The loss of myself as Mother (the Maiden stage ended long ago, and wasn't missed!), and the realisation that I am entering the Crone stage of my life, is making my my inner life as tumultuous as it was in my teen years.

I know what I want to do: I want to garden, growing a lot more of our own food. I want more chooks and more fruit trees and maybe a few tea camellia trees. I want to be available to do the jobs around our home that are hard to do in the dark, in winter, at the end of a working day. I want to sew clothes for myself that fit, and my friend Jenny is helping me with that. I want to make beautiful decorated papers and use them to make books, both for gifts (a wedding album for my longtime friend, Eileen is the next project) and, hopefully, to sell. I want to knit and felt and mosaic and paper mache and try lots more craft. I want to read and think.

I want to be available for my sons when they want to talk, or visit, or for me to babysit. I want to be available for my friends when they need to talk, or need company while they wait at the hospital for three hours for an operation to have a melanoma removed, or need help putting together their wedding invitations, or helping them move house when it has to be done on a weekday.

Ordinary things that women have done for ever. Except that they don't do them any more, do they? As we sat in the hospital waiting room, my friend told me that churches all used to have groups of women who would make and serve morning or afternoon tea after funerals, but that the cathedral no longer has anyone, so they call on the women at my friend's church now. But there are only three of them left and the youngest is over 70. It's okay of course: you can pay people to do almost anything these days, so people won't have to go without their cup of tea, though more and more people slip away straight after the funeral now, having to rush back to work. I remember my parents' funerals: it was a comfort to have my Playcentre friends in the kitchen, ready to help with my small children, available for a hug and a bit of a cry. Real people, not close friends, but ones who cared nonetheless.

The friend thing is a bit scary though: without my children to give me the excuse, the reason, for going places, I don't really know how to look after the interpersonal side of my life. I always was socially inept, but having children somehow made me more willing to risk rejection, to get out there for their sakes. Now I can't really go to homeschooling things much anymore. I don't need new hobbies. But I do need people in my life. I have to work out how to deal with that.

I am also discovering that, having chosen to be a homeschooling, stay-at-home-mother for the past 28 years, I am having to come to terms with the things I chose to miss out on. It's not so easy now, with large spaces left empty by the children for whom I happily gave up the alternative possibilities.

However the most difficult part of all of this, is the way everyone and his dog seems to think they have a right to tell me what to do! Remember as a teenager, how everyone told you what to do and you thought it would end once you were grown up? Remember how it started up again the minute you got pregnant? People telling you conflicting information about everything from what to rub into your perineum to make sure you didn't tear, to what to feed your baby. How they felt free to comment and quiz you on your size, weight, shape, skin, hair, clothes - everything?

Well, here I am trying to sort out my head and my life and damn! if they haven't all rolled up at my door, on my phone, at the supermarket - friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers, all telling me to re-train, to get a job, to start a business. Hardly anyone actually asks me what I want to do, and if they do, and I tell them, it seems it is not good enough in their view.

Most strange to me are the homeschooling mothers who insist that I should to go to university and just study, even if it's just for fun. Why, in heavens name, do they think that I would want to enter an educational institution after 21 years of keeping my children out of such places?

Why do so many people seem to think they have the right, the responsibility even, to arrange my life for me? Why can't they offer suggestions without investing their own self-worth in the matter?

Well, they can talk all they like but I'm not going to be pressured into following their agenda any more than I have in the past. It would be nice to have some nonjudgmental company on this journey though.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Sense of Place

There's nothing like going away from home to remind me of what is important in my life.

Friends are very important to me, which is why my youngest son and I went to Melbourne for nine days to visit our best friends. I was present at Geralyn's birth 19 years ago, and Jenny was present at my son's birth 18 years ago. They moved away when G was only three, but even though we have seen each other just twice a year or less, not only have Jenny and I remained friends, so also have Jeff and Geralyn retained an amazing connection. The internet, of course, makes things much easier than when I was his age and stuck with snail mail.

The first thing I was reminded of, was how much I really do love my husband. A lot of the time I find it easy to let Mac fall into the taken-for-granted category: being away reminded me that he has become integral a part of my life.

What I had really not realised was how much my physical environment affects me.

I need personal space: I need time and space where I can sit / blob / read / dance / sing without anyone around. I need the freedom to indulge my own silly little habits and rituals.

I need to connect to the natural world.

Even just nine days in an air conditioned, 14th floor, CBD apartment in Melbourne left me jittery, twitchy and disconnected.

Home again, I am relishing each breath of natural air: the smoky tang when the fire is burning; the sweet earthiness that rises from the soil when it rains; the scent of crushed nasturtiums as I walk back from feeding the chooks that washes away the smell of the hen house; the clean starched-sheet freshness of a frosty morning.

Despite cold, I stand outside, until my neck hurts and seizes up, looking up at the sky: the magnificence of a starry night or a country birthday bonfire far exceeds that of city lights.

It was fun visiting friends, exploring a little bit of Melbourne, but it is a very foreign place to me. Call me a country bumpkin - it's what I am, and what I am glad to be.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spider's Web


spider's web
in the morning
sparkling with due
hungry for life

Life's Slipping By

Well, the grandbaby came, and is growing fast, surrounded by love. The wedding came and went, with all the anxiety behind us now, leaving behind memories of love.

Womad was a wonderful experience once again. It amazes me that each time I go it is a totally different experience, yet always joyous. This time I went with my two middle sons and their friends, and without my husband who didn't want to go this time. I was very nervous about that, feared I would spend most of the time alone - which I don't cope with very well - but the 'kids' (aged 17 - 20) included me all the time, gave no sign of wanting rid of me. In fact, if I wandered off on my own they would text me to tell me where they were and ask me to join them. I got to spend some time one on one with each of my two boys as well, which was wonderful, especially in the case of #3 who has moved to Wellington to live.


Just four weeks later, #3 was back up for a week for his 21st birthday party - how did he get so old? And now #4, my 'baby' just got his full driver's license and is two weeks away from turning 18!

#4 has been working full time, temporarily, for nearly four months, though he is now back to just casual work. It has been a lonely time for me after 27 years of always having my children around. Although I have a million things to do, I am finding it very difficult to adjust to having no one around. Living out in the country makes it harder in that I can't escape this isolation easily (especially since I let the van registration and WOF go till the last minute, and then discovered that the guy who does it for me is off work for several weeks after an operation!) On top of that, despite enjoying learning to dance, my pleasure was somewhat diminished by a young friend of #4 son saying how old women shouldn't be dancing, that it was horrible having to dance with people who can't move properly (he didn't have his own partner for the class and was assigned a partner about my age.) He hastened to (over) correct, saying he didn't mean me, but it did hit me hard in the guts. Am I being a foolish old woman to think I can learn to dance in my late fifties? Is it time to throw away the dancing shoes and settle for slippers?

(At least I had 'old women's fun' knitting and felting these slippers myself!)

I am reminded of some lines in my favourite poem when I was in my last year of school: T.S. Elliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" -

"I grow old...I grow old...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me."

But damn! I'm not ready just yet to give up on hearing the mermaids sing to me! Is it really too late to turn my face from the waiting dark earth, rather towards the sun?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Autumn

Autumn’s nearly done.
Fresh green’s showing
through the dried stalks.

Pumpkin vines

are withering away

from their plump,

green-grey fruit.

The last of the chestnuts

are gathered wearily.

The swan plants

have been stripped

down to their stems

and green monarch chrysalises

hang on the lemon tree,

slowly darkening.

My tongue presses against
the roof of my mouth.
The last handful of blueberries,
warmed to full sweetness
in the heat of the season,
taste of hot sun,
of summer swimming,
of the new baby,
of the newly weds,
of dancing under the stars
of singing and laughter.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wedding

I'm only just really starting to feel like I have a little bit of energy again - and on Friday I'm off to Womad! The wedding of my second son, and the lead up to it was tiring. So much emotional energy involved in a wedding, but even more so when #3 son left at 6am the morning after the wedding to go and live in Wellington. Both of them were already living away from home, but somehow the fact that Steve is now married, and Simon 8 hours drive away instead of just 35 minutes, (as well as the fact that my 'baby' (17) is working full time at the moment) has somehow left me feeling slightly bereft.

But the wedding went well. The ceremony that Steve and Heidi put together was beautiful. They were married in the Taitua Arboretum, exactly three years since their first date - a walk in the arboretum. But I won't write lots about it - I'll just show some of pictures instead.

the groom's men: Ring Boy, brother Simon, friends Jarrath and James

wedding music was played by members of Steve's old recorder ensemble, including brother Jeff

Steve's older niece, my granddaughter, was the littlest bridesmaid
(his baby niece was a bit young for the job at just 9 days old!)
(thanks to the wonderful Jen for this photo)

nephew / grandson taking time out from just watching

Mac's and my family, those who were there
(thanks to the wonderful Jen for this photo too)