Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A life of subtraction

I'm feeling a mixture of depression and panic attacks at the moment. My youngest son, Jeff, is moving out of home on Saturday - going flatting in Hamilton (40 mins away, just down the road from university) with his next oldest brother, Simon. I will still see him every week, but it won't be the same. I will miss him so much - his laughter, the discussions about literature, humour, philosophy, you name it. So many things that I don't have in common with my husband, though of course, Mac and I have other shared interests.

It makes me regret my unschooling days in some ways: living this way has enabled me to become good friends with my sons, but they, of course, have to move on and make new friends and new lives. They seem to add and add to their lives, while mine seems to have become a life of subtraction.

I'm trying hard to add to my life, but it feels like things are just slipping away from me, in the same sad, sweet way that, in mid summer on Ngarunui Beach, sparkling black sand slithers through my fingers as I sit with the sun warming my back after an hour reveling in the surf. Speaking of which - I will no longer have anyone to go swimming with more than very occasionally.

The best memory I have of my childhood was of traveling in a train to Wellington. I must have been very little, because obviously I did not have a seat of my own. I remember my father passing me to my mother to have a turn to hold me. I remember snuggling down on her lap and wishing that I could stay on the train forever, so that I could stay feeling loved and cuddled always. I don't remember being cuddled on any other occasion. I know my mother loved babies, so I hope it is my memory that is lacking, rather than the relationship with my mother, but I am sure that hugs and cuddles were not part of my later childhood.

One of the things I have loved about motherhood is the physical contact I have had with my sons. Cuddling babies, pouring more love than I had dreamed I could possibly give into them was even better than being loved. My boys have never gone through a stage of refusing to give me a hug, even in public. What I hadn't realised was that the physical affection I gave them, knowing how much I wanted and missed that from my mother, was, in fact, also filling the hollow place left over from my childhood.

I'm trying not to think of the fact that there will no longer be anyone to give me a hug in the morning and another at night.

I am trying to add to my life.

I have so many things I want to do more of - gardening, book making, and maybe one day I will be able to write poetry again, though at the moment the muse has fled.

Mac and I have enroled in a night class together, which is less of a class than an series of presentations about political / economic / ethical issues - not just because it sounds interesting, but also as something we can do together.

Last term I did a course in beekeeping, and now I am all set up and ready - I just need to find som bees. That may be difficult as I was told by a man who sells nucs that he has had more people looking for bees this year than ever before. It is a scary challenge, but one that will introduce something new to my life.

Bees have already brought something new - or perhaps old - renewed - into my life in the form of the woman who took the night class. She turned out to be M, who I had worked with in 1972, in the Post Office Savings Bank. We had been friends back then, but our lives took different paths and we lost touch decades ago. Now this amazing, strong, alive woman is back in my life and inspiring me with all she has done and become, despite having many bad things thrown at her over the years. She too is soon to have her youngest child leave home, so after all these years our lives have drifted back together.

And I think this may be part of the answer: strengthening the connections and relationships with Mac and with other friends, and perhaps even establishing a few new friendships.

But oh, how I will miss the presence of youth (I already do, with Jeff being pretty independent the last couple of years, and the others having also been gone for years) and the physical, immediate presence of my boys.

Friday, September 18, 2009

To Kaiapoi and Back

Well, our holiday was wonderful! I enjoyed our time with friends, and our time on our own, just the two of us was great. I did wonder for a little while, why we were going away - our place looked so beautiful when we got up on Fathers' Day Sunday to leave:

But we did go - and had brilliant sunshine the whole time, until the last day when we were driving home - and even then, we only got five minutes rain, quite a lot of cloud but also some sun. On the way down to Wellington we could see not just the central North Island mountains, but also my favourite, Mt Taranaki. (Didn't get a photo of that though.)

In Wellington we stayed two nights in a Railway Welfare Society apartment even though it is 22 years since Mac worked for NZR. It was great being in the centre of town, so we could walk everywhere - but I don't like apartments; they make me feel very claustrophobic.

We had a day in Wellington when we went to Te Papa (Mac took the camera and took dozens of photos of the Formula One racing cars that I didn't even go and see), then the next day we were off on the ferry.

It was interesting to see the wind farm as we left Wellington harbour - soon we will have one on the hills by our place. Fortunately, I think they are lovely!

No matter how many times I enter Queen Charlotte Sounds, I can't imagine that I could ever tire of the sight.

On our way to Kaikoura we saw some seals - and I managed to take photos of them without poking myself in the eye like last time we went south - I ended up in A&E and had to have eye drops and very dark, huge coverall glasses for a couple of weeks that time!

Last time we were at Kaikoura we were tenting and it was cold and raining - in January. This time it was early September, and the weather was perfect! Again, we stayed in a Welfare place - a three bedroom, older house, very comfortable, just across the road from the water and a pub, and looking out at the mountains. This was the view from the sitting room window.

The shags on the rocks across the road:

The house we stayed in:

Sunrise: worth getting up for! This is what I looked at from bed!

I don't get up at sunrise just for sunrise itself though - we were off whale watching.

We saw five whales. And it was just as awesome as last time.

And a Wandering Albatross:

In the afternoon we went for a walk along the waterfront - I loved the rocks, they were amazing!

And then when we got back, it was a few drinks at the pub before we stumbled home across the road.

The next day we headed off for Christchurch - and saw these amazing Cathedral Cliffs on the way.

The first morning we were there, we dropped Malcolm and his son Hamish way up river somewhere and then went back to their place and waited for them to make their way back down again.

In the afternoon we went fro a drive to Taylor's Mistake (so called because of the ship's captain who ran aground, mistaking this small bay for Lyttleton Harbour.) There were lots of amazing old baches tucked into the cliff faces.

Malcolm and Mac sitting in the ruins of an old house.

On Sunday night we finally caught up with James, who had been away most of the time we were down. It was so good to see him, and where he lives now, as with Malcolm and Vicky - I have a need to be able to visualize people in their places.

Then on Monday it was back to Picton. We got there early, and the ferry was delayed so we were able to have a good look around for the first time - in there past we've just been there for the ferry.

We got to Jenny's house and collected the key from it's hiding place at the neighbours - but nobody told us about the alarm. I'm not sure they are worth installing, as nobody called the cops, despite the awful noise. I had to run down the road to the neighbours and then they had to hunt out the bit of paper with the alarm number on, and in the mean time poor Mac was being deafened and wondering if he was going to be arrested! But it wasn't long before were were in bed asleep. In the morning I walked around and took lots of photos of Jenny's gorgeous garden to make her homesick.

And then we drove and drove and drove and came home to this:

In the (approximate) words of the story about a knight that I used to read to my sons when they were little: "It's a fine thing to go adventuring, but it's great to come home."

Friday, September 4, 2009


It's been a strange year (well, longer than that really) as I have tried to get accustomed to the fact that I am no longer who I was for the past two plus decades. From when G was born in April 1981, I defined myself as a SAHM (stay at home mother), and then as a homeschooling SAHM. And now I'm not that anymore.

I have found it so hard to adjust to this. I am too old to 'retrain' - by the time I qualified at anything I would be 60. There are a million things to do here at home on our land, but I just can't seem to get organised. I have always done my 'stuff' around the day to day needs of my children, and somehow I can't seem to find a new framework on which to build.

There is also this lost feeling, and a tendency to withdraw into the boring chores and become duller and duller. But I know I have to step out of my comfort zone or I will fall into decrepit old age very quickly.

So........ I have set up an online place to sell my books - it is terrifying even though I know in my head that no one is going to tell me, 'this stuff is crap - what do you think you are doing putting it out there?'. I have no idea how much is actually sold on Felt, but that is my starting point.

And........ even more terrifying, I have been doing a night class on beekeeping, and last week when J and I went to Auckland to see S for his 26th birthday, I bought a whole bunch of equipment to get started with a beehive! When I get back from our holiday south, I 'just' have to put the kitset hive together, paint it, and then get a nucleus and I'll be up and running. It's exciting, but very scary.

This holiday......... longest holiday without kids ever. Earlier this year we had our first holiday without kids in the 28 years since G was born, but we stayed with Mac's sister. This will be the first holiday in that time without family of any kind. And five nights out of nine will be just Mac and me. It should be lovely, but there's a nervous little part of me worries that we haven't spent this amount of time alone without house / land work to do for over 28 years - what if he finally realises what a terrible mistake he made getting lumbered with me? Mind you if he hasn't got that figured out after nearly 40 years, he's probably not going to now, right? (Our first date was on 4th December 1979.)

I've been waking in the night hot flushing and hardly able to breathe from panic attacks lately, thinking about all these things, but I know I just have to keep pushing myself forward. There's living or there's dying, and having decided that suicide is not the way for me to die, I need to make life as interesting and fun as I can - even if that is scary to the point of panic!