Saturday, March 25, 2017

WOMAD Without Simon

In this moment
white vapour trails
make fine brush-strokes
across an airmail paper sky

In this moment
a bright skirt made of silk ties
a green silk Trade Aid scarf
patched with butterflies

In this moment
a Brazilian songstress
Austrian electro-swing
ska, reggae, rap, blues

In this moment
dancers on the grass
outrageously coloured hair
wildly crazy garments twirling

In this moment
a small breeze stirs
shaking sunlight through leaves
lighting up orange karaka fruit

In this moment
the smells of Hungarian fried bread
cider in womad glasses
wine, beer, and marijuana

In this moment
an artist marvels at the southern stars
so different from his familiar sky
and then the glorious moon

In this moment
I pretend you are here too
dancing in front of another stage
getting up to some impulsive silliness
that as usual you will soon appear
at my side, with a hug
and a glimpse of your sweet smile

In this moment
I try to exist
in this moment

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mokau: A Place Between Worlds

On Thursday night, on the way to WOMAD, we spent a night at the small seaside village of Mokau.

  It is one of my most beloved places, but I have only just realised why.
When I first went to high school it was to my local country school, but it was small and only catered for students in Forms 3 to 5 (Years 9 - 11), so I had to spend my final two years at boarding school.
Recently I have read several mentions of people who have had a 'gap year' between school and university - what a wonderful example of white privilege, but that's another issue. I have always felt uncomfortable about the idea of taking a year 'out' to have fun between school / childhood and 'settling down'. However, I realised the other day that, for me, my two years at boarding school were, in a way, gap years for me.
I was away from home and family for two years, albeit with long bus trips home for holidays and mid-term breaks. I went from a small country school of 150 co-ed students to a huge (for those times) school of 1100 girls, and a boarding hostel as big as my whole previous school. It was a huge transition time. As well as the challenges inherent in that situation, I was also challenged to read and think far more widely - by circumstances, teachers, and other students. I went through the trauma of losing faith in the religion I had grown up not really questioning more than than details, and became suicidally depressed for the first time. I learned that I wasn't the only person my age to think about philosophical issues, and miracle of miracles, there were even males who thought - well, one at least.
I met my first Jewish friend. I learned of the existence of homosexuality. I learned about living with and adapting to strangers. I learned that there was a wider world than the one I had grown up in.
Every school holiday and mid-term break I traveled home from boarding school and back again. Each journey was broken at Mokau. The buses from both Girls' High and Boys' High would stop for 15 minutes. A gap, a transition, a time to make the adjustments needed to live in the other world.
Those two years, though hard in some ways, were a transition time for me - from childhood on the farm and the small country village nearby, to adulthood.
Decades later we started the annual journey to WOMAD, and every journey includes a break at Mokau. The last three times we have stayed there over night. Once again Mokau has become a transition time: a transition from 'real' life to festival life. WOMAD has become only place other than home that, over the years, I have learned to feel at home - and Mokau is the place where I get that overwhelming sense of heading home - whichever direction I'm traveling.

One day I hope to reach a point where I simply feel at home wherever I am.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Going Places Alone

Recently someone in a group I belong to, asked the question: Do you go many places by yourself? How about concerts?

It hit me like a slap in the face.

Because I go hardly anywhere by myself. I haven't stayed away overnight without someone I know since 1994, when I went to Thames on a five day 'Writing in Primary Schools' workshop. A few weeks ago I went to a movie, Hidden Figures. I went to it by myself, while Mac was away up north visiting his sister. I went by myself. To see a movie. By myself. For the First. Time. Ever.

I miss many musical gigs because I won't - can't? - go by myself, and Mac often doesn't want to go, or is too tired; he works so hard. What would people think of me if I went alone? But what if they didn't notice me at all?

I don't dance because I won't - can't? - dance in front of anyone not even Mac. It's even a rare occasion that I dance home alone. I did do a little bit of ballroom dancing a few years ago, and ceroc, when Jeffrey was learning, and loved it, but although I did persuade Mac to go for a few lessons, he didn't enjoy it, so no more. When I was little, my mother told me I was too clumsy to warrant dancing lessons: her lesson was one I learned well. So no dancing. What would people think of me if I danced alone? But what if they didn't notice me at all?

I sometimes have lunch alone in a café in Hamilton when I'm there for the day. I used to buy something at a bakery and eat in my car, but since becoming both gluten-free and diabetic as well as vegetarian, that doesn't work for me. I hate eating alone. I alternate between feeling like everyone is noticing me and thinking what a pathetic old woman I am, unable to find a friend to lunch with, and feeling like I'm completely invisible to the degree that someone might even come at sit at the table because they can't see me.

I don't swim alone because I it isn't safe. That's what I say. But really, I am so self conscious, it is a struggle to walk down the beach with my husband or a son. Once I was unhealthily skinny, and made very aware of the fact. Then I had four children and grew fat, and was also made aware of that. What would people think of me, alone on the beach? What if they didn't notice me at all?

I don't like looking at books in the library in case I am judged for my choices. Or, they might not see me at all. Clothes shopping is hell: alone I cannot see myself. With someone else, well, someone else is looking at me and judging.

And that is how I have lived my life. In fear of being seen by all, and in fear of not being seen at all: alone either way.

This last year has been a year of change. I'm realizing that I'm the only one who really cares. I'm the only one who's interested. Well, maybe Mac. Everyone else is pretty much involved in their own lives. I've been learning a lot about who I am this past year, and realizing I need to live who I am and forget about what other people may think, or not think.

So, 'Do you go many places by yourself?' In four and a half weeks, I'm heading off for 19 days alone. I'll spend a few nights with family and friends, and visit others, but mostly I'll be alone. I have absolutely no idea how I'll cope. I may come home the same or deeply changed. It's scary, but I'm finally ready to try.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


swathes of wild sunchokes
rioting beside rivers
joyfully dancing