Sunday, June 21, 2020

And the times, they are a changing

Events are sending me deeper and deeper into introspection; contemplating my life, my attitudes, my beliefs, and hopefully, my behaviour. It's something I've been doing more and more over the years, especially since my children grew up and I have more time and space in my head, then as health issues (diabetes, stroke) forced me to recognize my mortality, and now with covid 19, Black Lives Matter, Maori rights issues, minority rights issues, etc etc. History isn't what it used to be - there are so many things that have been repressed or over-exaggerated, denied - I am realizing that often what I thought was true was just an interpretation through the lenses of the 'winners'.

As we enter the world, we are helpless babies. We grow. We learn. When we try to walk, our parents don't yell at us for falling; they praise us for trying - so we keep trying. When we first say 'mumumumum' our parents don't yell at us for not saying it right; they are ecstatic that we just said our first word. But somewhere along the way many of us lose our desire to learn and grow. We learn to fear being wrong. We learn to deny that we did something, or thought something, or said something that  was proved wrong, or not useful. We cling to ideas and ways which may have been useful strategies once, but which are now impeding our progress: a toddler may learn to walk by holding on to something to steady themself, but that strategy is not a useful one once they are walking well enough to move away from the table and out into the world. However, as the toddler moves out, it isn't an instant change of travel mode: the toddler tries no hands for a few steps, then grabs the table or wall or hand for a few steps, then tries again and again.

Under stress, as we all are at the moment, I have seen some people grabbing the opportunities for change with eagerness, others fearfully grabbing the 'table' with both hands, and most of us doing the wobbly walk, grabbing for support sometimes, falling sometimes, running for a few steps - and repeat. One thing I have found, is that holding on tight to the table of old ideas may be comforting for a while, but then I feel like I'm being left behind by the world.  Not all the old ideas are bad, so take those with you on your life journey, and modify or abandon those that are shown to no longer be useful or reasonable. But don't drag the whole table with you - better to drive to the shops than cling to the old ways and walk or go in a cart behind a donkey, as our predecessors did. 

When I hear people saying things that go against what I believe, I try not to get defensive and close my ears. I try to listen, and although sometimes I reject the new ideas, often I change my own, either partially or fully. Usually I find the ideas aren't really new, just new to me, either because I haven't come across them before, or because I wasn't listening before.

I hope I can keep listening, learning, and adapting to this constantly changing world until I die.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

A Country Mouse

These beautiful autumn days have been perfect for clearing out the vegetable gardens, ready for resting and planting. The cats have been catching lots of mice, many of which are, I am sure, living in the compost heaps. However, I have disturbed several while weeding. While out in the garden this afternoon, I was thinking about this and that, and remembered Beatrix Potter's books, my favourites as a small child, and still loved as an old woman. I got to thinking about The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse, which is oddly named, as it is really the story of Timmy Willie, a country mouse.
I spent the first fifteen and a half years of my life living on a farm, and continued to think of myself as a country bumpkin after we left, even while living in cities - New Plymouth, Hamilton and London - with just a year when we rented a house on a farm, while still working in Hamilton. When we moved to the country again, almost 21 years ago, I realised that in fact, I had become a 'city slicker', as we used to call my cousins from Wellington, who visited us in the school holidays when we were kids.

Today I realised that although we live on a 'lifestyle' block, and depend on income from outside of our property, I have once again come to identify as a country woman - or as I put on annoying forms, a yeoman farmer. And I am content with that. It's not a perfect life. When the farmer next door puts his cattle in the paddock next to us, the flies become diabolical. On the other hand, the manure makes for wonderful mushrooms at this time of the year, and he is kind enough to turn the electric fence off for us to climb over and fill buckets full. Across the road a dairy farmer sometimes holds us up as his cows cross the road, and their manure splashes onto our car when we drive on. But when we offer him apples, he responds by filling our mailbox with avocados.
When we moved here, Mac's job was 'area engineer' and he warned me that I must not argue with or complain about the neighbours: he had experience of being called upon to follow up complaints to council about neighbours - including 'reverse sensitivity' cases where 'townies' complained of the smells of manure and silage, and even, in one case, of animals mating in the paddock next door. Mac did not want us to be 'those' neighbours!

I 'farm' our land with scythe and mulch and other vaguely permaculture methods; their farms are more intensely managed. I would love to live surrounded by organic, regenerative farms, but I recognise that although there are more such places now than 21 years ago when we moved back to the country, such changes take time. It is not for me to criticise people whose only income comes from their absurdly mortgages farms. High stocking is how it's been done, and that requires high levels of feed, which in turn requires fertilizer because the land has been treated that way for years. Without fertilizer, more feed would have to be brought in from outside, and given the increasing drought years here, that means imported palm kernel. Things can and must change, but change needs to be gradual.

I'm happy here. Paradise may have a few nettles, blackberries, gorse, and shit aka manure, but even they have positives. Kind neighbours make for peaceful living, and I try to be that neighbour.

Like a Snail

Day 26. I don't go out much usually. But somehow 'can't' is so very different from 'don't'. 'Can't' squashes me like a boot on a snail - not annihilated on a concrete path, but pushed into newly tilled earth, damaged, confused, disorientated, bewildered, not sure if I'll get out alive.
Mornings when I wake with sun streaming in the window - and then the boot stomps down. Afternoons in the garden doing my own stomping are better - planting and growing are acts of hope and belief in the future. Evenings are when I feel the most squashed, when life and tears ooze out of me quietly and puddle on the floor next to the cat's half eaten mouse.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Books, Bees, and Birds

I decided that although I want to keep up this record of my very ordinary life, a day by day account is going to become a dreary task.  
Yesterday I made another of my not-retreat books. I don't know what I will do with them eventually, but it's fun making them. Except That I was having trouble finding things - trouble even finding space to work!
Today I decided it was time to clean up a bit. There are still mess piles on side tables, and on the floor, but....
...there is now room to spread out my fabric.
Bees! (The fabric is a much brighter yellow than in the photos.)
Afterwards I walked down to the mailbox. Past the lemon verbena: I had intended to dry lots of it for winter teas, but it has gone to flower, so past it's best, but looking pretty.
Magnolia leaves:
In the 600 metres each way, I heard and / saw a cock pheasant, several tui, a keruru, a couple of rosellas, pukeko, a mallard, sparrows, a kotere, a apir of PAradise ducks - and three piwakawaka, one of which actually sat still long enough for me to photograph!

And of course, every day there are cats....

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Breaking out of the Cage

In these days of lock down, most of us have moments when we feel imprisoned. But today I escaped... my very Messy Playroom, my happy place. First I joined a class run by Liz of Book Arts Studio, but started playing with some pages I had prepared to make notebooks for a retreat planned for next weekend. I have been struggling to create since the anxiety, fear, horror of covid19 started to impact me at the beginning of March. Inspiration doesn't come, and besides, comforting myself with art seems such a privileged thing to do. I think of all those who are so much worse off than me, so much more trapped, so much more vulnerable. And yet, how does having an unused room full of art and craft supplies help anyone?

Today, taking something I started before all this started, and turning it in into something different from the plan, eased my anxiety for a while, and for a few hours I was happy in my mess.
A book made using one of my gelli prints, and embroidery thread from the days before I had linen thread for bookmaking.
Mark making with s gold Pitt pen and a homemade stamp.
Coffee dyed paper, which was dried in my dehydrator, resulting in some interesting markings.
Book paper pockets with a chook feather, and a tag stamped with a hand-carved stamp of a kowhai leaf.
And another with a kowhai seed stamped tag and a duck feather.
A second book, again with a gelli printed cover.
This time, one pocket holds a dried ginkgo leaf.

More pages await covers and stitching, and I feel like I'm finding myself again.

Friday, April 10, 2020

A Walk to the Long End of the Road

I only meant to walk to the mailbox with a bucket of apples, but Mac decided to come with me, and then we decided to go a bit further. We saw our farmer neighbour doing something with young cattle in his yards, and had a bit of a chat about gorse and drought and how much rain we'd caught on the roofs and what a great year it was for mushrooms - and were a bit hoarse at the end of it, because we were keeping our distance. 
We passed Mac's sister's old place
with the shed that we helped put the roof on the day before I had my stroke a couple of years ago.

I love the shadows these trees cast upon the road.
The liquid amber tree is starting to colour up.
Another peaceful evening.
And in the evening I mend my round-home, merino trousers, practising stitching in anticipation of a more artistic project.