Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Life and a Biscuit Tin

I've been thinking quite a lot lately about family-
 what it means to be healthy family & how strong bonds can be made spontaneously; glued with love. Other times, germs get in the wounds we create & the glue fails.
Every family story is different; 
life never unfolding quite how we imagine- some of it we choose & lots of it just happens.
Back when I was still little I happened to get a step-mother. I didn't ask to have a step-mother & I didn't actually want to have her- but she came along anyway.
What I didn't understand, until decades later, was how inclusive her mother (she lost her own mother at the time of her birth) had been towards me & how open-hearted & kind her sister was. At her passing in early June, that sister-Shirley left her own family bereft & me with the warm & comforting knowledge that I had been embraced & befriended. I have tucked these kindnesses in to my apron pocket & they will journey with me for life.
In my other pocket I have scissors & a quick unpick! 

Having stayed the night here at The Lake motel in Taupo, we journeyed to Hamilton on a fine winter's day to say goodbye to Shirley. 
 We had sold our persimmons & feijoas at the gate & had enough tucked away to pay for a night or two away. We made a little detour to Cambridge & stopped in at the My Style shop-small but so cute & sprinkled with Cath Kidston & Shabby Chic loveliness.
Just out of town we saw this wonderful old summer house,
set off to the side of this grand old house.
 Shirley knew how much we loved staying in Te Aroha so that's where we stayed after the funeral.
 It was very wintery (though not cold) & moody in the Waikato. We've been so long without rain at home I am having to water all my pots again & put on the irrigation!
It's just a wee town Te Aroha but there's some lovely places to visit here.
It was a bit of a scramble to get all my Trade Me sales & correspondence tied up before we left. I went to address a parcel containing a dear little Laura Ashley dress, when I realised that the buyer lived in Te Aroha! I was so glad that I make my parcels look like presents-so that when I delivered the dress in person, the little girl who was ill, was so excited to get a "present".
 It was good to make the journey in this way, to travel the miles together, talking about everything & working it all through.
 We were just out of Tirau when we saw a sign which prompted us to wonder what had become of Okoroire Hot Springs & Hotel under it's new management.  "Shall we go & see?". We both shouted yes let's!
Last time we visited it was like stepping back in time & it was all profoundly forgotten, eerie & run down.
 And we could only peer through the hole in the fence to see this pool.
 "New Management" had indeed been on the job although I don't think this is actually the quick way down.
 The top pool that had been enclosed previously was now a lovely open pool
 and The Fairy Pool had been reclaimed. It is reputed that this is the very earliest pool to be constructed of concrete in New Zealand, back in 1887.
This photo was taken in 1893
It is called The Fairy Pool because at night the bank twinkles with the little lights of many glow worms.
It was the most extraordinary experience being immersed in this water. On very tip-toe the water was lapping at my chin-really lapping, moving constantly. The bottom of the pool is all sandy & the water seeps up from the natural spring to continually replenish the pool, creating the finest champagne bubbles that tickle all over your skin & create continuous momentum as if the water itself is alive. (You may need to click on them to see some of these pictures properly)
In the days after our return I felt rather sad so I cried when I felt like it & I made a lovely cup of tea & sat in Lucy, remembering Shirley warmly.  Shirley had threaded her kind self through Sunshine Vintage in so many ways. A few years ago she had offered to be a helper & pick up any items I found on Trade Me if they were in Hamilton. It just so happened that Hamilton was where I found an Old English Rose tea set. Shirley was delighted to pick it up for me, not far at all from her home. She carefully unwrapped every piece & checked it all thoroughly before declaring it to be in splendid order.
I found the violet hat in Second Thoughts Collectables in Te Aroha.
Not often that you find such a treasure these days.
As I get older I have become very firm about pursuing depth & meaning & authenticity.
Which is why I find myself drawn to strong woman who have frank things to say.
Shirley had found her very best courage & was about to make new changes in her life, but she'd left it too late & never got the chance.
 Regrets & "too late" serve no one well.

Susan Weed writes so frankly- 

"Accepting it all -- the mess, the chaos, the pain, the insults, the senseless waste, the good deeds gone bad, the sheer beauty, the awesome power, the amazing perseverance, the stunning fecundity, the breath-taking coincidences 
– embracing it all, and loving it all, even within my self, is my path of authenticity,
 the real woman I wish the women of the world to know."

On our trip home I began to realise that I was feeling rather disturbed. Here it was again, that familiar feeling of discomfort of just not fitting in with the status quo. My whole life has become a mission to forge another way: to see, to be, to experience life,
and death.
A month or so ago Rob had been reading about a spot out in the Esk Valley where you could walk up the defunct railway track.
We found more than a railway track.
We found a truly majestical place.
A place where we felt completely at peace.
Wild violets
& bird song.
On our journey home from the funeral we got up close & talked about what we really wanted in death. Grand event funerals may be just the thing for most or many, but for us there is going to be another way.
It came to me a few days later. Rob, Rob...could you put a person in a biscuit tin?", I asked.
 And I am now quite certain you could. As long as you had a label saying who was in the tin & some children who were happy to follow simple instructions. We would be sprinkled together in to the river-the place of peace...& slowly make our way to the sea-that was Rob's idea.
 Any time someone wanted to remember us they could come to the river, to swim, to forage, to play & to picnic.
Perhaps they will find it to be a majestical place too.

This is my wish for you...

That the spirit of beauty may continually hover about you

and fold you within the tenderness of her wings.

That each beautiful and gracious thing in life

may be unto you as a symbol of good
for your soul's delight.

That sun-glories and star-glories, leaf-glories and bark-glories,

flower-glories and sand-glories that lurk in the grasses of the field...

Glories of mountains and oceans,

of little streams of running waters
glories of song, of poesy,
of all the arts...

May be to you as sweet abiding influences that will illumine your life

and make you glad.

That your soul may be as an alabaster cup filled to overflowing 

with the mystical wine of beauty and love.

That happiness may put her arms around you,

and wisdom make your soul serene.

This is my wish for you.


~Charles Livingston Snell




Thursday, 26 May 2016

From Scux To Majestical!

Just a few weeks ago, one of us turned 60.
In honour of such a grand event, we set off on a little celebratory road trip north, via right, just out of Napier. We had saved up from fruit selling & planned a good balance of: places we knew we'd like to go & others we'd never even set eyes on before.
There is a valley on the way to Gisborne, a place called Morere- meadows, a river, hot springs, a camping ground & cabins, all enveloped in a lowland rainforest reserve.
People have lived here a long time but never very many.  It's a precious place, you can just feel it. This was once the little school for the areas children, now re-homed & restored. 
The hot water is remarkable, sometimes called fossilised sea water as it has traveled thousands of years before bubbling it's way out of the ground beneath the rainforest. 
Not far after that to Gisborne (the first to see the sun)-so many lovely beaches, a river, op-shops
and walks.
It was fun to explore together.
Yet, it was constantly ever-so-slightly challenging being away from our everyday lives & home.
"Goodness, what's wrong with you dear? It was only for a few days!"
And that's just it..a few days away from the familiarity, provisions, accessibility & rhythms of our everyday lives refreshed our perspective & heightened our senses.
We talked a lot. We always chat away, we're best of friends.
We process our lives, grow, renew our thinking & know one another better with every conversation.
We're still wading through the detritus of the past, like swimming in the ocean & feeling the seaweed entangle your legs; unseen but disturbing- more times than we'd care to recall. But we're still getting in the water, squealing & splashing & swimming.  
This poem of Hollie Holden's captured it so well for me this week.

When you walk slowly enough
And with your eyes
Always alive to beauty
You cannot help but notice
The Bright Unstoppability
Of flowers 
Cracking their way
Through concrete
On walls and pavements 
And in between bricks.
I asked one this morning: 
How did you grow? 
She answered me
Quietly: 
'Hardness and lack of welcome are no match 
For the power of the soft, sure determination 
Of one who knows 
Exactly who she is'
Hollie Holden
May 2016
That's exactly what we discovered on our journey-that we know exactly who we are.
We joined a theatre full of locals at the movies & went to see Hunt For The The Wilder People.
If the trailer makes you laugh, you'll love the movie. If you don't get it, then it may be a tad too Kiwi for you.

Ricky Baker isn't too thrilled with the hand that life has dealt him & he's got himself in to a bit of strife. At one point he tells "Uncle" very indignantly "I didn't chose this scux life, this scux life chose me!!!" 

There comes a point when Uncle & Ricky are standing looking down across a valley from high up on a bush clad mountain. "Majestical!" exclaims Uncle. 
"That's not even a word", Ricky corrects him.
Scux to Majestical sounds like a great life journey to me.
That's what I've signed up for.

Moving on from Gisborne, traveling through country-side we've never seen before, we came across a place called Gray's Bush. It is truly the most majestically sacred place I have ever encountered.
The bush is rare & precious & filled with puriri trees (most unusual in our native bush)
& the birdsong-a mesmerising heavenly chorus.
The flowers of the Puriri tree are vibrant & inviting.
The berries are beautiful too, no wonder the Wood Pigeons love them so.
From Gisborne we headed through the Waioeka Gorge & on to Whakatane.

They have a marvellous Hospice Shop in Whakatane!
I just caught this window dressing before it was removed.
This cute vintage basket was just right there in the window waiting for me.
Beautifully laid out & so many treasures to be found.
A little knitting graffiti was fun to find.
And how interesting to meet Pohutukawa covered sentinel, Pohaturoa Rock-just plonked right here in the centre of town.
Pohaturoa Rock is the local tribe’s (Ngati Awa) spiritual and physical ancestral connection to the area. The Ngati Awa have always performed ceremonies of birth, death, war and other important matters here. 
I loved this poem written by Clive Kingsley-Smith in 1983.
Challenging sentinal, solitary, steadfast
There at the crossroads he stands!
Silently waiting, eternally watching,
Timelessness held in his hands.
Grey, grey with the plumes of eternity,
Grey with the records of time,
Grey in his ancient, revered paternity,
Recorded in Maoriland rhyme!
Rugged by nature from time immemorial,
Unmoved by aeons of grace!
Red Pohutakawa, and creepers arboreal,
Screening the scars on his face!
Grey, grey with the seal of the centuries,
Grey with the score of their years,
Grey with the records of blatant humanity,
Their laughter, their groans and their tears.

Now a walk through-once a cave.
Homeward-bound we stopped in Rotorua to walk amongst the Redwoods.
Only this time it was up in the actually trees, looking down through to the forest floor.
A remarkable piece of engineering & design work the Redwood Tree Walk ,
An engaging experience indeed.
When you know just who you are, all kinds of things begin to flow better & to make sense.
I have continued to learn about the Five Elements. They just make so much sense to me.
So all encompassing. And very useful to help in understanding your constitutional leanings, emotional make up, relationship dynamics, health challenges, healing issues & occupational propensities.
I have huge respect for Jason Elias who writes:
"The Chinese believe that the Five Elements- Wood, Fire, Metal, Earth & Water govern the physical, emotional & spiritual existence of human beings, just as they regulate the cycles of growth & change in the external world.
Each of the Five Elements has a unique nature & spirit, and every human being has a constitutional affinity to one or more of them. 
For instance: the aggressive, forceful energy of Wood is most obvious in the season of spring, when the buds swell to bursting & the seeds sprout in to tender shoots that, against all odds, push their way through the earth in to vigorous life. 
If Wood is your predominant energy, you are like the green stem of spring,  you are driven by the need to stay in motion & to reach new heights, you are firmly grounded by a sense of self & home- the place where you fit & belong. Your roots are driven deep; your potential is unlimited"
Rob & I re-did the Five Element quiz from over here last week & I was fascinated to find that we are both predominately Woods..with some Water. A few years ago I got quite a different result which shows me just how far I have come in reclaiming my true self.
The Wood constitution very much fits the re-discovered "me"; the one who prefers to work alone & just-get-on-with-it & who loves to be fully occupied with all kinds of projects & doings. And yes, I am most certainly deeply grounded by a sense of self & home-the place where I fit & belong.
Of course there is even more commonsense to the whole Five Element thing in the teaching of balance in all things. When one element or season swings out of kilter or becomes unbalanced, then everything can get a bit messed up. Pay attention, balance things out & you restore or achieve harmony & regain your health & equilibrium.

 It's easy for me to stay in touch with this approach since I am constantly in tune with the seasons & the land & so quite naturally these things have become a part of my daily life conversation & observations.
 Harmony is a really useful state...even along the road-side there's a happy, unseen interaction going on that keeps everything in harmonious balance.
With-in the flow of the seasons there is a time for all things, every state of being.
Autumn is the time for rot & return! A time to let go-of all that no longer serves us & to have a jolly good clean up, just as the natural world does the same.
 Eventually the hard work of healing & growing & shedding the past moves the mountains of legacy, until at last, pausing to look across the valley, I can say with surety..."ah, isn't that a majestical sight!"
Much love, Catherine xxx

Monday, 25 April 2016

Abundantly Clear

I didn't plan to be away a long time, 
it's just that abundance (and Watties) got in the way.
It's quite strange really that abundance should take up so much room & demand so much time & attention & really very peculiar indeed, that the factory that resides over our back wall, should deal with abundance too; a lot of plain, way-too-much-of-everything sort of abundance! 
Way too much corn, way too many tomatoes, beetroot, beans & steam peeler machines and way, way too much noise!
In the midst of all this excess I have been growing & learning. I find Susun Weed's teaching to be invaluable...she has taught me ever so much about herbs & living real & wisely.
Last week she wrote about abundance just here.
I know these things to be true:

"Abundance is free.
Abundance is a gift.
Abundance is open and flowing.
Abundance can appear unexpectedly.
Feed abundance and it will multiply.
Abundance is demanding.
Abundance is wild.
Abundance is hard work.
Abundance is a gift."

I am not very thrilled to find our lives over-powered by an errant & mechanically bullying factory I, can tell you. To be awash with the old familiar nervous tension & stress is incredibly uncomfortable & echoes back to the years where I was lost in family dissonance & unable to escape or make it stop. 
However, through these months we have become resolutely determined to remain here on our own land, "our own bit of earth" & not be forced out. Since I am a problem-solver not a complainer I have been speaking up for myself, communicating the issues (the many, many issues of new, repetitive, wildly irritating, drive-you-crazy noises). Funny thing is that on "their" side of the wall they barely ever hear a thing, well certainly not to recognise them as a problem. Sound is weird like that. It bounces around & plays tricks on you. 
I get very cross & cranky when it comes & robs us of sleep!
The feelings of powerlessness are very uncomfortable.
We have now armed ourselves with a clever app that Rob put on our phones so that we can record decibel levels to help us keep perspective & we've also researched the local resource management guidelines that the factory is supposed to be operating within.
We've lived here for 27 years & it's never been like this before; until these last couple of years. 

So...I have been using The Emotion Code (you can down load it for free here) a very useful technique that a friend passed on to me last August. Any one can learn it. Dr Bradley Nelson teaches that the traumatic events of life can create trapped emotions that get stuck in our subconscious & go on to cause all manner of emotional, physical or spiritual issues in our lives.
 I have found this to be entirely true. 
It is possible to systematically release these trapped emotions & the patterns of response to life that we have been holding in our bodies, often for years & years. 
So...I have used this experience to take notice of the trapped emotions (& inherited trapped emotions...so many of those!)) that have needed to be identified & released for so long, especially the ones that have been brought up by my factory interactions & overwhelm. Because of my legacy it is a long & tiresome journey but it has given me hope that one day I will be truly free.
Free to be fully me & I know that I have cleared a mountain of "stuff" already. 
I have to add that I have also learnt to listen to my body; listen well & with compassion. This practise is now second nature to me but I realise that to most people this is a strange & uncomfortable concept. 
We are so human & very complex beings so it shouldn't really surprise us that our emotions, re-actions & physical symptoms of discomfort & dis-ease actually seek our attention. The choice we must make is: will we listen? Will we love ourselves enough to enter the conversation that needs to take place? Frequently, when we ignore the chatter, the pain & the bruising & the niggles & we hope like mad that it will all just go away as we grind on through, our "selves" don't take kindly to being ignored, & often have no other choice than to find new & clever ways to get our attention until we are forced to hear. 

In between the times of industrial trauma & healing work I have been fully occupied with the abundance of the seasons of summer & harvest...produce & seeds & making the most of the long days & the sunshine. Abundance takes an immense amount of attention & care-taking  & sometimes, is just plain exhausting. I am learning to collect a little less & to prepare just what I need at any one time. I am giving away more at every opportunity & that has been so much fun & very freeing.
We cannot gather it all in just for ourselves, abundance is meant to be shared.
A sharp eye is the quickest way to open the door to abundance...
have you ever met Malva before?
She's ever so much more than a weed. Her name is Malva Neglecta & she belongs to the mallow family. Now that you know that, I bet you'll see her everywhere you go.
There's a wonderful lady Julia who lives in Tauranga she has written a very informative article here about mallows.
We found all this Malva & some dandelions on a vacant section while out walking a week or two ago. I ate the Malva for my dinner (really delicious used just as you would spinach) & popped the dandelion flowers in to some organic apple cider vinegar to make a herbal digestive tonic.
Ok, so you're not too keen on me sharing my Malva with you. I'm sure we can find something else that might have a little more culinary appeal. Perhaps I could tempt you with a hollyhock flower or two, a tropical hibiscus or a Rose of Sharon? All of them "family", edible & beautiful. I have had never seen a Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus Mutabilis, Cotton Rose or Confederate Rose) before until a month ago, when I stumbled on a photo on the internet. So enamoured by Sharon's beauty was I, that I sent to the USA for some seeds. Then last week, while we were on our little road trip in the Bay of Plenty, coming in to the little town of Opotiki I yelled STOP!! & kind man he is, Rob screeched to a halt & backed up for me so I could meet Sharon in "person". I found another two bushes in Whakatane & asked for some cuttings at one house. Golly, I do so hope that they grow.
I think this particular bush must be quite old.
The flowers emerge pure white, slowly turn a pretty pink & then fade out becoming rose pink as they finish, hence the Mutabilis bit after Hibiscus.
Bambi loves Malva though, he told me on the way home from Coco & Co.
 He was made in Poppa's Shed.
I think he's lovely but he does so often give me a fright as I walk past heading down the garden path. I keep waiting for him to hop up & follow me.
Lucy had a steady stream of nice visitors through the summer months. The pink windflowers stretching out their hands to greet them as they arrived.
We began a visitors book at last...
A little girl called Willow came for afternoon tea with her mum on Good Friday. They had just finished reading The Secret Garden.
So I left Willow some seeds & bulbs out for her to take home & plant in her own "bit of earth".
I showed her how to find the seeds in the centre of the cornflower heads. They are quite a business to prise out with your finger nails.
Fiddly, but worth it. This particular bush flowered for four or five months this season.

We collected Neptune's Necklace seaweed at Waipatiki Beach through the summer & I pickled some using Alison Holst's bread & butter pickle recipe. The end result was just delicious & a great way to enjoy a free & highly nourishing resource. 
An abundance of red peppers went in to this yummy frittata, a useful meal for a grand beach picnic.

I also learnt that a particular lichen that grows in the Bush, called Usnea can be made in to a tincture that is a powerful medicine that helps to fight infection. I then discovered that this same Usnea is growing right outside the back door on our Melia tree.


The Maori call it Angi Angi, also known as Old Man's Beard. You know you have the right lichen when you can see the white cord running through the centre. The tincture itself turns deep orange. Now almost ready to bottle up, label & have on hand for the winter.

Clyde's (Farmer's Market) magnificent radicchio are just perfect for autumn salads with their crisp texture, glorious colours & that little bit of bitterness that supports the liver in this season.
We were amazed, while out walking, to find wild mushrooms on peoples lawns & even in the middle of Cornwall Park a week or two ago.
Yet more free abundance.


I have loved growing peans on the washing line. I’m leaving the last of them to set seed now. They are not really a cross of peas & beans, just a bean that fancy’s itself to be a pea when it matures a little.
Coco & Co is a vibrant little craft shop in town. The creations are very well made & very clever. I also found this colourful summer dress in the window recently, crafted by Susan at Fresh Vintage.


My favourite, most vibrant flower of all, came to stay with us in early April. My dear & treasured friend Gina came to visit us on her way back up north. What an absolute delight to spend time together. Gina was the friend who I'd never actually met in person but who remarkably (through this blog) recognised me in an Op shop in Palmerston North last year.
A friendship characterised by abundance, depth, sparkle & authenticity.
Precious.
Thank you to all of you who stop by to read my ramblings & thoughts & to those of you who have made contact in the last few months, either in person or via messages. I am very humbled that some of what I have shared has touched you & that many of you have shared your hearts with me, that takes courage & I honour you & wish you all well in your journey of healing, growing & flourishing.
Abundantly yours,
Catherine x0x

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