Friday, April 29, 2005

Homeward Bound

My last night in Wellington was a very pleasant book party in Island Bay (like a tupperware party, but with my books instead of plastic containers, and no games). Next morning, I set off from the South Coast, the southern most tip of the North Island, and drove north, mostly up State Highway 1. Notable sights on the way included the street trees of Levin pollarded into creepy skeletal hands reaching skyward, a convoy of seven identical white campervans heading south through Rangitikei and a tank bristling with soldiers trundling across the tussock near Waiouru.

I made a fruitless detour to Palmerston North to see if I could find an appropriate gallery to offer my books to, but a circuit of their grim Square in chilly drizzle yielded nothing hopeful. I sat in a cafe to write down the poem I'd been composing since Linsdale (sample: Love leaves, and then keeps going back to make sure the oven really is turned off). And then was reminded that, while intuition is a very good guide for running many aspects of my life, it is not necessarily up to navigating my way out of a strange town lacking in signage. I narrowly escaped a long drive to Napier by asking for directions.

On a rest break in Turangi my cellphone rang and it was my second oldest friend (only Jane has known me longer) calling from her farm in Upstate New York. I don't know how she got the number since we haven't talked for years, but we caught up on the major news in our, and our children's, lives. Like most of my friends in the USA she wants to leave, appalled by their current government and changing society. I've been thinking about her lots these last months because living at her family's farm was the main farm/rural life experience I've had until now. Organic garlic in summer and maple syrup in winter, making brooms, home schooling and home birthing (I was defacto midwife for her unexpectedly swift second birth). It was in many ways idyllic, but I was defeated by the harsh winters there.

Then I drove up the west side of Lake Taupo which I prefer for the many trees, little traffic and
Whakamaru dam crossing with associated lake and crags. The pull northwards to Whangarei is a physical sensation, an elastic umbilicus tugging at my waist, and my mind is full of thoughts of home places and work I will do when I get there.

Book Party, Island Bay

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Home sick

All that I have learned about my 'intuition' boils down to this: if I don't have enough quiet and slow in my daily life to hear past the chattering old recordings of fear/ego/self-deprecation then my soul will start broadcasting its most urgent messages via my body. Little discomforts clamour for my attention and if I am not responsive to cause (rather than just symptoms) then the volume gets cranked up and static blurs the information coming to me in the form of chronic/serious illnesses.

Since I finally figured that out, and gathered the courage and resources to respond appropriately to my real needs, this has become a highly efficient form of communication (it took about 35 years of pointless suffering to get there but I did).

Right now, my soul is crying out for home, for Purua, for the bush and the hills, to be making art in my studio, and for quiet and solitude. I know this by the sore shins from walking on so much pavement (I usually have a lot of stamina for walking), how I wince at every loud sound (and there are so many!) and the general malaise I felt all through Wellington's cold weekend. I have responded by cutting back my social plans so that unless whanau are involved, I am probably not going to be there. I am spending as much time alone as I can, moving slowly through my business tasks (and getting very excited about all the cool stuff I will be taking home to make into books). Consequently, the malaise has receeded and I am facing my last day here in a state of calm equanimity, eager to go, but willing and able to do what I need to while I am here.

Apologies to all my Wellington darlings who I haven't seen on this visit, forgive me, and know that my non-contact by no means reflects my level of affection and respect for you. You are welcome to come and visit me in Whangarei!

Under the Weather

So far my stay in Wellington has been preoccupied with getting/staying warm and dry, no easy feat in the biting wet Southerly that blasted through the city over ANZAC weekend. I have limited my activities, as far as possible, to those taking place in proximity to heaters. The highlight of my trip to Wellington was an afternoon in Karori, drinking tea in front of the gas heater with my adorable nine-week old neice keeping my lap warm (if slightly damp from time to time).

I have also managed to stay pretty warm at the enormous dinner parties I have attended every night so far: Passover Seder for 20 in front of a roaring fire in Eastbourne on Saturday, second night Seder for 100 tightly packed bodies at the synogogue on Sunday, and my daughter's 19th birthday on the floor of a Japanese restaurant (party of 12 including the Japanese mother of her best friend who gave me a miraculous disposable heating pad from Japan).

Thankfully today has dawned clear so at least I won't get slashed by horizontal rain while I tromp around town selling books and buying things to make them with. And when I finally get around to changing the flat tire (noticed in the dark cold rain last night and consequently procrastinated on) I will only have to contend with the vertical slope on which I am parked, not a gushing torrent in the gutter.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Torah Scroll

I arrived in Wellingon on Saturday morning, just in time for the Saturday morning service at Temple Sinai, my old synagogue. I was invited to come up to the front and say one of the blessings for the Torah reading. Every week a portion of the Torah (the five books of Moses (more or less the same as in the Christian's Old Testament) handwritten onto a scroll, is read out to the congregation. Between reading the blessings, I got to have a good look at the scroll through my bookmaker's eyes.

The Torah scroll at Temple Sinai is an old one from Czechoslovakia hidden during the Holocaust, along with others that after the war were repaired and sent out to far flung Jewish communities around the world. It is big and heavy with beautiful Hebrew calligraphy.

A Torah scroll is handwritten and made by a sofer (scribe). He (I doubt that women get to do this work) prepares the parchment using the skin of a kosher animal, usually a cow, by soaking it in limewater for 9 days. Then he stretches it on a frame and scrapes it until it is dry and sands it until is a flat smooth sheet for writing on. I don't know how many cows it takes to make a Torah scroll but I'm sure it's a lot!

The sofer makes the ink by blending nuts, copper sulphate crystals and gum arabik with water to make it very black. He only makes two teaspoons at a time so it is always fresh. He also carves a sharp nib on a goose feather quill.

When the quill, parchment and ink are ready, the sofer goes for a ritual bath to purify himself, seeking to become a human vessel for Divine words. If he makes a mistake the parchment is buried and the sofer starts that section again (no pressure). It takes a year to write a scroll. After checking for accuracy, the sections of parchement are sewn together using the leg sinews of a kosher animal.

The sofer doesn't finish writing the Torah though, the last few words are saved to be written in when it is dedicated to a community, a very joyous occasion. Being up close with a Torah scroll, I am always awed by the immense project and immaculate handiwork that make it a holy object, a repository for Divine words that is not a neutral medium as most codex books.

Thanks to Joellen, for sharing this information about scroll-making with me.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Auckland's bottleneck

The vivid memory of my long communion with the sunrise proved invaluable for coping with the crawl down the bottleneck of Auckland motorways between 4 and 5.30pm. The reason I was so foolish as to let myself get entangled in the rush hourS was that I delayed the start of my drive South so as to connect with the Mobile Library on its monthly visit to Purua School. It was worth it as my delight in the experience continues.

Glenn the librarian had brought interesting CDs and books based on my requests last time which, together with my browsing added considerably to the load I am driving to Wellington. But the biggest thrill was being invited, by one of the other library users, to come along to the Country Women's Institute meeting next month! I'm so excited that I will meet more locals, and finally get to see inside the old Purua Hall.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Walk Purua Hills

Having heard Alan Waddell (a delightful sounding gentleman of 90) interviewed on National Radio about his famous website archive of walks I am considering changing the name of my blog to Walk Purua Hills.

This morning, waking at 5.30 and realising after 15 minutes of churning through 'things to do before I leave for Wellington at noon', that I wasn't going back to sleep; I opened my eyes to see the skylight turning grey above me. Idea and action were simultaneous as I leapt out of bed and threw on clothes to go watch the sun rise. I set off up the farm track in the dark, the sky lightening behind me to illuminate various tricky gate latches. Heading up hill I waded through knee high grass sodden with dew. Coming round the slope the sky was beginning to cycle through its morning colours, silhouetting my destination: three trees atop a windswept grassy peak. I call them the Grandfathers, two totora and a taraire, and visit them often.

Dawn is a long time to stand still in a brisk autumn wind but my stillness allowed a hare to come bounding past me and six turkeys to awaken gradually from their roost high in a tree just downhill. I watched the wind pull the mists out of the hills and off the flats up into a grey cloud which hovered over Riponui valley as the sky behind it was gilded with blinding gold light.

Sunrises both demand and defy reproduction or interpretation. I think it is their universality that makes cliches out of all possible descriptions and images. I know that their fast changing beauty is best appreciated by stilling the hand from pen, paint or camera, and just being fully present as each pink and gold moment bleeds into the next. Eventually though, I succumbed to the temptation pull out my little camera, and take this inadequate picture.

Sunrise over Riponui

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Dry North

Today I had to sneak out for my walk so Jet, the neighbour's dog who recently figured out how to escape his garden, doesn't follow me. Since he is alert to any human activity on the tracks across our valley floor, I went down to the peacock's creek. It was my first visit there in 2 or 3 weeks and I was struck by the impact of our indian summer.

It is crispy dry in the warm sun, the morning mists having come to nothing wetter. It is dry enough to sit on the grass in places and under deciduous trees are carpets of crunchy leaves. Where last time there were boot-grabbing swamps, the ground is now just springy, maybe slightly sticky. Where there were muddy puddles the cracked earth has crumbled to inch-deep dust. The dramatically ox-bowed creek is low and sluggish, exposing weed, rocks, a previously hidden cave carved under the roots of a totora. The sultry stillness of the afternoon is broken suddenly by a cool breeze, rattling the yellow leaves of the tree above me.

I am grateful that I have had such a warm welcome to the North, but I am looking forward to spending winter making books in my cosy studio while outside a steady rain soaks the ground.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Rainbow Connection

One of my favourite memories of being a little girl was mum driving around the Waikato with my brother and I in the back of the car, chasing rainbows. It must have been before the first oil shocks of the seventies; certainly I never felt I could justify such joyriding with my daughter- sorry Louise. In retrospect, she was escaping the claustrophobia of a rainy day at home with two bored kids. But I loved the romance of our quest, even though we never managed to find the end of the rainbow and its promised pot of gold with leprachaun.

Until yesterday I thought it was actually impossible to find the end of the rainbow- it's always going to be at a distance because of angles and refractions and other things I learned at school but immediately forgot.

But yesterday my neighbour, Sean, had a rainbow in the car with him as he drove to work! He was driving out of our drizzley valley with the sun still low in the sky. A rainbow arching from the road in front of him caught his eye and as he drove towards it didn't behave like rainbows usually do- hovering tantalisingly in the distance. He looked out his window and could see the other foot of the arch in the paddock beside him. Then he drove through the road end of the rainbow and for a few seconds the car was filled with colour.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Rural Delivery

One of the highlights of a day at home in the country is the post arriving. I'm pretty certain that at 4.30-ish, when the postie does a U-turn at our neighbour's letterbox on the other side of the one-lane bridge, she's finished for the day. That's how far out into the wopwops I live- at the very end of RD 6.

I like the whole ritual of leaving the flag up when I have mail I want collected. But of course, the best thing is how often I get exciting mail.

Naturally, because I spend so much time online I mostly get emails instead of personal snail mail. But among the bills and junk mail (and I love the glossy junk for using when I glue books), I get thrilling cheques for books sold, and orders for more. Those are definitely red letter days.

I also get lots of fun parcels crammed into the little arched box. For one thing, dear family members have taken to sending chocolate every now and then. This is much appreciated and all I can say is please continue! And last week mum sent me a little box of passionfruit from her Hamilton garden-yum.

When I lived in Wellington I was about 10 minutes walk from Gordon Harris- a big fabulous arts supply store that we all liked to complain about because it is so expensive. From up here, in the arts supply wasteland of Northland, GH has become my pilgrimage destination for visits to various Big Smokes. But I am doing more and more of my shopping for materials and tools on line. Paper, card, book cloth, blades, adhesives, swatches and samples have all come my way via New Zealand Post in the past couple of months.

Last week the Association of Book Crafts sent me a big roll of paper and cloth, and under separate cover, a kilo of EVA (the environmentally friendly version of PVA glue). These unweildy objects were not going to fit in the box so the postie drove up the rutted drive and delivered them into my hands. Remember, this is the last stop on her long working day. So I just want it on record that I love Rural Delivery.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Happy birthday boots

It is almost exactly two years since I celebrated a substantial pay rise by buying some expensive Italian boots. They were on sale, but still cost considerably more than any other footwear I've bought before or since. Not fashionable high heels, or indeed fashionable in any way: they are Scarpas, quality leather tramping boots.

At that time, I had no idea when or how I could overcome the obstacles then standing between me and my long held desire to live in or near Northland bush, but by buying the boots I was making an investment in the future I longed for. I was living in innercity Wellington, working full time, and without a car. Access to any bush at all was a rare treat and I hardly ever got to wear my beautiful boots. They remained unscuffed and not-quite-broken-in until early this year when I finally made my move north.

They are now looking satisfyingly well worn (see below) and are comfortable enough for increasingly long walks several times a week. Locations that I thought of as distant destinations when I first arrived are now launching pads for my explorations further and further into the hills. I guess I am getting fitter too, but it is curiosity that takes me further, sometimes so far that I return home exhausted and filthy with mud and pittosporum tar.

The last few walks I have been trying to find a track that will connect two ridges at the end of the back farm's valley. This search generally commences an hour or so's walk from home, at the top of the ridge where I found the dead kiwi on my first weekend. I have followed half a dozen tracks, often into DOC 'Kiwi Zones', which either fizzle out into dense undergrowth or veer off in quite the wrong direction. I know this loop exists because my neighbours walked it at Easter, but from the other hill top. Next time I go out I will take their route, which I have resisted thus far because it is steep track without any shade. I will pick a cool and overcast day and set off early, with a packed lunch and my expensive Italian boots. I'll let you know how I go.

Freshly waxed.

Free Kiwi Sex

One of the things I enjoy most about both of the local free weekly papers (The Whangarei Leader and the Report) is that pretty much every issue carries a story about kiwi. I love it. I would much rather read about what's going on in the kiwi world than most of the human world.

But the best kiwi story I've read was in the local free glossy magazine, Scene. The story subtitled "Kiwi wife-swapping and burrow hopping on Matakohe-Limestone Island" by Tristan Tuckey revealed the soap operatic romantic lives of four kiwi with wonderfully tawdry and sordid anthropomorphism. I laughed out loud. More than once.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Peacocks and Pears

Today I scared (not on purpose) six peacocks out of a pear tree in the orchard. I've seen them around in twos and threes before and for a long time I thought they were peahens because they don't have tail feathers. But it turns out they are males leaving their tail feathers under the totora trees by the creek, where I have been collecting them to use in my books. Peacocks look too fat to fly, but when they do their wings are a brick red as the light shines through them.

These ones are fat because they are frequent visitors to our overgrown and neglected, yet fecund, orchard. Right now it's hard to begrudge them the fruit because the pear tree in question is defiantly producing an outrageously heavy crop of russet pears despite having fallen over. The trunk is broken most of the way through near the root and the whole tree is propped precariously on a buckling fence. But still so many pears I hardly know what to do with them. Not being a bottler (despite my interest, I have no experience and no jars), I have mostly been making them into pear cakes. I'm onto my third variation of the original recipe and think I have it just about right.

Windfall Pears

Pear Cake Recipe

4 cups of pears, peeled and chopped small
1 1/2 cups sugar, sprinkled on the pears
Leave them together to make syrup, which depending on the grain of your sugar and the juiciness of your pears, will take 1-3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 325 and grease some muffin tins or 2 small cake pans (don't make as one big cake unless you like a soggy middle)
2 eggs beaten slightly with
2/3 cup canola oil (or other light flavoured oil)
1 tsp almond essence (optional)
Add egg mixture to pear mixture.
Sift together:
3 cups white flour (make 1 cup wholemeal if you are feeling fibre-deprived)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
Stir dry ingredients into wet ones or visa versa depending on your bowl size. Spoon mixture into baking tins and cook until golden brown, bouncey and aromatic (15 mins for cupcakes, 25 mins for small cakes).
This cake is so moist it doesn't need icing. Freezes well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Radio New Zealand

Hooray! At long last my audio-deprivation is ended. I have got a radio into the house that actually has all its bits and works! I instantly tuned in to Radio New Zealand, even Wayne Mowatt is welcome, but I can't wait for Saturday afternoons when RNZ makes the best listening around.

And I can almost forgive them for calling off the production of my radio play/poem 'Fall' which was to be broadcast as part of the Open Story Season before the season was cancelled with no real explanation of why. I was pretty excited in anticipation of hearing my work on air. But Oh well, I am planning instead to publish Fall on my website when it is updated any day/week now.

(Fall is Solomon's Song of Songs- the sexiest and most romantic thing in the Bible- transposed to a contemporary New Zealand midlife romance. I'll let you know when it gets on line.)

Grey Heron

Every time I see the solitary grey heron that visits the paddock in front of my studio windows, I feel like I have been given a great gift. Is there a more elegant and graceful bird?

Monday, April 11, 2005


(My mouth is still a bit numb as I type this so forgive me if I lithp or drool a little).

In my 30s I am a vigilant oral hygenist- my love of flossing is so well known that I was actually given a designer floss holder for my birthday and the little guy gives it up to me every day. The logical outcome of this hypercare routine would be, you would hope, the kind of visits to the dentist that result in a very small charge and smug satisfaction at no work needed.

Sadly I am bolting the barn door after the horse has run away to join the circus. My vigilance is a reaction to early and sustained dental trauma including 5 root canals- three of them on two teeth subsequantly extracted and don't even get me started on impacted wisdom teeth. I have spent most of the last six years working in Wellington to pay exhorbitant sums to repair the work of careless dentists in small towns. And, I admit, my ongoing sugar addiction means I am fighting a losing battle. Even though my beloved grandpa Lou was a dentist, I find it difficult to feel good about them as a professional group, sucking up all my disposable income and causing me great pain.

So when I flossed a filling out of one of my remaining molars last week I went into a mild panic at the thought of having to find a new dentist I could trust sufficiently with my poor mouth. But, I am happy to report that today I actually enjoyed a visit to my new Whangarei dentist, Dr Asi Cohen at the Smile Care Dental Studio.

In stylish surroundings, amid much friendly chat and useful explanations, he did what seems to be an excellent job on my tooth. I was pleasantly distracted during the whole procedure by a DVD of the (appropriately) jaw-dropping Cirque de Soleil and would have willing stayed in the chair longer to watch more.

PS My only complaint is that on my browser, his website doesn't have a navigation bar. But here's the link anyway.
PPS I just want to point out that my Wellington dentist, Dr Andrew Brown, is also a sweetie pie and dental hero.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

50 First Dates and The Time Traveller's Wife

The other night I watched 50 First Dates, on a DVD borrowed from Whangarei District Libraries. (I don't have a TV, and my laptop screen is too small for watching films with subtitles or subtlety, and while Adam Sandler is off-putting, as one of the ET generation I have a soft spot for Drew Barrymore).

It is a very silly movie and I would hesitate to admit watching it, let alone recommend it except it has been in my thoughts all weekend, and I've ended up watching all the extras including the commentary. This is most surprising because I almost switched it off in the first 15 minutes because it was so interminably crass. It did improve, sporadically (with the aid of a couple of glasses of wine) into substantial moments of endearing tenderness.

I have come to the conclusion that what I like about 50 First Dates is how it reminds me of my current favourite book, The Time Traveller's Wife. I mean no insult to a book that does not have a single misplaced word, one-dimensional character or unnecessary scene between its covers. Unlike 50 First Dates which required a huge effort to suspend disbelief sufficiently to maintain anything but derision; Audrey Niffenegger so skillfully constructs an entirely believable scenario that when you rise for air between chapters you have to remind yourself it's not a true story. (And I think is Henry de Tamble -TTTW- is funnier than Henry Roth-FFD.)

But both book and film give a central character a distorted experience of time which, as a stop-motion film reveals the graceful unfurling of a flower, allows us to examine the unfurling of a relationship, and development of the characters, in detail. And what this time distortion device reveals is the transformative and sturdy power of consistent, thoughtful, deliberate, generous acts of kindness. Such actions are the basis of a love that can transcend the vagaries of time.

If you are in a hurry, I think you could get the gist of this in scenes 4, 5, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 18 of 50 First Dates. If however, you have the time I recommend, without qualification, The Time Traveller's Wife.

P.S. While I was searching for a good link for this post, I discovered that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston bought the rights to TTTW and I imagine planned to star in the movie together. This terrifying prospect is mitigated by the recently demonstrated inability of Pitt and Anniston's love to transcend time, giving me hope that no Hollywood desecration is immanent.
...If I was casting the movie I would want John Cusack and Salma Hayek...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Frothy and dazzling times

Sometimes you get a horoscope that is just spot on- random chance or psychic powers? Who knows... I don't really care cos Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology Newsletter is so fun that it hardly matters whether what he says for my sign is 'true' or not.

But this week, he really hit the spot:

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): English poet William Wordsworth said that "Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." By that definition, Sagittarius, you'll be a fount of poetry this week. For best results, though, don't immediately translate those spontaneous feelings into action. Let them have their way with you for a while before you decide what they all mean. It's one of those frothy, dazzling times when you have no more important task than to honor your emotional riches with your reverent, patient attention. (Italics mine cos this is exactly what making books is.)

(Follow the link to his website and subscribe for your own weekly dose of subversive and inspiring pronia)

Master Class

While I was on my trip South a few weeks ago I bought myself a new book (a rare event). It is the Penland Book of Handmade Books and it cost way more than I can afford but I had to have it and so I do. But strangely, I came home, put it on the shelf and didn't look at it for three weeks.

Why? Well, for a start I am world class at delayed gratification (watch me NOT unwrap the present for hours or days or weeks). Also I had a ton of orders to fill, so I was in production mode and couldn't afford to get to excited about designing new books. But most of the orders are filled now, and the itch to make new books has been begging to be scratched. I spent the weekend noodling around with interesting ideas for content... turning into unsatisfying structures. And then I remembered my new book.

It's big, it's glossy and hardbacked, it's chock full of incredible, beautiful photographs of artist's books. It has interesting essays by ten different expert book artists, each of whom demonstrates a representative technique (this is not a book for beginners). And from the moment I pulled it off the shelf and slowly, respectfully opened it up, I have been on a crazy ride.

First I had a crisis of confidence- these guys are sooooo good, who am I trying to kid with my feeble efforts. Then I started getting excited by all the new ideas bouncing out of the pages. Then I followed Heidi Kyle's step-by-step instructions (she is famous for folding single sheets of paper into elaborate elegant books). Then I looked at the time and thought I better go to bed. But I just lay there imaging where I could take the Heidi Kyle structure and eventually dreamed about making books and then couldn't be bothered staying in bed any longer (it was almost dawn) so got up and started experimenting.

I've been in a frenzy of folding and cutting and glueing and sewing as I spiral outwards from the first model- following interweaving paths of content and structure, butting up against the boundaries of (wailing begins not having the right kind of paper and tools so having to make do with what I can find in my stash. Here I am 30 kilometers from the Stationery Warehouse- not good enough!- which is the best on offer in the arts supply wasteland that is Whangarei and while I've been mail-ordering up a storm, rural delivery is unbearably slow wailing ends) . So inevitably, I am having to be more creative, not less, because 3 out of 4 ideas I've come up with in the whirlwind of the the last 48 hours have been blocked by logistics, sending me galloping off in another direction.

And while my studio is starting to silt up with intricately folded paper and interesting cardboard cutouts in the pursuit of the new, I am also looking at my current work with fresh eyes, suddenly seeing new ways through some sticky technical production problems.

I've been feeling the need for a book artist-mentor or teacher who can critique my work in a constructive, challenging way. This book, subtitled Master Classes inBookmaking Techniques goes some way towards giving me the expert push I need. I'm not sure where my new work is going to take me, but I'm enjoying the ride. Yee ha!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Great galleries!

Reading this blog may give the impression that I do nothing but walk the hills and get friendly with cows. But no! I actually have been working really hard to produce copies of my books for new galleries about to start stocking my work. Today I mailed a bunch of lovely little parcels out to them. I am so pleased with my new work, and so thrilled to be releasing it into the world that this is a very satisfying part of the whole process.

It won't be too long before I can post photos of all the new books onto my website (and I'm planning to celebrate that event with some special deals for cyberspace customers so keep reading this blog regularly). In the meantime, I recommend visiting one of these excellent galleries to have a look at what I have been making!
  • In my new hometown of Whangarei, the fabulous Tuatara Inspired Design is the place to look at a representative sample of some of my best pieces.
  • If you are driving through Tirau, stop at Heather Leonard's Naked Art Gallery. She specialises in the human form and is stocking my Boob and Cock books.
  • Wellingtonian's can venture up the coast to Lush Design Gallery in Raumati Beach where they will be selling a selection of my books.
  • In Waihi the Art Market (just off the main road, in Moresby Ave) is also stocking some of my new bush books and some old favourites.
  • Don't forget Arts Post Galleries on the main street of Hamilton. They were the first gallery to show my work and continue to be enthusiastic supporters- they stock everything currently for sale in my oevre.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

New calf (and a pig sighting at last)

It is calving season round here, apparently they are coming thick and fast but until tonight I hadn't seen any for myself. Then, returning from a walk at dusk, I saw a cow with something sticking out of her bottom that looked quite a lot like a snout. Sure enough, as I got a bit closer,I could see it was a little calf face, the mouth opening and closing as the labouring mother waddled about snatching mouthfuls of grass.

I've witnessed the births of 5 humans, a dozen or so kittens and once a chicken from an egg, but never before a calf. It seemed like a long time before the mum stopped walking, eating and pushing other cows around and finally lay down (facing away from me). I missed the head coming out while I repositioned myself trying not to stress out the mum or her mates. But it didn't matter too much because after a few minutes her sides started to heave, like she was giving great sighs (though she was silent) and with a wet woosh, the calf slithered out into a soggy pile.

Next was a long period of licking, which she started at the calf's nether regions, leaving it to shake its own face free of slime. Some of the other cows came over to have a sniff at the new baby but were careful not to actually touch it. During the baby's transformation from intert slime creature to tufty-leggy-cutie there was another exciting event.

All the other cows in that little paddock and another little herd of them on the other side of the driveway suddenly thundered towards each other, bellowing across the track at the top of their lungs. I thought for a city-girl second that maybe this was some kind of birth announcement to the herd, and then... a little brown piglet came running out of the grass onto the drive heading straight for me. (Inevitably the camera failed at that moment, so you will have to believe me when I tell you it was actually multi-coloured- with a green stripe down its back and red legs- no really, I am telling the truth and no mind-altering substances were involved).

The little piglet did a u-turn when it noticed me and ran the gauntlet of distressed pregnant cows back down the driveway. All the neighbours cows on the other side of the road came over to join the commotion and after a few minutes the little pig came running back and this time carried on past me. I guess it weighed up its options and decided I was smaller and quieter so less of a threat than three herds of angry pregnant cows. It carried on up towards my place and I weighed up my options and decided I would rather stay and watch the baby calf struggle to its wobbly feet for the first time, than chase a piglet round my lawn.

Eventually the cows calmed down a bit, and reverted to being annoyed with my nosiness. They all circled round the new mother and calf who took its first wobbly steps in the wrong direction, away from its mother and towards another, particularly antsy, cow. Mum didn't like this and started trying to push the other cows away from her baby so she could carry on with her vigorous licking, as her udders leaked colostrum onto the grass.

And then the piglet reappeared, running towards me from the direction of the new calf, just on the other side of the fence from them. This time I decided to chase the piggy, and called my neighbours on the cellphone to enlist their help. We ran around in the dusk for a while but the piglet disappeared (no doubt heading into the hills to grow to a threatening size so it can rush me again and freak me out). The cows all calmed down, more or less, and the calf eventually staggered in the right direction, and managed to get its mouth wrapped around a dripping teat. All in all, another exciting evening on the farm.

Staggering into life.