Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Last day in Purua

All is chaos...

I am packing: endless decisions about what I will need most in the next 6 weeks and will fit in the tiny Toyota Corolla vs what I can live without until November and will be safe in storage. Imagining unlikely worst case scenarios in which I am somehow separated forever (fire! theft! injury! collapse of capitalism!) from the art objects and books I am leaving behind and all I would own is a car load of meaningless usefulness. Concentrating on the real risks inherent to spending October without a decent chair, or enough envelopes, or my duvet. Reluctantly cutting big sheets of expensive paper so they will fit flat into the back of my car.

I am cleaning: the only time I ever clean an oven is when I am moving out, so it's always a hideous task (which is why I don't do it more often- vicious circle). But I am enjoying sparkling clean windows for my last two days here. I dust the tops of lightshades and vacuum the backs of cupboards. The more houses I have moved in and out of the more I value the good karma of leaving an immaculate home for the new resident, whether or not I've paid a bond. My reward has been many years of consistent good fortune in moving into amazing bargains of rental beauty owned by amateur landlords who care about the property as if it were their own, yet often don't ask for a bond.

I am reading: a week ago I collected twenty or so books to help develop my thesis proposal and I am trying to wrap my head around them before I meet with the Superdooper Supervisors in two days. They cover democratic theory, communtiy empowerment, qualitative research methods, housing and community design and best of all: Confronting Consumption an inspiring book which made me think of at least three other thesis topics I could happily devote the next three years to researching. It has also made me think even more critically about the external forces that direct us as consumers, and affirmed the choices/changes I am making in my life. I will write more about this later. But right now I have to keep packing and cleaning and reading and thinking.

It must be spring.

All the birds are getting together. I'm seeing kingfisher couples, woodpigeon pairs, peacocks and peahens gathering for great group shows,
Everywhere I look, birds fly about purposefully with beaks trailing stalks of grass. I'm sure there's a starling nesting in my chimney...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Handmade Books: A National Exhibition

Right now at Auckland City Libraries you can see some of the best in handcrafted book arts in New Zealand. Internationally recognised book artists such as Elizabeth Steiner and Barbara Schmelzer are showing some of their recent work. So are 27 other members of the Association of Book Crafts New Zealand, including me. At the top of the escalators on the third floor the books are being displayed in 10 or so glass cabinets, which means you can't touch them. The cabinets are very full of 88 pieces, but only in a couple of instances did I feel like they were too cramped to give each book a fair showing. In several cases, mirrors have been placed so that you can view the inside of the book as well as the cover.

The exhibition gives a sense of the diversity flowering forth in New Zealand book arts. Traditional fine book binding and restoration are represented but do not dominate. Most exhibitors have embraced contemporary and innovative book structures, materials and techniques. I was particularly excited by the number of books with content, mostly images, but also text. Overall it's a colourful and stimulating exhibition, that is worth lingering with.

What did I especially like? Elizabeth Steiner's Standing Tall was magnificent. Obviously inspired by Daniel Essig's work (seen on the cover of the luscious Penland Book of Handmade Books), she has bound (empty) teabags in long board covers which, when opened right out, serve as a pedestal for a thick halo of softly stained pages. Another of my favourite NZ book artists, Ann Bell, has a number of beautiful, scultpural works, including a rainbow Flag Book (after Heidi Kyle) that is simple and delightful. Also using a rainbow of brightly coloured paper to delicious effect is Dianne Sanders, with Jacob's Book Sayings, a Jacob's ladder structure in which I caught a tantalising glimpse of text on the pages which hinted at poetry or proverbs. I saw Marama Warren's Matariki Haiku at the Book Works exhibition at North Arts recently and was just as delighted this time with the delicate texture, organic colours, sculptural shapes and sophisticated multicultural layers of meaning. Marama's waterfall book, To Still the Mind, is also as dense with meaning as it is with colour and texture. Julienne Francis is clearly an artist who makes classy concertina books with beautiful etchings, her Swimming with My Mother is evocative and tender yet unsentimental .

What wasn't so great? Well, personally, I find heavily embellished books remind me too much of scrapbooking (which commodifies creative expression, like a paint-by-numbness, I mean, -numbers). Fortunately not too many of the exhibitors got carried away by the attractions of pre-printed craft paper and lavish beading. There are a few books which I think wouldn't have made it into a juried exhibition. Either because the quality of their execution does not live up to the concept, or because the concept is so drab that immaculate craftsmanship is not enough to interest the viewer. But there is nothing so tacky, or shoddy, or boring, that it pulls the whole exhibition down. Compared the the Book Works exhibition in Northcote a couple of months ago, this is overall a much stronger showing of what's excellent in the book arts in this country.

Handmade Books: A National Exhibition is on at Auckland City Library until 2 October. If you can, check it out. By the way, most of the books are for sale, (and two of mine have already got the sticker!).

Monday, September 19, 2005

Snow Driving

Today I drove north from Kapiti to the Tron, past thousands of lambs, many with freshly shorn mothers, swathes of daffodils and lavishly blossoming trees. I also drove through hail, snow and sleet heading up to the Volcanic Plateau (and cold showers the other 400 kilometers of the trip). A few weeks ago, that drive reminded me of a wonderful ride past the mountains 20 years earlier. This time it reminded me of my last drive through snow about 12 years ago.

After nearly three hard years in the USA, and in a hard upstate New York winter I suddenly decided it was time to come home and summer in New Zealand. Two years earlier, in Colorado, I'd bought a new Ford Festiva with, for reasons too complicated to go into on this cramped keyboard, company financing. It was such a sweet little car, a joy to drive, turquoise and with a Tardis-like capacity to carry all our possessions across country. But, needless to say, the resale price of the car wasn't going to cover what I still owed Ford only two years later. But, in January in upstate New York, with less than a week before we were getting on a plane back to New Zealand, I had to find someone to take over the payments for me.

January in upstate New York is not an easy time to sell a car, even if you don't want any cash for it. With all my worldly goods and my seven year old daughter in the suddenly misnamed Festiva, I spent the most stressful week of my life following snow ploughs through blizzards from Rochester to Binghamton to Albany chasing rumours of workmate's neighbour's relations who might be interested in kicking the icy tires. Not only was the inside of the car silted up from being our home on the road for a week (and we were both flu-ey and not completely confident that the scabies were gone), but the outside was covered in dirty ice. You can't wash a car in a blizzard. You just cover the dirt with more ice. It's not a good look. Finally, at the 11th hour I met someone's dodgey brother-in-law in a diner west of Albany and he signed the papers and drove us to the bus stop.

Alls well that ends well, we made our plane, the scabies never came back, the Tron's summer cured our colds and I only ever had to deal with a couple of long distance calls from the Ford company when the dodgey ex-brother-in-law missed payments.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Vote chocolate

Miraculously, my quiet confidence that I could come up with a realistic and inspiring new and improved doctoral thesis proposal in under two days has paid off. Of course large quantities of Whittakers Fruit and Nut are implicated. And it remains to be seen whether the Superdooper Supervisors I'm sending it to think its realistic and inspiring. So I'm not going to risk it here just yet, but for now I'm happy.

And relaxed enough to take the evening off to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's hard to believe that it could be as good as the original, but I need to see it for myself. Am taking the rest of the chocolate.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Inside my brain

I feel like I am neglecting Bibliophilia at the moment. If I am, its because so much of my life is in transition right now. Not in a bad way, but just in a preoccupied-with- uncertainties way. So that's why I've been a bit quiet and mysterious (and occasionally cranky) the past few weeks.

The uncertainty about where I'm going to live is more or less figured out for the time being, but I still have to drive back up to Northland, pack up all my stuff, say goodbye to all the wonderful friends I made this year, figure out how to get my stuff down to Kapiti (low cost suggestions and offers of help are welcome) and then unpack and settle in here (isn't it beautiful?).

I actually quite enjoy the moving process. Truely, the pleasure of moving lies in the elimination of more and more possessions from my life. I am pretty streamlined these days since this approximately the 35th time I've done it in 38 years.

However, everything else in my life is still pretty saturated with uncertainty. I am managing a little bit of book making, despite being on the move so much. But I'm planning to give away the prototype of my new book as a gift and I don't want to spoil the surprise by posting about it here first- if indeed I decide it should have a wider audience than one! I'm also investigating some marketing and sales opportunities for my books in the forthcoming installment of the NZ's annual Christmas-present-buying-frenzy, but I don't want to pre-empt anything here either.

But actually my major preoccupation at the moment is trying to write a preliminary thesis proposal for the PhD I plan to begin next year. I decided to do a doctorate because I had come up with a brilliant topic. But... the more I've thought about it and read about it and written about it the less sure I am that it's the right brilliant topic to spend the next three years of my life with. So... with only a few days to go before the first (self-imposed) deadline, all my brainpower is trying to make up a new topic that will interest me for years to come, meet with my supervisors' approval (and that of the enrollment and scholarship committees) and, oh yes, add something worthwhile to the sum of knowledge in the world.

No pressure.

Never fear, with the help of my friends, long walks, meditation, lots of chocolate and the internet (thank God for the internet!) I'm sure I can come up with something. And eventually I will post juicy details and demonstrate my ability to academic-speak with the best of them. In the meantime though, Bibliophilia might be a bit patchy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

New View

This is the view from my new studio in Paekakariki, looking out from the sun-drenched deck to Kapiti Island and the Tasman Sea. I'll be working there from 1 October. I'm already feeling inspired with new book ideas for competitions and Christmas.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Weather and Traffic Reports

After three weeks of balmy weather on Kapiti, I've been seduced into believing that the climate here rivals Northland's for comforting warmth. (Though not for rain- it's dry as a bone and I read the D word in the local paper yesterday- yes drought, at the end of winter no less.) Yesterday, walking past dark peaty onion fields it felt more like summer than spring. So good, in fact, is life on the Coast that I have taken the momentous decision to come and live here.

I think the deciding factor was when I suddenly realised I had managed a good night's sleep without putting in the earplugs. My first week or two of sleeping on the verge of State Highway One and the Main Trunk Line passed in a series of broken nights- every articulated truck and freight train roaring up the incline induced a startle reflex and a heart pounding adreneline rush. I would lie awake feeling as though the vehicles were actually driving through the bedroom. And this was with earplugs in! Then I bought more expensive earplugs and the traffic noise subsided to a dull rumble that barely broke into my dreams. And finally, one night last week I forgot to put the plugs in and woke up in the morning refreshed and empty-eared, and so it has continued.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Lies, damned lies and the Brethren

I know my last post was kind of complainy and I shouldn't do it twice in a row but I am so cross about the smear campaign against the Green Party I think of anything else to post about.

You may or may not be aware that an expensive full colour brochure has been distributed to pretty much every letter box in New Zealand with the sole purpose of turning people away from voting Green in next weeks election. OK, maybe not sole purpose, because the same folks seem to be just as opposed to anyone supporting Labour. It would be bad enough just to have invested the money (estimated at $500,000- think of that in terms of solar panels/hip operations/literacy tutors for refugees/tax refunds/child care hours/ election bribe of your choice) in such an anti-democratic effort to support the National Party but it is full of lies . Grrrrrr!

OK, fair enough I suppose to dislike the Greens because you actually think the environment is irrelevant to the economy, or social justice has nothing to do with quality of life. Your ignorance is your choice.

But please don't believe that it is Green Party policy to introduce a capital gains tax on family homes, to cut defence spending by 50%, and disarm our forces, spend roading money on uneconomic and novel public transport systems, block construction of vital new roads with tortuous RMA regulations, push high country farmers off their lease-hold land, permit the right-to-roam over private property, or offer financial assistance to cannabis growers for alternative employment. These are all outright lies. The pamphlet also contained a number of gross exagerrations, that I hesitate to call half truths, and I recommend you read the Greens own rebuttal to sort out what you should believe.

Making up your own mind who to vote for is your right, but it's also your responsibility to vote intelligently based on accurate information from trustworthy sources. I suggest that the Greens are a more reliable source of information about their own policies than a ultra-conservative religious sect who feel they have more to gain from fibs than honesty. I suggest they check back with #9 of the Ten Commandments for some policy about telling the truth.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

It's yoga, but not as I know it

Right now I think the thing I miss most being away from Northland is the excellent yoga classes at the Yoga Space in Whangarei. The teacher is rigorous and compassionate, the yoga is classical, the "intelligent use of props" is our mantra. I almost always finish the class feeling like something profoundly good has happened to my body. I am never worried that I might provoke my chronic problems with neck, back and arms. I crave the class and would go more often than once a week if it were less than a 30km drive.

Through much research I managed to track down the nearest yoga class to where I am staying on the Kapiti Coast. Part of a franchise (or should that be sect) called Yoga for Daily Life they offer two classes a week at Raumati School hall, about 30kms from where I'm staying and which took forever to find in the dark. Of course arriving with high hopes set me up to be disappointed, but I think even before my standards were lifted by the Yoga Space I would have considered this class yoga-lite at best, and dangerous at worst.

The nearest comparison I can think of is the Body Balance classes at Les Mills, which although pleasant were more Tai Chi and Pilates than Yoga. The difference is that Body Balance was fun and Yoga for Daily Life was the worst of all worlds. The instructer was a substitute for the regular teacher so maybe she'd do a better job, but I got the impression of a limited, rigid programme being followed, so was not optimistic.

Afterwards I was complaining to my friend and she told me about a CD called Yoga Sanctuary and said I was welcome to try hers. I found it quite enjoyable- at least it had some real yoga postures, which you could hold for a decent length of time. It's still a bit lite compared to the classical instruction I crave, but I need some external direction while I'm down South since I am not self-disciplined enough to just do yoga alone. So right now the CDs are looking like my best bet.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Have I mentioned how much I love it when you post a comment on my blog? It is such a thrill to know that you are reading it and that I have provoked some thought you want to share with me. I particularly like comments from actual human beings, most of whom are my friends in Real Life as well as cyberspace.

I don't like getting "comment spam" so I have introduced "word verification" to filter out the automatically generated advertising/weirdo comments which I was hit with today. Please don't regard this as a barrier aimed at you, dear reader! You, I do want to hear from.

Book for a Moon

I recently swopped this book for this cushion. The cushion is one of the amazing creations made by my friend Galit, a textile artist from Israel.
The book is called Secret Directions to Magical Places: Waitawheta. It is one of a limited edition of five, and there is one still available.

Friday, September 02, 2005


A few days after being weeded, fertilised and top soiled, the asparagus are pushing up in great numbers, despite a lack of rain. Here's a cute baby poking its tip through the dry ground.