Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Excuses, excuses

This is the week that I'm working every day at Narnia (this week's dress up theme is Haute Couture), so that's the current excuse for not blogging. It happens to be both true and a valid reason for not having forty minutes to write a post, unlike my usual reasons which are too pathetic to offer up as excuses: e.g. I have nothing I want to write about, or I just can't be bothered. Then there was the weeks worth of posts that I removed... but no one seems to have noticed so that's ok. Be assured that I do have some excellent topics ready and waiting for the first opportunity and furthermore, I have been joined here in the North by Al and his camera, so there will be more pictures too. So, don't give up on me just 'cos its the dry season right now, July promises great things on Bibliophilia.

And yes, I have now been informed, and seen for myself that is parked with no access. This was always the risk of using a free hosting service- it was good while it lasted. But I don't have any time right now and, to be honest, not much inclination to Do Something About It so I'm afraid Bibliophilia, this blog, is now the only official website for Meliors Simms. You can be sure, loyal readers, that you will be the First To Know when I have another website of my artists books and/or other work up and running. But don't hold your breath.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lucky Eggs

At the Farmer's Market a couple of weeks ago I pointed to the last carton of half-dozen-jumbo eggs on the free range egg stand. The egg-man hesitated, then asked whether I would be willing to accept 8 jumbo eggs in a 12 egg sized box, for the same price- as though I would turn down such good fortune.

They are lovely big eggs with bright golden yolks . I keep them stored in a special little egg cabinet on the benchtop, it's painted blue and decorated with feather motifs, with a chicken wire window which is almost too cute for my taste, but so useful that I cannot resist.

Tonight I cracked one of my bonus jumbo egg to fry with my left over potato and kumera and lo! a double yolk, my first ever!

Some days later- the last egg I cracked from this batch was another double yolker! Lucky eggs indeed.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Teetering piles everywhere

This is a list of what I am currently reading, organised by location in and of piles around the house.

Bedside Pile:
Cave in the Snow by Vicki MacKenzie
At the Owl Woman Saloon by Tess Gallagher*
Survival: Species Imperative #1 by Julie E Czerneda*
How to Speak Fluent Lovey-Dovey in 11 Languages in 24 Hours by Karen Salmansohn
Love for All Seasons by Suzanne Innes Kent
Nova Scotia: New Scottish Speculative Fiction edited by N Williamson and A Wilson
Collapse by Jared Diamond

Fireside Pile #1:
The Penguin History of New Zealand by Michael King*
A Field Guide to the Insects of Britain and Northern Europe by Michael Chinery*
Keeping the Love You Find by Harvill Hendrix
Living the Life you Love (in ten easy step by step lessons) by Barbara Sher

Fireside Pile #2:
Water-colours, Pastels and Drawings in colour by Pierre-Augus Renoir*
The Works by Beryl Cook*
One Man Show by Beryl Cook*
Renoir by Francios Fosca*

Window Seat Pile:
Pilgrims : Becoming the Path Itself by Lena Herzog*
The Monk in the Garden (about Gregor Mendel) by Robin Marantz Henig*
No Time to Lose by Pema Chodron*
Atlas of Prehistoric Britain by John Manley*

Dining Room Pile:
Parihaka and Hatea River Reserves Management Plan by Whangarei District Council*
The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Talmud by Rabbi Aaron Parry

NB I'm more likely to stop reading a book because the book mark hasn't moved for weeks than I am to finish it. On the lists above, * indicates a bookmark has been moved in the past few days. Last night I put about ten books back onto the shelves having judged that I am done with them (for now). I am housesitting for a couple with a fantastic library and every day more books catch my eye and demand to be pulled off the shelves. I'm here for 5 more weeks and plan to dip into as many books as possible before I move on.
Note in Fireside Pile #2, my current preoccupation with paintings of fat ladies.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Time, Breath and Death

I was feeling a little smug (never a good idea) about being unaffected by the litany of power/weather/traffic crises that seemed to be besetting the rest of New Zealand this week (is Mercury retrograde or something?). But then I arrived home to find the stove clock blinking 0:00, a sure sign of a power cut while I was in town. I was glad that I'd had the laptop with me and not plugged in anywhere, but sorry that I have no idea how to reset the stove clock as there is a shortage of easily viewed and reliable timepieces around here.

Anyway, I bounced out of bed this morning, inspired by the sunshine and wispy memories of dreaming about weaving (a job I really enjoyed for a while back in the nineties) to do some much needed housework. To finish off I vacuumed the whole house. Then sat down to meditate in a patch of warm sun in front of the open ranch sliders. When I say meditating, of course I mean trying to sit still for an allotted time period while lassooing my wandering mind back to the breath whenever I remember why I am allowing my legs to fall asleep and my shoulder blades to seize up. And trying to be compassionate rather than irritated with myself for being distracted more than not.

As I approached the end of the meditation session ('it must be soon, my legs are in agony') Bonnie, walked in the door making muffled little mrrw sounds. When she didn't try to climb into my lap or meow loudly in my face I was simply relieved to be able to keep on meditating rather than suspicious of this unusual behaviour. I even ignored the chasing noises, assuming that she was playing with her mouse toy. But when I eventually and slowly straightened out my numb legs and hauled myself more or less upright I saw a scene of devastation behind me! Poor little fantail! My clean floor covered in feathers and a headless little corpse in Bonnie's paws.

Monday, June 12, 2006

My teachers

Two dear friends are on separate Buddhist journeys at the moment. I'm receiving delightfully newsy group emails from Jo who spent a few days in New York on her way to the (Shambhala) royal wedding in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It's lucky she writes such juicy missives because I'm missing her terribly. I can't wait to get the wedding report and its sidebar-about having lunch with my Aunt Laura who's also in Halifax for the wedding.

Another friend, Eleanor, is writing a blog called Gaijin Henro (foreign pilgrim) about her trip to Japan to do the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage. It is a seat of the pants adventure that has me laughing and crying. She writes about it with humour and humility worthy of the buddhist nun she looks like. This is a exciting and enlightening blog several cuts above anything else I have come across in the blogosphere. It's too good to be a blog really, and my only complaint is that the blogger format requires scrolling up from the bottom which is a slight hassle- but worth it, to follow E's pilgrimage installment by compelling installment.

Photo of the royal couple: Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Princess Tseyang Palmo.
(CP /HO/Peter Seidler)

Chicken Secret

There were no eggs from the five naughty chickens at Te Horo for weeks. Even before I left over a month ago their nesting box was empty day after day, and since then there's been nothing.

We speculated that they were getting too old, that they were laying somewhere in the wild fringes of the property or that they were just taking the winter off from production.

Al gave them many stern talkings to, and even went on a hunger strike, threatening not to eat anything until he could eat one of their eggs. Naturally the girls called his bluff. No eggs and eventually (after two or three days- while I fretted from afar) Al started eating again.

Then it came time to change the straw in the chook house. Al and the kids shooed the chickens out, counting heads: one, two, three, four... where's number five? They looked in the laying boxes and in the corners, they speculated about stoats or other predators and then finally they thought to look on high. Up above human eye level, on a stack of straw bales over the nesting boxes was the recalcitrant hen. And underneath her, the egg mystery solved. A lovingly guarded cache of seventeen brown eggs appeared.

The chickens, as usual, were highly suspicious of their new straw (creatures of habit) and no doubt mourned the lost of their incredible nest. And Al and the kids had scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Tonglen and Yoga

Lately I've been learning about tonglen, a buddhist practice to awaken compassion. Tonglen is counter-intuitive because it involves breathing in what is painful and unwanted and breathing out relief from pain and the intentention that we and others could be free of suffering.

Sometimes this is too challenging in relation to difficult people or situations but there's no need to despair or pretend! You can awaken genuine compassion by practicing tonglen towards anyone, anywhere in the world, who is sharing your resistance, anger, fear or other feelings that block the free flow of compassion. (For example, when I couldn't summon compassion towards an old person I was spending time with, I focused on compassion for the millions of people being irritated by an old dear right this minute and found my irritation dissapating).

Yoga class seems to be a good place for me to practice tonglen 'sending and taking'. As I stretch myself into (or more often, towards) a challenging pose I am made painfully aware of my body's resistance: my wrists scream under the pressure, my hips seem rusted in place, every muscle whines in anticipation of turning forty (which feels more like sixty). Corrine, the teacher, reminds us continuously to work to our own limits and no further, and praises every genuine effort, no matter how distantly it resembles the full pose. But we stay in our poses a long time, plenty of time to pull my attention back again and again to alignment, effort and breath.

Plenty of time also, to remember that there are ten other people in the room also sweating and straining, stretching and shaking. And instead of comparing myself with envy to those whose limits are more closely aligned with the full pose or condescention towards those even less flexible than me I sometimes try tonglen. As I breath into my pose, I inhale compassionate awareness of our shared effort and exhale the intention of relief for us all.

It's a very tangible practice for beginning to awaken compassion in this way. Those whom I am sending compassion to and receiving suffering from are right next to me, obviously feeling something very close to what I am feeling. It is easy to see that we are sharing the physical challenges at each one's limits and also sharing the pleasure of achievement and the relief of resting between poses.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Devil of a Day

On my way into town I heard on the radio that yesterday's date: 6/6/06 could be interpreted as a bad omen, the mark of the beast etc. Then the radio switched to sports news and in honour of the date I decided to play Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell tape which put me in an excellent mood to arrive at work.

Lucky, really because it seemed like Narnia was the devil's playground all day yesterday. I arrived too late to see the four horsemen of the apocolypse ride up for their morning coffees, and they were practically the only customers we had until lunchtime. A good thing too, because so much was going wrong:
1. Both gas heaters ran out of juice on the coldest morning so far this winter
2. Ash forgot to put baking powder in both muffin mixes, but didn't notice until they were pulled from the oven as soggy lumps of unrisen dough.
3. Ash burned her hand on a pizza pan and the pizza ended up all over the bottom shelf.
4. I dropped an egg on the floor.
5. My fried eggs were the worst ever: lumpy and misshapen and discoloured.
6. In the oven my peanutbutter cake batter oozed out of the bottoms of their springform pans to drip onto the bagel being heated below.
7. I was too quick to ice the cake while it and the ganache were still slightly warm and the whole affair ended up looking more like a very pale cowpat than a peanutbutter and white chocolate layer cake (though I did manage to salvage its appearance later, and it tasted fantastic).

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Go Kimberly!

My young cousin (once removed) Kimberly is competing to be a SuperWebStar, instead of selling cookie dough, candles or discount coupons for fast food, to raise money for Yearbook Camp and Choir Tour. Kimberly lives in Arizona, USA, in case dear reader, you are a kiwi like me who isn't sure what a Yearbook Camp is, but it sounds worthy.

Since Kimberly is (by all accounts- I haven't seen her since she was about 4) a talented singer and performer this seems like a much better use of her time than most kinds of fundraising available to teenagers. Apparently she can raise cash (up to $500US) just by getting folks to vote on line- you don't have to spend any money!

You can hear her singing a Maria Carey song or if you aren't that mad keen on Maria Carey songs you can skip straight to the voting... and if you are really enthusiastic you can vote every day. Please do this young woman a favour and take a few minutes to vote for her.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Rainmaker for hire

I have a sure fire technique for inviting rain to begin falling. I wait until the sky is perfectly clear and I judge it safe to go outside and set up all the bits and pieces required to make paper on the picnic table. Then, shortly after I get into that pleasant rhythm of dipping, draining, sponging and layering that transforms a trough of water soupy with pulped old typing paper into a pile of new sheets the blue sky begins to precipitate gently upon me. Since often the sun continues to shine it is tempting to keep working, but unfortunately rain drops create holes in the mould of wet pre-paper. So I have to rapidly pack up all the bits and pieces into shelter.

That's why I sit, watching the rain fall like tinsel through the sunshine, surrounded by a scatter of paper making paraphenalia, waiting impatiently to take it all outside and continue working, or at least to be compensated by a rainbow. Some compensation has been provided in the form of my friendly kingfishers who feels no such constraints to continue their activities in the rain. They've been flitting round the garden all the morning on wings of sapphire. Earlier I was washing the dishes and one perched on the nearest tree in front of the kitchen window. Prompted by previous glimpses I had the binoculars within reach, so not even pausing to pull off the dripping rubber gloves, I got him in close up gulping down some hapless green bug and then looking round eagerly for the next snack. He's a fine fat fellow, with almost fluffy feathers on his apricot coloured chest contrasting with the sleek dark greens and bright blues of his back and wings.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Good Morning

I am staying in a house which faces east across a forested valley to glimpse triangles of distant sea between the hill tops. This view is a great incentive to get up early and watch the sun rise. I can make breakfast at the kitchen window as the sky shimmers through shades of anticipatory pink and then eat it on the window seat as the blinding gold sun emerges. By the time I'm ready to get to work, the studio is filled with irresistable bright warm light