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Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

The doorbell rang and there was a knock on the door about 8 am this morning. I confess I was still in bed, though I was awake and checking on the morning news. It’s true! It was a photobook I recently completed and ordered. It’s the first book I’ve ever done with photos of New Zealand, as all my others have been around overseas trips. But over the last five years, we have taken longer trips around the South Island, especially last year’s pandemic trip that was taken instead of travelling internationally. Last year in particular, we decided to take a trip as if we were overseas, and we organised it accordingly. And so I decided it might be time to document our travels, and use the photographs that are just as stunning as anything we’ve taken overseas.

It looks beautiful, as beautiful as any coffee table book from a professional photographer, which is what I was aiming at. Okay, I might be biased, but (I think) you can check it out here.

In recent years, since I really started to enjoy my photography, I look closely at my environment, at the things around us, and at the light. I often wish I had my camera with me, and take snaps in my head. I realised this morning that I used to do this before, but in the early years of my blogs, I would try to describe what I had seen, and what I had heard and smelled and felt. I’m not sure when I stopped doing that as much. I suspect it might have been when I was in Italy. As some of you know, I wrote a trip blog at the time. My intention was to describe the little things I saw, and the feelings and sights and sounds. But no sooner than I had put up a few posts than I was inundated with requests for visuals. I caved, and I wish I hadn’t. It put so much pressure on me to take photographs, and then to find and edit the perfect photos for each post, that I lost the joy in the writing. The photos too, often excused me from describing where I was in any detail. Yet I love the photography, and I love the photos of my travels, as much as I love writing a post without a picture that explains where I am and what it feels like to be there.

On Friday, I went to an exhibition of entries in a Portraiture Award. The artwork was brilliant – such different styles, from photorealistic closeups of a child or the artist in the mirror, to a series of self-portraits painted on axe-heads, each one exquisitely rendered in tiny detail, to a huge black and white painting with only a few brushstrokes, that still made me feel something about the subject. I thoroughly enjoyed myself as I took in each portrait, even if I didn’t agree with the judges’ choices – but what do I know about art? To get there I wandered along the waterfront. I snapped a few shots of the perfectly calm harbour, the water reflecting some of the wharf buildings, the sky blue, and the air crisp and cool, a lovely winter’s day. I then picked up some lunch, and drove around the bay to eat it. I sat on a park bench, dedicated and donated to a man who had lived most of his life in the bay, and took in the view as I sipped my coffee. The fountain was beautiful in the sunlight, the water glistening as its spray was caught in the sunlight, reflected in the water right up to the sandy beach. Seagulls lined up along the sand, taking a break out of the water, or occasionally swooping around the fountain in search of food. Walkers were out in force, enjoying their lunchtime exercise, groups of young women walking in their exercise gear, a few friends on scooters, and several people walking their little dogs. There were even a couple of daring swimmers, though well covered in wet suits to protect them from the cold June water. If I hadn’t had the coffee, I’d have considered a gelato to finish my lunch; it was the kind of day that feels like summer, except for the temperature. There’s a special joy in days like that in the middle of winter in Wellington, when we relish the lack of wind, marvel at the clear, sparkling light, bask in the sun’s warmth, and appreciate the beauty of our harbour and city. Without the wind and rain (that is coming again this week), these perfect days would never be so deliciously sweet.

I posted some photos on social media. It was quick and easy. But I think I like my words here better. There’s obviously a happy medium between words and images. I need to find that.

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This Friday, New Zealand is celebrating the first public holiday for Matariki. It is a festival marking mid-winter and the Maori New Year, the beginning of the return of the light. Our public holidays have previously comprised religious holidays (in a country that isn’t very religious) like Christmas and Easter, colonial holidays such as Queen’s Birthday, and Labour Day (which rightly celebrates NZ being the first to introduce an eight-hour work day), and New Year. For years we have recognised 6th February as our national day, now known as Waitangi Day, marking the day that the Crown and Maori signed a treaty agreeing to share this land back in 1840. But Matariki will be our first home-grown public holiday, one that has increasingly been recognised over the last ten years or more. It marks a long overdue but welcome addition to our list of public holidays.

Matariki is the name for the star cluster others know as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, that appears in the morning sky in New Zealand in the winter months. It is known throughout the Pacific, and is Makali’i in Hawaii, and Subaru in Japan. The reappearance of the constellation marks the end of the past year, and the beginning of the new. Maori mark Matariki in three ways:

  1. Remembrance by honouring those who have been lost since the last Matariki
  2. Gratitude for what we have, and celebrating the present
  3. Anticipation of the new year, and our hopes and dreams for it

The focus therefore is on whānau (family), on feasting, on learning, sharing, discussion, and decision making, often with a focus on the environment. It sounds like a pretty good mid-winter celebration, don’t you think?

I don’t have plans to get together with others this weekend, but I’m sure I can manage a feast with my husband. And although I haven’t lost anyone in the last year, I will take a moment to think of those I have lost, and those who have been lost in the last year in this pandemic, and those losses that continue. I’m grateful for my husband, my family and friends, my home, my health. I’m grateful that the world is opening up, and that we may be able to resume travel again soon. And I am filled with anticipation for the next year, for the changes I can make in my life, for the joy it might bring.

Mānawatia a Matariki!

(Happy Matariki)

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As I sit at my desk, I see my screen wobbling. The house too, perched on stilts down the side of a hill, is swaying somewhat. It all feels a little as if I’m on a boat, when you first step from solid ground to something that has been cast adrift. It’s a feeling I’m familiar with, living in wild Wellington, where we don’t take solid ground completely for granted.

On normal days, I might suspect an earthquake. But actually, earthquakes are relatively rare compared to the gale force winds that are shaking me today. The wind is roaring through the trees, and the rain on the roof is coming and going. It’s like this all over the country, as even in Auckland the Harbour Bridge has been temporarily closed due to wind gusts. But here in windy Wellington, we’re familiar with the gales.

Even then, the last few days have been quite extreme. We’ve had rain and hail, and just up the coast there have been several mini-but-still-destructive tornados. We have occasional moments of regular breezes and relative quiet, interspersed with wild gusts and downpours. It’s the unpredictability I dislike. A good storm that lasts a day or so can be comforting, inviting you to hunker down with a good book or a binge-worthy series, brew lots of cups of tea or coffee, and eat comfort food and drink red wine before going to bed with the sound of rain on the roof. It’s one of the things I enjoy about winter. But not this week.

One of the things I like least about Wellington is trying to sleep in extreme wind. I like in my cosy bed, listening to the elements, which is all very nice. But the wind pounds the house. It feels as if the roof will lift, and when a loose part rattles I cross my fingers that I won’t hear a metallic screech as it rips off, flying off across the valley and exposing us to the elements. This is not entirely an irrational fear. It is reasonably common after a storm to hear reports of a house losing its roof or part of a roof. Trampolines regularly take off, keen for adventures in new backyards. In our first house which felt the full onslaught of the northerly wind, I could hear the wind building up speed down the valley before it would slam into our house, or more particularly, our bedroom window. Occasionally, I would give up and go sleep in a bedroom at the back of the house. These days, I rarely give up, but I still have moments of anxiety as the gusts hit the house over and over and over again, each time bringing the possibility of disaster.

Wellington is unfortunately situated at the base of the North Island, on Cook Strait, a narrow stretch of water between the two islands that funnels the wind through. Cold southerlies from the Antarctic and northerlies from the subtropics whip us regularly. The rest of the country likes to joke about our wind, and yes, it can be extreme. But it’s not a permanent thing. Our recent visitors expressed delight that they were here for a week, and the weather was fine and calm. A promotion for the city some years ago established our favourite weather catchphrase: “You can’t beat Wellington on a good day.” Which is true. On a good day, when the harbour is calm and the sky is blue and the birds are singing, Wellington sparkles. The air is clear and fresh – any impurities were blown away in the last storm. You can’t beat it! But unfortunately, that does not describe today.

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