Carol teaches English at an International School in Auckland. She has many interests including poetry, writing, Christian history, antiques and gardening and seeks to establish her writing voice through her journalling.
I’ve decided that the garden to the front of my home shall be a testament to camellias facing south with plenty of shade. The bright red and white blooms shall help to overcome the dreary winter days ahead.
Issaac helped me this week to dig the soil, his tiny three year-old hands enjoying every moment. ‘Shall I put here, Nana?’ he said in a loud, uneven voice. His weekly sleepover is important to me, and a real bonus to his parents, no doubt. I must remember to finish off all the small jobs around the house, a bit of paint here and there and get everything ticked off before George and I go to the Gold Coast in August. Ah warmth, sun, sand and siestas. But I can’t believe what’s going on globally just now. Will there be another global financial crisis? I hope not.
I have always needed to know and understand life, if that is at all possible, the why of life. I have needed to find order and sense in things, my hopes and concerns are tied up in this; hopes for my future, my family’s future, the country’s future, the future of mankind. I am by nature a thinker and question most things. I want to understand the big picture. My hope is that there will be justice and peace in the world. Peace comes pretty much top of the list, to live and love in peace, followed closely by healthy prosperity. As I said last week, in my opening statement, time seems to me more important than ever. Everything counts now.
Journal and Journey are similar-sounding enough: well, they descend from the same Latin, it seems. Travelling in my journal is something I can do when I’m not free to move. I can never get enough of journeying, although, when I travel, I worry all the time that I’m not travelling properly.
Last year, I went to Sichuan, three days on the hard bunk in a slow train from the coast. When I got there — after the peppery taxi-driver had stopped in the middle of the road to bawl out a woman in an SUV — I met two truly gung-ho Germans who had cycled from Dusseldorf. Real journeymen; looking for work, in Chengdu.
I think I need three or four notebooks, of different sorts. A book for timed writing (what a good tip that is, to set a timer) which exercises the muscle, or keeps it stretched.
A second book of working notes: ideas and overheard snippets with story potential.
Here is one of these from a note in my phone. A scrawny man on the train to Paraparaumu was reading a book on beekeeping. What I glimpsed was the chapter heading; ‘A Current Flow of Nectar’. The sunshine on the bank of dry golden grass beside the tracks promised a honeyed life. Electric honey.
The third book records what I’ve read; other people’s words.
The fourth book is as misty as the morning swirls over Lucas Creek. When the mist burns off, then I’ll know what to do.
The actual books and the pens take on a fetishistic significance. I like to write in a large book but they’re heavy to carry around. Perhaps I don’t really want to journey at all with my journals. Perhaps I just want to drill down into a single place like a grub driving into a couch-grass root.
Glenys has recently retired from a long career and is learning to move in new directions. She is discovering the joys of being a grandparent, having time to smell the roses, and learning new ways of making sense of past events, moving forward into the future in creative ways.
I open the ranch slider this morning and breathe in the cool air, enjoying the shards of sunlight trying to warm me up. I watch the blackbirds and sparrows on the lawn and under the hedge and listen as they talk to each other: their gentle chirping. My thoughts go to my first grandson in Australia. Their birds are so loud and raucous. When Weylyn was little — he is only three now — he used to hear the birds and would want to be taken outside to see them. We would rush to watch the brightly coloured parakeets and white cockatoos. I would stand holding him for hours. I wonder whether listening to those birds has made him so clamourous and noisy. Last month though he was more interested in the television and it was a quick rush outside to look at the cockatoo eating the cat food. But his new young brother, Callan, he had to be part of it: he loved watching the bird and so did I, hours gone again.
I wandered into the garden just now to enjoy the last rose of the season. Its pale pink colour with darker pink edges, its lovely scent, and then across to the lemon tree. And here, I have another grandson, Lachie who loves seeing how the green colour of the lemons gradually changes to a pale yellow, soon becoming brighter yellow. How does this happen? He points it out, and then rushes to the ‘caterpillar tree’, checks, and with a worried look, tells me there are no caterpillars left.
In three and a half years, I thought it would never happen, three little grandsons, all born one year apart in January. They have brought a whole new meaning to my life, a reminder of the pleasure of looking at life through the eyes of a young child, enjoying my own ‘second childhood’.
Elizabeth believes the written word is a powerful medium. Having worked most of her life in the visual arts she is excited now to be exploring this new territory.
I could ask myself why write a journal at all — to risk discovery, or find myself burning it one day.
Unceremoniously. But then there is a flicker like a gentle flash on the inward eye, drowned out by the pressing needs of the day, that speaks of an internal journey, of things calling to be explored, things to unpack and investigate.
These days the world feels like such a different place. There is something I need to know but I am not quite sure what it is. I am trying to learn to accept 'what life brings ' but I don’t like how it feels sometimes, as though the whole world has taken on a tonal change. It’s not how I wanted it to be, it’s not predictable, it’s a precarious and uncomfortable place. I wonder is this how “it” is now, what I thought mattered so intensely in the past, no longer matters.
Yesterday I held my baby grandson and felt his body softening and moulding into mine, getting heavier. I could feel sleep descending even though I could not see his face and I put my cheek next to his as he let go and I felt his spirit melt into mine, as one.
What pleasure. Does it get any better than this? How fortunate am I. Is this “it” then— no narrative needed?
I woke early this morning to write and from the upstairs bedroom saw the morning light emerging over the hills while deliciously enjoying an uninterrupted moment with teapot and tray. Strong exciting pinks softened to lighter salmons and to the wintery grey of another day, all before I reached the end of the page.
As my eyes scan over my words I realise the shifts and changes in the life I write about are like this light outside the window, a constantly changing picture. In writing I find the space to see what is really happening.
Jo is an English teacher and avid reader who writes to scratch a creative itch. She’s trying to reassemble her childhood memories into stories.
Behind the high court is a little triangular park folded into Emily Place. Pohutukawa have been left to grow their own way and have taken up astonishing shapes and attitudes. An arborist once told me their natural inclination is to first grow up, then when their limbs become too heavy, to gently recline. These recumbent old dears have been tired for a very long time and have draped themselves heavily across the path, down the hill and towards the road. It’s a marvel that the council, usually so intent on pushing things into shape, has accommodated this elderly wilfulness and even propped up some of the branches on poles. But one limb is so low to the footpath it leaves an arch of only about a metre. Just before, a tall man with long awkward limbs of his own struggled under this gap, uncertain which way to fold his knees and body to make it through.
Our pohutukawa at home can’t be indulged like this. We prune it every ten years or so, trimming out dead wood and removing branches that threaten the chimney, protrude across the lawn and block the light. It was sad this year to have to lose the branch that held the rope swing. Now it’s chopped into neat sections - next year’s firewood. Children loved that swing with its yellow nylon rope and bum-smoothed slab of six by three. Mounting it took some daring: stand on the planter box, grab the rope, leap - hauling legs onto seat in one move - then hope not to bang into the corner of the house on the way back. So many bruised knuckles, so many skinned knees.
And now we are thinking of taking a leap and letting go our home of 28 years, the only one we have lived in together. It’s a good house. It doesn’t catch enough sun and is cold in the winter, but the garden is finally finished. This house has re-modelled, re-decorated and transformed itself as we have; grown to suit new purposes, changed to reflect new tastes. My husband once said the house is us. It’s time to think about leaving. We can never leave.
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