Taking Stock

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In this newsletter:
*** Taking Stock
*** News & Current Projects
*** Celebration

Taking Stock

There has been no shortage of neighbourhood drama in the last couple of months, and our local police officers are by now quite familiar with my address. They always show up. They may characterize my property as "shambolic" but they don't take it as a license to treat me with disrespect, or condescension – unlike some of our council officials. They've been quietly considerate on more than one occasion, and they've obviously spent some thought on why it is that I am struggling, and how they might help. I don't think they've quite hit the mark yet, but I am very grateful that they try.

Unlike my doctor, who sits in his office with the window shutters closed, and thinks he can make people's lives better by staring at pretty interactive statistics on his computer. I'd given him a large advance on my trust, for no other reason than he asked for it, but that relationship has been steadily deteriorating, and it has recently come to my attention that he hasn't been upfront with me about what he thought was causing my health problems, or what he was treating me for.

I've requested to see my medical records, and found that he has grossly misrepresented what I have told him about my life situation, on several occasions. Corrections I requested for incorrect information, have not been made, and documents I have given him to keep on file, have not been kept. He has clearly let his preconceptions run away with him, making assumptions that are completely unfounded, and fishing for a mental health issue simply on account of my lifestyle choices. Feminism 101.

I have just given him the boot, and already feel much better for it. I should have remembered that trust is something that needs to be earned, and that those who ask for it wholesale, are usually the ones whom you shouldn't give it to.

For one thing, if his suggestion that I should get a pet was supposed to reduce my stress levels, it has been an all around 300% fail. I've had a year from hell with all the council complaints, bogus SPCA complaints, and other neighbourhood shenanigans, not to mention dealing with the workload and expense when I was already feeling overwhelmed by both these things. I haven't gotten any artwork done to speak of. The state my house and property are in is shocking, and has made me want to turn around and crawl back into bed on more than one day. I don't think I would have gotten carried away with this zoo the way I did, if it wasn't for those happy pills, and in retrospect, I am furious. I am now left to sort this mess out.

It will mean cutting down numbers, and letting go of animals who have become attached to me, and whom I also feel attached to and responsible for. I have already rehomed several of my rabbits, and am still looking for a new place for a couple more. I still have a backyard full of chickens I have bred this summer – they were always meant to be sold or eaten, but sales have been a bit slow, though the homegrown chicken soup was nice.

I've kept my promise to myself and got a pair of axolotls for Christmas – a pink one and a golden, I've called them Luz and Norte – but they are just one thing too many. I'd rather use the tank to raise a few goldfish that can eventually go in my pond.

I am in two minds about the ducks and the little parakeets, and wondering if I should be nice to my neighbours and sell the guinea fowl, though they are the least of my problems. The geese and the sheep will have to stay, and Yin my original rabbit, of course. Their hearts would break. And some hens, for the eggs, though I do wonder about the wisdom of keeping a rooster.

The peahen is gone. She disappeared one rainy night in spring and at first I hoped she might just be nesting, but no trace has been seen of her since. I don't know if she has been shot or poisoned or had a dog set on her, by one of those lovely neighbours who couldn't deal emotionally with her sitting on their fence – or if she has just been trapped and sold, perhaps by the garrulous woman across the street who has also helped herself to some of my chickens and ducks. It would be nice to know that she is still alive. These birds can live up to fifty years, and she was just two or so. The fun in keeping animals has disappeared with her.

Days at the beach, Wairarapa New Zealand Days at the beach, Wairarapa New Zealand Days at the beach, Wairarapa New Zealand Days at the beach, Wairarapa New Zealand Days at the beach, Wairarapa New Zealand Days at the beach, Wairarapa New Zealand Days at the beach, Wairarapa New Zealand

Days at the beach



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Wairarapa back roads Wairarapa back roads Wairarapa back roads Wairarapa back roads

New digital print: Wairarapa back roads

News and Current Projects

On the upside, I am now definitely back to work. To have, once again, a tidy, designated workspace, does wonders! I've been toying around with one of the sketches I did on a recent trip along the Wairarapa back roads, and worked it up in Illustrator. It's turned out quite nice. The first piece I've done in two years that wasn't for a specific purpose.

The art show at Pukaha Mt. Bruce, and the Wairarapa Art Sale at the Featherston Community Centre are coming up in April and May, and I have been asked to submit work again. Which I will very gladly do. Just enough time left to create a companion piece for last year's Fantail, for the show at Mt. Bruce, and maybe another landscape piece to go with the first one, for the Featherston show.

I have also put up my hand to be on the organizing committee for the Wairarapa Art Sale in Featherston, and am now in charge of advertising, promotion, and online stuff – as well as designated Artist Wrangler. It's surprising how much this makes me feel human again.

Work, I need work, and I need money. It's not rocket science, doctor. How was a friggin' pet supposed to help?

Feeling human again Feeling human again Feeling human again Feeling human again

Feeling human again if a bit older

Last month, I even had a job interview! The first interview I have scored in at least 10 years, for all the job applications I have written in that time. It was a very part time job as a community support person, and would have suited me perfectly, plus I ticked all the boxes on their job requirements. But during the interview, the phrase "German directness" (which I think is Anglosaxon indirect for "rude") was mentioned twice for no particular reason, and I was then asked "how would I treat a person of another nationality". Which is of course extremely ironic, as well as telling in its assumption as to what kind of people do get hired.

I looked the lady in the eye and told her, it's very simple. You don't make them into an "other". You treat them as human. It's actually one of my strongest points. I could have added "you don't trot out stupid stereotypes" but that might have been laying it on a bit too thick. I had a message on my phone a couple of hours after the interview – presumably, as soon as the lady in charge got back to her office – to say they would "probably" not go ahead with the appointment. A little directness would have been better. She could as well have cut the "probably". My eyes still haven't stopped rolling.

Yeah well, suppose I wouldn't have fitted in there anyway. Probably the wrong attitude, or something.

Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard

Greetings from the backyard. Anyone need some pets?



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Celebration

It's been ages since I had a proper holiday – as in, going away for some beach time for longer than a day. Bogged down as I am with my family of animals, even taking a couple of days off turned into a major military operation. I gave up on plans for anything as ambitious as driving up to the Coromandel and/or seeing my friend in Auckland, and settled for a couple of days on a beach some way up the coast. Short drive, cheap cabins, and I hadn't been to that particular beach before.

My plans to "leave early and get there mid afternoon", predictably, came to nothing. By the time I had everything sorted out for a couple of friendly neighbours to take over the critter feeding tasks, it was already mid afternoon, and so I got there with the very last of the daylight. I had a quick cold dinner of leftover pizza, much enhanced by a nice glass of wine, then set out to find the beach in the starshine.

In the dark, the place looked lovely. One of the stars was shining so brightly, it left a small path of light on the sea. In Swedish, there is a word for the reflection of the moonlight on water: månebana, a "moon path". This was a stjärnabana, a star path. It must have been a planet – probably Saturn, by the yellowish colour. Saturnbana, then.

I was born on a Saturday – Saturn's day. Fifty years on, my birthday once again falls on this day of the week. Saturn is the patron of time, of periodic renewal, and of old age. That seems perfectly appropriate. I wasn't all that much of a success as a young person. I've long had a feeling that age will suit me better. For one thing, I am finally at a point where I no longer have to prove anything, to anyone. Including myself.

My birthday proper was spent tidying up the bits and pieces from my all-but-finished wallpapering job – the back entry turned from an animal sty back into human habitable habitation, finally. Then I drove out to the beach and sat in the sun for an hour, watching the afternoon light on the waves, until it was time to meet my friend Helen and her two teenage daughters at Lake Ferry and have a pub meal. The weather couldn't have been more splendid. She'd baked me a chocolate mud birthday cake, which we ceremonially slaughtered and ate. It was the best birthday I've had since I turned thirty.

I'd been planning to have a bit of a party and invite a few of my neighbours over – first time since I started on my redecoration project – but when the big day came around, I was in no way ready to have people in the house. So I decided to make it a month-long celebration and have my party the next week. And then my holiday the week after.

The neighbours all came, and brought their kids. And then they sang "happy birthday" for me.

On my first day of holiday, I woke to a howling gale. How depressing, I thought. All I really want is one nice sunny day on the beach, is that too much to ask, oh universe? I stayed in bed until noon, and then I sat in the kitchen reading Chaucer, whom I had plucked from my bookshelf out of a pile of books I have acquired at one point, but not read. When I finally ventured out to the beach, I realized that I had come to what is possibly the most beautiful place on earth I've ever been to, and that is saying a lot. The way the wind was blowing, it was perfectly feasible to find a sheltered spot, and I could have been reading my Chaucer on the beach, as originally planned, all afternoon – while watching the spectacle of the wind blown wave crests turning into sparkling rainbows. No need to blame the universe for this! Entirely my own shortcoming.

The wind was dying down by evening, and the next day dawned as calm and sunny as ever one could wish. A wide, miles long sand beach, reaching up to a cape on one end, bending around the feet of the hills on the other. Rolling green hills with cabbage trees and cows. I met two other people on the beach over the course of the two days. Blue sky and blue sea sparkling in the sunlight, breaking on some picturesque rocks here or there.

The owners of the campsite were extra friendly, the few solitary older men who had come out to fish gave me friendly waves from a distance, the owner of the local pub and takeaway let me use their Wifi without a comment. Sections for sale, empty holiday homes. A golf club and a fire station. The local landowners offer open access to the beach on their private land. New Zealand as it used to be – as I had encountered it 14 years ago when I first moved here. Friendly and a little distant, letting you get on with doing your thing. Untouched by the greed and the insular hostility that has sneaked into so many other places, with the hunt for the tourist dollar brought on by the movie industry, triggered by people like myself. It's the place I found when I came here with no specific expectations except that I probably *wouldn't* find Middle-earth. It's a place I am still fiercely, stubbornly in love with. Sorry, but this time I won't tell you where it is.

Days at the beach, Wairarapa New Zealand Days at the beach, Wairarapa New Zealand Days at the beach, Wairarapa New Zealand

Days at the beach

I sat on a sand dune overlooking the view and read my Chaucer – a surprisingly good beach read, and has been for the last 600 odd years. I went for a swim, and I walked down the beach all the way to one end. Then back to the campsite for a meal at a sensible time, and back to the beach when the sun was still touching the tops of the surrounding hills.

The walk to the cape at the other end of the beach took all the time of remaining daylight, and so once again, I walked back in starshine. Saturn and his path were there again. The Magellanic clouds were clearly visible, a view beyond our galaxy. The Milky Way was bright. When I looked out to sea, the reflection of all those millions or billions or gazillions of tiny little pinpricks of light added up to a shimmer on the water that wasn't quite a "path", but a presence. I was walking in the Milkywayshine.

It occurred to me that if the dark were not so deep, I would not be able to perceive just how bright that residue of light is that is always there. Each tiny little spark a bright sun in their own right, so far away that their light started travelling before the time of the dinosaurs, perhaps before the Earth was even there. Always, and inexhaustible. There is so, so, so, so, so much light.

Arohanui, from Asni



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The way home The way home The way home The way home

The way home