My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

"I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills," William Wordsworth


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ANZAC Day 25 April, “We will remember them”

Flanders poppies grow among the graves of soldiers who were killed in northern France. Grandson learned about 100 years of ANZAC history and in 2015, applied his knowledge to create a poppy remembrance garden for a school agricultural project.

Grandson knows 25 April is New Zealand’s national day to remember those fought and who died serving New Zealand during times of war. He knows his great-Grandfather fought in WWII and his ancestors fought in WWI.  He knows that in 1915, Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed at Gallipoli in Turkey, the site of New Zealand’s first major battle of World War One with the loss of over 2,700 New Zealand soldiers. He knows that since the first commemorative services in 1916,  Kiwis attend ANZAC services across the world, from dawn until dusk.

 

My childhood ANZAC commemoration memories are of services held over the years in the local rural community hall, of the silent stillness of the local people watching, moved by the drummer’s tapping accompanied by the tramp, tramp of the veterans’ feet  as they  marched in formation down the road past my grandfather’s house. I see the New Zealand flag fluttering at half-mast in the breeze. I hear the collective voice of my family, my neighbours, my community as we uttered in unison the words, “we will remember them”.  I hear the bugle sound the Last Post  at the close of our lament for the dead.

After the service, people linger. 25th April is a day to be together, to share, to retell stories.

I see my grandfather standing in silent respect, and later in conversation, he would tell that as a married man with children, he was a reservist and he managed his younger brothers’ farms while they, keen to “do their bit for King and country”, enlisted early in 1915, one of whom was ‘never the same’ after returning home from gas and trench warfare.

I see my great-Aunt, church organist and community stalwart, widowed in the early 1930s, childless and never remarried, after her husband, a WWI veteran turned to alcohol to fight his traumas and to die by his own hand.

I see my mother among a group of other war-brides, chatting about their families ‘back home’, recalling the bombing raids and rationing in wartime England, and I know that her Uncle lies in a marked grave in northern France.

I see Dad standing with an older local couple talking about his mate, their son who in WWII  was a prisoner of war with Dad, and who was shot in a camp. In 1992 at Dad’s funeral, the youngest of the three brothers in that family, delivered the eulogy. In part, he said

After my brother was killed, Ken arranged his funeral and then reclaimed his personal possessions. He carried them with him on that infamous forced march into Germany, and as soon as he arrived back in Walton he gave some of them to my parents. Years later when he felt, the time was right he gave the rest to me. I asked him why he had not thrown them away when he was enduring such extreme hardship himself. He replied, “I looked at them sometimes and thought I’ll do that tomorrow. Tomorrow never came.” Ken proved to our family that he was a true and loyal friend.

No-one ever forgets.

Over time in college, at university and as a teacher, I thought further about the pointlessness and horror of war through the words of poets like Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum Est.

The Kiwi voice heard in the poem An Elegy for an Unknown Soldier written by James K. Baxter, son of conscientious objector Archibald Baxter, tells the story of a young nation sending antipodean troops to a theatre of war in a distant country, of painful personal realisations and of the futility of war.

An Elegy for an Unknown Soldier

There was a time when I would magnify
His ending; scatter words as if I wept
Tears not by own but man’s; there was a time.
But not now so. He died of a common sickness.

Nor did any new star shine
Upon the day when he came crying out
Of fleshy darkness to a world of pain,
And waxed eyelids let the daylight enter.

So felt and tasted, found earth good enough.
Later he played with stones and wondered
If there was land beyond the dark sea rim
And where the road led out of the farthest paddock.

Awkward at school, he could not master sums.
Could you expect him then to understand
The miracle and menace of his body
That grew as mushrooms grow from dusk to dawn?

He had the weight, though, for a football scrum,
And thought it fine to listen to the cheering
And drink beer with the boys, telling them tall
Stories of girls that he had never known.

So when the War came he was glad and sorry,
But soon enlisted. Then his mother cried
A little, and his father boasted how
He’d let him go, though needed for the farm.

Likely in Egypt he would find out something
About himself, if flies and drunkenness
And deadly heat could tell him much – until
In his first battle a shell splinter caught him.

So crown him with memorial bronze among
The older dead, child of a mountainous island.
Wings of a tarnished victory shadow him
Who born of silence has burned back to silence.

by James K. Baxter


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Drat! Rats!!!!

“We must”, I proclaimed to Himself as I handed him a mug of coffee, “reset the rat bait stations”, hoping in vain the Man of the House would leave off watching the replay of New Zealand’s Cricket XI Captain Brendon McCullum’s record-breaking fastest test century while batting against the Australians, and do the honours. You get the picture. Weekend sport, replays and all, is a sacred couch cow.

I mentioned in my previous post about a couple dead rats being an unpleasant fact of life and I couldn’t bring myself to take a photograph. Irrational, illogical, I know, I know. Indeed, and if you really must view pictures of Norway ‘black’ and Ship ‘brown’ rats, then google or click on the ‘pest’ link. It’s an ongoing battle against these pests that want the yummy food we put out for the chooks. We have predator proof netting the chook house, but there is the giveaway sign, the tunnel. I shudder.

What am I scared of? It’s only a rodent. Or is it a family of rats? I hate looking at them. What am I going to do if it jumps out at me? I’m such a wimp. I grit my teeth and shudder. You can do this. “If I have to I can do anything … I am invincible I am woman”, Helen Reddy sings in my mind as I don plastic gloves and collect the rat bait. I grab a heavy spade, for just in case.

I can’t think of a single redeeming ratty feature to commend this verminous creature.

  • Rats eat plants and fruits, destroying food sources of native wildlife
  • Rats plunder nests and eat chicks and eggs
  • Rats gnaw, damaging buildings, power cables and water pipes
  • Rats predate small native ground creatures
  • Rats contaminate fresh water
  • Rats transmit disease to humans
  • Rats scavenge on human waste
  • Rats tunnel, climb and hide
  • Rats cost me time and money
  • Rats are not nice to look at
  • Rats exist

I put the poison in the bait station. As I move forward to position the bait station under the chook house, my foot sinks against a tunnel concealed by grass. Horrified, I step back and stand in another tunnel. Geez!! Is there no end to this! I pull a clump of weeds and see the trail disappears under the overgrowth smothering the disused chicken cage. No rats jump out. Now, I feel stronger. I am doing this. ‘No’ to rats!

Himself has left the couch and ventured forth to give a helping hand. Together,  we each take a corner and lift and tip the cage up and out of the long grass.

With perfect theatrical timing, Rattus rattus leaps out of the cage. Seconds of confusion prevailed as Himself, spade in hand, and the rat play a deadly game of chase, while I, weakly in stereotypical female fashion, beat a hasty retreat.

Life’s not always a bowl of peaches in my garden.


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‘I speak for the trees’ ~ quote challenge

I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.  Dr. Suess. The Lorax.

We happen to share our place with many Totara trees, some about 80 to 100 years old and still growing. We are mindful of our custodial responsibility. Trees have deep meaning reflected in Maori forest mythology a site where Maori have many whakatauki or sayings that use trees as metaphors.

Trees are poems that Earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness, wrote  Kahlil Gibran.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy at the end of his address to delegates at the Anniversary Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences, told what the French Marshal Lyautey said to his gardener:

“Plant a tree tomorrow.” And the gardener said, “It won’t bear fruit for a hundred years.” “In that case,” Lyautey said to the gardener, “plant it this afternoon.

 

I could not decide on one quote hence I include three in my second challenge post. Thank you Carol  for nominating me for a three-day quote challenge. Please check out Carol’s Food For Thought post at https://cookingforthetimechallenged.wordpress.com

In the fun spirit of voluntary participation of the challenge, nominees may choose to

  • Post for three consecutive days
  • Posts can be one or three quotes per day
  • Nominate three different blogs per day

 Please check out my nominees’ wonderful blogs:

Keith Garret Poetry

Ockham’s Razor

The Lemonade Chronicles

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Saturday night ~ it’s humid

Word Press Daily Prompt Saturday Night

Coping with the heat and humidity. That is what I am doing.

Earlier this evening, cold drink in hand, I kept company with Dr. Kay Scarpetta as I turned the pages of crime author Patricia Cornwell’s latest novel, Depraved Heart. At page 256, I stop reading. There is no more ice in my freezer and no more chilled drink in my fridge. That puts an end to that.

Time to venture outside to say goodnight to my garden, to give the plants a cool drink. It is pleasant during the stillness of the twilight hours. The first star makes its appearance, there is the occasional bird twitter as they settle in the trees and the shadows deepen as the dark cloak of the night descends over the land. After shutting the hens in their coop, I set the possum traps. These creatures of the night will soon stir from their daytime slumbers intent on foraging and ravaging my fruit.

Still the humidity persists. Feeling listless, I check out the online International Scrabble Club and play a couple of games, check out Facebook and am now writing this daily prompt. It may be a late night.

Hardly Saturday night fever.

 


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Cut the clutter ~ and simplify life

How did I NOT notice all this junk before? Is this what we have to show for decades of married life? Time to cut the clutter. One drawer, one shelf, one cupboard, one room at a time and then the outside shed. Donate the items to charity. Simple. Let’s get organised.

It has been dirty, sweaty, heavy work in the humid hot weather. It has taken several days to clear, sort, decide, shift and stack items for removal. Rooms needed cleaning after being cleared.

A mindshift was in order.  Do I want to reread these 1980s’ academic texts? Do we really need this pre-energy ratings, aged fridge-freezer as a drinks’ cooler? Are those kitchen and linen cupboard items are surplus to requirement? Would the gardening tools inherited from long ago gardeners be better in another pair hands digging their new garden? A heated argument sparked between Himself and I over his “best” pair of shoes that I  tossed onto the discard pile. “They’re still good! I might need them one day” Male logic! That the shoes had been stored in a box in the shed with other old footwear and not worn for some years is immaterial.  In this decidedly cooler atmosphere we worked on.

One person’s trash is another’s treasure. Now, this I understand. Habitat for Humanity ReStores sent their truck to our place today for free and we filled it! Imagine the number of vehicle trips to the local refuse station and site entry costs we saved. Zero, the amount of our household stuff tipped into the landfill, a step towards helping the environment.

Items we donated to Habitat may be given to people who need help to set up house again. Good work is being done to provide communities with sanitation and clean water.  Restore shop sales generate funds to support building and repair programmes to rehouse people locally and internationally.

And yes, his shoes live another day – for now.


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The Public Nature of Private Mobile Phone Calls ~ boring!

Word Press Daily Prompt (YAWN) What bores you?

Sipping my cappuccino at the local scenic waterfront café at times, has become a fraught experience. The very public nature of private mobile phone conversations are made audible across the café courtyard. I can overhear details about commercial transactions, marital woes, family and dinner arrangements. In this small city, it is easy to recognise names and faces. I, the stranger two tables away, become an inadvertent confidante. Yawn!

Hear this loud phone talkers! iPhones and Smartphones are sophisticated devices that enable two-way conversations without the need to shout. Speak in muted tones so that people at the next table cannot hear your personal business. I am not part of your conversation.

Notice that woman, sitting with the man at the table under the red sun umbrella, who just turned her back on you away from the direction of your voice. Quite likely it is me.  I struggle with too much information from unguarded talk. I get bored and to pass the time while I wait for my order, I concoct fictional scenarios around the snippets of information. Are you auditioning to be the central character?

In a café setting, we expect people to be sociable, to laugh, to savour the food and to enjoy face-to-face time with their companions. That is part of the ambience. Stop a while. Be unbusy. Inhale the cinnamon aroma that wafts from the froth in your coffee cup. It is one of life’s simple pleasures. Does that mobile call need to be made now?

Yes, I make and take mobile calls in public settings. I am mindful to talk in a private area so that I cannot be overheard. When I last checked, the café is licensed to sell and serve food and is not a phone booth or designated as an office. Phone etiquette is called for. After a workout at the gym, I like to have a coffee date with my husband away from my garden and to chill out in the sun without being interrupted by noisy nearby phone calls.


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Gardening is the experience ~ the lesson follows

Word Press Daily Prompt What’s your learning style? Do you prefer learning in a group and in an interactive setting? Or one-on-one? Do you retain information best through lectures, or visuals, or simply by reading books?

Among the inspirational quotes that flash across the screen at the gym are the words, ‘from experience follows the lesson’.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines experience as

  • the process of doing and seeing things and of having things happen to you
  • the skill or knowledge that you get by doing something
  • the length of time that you have spent doing something

Learning is like being on a treadmill. I read the statistics on the cardio machine screen and know my heart rate is at the recommended cardio fitness level for my age and weight. I might puff and sweat and be tempted to shorten the process but I can’t get off while the machine is in motion. Certainly not while the person on the next machine is chatty. We exchange exercising experiences. Workouts aren’t impossible if you can hold a conversation, I was told by the personal trainer. At the end of this session, I feel better that I have achieved something.

During decades of formal learning and earning, my knowledge has been gained using the skills of reading, writing, listening, discussing, maths, working with others or by myself, observing, viewing, performing and practising. Each of these skills are interrelated with the orderly critical thinking process of remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating and creating. I am comfortable with the written word. I sweat it out with numerical logic.

Honestly, right now, I don’t know my preferred learning style.

Two hours later, I left off writing and got lost in my garden. This is where I think, reflect and dream and do. Worms, birds, cattle, family, hedgehogs, plants, possums, dragonflies, bumble-bees and beneficial insects are vibrant players in my world. It is natural to write about seasonal and weather events. It is natural to write about caring for the soil, about creating a carbon sink, about growing ecological diversity. Nature provides rich learning experiences everyday. It is up to me to be present. To make sense of the lessons. I observe. I respond. I make mistakes. It is in this way my garden happenss. It is always interesting to read what others have done in a similar situation. I reflect. In this way, knowledge is consolidated.

William’s Creative Higher Order Thinking elements influenced my former work with teachers and students. A lateral approach to learning is rich, recurring, productive and relevant to the learners’ own interests and challenges in everyday life. Certainly, I tend to be spontaneous,  flexible and have a willingness to try something new.

Right brain? left brain? At times I could wish to be more logical, better organised. Especially as Himself is so terribly logical and Mathematical. But then, I get there. I know what I mean.