Sunday, 8 January 2017

Simply So....

Well, isn't that a surprise- here I am again!
Hello!
It's so nice to be back- shall I welcome you or will you welcome me?
Perhaps we'd better have a cup of tea!
I am truly fine (just in case you were wondering) & I am so glad of that.
I am realising as I write this that it is now six years since I began writing An angel in the garden & I have just managed to take a six month accidental sabbatical. 
It is this dear blog that saved me really- opening the door for me to find my voice, tell my story, come to believe that I mattered & of course, feel connected for the first time in my life, through the friends that I met here.
Nowadays, I do also find it easier to connect, share & interact with people on Facebook so if you'd like to come & find me there please do.
You know, I thought I'd have this written on Christmas day...
but the days keep flowing by & that could be quite scary if I hadn't been learning to be present- right here in today. Possibly one of the most important arts in life- learning just to show up & be here,
willing to "see"....
all the amazing things in this world around us- the design that runs through the universe on every level & layer & cell. All is a miracle.
Real living, is made up of the observance & appreciation & the experiencing of all the tiny things
the scent of salt air, the feel of sand through your toes,
the startlement of colour that is pohutukawa flower, serenading summer & enticing tui...
heat of the day swept away in the breath-holding tranquility of a pond, just down the road.
water-liles floating...
enchanting little kingfisher way up high, that surprises us with his annoyingly unmelodic twerp, chirp, chirp song, but then when I hear the familiar repetition the following morning, while buying veges at the Farmer's Market, I am impressed by his elevated nonchalance, despite the commotion below.
Nothing is too much trouble in nature's design- a weed given status through title- Bishop's flower, Ladies Lace is still a wild carrot none-the-less, yet somehow, we of grand & precious design, endlessly doubt our own value; fail to grasp our infinite worth. 
If in the midst of a thousand teeny florets of white, on one single weed head, is carefully placed a red button heart, how much more precious are we?
Trimming the weigela a few weeks ago I discovered blind, gaping mouths in a tiny nest so remarkably pre-prepared  & perfect- attendant fussing white eye mummy hovering just feet (sorry, centimetres doesn't sound right) away.
Life here is creative, productive & juicy.
This is a cute little set we came across a while back.
 Lots of repair work still to be done on it, but the chairs are so comfy & we love the colour.
I have been given the most unexpected & exquisite gifts of late.
These flowers- so beautiful, also smelled divine.
We gasped at the sight of the wild foxgloves when we stopped to visit a friend in Tutira.
And frolicked amidst a whole fairy circle full of these magical spires when staying at Morere in November.
I'm not sure that you could say that I am co-creating with nature particularly, more like contributing to an explosion of plants & seeds & flowers- they're everywhere & heading off in all directions in cars, planes, vans, post bags & boxes. These several wheel barrows full of wonder were sent out to the prison just before Christmas. I hope they figure out what to do with the Jerusalem artichokes! A large cup of hollyhock seeds & a handful of sky scraper sunflowers also tagged along. I am amazed to be given the opportunity to send hope & goodness & loads of colour in to dark places. We will have firewood delivered in return.
How astonishing to notice one day, seeds on this lily of the valley plant!
I felt like Heidi gazing out over craggy flower filled mountains way up here.
In fact, we've been here, there & everywhere visiting our favourite places just as we can- loving the beauty & the countryside & spending time together.
I've hung this cute little op shop bird cage in the flowering cherry tree outside Lucy.
I am reminded of Maya Angelou's poem "I know why the caged bird sings".

"A free bird leaps 
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends 
and dips his wing 
in the orange sun rays 
and dares to claim the sky."

Maya Angelou

As I dare to claim the sky I look down & proclaim-
I am living juicy to make the angels laugh!
Lovely to see you. Please do drop in again soon.
Much love, Catherine x0x0x

Friday, 1 July 2016

Sowing and Stitching

People keep looking at me funny when I tell them with great enthusiasm that seeds really are tiny miracles-but it's true! When I send a half a teaspoon full of little seeds in an envelope down the road or hundreds of miles away, I know without doubt, that I am sending a seed-bomb of extraordinary miracle power. Given a little care, luck, time & some earth & a little moisture, invariably that minuscule capsule holding the true pattern & identity of a pansy, forget-me-not, mignonette, love-in-the-mist or a zillion other possibilities will activate it's little life force & soon unfurl & replicate identically to it's parents; no matter how far from home it roams. Well, of course there are always, rogues, renegades & exceptions, but miracles all, non-the-less!
Through this year I have sent seeds all around the country- to gardeners in big cities, small towns, on farms; to those who are just beginner gardeners & those with fine gardens-all with a little dream or intention of growing beauty & fabulousness. Last week I was startled to find that I was to send three lots of seeds to this delightful Admiral Gardens in the Chatham Islands.
I recently bought some vintage Sanderson oilcloth from a lovely lady called Barbara. I was thrilled to find this card tucked in at the top of parcel & when I turned it over I realised that Barbara Anderson was the artist. Isn't it delightful.
Spring Garden Tour

Chelsea- Sanderson oil cloth
That same week I found two parcels in the letter box on the Monday.
One was from my dear friend Betty (Wood Fairy) England!
I restrained myself & rushed inside to carefully open & savour the envelope...filled with kind messages & bluebell seeds from Glover's Wood.
It is such a remarkable thing that we could then google & instantly see, precisely, where Glover's Wood, Charlwood is. And as it turns out-it is but a stone's throw from East Grinstead & the house where Rob's father grew up. In our search we noticed this picture of a charming stile in Grover's Wood.
We had been talking about making a stile so we could more easily & less precariously hop through to our nice neighbour's next door.
It would go just here. 
It's a nice little spot around here in the winter time when the plum tree has lost it's leaves.
It could be just the right place to use these old window frames (there's another one somewhere!) that we saw at a garage sale just down the road last weekend. The safest way to get them home was to rush back with the two trolleys & ( also precariously) wheel one each home again.
They're a bit rumpty & pretty fragile but they'll have another life with us yet. This old green glass is very special. & very old.
I have found that life & gardens can both be sown by seed.
We get to choose every single day just what we will sow, pay attention to & water & what we will not.
Fostering community is a good-to-sow-thing - a few weeks ago I spotted an add in our "Neighbourly"  group for a trailer load of wood chip mulch that some "neighbours" wanted to give away instead of taking it to the dump. I happened to be the first to phone & with in half an hour the mulch had been delivered & I had sent Ben on his way with many thanks & mandarins for his children.
My newly acquired "old" wheelbarrow that I found at the Restore Shop (they build houses for people who can't afford one through Habitat for Humanity) happy to help distribute the mulch all around the garden. 
A great time to get areas like this tidied up for the winter.
The other parcel that arrived that Monday came from a lovely Trade Me customer who I had sent two Country Homes magazines to and in return I received a hand written letter, cool stamps, Cath Kidston & a gardening magazine- how delightful was that! And since then, some lovely book recommendations too, as Sandi is an avid reader.
The morning sun was still low when I sat at the writing desk here & paused to think of all the things I was grateful for, when I looked down to see the rainbows scattered around in front of me...
shining richly on the fairies dancing in a spring meadow.
Aren't they adorable.
I love this time of year when bulbs & plants have to push their way through soil 
 to reach forth & flower
 & share their heavenly scent at front doors & the such-like.
Life is about sowing & dreaming & stitching, but also cutting out.
Nina (6) & I had the loveliest time cutting these out together last weekend. 
It feels so good to know that I have them all prepared ahead now.
The handmade life is a worthy life, a life of richness & lasting satisfaction.
 I wouldn't want to live it any other way.
I read a poetic article the other day & as I did, I thought- yes, yes that's it!

This extract came from a short article entitled The Handmade Life


...we are taught to respect the slow, attentive piecing together of the life we yearn for. 
Stitch by stitch we apprentice the craft.
We work in tandem with mystery, feeling it’s rhythms awaken in our bone-memory.
And we realise the patience it takes to make a life materialise.
There are no shortcuts, & it can’t be done cheaply, or en masse. 
The work is small, the work is slow & all we can do is stay with it.

As Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, “The shortcut, the easy way, always falls apart. 
Then one returns to the handmade life.
One has to pick it up painfully, & piece it back together. 
Holding the overall pattern in one’s mind, but working patiently, piece by piece."

May your hands be blessed. 
May they know the magic they make.
 May everything they touch, touch them in return.
May your exquisite efforts soon show their shape. 

And that is indeed my wish for you dear friends & readers.
Thank you for popping in to see me.

We hold more in our own hands & hearts than we understand.
Planting seeds- a song to live by.


Video from KarmaTube

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Life and a Biscuit Tin

I've been thinking quite a lot lately about family-
 what it means to be healthy family & how strong bonds can be made spontaneously; glued with love. Other times, germs get in the wounds we create & the glue fails.
Every family story is different; 
life never unfolding quite how we imagine- some of it we choose & lots of it just happens.
Back when I was still little I happened to get a step-mother. I didn't ask to have a step-mother & I didn't actually want to have her- but she came along anyway.
What I didn't understand, until decades later, was how inclusive her mother (she lost her own mother at the time of her birth) had been towards me & how open-hearted & kind her sister was. At her passing in early June, that sister-Shirley left her own family bereft & me with the warm & comforting knowledge that I had been embraced & befriended. I have tucked these kindnesses in to my apron pocket & they will journey with me for life.
In my other pocket I have scissors & a quick unpick! 

Having stayed the night here at The Lake motel in Taupo, we journeyed to Hamilton on a fine winter's day to say goodbye to Shirley. 
 We had sold our persimmons & feijoas at the gate & had enough tucked away to pay for a night or two away. We made a little detour to Cambridge & stopped in at the My Style shop-small but so cute & sprinkled with Cath Kidston & Shabby Chic loveliness.
Just out of town we saw this wonderful old summer house,
set off to the side of this grand old house.
 Shirley knew how much we loved staying in Te Aroha so that's where we stayed after the funeral.
 It was very wintery (though not cold) & moody in the Waikato. We've been so long without rain at home I am having to water all my pots again & put on the irrigation!
It's just a wee town Te Aroha but there's some lovely places to visit here.
It was a bit of a scramble to get all my Trade Me sales & correspondence tied up before we left. I went to address a parcel containing a dear little Laura Ashley dress, when I realised that the buyer lived in Te Aroha! I was so glad that I make my parcels look like presents-so that when I delivered the dress in person, the little girl who was ill, was so excited to get a "present".
 It was good to make the journey in this way, to travel the miles together, talking about everything & working it all through.
 We were just out of Tirau when we saw a sign which prompted us to wonder what had become of Okoroire Hot Springs & Hotel under it's new management.  "Shall we go & see?". We both shouted yes let's!
Last time we visited it was like stepping back in time & it was all profoundly forgotten, eerie & run down.
 And we could only peer through the hole in the fence to see this pool.
 "New Management" had indeed been on the job although I don't think this is actually the quick way down.
 The top pool that had been enclosed previously was now a lovely open pool
 and The Fairy Pool had been reclaimed. It is reputed that this is the very earliest pool to be constructed of concrete in New Zealand, back in 1887.
This photo was taken in 1893
It is called The Fairy Pool because at night the bank twinkles with the little lights of many glow worms.
It was the most extraordinary experience being immersed in this water. On very tip-toe the water was lapping at my chin-really lapping, moving constantly. The bottom of the pool is all sandy & the water seeps up from the natural spring to continually replenish the pool, creating the finest champagne bubbles that tickle all over your skin & create continuous momentum as if the water itself is alive. (You may need to click on them to see some of these pictures properly)
In the days after our return I felt rather sad so I cried when I felt like it & I made a lovely cup of tea & sat in Lucy, remembering Shirley warmly.  Shirley had threaded her kind self through Sunshine Vintage in so many ways. A few years ago she had offered to be a helper & pick up any items I found on Trade Me if they were in Hamilton. It just so happened that Hamilton was where I found an Old English Rose tea set. Shirley was delighted to pick it up for me, not far at all from her home. She carefully unwrapped every piece & checked it all thoroughly before declaring it to be in splendid order.
I found the violet hat in Second Thoughts Collectables in Te Aroha.
Not often that you find such a treasure these days.
As I get older I have become very firm about pursuing depth & meaning & authenticity.
Which is why I find myself drawn to strong woman who have frank things to say.
Shirley had found her very best courage & was about to make new changes in her life, but she'd left it too late & never got the chance.
 Regrets & "too late" serve no one well.

Susan Weed writes so frankly- 

"Accepting it all -- the mess, the chaos, the pain, the insults, the senseless waste, the good deeds gone bad, the sheer beauty, the awesome power, the amazing perseverance, the stunning fecundity, the breath-taking coincidences 
– embracing it all, and loving it all, even within my self, is my path of authenticity,
 the real woman I wish the women of the world to know."

On our trip home I began to realise that I was feeling rather disturbed. Here it was again, that familiar feeling of discomfort of just not fitting in with the status quo. My whole life has become a mission to forge another way: to see, to be, to experience life,
and death.
A month or so ago Rob had been reading about a spot out in the Esk Valley where you could walk up the defunct railway track.
We found more than a railway track.
We found a truly majestical place.
A place where we felt completely at peace.
Wild violets
& bird song.
On our journey home from the funeral we got up close & talked about what we really wanted in death. Grand event funerals may be just the thing for most or many, but for us there is going to be another way.
It came to me a few days later. Rob, Rob...could you put a person in a biscuit tin?", I asked.
 And I am now quite certain you could. As long as you had a label saying who was in the tin & some children who were happy to follow simple instructions. We would be sprinkled together in to the river-the place of peace...& slowly make our way to the sea-that was Rob's idea.
 Any time someone wanted to remember us they could come to the river, to swim, to forage, to play & to picnic.
Perhaps they will find it to be a majestical place too.

This is my wish for you...

That the spirit of beauty may continually hover about you

and fold you within the tenderness of her wings.

That each beautiful and gracious thing in life

may be unto you as a symbol of good
for your soul's delight.

That sun-glories and star-glories, leaf-glories and bark-glories,

flower-glories and sand-glories that lurk in the grasses of the field...

Glories of mountains and oceans,

of little streams of running waters
glories of song, of poesy,
of all the arts...

May be to you as sweet abiding influences that will illumine your life

and make you glad.

That your soul may be as an alabaster cup filled to overflowing 

with the mystical wine of beauty and love.

That happiness may put her arms around you,

and wisdom make your soul serene.

This is my wish for you.


~Charles Livingston Snell




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