It has been a truly manic few weeks. Somehow I’ve juggled the boy-child’s 16th complete with self-imposed blogging countdown, working on our house to get it ready for sale — and working on a website re-launch.
Last year I joined the Board of New Zealand Sculpture OnShore - a non-profit which stages a large biennial outdoor sculpture exhibition to raise funds for Women’s Refuge in New Zealand. My brief is to look after marketing the event. One of the key goals we wanted to achieve was to update and upgrade our website. It was the first time I’d been involved in every aspect of website design — and I’ve loved every minute of it.
NZ Sculpture OnShore is holding it’s 10th exhibition in November this year, so our website is going to be vital to the way we promote the event. Please pop over (click here) and have a look at what we do, see some of the artists’ work from the 2012 exhibition – and find out more about Women’s Refuge. As the year goes on, we’ll be adding more content and hope that we can build a buzz around this wonderful exhibition — which has so far raised $1.34million for the victims of domestic violence in New Zealand.
I’ve been re-reading Michael Pollan’s In Defence of Food, with it’s wonderful mantra:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
Right now my garden is making it easy to do this. We planted a bit late this time and haven’t had the bumper crops we enjoyed last season. But as our tomatoes and cucumbers, leaves, peppers and herbs ripen and proliferate, we have a small daily harvest; enough to make tasty fresh salads each night, and enough to share with friends.
To be truthful, the harvest would be a teeny bit bigger if all the tomatoes actually made it back to the kitchen, but who can resist that one perfect, sun-ripened, red taste explosion. Or a cucumber eaten, bite by bite, while sitting in the sun. The last one I picked – the juicy centre was really warm; about blood temperature.
Nature has been kind to me, and to my garden. We have been spared the terrible storm that flooded parts of Christchurch this week, battering a city devastated by earthquakes three years ago and struggling to recover.
When I go to pick lunch later, I’ll do so knowing that I’ve been fortunate, and that it won’t always be so.
The thing about eating food - rather than Pollan’s “food-like substances”- is that the connections between earth and plate are clearer, the distances shorter. I eat with an awareness that nature gives, and nature takes away and I will live best if I live within the rhythm of the world, rather than trying to master or change it.
There are many littled churches like Kohekohe dotted around New Zealand. Our devout nineteenth century settler ancestors built churches as a matter of course wherever townships sprang up.
Population shifts and a decline in church attendance has led to the abandonment of many of these small, rural places of worship.
Like the Kohekohe church, the now-abandoned Free Kirk in Kirkmichael was built in the 19th century. It came into existence because of a schism in the Church of Scotland whereby the evangelical wing of the church broke free from the established Church. In Kirkmichael, the Free Kirk stands south of the River Ardle, along a narrow farm track, while the established Church is on the north side, on a site that has been used for worship for around 1000 years. The Free Kirk ceased to be a place of worship in the 1950s.
It may seem odd to think of graves as abandoned, yet when I walk in old cemeteries, I feel the same sense of abandonment I experienced with these churches.
A church is left empty when those for whom it is a special place no longer visit, but of course, graves continue to hold the remains of the deceased. Their abandonment comes not as emptiness, but as neglect. When those for whom a grave is a special place no longer visit, moss and weeds grow, stones crumble and vandals do their worst.
I saw this headstone while walking in Helensville Cemetery. I have no connection with the young man buried there; I photographed it purely out of curiosity. Arthur Percival’s headstone was erected by his Masonic brethren. I assumed this to be because he either had no family, or they could not afford it. A quick bit of research tells me that Arthur was born in Nelson, New Zealand, had married Elizabeth Poynter in 1885 and left his widow with three young children. I know his parents were still alive at the time of his death, and I also know from a newspaper report of a trial at which Arthur Percival was called as a witness that he had been the Postmaster in Helensville.
The people who mourned the death of a young father in a small rural community are themselves long dead and his grave is abandoned.
Like Arthur Percival, both Thomas and Mary Elizabeth Batts died over a century ago, and their headstone is not only abandoned, but toppled and apparently incomplete. According to a 1950s memorial inscription record, the headstone also contained an inscription for the couple’s son Thomas, who died – age 23 – in 1881.
I found records for the birth of four other children to Thomas and Mary Elizabeth Batts, as well as newspaper announcements for the marriages of their daughters. It is likely then, that there are descendents of the Batts – perhaps still living in Auckland. But like many of us, they may not even know the names of these ancestors – let alone where they are buried. We do not deliberately abandon our dead – but without stories and artifacts to keep their memories alive, there is often little incentive to do otherwise.
This post was written in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge. Here are some other blogger’s responses to the theme “abandoned” that I have enjoyed:
Busy morning: planting spoons for art
In Six Word Saturday bloggers sum up – or just express something important about – their day in six words. Here are some other Six Word Saturday posts I’ve enjoyed: