Like many people, I won’t be sorry to see the back of 2016.
It’s hard to know where to start with how bloody awful the year has been. From “surprise” political events that in hindsight should have surprised no-one, to the sickening disregard for human life engendered by wars and terror attacks, greed, hate crimes and the general apathy of those for whom “I’m alright Jack” has become a frighteningly de-humanizing mantra.
In my own world, it’s been a year of loss and fragility, frustration and feelings of helplessness. In August we lost the Big T’s mother to cancer and dementia, and we watch in sadness as his father slides into a distant space created by the same disease. My mother — the youngest of the boy-child’s grandparents — turned 80, and each day I shuffle the emotions of gratitude for my parents’ continued health, with worry over every cold, pain and doctor’s appointment.
That’s when I’m not pitting my gratitude at living in relatively peaceful New Zealand against my helplessness at being too far away from my brothers and mother to help them through the challenges and crises they are enduring.
Throughout the year this blog has been an outlet for my tangle of emotions, and provided — in you, the wonderful online whanau (1) — frequent comfort, humour, wisdom and that all too necessary sense of just not being alone in this.
Looking back over my posts in 2016, it’s clear that art, nature, food, music and my boys are the bricks and mortar of my life (though not necessarily in that order).
So here’s my retrospective; words and images that I hope capture some of the stuff that occupied my days and my mind in 2016.
Art is optimism made manifest. To write a poem, paint a picture, compose music or shape materials into a physical expression of an idea; for me these things entail a hopefulness about the future. — Art and Optimism, ZimmerBitch, Jan 2016
Nothing makes me quite so aware of time passing as looking at old photos; especially photos of my child. Is it really almost 18 years since I give birth to a tiny, skinny boy with a shock of red hair? Has 17 years truly passed since we first sat him on his dad’s motorbike? … How can it be that I can recall every hour of his first few days, and yet 18 years have flown by? — Time, ZimmerBitch, Feb 2016
Nature sustains not only our physical, but also emotional and spiritual well-being. Those of us who have the ability to retreat to the bush, or to the beach, know how much these experiences restore and sustain us. — On Love and Failing Nature, ZimmerBitch, March 2016.
A part of my life for 30 years, the Big T still makes me laugh; “I’m so tough, I kick sand in my own face.” From Portraits #2, ZimmerBitch, April 2016
May was NZ Music Month, and with this tiny country’s brilliant and extensive back-catalogue to trawl, I managed to post frequently. I like pretty much everything I wrote around some songs that I love, so my pick for the month is based on my admiration for the Australian artist Peter Drew, and his campaign What Makes a Real Aussie? At a time when the number of displaced persons in the world is at all-time high, raising awareness of the value of ethnic diversity and compassion has never been more important. In my post Facing up to New Faces, I included a clip of the Dave Dobbyn Song ‘Welcome Home’, which I’m also adding here.
If I were looking for a metaphor for life at the moment, I’d say that I am so busy untangling knots and straightening out threads that I forget what I was going to do with the string. — The Point of String, ZimmerBitch, June 2016
It’s only in darkness that we can really see light. The last few weeks have brought light from unexpected sources; old friends arriving to offer support, grandchildren demonstrating again and again what fine adults they have become, professionals going way more than the extra mile to comfort and assist. These kindnesses large and small have shone bright and illuminated hope. — In Deepest Shade, ZimmerBitch, 2016
A year or so ago the Big T and I created a sourdough starter: flour, water and whatever bacteria and yeasts inhabit our kitchen. We feed it, keep it warm and sniff it a lot to check its health. We also bake bread: mainly wholewheat, but sometimes fruit bread or foccacia.
Over the year our bread has got better but there is always room for improvement in our quest for the perfect loaf. — Quest for Improvement, ZimmerBitch, September 2016
In October I travelled to Whanganui to visit my father and do a glass-making course. On the way I stopped by Lake Taupo at Tokaanu. The post “… how do you find where you belong?” recorded that stop. The title was inspired by this song by Eva Prowse with the band Fly My Pretties:
… it takes something quite special — like his grandmother’s desire to have a “nice picture” for Christmas — to persuade him (the boy-child) to be photographed. — It’s not this time of year without … portraits of my son, ZimmerBitch, November 2016
I’m always dubious about attractions that seem to involve “performing” animals, but at Wingspan, the focus is on the bird’s welfare and development. We were told that Hisan, the juvenile Karearea we saw, is a good candidate for release into the wild. But for that to happen, the Centre staff need to be sure he has the skills to survive. So while Hisan’s afternoon flight sessions are highly entertaining for watching humans, they are vital to his development and well-being. — Close Encounters of the Bird Kind, ZimmerBitch, December 2016
To everyone reading this, my very, very best wishes to you and those you love in 2017.
Written as a contribution to the Daily Post Discover Challenge.
(1) Whanau, often translated as family but in fact more complex. See Te Ara Encyclopedia of NZ