2016: a personal retrospective

Sunset with old pier, Thames, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

A fitting shot for the twilight of 2016. Back in March the Big T and I watched the sun set behind the Hunua Ranges, from the old pier at Thames, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

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.

Still water and lowering clouds at Otarawao Bay (Sullivans Bay), Mahurangi Regional Park, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

October: a quiet afternoon at Otarawao Bay, Mahurangi Regional Park, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

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.


Sculpture of old-fashioned gramaphone. Chris Moore, 'Bird Songs' (painted steel, corten steel, stainless steel). Seen at Sculpture in the Gardens 2015, Auckland Botanic Gardens, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

From Art and Optimism, January 2016. Chris Moore, ‘Bird Songs’ (painted steel, corten steel, stainless steel). Seen at Sculpture in the Gardens 2015, Auckland Botanic Gardens, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 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


Close-up shot of bee on chive flowers. Bees pollinate around one third of food crops eaten by humans, yet we persist in using agricultural practices that are harmful to bees. Where's the love here?mage: Su Leslie, 2016

Bees pollinate around one third of food crops eaten by humans, yet we persist in using agricultural practices that are harmful to bees. Where’s the love here? Image: Su Leslie, 2016. On Love and Failing Nature.

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.


Black and white portrait of man, mud-splattered from mountain-bike ride. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

“I’m so tough, I kick sand in my own face.” The Big T after a mountain-bike ride. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Portraits #2

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


Ironic juxtaposition? 'What Makes a Real Aussie?

Ironic juxtaposition? ‘What Makes a Real Aussie?” poster showing 1916 ID photo of Monga Khan from Afghanistan. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. From Facing up to New Faces.

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.


A ball of string; black and white close up shot. Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed.

String. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed. The Point of String.

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


Lemon poppy seed pound cake and a cup of tea. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Lemon poppy seed pound cake. Image (and baking): Su Leslie, 2016. The Changing Seasons, July 2016


Finding the light. Black and white macro shot of gerbera at the Wintergarden, Auckland Museum. Image: Su Leslie, 2016.

Finding the light. Gerbera at the Wintergarden, Auckland Museum. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. In Deepest Shade.

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


Black and white shot of trees reflected in lake at Tokaanu Boat Ramp, Turangi. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

At Tokaanu Boat Ramp. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. “… how do you find where you belong.”

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


Close-up shot of juvenile NZ falcon named Hisan, at the Wingspan Birds of Prey Centre, Rotorua, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Hisan, a juvenile NZ falcon. Seen at the Wingspan Birds of Prey Centre, Rotorua, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

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

34 thoughts on “2016: a personal retrospective

  1. I still love those pictures of the boys on the bike! Was that really posted in February? Time flies. While I agree about the general horrificness of 2016, personally it has been pretty good celebrating John turning 60 and Mum 90. All the best for 2017 to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Anabel. Yes it is hard to believe the boy is nearly 10 now. This New Year he is at a music festival with friends — a rite of passage if ever there was one! All the best to you and yours for 2017. It’s barely 5 hours away here.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Su. It was wonderful to look back at some of your favorite photos and posts. And we can all just hope that 2017 will be better, but I wish I was more optimistic about that becoming reality, at least here in the US. At least you get to bring in the new year in warm weather, long days, and flowers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Amy; I also wish I felt more optimism for the future. But it’s true: I get to celebrate new year in warm weather — right next to a beautiful beach, celebrating the marriage of an old university friend. I’m holding this as a good sign for 2017. Happy New Year to you and your family.


  3. I loved this retrospective, Su. It’s interesting to look at the mood and flavour of each month in the year that passed – and more importantly, how it affected us.

    Best wishes, Su. I’m prepared to be optimistic about 2017 in spite of all the evidence to the contrary 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Joanne. I’m also trying to focus on the positive, look for the good I can do — and remember to pick my battles! I hope you and your boys are all well — injuries healing and health restored.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a wonderful, lovely personal retrospective and I enjoyed so much rereading every entry again! It’s amazing how time passes by and somehow I realize this more forcefully reading another one’s thoughts than when recapitalizing my own. If that makes any sense… xxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much. I totally understand that; we are so enmeshed in day to day life that we can see the big picture best through other people. I went to a wedding on New Year’s Eve of a very old friend. I was surrounded by people I have known for 30 years. That those boisterous students I first met have now married, become parents (and even grandparents). That puts my life into perspective in the way you are talking about. xxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have enjoyed different. Bloggers share their round up post / and for some reason I don’t remember indulging like this any other January – I did recall some review posts in years past – but nothing like what this last week has brought me –
    Anyhow – the recreation on the bike – I kept comparing and so fun – love the shirt you found – mature replica of that onesie –
    And I remember that sourdough starter post! Glad it made the list.
    Lastly – thought I’d only listen to a few seconds of the first song – but what a song
    “Made a place for you now…”
    “Welcome home”
    Damn! Good.

    Liked by 1 person

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