Friday flowers

hydrangea oil paint

Image: Su Leslie 2020

There’s not much flowering here at the moment, so here’s “one I prepared earlier” — a hydrangea in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens (with a little painterly editing).

The Changing Seasons, March 2020


A moment of reflection. Spider monkey, Auckland Zoo. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Welcome to the third fourth attempt I’ve made to write this Changing Seasons post.

It’s not that there is nothing to say about March 2020; just that I’m still trying to process an extraordinary 31 days that began with a visit to Auckland Zoo and ended with me spending an entire day trying to buy groceries (to be fair, I was shopping for two households).

Standing in a queue that snaked around the supermarket car-park, I caught a tiny glimpse of what everyday life must have been like for older friends and family members who lived through World War II rationing, or in the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe. The difference is that when I reached the front of the queue, there was still food to buy — and at a price I could afford.

It’s been just over a month since the first case of Covid 19 was reported in Aotearoa New Zealand. Even though we’d watched and read about what was happening overseas,  life carried on in much the same rhythm for most of us for another couple of weeks.

But March has been a month of two halves; and all of a sudden, the number of new cases each day began to rise alarmingly, our borders were closed to all but returning nationals, and finally on March 26 the nation was placed under a four week rahui (1)

My thoughts about this extraordinary situation are muddled and constantly changing, so instead of inflicting my confusion upon you, I am simply going to share photos from the slightly less weird part of the month — when visits to the zoo and community fun days were still possible and normal.

The Stillwater Raft Race was held on March 17th; a reminder of how small communities are so good at getting together and having fun. T and I stumbled upon this accidentally, thinking we’d just go for a quiet walk along the estuary path.

Both T and I largely grew up in Auckland, so zoo visits have been part of our lives for as long as we can remember. Today’s zoo, with its emphasis on animal welfare and involvement in several conservation projects, is a world away from our horrible memories of bears and big cats endlessly pacing small cages.

The latest project is a South East Asian Jungle Track — a massive new development that is providing a more natural high canopy habitat for orangutan and siamangs, with further developments for tigers, otters, crocodiles and other Asian reptiles. It was due to open about now, but as the zoo is also under rahui, the animals are able to explore their new home without human visitors.

And now, with my horizons narrowed for at least a few weeks, I treasure and enjoy my garden even more.


Kakabeak (clianthus maximus). Grown from seed and looking stronger every day. Image: Su Leslie 2020


Kowhai seedlings (Sephora microphylla). Reforesting NZ one roasting dish full of plants at a time. Image: Su Leslie 2020


And still we have tomatoes. Su Leslie 2020

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.


A Wonderful Sheep

Lady Lee Manila

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking intelligent life on Earth

Little Pieces of Me

Darren at The Arty Plantsman

Sarah at Art Expedition

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind


  1. Rahui is a Maori word which means to put in place a temporary ban or restriction on an area, resource, stretch of water — or in this case a nation of people. It is a form of protection, and seems like a much kinder and more positive word than “lock-down.”




Rahui, rather than lockdown

fern frond0401

Fern frond; symbol of new life and new possibilities. Image: Su Leslie 2019

I read a few days ago a suggestion that instead of referring to our current situation as a lock-down, we could perhaps use the Maori word Rahui.

Rahui (raa·hoo·ee): to put in place a temporary ritual prohibition, closed season, ban, reserve – traditionally a rāhui was placed on an area, resource or stretch of water as a conservation measure or as a means of social and political control … (Maori Dictionary)

Language matters. How we describe our situation affects how we feel about it. Rahui embodies a believe that restrictions now will make for a better future. That’s a lot easier for me to get behind than a term that belongs in the language of incarceration.

PS: apologies for my lateness with The Changing Seasons. I’m sure I’m not the only one finding this a difficult month to write about.

Day Two, no baking but a family story finally told

last coffee shot edited

Turns out, it was a two-coffee story. Image: Su Leslie

For anyone who didn’t know, I originally started blogging to document the family history research I’d begun in 2011. That blog, Shaking the Tree, has been much neglected of late.

In part that’s due to the general bustle of life, but also because every research avenue I’d optimistically entered had turned into a cul de sac. Recently however I’ve had a couple of breakthroughs. And with my enforced Covid 19 confinement to barracks, today seemed like the right time to set out some hypotheses I’ve developed regarding a 3x great grandfather, Thomas Boswell Bisset.

I won’t try and tell the story here, but if you are interested, part one can be found in A tangled web, while today’s tentative conclusions are in Tall tale? Or true.

And a little woo hoo in praise of bloggers. Looking for an image to accompany today’s post, I found Something Over Tea. For completely unrelated reasons, Anne had visited the site where the man who probably wasn’t my 4x great grandfather had died during Britain’s 19th century wars in South Africa. She took photos of the memorials erected there, including one specifically dedicated to my possible ancestor.

fort hare gordon memorial

Memorial to John Gordon (1808-1850). Many thanks to Anne at Something Over Tea, who took this photo and included it in her post The University of Fort Hare.’

How flipping cool is that!

Sharing the delicious

Organic heirloom tomatoes, grown by a friend. The last we’ll see for a little while. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Day 1 (of the Aotearoa New Zealand Covid 19 lockdown)

I’ve baked bread, made herb salt (photos to come), watched seeds grow (truly — spinach germinates really quickly), and contemplated a bowl of tomatoes. Organically- grown heirloom varieties, they are the most delicious tomatoes I’ve ever tasted.

A simple salad; rocket, cucumber, red onion and a perfect tomato with homemade sourdough focaccia. Image: Su Leslie 2020

I’ve been quite happy to potter round home today; I have plenty to do, enough food and I am well. But however agreeable my “bubble”, I can’t ignore the fact that isolation for so many people isn’t an easy and comfortable experience.

I’m aware of small things I can do now, but the real work will come later when we have the chance to re-imagine as well as rebuild our businesses and communities, and indeed our society.

Because everyone deserves a bowl of the most delicious tomatoes they’ve ever tasted.