Friday flowers

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The first blossom. Image: Su Leslie 2020

One of the streets in my neighbourhood is lined with Taiwanese cherry trees (Prunus campanulata). I’d heard they were in blossom and decided to check it out on my morning walk.

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

I was expecting the explosion of pink that confronted me, but was totally unprepared for the number of tui feasting on the flowers’ nectar.

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Tui in a cherry tree. Image; Su Leslie 2020

I’d love to show you what I mean, but was unable to get a shot that really does justice to the masses of these noisy, mischievous birds going crazily feeding.

I’ll try again with a different lens, but in the meantime we can just enjoy the flowers.

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

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Su Leslie 2020

The Changing Seasons: July 2020

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“By all means use sometimes to be alone. Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear.” — George Herbert. Early morning, Waikato River at Mercer, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020

I consider it a success in life that I can accept (if not entirely understand) the ebb and flow of my emotional state. I’ve learned to recognise when I’m struggling, and not to make the bad times worse by beating myself up about having a bad time.

I’ve also learned that eventually (so far) I will find something — however small — that triggers joy and that a little turn of the screw in the right direction can re-set the machine and get the cogs moving again.

July, it has to be said, has been a month largely lacking in cog action.

A short road-trip (in lieu of visiting my dad) provided an opportunity to read, think and relax away from all the usual chores and responsibilities. I didn’t venture too far from home, and despite the rain and school holidays, enjoyed re-visiting Hamilton and the small towns of the Hauraki Plains. It struck me though, that even as we’re being told the country is open for business, Covid 19 has taken a huge toll on many small communities, especially in the tourist-dependent hospitality sector. Those cafes that were open at all were operating shortened hours — which led to some “interesting” ad hoc meals.

Even the wonderful Hamilton Gardens seemed straggly and bare, with several of the themed gardens closed. I know that is partly a consequence of the time of year, but suspect the vastly reduced number of visitors has provided an opportunity for low-impact maintenance and repair.

Since my return, I’ve pottered about and made a little progress on a few projects, but generally got to the end of each day and wondered where the time had gone.

As the month-end approaches, I’m feeling a sense of being able to draw a line under July and move into August with some enthusiasm. I’ve got two weeks to prepare for the first “posh” dinner I’ve hosted in years, and I suspect I’ll be testing a few practice dishes on The Big T (like he’s going to complain).

I’ve also set myself the challenge of doing one creative, just-for-fun thing every day in August (is Arty August too cheesy a title). I have a few biggish projects that can only be done in stages, but think I need to also set little goals — like a daily doodle or something similar. In announcing my intention, I’ve made myself accountable; if only to my end-of-August Changing Seasons self.

 

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.

Update

Please visit these bloggers to find out how July played out for them:

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

Little Pieces of Me

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Ladyleemanila

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Marilyn at Serendipity — Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Sarah at Art Expedition

Suzanne from Life at No 22

Darren at The Arty Plantsman

A Wonderful Sheep

Brian at Bushboy’s World

Gill at Talking Thailand

The season of the kowhai

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Spring. Tui feasting on kowhai flower nectar. Image; Su Leslie 2019

Amongst all the flowers that burst forth in Spring, the one that speaks most clearly of the season in Aotearoa New Zealand is the kowhai.

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Image: Su Leslie

Kowhai (eight species of tree within the genus Sophora) are native to this country. Unlike many NZ natives, kowhai are semi-deciduous, making their spring-time transformation even more spectacular. Unusually too, kowhai flowers appear before the new leaves.

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Kowhai flowers. Image: Su Leslie

Kowhai is the Maori word for yellow, and the plant has great significance; practically and culturally. Infusions of kowhai bark were used in traditional Maori medicine to treat a huge range of ailments from dandruff to knitting together broken bones. It was even given as a (fairly dramatic) cure for constipation.

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Kowhai flowers. Image: Su Leslie

These days, the medicinal use of Kowhai is not recommended, as it’s known that the plant contains cytsine, an alkeloid common in several species within the legume family. It is similar to nicotine and, in humans, can cause headaches, breathing difficulties and in large doses — death.

Other animals are clearly not affected; kowhai flower nectar is a favourite food of the native Korimako, Kaka and Tui.  One of the great springtime pleasures is watching and listening to Tui in a kowhai tree.

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Tui in a kowhai tree. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Tui in a kowhai tree. Image: Su Leslie 2019

If you’d like to know what Tui’s sound like, this video‘s good and has footage of Kereru (wood pigeon) and Tauhou (wax-eye)

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | Spring

Friday Flowers

Mantles of red and golden weather

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Pohutukawa flowers. Image: Su Leslie 2019

For many here in Aotearoa New Zealand — especially those of us living near the coast — the arrival of summer is heralded by the flowering of the Pohututkawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa).

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Pohutukawa flower buds. Image; Su Leslie 2019

A member of the myrtle family, pohutukawa grows easily along the country’s coastline, often spilling precariously over cliffs. Incredibly strong roots anchor its spreading, silver branches that twist and gnarl at impossible angles. It is long-lived, providing generations of beach-goers with shelter and shade where sand meets bush.

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

And between November and February (but particularly in December and January) you will find pohutukawa trees all over the country covered in a profusion of (generally red) flowers.

Early European settlers “adopted” the pohutukawa as the New Zealand Christmas tree, using wreaths and branches to adorn homes and churches during the Christmas festivities. Today, pohutukawa-themed Christmas cards, gifts and tree ornaments are sold in shops around the country.

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… some of us make our own cards. Image/design: Su Leslie 2018

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Pohutukawa flowers — NZ’s “Christmas tree.” Image: Su Leslie, 2017

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Image: Su Leslie 2014

The pohutukawa is a common symbolic element or icon in much of my nation’s culture. One of our foremost playwrights, Bruce Mason, wrote a play called The Pohutukawa Tree, but it is from another of his works — The End of the Golden Weather — that I draw these words

“The red is of a fire dying at dusk. The green faded in drab. Pain and age are in these gnarled forms, in bare roots clutching at the earth, knotting on the cliff face, in tortured branches dark against the washed sky.”

— from The End of the Golden Weather, a play by Bruce Mason.

Each year, on Christmas Day, a scene from The End of the Golden Weather is performed on Takapuna Beach, near my home. Each year, several several hundred Aucklanders turn up to see this — free — performance. That too has become a part of what summer means in this tiny corner of the world.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | Summer

Friday Flowers