The Changing Seasons, October 2020

Work in progress; a metaphor for life. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Mulch.

If October could be summed up in one word, that word would be mulch.

It’s been a good month for gardening with lots of warm, still days, so the Big T and I have been super-busy making new borders and raised beds, sewing seeds, weeding, planting and transplanting — you know the drill.

Early on we took possession of a mulch mountain and have gradually eroded it to barely a hillock. 

And while the garden now looks significantly different, it’s really not photogenic. But with luck (and a bit of rain), by November’s Changing Seasons, I’ll have something to show you that looks more interesting than relocated piles of mulch.

In the meantime …

Garden success #1: transplanted lemon verbena thriving. Image: Su Leslie 2020
Garden success #2; kaka beak (Clianthus maximus) grown from seed. Image: Su Leslie 2020
Garden success #3; experimental wicking garden. Beetroot almost ready to harvest. Image; Su Leslie 2020

Apart from gardening, I don’t feel as though I’ve done mulch at all in October (see what I did there).

NZ’s general election seemed to split the month in two, and it’s only with hindsight I realise how anxious I was about the outcome. In the end, the Labour Party made history by being the first under our proportional representation system able to govern outright. While this does mean the government can’t blame inaction on conservative coalition partners, it also means that the Green Party, despite an increased number of MPs, won’t necessarily have a place in government. And NZ’s woeful record on addressing climate change and basic issues of social justice will probably remain woeful.

But in the spirit of accepting personal responsibility for our part in the climate disaster, T and I abandoned the car and took a ferry into central Auckland on a recent visit to the art gallery.

I continue to play with art materials; more for the joy of experimenting than with any particular result in mind. Alcohol inks and air-dry clay are my current favourites.

About the Changing Seasons

In last month’s Changing Seasons post I asked for feedback about the guidelines for posting, which have been unchanged since this challenge was established by Cardinal Guzman in 2015.

Thanks for all your comments.

The general feeling seems to be that we’re mostly happy that the structure allows us to share our reflections on the month in whatever way suits us, and the guidelines are mainly for anyone new to The Changing Seasons.

The things that were mentioned were the limit on photo numbers and the requirement to only use new images. Most people who mentioned the shot limit agreed it was a good idea (though we all admitted to exceeding it).

I am aware that most of us follow a very large number of blogs and do so actively — engaging with the content beyond simply hitting the “like” button. My own view is that having people read my blog is a privilege I must continue to earn by doing my best to be interesting, and respecting the value of your time and engagement. For me that means editing the text (and then editing it again) and trying to only use images that help tell the story.

As for the requirement to use new images; I’ve always seen that as a request not to bore readers by recycling shots they have already seen.

I had planned to include draft text of some updated guidelines here, but as I’ve already written more than usual, I’ll do that in a separate post.

Until then, feel free to add comments to my musings, and of course link to this post in your own so that I can update accordingly.

Update

Tracy from Reflections of An Untidy Mind

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Little Pieces of Me

Ladyleemanila

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Sarah at Art Expedition

Suzanne from Life at No. 22

Pauline from Living in Paradise

Natalie from Natalie the Explorer

Lani from Life, the Universe and Lani

Ju-Lyn from All Things Bright and Beautiful

Brian at Bushboy’s World

Gil at Talking Thailand

The Changing Seasons, September 2020

Fallen kowhai blossom. Image: Su Leslie 2020

After a dry and quite mild winter, September has turned very cold, very wet, and very, very windy.

Instead of sitting on the deck, camera in hand, poised to capture shots of tui and kereru gorging on the newly arrived kowhai blossom, I’m sitting indoors (wearing Ugg boots) watching the beautiful yellow kowhai flowers blow around the lawn.

I’m sad not so much for the missed photo opportunity but for the loss of an important food for our native birds.

September has been THAT kind of month.

Between the weather, the pandemic, a surgery that doesn’t seem to have made anything better (though at least not obviously worse), and a general low-level exhaustion — if I weren’t hosting this challenge I’d be wondering whether I should even participate.

Indeed if it weren’t for a trip to the Muriwai tākapu (gannet) colony last weekend, I doubt I’d have a post.

But if anything speaks of the changing seasons, it is migratory birds.

When I visited Muriwai in mid-August, almost no gannets had returned to the colony from their wintering in Australia. By last weekend, all of the main breeding sites were densely occupied; nest-building was clearly visible, and I suspect that many of the birds may already be incubating eggs.

Having spent the winter discussing the building of new raised beds and garden areas, T and I had planned to spend some serious time on the various projects this month. We’ve made progress, but until the wild weather passes, we won’t be able to finish building and actually plant anything.

In the meantime, the blue borage and calendula are growing like mad, and my motley collection of pelargonium cuttings have all taken and are waiting to be planted out.

About the Changing Seasons

When I took over hosting The Changing Seasons from Max at Cardinal Guzman, I carried on using the format that Max had developed.

Over the years though, I think that we’ve all evolved different ways of approaching the challenge and for some, the original guidelines may seem prescriptive or even off-putting.

My own view is that The Changing Seasons is simply an opportunity to reflect on the month that has passed, and to share those reflections in whatever way feels appropriate. For some bloggers, it’s a framework to record and reflect on particular interests and projects — like a garden. For others, every month is different, and so there is no set way of approaching it.

I think we do need guidelines, especially for those who are new to the project. But do those we have still work? I’m interested in your views.

In the meantime, here is Max’s original statement.

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.

One thing that won’t change though. Include a ping-back to this post, and I’ll update it with links to all of yours.

Update

Ladyleemanila

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Little Pieces of Me

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Suzanne from Life at No. 22

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

Lani from Life, the Universe and Lani

Xingful Mama

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

Sarah at Art Expedition

Brian at Bushboy’s World

A Wonderful Sheep

Joining us this month is the Textile Ranger from Little Wild Streak. Pop over to her post and say hi.

The Changing Seasons, August 2020

dance me to the end of love Art play. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Well, August. A month of two halves.

It started well enough; a visit to the hairdresser, dinner with the boy-child and his partner at a new restaurant, preparing to host a dinner party — even checking flights and accommodation for a trip to Christchurch.

Then Covid-19 re-emerged in the community and Auckland returned to Level 3 lock-down for 19 days, ending last night. Today we begin a period in Level 2.5, and wait to see what will  happen next.

Confinement to barracks meant I had no excuse not to embrace my “Arty August” project. If I’d been hoping for 31 finished pieces of work, I would have been disappointed. Luckily my goals were more about process than product and I’m happy. I’ve played a lot with watercolours — trying to understand washes and blending; experimented with some air-dry clay that’s been in the art box for a while, and transformed a pair of thrift-shoes into a … 3D collage?

Embracing process doesn’t come naturally to me; I am very goal-oriented and naturally tend to become incredibly frustrated when my output doesn’t match my vision.

A few years ago my friend Claire — who is both a talented artist and a very good teacher — said something that stuck with me and helps me find value in everything I make, even when it’s simply marks on paper. She suggested that in each piece of work there is something good; maybe just a tiny part of a sketch that really works, or a blob of colour that’s pleasing. The trick is to find that one thing and enjoy it, celebrate it, and use it to move forward. In the last month I’ve covered lots of sheets of watercolour paper with blobs of colour. None screams out to me as the basis for a work in itself, but together, they suggest materials for a collage.

And if that’s good enough for Eric Carle in The Very Hungry Caterpillar –it’s definitely good enough for me.

As always, when I’m at home a lot, I cook a lot.

I am finding more and more that I want to eat a largely plant-based diet, and mushrooms are not only a favourite food, but work really well to provide the texture and depth of flavour found in meat dishes. I also love miso and am experimenting with making a miso glaze/sauce for mushrooms. The first attempt was pretty good, but needs tweaking.

And continuing my obsession with scones; I went right back to basics with a recipe from Maw Broon’s Cookbook. If you’re not familiar with Maw Broon (i.e. if you’re not Scots), she is the matriarch of a comic strip called The Broons which has appeared in the Scottish newspaper The Sunday Post, since March 1936.

Maw Broon’s Cookbook contains recipes that have formed the basis of Scottish cooking for generations. Many were handed down from mother to daughter, and on again.

I was interested in the recipe for Puff Scones because it uses buttermilk, and because it calls for plain flour, baking soda and cream of tartar — instead of the more usual self-raising flour. I’m not sure if it was the combination of ingredients, or the fact of adding the acid and alkaline raising agents as separate entities, but the scones were amazing. Seriously; they were the lightest, fluffiest scones I’ve ever made (and I’d thrown in some cheese which often makes them more dense).

They have the Big T’s approval, so now I have to try Maw Broon’s treacle scones … and maybe a wee Dundee cake.

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:

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Suzanne from Life at No. 22

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

Joining us this month is Ann-Christine, or Leya, who many of you will know as a host of the great weekly Lens-Artists challenge.

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Little Pieces of Me

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

A Wonderful Sheep

Brian at Bushboy’s World

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

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

The Changing Seasons, May 2020

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Grounded. Dinghies at Island Bay, Auckland. Image; Su Leslie 2020

I’ve taken fewer photos this month than in any other since my days of film-camera ownership.

Basically, I haven’t been out all that much, and there are only so many photos I can take of the few remaining flowers in my garden.

Covid 19 restrictions have largely been removed in New Zealand and we are being bombarded with media messages to travel; see the country, spend whatever income we’re still earning on hotel nights and boutique pinot noir; go bungy-jumping, horse-trekking, white water rafting — whatever’s on offer in a country that has steadily replaced productive industries with tourism. Now the overseas visitors are absent, we’re practically being told that it’s our patriotic duty to replace their greenbacks, sterling and yuan with our own dollars.

Not only that, if we don’t do it NOW — the visitors will soon come back and the country’s beauty spots will once again be overcrowded and over-priced.

So far, I’ve resisted.

It’s not that I don’t want to support small businesses and their minimum wage staff. I do.

But I also want the people of this tiny, achingly beautiful country at the arse-end of the world to pause, and ask ourselves if we really want to instantly undo the little bit of good that a human lock-down has done for our environment. Do we really want to throw ourselves into budget-price camper vans and burn as much fossil fuel as possible in the time we have? Do we want to trample barely-recovered walking tracks in fragile eco-systems? Pollute the waterways? Buy stuff we don’t need and generate rubbish we can’t actually get rid of?

New Zealand is a wonderful country. We do a lot of things well, but I fear that we’re squandering the opportunity to build on our success in fighting off (at least the first wave) of a pandemic. In our rush to “rebuild” our economy, we’re wrapping ourselves in all the old assumptions and ideologies that were steadily, gradually destroying not only the natural environment, but also our society.

This is not the post I set out to write. And I suppose it’s not even particularly appropriate under “The Changing Seasons” headline.

But it’s the post I need to write; because my fear is that we’re not changing. We’re allowing ourselves to be sucked back into old ways and old thinking. We’re grounded; upturned dinghies dragged out of the water and going nowhere.

I don’t exempt myself from this. And it’s evident in the (few) photos I have taken. The subject matter, the point of view — even the editing — all reflect a sensibility that I have been holding onto for perhaps too long.

 

 

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

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Ruth at Ruth’s Arc

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Sarah at Art Expedition

Little Pieces of Me

XingfuMama

Darren at The Arty Plantsman

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking intelligent life on Earth

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

Dawn at A Shared Space

Natalie the Explorer

Suzanne at Life at No. 22

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Changing Seasons, April 2020

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No hamburger for me. I celebrated the end of Level 4 Covid 19 lock-down by getting my feet wet. Image: Su Leslie 2020

The concept of The Changing Seasons should be more appropriate this month than ever before.

Aotearoa New Zealand has, in the last few days, moved from the highest level of Covid 19 lock-down, to one in which a great deal more freedom of movement is possible, and where a large number of businesses have been able to re-open.

In some ways, nothing will ever be the same again. But as I woke to the sound of early morning traffic, to read about ridiculously long queues of cars and people outside fast-food outlets, any hope that 33 days of lock-down would promote reflection about how we might live better lives has been dashed. It seems that we are a nation of impatient, car-addicted, junk-food guzzlers.

Though I may not have joined the 3am queue for a burger or three (who does that?), nor have I learned a language, mastered the guitar or even cleaned my ovens. In fact, I can’t really point to anything in particular and say “I did that as a result of Covid-19.”

Apart from a few days at the beginning when I almost believed that Some-Good-Will-Come-From-This, I’ve really just spent the last month fretting about work, income, my son, real estate prices and how long it would take before we collectively start trashing the planet again.

And I think my gallery of images for the month reflects my mood; a bit of sunshine, a lot of dying leaves — and a trip to the beach this morning.

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 Pauline’s beautiful garden at Living in Paradise. She and Jack have been hard at work and as always it’s a visual delight.

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani shares some thoughts and interesting images from her month in Rayong, Thailand.

A Wonderful Sheep brings us a lovely hopeful post with beautiful images of her “side of the mountain” in glorious springtime.

Tish at Writer on the Edge has been busy in her garden and allotment. Please pop over and see the fruits of her green fingers.

Sarah at Art Expedition has not only taken some beautiful photos, but also baked the most delicious-looking ….  No. I’m not going to tell you — you have to visit her post to see for yourself.

Come and enjoy a walk with Tracy from Reflections of an Untidy Mind. As always her photos are lovely and her thoughts clear and well worth hearing.

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking intelligent life on Earth has worked her creative editing magic on some lovely images of the wildlife around her home.

Gill at Talking Thailand shares a walk and some spring-time flowers in the garden.

Ruth at Ruth’s Arc has shared some thoughts and images from lock-down in Tasmania.

Darren at The Arty Plantsman has shared some joyous images from his garden and you must visit to see his beautiful pencil drawing.

Visit Little Pieces of Me  to see some beautiful nature photography, and some thoughts on the times we’re living in.

Ju-Lynn at All Things Bright and Beautiful  will make you so hungry looking at all the delicious food her family has been making in the lock-down.

Yvette at Priorhouse blog shares some recipes, including a chia seed pudding.

 

 

The Changing Seasons, March 2020

img_6831 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.

IMG_7737 Kakabeak (clianthus maximus). Grown from seed and looking stronger every day. Image: Su Leslie 2020
IMG_7720 Kowhai seedlings (Sephora microphylla). Reforesting NZ one roasting dish full of plants at a time. Image: Su Leslie 2020
img_6836 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.

Update

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

Brian at Bushboy’s World

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful


  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.”

 

 

 

The Changing Seasons, February 2020

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Detail, ‘Contained and Protected’, sculpture in bronze, Marte Szirmay. Sculpture in the Gardens, 2019-2020; winner McConnell Family Supreme Award. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Humans are incredibly skilled at both making, and understanding symbols. Indeed, our cultures rely on it.

The symbols I respond to most are generally visual; paintings, sculptures, photographs — but especially sculptures.

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‘Contained and Protected’, sculpture in bronze, Marte Szirmay. Sculpture in the Gardens, 2019-2020; winner McConnell Family Supreme Award. Image: Su Leslie 2020

I saw this piece a couple of weeks ago in an exhibition at the Auckland Botanic Gardens. I find its simplicity both beautiful and powerful. The judges who awarded it the exhibition’s supreme prize had this to say:

“This beautiful disk, fastened to its base by a bronze cord, acts as a talisman of guardianship in the garden bed of critically endangered native plants. It is a superb and accomplished linking of form to site, evoking both the preciousness of our botanical heritage and the idea of keeping it safe forever. The work is placed near the entrance to the Threatened Native Plants garden … ” News, Auckland Botanic Gardens.

I won’t pretend my response to the work was analytical or erudite. I just felt — and continue to feel — uplifted by it.

I had a similar experience with a painting I saw on Instagram. So much so, I bought it.

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‘Little Cottage in a Summer Field’, Natalie Towler. Image; Su Leslie 2020

The artist is local (New Zealand) and also makes wonderful small sculptures of houses (you can see them here).

I didn’t fully realise it until I was sorting photos for The Changing Seasons, but the colour palate of the landscape around me right now, is the same as in Natalie’s painting.

I’ve mentioned a few times this month that parts of New Zealand, including Auckland, are in drought at the moment. It’s particularly noticeable where land has been cleared for animal grazing. On a recent trip to Raglan, we drove through mile after mile of fragile, brown grass; broken only by occasional stands of trees and irrigated fields of maize — presumably being grown as animal feed.

At home, I’ve been incredibly grateful for our rainwater tank which has allowed me to keep my plants alive without resorting to “city water.”

I’ve managed to sustain “proactive hopefulness” largely by not engaging with mainstream news media and spending as much time as possible in my little garden.

As always, I end the month with a list of projects that excite me, but in which I’ve barely made a dent. I can partly blame a cold which hit me harder than expected and has clung on far too long. But I suspect that I perhaps need to take stock of my life and prioritize my time better.

And of course, in that spirit (NOT), I bought some lovely writing paper and envelopes so that I can send real, actual letters to people.

I could explain why, but I think it deserves a separate post … to come.

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Got the pen, got the stationery, found my glasses and made a cuppa. Dear …. Image: 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.

Update

Darren at  The Arty Plantsman

Little Pieces of Me

Joanne at My Life Lived Full

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking intelligent life on Earth

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Tracy at Reflections of An Untidy Mind

Sarah at Art Expedition

Ruth at Ruth’s Arc

A Shared Space

Pauline at Living in Paradise

A Wonderful Sheep

Brian at Bushboys World

Gill at Talking Thailand

 

The Changing Seasons, January 2020

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Kowhai seedlings. Image: Su Leslie 2020

The month/year started well enough. Having got through Christmas without the usual stresses, I gave myself time to think about, and write down, some goals and plans. Against the backdrop of a troubled world, they are very modest and focused on how to live simply and gently. My strategy, I decided, would be summed up as proactive hopefulness.

With Auckland emptied out for the holidays, the Big T and I made an effort to enjoy the city’s parks and beaches.

We were doing so well …

Then on January 5th smoke from the Australian bush-fires combined with atmosphere conditions to turn Auckland’s mid-afternoon’s skies orange. By 5pm it was impossible to see without artificial lighting. It seemed the future had arrived and it was apocalyptic.

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Lights on at 5pm. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Since then, the smoke has moved on — across the Pacific to Chile and beyond. Life has continued, and as holiday-makers have returned to fill the city with noise and traffic congestion, I’ve spent more time at home, much of it in my garden.

In the end, January has been a month of small things — both joys and disappointments.

I’ve managed to keep the gifted hydrangeas alive, and indeed they are thriving. Sadly, lack of water has killed some of my kowhai seedlings, and none of the latest batch of seeds has germinated yet. But the fruit trees and herb gardens are abundant, so my challenge is to put the harvest to good use.

An almost total absence of rain means we are being even more careful with water. Interestingly, it doesn’t feel like a hardship and I’m actually rather proud of my conservation efforts.

A chance meeting with an old friend who is developing an off-grid organic farm proved inspiring; giving us a chance to see what can be done — and how much work is involved. Our search for rural land has intensified.

As I write this, The Big T is texting me from Adelaide (South Australia) where the plane he arrived on has been sitting on the tarmac for almost an hour while heavily masked and suited medical personnel attend to several apparently unwell passengers who may be suffering from the coronavirus. He assures me that the authorities are just being “super vigilant” but it is hard not to worry.

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Waikato River at Mercer, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away. — Marcus Aurelius

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 see what January 2020 was like for them.

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani

Marilyn at Serendipity seeking intelligent life on Earth

A Wonderful Sheep

Darren, The Arty Plantsman

Sarah at Art Expedition

Little Pieces of Me

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind, who also posted this which fits well with the Changing Seasons

Brian at Bushboys World

Ruth at Ruth’s Arc

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

Joining us for the first time, Wanderlust and Wonderment

Gill at Talking Thailand

 

 

 

The Changing Seasons, December 2019

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Mt Ruapehu from the Desert Road. Image: Su Leslie 2019

I’ve struggled to write this post.

As the year has worn on, I — like so many people — have become increasingly angry, sad, frustrated, disillusioned and, frankly, exhausted by the world around me.

Like many, I fluctuate between bouts of active optimism and periods of despair.

Despair’s had the upper hand this month, with the result that I’ve done very little and taken fewer photos than usual. Fewer still I’m happy with.

A pre-Christmas road-trip to see my dad and stepmother produced the best shots, and confirmed that I really like both Whanganui and the surrounding countryside — even (or especially) in stormy weather.

The approach of Christmas meant my son could be persuaded to pose for a photo — Grandma insisted and that’s pretty much the only reason he’ll agree. He’s successfully completed university for another year and is working long hours over the summer — looking forward to finishing his degree next year.

img_6190 The boy-child. Image: Su Leslie 2019

As always, some of my favourite images are of the small things — generally plants. We harvested the first of the plums just after Christmas; the tinsel bird-deterrent having done its job. The second plum tree is more fruit-laden, but they won’t be ripe for another week or two.

My principal gardening success at the moment seems to be with seedlings. The Kakabeak I’ve been nurturing for a few months is thriving, and it looks like almost all of the Kowhai seeds I harvested from our tree have germinated. Even the loquat seedlings are doing well. Gathered from a tree at my son’s flat, they took about three months to germinate but are now growing fast. The travelling hydrangeas are holding their own — but barely — and I may have to look beyond Google for advice.

I’m glad that 2019 is coming to an end.

I don’t normally buy in to the “New Year resolutions” thing, but this year I will be taking this socially-sanctioned opportunity to re-start and move into 2020 with the energy and enthusiasm I know I’m going to need.

img_6189 Image: Su Leslie 2019

Wishing you all good health, good friends, laughter, love, and the energy you will need in your own lives.

Ngā mihi o te tau hou

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

Brian at Bushboys World

Sarah at Art Expedition

Marilyn at Serendipity seeking intelligent life on Earth

Little Pieces of Me

Darren at The Arty Plantsman

Jude from Life at the Edge

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

Pauline at Living in Paradise

A wonderful Sheep

Gill at Talking Thailand

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful