Autumnal memory

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Image: Su Leslie

“It was one of those perfect … autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.”  ― P.D. James

Autumn is the perfect time of year to live in New Zealand. The summer humidity abates, the weather settles (apart from the odd tropical cyclone) and the kids go back to school, making it a great time to travel on less crowded roads and stay in less price-inflated accommodation.

This year of course, we spent a large part of the season in lock-down, exploring the neighbourhood not the country. In doing so, I found that my suburb has a lot more deciduous trees than I remembered.

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Image: Su Leslie

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Image: Su Leslie

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Image: Su Leslie

Perfect to photograph — though not so much fun when it’s time to rake up the fallen leaves.

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But memory is selective, and for me autumn will always be golden and taste of fresh figs, straight off the tree.

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | Autumn

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

 

 

A quiet moment

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

I’m not good at quiet. Although I like to work in external silence, words and ideas and images constantly play in my head — waiting to be written down or turned into photos, recipes, art projects.

When I see others engaged in what seem like their quiet moments, I often wonder if the stillness I observe really does reflect their interior state?

Lens Artists Photo Challenge | A Quiet Moment

A single flower

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Image: Su Leslie 2019

This week I have definitely spent more time baking than taking photographs, and I did toy with the idea of slightly altering this post to Friday Flours; wholemeal, white baker’s, spelt, rye, buckwheat — perhaps rice and coconut flours?

But I’ll spare you my attempt at humour and instead offer some images from the archive. Since this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge is to show one single flower — that’s what I’ve done. Or at least a bunch of shots of solitary flowers.

 

 

Old and new

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Old and new Auckland. Visitors to the 175th Anniversary Day celebrations. Image: Su Leslie 2014

We don’t need to look far to find the juxtaposition of old and new. Sometimes it’s pronounced and deliberate — like the shot above of twenty-first century Aucklanders merging with a scene from the city’s past.

Mostly it’s there in our day to day life — old buildings reflected in the mirror glass of new …

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Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Centre reflected in the modern glass architecture of the city’s Museum. Image: Su Leslie 2016

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White Hart Hotel, reflected in the contoured glass exterior of the new Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2017

… or projects to extend the life of objects through refurbishment, up-cycling and re-imagining …

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Before and after: dining chair refurbisment project. Su Leslie 2019

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Upcycled desk and armchair. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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The “before” shot; junk-shop desk. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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The “before” shot. $10 dollar armchair in need of refurbishment. Image: Su Leslie

… or new dishes from old recipes.

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Rewena paraoa; or Maori bread, made from a traditional recipe. Image: Su Leslie

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Published in 1980, this is a collection of recipes handed down from one generation of European settlers in NZ to the next. Included is a recipe for rewena paraoa. Image: Su Leslie

Sometimes it’s just fun to re-create an old photo. Though in this case, the boy-child didn’t look like he was having much fun.

Father and baby son sitting on Katana motorbike. Image: Su Leslie, 1999

The Big T and our boy-child, Jan 1999 on the beloved Katana. Image: Su Leslie

Father and teenage son on Katana motorcycle. Su Leslie, 2016

Before you know it! Re-creating the shot isn’t as easy when the boy-child is almost as tall as his father, and less willing to play “hands on head”. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | old and new

 

Delicate colours

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Misty morning, Hobsonville Point, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

The rain has arrived in Auckland, and with it the cold swirl and creep of winter. There is no softness in the colours around me; the world is a washed-out, exhausted grey that seeps into my head and muddles my thoughts.

My to-do list feels like the stuff of fantasy. I half-expect to find “slay dragon” and “retrieve missing chalice” alongside “phone Mum” and “buy potting mix.”

Fortunately (for my participation in this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge at least), trying to bring order to my photo archive also appears (somewhat optimistically) on the list.

So, a dip into images past; softened by memory and a certain amount of editing.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | delicate colours

After the rain

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Chrysanthemum. Image: Su Leslie 2020

It rained most of yesterday and into the night. I woke this morning to find my plants hung with sparkling raindrops.

There has been almost no rain in Auckland since last December, so every drop is very welcome.

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Calendula. Image: Su Leslie 2020

The sun is shining now, but more rain is forecast, so there’s a wee happy dance going on at Casa Zimmerbitch.

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Calendula. Image: Su Leslie 2020

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Viola. Image; Su Leslie 2020

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Viola. Image; Su Leslie 2020

This week’s Lens-Artists Challenge theme is “all wet.” It’s nice to have some new images to offer.

 

Finding red

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Lang Ea, Pop! Boom! Bang! Sculpture in the Gardens, 2018. Image: Su Leslie

Red is a benevolent dictatorship.
— James Jannard, founder Oakley Inc.

Patti’s challenge was to ‘find something red.’ My personal challenge is not to go overboard with this. I love red; red clothes, red lipstick, red food, red cars and (I’m not sure I realised this, red art).

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Long ago (and far away). Red as armor in the days of office politics and shoulder pads. Image: The Big T, 1991.

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Seeing double. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Work in progress: The Big T’s cafe racer. Image: Su Leslie 2018

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Chen Wenling, Harbour. Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, 2015. Image: Su Leslie

And I know I’ve posted the Anish Kapoor sculpture before, but surely this fits Patti’s brief very well. Red art on a monumental scale: it is 85 metres long, and each end is 25m x 8m.

Red, of course, is the colour of the interior of our bodies. In a way it’s inside out, red.
— Anish Kapoor
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Anish Kapoor, Dismemberment, Site 1, 2009. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

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Anish Kapoor, Dismemberment, Site 1, 2009. Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | find something red

A special place

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Last November I visited Taranaki in New Zealand’s North Island for the annual garden festival. Armed with my carefully annotated programme and map, I criss-crossed the provence, visiting an array of private gardens whose owners had kindly opened them to the public for the duration of the festival.

All were beautiful and interesting, but the one that has proved to be the most memorable was neither on my list, nor a private garden.

img_6316 Entrance, Hollard Gardens, Kaponga, Taranaki, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Hollard Gardens was established in 1927 by the then owners, Bernie and Rose Hollard. While the garden is now owned and managed by the Taranaki Regional Council, “Hollard Gardens is unique in the fact that it is an achievement of almost a lifetime of work by a private individual. It is a plantsman’s garden and a reflection of patience and horticultural skill.” (The History of Hollards)

“Bernie selected his plants based on personal appeal and whether they would fill gaps in his existing collections of species or varieties. The overall design of the garden considered not only the aesthetics, but whether a plant would thrive in its environment.” (The History of Hollards)

The gardens consist of several areas, including a woodland glade, avenues of lawn lined with different rhododendrons, hydrangeas and other flowering shrubs, and a kitchen garden.

It was the kitchen garden that made Hollard so memorable and special for me. It was one of several organic gardens I visited that have been designed according to permaculture principles, but the most accessible and informative.

That the garden is managed by the Regional Council demonstrates an official commitment to sustainable food production which I find refreshing and reassuring.

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge | a special spot

Also posted to Friday Flowers