A walk on the beach

Te Henga/Bethells Beach, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020

If I told you I encountered a major road-block when thinking about this post, you’d probably imagine some emotional or psychological barrier about which I’m going to unburden myself.

But actually, I missed a road sign announcing that Scenic Drive in Waitakere was closed to traffic, and found myself driving towards an actual blocked road. With the car behind me way too close for a safe U-turn, I ended up on Bethells Road, heading towards the beach.

Te Henga/Bethells Beach is one of four road-accessible beaches on Auckland’s (wild) west coast. Although it’s the closest to home, I seldom visit there, probably because the next closest — Muriwai — has the twin attractions of the gannet colony and a good fish and chip shop en route.

It’s school holidays here at the moment, but the beach was surprisingly quiet. Perhaps it was just too cold and overcast.

Although I saw a few people carrying surfboards, I didn’t see any actually in the water, and the surf life-saving tower wasn’t manned.

The closest anyone seemed to get was surf-casting.

I may have missed a road sign, but I did manage to notice lots of small treasures on the beach and in the surrounding bush.

Lens Artists Photo Challenge | A Photo Walk

Growing

A week of glorious sunshine has delivered lots of new growth and flowering in my garden. It’s especially exciting to see the plum blossom, but I think the bees are happiest amongst the borage flowers. You’ll have to take my word for that now — I was up too early to catch any in action.

This week’s Lens-Artists Challenge | Pick a Word offered Growing (amongst others). I thought I was done yesterday with Comfortable — but how could I resist flower photos.

And it’s Friday.

#fridayflowers

Comfortable

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Cats can make themselves comfortable anywhere, but sunshine and a fluffy rug don’t hurt. Image: Su Leslie

Children are pretty good at finding the adults they want to be around. When he was young, the boy-child would often make a beeline for a particular person and (sometimes literally) throw himself into their arms, ignoring everyone else present. Gotta say, he had great instincts.

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First meeting; the boy-child and his great aunt and uncle. Image: Leslie family archive

What makes you comfortable? A sunny afternoon at the beach?

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Image: Su Leslie

Sharing a drink with a friend at the end of the day?

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. — Jane Austen

I have no aspirations to luxury but I do like my home to feel comfortable.

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A comfortable place to work. Image: Su Leslie

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Recycled kimono sash cushion covers. Image: Su Leslie

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Knitted lap blanket for those afternoons snuggled in the armchair with a good book. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge | pick a word.  I chose comfortable

Portraits of the mundane

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

I started 2020 with, if not resolutions, then written intentions. One was to take more portraits — partly to improve my technical skills and partly to force me to engage with people more.

Oh well, there’s always next year for the people part. And in the meantime, I am using this week’s Lens-Artists’ Photo Challenge with its theme of everyday objects to make ‘portraits of the mundane.’

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