Friday, July 30, 2010

NZ Poetry Day - As one does


We tramped the shadows
out of Sunday
at Lake Mahinerangi
found a late sun
dazzling sheep and puddles,
three translucent children
skimming schist
across the afternoon.


For more poems celebrating New Zealand's National Poetry Day,
please visit the Tuesday Poem hub and follow the links in the side bar.

* * *

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tuesday Poem on Monday - Where she comes from

Heaven has a lime-green sky - acrylic painting by Alisaundre van Ammers 1992

for Ali, aged seven

Where she comes from
Heaven has a lime-green sky.
Angels are hip, dressed
in up-to-the-minute fashion.
They exchange earrings
and bobby pins and fancy
braided belts. Trousers are
out - and sensible shoes,
of course - these musicians
are all ribbons and silk, soft
satin slippers and flight:
when they come down
to ground, they want
the feel of grass and soil,
of mud squelching between
their toes.

Where she comes from
there is always the possibility
of a dance around
the next corner.


When she was seven years old, my daughter Alisaundre embarked on a magnificent painting of angels and their musical instruments... When she came to rendering the sky, she chose a brilliant lime-green. Her teacher at the time hauled the painting away from her as soon as she had finished and held it up in front of the class. "Ali's painting was looking good until she ruined it by making the sky lime-green,' she said. She instructed Ali to start over. (Ali gave me a word-by-word account after the event.)

I was completely outraged, of course, ready to roll up my sleeves and take her teacher on... but Ali insisted she didn't want me to intervene and would handle the situation herself. She went back to class the next day and began again... And when she came to paint the sky, she once again mixed up a range of brightest lime-greens. The teacher loomed over her desk and tried to meddle in Ali's process. But Ali stood her ground, held firm to her brushes and spoke her mind. "Excuse me, Ms. McIntosh," she said, "how do you know heaven doesn't have a lime-green sky?"



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Sunday, July 25, 2010

We and many other animals

". . . We and many other animals sleep and wake in cycles that repeat every twenty-four hours. Some ocean protists, dinomastigotes, luminesce when dusk comes, ceasing two hours later. So hooked are they into the cosmic rhythm of Earth that even back in the laboratory, away from the sea, they know the sun has set. Many similar examples abound because living matter is not an island but part of the cosmic matter around it, dancing to the beat of the universe.

Life is a material phenomenon so finely tuned and nuanced to its cosmic domicile that the relatively minor shift of angle and temperature change as the tilted Earth moves in its course around the sun is enough to alter life’s mood, to bring on or silence the song of bird, bullfrog, cricket and circada. But the steady background beat of Earth turning and orbiting in its cosmic environment provides more than a metronome for daily and seasonal lives. Larger rhythms, more difficult to discern, can also be heard. . . "

from What is Life?
Lynn Margulis & Dorion Sagan
Pg. 240 & 241


Speaking of rhythms, I'm stepping outside my usual ones tomorrow and flying up to Wellington to celebrate my daughter's 25th birthday. . . Joy! I'll stay up there for a week and hope there may be an opportunity to meet one or two of our fellow bloggers (Mary? Tim?) while I'm pottering about in their city.

Alisaundre was all curiosity, knowing and dark, smoky blue eyes when she was born. It's incredible to me that she's turning twenty-five; so much life lived and so much yet to unfold... I was her age when she was born! On Tuesday I'll post a photograph and a poem I wrote for her when she was seven years old and "heaven had a lime-green sky."


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Unlikely Pair

Candlelight & kelp

"The swaying and winding of kelp in the ocean currents has an entrancing, hypnotic quality that would be the envy of the most skilled Raq Sharqi dancer. Kelp seem like the ultimate Taoists, attaching to a rock with a holdfast and simply going with the flow. Most fascinating of all are the kelp forests where each species seems to be dancing to its own choreography..."

Enjoy more about kelp at Biology online

F is for Flammable

You cannot put a Fire out -
A Thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a Fan -
Upon the slowest Night -

You cannot fold a Flood -
And put it in a Drawer -
Because the Winds would find it out
And tell your Cedar Floor

Emily Dickinson

Friday, July 23, 2010

Full Circle

If anyone out there knows someone who might be interested in taking over custodianship of a characterful old mud-brick house in the historic mining town of Naseby, Central Otago, New Zealand, I would appreciate hearing from you.

My email address is

Built in 1862, The Apothecary is thought to be the oldest double-storey mudbrick building still standing in the Southern Hemisphere. The house has led an interesting life; it has been a draper's store and stationery supply shop and was the chemist during early gold-rush days. It sleeps eight + comfortably.

The quiet, enclosed courtyard is a wind-free sun-trap.

Situated in Naseby's historic precinct, The Apothecary stands opposite the district museum, the original old watchmaker's shop and the Ancient Briton Hotel. Naseby and the surrounding Maniototo region are wonderful for mountain biking and walking. Bikes can be rented from the town's two hotels (just two mins walk away from the house) and there are good places to eat within a stone's throw of the front door. Naseby is a peaceful, family-oriented town with bucket-loads of character and history. Visitors to the town will enjoy ice skating or curling at the International rink in Channel Road. There's also a luge, great swimming hole, a water chase you can walk along for miles and a beautifully treed communal park area which is perfect for picnics, gatherings and other community-based events.

High skies over the Maniototo


Many of you will know that I had big dreams for this place; I have long wished to turn it into a creative retreat - a meeting house for intercontinental and interdisciplinary collaboration, a community that would come alive and thrive on a 'currency of exchange'. I would still love this to happen, but many of the things I once considered dependable and 'for the long-term' are crashing to the ground. Very little seems to be holding its familiar form.

Life has a habit of taking us by surprise, doesn't it? Never more so than now. From where I stand today - here, now - it seems to me that this particular dream wants to manifest in some other way and shape. The message I'm getting is that the time has come for me to let the old mud mansion go and to be prepared to walk instead down some other path. It's a pretty special place and I trust it to draw someone excellent to it.

PS. A small miracle

Within seconds of posting this, a rainbow flared over the harbour in front of my Dunedin home. I'm going to receive this as a sign of affirmation and promise.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Paul Lisicky's "The White Deer"

Earlier today, in amongst the scritch-scratch of lists, the stacks of corrugated cardboard and various other piles of 'stuff' I had to work through, I popped over to Paul Lisicky's blog to read his latest entry, The White Deer.

My response to this spare, contemplative piece was full, raw, visceral. I felt things align and re-align inside me. I was so moved by his story that I found myself returning to his site several times during the day to re-read it. Two paragraphs in, a priest pronounces - "The closer we get to someone, the more we must stand humbly before his freedom... " and in that moment, Paul's "every molecule" is "turned to him. . . What on earth could such a thing mean?"

The White Deer has something wild and graced and luminous about it. I urge you to read it.

Not a white deer, but a light in the darkness, no less. . .

This exquisite fragile sculpture is one of Christina Bryer's porcelain forams, made for our 2008 season in Explorers Cove. Shawn Harper took this photograph of her shard-like piece lingering on the underbelly of the Explorers Cove sea ice.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Poem - Coaxing a bridge out of the sands of a desert

Consider the body, loud with sound
yet it must wait in silence. Explain
the mind so dense with words
it would mouth the alphabet into the lap
of a listening hand. Observe the heart alive
with language, yet without a single adjective
or verb to be found; no joining words, no
clever nouns lining up for the taking.

Notice the ear resting, as it does
on an outer edge, leaning against the dark
in a place older than speech. Listen. Hear
those swarms of echoes rising? They climb
the walls, pound the air. Imagine. 
All that sound
and not a word out of it.


Return - Pastel & charcoal on paper - CB 2009

Over the weekend, I was thinking ahead to today's TP and got this poem typed up and ready to go. Then I found myself dithering, so I changed my mind and posted Rilke's Live the Question instead. And then I dithered some more. I've been like this lately - dithery. It's disconcerting. Indecisiveness tends not to be part of my usual modus operandi, but then again, neither is the deeply creeping fatigue that's been an unwelcome but insistent companion these past however many weeks. Words - both written and spoken - have been taking on peculiar shapes. They've looked strange on the page and sounded odd on the tongue. Sometimes ordinary language seems intent on eluding me altogether.

Anyway, when I woke in the wee hours this morning, I reached for my lapdog and started reading the first few Tuesday Poems that had been posted, beginning with T. Clear's chosen poem at the TP hub - The Shape of Words (desert love poem) by Odawni AJ Palmer. Each week's set of Tuesday poems seems to demonstrate an overarching pattern or unspoken understanding, suggesting our wider preoccupations are in synch. I find the way this expresses 'community' inspiring and comforting. Connections are made. Poems become bridges or stepping stones tossed into the oceans between North and South, East and West. Spontaneous conversations rise up. In light of all this, I've decided to keep Rilke for another time and to post Coaxing a bridge out of the sands of a desert as originally intended. (Whew, I eventually got there!)

Click here for more Tuesday poems

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sound Maps

If you would like to tune into World Listening Day's Aural Snapshot, click on the following link -

According to coordinator Udo Noll's latest update (an email received at 22.05PM, NZ time) 7391 sounds with a total length of 12 days, 07 hours, 28 minutes, 19 seconds had been recorded in 5906 places.

W O W ! (Spoken in a whisper)

Oh so



This is the sound an Adelie makes when its radar's on the blink,
the sigh a tyre makes when it's been punctured by a nail,
the shush a woman utters when she's come a long way and there's still some distance to go
and all she wants to do is lay down her head, pack away her tools and sleep
and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep
and sleep. . .

Saturday, July 17, 2010

World Listening Day

Notice the ear resting, as it does, on an outer edge
leaning against the dark in a place older than speech.

from Not a word - CB

Photograph - Daniel van Ammers (my lovely son xo)


Last night I received word from a friend over in Australia re; World Listening Day. Anyone with a recorder and the means to upload a soundtrack is invited to participate in this global project...

The first World Listening Day happens tomorrow, Sunday July 18 2010. Its purpose is to celebrate the practice of listening as it relates to the world around us, environmental awareness, and acoustic ecology. July 18 was chosen as the date for World Listening Day because it's the birthday of the Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer. Schafer is one of the founders of the Acoustic Ecology movement. The World Soundscape Project, which he directed, was an important organization which inspired activity in this field, and his book Soundscape: The Tuning of the World helped to define many of the terms and background behind the acoustic ecology movement.

from the World Listening Project website...

". . . Radio aporee is an open project about the creation and exploration of public space. Its creator, Udo Noll asks you for help in creating an “audio snapshot of the world” as heard and recorded on World Listening Day. Aporee maps use the Google maps interface to allow anyone to easily find their location on the map, then upload their audio via the web or mobile phone.

We’re inviting you to send an audio recording from your actual location, or other places of your interest on this day to the maps:

With your contributions collected on World Listening Day, Udo will then create a dedicated project page on the aporee map. As Udo says, “…besides having a nice documentation, I’m really intrigued by the idea of listening to the sounds of a particular day, around the world…”

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tuesday Poem - Poem for a Dying Fish


for Rufus, Siamese fighter (Betta splendens)

He appears to have grazed his chin, is bleeding

a slow grace note. An errant fin of red

curls off him, turns the waving water plants

the colour of pale wet donkey. At his peak, his skin

was Doris plum; fins splayed, loose and billowing

scales polished to a gem-blue shimmer. Always

a slow-motion swimmer he is skimming now

just below the surface, an upside-down dancer

of dubious grace, tethering bubbles to the meniscus

of his hour glass flask.


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Threshold spaces

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Simple pleasures & harsh realities

I came across this light-hearted declaration in an unlikely place - behind the door in a gallery restroom in Hobart.

There's a lot to be said for simple pleasures. My own today have included watching the tuis at their sugar-water chalice, at attempt at turning a macrocarpa Lazy Susan (an arbitrary extra on an old-but-solid outdoor table picked up at a local auction on Wednesday) into a bird table; hanging linen on the line, sweeping the last of the fallen leaves into scuffable piles, keeping company with blackbirds and earthworms, baking a carrot cake.

And then... an email came in from Avaaz* with the following statement and an accompanying plea to sign a petition to stop execution by stoning in Iran -

"Yesterday a massive global outcry stopped an Iranian woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, from being stoned to death.

But Sakineh still faces execution, and today, fifteen more people await execution by stoning.

Sakineh's brave children's international campaign shows that worldwide condemnation works. Let's turn this family's desperate appeal into a movement that ends stoning for good - sign the petition and send to everyone:

To sign the petition against these atrocities, please click on this link

* Avaaz is an international civic organization that promotes activism on issues such as human rights, climate change and religious conflicts. Its stated mission is to "ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making."

Friday, July 09, 2010

There is a place

There is a place
between uphill
and down, on the edge
of dread and dance.

Don't be fooled.

There are many ways
to make things
and people appear
and disappear, truths
we cannot know
of the curious shape
of hills, the folding
yellow light.

There is, it seems
an uncertain time of day
when the sea is in the sky
and the moon can be heard
whispering in the belly
of the local stone.


Still Point II - Pastel on paper CB

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Thoughts on Silence

Tracking iii - Walking with White & Arvo Part - Gesso, ink & pencil on a ply crate lid - CB 2006

There's another conference coming up in October - in Launceston, Tasmania. Titled Sounding the Earth: Music, Language, Acoustic Ecology it's being orchestrated by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, Australia and New Zealand. I'm hoping to be able to contribute a paper and am in the early stages of putting together an outline with a friend over in Oz. Ideally, we'll end up with a collaborative, 'two-voice' presentation-come-sound installation. The subject of sound inevitably brings up questions around silence for me; the spaces between notes being every bit as important as the notes themselves. Arvo Part's glorious music epitomizes this principle.

I've jotted down thoughts on this subject over the years; it's been interesting to dig some of them up. . .

Silence suggests an experience of absence or aloneness, where it can in fact be one of presence and oneness.

Stillness and silence are dynamic. Each suggests a potent space - a way of being that resonates with energy.

Silence contains and emanates all the fullness of sound. Similarly, stillness is anything but static. Each reveals our connectedness with - and separation from - our selves, others, our environment. Each has the potential to expose memory, challenge reality and the imagined, highlight knowledge or ignorance of self and other.

Silence and stillness accompany us through life and death, teaching us patience, protecting innocence, advising discernment, encouraging autonomy whilst nourishing community.

There are times when silence can equate to cruelty. Omission. Crime?

Perhaps it all comes down to love and listening? If we truly listen - to, for, on behalf of and with - will we know better when to act and when to practice restraint? When to speak and when to hold our tongue? When to move forward and when to step back? When to pick something up and when to set something down? (Or someone?)

Tough calls. And always, we wrestle the ambiguities and intricacies of language.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject?

Hope for a More Peaceful World

6 July is a very special date. It is my oldest son Daniel's birthday. It is also my Mother Gill's birthday. And, too, Meryl Streep's, Nelson Mandela's, Johannes Gutenberg's, Pablo Neruda's, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and the venerable Dalai Lama. . .

Gentle strength and a steady gaze are just two of the many fine qualities these excellent people have in common.

Blessings all.

Link to YouTube
& His Holiness's website

I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice. -Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tuesday Poem - Give me thunder


Frankly, I'm fed up
with things abstract;
I cannot wrestle the invisible
and balancing on air

is no easy task; tripping
sees me falling
upwards or sideways
but never down.

Give me a beam
to bump my head on
a tree to climb, stones
on which to stub

my toes, blood I can see
and stop with neon plasters
from a cluttered kitchen
drawer. I've had enough

for now of words
and drawing images
out of words, enough
of untangling love

and need for love,
discerning the difference
in bottomless pools.
Give me white-ribbed cowries

an amber ball to roll
beneath my feet
down to sand
and salt water's edge.

And give me thunder. I want
thunder that rams through rocks
and rain that thuds into rivers
in large, hot drops.


Fierce was the billow, dark was the night (in process) Pastel on paper - CB

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