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.


  1. Claire, a poignant letting go of a special place. I join you in trusting that the Apothecary's purposes will hold firm. Perfect poem accompanying.

  2. I don't know anyone who might be able to avail themselves of such an excellent opportunity but there's sure to be someone out there who will.

    your poem is wonderful, so evocative and so true. It reminds me of an essay written by Drusilla Modjeska called Onnot Owning a Grace Cossington Smith, See:

    It's about the desire for ownership of something that cannot really be owned, but must be otherwise appreciated.


  3. I am happy for your sign, which I would trust in as well. And your poem...loss has been my companion, today especially; not loss in the moment but more an inventory (painful and not constructive, I imagine) of all that is no longer part of my life.

  4. someone once said" the trick isnot knowing when to take the photograph. it is knowing when not to take the photograph."
    Trust the process ( as I know you do). It is all working out perfectly....

  5. Dear Pen - I am grateful for the full circle of memories we have from our times in the old house. Her patina has been deepened by your love and sweat, that's for sure! Remember what she looked like before we rolled up our sleeves and told her it was time to 'sharpen up'?! We served her well, I think - and she, us. L, C x

  6. Dear Elisabeth - it is always a pleasure to find a message from you; both here and elsewhere in the blogosphere. I especially appreciated the comment (and quote) you left on Paul's White Deer post yesterday. And here now, a reference to Drusilla Modjeska's essay. I notice how often you refer to her and wonder if it's time I hunted out one - or some - of her books? If I were to choose one to start with, which would be the one you'd recommend? She is clearly someone whose work you deeply respect.

    Ah, yes... "the desire for ownership of something that cannot really be owned but must otherwise be appreciated"?

    I wonder whether this equates to love?

    (That posited, how impossible is it to 'define' love? It's so dynamic a continent/a condition... so vast, so mysterious, so intricate, so binding, so freeing... so..., so..., so... ). These days I reflect much on the paradoxical ideal (I'd like to believe it's more than an abstract potential) of full engagement and enriched, mutually empowering detachment. Do you think such a thing is possible? It would require great measures of love, respect, self-containment, acceptance, trust.

    Notions re; love and possession are pretty-much hard-wired into us humans. Speaking for myself, I understand it as being tied up with fears of abandonment. Even if we know we're supposed to be alone, our instinct to connect persists. We're born relational creatures and have to work with the challenges of relationship dynamics till the day we leave this lifetime. I don't imagine there's a single person out there for whom relationships are not a conundrum! (I love the way the dictionary def. for 'conundrum' applies humour to the riddle!)

    As usual, you have got me thinking! Thanks, Elisabeth. (And it's been a treat to read your post-UK musings... )

    L, C

  7. Dear Marylinn - you and I seem to be making our way along very similar paths. One has to marvel at the way certain themes (right down to their specifics) run parallel at times, no matter the circle, the brevity of encounter or hemisphere. It's comforting don't you find? Signs are definitely gifts, reminders we are not alone, indicators of hope, community and future.

    I wonder whether one of the hardest (and most crucial?) tasks we are faced with is letting go of the past. It's no small ask, either... on the one hand, we have to process the past in order to understand it and move beyond it, and yet staying there too long invests it with all the power of a trap. In light of these things, I've needed to question seriously the value of dwelling on (on = 'in"?) the past... and the place I've come to seems to be support 'not looking back... '

    The image of Sarah - beautiful Sarah who was married to Lot - comes spontaneously to mind as I write this... She was encouraged to keep looking forward, to not look back. She was told in plainest terms that if she looked back, she WOULD turn (or be turned) into a pillar of salt. Hmm. This image seems to speak directly to our pondering?

    Thank you for leading me down this interesting new track. There's plenty more to think about, but a new clarity, too, and I am most grateful for it. Like you, I've been reflecting a lot on the 'inventory of losses'; those things that are falling away and no longer have a place (= purpose?) in my present life. I do know that I do not want to end up as a pillar of salt, locked into a neither-here-nor-there state, eternally thirsty and with my head turned to those things that are best left behind me...

    Does this resonate with you, too?

    Thank you for handing me a torch, Marylinn.
    L, C

  8. Tony - how good to find you've been --- you who knows the Mud Mansion well, who has photographed her and kept an soft eye on her over the years. Thank you for your encouragements here... yes, I trust the process and all will work out 'just so' - nay, splendidly! The road might be bit pot-holed and bumpy right now, but there are certain views and experiences one can only have when one goes off the well-worn track, not so? You live according this principle; I have borne witness! Take care, fellow traveler. L, C

  9. Drusilla Modjeska's writing set me on my writing journey, when I first saw a copy of her book Poppy, the biography of her mother in the early 1990s in a bookstore here in Melbourne.

    Poppy was one of the first books I know of to combine the fictional and the biographical. Some people were angry about it at the time.

    In the frontispiece, Modjeska dedicates the book to her mother 'who died in 1984 and never kept a diary', while throughout the book Modjeska quotes at length from her mother's journals, all of which Modjeska herself wrote as if her mother had written them from her own knowledge of her mother and her imagination.

    In interviews with her daughter shortly before her death from cancer Modjeska's mother had refused to answer specific questions, telling her daughter that she needed to find the answers for herself, which Modjeska tried to do in the book, successfully I think.

    In Australia, Poppy has been highly esteemed as has Modjeska's other book The Orchard, which again combines the fictional with non-fiction to great effect.

    If you enjoy art and biography, then I recommend you dip into Stravinsky's Lunch, or better still read it from cover to cover. It too is mesmerising.

    And finally, the series of essays called Time Pieces, in which 'On Not Owning a Grace Cossington Smith' features, is magical.

    All books would be available via Amazon, I imagine.

    Modjeska to me is a superb writer. She grew up in England, spent several years in New Guinea, another of her passions and now lives, writes and teaches in Sydney Australia.

    Happy reading, Claire.

  10. Dear Mim - thank you for your good wishes. The old house is bound to have some say in all this... it may even announce quite different intentions!

    I'd dreamed dreams of candle-lit banquets under the stars in the back courtyard, creatives (such as yourself and others!) gathered around the table for conversation, food and collaborative exchange. This may yet happen... time will tell. The most important thing for me right now is to detach, to let it go. It's seems to me the only way things (and people?) can continue to live and breath and find their life. And I, mine...

    Love to you in Arlington.
    Claire x

  11. Ah, what a feast of rich pickings, Elisabeth - many thanks.

  12. Claire, well done - for taking this place so fully to heart, and for having the heart to release her (and to trust that the vision will be fullfilled - both in the apothecary's future, and in yours.) Px

  13. Dear Pam - we learn from our friends... You have taught me much about full-heartedness, both in the taking on and in the letting go. Thank you. L, C x