24 June 2009

Home again

Ok, so it's not Sydney. And, in fact, it wasn't the most fantastic day in the world either. But the tide rolls in and out, turning the beach to a mirror. And the sun rises and then sets, turning the clouds salmon. And even exercising the dog becomes an experience of beauty and joy (regular readers will notice that it's my house behind me--and mirrored in the sand in front of me--as I throw the ball for the dog). It's beautiful to be home.

23 June 2009

Loving Sydney

I’m trying to figure out why I love Sydney so much. I have loved this city since I first stepped foot in it four years ago, and this morning walking to this Subject-Object workshop I’m running, I found myself with the kind of silly smile I often have on my face when I’m here.

Some of it may be context. I’ve come to Sydney this time to take a certification programme (for the Leadership Circle 360 instrument) and to teach an Subject-Object Interview workshop. In both of these workshops, I get to hang out with smart and interesting people asking important questions about how do we help support people—others and ourselves—to grow. And specifically in the SOI workshops I have run here so often this past year, I get three days of totally interesting conversations about human sensemaking, and I learn and learn and learn.

So Sydney is a place I do not live but come to visit, it is a place where I spend my days in workshop rooms with interesting people doing work I love, and my evenings out to dinner with people I’m deepening relationships with, and my nights in quiet hotel rooms with only my own thoughts for company. I walk along the most beautiful waterfront, watch the rainbow-coloured parrots in the trees, and savour the best Thai Basil Tofu I’ve ever tasted. I am fully alive here.

I have been particularly cheerful this week. It has been hard being away from home this time, and the weather has been utter crap, raining constantly. I have worked too hard and slept too little. And still, my life feels so rich with possibilities that I can hardly believe it’s my life. I think I am noticing especially where I have come to since moving to New Zealand, and how fantastic it is not to be in the transitional space I’ve been in for so so long. I love the work I do in Sydney, I’m excited about the new connections and new practice field I’ve found this week, and I’m thrilled to be going home tonight to cuddle with my children, kiss my husband and pet my chickens.

14 June 2009

kapa haka video

Ok, here it is at last, a decent view of Aidan and Naomi, kapa haka-ing. This performance was to launch a book by a local Maori poet, and he read his poems in English, Maori, and accompanied by a variety of instruments he played. Magnificent. Sergio was surprised at all the passion and talent in the room.

12 June 2009

Chooks at the end of the rainbow

It was a dark and stormy afternoon. We had picked the children up at school, piled them with Sergio (our spectacular Spanish WWOOFer) in the back seat of the car. The children were scratchy; Michael was peckish. But the mission was at hand and not to be turned away from. It was chicken day at last.

Long-time readers will remember that I asked for chickens for my birthday last year and held out hope that they would be here when I arrived home from the European trip I took in May 2008. Alas, no chooks. Since then there have been hints and wishes and nags galore. No chooks. But as my birthday approached this year, Michael got a severe case of the guilts, and by 1 June 2009 there was a rough but nearly-finished chicken house. Then some back and forth with A and J’s neighbours who raise (and show) purebred chickens. We told them what we wanted—quiet chickens, good with children, good layers. They told us what we’d get: a Rhode Island Red, a blue Orpington, and a black Orpington.

On the way north, through the driving rain, I tried to figure out why I had wanted chickens so badly, why I had nagged and moaned about them for so long. At first, it was in the panic of the beginning of the recession, the Ocean Rd house not selling, the never-ending house renovation bills. I was wanting to conserve and save. We turn our kitchen scraps into nasty smelly compost; what if we could turn them into something seriously wonderful?? Rob brought us fresh eggs from the places where he was house sitting, and the idea was, er, hatched.

Many weekends ago this stopped being a cost-effective pursuit. How long will it take to save $500 on eggs? I’m guessing a long time. And so I was feeling silly when we pulled up to the old shed in TeHoro and ran through the rain to huddle with the owner, chickens stacked in cages all around us, many more strutting proudly at our feet.

The chicken keeper, E, was matter of fact about these creatures all around her. All those in cages were getting ready to go to another fancy poultry show on the weekend, and she had been working to clean and primp them for their moment in the limelight. Our chickens sat squished in a cage like the others, maybe twice as big as I had thought chickens were.

“What do we need to know about these guys?” we asked. “How, for example, do you feed them/pick them up/take care of them?”

“It’s all common sense,” she said (a theme she’d come back to rather frequently), and then she told us about mites and scales and lice (can you BELIEVE there are more ways for me to have to deal with LICE??? The deal was almost off right then). She told us to feed them protein (they love cheese and yogurt) and good quality food. She told us to paint their perches with kerosene to keep the nasties out. Never hold them by the wings. Fresh water every day. Common sense. Our minds were spinning.

And then I finally got up the nerve to hold the grey one. Ahh, she’s soft like velvet and gentle, making the rumbling noises that don’t sound anything like the way this city girl imagined chickens might sound. I held her close and scratched at her feathers (no lice though) and maybe started to fall in love with her. And then with the brown one. And then with the black one as they came out of the cage to be introduced.

This was no time to be sentimental, though. The chickens were shoved into cardboard boxes (seriously, it looked almost like a magic trick) and we carried them unceremoniously to the trunk/boot of the car. Once home, we walked to the new coop and opened the boxes and suddenly there they were—our new girls. These creatures are not the money-saving food-producers I once imagined (in fact, these girls are young and won’t lay eggs for months, much to the chagrin of Sergio, who is leaving at the end of July). But they are our pets now, and I am already shockingly attached to them. We went out to visit them in the dark and fretted over whether the perches were enough and if they liked celery (no and who knows).

We picked Paekakariki New Zealand, in part, because it is as different from our former life as we could ever imagine. Now our house by the sea (unimaginable) with my little writing cottage out the back (unimaginable) has three chickens: the brown one (Cocoa, named by Naomi), the grey one (Star, named by Aidan) and the black one—Joy. We have a house by the sea and a coop full of Joy. We have a dog at the end of the rainbow. It is a beautiful strange life here in the wintery June. Next time you’re around, Gentle Reader, stop by for some poached eggs and a cuddle in our menagerie.

06 June 2009

Scenes from a winter birthday

The cold snap continues. I sit in front of the fire swathed in merino, fleece, and occasionally cashmere. I work proposals at NZCER and with Keith, I plug away at my book (about which the publisher is asking) and play Pictionary with the kids. I work in my writing shed (but do not write there enough) and negotiate chores with the children. I am too busy, working too much, but loving it all the same. Note to self: it takes about 2.5 years in a new place to achieve the same kind of over-the-top busyness of the place I've left behind to get away from it. I bet in a US city, that time would be cut by 75%.

So no stories today but pictures from the Queen's Birthday (observed). Sunset and rainbows at the end of the day, cake and cupcake decorating, cake delivery at the party and me, after the party, overcome with delight about the present Melissa gave me (her band's CD--to check them out, click here) while wearing the fantastic scarf J and A gave me. Not a bad beginning to the last year of an era for me...