February – what a crazy month- #WBOYC

February is almost over – and its been such a busy month keeping the house clean and ready for potential buyers to view. 

This year I’m focusing on life through the lens of happiness – my #WOTY. I’m recording my monthly activities using  this mnemonic GREAT DREAM – 10 keys to building a life of  happiness and fulfilment. 

Giving           (Do kind things for others)

Our local SeniorNet committee is arranging some practical help sessions for anyone who needs support to complete the Census forms online.  I have been busy organising venues and people to assist. Apart from being helpful to others, it should be an interesting day. 

Relating        (Connect with people)

This month we joined a community meeting to share ideas for future access into our damaged roads following the extreme weather event we experienced in August 2022.  It was a volatile session at times as people vented their frustration, and yet, there was also a great sense of connection with and between so many people. Relating with others gives a sense of power in uniting together for a common cause. 

We decided on a day trip to Nelson to attend the home and garden show. We hoped to get inspiration and information for our new home. Whilst we were there, we met up with some of our old neighbors whom we hadn’t seen since our early parenting years. It was so good to have a chat about what they were doing, what their children were up to, and yes, even how many grandchildren we each have. How did those years go by so quickly? Such strong connections were formed as we struggled with the joys and tribulations of parenting. It felt good to share those happy memories together again.

Exercising    (Take care of your body)

I got plenty of exercise in the few days when we were dog-sitting our grand-dog  Flick. She is a very cute Jack Russell terrier. 

I took Flick for walks on the beach every day at low tide or brief walks around the garden if it was raining or the tide was too high. She refused to walk on the wet grass though. Precious pooch! Maybe I should dog- sit more often as it is an enjoyable way to exercise. She certainly made herself at home – and yes that is a laundry basket she chose for her bed one night.

Awareness    (Live life mindfully)

“There is a positive connection between art and mental health—artistic activities such as sculpting, painting, or drawing are known to lower stress levels and promote mental calmness. Creating art takes your mind off of your everyday life and provides a relaxing distraction.”  

And so ….  I continue to practice mindfulness through my daily drawing or sketching. I’m currently exploring neurographic art.

Trying Out     (Keep learning new things)

“There’s no age limit on the learning process, given good health. The theory side is straightforward and everyone learns how to draw using the same methods. It’s a new skill and you can learn it. You can progress and get better at drawing.“

I’ve been  trying to improve my skills at sketching body parts –  eyes, hands, mouths and ears. 

I’ve discovered this is quite a challenge so back to the Pinterest and YouTube tutorials I go. 

The only thing is I do get distracted and meander down many rabbit holes. My Pinterest boards are getting rather larger and even more diverse.

Direction       (Have goals to look forward to)

A goal for this month was to spot the comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF). 

I spent an enjoyable evening under the stars searching for this Comet. Discovered some time ago this is called the ‘Green Comet’ and is also known as the Neanderthal comet as it was first passing Eatth around 50,0000 years ago.  I didn’t find the comet but it was fun trying.   It’s now heading off in another direction and won’t be back for 55,000 years! That may be a tad too long to wait around. I’ll have to seek a new direction to look up to amongst the stars. 

Or maybe I’ll just stick with sunsets.

Resilience     (Find ways to bounce back)

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade – or so the saying goes. And it is so true.  

There are plenty of lemons, limes and lemonades ripening in our citrus orchard this month. We are enjoying the boost of extra Vitamin C in hot and cold drinks -and of course the limes go well in my gin and tonic. I hope that makes me more resilient (and happy)  too. 

Emotions      (Look for what’s good)

This month I have been looking for good ideas in house design, storage options and furnishings.  There are many things to consider when planning and preparing to move house. I have felt both confused and excited; and at times, quite frustrated. Will we build or should we buy?  So many choices. 

So many emotions as I let go the old and embrace the new.  Letting go of all those old redundant clothes in my wardrobe was indeed therapeutic. I’m looking forward to filling that walk-in wardrobe with some bright and colourful new clothes. Bright colours make me happy.

Looking for what is good is more positive and healthy than dwelling on the negatives.

Acceptance   (Be comfortable with who you are)

This month I have indulging in my love of reading even more often than normal.  As my kindle battery is giving up, I have to use the kindle app on my phone instead.  The only problem with that is that I keep getting updates on how much screen time’ I have each day (and night). It almost makes me feel guilty and yet, then I remember how reading is such an important and valuable pastime.

Meaning        (Be part of something bigger)

Quiz night at the local tavern again: 

I always look forward to being part of the friendly banter within and between the teams. We have a lot of fun, and twice now we have nearly won.  Second prize (out of 4 teams) isn’t too bad for us.  Its better than being fourth! Whilst it may not really be being part of something bigger, it is a highly social evening, and I get a night off cooking. We are eternally optimistic that we will win, our team name is The Optimists! 

The tourists:

They come for coffee – or so we thought……. A very good friend of ours from our tourism business days brought his clients to visit us for coffee.  They wandered the beach, they went swimming, they ate lunch, and some did actually drink the coffee. I think the picture is self explanatory,  We had such a fun afternoon and wonderful conversations. 

Overall February was a big month – oh, and we got an offer on our house. Watch this space. 

It must be time for more GREAT DREAMS.

So here goes with my January #WBOYC 

In keeping with my #WOTY Happiness I thought I would try to record my monthly activities using  my happiness mnemonic/guidelines – GREAT DREAM

Giving           (Do kind things for others)

I am decluttering my cupboards in preparation for selling and downsizing.  Does gifting to people who have more need than I do for these items qualify as doing kind things for others? I just wish I could gift essential articles like bedding and clothing to those unfortunate people in Auckland who have been inundated with flood after flood this week. I will give useful items into the local charity shops instead.

Relating        (Connect with people) 

We had visitors for much of January. Firstly the family stayed for 10-14 days.  We had lots of fun and laughter, sharing bonfires, baking and bbqs. Happy times indeed. They left and the house was so quiet. 


The son of our old friends arrived to stay (with  his four kids) for a few days which morphed into 10 days!  That was an interesting  exercise in relating to 3 teenagers, a 10 year old and their solo father, all of whom were more involved in their digital devices than our great outdoors or even each other. 

Exercising    (Take care of your body) 

Swimming and walking at the beach. Eating lots of salads to balance out the sweet treats consumed over Christmas. House cleaning is exercise, isn’t it?

Awareness    (Live life mindfully) 

I am aware I would benefit by spending less time on my own digital devices,   I am mindful about how often I use my kindle for reading in preference to reading an actual book these days.  

I’ve read 6 books so far this month. Most are fiction – either historical or fantasy or a combination of my 2 favourite genres.  However, I also read ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. That was intriguing to learn about thoughts about his writing process. Maybe I should expand my reading horizons and check out his books.

I have started doodling/sketching again as a mindfulness exercise. Besides most of my art materials are already packed away so sketching is easier to manage.

Trying Out    ( Keep learning new things)

Quiz night at the local tavern: 

I usually do some online research in preparation for the fortnightly themed quiz on general knowledge, sport, history, geography, music, entertainment and the dreaded picture round. Our quizmaster compiles a couple of pages of seemingly non-related pictures which we then have to guess what they represent (once he has given us the subject). 

As he’s a total Star Wars nerd, there are  always some obscure Star Wars questions he manages to squeeze in too,  no matter what the theme is. This means that I feel obliged (not really as I’m a bit of a sci-fi fan myself) to watch some of these movies or at least google some Star Wars trivia. I’m a staunch believer of lifelong learning anyway. I’m  just not into math- based games like Sudoku. Ugh.

This month’s first quiz theme was Pop Culture. We scored well on the music round which was all about Elvis. What can I say, I was influenced by my mother who was a huge Elvis fan too.

Update: on the last day of January, our team got second in the quiz – bonus point. A great end to the quizzing month. And every day I learn something new.

Direction       (Have goals to look forward to)

Preparing the house and grounds for real estate photos and drone videos kept us very busy this month,  We had to wait for weeks to get the good weather combined with a high tide first.  As luck would have it, the best day finally arrived- and so did our visitors on the very same day.   That was a juggle with the real estate photographer in the house. I had to directour visitors to the nearby reserve where we all sat in the hot sun to keep out of range of the drone and the camera. All I really wanted to do was drool with camera envy (and keep the house sparkling clean and tidy for a couple of hours), not an easy task with 4 children around. 

At last the photos were done and we could relax until the very next day when we had a ‘house viewing’ booked in.Once again I had to do a clean and tidy up in a hurry before we ‘left the building’.

still, 2023 means a new direction for us and that means lots of goals to look forward to. 

Resilience     (Find ways to bounce back)

I must be exercising my resilience coping with visitors as well as juggling the provision of 3 meals with extra cleaning up each time there is a house viewing booked. 

Emotions       (Look for what’s good

It’s an emotional rollercoaster making such a life altering decision to move house after 30+ years. Looking forward means looking for the good opportunities and a different lifestyle. New hobbies to try, new friends to make and new  house decor to plan and design. This will be exciting and joyful

After I get over the initial sadness at leaving, I will focus on getting back to doing the things I really enjoy – the things that make me happy

Acceptance   (Be comfortable with who you are) 

It has taken sometime but I am comfortable with this big life decision. I have accepted that moving on and moving forward with new life adventures is both inevitable and exciting.

Meaning        (Be part of something bigger) 

3 things that make people most happy are doing things that you enjoy, feeling interested in and connected to others, and feeling like what you do matters.  This makes life meaningful. 

What does this mean for you?  What are your Great Dreams?

Maybe next month I can manage the deadlines a bit more punctually.

Written in response to  #WBOYC  January 2023

Bloganuary – 3rd week selection

Day 13: If you had a billion US dollars, how would you spend it?

Firstly, I would check the exchange rate.  Currently, that would give me half as much again in NZ currency. That is $157,000,000NZD. Hmm-probably this would be  enough to splash out on a few trips around the world, donate to a few worthy causes, clear the extended family’s mortgages, etcetera, etcetera……..

Seriously though, I don’t give too much thought to having  this huge amount of money . It’s either a pipe dream, or a nightmare in the making. 

Money isn’t likely to buy happiness   And that is my WOTY focus this year. 

Day 14: What is your preferred mode of travel?

Shanks pony “One’s feet or legs, regarded as a means of transport” – yeah nah,  not really  just give me a car or ute these days.  It carries my rubbish and my groceries though not at the same time.  The Ute also tows the caravan which offers a slower mode of travel to explore the beautiful country views. And that makes me happy. 

I used to enjoy horse riding but found it to be a bit too hazardous to my health after my horse bolted with me on too many occasions.  

I did some cycling  over my early years.  I got a brand-new bike when I was 11 years old and I was so proud of it. I cycled everywhere  – to school, and to the horse paddock each weekend. It was my only mode of travel until I got my driver’s licence in my early twenties. Then I drove everywhere instead.

I did a pro-drive course when I started a job that required extensive travel over rural roads.  I remember driving home from the course practicing all that I had learnt. Then  a few weeks later, I collided with a runaway cow on a dark night. My newly acquired skills kicked in and I almost avoided a head-on collision.  I hit the cow but I survived -alas the cow did not.

I fell off an e-bike and tore a  few rotator cuff tendons. Surgery followed by 6 weeks in a sling over summer cured me of that mode of travel.

Armchair travel is now my preferred mode of travel.

Day 15: What fear have you conquered?

My fear of falling from a great height. For much of my life, I had a fear of falling downstairs.  At one stage, it got so bad I would just freeze at the top of the stairs. Taking that first step was just too hard. I envisaged myself falling and landing in a crumpled heap at the bottom for days, waiting for someone to find me.

Until I did actually fall.  In the middle of winter, one morning when I was running to catch the bus, I slipped off that icy top step of our outside stairs. My life flashed before my eyes. That didn’t take long as I was only 18.  I landed in a crumpled heap, but I picked myself up, brushed off my embarrassment, and made it to the bus on time.

Since then I have even mastered escalators!

Day 17: Describe the happiest day of your life.

This should be easier than I am finding it so far. 

Happiness is my WOTY so why am I finding it hard to describe the happiest day of my life? 

I have had a long and fortunate life (so far) and I have had so many happy days to be grateful for. I guess there are  too many to count to specify any particular day. 

The day we got married nearly 52 years ago, the birth of each of my three sons, the challenges of study and a new career, my many memorable travel experiences over the last 20 years, the birth of each of our seven grandchildren, and now having more time in retirement to pursue new creative activities. These  have all brought me joy and happiness. 

I’m forever grateful that the happy days have far outnumbered the sad, stressful days. I am thankful for them too as without sadness how can happiness be known or appreciated?

Day 18. What’s your favorite meal to cook and/or eat?

Smoked salmon, asparagus and creamy mushrooms. It’s delicious, its easy to prepare, it’s healthy (mostly). And asparagus is a springtime seasonal treat and that is my favorite time of the year. 

Day 19: What color describes your personality and why?

Purple. I love purple although I can never quite explain why so I went searching for meanings. 

Some definitions:

The color purple has a variety of effects on the mind and body, including uplifting spirits, calming the mind and nerves, increasing nurturing tendencies and sensitivity, and encouraging imagination and creativity.“


Purple as a favorite color is said to represent an artistic and unique individual, who is often very intuitive and deeply interested in spirituality. Lovers of purple are said to be a good judge of character, and a visionary with a great need to participate in humanitarian issues.”

Well I’m not sure about the “deep interest in spirituality’ but I do try  to be creative and artistic in many different ways.  And perhaps, just maybe, I’m a good judge of character??  I’m definitely a unique individual. And I’m okay with that. 

Day 20: What irritates you about the home you live in?

Nothing much irritates me about my current home except perhaps our recent road closures,  and the ongoing  isolation.

We have had 30+ years living our lives here at the beach. We have a warm and comfortable home. The birds flit through the native bush and along the seashore. The spectacular sunsets are often followed by dark skies which display a multitudes of stars to sparkle and intrigue me.   Plenty of photo opportunities abound here. 

That’s why it has been such a hard decision to sell up and move into town. 

To be continued……….

#bloganuary #goals

Sunday Stills – Plunge into 2023- Wherever that leads.

Plunge  – Wherever that leads, let’s just do this. 

The first time I distinctly  remember taking a plunge is when after many attempts when my dad had tried to  teach me to dive without bellyflopping, the camera was at the ready even if I was not.  At the last minute I held my nose and jumped into the pool instead. OK, I was only 10 years old. 

A few years later, I plunged headlong into a gorse bush when the horse I was riding refused to jump and I flew over his head and landed in the prickly gorse. “Enough”  I said as I pulled the gorse prickles out of my tender bottom. No more plunges for me! 

Except there are many times since then I have taken the plunge. 

Marriage – was definitely a plunge into the unknown. 52 years later and that plunge was indeed a worthwhile endeavour. 

Motherhood – another plunge, a lifelong commitment  and now it continues into the delights of grand-parenting. 

I plunged into a new career direction. Now that was an amazing  experience that took me on so many adventures. 

Whilst I have tried to make positive decisions about where I would take the next plunge into the great unknown, I have since discovered that sometimes the best thing to do is just hold your nose and jump into that pool.  

I wonder what plunges I will take in 2023. Whatever happens,  I will just do this again and again. 

Life is like that. Life is for living. Every single day.

WQ #1 Resolutions, Goals and Word of the Year

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, “It will be happier.” The best way to predict the future is to create it. There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting.” 

– Unknown

I used this quote for Sunday Stills Year in Review, and then it just came to me in a flash of inspiration.

Happiness just has to be my WOTY in 2023. 

It’s not that I am unhappy. It’s just that I wish to be more intentional in recognizing and showing gratitude for the gift of happiness in my life.

Being aware of one’s values helps people live authentically, which ultimately leads to sustainable happiness.—

Colleen Reilly, Forbes, 20 Dec. 2022

At Christmas time, the song I kept humming along with was “all I want for Christmas…… is for people everywhere to seek joy and happiness in their lives. 

Forget about the conspiracy theories. Stop scrolling through and down those social media rabbit holes – and find something positive and creative  to do with the time and energy you save yourself.

Some definitions…….


aa state of well-being and contentment 

ba pleasurable or satisfying experience

Capturing these Fairy Terns was both pleasurable and satisfying

3 things that make people most happy are:

1.PLEASURE -doing things that you enjoy

2 ENGAGEMENT – feeling interested in your activities and connected to others

3 MEANING – feeling like what you do matters

And so I will take much pleasure in engaging and finding meaning in everything I do this year.


10 Keys that tend to make life happier and more fulfilling:

Giving           Do kind things for others

Relating        Connect with people

Exercising    Take care of your body

Awareness    Live life mindfully

Trying Out     Keep learning new things

Direction       Have goals to look forward to

Resilience     Find ways to bounce back

Emotions       Look for what’s good

Acceptance   Be comfortable with who you are

Meaning        Be part of something bigger

Together they spell GREAT DREAM

Courtesy of https://actionforhappiness.org

What are some other words for happy?

  • pleased.
  • delighted.
  • satisfied.
  • glad.
  • thankful.
  • thrilled.
  • joyful.
  • joyous

I think I will have plenty of choice for future goals and actions going forward.  

And just to leave you with an ear worm -have a listen to these lyrics.

Don’t Worry Be Happy

Song by Bobby McFerrin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWXUWepSak4

Some of the lyrics….

“Here’s a little song I wrote

You might want to sing it note for note

Don’t worry, be happy

In every life we have some trouble

But when you worry, you make it double

Don’t worry, be happy

Don’t worry, be happy now

Don’t worry (Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh) Be happy (Ooh-ooh-ooh) 

Don’t worry, be happy (Ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh) 

Don’t worry (Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh) Be happy (Ooh-ooh-ooh)

Don’t worry, be happy”

We can always find something to worry about. Don’t worry. Be happy.

And here they are- My goals, my WOTY, and my resolution – all wrapped up together.

2022 – What a Year that was!

“Instead of finishing the year strong, why don’t we finish the year soft? why don’t we finish the year restful and grateful for making it through yet another crazy cycle on earth?”


So 2022 was a hard year. To ease the stresses of storms, road closures and health issues, I decided to create a space for art in my life. 


I struggled with my phojo most of the year – well after our 7 weeks caravanning around the South Island.  We travelled from January to early March and ticked off some bucket list items. 

From a visit to Rakiura/Stewart Island to exploring amazing seascapes in the Caitlins, and the majestic waterfalls of the Milford Sound ,we loved it all. Here is a sample of the places I photographed.

Visiting family and friends as we road- tripped around was so good. 

There is always a great selection of birdlife in the bush or on the beach.

April and May were calm and  the weather was relatively settled. I managed to photograph the alignment of the planets in May.  And I was very excited to capture the total lunar eclipse photos in November.

Then winter set in.  June, July, August were wet, wet, wet, and cold, cold, cold.

Little did we realize that the winter months were going to be such a challenge. A very wet winter culminated in a particularly ferocious ‘atmospheric river’ in August. 

“Atmospheric rivers are massive plumes of moisture that move from the tropics to the mid-latitudes. Weather experts describe this week’s atmospheric river as an exceptional winter event, long lasting, with a very anomalously large moisture content.”

“The weather event has involved more than 300mm of rain falling across the top of the South Island in 24 hours.”

Our roads were closed, there was no public access  and very little communication from the local council. 

We did receive some urgent medications from the emergency services although some urgent dental appointments required a scary trip out over  the ravaged roads which were still being repaired after the 2021 storm event. This was much, much worse.

When we had an urgent trip to Nelson for emergency dentist appointments,  I found a different beach to photograph  Even this beach also shows the erosion caused by the recent stormy  weather.  Building driftwood huts is an ongoing activity around here.

There was severe damage to many properties but the roads had born the brunt of the damage.  We had no power, internet or phone access for five days.  We could only get our water from one garden tap that didn’t rely on power to run the pump.  Thankfully, we could also still flush the toilet!

Our food was rapidly thawing in our powerless freezers so we cooked either on our little gas canister cooker or on the bbq. Romantic candlelight dinners for two became our daily routine. 

In hindsight, this was to be life-changing for us.

Creative activities:

June/July – ICAD 61/61 (index card a day artwork)

Participated in and completed Inktober 2022

December doodling got off to a colourful start but my mojo fizzled. 

Instead, I took some time out to create a costume for the Sci Fi quiz theme at the local Tavern. What to wear??  I decided the answer had to be 42:  Life, the universe and everything. I made a lighted galaxy skirt, a universe headband, and a DON’T PANIC aka The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was a fun night  although our team didn’t win. The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster was strong yet delicious.

I am not sure why I love dressing up as various characters but once every month or two our local tavern hosts a themed quiz night. Over this year I have been the Scarlet Witch, a Mexican dancer and the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything – #42

Also in December, we loved attending our granddaughters’ dance show The Wizard of Oz. They both performed brilliantly. They were dancing jazz and hip hop. The whole academy of dance was full of variety and all were  such a joy to watch. The tap dancing, the Irish jigs, the hip hop and the jazz all told the classic story of Dorothy and friends. 

Our eldest granddaughter finished primary school. It was wonderful to attend her Leavers Assembly and watch her so confidently perform the actions to  the school Pride song.  We are very proud of her. She is such a great all- round achiever. Hard to imagine she is off to college next year.

Books read: Total books year to date – 83.

Reviewing my book reading lists, I have realised that I have had a particular leaning towards scifi, fantasy, crime thrillers and time travel. Some books I have read this year have included many of these themes in the storylines. . A great form of escapism for me. 

Life Events:

November and December 2022 were busy and anxious months.  

Preoccupied with a concerning health issue – X-rays, ultrasound and punch biopsy. a nervous waiting time for results…..  At last came the good news – no cancer cells detected. Now just a bit more waiting for that surgical review. At least my stress levels have lessened (for now).

At last I felt that I could plan and prepare for Christmas.  

Our road is still closed to public use and for ’residents and essesntial services only’ but we were expecting our ‘non- resident’ families to arrive en masse anyway. They are ‘essential services’ to us as they arrived to spend a Christmas summer here. 

We are practicing just a little bit of civil disobedience as we are so frustrated by the council’s uncommunicative attitude to supporting those of us still in limbo since the August storm.  

After months of waiting for safe access, it only took three weeks for the trucks and bulldozers to clear the muddy slips and do a little bit of patching up. The road is at least driveable now.

In true bureaucratic form, next year….  they will do a ‘scoping’ strategic review BEFORE they do any real planning or scheduling to actually fix the roads. This could take years even though they have prioritized and fixed most of the rest of the 600+ kilometers of damaged roads in other areas.

It’s been depressing and frustrating. We want to enjoy our lives again without worrying every time it rains. We don’t have that many years left and our mental health is already suffering, so… 

We have made the hard decision to sell up and move into town.

The signs are up. It’s official – the house is on the market. Now to see how quickly it sells. Falling house prices and rising interest rates do not bode well but we have to hope the sunshine weather will bring out the interested buyers. 

In the meantime, we are enjoying a hot summer – and our visiting families. 2 awesome sons, 2 great daughter -in- laws and 5 amazing grandchildren – oh and the 3 grand-dogs.  It’s such a pity that our third son is unable to visit from Sweden. 

We have  been  swimming, boating, fishing, making a driftwood reindeer, moon photography, gardening and games – lots of games. Cards, corn hole, board games, bbqs, and maybe some wine times. And  we partied the rest of the year away with a bonfire, fireworks  and roasted marshmallows.

And so we say farewell to a challenging  2022.

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. 

Bill Vaughan

Me? I just wanted to party with my family with a beach bonfire (did I already mention the marshmallows? It was indeed a ‘soft’ ending to a fraught and heavy year. 

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, “It will be happier.” The best way to predict the future is to create it. There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting”

Let us hope that 2023 brings exciting adventures, peace, happiness, love and laughter to ever

WQW #39 Air: Wind, Storms – the winds of change

It’s useful to have storms in our lives every so often as a reminder to start something new

– Unknown

Over the last two winters,  we have endured floods and storms which have resulted in long term road closures. Not only were we locked down with the COVID pandemic, but the damaged roads locked us in as well. 

Just as the July 2021 roadworks were almost completed, then came the August 2022 storm.

Marlborough Sounds has suffered huge damage across much of the rural roading network. 

Our road is once again closed to all traffic except essential services. Whilst we have an acknowledgment from the insurance company that our car will be covered should we have a mishap, it is still a hazardous trip out each week as we drive through for medical appointments, essential groceries and gas bottle refills.

Priority is being given to major transit links like the state highways and their alternative routes, and the three Fs (fishing, farming and forestry). Apparently the residents are less important than industry.  

There is no respite in sight as the local council have not yet decided how much of our road will actually been fixed and reopened. This is frustrating and disappointing to say the least. 

There is water access to some parts of the Sounds and there are some subsidies available for water taxis and barges but this is still a huge financial cost, and for us it is impractical. Our beach is too shallow for landing supplies via barge and it is very difficult if not impossible to wade ashore carrying 18kg gas bottles and groceries. So, we risk the broken closed roads instead.

No longer am I willing to negotiate driving this road at night so I am missing my fortnightly quiz nights at the local tavern, and any social occasions with friends and family. Life is a bit grim. 

We feel very isolated so it is time for a change. My motivation is sadly lacking just now but it is something I seriously need to grasp onto as we begin to make some life changing decisions. It has been a time for reflection and lots of introspection. Taking time to listen to the winds of change blowing insistently in our heads and hearts.

When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.

Chinese proverbs 
Bremen windmill

After 30 years we are reluctantly planning to sell our beautiful beachfront property and move into town whilst we are still fit and healthy enough to cope with all that entails. This has been, and still is a heart-wrenching decision for us. 

Life is too short to do anything that doesn’t light a fire inside of you. 

I’m just not yet sure if moving into urban life is going to light the fire? And yet, staying here is no longer lighting my fire either!

The first steps have begun. We have told the family. Our house is on the market.. It might take time to sell so hopefully we may get to enjoy our last summer of beach life.  And, we are looking at house plans with a view to building our new home. Individual preferences are already proving to be a challenge so there will be some stormy discussions ahead. 

 Life is about to get more interesting.  Watch this space!

Never lose hope. Storms make people stronger and never last forever. 

Roy T. Bennett

WQW #36 September Equinox- at last it is Springtime!

‘Is the spring coming?’ he said. “What is it like?…”

 ‘It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…’” — 

Frances Hodgson Burnett

“The astronomical spring equinox is a precise moment in time and this year it was at 1:03pm NZST, Friday September 23. So, according to astronomy, this is a naturally occurring event during which the centre of the sun appears to cross over the celestial equatorial line of the earth. In layman terms, one can say that an equinox occurs when the sun switches sides from one hemisphere of the earth to the other.”

To mark the occasion, Mother Nature choose to remind us of her forceful personality. A 5.8 earthquake rumbled and shook central New Zealand, centred in the northeast of Marlborough Sounds, about 51 km deep in the  Cook Strait, .  Fortuitously, there appears to be no further damage to the cracked roads. 

Enough is enough, I say!  Over August and into September, we have had more than our share of rain resulting in floods, slips and slumps which resulted in further road damage even more significantly damaging than last year’s July weather event. 

Road closures are still a major issue as we struggle to access medical care and essential supplies by risking the drive through the fractured roads.  Whilst there is no light at the end of this particular road ’tunnel’,  thankfully, there are spring flowers blooming amidst the raindrops.

At last it is our turn to enjoy the warmth of the spring weather.  Let’s hope it’s a good one and that the damaged roads will be repaired as the earth dries out. 

The raspberry canes are growing leaves,  the freesias are flowering. 

The fruit trees are blossoming. The Tui are sipping the nectar from the kowhai flowers.

Spring has sprung at last. Hope springs eternal.

WQW #31- Earth: Just add Water and Rocks

“ How wild it was, to let it be”.  – Cheryl Strayed

We have had it all this week. Earth, rocks and mountains of mud and floods.

It’s been a horrendous week of wild weather as an ‘atmospheric river’ hammered Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast. Floods and excess rainfall have caused earth and road subsidence in Nelson, Marlborough and everywhere in between. 

Mountains of mud and rocks came crashing down the rivers and hillsides, taking houses and roads along in their path,  causing huge landslides and yet more damaged roads throughout the top of the South Island of New Zealand, where I live.

Many small communities are isolated. Once again our road is closed for the foreseeable future. The two state highways between Nelson are Blenheim are closed as are many local roads. 

This has meant postponing an urgent dental appointment in Nelson so that will now mean a 4-5 hour road trip to get emergency dental care but not for two more weeks. Fortunately a Civil Defence emergency driver got through to deliver some much needed antibiotics to keep his painful abscess under control for a while.

Muddy waters have washed down from the forested hills and created havoc on our beach.

I needed to boil water on a little gas cooker, cook our meals on the bbq in the rain, cope with a freezer of rapidly thawing food, and try very hard to remain positive. 

Five days without power, phone or internet coverage has been trying my patience ( to put it mildly.) It’s been very isolating.

The helicopters fly overhead regularly. They are trying to restore power lines, deliver medications and essential supplies, and evacuating those that need medical care.

There is nothing we could do about the weather or the power or the road, so I decided to look for the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives. 

“If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song” – Carl Perkins

Well our stream was certainly singing loud and strong for five days and nights plus.  The beach is alive with foraging seabirds feasting on the multitude of shellfish cast ashore or drowned in mud. A Falcon rested in the tree directly in front of my window. Photo opportunity – yes! 

It made me reflect more about appreciating the natural beauty whilst accepting the hazards of living surrounded by hills, mountains and oceans. 

Okay – my rant is over – I have found some peace in revisiting my archived mountain scenes.

Our peace shall stand as firm as rocky mountains– “William Shakespeare

WQW # 23: Winter Solstice/Winter Stars

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me want to dream.”

– Vincent Van Gogh

Here in the middle of our New Zealand/Aotearoa winter, we have just lived through our shortest day/longest night. So instead of summer we celebrated Winter Solstice. for us, summer is a distant memory.

From late May and into the month of June, there were some exciting celestial events to gaze upon.

Firstly, there was the alignment of four Planets at the end of May.

“For those observing from the Southern Hemisphere, the ecliptic, or path of the planets, cuts sharply down toward the horizon. This more vertical alignment means that Mars will approach Jupiter from almost directly above. Around May 29, Mars slips just to the right of Jupiter and on May 30 the two are side by side. Following this date, Mars will continue in a beeline down toward the horizon”.

I am fascinated by celestial events so I went out under the starry sky in the early pre-sunrise hours with my new tripod, and my 14 year old grandson. His younger eyes were most helpful when focusing on the faraway planets. On the morning of May 30, bright Jupiter was immediately left of red Mars. Venus shone below them, and Saturn was above them. By the time Venus arose, we lost Mars in the coming light of the pre-dawn sky.

This is what they were supposed to look like.     And this is what we got.

If you like the idea of capturing planets and star clusters there are still more opportunities in the June sky.  

The strawberry SuperMoon was supposed to be visible on 14th June. Instead we had over 21,500 lightning strikes, thunderstorms and copious rainfall amidst gale force winds over several days and nights. No night sky photography for me that week. I still held out hope for the rest of the month of June though.

“From June 19-27 the planets will work toward alignment that results in a row of lights across the northeastern horizon. Expect Mercury to dip the lowest in the east, and Saturn will show the highest. While Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn should all be visible with the naked eye, a telescope—potentially, binoculars could do the trick—should also let you see Uranus a touch higher than Venus. If you’re super fortunate with a quality telescope, you may be able to catch a glimpse of Neptune, too.”

Towards the end of June, all the planets along with the moon and a waning crescent will be in alignment on the morning of June 24. The moon will then move out of alignment and continue orbiting around the earth for a few days.” 

This is all I could find in the early pre-dawn hazy sky. I was almost cured of my ridiculous obsession with photographing the night sky in the freezing early pre-dawn morning.

“Metaphor for the night sky: a trillion asterisks and no explanations.”

– Robert Breault

Secondly,  the Matariki Star Cluster (Pleiades) is rising.

Manawatia a Matariki – Happy Matariki 

This weekend, New Zealanders enjoyed the first public holiday to celebrate  Matariki – the Maori New Year. As the Matariki star cluster arises in the Southeastern skies so does the new moon. 

In Maori  culture, Matariki is both the name of the Pleiades star cluster and of the celebration of its first rising in late June or early July. This marks the beginning of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar. Matariki was made an official public holiday in New Zealand in April 2022, with the first celebration on 24 June of that year. 

Matariki is an occasion to mourn the deceased, celebrate the present, and prepare the ground for the coming year. The ceremony had three parts: viewing the stars, remembering the deceased, and making an offering of food to the stars.

This three day long weekend, we have experienced the joy of having 5 grandchildren, two of our sons and their wives, and 3 grand-dogs, to celebrate being together for the first time in such a long while. Walks on the beach during the day and building a bonfire by night (in the gentle rain) and roasting marshmallows. 

The young cousins loved spending time together. We had a mid-winter feast and several new board and card games to play.  There was some healthy competition, and hugs….lots of hugs! Great memory-making.

We had rainwater, gentle winds, a calm ocean, good food from the land and the sea, walks on the beach. Our wellbeing and health was well and truly nurtured. We remembered our dearly departed family members, sharing special memories together.

The Pleiades (Matariki) is visible for most of the year in the Southern Hemisphere (ergo New Zealand), except for approximately a month in the middle of the Southen Hemisphere, Winter solstice.

The Pleiades is also known as The Seven Sisters. The nine brightest stars of the Pleiades are named for the Seven Sisters of Greek Mythology: Sterope,Merope, Electra,Maia, Taygeta, Celaeno and Alycyone, along with their parents Atlas and Pleione.

Matariki AlcyoneFemale Well-being and health 
Tupu-ā-rangi AtlasMale Food that comes from above 
Tupu-ā-nuku PleioneFemale Food that grows in the soil 
Ururangi MeropeMale The winds 
Waipunā-ā-rangi ElectraFemale Rainwater 
Hiwa-i-te-rangi CelaenoFemale Growth and prosperity 
Waitī MaiaFemale Fresh water 
Waitā TaygetaMale The ocean 
Pōhutukawa SteropeFemale The deceased 

Thirdly, and coincidentally, I have just started reading Seven Sisters by Lucinda Reilly.  

The strong female characters in each of these books are based on the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades. I look forward to reading the series.

All this I discovered by following my fascination with the stars. Like the planets, my interests are also in alignment.

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.” – Stephen Hawking