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.

MāoriGreekGenderProvenance
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

WQW #18: Travel/Transportation: Planes and Boats and Trains

Boats and Trains and planes  – such life- changing journeys and fun adventures I have had over the years.

“All the greatest adventures start with a boat trip”

My first major experience of adventurous transportation was on a troopship. The TSS Captain Cook II was an aging troopship which departed Wellington Harbour on Guy Fawkes Day, 5th November 1959 amidst a backdrop of fireworks displays and streamers.

I vividly remember the fireworks bursting over the harbour hills as we excitedly scrambled around the decks, holding the paper streamers that were the last tenuous link with the people left behind at the wharf. After the last streamer stretched and snapped, it was time to find our little berth which was to be our family home for the next three weeks as we slowly steamed our way across the Tasman Sea. 

Rough seas and violent seasickness are the most vivid memories I recall from those first seven days as the boat rocked and rolled across the Tasman Sea and up the West Coast of Australia to Freemantle, the port of Perth. Oh – and the ‘crossing the line’ ceremony was indeed a momentous event of onboard ship life.

We learned that the equator was an imaginary line not the big bump in the water we had been told to expect as we crossed over in the middle of the night.    We experienced the full ‘crossing the line’ ceremony which consisted of being hoisted onto a canvas chair perched above King Neptune’s pool filled with evil smelling foamy water, having green lather rubbed into our hair, made to drink foul tasting ‘poison’ and then being tipped backwards into the firewater pool was all part of the adventure.

Although I didn’t know to at the time, this was to be this troopship’s final  voyage. And yet, my travel and transportation adventures had barely just begun. 

Even the seasoned  traveller had a first flight”

My memorable first flights:

Aboard a DC6 plane flying back to New Zealand in three 7 hour flights meant airsickness, viewing beautiful coral islands and the night lights of Brisbane.

A spontaneous 4 seater plane trip to Christchurch with my friend, her pilot husband and our first babies. The pilot fence- hopped a couple of times and then landed in a field.

A Bristol freighter trip to Wellington with 3 young sons – 40,000 rivets flying in close formation.And that wind on arrival nearly blew us all away!

An impromptu single-engined plane trip from Nelson to Takaka when the mountain road was closed yet I still had workshops to do over the marble mountain. 

The  Metroliner  (nicknamed the flying pencil) on a cold frosty morning where the pilot had to use paper towels on the windscreen to see where he was going.

A float plane from Wellington to land on the water in the Marlborough Sounds where I live on the beach front.

And then came the big jets – and many long haul flights.  Endless departure lounges, empty flight gates and jet lag.


 “The train is a small world moving through a larger world.”

My train travel adventures started with my first job.  After a week of training in Invercargill, the southern most city in New Zealand, I boarded the steam-powered overnight train to return to Christchurch. Sitting in an unheated carriage all night with no pillow or blanket should have discouraged me from train travel forever, but it didn’t.   Since that early experience, there have been many train trips throughout Europe. 

Whether it be trying to sleep on an overnight train from Milan to Paris, where we shared a couchette with a Russian  fashion buyer and a Japanese Cirque de Soleil dancer, to being mugged on the express train to Charles de Gaulle airport, train travel is an adventure unto itself.

From standing in the dining/bar car on the Eurostar for the trip from Paris Gare du Nord  to London St Pancras under the English channel train, to our ‘walking’ from Milan to Venice!  Well, it took us almost the whole trip to find an empty carriage so we effectively walked the length of the train as it chugged to Venice. We had indeed ‘walked’ for the duration of the train trip.

In Switzerland we were nearly kicked off the panoramic train through the snowy Swiss alps to Interlaken -wrong tickets!  

In Sweden, father and son watched an All Blacks rugby match as the train trundled us to a beer festival. 

In Italy, we were returned to the railway station to catch the last train back  to Bergamo after yet another beer festival. (An occupational hazard when your son is a Swedish brewer) Thank goodness the train actually arrived as we had no clue as to where we were. 

From Munich to Verona, we took the slow train due to the scenic route being closed – a tad disappointing for us.  

The train from Frankfurt to Prague was almost uneventful in comparison although the train was stringently scrutinised by border control.

In Colorado, we loved the Durango to Silverton narrow gauge railroad so much we did the return trip too.

From the Kuranda Scenic train and Skyrail trip in Australia to the Hungerburg funicular cable car in Austria, and from  gondola rides in Queenstown to the London Eye, these unique methods of transportation have helped me to ‘feel the fear’ of heights and do it anyway. 

It’s hard to imagine I have had an irrational fear of falling down stairs for most of my life yet due to having to use various forms of travel transportation, I can now use escalators, gondolas and glass-floored elevators.  How far I have come in my transportation adventures from that first overnight steam train trip? 

“The mode of transportation you choose to travel on your life’s journey matters less than the wisdom of it’s driver.”

Written in response to WQW #18

Sunday Stills – Aqua Awesomeness

Out fishing in the aqua waters of the Marlborough Sounds this summer, I photographed these amazing sea creatures,  and became intrigued. They don’t look dangerous, they don’t look edible, they don’t even seem to be in charge of their own direction, and yet….. they are awesome.

Aqua awesomeness
Teal as in blue
Blue as in moon
Moon as in Jellyfish…..

Jellyfish drifting along in the aqua sea
Pulsating gently as they catch a ride in the tide.
No destination to decide.
They have no brains but,
it's amazing how long they have survived.

I became fascinated in the why’s and wherefore’s of Jellyfish so I googled – (as you do)

And found…… Jellyfish are the oldest multicellular creatures on earth, older than even the dinosaurs.

But wait, there’s more…… Some Jellyfish are also immortal.

“Turritopsis dohrnii, dubbed ‘the immortal jellyfish’ because on reaching maturity, it regenerates into its younger form, so appears to be immortal.” When this jellyfish gets old, or hurt, or even too hungry, it uses a process called ‘transdifferentiation’ to regenerate its old cells.

First, the jellyfish falls to the ocean floor, or coral reef. From there the adult medusa reverts back to its polyp form, regenerating the cells and creating brand new, youthful cells that are genetically identical to the old medusa. The immortal jellyfish can theoretically do this forever, that is, until it gets eaten by some other sea creature like a turtle, whale, or fish. Scientists think that, unhindered, the immortal jellyfish can keep on living forever, with no cap on the number of times it can regenerate.”

The immortality of jellyfish -who knew?

Now that would be a handy thing to be able to do!

The moon jellyfish is the most common in New Zealand. They also make awesome subjects to photograph whilst waiting for the fish to bite. I took some artistic licence when abstracting one of my photos to highlight their aqua awesomeness.

A group of jellyfish is called a SMACK – I’m thinking it should be a STING

ACROSS AQUA OCEAN AND RIVERS

Awesome aquatic adventures across the world’s oceans
Journeys from the river mouths to the sea.
Building bridges to span the waters
to keep us connected and free.

Every breaking wave reminds me
of seashores near and far
with the awesomeness of Aqua
those connections again will be.

WQW – 5 Senses: Tasting the memories

Aaah the taste of Bluff Oysters – the new season started 1 March, and at last my blog posts will restart this month. 

I have been MIA for most of February due to our extended summer road trip through areas with limited wifi reception.  I have focused – pardon the pun – on using my camera extensively rather than blogging. 

“Pull up a chair

TAKE A TASTE

Come join us.

Life is so endlessly DELICIOUS.”

Ruth Reichl

This quote is meant to be about food but let’s take it a step further. I have been tasting the delights of travelling around the stunning South Island, especially Central Otago, Fiordland and Southland. I’ve been chasing rivers and waterfalls, mountains and fiords, and the elusive Lady Aurora herself. The Aurora Australis remained elusive but the waterfalls were amazing.

Central Otago: 

Parked over alongside Lake Dunstan in Cromwell, the weather was stunning with very hot summer days  and  balmy evenings. Just right for enjoying happy hour, (G&T, beer, crackers and cheese)  with our neighbours in the campground. after a leisurely stroll along the lake. 

We also parked up beside the mighty Clutha River at Millers Flat, otherwise known as the ‘fruitlands’  where we tasted the famous Roxburgh apricots and had a tasty dinner at the old tavern across the historic bridge built in 1897.

I was thrilled to find an old hand painted aerial photo on the wall. My first job was using photo oils to hand paint photos just like these. A meaningful memory for me and a great overview of the Clutha River at Millers Flat.

Fiordland

We spent a few days relaxing in Manapouri before heading to Te Anau, to catch up with friends, and attempt to capture an image of Aurora Australis -I found just a bit of airglow at Manapouri.

We decided to take the coach tour to the Milford Sound, where we boarded the Milford Haven to cruise  through the Milford Sound towards the Tasman Sea. Although we had been there before, Milford Sound never ceases to amaze me within its spectacular mountains and magical waterfalls. 

If you never been inside a waterfall, this is the place to do just that. I got soaked, my camera got soaked – and it was magical. The water tasted pure and delicious on my tongue (surprisingly – my camera survived another wet adventure).

Entering the Tasman Sea

Southland:

Bluff is the southern- most harbour at the bottom of the South Island.   Bluff is also world famous for these delicious Bluff Oysters. 

Some say that Bluff oysters are the finest in the world. They are grown slowly in the cold clean waters of the Foveaux Strait. In season, (March till about August) they are dredged by Bluffs oyster fleet. Oystering first began commercially at Stewart Island in the 1860s.”

Bluff Oysters

Many years ago the North island company I worked for had a social club which organized a  weekly shipment of fresh Bluff Oysters to be flown in. I had a regular order for 5 dozen bluff oysters which arrived each Friday of the season.  All weekend we would eat oysters. We ate raw oysters, battered oysters, oysters wrapped in bacon   (Angels on horseback), and oysters baked in a creamy white sauce. The taste was divine every which way they were prepared. Another meaningful memory!

And in my world I did find the pearls. 

The Bluff Hill Lookout offered spectacular views across Fouveaux Strait  to Stewart Island/Rakiura, our next destination. 

We had decided on a day trip rather than struggle to find  expensive and scarce accommodation.  The weather was perfect for the one hour catamaran crossing of Foveaux Strait, notorious for its usually wild weather.  

We  scheduled an island bus tour in the morning and a boat ride with guided bush walk on  Ulva Island, a wildlife sanctuary, in the afternoon. These kept us busy. No time for tasting any food at  all but we drank in the peaceful scenery and spectacular sights. We heard the bird calls as we trod carefully and quietly along the forest track. We touched the texture of the trees and leaves.

It was a truly a tasty feast for all my senses. 

https://alwayswrite.blog/2022/03/09/wqw-five-senses-taste

This is also my contribution for Sunday Stills https://secondwindleisure.com/2022/03/06/sunday-stills-making-meaningful-memories/

WQWWC #51: WHAT’S IN MY TOYBOX?

“It is a happy talent to know how to play”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have a lot of toys surrounding me, and whilst I would like to be able to say I use them every day that that would be a NO. 


Unless of course I count my photography toys/props. These include LEGO, toy soldiers, miniature people, zombie dolls and  baby dolls, and even my little drinking buddies get up to some tricks. 


Here are some of the ways I find to play with my toys.

Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning

– Diane Ackerman

And what do I learn?  Which is the best lighting to use, which lens to attach, how to pose the players, (thank goodness for posable toys) or  how to use stop motion to tell that story. 

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing” 

George Bernard Shaw

We are never too old to play. Get out those toys and play free.

“When you’re free, you can play and when you’re playing, you become free.”

Heidi Kaduson

So what is in your toy box?

WQWWC #50 An almost Forgotten post

I love light, I love to write and I love life – I create my words and images to capture the light in my life.
Capturing the light leads me on many different journeys – wandering with my camera is one of my favourite things to do. 

“If I didn’t have my camera to remind me constantly, I am here to do this, I would eventually have slipped away, I think. I would have forgotten my reason to exist.”

Annie Leibovitz

Once upon a time, my habit was that I always took my camera everywhere I went. Over this winter, I had forgotten that habit.  Part of the problem was that due to being locked in with road closures and locked down through Covid, I wasn’t actually going anywhere. Yes, I could still walk on the beach unless it was raining and blowing a gale – which it did regularly throughout the winter months.


Thankfully, as the weather is warming up- and (even though the roads are only slowly being fixed), I am getting out a bit more – and I am becoming reacquainted with my camera after misplacing my ‘phojo’ for a couple of months. I had forgotten the joy I feel when wandering with my camera.

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”

Aaron Siskind

I write to capture my thoughts…

“People have forgotten how to tell a story.”

Steven Spielberg

I thought I had forgotten so much of my childhood but then I started to write my story, and those memories came flooding  back. They were much closer to the surface than I had thought. I had not forgotten my life experiences and yet I struggled to write them as interesting stories. So I researched how to write memoir. I used some writing prompts. I revisited Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (adapted for Covid heroic journeys), and also found an updated version or two of the Heroine’s journey.  My memoir writing journey has just  begun. I hope to record those memories I thought I had forgotten. Watch this space.

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

Rudyard Kipling

A little story about coffee. Alarmingly, we run out of coffee so had to do the 120 kilometre round trip to town on a Monday – not our usual habit. Finally, we arrived home after a fraught day of road blocks, delays and overheating in our masks. I unpacked the groceries (yes, we bought so much more than we had planned) and noticed… HE had bought beans not espresso grind! That HERO had to return the very next day as HE was not popular – he will not forget again!

Life is about creating memories – and art!

“So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us.”

Gaston Bachelard

I’m playing with art again. Practicing my creativity through daily pencil sketches and creating art journals.  I put on some music, and immerse myself in paints, pastels and crayons.  Out comes the water paint, the felt tips and the stencils. I have rediscovered the pure joy of messy fingers, and scribbling with charcoals and ink. I’m having fun!  I have not forgotten how to do that.

And just like that, all my hobbies are back on my playlist – and are remembered.

Sunday Stills: Cheers for Ruby Wine and a Blood Moon

There is nothing quite as warming as a glass (or two) of a burgundy wine – especially if it is swirled and sipped in front of a blazing fire pit. 

Alternatively, finding a burgundy bar stool on which to perch whilst partaking of a burgundy beverage, is also quite palatable.

Now in case I am giving the impression that I have focussed only on ruby rich red wine, I do occasionally capture burgundy-brown buildings.

And I have even been known to forsake my evening tipple, so  I can drive out to capture the blood red lunar eclipse. Pleasingly, I had more success this month with the partial lunar eclipse that my first attempt in May which was rather too foggy and frosty. Mind you, attempting to composite a time-lapse of the lunar eclipse had me reaching for a red wine to calm my frustrations.

“I’m like old wine. They don’t bring me out very often, but I’m well preserved.” — Rose Kennedy

Cheers,

WQWWC #48 – Foggy finds

Don’t be afraid to go into the fog. Be excited because you don’t know where you will end up. Sophie Madden

As the moon sets, and the fog lifts, where will the day take us? Take that road trip and go wherever the road leads.  The day’s adventures are about to begin…

And out of the fog, appears a merino in the mist.

Or a hoar frost with magical icicles sparkling in the trees…

“And when the fog’s over and the stars and the moon come out at night it’ll be a beautiful sight”

– Jack Kerouac

“There it is, fog, atmospheric moisture still uncertain in destination, not quite weather and not altogether mood, yet partaking of both.”

~ Hal Borland

WQWWC #45 Fortitude/Resilience

“Life is a journey that takes us on many paths – and tests us and shapes us in ways that allow us to aspire to even more challenging directions”

This was the message on a farewell card when I was leaving a much loved job to further my career.  The card was decorated with forget-me-nots – I never have forgotten the fortitude I needed to take that leap and change direction. I left the well trod path and ventured onto the rocky track.

I wrote these poems in the aftermath of painful family feuds.

In every given moment we have two options, to step forward into growth, or to step back into safety – Abraham Maslow

Often hidden amidst words of anger or hate
Underlying fear creates a sense of panic. 
Flight not fight becomes the norm. 
Habits thus formed are hard to break 

Stop for a moment and think
How does your anger help you?
Do you just live to hate
Or do you hate to live?

What if you choose to love 
Would that calm your fear?
Replace those feeling of anger
With actions of hope?

You may be surprised at how good you feel 
when the fear recedes. 
And the peace returns. 

My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself an accomplishment.  Steve Goodi

One day I was counting up the surgical scars I had  due to caesarian section, melanoma, knee replacement and rotator cuff repair when I realised just how resilient I had become through these experiences. I wrote these words. 

Some of us carry our scars externally.
These are a physical sign of our survival.

Scars are often hidden within us,
Internal injuries sustained through harmful words.

Scars are gathered over the passage of our lives,
They are both the symbol of - and the price for -  this life.

AND……


When I peeled back the layers, I found a beautiful resilience inside – this is how I know I’ll always thrive – Lori Schaefer

WQWWC #43 – Imaginary imagery

“What we imagine in our minds becomes our world…”  Masaru Emoto

Masaru Emoto and his water crystals:

“Water consciousness first gained international attention with the unconventional but groundbreaking experiments of Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto. While you may not recognise his name, chances are that you have seen or heard of his work – namely, the theory that water can understand and retain the energy of human intention.


“In the 1990s, Emoto performed a series of experiments in which water was kept in a variety of bottles, each carrying a label with a different message. The messages ranged from positive and caring (thank you, love) to negative (I hate you, I want to kill you), and then drops of water from these bottles were placed on slides and deep-frozen to form snowflake-like crystals. 


The crystals that formed on positive messages were found to be ore geometric and aesthetically pleasing, while the crystals fired  by water with negative messages were chaotic  and non-uniform in shape.“ He called his findings ‘hado’ – the life force energy-consciousness of varying frequencies infused in all matter.

The follow-up argument has been this: Given the high water composition of the human brain and body,  if water is in fact conscious and receptive to energy frequencies, how can these positive or negative messages affect our bodies on a molecular level?”

Was this a self-fulfilling prophecy – just imagine it and it becomes real?  Or is it an example of the creative force of the imagination?


What a rabbit hole I dived down into here –  it was almost a wishing well of watery wonderment. My imagination was definitely working overtime.


And it made me wonder….

Is it better to live in an imaginary world or in this harsh real world? I guess that depends on how happy and satisfying your own experience of the ‘real’ world is.  And even if your current reality is not yet the best, escaping into an imaginary world can be both restorative and healing. Or it can be if you just let yourself be free to imagine.


Throughout my life, retreating from time to time into the imaginary world of books has been a constant relief from the trials and tribulations of daily life. Immersing oneself into another world creates imaginary images within our minds, and sets the mind free to dream; and it encourages creative thinking.  

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus”  Mark Twain

As a photographer, I use my imagination to first visualise my story then try to recreate my vision into the image. Finding the best point of focus is part of the storytelling but sometimes  I purposefully throw the focus out to create my vision. And yes that might make it hard to focus my eyes but I can depend on my imagination instead. It is such a delight when I create an intriguing image using Intentional Camera Movement (ICM), or compositing several images to create a new story. 

So many things to ponder in my imagination and yet….   in the words of the imaginary Dr Who

I’ll just be a story in your head. But that’s alright. We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.” – Doctor Who