31 December 2005

A Christmas conversation

Two kereru fly low over the paddock, a slow, powerful flight, silhouettes against a grey sky, a cool wind, traces of thin, fine hogsbacks. The weather’s on the change.

I heard small voices this evening; stepped outside onto the verandah and saw Trev walking slowly along the deck next door, ankle-tapped by two small granddaughters. He was holding a long-handled net. Kylie saw me, and jumped up and down.

“Let’s go and see Pete!” she yelled.

Olive laughed. “You’re popular tonight!” she called.

I sat on the step at the end of the verandah and listened as Kylie told me how she and Jemma were helping Granddad and Grandma vacuum the pool. “We could vacuum your verandah!” she suggested.

I asked her how her Christmas had been.

“Good,” she said, climbing over the short section of lichen-encrusted wooden fence and around the verandah post. She kept circling around it, doing laps over the fence, presumably for the enjoyment of climbing, while she diverted the conversation to favourite toys. Jemma’s, she said, was Melvin the Monkey. She went to some lengths to ensure I understood that Melvin the Monkey had come from Furniture Fair. As for her own favourite, it was a whale. Of all the sea animals, she explained, her favourite was the mermaid, but they weren’t real. Her second favourite was the whale. Hers had a captain’s hat.

“I’ve seen whales,” I told her. “Dolphins too. I’ve seen lots of dolphins.” I wondered whether she knew about dolphins.

“Bottlenose dolphins?” she asked.

“Yes, but mostly dusky dolphins, and I’ve seen the little Hector’s dolphins, the rare ones. They’re only little; they’re cute.”

We talked a bit about dolphins and whales, and about mermaids, which aren’t real. Seahorses, too—she liked seahorses. She asked how big bottlenose dolphins were, and stretched her arms wide.

“This big?”

I extended my arms. “Even bigger than this,” I said. She stood behind me and measured “bigger than this” with her own arms. She could just manage to reach past my elbows. I pointed to the gate post.

“I reckon from there to about here,” I said, pointing to a spot nearby.

“How wide are they?” she asked.

I held my hands apart, trying to estimate honestly. “Maybe this wide?”

We talked some more, and Jemma decided to join us. She padded across the stony driveway in bare feet, stopped, and pointed at the ground.

“Poo,” she said, indicating a nugget of sheep crap.

“Yeah, sheep poo,” I said.

She inspected the ground for more sheep poo, pointing out each lump and pat. Meanwhile, Kylie had realised she was supposed to be making sure Granddad and Grandma were vacuuming properly, so she ran back across the drive.

“We’ll come and see Pete again later,” she told Olive, loudly, so I could hear. I saw Olive smile.

Behind the grey and white clouds, the sky’s the most beautiful pink and mauve I can imagine.

[This is true. Some names have been changed to preserve anonymity.]

Photo 1: Kereru.
Photo 2: Hoherius meinertzhageni again. This male and female were on the underside of a lacebark (Hoheria) branch; a difficult position to photograph, but it does show how well camouflaged they are. I think the female was ovipositing.

Photos and words © 2005 Pete McGregor


Tracy Hamon said...

I've never seen Kereru but I've had many conversations with 2 girls--I have 2 daughters, the oldest is now 15 and the youngest is 12. The youngest has a wonderful curiosity for nature, gardening, and animals, while the oldest spends most of her time with her nose in a book.

A lovely written reflective conversation. Happy New Year.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

That's such a lovely time you had with the two girls. I remember being very young and having a neighbor I loved to talk with. His stories helped me see much farther than the suburban street we were both living on.

Happy New Year, Pete.

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Tracy and RD; Happy New Year to you also. I certainly learned just how much small children control conversations. They know what they want to talk about and you're wasting your time (and theirs) trying to steer it in other directions. I also find it encouraging to hear that imagination is still very much alive and well among children: wish it were more prevalent among adults.

Clare said...

Happy New Year,

I just discovered your blog, from the comment you left at Rurality's blog, and then I see you have post in the current Circus of the Spineless.

Even more coincidentally I see you link to Alone on a Boreal Stage which was recently recommended to me by another blogger who I discovered in a very serendipidous way.

But I did want to say that you write wonderfully and have an incredible eye, as evidenced by your photography.

pohanginapete said...

I appreciate the comment, Clare—thanks! This is interesting, too: I note that you link to Duncan's Ben Cruachan Blog, and he left a comment a short while ago on my Small is beautiful post (the Circus of the Spineless one). Yes, coincidence and serendipity can seem strange at times...

Brenda Schmidt said...

Wonderful stuff! Happy New Year, Pete.

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Brenda. Hope it's a good one for you. :^)

Greg said...

Pete, I'm sitting here in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority office in Christchurch, with Mr Stephen Ferris standing behind me. We are agog that you are still blogging, writing and posting such excellent photos. Awesome.

We stopped our blog long ago after the car-pool to the corporation ceased operating. http://www.fuelfools.blogspot.co.nz/

Steve is in charge of the GIS info here, and I'm looking after the website content. The others are still around if you Google them.

Still loving your work mate.

Greg Comfort

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Greg, and great to hear from you. So much has happened since the heady fuelfools days, and I find it almost impossible to believe it's 11 years since I jumped ship. Christchurch bears almost no resemblance to how I remember it when I lived there, but I love much of what's happening there now — when I visit, the place seems full of the possibility of delightful surprises. I'd love to catch up with you, so maybe when I'm down there we can have a bloggers' reunion or something? Cheers, and hi to the other fools ;-)

Greg said...

I know what you mean. Quite a few changes in the old corporation we notice.

Sounds like bevy at Poms to me!