31 August 2006

Vagrancy

A shower of rain, heavy on the roof at night. A friend sends a txt: the sound of rain, her bed a tent, her vehicle a bike, her house a backpack. I reply saying rain here too, but there's too much stuff here, and tell her about the herons nesting in the poplars by the bridge [1].

The Gang of Three visited this morning. We sat on the verandah and I read another book to them, but Emma, being only four, got distracted and kept checking the paddock for more pieces of wood for their fireplace. “That one's no good!” she said, “It's got dirt on it!” My reading meant nothing to Aaron, of course—he's less than a year old and only just discovering words. Carly, however, sat next to me listening, attentive, politely not interrupting. Holding onto Cookie. She tells me he likes going for walks because he gets bored lying in her room all day doing nothing until she's home from school. Eventually Olive and Aaron went to feed the deer and lambs, and the girls and I followed shortly after, to find Aaron sitting on the ground by the gate, in the mud, with two lambs checking him out while Olive threw stale buns or something to the deer in the next paddock. We rescued him as Olive returned, half muttering and half laughing about kids and mud and saying that’s what washing machines are for. Back on the verandah we sat on the steps, chatting while the kids ran up and down the verandah yelling and having fun. Aaron waddled over and managed to topple and slide head first onto the top step. Not serious, but I expected howls and tears. But Emma picked him up and put her arms around him—she’s hardly bigger than he is—and hugged him, tucked his head into her shoulder and held him tight. The tears never came—instead, he went straight back to stealing the pieces of wood she'd collected, and offering them to me. I remembered how Emma had become upset a few weeks ago and Carly had comforted her in the same way; arms around her. The wisdom of small children. I think of the puerile behaviour of our politicians and realise they don't deserve the compliment of being called “childish”.

I walked down the road, stopping to photograph tui [2] and korimako [3] and the herons standing tall and thin in the poplars by the bridge; walked on up No. 3 Line a little way, then returned, photographing the herons again and a kereru [4] in the cutting. Cold air but the brilliance of a clear day at the deep end of winter; some warmth. Birds; lambs growing day by day—already the wobbly fragility of the newborns has begun to disappear and they’re beginning to develop that slight robustness. I walked along the road and looked out over Te Awaoteatua Stream from the No. 3 Line road, looked up to the Ruahine, dense with leatherwood [5] and bright under dark cloud, and saw everything new, saw it all as if for the first time. The following evening I drove South to Point Howard. The light still had that old look to it—deep shadows, strong relief, the warm look where the sun caught the land seemingly at odds with the cold contained in gullies, under hedges, beneath trees, behind barns. Shower cloud darkened the sky and let the sunlight through in rays and beams. Prehistoric light. Along the coast between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay the sun had almost set, the clouds orange and mauve and grey; the South Island silhouetted on the horizon. That feeling of the utter remorselessness of time. You look ahead to something, then it’s here, then it’s gone. It becomes the past; becomes history. Your history. Is that all we do—moment by moment, create our own histories? In a sense, maybe it is, whether we create it—in the sense of determining or influencing it—or not. But, seen like that, perhaps it’s the ultimate lesson in making the most of every moment: because we’ll never get another chance. What we do with these moments determines what they’ll be, forever.

My friend sends another text; words I recognise: “…geese in flight and dogs that bite…”[6]. I check the definition of “vagrant”[7], and read, “A wanderer who has no established residence or visible means of support.”

The wind picks up, and a shiver runs through the house.


Notes:
The names of some people may have been changed.
1. White faced herons; Ardea novaehollandiae novaehollandiae.
2.
Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae.
3.
Anthornis melanura.
4. New Zealand pigeon; Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae.
5. Olearia colensoi; tupare.
6. From James Taylor's, Carolina on my mind.
7. The definition is from WordWeb, the free edition. It may not be as comprehensive or authoritative as some other dictionaries, but for sheer functionality, it's peerless. Highly recommended.

Photos (click on the smaller photos if you want a larger image):
1. The kereru in the cutting.
2. Red billed gull (
Larus novaehollandiae scopulinus; tarapunga) preening; Petone wharf, Wellington harbour.
3. The same gull, doing what gulls are wont to do.
4. Rock, mussels, waves. Eastern shore of Wellington harbour, near Burdan's Gate (ref. my 6 August post). I desaturated all the colours except the greens, and tweaked the contrast a little.


21 comments:

bev said...

the utter remorselessness of time

How very true. The day that my dad died, we had a conversation about time. He asked me to remove his watch. He was never without it from the moment he woke until he went to bed at night, so I thought his request to be a little odd. Then he said something to the effect that time is meaningless -- fluid -- and he wondered why it was that we let it control our lives so much. I think about that quite a bit now. Time has much in common with water passing by in a river. The current we see before us is always new, but then old within a moment. There's really no way to mark it, except through the creation of memories - our histories - by doing rather than simply watching and waiting (or wasting).

Link said...

bugger... "geese in flight and dogs that bite", has got me searching the memory banks. Don't tell me!! Is it Joni? No don't tell me.

Anonymous said...

I don't suppose I could take photos like yours that seem to freeze time while the elements seem to continue to move, but I'd be grateful if you could give a hint of what kind of camera, film etc. you are using so I could at least start experimenting. I find them so amazingly magical that I'm inspired to try.
J.

KiwiSoupGirl said...

wow Pete - your words AND pictures are an inspiration...both a snapshot of the captured essence of the "now" time. I love the description "anonymous" gave - ...a kind of anology of life. Thank you for that small journey out of my own time and space...I felt I was there - you have a real knack for that! Beautiful, as always.
:-)

Link said...

I should have just read the notes eh? Saved myself a wild goose chase!

Duncan said...

As always, great reading Pete, that's a beautiful pigeon.

zhoen said...

A sweet wise story, then you stole my breath with that photo.

pohanginapete said...

Very well said, Bev. As with everything, it seems, what's important is what we think. Attitude, I suppose. The problem with that is the more I think about time, the more it screws up my ability to think. The nature of time seems impossible to comprehend.

Link: I resisted the urge to drop a hint. ;^P Good to know you finally read the lot! Thanks for reading.

J: It's a great compliment that these photos have inspired you to have a go. Thankyou. For the record, I haven't used film for a couple of years now and see no good reason ever to use it again. For most of 2004, including overseas, I used a little Pentax Optio 555, now long obsolete but a great little camera. Having discovered the major advantages of digital image capture, I bought a Canon 20D at the end of that year. However, I wouldn't get too hung up on what camera to buy: no matter what you choose it'll be superseded within 18 months, perhaps sooner. A camera is nothing more than a tool; without an operator it's as useless as a spanner or a pen, and like those, the quality of the person using the tool is the main determinant of the result. I have no doubt you can take marvellous photos. Admittedly, some tools are necessary for specialised tasks — e.g., high magnification photos of insects are next to impossible with a little point and shoot camera — but that last photo of the rock, mussels, and waves could have been taken with any recent digital camera.

Use your camera. Get to know it; find out what you can and can't do, and keep trying things. Experiment, and you'll learn fast. But most of all, focus on seeing. Some situations demand that you work quickly, but many are better approached with a quiet mind; a kind of openness, I suppose. Keep in touch, and let me know if I can help.

Thanks KSG, I appreciate the encouragement :^D

Cheers Duncan. The iridescence on these birds can be stunning in the right light, but sometimes they can look almost drab (not this time, though!).

Zhoen, glad you appreciated that photo. I'm guessing Moby would've preferred the pigeon, though. ;^P

butuki said...

On my way home from my first day out at my new university job yesterday evening I read this passage from Ursula LeGuin's book "Gifts":

"To see that your life is a story while you're in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well. It's unwise, though, to think you know how it's going to go, or how it's going to end. That's to be known only when it's over.

"And even when it's over, even when it's somebody else's life, somebody who lived a hundred years ago, whose story I've heard told time and again, while I'm hearing it I hope and fear as if I didn't know how it would end; and so I live the story and it lives me. That's as good a way as I know to outwit death."


I wonder why it is that children remind us of what's important? Is it that they are closer to the consciousness of other animals? Or that they live so close to the rhythms and sensations of the physical world around? Or that they don't carry the baggage of preconceptions that are so important for adults to survive in the world? Or that children, the younger they are, live less and less within the framework of time? Is it a death knell the day that a child learns to read a clock?

Still, I wouldn't want to go back to childhood. I love what I know and feel now. The trick, I guess, is to learn to take a step further and gain what you can never obtain as a child.

butuki said...

I always love the pictures you take of the sea's edge. And for some reason the waves and birds you focus on seem to be made of the same stuff; they both have wings and they both have voices that sound wild.

There is a personality to your site that is growing. The colors, the images, and the words all seem to act together so that the very site itself seems to vibrate with a kind of windblown loneliness that is lovely to enter. All last month on the three mountain hikes I took I often found myself thinking about your site and your images and your words as I looked at the world around me. Your photos are influencing my own photos quite strongly these days.

pohanginapete said...

Butuki, that's a great honour you do me. Thankyou.

Regarding your thoughts about how children live, my guess is that their relative lack of a "baggage of preconceptions" has a lot to do with it. In other words, children, unlike adults, still haven't acquired the unfortunate ability to impose their preconceptions on the world. Thus, maybe they're more inclined to see and listen before interpreting, before trying to fit what they see and hear into what they already think they know?

I'm very pleased to hear you have a new job; I hope it fits very well with the life you wish to lead. Thanks again for the honour.

chuck said...

PETE

"...and a shiver runs through the house..."-- oh, that is so real, so well-conjured.

This post refreshes me...it positively scintillates!

pohanginapete said...

Thankyou Chuck!

Mick Gordon said...

Outstanding photography!

rdl said...

Amazing photos!

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Mick; cheers rdl. Now, I must get out and look for more...

herhimnbryn said...

Words and images to stir a lazy soul today!
Thankyou P.

Avus said...

herhimnbryn recommended your site to me and I can see why. Great pix and thoughtful words. I have visited NZ twice for holidays and love the country (if a younger man I would be thinking of emigrating there!)

I shall add you to my links and look forward to visiting in the future.

pohanginapete said...

Herhimnbryn: Thanks, but don't be too hard on laziness — up to a point, if there was more of it the world might be more peaceful. Besides, I think it's misunderstood... ;^P

Avus, it's a marvellous country. Not without problems and flaws, but if I had to choose a country in which to live, it'd be here. I do have a bias though.

Thanks for the kind words :^D

Knowleypowley said...

Pete

Have come across your wonderful blog on recommendation from Avus (previous post).

You have a wonderful way with words that holds me till the end of each posting and your photographs are tremendous.

pohanginapete said...

Knowleypowley, thanks for the kind words. Comments like yours are a real encouragement and it's a wonderful feeling to know what I write connects with people all over the world. Cheers!

Oh, and a belated happy birthday, too!