Friday, 29 November 2013
Thursday, 28 November 2013
Margaret Tarrant (1888 – 1959) was an artist specializing in depictions of fairy-like children and religious subjects. She began her career at the age of 20, and painted and published into the early 1950s. She was known for her children's books, postcards, calendars, and print reproductions.
Tarrant was born in London and trained as a teacher, but turned to illustrative art instead. Her first major work was illustrating Charles Kingsley’s book “The Water Babies” when she was 20. Apart from writing and illustrating her own books on fairies she was also a prolific postcard artist.
Postcard from author's collection
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Be wary in springtime
When you’re most vulnerable
And dark eyes entrance
Love affairs must end
That is inevitable
Hearts must be broken
Isn’t it curious
When eyes look further afield
A piece of us dies
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
The next time the children came to Mahuika to hear a story she started by telling them that this time it was a story about the moon. Once again Hekeheke had picked up the smallest child and sat with her on her lap. Mahuika immediately thought again that the teenager needed to find a boyfriend. The little girl that Hekeheke cuddled sat contentedly with her and the Mahuika thought she may have to talk to Hekeheke’s mother discreetly. So then she began her story:
Once there was a blind woman who had four daughters, the youngest of whom was named Hina. Hina loved walking at night and would be the first to rise when one of her family said “We are out of water”. She would take the calabash and wander into the night and relish the world of darkness with the owls hooting and the creatures scuttling underfoot the whisper of the ferns and the silvery light of the moon bathing the world in a loving embrace as she refilled the water container.
All the daughters had boyfriends and often when Hina went walking in the dark she would meet her own friend by accident and they whispered and fondled each other in secret.
However they were seen by Marama the bright moon shining high in the night sky overhead or perhaps watching half hidden by the trees if he was rising or setting in the sky. Marama he thought Hina was so beautiful that he wanted her for himself.
One night as Hina waited for some excuse to wander off into the night to meet her lover, he was in fact was busy fishing as the tide was high and the fish were biting. She listened to hear any movement close to their hut but none came so she decided to go anyway and try to find him. She casually picked up her calabash and wandered off into the night.
Marama the moon was just rising and saw straight away that Hina had left her home and made sure that as she walked there was always enough light for her to walk safely and not stumble. He knew too that her boyfriend was fishing as he had seen him at sea and thought perhaps he would speak to her himself. Marama then took human form and came down to earth and walked along to the stream where she fetched water. When she saw Marama her mouth dropped open as she stared at his beauty. He walked up to her and said “Hina, you are so beautiful, let me help you fill you calabash and then we can talk together.”
Hina shook her head doubtfully “But I have a boyfriend already and he will come for me soon.”
Marama laughed and said “He is not coming, he is fishing as the tide is full and my light attracts the fish, come with me as I want you with me.
Hina looked at Marama, “You are beautiful too and are as stunning as the moon that I love. How is it I have never seen you before?”
Marama laughed again and boldly said “Oh Hina, come with me, I am the moon, live with me and let us delight the people of the earth with our loving light when the sun has fled. Stay with me always, those you leave behind will grow old and die but you will be with me forever.”
Then Hina said “I do want you but I should not leave” so she held on to a tree trunk as he clasped her around the waist and leap into the sky to return to the moon. She never let go of the tree but such was his strength that it too was pulled out of the earth as he took her back to the Moon
Hina couldn’t believe that it really was the moon that had come for her and as he flew up with her she reached up to touch his shining face then she knew she just had to be with him. So she nodded to him and then returned to the moon with him shining so brightly in the sky that night.
Just at that time her lover returned from fishing and searched for her by the stream. He couldn’t find her but was still wandering about as the dawn finally broke and the moon disappeared from view still thinking that she was calling out to him. Which she was as she looked back down at the earth.
So Hina settled down with Marama and was a good and loving wife to him but after a some time she said “I miss my family, Marama”. As he looked with love at her. “And do you miss your old lover too?” he asked.
She blushed and nodded. He shook his head sadly. “Time is different for us we are in no hurry but for those on Earth it rushes by. If you see him he will have aged. Do you still want to see him?”
She nodded. So Marama went to fetch her former lover and brought him back. He was an old man, his hair was white and his face was wrinkled with age. He smiled at Hina with remembrance and love and she nursed him as he grew weaker. Eventually Marama said to her, “Hina I must return him to the Earth so that he can lie down with his ancestors.”
So Hina rubbed noses with her old lover for the last time and Marama returned him to Earth and Hina never thought of going back down to the Earth ever again.
When Mahuika had finished the story, she looked over to Hekeheke who was still holding the little one. Hekeheke was crying openly and the little girl in her arms was reaching up to wipe away the tears.
Later, when the children had gone, Mahuika and Hekeheke talked.
Hekeheke said “Isn’t it strange that two stories about the moon taking women from the earth are so similar but so different. This one you just told us was all about love but the one about Rona is quite different as she was being punished.”
Mahuika nodded. “They probably started off as one story but probably a woman storyteller decided to put a gentler touch into the Hina story." She paused then said, "I am going to Black Sands again soon. Will you come with me this time?”
Hekeheke looked into Mahuika’s eyes to see if she could read her thoughts but in doing so she realized that she herself was showing the older woman what she thought about her desire to find a boyfriend. So they both laughed and Hekeheke nodded eagerly.
I know many of you are cat lovers. That is fine but when the children were growing up we were a family with dogs. That is one at a time of course as dogs are less human with a mate in the house and two do not let you as get close to them as one alone might.
One such pet, a golden Labrador cross was in fact my elder daughter’s dog but he knew which side his bread was buttered so to speak and deferred to me as he and I were the lone males in the house and we had a joint job of tending to the female members of the household. He had in fact come from a Dog's Home or pound. He was most grateful to have been sprung from prison and settled in very well.
At some stage the dog put away any dog shame and started speaking to us all. Yes, I know it is hard to believe but myself, my wife and the three children all could understand his dogspeak and if anyone was uncertain another member of the family would be able to interpret his utterances. As head of the house he did his best to call me by my name which came out as Mr. Kipper which was his (or my children’s) interpretation of our surname. Soon all the children’s friends knew that my name was Mr. Kipper because that is what the dog called me.
His own given name was Caesar but he answered to almost anything although Bongo was his favourite. He felt that Caesar was used more often in admonishment as in “Oh Caesar, what have you done now?” Such was the case when returning from Church one Easter morn. Caesar, cross that he hadn’t come with us had found his way into our elder daughter’s bedroom and found her stash of Easter eggs and eaten them, silver paper and all. Now this is bad practice for dogs generally as they shouldn’t eat chocolate but being half human the only result was some undesirable foil covered discoveries in the garden.
Caesar was most reluctant to sit on command and did only grudgingly as he realized that might be the only way he would get a treat. The trouble was he got enough treats anyway without such an indignity forced upon him as everyone one of us would melt to his silent pleas that emanated from his eyes.
He was an amazing escape artist and although the back yard was fenced he had sussed out the territory very well and if he knew that his friend Fred the Dalmatian from down the road wanted him to go down the creek together, Caesar would somehow shrink his body or turn his bones into rubber and force his way out under the fence where even a Corgi would be stumped. If I realized quickly enough that an escape had taken place I immediately went to their favourite haunts but I had to be quick as once in the creek tracking invisible prey pretending to be wild dogs or wolves they thought they once were they were impossible to catch. They then wouldn’t return for hours. Fred would say farewell in front of his master’s house and Caesar would plod his weary way back up the hill to our place.
Often he would be too tired even to eat after one of these outings, or perhaps they had both feasted on wild rabbit and would just want to get home for a sleep. This however was not allowed as he was wet and smelly from the creek and would have to endure the indignity of a bath before rejoining the family and to get his desperately needed rest. After a nap he would be rejuvenated and be one of us again.
When we looked after my wife’s parents’ cat all was well as both cat and dog knew each other. As this often happened in winter months both Caesar and Timmy the cat, felt that their place was closest to the fire in the Lounge, the one who got there first chose a spot where the heat was just right. However when the other one also discovered the fire was lit they would push in front to find the warmest spot. The one now shielded from the warmth would then get up take up a position closer to the fire. This would continue until I would hear a shout “Either the cat or the dog are burning, I can smell them”. One of them had clearly got too close to the fire and their fur was singeing and I had to become the fireman.
Sunday, 24 November 2013
The Thinker by Rodin
What choice do we have?
All gaps must be filled in life
However we think
Times cycle grinds on
Gathering knowledge and pain
Love lessens the woe
Where is virtue now?
Suffering creates scant hope
And we cry alone
Regard my actions
These habits my undoing
Where is my future?
Thursday, 21 November 2013
The wind is his friend
Nothing ruffles his feathers
Sky is the limit
He sees the whole world
And feasts on its vast splendour
His mate is waiting
The prey unaware
The nest of chicks need feeding
He dives for a kill
Mewling and puking as a baby child
Having too much to drink when I was wild
Bumbling my wedding day speech as a groom
Finding somewhere to live with plenty of room
Waving goodbye to our children as they wedNow as years wear on, being alone in my bed
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
“Never let me go”
She then whispered in his ear
As she held him tight
He knew very well
She’d manipulated him
But it was worth while
“This drink is bitter”
She protested, but still drank it
“Sweet dreams my pretty”
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
The Little Eyes or Matarika (Pleiades)
Mahuika and Hekeheke were by themselves taking it in turns to comb each others hair when Mahuika said “Do you know any stories that I may not have heard Hekeheke?”
Hekeheke stopped what she was doing and laughed “You want me to tell you a story you do not know and yet you know them all?” She came round to face Mahuika and bent towards her, then rubbed noses and looked at her with love in her eyes. “A long time ago I heard a story that was both sad and beautiful but I do not think I have ever heard it told since.”
So then the two of them lay down on their mats and Hekeheke began her story.
A long, long time ago there was a large and bright star in the sky that was so beautiful that all the other stars seemed to fade in its presence. Even the great god of light Tane who was also the lord of the forests on earth was cross. “This is not right” he said. “The people of the world are not looking at the beauty of the trees in their land and praising them but looking far in to the sky yearning for the beauty of that star so very far away.” Tane was so cross that he decided to destroy the beautiful star and sought the help of Whaka-Ahu (Orion)and Atutahi (Canopus) two of the other biggest stars in the sky.
However there was a little lake almost hidden in the hills whose depth was such that the stars that were reflected on its placid surface were made even more beautiful as people could sit and gaze down comfortably on to the lake rather than stretch their heads up to see the stars and when a breeze from the east played gently across the surface of the lake the reflection of the stars broke up and turned them into a thousand smiles. And the little lake loved this bright star the most.
Later when the East wind told the lake what the god Tane had suggested she was determined to warn the bright star of the danger and said, “How can we do this my friend the wind?”
“I do not know beautiful lake but surely Rangi the god of the heavens who spreads the jewels of the night across the skies will want to help the most beautiful treasure.” With that the East wind whisked away over the hills and was gone.
As the sun shone brightly the following morning the little lake pleaded with Rangi to help. When Rangi heard about Tane's plans he was furious at the news. “The heat of my rays will shine on you and heat you up and your water will rise up with the mists of the clouds and then you can tell the beautiful star that you love, of the danger it is in.”
And so it was that the following day the sun beat down on the lake and mists rose from its surface and formed soft clouds and these ascended climbing the mountainside and rose higher and higher and then the East wind came along and guided the clouds to the beautiful star and they told it of the danger. Then as the cloud descended back down to earth it formed cool raindrops and fell back down into the lake again.
Now that the star had been warned it was ready when Tane and his followers Whaka-Ahu and Atutahi chased it from its place in the sky, on and on the bright star flew until at last it took refuge in the waters of the little lake which had so often been brightened by its light.
“Save me, save me dear little lake” the star said as it plunged into the depths of the water but Atutahi saw it hiding there and drained the waters of the lake and chased the star off again.
The bright star flew on to the east to Tane’s great highway in the sky thinking that “Surely I will be safe here hiding in the brightness of the sun” but when Tane saw Atuhahi he was very angry that he couldn’t catch the bright star now he grabbed Whaka-Ahu his companion and threw him at the beautiful star and shattered it into pieces which formed six separate stars which now always stay together in the night sky.”
These are now known as the Little Eyes or Matariki, which twinkle brightly in the southern skies. When they are first seen people say “Good, the New Year has come, look how the eyes sparkle so it must be time for feasting and gladness.”
Mahuika looked at Hekeheke with such love she cried and hugged her to herself. “You have told the story so beautifully, Hekeheke. Perhaps it is almost time we found you a husband.”
“Do men like storytellers, Mahuika?”
Mahuika smiled and nodded, “Husbands love you more when you tell them old stories, they relax and want to hold you and be closer to you.”
"Should we tell the children this story, Mahuika?"
Mahuika nodded, "Yes, especially if we can the see the stars shining at night."
Monday, 18 November 2013
Leaving youth behind
She is on an adventure
Being a woman
William Barribal was a postcard artist in the first half of the 20th century and specialised in pretty girls often daring for the period between the two world wars. He used his wife as his model however the range of girls illustrated would indicate that he was surrounded by pretty women although in the postcard illustration above it almost certainly is her.
His range of subjects ranged from wartime humour to provocative scenes on the beach and a fair smattering of children’s portraits, as well as Military themes right through the 2nd World War when patriotic fervour was a favourite subject to keep morale high in war torn Britain.
I chose this postcard to illustrate this post as the girls eyes are the feature that are smiling and illustrate the beauty and promise of youth that was Barribal’s forte.
Illustration from author's own postcard collection
Sunday, 17 November 2013
You have gone and I miss you
I walk out of the bar befuddled
With grief and whiskey
My breath could ignite
If only I could find a match
Once you were my match
I stumble into the murky darkness
And in that dark I think of you
My fingers running through your silky hair
My fingers tracing over your face
Touching your cute nose and sweet lips
Lips that mouthed such invective
With words that told me who I was
And how you couldn’t live with me
We wouldn’t dance any more
In the rain
Hand in hand
Skipping through the puddles
Racing to the tram
Sitting cosy by the fire
Little you, lanky me
Isolated in our nest
Until you found me out
And cut me out
With the razor of your words
Out of your world forever
And you were my world
Friday, 15 November 2013
I always thought it was a lazy word
As though the speaker’s mind was blurred
I’d rather hear a word quite absurd
Et cetera is best unheard
Really, borrowed words such as this
Must certainly not be hit or miss
But meaningful and sound like bliss
Then the speaker will deserve a kiss
So from my rhyme I must be gone
And to avoid sounding like a moron
Please remove it from your lexicon
“and others; and so forth; and so on”
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
I looked at her and she looked at me as I started to pick up the pieces.
It was as if the earth had stopped spinning as I had dropped the teapot we had received as a wedding present from her grandmother.
She looked both angry and sad as she loved her grandma the most in the world.
The teapot was a link to the past and I had broken that link.
Later that night in bed as we lay there just holding hands in the dark she eventually spoke.
“It’s not the teapot; it is me having to admit she has really gone.”
I have never been
A mean aggressive person
Didn’t need to be
As I always found
There were plenty of others
Around me that were
As I grew older
This heightened my senses
I was out of this world
I have never had
I can dredge the depths
One day when all the children had found Mahuika and Hekeheke for a story one of the boys said to Mahuika “You have never told us the story of Maui and fire. Why do you not do that?”
Mahuika laughed, “You are teasing me because you know that the fire goddess Mahuika is in the story. Instead of me telling you the story perhaps Hekeheke should tell it instead.”
Hekeheke laughed too. “If I tell the story it will be different from the way Mahuika tells it as I have known the story since I was a little girl but have never heard Mahuika tell it. So I will sit a little further away from her in case she pokes me in the side for something I have missed.”
Mahuika smiled and nodded at her. Already Mahuika had spoken to Hekeheke’s mother and suggested her daughter should live with her so she could pay more attention to her new husband. Hekeheke’s mother had agreed knowing that it would bring great credit to her daughter to live with the widow of a former chief.
So Hekeheke started the story:
One evening after eating his meal Maui lay beside his fire staring into the flames watching them flicker and dance and thought, "I wonder where fire comes from?" Maui was determined to find out, so in the middle of the night while everyone was fast asleep he went from village to village and extinguished all the fires until not a single fire burned in the world. He then went back to his whare and waited.
The next morning there was uproar in all the villages.
"How can we cook our food? There is no fire!" called a worried mother.
"How will we keep warm at night?" cried another.
"We can't possibly live without fire!" all the villagers said to one another.
Everybody was frightened so they asked Maui’s father Taranga, who was their rangatira (respected chief) to help.
"Someone will have to go and see the great fire goddess Mahuika and beg her for fire," said Taranga.
None of the villagers was eager to meet Mahuika, they had all heard of the scorching mountain where she lived. So Maui said he would go in search of her, secretly glad that his plan had worked.
"Be very careful," said Taranga his father. "Although you are her grandchild, Mahuika she will not take kindly to you if you try and trick her."
"I'll find the great ancestress Mahuika and bring fire back to the world," Māui assured his parents.
Maui walked to the scorching mountain at the end of the earth following the instructions from his mother and found a huge mountain glowing red hot with heat. At the base of the mountain he saw a cave entrance. Before he entered, Maui whispered a special karakia (prayer) himself as protection from what lay beyond, but nothing could prepare Maui for what he saw when he entered the sacred mountain of Mahuika.
Mahuika, the goddess, rose up before him, fire burning from every pore of her body, her hair a mass of flames, her arms outstretched, and with only black holes where her eyes once were. She sniffed the air.
"Who is this mortal that dares to enter my dwelling?"
Maui gathered the courage to speak, "It is I, Maui."
"Aha!" yelled Mahuika. "Maui, the son of Taranga?"
"Yes the last born child, Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga."
"Well then Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga, welcome. Welcome to the essence of the flame, welcome my grandchild."
Mahuika stepped closer to Maui, taking a deep sniff of his scent. Maui stood completely still, even though the flames from Mahuika's skin were unbearably hot.
"So... why do you come, Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga?" Mahuika finally asked.
Maui said, "The fires of the world have been extinguished, I have come to ask you for fire." Mahuika listened carefully to him and laughed. She pulled a fingernail from one of her burning fingers and gave it to him.
"Take this fire as a gift to your people. Honour this fire as you honour me."
So Maui left the house of Mahuika carefully holding the blazing fingernail.
As Maui walked along the side of the road he thought to himself, "What if Mahuika had no fire left, then where would she get it from then?"
Maui couldn't contain his curiosity. He quickly threw the fingernail into a stream and headed back to Mahuika's cave.
"I tripped and fell," said Maui. "Could I please have another?"
Luckily Mahuika was in a good mood. She hadn't spoken to anyone in quite some time and she liked Maui. She gladly gave Maui another of her fingernails.
But Maui soon extinguished that fingernail as well and returned to Mahuika with another excuse.
"A fish splashed my flame as I was crossing the river," Maui said.
Mahuika provided another of her fingernails not suspecting that she was being tricked.
This continued for most of the day until Mahuika had used all her fingernails and had even given up her toenails as well. When again Maui returned to ask for another Mahuika was furious. She knew now Maui had been tricking her and threw the burning toenail to the ground and a great wall of flame surrounded him and she chased him out of the cave.
Maui was not deterred and changed himself into a hawk and flew up into the sky but the flames she had set off burned so high that they singed the underside of his wings, turning them a glowing red.
Maui dived into a river hoping to avoid the flames in the coolness of the water, but the immense heat all around made the water boil.
Maui was desperate. So he called on his ancestor Tawhiri-matea who was the god of the wind and the rain. "Tawhiri-matea atua o nga hau e wha awhinatia mai!" (Ancestor god, bring forth a wind this way to help!)
So then in answer to his prayer, a mass of clouds gathered, the wind blew and a torrent of rain fell to put out the fires. Mahuika's mountain of fire no longer burned so hot.
Mahuika had lost much of her power, but still she was not beaten. She took her very last toenail and threw it at Maui in anger. The toenail of fire missed Maui and flew into a group of trees behind him (The Mahoe, the Totara, the Patete, the Pukatea and the Kaikomako trees). These trees cherished the gift they had been given by Mahuika and even now their cut wood is the best to make fire.
When Maui returned to his village he didn't bring back fire as the villagers had expected. Instead he brought back dry wood from the Kaikomako tree and showed them how to rub the dry sticks of it together that would eventually start a fire. The villagers were very happy to be able to cook their food once more and to have the warmth of their fires at night to comfort them.
Maui had satisfied his curiosity in finding the origin of fire, although he very nearly paid the ultimate price in doing so. To this day the Kahu, the native hawk of Aotearoa (New Zealand) still retains the feathers singed red on the underside of its wings, a reminder of how close Maui was to death when Maui took its form.
The story over, Mahuika looked at Hekeheke with love and pride and thought “She may not be my daughter, but she is surely a daughter of mine.”
Even the children looked at her with admiration.