Archive for January, 2012

Season’s greetings, but only maybe

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Some letters from December were forwarded to us from London, and finally arrived last week. Mostly Christmas cards – no surprise there – and one of them (from an investment company that Bruce knows from his charity work) carries this witty disclaimer statement.

“This Greeting is unaudited. Seasons may come and go without prior notification. The Season you experience may or may not vary according to your climate of reference. Seasons, or portions thereof, may be unseasonably hot or cold; wet or dry. Past weather should not be construed as a guarantee of future weather. Seasons may involve the passage of time. No Greeting, seasonal or otherwise, can recover your lost youth. Greetings should not be construed as guarantees of particular outcomes in this, or any other, Season. International seasonal Greeting involves transmitting Greetings to recipients residing in different countries. Residing in different countries may be riskier or less risky than residing in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (“UK”) or the United States of American (“USA”). Residing in the UK may be riskier than residing in the USA (or perhaps not). Residing in the euro zone may become impossible. The sentiments expressed herein were accurate as at the time of transmittal. There can be no guarantee that they will continue to apply at the time of receipt. …”

A sort of metaphor for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, perhaps? An incentive to get drunk or hide under the bed during 2012? Or maybe, just to laugh at the absurdities involved in hedging your bets.

Home again?

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

The truth isn’t quite that. Not really. I’m not truly home again, I just wish it were the truth – at least, I wish that in one sense. But I also believe that anyone who, for many years, has lived away from where they were born and grew up doesn’t belong anywhere much, any more. Maybe I feel that because I’m a natural-born outsider – an observer rather than a belonger (I’m the most unclubable person I know). Or maybe I feel it because of a deep-seated ambivalence about the nature of identity – my own and others.

But still. Being back again on Waiheke Island (it’s out in the Hauraki Gulf, 35 minutes on a fast ferry from Auckland: North Island: New Zealand. As if you didn’t know, right?) feels like a homecoming. I love it passionately. I talk about “my” island – would that it were – and feel soothed and invigorated by it. I’m suddenly back to writing up a storm every day; I’m walking every early morning along the headland; I’m loving everything about it – the particular pitch of the neighbours’ “coo-ee!” call, the background buzz of cicadas, the bird song, the smell of the sea and the land, the curve of these hills.

And I’ve posted this poem before – two years ago on the Tuesday Poem blog, I find – but I can’t resist posting it yet again. It’s the poem I loved most when I was at Auckland University and it still holds such a powerful resonance for me.
But first, here’s a photo of the headland I walk around at dawn, with the paradise ducks flapping off in a panic, complaining that I’ve woken them, and the cattle staring moonily, and the sheep ignoring me. All great.

And here’s the poem. Enjoy.

TO AN EXPATRIATE
R. D. Fairburn

“Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him: but weep sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his native country.”
Jeremiah XXII:10

Pine for the needles brown and warm,
think of your nameless native hills,
the seagulls landward blown by storm,
the rabbit that the black dog kills.

Swing with the kelp the ocean sucks,
call to the winds and hear them roar,
the westerly that rips the flax,
the madman at the northeast door.

Dream of the mountain creek that spills
among the stones and cools your feet,
the breeze that sags on smoky hills,
the bubble of the noonday heat.

The embers of your old desire
remembered still will glow, and fade,
and glow again and rise in fire
to plague you like a debt unpaid,
to haunt you like a love betrayed.

And while we’re talking poetry, why don’t you look at what the other Tuesday Poets are offering here: if one of the posts on the sidebar mentions a Tuesday Poem you can be sure there’s a poem in there somewhere.