Archive for the ‘Seasons & Cycles’ Category

Our beautiful autumn trees demonstrate that summer is over.  The evenings are darker now Daylight Saving Time has finished, and the lighter mornings  are welcome.

We’ve had cold days and evenings where we’ve needed the heat pump on to keep us cosy.  However today has been one of Indian Summer.  A high of 26 degrees meant we could have breakfast and lunch outside.  I worked in the garden clearing away plants that have done their dash, and welcoming spring bulbs that are already pushing through.  Ipheions and Muscari are well on their way to brighten the colder days.

Although we’ve not felt winter’s sting
already there are signs of spring.


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I wanted to celebrate my 70th birthday, but took time to decide just how.  For my 50th I’d had a big party, someone to speak about each decade, an Irish band, and dancing.  My 60th was smaller, a garden party with 20 people who each brought something to add to a garden collage.  When I was a child, birthday parties were often small because so many families were away on holiday, but I’ve always wanted to celebrate on The Day, even though the fact it’s a public holiday can bring challenges.  The only time I’ve celebrated on a different day was for my 21st, and that was because we were travelling to another city for a wedding on New Year’s Day.  Prior to The Earthquake my birthday was often marked with dinner at the Octagon, an inner city restaurant that was open when many others were closed, and had live music.  Although that historic building is being repaired it has no tenant yet.  I hope it may be the venue for a future birthday dinner.

For this year’s significant birthday I invited a selection of women friends, and fourteen of us gathered on the back patio on a very warm summer’s day.  Although the walnut tree provided shade to most, a few on the western side needed the protection of umbrellas.

Some needed sunshades

With the temperature over 30 degrees we started with cold drinks and were glad of the breeze, although the fact the wind was nor-west meant planes occasionally flew noisily overhead.  I’d asked people not to bring gifts, but there were some, as well as a number of beautiful cards with wonderfully thoughtful messages written on them.  Several women brought me bunches of flowers from their gardens.

Cards and Flowers

I welcomed everyone, acknowledging three good friends who’d been present at my 60th and had since died, and mentioned my daughters fast asleep in England.  To cast the circle I asked everyone to share when and where they’d met me, which produced warm memories.  There were three things I’d asked everyone to think about beforehand:

  • Something you’ve done that you’re proud of
  • One thing you do to stay well, physically or mentally
  • A hope for 2019

In sharing these we learned about each other’s life journey, and we finished by singing ‘Never Turning Back‘ which we’d also sung at my 50th.  It was time for afternoon tea.  Stephen managed to light the birthday cake candles, but some had succumbed to the wind before I could blow them out.

Cutting the cake

I was pleased that people stayed and socialised, moving chairs further back into the garden where by now there was more shade.  This was an immensely satisfying way to mark my 70th birthday.  I wonder what I’ll do for my 80th?

That evening I received an email from Charities Services reminding me that the financial year for an organisation I’m the Treasurer of ended two days ago and I need to start preparing the financial accounts.  They might have waited until after my birthday!

‘A decade calls for celebration
and this was an ideal creation.’

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last year
at Christmas
I visited you
now you’re only a memory.
Fam’ly in other hemisphere and diff’rent time zone
not the same as being right here.
Just husband and cat
share this year’s


© Ruth Gardner

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Summer Solstice Symbols

A Fibonacci poem is a multiple-lined verse based on the Fibonacci sequence, where the number of syllables in each line equals the total number of syllables in the preceding two lines.  Here’s one I’ve written for the Solstice:

quite still
at solstice
longest day of year
on twenty-second December
marking the beginning of our summer holidays

© Ruth Gardner



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The chestnut trees are in full flower along the City Promenade.  I love their pretty candles:

By the Bridge of Remembrance there are more conventional Christmas decorations:

The entrance to the Arts Centre Clock Tower is festooned with recycled ornaments:

At the beach the green and red seaweed looked Christmassy:

My personal favourite is the feijoa flowers which enhance my garden at this time of year:

‘The festive season’s marked with these
alternatives to Christmas trees.’

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I strongly urge everyone to read this book, which contains important information.  It’s a series of essays about various aspects of death, and a great resource for the conversations we all need to have.

The Teece Museum hosted a panel discussion featuring four of those who wrote essays for the book.  The Chair was Dr Erin Harrington, English Lecturer at the University of Canterbury, who focuses on Cultural Studies.  Her essay about The Casketeers which shows the business of tending to the dead, reminded me that I’d like to see this programme (now available on demand), and how I was privileged to see behind the scenes at a Funeral Director’s premises as part of my training for the Certificate in Celebrant Studies.

Marcus Elliott, Coroner, discussed how death always brings questions.  The coronial system is an inquisitorial process seeking the truth about a particular death.  The coroner speaks for the dead to protect the living.

Dr Ruth McManus, Sociology Professor, University of Canterbury, pointed out that death is expensive and spoke of resomation/bio-cremation or alkaline hydrolysis where a body is dissolved in heated alkaline water.  This process, basically a lye bath,  is more environmentally friendly than cremation.

Melanie Mayell, Deathwalker and Death Cafe host, said that grief is as individual as our fingerprints, and her work reinforces the need to make the most of every day.  Unresolved issues come to the fore when someone dies.

The importance of everyone preparing an Advance Care Plan was stressed.  After discussion about the role and expertise of Funeral Directors we learned that anyone can transport a dead body, e.g. to a crematorium, but it’s a good idea to have the death certificate with you.

An article on the architecture of death by Guy Marriage praises the design of the Harewood Crematorium where we held my Mother’s funeral, and which would be my choice if I were to be cremated.  (I’d prefer resomation, or a natural burial ground, but these may not be available.)

Another essay by a palliative medicine specialist made me think again about the End of Life Choice Bill.  This is currently being altered, and will be the subject of a general referendum.

An essay about funeral poverty reminded me of when I took a funeral service for a woman who had no money when she died.  I was aware that the funeral directors involved treated her with minimal  dignity.

A useful website mentioned is Te Hokinga a Wairua End of Life Service which gives information about what you need to do when someone dies.

This book and the Teece discussion are good reminders of the importance of talking about death, especially with those close to you.  It is certain that all of us will eventually die.

The book is available from Christchurch City Libraries, or can be purchased for $30.

‘We all need to prepare to die
and this book has the reasons why.’


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Skeltonic verse is named after the poet John Skelton (1460-1529).   It consists of short rhyming lines that flow on from one rhyme to the next for however long the poet chooses.  Skeltonic verse generally averages less than six words per line.  The challenge is to keep short rhymes moving down the page, in an energetic and engaging way.  Here is a seasonal skeltonic poem I wrote for our poetry group’s last meeting in 2018:


Christmas is nigh
go out and buy
bake a mince pie
fools’ rules apply
few people ask why
we eat so much kai
and maybe get high
at this time of Noel
when people who dwell
beneath yuletide spell
often strive to upsell
with ringing of bell
and pine needles’ smell
instore there’s a Santa
in red tam-o’-shanter
excelling in banter
the whole thing’s a bummer
let’s just enjoy summer


©Ruth Gardner

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