Sunday, April 14, 2013
This afternoon I strolled down Manchester Street - newly re-opened to traffic after the lifting of more of the Red Zone cordons. I wasn't the only one. Sightseers and Sunday drivers were out in force, to catch a glimpse of a part of the city they haven't been able to walk through for over two years - since the February 22, 2011 earthquake. I could write 24,000 words on the subject, but operating on the premise that a picture is worth a thousand words - and because I'm sick of writing about earthquakes - I bring a photographic study instead.
I think you'll agree, the place needs work.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Theatre Royal Facade, Gloucester Street
It's been many weeks since I wandered around the inner city Christchurch Red Zone with my camera.
I had reached one of those saturation points that comes upon me after months of photographing the brokenness of this place.
When I set off early this morning, I didn't expect to find too many changes, and in the larger sense of things, that proved to be true. But after roaming this city throughout the two-and-a-half years since the first September 2010, 7.1 magnitude earthquake, I am always surprised b y what I discover in the detail of things.
Ruins-in-Waiting, taken from Cashel Street
Framed, Madras Street.
Streets I have walked a hundred times before, still have the potential to deliver surprises - some brand new, others that have been there all along, just waiting to be seen. We miss so much of what goes on around us.
We spend too much time, walking from place to place, looking through half-open eyes.
The inner city home of a friend
Building for Lease, As is, where is - Hereford Street
Feet First, Colombo Street
"Future that Way," Tuam Street
I suppose, like most people, I should find this wholesale destruction of our city distressing and depressing; but I've moved passed that. I do of course have moments of deep sadness for the way Christchurch has changed beyond recognition, but for the most part, I am now buoyed by a growing sense of excitement.
"A New Zealand Icon," For Sale, Tuam Street.
Not sure what's happening here - Lichfield Street.
Progress on Shigeru Ban's Cardboard Cathedral, Madras Street.
It's an excitement for the promise of the new and for the unpredictable and ongoing change.
Not everyone likes change.
I love it.
For me, cities should be about change and evolution. It would have been preferable of course, not to have had such dramatic change (and loss of life) forced upon us by the forces of nature but would conservative Christchurch ever have *really* looked at itself otherwise?
The Capri Club, viewed from Tuam Street
Vacant lots, Poplar Lane, Viewed from Tuam Street
A Gothic Remnant, Canterbury Provincial Chambers, Gloucester Street
"Let everything - almost everything - change with a will, in any city that you love. People gush and moan too much about the loss of ancient buildings of no special note - "landmarks" and "links with the past." In towns, as in human bodies, the only state of health is one of rapid wasting and repair."
C.E. Montague. "The Right Place."
Fence Tag, Tuam Street.
Vacant Lots, Gloucester Street
"Every City needs a Giraffe, Cashel Street
Any change, even a change for the better, always has its discomforts and drawbacks; but sometimes, having change forced upon us, makes us 'go to new places.' It forces us to think differently, to live our lives differently and, in the case of a city, to build differently. That's where the excitement lies for me.
A Girl and Her Rubble - Cashel Street
Memorial Stones, CTV site, Madras Street.
Life in Christchurch now is all about change. It's like living inside a kaleidoscope. Nothing is still. Every part moves (sometimes literally). Few things are constant.
No Entrance - with a Cabbage Tree, Hereford Street.
Early Sun on a Construction Site, Lichfield Street.
"Since changes are going on anyway, the great thing is to learn enough about them so that we will be able to lay hold of them and turn them in the direction of our desires. Conditions and events are neither to be fled from nor passively acquiesced in; they are to be utilised and directed."
John Dewey. "Reconstruction in Philosophy."
Restart Mall, Oxford Terrace.
Danger, Keep Out. Oxford Terrace.
We're all changed in Christchurch and I hope we will all keep changing, just as I hope the city will keep changing. Nothing is meant to last forever.
We never know when the next change is going to occur, or how big or small it will be. We never know what unexpected opportunity is just around the corner. But I do know there are unexpected opportunities of every kind, lurking in every corner of Christchurch's broken body.
I celebrate that.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Friday, January 18, 2013
I have a sign on my office wall that says "Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere."
Lately though, Inspiration doesn't seem to be at my place.
That's inspiration for writing I mean - and by 'writing,' I mean 'other than journalism.'
I've spent decades wrestling with this dilemma. Some call it writer's block but I don't think I've ever suffered from that, not in any long-term or meaningful way. Years in journalism have taught me to 'write on command.' I can do that almost any time, anywhere. But when it comes to fiction, or non-fiction book writing, it's a whole other ball game. I can be as stumped as the next person.
But I do know this about myself.
I know that if I move away from my familiar environment, away from the city and into a rural environment where I can make space for the 'meditation,' wonderful things can happen.
So last weekend, I took one of those long and winding roads that remind me of my childhood and I opened that gate to daydreams, thought, memory and the sinuous entwining of all three.
I was probably about eight when I started riding away from home – not long after I got my first bike. I lived in the country and I would cycle for miles.
I still remember those days of carefree freedom with something close to bliss. I can still smell the hayfields, the honeysuckle and barberry hedges. I can still see the waving roadside grasses, the endless green fields and the wild pheasants that would fly out and send me wobbling across the road in fright.
I still have a vision of the games I played with the centre white lines, watching them fade away into the distant horizon, wondering what I would find when I finally got to that point that was, just then, an indiscernible haze, nothing more than a blur. I remembered turning corners into new roads - uncharted childhood landscapes filled with secrets, nervous fears and a constant wondering about what would unfold in front of me, who I might see, what I might find to take home as a souvenir of my immense and important journeys.
A coloured stone might do the trick, or a new leaf, a dead insect, a butterfly wing, a broken bird’s egg, or a hawk’s feather that I dreamed of turning into a magic quill that would write books for me.
It strikes me now, that every journey we have ever make is preparation for the next. More than that, it is preparation for the ‘now.’ Everywhere we have been, everything we have discovered along the way, every person we have ever met along those long and endless ‘roads’, has somehow brought us to this point, gifted us with the knowledge and courage we need to go on.
Sitting on a remote beach at dawn, watching the rising sun catch at the clouds, I remembered a childhood of lying on fresh grass, watching the clouds float by. I used to wonder who would be next to see them, after they had vanished from my view; I wondered if they saw the same fleeting 'pictures' that I made out of all that 'cumulus fluff.'
I thought of all the beaches I had stayed at as a child, as an adult.
I remembered a jumble of holidays that glued my childhood horror of getting lost in sand dunes, to the screaming panic of one of my own children, stung in the back by a wasp as we motored through Northland kauri forests.
And the sentence he screamed, now relegated to family lore
"Help, help, a wasp has put his foot in my back."
[He was three or four at the time]
When I sit on a beach, alone, I think of time and tides.
I think of the last time I may have been there.
I daydream about the ebb and flow of love affairs.
Of people past and present, who walk through memory.
I remember my childhood passion for collecting things.
For taking home those little feathery momentos, the sticks, the shells, the pebbles.
I still do it.
And in the act of doing it
Thoughts are loosened, ideas gather, words collide.
Alone, away from the distractions of daily life – phone calls, visitors, the nagging guilt of unwashed dishes, unironed clothes and lawns like unmown fields – I can focus on ‘inner things.’
Unable to view a pile of unanswered correspondence and unwritten magazine features, I can sift through remembered words, gathered sentences and deeply-stored memories, reshuffling them into new compositions with a life of their own.
In the act of remembering my childhood garden, thoughts 'grow.'
The act of nurturing my past enriches my present.
Forgotten nuggets of memory swell and fill out with a new knowledge, a new perception of what my childhood was really like; and how it has informed the person I am today.
It's so easy to let your life fill up with 'other stuff.'
Away from my own environment, I find the freedom to 'see ghosts,' to look back on an accumulation of stored moments - to bring them out, as you might bring out a favourite book, or a gathered shell, to be looked at afresh.
It's like shuffling half-formed ideas - always there, waiting - into some sort of new understanding, of yourself, of others.
The ideas, the memories - they're always there, stored
Like piles of wood
Just waiting for me to be in the right frame of mind to see them, to take them
To turn them into something that works, something that 'burns.'
I see life in the detail of things, in the ordinariness of the everyday.
I live for beauty.
I see it everywhere.
And in solitude, away from the demands and distractions of a modern life
I think more deeply about the way the light falls through the window
About the way darkness approaches, like a stranger in the street
About the bee on a flower that instantly snaps me back to childhood
I used to gather up all my writer’s lucky charms for a trip like this: my little brown book of notes, my little black book of notes, a new book for new notes, my folder full of scribbled notes on old scraps of paper, my pens – new, old and lucky, a stapler, my glasses, also lucky (as in ‘lucky to see without them’), paperclips, three small notebooks for scribbling notes on the run, everything in fact, that had surrounded me the last time I successfully wrote when I was away from home. I'd pack them all into my suitcase. It was about recapturing the mood I told myself, trying to justify the extra weight I would have to heft.
Sometimes I still take notes.
More often I take photographs of the things I know will stir me later
The things that will rustle through my memories and shake free a new awareness.
And I rely, more and more, on adding a new layer of memory.
Over the old
Too be turned over
To be remembered
When next I falter at a fictional beginning.
[All photographs were taken last weekend at Ōtanerito on Banks Peninsula]