Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Planted seeds and pleasing growth


Unexpected sunflowers in our allotment garden last autumn

Craig every second Tuesday

Kia ora and gidday everyone. 

I hope you've had a good start to the year, even as we all continue to live through unprecedented times. It's hard to believe that we're coming up two years now dealing with a once-a-century pandemic that has upturned so much of life that we perhaps took a little for granted, whether it's international travel or being able to hug our friends or attend weddings or book festivals or concerts - or any events really, without stress or anxiety - pre-2020. 

I don't know about you, but I've found myself compartmentalising quite a bit over the past couple of years - trying to be really grateful for all the good things that I do have in my day-to-day life and not dwell too much on the many things that have been curtailed or lost. It can be a little overwhelming at times to think too much about the latter. 

A couple of things I've found really beneficial in the last couple of years is spending time in nature. Living in a big city like London now, I miss the natural surrounds that were easily at hand growing up in small-town New Zealand (beaches, forests, mountains, rivers, orchards and more all 15 mins or so drive from my suburban home). I miss the sea, I miss the mountains. But as my daughter has grown, and especially the past couple of years, we've spent more and more time exploring the nature we do have in London - whether riverside walks along the Thames, spending time in some cool parks, commons, and woodland areas in south London (eg Wimbledon Common), and also thanks to some friends we met, eventually creating our own rustic, rather wild garden area in a local allotment. 

Miss Six is pleased with her 'pumpkin' (actually a Japanese squash)

After visiting our friends there regularly, having play dates and barbeques and helping with their produce in 2020 - allowable outdoors catch-ups during the pandemic - which was a great boon for the soul during tough times, last year we were offered the chance to have our own little patch. It was late in the planting season, but after working hard on the bindweed infested soil during the early summer, we planted a few things to see how they'd go (squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, a few sunflower plants etc), more using it as a test for next season than having any great hopes for lots of vegetables this time.

I remember thinking at the time about a saying I'd often heard or used in years past: 'plant seeds, pull weeds', talking about life in general and trying to take actions that may pay off later, and reduce or stop actions, habits or other things that may hurt later or are getting in the way. There was something therapeutic during the still-going pandemic to get my hands dirty, in the soil, literally pulling weeds and planting seed(ling)s. And it was really heartening when our pumpkin patch boomed beyond all expectations, and then later we got some late sunflowers - completely unexpected and very cheering. 

Physical work, nature, growth, learning. Lots to be grateful for. 

Finding ways to laugh and have fun each day

We've had lots of fun at the allotment, which feels like a wee oasis in our neighbourhood, close by yet somehow separate from the concrete jungle of the big city. Similarly it's been great to spend time nearly every day in local parks, as Miss Now-Seven and I have made 'nature walks' a commonplace thing (scenic detour on walks home from school or various extracurricular activities). Lately we haven't been doing much gardening in the allotment, as we pause over the winter a little before planning out what we're going to do for the coming seasons, but still enjoy hanging out there each week. 

Plant seeds, pull weeds. 

It's something worth doing in lots of areas of our lives. I've been plenty inconsistent on that front, so not trying to preach here, but along with the nature walks and allotment, lots of quality time with Miss Six-then-Seven, and a few other things that helped keep me sane in a very tumultuous year last year (a few personal things that I won't go into in much detail; suffice to say I deeply felt the distance from loved ones on the other side of the world in a way I hadn't previously, and time passing) - I did also plant a few other interesting seeds in 2021 that may flower rather wonderfully in the coming months. 

One that I can finally share publicly, as of last night: one of the coolest and most satisfying things I did in 2021 was play a wee part in terrific Māori screen storyteller Michael Bennett finding a home for his rather special debut crime novel, Better The Blood. You can read The Bookseller announcement here. 

This makes me feel really good on a number of levels - not just in terms of using some of my accumulated experience or connections to help someone else with their storytelling dreams, but in particular helping not just a talented Kiwi author but an indigenous author get notice and opportunities internationally. Over the 13 plus years I've been involved in crime fiction as a reviewer and features writer then events organiser, awards judge, festival chair, and occasional agent etc, I've increasingly become conscious of the need to bring a diverse array of voices into the genre we all love. 

And uplift them. Personally I think it makes crime and thriller fiction even better to have more and more writers of colour, LGBT+ storytellers, working class writers, translated authors, non-US/UK authors, and others involved and supported. So whether it's my reading, my writing, the events I'm involved with, or my advocacy, I'll be looking to support and celebrate a broad, inclusive genre. 

We're blessed with a startling array of crime and thriller writing nowadays. It's a great time to be a reader and fan of the genre. And that's another of the wee things that I've been thankful for the past couple of years, as we've dealt with so much real-life tumult. 

So whether it's gardens or nature walks or reading or time with your loved ones or whatever else it may be that you're using to get through these tough times, I hope that in the weeks and months ahead you can regularly enjoy some of those things. 

And maybe plant a few seeds and pull a few weeds along the way.

Thanks for reading. Until next time. Ka kite anō.

Whakataukī of the fortnight: 
Inspired by Zoe and her 'word of the week', I've been ending my fortnightly posts by sharing a whakataukī (Māori proverb), a pithy and poetic thought to mull on as we go through life.

He iti mokoroa e hinga pūriri

(A small mokoroa (grub) can fell a pūriri tree, ie small thjings can have great impact)

A mokoroa, the caterpillar of the Puriri moth which can chew through trees that grow up to 20m high

1 comment:

  1. Of your many talents, achievements, and loves, Craig, what comes through loudest and clearest to me, is your utter dedication to Miss-Now-Seven. "Plant seeds, pull weeds," is wonderful advice to any parent seeking to raise glorious sunflowers.