2019 Review

This year has brought a great deal of challenges to New Zealand. It’s felt like one crisis after another.

A few of these events are still sitting close the surface of memory… I don’t really want to comment on them, but writing them down does bring home the number of things we’ve had to deal with as a country.

  • In February, major bush fires broke out near Nelson, covering over 2000 hectares and resulting in the evacuation of hundreds of people.
  • March brought the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch – 51 lives taken and so many families affected. The government responded by bringing in changes to gun laws – semi-automatic weapons banned – and a gun amnesty whereby people could hand in their weapons. Around 56,000 guns handed in/exchanged as part of a buy-back scheme.
  • A major measles outbreak continued throughout the year, reaching epidemic proportions, and finally appearing to have peaked in October.
  • November saw a man finally found guilty of murdering Grace Millane. A trial marked by the woman’s personal life being dragged through the courts and the defence framing it as “rough sex gone wrong”. It’s about time that stopped being accepted as an excuse.
  • In December a storm front moved up from the South Island and brought a massive lightning and thunder storm moved up the country and spent some of its energy over Wellington. Sleep became impossible as huge explosive thunder booms broke in the sky over the house.
  • Then a day later, 9 December, the volcano Whakaari (also known as White Island) erupted, with many deaths at the time and some later in hospital as a result of injuries sustained. Two people are still missing. Questions are being asked about whether visits to such places should be allowed.
  • During the year electric scooters continued to multiply like a virus across the country with almost no rules governing their use. They can be ridden on footpaths at high speeds (eg: up to 30km/hr) but can’t be ridden on roads because they’re not classified as vehicles. Meanwhile other users of the footpath are expected to cope with people speeding towards and past them, often with very little warning or consideration.
  • The housing crisis continued throughout the year – a financial windfall for anyone in a position to sell and pocket the proceeds – but an insurmountable hurdle for others. Prices have risen by a massive amount over the last decade.

And now as the year ends, I’m thinking of the fires in Australia and the loss of life, human, wild animals, domestic animals, and loss of property – it does feel apocalyptic. My heart goes out to all those suffering in the face of this disaster.

And I give thanks for young people like Greta Thunberg bringing their voices to the call for action in order to save our planet.

I’m looking forward to a new year and a new decade, but I am wondering what lies ahead for us all. I think my country needs a break. We could do with a less stressful year.

I’m glad I live in a country where our Prime Minister shows compassion. I’m glad our current government is trying to focus on the welfare of its people. The focus of the government budget this year was on national well-being, with social issues given priority.


On a personal note…

In late April I slipped and fell and thought I had a badly sprained leg. A week later it wasn’t getting better and an x-ray showed – it was actually broken! I should have known. The pain in the moment when I fell was intense and I just sat on the ground gasping for air until I was able to pull myself up and hobble inside. I didn’t think it was broken because I was able to hobble around. I’ve since learned the fibular isn’t a load-bearing bone, which is why I was able to limp about on it for a week or so. What was interesting though was the way the pain connects the mind to the body. And accepting that sometimes all you can do is surrender to it. For someone who spends a lot of time in their head, this was a reminder to not take my body for granted.

At the start of this year I set myself the focus of painting portraits. I worked from photographs, and I feel the results showed that good things can happen when you challenge yourself. I kept going with this focus throughout the year – at the expense of getting a few other things finished – but ended the year so much more confident about my attempts to paint people. Next step – to paint from life – eeek!!!

I had to get my cat shaved down to the skin to remove masses of matted tangles. I’ve only had him a couple of years and in that time I’ve tried to brush him, but he refuses. More than that – if you keep trying to brush him after he gives a warning growl, then he’ll try to take your arm off!! But after being clipped, he instantly became a much more chilled, relaxed moggie – and I realized that so much of his grumpiness must have been due to feeling so uncomfortable. He’s learning that it is okay to be brushed and sometimes I think he actually starts to like it. I’ll need to learn how to use the clippers and keep him trimmed.

This year ends with noise and concrete dust as a plumber digs up the driveway to find a water leak. I could think of better ways to end the year. We’ve had two leaks within a couple of weeks – the first was on my birthday, and it flooded the lower workshop/study area of the house.

Oh yes – and a birthday in December – I turned 60. I can’t believe I’m saying that out loud. I reckon I’m only about 47 on the inside.

Version 3


And next year – I really need to start writing again. I want to work out how to merge both writing and painting. Its a positive challenge to myself.



the fallen

the ground beneath is hard and dry
not a place to rest, not a place to lie
this far down was only ever for foraging
wind-rivers here can not carry
but blow dust flurries into eyes
dust rose and settled, glossy black coat undone
reaching into air but finding no purchase
eyes opened blind to the sun
this far down
all horizontal, all solid, all still
body cooling under sun
hard nest of stones and dust
bones and black
sight gone, shine gone

walking home she saw the contrast
black against the blonde ground
small lost body in the dust
she sensed fragility
approached cautiously
blew gently revealing the dull eyes
fingers nested, lifted
warm hands enclosed
one finger stroked away the dust
revealing the shine
compassion carried him away
her quiet voice shared secrets
whispered into tiny ears

she found a box and a doll’s blanket
and made a bed
she lay her black prince to rest
she knew this sleep was forever
there would be no wakening kiss
she tucked the blanket around him
to comfort and protect
a final nest
and blessed him in silence
a small child’s sacrament
a small child’s attempt
to honour the wild world
to care for the fallen

to an only child
anything could become animate
anything could become the voice of her imagination
he was her pet, he was beloved
he was a sleeping prince
a treasure, a secret
a gift from the world she walked in
at one with the raw pure energy of childhood
not yet disconnected

she felt the need to share
this treasure felt too much for one so small to hold
she showed her mother
expecting softness and awe and sensitive respect for her care

the mother snatched the box
threw it in the bin
half-filled with ashes from the coal-range
clouds of grey ash rushed up on impact
then settled slowly over the small black body
this last wind
this last nest
a desecration
a child’s heart broken

looking down
the blackbird thanked her, blessed her, kissed her tears
she would remain known to the birdworld, the greenworld
the elemental consciousness of nature
granted access
and held the thin door open


© Claire Griffin 2016