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.




waking slowly, you smile

and colour bursts across the hillsides,

fat, furry bees investigate your sleeves

The clocks went forward on the weekend here in NZ and now we live with the illusion that it takes longer for the darkness of night to settle over the land. Of course night and day come and go as they’ve always done – it’s just that we’ve adjusted our schedules to look at it differently.

And the land – she had started to wake – with trees opening their bright green hands, and blossoms everywhere – except now we’ve just had a dreaded cold snap.

I fear Spring is shivering in the rain and I wish I could wrap her in my arms and keep her warm.

April 2019


bright jewels fall
from your fingers, paint the ground
in colours from a royal palette – amber, ruby, amethyst

Its taken a long time for autumn to start making her self felt, but the last few weeks have had a chilly nip in the air, and the daylight hours are getting shorter.

Many of our New Zealand trees are evergreen, and our winters are often more richly green than in the summer. But we have many exotic trees as well, and the contrast makes their fallen leaves and bare branches even more special.

February 2019

filling the space,

every window shows your face,

your multitudes, your bright insistence

February calendar post at last!!

Why has it taken so long – no idea – beyond printer not working, going back to work after summer holiday, and putting my time into painting.

Anyway – here ‘tis. This is my world, my green view – this is what I see if I feel like a spot of daydreaming.

And now that the cicadas have come out in force at last, I wonder if a big shiny insect might have been a better image. Still – they need the trees and trust me – they are all over these.

tea and memories

I’m so grateful for the time someone spent with me this afternoon – so patient – listening to my story – suggesting – clarifying – helping me to write my mihi – and more deeply – to connect with and claim my mihi as my own.

I came home – and stopped in front of this kawakawa bush – I was thinking about it yesterday and I knew the best thing would be to make tea from its leaves and let the past settle while I waited for it to steep.

I sit now with my tongue tingling along with my heart.

torn apart

12.02am was a lesson in humility
who am I
to think the earth
could feel my pain
and make the heavens
weep with me

she is not a reflection of my emotions
she is her own sovereign being
and last night she tore herself apart

there is a fury
she has held in check
grief she has suppressed
pain she has denied

last night
all was unleashed
pent up energy released
her heart broken open
and spread before us

there is a madness in her rage
she rends her clothes
and tears her hair
she breaks her own body
and lays it at our feet
she has become a distorted, twisted thing

my beautiful country
you have torn yourself apart
what are you telling me?

we may be homeless
she is broken
we may be confused
she is broken
we may be distraught
she is broken

it may be her only way
to shake free from us

my beautiful country
you have torn yourself apart
what are you telling me?

she has called on her power
the wild pulse of life
to tear open her own skin
to bleed rivers enough
to flood the land
and lay bare the truth

she is not gentle
she is not kind
she is a wild thing
who tolerates us

she is more Lillith than Eve
she is Papatuanuku grieving still for Rangi
she is Persephone rising after slaughtering Hades
she is Mis raging in the wilderness

she is telling us
she owns her body
she owns her pain
and she can cast us off
in a heartbeat

©Claire Griffin 2016

And then came this… just when I was in the heady space of imagining the significance of a rare astronomical event… On 14 November a 7.8 earthquake hit.

I had to face my sentimental wishful thinking, my need to personify the earth as a beneficent mother. She is not a reflection of my emotions. She is her own sovereign being, and this morning she tore herself apart.

The previous poem was put on hold, and this seemed so much more appropriate.

super moon

the eye of the universe draws nearer
she turns towards us
watching side on
like a great white whale
surfacing, curious, yet wary
she brings a gift to us
her own body, her luminous skin
she has come from the depths of space
to show what it looks like to be whole
she has come to bring light to our dark night
she has come to bring hope
she has come …

Monday is the night
of the perigree full moon
a supermoon

our pain, our cries of disappointment
and anger have been heard
and we have woken the spirits of our world

©Claire Griffin 2016

I was working on this almost three weeks ago, and was planning to post on Monday 14 November, the night of the supermoon.
However, Sunday night, early Monday morning, New Zealand was hit by a major earthquake, and my notions of a benevolent moon seemed naïve and sentimental. I’ve been a bit distracted ever since.
I never really finished this – but it fits with a few pieces that have emerged from the events of the last few weeks.

12 November – revised 1 December 2016


tears in the sky

it has rained for three days
rain and fog and mist for two
and yesterday – more rain in a day
than usual for the whole month

the land itself was grieving
for the ones who’ve left us
for voices silenced
for songs unsung

Te Ihorangi and Hinewai
are the gods of rain and mist
male and female together
holding us in their embrace

as mist lay heavy on the hills
cloaks woven of all the tears
we’ve shed these last few days
these last few months

crying with us
until we are ready
to stand and turn our faces
to the sun

©Claire Griffin 2016

In this land, rain is often interpreted as a sign of grief, as if the land itself is crying in recognition of the passing of a great leader. This is an extract from the lament, ‘E pā tō hau’, for Te Wano of the Ngāti Apakura tribe:

E ua e te ua e taheke
Koe i runga rā
Ko au ki raro nei riringi ai
Te ua i aku kamo.

Come then, O rain, pour down
Steadily from above
While I here below pour forth
A deluge from mine eyes.


Citation: Basil Keane, ‘Tāwhirimātea – the weather – Rain’,
Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,
(accessed 13 November 2016)
Full story by Basil Keane, published 12 Jun 2006