The Pied Piper

I’m excited to announce that my short story, The Pied Piper, is out today in Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, along with a whole bunch of other great stories.

The Pied Piper was inspired by New Zealand’s Predator Free campaign, which has a goal of eradicating rats, stoats and possums from the entire mainland. A difficult goal, and one that might take a little extra help, if we dare …

You can get your very own copy here.

Shining in the Dark

Not much to look at in the light, but spectacular in the dark.

I’m a morning person. I’m rarely in bed past six o’clock, and am often up long before that. But I will admit that even I get tired of getting up in the cold and dark at this time of year.

Of course, sometimes the most amazing things happen before the sun is up.

Yesterday morning, I stepped into the chicken paddock feed ‘the girls’. It was still dark, with just enough starlight to see my way. I bent to tip a scoop of feed into their dish and froze.

Something glowed on the ground—the eerie glow of bioluminescence.

I’ve seen bioluminescence while feeding the chickens before—a tiny sea creature whipped up and blown in with a violent snowstorm—but this was different.

I flicked my light on and saw something pink glistening on the ground. When I tried to pick it up, I discovered it was the head of an earthworm.

A brightly glowing earthworm.

I couldn’t get it out of the ground in order to bring it in and identify it yesterday, but I took the spading fork with me this morning when I went to feed the chickens, and I collected a little glowing earthworm from where I’d seen one yesterday.

I already knew that at least one of our native earthworms is bioluminescent—Octochaetus multiporus, which I’ve blogged about before. But O. multiporus grows to enormous size, and I’ve never found any worms in the garden that match its description. Doing a little research, I found that bioluminescence is quite widely employed by earthworms, presumably as a deterrent to predators.

Most earthworms produce light in much the same way that fireflies do, with a chemical known as luciferin that reacts with oxygen-containing compounds in the presence of luciferase to create light.

So, what species is my little glowing worm? There are about thirty New Zealand species within the genera where bioluminescence has been recorded. I’ve found record of only two of those species being bioluminescent: O. mulitporus and Microscolex phosphoreus, a small worm considered native here, but widely distributed around the globe. My best guess is that it’s M. phosphoreus, but data on that worm’s distribution in New Zealand is almost nonexistent (it’s been recorded from only one location), and data about any earthworm in New Zealand is scanty. Perhaps my worm is M. phosphoreus, but it might also be a worm in which bioluminescence hasn’t been recorded. After all, most people aren’t out in the garden at night to notice glowing worms.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to have the worm identified by an expert. If not, well, I still think it’s the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long while! And I won’t be grumbling about getting up in the dark and cold tomorrow.

Welcome 2018

The new year is here, and I feel I should declare some resolution to go with it.

But the truth is, I don’t wait for the new year to make resolutions. If I feel a need to work harder, change my life, eat less chocolate (heaven forbid!), or whatever in order to be a better person, I just do it, as soon as I realise I need to. New year or old, it doesn’t matter. Why wait to improve your life or yourself?

And so I come to the new year with a list of to-dos that has little to do with it being 2018 instead of 2017. Oh, there are some big-ticket items there that might be construed as ‘resolutions’, but they’re really just the next step in a progression, and their appearance on my list has nothing to do with the change of year.

So, whether you’ve made resolutions or not, may your new year be full of growth and personal improvement. May you strive to spread love and happiness wherever you go and in whatever you do. If we all do that, think what a fabulous year it will be!

A-Z of Thankfulness–#3

Here’s the final instalment, posted on Christmas day, I hope you all find much to be thankful for today and every day.

Sunshine—The counterpoint to rain, and just as necessary for the garden. It’s also critical for my mental health, and I try to make the most of our sunny days.

Teeth—Where would we be without them? I wish I had appreciated them earlier in life and taken better care of them when I was a teen.

Ukuleles—Who can resist smiling while listening to ukulele music?

Vision—Not just my eyesight, though I appreciate that a great deal, but also the ability to look ahead at what could be. I’ve relied on vision the past twelve years, building a business, and then closing it to become a writer. Many days, that vision has been the only thing getting me out of bed in the morning.

Water—I have not truly experienced a lack of water—not as many people in the world have—but after losing our well in the 2010 earthquake, and experiencing a few years of drought, I have an appreciation for the ease with which I obtain water. I am thankful to have access to clean, safe water.

Xenophilia—The love of the unknown. I love the fact we humans don’t understand everything. I love the fact that in my backyard, there may be insects that have yet to be described by science. I love the fact there are discoveries to be made every day. I love that our world is populated by weird and wonderful life.

Yellow admirals—These butterflies, and all the native insects and spiders in my yard are a source of great pleasure to me. They help me tolerate the weeds, because they rely upon many of them for food and shelter.

Zucchini—How many ways can you eat zucchini? I don’t know, but I love them all. I always plant too many zucchini, and I end up wondering what on earth I’m going to do with them, but they are a wonderful summer staple in our kitchen.

A-Z of Thankfulness–#2

Jumper cables—They bring out the best in everyone. How many times have I stood by my car, cables in hand, and had strangers happy to help? How many times have I had the pleasure of pulling out my cables to help someone else? Wonderful things, those jumper cables.

Knitting needles—My nemesis. I hate them, and I have conquered them. How rewarding is that?

L2—The collective term I use for my children, both of whom have names beginning with L. They have grown into fine young people who I am proud to own up to. I take no responsibility for that—they’ve always been the best kids ever.

Mountains—They make New Zealand what it is. Every time I look west to see their changing faces, I smile.

Nettles—Okay, I’m weird, but nettles growing lush in the garden over winter tell me my soil is rich and fertile. They harbour the caterpillars of beautiful butterflies, and they remind me that things can be useful and irritating at the same time.

Ocean—A critical part of the Earth’s life support system, a source of food, moderator of our weather, a wild and mysterious frontier…and a wonderful place to play on a hot summer day.

Peas, Pumpkins, and Potatoes—Of all the vegetables I grow, these are perhaps the most important. Productive, tasty, and easy to store, they are year-round ingredients in our dinners.

Quiet—There is beauty in silence. I appreciate that every morning when I head out to tend to the animals at 5.30. It’s such a peaceful silent time of day, that even when I don’t really have to get up that early, I’m eager to do so.

Rain—We never get enough of it here, and I’m always thankful when it arrives to water my thirsty garden.

A-Z of Thankfulness–#1

I saw another blogger doing this a few weeks ago and liked the idea. I thought it would be a good set of posts for the holiday season.

Here’s the first instalment—A to I.

Apples—It seems a silly thing to be thankful for, but I eat at least one apple a day. They are my go-to snack. Having lived in the tropics for two years, where apples don’t grow, I am thankful to live in a place where excellent apples are produced and available year-round.

Bees—I’d have no garden if it weren’t for the bees pollinating all my fruit and vegetables. I try to show my thanks by planting flowers they like and managing the garden to maximise nectar throughout the year.

Cat—He’s a real pain in the rear a lot of the time, waking me at four in the morning, getting fur on everything, using furniture as scratching posts. But I appreciate his hunting abilities. This spring was looking bad for rabbits—they seemed to be everywhere, and I was worried they’d cause havoc in the garden and paddocks—but the cat seems to have a particular fondness for rabbit. He seems to have dealt handily with the rabbit problem, saving me a great deal of trouble.

Desk—A space of my own to work. I appreciate this most when I have to spend a few days working in the library, elbow to elbow with strangers, and without my reference books, my porch, and my view.

Earthquakes—I know, it’s a weird thing to be thankful for, but the devastating 2010/2011 earthquakes set into motion a series of events that led to my kids being enrolled in an incredibly supportive school, and to a friendship I value a great deal.

Friends and Family are the obvious answers here, and for the obvious reasons.

Gardening—I am thankful to be able to produce most of our food for the year. I get great pleasure out of gardening, watching the plants grow, and eating the excellent produce I’m able to grow.

Home—Not just a house, but a home. A community in which I feel comfortable. A place I feel I belong. I am blessed to have been welcomed so warmly into this country and this community.

Ian—My best friend, who has stuck by me for over 25 years and is father to my children. If I had nothing but him, it would be enough.

Danger! Keep out!

I was driving to town with the kids this afternoon, and we got to talking about dreams. After concluding that dreams were seriously weird, and even more so considering they come from inside our heads, I said, “Yeah. A brain isn’t a place you want to go walking around alone in after dark.”

To which my daughter’s response was, “I don’t think I’d want to go wandering around there at any time.”

And it struck me that there lies the crux of being an introvert. We go walking alone in our brains, in spite of the fact it’s not a nice neighbourhood.

We go walking alone there, where anything could jump out at us, and probably will. We walk through alleys smelling of rats and urine, where all the stupid things we’ve ever said slouch in shadowy doorways drinking out of bottles in brown paper bags.

We walk through busy thoroughfares where our own doppelgangers repeat every public embarrassment we’ve ever committed over and over and over without pause.

We walk into brightly lit rooms where we are handcuffed and a poised and confident extrovert asks probing questions about why, exactly, we decided to wear our “Nerd is the new Sexy” t-shirt to the bar on Saturday night.

We step out onto the street, thinking the way is clear, and the bus carrying every one of our personal inconsistencies and incompetencies runs us down.

We pass a parked car with tinted windows, and the door opens. Out steps our younger self. She looks us up and down and sighs. “I thought by now you’d have done something with your life.” She rolls her eyes and stalks off.

We walk past a tall chain link fence topped with razor wire. On the other side is the hitchhiker we didn’t pick up last August, the crying child we didn’t comfort two years ago, the Salvation Army bell ringer we didn’t empty our pockets for on December 23, 1989.

The mind is the seedy place we introverts are drawn to in the dead of night, when the happy extroverts are tucked safely in bed or walking brightly lit streets with a crowd of friends. It’s a bad neighbourhood, but it’s our own, and maybe we think we can fix it up if only we visit it frequently enough.