Inspiring Landscapes

When I was writing my Dragon Defence League series books, I delighted in placing my characters in some of my favourite places in New Zealand—the mountains of Fiordland, Kahurangi National Park, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, and many others.

But New Zealand’s landscapes infuse my latest book, Fatecarver, even though it is set in a purely fantasy world.

While I was writing Fatecarver, I kept imagining specific places in New Zealand. I sat on a peak near Arthur’s Pass and imagined my characters there. I scribbled down descriptions of real views, storms, trees, and hikes to use in the book.

I took the New Zealand landscapes and mixed and mingled them with favourite places in the United States, Panama, Peru and Bolivia until the Fatecarver world included elements of a lifetime of adventures. 

Many of my fellow authors are adventurers like me. We take inspiration for our writing from dramatic landscapes and other settings we’ve experienced. The landscape becomes a character in its own right, thwarting other characters’ plans, throwing up challenges, or providing aid at a critical moment. Just like real landscapes do.

Natural landscapes play a huge role in my own real life adventures—it’s only natural to include them in my fictional ones.

Spring Cleanout

The equinox has passed and we’re on the sunny side of the year. The greenhouse is filled with vegetable seedlings. Flowers bloom in the yard. Asparagus spears and artichoke buds are popping up to grace our dinners.

Now is the time to scour the cupboards and freezer for what’s left of last summer’s bounty. It needs to be eaten before this year’s crops start to come in and make us forget.

As usual for us, the frozen peas and corn are long gone. The carrots I froze from last year’s bumper crop have been eaten, too. The currants, peaches and strawberries never stand a chance of making it to September—they are like bright sparks for winter’s darkest days.

As usual, what remains is pumpkin. Baked and frozen when the fresh pumpkins started to rot back in July, frozen pumpkin has become a staple in our springtime cooking as we scramble to finish it off.

Maybe I should plant fewer?

Except it’s the only vegetable left at this time of year. And maybe pumpkin isn’t traditionally considered a springtime vegetable but pumpkin pie, cake, galette, and pancakes are delicious any time of the year.

So bring on the flowers, the sun and the warmth. And bring on the pumpkin! We’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

pumpkin cake glazed with yogurt frosting
Pumpkin cake … best way to eat pumpkin?

Lichens Rule

Not long ago, I spent a glorious sunny day wandering around Cass Field Station while my husband met with some students there. It was nice to take a solo walk and go at my own pace, stopping at whatever plants, bugs or rocks caught my fancy.

Once nice find was this beautiful lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum.

Lichens are strange organisms comprised of an alga living within a fungus. The alga provides food through photosynthesis and the fungus provides protection and nutrients for the alga.

R. geographicum is an alpine/subalpine lichen and, like many lichens, is sensitive to air pollution, thriving only where the air is clean. It is not, however, a fragile organism.

In 2005, R. geographicum was one of two lichens launched into space. The lichens were exposed to 14.6 days of open space—vacuum, wide temperature fluctuations, intense UV light and cosmic radiation. Upon return, R. geographicum showed little harm from the experience.

Not only is R. geographicum tough, some individuals in the Arctic are estimated to be 8,600 years old, making them the oldest living organisms on Earth. Their longevity and predictable growth rate make them useful tools for determining when glaciers retreated from an area.

But I didn’t know all this about R. geographicum when I found it on the rocks at Cass. I simply admired its beautiful mottled colours and soft texture. 

Pandemic Poetry–2021 Edition, #21

masks
Masks ready to go for level 2 outings.

New Zealand outside of Auckland got the news we were hoping for yesterday. As of Wednesday, we will move to Covid alert level 2, which means we can all return to work and school. This level 2 is more restrictive than previous level 2s, because the Delta variant is so much more transmissible, but we’re all looking forward to the increase in freedoms.

A shout out to Auckland, which remains in level 4. You are all superstars! Hang in there, and thank you for your mahi. It can’t be easy, and my heart goes out to you all. Kia kaha!

Once again
We reach the end
Of lockdown’s
Boring grind.

We’re headed back
To work and school
For which we all
Have pined.

So vaccinate and
Wash your hands
And over all
Be kind.

Don’t forget
To don your mask
And wear a
Smile behind.

Pandemic Poetry–2021 Edition, #20

daffodils in a vase

A few days of warm wind, and it seems like the plants have all woken up. The pines across the road certainly have—everything is covered in gritty yellow pollen. 

Springtime’s chorus
The magpies’ warble
A chittering of sparrows
The buzz of bees
Among the pansies
The distant drone
Of a lawnmower
The quiet chirp
Of frogs after dark.

Pandemic Poetry–2021 Edition, #19

notebooks and folders
My notebooks and folders for planning a return to in-person schooling.

I’m lucky to have only one, relatively self-sufficient teen at home for lockdown, but I feel for parents of young children. Good weekend weather will have been a help, but homeschool fatigue will make the coming week difficult.

Desperation grows
As the
Days
Tick
By.

Worksheets that
The school sent out
Make
The kids
Sigh.

We long for
Normal routines:
Work,
School,
Kai.

Desperation grows
As the
Days
Tick
By.

Pandemic Poetry–2021 Edition, #17

Grow little plants!

Hard to be upset about lockdown when the weather is beautiful. In fact, I was a bit disappointed I was asked to go into work today. I would have jumped at the opportunity on a rainy lockdown day, but today … well I would rather have been in the garden.

Spring has sprung
It’s time to plant
Your vegetables and flowers.

The birds are busy
In the trees with
Twiggy nests and bowers.

Hoe in hand
I soon forget
The viral threat we’re under.

With bright warm sun
And growing things
The season’s full of wonder.

Pandemic Poetry–2021 Edition, #16

poetry fence
Ah, the days of plentiful building wrap…

After 65 poems, I’ve run out of the building wrap I’ve been writing them on. I’m amazed it’s lasted as long as it did—who would have thought the builders would throw away that much useful material?

In preparation for the exhaustion of my construction waste supply, I’ve been repurposing some magnet boards I made years ago for Bugmobile programmes. I now have a pair of chalkboards that I’ll attach to my makeshift fence out front. Now as long as my chalk holds out …

I’ve finished off the very last scrap
Of discarded building wrap.

You might hope that I am done—
More lousy verse won’t see the sun.

But you know what they always say—
Where there’s will there’s a way.

Tomorrow’s verse won’t look the same
But it’ll be just as lame.

Pandemic Poetry–2021 Edition, #15

quilt
The stalled quilt project.

All of New Zealand south of Auckland is now at alert level 3. To most of the rest of the world, level 3 is simply “lockdown”, but to us it represents an important easing of restrictions. Just like level 4, we have to stay in our bubbles, work from home, and not travel, but in level 3 we’re allowed to sell and purchase items that aren’t food or medicine, provided we can do it online and have contactless delivery or pickup.

I was terribly smug at the start of this lockdown, knowing I had a quilting project underway, for which I had all the supplies I needed. On day 1 of lockdown, I spread out the top, batting and backing, only to discover I was 14 cm short on batting. Horrors!

I’ve spent lockdown making do with other craft projects—things I never particularly intended to make, but had the supplies for. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to finally be able to order that narrow strip of batting I need for my quilt.

We go! We go
To level three—
A lot like level four.
But it’s nice to
Click and collect
From your favourite store.