Holy cow! It HAS been two months, hasn’t it?

I didn't grow up castrating hogs in Iowa, but I caught on quickly to helping with lambs in New Zealand. Poor babies. They were very sore for about 2 hours. And then they gamboled away and forgot about it. The ones that didn't get castrated that day got butchered a few days later, so really, what I did was help buy them more time.

I didn’t grow up castrating hogs in Iowa, but I caught on quickly to helping with lambs in New Zealand. Poor babies. They were very sore for about 2 hours. And then they gamboled away and forgot about it. The ones that didn’t get castrated that day got butchered a few days later, so really, what I did was help buy them more time.

This is but one of the several guest houses at Te Rangi. It's a portable railroad shed Peter and Mary moved to the farm. It was in this exact location that Jack and I were introduced to the pleasures of hot water bottles (hotties). Mary sneaked in and hid half a dozen of them between the sheets about an hour before we went to bed. Bliss!  Behind the presidential suite, you see the end of Peter's recording studio.

This is but one of the several guest houses at Te Rangi. It’s a portable railroad shed Peter and Mary moved to the farm. It was in this exact location that Jack and I were introduced to the pleasures of hot water bottles (hotties). Mary sneaked in and hid half a dozen of them between the sheets about an hour before we went to bed. Bliss!
Behind the Te Rangi Bridal Suite, you see the end of Peter’s recording studio.

I think I must have gotten stuck at Mary and Peter’s place. They’ve named their home Te Rangi — “The Sky.” Since my last post, I have had my head in the clouds. At least as far as writing goes. I’ve done a lot of knitting. With the gorgeous stash of merino/possum yarn I brought home. And I’ve rolled our July trip over in my mind, as if it were a smooth pebble I pick up off the beach and just had to taste.

Re-calling and re-membering — healthy and necessary, in proportion. But it’s a slippery slope into nostalgia, and from there you’re already ankle deep in a sentimental swamp. I hope someone stops me if I start wallowing. Please.

I just this minute got back from Jack’s side of the computer, where he has all his travel photos in organized folders on his grid-like desktop. (My computer screen desktop looks like somebody dumped confetti all over it.) Jack does so much more than document with his photos. He captures essences. Today’s post will be mostly visual (Thank you, sweetie). But I know I can’t resist comments along the way.

A little backtrack to Napier, the city that got leveled by an earthquake and rebuilt in the style of the day, which was then Art Deco. This was one of dozens of similar storefronts.

A little backtrack to Napier, the city that got leveled by an earthquake and rebuilt in the style of the day, which was then Art Deco. This was one of dozens of similar storefronts.

 

new zealand--slurp & chew--jab

Madison Avenue never quite made it to the antipodes. For which we can all give thanks. Jack never told me about his discovery of Slurp & Chew. I’ll probably go to my grave not knowing what sort of confection it is.

Waipukurau library. After the preschoolers toddled off, a bunch of the older kids wanted to do some extra folding. So we did.

Waipukurau library. After the preschoolers toddled off, a bunch of the older kids wanted to do some extra folding. So we did.

Woodville library and service center. Every little town has an i-site, where visitors can pop in and find out what's what and where it's happening. Woodville is TINY. And it had one of the most creative lunchrooms I've ever patronized. As well as a replica Gottfried Lindauer's studio (about whom, more later).

Woodville library and service center. Every little town has an i-site, where visitors can pop in and find out what’s what and where it’s happening. Woodville is TINY. And it had one of the most creative lunchrooms I’ve ever patronized. As well as a replica of Gottfried Lindauer’s studio (about whom, more later). That little blackboard on the sidewalk…sorry…”footpath”…says “Come Listen to Megan Hicks.” What I’ve been trying to get my family to do all my life.

There was all this glorious small scale deco architecture! I think it's considered low-rent by many New Zealanders, but I was charmed. This place looked derelict...until we saw someone parting the curtains in a back window and give us a good long glare. This is right behind the Woodville library. Right across the street from the park, the playground, the skateboard ramp, the public restrooms, and the municipal pool. Tax dollars doing what they're supposed to do. And kids were playing outdoors!

There was all this glorious small scale deco architecture! I think it’s considered low-rent by many New Zealanders, but I was charmed. This place looked derelict…until we saw someone part the curtains in a back window and give us a good long glare. This is right behind the Woodville library. Right across the street from the park, the playground, the skateboard ramp, the public restrooms, and the municipal pool. Tax dollars doing what they’re supposed to do. And kids were playing outdoors!

Old store front in Foxton. Now a consignment shop. I wonder who Mr. Chung was. Or if it was a partnership between Mssrs. Chung and Wah. I wonder when (t)he(y) immigrated. And why.

Old store front in Foxton. Now a consignment shop. I wonder who Mr. Chung was. Or if it was a partnership between Mssrs. Chung and Wah. I wonder when (t)he(y) immigrated. And why.  Foxton also had an authentic replica of a Dutch Windmill, which ground flour. It’s also the home of the soda “Foxton Fizz.” And it is no longer the home of a huge carpet factory, which once employed 80% of the populace, and that’s why Foxton is now looking pretty down at the heels.

This was the smallest, saddest library I visited. There were maybe half a dozen kids, ranging from 17 down to 3. It was one of those gigs where you think the kids had a good time, but you know if there had been anything else to do in town that day, they would not have been at the library. Shannon also turned out to be one of my most rewarding visits. About a week and a half later.

This was the smallest, saddest library I visited. There were maybe half a dozen kids, ranging from 17 down to 3. It was one of those gigs where you think the kids had a good time, but you know if there had been anything else to do in town that day, they would not have been at the library. Shannon also turned out to be one of my most rewarding visits. About a week and a half later.

Okay. That’s it for today. I’m about half way through the working part of this working vacation. Coming up — Palmerston North and the hotel from “Barton Fink,” Dorothy & Derick’s B&B and their dog Rollo, Masterton, Eketahuna, and some other place names I can’t for the life of me recall.

 

 

 

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Te Rangi, on the outskirts of Otane, a short hop from Waipawa…

…and a longish hop from Waipukurau.

That’s where our path meandered next. To a place called Te Rangi (“The Sky” — maybe “Heaven”?) the farm of our friends Mary Kippenberger and Peter Charlton-Jones.

People kept mistaking me for Mary. Here we are, discussing which one of us is the Evil Twin and which is the Good Twin. The horse we're leaning on is named Nick the Pony.

People kept mistaking me for Mary. Here we are, discussing which one of us is the Evil Twin and which is the Good Twin. The horse we’re leaning on is named Nick the Pony.

Mary’s the reason I was in New Zealand to begin with. We met nine years ago at the Australian Storytelling Festival in Perth. (And the reason I was at the Australian Storytelling Festival is because of Elaine Muray, but that’s another story entirely.) On the last night of that festival Mary and I bonded over strong drink, bawdy songs, and a couple of chicken hats. It was a night to remember, and Jack still has some photos, lest we forget.

After Australia, Mary and I would lob emails to each other every few months. Facebook came along, and while I’ve got reservations about social networking, it does allow me to maintain casual contact with people I like immensely but don’t have that much to talk about with. A few years ago, she encouraged me to send promo to the library folks in her district, because they arrange two tours of performing artists every year.

This New Zealand gig was a nut I had been trying to crack for quite awhile, and finally, 2014 was the magic year. Instead of inviting me for the summer reading program tour in January, they asked if I’d do their program that happens during the July school holidays — “Winter Warmers.” (NOT tourist season. NOT swarming insect season. NOT heat and humidity season. Of course, I said, “Of course!”)

Sometimes you feel as though you’ve stepped off planet earth for a little while. You’re in a parallel reality, and it’s not all that strange, but there’s something luminous and dreamlike about where you are. That was Te Rangi. That was Mary and Peter’s big round kitchen table. That was the little transplanted railroad hut that serves as Mary’s office and the guest quarters. That was the extended family popping in and out — grown kids, in-laws, “grandies,” uncles. That was the frowzy agglomeration of homes and outbuildings and studios, the background of sheep and cows and chooks and horses. Peter playing his guitar in the background. The rain. The hills. The moon, stationary behind scudding clouds. It was as though I had stepped into my favorite children’s book — one that I had yet to discover.

That night Mary and I drank TEA, Peter played his guitar so we wouldn’t have to sing, and I gave her a new chicken hat. Hostess gift. I’m not posting that photo, in case I need to blackmail her some time.

So the next day, Jack drove me to the farm towns of Waipawa and Waipukurau, where the children’s areas of their public libraries were full to capacity. In Waipawa, they had TWO children’s programs going simultaneously — me and someone working with kids on math skills.  In an artisan’s collective in Waipawa, a woman was teaching a spinning class. That was my first purchase of Merino/Possum yarn. The first of many.

 

Pronunciation guide: In Maori, ng is always soft, as in sang. r is a hybridization of the English pronunciation of R and L…not quite rolled like a Spanish R, but not way back in the throat like a midwestern U.S. one.

 

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