Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Tangelos and Tears 11-11-11



For several months I have wondered what today - the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 2011 - might bring. Would a mini-asteroid hurtle itself right between my eyeballs in some kind of cosmic baseball game or profound words appear written in the sky at exactly 11 minutes past 11am?  Neither happened.

When all those number ones lined themselves up so obediently in a row, we were busy picking tangelos, standing on wooden-benches to get at the higher ones. My senses were bombarded by nature's loveliness. The fruit glowed brilliant orange against a bright blue sky and zillions of pretty white blossoms filled the air with a heavenly scent. As I reached up to snip each tangelo my face was warmed by the sun that shone gently through the branches.

When I got thirsty all I had to do was pierce a large ripe tangelo and squeeze the sweet juice straight into my mouth. It trickled down my face and arms and I was a grubby little toddler for whom life is simple and good.

But life isn't always simple and good. Sometimes it is confusing and unfair.

This afternoon the same gentle sun shone down on a group of us as we gathered at the cemetery to farewell a baby in a tiny white coffin all covered in yellow flowers. He had never even taken a breath or cried or gurgled in delight because he was still-born last monday.

There is something so wrong in this scenario where a baby, so eagerly awaited, is lowered into a hole in the ground as we all shed tears and wonder why. I watch as the mother and father toss rose-petals over their son and then step softly and sadly aside to let the rest of us do the same.

Back in 2009, Kristen insisted that our family go to the Simon and Garfunkel concert to be held in Auckland because, as she correctly pointed out, "They are incredible and they might never ever perform together again". She was a poor university student at the time so, of course, the idea was that Cossack and I pay for the very expensive tickets which would provide an evening so special and beautiful that our family would be bound by the memories thereof  for ever and ever, Amen.

Those of you who were at that wonderful concert on the 13th June at the Vector Arena will remember that during, "Bridge over Troubled Water", the sound system mucked up leaving just the stage sound and a confused-looking Simon and Garfunkel.   The crowd took over and sung the words until the sound came back on.

"That was the nicest thing an audience has ever done for us", remarked Garfunkel.

And tonight, by beautiful planning on the part of Radio New Zealand, they played a 1969 Simon and Garfunkel concert at 11pm while I sit here tapping out this blog on 11/11/2011.

"Feeling Groovy" was followed by "Bridge over Troubled Water" and "Homeward Bound" and the others that stir up our souls.

When you're weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes, let us carry you through. And after however long it takes, we can one day get back to kickin' down the cobble-stones, feeling loved and feeling groovy.

Rest in God's peace, Ethan.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Gifts We Don't Get Excited About





Yesterday we got a letter from Hope Eternal, our sponsored child in India. I don't know how she acquired such a spiritual name - perhaps in her own language her name is something like our Katie or Charlotte but the charity we support probably thought Hope Eternal has a nice "sponsor-me" ring to it , which of course it does.

I quite like "Bern -Eternal", but then again, some people might mis-spell that as "Burn Eternal", and I'd prefer a less hellish name, thank you very much.

Anyway, imagine how awful I felt when I read the translated letter from Hope Eternal in Orissa. She started out thanking Cossack and me profusely for sponsoring her and she loved the pencils and hair-ties but, " the dress you send it does not fit me. But please never mind because it is very nice".

It was a cute pink flowery tee-shirt I had sent her, not a dress! How shocking to think the poor girl tried it on and it only came down to her navel! How disappointed the poor girl  would have been. Do girls not wear tee-shirts over there? I am so confused and now will have to rush out a buy a dress for a thin 12 year old who maybe now thinks her sponsor sends immodest gifts to poor people all around the world.

Speaking of gifts, this year Cossack and I have decided not to buy the usual Christmas gifts for Ben and Kristen - you know, new shorts, jandals and a CD or a Glassons voucher, papaya body-butter or stuff to massacre eye-lashes with.

No, Cossack and I now despise consumerism with every atom of our beings and can hardly wait to see our children's delighted faces when all they get in their stockings is a certificate declaring that they each gave a goat to a needy African village.

I now know the disappointment Hope Eternal must have felt when she got her navel-length dress - today at work, Jack, one of the other workers, told me that Neville was thinking of giving me a higher position in the orchard.

"Yes please!", I shrieked, thrilled and astonished all in the same breath. Of course I wanted a promotion! Was Neville going to give me my own flash office in one corner of the Smoko-Room where I would do the orchard accounts? Of course I would need a new lap-top computer and coffee-machine but won't mention that right away.

Or maybe I would be a kiwifruit consultant without any formal training whatsoever because that's how competent Neville thinks I am. I would drive around the whole district advising orchardists on new disease-resistant varieties to grow, how to eradicate the Moroccan weevil and suggest better pruning techniques.
Yip, the possibility of this role excited me beyond belief.

I should have known better. My boss emerged from the shed with a pair of stilts while Jack hooted with laughter. Yes, stilts. Not those long sticks that clowns walk around on, but aluminium 6- inch high frames into which my boot-clad feet were to get firmly strapped. Under my dead body, I thought!

I stared at them like they were a couple of over-flowing portaloos, but Neville just said, "Put them on, you need the extra leg-height for tipping".

As I waddled in my stilts down the row, I could easily reach up and, with a little wooden clapper-thing, press the tips of the elongated new kiwifruit growth in order to stop them shooting out of control into a hideous tangle. It is a tedious and slow job that is literally a pain in the neck because while my new height allows me to tip with ease, it also means I frequently bump my head on the overhead wires.

I was a bit wobbly on the stilts at first but they are amazing when you get used to them. I felt tall and important. What a shame there was noone around to pat on the head in a condescending way.

OK, now to get serious . Have you heard of Pseudomonas syringae pv. Actinidiae, better known as P.S.A?  It is a bacterial infection, rampaging through Bay Of Plenty kiwifruit orchards, causing heart-ache and economic loss. It is the topic of most recent conversations in Te Puke - we do and don't want to discuss it because will we walk away feeling better or worse?

Anxiety is pointless but clutches to our orchardists nevertheless as they realise that years of hard work may be eradicated by a heartless chainsaw that cuts through infected plants that bleed red sap, ironically the same plants that were once the life-blood of the Te Puke economy.

The ripple-effects will be ongoing and while Te Puke and district tries to remain optimistic, we all know that everyone will be affected by PSA as our lives and jobs are all intertwined.

I could go on but won't - it's too sad. We have dear friends who hoped and prayed PSA would skip over their orchards but they got it anyway.

And so while I still have a job on an unaffected orchard I will be grateful . Truly grateful.

I will wear my stilts and walk tall for Te Puke because I love this town and its people.