Sunday, May 24, 2020

A Weaver Writes about Weaving

I made a gold warp on Wednesday. I expected to be excited or elated or something, but it felt just ordinary everyday normal. I'm going put this is the "good" column.

Earlier in the week I found a finished gold piece, roughly 6 inches wide, but I couldn't remember, and couldn't find my notes on, the sett. Since 2007ish when I started weaving with 2/20 mercerized cotton, I've woven variously in 36, 39 and 42EPI, 42EPI most often for the last many years, especially when wider.

So, for this warp, I decided 36EPI * 10 inches = 360 ends plus 4 for floating selvedge. After sampling, if I decide to stay with 36EPI, the pieces will be 10"/25cm wide on the loom; if I change my mind and weave at 39EPI, it's 9.23"/23cm; at 42, 8.57"/21.42cm. I can work with any of these width.

But I've wanted to weave a wide gold series for a long while and I wanted to make another warp. I could just assume 42EPI and somewhere between 20" and 24" wide, sample and finalize the sett on the loom. Or I could find other pieces/samples to be more precise. I chose diligence and found another finished piece, discovered the first sample was probably woven 42EPI, this one 36EPI, and a bunch of smaller swatches. And things got complicated.

I want to revisit my earlier style that look like curtains or upholstery fabric. These drafts have a lot of plain weave area mixed with long floats. My later drafts, in contrast, have less plain weave. At 42EPI, the old drafts look distinctively warp-colored on one side and weft-colored on the other.

The hand/texture of the cloth in two different setts are completely different. 36EPI looks gauzy, feels loose/soft and summery, texture akin to cotton weaving from the subcontinent, but threads snag easily. 42EPI is structurally neat/tight/sound but a bit stiff for the neck/face, more suitable for cutting and sewing almost, but possibly suitable for wider pieces. The hellebores, for e.g. were woven in 42EPI. If you shake the 42EPI cloth, it maintains a horizontal line, if you can imagine. It's not like, say, a lace curtain blowing in the wind, but slightly more like a narrow roll-up style bamboo shade.

The key attraction of the gold series is a) the brilliance of the cold threads, and b) the metallic color it creates in the simultaneous contrast with the weft colors. With 36EPI, the sheen of individual gold threads is more pronounced, and the cloth looks like collection of warp and weft threads while 42EPI cloth is more cohesive.

This may be the limit of my explanation in words. So far I haven't been able to find samples woven in 39EPI, but in the end I just have to sample, and then decide if I want a loose or tight look and texture. I might just make a 39EPI * 22" warp so I can change the sett in either direction.

I'll add some pics I took on a day when the sun kept hiding and coming out every five minutes.
36EPI
42EPI
Two faces of 42EPI
Attempting to show you the "metallic" look, 36EPI

* * * * * 

I sold one of the hellebore pieces to my friend Nancy. It was a great boost to propel me to my normal life. NZ$ continues to crawl, too, so it's still a good time to fill the shelves of my online store, something I thought I might do during the lockdown.

Except... I've also felt I don't want add to other people's... stash. Not in individual cases, like Nancy having something I made, that I haven't got a problem with. Nor anyone I communicate with directly. But in a most general way, putting things online and marketing them, putting links to my website on social media, all that endeavour sometimes feel as if I'm brandishing drugs in front of an addict, except my drugs are pretty. 

The question, "who really needs another scarf?" started to haunt me when disposable clothing became a frequent topic relating to the environment. At first I didn't realize folks threw those clothes away. There is a lot of poverty in NZ, and I don't have a lot of disposable income, so I thought inexpensive clothing was a problem only in how they compete against and undercut/destroy local manufacturing. But these days I'm reading about their disposal and in particular how much there is of clothes one can still wear, how "developping" countries suffer from being bombarded by these used clothes. I've come to think I want no part in this big picture.   

I'd like to think many people learned we can live with far fewer things from the lockdown/isolation/quarantine, to live a slower life, to make things ourselves, and to buy and accumulate less. I've always felt very strongly about this, to the point sometimes my mother was in tears looking at the clothes I though was OK to wear in public. I might tell you more about our family's story relating to this in the future. 

Businesses have suffered here as a result of the lockdown, like everywhere else, or even more so because New Zealand is such a small economy. There have been tremendous push to buy local, which in and of itself I endorse, but there is a fine line sourcing what we need locally vs. encouraging further consumption, "because we all saved so much money during the lockdown". You see where I'm going with this? Many folks lost jobs or their hours have been reduced. And yet there is real, tremendous pressure to consume now in New Zealand. And I have a hard time reconciling being a handweaver of nice scarves and being part of the worldwide effort to reduce. There is such a move, isn't there?

Friday, May 22, 2020

More Misc Thoughts

Come hell or high water, I'm going to finish this post tonight. It's a little bitsy because every day this last fortnight, I wrote/added, revised, and deleted, (some days whole other posts,) as my thoughts change from day to day. In part it reflects trying to anchor myself in a big changeable world, as I get back to it. But also because I can't concentrate and stay with one thought; some thoughts seem so urgent and important I must record, until the next day when it appears so trivial.

* * * * *

Passage of time has been inconsistent. On the one hand Monday, March 23, (the day Ben started working at home, which by afternoon turned into Day 1 of Alert Level 2 in a lead up to our full  lockdown,) feels just a wee while ago. In fact it's been two months, or nine weeks minus two days. The measure informing me the true length of time is we were in late summer then, and are definitely in (early) winter now.

In Level 4/full lockdown, we developped a nice rhythm; we got up as per usual, had breakfast; Ben had a shower and dressed as per usual, and was "at" work early, just after 9. We ate lunch late, during/after which we watched the daily 1PM update together, then Ben went back to work until sometime between 6.30 and 7. On the evenings, we watched/read as much news as possible, then went to bed at the usual time.

When we entered Level 2, much around us, but not this house, went back to normal, our schedule become more erratic. For one thing, we never know which days the 1PM updates are held and we lost anchor. Though Ben still goes to work at a more or less regular time, he might have breakfast before work, or mid-morning, or not at all; and I might nibble all morning standing up while cleaning the kitchen instead of a breakfast. Dinner and telly in the evening are our only constant now, and we went back to no news on the telly.

Huge chunks of my day feel interminable. It doesn't help I'm not doing anything specific some days. I could have done anything during long stretches of balmy afternoons, but I either couldn't concentrate or decide. Instead, whole afternoons were spent waiting for dinner/telly/evening.

And you know what? This is exactly what my kind of mild/moderate depression is like. Everything is on hold, I can't decide, so I try to save ideas/thoughts/things all around me for a later date. Life is interminable wait after wait, with the end either just around the corner or nowhere in sight. I'm not kidding. The living room is chock full of unfinished projects, and the mess frustrates me.

I found myself using some of my depression-busting techniques to liven things up, often by way of slow cooking. Must-Do list is good, too: the masks at first, dyeing old clothes either before or after that, and now the weeding. Now I'm stuck with weeding and cleaning the house because they are both massive.

Other days, I sit in one place gazing at the screen, thinking I should do something, at the very least read a book or gaze at pictures, waiting, living in the in-between space, waiting for something to kick start my brain. It can also be the mind being willing but the body not, as if they now live separate lives, neither having anything to do with me.

I'm not depressed. But Level 2 life looks so much like it. I got quite frustrated with the media's mollycoddling with abundance of "it's normal to be depressed during lockdown" articles, because I saw them as catering to only extroverts. But once again, there may be more to them than I too quickly judge.

* * * * *

Shortly before Italy's lockdown, while I desperately hoped we too would lock down soon, I was already there in my mind. During Level 4 and 3, I enthused about being part of this "worldwide" effort. But I was also taken aback by some regions having looser rules, and hoped and prayed my friends would quit doing whatever was outside of our rules.

I was fully engaged with our harsher lockdown. I went to a convent school for ten years, so I can live with strict rules, even if some don't make sense, for a reasonably length. For once, the whole country lived the way I like to live: nobody crashed into my space; the world slowed down, stopped consuming conspicuously, wasted less, and made stuff. Most of all, thoughts turned inward.

You can well imagine I entered Level 2 kicking and screaming. I missed the stricter times terribly. Until I got sick of moaning. And now that we're here, I sometimes catch myself surprised to find some aren't yet.

* * * * *

In Level 2, just because everybody else seems back to normal, I'm not practicing and starting to forget all sorts of preventive measures we learned, and unless there are incoming objects, life inside our house is back to pre-Plague era. I try to remember to wash my hands the correct way at least once a day, but don't disinfect anything except after coming home from the supermarket. I wash our delivered milk bottles with cold water, but no longer rest the egg cartons, nor wash eggs. (Yes, I actually washed raw eggs!) I'm not sure what else we've forgotten.

Even though Ben and I still stay home except for food shopping and PO Box checking, the world around us is starting to behave as if the Plague is over. We're told the numbers are really good, so at this rate next Thursday we'll move on to Alert Level 1, of which we know very little.

* * * * *    

I probably said this before: part of me subconsciously waited for  Ben's lockdown, by which I mean a holiday, until a couple of days ago. A lot of folks, blokes, and gals, got a lot of projects done, and while Ben had five days off at Easter, (standard for folks working in education here,) he cancelled his planned annual leave before that, and his life, our lives, have been as usual. All projects were on me, or saved for the weekends. And I feel like I missed out on a good lockdown because "we" did not get anything big finished. 

* * * * *

Petrol/gasoline price was the lowest in forever, as you all probably noticed, just when the only place we were allowed to go were supermarkets and pharmacies, and not too often if we could help it. Oh, the irony! Meanwhile food price is already going up, again, here.

* * * * *

There are a lot of industries and businesses complaining loudly about the lockdown and demanding government aid, for e.g. our travel and tourism industries. Of course it's suffering now, and I have sympathies for individuals who lost their jobs, but in the long run, these industries in New Zealand? Give me a break! They might have to do things differently, smarter, more in accordance with the post-Plague sensibilities, but these are not disappearing. 

Ditto with the arts. Again, in the immediate future, especially for performance artists, things are/may get dire. Some galleries may close. But can you imagine the stories, poems, films, paintings, sculptures, etc., etc., etc., coming out of an experience like a Plague? Have you got something cooking?

So... stop bitching. Switch your thinking. It could be a most exciting time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Days of a Plague Day 33+16+1, May 14 - Day 33+16+7, May 20

Day 33+16+1, May 14. Level 2, Day 1. What a grumpy day. The airport was noisy last night and I couldn't sleep. It and the road was noisy again in the early morning and it woke me up. The worst was the gray smoke coming out the chimney at the tip (?) crawling sideways, leaving an ugly gray stripe in the sky. And the endless beep-beep of vehicles reversing or forklifts assaulting the air; that could even be a Japanese "innovation."

The weather is nice but I'm too tired goo back to work on the slope. There is something wrong with my left foot. I have unfinished projects around the house. I'm making snail's pace progress, but this is priority because we're walking around the stuff on the floor.

Bitch, bitch, bitch... I miss the slower, more quiet, introspective life of the lockdown. Tonight, the air was already murky at sunset.

But Ben picked up my Versability manual at the PO. Most pages are filled with old English poems, but I love the illustrations. Also found another Shakespeare podcast. So I'm feeling appeased at the end of the day.
Day 33+16+2, May 15. Rocket flower at dusk. In the morning there was a haze at middle height (??) of the sky. I don't know if there were other reasons (as well) but I never thought of Nelson having industrial air pollution until this week. (It did/does due to wood burning heaters.) By world standard it might have been nothing, but it was shocking. I felt emotionally choked.

I got sick of complaining about the world, so I went outside. Neighbour had professional tree cutters, and their machines were raucous. But I pulled out sturdy weeds and cut robust branches for half a day. I'm rightly exhausted. I am so old.
Day 33+16+3, May 16. (Text and pic on Day 33+16+4.) Although we've been allowed takeaways for two and a half weeks and conditional dining in for a couple of days, we've stuck to our own cooking. There have been plenty of time to cook, and if I may say so myself, my cooking has improved a little, in the curry-like-Ben's department in particular. On the other hand, however, I have a very small repertoire, and I've been itching to taste someone else's flavours, (including our favorite Indian takeaway.) So instead of making it chicken curry, I made a veg curry, and Ben char-grilled chicken legs. And both were very tasty.

I woke up with every muscle in my body aching this morning, mildly surprising because I didn't weed the slope yesterday. I had hoped to keep working and finish that particular patch today, but let's just say the curry took up most of my day, so I "couldn't". Yeah, that's the story I'll tell.

Another wintery evening, with the fire roaring. We are now out of ginger wine.
 
Day 33+16+4, May 17. After yet another slow start to the day, cleaning the kitchen and watching The Globe's The Two Noble Kinsmen for the third time, (I can't get enough of it,) I Checked the other echinacea flower for seeds. Few more weeks, she said.

I also thanked my many lovely tall cornflowers for lasting as long as they have and still going strong. I tried to psych myself up to continue labouring on the slope, but I needed Ben to do the hard lifting for today's portion. He concurred.

We got everything we intended to finished, but of course there is always more one can do, and we did. A portion will have to be redone at a later date, but another day, or day and a half and we will finish the northern section of the north western quadrant. And that day, or day and a half's work, I can do it by myself.

We had a wee tour of Kathryn's rockery, so I took this pic to see if she'd like some. Or perhaps two other succulents she can break off and propagate. I know nothing about succulents except they tend not to die and tend to take care of themselves. All I do is collect fallen bits and stick them in new soil. I don't know why I don't have these all over the place.
Day 33+16+5, May 18. (Text and pic on Day 33+16+6.) Indecision has been a problem for the last couple of decades. The worst is ordering food in restaurants, (as a consequence someone else's meal looks so much tastier,) but it also gets in the way of, oh, deciding what to do after a day's housework is finished and I have a better part of the rest of the day wide open. Yesterday it was between making a gold warp or weeding the slope some more. At the back of my mind was an increased stiffness in my joints.

My left fifth finger has always been a bit crooked, as, most weirdly, the nail got shorter and shorter over the years. (Most probably unrelated, though.) Not so on my right hand, and it's only recently I noticed it's bent much worse than the left. And that's they one that needed Voltaren a few days ago.

There is no arthritis in the family I know of. Dad's gout on his left foot is the closest I can think of, although Mom's hands were getting stiff by the time of her exhibition in 2016.

Ergo my dilemma. If I'm going down the arthritis path, I'd rather weave than weed in the time I've got left. But being so close to finishing the northern part of the Northwest quadrant. In the end, OCD prevailed, helped by Dad's use-it-or-loose-it creed.

There's probably a couple of days' work left there. A 12-inch-wide warp, on the other hand would take, oh, half to three-quarters of a day?
Day 33+16+6, May 19. (Text and pic on Day 33+16+7.) Woke up thinking I'll wash the bedding, clean the kitchen, then go out early to finish weeding that slope.

Got up, had coffee and breakfast. Fed sparrows. Took a few breaks washing dishes. Not many. Mind wide open with nothing in it.

Don't know what I did until 1PM, but was standing in front of the sink when the update came on. Not cooking because we had enough leftovers.

Sighed and had a nap.

Thought of making the gold warp. Fought off Jesus people phoning, twice; wrote down phone number. Sighed.

Lit the fire. Ate leftovers. Went to bed.
Day 33+16+7, May 20. Today marked the halfway point of scheduled Level 2. If all goes to plan, in a week we will go down to Level 1, though we don't know what that means. Life all around me has more or less gone back to normal, except supermarket shopping still must be conducted under the old scheme and Ben's still home.

In spite of myself, part of me is rapidly readjusting to the old normal: I have all the old anxieties, old complaints, and the old insomnia. (During Level 4, I woke up many times at night, but could easily go back to sleep.) One of the old normal is constantly thinking something relating to weaving, consciously or not.

Today I decided first thing in the morning I was going to make the gold warp with 2/20 mercerized cotton; I like the sett of the sample I kept, but I could not find what sett I used. Way back in 2006 when I started using this size, I started with 36EPI, sometimes 39; lately with much longer skips I've been weaving at 42EPI. The drafts I am considering have long skips amidst plain weave, so I'll start with 36, but if it's too loose, I can resley. Weaving with these gold warps has always been delightful. I'm looking forward to going back to it.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Days of a Plague Day 33+10, May 7 - Day 33+16, May 13

Day 33+10, May 7. Sunset just now was pretty flash; every other Nelsonian is posting pics. We had strong winds all day so the cloud shapes were intricate. The color was more saturated, closer to true orange, but hey, I tried.

Today Jacinda described Alert Level 2, which may or may not start mid next week, and the whole country is giddy. It's not clear if Ben will go back to the office because pre-Level-4 lockdown, during three days of Level 2 (?), "oldies and sickies" were told to work from home by the school. Also, very unnerving, Education Minister is working towards allowing International students to enter New Zealand before the border closure is lifted. Ben works at a tertiary institution which, like most tertiary institutions here, rely on international students' tuition, though he's rarely in direct contact with them. You see our dilemma.

We don't go out, nobody/nothing comes to our house, (the last time we went to the supermarket was April 19, and we can stick it out until after the weekend if we so choose,) so we've been washing hands the right way perhaps twice a day and I haven't disinfected surfaces in weeks. I can't be bothered going back to disinfecting Ben every time he comes home. Because I'm... busy?
Day 33+11, May 8. (Text and Pic on Day 33+12.) We went back to two supermarkets after 19 days. We'd forgotten our routine so revised before leaving home. Although we arrived at the first at the same time as before, it was completely dark, and everybody else looked relaxed and "normal"; no other shopper had masks nor gloves, many going in for whatever fit in their pockets, or for one bag of potato chips. Traffic between 6 and 7.30 was hectic, everyone presumably picking up takeaways or going to the supermarkets. Many eateries looked empty except for a couple of staff, except McDonald's on Tahuna with a couple of cars and KFC with cars wrapped around the building. Drivers, though, still thought there must be fewer cars; many entering a carpark in the wrong direction without slowing down, (carpark entry/exit directions haven't changed in... 20+ years?); some speeding right through roundabouts.

It'd taken two and a half hours to go to two supermarkets, denude/disinfect groceries, (while still discussing how we did things just a few weeks ago,) and have showers. Exhausted, we ate potato chips, (first bag in 19 days!) and drank sake in silence, before finally getting up to heat up soup we made earlier.

The world/Nelson seems far more ready to resume normal transmission than we. Is that the right way to go now?
Day 33+12, May 9. "Telly Dinner" with friends. The idea was to get takeaways or have meals delivered, but we were both tired and couldn't be bothered, so Ben made our own fish and chips. One of the best things about having a meal with good friends is to laugh at funny stories together.

(Note the cloth napkins, one of my first weaving projects back in 1995-ish, in Swedish cottolin. The "recipe" called for two sizes of threads and I didn't have the thicker size, so I sleyed the warp crammed/spaced. I thought I was so smart.)
Day 33+13, May 10. First of the descent sized ones, (it's a smallish egg, but,) not hollowed out by birds. But I'm afraid the season for our trees' babies is approaching the end.
I made more ghee while I remembered how. Or, so I can watch The Globe vids guilt-free. There may be a few more ghee- and caramelized-onion-making while these free videos are available.

Tried to ring Mom three times for Mother's Day, but she's not picking up; she must be enjoying hanging out with her new friends. I wanted to commemorate moving into the family house 50 years ago today, also Mother's Day, but that's OK; birthdays and anniversaries don't mean anything to her these days.

Tomorrow at 4PM, Jacinda will announce if, and when, we are moving to Level 2. There may be changes again.
Day 33+14, May 11. Today's pic was generated by Penguin Classics Cover Generator, kindly supplied by who else but Volume​. I was going to play around with several pics but the first one worked so well I haven't tried another.

I've been thinking about "things", how many people need yet another scarf, if I really want to entice folks to covet  another, etc, because I've had around ten sitting on the couch since forever, waiting me to list them online. Besides, the plague has hit some folks hard financially, and some of the "support local" and/or "support the arts" posts have been terribly in-your-face.

We just finished listening to Jacinda describe Level 2, and that we will transition incrementally starting this Thursday. I am conflicted because the rules feel so easily violatable, or so up to individual interpretation as was the start of Level 4. On the other hand, as Nelson seems to be in a good position, there is no use holding back people bursting to go out and mingle and/or resurrect their businesses. And regain normalcy. I have the feeling there were more than a few violating Level 3 rules since the prospect of Level 2 was announced anyway. I'm not sure, but it appears Ben's work is still having staff who can work from home stay home; I hope so, because Ben going out of this house makes the "cleansing" process complicated again. And he's a nice, quiet worker I don't mind having around.

Ben and I met at work and got married and most of the time at least one of us worked. After having left our jobs, the first few weeks in New Zealand we were together 24/7: November 7-ish 1994 to January 3, 1995 to be exact, after which Ben started attending English Language courses in the mornings. By this Thursday when we enter Level 2, we will have been at home for seven weeks, and depending on how long Level 2 lasts, we may renew the record. So, yay?

Except, back in 1994, we were in a new city in a new country and explored eateries and garden centres and used bookshops, or drove in all directions until we hit the sea, and ate fish and chips on the beach. This time, well, you know the ropes; wherever you are you've been doing something similar, I'm sure. 

Anyway, some changes are afoot.
Day 33+15, May 12. First we had Scoby. Then Doughy. But we've had these guys for 4-5 years. The one looking this way stood in the middle and chased away everybody for minutes, until a tiny female came and shooed him away. YES! I normally spread the seeds wider apart but today it's concentrated for their photo shoot. We get between half a dozen/10 to some days close to three dozen and then it gets a little weird. Occasionally we get a type of wren of the same size, very pretty, but most days only sparrows.

The best part is, if we forget to feed them for a day or a month, they don't die. At least not collectively.

I pulled out this old piece because I needed a pic of old-looking textiles for a possible art project. Boy, I do like my gold scarves. For years I've been thinking of weaving these designs/colors in wider pieces but haven't, because folks call this "yellow" and yellow is hard to sell. But simultaneous contrast with blues, teals and greens are fabulous, intriguing, and exiting. Maybe soon. Also did some closet cleaning, wool washing, and seed collecting. So, it wasn't nothing.

Tomorrow is the last day of Level 3, but Ben will be working from home under Level 2. As we were.

This photo attracted a few reactions on Facebook. I appreciate that, because I really liked making them, always thought they were kind of unique, and still love the look of them. (Because of the contrast between floats and the plain weave, which there is a lot of, the texture isn't ideal, though. ) I sincerely, always, always intended to weave more. I still insist this look more gold, but I also realize now how much I'm influenced by my own idea of what sells these days. I also remembered three of these got stolen from three exhibitions in Nelson, and a version got rejected from the National Guild exhibition because it contained "too many errors," though nobody could be bothered to tell me what they were when I inquired. Usually I feel I haven't been in this game long, but in some ways, I have.
Day 33+16, May 13. (Text and pic on Day 33+16+1). End of Week 7, last day of Level 3; for all intents and purposes, life in New Zealand will be almost back to normal after midnight; there have been back-to-normal traffic noise in the mornings and airport noise overnight; schools resume next Monday; even bars will reopen in a week. I might have been slightly cranky and somewhat pensive tonight, but I've been furious since I read in a Facebook info page: "Purchasing Power is People Power." It is of course to support local businesses, but hell, have we learned nothing? And what about the folks who lost jobs? Enough!

(From memory we only drank two bottles of sake in seven weeks, and opened a third, now in the fridge. We'd been saving these, because before lockdown I became interested in making ginger wine at home. Gotta keep up with my kitchen mania.)

And, no, we had none tonight. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Misc Thoughts

This is not not-about-the-plague, but miscellaneous thoughts, disparate musings going nowhere but which I find compelling in as much as I haven't forgotten them as soon as I mused.

* * * * *

There is a Japanese term, "entering from form," pertaining to learning something new; it means one must imitate the physical actions until one has mastered the "it." Another is, "Steal with your eyes;" Japanese masters seldom taught, but apprentices learned by observing and mimicking. Then there is, "Don't study, get used to it," an extension of the above; instead of learning from lessons/lectures and books, just do it, "practice" it, repeat it, until you... get used to it. Here's another, "Learn it with your body." There is an anti-thinking streak in Japanese training/learning; some days I get bored of studying and prefer to just do things. It must be in my DNA.

* * * * *

Volume runs competitions to win book prizes and ask interesting questions. I don't always respond, but often consider them. This week it was, "Tell us something you learned about yourself during lock-down." My submission was, "Long having known my life is a trail of unfinished projects, the smorgasbord of real life friends’ finished projects in record speeds posted on the Internet, particularly in the early days of lockdown, drove me to distraction. Easily swayed, I held disproportionate hopes for some of mine with characteristic best intentions, but of course I haven’t touched most. But I learned I can work incrementally, and sometimes this carries me over the finish line. I’ve adopted, and have become attached to my new mantra, “It’s not nothing,” while trying not to dwell on diminishing aspirations." Signed, "the shrivelling dynamite."

Thursday morning I had an epiphany. I am a slow-moving (even for a) sloth so not making the most of a global pandemic is on me. But during lockdown, while other blokes may have gotten projects finished, Ben has been working, some days longer than usual. So whatever house/garden work we do is done only on weekends, which is exactly the same as always. Duh!

Not sure what to make of the long-term diminishing of ambitions/aspirations, though. Disappointing? Realistic considering my age? I remember Mom had good intentions for half a dozen weaving projects months before she went into care. I thought she was just saying things to pacify me and even told her it's OK to give up weaving if she wasn't genuinely feeling it. Now I wonder if I'm telling myself the same, and if so, it's much too early.   

* * * * *

I've been amused how influenced I've been by how others deal with the lockdown. There is my desire to get the best information; to follow rules, (to the letter - I am an ex-convent-school Japanese after all;) and to play my part in this global fight against a common enemy. I make my own rules, too. (Top NZ  Govt doc is still on the fence about masks, ergo a big part of NZ. Meh, I know what masks do and don't do. Some people's resistance towards masks, and before that, bowing, make me laugh, other days I pity.)

I also feel great FOMO about a kind of creative sensitivity makers are supposed to have, to gain insight from this experience and start creating in new ways. I read about online publishing/posting/exhibitions/performances/challenges, but haven't taken interest in any. Instead, I've been enjoying free theatre, opera and even ballet most days.

Although earlier I was honestly obsessed with food preparation and our stock, I may be taking the time to clean the kitchen and cook in the mornings not just so I'm ready at 1PM to catch the government updates, but so I can enjoy these videos while not exactly doing nothing.

I tell myself this is OK. In our little town there is so few occasions to soak in any Shakespeare, for example, and to be able to see performances from The Globe or The National Theatre, or opera not only from the Met, (sometimes available at our cinema,) but Vienna and Paris have been blissful.

And yet, and yet, by not making things now, by not being inspired to make something, I can't deny feeling I'm missing out on a good global pandemic as a creative catalyst.  

* * * * *

I haven't woven anything nor had the desire to, although I've coerced vague thoughts about the future. Ditto knitting, I still haven't reached any conclusions about the brick red "generous medium-size" cowl that's stayed the length of a young/skinny girl's skirt for three months. I can't bring myself to start another knitting project without finishing this. I'd love to indulge in needlepoint but I don't have enough yarns/colors.

I haven't drawn or painted, but this is the one area I feel an urge. I've been intrigued by one Manolo Valdes's variations on themes; he has a few recognizable motifs, (I spot Velasquez and Matisse,) and reworks them in paint and collages. I rescanned my weirdly-shaped walker who keeps returning to me, last appearing in my prints; I traced a few outlines in my sketchbook to color in, and cut out the shapes to help me arrange collage materials. We'll see how this goes.

* * * * *

There was for a while, (maybe still and I don't notice?) much in the press about lockdown/isolation and depression/anxiety/stress, so much so the press was making people feel they must experience these, as these are the norm and there is something wrong if you don't feel this way, rather than offering information in case needed.

Occasionally I saw articles about how kids are going to be alright in lockdown; how parents needn't worry if they are not effective "teachers". Also there were a few articles on how many with anxiety have done well because there is actually something to be anxious about, how we switched to managing practical steps. This is a familiar pattern for me as we had a few deaths and illnesses in Japan in the last couple of decades and every time Ben and I relied on me taking on a robot-like MO in preparing our trips.      

* * * * *

Re. incremental gardening, because of the lockdown, with or without Ben, my Cold Season Gardening started early; I have been working here and there with some visible results. Even though there is a long way ahead, it makes me feel good.
I'm collecting miniature Kowhai seedpods, of which we have oodles. I'll sow some, but many more are going to good homes in Nelson and beyond to become trees, and perhaps for Tom to cast.
Our tiny feijoas. Ben said we had many more flowers than usual last season; I'm pretty sure that's why too many are falling too young and unripe. Some pruning to come.

* * * * *

For my Facebook Plague Diary, I've been using the camera on a regular basis and I'm enjoying it. There is a short window in the late morning when the sun comes streaming into the kitchen and I indulge in a few high-contrast macro pics some days.
 Garlic
 Esther's Kiwi Pear

Friday, May 8, 2020

Days of a Plague Day 33+3, April 30 - Day 33+9, May 6

Day 33+3, April 30. It has been a unique month, but it has come to a close, and I'm a smidgen sad to see it go. It has been "comfortable" for me, cocooned at home with Ben, nobody intruding into my tiny sphere, an experience akin to cognitive hibernation. But for many, it hasn't been comfortable nor good, so we must move on to May.

My best friend from high school, Liz, an understated passive-gregarious, lives alone and is having a hard time with lockdown. She keeps posting she misses friends. I can imagine Liz bursting to go out with friends to have a glass of wine, meal, catch a show, or go see her fav, women's basketball. I added more things she might be missing and she liked them so I thought I'd share:

Hugs when you happen to see a friend when you aren't expecting them.
The sudden recognition of a friend's voice in a crowd where you least expect them.
The taste of friends' cooking that's somehow THE best whatever you've ever had.
And when you get the recipes, how they're never quite the same eaten alone at home.
How we never ever see the mess in friends' homes, (but worry incessantly about our own before they come.)
How we replay delicious conversations in our heads after [being] out with friends.
How some things are hilarious only when with friends, and we still laugh, out loud, remembering.
How some scenes with friends become imprinted as if in photographs.
And how friends, and we, remain at the age when you first met them. (Even when we talk about their adult kids.)

You may have read New Zealand has "eliminated" Corona, but we haven't "eradicated" it to be sure. Apparently these are epidemiological jargon, with specific definitions. We have "good numbers" is how I see it.

After a sudden arrival of winter in early March, we've had a mild and beautiful Lockdown April. But now winter is upon us. This morning I read a post on a local Facebook group by a mother of a four-months old asking if someone had surplus winter baby clothes. At first I had unkind thoughts about preparedness, but she must just have had the baby when the news was getting around New Zealand Corona is not just Chinese/local. I don't know if she can afford to shop online, but charities appear to be remarkably busy with food distribution. I just hope she connects with someone who can help. And everybody else in need.

I am developing a new kind of rhythm in life, one that is slower, paler, but steadier; it's not what I expected from a global pandemic, but it's not nothing, and I'll stay on track for now. I say this a lot lately, "it's not nothing." this may be my new MO.

The patio job that was supposed to take a couple of hours, I finished after seven over two days, but it's done. And I collected seeds from an echinacea flower, something I forgot I planted, that gave me an unexpected second flower late in the season.
Day 33+4, May 1. Again, less than expected, better than nothing, blah, blah. We are expecting heavy rain for the next three to four days. So I had to sort out Kathryn's wool carpet she recently took out. She wanted a portion, and said I could have the rest, so while she was at work, I spread them all out on her generous driveway, selected pieces to cover her requirement and dragged the rest home.

Under the cherry tree, you can see my latest textile work, a quilt-like installation of small wool carpet pieces. I could not drag them a millimeter more than I had to, ergo my temporary installation. Oh, what do we do with old wool carpets? Weed prevention; they last a few years; we usually hide them with pine bark pieces, etc., but I'm using them on the slope under the apple trees, so not sure how to hide them. .

I was going to show you our lovely liquid maple. It's a bit of a nuisance, the seeds and big leaves dropping into the gutter, but this time of year you can't beat it, and this autumn it's particularly pretty.

I listen to what the Internet/"people" say, because I tend to agree collective wisdom, although oft-diluted, is wise in the first instance. Like blended whiskey has less character but is pleasing to/on more palates/occasions. Which is why I started this "Plague Diary". But I am cogitating two issues:

1) When/how do I terminate a Plague Diary if I don't die of it; does it have to be logical and/or understandable to anyone but me? 
2) Should I have a distinct Plague art project, or Plague-something besides the Diary? Shouldn't a global pandemic have some kind of an impact on me as a maker/human being, and aren't I required to show it? I know a lot of artists are posting/publishing their work online, and more will come. Am I a "lesser" maker/person if something fundamental in me/my making doesn't change? Who besides me cares? And when is it due? Oh, dear.
3) OK, three things I'm cogitating; will I suffer irreparably if I miss out on a good Plague and don't produce anything from this period?

That I'm thinking like this tells me even I am now starting to think post-Plague.  
Day 33+5, May 2. Bad weather was forecast, but nothing came today, just gray, misty, and mostly quiet. We didn't do a lot, held our breaths in anticipation, moving pots around and such rather late in the day. I remembered to move the bee drinking fountains, and found a different kind of visitor. Ben says we're going to have crazy rain overnight.
Day 33+6, May 3. Although I'm still spending a lot of time in the kitchen, I have been thinking a little more about making, but only abstractly. I don't know if it's because the name Level 3 sounds less serious, if the occasional absence of the 1PM update gives us the illusion the Plague is... nearing the end, or if I am bored. I was feeling slightly guilty almost enjoying the lockdown, stepping away from the everyday and living in suspended time. Maybe it's good even I am thinking of returning.
Day 33+7, May 4. Another strange-weather day when the forecast was rain but we had cloud and sun and maybe a few drops. Both of us moved slowly around the house; I did more things with feijoa but Take 3 Chutney may be a colossal failure.

It's been a while since Jacinda graced our screens in the evening. It was a short one, but nice to see her.

After I saw someone else's bread on Facebook, I want to bake bread like never before. But me? White flour?? Slow dough again?? Not sure. We are "not eating" carbohydrate, so...
Day 33+8, May 5. (Text and Pic on Day 33+9) It is reckless of me to try and bake bread from memory just because I admire others' lockdown baking pics, especially as if I haven't done it for 30 months. Just checking to see the dry yeast, best before March 2018 as far as I can decipher, was fun. I still remembered how to start a slow dough. It looked and smelled sweet and nostalgic. But turning half into bread dough of an "original" recipe and feeding the other half for more dough without tasting? Not at my skill level. After all the hopes and expectations and overnight rest, for me and the bread dough, I think the flour is rancid. Plus, Feijoa Take 3 was a disaster.

I am getting sick of me, the way I am now, the way I've been. The weird-weather weekend was good for cocooning, but enough.
Day 33+9, May 6. Woke up cranky after three days of weird weather cocooning. I could have done stuff inside, or not because it was so dark, but anyway today was sunny and worth getting up early. I had to do something about Feijoa Take 3, (it went into the compost;) the bread dough, (Ben insisted I bake it; he and friends suggested it may not be the flour that's rancid but the old yeast giving it the sharp taste;) and think of dinner in case we weren't going to the supermarket, (we always have something for bean and/or veg curry.)

Because we have a lot of nice homemade chutney, LOL, dinner had to be curry. I am constantly amazed how many meals I can cook without going to the supermarket, without meat/fish, just with ingredients we always have, not the Plague stock but our usual stuff. Today was black lentil and frozen veg curry over riced cauliflower. I'm often surprised how much sharper the spices taste without meat. This was taken before the slow cooking, after which everything turns variations of brown.

I also went outside to weed mid-afternoon and actually finished a small but visually significant section in the northwest quadrant. The more I do, the more I see that needs doing. But, (in unison,) it's not nothing.

Still, well done, me!
On days I weed in the afternoons, I'm usually in the shower and miss the sunset. Tonight the ridges were clear and very orange, and I stuck my camera out the window when I first heard, and then saw, two fire trucks rushing in the direction of the airport. I didn't see any fire or smoke, but do you see the red dot slightly to the left of the bright light? I could see it very clearly but in the rush, I set the camera on the wrong setting so yo get only the dot. :-D

Today we finished Week 6 of lockdown, counting from the day we entered Level 4.  

Monday, May 4, 2020

Days of a Plague Day 29, April 23 - Day 33+2, April 29

Day 29, April 23. (Photo and text on Day 30) I did not forget but I was tired and grumpy. Even the 1PM updates ceased to be entertai... ummm, informative. But I did clean the kitchen and finished the hallway. Oh, so much cobwebs. And the other stuff.
Day 30, April 24. Being a maker is difficult. Sometimes I envy "artists" who make art based on their vision, (or that's how I see their work), as opposed to craft-maker/artisan/whatever-you-call-me who has to also take into consideration utilitarian merits of the end product and balance it against my aesthetics, preferences, knowledge and materials I have/can afford.

Today I cleaned the bedroom. I didn't do a great job but it's cleaner than it was this morning. I wished I had the gumption to clean like I used to, but it is what it is, so take that, Me!
Day 31, April 25. Woke up with a different kind of muscle ache from two days of halfhearted-intensive house cleaning. I have lost touch with the days of the week while on holidays, but this is the first time I could not remember what month it is, and remembering it is still my favorite month, April, oh, what a long April it has been! For some days I felt parts that make up me peel away, (peeling, not shedding,) but it must not be a bad thing, if I cannot remember, or know, what peeled away.

Tonight I participated in a literally game called Versability, where we are given three lines of a poem, make up a fourth, pool them together and guess the original line. I had told my companions I had not read verse since 1980-ish, even before my last year in college as an English major, and I am so not a poetry person, but I had a truly marvelous time. One of Scott's pieces, I not only had no idea but couldn't even relate to the war poem genre, so I really did submit the line: "Hail the Chief with a Big Black toe!"

I was very nervous about a poetry do so I prepared for a couple of hours listening to poems read on Youtube, searching names that lived in the dusty recess of my student life: Pope, Keats, Shelly, Wordworth, then Frost, Cummings, Ferlinghetti. Youtube recommended a Kipling piece. Since childhood I have not liked, at all, The Jungle Book, so I was not interested but Youtube insisted, so I listened. It was his "If". Well, blow me away, other than it being a father-to-son message, (he had two daughters and one son,) the line, "If you can think - and not make thought your aim;" stuck with me.

I say I blog for therapy. My mind races often from thought to thought, although nowhere near how it used to, and at times I feel compelled to record a thought just so I can move on to the next one. In the old days there were notebooks, but there is not the finality of posting, and I kept editing and changing and finally threw away the pages so the thought never rested/stopped. At best it was forgotten. In comparison, good or bad, complete or not, by posting, I retain a kind of record of what I was thinking at a particular time. I have felt less compelled to post "every" though as you've observed, but sometimes it's not a bad thing posting, now that I can't remember thoughts. So I can relate to not making though my aim, but sometimes, thinking is easier than making. Anyway, here's something I never imagined doing, (it is plague time after all,) a poem on Unravelling:

If-
by Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), written circa 1895

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
Day 32, April 26. (Text and pic on Day 33) The weather was ideal, sun, cool temps but no wind. It was a perfect day to go outside, and after much dithering we did weed/prune/pull/shove for three hours. Usually when we go out to a new section in our vast estate, the first job is to clear the surface debris, assess jobs required and feel overwhelmed, and today's was the most treacherous terrain, a near-vertical slope, (no joke, in the past I have slipped backwards when the ground was wet, holding on to weeds and trying not to laugh too hard lest the weed will come out,) but we managed enough to achieve visual satisfaction. As usual, my robust, ancient rosemary bushes had to be cut back to a quarter in size, but may they come back healthily, straight towards the sun once more.

I've been trying to read my paper diary from around late March, but my eyes just glide over lines. Among other things, I wanted to remember when we went food shopping in recent weeks, because I get the feeling the number of weekly trips haven't decreased, although we've had none of Ben's in-between trips after work, so he might say we've halved the trips. We have been paying much more each trip, though.

* Pre-lockdown, March 15, New World; this would have been our third-ish time we stocked up on stockable stuff.
* Pre-lockdown, March 21, New World; this was the time we thought we really had enough and didn't buy any extras.
* Day 6, March 31, tried New World but the queue was long so Ben shopped at Countdown.
* Day 11, April 5, I shopped at Countdown.
* Day 23, April 17, veg/fruit delivery.
* Day 24, April 18, milk/egg delivery resumed.
* Day 25, April 19, Ben shopped at Countdown and New World.
[EDIT] * Day 33+11, May 8, Ben shopped at Countdown and New World.
[EDIT] * Day 33+16+11, May 25, tried New World but the queue was long so we both shopped at Countdown.
Day 33, April 27. Rain was forecast all day or from late morning depending on the source you trust, but it didn't come until just a few minutes ago. I could have gone into the garden, which I was semi-keen to, but for some reason there were many, many sieves, strainers, and bowls to wash all day. I only made a salad, washed some feijoas kindly dropped off by Ben's colleague, and Ben made another cheese-cup-cakes, so I don't know where all the strainers came from, but wash them I did until just now, when we saw a... mysterious and somewhat sad sunset.

Today is the last day of nationwide Level 4 lockdown; from midnight we go to Level 3. For Ben and me, our daily lives won't change much, supermarket trips will be as onerous, but we will be able to buy more things online, including takeaways and meal pickups, if we so desire. (We must study Level 3 as vigilantly as we did 4, but neither of us have been interested.)

Many Kiwis are happy to be able to go back to work, albeit under the same physical separation rules, or to be able to drop off kids at kindy or school under certain restrictions. We are allowed to go a little further for exercises as well.

There will be no more regular 1PM updates, which I will miss, strangely, because that was the one constant in the last almost-five weeks. I also worry it will divorce us from the reality of what the virus is doing regardless of our artificial levels.

Yesterday afternoon Ben noticed the steam coming out of the MDF plant chimney. Industry is coming back, as will traffic, as will pollution. I hope folks took something good from this lockdown, though, living more slowly; needing and buying less but also locally, finding joy in things within us. Nah, don't think it's going to happen in the long run; it may take a while but I can't help thinking we'll go back to how we used to be.
 
Day 33+1, April 28. Thoughts on the newly arrived Level 3:
* The airport was noisy from midnight last night. Road traffic was picking up at 4.30AM, too busy at 5AM, and nearly back to pre-Plague days in the early half of the morning, but somewhat subdued around 10.30AM. We do live in a noisy place, in the fringes of a leafy older suburb, but facing the industrial area/airport, where the noise has always travelled straight up. Tomorrow the roadwork will resume. And the opera will cease. What fresh hell...
* I thought I would read books during the lockdown, (not that it's over yet,) but I didn't; the only thing I managed was to peel myself away from Plague news and read history/literary & art critique online. I was especially hoping to get through a couple of interesting cookbooks but so far the only time I touched any was last night looking for a reliable source about ghee-making.
* But my goodness we ate well for four and a half weeks. And miraculously, neither of us have gained weight, though things seem redistributed, but hey, we'll take any good news.
* I thought I would weave a bit, serious or fun, but haven't. But I thought about "my" weaving a few times, and that lockdown might have propelled me to go in a direction I had hoped to, without guilt. More thinking/reflection required to articulate this. OR, do I even need to spell it out? Should I just be making instead? Neither did I draw/paint/mixed-media-ed/printed. All the creativity went into cooking. 
* This has been a great rehearsal for me, in a way, of when Ben retires. We will have fun, eat well, cook a lot, even garden a bit, but I must devise a way to do my own making as well, as he'll want to do his stuff, too.
* There was a 1PM update. Jacinda may have noticed, without it we loose focus, and go astray.

Married 30 years today. Somewhat subdued, somewhat due to the Plague, but mostly because we were never big on ceremony, Ben especially. But today we wore our 30th Anniversary rings, ordered a year ago and made recently by a special jewelry friend Tom. Simple soup for dinner, cheese/cupcake, ginger wine with hot water; that's us.
Day 33+2, April 29. (Text and Pic on Day 33+3) Instead of leaving a trail of unfinished projects, I tackled the easiest, tidying the patio, thinking it'll be done in a couple of hours. Yeah... Four hours on, what remains is decommissioning/reusing pots and coffee bean bags of the shorter, paler cornflowers. They are still flowering, and they are blue, so I'm loathed to take them out, but they've been bowing for over a week in spite of the rain, and appear to be begging to retire. I read someone on the North Island has them self-seeding, so I thought it could be a good time to cut them and spread the cuttings where they might come back next year. The taller, darker variety planted in the ground are still going strong. I wonder if I have any seeds that can be sown now.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Days of a Plague Day 22, April 16 - Day 28, April 22

Day 22, April 16. I'm loosing track, so I will note them here.
* February 3, Diamond Princess quarantined at Yokohama.
* February 28, first confirmed case in New Zealand.
* March 5-14, there were five positive cases for ten days, prompting now-celebrated Ashley Bloomfiled to reject all kinds of measures because, "We [are] not there yet," which is why I am not a fan. Always reactive, even when proven wrong, (need for testing, PPE guidance/rules regarding supplies to medical professionals, and lay people wearing cloth masks,) he's adamant. We could have done even better.   
* March 21, Jacinda announced the four alert level system. Two cases, #40/#41, tested positive in Nelson.
* March 23, Jacinda announced we would be entering Level 4 on March 26. (In retrospect, with each of her announcements, we entered Level 2 on March 21, Level 3 on March 23.)
* March 26, we started the "initial" four weeks of Level 4 isolation.
(EDIT) * April 28, we moved to Alert Level 3. The most notable change is the reopening of food pickup/delivery.
(EDIT) * May 14, we moved to Alert Level 2. Reopening of different organizations are staggered; school on Monday, bars a week later. For all intents and purposes, most businesses are open under a slightly loosened social distancing rules. Focus has moved to tracking.  

Today would have been another great day for weeding, but I noticed I was slow-cleaning the kitchen, reorganizing the stocked-up food boxes, even though we've taken out little. I have it in my head I must be in the house at 1PM to watch the update, FOMO, even though on days we caught up at dinner time, we were not struck down by lightening.

I have been trying to revisit "Syrie", which consumed me before Corona, but find either I can't concentrate, or the initial idea has morphed beyond control and I don't recognize it as a continuation. The latter I don't mind at this stage, if it morphs it morphs, if not it'll return to whence it came, but I would like to record what I considered, tried, liked, or discarded, until early February, (was it? or late?) before I forget. And I'm having a hard time remembering.

I feel I've been kept on hold. I read about Corona, learned what we can do, changed the way we do a few things; tried to keep Ben home, which started a week later than we had hoped but it happened; we entered a nation-wide lockdown. Jacinda explained how Level 3 works, and the world is elated we can have non-essential mail order and takeaways, (so am I,) but she's had to repeat we don't know when we can get out of Level 4. And for us, little will change. It's been a dress rehearsal for Ben's retirement, with better finances.

I should be carrying on my normal life Plague or No Plague, but I started thinking about Anticipation/Participation/Appreciation. How excited I was when we learned we'd finally go into an official lockdown, and how comfortable it was for us, but then it became normal, almost anti-climactic, and now we're looking at exiting this so soon. We've been lucky, the Plague has not brought any substantial impact on our lives, or to Nelson as much as I can tell from the small window that is the Internet. Ergo, (though I might get hit by lightening to say this, but,) anti-climactic; hardly life-changing.  

Bacon and eggs, seaweed, tofu and sesame dressing salad, and borlotti with sumac for dinner. Ginger wine toddy instead of tea, because I'm so sick of healthy eating.

These days I'm washing hands the proper way between twice and four times a day. We don't go out, nobody or no foreign objects enter our house, so what's the use. But tomorrow we'll have our first veg delivery from a new guy including 10kg of something called peacherines; I can get ever so pleased by little things now. And I like this.
Day 23, April 17. One of us is slow and old and getting too-stupid-for-this-century, while the other is doing OK in most departments. In our normal lives we enjoy food shopping, reading labels on packages, comparing, and discussing. Online-order/delivery had not entered our life, especially after reading how hard it is to score a delivery slot unless you're ready to order at midnight when the supermarkets release time slots, (I didn't even know there were such things,) and how "priority" people have had to wait many days even if they can get it at all, never mind the oldies without Internet.

Jacinda started talking about Level 3 midweek, which isn't very different from Level 4 where we still are, but the nation started to feel cautiously buoyant. Wondering what we can do to support small local businesses while in Level 4, and make things easier for us if possible, I came across the many, many veg and/or fruit deliveries in Nelson. We've always had milk and eggs delivered and that resumed, so next in urgency was fresh veg. I visited the website of the first guy mentioned because he's just down the road and he's new. We ordered enough of the usual suspects for a free delivery. And then I read about their "peacherines" and had to place a second order, you know, just so I can have yet another excuse to stay in the kitchen.

I'm exhausted. I gardened not for a long time but a bit of sawing and butchering mayhem on a slippery slope. I also spoke with Kathryn on the driveway, 2 or more meters apart, for maybe an hour. Lovely. I gave her some peacherines, and she gave me a jar of her peaches. We had the peaches with yogurt and cinnamon before Ben's pumpkin soup for dinner.
Gardening/hacking was good, albeit the job unfinished. The rest of the evening, prostrated in the narrow strip between the rocking chairs, Ben and the coffee table, I thought I'd like to pick up a book I suspended weeks ago. That was a refreshing thought, even though as usual I almost let my laptop fall on my face chasing numbers and curves. But there is tonight.
Day 24, April 18. I don't know how you vegetarians do it. We've had milk, eggs, bacon and some days cheese, but we haven't had a nice chunk of meat or fish in days. I realize it's supposed to make us feel healthier and "lighter", but we have become weak at our psychic knees. I think some protein shopping is coming up tomorrow.

No 1PM update. I felt abandoned, while the country is celebrating, unduly, the prospect of moving to Level 3.
 
Day 25, April 19. Today was unusual; we were both exhausted, in unison, for no reason. I caught the 1PM update, in which I learned we'll hear from Jacinda at 4PM tomorrow if we are moving to Level 3. Chatted some more with Kathryn, whose son is going to weedwhack a steep slope under our apple trees for us, after the slope dries from the recent rain. Then we ventured into town: the PO box, (nothing), the usual bigger supermarket, (because Ben's more used to it,) but not finding several important items, to the one we like better. Then we came home and performed the ritual: I denuded veg packs and wiped down other boxes and packaging while Ben showered. He carried everything upstairs, washed the veg and put packages away while I showered. I did the laundry, and together we transferred all protein, (which comes in thinner plastic wrapping we don't like to sanitize,) into our own containers. And washed our hands again.

We rewarded ourselves with the first pack of potato chips in forever; it was delicious but was gone oh-so-soon. And we had steak for dinner, which pleased Ben very much. If we ration wisely we shouldn't have to go to the supermarket for nearly two weeks; we certainly paid as much.

More cooking duty the next few days. The oven-baked peacherines are growing on me. I am obsessed with food and food preparation, but I think it gives me focus.

But today, I also thought about weaving.
Day 26, April 20. We decided Ben overdid with meat/fish shopping yesterday. Today we froze some, he smoked a bunch, (while working,) and I made chicken curry, and slow-roasted more peacherines and concocting a chutney-esque version. This went on until shortly before the 4PM announcement.

We will be in Level 4 until the end of next Monday, then try out Level 3 for two weeks. Our lives won't change much because Ben will still work from home and the sort of things we can do, e.g. food shopping, won't change, but some people, like Volume, will be allowed to go to work as long as they can follow social distancing rules, contact-less service. We will be allowed to take our car and go a tiny bit further for exercises, though. Ben came home from work a little early and we had a bit of sake to... celebrate knowing where we stand for now.

We just caught her Facebook live which she does in the evenings every now and then, often after big announcements. She smiles a lot, but like any live chat, she looked serious trying to read questions.

As terrible as a global pandemic is, and so many places have it so much worse than in Nelson, New Zealand, Ben and I are convinced Jacinda has made it easy for us to behave well. Bless our Prime Minister.

I know other mainly English-speaking countries want Jacinda as their head of state, or envying New Zealand for having her at the helm. I can understand this, but I've been giving some serious thoughts to this, and her way of running a country in this global pandemic compared to others I read about. I'm not sure, however, if her ways will work elsewhere.

New Zealand has its own very wealthy lot, hate groups, and right-wing/religious lots, and some here have even adopted the litigious culture, and many have adopted the American Right Wing language since W Bush's days. Some comments towards her have been as despicable. But fundamentally New Zealanders are descent and most pragmatic, and because of the size, when push comes to shove, everybody tends to want to help each other. At least in electing Labour three years ago we did ourselves a great favour, not only for the Plague, but the eruption of a volcano and a mass shooting which also happened in her time. And the electoral system and redistricting must work well enough nobody is raising serious questions for now. (We had a census two years ago and I think we have new districts for this autumn's general election.)

[EDIT: New Zealand reviews its electorate every five years. It appears not directly related to census, as the last review was in 2019/20.]

Also, her language helps; not the overblown, not divisive, not catchy to please the media, but simple and straight-forward: "Be kind," "Team of Five Million", etc. Remember, this is the country where the two largest islands are called North Island and South Island. And then the idea we should behave as if we all have Corona. I think these comes form the fact she's a "normal" person, having grown up in a "normal" household, who otherwise lives a relatively normal life. Although I'd never underestimate the steely political astuteness that's another part of her, either.

I always think back to Jacinda bringing up the fact Clarke wore a Gisbourne charity shop dad sweater when they brought Neve home.

New Zealand is a nation, albeit small, so it's not all great, and certainly not "100% Pure". I don't agree with everything the government is doing, it's timing, scope, and I can't stand a couple of folks in the current front line, but it's a government, I trust these folks to be doing the best they can under the circumstances to protect as many as possible, and I have no problem abiding by their rules. (And a few more of our own just to be on the safe side.):-D
Day 27, April 21. After yesterday's massive food prep effort, mealtime requires assembling salads and heating up protein for the foreseeable future. When Ben started to get restless waiting for me to make the first move to get dinner ready, I was disproportionately agitated, shouting something like, "Do we have to eat again??" And then realized how wrong/bad/rude that was. Not to Ben, exactly, but as it is there have been millions/billions of people without enough food due to poverty/famine/war, but now there are more even in the First World due to corona-related loss of jobs and businesses. So, I won't complain. But I wouldn't mind eating less often.

In communicating with a client about her latest commission, I was overwhelmed by how little I remember of my recent past pre-Corona, how my life has become mired in this lot of news, not Brexit and Trump before it. I felt sad. And then I needed a nap.
Day 28, April 22. (Photo taken on Day 25.) Today I was thoroughly sick of envying friends who have Corona-cleaned their houses there were nowhere else to clean. So I started with downstairs this morning, the laundry, en suite and my work space. And then the stairway, and part of the hallway upstairs. As usual, I got less done than I had hoped, but it's not nothing. It is what it is. I'm also leaving a trail of unfinished projects, the patio, the agapanthus and miniature kowhai on the driveway, what else... I've been thinking a lot about work, about weaving. That's also not nothing. Tomorrow we're supposed to have rain, so I'll continue with cleaning the house, shall I?