Monday, April 29, 2013

The size of your average lounge.

A minor loss for us Linwoodians after the earthquakes was the local library. The building was badly damaged and the stock as well, and it stood empty for a good year. Then someone set fire to it. Brazenly, on a Saturday afternoon, while shoppers at the mall across the road watched it ablaze. Setting fire to buildings is an East side curse, really. So many empty buildings, so much long grass, so little time.

Meanwhile, courageous librarians had salvaged what they could and set up a mini library in a prefab attached to the city council service centre. Where they heroically struggled on. It was heroic, too. The new building was the size of your average lounge, neither heated nor cooled, and had only basic equipment. It was always packed. Books are for older people like me. Libraries are for free wi fi for people too poor to have their own, and for school kids to 'do homework' (which seems to involve mostly facebook, for some reason). And although it was stuffy and crowded and noisy, it was dry and safe. The staff were patient and caring and dedicated and needed to be.

The staff kept the stock rotating from other libraries, so you never knew what would be there. i almost always found something. i became appreciative of the restraints. Would there be a book about climate change? Not today, but there is a book about Mars which is almost as good. Suddenly i realise how little i know about Mars. It's great. i am always beginning.

Recently i went to another less damaged suburb and found the library there. Shelves and shelves of books! Everything working! Four whole books on the recent history of Britain! Overwhelming. i loaded myself up and am still plowing through my haul of marvels.

i am often surprised public libraries have survived in this age of neoclassicism. They are a weird nineteenth century throwback to an age when philanthropically minded public figures sought the moral and intellectual improvement of the working classes. Not too much improvement, mind, but enough to stave off revolt and make the workers more thoughtful and considerate. The idea of free informal learning for all seems to have stuck somehow.

Now the mini library has closed. A new bigger library has opened up in the shopping mall. The new post EQ normal takes another step.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pythagorean song

The day shift, early start. Leaving the house, i feel as if i've been let out, or let off somehow. i get to be under the sky at last. i walk a little lighter.

This is a liminal time, the time between home and its obligations, and work and its obligations. For now, i have neither.

At the bus stop the dawn begins, and under the low light i can see each dew drop on each blade of grass. i move, and they iridesce for me. Each blade is a house, and the lights are on in Grassland! Briefly, i get to tend this tiny world.

The bird tree across the road roils and shudders with birds. They are all noise this morning. They dart to my side of the road, and pause, and dart again, undulating in short flight.

A small flock of pigeons rises up; they wheel and turn and head South. They do this at the same time every morning, their movements governed by an algorithm only they understand. 

And then the sky starts up. By now i can see rank upon rank of serried clouds, lined up like the keys of a xylophone set sideways, against the sky. The bottom one lights up pink. Every minute or so the next one lights up. i feel the build up of it, my ribs strain with amazement. The clouds light up, one by one, higher, and i expect a crescendo. i am by now alarmed. What will happen when the light gets to the top one? Will the sky burst into some Pythagorean song - or will i be left with my mouth open and my arms uplifted, like some stricken Pentecostalist?

Then the bus comes. Honest to God, the bus comes. i get on it, with everyone else, and go to work.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Wood Day

Wednesday was Wood Day, the day the wood arrived. I love Wood Day. The Wood Man backs his truck into the driveway, tips it up so the flap at the back opens, and some wood slides out. It smells amazing. It's all sharp and fresh and clean. Then the Wood Man eases his truck forward, and with the weight of wood piling up in the truck the flap opens more, and now the wood just pours out like a libation. The wood has arrived! And we get to stack it. We have a routine  - I barrow it and my husband the Archduke Piccolo stacks it. Barrowing requires a bit more grunt perhaps but stacking requires more brains. Wednesday was fine and calm and the perfect day for wood.

Wednesday is Woden's day of course and so I felt moved to give thanks to the old boreal Gods of my ancestors. I presume Woden is the God of Wood. Woden sounds, well, wooden, and there is a nice story told by one of the Grimm brothers about how the very last of the harvest in parts of Germany is for Woden's use. Woden is a psychopomp in the Anglo Saxon pagan faith, and his relationship with the dead seems suitable for the arrival of the wood that will see us through the winter.

So I say:

Thank you old forest Gods, thank you father Woden, for this amazing wood which you have spread on my driveway like a blessing. Thank you for the forests that grew it. Thank you for giving us an understanding of wood and its ways, for this connection, however oblique, with the natural world, and our heritage so far away in the northern forests. I acknowledge now the hope that the wood gives us, for our survival through the darkness of Winter, and the eventual return of the Sun. Wood tells us we have a future here.

And the wood, now stacked, has magically become the Wood Pile. It  develops its own folkloric ecosystem. Maybe mice and centipedes and brownies live in it, as well as truly fantastic creatures. It rests under its tarpaulins in the lee of the fences, and tells us quietly about Summer, and wind, and clouds and the far sea.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fleeing to the edges

Occasionally i get to stand around waving placards and i did it again recently for the cause of anti-racism. Christchurch has the only permanent organised neo-fascist group in New Zealand, curently the Right Wing Resistence.  Their leader is Kyle Chapman, who once stood for mayor on a far right ticket. They have been around for a while now, and are getting a bit too much traction here. On that day they were having their own march, from Abberley Park to Papanui Road and back, through the very nice leafy suburb of Merivale. The anti-racism march was a counter-protest.

There were about 50 of Them and about 100 of Us, although estimates vary. We were colourful, diverse, noisy and rude. They were quieter and more self disciplined, and were trying for menacing. They had sub-Nazi uniforms with ranks, and insignia indicating their alliances with other ultra rightists such as Blood and Honour (the number 28) the the Greek Golden Dawn. They had with them an Australian politician of some sort who gave a speech, which was largely drowned out by the chaos on our side. The neo-fascist bunch have been around long enough to have families now, and so there were women and children. In fact someone remarked their gender balance was actually better than ours. They marched and we followed them through the Merivale shopping area and then we stood around a bit and traded insults and then we all wandered off for a latte at Savoire, a Parisian themed cafe that does an excellent chickpea salad*. The arrest tally was one for them and one for us.

When i was much, much younger and making some study of the occult, i had an interest in what i thought of then as the loony right. i thought they represented an interesting sort of disaffection with society and they had some strange alliances - occultists, survivalists, eschatologists, punk rockers. i never took any of their ideas seriously but i shared their sense of being marginalised even thought it took me in very different directions. I thought then that they were undereducated white guys who had fallen into ideological pits.

The size and influence of the ultra right has waxed and waned depending on how the economy has treated undereducated white guys. This happens internationally. Christchurch is a good example because it has only recently become truly visibly multicultural.  Although some of these guys' invective is directed at Maori and indigenous rights, a lot of it is about immigration and especially Asians#, along the classic lines of 'They took our jobs!!!'** Christchurch is a very white city and many whites are poor, ergo, somebody has the money and the power, so who is it?

Five years ago i would not have turned up for an anti-racism counter-demonstration. i would have been happy for the RWR to die quietly in a little dark corner. But the post financial crisis world is a bit different. Financial squeeze is also indeological squeeze. People flee to the edges. i don't want the RWR to grow. i get the fleeing to the edges thing. i get that there are a lot of people who have little stake in society and can only see that someone who isn't them has the power and the say. It's sad that they discount their own futures and that they are afraid they will lose what little they have. i would like them to look around and ask who is really in power, and who it is really worth being angry with, and what is really worth working for.

* Actually, no.
# Asia is a barely sensible construct that spreads from Turkey to the Philippines, and in the UK Asian seems to indicate the Indian subcontinent. In New Zealand it means indiscriminately Japan/China/Korea/Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia/Malaysia/Borneo/i think i've missed something out/suggestions welcome. But not India/Afghanistan/Mongolia/Indonesia etc etc which we don't have names for yet in New Zealand.
**A statement said in such a manner that it takes at least three exclamation marks, which is of course a sign of madness, or at least manic punctuation.