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Letter From the Country September October 2016

Mary Kippenberger04 October 2016

BB31

I write this mid July and the rain has finally come. Little has quenched the land since January and our wetland had become cracked and sore. All but the ruru and the dancing pīwakawaka had given up in disgust, frogs hibernated ever deeper and climate change nodded smugly in the corner.

Today the raupo once again sways, reflected in a muddied mirror, aloof pūkeko have returned to pester my struggling vege patch and four paradise ducks made the morning roll call. All that’s missing is the solitary heron and the stampede of little grey quail with their chicks like walnuts on energizer legs.

is is my favourite part of the farm. My garden lies under rocky cliffs, snuggled in a three-acre valley. I am completely alone here; nobody to raise an eyebrow as I chat happily to my veges, the fruit trees, admonish the blackberry; nobody to hear me gasp with pride as I dig the teaming compost.

I am the worst gardener, but I mean well. With excitement I read gardening books and watch YouTube tutorials, but all the green  fingers and thumbs had been taken by the time I got to the counter. I produce tiny potatoes that taste a million dollars and cost the same and I am yet to meet a cauliflower I recognise. I will improve.

Winter slumber at Te Rangi Farm is being replaced with a fever as Kate and Danny’s wedding fast approaches. We have till mid October, but oh you should see the list on the fridge.  e whanau are pleased I’m sure; such a reasonable list. All I want is a fence taken out here, a fence put in there, a footbridge, scrub cleared, sliding door installed, a culvert, gate and track, storage room, walls, doors, ceilings painted, the list goes on … and on.

Under an October sky, around a dancing bonfire, surrounded by people who love them, Peter will marry Kate and Danny. Married by your Dad.  That works.  ere will be happy tears and weather fingers will be crossed.

And then I will be old, an OAP. It’s been a long time coming, but the evidence is piling in.

Hamish (nine years) said matter-of-factly to his mother, “Get Grandy to do it, she doesn’t have anything to do, she’s not busy.”

I looked at him. “Why aren’t I busy?”

“Because you’re old and old people aren’t busy, they just watch television.”

This was closely followed by an encounter with Emily (six years).

Emily and I were wearing the same hat.

“Oh Emily, we are twins!” I exclaimed.

Emily looked at me sympathetically,

“Grandy, we aren’t twins cause you’re old and I’m not and you wear glasses and I don’t.”

“How can you tell I’m old, Emily?”

“Because,” said Emily without malice just truth, “because your skin’s all wrinkly and so is your face.”

Peter fished, “Emily, how can you tell I’m old?”

To which Emily smiled and said, “Don’t be silly Grampy, you’re not old.” (And that’s why I killed him, your Honour!)

This week I received a large envelope in the post. Massey University smiled at me and I smiled back. Maybe it was reunion time, maybe some exciting programs to pursue, I ripped it open.

“Dear Mary, you have been chosen to take part in a research program about … ageing.”

I guess there’s no turning back; it’s official, I am old. I filled out the booklet. I counted my teeth because they wanted me to and in the end I counted my blessings. The booklet was comprehensive and anonymously intrusive. As I delved into my life, how it had treated me, what I saw in the future and how I sat in the present I found myself ticking the ‘completely agree’ boxes.

I don’t feel old. I have tried to ignore the evidence. I’ve made jokes and bemoaned the wrinkles, but now I accept them. Living an ordinary life is an extraordinary privilege.

Especially now.

Hands up for kindness and love, hands up for equality and humanity, hands up for inclusion and peace. Hands up for difference and acceptance. Hands up for sharing and community. Hands up for challenge. Hands up for the sharing of wealth and privilege and hands up for the planet.

Let’s fight to keep New Zealand extraordinarily ordinary.

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Mary Kippenberger04 October 2016

BB31

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