A Fantail in Your House

While putting books into boxes, a fantail flew into the house through my open sliding glass door. She swooped in and nearly flew into my face when I rounded the corner. Fantails are notoriously cheeky little birds--they are clever and chatty--never too shy to fly close to your head.  I can't tell if they are aggressive and territorial or if they are flirty and friendly.  Either way, I've always found them delightful.   Until today. She flew around the room, above the bed, above my desk and … [Read more...]

You Don’t Have to Let Yourself Go, Just Your Pants

For the second time in a year I'm surrounded by boxes and a looming list which must be completed in the next thirty days.  Why?  Because I'm moving.  Again. That and I'm desperately trying to lose ten or fifteen pounds.  How am I doing this?  Well, you should see me.  I set up my computer on the ironing board and tune into Zumba classes on YouTube.  I feel ridiculous and probably look even more ridiculous.  But it's the only way I can my heart rate going enough for me to sweat like it's going … [Read more...]

Let’s Have a Kaikai: a post grape-picking pow-wow

As with anything, it's not the grape-picking that's interesting.  It's all that surrounds it. Austin and I spent last Monday practically in silence.  We were tired and it was hot.  You wouldn't think of New Zealand as hot but let me tell you--it isn't the temperature of the air.  Here, it's a sun factor, the added temperature of the sunlight.  There's no ozone in this part of the world and so when the sun blazes down it feels fierce unlike any sun I've ever felt.  It's pure, amped-up heat; the … [Read more...]

Through Trial and Error and ‘Cacca’: Restaurant and Hotel Recommendations in Rome

Everyone has a poop story. I was reminded of this the other day when I saw my fellow grape picker, Alice, from a distance.  On her back was a small, gooey looking splat of liquid.  "Alice!" I hollered, running to catch up to her.  "I think you have bird poop on your back," I said.  She stopped abruptly.  I took a closer look.  It was green.  "Oh nevermind.  That's just a smooshed grape." Being pooped on reminded me of the first time I ever went to Rome.  I was twenty.  I was so excited and I'd … [Read more...]

Secrets and Truths: Picking Grapes With Alice

My picking buddy from Oklahoma didn't show up the other morning.  We were out a vineyard called Woodthorpe (pictured below), a good forty-five minute drive into the hills.  You had to drive past the Maori cemetery and the old wooden church, past ramshackle stucco houses, past a goat tied up on the bank before turning off down a long gravel road.  (The picture above is a view from the long gravel road.)  I figured Austin and his green gumboot van were lost so I paired up with someone new.  Her … [Read more...]


Austin drives a frog green 1986 Mitsubishi van with GUMBOOT written backwards on the front, cows on the sides and two stencils of roosters spray-painted on the back.  There are three seats up front and a bed in the back where he sleeps.   He bought it for $1900NZ in Auckland when he first arrived. I got to ride in it today when we traveled from one vineyard to the next and let me tell you, people STARE.  Especially old people.  They also usually frown while they stare, which makes things really … [Read more...]

Smoko, The Flaming Lips, The Damned and Not Carking It on my First Day Picking

Here's what I knew about picking grapes before today: Zero.  Nada.  Zilch. Here's what I know about grape-picking after a full day's work: Not a whole lot more than I did before. But I know a few other things now. This is Larry.  Larry used to teach high school before he became a viticulturist.  It was 8am when he stood on a crate attached to the back of the tractor this fine but slightly foggy morning and said, "Those of you who are new, well, you'll learn as you go.  By smoko … [Read more...]

X-rated Due to Graphic Content

I want something to happen that will make me laugh. That's what I thought yesterday as I was heading out the door for my afternoon walk.  I thought it then just forgot all about it. I went to the bank, stopped by the post office and then for some reason out of the blue I popped into the local second hand shop.  It's not the best second hand shop because everything is overpriced for the most part, which is why I hardly go in there.  Who the hell wants to buy a used wooden hand held vanity mirror … [Read more...]

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” –Mary Oliver

  "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" This quote by Mary Oliver has been popping into my head on a daily basis the last few weeks now.  A bold whisper of a voice, invisible, incessant and slightly disruptive.  Sometimes, I find it terrifying. This morning I was sifting through the photos on my camera--all one-thousand or so of them.  (The picture above I took last September while in Barcelona.)  I was berating myself for not erasing the ones … [Read more...]

One Girl’s Great New Zealand Grape-picking Adventure

March is New Zealand's September.  Days become noticeably shorter, light begins to shift and the mornings take on a new found crispness.  For the first time in five months you jump out of bed and straight into your fuzzy warm robe and slippers.  You wrap up and immediately get the hot water kettle going, anxious for the sun to work its incubating magic. This is what the end of summer feels like, in March.  I don't get it, really.  My whole being is off kilter, my Norths and Souths flip … [Read more...]