I n M y G r a n d m o t h e r ‘ s G a r d e n

20 April 2020

Reflective entry regarding the enforced Covid 19 bubble, memory and gathering

Featured image: Rangihīroa, ‘Tōtara North, Ditch‘ 10.51 am, 1 September 2019, captures a stretch of road that once was the life blood of the little kauri timber milling community on the Northwestern side of the Whangaroa Harbour. To the left at the entrance of the road is the hall where pictures used to be projected and cricket was played on grounds that today are being reclaimed by the arterial fingers of the harbour. The road leads up towards an historic graveyard where many of the colonial families are buried (including my mother, my grandparents, my aunties, uncles and Pākehā ancestors) assembled together as they once were in life. Further on is the nineteenth century school which many of these loved ones attended. For 6 months in 1970 I would walk with cousins from the corner where the bus would drop us off. I sometimes had bare feet and I remember the soft soles of my town feet didn’t much like the loose metal road. That was 1970.

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2019-2023. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com 

I remember the hillside you planted in edible green

And hours spent weeding, picking beans

cutting courgettes up there

killing holiday time on the windy ridge

amongst red soil soaking up afternoon sun

drying ocre encrusted feet and

penitent knees

overlooking the Whangaroa

And in just one summer the daughter boasted

enough was harvested for the coming year

and for weeks you were the proverbial bee

converting acres of soil, toil and sunshine

into a large

white freezer

a sentry

near your front door

like one of your working dogs

close enough

to the kitchen table

so that in winter

with quick efficiency

your crooked arthritic fingers could quickly plummet

like hungry gannets into

the bottomless pit

probing snowy waters

for something

from last summer’s garden

peas, carrots, beans, a prize, a trick

busy deft movements

while our grandfather would entertain


brissly unshaven whiskers thrust out

Give us a kiss Luce

my tui in the tree

and the tui would blush


and retort

Charlie you know you’re just doing that in front of the grandchildren

And as you sat on his knee

the kiss would inevitably come

And, embarassed, we

dutifully cringed

as he teased

meanwhile in the adjacent sittingroom life and death was unfolding

William Solloway Lane’s schooner ‘Maile’

was struggling with gales off the Tasmanian coast

waves higher than masts

the watercolour kept the Captain and his eleven crew,

perpetually young

lost at sea

never to return

I secretly wished you didn’t have to go to the freezer so much

To pull out the meal,

frozen vegetables or some ancient Christmas cake

yearning for room temperature

on a white Crown Lynn plate

But here today

at Pak n Save in Mount Albert

As I stand in this long, long line

That greedily snakes its way around a carpark

I remember you

As if I was sitting around that family dining table

And if I was working the land the way you did

I would probably not be here

At least not as much as I dare

Waiting in lines barely longer than the lengths of your gardens that

reached up towards the sky

…And I would not blame you grandpa for wanting to leave Auckland during the war

To avoid this madness

And to escape to arcadia

Early this morning I tried to avoid the crowds but everyone had the same idea.

At checkout I watch an angry woman berate a quiet Chinese shopper

2 metres, 2 metres she gesticulates

He gently complies

With not a word

as she infers Wuhan, Wuhan,

Do you have the virus…?

she demands of him

but really of us all

I miss the stability

you both offered

how would you handle this crisis I wonder?

A fair question when addressed to a couple that

Lived through punishing Influenza, the depression and two world wars

Less talk

And more how you lived

Seems the lesson

In my grandmother’s garden