Of frippery and joy

This post is about writing, unexpected joy, and appreciating all the pretty things.

At the best of times, I struggle to write. I enjoy it—writing helps me think, it brings me calm and clarity, relief. But I avoid it. I look for other work so I won’t have to write. I’m stoked to get emails that I have to read, especially if they give me tasks to take up time (please send me work to review or edit. Anything to save me from my own writing).

Over the last few years, I’ve changed the way I write.

The first covid lockdown meant I was putting together a book from home. My desk was in a corner of our bedroom, tucked behind chests of drawers, and was just big enough for my computer and keyboard. There was no room for writing with pen and paper, or reading at my desk. I had to sit on the bed (and still I was stoked to be able to work at home).

I write differently on paper. Stepping away from the computer somehow makes it easier to get in a good headspace. I read, but I’m not typing notes. I write, but I’m not as tempted to edit as I go. I spend more time thinking. I don’t try to put anything together until I have pages and pages of notes, often rehashing the same stuff.

I write better at home than in the office. Maybe because home is where I want to be.

Since that lockdown, I’ve been surprised and pleased with most of what I’ve written. It’s far from prolific, but each piece feels like the best I can do.

And then out of the blue, something else has made writing easier.

Setting up a decent workspace at home has meant I’m buying my own stationery. For years I’ve used disposable pens supplied by my work, I go through them pretty quick. Thinking about buying them for myself brought home how much cheap pen-shaped plastic I am sending to landfills. After some research, I found fountain pens are the best refillable option in New Zealand.

Based on reviews I ordered a not very expensive pen and some blue-black ink. When I filled the pen, I remembered the one Mum gave me when I graduated—my old Parker was buried in my pen drawer. I had forgotten how much I enjoy a nice pen, and now I had two. I just needed a different coloured ink.

Then my whānau got covid.

Fortunately we only had mild symptoms. But the combination of my covid-addled mind and being shut away from the world  with the internet just as I discovered the world of fountain pens and ink (so much more than the blue or black options of the 80s) meant feverish hours shopping for ink, notebooks, more pens. At the end of it, I had 6 (stunning) inks, 5 fountain pens with various nibs, and 3 notebooks of different paper stock (it could’ve been worse).

And suddenly I look forward to writing. I watch the pen in my hand as I write, beautiful ink glowing in its barrel. It makes me smile. The reddish-purple words spread across the page, and I can’t help but feel happy. Filling my notebook with midnight blue, crimson, purple and turquoise writing (and more to try) is so unexpectedly joyful.

I could turn this into an essay about heteropatriarchy and how femmephobia robs us of simple joys (I so want to write that essay), but I’m going to leave it here. A post about the importance of pretty things, and the joy they can bring. Even to something as dry as my writing.

(Pen is TWSBI Diamond mini with extra fine nib, ink is Iroshizuku yama-budo)

He Hōaka

I start this website in the shadow of Moana Jackson’s death.

Moana is most known for his critiques of colonisation, showing how damaging colonising thinking and actions are. He helped a lot of us to see more clearly how it works, and I will forever be grateful for that. When I am trying to find the words to talk about some particular effect of colonisation, I find strength and direction from his statement that colonisation is inherently abusive. Moana saw the colonisers’ arrogant, casual cruelty and he named it.

But what I loved most about Moana wasn’t his always insightful critiques of colonisers being colonisers, it was his unwavering faith and love in his tūpuna, in his whānau, in us, not just Māori but anyone working for a better future. And the faith he had in whānau Māori, tikanga Māori, mātauranga Māori. It was a beautiful thing. How many has he inspired?

Moana was driven by love, and if you were fortunate enough to spend time with him, which a lot of us did because he was so generous with his time, you couldn’t help but feel that love.

Now so many of us are feeling the pain of his loss.

Moana was someone I relied on. Trying to make sense of the work we have to do, the chaos of countless crises, the future we build but can’t see. A jumbled mess of pieces from a thousand different jigsaw puzzles. Where do we even start?

Calmly, confidently, he held the future like it was simply a snapshot of his moko.

With stories. With laughter.

With love.

I don’t know what this project is, I don’t know what it will become. Maybe nothing. But here it is.

He hōaka noa iho, he hōaka tonu.