Tag Archives: Books

A review of the book: “Sanctuary – the discovery of wonder” by Julie Leibrich

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A winter virus gave me “a space”, Sanctuary, to read this book from beginning to end. Prior to this I had dipped in and out of it and had thoroughly enjoyed titbits and contemplating the photographs.

But this big book of 226 pages and 172 references is a rich, deep, satisfying and stimulating read. It was a decade in the writing and covers much of the author’s life experiences.

It is a well ordered book that circles from the first section: “Wondering about Sanctuary”, to “Illuminating Sanctuary”, to “Protecting Sanctuary” to “Wonderment of Sanctuary”.

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I doubt there was a page in Julie’s book where I was not drawn in, encouraged to wonder, to absorb or marvel or question.

Her home on the Kapiti Coast is where my newly widowed mother sought sanctuary, in her new home and environment for the remaining 15 years of her life. The beach, the sea, the birds, the sky and the looming guardian of Kapiti Island are strong links to me and my understanding of this special environment.

The section of Julie’s book where she writes about a poetry course she ran for people suffering from the effects of stroke, Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease, I found particularly poignant. No matter our age or physical condition, our soul remains a sanctuary.

Not only did I find this immensely reassuring but also a wonderful example of compassion. To take time, to give careful attention to detail and to offer attentive presence, gave rise to illuminations from these peoples’ spirits.

The book is full of detail, research, images, references, journal entries, poetry, anecdotes, peoples’ thoughts and experiences. Julie’s writing skills are exemplified in her in-depth exploration of words, concepts, beliefs and experiences.

The thoughts and contributions of Julie’s friends and acquaintances sit easily among those of influential writers and thinkers across the ages. Sanctuary is not the domain of the highly trained, specialised or profoundly learned and wise; it is for every one of us as human beings.

Sanctuary (from the Latin “Sanctus” meaning Holy) can be found anywhere and in limitless ways. It is not limited or definitively prescribed. As the title “the discovery of wonder” indicates  – discover what works for you, what gives you inner space. The cover of the book is a contemplation on this very issue.

I found this book to be one I want to own so that I can return to it again and again for my own personal and spiritual understanding and development.

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Note: For an in depth review of Julie Leibrich’s book that I enjoyed reading go here:

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Doggy Buddy Reader

Our local Public Library has an extensive summer reading programme on offer to children in our city.

One delightful event is the chance to read to Koko, a beautiful and well-trained, 7 year old Retriever.
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Koko is also a Pet Therapy dog and regularly visits the Rehabilitation wards in our local hospital with her owner.
I was keen to go along and observe such a special occasion. Dogs are incredibly good listeners and Koko was right in tune with the youngsters who sat near her and read books to her.
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Apparently dogs are used in some primary schools to encourage reluctant readers to practice their reading skills with a gentle, non-judgemental, no-fail audience.

Koko’s owner was happy to share lots of information about Koko and her breed and to demonstrate how well trained Koko is.

Koko will be back for more Buddy reading next week.

“The Colour of Food. A memoir of life, love and dinner” by Anne Else

“The Colour of Food” by Anne Else is one of the most enjoyable books I have read in 2014. Its popularity was indicated by the wait I had until the local Library copy became available to me. I see on the cover of this easy to hold book, that it is already an International EBook bestseller.
I love adopting a comfy reading position, holding a book, turning the pages and referring back and forth amongst the contents with ease and at a pace that suits me.
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From the first chapter I was hooked. I particularly enjoyed reading of Anne’s many and varied experiences of eating food as a child, as a new, young wife struggling to learn the tricks and art of cooking and then how being exposed to different cuisines from around the world her love of food and cooking developed and grew into a passion and a pleasure. The internet now allows her to share her creativity and pleasure with food via her blog:

At times the experiences she describes around love are very intimate and evoke emotions across the spectrum. There were many times as I was reading when I would pause and reflect on my own life and experiences, as signposts in her words touched me or pointed me back to a link in my past.

I follow Anne’s personal blog and her life without her beloved Harvey so some parts of this book already felt familiar. I also have Harvey McQueen’s “This piece of earth” on my bookshelf which meant I already knew of their special love and companionship and some of their enjoyment of food and cooking together. This familiarity certainly enriched my reading of this memoir.

So much social history is detailed in this book and when I look at my late mother’s recipe books which contain many of her mother’s recipes it is obvious that food provides a rich feast of detail on how we live our lives and how life changes. From my own experience I can well remember the advent of Kai Si Ming ( really mince with a stack of sliced cabbage and a packet of chicken noodle soup stirred through it, but a new idea in Mum’s kitchen) and Coleslaw! Cabbage had always been cooked to a very unappetising gooey mass before shredded raw cabbage came into vogue.

So reading this book was a treat, in a way food should be, and it was a surprise when I turned the final page to find the memoir’s end. As all good books do, it left me with questions unanswered and plenty to reflect on especially around what constitutes “women’s work” and our need to be creative, while also using our education, training and skills. I’ve spent time since finishing the memoir considering the many and varied aspects that food and the preparation and serving of it play in our social, emotional and psychological lives.

And like a very good meal this book left me wanting more. For good measure Anne includes 24 recipes to sample, ranging from very simple to exotic, but with her guiding hand all very achievable. And to tempt readers further she has included two lists of books which have inspired her. These include Memoirs and Recipe books.

I’ve already jotted down her “Fresh Courgette Salad” recipe as I watch the first small courgettes ripen on my plant. Yum!

Eyes, cameras, explanations

Matthew Johnstone asks this in his calming book “Capturing Mindfulness – a guide to becoming present through photography.”
“What grabs you visually that you can’t fully explain?”

This photo that I took on Saturday, from a high vantage point above the Pauatahanui Inlet has the potential I discovered for some observers to wonder aloud about what they are seeing in the image.
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When I was allowing my eyes to wander on Saturday there was something about the kowhai tree that grabbed me. When I loaded the photo up on to the computer I thought I could easily explain what I had seen with my eyes and what the camera had recorded.

But another person offered a different explanation of the image and suddenly I saw a whole new utterly intriguing and evocative possibility.

Matthew Johnstone speaks of being “photopresent” and in the main, this is exactly how I approach going about with my camera. I allow my eye and sometimes my heart to notice and for the action of clicking the shutter to flow from that space. It is a restful, easy space that has that soothing quality of flow most of the time.

The end result is an image which can occasionally have an inexplicable quality to it offering further contemplation and I really like that.

As a postscript: Matthew Johnstone has written the “Black Dog” series and “Quiet the Mind, Capturing Mindfulness”. He has a website here:

“Tui – A nest in the Bush” by Meg Lipscombe

Tui - A Nest in the Bush by Meg Lipscombe.

Tui – A Nest in the Bush by Meg Lipscombe.

Regular readers of my blog know of my interest in and love of Tui and other native New Zealand birds. As a child Tuis were very rarely seen but the persistent and devoted action of many people and organisations now sees these birds arriving in my garden and surrounding neighbourhood in increasing numbers. It is a joy.
So I was delighted to spot this newly published book in the Public Library. Meg Lipscombe’s stunning photos of a Tui nest and the breeding cycle have filled in more gaps in my knowledge of these colourful, spirited birds.
Meg lives in a remote part of New Zealand and discovered to her delight that she could photograph a Tui’s nest from her home’s balcony.

Female Tui sitting on two eggs.

Female Tui sitting on two eggs.


What followed was a successful recording over 37 days of newly laid eggs through to an empty nest as the fledglings took those final steps to growing independence.
Tui fledglings almost ready to leave the nest.

Tui fledglings almost ready to leave the nest.


Meg spent time speaking to the adult birds so that they grew accustomed to her respectful presence. For the reader she journalled about her observations.
The book is a first to capture this breeding cycle and it is not surprising to learn that Meg received a Fellowship from the Photographic Society of New Zealand in recognition of the excellence of her photographs.
Rick Thorpe wrote a very full and informative Introduction for the book covering many aspects pertaining to the bird, to its significance to Maori, to the health of our native forests and the critical importance of continued conservation efforts.
Anyone wanting to learn about Tuis will find this book, with its remarkable photos and written information, invaluable. It is a book to share with young children, for older children and adults to read and explore and enjoy.