I started my morning again today like yesterday's: by walking up the hill to feed Tiger, and by the time I got back to Skye's at 8:45am already sweating from the humidity. This was only made worse by my first gardening task of raking up all the lose pea gravel from a path (Skye wants to return the path to lawn) and carting it across the garden in buckets to dump on the remaining gravel path. Not to state the obvious, but rocks are heavy! I was almost glad to return to my regularly scheduled gardening of ripping grass and weeds and daisies out from the garden bed along the fence line. I also weeded the front garden where I began my work when I started WWOOFing here at the beginning of December. It was disheartening to see how quickly the weeks grow, but amazing to also see how rapidly some of the plants - particularly the sunflowers - have shot up!
As Skye had a hair appointment this afternoon, she had already gone for her midday siesta when I came in for lunch. I ate by myself at the table (likely a good thing, as I was dirty and sweaty), reading Bill Bryson's At Home (I've made it to the chapter on the bedroom, lucky me). I have also begun the slow and somewhat monumental task of organizing my photos, so I did a little of that his afternoon, too. And I did laundry! Such excitement.
At 3pm I walked down to the library and photocopied a half-dozen Christmas carols out of The Treasury of Christmas Music so I could return the book to St. Peter's. An interesting point of trivia: standard paper sizes are different down here in New Zealand! Actually, what is really going on is the entire world (save for the US and Canada) uses the ISO paper size standards. The most common size of paper here is A4, which is 8.27" x 11.69", compared to the Canadian/US "Letter" of 8.5" x 11". This is somewhat annoying, as the extra .69" (1.8cm) of A4 papers is enough to make them stick out the end of my Letter-sized clipboard, resulting in crumpling (which when one is as nuts about neatness as I am can be very trying!).
Exiting from the library I was greeted with a blast of hot, humid air, and that was enough to convince me to go for a swim in the Waipawa River. After stopping in briefly at Maria and Mike's to check on Flash (who was happy to receive a little attention) I headed on down to Coronation Park and fairly threw myself into the river. Cold water has never felt so good...
Thoroughly refreshed, I walked back up the hill and spent the half an hour before dinner pruning lavender bushes in the front garden and listening to Great Big Sea's live album Road Rage on my iPod. They've always been one of my favourite bands, and I find listening to Canadian music always puts a smile on my face and reminds me of home, even if I am from the other side of the country than "the tropical island of Newfoundland" as Alan Doyle introduced his homeland. :-P
Due to the heat we ate dinner sitting on the front steps instead of at the table on the porch at the back of the house; as we ate, Skye told me about how different the front yard had looked when she moved in compared to now, and brought out pictures to illustrate: where now sits a beautiful garden, there was once only lawn and bark mulch! While it is a chore to keep the weeds under control, I completely agree that it looks much nicer as a garden than as a vast expanse of lawn. I took a picture of the three of us sitting on the steps; I don't think I've ever posed for an outdoor picture taken in December wearing a t-shirt and capri shorts.
After dinner we drove up the road to the small town of Pukehow (Pou-kee-how), home to Christ Church, one of the oldest churches in the Waiapu diocese (it was consecrated in 1859). Here we were treated to "Carols by Candlelight"; everyone present was given a candle (mounted in a plastic wine glass) to hold and sing with. They weren't really necessary until dusk started to settle in around 8:45pm, but there's something timeless and consecrated about the atmosphere of singing carols in a church by candlelight. (I have sung more carols with the community here in New Zealand than I ever have back home...) The other highlight was the brass quintet + woodwind duo (two cornets, one French horn, one euphonium, one tuba, one clarinet, and one flute) who accompanied us; their musicianship and tone were impeccable. I was in such good spirits my voice even cooprerated and allowed me to sing all the high notes; I was soaring effortlessly up to F#s and Gs like a good lyric soprano.
There was a little reception afterward where I talked again with Adrian's WOOFers, Marielle and Nicholas from France, and we all enjoyed the shortbread, juice, and Christmas loaf (thankfully the crust wasn't held down with glue, although I did play Sharon, Lois, and Bram's version of "Ms. Fogarty's Christmas Cake" for Skye last night and she loved it). There is something surreal about chatting outside under the shadows of stately oak trees, watching the sunset over the rolling pasture hills, wearing light summer clothing, and knowing that it is December 22nd!
On the drive back Skye took me past two houses that seem to be in a Christmas light competition; Christmas lights are not common at all down here (likely because the days are so long, what with it being summer and all), which prompted me to show her this video when we got back to the house (I still crack up every time I see it).
Tonight is my last night in Waipawa! While we didn't get to see the lunar eclipse yesterday, the moon rise this evening was absolutely fantastic (there are so few lights here to interfere with star gazing). Tomorrow I am on the 2:45pm bus, heading north to Fay and Frank's and a Christmas in Napier. I've enjoyed being here at Skye's so much... and wouldn't you know it, I haven't started packing at all yet (at least I did the laundry!). Guess what I'll be doing tomorrow morning... night!