Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Feeling Like Death

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  • Isabel Hitchings,

    When I was a little kid one of our favourite family walks was to the old Atawhai cemetery in Nelson. I loved poking around and pondering about the lives and deaths of the people buried there. The very best grave (at least from a small girl's viewpoint) was that of a Russian princess.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Alastair Jamieson,

    It's a long while since I had a good wander around a cemetery, but in Auckland I can recommend the old Symonds Street one, hidden among the trees below Grafton Bridge. Old rural cemeteries are best of all, and reading the post I was reminded of this tremendous painting. The online version hardly does justice to the huge original in which you can practically see the wind blowing through the long grass.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 99 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    I'm going to be writing an opinion column for Metro magazine.

    Fantastic! Congratulations.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I went for a walk and I felt better

    Well yes ... but it was 4 years after the walk. After my father died I walked over a significant chunk of central Auckland ... it wasn't the solution but I got a bit fitter.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    I'm one of those people who loves cemeteries. I used to skip the Morning Whiskey at my in-law's place

    Oh yes, cemeteries. Lovely pla....wait, what?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    Quite a metrological post that...

    Fantastic! Congratulations.

    Very much what she said.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    SAD was a frequent topic of discussion when I lived in Ithaca, New York, where the winters are long, the skies are gloweringly low, and the daylight is brutally short. My first winter there, it started snowing in October and kept it up till Mother's Day. The sheer novelty of it all - and, I'm convinced, the reflected light bouncing off all that fluffy Narnia snow - kept me happy.

    The second winter, not so much. It was grey and grim and I'm still shocked (but glad) that I survived it.

    Anyway, there was much local legend about how to battle the winter blues. Exercise, yes, although that's easier said than done when you have to not only get out of bed but put on several layers of clothing so as not to freeze to death. People swore by red wine, and guzzled it in gallons. One flatmate had a lightbox whose glow he religiously bathed in morning and night. Full-spectrum lightbulbs were all the rage.

    Most weirdly of all, loofahs were said to be the secret weapon against seasonal depression. A vigorous scrub all over in a hot bath spiked with baby oil was the prescription. I think it was meant to give you a huge pain-relieving endorphin rush, like eating raw chillies.

    I'm not sure, but presumably a similar effect could be obtained by way of a punishing Swedish massage, or a jolly good spanking? Certainly worth some scientific investigation.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    SAD afflicts several in my whanau, including self. Lightboxes work for a couple of us: daily ingestion of D3 works for me (took until last year to discover this.) Exercise *can* help - but frequently there is neither energy nor motivation to do any...clinical depression also hounds some of the family (not self) to the extent of hospitalisation or being permanantly on meds (which *work* - once the right one has been found.)

    My father is planted somewhere in Ruru lawn cemetry: havent been back there to find the plot since the early 1960s. You might think I dont like cemetries. You'd be right - tho' I can understand the attraction of the more gothic ones.

    Jolisa - some time ago I read (and cannot now recall whether it was in msm or on the net) that a Russian psychiatrist was using whipping to 'cure' depression...very medieval I thought, but he had followers

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    Thanks for the tips Jolisa and Islander. I keep forgetting to take the D3, but have a bottle in the cupboard, so will do so.

    For what it's worth, when going through a particularly bad period of seasonal self-loathing, social networking is not always the best medicine. It also requires having tolerant friends, virtual or otherwise.

    Looking forward to my next trip to the Urupa overlooking the Pacific on the East Coast. Just thinking about it brings a certain perspective.

    Well done on Metro.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    The SAD anthem:

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Donald Reid,

    I lived in Alaska for a time. Now that's a place for SAD if ever there was one. Airlines reduce fares to Hawaii to give locals a chance to get out of the dark for a while. And there's lots and lots of craziness with guns.

    Dunedin, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • Edward Siddle,

    Cemeteries are wonderful! I used to walk through one on my way to school in Dunedin (from Opoho to Logan Park) and that probably started me off. They can be interesting places to visit when you're travelling as well. Gives you an insight into the types of people who've lived in the area and their culture. Have seen good ones in places as separate as Melbourne (out towards Carlton), London (Highgate predictably), Paris (had to see Simone de Beauvoir's grave), Budapest, a world war I cemetery in Slovenia, this tiny one in a tiny village called Dorfgastein in Austria, and, erm Taumarunui....You can usually get a bit of peace and quiet there too, which is a bonus. Apart from student days and trips to the Mt Street cemetery which is on campus, haven't spent any time in the Wellington ones, despite living here for far too long. Seeing the priest impaled on a spike in Karori cemetery in Braindead was as close as i got.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2008 • 54 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Hey, well done on the Metro column, Emma. Might even persuade me to buy an issue!

    Jolisa wrote:

    ... when I lived in Ithaca, New York, where the... daylight is brutally short.

    It takes an amateur astronomer to know this, but actually the absolute latitude of Ithaca is lower than Christchurch.

    In other words, the winter days are brutally shorter in Christchurch than Ithaca.

    So you can multiply your Ithaca SAD by about 102 per cent to reach how lousy poor Emma is feeling...

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    I was reminded of this tremendous painting. The online version hardly does justice to the huge original in which you can practically see the wind blowing through the long grass.

    ...apparently inspired by the Mortuary Chapel* in the Barbadoes Street Cemetery in Chch - Sutton Rulez!

    *no longer there...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report Reply

  • Karen White,

    I used to live next door to Brompton Cemetary in London. Loved walking through it. Couldn't quite understand the Londoners who would use the old graves to sunbathe on in the summer, but sitting under the grand old trees reading a book (they provided park benches) was a great break away from the city.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Most weirdly of all, loofahs were said to be the secret weapon against seasonal depression. A vigorous scrub all over in a hot bath spiked with baby oil was the prescription

    Curious, I looked up the winter bathing section of my American-published Book of the Bath:

    It is a good idea to stimulate circulation in a winter bath. Some modern bathtubs come with built-in jets or whirlpools, but a simple friction rub will do. Try a salt rub, or use your loofah or brush

    Then all the winter bath recipes contain things which are stimulating and astringent, like cloves, rosemary and ginger.

    I'm not sure how much of a pinch of salt (or indeed, half a cup of rock salt and some lemon peel) this should be taken with considering the author lives in Santa Monica.

    Lightboxes work for a couple of us

    My friend in Toronto found a lightbox hugely helpful. My other Canadian friend with SAD suffers slightly differently: she describes March and September as "suicide months".

    It came home to me a couple of years ago watching someone I loved suffer dreadfully during a winter spent working in an office with no windows. The next year, different office, north-facing, he was fine. Now I know what the problem is, it's so much easier to keep an eye out for.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    A print of Sutton's "Nor'wester in the Cemetry" used to hang in the foyer of the assembly hall at AranuiHS - it was my first realisation that there was such a thing as ANZ art...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    Great cemetery paintings: an occasional series. Stanley Spencer here and here.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 656 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Congratulations, Emma! That's fantastic. I must admit to wondering why all the congrats on Twitter. Now we know. Represent!

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    Well done on the Metro thing, I will make point of reading it, if not buying, as it isn't really aimed at my demographic or rather geographic

    Yes, I understand the draw of cemeteries. The last one I had a good wander around was where my father was buried, we checked out uncles and cousins and their cousins
    If anyone still thinks the rural life is idyllic, it is an eye opener to see the various ways men die before their time while farming through bad luck, depression, poor judgement or gross stupidity.

    What was Uncle Gordon thinking when he let a kid ride on the drawbar while backing in to attach a trailer

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 578 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I hope they don't come after people who sell those lamps.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Excellent philipmatthews! Have added those to the on-line collection...

    Raymond A. Francis - not wrong ("if anyone still thinks the rural life is idyllic..."): I've never quite understood why anyone would. It *can* be immensely satsifying - but an idyll?

    And, I guess it wasnt Uncle Gordon who died?

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I can't say I've ever felt cemeteries so much, but in Auckland I love to wander through the Otuataua stonefields. Down south I love walking the bleak coasts.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    I'm going to be writing an opinion column for Metro magazine.

    Good old Auckland Necro. Trust some of that cemetery ambience will permeate your piece.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    "Down south I love walking the bleak coasts."

    Heh! Depends on the day- sometimes those coasts are the livliest places on earth-

    And Emma - good to know you have a column in a significant publication (y'know, bit less than PAS, bit more than the SW Community Contact) but it is a very regional magazine - which is truly excellent. If you live in that region. Which is why they chosen a *universal* talent like yourself: it'll lift their game.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

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