G’day I’m Bruce I work in the engineering sector and I’m also known as hottriggeredkiwi. A clue to my history is that I grew up on a dairy farm near a tiny town in rural Waikato.
I was diagnosed with sero-negative ankylosing spondilitis back in the late 80’s, and have since had further health issues with more arthritis with associated complications.
My day generally starts in the dark and finishes long into the night. I try to just enjoy life and get the most out of each day, spending time with my lovely wife and indulging my passion for photography - mostly of cloud formations, seascapes and landscapes.
Gee, it was tough getting out of bed this morning. I’ve been getting up and out at 4.00am this week to claim my spot at the balloon festival. It’s happening thanks to a most supportive and understanding boss/colleague and I’m truly grateful and appreciative.
It’s also made for longer days at work – not so much to make up the hours, but more to keep the projects on target and to keep ahead of others in downstream processes.
Still, it’s worth getting out and on site for the morning’s photography session, especially now that I can sleep in later and later as the darker mornings roll on in. Yay for autumn and winter which also means earlier evenings too, so I get to catch up on some sleep during the week for four nights at least.
Walking barefoot over a rough track in the darkness is always a welcome challenge – trying to keep out of the gorse, and dodging tree roots in varying degrees of elevation above ground level so they don’t connect with the foot bones. It means I’m not on a factory floor between super-noisy machines, walking at a brisk pace everywhere, standing at a workstation or draped over a machine measuring stuff for anything between 9.5 and 12 hours per shift.
Traversing the wood copse in the dark means I can walk the sand and mud flats on a low tide during the pre-dawn light. I can plan my track through them so I’m not walking on a virgin canvas that the tide has so thoroughly cleaned and cleared for me. On a high tide, I can enter the water and walk out to thigh depth, turn, and look inland for my offshore-onshore image. The feel of the water, the resistance as I wade and the sand beneath is like a beautiful natural massage. It’s a tad cooler in winter though.
It also means the sounds of the surf and of feathered or finned species are predominant above the wind or waves. I love that. The only pressure I feel is to be aware of the light – its colour, the angle and intensity, and the direction relative to features that I can use in the images I already have in mind after planning them during the week.
Losing the sense of touch in the fingertips means that my typing is becoming worse than it already was. Being dyslexic makes things tough to start with; now the mixed up letters and words are entering the pages not only back to front, but sideways and on a third dimensional plane. The interface between what goes on inside my head and what comes out via the written or spoken word becomes totally illegible, sometimes even to me.
The walnuts are falling, hooray. Just to add to the weekend’s activities, we pick them off the ground, wash them and place them on drying racks for a month or so. On the bright side, our quail are now foraging the boundary hedgerows in groups that consist of three generations. The pheasants just do their thing along the same hedgerows, and are now noticeably more relaxed with us being out there.
My greatest support is my ever-patient and tolerant wife.
She arrived on the scene knowing photography would take some priority in our lives. This may involve her waiting in or around the car for hours alone while I could be metres or kilometres away. Having said that, though, she does see a lot of new country, and country not many people see. Sometimes we go to places where no one else has been at that time of day.
It is usually ‘naturally’ silent. Natural silence occurs when human noises are just not there. The sea crashes onto coastlines of sand or stone, the wind causes waves on the river to lap against the bank. Natural silence occurs in synergy with wildlife – whether clad in feathers, fins and scales or fur. The cries and calls of all fauna make the dynamics complete and create my happy place.
My wife enjoys the outdoors more each year, and as we make a concerted effort to avoid crowded places, we see more of New Zealand together and this helps us to grow and appreciate each other all the more.
She has her roles as I do, both at home and away from home and this works well for us. Looking after each other means being aware, becoming one and using our senses, observing body language and making decisions ahead of when we normally would to ease the other’s pain where possible.
At home, she looks after our hut and all within, with my assistance at times when she’s not up to it. My role is outdoors – tending our hut and rental property with its fruit trees, gardens, and ageing orchard house.
My wife also tends to my wellbeing and ensures I have meals, clothing, and meds sorted using dispensing aids so I only have to take a portion and never have to wonder or worry what they are. (Handy when I’m away.)
Because of my driven nature, keeping the reins tight so I don’t overdo stuff in the weekends can be a mission. Either I attempt to be more aware of the pain and stiffness that’ll arrive in shiploads in two to three days’ time and ride it out silently or, thinking of her worrying about me, I’ll stop and save some tasks for the following weekend. To be honest, it’s usually the first option, although she does pull rank and stand there, stating the obvious so it’s tools away for me.
I need my photography outlet as an antidote to a stressful working week in an environment that is intent on keeping production machinery in operation, concurrent with any modifications to plant and people safety. Each 10 to 12 hour shift often feels like minutes, yet can also feel like forever.
I have to call on the power of the mind, and the constant drive to man up internally (as I’ve had to do since childhood) can be tough. Emotions are often stifled at source. My motto is: Keep the faith, keep it real, refocus; continue serving, keep striving and never ever give up. This has worked for me and will continue to work, because it has to.
When things get heavy at work; when life gets a little too much, my wife’s generous soul and kind heart keep me hooked and anchored to our wee part of this earth. We don’t talk much, though we are constantly on the same wavelength and often have the same thought simultaneously.
Co-dependence is necessary, as there is no one else to provide assistance – no family members or friends we can call on. This is rarely an issue as we’ve been this way all our married life, and this is how it will continue to be.
The holidays began with the usual arthritic family in tow – you know, Mr and Mrs Pain and Suffering. Because they live together, they ignore each other, and I’m pleased to report they’re muted – no whinging and whining in this camp.
Then there’s the stiffness group, but they’re in the corner where no one listens to them. I’ve found life is so much better when they’re treated as merely a background annoyance. It’s best to just get on with life and let any stiffness resolve itself once the movement gets up and running, kind of like a classic rock track.
At the beginning of summer, because I love the season so much, I kicked the reinforcing rods that mark the corner of the garden and ease the hose around without catching sharp corners. I broke three toes. No one knew and because I could still get the offending foot into work boots, we carried on. Kicked them a few more times during the break, just to show how easy it was to do, but saltwater therapy worked a treat.
This is the way it goes: You get up at 0408hrs each morning and get out the door to somewhere by the shore – doesn’t matter, just anywhere – and wade out. You’ll need traditional aids like a tripod as a steady. This is because mud is stickier in summer, and the tripod doubles as a walking stick when the tidal current starts to pull (or river current if you want a pleasant variation on the same therapy). Of course, a camera to go on said tripod has to be balanced in the other hand.
Wading out in bare feet has its challenges. By walking over shellfish beds, you’ll get the obligatory cuts and this toe and foot massage isn’t really too much fun. It does keep you awake however until the sun rears its face over the horizon, making all the effort and pain so worthwhile.
Even when not wading through it, saltwater therapy is a joy when you can sit on the jetty above the tide, watching the sun set behind the hills. In the silence of nature you can hear fish splashing on re-entry, spoonbills calling or herons croaking. If you’re truly at peace with this silence, you can even hear the deepest bass of the bitterns’ boom across the saltmarsh.
This is therapy worthy of the daily battle. It doesn’t matter which end of the day you take the treatment – true bliss occurs at these points. Where it happens doesn’t matter either. On a jetty, on a remote boat-ramp or even under a flax bush or tree, allowing yourself to become one with the silence of nature. Somehow it works.
Of course, to be effective, saltwater therapy needs to be repeated and ongoing – and that’s just fine with me.