Passion is the perfect word for Clova Bay based writer Marion Day. She is passionate about many things – life, nature, photography, good food – and unifying them all is her love of writing. Day’s new book Passion showcases life with her partner in the Marlborough Sounds with a story of local and every day life in a small isolated community. Grandparents NZ spoke with Day.
When did you begin writing and what made you do so?
I began writing about twelve years ago when working on our farm in the eastern Bay of Plenty. After a full day of hard physical work, I decided instead of watching TV in the evenings, I would write short stories for fun. These were mainly non-fiction about amusing or solemn happenings on the farm. When I entered one in a competition and was placed, a passion was ignited. But it wasn’t until my partner and I shifted to the beautiful Marlborough Sounds two years on, that I began to write more seriously. Because I was only 52, far too young to retire on our five-acre block, I began to fill my new days learning to write – by writing as much as I could.
You have mentioned drawing on a sense of community. In an increasingly modern world it feels like we are losing a sense of community. What does community mean to you and how have you shown this in Passion?
Clova Bay is situated in the deep, outer Pelorus Sound. It is isolated in terms of the modern world. There are seven families, two are single, four are couples and one is a family of five. We are a two-and-a-half-hour trip to Blenheim on a road that is very slow, twisty and windy – like riding a snake, although the views are spectacular! This means we are fully reliant on community for friendships and for support.
Community organisations and groups are what unite an area. It is through them we feel a strong sense of belonging. Members care about what happens to you, commiserate when you fail and help to keep you going. Cheer when you succeed! – PASSION
The community hall is fifteen minutes away from us and an integral part of the extended community. We meet here for special events and for monthly social dinners, which raise funds to maintain the hall. In Passion, rather than ‘tell’, I have ‘shown’ a sense of community through photographs, narrative, history mingled with today, short stories, poems, diary entries, anecdotes and recipes, to create a Kiwi treasure and a breathtaking photo journal.
You entered in to and were accepted for publication in the Love and Loss section of the Timeless Wisdom International Writing Challenge 2018 – can you tell us a bit about that and was there any connection with Passion?
My story for the Love and Loss section was about my father who died six years ago of a heart attack. He was farmer-cum-horticulturist (grandfather of kiwifruit), an avid gardener, and I have followed in his footsteps with a three-acre garden, cottage and landscaped areas including large vegie plots. A lot of Passion is about food gathering, which was instilled in us at a very young age. Plus we had a huge work ethic that subtly pushed me to achieve and this shines in Passion. In the seventh part – From the Heart – I speak of my father and the deep sadness I felt when he passed away.
Did you learn anything new while writing Passion?
I learnt so much more about the history of Clova Bay. This generated a wonder, an admiration of those gone by. What they did. What they achieved. Their hardships. There were no roads, just bridle tracks between bays, treacherous at times. It makes me feel that we are not as courageous as those pioneers. But I can also look at it differently – that we are so lucky to live in a world that does not make such primitive demands of us. That we are in fact spoilt, compared to life in the mid-1800s for the earliest settlers of Clova Bay.
I also realised, after flicking through the hard-copy pages of Passion, how ‘alive’ it feels. It’s a great reminder that I am alive. I live in paradise. I have supportive friends around me. That I have a deep sense of community.
What prompted you to write the book?
At the time, I was writing a children’s nature picture book series. An email came through from my editor and book designer, Adrienne Charlton of AM Publishing New Zealand. Unable to sleep, she’d come up with an idea for my next book – my life in Clova Bay. She’d then jumped out of bed, turned on the computer and designed a book cover at 3 am! It was a lovely photo of me sitting on the jetty with the bay behind me, and the title All in a Day’s Work, playing on my surname.
I wasn’t too sure about it. I considered my life ‘normal’, even to the point of asking, ‘Who’d be interested in me?’ As always, the more you sleep on it, the more things come to mind. ‘If I did it, how would I do it?’ This reminded me of my win in the Rural Women New Zealand and Ministry for Primary Industries photographic competition, where I went to Parliament to accept the award. Soon ideas began to flow on how I could present my book and, step by step, Passion, was slowly developed – including a title change! This is how the book came to fruition.
Do you have a favourite photograph in your book? Was it one you took or from someone else?
Yes, I think the double-page spread of the dolphins playing in the wake of our boat on the Pelorus Sound. But then it may be the one of a mussel line showing the mussels through such crystal-clear water – or maybe the kōtuku in flight or ¼?
Passion is a mix of life, nature, photography and good food – what recipes can the reader find?
The recipes are shared recipes, ones we use all the time, favourites that are always delicious and you can’t go wrong with. All the sections have their own specialties. So if it’s the sea, you can find scrumptious shellfish or fish recipes. If it’s the mountains, you will find venison, goat, wild pork. If it’s the sky, duck and so on.
Broken down in to seven parts – the past, land, sea, sky, mountains, garden and heart – which part did you find most inspiring / difficult / personal to write?
The Heart. Because it was the most heartfelt, and a little bit more personal. But then I feel the poetry and short stories in each section are also heartfelt. Hmm, this gets me thinking ¼ because, really, the whole book is heartfelt!
Available October. RRP $65 from marionday.nz and all good bookshops