Happy inspiration

Southerners contribute to optimistic book

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 12:21 21/01/2013
Melissa Mebus and Nienke
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My Happy Place co-ordinator and writer Melissa Mebus, of Wellington, with her daughter Nienke, 3.

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A new book of happy thoughts from 54 Kiwi artists, musicians, playwrights, and novelists features Southland and Central Otago personalities, including actor Sam Neill and 109-year-old Invercargill woman Maudie Wilson.

Wellington writer Melissa Mebus, said she had been working on My Happy Place for about a year, after pitching the idea to friend and writer Witi Ihimaera as well as her sister, Mandy, who worked as a shepherd in the Queenstown area for years. Both were encouraging of the idea and both have included their own happy thoughts in the book, which is illustrated by children from schools around the country partnered with the KidsCan charity.

Once she had Ihimaera on board, the project took off, Mebus said.

Musician Ladi6 and world champion shearer David Fagan have also contributed, as well as poet and ex-Southlander Bill Manhire and singer-songwriter Boh Runga.

Mossburn native and award-winning poet Manhire said his happy place was living ''at the edge of the universe, like everybody else''.

Actor and Queenstown homeowner Sam Neill offered some wise words to live by: ''In life we all take a fall from time to time. The trick is to stand up again, dust yourself off and get right back on that bike again. Every time.''

Maudie Wilson, 109, said her happy place was remembering family walks up the hill behind her family home in Clyde, ''over to the mountain-framed plateau beyond ... I think of our happy chatter under open skies and know again the deep contentment of belonging ...''

Mebus said she came up with the idea while walking through Wellington on a windy, cloud-covered day. She thought about jotting down positive memories to get her through the gloomy spring weather, then thought if she had good memories to write down, others would as well.

She sent out questions asking ''what is your happiest thought or memory'' and ''what is a thought that brings you sunshine on a cloudy day and a sense of peace''.

The responses were varied and hugely creative, she said. Salmonella Dub's Andrew Penman wrote a paragraph on picnicking on the Maitai River with his nana; composer Fiona Pears said her happy place was her cottage garden, listening to bellbirds.

Mebus said the main goal of putting together My Happy Place was to support KidsCan.

''When I first contacted people asking them to contribute, the response was overwhelming. Almost everyone jumped at the opportunity to be involved; one person even asked to submit several memories.''

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She hoped the self-published book could succeed ''through the power of the people'', she said.

Click here for further information on the book.

- The Southland Times

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