ROSE MclVER DIARY: City of Angels
Curled up on the sofa in my Glen Eden Intermediate uniform. I spent countless rainy evenings calling out clues from the Listener crossword to my father. Ghosting in the letters of our suspected answers. I was more the “filler-inner” than the brains behind the operation. But at 11, I knew no greater crime than prematurely committing to an answer in solid ink only to get it wrong.
I have always been a hobbyist – crosswords. embroidery, jigsaws. Repetitive and some- what mundane activities give my naturally anxious mind great comfort. I could never have fathomed how well they would equip me to cope with 2020 and many months of entertaining myself at home.
Over the years. my arsenal of obsessive pastimes has grown. Most recently. I discovered a great passion for gardening. I inherited this from my maternal grandmother. whom I never met but whose green thumb was legendary.
I don’t share her ability for propagating cuttings. but back in March. when the lights of Hollywood went decidedly dark. I found that mulching every square inch of my bone-dry Californian garden and measuring out hardy succulents at attractive intervals scratched my orderly itch. It created tangible change that I could witness daily.
I also managed to grow a variety of herbs and vegetables. which made lining up at the local grocery store and trying to avoid the anti-mask maniacs lunging in my personal space a more infrequent venture.
When the Californian wildfires set in, I was reminded of my privilege for the umpteenth time this year. I had insurance. Shelter. A partner. My health. The list goes on, and acknowledging this remarkable fortune has become a daily ritual. An attempt to dilute guilt.
Living in America in 2020 has been surreal. Watching a nation reckoning with horrendous racial injustice and deeply warranted anger towards a malignant narcissist in the White House while coping with a terribly managed pandemic has felt at times unbearable.
I was unable to travel back to Aotearoa because of visa-processing issues, but watching New Zealand’s response to the virus filled me with pride- I’ve never had more friends ask about my home country. I am keenly aware that I am able to write all this from a comfortable armchair overlooking a lovely suburban basin in East LA. To even begin to understand what marginalised populations have experienced this year is for another essay by a far more educated columnist. In a year when we all learned it was safer to stay home, the wildfires pushed us indoors. Close the windows. Keep out the smoke – and the virus. Keep out the conflict.
This year has bred anxiety like some have never known. These days I am grateful for my established relationship with the fight-or-
flight response. I’ve worked with brillant therapists, I am medicated. I have coping strategies. I am in a longstanding arm-wrestle with the reality that nothing is certain and our capacity to control anything is profoundly limited. The lessons given by the garden in this respect have been deeply healing.
I am particularly appreciative for beginning the year with a wonderful job, on a TV show just released on Hulu here in the US called ‘Woke’. A dramedy based on a real incident in creator Keith Knight’s life, it deals with police brutality, race, black artistry and lingering trauma while showcasing the style and humour of the writers and lead actors. It is an honour to be a part of such a
relevant and nuanced series and I look forward to Kiwi audiences seeing it soon.
Till then, much aroha from a complicated wee pocket of the globe here in California.
Auckland-born Rose McIver began her screen acting career as a child in the early 1990s. Her recent roles include the NZ movie ‘Daffodils’ and the US series ‘iZombie’.
Transcribed by Stéphanie (rosemciversource.net/mciver-rose.org) from the scan of ‘The Listener‘ magazine (New Zealand) of October 2020.