Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rituals of Arrival

What are your rituals of arrival, when you come to a special place?  Last weekend as I crunched along the gravel path and up the brick steps to the bach, I became aware of mine.
Between carrying in the first and second loads from the car, I found myself pausing to pull a few weeds from the path — not as in 'working', but as in greeting the land, and making a promise to tend it once more when I'd settled in.
Between the second load and the third, I made a detour up the steps to dead-head the cornflowers, as a way of saying, 'hello, I'm so glad that you are still flowering. You are beautiful.' It was but a small diversion from there to visit the tomato plants and pinch out a few laterals.
 After the fifth load I pick a fresh kawakawa leaf while the kettle boils. And after the sixth load it's time to pause for my cup of tea, and to taste the fresh fruit I bought on the way out. Big sigh of relief. I have arrived.
 Unpacking can wait till later.
 For now, creative ideas flock in, fluttering like butterflies around my head. I pull out my writer's notebook, and begin to write this blog to you, dear readers. So you come with me, you see, as my heart opens to receiving the blessings of nature, like these calling cards from the kereru (wood pigeon), that have been dropped at intervals along the pathways.
 I take my tea outside and sip contentedly, listening to the wind shaking secrets through the foliage, and the penetrating ki-ki-ki of a kingfisher spearing up from the nearby stream. I think of Jane Duncan Rogers, who wrote recently about arriving at a beach hut in Scotland, in the cold of winter, and Joan Anderson, who took a year by the sea at Cape Cod, and all those women who face the bravery of retreat.
From Virginia Woolf's room of one's own, to beach huts, cottages, baches, boats, and other hideaways around the world, where women escape to soothe their souls and wait for the wellspring to fill again, it seems I am not alone. I am a bead on a long loose string that encircles the world, and loops around times past, present and future.
In solitude and silence, the magnificence of nature is most deeply felt.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Nature is the teacher

It's time to take a break from some work that isn't going as quickly as I would like. Time to play, and my six-year-old playmate is all ready to go.
It's morning, and the tide is too far out for swimming. Never mind, the beach is perfect for sandcastles and the wet sand left by the receding sea is exactly the right texture.
 We know from trial and error the important of patting each layer and consolidating the sand in the bucket
 so that the form is preserved. The little one turns out a perfect sandcastle, and celebrates with a scallop shell on the top.
I find myself relaxing, accepting what nature is showing me. At present I'm developing an exciting new project, but it's taking a lot of time to set it up with a solid foundation.
 Sometimes I get impatient, like the little one with her next sandcastle.
It collapsed.
All was not lost, however. 'It could be a hill. Or a house,' she exclaimed, and so it was.
I'm happy that she is so ready to make something out of the 'failure'. A collapsed castle is no big deal for her. But I don't really want my new project to turn into a flat-topped hill or a house. I have aspirations. After all, I grew up beside a mountain.
 'Now we'll connect them all up,' she said,
gathering leaves from the sea. That's the best place. They are all floating in the water.'
And so the sandcastle town is completed, with pathways linking the successful with the less successful castles, each one decorated and standing proudly.
I return home to reflect on what I learned from a bucket of sand. A collection of loose ideas swirling around is not good enough. I need to draw them together, connect them up and pack them into a sturdy container. The new technology needs to work. The website page needs to be set up. Inspiration on its own is not enough, but the right amount, like the ocean water, will hold everything in place, well consolidated, ready to stand alone.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Back from the bush

 Being in nature and being in community: what a rich and nourishing combination this is. Once a year I attend a gathering of people who are concerned for the earth and its people. This year we tried out a completely new location.
The school camp at Port Waikato was set up for children's health in the 1920s, and has been cared for with great love over the years. The accommodation is simple, but clean and comfortable.
A local farmer gifted his land for the health camp on condition that the hillside of bush was retained.
It was the perfect place for our annual gathering.
 I learned more about the bush, the dedicated work that my friends are doing in the world, and I had the opportunity to test out one of my 'inspirational ideas for 2015' (which you'll be hearing about in due course).
There were plenty of spaces to retreat to, for contemplation, journal writing or simply to sit quietly and integrate the stimulating ideas that we had heard during the day. This one is 'the chapel'. I set out expecting to find a building, and then realised that the 'chapel' was completely open to the bush and the sky.
I came away feeling completely recharged, and ready for another year of exciting work.
Oh, and the children had a great time too.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Summer Solstice Circles

 After an hour of meditation this morning, a spell of gardening, a toast of elderflower champagne (!) on the steps with my gardener as we admired our work, I set off for the beach.
Each summer solstice my favourite thing is to create an offering on the sand, to greet this turning point in the seasonal cycle.
 This year, the pohutukawas are at their most splendid. It is a 'mast' year, which occurs occasionally, and has brought about abundant flowering of native trees throughout the country.
The rain has stopped and the sky is cloudless. A playful breeze whisks away the heat from the sun, and down at the beach it's still fairly quiet. This week before Christmas is always a special time to be here, knowing that I have let go of deadlines and rushing about, and left the busy crowds back in the city.

Here, even the computer has slowed down. It will take over half an hour to load this post, even though I've limited myself to only three photos. Right now, slow is OK.
The wheel of the year is turning. For those of you in the north, the light is seeded at winter solstice. For those of us in the south, the dark seed has been sown, even as the warmth is increasing and the waves are beckoning. As the wheel turns, our light becomes your light, and your dark becomes our dark. We are all connected. Happy solstice, wherever you are.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Imagine . . .

 Imagine . . . 

Imagine if . . .
at this time of year,
for every person who is speeding up,
and behaving erratically . . .

there is someone who is
slowing down,
connecting deeply
to the still centre
and taking special care.

Imagine what the lead up
to summer solstice/winter solstice/Xmas
would then be like.

Just imagine. . . 

Could that someone be you?

Blessings on you all, whether you are opening to the fullness of summer solstice light, or to the seeding of a new cycle in the winter solstice dark.
May there be peace in your homes and love in your heart. 


Monday, December 8, 2014

Retreat into stillness

The calendar year attempts to impose its agendas of deadlines and completions, yet the seasonal year is opening like a flower, towards the shining light of summer solstice.
 And so what better time to retreat for the weekend, to a beautiful place in nature, with beloved friends, who belong to a group that was formed 29 years ago to celebrate our southern seasons.
 Together we create sacred space. We draw inwards, into silence, and meditate on the season.
the movements of our lives,
and the presence of love.
Our original families have mostly passed on. But this circle of women endures. It embraces every season, from the depths of darkness to the radiance of the light. To mellow together over time is such a blessing and a gift.
And now I am pondering on new ways to help others create such a group. If you would like to know more, you can click here to leave a message on my website contact form.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Preparing a welcome for summer

 Here we are on the brink of summer, and the little tree climber has come for a sleepover. Pohutukawas are great trees for climbing. They sprawl out over the beach, and their bark has plenty of grip.
 Jumping off on to soft sand isn't hard.
 And now we've collected some offerings from nature, it's time to make our summer solstice cards. The little one made her first card last year, and today is the promised day for making a new one. We gather shells & stones, together with petals & leaves.
 I still have some of my once vast collection of stones and shells gathered from North Cape to Totaranui at the top of the South Island. In my days as an artist these were my materials for installations and ritual performances.
 I'm glad now that I kept some. The mandala grows slowly.
 It takes patience to balance the tiny shells on the stones, and to protect the petals from the Wind Woman's frisky fingers.
But finally the circle is complete. Once photographed and printed out, I paste it on to a yellow card for her, ready to be gifted to the family. In the flurry of her being picked up, and our packing up of so many playthings, I forgot to take a photo of the final card.
 Never mind, here is a picture of last year's card. Now we can welcome in summer.