Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gateways

 The shadow falls in any season, even in spring when nature is singing its heart out and growth is surging everywhere.
 There is no one season for making a crossing out of this life. As I walked along the waterfront near my city home, I contemplated the passing of a beloved elder of Te Henga.
 I thought of her soul, sailing onwards after a long life of hard work and generous giving. We first met when I returned home from Paris with a broken heart to bring up my two-year-old son in the area that she also called home. She gave me loving support through those years of solo parenting.

What I didn't know until my last visit to her, was that we shared roots in Taranaki, where she also grew up. Her father, the magistrate in New Plymouth, was friends with my grandfather, who was the policeman in Inglewood. They both held a vision of restorative justice, long before this term was coined. They wanted to rehabilitate the young, and not to punish them in a way that secured their future as criminals.
 Her funeral was held, fittingly, beside the river and the sand hills that she loved so much, and alongside the home where she and her husband raised six children. Over many weeks they took my son into their home and gave him the experience of being part of a large and loving family while I travelled overseas. Such acts of kindness are never forgotten.
Hundreds came to the funeral, bearing their own tales of what they had received from this woman of gentle strength.
This was not a day for taking photos, and my attempt is out of focus.
 At the funeral I learned about other, more deeply intertwined roots: of her family with the Maori tribe of this area: Te Kawerau a Maki. Their connection went back several generations, to when her ancestor 'Pa' Bethell first came to the west coast and began to farm. Members of the family were dandled on the knees of tohunga and taught to chant karakia (prayers) when they were little children.
 Gusts of wind shook the marquees, songs were sung and a karakia was resoundingly chanted by Te Warena Taua, Chair of Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority.
Te Warena generously supported me when I was writing 'Celebrating the Southern Seasons' in the early 1990s. He made the Auckland Museum archives available and helped me to find many old books that yielded their secrets of Maori seasonal observances. We greeted one another warmly, united in grief.

In 'Celebrating the Southern Seasons' I wrote of a vision of bicultural healing:

'The roots of the oak touch the roots of the pohutukawa in sacred soil. We nourish our connection; we nourish our respect. And from here . . . we may begin the healing that makes productive and creative relationship possible.' 
A rousing haka by a group of young Maori men broke out as the land rover slowly drove away with the coffin. Tears ran down my cheeks as I made my way back home. My heart was also full of hope: that out of deep roots of love and respect, flourishing through the generations, different peoples can live together in harmony.
R.I.P. Elizabeth Alice Wheeler (Ibby)


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Savage spring

Fierce storms have wrecked havoc at the bach.
Savage spring sent ferocious gusts that tugged and ripped until all resistance was gone.
 Felled is the lofty kanuka that has stood for over 50 years a sentinel at the corner.
Who guards the guardians?
The tree was sound, with no trace of rot. Maybe it was slashed by lightning. Nature has many methods.
Savage spring has torn branches off younger trees and flung them casually over the pathways.
 Nikau fronds were whipped off and disdainfully cast through the inner sanctuary of the flax bush.
 But the same power is unsheathing the new season's strong shoots,
driving weeds up through the pathways, scattering onion weed over the banks, 
bolting through broccoli and rocket, sending it to seed before it's had time to produce,
filling the silver beet with dark nutrients,
 and finally, as if in an act of contrition, offering up a single flower.
There have been times when I too have been rent asunder, slashed and tattered.
Life, like nature, has its savage seasons. But nature also brings new life and new energy.  The blood of wounding is also the blood of regeneration.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A little piece of magic

It's spring, the storms have subsided, and adventure is in the air. Time to feel young again, and to spend time with the young.
 It's nearly the end of the school holidays, and the little one (who is six) and I set out on an adventure. We take the green bus to Parnell, and step across the road to a large shop window that is full of delight.
 A large flock of fairies appears, each of them dancing on golden strings. In spring the imagination comes alive, and I've already told the story that prepared the little one for the adventure.
 The story is about the lone fairy, who is feeling sad because while she sees other fairies being lovingly chosen and taken home, she is still waiting, feeling that no-one will ever want her.
 Could it be that one, or maybe one of these? — the ladybird fairy perhaps, or the pohutukawa fairy?
 Or what about the blue elf-like one, or the one in white? Each one is liked best, and the choice feels impossible. So we narrow it down: Should the chosen one be wearing a cap, or have hair? (Hair, definitely). What colour should she be? (Blue or green). What about the wings? (strong) and the dress (frilly)? And so, by process of elimination, slowly the choice is made.
 She is put in a special box, and photographed in a flower garden outside a cafe.
She is the surf fairy, one who knows all about the ocean, how to ride a wave and enjoy the sparkling waters. The little one loves the surf too. So her choice is perfect. The adventure is complete and the little piece of spring magic shines in the dark cave of memory.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Wind Woman

 Have you met the wind woman?
 She's here today, howling around my home,
 tickling the leaves,
 pushing the trees, and tearing their hair.
 She was here yesterday, and the day before, hurling branches on to the roadways.
 The eastern suburbs of the city have been without power because the substation caught fire. Maybe this wasn't the work of the wind woman, but sometimes other mischief gets done when the wind woman is distracting everyone's attention.
 I first met her when I was a child, back in the days of reading Anne of Green Gables.
 That's when I learned that she could be a friend also, a reminder of the power in the elements and the power in me, to scour out, clear away, tear up what is old, unwanted and finished with. At the end of winter a lot of mustiness and debris has gathered and needs to be torn away.
 The wind woman stole my pale blue bucket lid, and search as I might, I cannot find it. But she also sweeps up rubbish with her big wide broom, and carries it away, never to be seen again.
When the wind woman finally is ready to sleep, and the mess has been cleaned up, a fresh start will be possible. Then, maybe, sweet spring will show her maiden face and the earth will sigh with relief and happiness.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Equinox planting

 At our spring equinox celebration, one of the women gave everyone a little clay dish. We didn't know what was going to be put into it, until after a mysterious box was passed around.
  It was dark inside the box, and there was little to be seen. But we were asked to listen. A mysterious sound came out of the darkness. a kind of rasping, munching sound, like something being turned over.
 What was being turned over was the black soil, being munched and processed by dozens of tiny worms. Did you know that worms can be heard having their dinner?
 Maori tohunga (priests) used to put their ears to the ground in spring to listen to the worms awakening.
We all took a scoop of the rich worm compost to fill the little clay cups. Then we were given tiny, almost invisible seeds to sprinkle into the soil, followed by a little pour of water.
All the ingredients for growth are present. The clay will naturally dissolve into the soil, and the well-nourished seeds are free to sprout, raise their heads, and one day, to flower.
But will they?
The amaryllis, which has hidden in a seemingly empty pot for the last ten months, has suddenly shot up into the light. The jade plant has turned golden. The snapdragons are breaking out into glorious colour. In this season, anything is possible. I will expect red poppies one day.

The source is within you
And the whole world is springing up from it. —Rumi

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Equinox eggs

 Happy spring equinox!  Light and dark are equal today, in balance.
 Out at the bach, bluebells are flowering and the hen and chickens ferns are covered in tiny 'chicks'.
 The light will now increase until summer solstice. Today after days of rain and storms, with snow on the Desert Road, the air has cleared and the sun is shining.
 Memories are surfacing from the quiet earth with these bluebells.  They came from my father's garden and have been invisibly multiplying under the surface of the ground, year after year. Every spring they rise up and ring their bells, with a soothing blue sound. They surprise me, and bring back happy memories of my dad.
 Equinox is the season of rejoicing and regeneration.
To those of you in the northern hemisphere, we are especially connected on this day, because our nights and days are the same length. Then we will begin our separate journeys, yours into darkness and ours into increasing light.
Happy equinox, wherever you are. May you find balance and delight in nature on this day.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Green heart beats on the beach

 Wear green, they said, and I did.
 Head out to the west coast, they said, and I did.
Don't mind the weather, they said, and I brought my umbrella, which luckily turned out to be green.
 I didn't need a speech on climate change, and nor did anyone else. We were there because we already cared. (UN chief Ban Ki Moon has called an urgent summit on climate change for 23 September in New York, and all over the world people are marching and creating events.) But it filled in time while we waited for the rain to stop,
  which it did. Then, up on the dunes we began to form a green heart.
 Even the dogs wore green.
Hold your green towel, or cloth, above your head, and to the sound of the drum, lift it up and down, they said. Which we did. It took a few practices, and there we were, one hundred and sixty five of us, one pulsating heart, beating in unison at last. It took two to hold some pieces of cloth.
I lifted my green umbrella up and down to the beat of the drum. The green heart began to beat. I could feel the earth beating through us. Overhead a plane circled with a camera-person inside. On a high point of the dunes, local film-maker Briar stood, her camera whirring.
What did it look like? When the film clip is posted on Facebook, I'll find out. And I'll put the link right here.
* No film yet, but here's a link to some still photos
Here's the link to the video, just posted