Thursday, June 30, 2011

In the deep midwinter

In the deep midwinter, a woman is writing . . . and a new book is emerging.
In the deep midwinter, a woman is reading . . . researching the subject of ageing, with the help of inspiring elders. 
In the deep midwinter, a woman is planting . . .  garlic for the winter solstice, to be harvested in midsummer.
In the deep midwinter, a woman is growing . . .  a hyacinth in a dark cupboard, away from the light.
In the deep midwinter, this woman is smiling . . . at how the imagination flares in the dark and silent days.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Midwinter circles

One of the joys of winter is gathering with friends around a warm fire, and sharing hearty food and good company. The first gathering was with my family, who once again joined with a friends' family for a winter dinner. My contribution, as it has been every year, was a plum pudding that we dowsed with brandy and lit with a match. The blue flame caressed the whole before we set to and tucked in.
On the top there's a sprig of holly, and around the edges persimmon chunks to remind us of the returning sun.
I made a circle of titoki berries also on a white plate, for all visitors to see over the last week.
Then over the weekend I was with a group of dear women friends, with whom I've celebrated the changing sessions for 25 years. This bowl of water made me think of gazing into the darkness of winter. At the bottom of the bowl is a beautiful fragment of paua shell.
And watching over us all was this beautiful clay goddess, made by my friend Helen, who crowned her with orchids. These midwinter circles have been so full of love and blessings. While the cold winds have raged outside and the 'fridge door of the Antarctic' has been flung wide open, my heart has been massaged and warmed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Winter Solstice!

The sun is about to return (on June 22), bringing with it not so much warmth (for the coldest time is yet to come) as light, and that is welcome.
These images are from the altar set up for my Winter Solstice Retreat. These are the symbols for fire in the north.
And here is air in the east. I always think of birds when I think of air, and for winter, the birds are owls, those birds of the night who can see in the darkness. Matariki (the Pleiades) also falls in the east, for these 'little eyes of the gods' have now reappeared and can be seen on the eastern horizon at dawn.
A new seasonal year has begun. After so many disruptive events, may this new year bring peace and joy to all.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Winter solitude

St Heliers beach is usually bustling with walkers. But not on this wintry day. The emptiness spoke to me of the emptying out that takes place in winter, and the seat seems to be offering an invitation to sit and be still.
In the other direction, it was the immensity of the winter skyscape that struck me. Winter has its own grandeur. I'm stepping into it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The zen of winter

Winter pares away details, and renders things simple and clear, like a Japanese wood cut. This is the melia tree, that I watched shedding its leaves. Now only these little gold berries are left.
And here's the jade plant, a mass of flowers, but simple in its shape against the backdrop of the flax.
I'm finding beauty in bareness this winter, and letting my life become as simple as the season.

Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.  ~Lao Tzu

Monday, June 13, 2011

I found one!

I've been wanting to find one ever since I first saw it in a book on native trees - that was about 40 years ago. I even planted a tree, but it never fruited, maybe because it needed to be a female. 
It's a titoki berry. And today I found my first one ever. There it was on the pavement, like a lucious little strawberry inside an acorn-like cup. It looked good enough to eat, but evidently they don't taste fantastic, even though Maori children used to eat them.
There's one, up in the tree, hidden inside the brown seed cases. You would never know they were there, except that I happened to spot some red stains on the pavement, and then found the one intact berry.

It's the little black seed inside the enticing red flesh that was of value to Maori, for the seed contains the finest oil they knew. It was quite a business extracting it, involving mashing up the fruit and washing away the flesh, then pounding the seeds and placing them inside a long, tough kete - flax basket. With a stick at either end, two people could then wind the basket in opposite directions to squeeze out the oil.
It was used in perfumes, and as a much prized hair oil.

The amazing thing is that the fruit-bearing titoki tree is next door to where I now live. I could so easily have missed it, but I'm learning to watch out for things as I take my walks, and keeping this blog is honing my powers of observation.
The titoki doesn't fruit every year; in fact there's a proverb that says a tree bears fruit kia puta tana hiahia —when it wants to. So both the titoki and me had to be ready to find each other.
I'm so happy to have found this beautiful, lush little gem!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Winter light

I'm enjoying the special quality of the winter light. 
It paints the water with a special shimmer.
It's cool and silvery, especially as the sun is going down. And it brings with it a feeling of peace.

. . . only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. 
-  Ruth Stout

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A splash of purple

A splash of colour is so welcome at this time of the year, as the days grow grey and cool. I was so happy to find this lassiandra flowering when I took my walk.
It was a flower that my mother loved. She had one growing outside the dining room, where she could see it catching the morning sun rays while she drank her cup of tea.
I had a lassiandra in the garden of the first house I ever owned.
Purple is said to be uplifting
calming to mind and nerves
offers a sense of spirituality
encourages creativity

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the colour purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it. —Alice Walker

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Slow season

It's been the warmest May on record this year, so it's not surprising that the exotic trees are slow to shed their leaves. This magnificent oak tree stands in Awhitu Regional Park, on the site of the first European settler's house. It's been shedding its foliage from the top down . . .
. . . leaving a circle of crisp leaves on the ground beneath, dry enough to tumble in.
Meanwhile, the native trees are green-leafed and enjoying the rain. This old puriri stands in the same grounds.
And it sheds its beautiful pink flowers on to the ground beneath. They stand out brightly on the tree itself, contrasting with the green.
Two cultures stand side by side in this land. I love them both.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fog clearing

This morning, after three days lying low & feeling unwell, I ventured down to the jetty. Through the mist I saw what looked like a shag and maybe a very large duck, sitting patiently, waiting for fog clearance perhaps.
Me too, I thought, still feeling foggy in my brain. The brownish sea-bird moved closer to the shag, then looked the other way as if pretending to be quite independent.
Then they had a little confab. I realised that the brownish bird was probably a young adult, the daughter perhaps of the patient mother. 'Shall we take the plunge?' they seemed to be saying. 'Have we got the all-clear yet?'
The answer was clearly yes, because in plunged the young one with a rather clumsy flapping of wings and a big splash, while the mother glided in after.
Other birds were attracted by their activity, or maybe by the fog lifting a little, and mother bird went back to her post.
Yes, the fog was lifting. I could see the ghostly shapes of boats out at sea.
The original pair went swimming again, and others came to sit and watch. And then the shoreline was suddenly there, like a ghost ship floating in the mist.
And here I am too, back on the blog, my head clearing little by little. I'm feeling more patient now after sitting and watching the shags. Some things just take time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Strange flowering

I saw this strange 'flower' on the branches of a bare fruit tree as I walked around the land at Earthtalk. What could it be? It reminded me of kauri gum.
When I inquired later, I discovered that this is a Golden Queen peach tree, and it seems that the tree has some wounds, out of which these secretions have bled and solidified.
I'm remembering the talk I attended last week by Lynne, whose family had been holidaying on a beach in Samoa when the terrible tsunami struck two years ago. She spoke so movingly about the trauma— she who is a trauma therapist and knows the effects so well, yet went through it all herself. Out of the trauma came some extraordinary transformations. I felt moved after hearing her speak of the healing process and the kindnesses that helped her family after they ran for their lives, leaving everything behind.
Seeing these strange shapes on the Golden Queen reminded me of the unexpected beauty that may sometimes flower from deep wounding.