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.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Abundance Tree

Do you ever feel concerned that today's children are at risk of growing up less connected to nature than to electronic media? —that children are now overprotected from exploring the natural world?

Then come down this suburban street with me. Technically, it's called a 'blind street'. But I think of it as an all-seeing street, because it opens my eyes so wide.

From the top of the street the green outline looks like a distant hill. As you get to the bottom of the street you will discover that the 'hill' is really something else:  I call it 'the tree at the end of the road.'
 To a child, this is wonderland. The tree is a puriri, a native of New Zealand. Not only is it robust, but it  also has a long life (one specimen is thought to be 2000 years old). Limbs decay and drop off, and others take their place. It's a perfect tree for climbing. Children have probably climbed in this tree for a hundred years or more.
 There are a lot of kids in this neighbourhood, and friendly parents who have added to the tree over time:
 first a swing in an old tyre, then a wooden horse swing, then a simple stick fastened firmly to a rope.
A ladder was added, and then another to help take-off for the adventurous,
 or to lead them up into the welcoming arms above.
 Coming down is always a little more tricky than going up.
 And then, just to finish off, here's a fun game. Why should a swing be nothing but a swing? That red rope can be twisted, and twisted, and twisted again,
 and then let fly, faster and faster, whirling around and around [sound track: delighted shrieks and giggles].
There's even a rocking horse for the very little ones to ride.
What a well loved tree this is. It welcomes in all the neighbourhood kids. It is full of possibilities. It offers different perspectives, from the ground looking up, to the higher branches looking out ('There's our house!') to the upper reaches into the leaf-filtered sky above.

Truly, this is an Abundance Tree.

We all need one. What is yours? What holds you in abundance, delight and openness to myriad possibilities and imaginative play? Do leave a comment, as I'd love to know your thoughts.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Summer Mandalas

When the wind keeps stealing the joy of spring, and rain and hail dampen the spirits, it's time to look forward to summer, which surely is coming.

And so I've made a gift card set from my past 'Summer Mandala' images. I've done one of these each year now, and the card set will be tucked into book orders that arrive during November, as a free gift to delight my loyal readers.

It gives me so much pleasure to prepare a gift that comes from my own labour.

Now I've started creating the image for 2014, which I will make into a card to send to family and friends.
 Dear reader, I must confess it's not going well. The ingredients are beautiful, but how to put them together?
 I try adding jade plant leaves to add some life, but no, it's not quite right. That flax mat looks too yellow, and drains the energy.
How about doing it on a tile? Hmmm. I'm repeating myself from other years. A fresh approach is needed.
I read an article many years ago about the stages of the creative process. Frustration is a stage. It's not forever. In fact it is said to precede a breakthrough.

I'm reminded that the images in the cards above took many hours or days to produce. They all went through the process, with frustration speed humps jolting and jarring the flow and tempting me to give up.

When in the frustration stage, it's useful to take a break, and to remember past successes. So that's why I've photographed my card set and posted it at the top of this blog. It makes me smile to share it with you. Meanwhile, watch this space and see what emerges from the failures.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Reshaping the wood

What can be done when at the height of spring, lightening strikes, destroying a living, breathing tree?
If the heart wood is sound, it then becomes a resource.
I pick up my old saw and cut two pieces from the golden and red heart, one each for the little one and me.
Then we begin to sand, first with coarse sandpaper, because the wood is full of ridges and splinters. She gets the idea quickly, and sitting by the fire, keeps sanding while I make the dinner. I'm surprised by her focus, but then again we both come from a long line of wood carvers. My grandfather Tempest carved beautiful furniture which he sent out on the boat with his daughter Amy when she voyaged to New Zealand to marry my grandfather.

My father's father was a builder and creator of houses. Working with wood was in my father's blood, and in mine. Just the smell of sawdust as my saw bites into the kanuka gives me a thrill of long-forgotten things.
We change to medium grain sandpaper, and then the next morning to fine grain. It's exciting to feel the wood grow smooth and satin to the touch. With all the sanding, the colour has faded.
But 'wait!' I say, 'it will come back.' I dig out an old bottle of raw linseed oil from under the house. We anoint our pieces of wood, just as my father and grandfathers would have done. The wood glows golden and red once more. It smells good. And the pieces are beautiful.
In Maori tradition, when a significant elder dies, the event is often likened to the falling of a great tree.

Today I attended the funeral of my oldest client, who died just after her 93rd birthday. Even though her peers have long ago passed on, the chapel was full, for Betty was much loved by many generations.
Amidst the sorrow I witnessed a life being harvested, and like good heart wood, sanded and smoothed by much touching and remembering, already on the way to being reshaped into something new, beautiful and lasting.

Rest in peace, dear Betty.
Don't grieve. 
Anything you lose comes round again in a different form. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


How can we ensure that the younger generation are connected with the movements of nature, and come to care for this earth as dearly as their own selves?
In Maori, whenua means 'land'. It also means 'placenta'.
Just as the placenta feeds life-giving blood and nutrients to a babe in the womb, so does a child's connection with the land feed her soul. Burying the placenta in the earth creates a bond that will be deep and strong. (See this beautiful post on the Home Birth Association website)
The little one made her first trip to the bach when she was just a few months old. Her father buried her whenua at the base of a young kauri tree that I had planted several decades ago.  It is shooting up into the light.

The kauri is now 'her tree', the first place to visit when she comes out here. The land has a way of calling to her and for some time she's been asking to come out to stay. Now at six and a half, on Labour weekend, I brought her out for her first, long-awaited sleepover.
What a joy it is to be with a child who has found her place in nature. She trots off down the bush paths to explore, or sits in a flax 'hut' listening to the wind and the sound of the birds. She picks up leaves, twigs and pieces of bark to hold or arrange on the ground. She wanders along the nearby stream, watching the water, the waving grasses and the flashing wings of the kingfishers.
The whenua of my first granddaughter was buried after she died at six weeks, and a dwarf kowhai tree planted for her. Every time I tend the kowhai, I think of her.

For many reasons, my second granddaughter has not really bonded with the land. The placenta of this granddaughter, who is now a young adult, was lost because of a power cut. When I mentioned this to some Maori women last summer, they said that the whenua should never be put in the fridge or freezer because doing so affects its life energy. It should be buried in a pot of earth, and in this way kept until it is ready for its final resting place in the ground. And so this was done after the new baby was born this year.
It was time for the new baby to visit the bach for the first time, and for her placenta to be buried in the land.
After two and a half months, the whenua had become absorbed into the soil inside the pot, making it rich and dark. See the difference between this and the surrounding earth.
Her kowhai tree is planted, and with it her connection with the land. May this tree grow to full height. May these young ones grow up to love and protect this earth, which needs more care than ever before. And may the land feed their souls in return.