Saturday, June 28, 2014

Happy New Year!

Today marks the beginning of the Maori new year here in Aotearoa New Zealand.
For this is the first new moon after the reappearance of Matariki, the little eyes (mata) of god (ariki).
Matariki is the bringer of food, and so the appearance of this jewel-like constellation is greeted with much joy. It is also the home of god and the ancestors, the resting place of dead souls after they left the earth.

Matariki is known to Europeans as the Pleiades, and the Pleiades new year, beginning in late autumn or early winter, was known throughout South-east Asia, ancient Egypt, Sumeria and Celtic Britain.
 In Europe, winter solstice marks the threshold of the new year also. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, winter solstice falls very close to Matariki. This year it fell on June 21 and the two festivals are only seven days apart.
The return of the sun, the ripener of crops, was greeted with as much enthusiasm as the return of Matariki, also a food bringer.
The holly and the ivy
Now both are full well grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.
In my book 'Celebrating the Southern Seasons' (1995 and 2005) I recommend that we celebrate our new year, not in January when everyone is rushing away for their summer holidays, but in the quiet of winter, according to the old traditions of both Maori and European. Winter Solstice and Matariki: the festivals of sun and stars, fire and food, uniting us in the land that we now share. This is the vision that I hold in my heart, like a seed tenderly nurtured in the winter darkness.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The turning of the sun

Today I had a conversation with a friend, one of those exchanges that searches into forgotten places.
It was about how we love the dark,
and the way it holds so many secrets.
 From the perspective of the darkness, the world outside changes shape.
 The winter hills are sleeping,
 as somewhere, in the stillness of winter solstice, the sun turns away from its trajectory of loss,
and a promise is seeded, of something new and glorious being birthed from the depths.

Happy solstice to you all, whether you are in the depths of winter, or in the brilliance of full summer.
Across the world, we are linked.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Feeding body and soul

 When I feed others, I too am nourished. Yesterday I led my first 'Pathways to Spirited Ageing' workshop, for counsellors and therapists. How satisfying it was to spend a day in the company of others who are willing to face into the ageing process with humour, curiosity and openness.
 Here are the five kete (a Maori kit bag) of resource  (all tied to the larger 'mother kete' that I shared with the group. In turn, they shared their stories with me.
 Off to the farmer's market this morning to fill my basket with organic produce: slim carrots, kohl rabi, capsicum, bok choy, pumpkin, parsnips, local honey, local almond/brazil/cashew nut butter, ginger chai syrup, rocket and pumpkin, all fresh from the earth this morning.
Together with the coconut chutney idli I bought from the Indian stall, they made up a fresh and lively lunch, which I ate in the winter sunshine.

 Other ingredients went into the shepherd's pie that I cooked for the family tonight.
I've been asked for the recipe, so here it is. [Warning: I am not a recipe person; but I do have a method]

Soak 1 cup of green/blond lentils overnight
Saute chopped seasonal vegetables in oil: eg 1 onion, bunch of carrots, half a capsicum, 2 parsnips, half a kohl rabi, clove of garlic, plus a few leaves of greens (silver beet, kale, or bok choy).
Drain and simmer the soaked lentils in vegetable stock with four or five chopped tomatoes and the sautéed vegetables. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until just tender.
While the lentils and vegetables are cooking, steam fiver six potatoes or three large kumaras.
Mash with butter when cooked.
Place lentil mixture into a casserole dish and spread the mashed potato or kumara over the top.
Make ridges with a fork, and add dots of butter. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top.
Grill in the oven until top begins to brown (keep an eye on it!)
And oh dear, it was so scrumptious that we all devoured it eagerly and I forgot to take a photo of the finished pie! Here is a little jumble of leftovers, popped into a container for tomorrow's lunch.
I hope your weekend was nourishing too, for both body and soul.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Rocks that float

 This morning the weather was mild, and so the little one and I eagerly trotted down to the beach. She was here for a sleepover, such a treat for both of us. We never know what we are going to find at the beach.
 'Look, they are like rocks that float!'
 Their heads didn't come out of the water for long. We haven't seen the black swans for months, but this morning eight of them flew in to feed.
 'I forgot about the swing, because it's been so long.'
Heaven is the rhythm of swinging, under the pohutukawa trees, out over the sand and incoming tide, watching the floating rocks.
 And looking for treasure. I've been searching the internet for a kit set quilt to sew for the new baby, something I can make by hand. The little one is excited by the project: 'can I help?'
When I say that the kit set is rather expensive: 'I have a little bit of money saved in my box. I could give you some.'
 So sweet, but no. And then, another surprise. 'Granny, look what I found on the beach!' In her hand is a ten dollar note. 'What shall I do with it?'
'Let's put it towards the baby quilt.'
 Oh yes! What a happy solution.
 We never know what we are going to find at the beach.
But one thing is certain. There will always be treasure.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Do you ever wonder . . . ?

 Do you ever find yourself wondering, on a grey day without much sparkle,
 amidst the inward-moving energies of winter,
 about a particular person
 whose anniversary it is?
And you wonder, 'how old would they be now, had they lived?'
 I've stopped doing that with my parents, because it gets a bit ridiculous now that my calculations are going into the hundreds.
But with a little one, it's different. 
My first granddaughter. She died at 6 weeks old. She would have been 21 today. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Lights of winter

 It's been a long time. At last a long weekend unfolded its fan of invitation before me, and of course I said yes!
 In winter, I seek out what will light the inner fire. So on the way to the bach I turned up a steep driveway to the organic growers, knowing that my favourite winter fruit (once the feijoas have finished) would be waiting for me. Persimmons, so sweet and bright,
and fiery. Winter flares in many places, expected and unexpected.
 At the bach, the door of the cabin is glowing in the sun, welcoming me in,
 while the first jonquils exhale their sweet scent.
 It's cold now, especially at night. The first frosts have blackened my sweet basil plants,
but I'm snug with my books and music, basking in the warmth of the log fire. Can you see the pine cones in there, that I gathered in autumn? While the fire burned down to golden embers, I listened to Mozart's violin concertos which I have on vinyl.
The lights of winter: they reveal patterns, shapes, and hidden beauty. I return to the city feeling revived and refreshed, and full of gratitude.
What are your favourite lights of the season?