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.