Still floundering after all these years…..

I can trace my family lines in New Zealand for at least 150 years. That is not long, compared to my family history in the United Kingdom, but it seems long enough to establish a firm foothold in a relatively new land. Yet, from time to time, I find myself very ill at ease in this country, as if I were an early settler woman tripping up on her petticoat heritage as she flounders ashore to encounter sights, strange and unimaginable. Sights as distant from her life experience and comprehension as the approximately 12,000 miles she has travelled to meet them.

Such a time happened recently when we visited a small sanctuary at the intersection of two busy streets, Salisbury and Barbadoes. This spot, sequestered within a gathering of native plantings, has been calling me ever since I noticed its appearance some years ago. I finally responded to the calling on Saturday.  But, when I arrived on the threshold of the enclave, I found I didn’t know how to knock on the door, nor upon whom I was calling. I had the vaguest of notions, gleaned months ago from a newspaper article , that I was at a sacred site for Maori. What did that mean? Should I take off my shoes; should I take photos?   There were no signs to give a name to the area, to indicate  protocol, to offer a history. Was I supposed to know all by osmosis or by virtue of my New Zealandness? As a student, I walked past this sacred site every day for a year. There wasn’t a single plant or obvious marker, at that time, and I had no idea I was walking so close to a place of treasured history. Who did know back then? Was I alone in my ignorance?

I decided, eventually, that, as an upholder of all sacred spaces,  it would be okay to take some photos. At least, my photos would be more respectful than the beer bottle tossed in to the surrounding bushes.

Here are the photos.This is the approach from a side road; Cambridge Terrace. You can see what looks like a totem pole but is actually called a pou.

The approach

A close up of the plantings.Plantings This is my first view of the clear, sacred water. *”The stream has special significance because of the wairua (spirit) of the water often used by tohunga whakaora-a-wairua for healing purposes, and for the historical link with the noble chief, Tautahi”. Otautahi (Christchurch) is named after Tautahi. *”Harakeke which was vital for clothing, ropes and mats, and many medicinal plants” were also found in the area.Water View

Here are two of the three poles that mark the spot. According to the Christchurch City Library website, the three poles represent the three waves of migration to New Zealand. After the earthquakes, they all appear to be  on a lean and the middle plinth has lost its wooden top. The website doesn’t explain which pole represents which migration but I feel as though the middle one represents my sometimes unsure footing in this land.UnsteadyThis is the water tumbling on its way to the river.Tumbling water This is a view of the river Avon or Otakaro. Note that across the road is the badly damaged Holiday Inn, complete with the requisite fencing and containers.Holidays no moreOpposite the sanctuary is the oldest cemetery in Christchurch which was also damaged in the earthquakes. It was established in 1851. Perhaps the position of the cemetery is an earlier precedent for my present day floundering. Was it appropriate to place a cemetery, admittedly a sacred ground, near another sacred place associated with a vital food gathering area?Barbadoes Cemetery

So those are my tales for Saturday’s gallivanting. * When I came home I tried to find more information on the area but the best I could locate was in

As a final note, I return to the beginning of this post and my reference to my ties to the United Kingdom. When I visited Scotland and England for the first time, I felt ‘home’ and grounded when I travelled the land. There is much to be said for ancient bonds between a person and their land. The old threads hold stronger than we think and the new weavings take forever to come together to form a warm and comforting mantle.


21 thoughts on “Still floundering after all these years…..

  1. KerryCan

    What little I know about New Zealand seems bound up with complications and tensions and, then, add to that the recent earthquakes–I can see why it would be difficult to feel that the earth was stable beneath you there.

  2. realruth

    I was told by a member of the local Runaka that the three pou represented the maiden, mother, and crone (white, red, and black), and at the opening of the space Rev. Maurice Gray talked about the stars above being reflected below, but unfortunately I didn’t make notes, and can’t remember the details.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I like the idea of the stars above being reflected below. Thanks for the information about the mother, maiden and crone. I know it’s like that, isn’t it? If we don’t take notes, details go missing after awhile. I am hoping through my blog to record some of the details I do remember before they go AWOL.

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  4. kurtnemes

    Hi. Very interesting post and photos. I’m wondering. I was in NZ in 2004 and I think there was a big Maori protest at the time in Aukland. Are relations between Maoris and British settler descendants OK? Do you have any Maori friends you could ask to go to this place with you? Best.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      You raise an interesting question and one that I find hard to answer. Perhaps I should say the relationship is a work in progress and needs commitment from everyone to continue to improve. In that respect, I guess we are much like other countries trying to build a good society with contributions from differing groups of people.
      I like your idea of asking a Maori friend to accompany me. I am so often off on a spur of the moment adventure that I forget that others could usefully come along too.

  5. jaggh53163

    Thank you for sharing this “little treasure” with me. I liked the historical information very much. It helps to put things in perspective. I really enjoyed it.

  6. pjb1943

    Thank you for the mini-tour of this sacred place. I am always interested in the history and traditions of other peoples and countries. This is my first visit to your site and I am truly enjoying it.

  7. Clanmother

    Wonderful post. It reminds me anew that we are finite creatures that draw comfort from a time and place. Even when I travel to the most exotic locations, I am happy to return to my place, knowing that this is my home.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you. I am thinking “home is where the hearth is”; “home and hearth’ and of course the more usual “home is where the heart is.” It is wonderful to KNOW when you are HOME.

  8. kiwiskan

    My family had been in the Canterbury for three generations before me, but I know what you man about the land. My ancestors were from Wales, and when we visited there I felt utterly at home.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It’s an amazing sensation, isn’t it? Some people say it is because we were educated to think of the UK as home but I don’t know that I was. Until I went there, it was simply a far-off place where the great and the great greats were born. I have Welsh ancestry too but I have yet to visit there.

  9. The Balsamean

    I’m acquainted with the “pull” or sense of connection that some places have when you visit them, as if you somehow belong there, or did at some time, and don’t know why. Makes me wonder if there is anything like genetic memory, and it’s old Aunt Sadie from 1880 giving you that warm feeling among the tall grasses on that certain hillside. Probably not, but it could be a fun legend to start. I do know that I am “programmed” to live rural. Tried cities and suburbs. Not going back.

    It seems that you are building roots. The time spent on this sanctuary, being there, taking pictures, learning about it, writing about it. It’s “yours” now, part of your heritage.

    Strange how we can walk or drive by a place a hundred times and never get to know it. That’s why I don’t need to travel. There’s a vast, unexplored world locally. It is also why I don’t tire of walking the same trail through the woods many times. It takes eight times to begin to really know it, twice in each season. Then there are the places we drive routinely that we never see the way we would if we walked them. It is a different world on foot or bicycle.

    BTW, spell-check has failed you by missing the sacred -v- scared typo a few times (one of my frequent trip-ups, along with trial -v- trail and tired -v- tried). You’ll get tried walking the steep, muddy trial to the scared sanctuary.


    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Spell check didn’t fail. I failed to use it but perhaps the scared reflects some of my angst about being in a sacred place. And I wonder about genetic memory too.


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