Tag Archives: New Zealand

Advent mysteries

As I make my way through Advent,

What mysteries will manifest this Advent?

What mysteries will manifest this Advent?

an unexpected, personal Advent calendar mysteriously opens up before me.

It is a calendar that comes in the form of box or drawer that daily reveals, from the depths of clutter, long forgotten wonders and joys,

like this poem I wrote, for our church magazine, not long after our arrival in New Zealand.

The Strangers’ Christmas

Dark outside is the winter sky,
a strange, foreshadowing sky
to catch the warmth
of the midnight candles,
tightly held and sheltered,
in our tent of strangers.

Dark outside is the winter sky,
a strange, foreshadowing sky
to hold the guns
of strangers standing,
as black-robed angels,
cornered to our circled light.

Dark outside is the winter sky,
a strange, foreshadowing sky
to loose the star
of the warm, sweet babe,
delivered to Mary, carefully cradled,
in the stable of strangers.

Dark outside is the winter sky,
a strange, foreshadowing sky
to gather the ages
of then and now,
and the light that is the warmth,
within the lives of strangers.

The poem is a reflection on a Christmas Eve service in Maadi, Cairo,  in the late 1990s, during a time of terrorism and tension.  I am trying to capture the peculiarity of the lovely warmth of a service celebrating the “The Prince of Peace”, yet taking place under the protection of armed soldiers and police. Like Mary, we, too, were all strangers far from home, full of joy, but also anxious about the world to come.

The service, organised by the Maadi Community Church was held in a tent attached to the St John the Baptist church in Maadi.

Both churches continue to offer fellowship, a home away from home,  and solace to strangers, to this day, and seem to be thriving.  St John’s was established in 1931. Throughout the Second World War it served troops from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Paton, Harold Gear, 1919-2010. Brigadier Kenneth MacCormick and Mrs MacCormick leaving the church after the marriage ceremony, Egypt. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-02075-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23112562

Paton, Harold Gear, 1919-2010. Brigadier Kenneth MacCormick and Mrs MacCormick leaving the church after the marriage ceremony, Egypt. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-02075-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23112562

These days St John’s (Anglican/Episcopal) serves a diverse English-speaking congregation from many different backgrounds, ( Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and Catholics ), and provides worship space to the Maadi Community Church, and Korean, Sudanese, West African, French Reformed, Scandinavian and Egyptian congregations.

In 2006, to commemorate its 75th anniversary, St John’s commissioned artist Debra Balchen to design/make nine stained glass windows focusing on the role of Egypt in the Bible.

Windows by Debra Balchen, commissioned by St John's Church, Maadi, Cairo.

Windows by Debra Balchen, commissioned by St John’s Church, Maadi, Cairo.

I would love to see these special windows in situ. Maybe that is an Advent-ure (thanks for the word, Linda 😉 ) that awaits me.

© silkannthreades

 

 

 

 

Patience, patience….

My aunt went on, “I don’t know what will become of Sadie. Will you take her home with you and look after her?” “One day, I will,” I replied.  But, for now, she can remain in quiet retirement. She has earned her rest.

Do you remember Sadie Rosemary? The family doll of long years and multiple identities?

Sadie Rosemary

Sadie Rosemary

About six weeks ago, I visited my aunt at her retirement home. She said it was time for me to take care of Sadie; to bring her home with me. The “one day” we spoke of, on previous occasions, had arrived. It was now. No excuses!

So, I swaddled Sadie in her orange shawl, gathered her close, like a newborn babe, and presented her to my aunt for a farewell kiss and, then, with tear-salted smiles, we were off. Off, by car, across the Plains, to begin another chapter in the Life of Sadie Rosemary. It will, most likely, be a staid chapter but Sadie won’t mind. She’s a patient, placid sort, used to sitting about, and letting what will be, be. And, in the process of sitting and being, she’s experienced an enormous amount of life; much more than you would believe by simply looking at her baby-sized self.

Sadie came to life in Japan in the 1920s. Still brand new, she was shipped out  to New Zealand (much like any other settler of the early days), where she found a home in Papanui with two young girls, only a little older than herself.  They all wore matching knitted dresses, home-made in New Zealand. 🙂

Pretending to ride a horse

Pretending to ride a horse

Later, when the little girls grew up, one of them, the one with curly-whirly hair,  went to Fiji, and Sadie eventually joined her, to be cared for by two more little girls; my sister and I.   Sadie, being a  celluloid doll, was not supposed to do well in the heat and moisture but, somehow, she survived more than twenty years in the tropics without exploding or disintegrating. Which meant that, one day, she was able to fly ( in a jet plane, no less! ) all the way back to New Zealand, where, after a certain amount of reverse culture shock, she settled down to a time of quiet contemplation, in the home of her very first companion, my aunt, ( the one with tidy hair and beautiful big bow). In a small, country town they grew old souls, together,

My aunt and Sadie; growing together

My aunt and Sadie; growing together

until that moment, last month, when my aunt said “Now, Sadie, NOW is the time for your next home”.

And, so, here she is, safely home, yet again. To a place where she is snug and content,

Sadie Rosemary, safely home, yet again

Sadie Rosemary, safely home, yet again

and as deeply loved as ever she was.

But quietly, quietly,  I ask, ” Sadie, Rosemary, Sadie, who will take care of you next? ” And from the pale blue eyes there comes a whisper, “Patience, patience; the time is not yet.”  Such wisdom from a doll of long years. 🙂

© silkannthreades

Living on the ‘plains’.

Occasionally, I revel in the ‘plains’ of life.

Plain cake

Plain Cake

Plain Cake

plain yogurt in a plain pot

plain words

Canterbury

On this great plain the eye
Sees less of land than sky,
And men seem to inhabit here
As much the cloud-crossed hemisphere
As the flat earth.  ……..

Basil Dowling

‘plains’ that sustain us;

Canterbury Plains

Canterbury Plains

that form the staff of life.

Plain yogurt bread

Plain yogurt bread

How good are the ‘plains’.  🙂

Plain song
<

 

© silkannthreades

Now is the hour

After my brief break to honour  Anzac Day, I am returning to my blogcation story.

Two nights and three short days have passed. Now  it is time for my friend to embark on the next stage of her journey. It is time, it is the hour, for us to say goodbye, just as we have  done before. We know the words well. They are words that are integral to an island childhood of many farewells, and, sometimes, few returnings.

Words, as integral as the liturgies, the creeds, the  hymns and Bible stories my friend and I  absorbed,  filtered through layers of cultural and religious and missionary ambiguities and diversities. The miracle is that  we absorbed and retained any of the Anglican faith at all, surrounded as we were by every religion, and interpretation of it, that one could imagine. For example, Diwali was almost as much fun as Christmas; the sounds of the   Call to Prayer were more part of our day than the ringing of church bells; fasting could mean Ramadan or Lent, missionaries could mean Methodist or Mormon, and so on; but, as children, we simply accepted  all the differences of faith with equanimity, as part of what made our community specifically ours.

As a parting gift, and in memory of those early shared bonds of faith, my friend gave me an extraordinarily beautiful book “The Scrolls Illuminated”, illustrated by Australian artist  Fiona Pfennigwerth.

The Scrolls Illuminated, illustrated by Fiona Pfenningwerth

The Scrolls Illuminated, illustrated by Fiona Pfennigwerth

Fiona takes 5 ancient texts from the Bible and uses her understanding of Australian nature, and the Bible, to bring the texts  ” across time, culture and geography to those of us in the 21st century “at the ends of the earth” – and anywhere between.” She enriches old stories of faith by adding a unique Australian filter; much as we children grew our faith through a particular Pacific lens.  The book was  the project for Fiona’s Honours and PhD studies in Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

And the result of her talent and study is Joy; pure Joy.

I commend joy Ecclesiastes 8:15

I commend joy
Ecclesiastes 8:15

Update:

Yesterday we commemorated Anzac Day. “Now is the Hour”/  “Po Atarau” has been  sung as a farewell to our troops as far back as the First World War. It was also sung when passenger ships left Fiji. “Now is the Hour” became a huge international hit in the late 1940s, thanks to Gracie Fields and Bing Crosby.

© silkannthreades

 

Haiku ~ Do you hear what I hear?

Towards the end of last month I wrote my first, ever, haiku and I posted it  here.  Lovely followers and supporters that you are, you welcomed my haiku with open hearts. A couple of  bloggers, who are themselves haiku experts,  gave me   kind encouragement and information on haiku writing and its history. One of these bloggers was   Sandra Simpson  who is an  award-winning haiku poet, living in New Zealand. Check out her latest winner here.

The other blogger to offer  words of wisdom was  AshiAkira. He brought to my attention the  impact of the sound of a haiku. AshiAkira is bilingual and he writes that, in Japanese, the 5-7-5 “rule produces a very peculiar rhythm to our ear, which we think is very beautiful.” He continues, ” For about four past years, I’ve been trying to express that haiku rhythm in English, but never succeeded. I suppose I have written well over 1,000 haiku poems in English, but none of them sounds like a haiku when it is read…….The haiku rhythm has such an effect that it would stick to your mind when you hear it and you cannot easily forget it. So a well written haiku stays in the hearts of so many people.”

With AshiAkira’s comments on my mind, I went looking for the sound, the rhythm, of haiku in Japanese. And I found this.  At 1.50 in the clip, you can hear Matsuo Basho’s haiku, in Japanese. It is exquisite; it goes straight from the ear to the center of the hEARt. Listen and hEAR.

Now, listen a moment to my second (ever) haiku. What do you hear?

Take a moment and read my words out loud, for yourself. What do you hear?

oregano star

choral bees sing harmony

honey for the ear

In my  world of eye to the words  on  the  computer screen, or  eye to  paper page in hand, I am so accustomed to hearing the silence of words in my head that I forget the great oral, (or is it aural 😉 ?) tradition of poetry ; I forget that the noise of poetry is as important as they way it looks, as the way it engages our minds and our feelings. I forget that poems are a multi-sensory experience.

Do you hear what I hear?

What do you hear?  What do you see?

oregano star

Oregano star

Oregano star

choral bees sing harmony

honey to the ear

How does that feel? Sweet?  Has my haiku found your heart?

And how would it sound in Japanese? 🙂

Postscript: This post would be incomplete without a hat tip to the wonderful  Ellen Grace Olinger , who has been a gentle guide through the art of haiku, from the day I first started to read her blog.

© silkannthreades

Mortals who ring bells…….

From our daily newspaper, The Press, 1st January 2014, Thought for Today

Time has no divisions to mark its passage,  there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols. ~  Thomas Mann (1875-1955)

Being mortal as I am, I spent this morning replacing my old calendars with the lovely new ones I have received. And because our former minister always said it is good to have occasions to look forward to from the beginning of each year, I have started to mark all the birthdays and special days that will come in 2014. (There’s a surprising large number of them 🙂 ) Knowing, and seeing, that there will be good times ahead helps us to handle the not so good times whenever they appear.

So it was ‘goodbye’ 2013

and ‘hello 2014’:

first of all from a calendar made by  The Rudolf Steiner School, in Sydney, where my brother teaches;

A wonderful day for chooks and me

A wonderful day for the chooks  et al

next from a calendar of  New Zealand,  beautifully photographed by friend, David Dobbs ( with apologies for my poor rendition of his superb portrayal of Moeraki Boulders ) ;

Beautiful New Zealand by David Dobbs

Beautiful New Zealand by David Dobbs

and, lastly, a ‘ hello 2014’ from  Sethsnap in Ohio, with his special blogger-chosen calendar, which will remind me of the seasons and holidays  of the US,  where most of my viewers live.

Elsewhere in 2014

Elsewhere in 2014

In other times....

In other times….

Do  you see my first calendar entries for 2014? Yes, there they are…P1030885One birthday and one reminder;  my  nephew’s birthday… and a ‘don’t forget’ to take your Vitamin D.

And thus the counting down of 2014 has begun, with the marvellous and the mundane… and without pistols  🙂

© silkannthreades

All at sea

This post is for my friend  Bailey Boat Cat http://baileyboatcat.com/ and his beloved Nocturne.

For the past few weeks I have been immersed in family history. Perhaps immersed is too mild a description; it’s more like drowning or struggling to keep my head above water, amidst a sea of facts and documents and wild guesses and endless possibilities…. so, that James was a cordwainer and that James was a postman and the other James was a dairy hand. Or were they? And what about that Robert; farm servant and agricultural labourer, or were they  two, different Roberts? And then, there are the Marys and the Elizabeths and the Marys and the Elizabeths and the Mary Elizabeths, who are sometimes occupied with nothing and sometimes with ‘domestic duties’. Domestic duties? What is meant by domestic duties? Is that short hand for the bearing and rearing of a dozen offspring, in as many years, all confusingly named James or Elizabeth or Mary or Elizabeth Mary and James and Robert or Robert James. After a couple of hours of research, I am begging my forebears to throw me the lifeline of a Hortense or a Hermione,  even a Phryne (Fisher, if possible ), but the best I get is an Isola, which isn’t a bad effort.

Isola? Isola! How did a little girl, born in New Zealand, to Scottish parents acquire the name Isola? Does it mean Island or Isle? I may find out one day but, in the meantime, my mind has sailed away to islands and how we, the families of now and before, travelled from one set of islands to another, on ships and boats with marvellous, exotic names.

In our family history, I find a list of boats, ships and sailing vessels that have held, for varying lengths of time, small portions of our life stories, as travellers and adventurers, workers and servicemen. Here is a small selection of  some of the names: Bolton, Caroline Agnes, Zambesi, Zealandia, Waikato, Mokoia, Neuralia, Ulimaroa, Warrimoo, Pinkney, Adi Rewa, Matua, Tofua, Oriana, Ratu Bulumakau and Seaspray . Each of these vessels has a fascinating story and a genealogy and lineage of  her own. Many of them were sent to watery graveyards or to the hell of a scrapyard. An ignoble end to the fine engineering and craftsmanship of the craft that made possible much of our family lore.

For those who are curious about maritime vessels, here are a few links.

http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?131733

http://digitalnzgeoparser.tripodtravel.co.nz/map/photograph-of-the-ship-mokoia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Pinkney_%28APH-2%29

http://www.nzmaritime.co.nz/matua.htm

This is a photo of myself (the little blonde curly-haired child) with my brother and mother, on board the Matua ( I think) circa 1957. Possibly en route from Fiji to Sydney or New Zealand or, maybe, both.

Matua? 1957?

Matua? 1957?

http://www.ssmaritime.com/Tofua.htm

(note the punkah louvre forced draught ventilation on the Tofua)

http://www.ssc.com.fj/seaspray.aspx

http://www.castawayfiji.com/

This photo was taken aboard the Seaspray (still alive and well, I think) on a trip to  Castaway Resort, circa 1967.

On the Seaspray to Qalito Island

On the Seaspray to Qalito Island

Anchor note: I didn’t  know this when I started my research but I have since discovered that August is New Zealand Family History Month; happy coincidence.

http://www.aucklandlibraries.govt.nz/EN/Events/Events/Pages/familyhistorymonth2013.aspx

From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.

  • Pt. III, The Theologian’s Tale: Elizabeth, sec. IV