Friday, 16 May 2008

Bolton Street Memorial Park

Between the cyclone in Burma and the earthquake in China, I was feeling rather melancholy earlier this week.

I was in town and had some spare time between appointments so I took a stroll through the Bolton Street Memorial Park. In a strange way this cheered me up. There is something deeply moving about cemeteries; they are places of peace and respect.

Without being too crude about it they are also places of growth, suffused with natural blood and bone. Plants regenerate around graves with verdant abundance. Splashes of colour punctuate the grey stones and the brown earth. One life may come to an end, but life as a whole goes on.

The dead are interred with reverence. There are rituals that attempt to find order amidst the random chaos that is living. There are places the grieving can visit and follow their own protocols to deal with their loss.

As I paused among the headstones, people smiled and spoke to me. I found sympathy and peace. The neat paths in the cemetery are beckoning, leading to new avenues. I felt as though there was reason and rationale in this place. There can be beauty and dignity even in death. It is not all in vain. I was bizarrely rejuvenated.

E nga mate, haere, haere, haere.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Tuakana: My Newest Favourite Thing

Last week, through an opportunity at work, I spent two days and a night on the Massey University marae, learning Te Reo Maori and Tikanga. It can be a minefield, especially for someone like me - English, white, and female - a trifecta of tribulations.

I find new experiences initially frightening, but ultimately rewarding. I am still haunted by memories of going to a new school and finding a seat in the cafeteria at lunchtime. I like swimming but am terrified of unfamiliar pools where I don't know the routine about lockers and changing rooms. Dinner parties; award ceremonies; sporting events; church services - all can fill me with trepidation until I know what to expect and what is expected from me.

I did, indeed, learn many things and am grateful for the experience. The best part of the whole wananga was the concept of tuakana/teina. My understanding is that the tuakana is an older brother or sister, who is your senior to whom you defer and ask for advice and guidance.

This is not necessarily to do with age, but more to do with wisdom. As a teina you are the younger sibling, but also have points of value and merit that you can teach to others which may be more to do with attitude and outlook than experience. I love the fact that the relationship works both ways.

We had two lovely 'big sisters' (Sian and Terina) who helped us out with all the protocol and customs - we followed their lead and asked them questions and they were approachable and made everything positive and welcoming.

I think everyone in life should have someone who fulfills this role. I have been blessed with two big sisters and a big brother of my own, who always look after me when they can. Geographical distance and daily concerns mean that sometimes this isn't possible and I miss them all greatly. For those who aren't fortunate enough to have a large family, I think a tuakana should be top of their wish list.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Gunner Inglorious

Last week I went to see an excellent play called Gunner Inglorious at Soundings Theatre in Te Papa.

The one-man play, based on true events in a book by Jim Henderson has, apparently been performed over a hundred times around the country. It is still remarkably fresh and captivating and thoroughly worth seeing. I don't know what the future plans for this production are, but I strongly recommend that if you haven't yet seen it, you should do so.