Archive for April, 2006

Adult eyes

April 28, 2006

We spent last weekend at the Quaker settlement in Wanganui.  It was the first time I'd been there in 18 years.  The last time I was there was at a JYF camp when I was 15.  When we drove up, I expected to recognise the place immediately, to be flooded with memories.  It wasn't like that at all.  The driveway had been asphalted, and the trees were much larger.

As I walked around the settlement it still wasn't familiar.  There were a few moments, the smell in one of the rooms was identical and took me right back.  I walked into the room where we'd slept at JYF camp, and realised I was standing exactly where I'd had my first significant kiss.  Overall though, the settlement just wasn't as familiar as I'd expected.

I started thinking that maybe it wasn't the settlement that had changed, but me.  I was looking at it through adult eyes.  Looking at it with all the layers of experience eighteen years brings. As I started engaging in the camp, and getting to know old and new friends I started seeing the camp through other eyes.  Introducing my children to the place, and seeing the experiences they were having, making friends with young teenagers, and young parents for whom it was their first Quaker camp.

One of the things I love about Friends is the opportunity to have direct relationships with people of all ages.  I don't interact with a child as someone's son or daughter, or an older person as someone's parent.  Often it's not until I've established relationships that I figure out who's is related to who. These direct relationships seem to let me get closer to truly connecting and seeing the world through the other's eyes. 

So this time the settlement was created anew for me, and seen from many perspectives.  I wouldn't call it home, but it does have a place in my heart. 

Tears And Laughter

April 24, 2006

We've just finished YF Camp. It was an amazing experience for me, and the biggest camp since I'm not sure when.I wasn't aware of the camp having a predefined theme. I think there was one but it was never mentioned explicitly. A theme did though emerge for me during the time I was there. It was "tears and laughter" It comes from a song that Leith sang on stage at the World gathering of young Friends in England last year. It goes:

Kind Friends all gather round, there's something I would say,
What brings us here together, has blessed us all today,
Love can make a circle, that holds us all inside,
Where strangers are as family, and loneliness can’t hide,
So give yourself to love, if love is what you’re after,
Open up your heart to the tears and laughter,
and give yourself to love, give yourself to love”

On Sunday during the camp we went to Meeting in Palmerston North. YFs swelled the normal attendance by about 300%. Early in Meeting Freda, a Palmerston North Friend read from Advices & Queries.

It was a passage on accepting other cultures. It got me thinking about the risks we take by inviting people into our county, our towns, our homes and our hearts. People we invite in might be noisy or hurt us or change our way of life for the worse. Or they might inspire us, show us new wonders, take us to new heights. It seems to me that we have to take the risk of being hurt in order to grow. It may even be that we have to be hurt sometimes in order to truly grow, we have to have our souls carved out by pain to expand the space we have for love. We have to accept the tears to get the laughter.

The camp felt like this for me. There were lots of risks taken and much at stake. it was the first time that I've felt the full age range truly come together as a group. There was a big risk this wasn't going to happen, and many of us older YFs had taken a risk coming, a risk that we would feel out of place, that our presence wouldn't be accepted.

There were many emotional risks taken by all as relationships developed. These were not without tears as boundaries were negotiated and love of all kinds was offered and accepted or not as the case maybe.

Opening my heart and my life to this group was a huge risk. It is one of the best things I have ever done. The tears, laughter and joy I have experienced have enriched my life, and given me a strong sense of place and purpose in the world, and within the wider community of Friends. So go on, give yourself to love.

Rosy glow

April 20, 2006

I've just come back from YF Camp. It was an incredible, tiring, moving experience, and one of the best Quaker camps I've ever been to. As often happens, once I'd finally said goodbye to everyone and left for the airport I felt filled with a kind of glow. I was smiling at everyone in the airport, looking deep into their eyes, and feeling all rosy with the joy of being alive. It was all I could do to restrain myself from hugging the friendly airline crew.

It's a feeling I don't often get in my busy life, especially in airports in which I spend a lot of time, generally stressed and in a rush. What is this feeling, and what causes it? Is it some kind of 'happy clappy' religious fervour induced type thing like speaking in tongues? Or is it a brighter expression of the inner light that's always there? I know it wears off over time as I go back into the busy world. I'm wondering whether it's something I get from being around other Friends, which then fades over time, or whether it's something that's always there, and I've just temporarily peeled back some of the barriers to it shining through (which then grow back to protect against the pressures of the world). I'm not sure which idea I like better.

I do wonder if it's possible to feel that way all the time. Imagine a world where that was the case for everyone. Imagine if we could each in our own ways help to create that…

Coming Home

April 8, 2006

Last weekend we went up to the bach in Arthur Pass. The bach has been in the extended family since the 1960’s, and is called Rough Creek Lodge. It’s a very rustic, basic sort of a place and is full of memories. There is a photo of me in the hut book when I was 6 months old. There is no other house that I was that young at that I can still go to.

We used to go and stay up there when I was a kid, go for long bush walks, and play board games when it rained. We go back there now two or three times a year, and it really does feel like coming home. The mountains, alpine rivers and the beach forest made such an impression on my childhood, and they now bring me such a sense of peace and connection with the land.

I think of Arthur’s Pass now as my spiritual home, a timeless unchanging place that I can always return to. Standing outside at night, hearing the distant river rush and looking up over the dark forested mountains to the bright stars undimmed by city lights you can see the Milky way stretching right across the sky.

Houses come and go but kiwi baches stay in families for generations. Somehow it feels more like home than anywhere else to me.