Archive for the ‘love’ Category

Love conquers all

August 31, 2008

Just recently I was playing on Googlefight with the kids. It’s a site where you put two words in, and the one with the highest number of hits on Google wins. It’s hilarious fun, and they loved it. We started out with ‘bacon’ vs ‘brocolli’, then for each word that won, tried to find another word that would beat it. Fairly soon we got from foodstuffs to famous people. We jumped around between famous people and superheroes for a while, for example ‘batman’ beats ‘britney spears’, but ‘jesus’ beats ‘batman’. ‘Jesus’ is fairly hard to beat. The ‘devil’, at 158 million hits, can’t do it, and neither can ‘satan’.

‘God’ (598 million) is pretty much the only one that’ll beat ‘jesus’ (236 million). It’s quite hard to find a word that’ll beat ‘god’, but unsurprisingly ‘sex’ (767 million) will do it. ‘Money’, at just over 1 billion mentions, beats sex [when I did this with the kids I skipped over ‘sex’ to ‘money’, but came back and checked later]. By this time I was starting to get somewhat despondent about the fate of the human race.

The only word I could find that would beat ‘money’ though, was ‘love’. ‘Love’ is mentioned 2.39 billion times on the web. ‘Love’ beats ‘hate’, ‘sex’, ‘money’, ‘drugs’, and ‘god’. My faith in humanity has been restored. Love conquers all.


The end of some things and the beginning of more

March 30, 2008

I woke in the morning in a room of straw. Sunlight glanced through the wide window, and I rose, rested and glad of the day. The last day of my last Young Friends camp for the rest of my life.

I should feel sad but I just don’t. I don’t even feel quite the sense of completion I thought I might. I simply feel content, sure and happy with the experience having unfolded exactly in the way it did.

This path I began in 2004 has filled my life with love I had never envisaged or expected. The connection to these people has become not so much an experience, or something I posses, but just part of who I am, part of the fabric of this wonderful life.

To me this camp felt gentle, warm, calm as a slow moving river in the middle of summer. We sang, ate, worked and worshiped. I laughed with these beautiful people in the springtime of their lives.

Meeting the son of my first love and getting to know him as a friend was an unexpected pleasure. Seeing him instantly accepted by others as if he’d been coming for years filled my heart with a sense of joy I find it difficult to describe.

Even as some things come to an end new things begin.

Meeting Emily from Canberra and realizing we have a whole lifetime of Quaker events, conversations and sharing ahead of us made saying goodbye the start of something rather than the end. It seemed fitting that she was the last person I said farewell to at the airport.

I know now that ending my participation in YF business and YF camps doesn’t mean ending these friendships, or being in some way part of this community as it flows into the wider Quaker world.

When YF Camp finished four of us cycled to the train in Masterton. The day shone as we rode through the rolling hills, and I could think of no place I would rather be. Riding with friends in the sun, sharing our journey for a way, and knowing that in time we will share it again.

In all your honesty

January 24, 2008

Thomas looked at me, his warm smile showing quiet confidence and nervous anticipation at the same time. We stood on a slightly raised concrete platform, a foot above the grass of the clearing, beneath a mighty totara, decorated with a wooden cross. The wedding guests slowly filled up the clearing, seating themselves on the forms and chairs arrayed in rows like a church.

I welcomed them and asked them to sit in silence while we waited for Rhea to be escorted in by her father. The musician played, the birds sang in the trees high above, and the wind wafted forcefully around us. Thomas and I stood, smiling at each other and the group. As the seconds drew out, and the tension grew I said silently in my mind to Thomas, “relax my friend, she’ll come”.

With a collective breath out of relief, heads turning, and admiring smiles the guests watched as Rhea walked in slowly, well supported by the steady right arm of her father. He carefully led her up onto the platform, Thomas took her hands, his eyes shining, and they stood facing each other.

I addressed the assembled group and explained how the ceremony would unfold. It felt good to be there, confident and sure, speaking strongly so my voice would carry over the wind and the noise of the swaying trees. The words I spoke were both Thomas’ and mine, his poetry held within my structure. I described the silent worship part of the ceremony:

“After the exchange of vows, as in a Quaker Meeting, we will wait in silence until we may feel compelled to speak. If you are moved to speak, please leave some silence between yourself and the previous speaker. Everyone is welcome to share, however this is not speech-making time, there will be plenty of time for that later on. Rather this is a special and sacred space for a deep and soulful pondering on the nature of love and commitment, and on Rhea and Thomas as a couple. We ask that if you do feel called to speak, or sing, or pray, or recite, that you do so from the heart, and in all your honesty.”

I concluded my introduction, sat down in the front row, and silence fell. Rhea and Thomas looked at each other, and I could see the emotions pass over his face. Excitement, trepidation, and a rising calm as he let go and he waited for the spirit to move him. Dappled sunlight fell upon them, the wind stilled, and the wings of a kereru beat the air above. Thomas spoke his vows to Rhea, love welling up on his face as he passionately committed his life to hers. The honesty with which he spoke, the integrity of his love, and the sureness of his voice moved me deeply. Rhea spoke next, more quietly.

Rings followed, silence, and ministry from Thomas’ sister, Rhea’s father, and two friends. That they felt confident to share, each moved according to their own fashion, and conveying the full emotion of their feelings, made me very glad. In the absence of a priest Thomas gave himself permission to kiss Rhea. I declared them married, and the musicians sang a beautiful song as the couple walked off the platform and down the aisle.

Rhea and Thomas, you blessed me greatly in asking me to facilitate your marriage ceremony. It is an experience I will never forget. Seeing the strength of your love for each other, and the unfettered honesty with which you voiced it is an example to us all. May your life be filled with joy.

12 Days of Christmas

December 23, 2007

At Meeting yesterday we had carols and some readings. This was led by the resident Friends, one of whom explained one of the reasons she’d heard as to why Quakers don’t generally sing during worship. Apparently because they weren’t prepared to say things they didn’t believe, and a lot of the conventional church hymns had phrases that fell into that category for many early Friends.

I must admit there were a few phrases from the carols we sang that I hummed along with rather than sang out loud, in particular references to the virgin birth, and Jesus as ‘Lord’. There was one fantastic carol that I was very happy to sing right through though, a modern interpretation of the 12 Days of Christmas, called “12 Days of Christmas in New Brighton”.

“On the 12th day of Christmas we all shared together peace and goodwill for all to share, 11 excited children, 10 dancing pirates, 9 carol singers, 8 local artists, 7 sausages a sizzling, 6 sand castles, 5 expressions of love, 4 moments of joy, 3 vigils for peace, 2 messages of hope, and a great love for all to share. “

We are all immigrants

November 25, 2007

There is mounting geological evidence that at one time, the whole landmass of New Zealand was completely submerged. About 85 million years ago, the continent ‘Zealandia‘ broke away from Gondwanaland. It was about half the size of Australia. Over tens of millions of years it slowly sank beneath the waves until it was completely under water. About 23 million years ago, due to the movement of the tectonic plates, it emerged from the sea, and slowly became the shape and size it is today.

This makes the legend of Maui fishing the North Island up from the sea seem to ring very true. It also means that all life on this land arrived here, rather than evolving from the beginning of life on Gondwanaland. The seeds of plants would have arrived by dispersal on the wind, and carried by migratory birds. Those birds over 20 million years evolved to the flightless moa, kiwi, and many other species that are here today. Lizards travelled on floating logs over the sea (almost every rock in the sea is covered by lizards, they are such hardy mariners). Even the ancient tuatara, for which there are 100 million year old fossils in New Zealand, have more recent fossil relatives (35 million years) from South America, and it seems likely our tuatara came from there. The theory would also explain the complete lack of ‘native’ terrestrial mammals, for they would have had no way of surviving the journey across the sea.

I like the idea that all living species in our country are travelers, all immigrants. Some of us arrived 20 million years ago, some 1,000, some a few human generations ago, and some very recently. None of us ‘own’ this land. Some, perhaps by arriving earlier, have a greater claim to the right to exist here. The right to live, in freedom, without the threat of physical or cultural extinction by those arriving later. But all of us are descendants of travelers, the courageous, the hardy. Those willing to chance a journey into the unknown, across the oceans.

I hope that this knowledge will help us to see each other (human and non-human) as equals. All valuable, unique and alive with the spirit of adventure. I hope that it will help us to respect and love each other, and to share what we have. A canoe is a small vessel, and we must take care to get along, if we are to stay afloat.

Last words

November 11, 2007

At JYF camp Pearl told me that the last words that her Grandmother could say (due to a stroke) were “I love you” and “thank you”.

I think that if you could only say two things, those are a pretty good choice.

Wellspring of laughter

August 31, 2007

Avon’s baby was born at home, in the beautiful Kahuterawa valley. In Christchurch the first blossoms are on the trees, pink and tentative against the last grasp of winter. Around the seat where my mother’s ashes were scattered, yellow fingers of daffodil shoot from their green stems, ready to unfurl as the weather warms.

In the mountains the ice thaws and cold water babbles over the river stones, soft and gurgling like a baby’s laughter.

July gripped my heart with the rough wound of loss. I ran in the dark, arms needled with the shooting pangs of fear. Yet here, the city’s getting smaller behind the boat, and as the sea expands the hold of winter on the land lifts in me.

Night never lasts. Fast and free life springs quietly awake in the light.

Today I held the baby of my first love, warm in the sun on this island in the sea. And she, small and new and clean, smiled up at me.

Oceans of tears

August 14, 2007

Mothers shouldn’t die. At least they shouldn’t die young. They shouldn’t die before they get to see their grandchildren, or their children’s weddings.

But sometimes they do.

There’s something about your mother dying. The person who gave you life, now gone. It’s like a schism with the world, a cutting off from the source. And that, itself, is worth oceans of tears. Tears for the conversations you might have had if they were still around. Tears for the joy they would have had spending time with their grandchildren. Tears for the loss of the love they would have kept on giving. Oceans and oceans of tears.

Those tears are for a reason though. They show the love that was there. They are a way of physically and emotionally letting go. I still don’t really understand grief, but I do know it’s something you have to do. Something you have to open yourself to. And that hurts. But in the opening there’s a kind of acceptance. An ability to feel joy at what that person’s life meant to you. A sense of pride when you see their love, their giving, still acting in the world, through the people they influenced, the things they said and did.

Death is just a part of the great mystery. But it still hurts.

Linguistic Accommodation

June 3, 2007

In May each year the number of people staying at our place each month (bednights in George Fox House terms) drops off. Most traveling YFs have gone back home, generally to their northern hemisphere summers.

Each year we get to meet new people, and get to know them pretty well. There’s something about inviting people into your home, feeding them, having them there when you get up in the morning and get back home from work at night. Depending on their inclinations they play games with the kids, read them stories, put new software on our computers, help in the garden or the kitchen, watch youtube and DVDs with us. They become part of the family for a few nights, or a week or two. Often they’ll go traveling round the South Island then come back for a few nights before they fly out. We miss them while they’re gone, and welcome them home when they’re back.

I like the notion from the early days of Quakers, when if a Friend was traveling in the Ministry, and requested to stay, you had to let them. I travel a lot for business, and I feel totally comfortable asking Friends if I can stay with them. I encourage traveling YFs that we meet at Summer Gathering and other places to stay with us when they’re in town. Somehow, on some universal scales it feels like this is ‘balancing the books’. I hope those that stay with us will feel more inclined to welcome other people into their homes sometime in the future.

The only thing that really makes me in any way glad when people leave, is my tendency towards ‘linguistic accommodation’. This is a term that explains the natural human capability of adapting one’s speech to those around them. It’s the way accents work. It’s the way that ‘speaking the lingo’ allows one to be accepted within a community. Mum came out from England when she was 11. She had hardly a trace of an English accent, except when she was on the phone with her mother, when it came out quite strongly. I notice my speech changing the more I’m around people with other accents. When Carrie and Matt were here, I found myself developing an American accent, and using more Americanisms. It was unconscious and unintentional, and I felt a bit self conscious about it once I noticed. I guess though, that if you open your homes and your hearts to people, you become a little more like them. Something of them rubs off on you, and to me that’s not such a bad thing. The more we’re willing to share of ourselves with each other, the greater chance we have for peace.


May 21, 2007

I first met Angela Brusse 19 years ago, at a Junior Young Friends (JYF) camp at the Quaker settlement in Wanganui. I was 15, and she would have been 75. She was a force to be reckoned with, or perhaps more sensibly, not to be reckoned with. My Godmother was dutch, so I knew the type – strong to the point of stubbornness, loving and compassionate in a firm, direct and uncompromising way.

Three or so years ago Angela came down to Christchurch, to move into a rest home and be near her daughter Mia. Even though she was very old, and couldn’t see very well, she came to Meeting for Worship when she could. I’d often sit and talk with her after Meeting. Twice a year, at the beginning and end of daylight savings I would be given the job of adjusting the time on her electronic ‘talking’ clock. I learned about the work she did protecting Jewish children during World War II. I learned about how she started JYFs in New Zealand. Immediately after worship finishes in Christchurch Meeting, the Elder giving the notices asks the children to report back from Children’s Meeting. Angela would often say to me “We ask the children what they have been doing, but we do not tell them what we have been doing”.

I think Angela saw children and young people as equals. As equals that she held to the same high standards and expectations of courage, forthrightness, and moral fibre that she held herself.

I’m organising JYF camp this year. As I look through the box of information from past camps, Angela’s name appears often. As the return address for the application forms for many camps, as the ‘c/o’ address on letters signed by many JYFs, sent to the Prime Minister opposing military actions and nuclear weapons. On press releases from JYFs condemning violence and the use of military force.

Angela, you taught a whole generation of us to work for peace, to stand up for what we believe in, to have the personal courage to live our convictions. I will miss you.