Friday, 19 December 2014

The Road to Oihi - Orewa.

I have nothing much to write about today. No great thoughts. No particular insights.

The Arahura was running late this morning. Someone left the lights on and they had to push start it. But we got underway at about 7:00, only half an hour late, and with Cook Strait absolutely dead flat the captain had managed to make up almost all of the lost time by the time we got to Wellington.

Bridget and Scott travelled with us as far as Wellington. We settled into a group of seats conveniently near the play area but Noah saw the stairs, and knew they must lead to somewhere and that the somewhere was no doubt pretty awesome. "Stairs, stairs" he repeated until I carried him up them. So he and I stood alone in the fresh Southerly and took in all the spectacular excellence (Truck! Water! Birdie! Boat!) until the ship began to move and the scene became the most astonishing thing he had seen in his life. His little head rested on mine, cheek to cheek, my eyes looking out beside his and for a few minutes I saw as he was seeing.  This apparently solid enormity on which we stood was gliding away from the trucks and boats and birdies.  Amazing! Jesus told us to become like little children, by which he meant, I think,  doing what Noah taught me to do this morning: let go of all accustomed ways of seeing things and interpreting them in order that we might see them as they actually are. Was it us moving, or was it the land? Good question, Mr. Einstein.

It was a busy trip. Then, at Wellington, Clemency and I drove off alone into a drizzly Horowhenua. We crawled along the clogged two lane road which is the main egress from our capital city til we  cruised ever faster over the hills and through the valleys. I had forgotten how pretty Hunterville is, and Taihape. We stopped at a rural cafe somewhere and then Clemency did a little shopping in Taupo while I sweltered. Jeans? A shirt AND a T shirt? What was I thinking?  A few years in Dunedin and we had forgotten just how much warmer is the climate in the North of the country. We took the shortcut across the Hauraki Plains, avoiding Hamilton, picked up Catherine from Central Auckland and arrived here in Orewa just before 9; about 15 hours after we left last night's stopping place.

We've driven all these roads before but apart from the section through the Waikato none of it is so redolent with memory as yesterday's drive up the South Island. But although it might not always look like Otago, it does look like home. Driving slowly, pulling over sometimes to allow the accumulated queue of traffic behind us to overtake, stopping to look at craft shops or to buy coffee, it all looked new, fresh, green and indescribably beautiful. To see it all again and see it as if for the first time. This was Noah's gift to me' a gift which lasted far after I had reluctantly waved him goodbye; a gift which transformed my whole day.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Road to Oihi - Picton

We got away a little later than planned, 8:45 am instead of 6:00 but there was a lot to do. Packing for instance. Parking the cats. That sort of thing. This week had been pretty busy, what with one thing and another and most of yesterday afternoon was occupied with our annual Christmas party for clergy and families. Clemency, Bridget, Scott Noah and I spent the afternoon in company with these lovely people and got home very late in the afternoon. We were tired. We had plenty of time in the morning. We went to bed.

So this morning we hooked up the caravan, packed a toothbrush and a change of shorts and headed North. It started to rain when we were on the Kilmog, and was sunny again by Timaru. So it alternated, wet and dry all day long. We stopped for coffee in Oamaru and for lunch in Rakaia. We got fuel in Amberley and had a lovely dinner at a quaint restaurant on the Kaikoura coast before arriving here in Picton about 7:45. We'll park up here for the night before boarding the ferry at 6:30 am tomorrow.

This whole journey is along roads so familiar to both of us and so laden with memory that it is a kind of temporal pilgrimage through the shadows and memories of many decades. We travelled through my diocese and then through my first parish, past the house where our children were babies. Then northwards through the town I was born in, and across the Canterbury plains which I have traversed by car and foot and bicycle and train and motorcycle on trips with a thousand intentions. Skirting Christchurch we followed the coast road. It's been a very long time since either of us has driven North along the Kaikoura road, but tracing our route through the familiar little towns, up through the Hunderlees and into the tawny hummocks of Marlborough there were memories at every turn. There was a time when we made that drive many times a year to visit families and to visit each other and to return to work or study. There was the spot where Rob Lepper and I used to fish for paua, sleeping rough in the back of Rob's Hillman van. There was the patch of winding hilly road where I once raced a car on my Suzuki Titan, badly misjudging a corner and careening precariously around it with a comet of sparks showering from the downhill foot peg (The car conceded at that point). There was the little church where Clemency and her friend Sue sheltered from rain when they made their grand tour of the country by motor scooter. There was the rocky coastline and the mountains and the tunnels and the seagulls and the seals. Awesome. Yes, really. And tomorrow the ferry. Last time I was on the ferry was December 1998 when I was driving South to become Vicar of Roslyn.

It is all so rich and deep and lovely, this land and the life God has gifted me. I am so grateful for it all.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Last Leg

Bay of Islands. Shot taken from the same boat that will transport us to Oihi Bay

On Thursday at 6 am we'll be leaving for the Bay of Islands. We're crossing with the caravan on the 6:30 am Ferry from Picton to Wellington on Friday and, on Friday night, we should be in Auckland  where we'll meet Catherine, newly arrived from England. We'll be in Waitangi on Saturday and take part in the service at Oihi Bay on Sunday morning. Then there is the most leisurely lead up to Christmas I will have experienced since 1979, before we are part of the huge gathering at the Marsden Cross on Christmas Day.

This is the last leg of our Diocesan Pilgrimage. In this last fortnightof Advent we will complete by car the journey we made by foot and bicycle way back in Lent. It's important for me to carry Te Harinui to Waitangi and to Oihi Bay.

I am so looking forward to being on the open road with the whole length of the country before me; to see my lovely girl again; to be in the Bay of Islands and to see old and dear friends. More so, I want to be there and carry my diocese to this once in a lifetime celebration; to acknowledge Marsden and Ruatara and the three vulnerable little families, the Kendals, Halls and Kings, who, 200 years ago,  made such an extraordinary act of courage and faith.

But before then there is so much to be done. There is the family Christmas stuff - presents and cards and letters - which I haven't even begun to think about yet. There are some pressing diocesan matters; I'll be spending most of the day at my computer. There is the rest of the years work to be shoehorned into the next five days as well as preparing the house for those who will be here and packing the caravan and planning for an as yet undecided route home.

 We'll meander from Waitangi to Wellington visiting various friends and relatives, cross Cook Straight on New Years Eve, spend some time in Nelson where my sister has lent us her lovely house and then home via the West Coast (?) a week or so into January, to be ready for my first diocesan appointment of the year, in Lawrence on the 11th.

 Stewart Island, March 13 2014

Marsden Cross, our destination for Christmas Day

Friday, 12 December 2014


My phone is linked to my car stereo by bluetooth. When I get in and start the car my stored music and podcasts play in a randomly selected private programme which is sort of of a combination National Radio, Concert Radio, AndHow FM, and Classic Hits FM. I'm amazed at how often this seemingly random mix comes up with exactly the right track at exactly the right time. Over the last couple of days, for example it has twice played me David Whyte reading his poem The House of Belonging, which sums up SO exactly where I find myself.

"this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

I lie in my bed and listen to the house creaking into life. Down the steep stairs my grandson is calling. Papa? Papa?  I look at him and my own eyes look back. He laughs; this is what we do, he and I. My daughter is cooking an egg for him. I make tea and ask about her day. There is no house like the house of belonging.

The House of Belonging

David Whyte

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
like any other.

veil had gone
from my darkened heart
I thought

it must have been the quiet
that filled my room,

it must have been the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been the prayer
I said speaking to the otherness
of the night.

I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


The prayer of silence, whatever specific form it might take and whatever tradition it is practised in always works from a particular premise: that the truest part of ourselves is found within; and encompassed within that deep part of ourselves is something wiser and older and deeper and better than we are. So I sit in silence. I withdraw from all those things which occupy my everyday life. I try to be as still as possible beside this great well of life and meaning which opens up in the parts of me I am never able to directly observe. When I first started doing this, many, many years ago, I would be engulfed, every time I tried it,  in a sense of peace and wellbeing as I sat beside this deep inner pool; but I have learned to see this experience, attractiveas it is, as a distraction, drawing me away from the pure depths which are my heart's true focus.

Sitting in that place of silence isn't easy. My personality is a complicated web of attitudes and habits and predispositions that don't actually like sitting still for so long, and which conspire to draw me away - back to what they think of as the "real" world, but which I know to be a shadow world of illusion and fantasy and suffering. But with discipline, and by learning a method, it is possible to be still, and, when I do that, something happens. That something isn't conscious and it takes a long time, but as I sit at the edge of the great well of life I am changed. The deep parts of me are healed; old wounds stop weeping and are knit together; long calcified habits and attitudes are dissolved.

I stand up from any session, replace my watch and episcopal ring and glasses and shoes. I pray briefly for myself and for one other person as the Spirit gives guidance. I never feel any different than when I began. But like the tectonic plates shifting beneath a city the great forces which made me and hold me in being are moving. And then, unexpectedly, they shift all at once. It is as though the hard dry parts of me are being soaked and softened. When they have been soaked enough, some of them break away and rise to the surface; they move from my unconscious into my conscious mind and surprise me.

Mostly these things rising to the surface are small and brief. I feel an unexplained descent into tears or laughter, a sudden quick sorrow or anger or obsession as whatever it is briefly passes. Sometimes they are recognisable: I know where they are from and what gave rise to them. Sometimes they are so old and so distorted I have no idea what, or where, or how they arose. And sometimes they are huge. They fill my consciousness and plunge me into unexplained doubts, fears, antagonisms and irrationalities and they take a while to pass. Big or small they are always harbingers of healing. Particularly, they are usually the rising to consciousness of attachments, as these move out of my unconscious mind and away from me forever. None of this is anything to be surprised at or to fear, but it is a reminder that if someone is developing a serious silent practise having a spiritual director who can help with the passage of this inner detritus is essential.

A week or so ago, one of these huge pieces of psychic junk passed from my unconscious, through consciousness and away. A few people were unfortunate enough to know about it. Most didn't. Looking back, I can see that the ennui I felt some months ago with photography and blogging was the foreshadowing of its arrival.

 I had good advice. I watched it go. And awoke this week with a whole slew of longstanding and seriously crippling attachments gone. Last night I lay awake filled with the joy of the healing with which I had been gifted. Filled with gratitude to that great love who is continually calling me into being from that deep still place, beside which I wait, daily, resting in his company.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Sitting Zen

Why do this? Why sit still and watch the thoughts and feelings drift past like the boats on the surface of a stream? It's not easy to find words to explain; to answer the question requires that you do it. But David Whyte has caught something of it; he speaks from another tradition but his words ring true.

- By David Whyte

After three days of sitting
hard by the window
following grief through
the breath

like a hunter
who has tracked for days
the blood spots
of his injured prey

I came to a lake
where the deer had run

refusing to save
its life in the
dark water

and there it fell
to ground
in our mutual
and respectful quiet

the pale diamond
edge of the breath's