Today as I look out my upstairs bedroom window the perfume of the Stephanotis floribunda growing there instantly grabs my attention. I breathe in deeply. Looking further out into the yellows, reds and greens of the surrounding trees a dew drop scintillating in the sun catches my eye where it clings to a leaf. The lime yellow of Gleditsia “Sunburst”, under planted with pale blue Agapanthus accentuates the freshness of this time of the day. We are accompanied by the singing of cicadas, the sound of water over the fall in the river and the faraway drone of traffic. We’ve had some rain so our visitors are feeling a little constrained and are now preparing to make their escape for the day. On the odd occasion I go to town during the festive season I notice how big the lines of traffic are, how busy the shops and how when I want to go to a movie it’s already sold out! This is my version of constraint; bumper to bumper traffic through town, drivers doing 60kms in a 100km speed area as they weave across the road “sight- seeing”. I know they’re great for the local economy and that when you live in such a beautiful place it’s only fair to share with others, but I can’t help wishing them gone. As soon as I can I get myself back home to the peace and quiet that is my sanctuary from all the consumerist madness. Once there I lie around with a book or if it’s not too hot pop out into the garden to pull out all the lettuces that have bolted in the heat, along with the weeds that are massing in preparation for a coup! If it’s very hot I waste the day away lounging in the shade laughing and chatting with my dearly beloved, drinking copious green tea and nibbling leftovers from various festive feasts. I know it sounds profligate and I accept the judgement willingly. Finally early evening rolls around, the heat declines and I can head out into the cool quiet of the garden. This is the time of day that as I work, bent over pulling weeds, digging and pruning my connection to Spirit is refreshed. In the dusky quiet the garden wraps itself around me; night-scented plants soothe with their moth attracting perfumes, carrying me to another realm replete with beauty and wonder. The mystery and magic of this special time, when there is almost no evidence of humanity is such a gift. My body, heart and mind is open to the quiet gentleness and I feel I could continue in just this way forever.
I’ve been hearing people saying lately that Spring has arrived, as if it is a date on the calendar. Well, actually in New Zealand we do describe September 1 as the first day of Spring. Herein lies the truth, it’s the beginning of the process of unfolding and releasing the new emergent energy; it happens slowly, one day at a time. In order to notice the changes I am daily in communion with the parts of my garden that express ‘Springness’. I check the plum blossom and the foliage buds on my oak trees. In my vege garden I check the temperature of the soil. It’s still too wet and cold to plant Spring veges. I know this because my brassicas look so fine; they’re loudly expressing that Winter hasn’t fully released its grip. Which is ok too; greens are good for us & we need to eat plenty – or so I tell myself when I experience resistance to the idea. Fortunately as I stand surveying their healthy vitality I’m nourished by the beauty & elegance of the red cabbages and radicchio. Food for the soul is every bit as important. This radiant show helps remind me that the slow letting go of Winter into the quickening of Spring is inevitable and soon a different kind of expression will take the place of my gloriously ruffled radicchio. Even as I write the first plum blossoms are welcoming bees as they feverishly collect pollen to keep the hives healthy in preparation for a new seasons honey making. So much promise yet to be fulfilled.
A couple of posts ago I wrote about being all out to sea; adrift on the vast blueness that symbolises the infinite. Although I felt rudderless I was being steered by the gentle but firm hand of God. Most recently I have been on retreat learning about the subtle and magnificent teaching in the 14th century treatise The Cloud of Unknowing. Our very able teacher Cynthia Bourgeault has inspired me with her deep understanding of the writer’s perspective and has made available with great clarity the gift within the writing. It seems as though all my previous experiences have culminated in this deep understanding of what is now necessary. I see my life including all my actions and inactions totally differently. I’m experiencing a sense of greater freedom already and I am as yet to penetrate the cloud. The horizon is rich with promise. I now fully understand the yearning that has been urging me on for some time. Add to this the joy of daily swims when the wind and water turn from cold to warm magically upon submerging your body. The waka shaped roof of the chapel and its attendant Norfolk pines pointing heavenward like fingers pointing to the moon. All this held in the gentle embrace of silence. And so I come at last to land; no doubt I will bide here for a time before the gentle but firm hand of God moves me on.
It’s been a busy week both in the garden and out. I keep attempting to sit down and write then I’d find myself wandering off to some other task. My subtle world has been awash with disturbance and so the garden has seemed more of a sanctuary than usual. I found myself accompanied by the Queen of Hearts at one point; emotion was high and as I slashed my way through an overgrowth of Hawaiian white ginger I heard her yelling “Off with their Heads!” as she encouraged me on. Thanks to such great encouragement I got a lot done and the outcome was a clarity previously unavailable and a spaciousness within the garden that allowed in light and an expanse of sky. The openness insistently stirred my imagination. I began to plan the replanting; visions of Charles II and his Restoration palaces inspired plant choices that would create a lush and fecund environment. Lots of large glossy rounded forms, strong colour. Shrubs bedecked with flowers, climbers to carry the colour and perfume up high, an exotic dreamscape. Sadly, without Charles’ budget reality dawned. I’m back to seed planting and potting up cuttings from last year in readiness for the new vision. It’s only a matter of time until my royally appointed retreat will be ready. As a friend was visiting we took the opportunity to visit my favourite local spot. A magnificent stand of forest giants, our native Kauri grow amongst lush ferns and palms, the sound of water dripping from the canopy. It always has the most primeval feel, the size and age of the trees dwarfing humans and animals alike. I’m seriously fascinated by the mosses that grow everywhere in the cool and damp, their soft green beauty a refreshment to my soul. Looking up into the branches I imagine the builders of Gothic Cathedrals realising the way to hold up those huge vaulted roofs as they pondered the spreading branches looking for all the world as thought they were holding up the sky. Our hearts swelled with the grace and joy evoked by the quiet wisdom of these magnificent trees.
Every year I await the return of the bluebells at Roland’s Wood. The glorious haze of blue shimmers beneath the skeletal branches of the beech wood. Siren-like it lures me inward and onward down the path. Like meeting a long-lost friend we greet each other; I bend in obeisance, the better to drink in their azure blessings. I have the deepest gratitude to dear Roland Sansom whose love of his home country inspired him to create this wood. It is believed to be the furthest North a beechwood has grown successfully in New Zealand and visitors come from all over to visit and admire it. Now the wood is being developed to include plantings around the ponds and bog areas through the tireless efforts of local man John Horrell and his Rotary Club helpers. Over time these plantings will grow to enhance the sense of wildness the beech wood exudes. It is wonderful to come here as the seasons cycle and watch the shifting of energies from birth to maturity and onward through decline and death. Inherent in this cycling is the promise of return, the reminder that there is no end with out its new beginning. This is a gift beyond measure.