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Archive for the ‘Seasons & Cycles’ Category

Spring Equinox altar

It was pure pleasure to celebrate the Spring Equinox today with the Stone Circle Interfaith Community. Level Two protocols made it a little more difficult but the facilitators took every care to ensure we were all comfortable with the arrangements.

Each person introduced themself and spoke about what spring means to them. I was glad to have the opportunity to mention the fact that today is Suffrage Day.

Many beautiful and inspiring words were said. I just wish I could remember more of them. At one stage we gave “eye hugs”, good practice for when masks need to be worn, and were invited to remember that whenever we look into someone’s eyes we are looking at a person who is loved by the divine spirit.

The many challenges that are being faced around the world were acknowledged and we were led in a meditation to send loving-kindness out across the globe and the universe.

Song, dance, and story were part of this ritual which was spiritually strengthening and sustaining.

We spoke of spring with care and love
which honoured earth and worlds above

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With daylight no longer being saved sunset tonight was at 6.15pm, and by 7pm it was getting dark. The temperature today had been a balmy 28 degrees, and it was still warm enough to sit outside.

By now the wind was calm and we could light candles. Stephen had made a Margarita Pizza, easy to eat in semi-darkness, and it felt quite magical to be sitting outside in candlelight.

Pizza by candlelight

If this warm weather (global heating!) keeps up we may do it more often.

As early came the start of night
we made good use of candlelight

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Best Buns

I hadn’t intended to bother buying Hot Cross Buns. The supermarket ones have been available for months now, and tend to be not of high quality.

We were out doing several pre-weekend messages, and Stephen wanted to go to Penny Lane in Sydenham. This is very close to Sydenham Bakery, and I remembered they’d featured in a Press article as having the second best Hot Cross Buns in the country.

So, while Stephen sought a DVD at Penny Lane I joined the queue (tailback for you Telegraph crossword fans) at the Bakery. I met a former colleague in the queue, and he was there to buy chocolate hot cross buns. When I expressed the view that those were not proper buns he said “Belgian chocolate!” and that he would be sharing them with grandchildren.

Award-winning Hot Cross Buns

I asked for half a dozen “proper” buns. These had just come out of the oven, and needed to be wrapped in a paper bag as they were too hot for the usual plastic wrapper. The delicious spicy scent pervaded the car while we did the rest of our shopping. We had one each after lunch, and they were scrumptious. The rest are not likely to last long!

These buns a special Easter treat
are simply dee-lish-us to eat.

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What a pleasure it was today to celebrate the Autumn Equinox with the Stonecircle Interspiritual Community. I’d never before visited this group who embrace the Interfaith vision of oneness, and strive to live this inclusivity in loving and compassionate service to all. They affirm the universal truths that underly all spiritual paths – love and unity – and I was happy to find a number of old friends there.

The altar held an abundant harvest, and on the wall hung flags of many faiths.

Equinox altar
Flags of many faiths

We entered in silence to a circle with music, We are we and we are one, then were gently led through a ritual with opportunities to share personal insights, time for reflection, and a delightful dance.

Followed by a shared lunch, this was a celebration that nourished my pagan soul, and I look forward to being part of this group again.

The Autumn Equinox was shared
within a group who truly cared

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Today’s birthday treat was High Tea at the Sign of the Takahe, courtesy of a distant daughter. We had a corner table by the window, but because it was raining there wasn’t much view. However, the view inside this magnificent stone building is amazing. There was only one other couple indulging in High Tea (also a birthday gift from a distant offspring). This treat is offered only on Fridays and Saturdays and the waiter told us Saturday tends to be more popular. Others came in just for coffee, and cast envious eyes at our sumptuous spread.

We started with sparkling wine, and after I’d eaten a few savouries I felt very content, and realized that may have been partly the wine. I rarely drink alcohol these days, especially at lunchtime.

All the food was beautifully prepared and presented. We couldn’t quite manage the last few sweet things which the waiter kindly boxed up for us to take home. She also offered to take a photo without our having to ask. I can thoroughly recommend High Tea at the Takahe for a special celebration.

This was a lovely birthday treat
with more good things than we could eat

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The best birthday treat was a video call with my daughters on the other side of the world. Some Xmas and birthday gifts have not yet made it through either postal system, but being able to see and hear each other is still something that seems to belong in Science Fiction. Today we used MS Teams, rather than Zoom – there’s always something new to try.

I’d hoped to have a waka ride this morning but the misty rain made that an unlikely prospect. We decided to go out anyway to have lunch at Belle on the corner of New Regent Street. Parking meters in that area don’t take coins, but we were prepared to use a visa card and pay the extra charge. To my surprise when I went to the pay machine I discovered that parking there is free on public holidays – an unexpected birthday gift.

Belle was busy, but we found seats at their round communal table where we could look out and watch people and trams going by. They have an eclectic array of pictures on the walls and ceiling, so there’s always something to see. Their menu is for brunch rather than lunch, but I was happy to choose a pulled lamb sandwich with fries, while Stephen had Eggs Benedict.

Our lunch at Belle

I also ordered a berry smoothie which arrived quickly and was quickly consumed. I felt as though I was having my dessert before my main course.

Afterwards we crossed Armagh Street to visit the black-billed gull sanctuary where there are still young ones on display. Now we’re home again and settled inside with thunderstorms forecast. This evening we’ll eat dinner in front of the TV (a rare event) and watch the Dr Who special Revolution of the Daleks. Lots of birthday treats!

Today I am a whole year older
and summer weather has turned colder

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Traditions and Surprises

Our festive tradition is breakfast of Eggs en Cocotte, a baked dish with chicken and mushrooms.

Eggs en Cocotte

I’m lucky that Stephen eschews rugby, and enjoys cooking instead.

A monolith appeared overnight on the dining table, waiting to be opened.

Monolith

Family are all far away – daughters in England, where a mutant virus has eaten Christmas. Gifts were all posted in plenty of time. Some have arrived, some are dawdling and delayed. Thanks to Zoom we can see and speak to daughters and they could see us opening presents, with another sleep to go before they open theirs. Facebook memories tell me that twelve years ago my best Christmas present was seeing faraway daughters on Skype, and this has also become a festive tradition.

Some gifts are wrapped in newspaper to aid sustainability. Some, not wrapped at all, are totally unexpected. Plants, gifted by neighbours, will be found a place when the rain stops. (Yes, there’s “rain dear” outside.) A delightful poem from the deep south adds to the feeling of being surrounded by love, even though there are just Stephen, Ziggy, and me celebrating here.

It’s like they’re just across the room
thanks to technology and Zoom

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This is the longest day of the year, a time to celebrate all that we’ve achieved. For many of us simply having survived is something to celebrate. Our ritual group took time out to consider the insights 2020 has brought and our hopes for 2021. I made gingerbread biscuits for our solstice feast.

A seasonal task was harvesting cherries this morning.

The birds eat most of the cherries before they’re ripe, luckily we managed to cover a few branches.

It’s raining now but we’ve had some lovely warm summer days and more are forecast. My thoughts are with those in the northern hemisphere, especially England, where winter solstice looms bleak and cold, and many will have a lonely Christmas.

Towards the end of every year
there comes a season of good cheer
when gifts are given and received
and we review all we’ve achieved
for this year there’s no precedent
unlooked for challenges were sent
we stayed at home, we wore a mask
and washed our hands with every task
we wondered if we would survive
but most of us have stayed alive
our border’s closed we’ve changed routine
while we await a new vaccine
sighs of relief there will be plenty
as we farewell year twenty-twenty

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My birthday is on the second of January, something I share with only 11,900 other people in Aotearoa.  This date is ranked 362 out of 366 and considered fairly rare.

On 1 January 1949 New Zealanders became New Zealand citizens in their own right, where previously they’d been British citizens.  I was born on the following day, so must have been one of the first to be born a New Zealand citizen. 

The ‘day after New Year’s Day’ is always a public holiday here, but not in the U.K.  As a child I always had some kind of a celebration, often just a small one because so many people were away on holiday at that time.  I remember one year when a school friend was dropped off for my birthday party and her younger brother was invited to stay too to swell the numbers.  Games such as Pass the Parcel were played and there was always a birthday cake.  One memorable year this was an ice cream cake from the Perfection Ice Cream Company just down the road, which my brother fetched on his bicycle – no large domestic freezers in those days.

Teenage birthdays have faded into the mists of time, although I’m sure they were celebrated.  I do remember that the first year after we were married Stephen went off tramping with some senior scouts leaving me, heavily pregnant, to languish on my birthday.

On my 20th birthday I was again pregnant, although not showing it as much this time.  I remember meeting a friend the week before who found it difficult to believe a birth was expected on 3 January.  In the event my younger daughter was born on the 4th, so we have always shared significant decade birthdays.

I believe in celebrating a birthday on the actual day, but this wasn’t possible for my 21st.  Close friends were marrying in Wellington on New Year’s Day, with Stephen as Best Man, and Cathryn as Flower Girl, so that took precedence, and my party was eventually held later in the month.

While the children were small, I adopted the habit of having a beach picnic with friends on my birthday, often at Cheltenham, one of my favourite Auckland beaches.  After we moved to Christchurch, I hoped to continue this tradition, but the first year we tried it at Spencer Park, and ended up sheltering in a van in the rain.

On my 40th birthday we were camping in Golden Bay with Alf’s Imperial Army for a New Year Tournament.  I’d taken a number of birthday presents with me.  Again, it rained, so I sat in the car with Stephen and Louise to open my gifts.  I just remember feeling so loved as I unwrapped presents from old and new friends.

For my 50th I planned a special celebration.  We hired the Hurst Seagar Room at the Arts Centre, invited a crowd, and asked them to wear something over the top.  Louise came down for this, but Cathryn had already emigrated to England.  I planned it as a ritual, with candles and invocations, and five people each told the story of one decade of my life, with a suitable song played after each.  I employed a student to serve catered finger food, people helped themselves to drinks, and my women’s support group baked five cakes.  Later we had an Irish band and barn dancing. 

Dancing at my 50th birthday

It was a wonderful evening!  We even had people from the YWCA hostel across the road who heard the music come and ask whether they might be allowed to join in, which we had to refuse.

My 60th was a quieter affair, a Garden Party at home with 18 women and Stephen.  Guests were asked to bring a small symbolic gift to hang on a trellis and make a garden collage.  We introduced ourselves by saying our name, and year (optional) and place of birth.  A couple of poems were read: The Cat of Habit by Janet Frame, and Finding Her Here by Jane Relaford Brown.  Each woman hung her gift on the collage and talked about its significance, then we held hands to sing Happy Birthday, and feasted.

60th birthday invite
60th birthday cake

In 2006 the Octagon Restaurant opened in the old Trinity Congregational Church (where my parents had been married).  That was one of the few restaurants open on 2nd January where there was live music, including a restored 1871 pipe organ.  I had several very happy birthday dinners there, the last just before the church was damaged in the 2011 earthquakes.  I keep hoping it may again become a suitable birthday venue, but no sign of that yet.

Birthday dinner at The Octagon. Sadly, Ann and Denny on the left have since died.

For my 70th birthday I again planned a ritual with women friends in our back garden.  Just 14 women this time.  One sad aspect was that three friends who’d been at my 60th had died in the meantime.  I’d asked people to think beforehand about their answers to several questions and there was deep sharing among the group, some of whom had not met before.

Cutting the 70th birthday cake

I wonder who will still be around to celebrate my 80th?  Anything can happen!

A birthday’s time to celebrate
when friends and cake can make it great

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Today is the Spring Equinox.  It was at 1.30am this morning to be precise, and I like precision.

Lately I’ve been feeling weary and old.  Things very close to home are good, but wider considerations are not.  Today I’ve decided to go back to making a daily list of five things I can be grateful for, which always tends to put me in a positive frame of mind.  I’m aware that my lists can be repetitive, and my hope for the increasing light is that I will find new things to be grateful for.  Lately I’ve had little inspiration for creative writing, so today I’m recycling a rhyme I wrote five years ago, with updates.

 

September twenty-three’s the date
when balance will predominate
that is the special day when light
is strictly equal with the night.

In Aotearoa we can see
the signs of nature breaking free
the trees are full of blossoms and
sweet smells of spring pervade the land.

But on the planet’s other side
in England where my daughters bide
they’re heading for a winter drear
while we get summer over here.

At equinox I like to think
the distances between us shrink
like us they’re poised around halfway
at that mid point twixt night and day.

This deadly virus on the prowl
means that so much of life is foul
here we’ve gone down to Level One
elsewhere strict lockdown means no fun

At this date all the world might share
a perfect balance everywhere
We pray for peace that it may come
as we seek equilibrium.

 

©Ruth Gardner

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