Archive for the ‘Seasons & Cycles’ Category

I’ve been thinking about Before and After, because that is the topic for our first poetry group meeting next year. For those of us who live in Otautahi Christchurch time is often measured by whether it’s BQ, before earthquake, or AQ, after earthquake. The quakes that shook our city also shook up our lives, and much has changed since. Some people have had new houses built, others have moved to different areas. So much dates to BQ or AQ. Those who’ve moved here AQ don’t have the same experience or understanding.

The tangible remains of earthquake disruption are slowly growing fainter. The uninspiring official memorial remains, as do the poignant 185 white chairs on the site of St Luke’s Church. Now the 10th anniversary has passed ceremonies will become fewer, but the date of 22 February 2011 will never be forgotten.

Time is relative, and some events remain fresh in our memories while others fade. As another calendar year draws to an end I wonder if our perception of time may be changing.

I wonder whether in future we’ll come to think of BC, before Covid, and AC, after Covid. Will there ever be an AC?

It’s close to two years since Covid entered our consciousness, and it seems life may never return to the way it was before. After Covid, if it ever comes, will be different from before Covid, as AQ is different from BQ.

Is there a poem I could write
to show the fore and after sight?

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I’m feeling confused in this festive season. For more than half my life it’s been my practice to celebrate the Summer solstice in preference to Christmas, yet this year the two seem to have conflated into a muddled mixture lacking clarity.

Our long-standing ritual group met socially with minimal acknowledgement of the season. I attended a Solstice ritual with another group who usually fulfill my spiritual needs to mark the turning of the year’s wheel, yet found that ceremony to have more of a Christian focus than I would choose.

Summer Solstice altar

All around me there are symbols of Christmas with carols in many quarters. I know and enjoy those that tell traditional stories such as Good King Wenceslas and We Three Kings, although I long for more mention of Mary and appreciated the Facebook joke that suggested some people wait until Mary’s waters have broken before doing their Christmas shopping.

When I was younger my favourite carol was Te Harinui, because it spoke of a summer Christmas in my own land. Raised consciousness has revealed its colonial prejudices and it’s understandably years since I’ve heard it in public.

Yesterday was the Longest Day, and the hottest at over 30°. I met a friend for an early morning tea, then Stephen and I enjoyed a walk around the central city with lunch at Riverside Market. We chanced to meet an old friend whom I’ve not seen for years. Usually we would have hugged, but in these virus-aware times we refrained. Life is so different now with masks, signing in, and vaccine passes. My immediate circle manages to avoid consumer excesses, with gifts that are kind to the earth.

This is the time to enjoy summer fruits, especially cherries and apricots. Sadly last week’s heavy rain has wrecked many of these crops – climate crisis impacting on our seasonal treats.

Summer Solstice is when we consider what we’ve achieved over the past year. In 2021 it seems the main achievement for all of us has been survival. Stephen and I consider ourselves fortunate to have come through the year with physical and mental health intact and without financial worries. So many others have been less fortunate.

Next year is again uncertain. Omicron will inevitably move into our community and the climate crisis looms ever larger. Meantime, a blackbird is nesting in our banksia rose, and piwakawaka flit about the garden. We sit outside in the warmth, enjoying the shade and breeze, and appreciating the present moment.

Can you identify the reason
we have to celebrate the season?

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Over the weekend the temperature reached 30° and it was a pleasure to sit on our patio in the shade of the walnut tree and enjoy balmy breezes.

Today the forecast is for 13° and cloudy with rain. These contrasts may be related to the climate emergency, but Canterbury has long been notorious for having four seasons in one day. The rain is good for the garden with everything growing apace.

Hollyhocks in the gutter

There are hollyhocks flourishing in the gutter outside, along with the ubiquitous alyssums. I try to keep the bottom of the gutter clear, and the Council sweepers haven’t been around lately, so the hollyhocks have been left to enjoy the sun and rain.

Fluctuations in the weather remind me of a poem my mother used to quote. Google tells me it’s by someone who’s anonymous and British – not surprising as Britons have a traditional interest in the weather. According to research in 2015, 94% of British respondents admitted to having conversed about the weather in the past six hours, while 38% said they had in the past 60 minutes.

Whether the weather be cold
or whether the weather be hot
we’ll weather the weather whatever the weather
whether we like it or not

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Floral Friday

The feijoa tree always flowers at this time of year, and its red and green blooms seem to typify Christmas decorations

Apparently the flowers are edible – succulent and sweet like marshmallows, and they’re attractive to birds, bees, and butterflies.

I read on Facebook yesterday that each time someone puts up Christmas decorations in November Santa kills an elf. Of course I know better than to believe anything I read on Facebook, and this could hardly apply to decorations supplied by Mother Nature. However I was slightly concerned when I saw this giant Santa peeping over a balcony at Merivale Mews.

It’s much too soon for festive frills
despite the ringing of the tills

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Festive Formalities

I wonder how many people still send real cards at Christmas time? Do you remember the days when we decorated the house with strings of cards? These came from businesses as well as friends, and decisions had to be made as to whose calendar we would choose to use in the coming year. Even the bank sent a desk calendar until very recently. Promotional calendars have now ceased (except for one from the local garage). This may be partly because of cost and partly because so many people use only online calendars these days. I still like to have one on the wall behind my desk, and am grateful to the Australian niece who provided this year’s one.

Many years ago I stopped sending seasonal cards to people in the same city, but I’ve kept doing it for family and selected friends overseas, usually including a letter outlining our activities during the year. This year I hesitated, partly because it seems that all we’ve done is avoid Covid. In previous years I’ve often had cards printed with our message and photo, but this year I decided to send pre-printed cards. At Ballantyne’s I was delighted to find some with festive cats, sold in aid of Women’s Refuge.

NZ Post has indicated that mail for the U.K. needs to be sent by 19 November to ensure a pre-Xmas delivery, so today I’ve organised cards for people there. (Gifts for U.K. daughters went several days ago.) Next week I need to do the Australian ones as their deadline is 24 November. For some of these distant relatives this is the only contact we have all year, but I think it’s important to maintain. What do you think?

A festive greeting’s good to get
although it’s years since we last met

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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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