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It is a beautiful sunny day here. The clematis beside me is flowering, delicate little white ruffles with glossy green leaves. The Nikau palm has taken all of Finn's lifetime to resume its former glory and now reaches across the deck towards me, massive fronds over fifteen feet long now reach out in all directions from the steps down to the grass. The Cabbage tree too has multiplied its heads, spiky and rustling in the breeze. Lavender heads peer brightly around the edges of the deck. Green lemons hang on grimly to their spiked branches. I delivered some monarch caterpillars to our friend's swan plant along the road. I hope she doesn't mind. I clattered along there in my gumboots with a small pail of spiky tumbling caterpillars.

I've been working on Breathing Space again, because I can. Here's the bit I was tidying up today. I think I shared it ages ago. But whatever. It's where I am right now.

*

Kia hiwa ra ! Kia hiwa ra ! kia hiwa ra i tenei tuku !
Kia hiwa ra i tera tuku ! Kia hiwa ra ! Kia hiwa ra !

That first karanga was eerie, a lone voice summoning us up onto the grass – be alert, be watchful. I felt a thrill at the sound of the vibrant, mysterious voice. We moved slowly forward in a pack behind our own caller, as the other caller's voice rang out again, welcoming us and our past onto her marae with all of her past laid out before her.

E nga waka. E nga hau e wha. E nga mana. E nga iwi.
E nga manu korero o runga i nga marae

O the canoes. The four winds. Great ones. The tribes. Talking birds of the marae.

I shuddered. Those haunting words, called out by a solitary figure ahead of us, cut through the still air with an unworldly clarity, weaving around us, drawing us in through the gateway towards the marae. The grass was still wet with morning dew, and the sun barely touched the fierce, carved tekoteko at the apex of the marae.

E nga iwi o te kura
Haere mai, haere mai, haere mai.

To the people of the school, welcome, welcome, welcome.

I shuddered again. A powerful force moved in me every time I was welcomed onto a marae, something, I imagined, like the spirit that empowered the first apostles after the ascension of Jesus, that Pentecost feeling.

And I still felt a little out of sorts this morning, and maybe that was why I was finding our current student teacher, Neil, so irritating. He stayed close beside me as we advanced up the lawn towards the welcoming committee, bumping into me each time we paused for another call, and I just wasn't able to shake him.

Haere mai, haere mai, haere mai.

We walked forward to our designated seating area. The karanga affected the boys too. They seemed somewhat overawed and took their seats in silence.

After the speeches and the greeting with the hongi, we moved into the meeting-house and the author, Kahu, an Old Boy of our College, rose to speak. I had organised a huge school function for him when his first novel, Grey Cloud, Blue Water was published three years ago and he had gone on to receive nationwide recognition. We'd stayed in touch ever since, mostly by e-mail as he combined touring the country as a speaker with working on a new book.

He was a short, muscular man, with thick, curly black hair and a fierce expression, tattoos wrapped like vines around his arms, curling around his wrists and creeping out from the collar of his shirt to encircle his throat.
However, his words were gentle, his hand movements soft and fluid, and he read to us in a lilting, dreamy tone some passages from his new book, Gift of Ranginui. In this, his second novel, he had used the kind of poetic style used by Witi Ihimaera in his book Tangi, something I had been teaching to my own senior pupils, and I hoped they were concentrating today. I felt caught up in each of Kahu's descriptive passages, carried on the white-topped waves that rolled into his new home of Maunganui. He wrote of the contrasts between sea and lake, of sandy dunes and foggy mountains, and throughout his book there were passages where he embraced his land and recreated it with beautiful imagery. I was impressed and the boys were clearly enchanted with the apparent conflict of someone who appeared so rough, so tough but could write about such beauty, write with such beauty as well.

© By Jenny

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
margaret_r
Apr. 19th, 2009 01:37 am (UTC)
Nice! I like the Maori images - the signing, the tattoos, the welcoming. You make it all very visual and very real.
natesmountain
Apr. 19th, 2009 01:45 am (UTC)
*sigh* you're the first friendly person I've talked to on the net this weekend *hugs you in relief*

And thanks. I'd like to write a whole book in this kind of style but I don't think I could keep it up! I was wondering how people from other countries would handle the Maori things. It's so easy to just drop it in with no explanations but that would just be irritating, I expect!
margaret_r
Apr. 19th, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)
*sigh* you're the first friendly person I've talked to on the net this weekend *hugs you in relief*

It has been very quiet! Think people are away or something ...

I'm okay with the Maori references, but I've been to NZ and have read books written by New Zealanders too. Of course you can't fail to be aware of some of the culture from here in Oz too. Having said that, I think the way you have described it, anyone would be able to follow what is happening. Carry on the way you are, it's working:-)
natesmountain
Apr. 19th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
-Think people are away or something ...
Oh no, some of them are here ;-/ and they are very unpleasant *snort* I've spent 24 hours convincing myself I'm not the horrific, nasty and mean person they are so keen and arrogant to say that I am! *shrug* I guess I've had worse. Net people can be so openly cruel. I can't imagine what kinds of people they are in real life. It must be frightening. I'm glad I live on this side of the world ;-)

-Having said that, I think the way you have described it, anyone would be able to follow what is happening. Carry on the way you are, it's working:-)
You're so kind. Thanks. It's little things like that that truly keep me going some days!
margaret_r
Apr. 19th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
Net people can be so openly cruel. I can't imagine what kinds of people they are in real life.
It's easy to be nasty and horrible on the net and people take advantage of that. Do try not to pay attention to them, they really are not worth the upset they cause you.

Hang in and keep writing, you do it beautifully.
natesmountain
Apr. 19th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC)
-It's easy to be nasty and horrible on the net and people take advantage of that.
You're right. Without eye contact and touch, 'real people' stuff, our messages can get interpreted badly. Then people jump on the bitchy bandwagon and hey presto, you've lost a friend and you're screwed *shrug*

Christy said not to worry, it's just the internet, it releases madness LOL! Teenage wisdom of the new millenium!

-Hang in and keep writing, you do it beautifully.
*hugs you* as do you. Thanks. Have a great afternoon xx
margaret_r
Apr. 19th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC)
The impersonal nature of the Internet does make misinterpretation so easy and then it's even easier for everything to snowball. I hope your friend eventually understands that.

Christy said not to worry, it's just the internet, it releases madness LOL! Teenage wisdom of the new millenium!
Christy is very wise:-) You are raising a lovely girl there.

as do you
Thank you! Others acknowledging our writing is what keeps us going isn't it:-)

Have a great afternoon
You too. I believe we are going to the pictures this afternoon. Should be fun!

natesmountain
Apr. 19th, 2009 03:26 am (UTC)
-I hope your friend eventually understands that.
Ah, alas, no, I think not.

-You are raising a lovely girl there.
I am. She's amazing. And much tougher than me!

-Others acknowledging our writing is what keeps us going isn't it:-)
Well, yeah, ultimately, we are people people *g*
Enjoy the pictures.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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