Prizegiving

This large space spends most of its life as a basketball court, but tonight with the chairs laid out in neat rows and the hoops folded up into the roof it is the space for celebrating the achievements of the pupils of St. Hilda's for the year. The ceremony is about 2 hours long, but I have always quite enjoyed it, and tonight will be my last one, ever. There are speeches, and two groups - a country rock trio and a classical duo - sing with exquisitely honed  talent. I take my turn to shake young hands and give out trophies and books. We applaud the outgoing prefects and the newly announced ones, sing the national anthem, I say a blessing and walk into the night.
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This space is also used as a gymnasium, and there are chairs in rows, but both the the audience and the tableful of trophies are smaller.  Again, there are speeches by a number of people including Clemency, and I learn something new about the person I have lived with for over 40 years. There is a photo of us on our wedding day: we are standing under the huge old walnut tree in my new in-laws' garden and I am making my groom's speech. Clemency is looking on in startled, happy astonishment because she did not know, until that moment, that I had any ability at public speaking. And tonight, all these years later, she returns the compliment. She speaks twice: once to farewell her friend Erika, also leaving the school, and once to acknowledge the things said about herself. Brilliant. Simply brilliant. I'm the one who does the public speaking. How had I not known that she does it just as well, if not better?
There are no lights in the little church because the infrequency of services means that it  is just too expensive to keep the electricity connected. We celebrate the Eucharist and Lois plays the Christmas Carols on an ancient, wheezing harmonium. This is where I feel most at home, in a tiny, beloved country church.  Afterwards we drive a few kilometres up into the hills and there is a barbecue: homemade sausages, wild venison, new potatoes and a half dozen delicious salads. We sit around a table with easy seating for a dozen, and our host tells us that on Christmas day they will extend it, and perhaps 40 or 50 will share the meal. It seems a holy prospect. I leave the conversation early so that we can drive the 3 hours back to Dunedin for 9 lessons and carols in the Cathedral.  I wonder when I will return.

We are making lots of trips to the dump lately. We haul plastic sacks filled with 20 years of classroom projects and planning sheets and wall charts and handbooks of pedagogical guidelines. 
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I am spending more time in the garden than I have for a long long time. There is so much to be cut back, so many things to be removed or trimmed or shifted. 
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This is a time of letting go. And every one of these relinquishments makes us lighter and freer. Each one brings with it a gift of lightness and clarity and freedom. Each one seems to reveal a long hidden treasure.

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