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Showing posts from March, 2019

Birds, the park, 1662

On Friday 15 March I went for a walk in Foster Park, near my daughter's house. I had been there, earlier in the day with the children and had seen a pair of white faced herons, and now, with my grandparenting duties temporarily suspended, I came back to see if I could get some photos of the birds.  As I was walking home across the soccer field, a woman approached me and asked what I was doing. It wasn't a friendly question, and I could understand why. I was an old man, alone near a playground, carrying a big camera with a very long lens.  I told her about the herons, and also about the plovers which were at that moment keeping a fair distance from me. They too were suspicious of my motives. She nodded and went on her way. The world is not an entirely innocent place. I came home and began processing the pictures, and was in the middle of tweaking the one above when Bridget entered the room with the astonishing news that Noah's school was in lockdown. And then we were

A sea of flowers

A couple approach the railings of Hagley Park, Christchurch bearing their tokens of grief, solidarity and hope: flowers and a headscarf. On Friday week ago we received a bizarre phone call. Noah's class was in lockdown. There was an incident in the city involving a gun and the kids were being kept until further notice. What?!? Clemency continued to school and sat for about 3 hours in the classroom. The rest of us turned on the TV and entered the nightmare we have all shared as a country in the week since. 50 people dead because of their faith, and our national sense of self upended forever. By adding a lost and bewildered man wallowing alone in ignorance and fear, to some lazily drafted gun laws, we got a half hour of demonic hatred and fury and destruction. The Muslim community endured the full force of it, but we, all of us New Zealanders felt it as a personal attack. How could this happen here? We are embarked on a process of grief and readjustment, through the early


Being here is like living in a painting. And, mercy of mercies, its not as hot as forecast.  The clouds arrived yesterday like the cavalry to save us from the relentless Maniototo sky. People who have taken the time and gone to the expense of being here are serious about their inner lives and yesterday a few of them came to chat with me, laying out the issues they have brought with them and speaking about possible paths through the next few days ahead. My task is to listen and try not to get in the way. The ones who have done this before know that a retreat takes on its own life and its not possible to predict what might have happened by the time they leave on Friday. But what is certain is that something will have happened. The place is spacious. Skies, hills, open valleys, clouds are all huge. So is this venue and so is the time. There is plenty of space for all that needs to happen. I walk for some time in the hills every day, taking my camera as a means of teaching myself to


The Eagles were in concert in the Dunedin stadium on Saturday night, so even at 7 am the next day, the roads  were clogged with cars being driven cautiously homeward by people in their 50s - mum and dad rockers who'd been livin' it up at the Hotel California. I was on my way to a six day silent retreat in the Maniototo and it was slow going. I stopped for coffee in Palmerston and in the Pig Root there was thick fog, so thick I drove past the turn off by the Kyeburn Bridge. I found it again - it's not as though there were lots of other options - but the last 20 minutes were spent on gravel roads wrapped in a damp, opaque white blanket, quietly wondering if I was where I thought I was. Spiritual lesson 1. And then there were the familiar old buildings looming up amongst the trees. People arrived and found themselves a room. We gathered and talked about what they might expect. After lunch the silence began, for the retreatants anyway. Those of us who are guiding them -


The sun rose this morning at 7:12 am so I made sure that's when I was on the end of the jetty at the Broad Bay yacht club. The wind was quiet enough to leave the surface of the harbour untroubled, and there were a few clouds, so I was hoping for a spectacular sunrise. It didn't happen. The sun rose thin and weak and pathetically pastel pink. There were no birds except a few welcome swallows - too small and fast to photograph in the available light. I gave it a few minutes and was about to walk back to my car but decided instead to follow my own advice to beginning meditators: wait; be still; don't mind if nothing happens; just be here. It was so quiet and beautiful, and who cared if I didn't get my trophy shot? It was healing and calming and enriching just to be. After a half hour or so I turned again, walked slowly back to my car and noticed the subtlety of the light on the clear still water. I got my shot. Not the one I had planned, but a better one. And another.