Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Coming home

As it turned out, my farewell to Vermont in my last post was somewhat premature. Fog delayed our journey back home, and we struggled to find flights for a couple of days. My prevailing anxiety was "but I have to be back and over the jet lag by the 26th!" Two days of waiting, including a trip to Montreal to see the astonishing Biodome, and finally we were on the long trip home.

Disneyland passed me by in a dissatisfied blur. I've been to Disneyland before and enjoyed it. But this time, I saw only the unreality of it all. I think part of the problem was this feeling of "if I can't be in Vermont, I want to be at home - just get me there!"  Another factor was that it was a school day, so the place was full of adults, and I couldn't get over the feeling that there was something very strange about adults choosing Disneyland as their honeymoon destination, or about elderly couples dressed in matching tshirts and Minne Mouse hats lining up for ice cream and Pater Pan rides.

But the girls had fun, and the warmth was very pleasant (winter temperatures in LA of 29 degrees - something of a shock after the arctic climes of Vermont!), and it was over soon enough. And then onto the last long flight through the night, and we stepped out into Auckland's morning rain.

Whenever I arrive back in New Zealand, I'm always mentally transported back to 1974, and the first time, as a bewildered teenager, I watched the sun rise over the Bay of Islands and then stepped off the plane into the bright antipodean sun. Because it's always the light that tells me I'm home.The light in Australasia is so different to the light anywhere else - sharper, brighter, more defined than anywhere I've ever been. This time, however, the light was muted under heavy cloud and warm rain.

And so ten days passed in a fog: the sweet familiarity of my own home, delight in gleaming rimu floors (we had our carpets lifted and floors polished while we were away), days of moving furniture and unpacking, the loving hugs and smiles of my parents and sister, friends and colleagues. Finn was sadly missing, but Anne-Marie brought Harris home with her own sweet boy, darling Monty, for company.  Walks at the farm with my family, and a long walk with Eddie and the dogs by the Manawatu river reminded me of the beauty of this country, its golden greens, its flowing mountain ranges. But I'd look out at leafy trees and blue skies and see in my imagination soft white snow and a frozen lake. "You haven't finished your blog!" my friends here said, "you need to tell your friends in Vermont about New Zealand!". But I could barely speak, let alone write, in full sentences.

And I had to be able to speak in full sentences, because I wanted to do my friends proud, in my small part of their very special celebration, on the 26th. 

So, last Sunday, Emily and I travelled down to Wellington with Bill and Jan, to Digby's installation . And as we drove south to the city, I felt my mind calming and coming together.

Digby's installation as Dean of the Wellington Cathedral was a remarkable, joyous occasion.

And as I sat on the front row,  I thought how, despite all the pomp and ceremony, every moment of this celebration breathed New Zealand.

From the karanga (call) into the Cathedral.

And the congregation of Central Baptist bringing Digby and Jane and their family into the Cathedral

From Rewai's warm and challenging reply to the mihi

And our dreadlocked, barefoot bishop

To all the gifts that were given

We couldn't have been anywhere but Aotearoa New Zealand. It was a bringing together of the best of this country's heritage: the glorious ceremony and music of an English church tradition, the warm, startling quality of Maori protocol and culture, and an informality and humour that is entirely kiwi.

And I managed coherent sentences too

As I look back on that day, the theme that comes back to me is the idea of the graced journey. About 10 years ago, Digby, who was a baptist pastor in Tauranga, experienced a dramatic personal crisis that left him with no job, no prospects, and a requirement to do hours of community service.  He was allocated by the courts to do his community work at the local Anglican church, Holy Trinity.

At the time, it must have felt like the end of his career. Do pastors have careers? Don't know. End of his life's work, I guess. The end of everything. And yet, it was this catastrophic event that led to his eventual priesting within the Anglican community. Amongst the happiest people at the service  were the friends from Otumoetai Baptist, who seemed almost overwhelmed with wonder and joy: they'd been with Digby when all seemed lost, and now they saw embodied the miracle of grace as he walked down the long aisle of the Cathedral, flanked by friends and whanau, by Baptists and Anglicans, with Jane by his side.

One of these folk who had walked this journey with them, Melinda Stevenson, wrote: "it was astonishingly intimate and profoundly moving. I felt like bursting with pride, wiggling with happiness and crying all at the same time ....I just don't have a rich enough vocabulary to explain what ALL of Dig and Jane's friends felt being there with them". And we did, we all felt the wonder and awe. He was - and always had been - home.

Miracles take many forms. And perhaps our true home can be an unexpected place, arrived at through dark alleys and byways. But home is where the light is. The Cathedral in Wellington is filled with light. And as I sat quietly as the afternoon sun filtered through the coloured glass, I thought about the hazy light on the shadowy Adirondack mountains and glancing off an icy lake, and I thought of the bright-edged sun glinting over our farm with Mount Ruapahu appearing like a fairy castle on the horizon, and of soft misty light on an English meadow and a slow river. And I suddenly saw that, for me at least, home can be many places.

Ps the wonderful photos were taken by Sam Prabhakaran, formerly crucifer at All Saints, Palmerston North, and now of the Wellington Cathedral. Thank you for letting me use these beautiful images, Sam!

1 comment:

  1. '...home can be many places.
    Yes, I agree, Lisa. That's the difficulty, though — appreciating the home you've left behind without letting that diminish your love of the home where you happen to be.

    You seem to have achieved that very well, and I'm encouraged by your example.