Sunday, May 28, 2006


I was reading Kate's blog and remembered a poem I've had copied down for years which in the strange ministry like way blogs can take on at times also linked in with posts from, and conversations with Julian and Pete too.

In my life I have found myself facing many doors
Some have opened
Only to shut
Them in terror
Others have opened for me
and I have seen much sorror and pain

Some I have never yet had the courage to open

But there is one which
When it opens spills a great blaze of golden light into my life
Beyond it I can see the smiling faces of all the people that I love,
Who have preceeded me through the door.

This is my favourite -
the door marked 'Summer'

Michael Bentine

I've had conversations with all three about closing chapters of our lives and moving on. The poem also reminds me of a bereavement workshop I went to at Newcastle Meeting about 15 or so years ago as the door image was used - I remember drawing my 'door marked Summer' and it looking remarkably like the front door of Bag End! At it they likened grief from lost relationships to grief from death and that the same stages need to be worked through. Some stages take longer than others and some of us find it easier than others.

But I like Kate's Hogwart's like imagery of corridoors of doors fading away, moving around or ending up leading someplace else altogther from where they used to. Some people drift out of our lives (or us theirs!), some doors get left ajar and others firmly closed behind us, or even slammed shut. However I can't say as I'm one for locking them, that doesn't feel right, nor vanishing them if we're going to stay with Harry Potter a bit longer.

The hard part though is where those either side of the door are quite happy with how it is thankyou but someone else is jangling the keys, tapping their foot and clearing their throat, or worse standing in the doorway. Maybe time out in the Room of Requirement is needed - for all concerned? Then maybe a way will open... (if you'll pardon the use of the expression!)

One thing I've really learned over the last year is that whilst we might find ourselves in life hanging around a particular door, hoping to get the help we need from the other side of it, our Room of Requirement is often right there next to us if we but shift our gaze a little to see it. The times when someone else who is there in the right place at the right time has an insight we need we wouldn't have got otherwise, a different turning opens up a whole new vista of possibilities, not getting something we wanted meant when what we needed came along we were free to take it...

But as Kate said 'I don't really want to know which bits are pushable, I'm waiting to see what I find is newly ajar.... I know there are new chapters to be written.'

Friday, May 26, 2006

don't you just love it when...

... things like this happen:

I've spent a good chunk of today trying to work out how I can manage to contrive being able to earn some money here in order to be able to afford to stay longer. There's an idea or two floating around that I'm not entirely convinced I could make a good case of to the immigration dept about but would certainly help me out financially and take workload pressure off someone else. However there is also the possibility of being creative and applying for a 'variation of conditions' to my existing visa which would enable me to earn some money from elsewhere but I'd need a darned good supply of supporting documentation and cast iron case as to why it was a legitimate extension of me being here under the Minister of Religion missionary clause etc.... (despite the fact that I'm neither a Minister of Religion nor a missionary, but that's by the by!)

There are some reasonable suggestions around as to how this could happen but nothing concrete as yet.

Then I logged on to the online Meeting for Worship whilst I waited for Mum & Dad to realise that I was trying to 'phone' them and the opening passage of ministry was this:

today's ministry:

aotearoa/new zealand yearly meeting, questions & counsel, e5:
Obey the laws of the state, except when they conflict with your inner conviction. Work to amend laws which you consider unjust. If you feel called to civil disobedience, seek the guidance and support of your meeting.

Obey the laws of the State (ie don't try to pull the wool over the eyes of Immigration!), except when they conflict with your inner conviction (definitely an inner conviction that I need to be able to stay here - and I mean need, not just want). Work to amend laws which you consider unjust (well they aren't so much unjust, I just need to get creative within them!). If you feel called to civil disobedience (probably not a good idea, I don't want to get deported - even though as Daniel pointed out the other night it would save me a plane fare!), seek the guidance and support of your meeting. (now that is exactly what I need to do to manage to get my visa extended timewise should I not manage to come up with an alternative to switching to a time limited tourist visa come April '07!)

Ah yes, and it's from Aotearoa/New Zealand YM - hmmm, d'you think someone/thing is trying to tell me something here?!

Harry Potter and the Children's Meeting?

I'm off to Christchurch on Tuesday to do a 10 day swap with Stuart and Alison, the Resident Friends down there. Whilst I'm down I'll be meeting with a group of folk to try to help them focus on what they want as a Meeting in terms of provision for the teenagers/Junior Young Friends age range.

Seeing as I don't like facilitating on my own I'd roped Julian in to help me, well he'd landed me with this (altho' I do vaguely remember offerring...) so I was picking his brains when he was up here this week about where things are at in Christchurch Meeting. He was telling me about the things that had come up in a recent session on planning Children's Meetings and how he now had to work out how to incorporate a session on Harry Potter into the year as that had been asked for!

Well, as these things do, it settled into my subconscience and I started mulling over ways of exploring Quaker values through the Harry Potter books. Having read them more times than I'm prepared to admit to in public (well actually I've lost count so can't anyway, but lets just say it's more than a couple of times each and move on...) it wasn't difficult to find ways of linking into integrity and speaking truth to power just for starters (I'll take pity on any non-HP fans and spare you the details here...).

Ok, ok, some of you will have already spotted the rather embarrassing fact that it has taken me two days to remember the somewhat essential link between Harry Potter and Quakers, too busy looking for the complicated and missing the obvious I guess - d'oh! I'm so sorry Bryony...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

time and seasons

Another week has slipped by already without a posting... sometimes I feel like I live in some kind of wierd timewarp where the weeks whizz by but time still goes slowly. It feels like months and months since YF Camp but it's only about 5 weeks ago - it doesn't seem possible that everything that has gone on since could have possibly squeezed into so 'little' time.

It's not so much the things I've done as the conversations I've had, the time spent with people - in person, by email, on the phone, by text or letter... working through issues in their lives and mine. Having seen some of the processing of things going on it hardly seems credible that so much could be achieved over so short a time frame. Yet some of these things have taken their time to come to the surface, sometimes many years. A case perhaps of everything having it's season - I know that the various 'lightbulb moments' that have come along for me just couldn't have happened any sooner - it needed a certain combination of events and journeying emotionally and/or spiritually first.

I got an unexpected email the other day from an ex-colleague inviting me to a party - Edinburgh is a long way to go for the evening from here so I had to say no. But in replying I commented on how much the understanding I gained of the social and political issues of the Pacific region whilst working for an international development organisation with him has stood me in good stead for understanding many of the issues far more prominent in the news here than in Britain, and issues within this country connected to the Pacific immigrant population.

This job draws on all manner of my varied 'career history', ok I'll put that more accurately - 'job history', career implies a certain amount of continuity! From the practical multi-tasking household organisation (and endless laundry) of residential care work, through bookkeeping, Quaker administration work and unsurprisingly wardening of another Meeting House. On the less practical day to day side it also draws on my experience in Quaker outreach, oversight, youthwork, Young Friends organisation and networking. With the next Summer Gathering starting to appear closer in our diaries large event organisation is even coming in (albeit with a somewhat smaller international participation - just Richard so far! Ruth, how's your saving going?!). Again perhaps a matter of the right time to put all these skills into use in the one place, it needed all the other experience to come first.

When I first got the 'leading' to come here to the Triennial back in 2002 I'd never left Europe, long haul flights to me meant 4 hours to Crete and my international travel experiences had all been organised by someone else. The prospect of independant travel and being at an event with non-english speakers was daunting to say the least. Then I got the opportunity to travel first to Belgium and Hungary on an ordinary international flight, not a package holiday and had to cope with being the one who did speak some of the language (extremely rusty French and German) rather than relying on someone else all the time. Hungary was also a re-introduction to international Quaker events and to being in a totally different unfamiliar culture. I'd been eased into Greece through touristy stuff - but rather bizarrely and perhaps worryingly my trip to Hungary also meant that the Wellington suburban trains were oddly familiar when I got here, them having come second hand from there! In turn those trips prepared me for an unexpected trip to Guatemala with work; a much longer flight, my first jet lag, and an introduction to poverty on a level I'd never seen before, the experience of being the only tall white female - for all my dark colouring, and being stared at by children for being different. Also my first experience of being totally on my own abroad and managing to go shopping in a language I didn't speak and with an unfamiliar currency.

So by the time my 3 week trip to Auckland had grown into 3 months travelling which in the end included Aotearoa and Australia (nice and easy, they drive on the right side - ie the left and they speak English, after a fashion... ) but also Thailand, the refugee camps along the Burmese border and a village of displaced people 10km into Burma where I was extremely glad of the experiences that had helped me build up to it. The conditions in Burma were appauling there's no two ways about it, but at least I could ask sensible questions about what I was seeing based on my Guatemalan experience and understand more rather than being dumbstruck by the enormity of the uphill battle for an existance these people were facing.

I don't think I would have got anything like as much out of my travels without the build up, I probably wouldn't even have considered 3 months travelling 'alone'. Ok so I was more often than not with F/friends or family at each destination but it was up to me to get there and arrange it all. At YF Camp I got asked advice from someone about travelling who was planning their OE (Overseas Experience - Gap Year to us Brits!), they had assumed because I was living 'overseas' I must have done lots of travelling - they were a bit taken aback when I pointed out that as most of my travelling had been here I probably wasn't the best person to ask! There has always been a part of me that wished I had gone inter-railing in my early 20's as many of my peers did, or done Bunac camps or something, but it had never felt like the right time or circumstances. I used to think I'd missed my opportunity to take time out and travel, but life has proved otherwise. It was just a matter of waiting until the right time.

Friday, May 19, 2006

a bright, bright sunshiny day

It's one of those days that puts a spring in my step and makes a quick trip out to the bank and the shops turn into a meander around the waterfront and a chance to enjoy the blue skies, sunshine and slight nip in the air and the distinct lack of southerley gale or pouring rain that seems to have predominated the Wellington weather lately.

I could have done with having a child around to borrow (or another big kid to play with! Where are the Tailbys when I need them?) as I was definately in a playpark mood but I settled instead for running over the boulders and balancing along the wateredge in Waitangi Park as I watched the next stage of the park being planted up with native plants. I love the combination of textures, colours and shapes in Waitangi Park and the way they've used water - I should take some more photos really but I'm sort of waiting until they've finished it so I'm not trying to avoid the construction fences and so on. The photo exhibition has gone now which is a shame in some ways but gives a great sense of spaciousness instead.

The literal spring in my step was hampered a wee bit by shoes that don't quite fit properly so having dithered about doing so for about 6 months (my trainers are now starting to fall apart so it's now more a case of need than want) I went and bought some 'No Sweat' canvas shoes from TradeAid. A bit of an ouch on the pocket but soothing on the conscience and far more comfortable on my feet than what I was wearing! However they do look rather conspicuously bright and new... no doubt that won't last long - I hope.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

the world outside

Last night I felt the largest earthquake I've yet to feel in Wellington just after I'd gone to bed. As I lay there wondering whether these things built up then faded away, started big and then tailed off or built up to something larger, the decision as to whether I ought to get out of bed or not became unnecesary as it faded off to a distant mumble instead of sounding like the house was travelling down the road on the back of a lorry. Somehow it felt like it was from far away and I fell asleep wondering where it was focused and if Tonga was taking another blast or the if the volcano was errupting in Indonesia. Checking the website this morning shows it was miles away, but not that far...

It was a bit spooky really as I'd been at the Civil Defence Meeting earlier in the evening and part way through a big discussion about future planning of training one of our new Street Patrol volunteers said 'that's all very well but can someone tell me briefly what I'm looking for in case it happens tomorrow?' - thanks Judy, say it a bit quieter next time will you?

I really struggled with the Meeting, not because of the content or anything like that but the manner of it. Everyone was talking over each other, various people seemed to think they should be controlling it which made life a tad difficult for the convenor and keeping people focussed and on track was a nightmare. I had forgotten how long it had been since I'd been in a business meeting that wasn't Quaker and whilst I may complain about the lack of disciplin in many Quaker business Meetings even the worst of those was better than last night! I guess it was a good reminder to be grateful for what we have even when it feels like it could be better.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Somewhere to go

'I couldn't have done it if I hadn't had somewhere to go'

Those words hit me hard when I heard them this morning as they reminded me of times when I too had needed somewhere else to go and the support to walk away. No matter how much you know you have to leave it takes an enormous amount of courage to walk out the door - especially not knowing where you are going next, beyond a friend's sofa that night...

I've been lucky and found that when the crunch came not only did a bed appear but a home. Both times it was through Quakers.

In a Māori mihi (introducing yourself, usually formally) you'd state your iwi (tribe) and whanau (family - but more so), last time I mentioned whanau Mair commented mentioning the line in 'Lilo and Stitch' how 'family means no-one is left behind'. Like many Quaker Pakeha (those of European decent) here I consider Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri (Maori name for Quakers) to be my iwi, but they also make up much of my whanau, and they've made sure I haven't been left behind.

I was writing recently to someone about circular support - the concept of 'pass it on' , how often you aren't able to return the same favour directly but you can do the same for someone else as has been done for you. This time it has been my turn to provide the somewhere to go.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

assimilation process

The other day when I arrived cold and wet at M&Q's my first instinct was to have a cuppa, no great surprises there, after all I am British... what did surprise me was to find myself looking in the usual place and seeing it empty muttering 'jug.. jug.. where's the jug...?' as I looked around the kitchen for the crucial component to cuppa making. Then stopped. Jug?? Jug????? Somewhat bemused I put the kettle on to boil (it had been hiding by the toaster...) and contemplated what significance it had (if any!) that I'd used the Kiwi word jug, to myself, in the house of other ex-pat Brits where there was no association of it being called anything other than a kettle.

This morning the FWCC Asia West Pacific Section newletter arrived. Having worked for FWCC Europe & Middle East Section (EMES), attended one of the Triennials and my WGYF involvement I know a fair number of Friends around the world and I love how so often I see names and can put faces to them, and briefly I think of them and I guess 'hold them in the light'. With each page it seemed this time there was someone I knew - it gave me a wonderful sense of feeling as connected to this Section as I do EMES. Having just had breakfast with Linley and Claire and ending up in a big discussion about Aotearoa YM issues I'd had a reminder too of how much this YM has become part of my life in a way that I didn't really connect with in Britain YM - there my involvement and connection was regional or international, somehow skipping the YM level inbetween. When talking about YFs here I was aware how I used 'we' rather than 'they', and being aware how I'd found myself saying the same at YF Camp too. It raised a wry smile for me when the international people at Camp were welcomed in a Minute and no-one batted an eyelid when I wasn't listed.

I've a lot still to learn about life here, a lot of 'background knowledge' I just don't have yet but I'm getting there.

Friday, May 12, 2006

being present

Last weekend Ann and I went on a Sacred Clowning workshop (my excuse for not going to MM - and as I was being taken by one of our Elders you can't get much better an excuse really!) which to be honest is not something I would have signed up to do usually. Even after a long conversation with the facilitator Gabrielle on the phone (in middle of which two mattresses arrived to replace the worst of the GFH ones which led to some bizarre double talking to the delivery men and Gabrielle!) I wasn't entirely sure quite what I was letting myself in for and whether it was my thing or not. But Ann had asked me to go with her and after all she has done for me it was the least I could do so along I went, determind to give it my best shot but without any great expectations.

I'm still not sure I can explain what Sacred Clowning is, but it involved being completely present in the moment, in the space you are in, with those you are interacting with. It was about letting go of preconceptions about what you 'should do', how you 'should react', not worrying about what anyone else thought of what you were doing and giving expression to what came to the surface.

Whether it was some clever facilitation, the lovingly supportive nature of the group, the atmosphere of the room or what I don't know but I was able to let go and move around with the music, play with the light or whatever in a way I can't remember ever being able to to do with others around. I hated 'music and movement' at school (we're talking 5-11 yrs old here!) as I just felt silly - somehow that all went. Ok so when we had to come up with various mime actions my brain still didn't function quite quick enough to enable the 'flow' required as altho' I could do the actions I still had to jump in and out of a more cognative state to come up with the ideas in the first place!

Losing that self consciousness came into it's own again on Wednesday when finally I got to go along to a salsa class, a mere two years after I'd promised myself I'd go... Quentin and Marion have obviously been good teachers at Summer Gatherings though as I managed fine until the last movement which involved counting AND knowing my left from my right, or more to the point hearing left and moving my right as the guys steps were being called out not the girls! Even that I got the hang of eventually. But anyway the hard bit for me I thought was going to be dancing in front of a wall of mirrors and trying to put a bit more into the moves I could do without concentrating on - I've never had to watch me dance before as I've done it, scary stuff... but I was able to stop worrying about how daft I looked ('no, not that left the other left'...) ground myself (feel those feet...) and 'just be' with what I was doing. I had a great time! It was a bit bizarre when doing the basket move to find myself half expecting to see Miriam's face when I turned rather than Quentin's having partnered Mim when learning it first at Summer Gathering but it was otherwise an hour of being very much present with what I was doing.

There have been other times too since last weekend where it has been much easier to be present in the moment of what is happening and it has added so much to my ability to give fully to what I was doing. Ok so I have yet to get to the point where I can be fully present doing the cleaning - for that I still work in a dreamworld - but it feels like a big step forward in bringing together of various strands in my life and what I have been striving for. I have been trying to live in a manner more 'true to myself' for a few years now and this has helped whittle away at one of the last sets of barriers that has stopped me so often from being able to throw myself into something fully.

Hopefully I won't lose what I have gained and will be able to dance and play without worrying about it any more.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Yay for MM!

Even more so as I got out of going this month =)

Well I'm now officially appointed to be here until April next year, but as Fran wisely pointed out earlier they were hardly likely to opt for the 'lets create ourselves a lot of hard work to be done by yesterday' option of deciding they'd rather have someone else from October. What's more they've decided to pay for a cleaner 6 hours a week - woo hoo =)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Don't Panic!

Apparently the big earthquake that hit Tonga earlier this week was felt in Wellington - and it even woke Fran up - but not altogether surprisingly I slept through it all and it was co-incidence more than anything else that I'd even had the news on to know before I read Liz's comment as to what earthquake she was referring to!

There has been a big to do here as people are complaining on talkback radio and so on (radio version of tabloid journalism basically) that they got warning of the impending tsunami (all 40cm of it in the end) from relatives in USA or Britain rather than from the 'authorities' here.

Quick recap - this earthquake happened in the middle of the night when all sensible people were tucked up getting their beauty sleep. It was daytime elsewhere so of course people had the news on and alerted their rellies. As Fran said she told her dad (in southern England) from Wellington about the London bombings - as it hit the evening news here pretty much as it happened which she was watching.

Fairly soon after the initial alert it was realised that the tsunami was going to be much smaller than originally feared so panic over, we don't need to worry people and get half of coastal North Island out of their beds. Ok so Gisborne got to practice evacuation procedures anyway and the country discovered when there was nothing big to worry about where some of the holes were in the national communication systems are. But if the most people have to complain about was not being told quickly enough that the danger wasn't that great after all, or not being woken up to be told that apparently there had been thought to be a risk but now there there isn't one so you can all go back to sleep again... then I reckon things aren't that bad. Altho' at the back of my mind there lurks memories of the hurricane in '87 that hit Britain despite the Met Office assurances that it wouldn't and warnings from concerned members of the public saying that it would...

Ah well, I guess I'll find out what's been come up with at the next Civil Defence Meeting - it'll be interesting to see if any more volunteers turn up!

Monday, May 01, 2006

outreach or inreach?

another bus... =)

Having just printed this out for someone who is the second person recently to read this on my kitchen door and find it helpful, and one of many who have read it and liked it, here is something I found on Leith's blog


"Is it Possible that you might be a Quaker and not know it?"

You might be a Quaker if…

You think listening is at least as important as talking. You think justice means more than just locking up criminals. You are more interested in being like Christ than in being like most Christians. You want to read the Bible but you don't want to be beaten with it. You think the contents of a person's heart is more important than the contents of their house. You are more worried about the Hell that people live in here and now than any Hell they might occupy after death. You think war makes more problems than it solves. You suspect than nobody was ever saved by a ritual. You think mandatory creeds and dogma fit like a strait-jacket. You think the best ministers are often found sitting in the pews. You think investing great leaders with great power is dangerous. You think equality is not so much a goal to be sought, but a fact that is often ignored. You think honesty is not just the best policy, but that it ought to be the only policy. You think that church business should not look like "business as usual". You think that good relationships are more important than good arguments.

At YF Camp there was a lengthy discussion going on late on the last night about Quaker outreach which I would have loved to have been part of having been on the British YFs Outreach Committee for 5 years but it didn't stand a chance against the conversation I was part of instead. However in the morning I was asked which did I think was the most important - conversion or retention ie finding new people or not losing those we have? My answer was both are equally important, and I'll add to that that letting those who are unsure of whether they are coming or going know that that they are welcome and wanted - but we're not going to push them in or out, they can take their time to decide what is right for them.

I'm not inclined towards evangelistic style conversion work (despite the name of my visa!) but believe strongly in letting people know that Quakers are alive and well, still here and still kicking (non-violently of course) out against the things that we believe are wrong, and standing up for those we believe are right. Oliver Kisaka challenged us at WGYF saying if we believe Quakerism is so good why don't we want our neighbour to be one too? For me that brings up both positive and negative reactions - I'm quite happy for my neighbour to have whatever beliefs they want and have no desire to go around converting them but I'd also like to think that my neighbours had some idea as to what a Quaker was, to know we are here and that they'd be welcome if they wanted to find out more.

When I was at YF Camp Daniel who was covering for me here got a visitor who was going up and down the street letting everyone know that there was to be a Marxist conference at the Tramping Club two doors away from us. The guy was a right wing extremist and was encouraging the neighbourhood to phone the police should they be disturbed by the event happening. Well with an introduction to local community events like that Daniel decided to go along to the conference, find out what they were about and show community support. He found himself in Meeting the next day feeling somewhat saddened though to find that no-one had been going round knocking on doors warning our neighbours that the Quakers were going to be meeting... maybe we do need to raise our community profile somewhat?

As for retaining those who do make it in the door I've got my work cut out for me here persuading some recalcitrant members that in order for people to want to stay within the Meeting community they need to be made welcome, encouraged to come back and that not letting them get a newsletter unless they come every week for 6 months and then only at the say so of overseers is not the best way to go about this.....

here and now

Something that I keep coming back to time and again these days is the importance of being engaged in the present moment, not living in the past or a dream world of what the future might hold. Sure the past is what makes our present where it is and 'if you don't have a dream how you gonna have a dream come true?' but I've found if I don't deal with the here and now as it happens there's a lot more worrying about it later and not enough dreams coming true.

For someone who has had a tendency to daydream rather a lot living in the present moment is quite a challenge. There is a painting done by a member of this Meeting up in my sitting room which includes the words 'Look not back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around with awareness' - the painting is very simple in it's concept but incredibly striking and I love it, both the actual image and the message. It is a constant reminder and somehow, even after six months, it hasn't just become part of the wallpaper that I no longer notice.

I've spent several days recently somewhat preoccupied with what might be possible come April when I will be free to go where the wind blows me next. But considering how much can change in a few weeks it seems crazy to even try to get my head around a year ahead and spend time focussing on what 'might be'.

Drawing myself back to here and now rather than the future gave me a much greater sense of certainty, of being able to do something about things, of being able to give support now where it is needed albeit it in a different form than what it could possibly be in the future. But if I don't do what I can now, that future could end up looking very different anyway. I need to focus on the things I can do something about now rather than the things I can't do yet.

About two years ago I was given a couple of pieces of advice which have proved their worth - Follow your heart and Would you regret it more if you did or if you didn't? Go where the answer leads you... neither are easy to discern and boil down to the same thing looked at from different places. Following your heart has to mean dealing with 'now' and the regrets business is about not living in the past come the future and always wondering 'what if....' because you didn't follow your heart, that inner voice, the promptings of the spirit or whatever you want to call it.

Ok, deep breath and go for it - I know I'll regret it if I don't!