Monday, May 28, 2012

Tūrangawaewae - a place to stand

Tūrangawaewae -  Tūrangawaewae is one of the most well-known and powerful Māori concepts. Literally tūranga (standing place), waewae (feet), it is often translated as ‘a place to stand’. Tūrangawaewae are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our foundation, our place in the world, our home. (Te Ara )

A few days ago an email came round to a group of us asking us to write and explain why it was that Pardshaw Quaker Meeting House was so important to us as the trustees couldn't understand why anyone would want to go and stay somewhere so cold and damp - it's future as a Friends' hostel is somewhat precarious and has been for some years.

Well the first three to respond to the whole group were all ex-pat British once-were-YFs now living in Aotearoa New Zealand. Our responses were very similar - naming Pardshaw as a tūrangawaewae of huge importance to us both spiritually and emotionally. Part of me wonders if it is living in a place that culturally not only acknowledges and values such places in ones life that elicited such strong and quick responses, or if it is from living so far away - having somewhere like Pardshaw where it is so easy to get Friends together is worth its weight in gold when you only have a few weeks in which to cram your visiting in!

It is probably as an ex-pat that I have come to value Parshaw even more than I did before. Whilst I didn't get there last time I was over as Christmas and Hogmanay etc kind of got in the way (not to mention sub zero temperatures and lots of snow making it a tad impractical!)  having a Parshaw gathering is a big part of 'coming home' for me, a connection with a huge part of my life that was once upon a time Young Friends.

Not only do I think of it as one of my tūrangawaewae but also as an equivalent to a another Kiwi tradition - the bach. The bach (pr batch) is anything from a plot of land to a glamorous seaside residence but for most people it is a fairly ramshackle affair furnished with 2nd (or 3rd...) best everything which is a family (in its widest sense) retreat for generations. It too is a place for home-comings, but with that sense of being away from the world, a safe space to gather ones thoughts, reconnect with the land and just 'be'. The fact that it is often cold and damp, requires you to chop wood for the fire, shower (or not!) in the stables and use an outside loo is actually part of the appeal. In a world that is ever increasingly geared towards all mod cons and everything being faster etc staying at Pardshaw is a chance to step aside from that, to slow down, get closer to nature and connect with a way of life that is much simpler. Where you have to make your own entertainment be it sitting round the woodstove knitting, making music and chatting, playing cards at the trestle tables or sitting on the wall watching the world go by.

Staying at Parshaw is a bit like camping, only with the knowledge that you have better proctection against the elements and a relatively decent kitchen! Going there is why I own a 4 season sleeping bag, a thermarest, waterproof trousers and a frisbee. It is often cold and damp camping too, but plenty people still get the gear and go anyway!

The sense of history and connectedness is really important to me - whether exhibited through the journals of the various gatherings or the fact that Quakers have been worshipping there since the days of George Fox - the crags even have their own 'Fox's Pulpit'. As Quakers it is ours, it is a place we belong to - in the words of Dougie MacLean 'you cannot own the land, the land owns you'. For me Pardshaw is up there with Swarthmoor Hall, Brigflatts, Pendle Hill, Firbank Fell, Friends House and Woodbrooke; places of pilgrimage - to acknowledge the past and enjoy the present company of Friends.

Pardshaw is in many ways what has kept the people on Dawn's email list together as a community over the last 2 or 3 decades - we've watched children grow up from bumps to babies to adults, lived through deaths, marriages and divorce not to mention a good number of emigrations. The passage of time is also marked by the coinage for the meter, the phone box and Kirkstyle Inn cream teas all changing along with the addition of floorboards, mattresses, shutters and the woodstove - it is almost like a badge of honour to have stayed there (and come back!) pre-floorboards and shower! It is a place of many happy memories and yes, a few painful ones along the way but it is 'our place', Quakers as a community are often referred to being like family and Pardshaw is for me very much the family bach where I expect to be able to bring the clan together, not necessarily to celebrate anything or welcome home the emigrant, but simply to be together as a family in a place where we belong.

And where on earth would we go to be together if it wasn't there?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

stop the world I want to catch up!

Yes I'm still in catch-up mode, in terms of paperwork, processing both the TRCC Peace in Education conference and the World Conference of Friends and of course my photos... however on a positive note I am caught up on my laundry and unpacking!

So, Yearly Meeting has been and gone and now it is time to try to turn our presentations there on both FWCC and the World Conference into newsletter articles, and I guess a few blog posts would be good too ;)

But instead of being able to get on with that I've been finishing the tax receipts for MM donations and getting to grips with now being convenor of YM Nominations Committee and, despite the best efforts of technology to thwart us, we have had our first skype committee meeting with the current line up!

In some ways I'm somewhat glad of the enforced activity that has delayed the prospect of really getting to grips with my World Conference experience beyond providing snippets of information to those who ask 'how was it?' and my 5 mins worth during the group presentation at Yearly Meeting. Sure I've gone over and over the FWCC business side of things which is no small matter in itself, especially given it included the Thread Group looking at visioning the work of FWCC World Office over the next 5-10yrs which was an incredible experience and at times very moving. But the World Conference experience was so much more than this and I'm struggling to know where to start to explain it.

Reading blog posts by Rosie and John amongst others helps put the wider picture into some kind of manageable form and as I slowly edit my photos that too gives gives time and space to revisit the overall experience.

Thomas gave his message from the Asia West Pacific Section led morning worship session again at YM and despite having heard it once plus read it through in its draft forms it hit me just as powerfully giving me new insights all over again. The same was with the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice - sure I'd heard it read in session and had read through it again as we prepared our YM report but still I heard new words in it as Jimmy read it out for us at YM. This wasn't just the case for me but for others who had been in Kenya too. I'm so glad the YM plans to see that Thomas' message will get published here (I think it will also be in the World Conference book when that comes out) as it made such an impact on Friends both in Kenya and here at home. I still get a lump in my throat when I read them through again as I recall that strong sense of the spirit flowing like the 'living waters' referred to in the Call.

Many were the times in Kenya where I was moved to tears by what I was hearing and also simply by that strong sense of the spirit at work; by the hauntingly beautiful sound of over 850 Friends singing 'Seek Ye First' as a two part round which has been echoing in my head ever since; by the realisation that unlike at the end of WGYF where us 'old hands' knew that the chances were many of our paths would cross again, this time it was different as in another 21yrs (the time since the last World Conference) a good proportion of those present will no longer be alive.

I suspect I'll be blogging about these experiences for a long time to come.

Friday, May 04, 2012

bisy, backson*

Well I'm home. In fact I've been home since Sunday afternoon. However my bodyclock seems to have got stuck somewhere along the journey and is seriously malfunctioning. Wednesday might as well not have existed seeing as I only saw a bleary 3.5hrs of it!

Whilst I grapple with trying to at least be awake for the hours I'm supposed to be at work (which is proving harder than you'd expect given that there are only 21 of them in a week!) I'm also trying to write 2 reports for Yearly Meeting which starts a week today, get my head around a tricky issue that has arisen within a committee that needs addressed before then, sort out our Mid India YM rep's travel itinery around the North Island before and after YM now we finally know he has a visa, swot up on the docs in advance for Standing Committee (the nearest we have to Meeting for Sufferings - held the afternoon before YM starts - once again I am our MM rep by default, ie the only one going), get my head around what issues I might need to address as MM treasurer in our joint MM with BoP/A on Sunday as we discuss how the two MMs might merge and what needs to be done, come up with contributions for two shared meals in the next two days one of which needs to be finger food and substantial enough in case it is the only thing there I can eat (which my contribution usually is). 

Oh and somewhere amongst this I'm supposed to be reflecting on the Peace in Education conference we went on in Dunedin immediately prior to me going to Kenya, update a powerpoint presentation and prepare a workshop on how to use our kindergarten blog and work through a pile of paperwork that seems to be getting bigger not smaller...

Tomorrow is a workshop on computing for genealogists - hopefully I've still got some neurons to spare!

So forgive me for not having blogged about my travels yet.

If you are interested in Peace in Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa NZ please check out our shiny new(ish... I guess it's been a few weeks now!) facebook group 'Peace in ECE - Aotearoa'

If you want to know more about the World Conference of Friends please go to the website where you will find the main speakers' talks, the epistle and the 'Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice'

Once you've made your way through all of that you will have a better idea as to quite why my head is still reeling from trying to take it all in!

*please read Winnie the Pooh if you don't get the title =)