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?


Anonymous said...

Thankyou - I will be collating all the responses and passing them on, but I want a few more replies from UK people as well!

big hugs and love

Anna Dunford said...

It was good to read Clare, Michael and Carolyn's responses - and good to know it isn't just those of us in a place far, far away that feel so strongly! =)

Thank you Dawn for taking this on!
A xxx

Unknown said...

Hello Anna,

I've come across your blog again whilst searching for Oliver Postgate: I'm thinking of showing the children an episode of the Clangers at meeting tomorrow, if the weather is not good.

Apropos Pardshaw, I expect you've seen the book about an excursion made to Pardshaw by Young Friends in 1865. If not, here's a link:

I think it's worth a read!