Over the first 8 days or so of moving to Rotorua we were graced with visits from three family groups, ranging in age from pre-school, teenage, through to mature adults. It was great to see these families from Auckland and to have the sense that relationships can carry on, even if we do not see each other as often or share activities together so much. We enjoyed showing people around and sharing a bit about our hopes for this place. We also enjoyed, time around the table over a cuppa and some food. We do want to value the relationships which are established and look forward to new ones developing.
As we walked the grounds, weather permitting, a tradition was set. Families were invited to take what they wanted from the citrus trees which have ripening fruit. Bags and pockets were filled. Some of the mandarins didn’t last long! Actually, I’m (Kevin) aware that giving fruit away is also self-serving because there’s plenty here now and there’s the promise of much more to come, so it helps us out because we’d hate to see it get wasted :-).
So, yes we want people to come and visit. In months to come there will be 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 2 lounges spare which give space for for people to stay in. There’s also turn around space for holiday homes. Basically, we’re saying that loving relationships and generosity are two of the building blocks in our lives going forward.
Here’s something humorous to get things started. How we marked our territory after moving in. Xara (Beagle), by weeing on the carpet in any room she could get into – this went on for about 3 days! Effie (the cat) by curling up in a tight ball in strange places and then refusing to go outside even when she was allowed to. She has now claimed her rightful place on the mat in front of the fire. Miranda by cleaning down the walls – incessantly (open wood lockwood style home, so lots of grooves to hold dust)! Also, by positioning and re-positioning pictures on walls and pretty things on shelves. Kevin, by getting some plants and putting them into the garden even though it is mid-winter and they’re not going to grow much for 6 weeks (also garlic and shallots -Charlottes – have gone in and its the right time for them). Getting the chainsaw going and cutting something down helped a lot too :-).
So, here we are and after a week we’re beginning to feel more settled. not sure yet whether it feels like a “holiday” home or “our” home.
When lockdown began a flurry of blogs flowed. For a while, I feared I might continue with several times a week, but then it stopped and there hasn’t been a blog for ages. What’s been happening? Miranda and I worked from home. My ministry carried on supplying services via video links each week and keeping in communication with people in the community. I was also asked to work mornings picking feijoas on a local orchard because they usually had overseas people pick, but they’d all gone home. Doing both and trying to do a bit on the section proved to be all I could manage. Miranda also worked from home. It was different adjusting to the lockdown working for families. Now its good to be back into more normal routines with work.
This week marks one year since we finished in Howick. July the 4th will be our anniversary of arriving here. We are settled. It feels like there’s now not so much new news or reflections coming along. It’s been good to be able to use this blog as a way to share our jounrey, but a year on and it seems like a good time to finish. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Oooh, I feel a little grief – yes, a “feeling”.
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Isn’t the evolution of language an interesting thing? Something going “viral” could be seen as a good thing, but now that we have a heightened awareness of the harmful effect of viruses it no longer seems an appropriate word to use. Possibly a new way to express how things rapidly spread on the internet might emerge? “Spreading like wildfire” – no, that’s no good either!
This piece is said to have gone “viral” early in the time of lock-down, so you’ve probably been sent it a million times already via all your social media platforms, but just in case…
On our daily walks we regularly go past a place where a notice board has been put up at someone’s gate. Each day there are different things to read: funny cartoons ideas for activities and the occasional quote. This is where We got this from (and the pictures below).
“And the people stayed home”
And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.
This goes with thoughts about how the present is changing us and what (positive) habits are emerging in us during this time.
The last blog was very up-beat. It might have felt a bit trivial and like I was not really treating this time seriously. Truly, the early stages of this isolation period felt quite exciting and I was up-beat about it. However, I’m not callous to the struggles of people, or naïve of what might be to come.
I thought I’d share a piece of a prayer which we put together for last Sunday. We prepared a 35 minute service, which was uploaded and a link sent to people in the Reporoa area to view, either on Sunday at the usual service time, or whenever they could (I can send the link if anyone would like it, just let me know). This is nothing unusual. Many Churches are doing the same or similar things to continue their ministries.
I’m sure those of you who prepared prayers for last Sunday also put together thoughtfully worded petitions. Even if you’re not a person of prayer, I think you will resonate with the essentials of the concerns this expresses. The intent of it is not as a prayer for “others”, as we are all going through the same sorts of things.
… We pray for ourselves and those around us.
We pray for the caregivers – of the old and young. We ask for extra patience and gentleness in the care, which is given.
We lift up friends and families with extra things to juggle. Working from home and looking after family members. We pray for creativity in work and play.
In the bubbles people are in, we pray: help there to be consideration, placing others first. We pray against rough, aggressive, violent behaviour. Help us all to control our tongues and be kind in the things we say.
We pray for those who are continuing to work, often in fearfulness. We are thankful for their efforts and skills. We pray for a calm spirit, protection from harm and that they be provided with all the support they need.
We pray for the sick. Walk with them in their journey and hold them close. We pray for healing for those we know who need your special touch.
We pray for Jacinda Ardern and all those who lead the response within this country. We pray that they be given strength to persevere, and courage to continue to respond decisively to the changing landscape. We pray for their advisors as well, that he council they give would be based out of sound information and give clear guidance.
Someone, somewhere has said that it takes four weeks to form a good habit. Our initial instruction was that this “lock-down” is for four weeks (for starters). This leaves me wondering what new positive habits might stick after we are allowed to go back to normality? I remember a comment in a class on Spiritual Practices that sometimes practices which become important to us can almost be developed unconsciously. It is only as we look back that we realise how significant they have become.
What might some new habits or practices be? Although the intensity might ease, there might be an increase in the frequency and quality of our connections with family and friends via different platforms of communications. Certainly, my phone has been very busy with people keeping in contact via texts, e-mails, whatsapp and messenger.
Maybe, another practice which might stick, is that there might be a realization of how much work people can do from home and a greater flexibility in the ways we work might develop. We’ve not been really into meetings via video conferencing, but this week has seen us both improve our competencies there.
The immense decrease in the traffic on our roads has made our place so much more peaceful! I even walked the rubbish bin down the driveway, (approx. 150 meters) rather than putting it in the boot and driving it down. Maybe, a more considered approach to using our cars might last in some ways?
Maybe, neighbourliness will remain at a higher level. Out walking Xara, there are signs up on people’s lawns like “have a good day”, or a “good walk”. There was an assortment of bears and Sesame St soft toys on a gate to cheer people up. I think that’s a bit of a thing all over the place? One person has a pin-board up on their fence with, the date and number of days we’ve been in isolation and some funnies on it. I’ll attach a couple of pictures of what was up today. People are being especially polite. The only issue was with one dog who wasn’t on its leash and wouldn’t obey its owner to leave Miranda and Xara alone. Of course she, couldn’t come close to Miranda to physically take the dog back and so, there was an awkward moment while the dog exercised it’s free will.
Here are some other thoughts… Naturally, there is an increase in the number of people out walking and biking. Maybe, new exercise patterns will emerge? We’re maybe choosing to go to the supermarket less frequently. Might we choose long term to plan our meals better and continue to shop less regularly? We can’t shop for non-essentials and even internet purchases are being discouraged. Over-all, maybe our shopping habits might be forever changed after this time. Maybe, we’ll have a think about the whole way we use money?
I’m not being flippant or minimising the seriousness of what is happening, but so far, for us this time is enjoyable. We’re enjoying our space. One niggling thought is that by the end of this, we’ll be so well set up for our first full winter here that we will have set a very high expectation for other years.
Anyway: keep strong, be creative and give extra care to each other.
Initially it was toilet paper and Panadol which were bought up and so were temporarily out of stock in supermarkets. Doing last week’s shop, I paused opposite the flour shelf and a complete stranger stood in-front of me and wanted to have a fight over the last packet of plain white flour. She had seen that fighting in the isles was fashionable in other places and (jokingly) thought it would be fun to have a bit of a scene in the baking isle. I was getting wholemeal flour, so she didn’t need to fight me for the last plain flour. Rotorua is a very laid back place, so it was all for fun, however complete strangers starting conversations with you – that is a Rotorua thing! Here panic buying means there is a line of more than two people waiting at the check-out. Doing the normal Monday shop, yesterday, before the four-week lock-down announcement, I noted that breakfast cereal was low and – there was absolutely no wheat flour on the shelves of any kind! It was the same at another supermarket I called in to on the way home.
I’m not wanting to make light of the situation. I’m sure you are all good citizens and aren’t panic buying. However, it got me wondering, what people who read this blog, might be quietly hoarding away? Or, what might you have a fight in the isle over if it came to who got the last one? Would it be toilet paper? Miranda, unashamedly admits it to be crunchy peanut butter and her favourite brand of tea. For me, it might be coffee? Maybe, for some, its chocolate? I was surprised to see how full the chocolate shelves were. Maybe it’s a favourite wine, cider or beer? ‘Fess up, what is it? Maybe you can post a comment to this blog, or send a message?
Actually, the real reason for posting, at this time, is because I feel inside me a desire to connect with others.
Lately I have been thinking about an understanding of grace, which goes something like this. The action of grace is giving without expecting anything in return.
We often live in a “swings and roundabouts” world. Naturally, we like to “earn our keep”. We want to know that we have made a positive contribution to someone else and so have earned an affirming response. Isn’t there a phrase something like, ‘one good turn deserves another’? We like what we do to be noticed, we like to be appreciated, thanked. These are the unspoken rules of society, but its not grace in the way its described here.
I had an interesting experience, which tested that understanding of grace. A while ago, I had a conversation with a waitress in a café who said she grew up with an orchard at home and that especially she loved peaches. She’s away from that orchard now and shop bought fruit is not the same. This waitress is an outstanding positive presence in the café. She blesses many people every day: is always full of compliments and shows lots of kindness to other staff.
Remembering her comments about peaches, I took a couple of big ones in just as they were getting ripe. She was over-the-moon and so grateful. I then made my order (muffin and a coffee) and sat down somewhere quiet. The café was busy and I noticed there was a delay, so I settled in, checked my e-mails, sent a couple of texts… My muffin arrived… I waited… I ate my muffin – slowly… no coffee! After at least half an hour, I asked another waitress about my coffee. She checked it out and returned to say that my order had been lost and promptly provided what I had asked for. I needed to get moving by that time and so, drank it quickly and left, with a wry smile on my face. I could not expect special treatment, just because I had done a good deed.
If I have paddocks and grazing animals does that make me a farmer? Does having 3 sheep make me a shepherd, or 2 goats make me a goatherd? Does having a colony of bees make me a beekeeper?
When, I was looking at how people come to Christian faith as adults, if they have had little or no church involvement in their childhood, I came across the concept that “one speaks to the whole”. The experience of one person might not be the experience of everyone, but their experience contributes to an understanding of the whole.
What am I experiencing? I am noticing myself being aware of the weather in a different way. From heavy rain, then strong winds around Christmas time, to sweltering heat, it’s now nearly 2 months since there has been any significant rain (actually, its been raining today a bit). I find myself, in a new way, searching the weather forecast for when the next significant rain will come. Yes, we had plenty of grass, but now its all dried up, what sort of provisions do I need to make, for additional feed over autumn – let alone winter? Farmers get well used to the fluctuations of the seasons but, maybe the mild anxiety I feel is also a part of the farmer’s experience through the changing seasons?
This has a relational aspect to it as well. I can have weeks where, apart from the conversations with Miranda at the end a day, a brief chat about the weather while I order a large flat white and a cheese scone at a café, might be the only conversation I have with anyone. To what extent is this an issue for farming people and especially for the important relationships in their lives?
Diversification is also an issue. Bees, sheep, goats, chooks, a pig, vege garden and an orchard; I think that’s diverse! Many farmers have diversified to supply multiple income streams. They might farm and run a catering business, or have farm visits to organise. Some days I don’t know where to start. Sometimes I don’t know what finishing a job looks like. In what way is that the experience of a farmer?
So, my experiences do, in a small way, inform me of the experiences of farmers as a whole. Considering the “one speaks to the whole”, I would not claim to know what its like for others, but my experiences can inform me as I serve in a rural community. It gives lots of scope for curious enquiry and empathetic engagement. Also, farmers find it amusing when I talk about our big experiences with our two goats!
We have 4-5 grapevines which, following a good spring season, are laden with swelling bunches of grapes. Some of them are just beginning to darken up as they ripen. With the amount of fruit, lots of bunches were crowding in on each other and they needed to be thinned out. Disliking waste, we reluctantly began this process. Then, Miranda remembered that you can use the juice of unripe grapes – what juice there is – for making verjuice. Simply you whiz up the unripe grapes and then squeeze out the juice through a cloth. The juice is quite astringent and can be used in place of water, or wine in cooking, or as a glaze. The process is a bit time consuming, but the reward is you get something you can use out of what might otherwise be waste, or go to compost. The remaining solids were put in with the pig food and so nothing was wasted.
Actually there’s a lot of using things which would otherwise be thrown out going on at the moment. Lettuces and other plants which are going to seed, get gobbled up by the goats. Leaves off branches which get trimmed off are welcomed by the sheep. Bird-pecked plums and wind-fall apples get thrown in as well. Over spring we had a vague idea of how things might work out late in summer when grass might be running low and as animals grew bigger, but we did not anticipate just how nicely it would come together.
Reflecting on this experience, a philosophy in life that “nothing is wasted” attracts me far more, at the moment, than one that reasons, “all things happen for a reason”. Approaching hardships and joys in life with an attitude that all our experiences can be useful – over time – is one which encourages growth and development. However, what if we view life from the stance that “all things happen for a reason”? How are people supported, especially when tragedy hits? “Well there’s got to be a reason for it” is quite unhelpful reasoning for people facing trauma or long term hardship. Also, what type of God is projected, if we see a God behind everything which happens in life?
The stories of the goats some time ago were all true. Thus far it has a happy ending. Having them settled, but being down two of the initial chooks we got in winter, we remembered that the guy who sold us the goats, also offered us chooks. Going back to the place we got runaway goats from, how stupid can we be, you can anticipate trouble – right?!
‘Do you want some young or older ones?’ ‘We’ll take a couple of young ones’ thanks.’ The young ones were just past being cute chickens, a few months off laying. As we were about to find out they were quite unused to human contact and capable of immense speed over short distances. We took two, but just like with the goats, we weren’t ready to house them. We created a temporary home for them which we thought was secure, but quickly one got out and hid herself under the raspberry bushes. Later the other one got out and so we had two, flighty, runaway birds in the thicket of raspberries. We would leave food for them which they would gratefully eat, but we couldn’t get close enough to catch them. So, Miranda shooed them to one end of the berries, while I waited with the fishing net. In a flurry, down came the net and I thought I had them both. Sadly, I had only only one which went into a cat-cage – she wasn’t getting out of there! The thought was that the other would stay close and eventually we’d get her too. Sadly no. After a day or so the runaway chook disappeared. Hopefully she made it to some other free-range hens nearby. We couldn’t leave the one we still had constrained in the cat-box forever, so we tried introducing her to the big hens – bad move! We had to keep them in one place and she had roaming rights in the berry garden. Even though she could fly out of it, now she knew we’d be along to feed her morning and night, she wasn’t going far.
Then, one day we saw her out in the paddock with the animals. Dinner time: picture a little hen dodging goat, pig and sheep hooves; trying to get some of the food they were eating. At night, she decided to sleep in with the animals. Even though its called a “pigsty” – 2 sheep, 2 goats and Percy the pig slept in it. Now also one little hen. The picture was indeed very cute for a few days. Little hen believed she was every-bit an equal of these much bigger mammals.
So, does there always have to be a happy ending? Tolkien, Grisham, Picoult, the Bible, what’s with our infatuation with happy endings?