I am sitting at the table of our Rotorua AirBnB. We have eight days of storytelling in front of us and two weeks behind us the Christchurch massacre.
In The Warehouse today I hugged two strangers – the checkout woman in mutual consolation and a beautiful young Muslim woman. I have never knowingly hugged a Muslim person; I have barely raised my eyes to groups of young men here to pick fruit. It’s as if I can’t see. Shame on me.
The outpouring of grief and love. The kindness and compassion. Our Jacinda. The determination to kick racism to touch. It has all brought me to my knees. So many tears. The new New Zealand. Our home, our native land. Aotearoa. Let’s not drop the ball.
James is gorgeous. He is 13 years old, my eldest grandchild and I love him. He and his equally gorgeous brother, Hamish were first to arrive at Te Rangi farm a decade ago. They brought their parents with them. They are gorgeous too, but let’s get back to the point.
James is a teenager. I have always joked that when the teens started appearing on the farm I’d be off to the old people’s home tout de suite. However, I am happy to report that I haven’t had to pack my bags. James is funny, compassionate and kind to the old one.
He and his mum and dad decided that Central Hawke’s Bay College would be his destination. I was so happy, not only because I have worked as a part-time counsellor there for 16 years, but because I believe in local schools for local kids.
On the back of the news I told the principal that James’s decision meant the rest of the mokopuna would follow. Seven cousins at Pukehou Primary, seven cousins at Central Hawke’s Bay College. Therefore, I would need to be at college until I am 78. I did think Lance looked a little pale, but he braved a hug and I look set to stay at my beloved job a while yet.
It’s funny this process of ageing. When you arrive you look around with the inward eye of a 30-year-old. It comes as a shock when people want to carry your bags or give up their seats for you. Resistance and disbelief are a first response, but eventually you embrace it and in fact I catch myself feeling a tad put out if I have to carry my own shopping!
And I’m getting messages. Clearer by the day. Kids at school saying how I’m just like their grandmother, or the last weeks call to a parent who observed that her child thought I was really, really, really old… but cool. The current call noted her child got on well with the elderly.
The last three months have seen us frenetically busy with whānau, festivals, events, work and storytelling. The end of this particularly gruelling gallop is in sight. Just Rhubarb telling tales at the National Australian Folk Festival to go and we can draw a few breaths over winter. Well I say breathe, but the garden is yelling and the 13 fireplaces on the farm won’t burn on air alone.
The garden is still providing for us, veges and fruit wink amongst the weeds. I proudly picked 15 rock melon last week. I imagined the delight as I delivered my bounty around the farm. Matthew declined, Sarah and Danny pulled faces behind my back, Janelle said she would have a slice, Michael looked like he would rather eat his own shoe and all moko politely shook their heads. Peter and Kate are always good for fruit, but the rest have had brownie points deleted from their accounts.
I think it’s time I checked out my Rotorua neighbourhood. I hope you are all happy. I’m grateful my eyes have been opened and I’m moving differently through my days. In the words of my friend Mark Laurent, ‘It’s only love in the end, that’s all.’