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Friday, December 30, 2016

Don't miss this...

I seem to be continuing a Maori theme over the last few posts! This time it is about a wonderful exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery of portraits by Gottfried Lindauer. Click here for details.
Most of the portraits are of Maori people. The detail and expressions in the faces are truly breathtaking. If you visit the exhibition (which is free) don't miss watching the series of videos Behind the Brush. The stories of some of the people Lindauer painted are told by contemporary descendants. We spent well over an hour in this exhibition and I'd gladly go back for a second time.
My photos (especially small on a Blog post!) don't do justice to seeing the real thing of course - but these few might tempt you to see more!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Beautiful Kerikeri

On our trip North we stayed at Kerikeri - such a lovely central point for the historical sites we visited. Of course it is a good jumping off point for the Bay of Islands and Waitangi too but we had been there previously so didn't go there this time. We stayed at Kauri Park motel. We'd highly recommend it! It is small and quiet, situated right next door to the Chocolate factory and Cafe (!) and has a lovely garden outlook from each of the 12 units.
On the deck of our unit with complimentary drink on arrival!

The Stone Store, Kemp House, Honey Cafe from across the river

Still trading since 1836!
Where else in NZ could this be true?

In front of the Stone Store

By the inlet outside Stone Store

Entrance of the walkway to Pa site 

Looking back from the Pa

Tranquil Beauty.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


As well as visiting Marsden Cross recently we also explored Ruapekapeka - another historical site. This was where the final battle of the Northern land wars was fought.
Ruapekapeka was the site of the last battle of the Northern War, where about 400 Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Hine warriors stood against a combined British force of 1600. The warriors built a pā (fortification), which was cleverly adapted to the methods and armaments of European warfare. However, they were outnumbered four to one and they lacked heavy artillery. The British did not. For days, they blasted the pā with canons, howitzers, mortars, and rockets, eventually breaching the massive timber palisades.
It was fascinating to walk around the site of the British position on one hillside and then walk through the Maori defences not far away. The trenches and underground tunnels dug by the Maori were still quite easy to see.
The beautifully carved entry to the site.

Very helpful information boards at several points.

There were lots of these dugout positions of varying depths.

The underground tunnels are still clearly visible!

Who 'won' this battle is a moot point! As the final paragraph of the full article at this link says: 
After engaging the soldiers for several hours, the warriors withdrew into the bush. It was no rout. Ruapekapeka was not a besieged castle, full of terrified women and children to be defended at any cost. Kawiti chose a location that had no strategic value – there was no particular reason to hold that particular ridge. The purpose was simple: draw the enemy in, cause them a great deal of trouble, and leave when necessary. An orderly withdrawal had probably been in progress for several days before the British entered the pā.
It is difficult, then, to talk of victory and defeat. The British had taken (or were given) the enemy position, but what value was an empty pā in the middle of nowhere?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Tidings of great joy..."

The week before Christmas this year we decided to visit the Marsden Cross site north of Kerikeri. Here two hundred and two years ago, in 1814, Samuel Marsden preached his first sermon on Christmas Day.

The text is now on the wall of the building at the entry to the track that leads down the hillside to the beach below.
This building is designed to look like the wings of an eagle and the text on the facing wall is "They shall mount up on wings like eagles..."

All the way down the 1 km track to the beach there are very interesting information boards. Set back from the beach is the cross celebrating the mission settlement and the accord between the first settlers and the local Maori.
My hiking stick was useful for the steeper parts of the track and we were glad of a cloudy day as the walk would have been very hot in full sun. 

It was a fascinating pilgrimage into our own NZ history and challenging to think of the early families landing on this remote beach and starting from scratch to set up home, build a school and a Chapel, plant crops, learn the language, have babies... and proclaim the "tidings of great joy to all people".

This link takes you to an excellent site which gives full information about the Rangihoua Heritage Park. I thoroughly recommend a visit if you haven't been there. The last 10ks of the road is unsealed but not too bad!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Nativity round the world

I have inadvertently become a collector of Nativity sets! I brought home one from Nigeria after my years living there. It is carved from the wood of the Thorn tree. The craftsmen sit by the side of the road with a pocket knife and tube of Uhu glue and produce amazing figures. Most of them are about daily life in Nigeria. But the Nativity set (and a Chess set) are also frequently on display.

A few years later missionary friends of mine working in Krygyzstan had the idea of encouraging  a local family to raise money to rebuild their house which had been badly damaged. My friends advertised this among their contacts and supporters. It was definitely a win-win! The money raised helped a needy family and the Nativity set is a beautiful work of art and a labour of love.

Then another friend gave me one she brought back from Bolivia. I don't know the history behind this one but the image of a broken clay pot with light shining through is symbolic in itself. The expressions on the faces of Mary and Joseph suggest that this was an amazing experience!

By now I was on the lookout for other international depictions of the Nativity. I spotted the next one in a shop run by the Good Shepherd Sisters (a bit like a Trade Aid shop). I was told it came from Peru and seems to be intricately carved out of a single piece of marble-like stone. It is the size of a large egg.

Recently Anthea was given a Nativity set from Rome. This one is even smaller and set inside a tiny cup shape.

Finally, another gift which I think was made here in NZ and is intended as a paper serviette holder.

It's a pity these only have a short time on display in our house but I hope they give pleasure to you as well!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent: Season of Joy

Advent is a time of "waiting for Christmas". This can mean a frantic time with long lists of things to do, presents to buy, excited children, parties to go to... excitement and anticipation, yes, but so much stress and hurry as well.

Advent - waiting for Christmas - can also mean a reflective time of thinking about what Christmas actually celebrates: the coming of Jesus, a fragile baby born into a politically dangerous situation. Insignificant as that sounds it is the turning point of the world. Even our calendar counts the years since that day! Traditionally the four weeks of Advent focus on Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
Today I'm thinking especially of Joy. I've recently finished reading a book I may have quoted from earlier: The Book of Joy. 
Two amazing men in their 80's talk together for a week about joy. It is one of the best books I've read and certainly the best one to make joy a realistic experience even in the hardest times. They have both been through great challenges both personal and political. Nothing they say is glib or simplistic. They come from two different religious traditions. What greater hope can there be than hearing from these two seasoned spiritual practitioners about the ways joy can be the deep foundation of even the most difficult life. It would be a wonderful Christmas present to give to someone you love - and I hope that includes yourself!

Table of Contents includes:
The Nature of True Joy
Obstacles to Joy
  Fear, Stress, Anxiety
  Frustration and Anger
  Sadness and Grief
  Illness and fear of Death
The Eight Pillars of Joy
Joy Practices
  (This section is very practical with six specific ways to implement what has been written about.)