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Matariki

The wind is howling outside. I love the sounds it makes as it weaves its way through everything and everyone that crosses its path. It moves with such ferocity and is completely unrelenting, yet I find it invigorating and energising. As the wind blows through you it clears out the cobwebs and you know you’re alive. When the wind blows itself out there is a calmness, a crispness, and a sense of relief that you survived intact. It is like those hurdles we come across daily that seem insurmountable. Once you’ve worked out how to get over them, and managed to do it, you look back and feel an enormous sense of achievement.

The wind in Wellington is legendary, hence the nickname of ‘Windy Wellington’, although I believe it has become significantly more tamed over the years. When I was younger I remember having to hold on to lamp posts to stop myself being blown on to the road as I was walking to school. It used to be such a funny sight as you looked up the street and you saw all these people clinging to these bits of wood positioned strategically along the footpaths. Everything was flying in all directions and you had to decide what to cling to and what to let go of.

Some streets were worse than others to walk along – they became transformed into high velocity wind tunnels and we humans merely objects to be dismissed and moved out of the way. I remember certain streets in the centre of the city having ropes strategically placed for people to hold on to.

Then there was the day of the Wahine Disaster – 10 April 1968. School was closed (such as rarity as you can imagine), we had no power, only the brave ventured outside. We sat huddled together with family and neighbours wondering and waiting as the wind took hold of our city. A neighbour had a gas stove so they boiled water for everyone to make drinks. Everyone rallied around to help one another. My father couldn’t get home to us because he was stuck at his workplace after having completed a night shift. Everything that could be stopped, or closed, was. We were oblivious to the tragedy that was unfolding in our beloved harbour only minutes down the road. This is a day that people still talk about and remember vividly.

The Wahine as it was beginning to sink, 10 April 1968

The Wahine was a ferry travelling from Lyttleton on the South Island to Wellington. During the night while the ferry sailed north the wind increased dramatically. Cyclone Giselle, met another storm over Wellington and caused some of the worst weather in New Zealand’s history. The ship was driven onto Barretts Reef at the entrance to the harbour and subsequently had to be abandoned. Of the 610 passengers and 123 crew onboard 53 lost their lives. It is a poignant memory for Wellingtonians. Many remember the storm, their helplessness at the ship being so near but so far and the tragedy unfolding right in the middle of where the normality of life is conducted on a daily basis. Acts of heroism and sacrifice took place against the backdrop of tragedy and loss. The official inquiry concluded that the storm was the primary cause but that some mistakes had been made. 40 years on watching some of the survivors reflect I was struck by three lessons …

  1. The danger of leadership that does not appreciate what is actually happening.
  2. The problem of jargon.
  3. The danger of misreading the signs.

Source: Nigel Pollock, Cultural Connections blog, posting Lessons from the Wahine, 13 April 2008

At this very moment the wind is merely a sound in the background. I haven’t got out there and braced it yet. I am being bathed in the glorious light beaming through the curtains of my bedroom. The dappled effect this light has on the room is inviting, especially as I sit here in my bed all toasty and relaxed. Unfortunately the light’s intensity changes and its magic seems only momentary. As the light appears and disappears I am alerted to the fact that the weather is changing outside. As has been predicted, a southerly is on its way! This usually means ‘batten down the hatches’ and ‘brace yourself’ for an icy blast originating from the icy continent to our south.

I have an overwhelming sense that things are percolating within me and externally. I feel change is in the air; like the wind blowing away the debris and clutter, bringing with it clarity and focus. 2008 started in a blur for me. I didn’t feel able back in January to reflect on the previous year and look ahead. Now, six months later, I feel ready.

This seems incredibly timely because it connects perfectly with another New Year – Matariki – the celebration of the Maori New Year which begins on the sighting of the first moon after the appearance of Matariki.

Matariki: Celebrate Maori New Year

Source: Wellington City Council web site

The star cluster Matariki (the Pleiades) will first rise on 23 May. The best time to see it will be on 31 May as there will be approximately 30 minutes between Matariki rising and the Sun coming up. The Māori New Year begins with the first new moon after Matariki’s reappearance. This year, the new moon rises on 5 June so the Māori New Year starts on 6 June.
Source: Matariki 2008, Te Papa web site

There are lots of traditions within Maori culture that I really love and one of them is the singing of waiata. Listen to this one dedicated to Matariki from the Te papa web site.

So people in my part of the world of Aotearoa New Zealand are in celebration mode for the next month. This seems like the perfect time for remembering the past, celebrating it, and starting anew. Actually any time is a good time but this seems to be an especially significant time to spur myself into action.

Matariki atua ka eke mai i te rangi e roa, e roa, e
Whāngainga iho ki te mata o te tau e roa, e.
Matariki rising in the broad heavens
Nourish those below with the first fruits.
Maori proverb

We all need nourishment. Let’s be there for one another. Let’s support each other and encourage each other to be who we were born to be. Let’s dump mediocrity and let’s strive for excellence. Let’s make a difference to ourselves and others by being true to ourselves and by following our dreams and passions. Let’s jump over hurdles and push back at fear. Let’s not accept the ordinary as the norm but push ourselves to see the extraordinary, in whatever way works for you. Let’s care about each other; this may mean helping people into lifeboats or it may mean being there in whatever capacity you can. Let’s wear our hearts on our sleeves. Let’s fill the world with love (yes, I know I am idealistic). Let’s plant lots of seeds and hopefully some will survive and grow. Let’s all believe in miracles; they can and do happen.

Happy Matariki one and all. It’s a pity that it is too windy for Lynsey, Damian and I to go and fly a kite. They’ll have to stay put in the basement until the wind dies down a bit and we can give them a whirl.

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