With reference to the poem “the visitor”:
In Māori mythology the fantail was responsible for the presence of death in the world. Maui, thinking he could eradicate death by successfully passing through the goddess of death, Hine-nui-te-po, tried to enter the goddess’s sleeping body through the pathway of birth. The fantail, warned by Maui to be quiet, began laughing and woke Hine-nui-te-po, who was so angry that she promptly killed Maui.
In some traditions, the fantail is regarded as “a harbinger of death when seen inside in a house”.
(Kelly Keane. ‘Ngā manu – birds – Birds associated with death’,
Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 8-Sep-15)
I remember that my own interpretation at the time I experienced this feathered visitor, was less that the presence of this little bird foretold a literal death, but more that it came as a confirmation of the end of a relationship and the changes that were to come. Still, it was a death of sorts.
When emotions were raw, when change was inevitable, this visitor from the natural world somehow seemed to be an acknowledgement, and a reassurance.
Visitors from the wild-world:
This little bird was not the only animal visitor I had during this time – the other was a possum.
I was living in a semi-rural area, near bush, but I had never in five years seen or heard a possum near the house. And then, one night, returning to what was still my home for the time-being, after spending time with friends who had offered me a room in their flat, I parked the car and walking to the gate, there on the lamp-post at eye level was a possum. It was looking straight at me. I was surprised, but I remember greeting it, asking “What are you doing here?” Of course, there was no answer beyond its silent presence. And I felt that was its purpose – to simply be there with me in that moment.
Days passed and I moved out to live in a flat in the centre of town. I carried on with life, putting on a brave face, and clinging to my misplaced hope that this might be temporary, that there might be a return to the way things were.
One night not that long after, coming home from a night out with friends, I parked the car and there on the lamp-post at eye level was a possum. Again surprised, again confronted. Here in the middle of the city I was face to face with a wild creature. (I even caught myself wondering if it could be the same one). And just as with the fantail, it felt as though my decision was being affirmed, that I had made the right decision, no matter how painful it was.
Each time, I was alone. Each time, I was reminded of my aloneness, but it felt as if I was being reminded that I had the strength to cope. There were so many days and nights when I felt as though my world was collapsing, had in fact collapsed. I felt alone, adrift, abandoned and the pain was palpable. Hearts do break, and there is no relief.
One of the few things that gave me strength was knowing that the wild world had crossed the threshold, had stepped in to my time and space to be present with me. Quite possibly it stopped me going completely off the rails over the following months.
© Claire Griffin 2016