becoming my own myth

I dig into the dirt to plant seedlings, sweet peas
imagining them winding their tendrils round stakes
pulling themselves up to the sun before bursting into flower
my fingers hold the earth aside, then press it down to secure a fragile stem
as I start to make another hollow
I push my hands deep into the earth
and …

I am searching for the way back into my past
I am searching for some evidence of belonging
something that will connect me
I pull my hands from the dirt
and all I can see is longing

this land is rich in story
every mountain, tree and bird has name and meaning and myth
but do the stories of this land belong to me?
my ancestors were far, far away when first these tales were told
and now, do the voices of this land speak to me?
and if they do, can I claim them as my own?

born here, four generations or more, but far from the source
disconnected by time and distance, origins lost
those who chose to leave their homes to start again so far away
some thrived, some were broken
I’ve had to learn the names of my family and my birthplace
instead of breathing them in as a babe
the stories of my people didn’t come to me first hand
I’ve never heard them spoken
I can only read the sleeping words
and imagine them rising from the page

there seems no other choice than that I must become my own myth
send my roots down deep into this rich soil
until I feel connected

I would become green-fingered from the feet up
to become a root-knower, stem-lifter, seed-gatherer
I would understand the alchemy of gold to green

but for now

I am become
the memory of the fair-haired child, lost and fearful,
except when barefoot, running wild in her imagination
I am become the troubled woman, seeking security, trying to refuse the easy road
the intentional woman, trusting instincts, curious and creative
who discovered she needed to birth herself
time-shifting to lift and shelter the memory-child,
who tells herself stories,
writes herself into the past and leaves the door open to the future

I listen to birds
and watch the dance of trees
I learn the language of dreams
I have no myths but the ones I tell myself

I dig into the dirt
to plant new life in the soil
I pull my hands from the earth
and now all I can see are stars and flowers

©clairegriffin2017

It’s taken a month to write this – one of those pieces that demanded to be finished before I could move on to something new.
I’d been thinking about those whose forebears moved to another country, and their descendants. There can be feelings of disconnection from the ancestral country, questions which aren’t answered by knowledge of the place of birth. This is the case for me.
I’m aware of some of the Māori history and myth of Aotearoa New Zealand, but not being Māori, I wonder if those stories can also be mine.
And yet, I was born here, I have no-where else. My people came from Scotland, Ireland, and England, and while some of the myths and histories of these places resonate with me, I can’t quite own them. I don’t belong there – my southern Pacific upbringing in this nation has shaped me into a very different creature. I’m not British, I’m not European (although I understand this is used to define origins/ethnicity), and I can’t quite claim the stories of those countries as my own, not in any living, contemporary sense.
I have the added difficulty of a disrupted family history. So this all starts to sound like a question of identity. The stories our ancestors tell help to form our sense of self and belonging. As a Pākehā New Zealander, what are my stories, my mythic tales to explain my place in the world? I want myths that belong to me, that are born of this land.
The late Michael King wrote about Pākehā identity and culture, and this could be the time for me to read his work on this. Strange that I’ve never explored it before now.

 

 

tea and memories

I’m so grateful for the time someone spent with me this afternoon – so patient – listening to my story – suggesting – clarifying – helping me to write my mihi – and more deeply – to connect with and claim my mihi as my own.

I came home – and stopped in front of this kawakawa bush – I was thinking about it yesterday and I knew the best thing would be to make tea from its leaves and let the past settle while I waited for it to steep.

I sit now with my tongue tingling along with my heart.

footprints

(and in the meantime – imagine a photograph of bird footprints…I’m working on it)

I feel thoughts circling
words waiting to be touched
the birds waiting to land
who have always been with me
just out of sight
only approaching from the side
when I’m looking ahead
or looking back
or when I’m still
eyes closed, mind open, listening
then they come

black birds of the imagination
bones bleached white in memory
feathers full of dreams
songs and claws and tails and wings

they strut and hop across the page
leaving spiky footprints, unbound symbols
runes of divine connection

or gently, they lower one wing
to deceive, or to start over
brushing the page clean

sometimes, they are so sure of their song
they stab with their beak
straight through, and pin it to the page

all I can ever do
is trace a line from the edge of one footprint to the next
and trust in the story
they want told

©clairegriffin2017

faces

Just the other day I was thinking about faces – and how its as if some faces are “pre-loaded”, embedded in our subconscious, encoded in our psyches – faces and features we are primed to respond to. Is it due to genetic memory, a shared cultural heritage, an unconscious connection to a dream state or a past life?

All I know is that for me – some faces are irresistible, magnetic … and if I was to meet this face in real life I would be defenceless (and have been – once).

Maybe that’s what love at first sight is – the moment when we see the face that has been waiting to be recognised.

 

 

 

avebury

At different times
we came to this place,
to this circle of stone,
and we both felt the
mystery was our own.

There was no choice –
we could do nothing,
but reach out –
and lay our hands upon the stone,
reach out –
and hold the stone,
as if embracing.

Who are we,
that we can slip through time,
touch the past,
and be so moved?

Who are we
if we cannot?

© Claire Griffin 2016

(One of several pieces written over twenty years ago (!)
Looking back now I think that I was trying to create in writing
a connection to someone that perhaps I couldn’t find in any other way.
Still – I like some of these as poems in their own right –
and can read the “we” in a more universal sense,
extending beyond my intentions at the time)

attention brings connection : part III

I was leaving
and just as I drew away
three girls dressed in black walked past
and you approached them
in the same way
you came to me
head forward
purposeful

IMG_2300

they take your photo
discussing how to make you turn
so they can get a better angle

somewhere, sometime
you learnt to approach people
and now you still do it
even when we have nothing
to give you
though perhaps we do
is it too much to think –
is it our attention you seek?

I wonder if your curiosity
will be respected

I worry for you now
you have entered my mind
I carry knowledge of you
you inhabit me

you gave me your attention

I am not disappointed

I am not alone

 

© Claire Griffin 2016