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.

 

 

the day begins

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surfacing from the dark
feet cold on the hard floor
black sky softening
trees a muted green
birds waking, calling, invisible

she is there, waiting
but she turns her face away

All this week, hoping to catch a glimpse of her promised glory and now, there are only moments between clouds when she shines.
Before this week, her face would have been welcomed. It was all romance and possibility and a sense of the future. Now, I can’t wait for her to leave. I am waiting, I am wanting, I am denied.

street lights fluoresce a pale orange
a row of miniature suns
marking a runway, a landing strip

see – here – here you could land
you could bring yourself to earth
and let me hold you
and let me be held

scaffolding surrounds the house
a white plastic chair glows in the half light
the stream is full with the run-off from the hills
and birds call
birds call
and the trees are moving

5.30am update / buildings are closed / people evacuated / sea life threatened / seabed raised / the weather is clearing with a forecast of morning showers / southerlies / 15 degrees

she hasn’t moved
I am waiting for her to drop
to slide behind the hills
but she is contrary, stubborn
hanging still as clouds pass by
like so many unsuccessful suitors

at least I see her
but I wanted so much more
I am disappointed
that she waits til now to show herself
all week, going about her business undercover
a beautiful anarchist
creating chaos
mad woman of the sky
you have betrayed us all

clouds glow apricot pink
and draw attention to the left
yellow eyes watch from across the room
a shadow, a black cloud
full of anticipation and patience

6.00am parliament / questions / earthquakes / recovery / entry to the drift

There has been enough waiting and as the sky lightens, I return to warmth and comfort, shining one small bright light into the darkness. And I read “This moment is all there is” and I think, here it is, synchronicity at work.

this book of light
is full
and slow to respond
full of dead poets
Rumi, Tuwhare, Cohen

There has been so much loss in so little time. Storytellers and singers, poets and priests, all are slipping away. The ground moved and we looked to the heavens. The rains came, and our tears were added to the flood. Myths abounded as we looked for reasons to explain the unexplainable. The moon that came too close. Too much moon, too much gravity. Facing the inevitability of time and the pain of too much love, too many memories.

Whatever the cause, the reality is – the very ground we walk on has proved unstable. We have a fragile peace between aftershocks when we take a ragged breath. We do not know if it will be safe to breathe out…

the black shadow sits heavily across belly and hips

6.40am Kaikoura / slow cooking using bricks from the house

bricks re-purposed
from a broken home
necessity brings invention
disillusion gives way to hope
disenchantment never quite took hold
the sun has risen
the cat is fed
and so

 the day begins

(the result of a writing workshop with Pip Adam – to focus on the details of one day – Friday 18 November 2016 – to observe, record and then transform. This is the result of the writing done the following day, Saturday 19 November. Still working on it – currently in prose, fewer “voices”, and managing to get past 6.40 am 😉)

©ClaireGriffin2016