Roadside Chats (26)
A week ago I returned to the Wakamarina Valley after a trip to the Golden Bay. As I neared Deep Song I met a neighbour out walking her dogs. I parked my camper in the middle of the road & wound down the window & had a good old Wakamarina yarn.
It’s so good being able to park in the middle of the road & chat away, without being interrupted by traffic!
We talked about Christmas. For the neighbour, Christmas was just another day. She said Christmas Day was not actually the day Jesus was born & that the church had invented it & she wouldn’t be celebrating it.
I thought about what she said over the next few days. It was literally true, but she was missing something.
For me, Christmas is not simply a story about the literal birth of Jesus in time. Christmas is part of an ageless story about spiritual rebirth in the present; & it’s not just for Christians. It’s for all.
The belief in the potential for spiritual rebirth (or awakening) is ancient & pre-Christian. It’s shared by all the traditional religions & is a central focus of many spiritual teachings & of traditional literature & music & art.
I find the story of the birth of Jesus utterly magical. It’s packed with archetypal power & truth.
I was returning after travelling to the Golden Bay to share a poem. The poem was dedicated to Hemi Dick, who I’d met the month previously & who had drowned a few days after my return to the Wakamarina Valley. The poem creates connections between Hemi, James K Baxter, the Maori Jesus, ‘the tribe’ & Jerusalem.
When I first arrived in Takaka I parked at the freedom camper’s site beside the river. I then walked to the spot where Hemi had drowned. I shared the poem with the river & with Hemi & said a karakia.
Later in the afternoon, I sat in Hemi’s tent with two of his friends. I learnt more about his life, including that he’d started going to a local church and had recently been baptised.
That evening I shared my poem at the Mussel Inn. It was well received & I noticed three freedom campers had come to hear it.
The next day I rang the church that Hemi had attended. I asked if I could share my poem. I was told there would be a sharing time, but I needed to talk to the pastor first. The next day was Sunday, & as I drove to the church, I wondered what sort of reception I would get. Would there be ‘room at the inn’ for my poem?
The pastor welcomed me & listened to my story. He said there would a time to share & I was welcome. It was the first church service I had attended in many, many, years. I joined in the singing, put $5 in the collection & listened to a long & largely incoherent sermon.
I waited for the sharing time.
It never came.
The pastor changed his mind mid-service & decided to skip it. I felt somewhat shocked. The congregation knew Hemi. He was part of their story. My poem was full of spirit. I felt duped.
It was a ‘no room at the inn’ moment.
But of course the Christmas story does not end with, and there was ‘no room in the inn.’ A stable was found & the Divine birth took place there. What is birthed by the Divine sooner or later finds its place of expression & sometimes in unexpected places.
Over the next day or two, I wondered: What is it that’s being birthed in me? Why did I write the poem? Why does it touch me so deeply? What’s my connection with James K Baxter & the Maori Jesus? What’s my connection with ‘the tribe?’
I spent time rereading James K Baxter’s; Jerusalem Sonnets, Autumn Testament, & his poem, The Maori Jesus. As I did I was drawn to sonnet 35. I saw that Baxter had been quite intentional about connecting with people beyond the mainstream of New Zealand in the 1970’s.
James K Baxter; Jerusalem Sonnets 35
The trap I am setting to catch a tribe
Is all but furnished – on Friday Father Condon
Will (if he remembers) bring from Ohakune
The crucifix my friend Milton carved
With its garments made of wood shavings
And a faceless face, Maori or pakeha either
As the light catches it; also the workman Buddha
Hoani lent me, and the Hindu image of Mara
Trix handed on so as to be wholly poor –
What else, Colin? They say it is best
To break a rotten egg in the river
To get eels – I think I am that egg
And Te Ariki must crack me open
If the fish are to be drawn in at all
If I were to live among the young people beside the Takaka’s river what would I have to share?
I’d struggle to talk about ‘Christianity.’ As soon as I try, I find myself redefining it, apologising for it, disagreeing with it and eventually fighting it. Yet, at a deep level I ‘know’ the essence of Christianity; the prophetic life that I experience through my connection with the Self.
On the edge of sleep the Self speaks: ‘The gift of love; try speaking.’ This is what I am to share; ‘the gift of love.’ I can believe & trust in the gift of love.
But of course, it’s not enough to speak about ‘the gift of love.’ I would have to ‘bear the gift’ & ‘be the gift’ & ‘offer the gift’ in all my humanness, & weakness & inadequacy.
Perhaps this is what Hemi Baxter tried in his own earthy, flawed & human way at Jerusalem beside the Whanganui River in the 1970s?
The Self is encouraging me to return to Takaka. I’ve decided to do so & will stay with the tribe beside the river through Feb/March/April. I’ll keep it simple & trust the light within. There’s lots I don’t understand, & I’m certain I’ve much to learn. I’ll see where the journey takes me.
May ‘the gift of love’ shine in your heart this Christmas and throughout the holiday season.
Roadside Blessings – Kevin 25/12/16