Writing

  • The Year That Answered

    Stuart Holmes Coleman 18 August 2017

    There is a kind of wind that blows
    during certain days of the year
    and it’s almost as if it knows
    how to stir up our deepest fears.
    On one of those winter nights
    I called my mom and said, I feel
    as if I might not ever find
    a partner or a love that’s real
    .
    She said, Don’t worry, take your time.
    For there are years that ask questions
    and there are years that give answers.

    Her words lingered in my mind
    and then settled over my soul
    like a warm blanket that winter
    when even the sun felt cold.

    There is a kind of light that shines
    during certain days of the year
    and it seems to calm our minds
    and settle our deepest fears.
    On one of those summer days
    I went to an ancient city
    and saw a couple whose forms lay
    enshrined in ash eternally.
    By the time I returned home
    something opened up inside me
    and I felt alive not alone.
    Then one day at a little café
    I felt a tap on my shoulder
    And when I turned around I knew
    The year had finally answered
    And I at last had found you.

    ©Stuart Coleman

  • The Scribbler's Song (for CU)

    Stuart Holmes Coleman 18 July 2017

    If only I were an artist
    I would paint portraits of you
    lying on your side in bed
    your hand holding your head
    a smile lighting up the world
    like the sunrise that morning
    when I first thought, I love you.

    If only I were a musician
    I would compose songs for you
    holding tightly to my guitar
    the way I once held you
    embracing all that you are
    my fingers caressing chords
    of love as I sang from afar.

    But I am just a scribbler
    sketching these lines for you
    fledgling words waiting to fly
    like hawks soaring across the sky
    or starlings singing on phone lines
    the notes of a fleeting song
    as my thoughts fly home to you.

    ©Stuart Coleman

  • Letter to the world-weary heart

    The Rev. Gayanne Frater 9 October 2016

    Letter to the world-weary heart

    ‘Tis easy,
    is it not,
    to allow those who walk
    halls of power
    to assume
    ‘larger than life’
    presence,
    as if your sphere
    of influence,
    is too small
    to be of any note.
    Your voice,
    the truths you know,
    at the core of your being,
    shrink within,
    dwindling to  wondering whispers
    across your heart’s landscape.
    Your knowing,
    rises from the belly,
    rages even within,
    clamouring to be heard,
    though seldom spoken aloud.
    (except in the privacy of your home, maybe?)
    Words of prophetic potentiality
    lie muted,
    behind closed lips,
    against the backdrop
    of the louder,
    relentless,
    oft repeated,
    sound bite news bits,
    presented
    as truth,
    yet
    in reality
    nothing more
    than slanted
    incomplete
    woefully inadequate
    shards of slivered truth,
    distorted to entertain,
    not to inform.
    ‘Tis tempting to accept
    the numbing of the brain,
    and compassion’s overload
    that comes from having
    hearts that care,
    to accept this
    narrowed,
    marginalised
    space
    you now occupy,
    and become silent
    bystanders
    or powerless
    witnesses
    to the outrageous
    injustices writ large on
    global screens.
    This, however, is not your calling.
    You must stand,
    speak,
    and act
    with hope, faith and love
    and in integrity,
    You must be the people
    you proclaim yourselves to be,
    no matter how tiny
    your sphere of influence
    may appear.
    Hope rises
    with the utterance of
    the tiniest of words,
    little acts of kindness
    and solidarity,
    and the first step
    and then the next.
    You must never forget
    that hidden in the oft dismissed
    and overlooked ‘tinyness’ of life
    lies greatness,
    says the mustard seed.

    ©Gayanne Frater

  • The fire of Divine Love

    The fire of Divine Love

    Focussed was I,
    on the pain of fiery rage
    I lost sight of fire's beauty.
    Divine energy
    within us all,
    enlivening,
    quickening us to love.
    Inner fire heats,
    heals,
    hallows hope
    and compels us to act
    in love.
    Sparks fly,
    dancing
    across darkened expanse,
    echoing ancient truth -
    light shines in darkness.
    Fire harnessed,
    blazes a trail
    through darkest night,
    in our deepest loneliness.
    Fire of life,
    divine Love,
    in the coldest night - warm us;
    at the deepest point of fear,
    - grant us courage;
    through the darkest night
    shine a light of hope and love.
    Divine love,
    fire of God,
    drive out all fear,
    that we may truly
    be worthy
    of our calling
    to be human.

    ©Gayanne Frater

    Image: The Carabosse Fire Garden, Auckland Domain 2016, Gayanne Frater   

     

  • Advertisement for Uber, The Thinker, my sister and daughter and all things about love in Philadelphia

    Tess Ashton 15 October 2015

    Advertisement for Uber, The Thinker, my sister and daughter and all things about love in Philadelphia

    My loving sister who lives

    in Philadelphia
    first city of America
                city of a thousand trees and
    slim pretty streets
    where window boxes
    spill with flowers and 4th of July flags
    and people gather on pavement chairs
    tipped out tight doorways
    over high front stairs
    terrace-house knees negotiating
    close as the tree limbs
    colonnading
    speak brotherly love
    drink sisterly wines
    on hot Friday nights

                 My sister I was saying
    has the Uber app
    on her phone
    we used it twice when we visited
    right now I’m started…
    she Uber’d
    to get us round the corner
    me, husband Lloyd and grandson Caspar
    from Parkway Apartments
    art deco with a hint of gothic flair
    in Logan Square
    to terrace house digs
    in sweet Meredith
    heart of the arts quarter
    where Rocky at the
    steps of the Philadelphia
    Museum of Art
    is hot property
    the city’s latest addition
    to its statue collection

                 as I was saying
    enlivened by our
    exciting reunion with
    our daughter Alex
    and granddaughter Olivia
    down from Canada
    on that first evening at my sister’s
    we and Caspar wafted one with the lift
    that once carried
    education board people
    out to the marble edge of Winter St
    and elegant
    Pennsylvania
    Avenue
    where classical trees
    loftily mind
    the people below who
    stop by
    Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’
    and those mesmerised
    by the art at the Barnes Foundation
    who come out bearing
    Cezanne apple and pear
    candle fruit mementos
    that make fools
    of customs officers at airports  – ha!
    and bring postcards of Matisse
    and Picasso riches home
    for mantel pieces

                  High classical trees that cool
    people who visit
    the science museum
    of Benjamin Franklin
    in the summer season
    and who loll on the grass
    with homeless people
    like lionesses
    while grand children
    play on the swans and
    the giant First Nation people
    at Logan Circle

                  but re my sister and Uber
    our light toes had barely
    reached the pavement
    our hearts one
    with the hot American night
    when our Uber appeared
    a black Chevy sculpture
    a mere click of the fingers
    from there to here
    Denzel Washington quipped hubby later
    was the driver
    tall as a Pennsylvania night
    and lustrous as a god
    we were fated to be in possession of
    for a moment
    gave reason
    to later muse
    on the panoply of
    guiding trees
    the dark bronze sculpture
    in Rodin’s Gallery garden
    we would pass several times
    on our walk to Wholefoods
    organic supermarket
    where they employ disabled people
    and yellow shopping bags have LOVE
    in big letters
    a take on
    the famous Love sculpture in the Love Park
    on the JFK Boulevard
    by the fountain where the kids
    all rush and play
    in the heat of July holidays

                  It was ‘The Thinker’
    got me humming
    through the week
    that came
    the plaque explained
    on close inspection
    is the top small figure
    created for
    a sculpture
    of Dante’s
    ‘The Gates Of Hell’
    then the artist
    enlarged his expression
    to personify all inspiration
    behind creative thought
    an answer to my old question
    about what’s behind all things poetic
    bizarre this driver
    for a moment
    personified the revelation
    that love is in motion
    here in Philadelphia

                 In the back of his Chevvy
    our stuff and my family
    tumbled about the leather excitedly
    from the front
    I marveled the way
    of our limo-trained driver
    the pay-later scheme
    completed the golden mile
    next day
    we returned from being out
    to find Caspar’s
    red running shoes
    glowing on the doorstep
    like Cinder’s slippers
    dropped in the getaway
    returned by Uber
    a surprising
    thing for a taxi driver

                  But Uber is like no other
    fits well in the city of brothers
    where Penn the Father
    was known to interpret
    St Paul’s words of freedom
    ‘Love is above all;
    and when it prevails in us all,
    we shall all be lovely,
    and in love with God and one with another’
    hail to Philadelphia’s far walking father
    and my sister, daughter, grand daughter
    husband, and grandson
    and the Uber driver and trees and art
    in Pennsylvania

    ©Tess Ashton

    Image Philadelphia Love Statue  www.philly.com

    Side note:
    America’s first city named by
    its far-seeing owner
    William Penn who dreamed it all
    devotee of St Paul
    America’s first Quaker
    set the hopeful standard
    for extravagant love
    his city plan and libertarian principles
    inspired
    Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin
    the American constitution
    invited British and European persecuted
    Hugenots, Mennonites
    Amish, Catholics, Lutherans and Jews
    in time art lovers with Penn’s Oxford
    training
    people with money
    got persuaded
    made bronze statues of mothers and fathers
    heros and heroines
    planted them like muses on
    the ridiculously clever
    town planner’s
    broad plazas

     

  • Any Where and The Beloved Disciple

    Any Where and The Beloved Disciple

    Any Where

    the bonnet of a car in Mount Ginini’s mist, a cathedral or

    a homestead, or beside a hospice bed when time and breath

    are short; even inside cinder block and razor wire; any where

    is where enough for us well-meaning clumsies hungering

    after more than scroggin for The Track, who gathering brave

    his Triduum to feast upon the fullness of his empty tomb;

    and feasting find ourselves – each one – as the Beloved Disciple

    gathered and in-folded to the hem of his eighth day

     

    The Beloved Disciple

    John’s Gospel is famously unique for its seemingly ‘loose’ treatment of history.[1] I suggest this seemingly cavalier approach to history is to make some strong theological points connected with the driving theological purpose articulated in his opening sentence: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.

    This has allowed the evangelist to ‘invent’ an enigmatic character: ‘the Beloved Disciple’. From the viewpoint of strict historical analysis, the Beloved Disciple is apparently guilty of criminal negligence: when Jesus tells him unmistakably who the betrayer is (‘the one to whom I give this bread…’ 13:26). The Beloved Disciple does nothing at all to change the course of events.

    It is necessary to look through another lens.

    There is a venerable Hebrew tradition that goes at least as far back as the Book of Deuteronomy, that all the future generations of Israel were already present as witnesses to the Exodus/Passover and God’s definitive revelation on Mount Sinai, the core events of Israel’s collective memory. Each generation is thereby invited to see, with the eyes of faith, what their predecessors saw – and so enter into it for themselves. While clearly not historically possible, the effect is nevertheless dramatically compelling.

    Again and again, the audience of the national assembly is reminded that they have seen…the portentous events that Moses is rehearsing. At one remove, the members of the historical audience of the Book of Deuteronomy  are implicitly invited to imagine what their forebears actually saw, to see it vicariously. The midrashic notion that all future generations of Israel were already present as witnesses at Sinai is adumbrated, perhaps actually generated, by this rhetorical strategy of the evocation of witnessing in Deuteronomy.[2]

    This added depth to an article about the Beloved Disciple, published in 1983 by Margaret Pamment.[3] Her article enabled me to view John’s ‘Beloved Disciple’ as a rhetorical creation, part of the Johannine ‘evocation of witnessing’. The Beloved Disciple becomes our entry point, our ancestor in the faith, the one in whom we were actually present and experienced these things.

    My poem suggests, first, that every Eucharist is a participation in Jesus’ historic Triduum (a different sort of ‘track’). Further, that my twenty-first century participation in a Eucharist transports me into the historic Last Supper, as the Beloved Disciple in whom I am historically present but unable to change the course of events that night because historically they have already run their course.

    My poem suggests, secondly, through the imagery of ‘the eighth day’ that every Eucharist transports me and all faithful participants eschatologically into the Messianic Banquet.[4]

    Any where is where enough.

    ©The Revd. Jim McPherson

    Image Parishioners of St. Stephen’s Kambah: Eucharist, Mount Ginini, 23rd April 1989: David Rainey and Jim McPherson on their sponsored bushwalk around the Australian Capital Territory.

     

                                                                                                            

     

    [1] Jesus is frequently in Jerusalem, whereas in Matthew and Mark, he arrives there from Galilee for the first time on Palm Sunday, after extensive ministry in the north of Galilee. Luke records one single visit before Palm Sunday, when Jesus was twelve years old.

    [2] Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses (2004), pp 869 - 873

    [3] Margaret Pamment, The Fourth Gospel’s Beloved Disciple, The Expository Times, September 1983, vol. 94 #12:363-367

    [4] The ‘eighth day of the week’ refers to an ancient Christian liturgical practice, inextricably related to Christian identity, which yearned for ‘the eighth day’ which ‘opens toward what cannot be reached simply by more days like those of the seven day weeks we have known…opening toward the day beyond days, toward the last day of God.’ (Gordon W. Lathrop, Holy Things (1993), pp 36 – 43.  

  • Northern Lights in June

    Northern Lights in June

    A New Zealander arrived on our doorstep last week, cold and alone. The early British summer had finally got to him. The Manse, which is the Scots name for a clergy house, was marginally warmer than the temperature outside.  

    When we lived in New Zealand, my memories of childhood summers in Britain were building sandcastles on the beach, eating ice-cream with sprinkles, skipping through fields of daisies, being an imaginary fish in the sea. Now I remember what I had chosen to forget. That it all happened in the cool wind and rain with glimpses of sunshine.

    Our Kiwi friend, who is discovering his family history, was en route to the Orkney Islands, that archipelago, far north. Weather forecast grim. The Orcadian Sabbath is a day of rest, he said. Nothing to do except go to church. Which he did, at St. Magnus Cathedral. Afterwards he read The Observer newspaper, from cover to cover in the relative warmth of a B and B in Kirkwall.

    The Cathedral, one of the finest medieval churches in Europe, is known as ‘The Light of the North’, founded in 1137 by the Viking, Earl Rognvald in honour of his uncle, Magnus. Thereby hangs a saga of political intrigue and dirty deeds. Since those early days, the Roman Catholic, Norwegian, Scottish Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches have all claimed the building as their own. Yet the Cathedral has never been the property of any of them. It belongs to the people, assigned to them by King James III of Scotland in a charter of 1486.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there have been baptisms, confirmations, a wedding and funerals. We yearn for markers in the transitions of life. This is where the Church comes into her own, offering an embodied love through the rites of passage that give meaning to the passage of time and experience.

    Another kind of embodied love is happening at the Findhorn Community which beckoned me earlier this week when the sun came out. In the swinging ‘60’s, Eileen and Peter Caddy and Dorothy Maclean found themselves without work.

    With their children, they lived in a caravan on a wild and windswept shore. Feeding six people on unemployment benefit was almost impossible so they began to grow, from poor soil, amazing flowers, herbs, fruit and huge vegetables. Word spread, botanists and horticultural experts visited and the garden at Findhorn became famous.

    The longing of these three friends was to 'bring heaven to earth'. Others joined them in that hope and now the Community commits itself to a sustainable, holistic way of life and a spacious spirituality. I whiled away some time in one of its smaller gardens. Bees were about, water tumbled over rounded stones, carrots and capsicums grew in the midst of late bluebells and old roses, lemon balm, sage and lavender. A lady wearing a floppy straw hat sat in a shady corner, back straight, eyes closed, calming her mind.

    Two small and beautiful books of poems and prayers arrived in the post a few days ago. Written by  friends in New Zealand, Where Gulls Hold Sway and Be Still were companions on that afternoon of perfect light. The touch of new paper, the smell of ink and glue, the physical turning of the page with thumb and finger, the reading of words that read me…what is this heaven?

    Later this month, at Stonehenge, a mysterious formation of stones in perfect alignment with the solar events of the Summer and Winter Solstices, there will be many peoples, who will gather in a spirit of togetherness, to celebrate the Light on the longest day of the year. 

    In the Southern Hemisphere, on the same date, the Winter Solstice will gift quietude, firelight, restfulness, while seeds germinate in the cold earth. Our ancient ancestors knew the sacredness of such times.

    Memory recalls a visit with Clive, to a recumbent stone circle in Scotland with the almost unpronounceable name of Easter Aquhorthies. It happened many moons ago, in the early hours of a Summer Solstice morning when we were first in love. We cooked eggs on a makeshift stove for breakfast and then watched the pink porphyry, red jasper and grey granite stones, placed there over 4,000 years ago, change colour in the enchanted light. It seemed as if the whole world was open before us.

    The earth spins around, time passes in minutes and millennia. We come, we leave, we meet again. One story.

    ©Hilary Oxford Smith
    Image Caithness Croft, Deborah Phillips

  • Road Trip Aotearoa

    Road Trip Aotearoa

     

    Heart song rises
    as landscape shifts and changes
    at each turn of the road.
    Eyes capture glorious beauty
    at rounded curves.
    Undulating hills of gradient colour
    give way to white faced cliffs.
    Tall deep green firs
    yield to soft hues,
    trees blush in near nudity.
    Autumn riches cede to Winter's stark nakedness
    as road heads south and eastwards.
    Sunlit toi toi
    glistening bright white
    sway in gentle breeze.
    Colour, strong and muted,
    ripple across nature's canvas like a river,
    A veritable gallery of
    Monets to Picassos and back again,
    appear as mile after mile traversed.
    Creation's cyclic song bears witness
    to the Artist's handiwork.
    This un-asked for exhibition of fine art
    triggers heart-bursts of pure delight,
    popping like fireworks against a darkened sky,
    creating momentary distraction
    from focussed road attention.
    Aotearoa,
    land of my heart, my home, my love
    your beauty touches the depth of my being
    and causes my heart to sing.
    Thank you.
     
    ©Gayanne Frater
    June 2014
     
    Image by Nick Frater
     

     

  • A Oneness

    The Rev. Dr. Paul McKeown 27 February 2014

     

    You said in passing
    that you'd washed your mother's hair
    that morning.
     
    I cannot now remember
    when we spoke, or where:
    sotto voce over coffee in the hall
    or poised on sofas in your lounge,
    your thin voice cracking
    with the stress of it all.
     
    And I confess, all else you said
    has seeped from mind,
    save that one lucent line.
     
    You washed your mother's hair.
     
    I see her now,
    inched to the edge of her bed:
    duvet down,
    pink flanellette sheets
    giving up the ghost of her warmth.
    Tired nylon nightie
    shapeless on her
    as you turn and cradle round.
     
    Bent double toward the steaming basin,
    she grasps the table
    stiff armed,
    and bows her head.
    Accepts the towel
    you bequeath upon her shoulders.
    Awaits her baptism
    with the blue plastic cup.
     
    Three times, four,
    then five you scoop and slop.
    Drenching her hair with wet warmth
    'til it sits sodden
    like soaked cotton.
     
    You stoop and lather next;
    fingers coaxing foam from nape to crown.
    Working to a oneness.
    Still lightly kneading,
    kneading,
    kneading
    through all the scalp.
    Long after all that's needful has been done.
     
    Both of you lost,
    And found,
    In the tender rhythm of touch.
     
    The moment stolen, savoured,
    stretched beyond saying:
    time finally calls time.
     
    You straighten up,
    fetch fresh water,
    And dip the cup again.
    Rinsing all but memories away.
     
    ©Paul McKeown

     

  • Advent

    Margaret Lyall 25 December 2013



    Stress and distress, crisis on crisis,

    Mind, body and spirit can take no more.

    Utter exhaustion, energy finished,

    Pain and despair, darkness and silence.

     

    Then, piercing the silence, the cry of an infant,

    Heralding One who will suffer and die.

    Through His living and dying His love will be steadfast

    His Spirit set free and gifted to all.

     

    Can this really be true?

    Does it fit with experience?

    There's reluctance to believe such a staggering claim.

     

    And yet, to be honest, so often it happens

    In the depths of the pain, in the pit of despair...

       - through others' hands His hands stretch out to touch

       - through others' eyes His eyes look out in love

       - through others' lips His lips speak words of care...

    And faith is rekindled, in response to His words

    'What more must I do for you to believe?'

     

    Minds cannot comprehend;

    Truth is veiled in paradox.

    But every time doubt becomes stronger,

    A potentially deeper faith

    Yearns to reach out and embrace it.

     

    Like light piercing the darkness.