He Pākehā Tau Hou

Image Credit: Kawiti Glow Worm Caves

Image Credit: Kawiti Glow Worm Caves

The Pākehā New Year was edging towards us. I was at home in the bush feeling lonely. I imagined everyone else was dancing in glamorous red fabric, surrounded by loved ones and topping up glasses of delicate feijoa champagne.

I imagined everyone else was sitting on soft sand by a brilliant fire while soft waves broke and someone played irresistible reggae. Everyone else would be kissing at midnight. The TV was desperate, watching it was worse than silence. My partner had worked hard all day and was asleep in his chair, I was so awake. I wondered if being older just meant being more and more alone at such times or if the Pākehā New Year had always been this weird.

Once upon time this type of new year had its agreed rituals. If you were Scots you tried to be the “first foot” in the door of the New Year and carried a piece of coal, whiskey or salt to neighbours, you linked arms and sang “ Auld Lang Syng”. English people stole that song off  the people whose land they stole. Sound familiar?

Around the world huge numbers of animals trembled as fireworks gave a garish countdown the resemblance of joy.

What to do? I put on my boots and grabbed the torch. Ths night was furry black, dense with life and murmurings. The ngahere swallowed me up. I walked as gently as possible down the track towards the river, the tanekaha and punga sighed as I past. Every twenty yards ( I am old school), I turned off the torch and the darkness reeled and roared.

Nothingness was far stronger and darker than I had thought it would be. I was in the dark like the dive you take into a Ralph Hotere black wall. I was looking out for something but so far, nothing. I continued down steps of leaves past the fence which separates the forest from next door land and a heap of sleeping pigs. The pigs can be seen in the day time sleeping, staring, rummaging in the dirt. In this night they were invisible.

At the bottom of the track with the smell of the river water close I stopped. The broken tree hut we built with my mokopuna was a derelict ghost. I switched off the torch and faced the banks that loomed above me, day time forest banks draped with green life. Then I saw them. I had always hoped they were there. I had looked for them before but on moonlit nights.

Now they leapt  into my eyes, tiny winking luminous lights. They were scattered and sparkling across the dark. They were gold and fluid and alive. Titiwai, a form of glow worm. Night sky replicated in soft earth. This message was a hope fulfilled. This was delight.

After a while I went back up the path to the house, happiness had overtaken all loneliness. The Titiwai were down there shining in the bank. It was past midnight and I had seen something dancing, tiny spirits had shown me that they lived here, as I had always hoped.

It was an old new thing. The awe and the joy of what lives with us all the time but which we do not often look for.

I decided to try and remember them glowing in the night as a tohu for the new year that is only one version of time.

And be grateful.