Monday, 2 May 2022

Resting - on Waiheke and at home

Over ANZAC weekend Martin and I spent four nights camping at Poukaraka Flats on Waiheke Island.  It's a fairly basic Auckland Council campground in the Regional Park there, although less basic than some - there are flush toilets, and the showers are set up so the water reservoirs heat up nicely on a sunny day.  The showers also have open ceilings and are located next to some tall trees: it's quite lovely to look up into leaves and a brilliant blue sky :-)

We stayed at the same campground over ANZAC weekend last year.  Knowing the place a bit did make the break especially restful - I wasn't so interested in making sure I saw the various interesting things in the area, meaning I spent most of the time just resting.

Here we are about to get going.  Most of the kit's on Martin's bike, with just a few bits and pieces on mine.

Here are the bikes after visiting Waiheke Island's Countdown: my bike's a bit more laden, now that we have four night's groceries added to the mix.


I'd made really good time getting to the supermarket.  We'd biked to the local train station, caught the train into town and then the ferry across to Waiheke.  Last year it took me about an hour to get from the ferry at Matiatia to the supermarket in Ostend; this time it was 45 minutes :-)  However, after that things didn't go so well.  Waiheke's pretty hilly, and at the beginning of the last hill I ran out of oomph.  I've been working very hard recently, and I think I was just too tired - especially with the extra weight of groceries.

Fortunately, where I ran out of energy was by the beach right next to the beach where we'd be camping.  Martin suggested I leave my bike at the carpark and walk around the headland, and he'd bike his bike up and over then nip around the headland for my bike and bike that up and over as well.  In the end, I decided to take a somewhat longer route and walk over the headland that divides the two beaches - it was a hot day and I wanted some cover, plus it's always nice to be in the bush.  I took it pretty slowly and ended up at the campsite at exactly the same time as Martin rolled up on my bike - about an hour after we'd left the supermarket, the same time as it'd taken me to bike last year :-)

It's a glorious place to be: above is the view looking back towards the campsite from the beach at low tide.

At the right in the photo below is the headland I walked over to get to the campsite.  It's an old pa site, with lots of kumara pits.

Martin serving up dinner.  These council campsites always seem to have enough picnic tables for anyone who wants to to commandeer one, which is awfully handy.  Our tent is big enough to sleep in, but doesn't really have space for much stuff, so we kept all our groceries and other bits and pieces on the table the whole time.  Behind Martin you can see there's just a thin band of trees (which made a very effective shelter-belt) and then the sea.  It was lovely to go to sleep to the wash of the waves high on the beach :-)

Our setup.  You can see the picnic table and tent.  We kept a bike at each end of the table the whole time, which meant we could cover the table with a tarp at night or when it rained and the tarp stayed reasonably well above the stuff.  It rained a few times while we were there, but not enough to be really troublesome.


The view looking out from the beach at low tide.  You probably can't pick it in the photo, but w could see the Sky Tower slightly to the left of the small island that's roughly in the middle of the photo.  There were many brief rain showers during our stay, and Martin spent a lot of time looking out at this view watching the various bands of cloud roll in - they moved remarkably quickly!

It was so good to take time to rest.  We did one bush walk, had a couple of swims on the finest day, and listened to a 5-ish hour audio book together.  Twice Martin picked cockles for our meals :-) Other than that, I spent an awful lot of time dozing, and didn't do much else other than sit in various places watching birds.  It was so good to just 'be'.

It wasn't the cheapest of holidays, at $275 for four nights, but not too bad.  Also not too bad from a greenhouse gas point of view, being responsible for around 70kg CO2e (what the planet can absorb per person in about three weeks).  And it was so good for us both.

At home, I often find it difficult to truly rest; although I still spend much of my day lying down, I'm most often both playing Solitaire and listening to something.  But on this break I found myself quite content to just do nothing.  I've been trying to practise more of that at home, too, in the week or so that we've been back - and twice in recent days that's led to me falling asleep in the afternoon - so good :-)

Today has been my weekly Sabbath.  I'm so grateful to God for the rhythm of the week, and for every week having a day to rest and to be with God and to do the things I feel like doing.  This morning I spent time reflecting on Isaiah 30:15:

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

It comes at a time when God is trying to call the people of Israel back to him, but they're not interested.  And yet, reading those words, I'm so interested!  Being with God, rest, quietness, trust - these are the things I so often find myself longing for.

So, I thank God for the regular rhythm of weekly rest, and for regular patches of quiet in the day.  I pray for deep rest.  But, I also pray for the simplicity of purpose that I hope comes from spending time with God.  Because the other thing I was reflecting on this morning was the fleetingness of life.  I was reading these words sitting under our oak tree.  The leaves were falling - each of them has come to the end of its existence as a leaf.  Ants were crawling over me, and I killed one of them as I flicked it off my leg.  More significantly, someone we care about a lot from our church is dying - and, although he's lived a long life, it still feels like his life is being cut short as he's so actively living and growing right now.  And so I pray, in the short time that I will live, that I won't be consumed with busyness but that I will live out of a still, quiet core - that trust in God will be my strength and my guide, day to day.

Monday, 11 April 2022

Beach walk

Martin and I are trying to take time every third Thursday to do something nice together.  Last Thursday we caught the bus to Green Bay, with the intention of starting to walk the Manukau Coastal Walkway and see how far we could get.  There were easy buses back from either Blockhouse Bay Beach, mid-way between there and Lynfield Cove or from Lynfield Cove itself.

We didn't check the tides before we left (the walk is all well away from the sea, often along the clifftop), but when we arrived at Green Bay the tide was well out.  Another group were already striding off along the beach, and we decided to do the same and see how far we got - it looked like we could rejoin the main path at many points.

Looking at the interesting rock formations and vegetation on the cliffs at Green Bay (you can also get some idea how far out the tide is).

We walked along some pretty isolated beaches, many featuring random debris.  I was very taken by this old box, that is now a little functional ecosystem, with ferny aquatic plants and sea snails and things.

After maybe 40 minutes walking, Martin spotted a distinctive rail heading down from the rocks to the water.  I didn't realise, but it had been used in the past to launch life boats from the point at the end of Blockhouse Bay Beach - we'd walked all the way to Blockhouse Bay Beach!

We lay on the grass for a while and chatted in the sun, then headed off along the route I swim at Blockhouse Bay Beach.  It was firm enough to walk the whole way across.  I was interested to realise a pipe I often swim across is actually a tree trunk - and I was very surprised how not-very-tall the rocks are where I sit on the far side of the bay before swimming back.

I also loved how the bird footprints looked like flowers

There still seemed to be plenty of beach to walk on, so we continued on towards Lynfield.

This cave was pretty cool

I think this path up the cliff may be the access-way to the house of one of my church friends - I need to check

Eventually, at the far end of what turned out to be Lynfield Cove, we finally came across a point we couldn't get around without getting our feet wet.  So we walked back to the park at the beach end of the bay and spent a while looking out to sea, as well as watching a dad play with a drone while his daughter threw sticks into the water.

Then we walked the only section of our originally-intended path, up to Halsey Drive where we would catch our bus home.

Looking out to sea from above Lynfield Cove

Looking back towards the boat house at Blockhouse Bay Beach

The end of our 'off-road' walk - from here we walked up Strathnaver Crescent to Halsey Drive and lay on the grass for 20 minutes or so before catching our bus home.

It was a delightfully meandery way to spend a morning - and we even bumped into a neighbour for a friendly chat on the way home from the bus :-)

Lent 2022

This year, as I have for many years, most days during Lent (the traditional Christian season of preparation for Easter) I have done the following reflection.

Spend some time with God each day, ask him to purify your heart and mind through the power of the Holy Spirit. Be willing to surrender to God.

You may want to ask him questions such as:
- What words have I used that have hurt others?
- What actions or activities have I engaged in that are unhelpful or block my relationship with you?
- What ‘fruits’ need to grow in me? Characteristics such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness/generosity, faithfulness, gentleness/humility and self-control.

Holiness grows out of prayers like these.

Looking to tomorrow, take time to consider who or where God might want you to serve. What opportunities might arise where you can resist being the first, best or most important person? Are there situations at home, work or in everyday life where you can serve others tomorrow? Are there times where you can allow others to be first? Pray for the grace to be able to lay aside pride and take the place of a servant.

It wasn't originally intended as a Lent reflection, but rather came from a UK Bible Society series of studies on different strands of Christian spirituality - this one came from the 'Holiness' tradition.

I've also been fasting twice a week from when I wake up until around 4 in the afternoon.

Perhaps because of the fasting (something new for this year), or perhaps unrelatedly, it's been an uncommonly fruitful series of reflections for me.  I feel like I'm being stretched and my heart is being enlarged - which is not always pleasant, but which is good and satisfying.

I've been uncommonly busy these past 8 weeks or so (thankfully that busyness is mostly at an end now), and it's been helpful to have the Lent reflection time each afternoon, as it's helped me notice how I've been approaching people.  In particular, I've noticed again and again that I've been expecting people to be automata, and have been very intolerant of the messyness inherent in their humanity.  I want people to do the predictable thing - even when it has no impact on me - because that feels tidy and safe, and those feel like things I need to cope.  Again and again I've found myself praying for two particular fruit of the Spirit to grow in my life: kindness and generosity.

And I've been so grateful to see myself changing over the course of the weeks; to realise I really am growing in those areas and giving people more leave to simply be who they are.

Then, maybe three weeks ago, I found my attention repeatedly drawn to a particular tree that I can see from our back step - the golden one in the picture.  I felt like God was trying to say something, but I wasn't sure what.  So I kept taking time to look at it and wonder and pray.

The penny gradually dropped Monday two weeks ago

Monday is the day I take as my Sabbath.  Amongst other things, each Monday I try to take at least an hour to read from the Bible, prayerfully reflect on what I've read, and read from a thought-provoking Christian book.  Often I go somewhere else to do this, to be away from the distractions of home.

That Monday I walked to Heron Park.  As I entered the park, I wanted to take my shoes off.  On Mondays, I try to be particularly attentive to what I 'feel like', so that's what I did.  I walked over the strong, thick kikuyu grass, enjoying the feel of it against my soles.  When I stopped to do my reflection time under a tree, I kept stopping to run my hands through the thick mats of the grass (kikuyu forms a surprisingly deep mat - I don't think I'd realised that before!), and it felt good.  I thought about Moses and how he took off his shoes when he sees God in the burning bush.  He did that because the ground was holy because God was there.  But obviously that didn't apply to me.  Or did it?  And I thought about how the whole universe is infused with God's glory - so where I was was holy, after all.

As I walked back, I was amazed at the beauty of this tree, in particular.  And then I realised what it was about the other tree, the one I see by our back step.  It's blazing, and glorious - a visible token of the glory that generally we can't see.

And that circled back to my first realisation from Lent.  Expecting people to be automata and seeing people as obstacles when they act unexpectedly is most especially a problem because all people are made in God's image.  They blaze with God's glory even more than that tree does.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Whangarei, December 2021

Over Christmas, Martin and I were in Whangarei visiting his parents.  One highlight was visiting the (then-not-quite-yet-opened) Hundertwasser Art Centre.  I thought it I'd left it too late to post photos from our trip, but a Swiss friend mentioned she loves Hundertwasser's work so I thought, rather than just sending her our photos, I'd put them up here :-)

It's a striking and delightfully fun building!

Friday, 28 January 2022

Scripture Union Bible camp

On Tuesday, Martin and I got back from a week on P┼Źnui Island at Scripture Union's only annual camp for grownups - their Bible Study Camp.  I'm still exhausted, but it was such a good week.  It was a beautiful location, people were so friendly, and the teaching times have given me good stuff to ponder on.

We traveled there from the stunning Kawakawa Bay, somewhere I don't think I've been before:

 

Monday, 13 December 2021

Drinking summer

 Pohutakawa flowers are such an icon of New Zealand summer :-)

Over the past few weeks, more and more have come into flower around here.

  

I love the way they turn the footpaths red. 

  

But I had no idea they had culinary uses until I heard about pohutakawa cordial on National Radio the other week.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

A satisfying achievement :-)

Last summer I was regularly swimming at Blockhouse Bay Beach.  I would take the bus, walk down the hill and then swim.  I built up to 8 'widths' of the bay, which is about 1.2km and took me about an hour.

Then the weather got colder, and by June/July I was only staying in for about half an hour and swimming 600m.  I'd expected to be biking there (rather than busing) for these shorter swims, but I ended up going with a neighbour in her car instead.  I would swim while she walked her dogs at Craigavon Park.

Then Covid arrived in New Zealand for real.  At level 4 we weren't allowed to swim.  At level 3 we could swim in open water, but I was no longer keen to catch the bus and share everyone's germs.  So I started biking to the beach: initially swimming 4 widths, then 6, until today when I made it to 8 widths - 1.2km again :-)  I was super-pleased with myself.  Last week I swum 900m in 44 minutes; today I did 1.2km in 61 minutes.  I even kept to the same pace for the last two widths :-)

A happy Heather at the end of the swim.  It's been a gorgeous day today :-)