There’s a version of the story of Papatūānuku and Ranginui where the mist that rises off the hills in the morning are her tears for her lover Ranginui pushed far away into the heights. Māori stories are often about that twinned thread of love and grief. The word aroha means both and other things. Aptly. Anyway, that story about mist in the hills is more satisfying than the story of condensation which has the undoubted advantage of science supporting it but doesn’t make me feel particularly connected to the world. Or, should I say, to someone else’s world. Being Pākehā I’m stuck with God or condensation and would rather neither.
I read a Tranströmer poem out loud. This was the bit I liked:
We made an effort, showing our homes.
The visitor thought: you live well.
The slum is within you.
My listener said: “why do you always like such depressing things?”
I hadn’t thought it was depressing. I thought of it like citrus peel in a salad: tangy and bitter. It makes me wince that line – “the slum is within you” – and then smile.
I liked this too:
Beautiful slag of experiences.
but I didn’t read it out loud.
It’s the word slag. Another bit of lemon peel refreshing the palette. It’s the cutting through I like. The cool yoghurt and cucumber against the curry’s heat, or the itchy heat of our body skipping down the beach to give itself to the cool salt sea.
At the beach in the holidays north of Ahuriri I stood in the water up to my shoulders and looked back at the shore. The waves would form between the shore and I. It was fascinating to see them from the back; how they would rise, shoulder out of the flat, and swell and swell and then tip forward in a plosive pushing wash across the shallows. The beach was in a cove, a wide curl of sand between two jutting cliff faces. Paradise probably. It was easy to imagine how at peace people were here before Pākehā came. A narrow valley, a stream, kaimoana, the sound of the sea. It was the moment of the holiday I remember best.
God, who are not, put your hand on our shoulder,
Rough cast our body with the weight of your return,
Finish blending our souls with these stars,
These woods, these bird cries, these shadows and these days.
The Light, Changed by Yves Bonnefoy
I love these lines. Each one. God, who are not. Rough cast our body. Finish blending. It all is tied together, and the grammatical error at the head is perfect. Well, I think so. The spiritual is not rational, and sometimes disruptive. I certainly feel incomplete. Sometimes with a slum inside me. Dealing with the beautiful slag. Wondering at the woods, the shadows. Are they me? Am I it?