HIVES

On the weekend of the unveiling of my Aunty's headstone, I get a case of the hives. It was Easter and those dam hot cross buns are full of cinnamon. Itching and scratching, I make my way northwards towards Awanui in the far north. We go through Wellsford and Warkworth, through Kaiwaka and Te Hana. We go by Whāngārei and the Bay of Islands, through the small remnant townships of times days gone by - Kawakawa, Moerewa, Kaeo and more. And onward to the Rangaunu Harbour. It's worst in the middle of the night my body, hot and inflamed, allows me no rest. I have to sleep with a fan blowing, sending cooling air across my skin.

Arriving after dark, the lights of the marae are on. I peer into the night looking for familiar faces... that time of first arrival... "who's here? can I see anyone I know?" I decide to take the lead and walk out onto the road and along to the front of the marae. Dam, the gate is locked. So we have to back and and through the side of the fenced in marae and sit at the front. Not to worry, they'll see that we have arrived. We are called in and are welcomed by the family. A distant relation stands in his overalls. He speaks humorously, digging at us about the hour of our arrival. It's all in jest. When I speak, I recall my first time at that marae when I met my granduncle there. He had just returned from Te Rerenga Wairua - the flight of the spirits - where he had had a vision of a whale being cut up, mercilessly. He believed that this vision portended the sale of New Zealand's assets, like land and forests. 

Hives come from histamine pouring into blood cells, so Wikipedia tells me. The cells swell and redden. It takes me a while to remember that I have some antihistamine in the bathroom. I speak my memories of my aunty her red hat, her red jacket. I talk of her daughter, who was more like a big sister to me. I recall how her name comes from the Hokianga. I speak of the connections between us, our genealogies, our shared histories. 

I wonder why they are called 'hives'? The only thing I can think of is that they are like a swarm I suppose. But thats the bees isn't it? Not the hives themselves. Then I think to myself... these kāinga we belong to, they're like hives aren't they? Perhaps my aunty was a queen bee? We all thought so when she was with us.

After the unveiling, we head out to Ahipara for a swim. The seawater ought to be good for my hives. I jump into the beautiful water at Shippers. It's late afternoon. I'm annoyed by the motorbikes and cars on the beach. The noise. Jump under the water and slip into my world. It's so easy to body surf on that beach. You just need to hold body straight, stiff and the wave will catch you. And it took me such a long way in that I almost hongi'ed the sand underneath. About ten times I did that, worked every time. We travelled south from there into north Hokianga. The land of Te Rarawa who used to be called Ngati Ruanui. The early evening light made the land even more moody.

'E kore e mutu', a piece for SATB Choir

On this particular morning...

Unexpectedly, Patrick woke early. It was not his custom to wake early, particularly if he had gone to bed late. Patrick is an enthusiastic sleeper who would easily pass the mandatory eight hours in slumber. On this day, however, after only six hours he found himself looking at his Iphone. It said 6.08am.

Awake, he did not know what to do. He lay in bed thinking that he might fall back to sleep again and readied himself to do so. The thought of renewed sleep enticed for a little while. He closed his eyes and spent some time in an earnest effort to sleep. But to no avail. Wakefulness had him now.

Patrick sat up. This brought a little relief to his back still sore from a strain suffered a few days before. He sat looking at his bedroom before deciding to get out of bed altogether. He went into the lounge and sat on the couch. It helped his back to sit properly upright. He sat there for a while before going make some coffee. This too was unusual for Patrick usually took his coffee midmorning. Tea with milk was his customary hot drink first thing in the morning. 'Hmmm...' he silently thought.

Returning to the couch, Patrick had still no idea what he was to do. Some time passed before he noticed the insistence to find, to do something inside of himself. He asked 'why do I insist to myself that I must do something?' The question was quickly followed by a sudden memory of his Iphone. It dominated his life now. Last thing at night. First thing in the morning. It went everywhere with him.... so much so that if he did not have it there really was some kind of gap. Something missing that was important, real. So he thought that he would go back in the bedroom and get his phone. Something told him, however, not to. He decided to stay on the couch and not rely on his cellphone to entertain him, to guide him, to tell him what to do.

So now Patrick was sitting on the couch, having woken earlier than usual, with a energy telling him he ought to do something but with a mind that had came up with nothing.

He thought he might stare out the window a little while, to perhaps see something he had never seen before. The scene, of course, was perfectly familiar to him. The neighbour's house, a towering pohutukawa tree, a sky partially blue, partially grey. Patrick was born with a conviction that life is more than meets the eye, that the purpose of life is to seek out the mystery but if one does not act, do something about trying to find that mystery then mediocrity, slumber and purposelessness awaits. So Patrick looked out that morning with perfect understanding that the world is a mystery and that he will see the mystery. He only needed to look. But on that morning, he didn't happen. Blank, was Patrick's mind.

A little disturbed, he turned to see what was around him, to see if anything nearby. On a pile of books to his left Patrick found 'Daughter of Fortune' by Isabel Allende. He began to read about Eliza. He thought of exotic 19th century Chile and was open to the Allende's gift. But, again, nothing. He remained as unmoved as ever. "But sure I have woken early for a reason? Surely the universe has roused me from slumber for a reason?'