Onion Skins May’17


I am reading an “old” book at present called “The Godwits Fly” by Robin Hyde describing life in Wellington back at the time of the First World War….times beyond the ken of most of us. It reads like some of Janet Frame’s writing, quite stark, but very real with a closeness to the earth and to life with its pathos and tragedy but there are “creeping through” moments of letting go and exquisite times of unbridled freedom and joy.

Take this description of the hills and gullies in Wellington; “the land was living like the sea, a land always alive, when it can grow hair and this place sent up scrub, trees, gorse and bracken, long grasses that wear, slipping in summer when feet run over…..” and again in complete contrast the hard reality as expressed by her father, John, to her mother, Augusta; “you’re putting more coal on that wretched stove. How do you expect me to pay the bills, and Sandra with the soles nearly dropping of her shoes…..?” I love the almost quaint grammar, which expresses such profound truths.


I was writing this at the Alto Café in Mornington looking out the window at the feast of humanity going about their business, a sight that always fascinates me. Last week I was doing the same thing “watching” but it was the many surfers at St Clair playing with the waves and Corron and Margi were my companions.


I went back to my musing and there was a knock on the window. I looked out again and there was an old friend of mine, for many years, giving me a thumbs up sign and smiling through the window. I knew this man well, and his troubles over many years. I knew of his sadness but the smile was completely transforming……..and then he was gone. I was left with this wonderful gift.


The sad reality about “The Godwits Fly” is that Robin Hyde subsequently became very depressed and committed suicide…..she was very “alone”.


By the time you read this Easter will have been and gone. There will have been the sadness but then the joy to follow and it’s significance for all of us. We might not be Robin Hydes in our writing but we still have imaginations and as we have read in Robin Hyde’s account the realities of life back at the beginning of the 19th Century, so we too can be real about what is happening for us, and for each one of us.


It is not easy being real about things, but the reality is there in our own lives and families, in Coastal Unity, and in our country and on the international scene….how do we deal with walls between people, and the suffering of refugees not of their making, and the exclusivity of our responses? How do we embrace others, whatever their belief? 

A smile through the window of a café is the beginning of the answer. It is an indication of friendship, and commitment to each other like our Lord has always had for us. I absolutely believe our Lord is present in these encounters.


It is an “in spite of “ love which takes us as we are, with all the sadnesses and difficulties but also the joys. We should go looking for the wind in the grass, sweeping over the hillsides and the snapping of the seeds in the broom and the gorse and rejoice in His radical grace which can transform this world and our lives.


God Bless, Pete S