The second two days of the CACLALS conferece, which I did intend to blog about (honest!), were great. Plenty of opportunities to talk, learn, listen and think. Some of these opportunities were because I agreed and was being extended and affirmed and challenged in my thinking, and some of them were because I took exception to what was being said - but by so doing, I got to clarify for myself how I really think. I gave a keynote at the conference on Monday, using Anishinaabe writer Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm's amazing poem "from turtle island to aotearoa" as the basis for a talk about Maori-Aboriginal connections. In her poem, she recalls going to Aotearoa and being welcomed onto a marae. As she spends time at the marae, she realises how closely connected she is to where she is from, and eventually finds - through her experience with Maori - a way of returning to her own context having been affirmed and refocussed.
I've left the Spadina Ave apartment. This is where Matiu and Megan had Christmas with me, it's where Mum and Dad were based for a month, it's where friends like Ra, Dominique, Chad & Joel, and Shirleen & Alyssa & Katherine came to stay. This is where local mates like Nadine, Sarah and Anne & Michelle spent time, picked me up, dropped me off, gossipped, ate, drank, and so on. This is also where I learned that cousin Pete had passed away, where I applied for a job which would wrench me away from my beloved Aotearoa, and where I wrote some things and failed to write others. Everything is in boxes now: two boxes are on their way to Hawai'i already, I'm surrounded by boxes here in the downstairs of Anne & Michelle's place where I'm staying until the 15th when I fly home, and the rest of my life is in boxes in Wellington. I don't live anywhere, I'm not unpacked, I have no housekeys except for the spare to this place which I'll hand back in a fortnight. It was sad to leave Spadina Ave, but it is also the right move: it's time, it was only ever for a year, my season in Toronto has been amazing and is irreplaceable but it's also ending.
Samoa is 50 years old today! Or not, depending on how you feel about marking the age of a nation by the time elapsed since it seized independence from European (in this case New Zealand) colonial domination. But, milestones like these are worth celebrating because they remind us of histories and people and, especially, the hard work of people who sacrificed so much for the sake of such moments. Ia manuia lou aso fanau, Samoa. Samoa mo Samoa!
My cousin Daniel is now a father! He and Briar welcomed little Pania into the world this week. She's the newest addition to the Te Punga line (as well as many other lines, of course) - the first mokopuna of Aunty Jill and Uncle Mike, the first great-granddaughter of Roi and Thora, the first great-great-grandather of Hamuera and Lydia. I will get a chance to meet this precious little girl when I'm in Sydney in July - but for now, it's just so exciting to have a new baby in the family! Nga mihi nui, mihi aroha ki Danial raua ko Briar :) You'll make lovely parents for this lucky little chicken.
How many homes have I packed up and shifted from? I start to lose count... here, Wellington, Sydney, Honolulu, Ithaca, Auckland... so many boxes and bags... so much carrying stuff out to the car. So much stuff! It's nice to be staying with Anne and Michelle in these last two weeks of my time in Toronto- it feels kind of right. I stayed with them the first time I came to Ithaca, part of the process by which I moved to the US and - in some ways - became this girl, with this life, involving so many boxes, bags and suitcases for so many years. I am hopeful that Honolulu will be a chance to stop again for a while, and live with an eye on a calendar rather than a clock for time. Measuring time, measuring homes, by months and years rather than hours.
In her poem about visiting Aoteaora, Kateri notes:
“Weeks from now
I will fall through the sky to turtle island
Clutching a bit of papatuanuku in my fist
I will create a new beginning for myself
On the solid back of Canada”
She is referring to the origin story of her people here, including the falling of a woman from the sky down towards the water and her being caught ultimately by a turtle. I'm conducting the reverse journey, leaving Turtle Island (as North America is known) for Aotearoa, but with a bit of this place clutched in my fist. I will be landing in Aotearoa but moving to Hawaii soon after. Where's the solid back in that? Well, gentle reader, it all depends on how you look at it... (And Miigwech to Kateri for the amazing poem...)
"Weeks from now
I will fall through the sky to Te Moananui a Kiwa
Clutching a bit of Turtle island iun my first
I will create a new beginning for myself
On the solid back of the Pacific."