‘They are talking about changing the Kiwi flag.’ I am driving back to Alice Paul’s house by the lower Hutt River. It is night and the taxi driver and I have struck up a conversation. A new flag sounds like a good idea. They say the land is very young in New Zealand or Aotorea as it is called in the Maori language. The land of the long white cloud.
Ferns grow huge here and give the place a prehistoric feel. We are on a pacific island and you can feel it. The Maori culture is woven proudly into the colonial identity of the people. We were welcomed traditionally by the festival staff and performers who were from all cultures. The ceremony was very definitely Maori. The air between the newcomers (us) and those already here (those whose land we are on) was cleaned by a song sung by a young woman. A solemn welcome and a call for respect.
As we followed her upstairs we could hear the haka and it had the energy of a wild beast. It was an invitation to engage. We sat as they stood and danced before us making it clear that we are guests here and that is to be enjoyed and respected. We responded speaking of our own ancestry and sang a song in the language of my native land. We danced. The movement came from Rian. A piece of work created by Michael Keegan Dolan and me with four other musicians and eight dancers of different ancestry. Because of the context of the ritual our moves spoke anew and had meaning. I was proud of the work we had done. Newly proud.
The oldest castle is nothing in time compared to the songs and dances of the first people. Our songs go back to beginnings and our beginnings are still alive in our songs.
In Kilkenny it is reported, there are marble stones there as black as ink. Ceannas is the patron saint of Kilkenny. A limestone image of his head is at the heart of this old capitol of Ireland. Nearby you can visit a well named after him. The water there is good.
Kilkenny are the most consistent hurlers in Ireland. Hurling is at the center of the identity of the county for many. The hurl is not unlike a hockey stick except that it has a flat face and is made of ash. This, the Norman architecture, the temperament of the people and the majesty of a town allowed to shine by its own standards, gives Kilkenny a special atmosphere.
People are inventive and adventurous. The river Nore passes through and by the bridge, we noticed a magnificent cherry blossom with a young one by her side. Words only begin to capture the feeling that comes from this county. It is another way of seeing this island of ours. Through each town and county, the complexity and inherent magic of our land unfolds. Through each dialect of language, be it the recent English or the profound native Irish or Gaeilge, the musical nuance of people and place comes forth.
A man in an antiques shop was of the land and her elements. He pointed my attention toward a small carving of the resurrected Christ. It was in the window and was carved out of olive wood. It was slightly bigger than a playing card. There was a note of resonance between us as I said goodbye and thanked him for showing me such a thing – A light.
The night before we sang the songs of Leonard Cohen through Irish and felt the fire of music between us. As the man said ‘there is good’. That was Easter Monday.