This Year's Puaka Matariki reflection
You’ll be fine they said...What could go wrong? I continued to go through the possible answers to that question even as I put the harness on. Before I knew it a gust of wind had thrown me sideways and I was rapidly ascending. ‘Flying’ would make it sound a lot more dignified than what this terrifying paragliding misadventure really was. You’ll be fine they said...we’ll just anchor you with these ropes. I’ve discovered that it’s quite hard to hear what people are shouting as you soar above them and they are bobbling up and down off the ground on the end of a rope. A fair bit of panic and some blind luck later I was on by backside, exhilarated but mostly embarrassed by how dumb we had been.
As far as I know ancient Māori were smart enough not to tie people to their kites, but old records certainly claim they made some very big ones—kites that required many strong men to handle. Stand in the wrong place as one of those unexpectedly dipped and you could be badly injured! Kites, as we are reminded at Matariki, hold an important place in traditional Māori culture. They were flown for the joy of it, yet they were also used for divine guidance in decision making. They held symbolic significance bridging the earth and the heavens. Few original kites survive but one ‘birdman’ kite with a wingspan of just over 3.5 m was gifted to Auckland Museum in 1886 by Sir George Grey.
Matariki, the Māori New Year, is a time for flying kites. There remains much for us to learn about Matariki, yet we might already notice it weaves together threads of whakapapa, spirituality and creation, the gifts of harvest, and the promise of the future. Kites symbolise this powerful connection between the earthly focus on harvest and whanau and the more heavenly wonder of stars and gods.
This is why Matariki is a gift to us. It prompts us to pause, to remember loved ones, to give thanks for the year that has been, especially as many of us live in an easily accessible supermarket oriented relation to our food (with due acknowledgment to the farmers amongst us!). Here amongst the unquestionable strain of our times is a winter invitation to rest and reflect.
This year I invite us to consider the kite and the kumara—that which draws our eyes to the heavens and that which draws our attention to the whanau and the kai in front of us. They are connected. In ancient times we are also told that the great Atua led wise men and shepherds by the night sky to a lowly stable. God, we are told, takes the initiative to travel the kite’s path bridging heaven and earth in love, peace and goodwill for all people.
One of our scripture readings was Amos 5:8: "He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land— the LORD is his name." This reminds us we all sorely need the awesomeness of the starry sky. In turn, we are not to take for granted the presence of God in the ordinary—in food shared, in whanau, in rest, in preparation, in hope for tomorrow.
This Matariki let us consider the kite and the kumara. What would it take for us to lift our eyes for a while as well as appreciate what has been stored and what must be planted?