Port Hills Fire – Dan Spragg

I have carried sadness within me this week.

I grew up in the Beckenham/Sydenham area of Christchurch, beneath the feet of the Port Hills. Their presence was always there. For as long as I can remember they have been part of my existence.

Many, if not nearly all my childhood memories have direct association with them.

My teenage years were either spent on them or close to them.

My adult life so far is saturated with many more memories made in partnership with them.

I live at this time a little further from them than I have been before. But each day they are still there in the distance, and in a way, as I drive into town for whatever reason, I return to them.

The effect of the earthquakes on the hills was fascinating. Much of them remaining unchanged while some parts were drastically changed.

The loss of life and the destruction of property caused by falling rocks was devastating, sobering, humbling and frightening.

But this last week as I watched these hills burn it seemed different.

It seemed like something was occurring that was coming at them rather than from within them.

A violent assault was taking place before my eyes.

This week out of the sadness some words have emerged:

I have carried sadness within me this week.
The hills are burning, their affliction quite visible.
These hills are my home,
They have graciously hosted my presence countless times.
My play,
My exploration,
My refreshment,
My regeneration,
My recreation,
My exertion,
My family,
My solitude.
They are my friend; they are my orientation, my reference point.
They have remained constant throughout all of my changes.
Sometimes although I don’t consciously notice them, I know they are there.
Oftentimes I look towards them and their response is always reassurance and invitation.

This week they are in pain and I carry within me sadness.

I long to be with them, to have them beneath my feet, to reassure them, to be kind to them, to give my energy to their regeneration, to be generous towards them as they have been towards me.

Ko wai ahau?
Ko Sugarloaf toku maunga…

The opening line when introducing oneself in Maori acknowledges the deep connection we have as people with the land we call home. We name our Mountain and in this we begin our story with what anchors us to the place we call home, Mau is ‘hold’, our mountain (maunga) ‘holds’ us. Our stories are always located somewhere.

The sadness weighs heavy and is tiring, but in the awareness of it and in the discovery that is the ‘why?’ – in these I have found energy and life.

Dan Spragg is a minister at The Village Presbyterian Church in Christchurch