The Passing of Time on the Marae
First published in WRITE ON magazine, Issue 53.
The sun is lazily rising from the horizon as the harakeke steps in time with the wind. It’s almost as though they are dancing to a song, only they can hear. I watch in envy of their freedom.
Nga taonga whakarere iho
O te rangi
O te whenua
O nga tupuna
Homai he oranga mo matau
Tihei mauri ora
The karakia is drilled into my brain from the whaea’s relentless teachings.
The mokopuna all take turns holding the flax for the kaumatua. Today, I drew the short straw. The flax piled in my arms is surrounded by my tight embrace. I feel a cool breeze brush my hands. Typical of the winter chill, overstaying its welcome. My gaze drifts from the plant to the woman expertly harvesting flax for her marae. Whaea guides her knife through the bottom of the harakeke, carving diagonally away from the heart of the plant. We have been taught the tikanga from a young age. Protect the plant and its whanau, in return it will do the same for us. Each time we collect the flax all of this is repeated. Boredom, repetition, I want to help, I want to be involved. But I’m too young. I stand, I hold, I just do my job. One day it will be my time.
I watch as the young children argue about whose turn it is. I lead the unlucky girl down the path to the harakeke plants. Her face reminds me of my younger self. I pass her the first lot of harakeke. But I decide to pass on one more thing.
“Don’t worry, Hine, one day it will be your turn”.