Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Premonition And A Pounamu Taonga

This is a story that would be easy to make up, but I swear that it happened exactly as I have written it. What happened doesn't make my hair stand on end, or give me goose bumps - it just makes me smile and smile and smile and gives me a very good warm feeling.

A few months ago I retired from Teaching after 40 years continuous service. I was farewelled by the staff of Hikurangi School and given a card and a gift - and I thought - 'Well that is that, roll on retirement'.

Two weeks ago I had a premonition - That is, an idea attended by a very, very strong feeling popped into my consciousness which said "Hikurangi will give to you a Pounamu (green stone) pendant that you can wear". I thought about this and smiled, then I dismissed it as some sort of wishful thinking. I thought that although I had taught for 40 years in various schools, I hadn't taught long enough or made the sort of impression at Hikurangi School that would warrent the giving of such an honour.

Well how wrong I was.

Last week I had a phone call from Hikurangi School asking me if I would like to attend their end of term Arts Festival presentation. So Christine and I went along and in an audience of parents and friends of the school we were entertained as each class presented fabulous and varied dance and drama items. At the end of the concert, to my surprise I was asked to come forward. I was then presented with a 'Clear File' folder full of poems, posters and letters of farewell from a range of children of all ages across the school. I was also presented with this Pounamu (Greenstone) Taonga (Treasure). Then a farewell  Waiata (song) in the form of a  Ngeri (a type of chant) was sung for me.

It is hard to express in words how deeply I was affected by all of this - I found it all deeply, deeply moving and I told them so in my farewell speech to them. As I watched the fresh, young, animated faces of the children and listened to the wonderful chant of the Waiata I looked and looked and looked and listened and listened and listened - It was a moment I wanted to etch on my mind, something I wanted to never forget - and it shall be so.

What I love the best about all of this is that I have received this Pounamu pendant in the way that Pounamu is supposed to be obtained according to Maori protocols, that is - As a gift - A gift that has been prayed over and blessed and given as a sign of Esteem, Appreciation and Aroha (Love) - There is no other symbol that I would have rather received than this - For me it is the most wonderful and perfect full stop to 40 years of teaching service - Given to me by the school that despite the challenges has been the one that I have had the happiest time teaching in.

Arohanui, Kia Kaha - Go well Hikurangi Primary School Children and Staff - Beneath this Pounamu Taonga that I wear every day beats a heart that will never forget you.


Ben said...

Alden, I am touched. What a wonderful way to stop teaching. And concerning the premonition, I can understand it. May be this happened because you needed dearly also mentally a formal ending of this very intense phase in life.

Alden Smith said...

Yes Ben - Your words "formal ending" sum it up exactly - I wanted a formal ending with something tangible as a symbol of that ending - and the Pounamu Taonga is that perfect symbol.
We humans seem to need some sort of ritual / ceremony with or without a symbolic 'keepsake' that celebrates a life transition.

Unknown said...

A great yarn Alden and what a fitting way to wrap up such a rewarding career where you made a real difference to the lives of so many kids over the decades - including mine more than 30 years ago!

Alden Smith said...

Thank you Christian. I am touched to hear that I made some sort of difference in your education over 30 years ago - Ye gods! 30 YEARS AGO? That's a lot of water under the bridges of the world.

I rotate my daily exercise between kayaking, walking and cycling (I hope to get the sailing sorted when I get this Starling dinghy restored)--- Now from time to time when walking (On the great new Whangarei Town Basin / Hatea River Circuit) I sometimes meet children I taught or more often parents of children I have taught - It's so nice to stop and have a chat with them and hear how everyone is doing.