This year I am finding Easter especially egg-asperating.
I used to be more tolerant. Being a lover of story, ritual and celebration I used to embrace the inherited northern celebration of eggs, Spring and rebirth as our heritage while trying to draw attention to the natural world as it unfolded around us – baskets of apples, kumara and potatoes birthed from the earth, the wheel barrow of pumpkins and the dry seed heads – in every direction you look, the display of life spent and retreating, leaving us with the gifts of the harvest to see us through the winter.
There are no eggs at this time of year, only a lingering shadow of an egg in our northern genetic memory. If anything the egg at Easter has become a symbol of commercial cash cow. Industries that milk every last drop from the human love of celebration, transforming the process of meaning making and ritual into the shallow, soul destroying, disconnected experience of consuming. Even Anni- Frid and Agnetha, the sister chooks who live with me know this, choosing instead to malt and ignore the nesting box. Any mention of eggs, is met by a feathery look of disgust.
But there are small egg like fruits, baubled decorations dripping from trees, everywhere to be had - fejoas, guavas and olives…ahhh, my tongue rests on olives.
You will roll your eyes when I tell you that I am in love with olives and more particularly, olive trees.
The grove of community olive trees grows directly across the road from my home and every day, with no effort or intention I look at them. But lately I have been in close contact. Anyone on Waiheke will tell you it’s been a bumper year for olives; the trees are dripping with fruit. Two weekends ago we picked 700kg of olives with that amount again to still come off the trees.
This time last year I arrived home from Korea with an exotic strain of flu and was unable to participate in the annual harvest but this year I was happy to find myself in the thick of community as we chattered, sung and told stories, participating in the age-old ritual of harvesting olives that stretches back some 8000 years.
The olive tree, a symbol of peace, originated ironically from perhaps one of the most troubled places in the world – the region that now encompasses Israel, Syria, Palestine and Jordan.
However my favourite olive tree story originates from Mediterranean.
In the creation of the capital of Greece, there was much discussion about which god would serve as the patron of the city. The contest came down to Poseidon, the god of the sea and Athena, the goddess of wisdom. No god was keen on making the final call, and so Zeus decided upon a competition. The god who could create the most useful gift to the people of the new city would win the title of patron.
It is a particularly good year to tell this story as Poseidon created the horse (Chinese wooden horse year). The gods were deeply impressed at this magnificent creature.
“ It will prove a willing servant to humans helping them in their labours, most especially in war. Soldiers will ride undefeated on the backs of these fearless creatures.”
It seemed unlikely that Athena could produce something more wonderful than the horse and when the goddess stepped forward with a small scrawny looking tree, it seemed to all in attendance that Poseidon had already won.
“ This tree may look insignificant, but it will demonstrate a strength and tenacity surpassing many other forms of life. It will grow in the dry arid conditions of this new city, thriving where other plants cannot grow, it will provide shelter and food and what’s more it will be heralded as a symbol of peace, which is what people need more than the scourge of war.”
Upon hearing this Athena was proclaimed the winner and to this day the capital bears her name, Athens, and her blessing.
I thought about that story as I repeatedly combed my fingers through the olive tree branches, causing the fruit to rain down on the cloth below, my eyes feasting on the hues of green, crimson and purpley black. My hands became soft from the oils and even in the heat of the day I felt strongly grounded and energized.Interestingly amongst the Bach Flowers, Olive is the remedy for tiredness and exhaustion. The more time I spent amongst the olive trees the more alive I felt. They have, I believe a tenacious magic.
So forget about nasty cheap chocolate foil wrapped eggs this Easter, reach instead for the olive jar, savour the true taste of the season and give thanks to the earth that nourishes us.
Happy Harvest and in true ‘Stark sentiment’…..winter is coming.