The world is full of light: the lights of the valley below, the twinkly lights on the banister of our balcony that we put up for Advent. Stars. Sunsets. Huge moons that look like great gold pieces. Our new home seems to be illuminated in all sorts of ways, especially with the wonderful afternoon and evening light we get here.
Coming home from work is like coming on a retreat: the total privacy of this house wraps itself around me the moment I walk in the door. And yet, it's on quite a busy road (the main road in and out of our hillside suburb) and it's only 5 minutes to the centre of Lower Hutt and 25 minutes to Wellington (without traffic!). Our living room overlooks the valley and Wellington Harbour, and the view is spectacular. No two days are the same - not even two minutes - and it's always lovely. Even when the storms roll in, we can see the clouds coming in over the water, and we get wrapped in clouds up here. No window is overlooked by any other house: the only windows that look onto the street are the dining room, and they are shielded by native trees. Our bedroom looks out onto the deck, and it's shielded by trees from the street so it's totally private. This house is an introvert's paradise!
Returning to our parish church of St James has been like going home again: returning to liturgy, to good music, to good friends who welcome us back into the family. In some ways its as though we never left but in others, we've learnt new things we can offer St James, and the parish has created new traditions that we're becoming part of. One of them was a lovely surprise last week, on the solemnity of Christ the King, last day of the church's year. It was a solemn high mass, concelebrated by three priests, with millions of candles (more or less!), and incense! Lots and lots of incense! The music was the normal St James sung liturgy, although the priest leading it sang the entire prayer of consecration which we don't usually do. It was fabulous. The only slight drawback from my point of view was that I had laryngitis and literally couldn't make a noise at all - the humour of the hymn choice struck me when we sang "Let all mortal flesh keep silence" - I didn't have a choice! It was a relief to sing "rejoice" today on Advent Sunday!
St James has also always had a strong tradition of getting children involved in the liturgical life of the parish. We hadn't been back three minutes when I was asked to rejoin the choir (which I did with joy), and our daughter was asked to be a Herald. The Herald is a tradition peculiar to St James, where a child carries a taiaha behind the crucifer in all the processionals, and is responsible for reading the opening sentence of the liturgy, and leading the processional of the offertory up to the altar. They wear child-sized liturgical robes. It's a sort of junior server: the next step is serving the altar, and then being crucifer or liturgist. Our daughter very proudly did her first service as Herald a couple of weeks ago, and was very pleased that she got to be Herald on the First Sunday of Advent. Hubby has picked up his camera for the parish again, and has been mixing the sound and running the powerpoint (a new innovation for St James since we left). I've also been writing for the parish magazine again, which was pretty cool.
We've also found outlets for most of our other activities: we've found an archery club in Trentham - the only drawback is that they don't have an indoor range so if the weather's nasty, there's no shooting. However, they do have a clout and field range, which we didn't have in Rotorua. Daughter has Linked from Brownies to Girl Guides here, and has had a wonderful term with Guides here (sewing box came out again for yet more badges!). Hubby has returned to the camera club here, and is rediscovering pottery which he used to do years ago. I'm loving having my friends and professional networks back, and the challenge of what I'm doing at work is really interesting.
So, all in all, the move has worked well. It's good to be back!