beautiful monsters: August 2005 Archives

August 17, 2005

Mornings are the worst

because through bleary eyes the day seems unaffected, the familiar surroundings are innocuous.

Then there is the moment of remembering.

It is slightly surreal, like an iceberg that suddenly sinks out of the blue sky, bringing all it’s cold and weight, it slights into place just below the ribcage.

For a while it sits there, the jagged edges send sharp pains through the body until eventually the cold brings numbness.

And then it is time to push the covers aside, step carefully over the rubble that is strewn across the bedroom floor, and roll up the pain like it’s not a huge block of ice at all, but a small rug, or a blanket, that can be squeezed into a cupboard and pushed away until there is time and space to let it unravel.

For now it is time to go to work, and remember to eat lunch, and pick up prescriptions on the way home, and do the dishes. Life goes on.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 11:41 PM | TrackBack

Eric Bodley

June 26 1919 – August 11 2005


Husband, father, grandfather, stepfather, host father

Electrical technician

Electrical Artificer


Auto electrician


Amateur ornithologist

Amateur jeweller


TV cameraman

Music lover

Bread maker

Double bass player

Choral singer

Market gardener



Peace activist




Machine knitter







Posted by Fionnaigh at 11:40 PM

Running from grief

On Friday I was going to drive up to Rotorua to visit my grandparents – my mother’s father and my father’s mother. Nana was in a home and had been sick for some time. Eric was reasonably fit and very active, still living in a place of his own, going on trips and taking up new hobbies. He’d just been admitted to hospital because they thought he had pneumonia. Then on Thursday morning my father phoned to say that Eric had died suddenly.

I left for Rotorua a day early, and it felt like I was running from grief all the way up the island. It was welling up like a flood behind me, but I had to keep ahead of it, keep from falling apart, keep the car on the road and arrive in one piece. Luckily I found an MD of The Shirleys and The Beatles, and I played that at full volume. Singing along seemed to keep my mind off death, and stop the tears from spilling over.

My grandfather was an amazing man. He seized every moment, and lived it to the full. He was an orchardist, a mechanic, a TV cameraman, an amateur ornithologist, and a vegetarian from the age of 6 to 86. He played the double bass, restored and collected vintage Buicks, exhibited camellias, made his own clothes from cloth he had spun and woven, baked bread, kept bees, got involved with the peace movement, started the local chapter of Forest & Bird, and proudly displayed GE Free stickers on his campervan. He traveled everywhere from Vietnam to Norway, and kept travelling with the Pink Coach tours right up until he died.

His funeral was lovely. We had it at my parents house. I painted the coffin, which was really healing, and helped me to express some of the love and memories I couldn’t put into words.


My dad chose some music that was meaningful for my grandfather, and my mother picked camellias from the garden, so everyone could choose one to put in the coffin. She put in one from the tree they picked flowers from for my grandmother’s coffin, and one from the last tree my grandmother planted.

I found this poem by Nancy Wood to put on the back of the service sheet:

You shall ask
What good are the dead leaves
And I will tell you
They nourish the sore earth.
You shall ask
What reason is there for winter
And I will tell you
To bring about new leaves.
You shall ask
Why are the leaves so green
And I will tell you
Because they are rich with life.
You shall ask
Why must summer end
And I will tell you
So that the leaves can die.


I couldn’t speak at the funeral, I just cried. But lots of other people shared stories about Eric, and most had us all laughing. One of my mother’s childhood friends shared about how, without knowing Eric she would not have her love of gardening, and classical music, and the environment. And without Eric and June she wouldn’t have had the confidence to go to university. And without knowing them, she wouldn’t have learned that families sit down and talk together, and that marriages can work.

After the service it turned out that the funeral home had a Buick, so Eric left in style.

I still can’t believe that he is gone. I was his only grandchild, and he was my only grandfather. I miss him so much, I don’t know how I can bear it.


I spent a couple more days in Rotorua, and visited my nana. She was so sick, she couldn’t even roll over, or sit up without the nurses coming and moving her. She just lay there, a tiny bird skeleton, crying out “help me, help me,” but when we asked her what we could do she looked at us as if she was surprised to find us there. “Nothing,” she said, “you can’t do anything.” Once she said to me “just wait, I might shut up soon.” She was only on panadol for days, even though she seemed to be constantly in pain. Finally, after my dad kicked up a fuss, they put her on morphine. She seemed a bit less distressed after that. My dad stayed with her all night, and she slipped away early this morning.

I don’t think it’s really sunk in, that she’s dead. I’m still so tired and shattered after the long drive and the funeral, and then the drive back.

Now I feel like I’ve stopped running, but the world keeps rushing past. The grief is washing around me, but I’m so numb, so tired. Life keeps going on and on, and I don’t know what to do, how to cope. All of a sudden I have no grandparents left. My tiny family just got so much smaller.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 01:07 AM | TrackBack

August 04, 2005

What d’ya know, theology *is* sexy!

Or at least it is when it has a sexy accent.

“Poor people are not asexual, and issues of sexuality are also important for their lives, so I always wanted to find God in the corners, in the gaps of their life and struggle.” (Marcella Althaus-Reid, interviewed by Linda Clark).

It’s not often anyone so radical comes to speak here, let alone in a church. Some people seem to think that the most radical statement they can make about God is to say that God does not exist. But in fact it is far more radical, more challenging, more dangerous, to say that God is queer, that God is a tranny, that God is sexual.

Marcella: The status quo is an ideology, it is an normalisation process, and I claim that you cannot find god in a normalisation process, after all, Jesus Christ come from some abnormality, in people’s every day life. You don’t have a God being born every day, do you?!

Linda Clark: So what, has the church somehow perverted that?

Marcella: The church has not perverted it, because pervert for me is a very positive concept. Perversion, in reality, as the way that I use it theologically, it comes from a Latin root that means to take another road, to take a different turn, not an expected one. So I wanted a per-version in theology, which means another version. A perversion of finding God, another way to find God, which is not strange for us in Liberation Theology. This is what we have been striving for years, to find a God that is Latin American, among our people, among our experiences. What theology had done, and the church had done, is to normalise and domesticate God. In that way, that God is just a reflection of our ideologies and the way that we think and we understand normality. My understanding is that God exceeds all the categories. This is a little bit of what queering God will mean.


Why say “God does not exist” without questioning the definition of God? How can you say something doesn’t exist if you don’t know what it is?

I do not believe in a God who is up in the sky, looking down on us. I do not believe in a God who is male, let alone a man with a long white beard.

But I do believe in God.


Contrary to popular belief, I have actually read the bible. Interesting fact: the bible was written by people. Ordinary, fallible people. Who lived a long time ago, in a particular part of the world.

I’ll leave it to others to point out the contradictions in the bible, the metaphors, the passages that were written with a specific time and place and people in mind, the way that the culture and preconceptions of the authors have influenced their interpretation of God’s wisdom. The way that meanings have been subtly altered in translation. I’m bored with all that.

What bothers me is not the way that people cling to bible verses taken literally, and out of context, but the way that they ignore the countless other ways that God communicates with humanity.

I really struggle with the idea that the writers of the bible were the only people in the world, the only people in history, who were handed God-given wisdom about how we should live our lives. Didn’t God stir in the lives of people in Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Pacific? Didn’t anyone anywhere else, in any other period of history, experience dreams, visions, prophecies of God?

The bible does contain a lot of valuable wisdom. But wisdom for life can also be found within the teachings of other faiths. In the words of other teachers. Buddha and Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Te Whiti o Rongomai. It can be found in the poems of children, and in graffiti sprayed on the walls of cities, notes scribbled on napkins, words stitched into cloth, or scratched in clay. Works of art, drama, music, contemporary and ancient, these can all teach us about God. A droplet of rain at the tip of a branch of rimu, a passionate kiss, the song of birds, a letter to someone in prison, the badges worn by a punk teenager, a debate in the comments section of a weblog.

If God is truly omnipresent, then how can we possibly hope to study God if we limit ourselves to the pages of a single collection of texts? And so it is refreshing to hear Marcella speaking of the God of graffitied walls in the poorer streets of Buenos Aires.

If you haven’t caught Marcella yet, you have two more chances in Wellington: Tuesday 9 and Thursday 11, 12:15pm at St Andrew’s on the Terrace. Then she’s off to Christchurch, Hamilton and Auckland.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 12:59 AM | TrackBack

August 02, 2005

Odours of sex and lemons on the streets of Buenos Aires

Yes, I’m using sex to sell my blog again...

Today is the first Marcella Althaus-Reid lecture at St Andrew’s on The Terrace. I can’t wait, I reckon she’s going to be great. Check her out on Linda Clark at 9:30 this morning, and do come to the lectures!

I haven’t managed to read much of her book because I’ve been so busy and stressed with work, but the bits I have read are really interesting and thought provoking, and the bits I haven’t read have great titles. Check these ones out:
Sexual Positions: locating the G(od) spot of virginal reflections
Vanilla Mariology
Black leather: doing theology in corsetlaced boots
A story of fetishism and salvation
A case study on the sexuality of economics: the case of the shrinking penis


Go on, you know you want to come and hear her speak!



I’ve got itchy feet.

I want to be in San Francisco, for the dawn ceremony when the Ohlone tribe of California will welcome ashore the waka Te Ika a Maui.

I want to be in Las Aguas Zarcas, with no glass in the windows, so the bees fly in, following the scent of grated orange peel. I want to fall asleep at night to the pounding of rain on corrugated iron. I want to dance with a woman with a blue shirt and a fuzzy fringe, a bottle of Imperial in the hand of the arm she drapes around my shoulders.

I want to be in Stockholm, when the cool morning light slants off the roofs of Gamla Stan. I want to pick blueberries in the forest, and come across an elk and her young.

I want to be elsewhere.
I’ve got itchy feet.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 12:17 AM | TrackBack