I’D HAD A successful trip to several South American countries and was boarding a LAN Air flight back to Auckland from Santiago, flying Economy as I always do, but reflecting that if my company, Preston Products, went on like this, bringing in new overseas orders, I would soon be able to think about an upgrade to Business. The time hadn’t arrived when we would be instructed to switch our electronic gadgets to flight mode, or off, and I was catching up with a few messages. There were several old ones from Mahinārangi Marsden, signed Lucy Matariki, the name she’d recently taken. I regretted the change. Māori words very often have several meanings, sometimes quite distinct, and Mahinarangi could mean (or in my free translation I might read it as) ‘gift of the sky’. But equally I could see it as ‘maker of songs’ – and among her many talents that’s what she was. I liked both versions, and the sense that I did not have to choose: she could be both.
But I had to admire the cleverness of her reasons. Matariki, she had explained, was that little star cluster, the Pleiades, and its appearance in the night sky of mid June marked the beginning of the Māori new year – the shortest day, the exact equivalent of St Lucy’s day in the northern hemisphere. It was the dark point after which (though the days might sometimes get colder) everything would slowly improve – days would get longer, nights shorter. ‘If winter come can spring be far behind’ was what it meant. So the new name, Lucy Matariki, was combining her Māori and her Pākehā heritages. But she cast a slightly grim light – or darkness – over this change when she told me there was always, in her mind and in her life, a doubt about whether the light would really return. So I would rather have been able to think of her as the gift of the sky and maker of songs than as our Māori St Lucy, the blind girl (as she was in the northern hemisphere mythology) representing mid-winter’s day.
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