This time of year has memories for me. Ectopic memories. Ectopic (as most of you no doubt know) means out of place. And that is how my memories of my two ectopic pregnancies come to feel at times. Whilst they were real, and happened directly to me, and have made me what and who I am, memories of the pain and grief now seem out of place. Because that pain and grief is no longer part of my life. And, in the midst of the sadness that is around us just now – children gunned down at school, poor Pacific communities devastated by Cyclone*Evan – I want to remember that we all heal from sadness.
Right now, Wellington’s pohutukawa** are in bloom. Pohutukawa is known as New Zealand’s Christmas tree. An evergreen tree that lines the beaches of the north, it is now ubiquitous in Wellington; its crimson blooms bursting into flower early this year, heralding the forthcoming summer, and holiday season. One of the sharpest memories I have of the times I spent in hospital for my ectopic pregnancies was looking out the window and admiring the pohutukawa in bloom. For many years afterwards, seeing the pohutukawa in flower was bitter-sweet, bringing back sharply painful memories.
But this week, as I’ve driven through the city and watched the trees begin to bloom, I’ve felt nothing but joy and awe. Joy at the forthcoming holiday season, the summer break when we all get at least 10 days off and most kiwis are able to take two, three or even four weeks. Joy at the thought of maybe finally getting a summer, after such disappointment last year. And awe at the beautiful coincidence of the perfect red and green colours of the tree. It is as if nature is celebrating with us! And in that joy and awe, there is also appreciation. Appreciation of the fact that pain fades, and time truly does heal.
*Cyclones in the Pacific = Hurricanes in the Atlantic
**We don’t add an “s” to Maori words, even when they are used in the plural.