Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Universal Wharenui

“It was good now to know new people and to feel their strength. It was good to have new skills and new ideas, and to listen to all the new stories told by all the people who came. It was good to have others to tell our own stories to, and to have them there sharing our land and our lives. Good had followed what was not good, on the circle of our days” (Grace, 145).

Patricia Grace’s Potikicompletely leveled any former understanding I had of the concept of “home.” It seems more than fitting, however, that her web of stories has helped me reconstruct an even stronger sense of what it means to truly belong to a certain place and time. Grace’s novel exposed to me just how sacred such a concept should be, and has made me much more appreciative of the environments in which I have felt such warmth. I have never been one to believe that a person only has one home. Sure, people may have a singular structure that provides shelter for their belongings, yet a house does not always serve as a home. Home is a place, a time, in which the person you are was formed from that which came before you. Home is where you are continuously taking shape, in preparation to help others grow for the future. Over the years I have been more than fortunate to find this comfort in locations all around the world. Home is the boisterous streets of the borough of Brooklyn. Home is the heather-ridden hills of Donegal. Home is the secluded suburbs of Melbourne. Home is eternal, even if you have re-located for the time being, because it will live on in you forever. Potiki came into my life at the perfect time, as the next few months will bring about the re-location from another home: Baltimore. My wharenui may not be burning down, however; soon I will need to gather the strength and courage to rebuild from the remains of my college career.

Potiki is ingeniously told through the separate accounts of a cohesive unit. Throughout the novel, Grace stresses the fact that the concept of home is instilled in the individual, yet can only come to fruition through the company of others, “It’s the land and people that are a person’s self, and to give to the land and to give to the people is the best taonga [treasure] of all” (Grace, 176). By providing numerous points of view, Grace proves to her reader that although we may only one person, the world needs us just as much as we need the world. The easiest road to joy is by making sure everyone else around you is happy first. Life is a continuous cycle of giving and receiving, and in order to instill a sense of balance everyone must cooperate for the greater good of the whole.

Each member of the Tamihana family has presented me with a lesson for finding home that (I hope) will remain with me for the rest of my life. Granny Tamihana, the eldest member of the community, has taught me that it is necessary to keep pushing forward in times of insurmountable grief. With the most extensive past, she has lost more loved ones than she can count. Granny’s actions prove that death may mark the end of time together, yet the presence of a loved one can never cease to exist. Their life lives on, in memories, in actions, and in the lessons handed down to those to come. Together, Hemi and Roimata seem to serve as the archetype for the perfect parents. As Hemi returns to work his land, he teaches us to live in the moment; to live for the present with little fear of failure in the future. If everyone does their share success should be imminent, yet if one is to suffer, surely all will be suffering. Roimata recognizes that all her children are different, and stresses individuality by pushing her kids to pursue only that which they are capable of. If everyone on Earth had the same story there would be nothing new to learn, therein ending the cycle. James has the honor of learning how to carve, and shows the reader just how important it is to study their history and honor it by passing the stories on to others. Although somewhat counterproductive, Tangimoana proves that the past is worth fighting for until the death, for without it, there would be no present. The timid Manu shows us how we should never hold doubt, for anything is possible. Finally, the characters of Mary and her prophetic son Toko present the most crucial lesson. Although mentally handicapped, Mary births the deformed yet brilliant Toko, arriving at the perfect time to bring redemption upon his people. Their mysterious case proves that the word of the young should never be dismissed, for they might be wise well past their years. This happens when the young begin to learn before the adults realize they are teaching. The lessons of their elders are what parents pass on to their children, sometimes subconsciously, allowing the spirits to find home within the generation of the future. Life is a continuous cycle of give and take, and we all have to cooperate if we want to enjoy it.

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