As part of my recovery from depression and anxiety I decided to return to Te Moata Retreat for 2 – 3 weeks to work, as well as live, in this beautiful environment. So in mid-April I became a member of the team of wwoofers doing work ranging from weeding, cleaning, track clearing, food preparation and preserving, while living with a rotating number of 5-6 international travellers at any one time. (At 56 years I was easily the oldest of the team.)
We cooked as a team in the retreat centre kitchen with its well stocked pantry and where dietary choices was often a topic of conversation. Two of the group were gluten-free, some others vegetarian while everyone wished to eat good healthy food. The Te Moata gardens provided many treasures: potatoes, beetroot, herbs, walnuts, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and marrows. For me, a highlight was learning how to prepare gluten-free pastry. Loosely following a recipe I found, I made it from freshly dug potatoes (steamed and mashed) to which I then chose to add an equal amount of maiza (tortilla dough) and a little tapioca flour. It was an amazing success!
Te Moata Retreat Centre is difficult to describe, but I think all those who visit agree that it has a very spiritual heart. I got to experience this essence when I was asked to help maintain the labyrinth in preparation for a forthcoming women’s retreat. I worked with my new friends, Michelle and Suni. (Suni is one of the founders of the retreat centre, a talented poet and story-teller, and also one of the builders of the labyrinth 15 years prior.) Over two days we removed the over-grown bush along the pathways and surrounding the labyrinth. A real treat was that our work exposed many of the beautiful potato-sized golden stones that had once lined all the paths.
It was hard physical work but the energy I received from this special location made the effort easy. We started by tidying the delicate surface of the labyrinth itself, with its delicate rings of stones and moss, which needed to be done in bare feet. Having experienced this pleasurable sense of grounding, I continued shoeless for the next two days. The result: a couple of minor abrasions and bruises which were totally overshadowed by a humming energy and feelings of accomplishment.
I left Te Moata two weeks after I arrived having learned a lot more about the many travellers who come to New Zealand for the outdoor lifestyle (our ’10 great walks’) and also for the Hobbit and LOTR, and about myself. It was a pleasure to work, live, learn and laugh with these fun adventurers who like me are searching for their way in the world.