I was invited to speak at a special session at National Library this Monday morning 8th of March, as we reopened our site with karakia and waiata and welcomed staff and the public back. It was a privilege to speak alongside Honiana Love, Ruki Tobin and Rachel Esson.
I had not written down my words, so these below are a considered and edited version, of what I sought to say in the moment. As such they are more poetic than what I said in person. But the sense remains the same.
I've been reflecting this weekend on grief.
And what it means to grapple with the weight of these.
Because I think there's a lot of grief in this space, in Wellington, for those of us who have lived through the past three weeks of the protest.
A grief that has been felt by many across the country.
A sadness for what our society is
A sadness for what it may become
A sadness for the loss of what we thought we were
Of course there has also been much grief from the past two years of pandemic.
For all that we have not been able to do,
For all that we've had to let go of,
For all that has been lost.
Grief is visible in those gathered here, on returning in the midst of this Omicron wave, to this place, which just today has been removed from a police cordon.
Grief is visible in those who've been part of this protest, around our building and across Parliament grounds, manifested in a myriad of ways and in a million words.
Grief is visible in those of Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika, who have had their mana whenua, environment and tikanga desecrated and abused.
Grief is visible in the layers of generational ache that tangata whenua hold within them - the enduring legacy of colonialism, and the Crown.
As I reflect on all of this... I'm reminded of a line from Wandavision:
"But what is grief... if not love persevering."
Because there is love and care and attention here in this place -
a place tasked with holding, caring and protecting the story of our nation -
a place that has to be big enough, deliberate enough to hold both love and grief -
a place that perseveres.
Not just for us as a society now.
Not just for the story we're telling ourselves.
But for the story that shapes the future of this nation.
For the story that those who look back on this time,
will discover, digest and deliberate on.
But grief comes with weight, breadth and depth,
so as we go about the coming days, as we re-open and awaken this space,
as we continue our work, in a place changed and as changed people
do so gently and with kindness for yourself, for your colleagues,
do so holding the grief,
holding the love you've known,
hold your children and those you trust,
smile when you wish,
pause when needs must,
welcome back and go well today.