Newsletter, April 2020 - Rāhui

Kia Ora Whanau,

What better time to write than during this crazy “bubble” detention. For me personally, not much has changed work wise since I’m working from home anyway. There’s three of us home at the moment: Rita, an exchange student and myself. Our own kids are in Wellington and Auckland.

It looks like the whole world has come to a halt. I hear reports though of the air and the waters clearing all of a sudden all over the world. It’s almost like the earth has been given time to breath.

Not to down play what's going on right now, but thinking of my parents’ and grandparents' generations who had to endure war, occupation, famine, economic crashes and pandemics, puts what we’re going through right now into perspective.

I stopped listening to the statistics that are constantly thrown at us, models that predict this that and the other. I'm trying to keep my "normal", and having to stay at home in my case, seems like the least of the challenges; I only go out to the shop and for short walks in my area and stay in touch with loved ones here in New Zealand and overseas. And ... when was the last time I’ve been able to spend so much time with loved ones at home, slowing down, live from day to day? I do feel for the people who are just by themselves and I'm hoping that they are being looked after as well.

Due to the current situation, our April events have all been cancelled. But fortunately, ROPF received a Government Covid-19 payout, which allows us to continue to pay the wages of our three part-time staff during this lockdown time until the start of next event season. It is a big blow not being able to run our April events and refunds are currently processed for people who requested them, while others prefer for their registration to roll over to the next possible dates.

I hope, this episode will pass soon, so we can get on with our lives with renewed gratitude and appreciation for humanity and our environment.

Here's some updates from within our Rites of Passage Community.

I'm hoping you're all keeping well, sane and safe and are able to spend a lot of quality time inside your private bubble.


Stef Jongkind


Kia ora whānau

Hope you’re all staying inspired. I’m missing seeing your faces in the real time. Unlike the 1918 Spanish flu we now have the wonders of technology that allow us to connect without leaving our homes. It’s amazing and at the same time no substitute for being in nature and sitting around the fire, listening to your stories…

In this age of information come the challenges of being present and creating real connection. Coupled with a pandemic the bar is raised again. Beyond the PM’s announcements, I’m choosing to stay away from the steady stream of rāhui stories, like this one! It’s too easy to think of the what if’s or how longs and it takes me away from the present. How can I get creative now? What brings me alive? What brings me calm? How can I affect positive change from this place?

Like Stef, working from home is not a new thing for me but I do miss the tree field. Aside from that, its a similar dance of work, home, kids but somehow more peaceful, settled and randomly creative. The garden, trampoline, building projects and baking experiments provide endless opportunity. Beyond that there’s always empty toilet paper rolls, beads and a hot glue gun to broaden the horizons. Check out the tumeke wheke (awesome octopus) that my husband Levity and son Bodhi made. You too can create such treasures!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to slow down and take stock of the many blessings in life, one of which is being part of this community. If I close my eyes I can see our shadows on the walls of the pentacle, a reminder of our tīpuna… I hear the crackle of the fire… weka calling across the treefield… the sweet smell of smoke drifts into the layers of my clothing… Papatūānuku is under my feet, the sand shifting between my toes. May we be back there before too long! Until then…

Kia hora te marino,
Kia whakapapa pounamu te moana,
Kia tere te Kārohirohi i mua i tōu huarahi

May the calm be widespread,
May the ocean glisten like greenstone
May the shimmer of light ever dance across your pathway




The Dream Field

Small coastal wood lot,
end of road,
wetlands, grass and reeds.
Coarse yellow sand and gentle wash of shallow tides.
I can see it.
I know the smells of autumn’s turn,
cobweb, dew and canvas mist.
Where though the wood smoke?
Where their drum and conch to call?
Where are the merry barefoot bands?

No, not this time, just not these times,
yet return they shall and will.
A story long, so much, untold.
Return we shall.

I will

I miss the Treefield. I’ve been sad to let go of all I imagined would be happening there for us this autumn. It has been hard to stop, to halt progress on plans and 5th Pentacles and to have to wait to bring new families through and in.

However, on coming to terms with that and the letting go, other things have arrived and inhabited the space. Niel brought myth and ancient story ‘The Old Woman and the Cave of Wisdom’ to our group from the January rite - and Michael Meade offering other perspectives, interpretations, reassurance and as ever, leaving with questions and possibilities to be pondered.

Those circles within circles, cycles of change, the holographic nature of the transformation constant. From huge slow turning epic endings of old epochs and birthing new paradigms, to a simple sunset ending this day of my lifetime, silence of night, dawn and living out another earth rotation.

What can I draw on from having experienced initiation and which responsibilities come to the fore?

Which myths live in this story? What is the context of this Hero’s Journey and its archetypal interplay?

Accepting the pause, I find memories and imaginings of my past, my ancestors in wartime and after, living through fourteen years of rationing, austerity and lack. But what would they make of this time though and how it differs? Material needs secure, well met, yet other forms of sustenance cut off or in short supply.

I wander back through the near twenty-year path that following this thread has led us; the inspirations, the growth through challenge and uncertainty, all those people and gifts along the way, seemingly arriving right on time and in just the right measure. I am reassured and can hear Jim and Antonio Machado reminding me;  

The Garden of Eternal Spring 

It doesn’t matter now if the golden wine
 floats abundantly in your crystal cup,
 or if the bitter juice clouds the pure glass…
You know the secret passageways 
of the soul, the roads that dreams take,
 and the calm evening
where they go to die…
There the good and silent spirits
 of life are waiting for you,
 and someday they will carry you
 to a garden of eternal spring.Antonio Machado

The future too finds space and my dreaming turns to reweaving; picking back up the threads of our kaupapa, of that place and of our community. Renewed feelings of gratitude and appreciation, updating vision and strengthening resolve, recognising fragility yet seeing a community with great resilience and optimism, such a deep love for the mahi.

Looking forward and excited for relighting the fires,

Much love to you all,



Lockdown letter from abroad  

Ex Collingwood Area School student Joshua Richards is currently studying for a masters degree at the University of Bern in Switzerland. Josh is of a generation of Tracks "boys", now in their twenties. Here he explains what it’s like to be locked down in a foreign country far from home. (Article, courtesy of the GB Weekly, 9 April 2020)

With a total of more than 20,000 cases, Switzerland is one of the worst hit countries in Europe, out pacing places like Italy in terms of cases per million people. To many the country is a bastion of neutrality and safety, but with 80,000 free moving workers crossing the border from northern Italy to the Swiss region Ticino, the situation the country now finds itself in was almost inevitable.

For the last nine months I have lived and studied in Bern, which is situated right in the middle of the Switzerland. For a capital city it is quiet and for that I am lucky. Unlike the border cities and regions of Zurich, Basel, Ticino and Geneva, outbreaks here have been less extensive. The sun is shining and everyone seems in relatively good spirits; everything feels safe and controlled - but perhaps that is just the Swiss.

The unfolding of events here differs drastically from that seen in New Zealand. In early March, when the number cases in northern Italy started rapidly increasing, there was no real precedent on how to handle the spread. Measures were gradually introduced over the course of several weeks. Every other day throughout the middle of March it seemed the rules were being revised and tightened, with friends, colleagues and lecturers saying to me, “So you were allowed to do …, but now we have to do … instead”. I only stopped working at my part-time job at the University a week ago. Finally, our measures are now similar to those in New Zealand, although there is still no official lockdown, just a government recommendation to stay at home, although gatherings of more than 5 people are illegal.

Consequently, I have shut myself away and am attempting to study from home. I receive video lectures and tutorials to work on, go for runs and video call my friends and family. To the outsider, the operations of the Swiss government can appear enigmatic. For me, not being able to speak any of the national languages well, makes it difficult to gauge opinions and to seek out news critiquing the actions and measures put in place.

These events have made me increasingly aware of the growing reliance I have on social media to provide me with the information I need, and how my selection of media sources influences what, when and how I receive my news.

Until recently, I shared my flat on the edge of the city with three other students, but they have all now returned to their respective homes. While the days of solitude and monotony continue, I increasingly wish I too was home, but appreciate that I am in a safe country with plenty of food and still in contact with loved ones. Golden Bay, Bern…despite the hardships we are suffering, I think there are worse places to be stuck.

Joshua Richards


Raffi - present 

Kia ora,

Morning check-in from my JAFA bubble, Raffi - present. What better way to start the day than waking naturally to the volatile juxtaposition of nourishing sun and rinsing rain, with Iron Maiden ‘When the wild wind blows’ playing soundtrack (maybe not for everyone). I find myself missing the aroma of smoke on my poncho and visualising myself shoulder to shoulder with kin who have sat around the fire (2 metres distance of course).

I have the very special experience of having grown up in a family immersed in Rites of Passage, being initiated through Tracks as a boy in 2011, returning multiple times over the years, and more recently being part of the core-team at events last year. It may not be full circle, but I have immense gratitude for the blessing of being a small part of Rites of Passage work, going from a seeker of initiation to a man in service to following generations.

This involvement has been an irreplaceable source of empowerment and nourishment in my own life as well as providing a strong platform for my current service in mental health. I work for the National Telehealth Service and Lifeline, providing emotional support to people in distress. Much of my work is done via text, particularly meeting needs of youth, needs which have not changed, but their environments and means to meet those needs have changed significantly.  

Much of New Zealand and the rest of the world has taken a pause, something we all benefit from at times to prevent the contagious spread of stress and bring focus back to what our basic needs really are. Which for me involves: nourishing myself and my environment, connection with people, being mindful, ongoing learning and adaptation, contributing to the community. Personally, I cannot remember a time in recent years where I have woken up early without use of an alarm or without trying to meet an external commitment, but these last two weeks have been a time of rediscovery of creative outlets and also reflection of the things I hold dear to my heart.

This present lockdown reminds me of times I have needed to pause significantly in my life, namely my Depression/Suicidality in my teenage years, and every time I go to a Tracks event, all of which have fuelled my desire to contribute to positive mental health.

When lockdown began, I may have been the only essential worker flaunting a poncho and odd socks, but now that many are working from home I am convinced this is becoming contemporary dress-code. I feel that with the current re-evaluation of priorities (where supermarket cashiers outrank pilots, and gardeners outrank everyone), ancient traditional elements of Rites of Passage work will become recognised as contemporary necessities.

Keep that fire burning,

Nga Mihi,

Raffi Jongkind


Pentacle update

I’ve grown somewhat accustomed to a non-linear, twisting turning reality to the path of our new Pentacle and this rahui is just its latest meander. 

We now have five staunch and sturdy anchor blocks sunk deep into the ground and it’s hard to imagine what circumstance would persuade them to yield even an inch. Very reassuring. Inside those are five proud poles, leaning back and reaching skyward in anticipation.
Solid progress, thanks to Surendra’s skill and endeavour at the fore, with good support from Frans, Stef, Jesper and the Kai mahi as well.

The second phase, which had just begun, is the rigging. Sam and his team at Optelec will return as soon as circumstances allow, to dress the poles, measure, fit and tune all the cabling. From there, the third and final phase will see Rowan from Tasman Canvas measure, manufacture, fit and hoist the tent fabric into it’s final position. Then we’ll clear, restore and shape the ground around in preparation for a grand opening.

Thanks to everyone who has played a part in this project. I look forward with a healthy trepidation, much excitement and anticipation.






On March 13-15 we had our 3rd Rising Tides event. It was a fun and sweet weekend with 10 mums and daughters, from around the country, revelling in the simplicity of being together. Laughter rang out, new friendships were made, bonds were strengthened and Hinemoana was blessed by the presence of some brave swimmers. The weekend was made all the more precious by the fact that just over a week later the rāhui began.

So for those who’ve experienced the challenge of getting everyone together for a group photo on the last day of rite here is a series from our last event in January. Sweet Shot. Too Cool Band Shot. Crazy Shot. Always good for a laugh aye.






Tracks 2020 Summer rite – Full up but not full on!


This summer rite was a cracker. The determination and experience of the team and the strength and speed with which the eldership enrolled and enlisted a strong group of fathers, set the whole event off on a beautiful trajectory that sustained throughout.

A welcome surprise came on the last day with our old friend Paul Henley from Pathways Australia making a return visit after many years. Reaffirming our connections and mutual support, through pigment, marking and ancestry.






On the 13th March thru to the 15th March we rolled out this exciting new event "Wilderness Rising" a collaboration between the Rites of Passage Foundation and the Wilderness Canoe Trust. This camp was tailored for Fathers and Sons that had attended a Rising Sons event and were looking for something that would fit in between that event and their son’s Rite of Passage. We had five pairs of fathers and sons attend, with the boys aged between 11 and 13 years old. 

We camped in a beautiful setting on land in Onekaka above cliffs overlooking the sea. Over the weekend we did canoe trips, fishing adventures, learned bush craft, prepared food together and shared space around the camp fire. It was a very enjoyable weekend and those that attended thoroughly enjoyed the quality time together in nature to grow and foster their father/son relationships.

On behalf of the Rites of Passage Foundation we would like to thank James Alker of the Wilderness Canoe Trust for opening up his land for hopefully, the first of many Wilderness Rising Weekends!

Kia Kaha,

Paul Taxi



Hi there fellow Karaka Tracksmen,

Isaac and I want to put a shout out to you all in these unusual times. We have gone to ground in Christchurch and actually found time out today from work and school to go through our tracks letters that you sent us Adge, a special silver lining to this covid-cloud! It was heart warming to remember the strength, wisdom and energy for living that is in us. I have thought of you all often, and a bit sad that because of the whole covid deal I couldn’t put in to come to GMMT, I was looking forward to that. 

Adge I hope all is well with you and your partner, and generally in your beautiful bay and with the Tui community.  Steve, every time I hear of a the public rushing on a supermarket I see you shaking your head lol.  John, I hope you aren’t too run off your feet in the medical world, you will be a blessing to your community more than ever.  

To all us great fathers I reckon our wizardry is needed in spades now, kia kaha whanau. And to all the younger men, I hope you can tuck this experience under your belts as you grow into the leaders we need, we are lucky to have you! 

From Isaac - he says to let you know he is grateful for tracks and is feeling more confident in this challenge for having been with you all around the fire, he is putting that tracks power into practice. He misses you, and Freds cooking of course J We have had the house rocking to “feed me…” a few times, really lifts the spirits ! (we’ve not eaten like we did with gingerella in bbq sauce though…sigh)

A particularly big shout out to you Alon over there in Israel, I hope things are ok in your world my friend.

Take care everyone, Trackers through and through!!  Nice to know we all came away with a bit of the sacred fire rubbed into our minds and bodies!

Nga mihi,

Lindon and Isaac


Meditation and Rites of Passage for Young Adults in Brazil

In this article I explore the development of a residential Rites of Passage Programme for young adults in their twenties and thirties. A programme that brings together meditation as a contemplative inquiry into the ecological roots of our being and belonging, conscious dance, compassion communication, gardening and living in community. In 2019 Juliana Griese and myself offered a three month residential retreat into exactly this. Here is something of why and how it happened.


I am indebted to the Rites of Passage Foundation. Why? Because I have come to realise that I belong to a lost tribe, a lost way of being. It is the work of ROPF that contributes most to the remembering of what it might mean to be fully human.

I cannot reliably tell you more than two generations back, I don’t know the stories. Many of the aspects of the schooling I received have contributed to a blindness more than a seeing. Grateful yes but connected no. Germs were something we killed, ecosystems a foreign word, it is not that it held no significance, it did not exist. I think if there is one word to explain the hunger is it separation, a pervasive silent ache deep into the bone. White, male, comparatively wealthy and while I know nada of the real hardship I sense a life living at the crossroads.


Jaime Howell


Wilderness Solo - 6-12 February 2020

Namaste ROPF community,

I'd like to write about an exciting new event, which happened last February 2020. Suzi Jessie and me (Rita Scholten) facilitated our first ROPF Wilderness Solo with four participants.

For 7 nights, us facilitators, stayed in a pristine meadow up at Canaan Downs on top of Takaka Hill, surrounded by forest, stone outcrops and hills.

A basecamp was set up on the second day to welcome our participants. For two days they settled in: physically, mentally and emotionally through slowing down, fasting, tuning in and relevant ceremonies.

This all to prepare themselves for the 3 days/nights solo sit with only water and bare essentials.

The weather had been magical in daytime with soft clouds and sun, in night time with full moon, clear sky and  a grand display of stars.

Here is an excerpt from Tristan’s musings in his sit spot.

Day 3 evening:

I will never forget again where the sun rises and sets. Or the moon. I appreciate how the insects and birds and mammals go about their daily rhythms totally in the moment with no mind for being bored or having nothing interesting to do.

The weka lives in a constant state of insatiable curiosity and lust to devour anything that fits down its throat, plus some things that can’t. It steps carefully and slowly, always on the edge of running toward an invader of its territory, or away from a bigger animal (me) who is sick of it taste-testing all its stuff.

The birds wake up early and begin their haunting merry songs, serenading the trees with their life force. They stay in groups of the same species (except the circling hawks) and flit through the forest dancing from branch to branch, catching insects and fruit and who knows what, curiously eyeing the human visitor who wasn’t there before. They sing to each other, always staying not too far. Their state is of joy and flight and curiosity and singing and dancing and never ending merry busyness.

The bumblebees know a secret that every man should know

The grasses aim high and stand strong for as long as they can, reaching out to feed their seed to the wind.

So the being states are all around me. The trees are so slow and gentlemanly that I think I would need to stay here for months or years to glimpse their states.

So what is my state? The courageous and ever-thinking human?
I move gently, creating and following my paths of flattened grass and mulch. I see and hear and smell, noticing and touching and sitting in the sun, then the shade, again and again. My body is full with powerful life force, strong and deep as I roar in the forest as it has never been roared to before. My energy is more restless that any other here, as my mind knows another way of life, and matching the vibration of this space is like trying to stay in time while doing a haka. It takes some getting used to…"

Tristan Girdwood

On day 6 we welcomed this courageous group of 4 men back into basecamp. Their faces soft, their eyes full of wonder, with words of gratitude and a new way of being.






Tides and Tracks Online Circles

ROPF would like to offer this new way of connecting.. especially in these lockdown times.. to our young leaders, facilitators as a way to sit around the virtual fire and connect from the heart.

We now have a Rites of Passage Foundation - Zoom Room - that can be used by Tracks and Tides for online sharings, a virtual pentacle so to speak.

For efficient time sharing, a group of 15 would be the maximum. This will bring your call to 1 – 1.5 hours. A virtual talking stick might work as well.

The Zoom account is managed by ROPF admin

In practical terms this means :

  1. If you like to connect with a Tides or Tracks group (or mixed), you organise people and time for the meeting.
  2. The timeslot is then checked and registered with ROPF admin: Allocated timeslot is 1.5 hours.
  3. ROPF Admin will start the meeting and appoints the host of the meeting (you), then leaves the chat.
  4. Each member of your group receives the meeting ID and password and is directed to to join the chat .

At the moment a small group of Tides young women are already connecting every week on Sunday and hopefully, more will make use of this facility in the coming weeks. So, if you feel inspired... get a group together and get in touch with admin.