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  • Sandy Burgham

Island Time

Updated: Nov 17, 2020


I feel a reinvention coming on. It’s been coming on for some time now but I’ve been ignoring it until it finally rode into town on the back of a horse called Covid.


There is an adage, which has both biblical and astrological roots depending on your belief system, which posits that we live in a series of seven-year cycles. This has been true for me with my four different careers, except like many others, there is not a definitive cut off point as such. In fact, in between my seven-year cycles have been two to three-year buffer zones of denial as I have hung on to the comfort zone of the prevailing cycle. This is not unusual at all, as people by and large do not fear change but fear loss. Loss of income, status, familiarity, choice or whatever it might be for them. In the context of psychologist and mythologist Joseph Campbell writing of ‘the hero’s journey’, most people initially refuse the call to depart on their adventure, preferring to stay in the known realm of what he called ‘the ordinary world’. But what often happens is that they are given a push to cross the threshold either by a person or an external event that leaves them with little choice.


In January I encouraged all to choose a word that would anchor 2020 in a theme which would give rise to a particular transformation. It was the word ‘movement’ that called me but I assumed it would just have me exercising a lot more. In the leadership practice I founded, we decided collaboratively that the word would be ‘flow’. So here we are in October, and it appears that I have gone with the flow and moved to an island.


I had always assumed Great Barrier Island is where I would eventually end up, having kept a home here for nearly 20 years. When the kids left high school, we downsized in Auckland to an apartment and I was increasingly spending around half my time on the island. I had started running courses here and in fact when the first lockdown happened I had just completed a course with a group of executives and as they flew out, my husband flew in for a few days. Right about then the alert levels were announced urging us to “go home” and we realised pretty quickly that this was actually home. Home with the tatty old curtains, mismatched chipped cups and an array of unfashionable trackpants. That I needed to be here was an internal realisation more than a deliberate choice. It was as if my mind had finally caught up with my soul.


After a three-month stretch, we mourned leaving and returned to Auckland primarily for work commitments. I spent June and July flying back and forth and found how easy it was to be pulled back into the vortex of city living, where I seem to spend the same amount of money in one day as I do in one week on the island. So, when the more recent lockdown happened I was rather pleased — oh to stay home and live a normal life! My roots dug in deeper: I am now halfway through a gardening course where every Saturday a small group of socially distanced punters learn how to grow food organically. I thought this would be handy given the forthcoming apocalypse.


I am grateful for technology and realise that the silver lining in the Covid-19 cloud has been the normalisation of remote working and studying. My work life now is a mixture of remote and real life working both in the city and on the island.


While some friends fear that I am dropping out, rather I feel that I am far more tuned in to the conversations that count. Although my head and heart are centred in nature, what is happening in our city is increasingly of interest. I have time to care. Plugging back into Auckland allows me to observe and engage in dialogue about racism and inequity. Living on the island allows me to observe and engage in dialogue about the housing shortage that exists alongside empty baches. And if the gardening course is teaching me anything, it’s all about the quality of our soil. You can feed and water all you like, but if we haven’t taken the time and put in the love and attention to the foundation of the garden, how we are living will not be sustainable.


This article originally appeared in the October issue of The Hobson Magazine.

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