Saturday, December 30, 2006

Holiday Season

"Beware lest you lose the substance
by grasping at the shadow"


This is the view out of my window towards the playground and Kauakarau Bay. Beyond that is Omiha Bay, where the Rocky Bay Memorial Cruising Club held their annual Regatta Saturday(amongst quite typical blustery summer weather conditions), Beyond that is the expansive and tidal Rocky Bay, encompassing the wider Whakanewa Regional Park.

It is a quiet and windy little settlement, with only a scattering of houses dotting the hillsides and bays. Most are empty for months of the year. But not now.

It is that wonderful and most ephemeral Time of Universal Holiday in New Zealand, where a large part of the population stops working completely and heads out to rural and beach locations to unwind for Christmas and New Years celebrations with family and friends, putting end to another calendar year of whatever it is they have been doing.

If there was any doubt the landed gentry were out in full force here in one of the trendier spots to holiday in New Zealand, Waiheke Island is awash with Big Black SUV's and other fashion accessories not seldom seem on the island, this being New Years Eve, 2006. And to make the statement complete, the tranquil park scene above, normally with just few youngsters, some dog walkers, and a friendly duck family, had the uncharacteristic commotion of a helicopter land this afternoon, in order to party a bit and inspect one of the waterfront properties. Ahem.

The tide was out on my New Years Eve walk, and in between some harmless showers, it took me through the native bush descent into the park onto its long stretch of sand and shells, nesting dotterels, and oystercatchers:

Only the recent hoof prints of some horses were to be seen, and the constant badgering of the protective dotterels were my company on this magnificent beach. I though about all the things I am grateful for - the opportunities, experiences, and people that have graced my life this past year. All the little dramas and stories that make up our individual neuroses try to force their way into my thinking at times, but both the beauty and significance of the moment were far too powerful. Rhythm and oxygen clear the head in no uncertain terms. Over an hour walking, and what many people around the world need to undertake just to survive once, twice, maybe more each day, I took as leisure. Our perspective can be as valuable as the ground under our feet.

No helicopters. No real estate mingling chit chat. No wineries and their trendy products. Just the elements in raw and unhindered natural change. A nice afternoon reflection for the last day of the year:

A few days ago, on another little summer outing to catch up with my daughter and partner, along with friends and family, I visited Gisborne for the first time in over a decade. The flat, fertile plains, now largely taken up with vineyards, still have wonderful fresh fruit stands dotting the road in from the Bay of Plenty side. We tasted the local produce with gusto, cooking up some great meals in a nicely appointed holiday home overlooking Poverty Bay and the great surf beaches of the Gisborne and Eastland Area:

Christmas revelers in amongst the
vines and lush plains around Gisborne, prior to setting off to play gigs in the Rhythm n' Vines Festival.

Not too bad, really.

Much better time than this guy, anyway:

Which may have reminded me of some Christmas past, but we don't need to go there! It has been a pleasant Holiday Season for me, a balanced mix of social activities and parties coupled with restful and contemplative personal time. There has been some fun reading and regular writing. May we all be so fortunate as to know when enough is enough.

Then perhaps we will all have enough.

Monday, December 18, 2006

State of the Union

To know that enough is enough is to always have enough


If you are a reader, then online magazine Slate has its top picks for books of 2006 here. NPR radio has its picks from booksellers here. I have a couple lined up for the Christmas holiday break (in New Zealand that usually means at the beach, so for Northern Hemispherites, well, it might be a different sort of list). I just finished a great novel by Douglas Kennedy called State of the Union, that I happen to pick up at an airport on my way to the South Island, and was pleasantly surprised. A real page-turner that kept me guessing, laughing, crying, and most of all, thinking. Well written.

Another in the Only-In-America Dept: Yoga and Wine retreats, reviewed by NYTimes.
Well, it had to come, didn't it?

On the serious side of yoga, if you are a devoted follower, this Columbia Journal Review has an excellent history of its turbulent entry into the West.

Not into yoga, but thinking of getting married? OK then. I am going to two weddings soon myself, one in California, and one down here in New Zealand. This YouTube video clip of "honest" wedding vows is hilarious, although I would not probably show it to the couples on the verge of reciting theirs just yet.

If marriage is not on the cards just at the moment, but you are wanting to increase your "mingling" (called networking by the PC brigade, which is far more professional sounding) skills at Christmas parties, have no fear, this piece on NPR has just the tools for the not-so-bold.
So much useful advice!

Not getting married, into Yoga or mingling? Well, you can always get a new job by sending out a video resume that will surely get someones attention. Apparently it is the newest thing for job seekers. Whatever.

I am off to the beach for a few days, but always close at hand when one is a grower in the "season".

Best Wishes to all for Peace and Contentment in this Festive Season, and throughout the seasons.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

South Island Serenity

"Beauty is the moment of transition,
as if the form were just ready to flow into other forms"

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Reading the fine print on the map was always going to be a big ask, and in the end, it made little difference. It was too late. We were half way through the second day of our 5 day tramping adventure in the Kahurangi National Park, and it had been raining pretty steady all day. The forecast was for clearing during the day, but I didn't like our chances. After exposure to the alpine-like Tablelands around Mt Arthur, we began dropping down into the Leslie River Valley, and took some shelter in the famously eccentric Spludgeons Rock Shelter, complete with fireplace, dirt floor, and photo of Albert Einstein...

...whose dilapidated, but still framed photo had the following quote under it:

"The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the source of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive form- this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”

Inspiring as his words were, there appeared from the track sign to be another 3 hour drop down into the Leslie River valley, and then some way along to our destination, Karamea Bend Hut. The fine print I mentioned earlier by the way, warned of long delays if weather was poor, due to flooding creeks and rising river levels. OK then.

That made me feel a little less than the bold adventurer I picture myself at times, when I read it the next day, after a 7 hr ordeal of fording streams and racing the dwindling daylight in an effort to get somewhere dry. My tramping companion was less than sympathetic the next morning when his first words were: "Called that helicopter yet?"

Water is omnipresent in this part of New Zealand , and I was fairly certain we would see some rainy days, if not all of them. It has been a particularly unsettled Spring, and so we packed accordingly. It looked to be a fairly straightforward tramp, with a slight climb up to Mt Arthur tablelands the first day, then down into the valley for a stroll along the rivers edge (more debatable was the route back to a pre-arranged pickup, which involved a place called Batons Saddle, which ominously had "horror " written on the track marker).

The storm lasted a day longer than we anticipated, and had a very significant and immediate effect on the water level, so much so that I thought it might be the first and last trip my partner would take with me. All ended well, and although a bit of a stretch at times. Some altered plans were necessary (Baton saddle, with all its rumour of "horror track" was given a swift boot in favour of a more reliable return route), and of course some very wet feet were had. The pictures of me pouring over maps with a look of concern will no doubt come up again in discussion.

On the first day, we came across several great looking rock shelters that are strategically placed throughout the park. They are obviously well used and full of character. Great in a pinch, or if there is a bad storm out (ours was tolerable). This one had it's own built in loft and fireplace:

Here is the hut that did save us from the wet, halfway to the West Coast. After a long 7 hr tramp in the rain down the swollen Leslie river valley , it was a warm and welcome home for a days rest:

The Mt Arthur tablelands and Ballon Hut, where after 4 days of no one in sight, we ran across at least 3 different parties in one of the smallest huts. However, by then we were somewhat relieved to know there were others actually in the park:

Kahurangi tranlsates into "prized possession" in Maori, and a prize it is. The nearly 1 million acre national park is the second largest in New Zealand and only brought under Dept of Conservation since 1996. Its unique biodiversity provides a sanctuary for some of the rarest of flora and fauna in the country. It is well known for its superb geographic diversity as well, with some unique landforms and a complex network of ranges, peaks rivers. It is home to a Great Walk called the Heaphy Track, with its trademark lush coastal scenery.

The birdsong was outstanding, with comments in all the visitors books in huts raving about it. Tuis, bellbirds, bush robins, grey warblers, fantails, are amongst the common bush birds, whilst the park protects a number of other notables such as the kiwi, falcon and blue duck. It is the northern most point in the Southern Alps for the alpine birds the kea and rock wren. Trout are abundant in the rivers, with deer and goat are amongst the more common mammals. We spotted some baby goats, obviously separated from their mother and not pleased about it).

I have been over the map many times now, fine print and all, and the only thought that comes to mind is: what track will I choose next when I return?