The light’s almost gone now. Two people walk past, first in one direction then, shortly after, back towards Eastbourne. A ute crawls down the farm track and across the harbour,
A black, looming wall, racing towards me.
The following evening J and YH and I walk up the track behind the house. A strong wind beats at the manuka and other mixed native scrub but the canopy’s high enough to shelter us from the wind and give sections of the track the impression of a kind of tunnel. The sound of wind roaring when you’re sheltered from it—a good feeling; one of those enormously comfortable sounds, like rain on a roof, or the sea lapping at the hull of the boat in some safe harbour as you drop off to sleep. I remember that sound from years ago, when we sheltered in the Bay of Islands on our diving trip to the
We drive to Burdan’s Gate; leave the cars there and walk along the coast in the wind, the Nor’wester whipping waves onto the shore, buffeting the gorse and Melianthus and ngaio and other scrubby plants; blackbacked gulls hanging in the wind, little shags peering at us from where they bob among the troughs and peaks of choppy water. On the shingle beach I pick up a cast up masking crab Notomithrax ursus, most of the weed gone from the hairy shell, like the vanished life, but on its left chelicera a white mark in the shape of a perfect ‘2’—so perfect I wonder whether it’s been put there by human intervention, the jetsam of a research project. Eventually I decide it’s coincidental, an accident of nature, but the possibility remains.
We struggle back in the wind, rugged up, enjoying the fresh air. Eyes watering from the wind, noses on the brink of running. Black oystercatchers and white goats; the shingle beach a mass of jumbled driftwood and old plastic bottles; a wrecked running shoe. On a stack just too far to reach without wading, I see a sodden jacket. I study it carefully with the binoculars, a vague insistent thought reminding me that not far from here a Chinese fisherman was swept overboard on that stormy night while I was looking after M&I’s house, and a handless, almost decapitated body was discovered recently on the beach at
YJ and YH collect empty paua shells, as is the tendency of most boys in places like this. They’re still young, still struggling to understand how acquisition and ownership might be less important than appreciation. This a lesson that cannot be taught, only learned. Some people never learn it. The lust to possess—from where, and how, does it arise? So many of us never seem to realise that our dissatisfactions, our lack of contentment, our desires, cannot be satisfied by owning even more. I suspect it’s the converse: that those desires and discontent can usually be ameliorated best by owning less. Perhaps this is the buddhist concept of nonattachment? I can’t say—I’m not a buddhist—but why, when I hear the word “ownership”, does it evoke ideas of exclusion and encumbrance?
But perhaps I’m wrong; perhaps I’m the one who hasn’t learnt; perhaps I’m destined for failure. Perhaps I’m at risk of failing my lessons in capitalism.
1. Burdan's Gate is the barrier, beyond
2. Leptospermum scoparium. It may have included kanuka, Kunzea ericoides, too.
3. Ulex europaeus.
4. Myoporum laetum.
Photos (click on them if you want a larger image):
1&3. Jacob's Ladders (a.k.a. "God beams") over Paekakariki. West coast of the lower North Island, North of Wellington. I stopped for these photos just beyond Pukerua Bay, while I was driving back to the valley last Monday morning.
2. Low tide at Waipapa Point, Southland. The weed is rimurapa, bull kelp, Durvillea spp. (antarctica or willana).
4. More Jacob's Ladders, this time over the Pohangina Valley, looking towards the Ngamoko Range from Takapari Road.
5. "And now for something completely different..." Steer (no bull...), Pohangina Valley, yesterday.
Photos and words © 2006 Pete McGregor