Friday, 15 April 2016

Wildlife and honey

Wildlife spotted in the last few days: cows, sheep, several rabbits. Magpies, pukeko, fantail, paradise duck flying, a hawk startled out of the roadside grasses. Kokako, hihi, kereru, kiwi. OK, that is slightly cheating because they were at Pukaha Mt Bruce. But first time ever of seeing Manukura the white kiwi, and first time of seeing a kiwi egg hatching! 

Two days ago, I went for a walk down a nearby country lane in the late afternoon. I was walking into the setting sun, but when I turned and headed back, it was just at that moment of early evening when the light becomes translucent and magical. I was trying to think of the words to describe it (like liquid honey poured over the hills, or a filter set in front of your vision) but nothing was true enough for that mix of clear air and honey-gold light.

(Funnily enough, the next day two of the painters here set up their easels outside and were painting clouds, focusing on capturing that same sort of translucent light. Laurence explained it was something to do with the setting sun catching the air particles. So there is a scientific reason.)

It was very quiet apart from some traffic noise from the main highway. The little stream, fringed with bushes and toi toi, wound across the fields, sometimes close by the lane and other times further away, and everything was very green – much more so than in the parched south Wairarapa, because of being in the rain shadow of the Tararuas, looming in the distance.

It made me think about what this area would have been like a hundred years ago for the young men who grew up and worked here, and were then sent off to war on the other side of the world.

Egypt, to start with – no wonder it seemed like such an exotic place (desert, ancient monuments, bazaars, crowded city streets) when they were used to hills coated in early morning  mist or wind in the paddocks. Probably all they knew of Egypt before they left were pictures of the pyramids from encyclopaedias, or of Moses parting the Red Sea from illustrated family Bibles.

And then Gallipoli: steep bush-covered hills that were soon bare of vegetation, once it had been shot away or used as firewood, and deserted by the birds that had flown away to escape the gunfire. This green northern Wairarapa countryside, these trees and fields and rivers and hills were what they would have been thinking of when they thought about home. And the same in the muddy trenches of France and Flanders, in quiet moments behind the lines or when re-reading letters from family, their thoughts would have drifted back to hills, farmland, streams, trees, birds, green grass, clean air, space and quiet.

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