Musings on Mara Whenua and then some

I’ve gotten more clarity after day seven at Mara Whenua: Start from the way you want to schedule your time which for me is at most four hours of work on stuff that needs to be done, then work my way up to perhaps four hours of exercise, leaving four to eight hours for reading, cooking, thinking, eating. There is plenty of time in the day for this, but one must make the time. This means using this as a ruler to measure possible commitments.

One thing that must go is the attitude that I must have everything here that I had in San Francisco. I don’t mean walking access to a world class city, but cheap and plentiful organic food in all seasons, non-stop gaming, hours a day to while away surfing the internet, heavy socialisation. As we work toward adapting the land around us to ourselves, we must first adapt ourselves to this land. And both roll with, and direct, this process. So many stages to go through—settling in Christchurch, starting a garden there, making friends. Developing the property. Figuring out what kind of land we want, and where. Finding the specific place. And all the establishment that will happen once we do that, years-long projects to start the garden, build the house, tame the forest, plant the orchard… So much to do that we cannot put off what we want to do someday while we are preparing for it. This is our life, right now, for a long time. We must live the way we someday want to live =right now=. Time to exercise J

(The next day…) Left Mara Whenua today. At first I felt happy; the exhilaration of the open road. There was something of a good feeling of getting away from the overpowering environment created by other people as wonderful as their vision is. Very quickly this good feeling faded as we drove along the rolling hills of pastureland. A depressing monocrop. A coffee shop zipped by on the right, promising in BIG letters good coffee, good food, good service. Suddenly I was ravenous for some of civilization’s treats. We went in, got a pair of lattes and a tasty looking muffin. Baked goods!

The idea turned out to be better than the reality. My first coffee as a New Zealand resident was unexceptional and even the sweet baked treat failed to push my buttons. I am reminded of when I used to continually gorge myself on Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, or rather, when I had stopped gorging myself on Ben and Jerry’s, had it some long time later, and didn’t receive the electric jolt of pleasure it had given me formerly. At the time I had decided that this was what happened when one was no longer addicted to a substance—the actual stuff was flat and unexceptional and all the magic had come from me: my addictive response. This same thing happened to me earlier in life with soda (pop). After two and a half weeks of being in New Zealand and eating things that were grown organically and plucked right off the tree for just one week, suddenly the more civilized equivalents lacked magic.

We visited the Ancient Kauri Kingdom shop and café where Kauri wood excavated from peat bogs, perfectly preserved for 40,000 – 50,000 years (about the lifetime of the species homo sapiens), is made into sometimes lovely and sometimes rather sad furniture and knicknacks. Unborn baby heartbeat monitor? Well worth a visit according to the Lonely Planet guidebook. Lacking that august distinction was the Gum Digger’s Park which we passed by. Out in the parking lot were various ancient giant Kauri stumps. I thought I felt something when I pressed against the cross section of one ancient tree as old as my species.

Kauri is a big fat tree looking like an elephants leg with a disproportionately small dusting of foliage at the top. The vast majority of it was logged like crazy in the early years of New Zealand European settlement, the main wave of which started less than 150 years ago. That’s part of the attraction of New Zealand—that it is a country which was being settled by Europeans right around when San Francisco was getting going. A very young country where there has been less time to screw things up, less time to fill it. It’s one of the closest places to a frontier left on the planet. Ten years ago when the World Wide Web was really kicking in, Yvonne and Wayne were just getting their own phone line, having previously had to share theirs with five other families on a party line. For the first couple of years for them in the early 90’s there was no phone service at all.

The Maori weren’t here so long either as these things go, maybe a thousand years back. Enough time to drive the Moa into extinction and introduce rats and pigs. The rats did more of a number on the native bird population than the Maori themselves could ever have accomplished. There were some extraordinarily cute wild pigs on Yvonne and Wayne’s land, grubbing around for fallen fruit no doubt, scampering away when we walked to the loo.

Wayne said that the buildings in San Francisco erected before the big quake/fire of 1906 were built of New Zealand Kauri wood. I wonder whether our apartment, scheduled for its first open house just one week from today (and, it turns out, shown a week ahead of schedule, so just one day after I wrote this), was possibly built of Kauri. The year of constuction according to the city was 1900, but that’s what they recorded for all buildings whose original records were lost in the fire. I had about four feet of framing that I had saved from when we took out a closet wall to install the furnace for central heating. I burned the wood on Ocean Beach three nights before we left. I thought it was old growth redwood. Every time I picked it up I was astonished anew at how light it was. Kauri wood is notable for its lightness, as was explained by an Ancient Kauri Kingdom informative display. I think we might have spent our last nine years living in a building built of old growth New Zealand Kauri. That’s as good a reason why we are here as any, depending on what sort of view of the world’s workings you find most enjoyable.

We took an unsealed road (gravel) to the imprecisely named 90 Mile Beach which lies along 65 miles of the northernmost feathery tendril of the northernmost spine of New Zealand. We passed through a pine forest on the way and I started to feel good again. The beach was lovely — water and shells and fantastic sand dune shapes carved by the tide; no one’s foot prints there but mine. I seem to have become a nature lover, now preferring Gaia’s environments to Man’s. It will be interesting to see how I feel about suburban Christchurch.