Yesterday, I heard a Tui sing—and that was just one song of her repertoire. It was a beautiful pulsing beat, the sound of a flute, one note, mesmerizing and almost hypnotic. Like us, tuis sing different tunes—joyous, plaintive, flirtatious melodies, and sometimes, they click, cackle, wheeze and grunt. I assume that’s when they’re in a bad mood (like I am now; how could my Ravens not fly to the Super Bowl?) I’m glad I don’t have two voice boxes as tuis do; I’d have a double bout of laryngitis from yelling and cheering. Oh well!
I’ve learned to recognize tuis from their greenish-blue iridescent feathers and the white tufts on their throats, which turn into white shoulder pads when they fly. It’s beautiful to watch a flock in flight. Or even just a solitary little one flitting and flirting about in my sister and brother-in-law’s garden. Next year, there will be many more because the young kowhai (pronounced kofai) tree they’ve planted will burst into bloom—long, yellow, pendulous blossoms, so commonly seen everywhere in Auckland. Tuis feed on their nectar and fruit.
What they love equally well, perhaps even more, is the New Zealand flax plant, whose nectar ferments, causing them to totter a bit, and fly somewhat ungracefully. But hey, they don’t drive, so why begrudge them a little good cheer? Or a night cap?
Here are some pictures taken in Rotorua, about a three hour drive from Auckland, where I presently live.
My sister, whose home is in New Zealand, told me that she spent the first day of the new millennium sitting in a comfy chair watching the sun rise over the rest of the world. By the time that gorgeous, glittering ball at Times Square began its descent, and strains of Auld Lang Syne filled the air, the new year wasn’t a new born baby anymore. My sister had already turned the first page of her desk calendar.
That’s how it was last week at Christmas too. Before the sun rose my family in India had already opened presents and had a spicy brunch. But in America, my family and friends had awakened to Christmas Eve, with plenty of time left to do last minute shopping. It’s disorienting, at the very least– this time warp, this asynchronous life style with people I love. But it does help me reconcile my faith in a Creator and the science of Evolution. (Anyway, that’s a story for another day.)
Happy New Year Everyone!
Below is a picture of Hicks Point in New Zealand, where the sun rays first touch land.
Sitting on the porch in a sleeveless blouse under clear skies on a Christmas evening can only mean that I’m not anywhere close to my home in Baltimore, Maryland. In fact, I am in New Zealand, called “Aotearoa” translated from the Maori language as the “land of the long white cloud.” I’ve seen that long white cloud stretch across the sky since my arrival here at my sister and brother-in-law’s home—a long silky sash that covers the horizon, but this evening the sash is snipped into cotton tufts with serrated edges, still ever so beautiful.
New Zealand is a land that has its own natural Christmas tree—the Pohutukawa (pronounce po-hoo-ta-car-wa)—a large, magnificent evergreen that blooms red all along the Auckland Bay, lines the city streets, and generally proclaims the good news of the season. Although New Zealanders decorate their homes with traditional twinkling pines and ornaments, the Pohutukawa is their official “Christmas Tree.” What I most love about this New Zealand native is how tenacious and unassuming it is. Tolerant of poor soil, salt-laden winds and inhospitable dry sunny sites, it still produces an exuberance of flowers, smothering the landscape in a bright crimson blanket. Although it can tower to 70 feet in height, it is humble and just as happy hugging the coast line as a shrub, aflame for only two weeks, long enough to allow honeybees to feast on its nectar, and for us to later enjoy a silky smooth uniquely flavoured honey. (And like me, it doesn’t like frost or possums.) Children sing songs about ‘the native Christmas tree of Aotearoa’ and how it fills their hearts with ‘aroha.’ May it usher in a brand new year of hope and blessings for us all, no matter where we live.