SEARCH (there is a lot more) - plants, beasties, atmospherics, and Wellington's south coast
Keep in touch with the good earth

Autumn butterflies - Monarch and Yellow Admiral - on koromiko flowers

We have had cold weather, and the days are definitely getting shorter.  But so far there is little evidence of the rich colours of autumn foliage.  Not to worry - the tiny white flowers of koromiko have been lit up by the rich orange of some autumn butterflies.  A Yellow Admiral -And a rather age-worn Monarch (male, in case you wondered) -The koromiko is a New Zealand native shrub commonly found in the North Island.  These ones are self-sown in my garden, and they are most welcome - their profuse flowering attracts butterflies, bees, and other pollinating good-guys. 

Its botanical name was Hebe stricta, revised to Veronica stricta.  But taxonomists always have a tough time convincing people to accept plant name changes, and since there are about 90 "Hebe" species native to New Zealand I suspect we will be using the old names for quite a while.  Whatever we call them, they are evidence again of nature's bounty.


Listen to the wind

Here in Wellington we are being buffeted by strong winds - around the time of the autumn equinox our normally active air is even more turbulent.  When I first lived here it upset me - it is hard on the plants and the soil dries out so quickly.  But I have learned to enjoy the wind to some extent, and to protect precious plants as much as I am able with windbreaks, mulch, and attention to the soil. 

And the wind can have a beautiful impact - in the morning the wind was creating ever-shifting patterns over Island Bay - clouds scudding across the sky, shifts of light, ruffled water. Much more concerning is the impact of very intense wind - most recently the devastating damage by cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and Tuvalu.  Around the earth we are already experiencing more extreme weather, the impact of climate change.  Fortunately, human action can help prevent the devastating climate change that lies ahead if we continue on the current trajectory.  We are being warned.  We can take action.

Let's listen to the wind.


Autumn colours - scarlet rata and tree ferns at Pukekura Park

The equinox.  People are celebrating spring in the Northern Hemisphere while suddenly here it is very clear that the days are shorter and, just in case we hadn't noticed, a very cold southerly has blasted through along with the turbulence caused by Cyclone Pam.  Autumn is here.                         

At this time of year WOMAD is held in New Plymouth, and going to it means I also get to see Pukekura Park again.  This park is a real treasure of a place, underappreciated I think, with a rich collection of plants. 

A reliable sight is the brilliant red of scarlet rata (Metrosideros fulgens), a New Zealand native vine which flowers in autumn and winter.  It contrasts wonderfully with the rather greyish green of a lot of our shrubs and trees, and makes a wonderful display, climbing up to 10 metres.

This one is growing up the long trunk of a tree fern - probably a mamaku - after first clambering up some shorter tree ferns at its base, in a quiet corner by the Fountain Lake.


Closer up you can see that the clusters of flowers are like a forest of red stamens.Bottoms up!  Heads down and busily feeding, two honey bees enjoy the flowers too.


Hokianga summer - sand, sea, sky

Late summer can be a very special time, a time of "golden weather."  Unfortunately, drought is taking hold in many parts of the country - a good summer for some is not a good summer for all.  Despite my concern about drought, I find that memories of the heat and bright light of summer warm me up through winter's cold grey times.  So I am really pleased with catching this memory prompt - an image of the Hokianga Harbour on a blue sky/bright sunshine day.

The Hokianga is on the west coast of the northern North Island.  This photo, taken at Opononi, looks towards the harbour mouth.  Between the green of the southern head and the high sand dune of the northern head you can just see the white foam of some waves breaking - due to the notorious boat-wrecking sandbar (or to the lashing tails of the taniwha  guarding the mouth of the harbour.)  The sand hills on the north side are 150-170m high.

It is a long estuarine harbour, reaching far inland.  Now a quiet area, it has a rich history.  I am particularly taken by stories of Kupe, the great Polynesian ancestor/explorer who is said to have sailed from Hawaiki, around the North Island and part of the South Island, then settling here.  Some years later he left to return to Hawaiki.  The name for the harbour - "Te Hokianga Nui a Kupe," commemorates this.  It is usually shorted to "Hokianga."  The story and the translations vary, but his description "Te Puna i Te Ao Marama" - "the spring of the world of light" seems very apt too.

I am lucky to be able to return to Hokianga, in memory at the very least.


Morning mist and bright reflections and thinking about what's important.

This year I have been slow to post - frankly dispirited by the size of the suffering that we humans keep creating for ourselves and for the planet.  I've been thinking - what can I do, what shall I focus on?  But while I was on holiday further north in the North Island, nature provided me with some encouragement. At Kaihu, near Dargaville on the Kauri Coast, sunrise briefly coloured the morning mist a soft pink, and burnished the bush with golden light.  A strangely coloured but to me gorgeous scene, uplifting, delightful - I've never seen it quite like that before.

At the end of another day, at Lake Taupo, more lightworks.                        

This is a very big lake.  It partially fills a caldera (collapse crater) of Taupo Volcano, a "supervolcano." Fortunately the eruptions are not frequent.  The caldera's current size is a result of the Oruanui Eruption, which devastated much of the North Island about 27,000 years ago.  There were many smaller eruptions between that and the Taupo Eruption 1800 years ago, the most violent eruption known to have occurred in the world over the last 5000 years.  The ash plume reached the stratosphere and covered New Zealand in least 1cm of ash, and it is possible that this ash was the cause of red sunsets recorded by the Romans and Chinese at that time.

The surrounding Taupo Volcanic Zone is still active, and the Taupo Volcano is regarded as dormant. 

Hmmm.  I think there is a lesson here about our size in the scheme of things. 

But being tiny is not a reason to feel powerless - the Dalai Lama quote comes to mind - "if you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito."