SEARCH (there is a lot more) - plants, beasties, atmospherics, and Wellington's south coast
Keep in touch with the good earth
Friday
Feb202015

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.

Friday
Feb062015

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."

Wednesday
Jan212015

Bee watching on a sunny summer evening

One of those special times - a balmy summer evening when the sunlight is bright and low in the sky and thus providing light at an interesting angle.  It was illuminating a profusion of oregano flowers growing by the verandah, making a bright halo around them.  The vision was not just attractive to me.  Several honeybees were busily feeding. One of the bees caught my eye.  It seemed rather tiny and very determined.  The backlighting made its abdomen appear to glow.It fed, buzzed, landed, fed - appearing very focused...the epitome of the busy bee, reaching ever more of the flowers. Oops, acrobatics were required when one of its feet appeared to get hooked in the plant.But it was only seconds before its balance and feeding resumed.

I was happy drinking in the pleasure of watching this little bee, in turn drinking what I hope was good nourishing nectar.  Bees are so precious now - we keep identifying more hazards, arising from our impact on the environment, the way bees are used and exposed to pests, the use of poisons on the plants they visit.  At least I do know that the herb plant had not been sprayed and there were no neonicotinoids used in that area.  This is a plea to all who read this - do take care of the environment so that bees can recover and flourish.

Sunday
Dec282014

A vibrant sight - pohutukawa in flower

The end of the year is nigh.  Christmas has been celebrated and the pohutukawa - Metrosideros excelsa, the "New Zealand Christmas tree" - have been blessing us with their beautiful rich reds, ranging from crimson to scarlet.  This one is at Greta Point, but it seems that everywhere you look here in Wellington they are adding their vibrance to the bright summery weather. Although they did not naturally grow in Wellington they have been used a great deal in amenity plantings in the city and in the suburbs.  They thrive almost too well here (as they do to the point of being weeds in places like Spain and California) and there is a cooling down on their use.  Instead we are encouraged to plant a relative that grew here naturally - northern rātā, Metrosideros robusta. 

But when the pohutukawa are in full flower the rich redness is appreciated and welcomed, not least because it is associated with a festive time.  Judging by the number of cameras and smartphones that I see being used, I am not alone in my delight.  And although picturing the pohutukawa flowers is a seasonal cliche, I am happy to celebrate them and with them the pleasures that summer and the end of year can bring.

Wednesday
Dec172014

High cloud at sunset and a light and colour show

Yesterday Wellington had a lovely summer's day that was actually warm (24 degrees!) and sunny with clear blue skies and almost no wind.  As the day ended, halo phenomena became evident in the high cloud that had developed.  I could see what looked like one side of a halo, with the rest hidden by the headland at the southern end of Island Bay.  I think the bright spot (which is in line with the position of the sun) was a parhelion or sundog.  Here the arc of light is seen reflected in the calm water of Island Bay.  Some divers in the water, the rocky shore, and the island Taputeranga are all in silhouette as is the misty outline of distant mountains in the South Island.  The arc of light appeared brighter than in the photo, and you can just see the characteristic reddish tinge on the inside. 

The sun was low in the sky.  It was too bright for me to try and photograph its position in relation to the arc of light.  As the sun continued to set the halo was less evident and the colours of sunset started to take centre stage.  First a soft golden light contrasted with the rocky shore, coast road, and South Island in the distance. Then the colours warmed up - pinks, apricots and gold, and the sky darkened - seen from a vantage point further from the beach.But it didn't stop.  A feature of high cloud is the way it captures colour after the sun has gone down - and sure enough, the wait was worthwhile.  A fiery red was the finale. Now I am accustomed to the idea that a red sky at night, "shepherd's delight", signifies good weather the next day.  So I was surprised to read that high cloud like this, which colours red at sunset, can be a sign that the weather is going to deteriorate, that there may be an approaching front of a depression bringing rain in the next day.

Sure enough, mist and rain today.  Oh well, it was lovely while it lasted!