Feeling crabby? Time to get away

crab pincer closeCrab pincer: 100 Days Project #10

It’s always delicious, that feeling of getting away.  And luckily in Auckland, it isn’t that hard.  Thirty minutes’ drive will get you to a patch of green or blue you can call your own for a short time.  Somehow it’s even more refreshing when you get to go by boat.  Everyday stresses and cares are tossed to the wind, carried by the gulls and churned behind you in the wake of the car ferry as you literally leave the city behind.

On the Waiheke passenger ferry, cardsharp commuters mingle with students, fascinator-wearing wedding guests, anoraks and hardout alternative lifestylers for a 45 minute journey to another place.  Friendships are struck up over mongrels and labradoodles alike on the back deck and there’s always a feeling of freshness and transition.

So, imagine one day if your parents were to say to you: ‘We’ve found the perfect Waiheke section to build our bach at last!. It’s steep, covered in bush, inaccessible by road and requires a 10 minute walk-in by a steep zigzag track!’ Naturally the only possible response is ‘fantastic!’.  Not everybody has the good fortune to have parents with a house near the beach, and it isn’t something to take for granted.

Now that we have three children who can walk, talk, swim, and (theoretically) hang up their own towels, the magic of this house nestled among the trees become more evident with every visit.  They can trot down to the beach, through the flax, past the serried ranks of orange sea kayaks and aluminium dinghies, all on their own now.   They know about lifejackets and how to mess about in boats. They can spend long hours ignoring sunscreen advice and finding beach treasures such as the crab pincer above.

Their childhood memories are being formed there.  For our eldest, this is the spot he thinks of when asked to picture his ‘happy place’.

Here, we get to create our own traditions, such as ‘Grandad tries to sneak out on his own for the paper‘, ‘breadmaking one-upmanship‘ and the time-honoured ‘we kayak to get a samosa‘.  Nobody, but nobody, will spend longer in the water with our boys than their Grandma, and they get the chance to pick beans still sun-warm from the row with their Grandad.

I think that like a lot of parents, our jobs have often gotten the better part of us, first in our own business and then as part of a larger company. Our children pay the price for that.  The small distance between our home and Hekerua Bay allows us to reframe and refocus.  We need to do that a lot more.  Thanks Mum and Dad. x


Rewarewa leaf: 100 Days Project #4

Rewarewa leafThis beautiful rewarewa leaf with its many imperfections was a small souvenir I picked up from the forest floor in a very special place.  Anybody who has spent time at Aio Wira near Bethells beach on the rough black sand West Coast will know why I wanted to keep a small reminder.

Some go there to meditate, some to practise yoga.  Me, I go there to get myself back. I’m not a great meditator or even a particularly spiritual person, but every now and again, I am very fortunate to spend a little time in this quiet and peaceful spot.

One of the most beautiful aspects of this place is the river which runs below the centre. River swimming is one of my ultimate pleasures.  It’s not for everybody, it’s a little rocky, a little slippery and there are definitely eels. But to lie alone, suspended on the surface of a river, gently turning in the current, you look up at a forest which appears as if it has never left its primeval state.

A few moments like this have the potential to restore a sense of perspective and balance.  I know I’ve gone too far though, when I get tears in my eyes on seeing lunch, even if it is the most gorgeously coloured vegetarian fare.

Having emphasised the peacefulness of the spot, it has to be said that one is occasionally in danger of coming upon a woofer and his gap year didgeridoo.  But the place does attract lovely people from all around the world.   On the day that I picked up my leaf I was walking with a very nice German woman who identified it for me.  It thought it might be from a lancewood and she corrected me, very nicely. It can be humbling how well informed Germans can be. How many New Zealanders or visitors alike know that there is a native crayfish, and what its Maori name is?

That feeling of being a stranger on my own ground did remind me of a time I was attempting (badly) to play tour guide to some newly arrived German friends in Wellington, helpfully pointing out the Katherine Mansfield house as we drove down Tinakori Road. ‘Oh yes’, said my friend’s partner airily ‘That is just the birth house. The living house is in Karori’.

I know that I know nothing.  Overall I find it’s it’s a safer position.