• A kiwi encounter on Motutapu Island

    As national mascots go, the kiwi ain’t all that impressive. It’s slow, flightless, practically blind. If Darwin had his way, this rare bird would probably be well and truly a footnote in history by now.

    Yet its otherworldliness, I think, evokes the protector in all of us. When I first laid eyes on the first of two kiwi released on Motutapu Island last week, I felt something stir in me.

    Surprisingly animated – ducking, squirming, flexing – it was larger than I expected. Cuddlier looking, somehow. By the time it made its way to the end of the receiving line, where I was, the kiwi was getting slightly agitated. I refrained from touching it, not wanting to exacerbate the stress, but others said its feathers were firm, even hard, despite how soft and glossy they looked.

    I’m not an animal person at all, but the passion of the conservation staff was infectious. There was a quaver in this man’s voice when he later spoke of the path that led him here, starting with seeing the remains of a moa at the museum, and today, when his 6-year-old son touched the feathers of the kiwi before its release. “Come back in 20 years – it’ll be real noisy,” he promised. I’m thankful we care enough to preserve the kiwi (and our other unique birdlife, which Lord knows need our help).

    Kiwi release on Motutapu Island, Auckland New Zealand  Kiwi release on Motutapu Island, Auckland New Zealand

    Here’s another kick ass bird being cultivated on Motutapu, the takahe. It’s a bird we spent many hours learning about and drawing pictures of in primary school, and which (to my best memory) we saw on a school trip to Motutapu back then. Sadly, my only memory of that first visit is of being teased by classmates about my hat. It was a baby bonnet, apparently, one my frugal mother would have picked up at one garage sale or another.

    Takahe on Motutapu Island, Auckland New Zealand Takahe on Motutapu Island, Auckland New Zealand

    Motutapu has been pest free since late 2011 and thanks to replanting over the past decades, is stunningly lush and green, surrounded by some of the clearest, warmest seawater I can ever remember dipping into in New Zealand.

     

    Beach on Motutapu Island, Auckland New Zealand Beach on Motutapu Island, Auckland New Zealand

    As I was discussing with one of the others at the event, it would be a pretty idyllic place to live – as long as you had a boat, of course.

  • Link love (Powered by dry coughs and underachievement)

    Last weekend T and I went for a morning jaunt to a local beach. Not the white sandy variety; not even the black sand, pounding surf variety. The kind that’s rocky and kind of barren; where joggers frantically chase their dog around in an attempt to get it back on its leash, yelling “Hunter! Hunter!” fruitlessly and smiling at onlookers with a mix of frazzlement, humour and that ‘what can you do?’ expression; where it smells salty and bits of broken bottles lie amongst the mossy pebbles and there are faint whiffs of sewage – in other words, the kind of beach we both grew up close to.

    He found a sole coconut and cracked it open.

    I snapped a million shots of the greened-over rocks, enthralled by the texture.

    It’s the little things, I tell ya.

    Alrighty, to the links!

    So, Michelle Obama, huh? Among my daily reads are Slate, Salon and The Atlantic, and Slate killed it with this piece analysing her stupendous speech and just why it was so powerful. And apparently it was written at a 12th grade level, which is much higher than speechwriters generally aim for. The Obamas give me chills. That is all.

    I also enjoyed this Freshly Pressed post from Bea Magazine about Patricia Heaton (Debra from Everybody Loves Raymond, and also The Middle) and its take on the meaning of feminism (something I also struggle with, although it sounds like Diane and I share identical personal views on the subject).

    This brought me to tears. Here is a beautiful ode to love and taking chances from Hannah Katy.

    I am not sure I would have survived in the pre-internet days, to be honest. Kelly Abroad explains how her iPhone makes life as a traveller easier.

    Some of us quite like working for a company. Julie Clow is one, and at Life After College, explains how to make the most of it.

    Finally, Jonathan Fields argues that success, if guaranteed, is hollow. (How does that saying go – what would you do if you knew you could not fail? But is certain success truly success?) He writes: “The only way for success to be guaranteed in advance is to do something that’s so devoid of meaning and so stripped of creativity and innovation that even though you may be 100% capable of success, it’s not really success any more. It becomes an empty victory. Nobody will care, including you.”

  • Our much needed mini break – a weekend in pictures

    It’s been a hectic month or so at work for the two of us lately – T worked seven days in a row last week – so this long weekend was, in a word, savoured. We holed up at home for its entirety, venturing out only when necessary; I fell asleep at 8pm on Friday (bliss), and the rest of it was spent napping, watching movies, eating and lounging in bed. I’m no royalist, but the Commonwealth does have its advantages from time to time.

    We also carved out a mini break last weekend: an overnight getaway in the city, just the two of us.

    Saturday for me involved a leisurely photography walk, in which I snapped some autumnal scenes (the only blight being the point at which I was accosted by missionaries while trying to get a good angle on some tree branches)

    followed by a quick run and some peanut butter chocolate

    and some reading.

    Dinner at Caravanserai,

    then we checked into our room at the Stamford (a mystery deal booked on Wotif), which was about the size of our old studio flat. Even the fridge was hidden away behind wooden doors, and the bathroom lights turned on automatically whenever one of us walked in there.

    Breakfast at a random cafe, Cima, on High St (which was excellent), then T dropped me off home before heading back to work.

    And it all ended that night with a surprise visit from two of my best friends, one who’d just gotten back from the States and brought me these:

    What’s happening in your life lately? When did you last manage a little break?

  • Love, life and a wedding extravaganza

    Until this week, I had never been to a wedding. And let me say how blessed I am that my first was an Indian one – bursting with colour, life and culture. Not one, but three days of festivities.

    We kicked things off a week earlier with her hens’ night. Here are girls I’ve known for 10 years – one of them, for even longer. We live in the same city and see each other only a few times a year, but we always have a good time when we assemble in one place. And every single time, I’m freshly grounded by their presence. No smartphones. No constant need to be “on”. They’re practical, rather than creative.

    What I’ve always known, and really came through here, is the enormity of the weight of cultural expectations they’re under.

    Regular readers probably know I’m not much one for tradition, but watching our bridesmaids feed her as she had her hands hennaed was a pretty emotional thing to watch.

    Following the mehndi night was the actual ceremony (a daytime one, which I missed as it was a work day), and a fairly conservative dinner with the best biryani rice and smoked chicken curry to pass my lips in so, so very long.

    We all stood to welcome the couple.

    She presided over the women’s room (Muslim custom dictated gender separation) with her groom, chaperoned by her sisters, regal in gem-studded veil and sari.

    There were songs and prayers.

    And to round it off, a couple of light-hearted games that had us all shrieking and placing our bets. (Pardon the iPhone photos.)

    Then the reception.

    I even got decked out in a sari.

    Prettiest thing I’ve donned in ages – an astoundingly beautiful pink and green encrusted with all manner of shiny things. Up close they looked a little tacky but from a distance the full effect is stunning. I managed to get away without her adorning me with too much bling…but didn’t get away entirely unscathed, as you can see.

    But we had nothing on the bridal party in white, or the bride herself looking all queenly and composed.

    Then there was dancing. There’ll be video of that, and hopefully I’ll never have to see it. But gosh darn if I didn’t have the most stupid fun prancing around in my skirts.

    Friendships change with age and life stages. I feel like this, the first marriage, marks a turning point in the evolving of our collective bond, but only time will tell.