I was looking at another blog some time ago and saw a photo of a piece of land half a world away (the Grand Ronde River, Washington state) that started me thinking.
A couple of ideas: When people move to a new country they are usually homesick. They often do one of two things: either keep going until they see some land that reminds them of home, and settle there; or settle any old where and make it look like home.
In the case of New Zealand, the former has, for example, meant that many Scots settled in the south of the South Island, where the stone and the weather felt right and comfortable. In as much as we have regional accents at all, one can detect a slight burr from southlanders even today.
The latter, meant they cleared the natural vegetation, brought in livestock, and, more destructively (although they weren't to know that), brought over grass, thistles, brambles, gorse, and innumerable other seeds and plants that quickly naturalised in New Zealand's milder climate. Also, to remind them of home, or to provide sources of food, came the dogs, rabbits, blackbirds, thrushes, hedgehogs, trout, pheasant, quail, goat, pig, stoats, weasels, deer, cats ... the list is long. Others came in accidently: rats being the most obvious.
New Zealand became separated from the rest of the world millions of years ago before mammals evolved. So New Zealand's native species consist almost entirely of a few reptiles (no snakes), birds and insects. And because there were no mammals (except for a couple of bats), the birds had often lost or reduced the use of their wings, and were nesting on the ground. This, of course, made them incredibly vulnerable. The destruction of the forest habitats and the introduction of grazers and carnivores has meant that New Zealand has now 27 indigenous species extinct and very many more are under threat, including several unique frogs and those bats.
These things are in my mind constantly as I paint the bare bones that once were forest-clad New Zealand hills ringing with the calls and gutteral clicks of our amazing tame birds.
This post first appeared in my now defunct 'State of My Art' blog. I re-post it today because I think it's worth keeping.