'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

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Saturday, 5 December 2009

Growing up in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

If you walk over a landscape enough, it becomes part of you.  You absorb it through your feet, drink the parched soft cream colours through your eyes, smell the warm dry grass and the tang of pines, swim in the cool shadows of the trees on a hot summer's day, resonate with the cicadas' buzzing.  I can still feel the dry heat of my teenage Hawkes Bay days when Wendy and I would walk up Te Mata (Tay-Mah-tah) Peak on a Sunday, simply for the fun of doing it, just to get to the trig and look out over our plains.  From door to door, it would take us about three hours, maybe a little more. We'd go up past flocks of sheep through Chamber's Walk, the path winding under the Cenozoic limestone cliffs with their strange bivalve fossils, and then battle supplejack vines and tree nettles in the sudden cool of the bush walk, emerging out of the pines at the bottom of this valley.  
When we got near the top, we could see the whole of the Heretaunga (Hairy-tong-ah) Plains before us, shimmering in the heat.  Havelock North immediately below us (where's your house?) and the green strip of orchards, before the neat cross-hatching iron-grid street layout of Hastings.  Rows of orchard shelter belt poplars centre, south to the dry hills over towards Pakipaki (Pah-key-pah-key), north to Napier and Bluff hill - an island before the big earthquake of '31.  In winter we could easily see the far white line of snow stretching along the tops of the Kaweka (kar-wekka), Ruahine (Roo-ah-hee-nay) and Mangaharuru (Mar-ngar-har-roo-roo) range, and, way in the distance, the ice-cream cones of the central plateau volcanoes peeking through the perfectly-placed gap.
The other side of course, the sudden drop down the steep scarp face to the Tukituki (Took-ee-took-ee) River, and the desiccated hills out to Cape Kidnappers - well, that was something else again...

"Kaitiakatanga" - Tread lightly on the Earth


  1. steve18.5.08

    That is a beautiful piece of work.

  2. Great post! I do enjoy the views of NZ--so much different than the plains of Kansas! There is always something new and exciting, at least for me, and I hope I never tire or get complacent about it all.

  3. Thank you Bettyl. I did enjoy painting this.

  4. Wow, I love your use of language in this post Katherine - you describe so well the reasons, the why and how that the NZ landscape seems to be seared into our very souls. Like you say we absorb it through our feet - and its not far from our feet to our hearts.

  5. I do so love the swing of all those Maori names...

  6. I may well be there this summer !

  7. Thank you Alden. Sometimes I enjoy painting by mouth as well as by hand :o)

    Jinksy - it is a pleasant language to listen to.

    David - you sound excited. Is it a holiday or a permanent move you have planned?

  8. A beautiful painting and an enlightening explanation. I'm with jinksy on the sound of those names!

  9. What a lovely piece of writing... like the beginning of a well-crafted autobiography. Evocative picture of Te Mata Park by yourself I'm guessing...

    Now can we move on to the saucy episodes?

  10. Thank you Robert. And YP. Yes, my painting. Unfinished, but nearly there.

    Ah, the sauce... and the gravy! there is plenty of both if I ever wrote my autobiography.

    I'm working on the fame first, so people will consider the book worth buying!

  11. You describe something of which I am part by use of words and art so much more eloquently than I could ever do. I am a trifle envious.

  12. Well, GB, then I am honoured. Because I know how well YOU write.


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