Nau mai, haere mai ki te whare o Silkannthreades!
Welcome, welcome to the home of Silkannthreades, in the South Island of Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand . ~
When the early pioneers arrived in my part of the South Island*, they saw a landscape similar to this,which had been surveyed, and made user-friendly for colonial settlement, by criss-crossing it with names like Canterbury, Christchurch, Avon, Armagh, Lincoln…..
….. whether any of the sites thus labelled bore any resemblance to their namesakes in the old world, I do not know.
I suspect not. Most likely, the nomenclature came about via some wishful thinking, some lazy thinking, and some self-important thinking, coupled with a desire to impose current theories of civilization on the perceived wilderness. And whether these familiar names plonked upon the unfamiliar lands helped the settlers adjust to their colonial lives more quickly, or merely made them homesick for the real thing, I also do not know. I imagine it could have been almost as disorientating as our current practice of giving names like Pitcairn ( the Island) to a street in the middle of an inland suburb in Christchurch!
So, as much I do not know, this I do know:
that, 4th September is a fortunate, white-stone day
because, on that date, fifteen years ago, my family and I stepped off the plane,
and began our life in Aotearoa New Zealand; a country which, to me, needs no reference points other than its own.
We had been globe-trotting for 18 years and it was time to settle down. Not in a place masquerading as a new, improved version of another land, or a place oddly correlated to memories of distant countries, but in a place uniquely and unmistakably itself. A place we could simply know as home; and a good one, at that.
But if I sing of anything
I much prefer to sing of where
The tram-cars clang across the square,
Or where above the little bay
John Robert Godley passed his day,
Or where the brooding hills reveal
The sunset as a living weal.
I think, too, of the bridle track
Where first they saw the plains curve back
To Alps, of how that little band
Of pilgrims viewed their Promised Land.
I do not dream of Sussex downs
Or quaint old England’s quaint old towns:
I think of what will yet be seen
In Johnsonville and Geraldine.
Denis Glover (1936)
To mark, yet again, the fortunate, fourth day of September, I substituted the traditional white stone with the white pages of a book; the book being A Good Home . It is written by the witty and wonderful blogger, Cynthia Reyes, who knows a great deal about good homes (and good gardens). She would be the first to agree that it is, indeed, a fortunate day when we come to a good home.
* The South Island of New Zealand was known as New Munster from 1840 to 1853. Wikipedia says that Governor William Hobson named it so, in honour of his birthplace in Ireland. Happily, the South Island now (since 2013!) has official recognition for its original name Te Waipounamu (Greenstone waters).