Tag Archives: settlers

It’s a fortunate day when you come to a good home

 

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,

Norman, Edmund 1820-1875 :Canterbury Plains,- New Zealand. / Drawn by E. Norman. Maclure, Macdonald & Macgregor, Lith, London. Lyttelton, Published by Martin G. Heywood, [ca 1855]. http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=8818

Norman, Edmund 1820-1875 :Canterbury Plains,- New Zealand. / Drawn by E. Norman. Maclure, Macdonald & Macgregor, Lith, London. Lyttelton, Published by Martin G. Heywood, [ca 1855]. http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=8818

 which had been surveyed, and made user-friendly for colonial settlement, by criss-crossing it with names like Canterbury, Christchurch, Avon, Armagh, Lincoln…..

 Lincoln, NZ, named for  the Earl of Lincoln, UK.

Lincoln, NZ, named for the Earl of Lincoln, UK.

….. whether any of the sites thus labelled bore any resemblance to their namesakes in the old world, I do not know.

The Liffey at Lincoln

The Liffey at Lincoln.  The Liffey?!!!  perhaps it looked like this somewhere  in Ireland in the 1850s.

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.

Rakaia Gorge

Rakaia Gorge (with thanks to my brother for his photo)

Home Thoughts
…..
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.

Map Legend:

* 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).

© silkannthreades

 

The land that claims us

I’ve been gallivanting; travelling across the Plains, from north to south and back again. I went to Timaru, a port city about 162km from Christchurch. I haven’t been that way in more than 3 years. It’s not very far, in terms of time or distance, but the earthquakes and their aftermath had somehow imprisoned me within the confines of my own city.

Last Thursday I broke free, and, in my trusty little Toyota Echo, I traced the old, familiar route across the wide open spaces; the fields to left and right, the snow topped mountains ever westward, the endless blue of sky above; the rivers big and little and, all along the wayside, the litany of names, the signs of our settlement, our marks upon the land….Templeton, Rolleston, Burnham, Northwood, Bankside, Rakaia, Chertsey, Ashburton, Tinwald, Hinds, Rangitata, Orari, Temuka and so many more…until I met the rolling hills that end the Plains, and the city that sits upon their folds; my destination,  Timaru.

View from Timaru

View from Timaru

Timaru is one of my homes away from home,

Home away from Home

Home away from Home; a place of shelter

mainly because my uncle and his family have lived there for  many years and are always ready to offer generous hospitality to me and my loved ones. Recently I  discovered another reason to feel bonded to Timaru. It was the initial place of residence for the Scottish side of my family when they came to New Zealand in the mid 1870s. It was also the site of our first birthing in New Zealand; from the paternal side  of the family tree, that is. A momentous occasion, perhaps, that first birthing, or, more realistically, just another fact of life for a busy settler-wife to contend with.  Whatever the case, young James arrived in the land of his parents’ choice, on 26 June 1877, followed, not long after, by his twin brother, Joseph.

Years later, a cemetery entry, which is probably that of my great-uncle, records James as a native of Scotland, despite being born and having spent most of his  life in New Zealand.

And, therein, lies the rub; which land claims us? The one we are born to, the one we live in, the one we die in, the one we feel is home, that we feel in our heart, the one we left behind, the one we long for, the one we choose, or don’t choose, the one that loves and protects us, or the one that legally bind us? Or the one that refuses to let us go?

My son, through circumstances entirely outside his control, was born in the US. His birthplace was happenstance; his first landfall, like that of his great great uncle, was an accident of birth. For the greater part of his life he has lived in New Zealand; considers himself a New Zealander and holds, and chooses to hold, New Zealand citizenship. Yet, like a dog unwilling to relinquish its bone, America, the land of his birth, holds on to him, and millions of others like him, whose only wish is to live freely, quietly and privately in the country of their own choice. America  does this via the appalling effrontery of  FATCA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act which compels governments worldwide to hand over, to the IRS, the personal financial information of anyone (or institution) with  Born in America  next to their name. Supposedly this measure is aimed at  preventing losses to the US economy  through tax evasion.  Perhaps it will,  but does catching the tax cheats really require the Government of America to force minion foreign Governments  to trawl the electronic trail of the US diaspora for wicked tax evaders and, in the  dragnet-process,  mangle  the innocents abroad and the accidental Americans?

My ancestors  traversed thousands of miles of unruly ocean to reach New Zealand. They wanted to escape the restrictions of old societies and economies. They came looking for newer, better ways to live. Most people who settled in the US travelled long, arduous routes to get there, too.  They wanted to be free of old ways, old tyrannies, old politics.  When I look at power-mongering acts like FATCA, I wonder if any of us have travelled very far at all.

Which land claims you?

Which land claims you?

© silkannthreades