Posts Tagged ‘Snake’

Beasts of the forest and city – Auckland again

April 7, 2011

Auckland: Friday Feb 18th  
Between Green Bay and the alternative atmosphere of Titirangi (charming coffee shops and galleries, and an endlessly interesting community noticeboard) lies a wild green space: the Rahui Kahika Reserve.   It looks forested but the word ‘Reserve’ suggests that it is cared for, and paths roam through it.  The walk up to Titirangi lies beside a busy road, so walking through the Reserve looks like a good option.   The first path leads along the backs of houses, where a council employee is mowing vigorously, wheeling to and fro and flinging curves of chopped green grass through the air.  A little further on is another clipped green path, access to Godfrey Road – still no wilderness – just a cluster of teenagers in school uniform, sitting convivially on the grass and drinking sober cans of pop.  Friday afternoon in Green Bay.  Mowing is everywhere – someone else is mowing in his back yard.  Eventually the path curves deeper into the Reserve, across a little stream and past steeper cliffs, into quiet shaded darkness.  http://chimaera.co.nz/greenbay/001_intro.htmlI  It peters out into something that looks like the tracks you made in the bush when you were twelve, and the last thing you ever wanted to do was to get to a destination. It starts to bend back in an almost imperceptible  way and clearly there is going to be no way through to Titirangi Road, now well above us.  Our map didn’t show contour lines.
http://www.zoomin.co.nz/map/nz/waitakere/titirangi/-rahui+kahika+reserve/
We turn back, and edge along the little stream through the eerie shadows of tall trees. A huge, sudden movement just next to me and a little behind – big soft golden-brown wings flap in the undergrowth and an impossibly large bird lifts low across the path, to land on a branch – so close -.  For a moment I thought it was some kind of bat – maybe a flying fox – but no.  It sat patiently, waiting us out, while I stepped gently back to take photos.

Bird in the underbrush

I wish I could show you how he glowed golden-brown in the beam of sun.  I fell in love with him, perched there so calm and quietly still.  It was hard to believe he was in the right place.  How could he live there – the canopy is dense – how could he ever possibly fly up through all that?  Perhaps we needed to phone the animal protection people.  Could it be a young one? or lost?  Surely big birds need lots of space?  And he sat on, waiting.

he seems to be watching, too

Watching something so fine and large (‘Being earth-brown, earth-golden’) makes me think of D H Lawrence’s poem, ‘Snake’.  It ends:  
And so
I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life
And I have something to expiate:
 A pettiness.
My littleness is to creep close, and submit him to being photographed.  What an insult.  Perhaps my concern for his wellbeing just masks desire for control?  We looked him up later in the bird book: like every other bird I spot, the Australasian Harrier Hawk is classed as ‘common’.  Well, the breed may be common, but the experience of seeing one was extraordinary.

It wouldn’t really be fair to call the Auckland Choral Society a ‘beast of the city’ – but maybe it fits if you think of the criteria: that it has many heads, is exceptionally long-lived and produces a very rich, musical call.  Anyway, we went to their free ‘taster’ concert: excerpts from programmes to be performed later in the year.  Great fun, especially the singalong. 

The ‘taster’ had ended early in the evening, and failed to satisfy actual physical hunger, but luckily that was the day of the Lantern Festival, celebrating Chinese New Year.  There were crowds and crowds of people filling Albert Park to overflowing and surging down into the little streets nearby: who would have thought Auckland could hold so many?   A party atmosphere filled the bright darkness with hurly-burly, and strange inflatable beasts of the city imaged Chineseness and New Zealand life.

scarlet lanterns welcome the New Year

These are just a few of the displays, and there had been fireworks earlier.

a dragon gateway seems to bring luck to all who pass underneath

I’m not sure what that circle is on the top – maybe a lucky coin? Maybe the moon, or the sun?  I suspect it’s the coin, though, as Chinese good luck seems to be mostly about good health and cash.

Bok Choi, snails and distressingly humanoid chickens

– oh yes – and food.  Eating well is a big part of the Lantern Festival, as we found in the populous side-street of multifarious food stalls.  Not just Chinese food, either, but all kinds of Asian dishes abounded.

Chinese-New Zealand multi-culturalism

I guess these beasts count as edibles along with the other inflated lantern tableaux, but they also symbolise much more.  Chinese techniques and conventions representing iconic New Zealandness.  The medium is the message.


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