I have long been fascinated by New Zealand. I don’t know why. I do not have relatives or ancestors there. In fact, until recently, I had not even been there. It might have been the curious Tiki pendant my father once brought me back, or the lure of untamed landscapes, or the people and politics – I really can’t say. Happily, I have finally been to Aoteroa and that ancient land affected me.
I stayed on a farm, in a little ‘batch’ at the edge of the water in the Te Moana-a-Toi (Bay of Plenty). The nearest town is Tauranga. The farm belongs to the family of my travel companion, Janet. The family grows hydrangeas and organic avocados and the most scrumptious golden plums I have ever tasted. Those are the commercial crops but as we learned – the farm yields so much more.
Most mornings as we sipped our coffee, 94 year old Ian (Father of the Farm) would bring fresh plums and avocados down to us at the batch. Sometimes he would bring fresh beans and herbs and tomatoes from his garden. Most mornings he would stay for a coffee and entertain us with stories from his days as a fighter pilot and a young man in love with his beautiful wife.
Each evening we swapped the hot brew for local wines and waited for visits from other family members and neighbours – always they would come with offerings from the land and sea. One night we were given freshly caught fish another night an enormous bowl of plums and berries from which we made pies to share.
Nights were filled with home made cuisine and joyful eclectic company. My dear friend Janet and I behaved as wildly free as a holiday in a remote place calls for. There were bonfires and dances and an evening of inking by a local tattoo artist who was called in to make some Maori designs on the limbs of departing Mexican WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic farms).
In all this plenty, I felt the roar of the land. I saw for myself the long white cloud hovering over mountaintops. I dug and planted and picked. I sketched and photographed the scenes around me. The spirit of this small corner of the world is now imprinted on my heart…. And will find its way into my paintings.