Tag Archives: New Zealand

15 January: Thomas Traherne XXIV, Did the Sun stand still …


Did the Sun stand still that you might have perpetual day, you would not know the sweetness of repose: the delightful vicissitudes of night and day, the early sweetness and spring of the morning, the perfume and beauty in the cool of the evening, would all be swallowed up in meridian splendour: all which now entertain you with delights.

The antipodes would be empty, perpetual darkness and horror there, and the Works of God on the other side of the world in vain.

Meditations 2:9

Traherne anticipates Pope Francis in this reflection, or should I say he brings to mind Saint Francis and his Canticle of Creation. Difficult, now, to say whether he knew that text, but he invites us to join all creatures of our God and King and sing his praises. Take time to absorb his way of speaking and let the light sink in.


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A modern Maori waka canoe  https://wiki-land.wikispaces.com/maori+value+waka

The large twin-hulled canoe powered through the waves as the muscular crew swung their large paddles rhythmically to and fro. They were tired as they had been rowing for three weeks since they left Tahiti, their homeland, now riven by disputes over land. They had been told by an old Maori sea pirate that way out to the South there was a beautiful, more or less uninhabited island, well forested, where a group such as the Terynaki tribe could build a secure and prosperous home. They would know when they reached this island because there was always this long white cloud over it which the Maoris called Ao te Aroha.

There had been two other canoes in their little fleet but they had become separated in a storm.

Suddenly one of the lookouts who was standing in a little box attached to the mast yelled out ‘Ao te Aroha’ and all the crew let out a great cheer as they saw a long white cloud in the sky over a land mass ahead of them. The crew burst into a rhythmical chant in which the women in the rear of the canoe joined and a drum was beaten on the small quarter deck which linked the two canoes.

As the canoe beached the rowers leapt out carrying shields, spears and war clubs and raced up the beach to the borderline with the forest where they took up a defensive position. Their chief Terymai and his personal entourage discussed the situation and then ordered the warriors to penetrate into the woodland but to keep a sharp look out for any signs of human habitation.

The warriors went right through the first section of forest without any sign of human presence then they came to a clearing which offered a long view over the land which seemed to mostly comprise woods and fields. One of the warriors a bit further forward then made a beware sign and Terymai could see smoke from what looked like a cooking fire, rising into the sky some two miles away, and ordered scouts to investigate. Meantime, he ordered some of the rowers to turn the canoe around and to venture a little way out to sea to try and discover the other canoes which were carrying two thirds of their people who might be needed quickly if a large, possibly hostile, population was discovered on the island.

An hour later the scouts returned with a little brown man who seemed very friendly although Terymai noticed that beside a small hatchet and a hunting knife he carried a small bow and a quiver of arrows. He offered the corpses of two small rabbit like creatures as a peace offering. He could speak a few Maori words and understood Terymai quite well. It seemed that there were only a few of these little brown people who believed they originally came from a much  bigger land they called Assy many thousands of moons ago. They were split into various small groups and also occupied another island to the south which they called The South Island. Teryssmai was reassured by this but still determined to build a Maori Pa or small fort on the hill above where the first canoe had beached which would become a sacred site.

Some more of the little brown people the Maoris called Morioris or little Maoris visited them over the next few days but they didn’t usually stay for long as they were obsessed by searching for food. The other two canoes turned up a few days later together with the original that Terymai had sent to search for them.




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Interruption! March 8th: Rat Island – Book Review.

RAT ISLAND by William Stolzenburg

Rat Island by William Stolzenburg, Bloomsbury, 2011. Review by MMB.

From the first I was sympathetic to the thesis of this book. When I read it, the squirrels in a nearby empty house had been culling unripe apricots from our tree, taking a quick nibble and throwing them away. That is a minor annoyance compared to the devastation described in Rat Island. This book charts how humankind has unwittingly damaged many species of animals and plants and driven some to extinction.

The story goes back hundreds of years and could be told across the world, but Stolzenburg concentrates on islands: those colonised by boat people around the Pacific Ocean, including New Zealand and Hawaii, and a number off the coast of North America, including the once aptly named Rat Island.

Until recently it seemed that simple human greed and ignorance had killed the forests of Easter Island, but rats were introduced to islands, sometimes for food, often accidentally. They prevented any regeneration of Easter Island forests by eating tree seeds. Elsewhere the rodents chewed through plants, insects, and brooding seabirds, upsetting the balance of nature, wiping out endemic species.

Control measures often made things worse. Weasels are as partial to eggs as the rodents they were supposed to eliminate in New Zealand, and satisfying their appetites drove the flightless, ground nesting Kakapo parrot to the very edge of extinction. Foxes, too, were all too happy to dine on nesting seabirds, literally sitting ducks.

Stolzenburg describes, in sometimes breathless prose, the faltering attempts to safeguard endangered species, and the resistance that fieldworkers and scientists faced from politicians, the public and well-meaning naturalists concerned about cruelty to rats dying from poison. He also documents the transformation when habitats were restored to the creatures that belong there. A good, informative read that puts next door’s squirrels into a global perspective. If you take Christian stewardship of creation seriously, it’s worth reading this well-researched and referenced book.



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