Category Archives: Landscape & Nature

Finding the sacred in boiling mud

It was eerily beautiful to be alone with boiling mud pools today. The underworld seemed close, veiled by billowing sulphurous mist. The mud blurped into weirdly wonderful circular forms, quickly disappeared, then reformed again and again. Continue reading

Northland: Old Bones of Trees and Rocks

After traveling to the end of the world, we were uncertain as to whether we could muster emotional energy for more splendor. But then, yes—we’ve become gluttons. We wanted to see it all.

From our base camp at Hokianga Harbor, we set forth on a tramp through the Waipoua Forest, the dwelling place of what’s left of NZ’s oldest kauri trees. The hushed cathedral-like sanctuary is a mere fragment of the hundreds of thousands of acres that once clothed the region. Continue reading

Northland: Cape Reinga and Ninety Miles of Beach

After a ferry ride crossing the Hokianga Harbor to Kohukohu, we drove to Cape Reigna at the top of the North Island. This was a pilgrimage of sorts. We were looking for closure, symmetry. Having traveled to the most southerly point of the South Island, we were determined to have matched NZ’s topographic tips. Continue reading

Northland: Wild Pigs and Kauri Gum

While waiting for a ferry to cross the Hokianga Harbor, we strolled the tiny harbor village of Rawene, fringed by mangrove trees that grow in sea mud. The locals use the mangrove leaves, which are loaded with salt, to smoke their fish.

A pickup attached to a trailer of five caged dogs caught my attention. I chatted up with the owner, a guy named Joe. He was heading into the Northland bush to hunt wild pigs with his nephews and brother, and was eager to share his story. Continue reading

Northland: Kupe’s Home at Hokianga

There is one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath. — Herman Melville

There is a certain sadness now to writing about New Zealand, this country we’ve come to know and love. But it’s surprisingly cathartic, too, a way of saying farewell, I suppose. Our trip to Northland was our final weekend getaway before we begin the process of packing for our return home-home. Continue reading

Northland: Baylys Beach—A Living Sandstone Sculpture

We’re already missing New Zealand, and we haven’t even left yet. Baylys Beach is the kind of place I will miss the most—the West Coast beaches piled with miles of sand dunes. The gullies and cliffs, beautifully etched by wind, water and time, feel like a gargantuan sandstone sculpture. Continue reading

Revisiting Tongaporutu, as sublime as ever it was (and will be)

Here we must deal with awe, fascination, and terror, with ignorance shot through with the lightning of certainty, and with feelings of exuberance, love and bliss. — Francis Huxley

I’ve always resisted returning to the same place twice, no matter how grand the landscape or transcendent the experience. The second time could never be as deeply felt, I thought. Why risk disappointment? What hogwash, I realize so many years later—such a wasteful, arbitrary restriction!

Revisiting Tongaporutu cured me. This beach, as any natural landscape might, will always freshen with epiphanies, no matter how many visits. Like a place of worship. I’ve not stopped thinking about this place since we first visited four months ago. Continue reading

Old Quarry: Garden as Sculpture Park

I was thinking of my mother and my gardening friends on today’s afternoon outing—how they’re so fond of digging big holes, or more to the point, filling them. Holes don’t come any bigger than an abandoned quarry. Continue reading

Going coastal in Wellington

Hiking rocky coastlines—I never tire of it. Our friends Tom and Frances Preston feel the same. Their favorite spot is less than a five-minute walk to the shore from their hillside Wellington home on Miramar Peninsula. They’re on sabbatical from Washington State University. When we visited NZ’s capital city, the four of us tramped the glorious Breaker Bay outcroppings. Continue reading

Weekend at Athenree doing nothing—sort of, almost

Neither of us is adept at doing nothing. New Zealand is too tempting. We’d planned a busy weekend—the Coromandel Arts Tour. Friends loaned us a beach house at Athenree, close to the action. But after arriving, we decided to stay put and enjoy the solitude … Continue reading