Sunday, 16 January 2011
Last Sunday (a very windy day in coastal Dunedin, but as we suspected it would be, a warm, still day out on the Taieri) we visited Sinclair Wetlands here in Otago - a protected site situated between Waihola and Milton (in the country behind Lake Waihola on hinterland bordering the Taieri Plains).
A great spot; full of swampy ground and dragonflies, frogs, water fowl; it is land preserved pretty much in its original state. Its well-kept grassy paths provide easy access through flax-y swampland.
I was reminded of times I spent with my sister and brother as young children (I am talking aged 4, 5, 6 years old) down in the gully at Orepuki, exploring a creek full of cutty-grass and chick-weed, looking for frogs and spotting dragonflies, bees and spider nests (which we would cruelly puncture in order to see the small baby spiders run in a stream of black rain); and locating duck nests ...
We never attended kindergarten, or any pre-school educational institute, but our childhood was certainly rich in what nature had to teach us. We would leave our mother behind in the house doing whatever mothers did in the home, while we freely roamed paddocks, creeks, long-grass verges, fallen logs, burnt gorse ... it was as I remember it, an idyllic early childhood.
During our visit last Sunday (which unlike today - a week later - was a bright, sunny day) I reveled in being able at one point to take off my sandals and walk barefoot through slimy puddles on the track; mud oozing between my toes. It has been quite some time since I have had that pleasure.
Here is a poem from my book 'made for weather' which describes the memories I have of exploring the gully below our childhood home in Orepuki.
wild mint and cutty grass
In the gully
we see the impaled skeleton of a cat
spread-eagled in a thorny bush
and recognise it
as our pet that had died in the summer
its body tossed by our father
into blackberry autumn has undressed
to reveal its bones and grimace
from under threadbare fur.
When I tell my sister the fragrant green
under our feet is wild mint, she cries.
She is afraid of mint that might growl
or suddenly leap. But it is the cutty grass,
its neat accuracy
we must be wary of. And
this sluggish bog, reluctant to help,
that sucks and slurps at our gumboots
as, overhead, an unseen skylark
wrestles with the sky.