Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tui Again

When I woke up this morning there was much condensation on the windows – a sure sign of outside cold. As the taxi took us to hospital I realised there was a dusting of snow on the Orongorongas. Apparently down to relatively low levels in the Wairarapa. I haven’t seen snow on those ranges for some time.

We took my VPAP machine in to respiratory to have it checked, a follow-up to my visit a month ago. They are pleased with its fit and lack of leakage and apparently I’ve been sleeping well and at length. So that’s good news. But I still find such visits nerve-wracking.

I’ve taken another step away from responsibility – the keeping of my hospital appointments. Anne has to make necessary arrangements so it makes sense to hand over the complete task to her. But as I say it’s a move backwards from being an independent adult.

Another example of this retreat. I envy several blogers on the Tuesday Poem site who post lovely photos they take themselves or have others take for them. Not only can I not get around to take them I lack the muscular control to operate the camera properly. Still, I retain the capacity to admire the work of others.

The garden reflects the confusion of the equinoctial season and the constant rainfall. The mock-orange blossom is budding flowers and the medlar new leaves. Kowhai is in full bloom. Camellias are past it. Roses resent the wind. The French lavender in its pot has fresh flowers and promises a lazy summer ahead. The first bumble bee appeared yesterday. With sense it’ll stay out of sight today.

My Tuesday poem this week attracted lovely comments. Deborah’s in particular struck a chord. She points out that Australians love the sound of the magpie which to us Kiwis are raucous calls. There was a large belt of pine trees on the knoll where our Okuti farmhouse was. They shaded the veranda from the westerly sun so Dick, my stepfather, arranged for them to be cut down.

He stopped the process half-way through because there were magpies nesting in the south end. ‘Keeps the hawks away from the chickens and ducklings’ he said. True! Several times I saw a hawk grounded after combat in the skies. Mum, however, always said he was a bigger ‘softie’ than she was.. During their nesting season they were a menace, dive-bombing humans getting too close.

As the pines fell, my brother Doug and I, after school or in the weekends would knock the cones off the fallen branches with the blunt end of a tomahawk and barrow them to the woodshed. That summer Mum cooked many a meal with the heat from those cones. When I mention this now people mutter child labour. We didn’t see it as such at the time. It was doing our bit to contribute to the economy of the farm, like ringbarking poisonous ngaio or getting the kindling ready each evening.

Anyway, back to the magpies. Their ‘Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle’ call was part of my boyhood. It’s a sound I associate with Canterbury. There were tui in the Okuti bush but they were few and their singing was obscured by the louder magpies who were in proximity to the house. It was not till I lived in Wellington and since the Karori Wild Life Sanctuary was started that I’ve heard much tui.

Scientists report that since the bellbird began to prosper in the sanctuary the tui call has improved. Tuis are great mimics. That’s why the early European settlers caged them and taught them to whistle. The neighbour’s son in our previous house whistled a certain tune to the tui that used to come and feed in their banksia. They seemed to pick it up very quickly.

So my delight in the tui song is a recent addition to my mental establishment. It seems the embodiment of the indigenous – uniquely ours. I get great delight in their presence as I watch them flirt, feed and fight in the kowhai across the fence.

I understand that in the central North Island pine forests they’ve learnt to imitate chain saws. We once stayed in our friend Rosemary’s Browns Bay bush-surrounded house to cat-sit while she went on holiday. Just after we arrived and before Rosemary left I said ‘I see you’ve a resident tui.” She replied she could wring its neck. I was shocked. But by the time we left I sympathised. That darned tui had grown up near mynahs. It grated their calls all day – a very unmelodious noise.

The dawn chorus that Banks, Cook and co rave about would have been based on the bellbird and the tui singing the bellbird’s song. It must have been a great sound – they write about it at length. I’ve heard its echo at both Waikaremoana and Franz Josef enough to appreciate its glory. Ichabod!

1 comment:

  1. After the boy next door had a party - the tui in their garden sang 'Happy Birthday to You' for weeks...