Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Okuti Hilltop

As a boy on weekends or holidays when not helping Dick my stepfather I often climbed to the top of the farm. He had 150 acres over the ridge. From such Olympian heights, looking back on the Okuti side I could see the familiar tableau of valley, bush-shadowed creeks, sheep paddocks, the lake, sea, plains and distant Alps.

The other side had an even more glorious view, Akaroa Harbour, French Farm directly below. The very name tells its own story - in this cove with its fertile soil the early French settlers established their vegetable gardens. Grapevines now. On a calm day the land-locked harbour would be still, a boat's wake stretching from side to side. Onawe Peninsula lay sentinel in the centre, a volcanic plug in the old crater, the spot where Te Rauparaha swept down from the north to capture and destroy the local pa.

The scene crystallised into near-mythic dimensions for this dreamer - the wonder of creation, the heady mixture of nature and human effort, the awesome size of it all.

That hilltop was a good spot for dreams to merge into thoughts and questions. A dry cowpat turned to the nor-east would roll towards the harbour, to the sou-west towards Lake Forsyth. If a rain drop fell just one inch away it would seep away in a different direction, even more dramatically in the Southern Alps, or the Andes or Himalayas. Indian or Arctic Ocean? Did the Chinese rivers start there? Check the atlas when I get home.

I savoured the arbitrary nature of apparent chance - no, the little science I possessed told me that the reason why that drop fell where it did was not chance. Ambiguities compounded. Was my existence chance? What if I had been a black child born in Africa? Living in Okuti and not in London, or Vladivostock or Auckland; how had this altered me? I'd give up - thought can get difficult. Easier to say to the dogs "possum" and eagerly they’d race off to find one, hunter replacing dreamer.

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