Monday, 28 July 2008
Hibernation – a dispatch from Otipua, South Canterbury, New Zealand
A view across the farmlands of Otipua to the Southern Alps
Ten km south-west of Timaru, is a cameo of rural New Zealand. Otipua township boasts a population of around 100 with a community hall, a primary school, a church and a war memorial. Not much different to tens of thousands of small rural townships in New Zealand. It is a township without a general store or gas station.
On a hill, in High Street, is St Marks Anglican church, built from local stone in 1893. Today there is only one service a month, at 9 am on the first Sunday every month.
St. Marks Church, Otipua
My daughter Anita, her partner Jonts and their 3 boys, Harper, Jed and Billy have bought a small farmlet here and are remodelling an old farmhouse, and an outbuilding which was the original village bakery, built crica 1890. The people who live here are a mixed bag : farmers, city workers who live here for the quality lifestyle and retirees. It is a positive community with little or no traces of criminality and where the community hold summer and winter community pot luck dinners so people get an opportunity to know each other better.
Anita and Jont’s farmlet is on the corner of Beaconsfield Flat Road and Beaconsfield Road, and at the apex of the land in prominent view, is a memorial for those soldiers from Otipua who lost their lives for New Zealand in the Great War 1914-18.
The names of those from Otipua who died during the First World War. May their names live on.
Eleven young men from this district died in Europe fighting for their Motherland, Great Britain. One was a Major who won a DSO and a Captain, who won the Military Cross. Obviously brave men who bore names from Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland.
It’s 11.30 am Monday morning. New Zealand was in mourning yesterday after Australia toppled us in the rugby test on Saturday night.
This morning I helped Jonts, Harper (4) and Jed (2) rake and pick up long grass and dead weeds on a small paddock. Moby, their large Labrador, chased sheep.The section was so overgrown when they moved in some months ago that it has taken a marathon effort to tidy it up and restore the pasture.
With Harper, my Grandson, Harper plays rugby for the Marist club and I wear his Dad's Marist jersey.
About 10 am I cycled towards the Hunter Hills freshly covered in snow and beyond, the mighty Southern Alps, with snow clouds covering the highest peaks. In the foreground paddocks dotted with sheep, neatly fenced with tall trees, providing wind breaks from the snow laden winds.
There is something sleepy about Otipua. Shakespeare would have described it more as a seasonal affliction:
“ That time of year when yellow leaves or none or few do hang.”
The last week of extreme weather conditions in New Zealand from cyclonic storms and storm surges in the North Island to heavy snow falls in the south, signals it should be a time for hibernation, not the exploration I planned for. I travelled over Arthur’s and Lewis passes last week, but the bad weather prevented me from going to Mt. Cook Region and doing small trip. With cold and sunless days I consider going into semi hibernation and reflect rather than do.
Having lived with Inuit hunters and north American Indian fur trappers inside the Arctic circle, I noted how, they go into a form of semi hibernation as darkness descends for 24 hours a day. Their biological clocks skow down and they engage in little activity apart from feeding dogs. brewing tea and cooking meals. In 1970 I wintered over at New Zealand’s long closed Vanda Station in Antarctica. At that time we were the smallest ever group to winter over in Antartica. In the dark winter months I can recall that feeling of cabin fever overcoming us as we had to fight off the temptation to withdraw and hibernate. We ignored our biological clocks and never lowered the so called standards, whose standards ? Those of Harold Lowe a dour Scot who led our team or more aptly described, was our leader. I never knew why we needed a leader as he contributed little.
It was a New Zealander who proposed the first 40 hour week, a Spaniard who invented the Siesta, and I would like to be the person who offers all New Zealanders a 3 week winter hibernation holiday which would reduce our ever increasing electricity consumption, reduce road deaths, reduce heart attacks from being over stressed, and hopefully increase our baby boom so we will have someone to pay for our pensions when we get older.
Yes, sleepy Otipua has made me examine the quality of my life and I look forward to spending more time semi-hibernating, reflecting rathet than doing for a few days while the bad waether passes.
Update: More weather warnings on Monday night and further snow in the South Island. On Tuesday 29 July, another cold wet morning. Took Anita my daughter, and Harper my Grandson to Montesorri Kindergarten in Timaru. So wonderful to see young children playing so calmly, so creatively. This is a real learning nest.
My daughter Anita with her son Harper at the table on the right at the Montesorre Kindegarten in Timaru
Montesorri education is based on the inner motivation of the child, and for the teacher's role to work with this motivation in ways that will enhance the child's process of self creation. I enjoyed my time watching children play and enjoy learning.
I am about to get the Intercity bus, the successor to the New Zealand Railways bus service, from Timaru to Christchurch. I am posting this dispatch from the Internet Cafe at the bus station. I enjoy travelling by bus where ever I am. In February and March this year I spent 3 weeks in the the Indian Himalaya and used buses to get about. Travelling by bus in NZ has many similarities as you get closer to the pulse of people, places and it offers you a chance to talk to fellow wayfarers.
Tomorrow I am looking forward to meeting a fellow blogger, Marja. Blogging shrinks the world. With the weather forecast predicting continuing rain and snow, I will be in Christchurch hibernating the next 5 days, before returning to Indonesia.