I live in an idyllic valley just 45 minutes drive north of Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. These six acres I call home has been my turangawaewae or standing place for 25 years. The first time I walked the land, I knew I belonged here. It was mostly pasture with a scraggly bit of remnant native forest that sheltered the sheep and cattle that grazed here. North facing, it is surrounded by huge hills covered with native trees. My then husband and I had no doubts. We rang the agent and put in a bid. From a piece of bare land it has grown to be a tree covered oasis, a place of healing and a haven for people, birds and insects.
I discovered that I was a gardener. I planted acres of trees, allowed the native bush to regenerate, made flower gardens, vegetable gardens, orchards, encouraged healing weeds and herbs to grow. I kept chooks, ducks, steers, goats, sheep, pigs and milked cows. We ate our own homegrown meat, processed our ducks and fowl, made milk and cheese, baked bread, and preserved our own fruit and vegetables. During these years of activity my three children were my companions, unschooled and running free. I allowed them to be the owners of their learning. I gave them the space to read, play, work or dream. Whatever their ilk, it was OK by me. They followed their own interests and I supplied resources. We followed our own rhythms, often staying up late and reading to each other into the night. Our home was brimming with diverse activities and creative projects. My now adult children all hold university degrees and are out there in the world doing their thing. I delight in their beauty and their wisdom.
Throughout these years, I also studied to be a homeopath. I built a clinic, a sacred space to see my patients. I started making healing balms and creams with the plants I grew and with the native medicine plants (rongoa rakau) that were re-establishing themselves on this land. I now have a workshop, my whare rongoa, where I make my balms and creams and am developing a space where people can come and stay. A space where they can be cared for physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have always held a dream for this land. Slowly it’s unfolding.
Believe me when I say it hasn’t always been easy, there have been times of deepest darkest sorrow, as they say “the dark night of the soul”. I hung on, I made bargains with the Almighty. I demanded signs. I kept my word and I never gave up. I discovered only five years ago that I have Maori ancestry through my mother’s line. The pieces start to come together for me. I have always had a yearning, a restless feeling, an almost physical pain of desire for something? Always around the native medicine plants, the birds, the insects, the earth, the rivers, the mountains, the sea and seashore. I am on a trail to find my whakapapa, my ancestral line. My mother and my youngest daughter are walking with me. It seems we come from a line of healing women, and the old ones need to pass on their manna, and their knowledge of the healing arts.
I am happiest when making my balms, creams and more recently soaps in the whare rongoa. I sing my waiata into the mix as I stir and blend. They are mine, my creations and have come out of a love for the earth, the plants and the people that will use them. I grow the flowers and gather the plant material to make healing tinctures, which are then infused into the creamy mixes. I have become a businesswoman, though one who wears a suit of green. GST, tax returns, invoices, a web site, tweeting and facebooking are now part of my repertoire. All this would never have been achieved without encouragement and support from friends and family. My daughters are my IT instructors and I their grateful student. My son my business mentor. And yes I had to leave my safe haven and go cold calling up and down the country to convince retailers to stock my products. Many have, and I feel blessed that I have grown a business grounded in holistic principles.
Fifteen years ago my sister and her husband built a house and moved onto the land with their children. We are always there for each other but never intrusive. The love that we share for each other and our children is the glue that binds us. Years later we make space for my mother to move a dwelling on. We don’t realize how lonely she has become living by herself in her lovely little house only 20 minutes away. Unknowingly, I had been creating the place where she would nestle. It was my “park” garden. Planted with deciduous trees producing a stunning autumn display that my mother can now enjoy from her deck. She has under-planted with shrubs and bulbs and become an avid gardener. Planting veggies and more fruit trees, keeping chooks and supplying everyone with the most glorious eggs. She makes jams, jellies and chutneys from the orchard produce. She has indeed come home.
My father has just retired at eighty-one years of age, and he and his wife have sold their house and purchased a motor home. They have become gypsies and are some-time members of our community. When he arrives, my father sets to work building, pruning trees, gathering and bottling fruit and making wine. More importantly he can spend longed for time with his daughters and his grandchildren. As a child of divorced parents, I learned how to be diplomatic. To love my parents, simultaneously and spontaneously wasn’t always on option. And yes, things have not always been easy for my father, his wife and my mother. Here they have been provided with an environment that encourages and facilitates healing, individually and with each other. It is one of the gifts of this land and our accidental community.
Just over the road live some of my dearest friends and their four children. We are kindred spirits sharing philosophies physical and spiritual. We are blessed to godparent each others’ children. Together we purchase organic produce in bulk and share our veggie gardens and orchards, trying to complement what we grow. We share a yoga class together here, once a week, we meditate together. Because we love, respect and value each other above all else, any issues that come up are openly discussed and always resolved, deepening our kinship.
Over the years, so many things have changed but this land has remained a constant, nourishing everyone who comes here. It is always remarked upon, there is a quality, a sense of peace that abides here. Sometimes I wonder, is this really my dream or I am in something/one else’s dream. It is a dream of the earth, the cycle of life, of balance, of the ties that bind all humanity as one, of love and respect, of interdependence, and above all, of forgiveness.
by Tricia Curtis
Naturally By Trisha
Silverdale, Auckland, NZ
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