I love these iconic little birds with their burglar stare…
Fairly recent arrivals, but self-introduced, this wee bird was first recorded in New Zealand in 1832, and its Maori name, tauhou, means ‘stranger’ or ‘new arrival’. It is also known by wax-eye, silver-eye and white-eye, but its scientific name is the much more prosaic Zosterops lateralis.
Poetry day here in New Zealand yesterday, and last night we went to a reading by Bill Manhire and Glen Colquhoun, fundraising for a statue of one of our local New Zealand poets, James K Baxter. Packed-out venue and totally enjoyable.
One of James K Baxter’s poems that I have always loved:
HIGH COUNTRY WEATHER
Alone we are born and die alone: Yet see the red-gold cirrus Over snow-mountain shine.
Upon the upland road Ride easy, stranger: Surrender to the sky Your heart of anger.
…and an ever loyal Rod reading my poetry book outside Paige’s bookshop.
The word Kowhai is the Maori name for yellow. The Kowhai flowers in spring on bare branches, and James Cowan told of the Maori explanation of this in an article in the New Zealand Railways Magazine 1928. I have written a condensed version below:
On the shore of a lake in the long ago times sat a young Maori man and maiden. The man loved the maiden and asked to marry her, but she laughed and required him to carry out some great deed before she would become his wife. The lover was an Ariki (chieftain) and tohunga. Above them was a tree bare of both of flowers and leaf in the cold of early spring. The young man recited a chant which caused the tree to burst forth into a blaze of golden blossom. Ever since then the Kowhai has flowered on leafless branches as a sign and a reminder of his love.