si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Category: life

Native Bush

I was recently asked what bush looks like around here.

Well, today I went for a walk.

I'm a sucker for a stylish suspension bridge

Many of the interesting walks around here start with this wonderful bridge. Apologies the sky isn’t bluer, but on the upside, less sunburn risk. Good walking weather.

The shade of these gorgeous trees is visible from miles away


walking in the bush



Lots of walking.. but then, that’s the fun of it, right?

Part way along is this segmented swing bridge, which shakes like crazy - great for terrorising nephews. Uhh, not that I would. No. Of course not. Not shown: upset nephews.

There's a bubbling brook which runs alongside the path.. interspersed with the occasional waterfall

What is it about water? So incredibly soothing. The Japanese definitely know a thing or two, with their garden design.

and if you ever wondered what New Zealand hills look like, pretty much like this (foreground left is a shrubbery, not a hill)

There’s a very particular shade to the greenery in New Zealand. The light is quite silvery. It’s especially noticeable if you’ve travelled to Australia (where the light is more golden). So, many of the trees here have that rich, dark green shade. Once you know it, you can pick it anywhere (eg, a single frame from the middle of Lord of the Rings).

Many of the hills are also covered in gorse (an introduced pest), which are covered in SPIDERS! These are Nursery Web McMansions. When the spiders are ready, out pop thouuuuusands of baby spiders. Exciting!

Lunchtime we found a gorgeous stand of pines to lie under and eat

Peaceful. Gorgeous. No doubt pining for the fjords. Also surprisingly comfortable.

and look! Fud! (also, coffee. Extra yum!)

Even on an overcast day, the hills are pretty damn beautiful

The path back treks through a picturesque stand of macrocarpas

In case you’re curious about macrocarpas (I know you secretly are). They’re also really good for making fake swords and whacking your friends with. So I’ve been told.

Mum also weeded pretty much the whole hill on the way down, removing introduced pests (in this case ragwort. Not related to regular warts)

There are massive stands of ferns everywhere

When they're tiny, oh boy, they're like a flurry of grass

and when they grow up, they can take over entire hillsides

To see just how red those leaves are, check this contrast

back to civilization!

You may recognise this park.

The view south from that same initial bridge

Even on an overcast day the beauty around here takes my breath away.


    It’s All My Fault

    I grew up on a faultline.

    This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since New Zealand only exists because two tectonic plates decided to get together and have a rub-yourself-up-against-each-other party. To the West we have the Indo-Australian plate, to the East the Pacific Plate. Which I guess actually made it something of a “bring your own plate” party. Ohhh, I’ll be here all week, try the veal.

    More specifically though, the actual faultline was about 50 metres (160ft) from my house.

    What’s it like growing up in this kind of environment? Well, let’s just say, anything under a 5.0 on the Richter scale you might lift your coffee off the table while you assess it & check your nearest safe zone (table, doorway, etc), but other than that you more or less ignore it.

    You become blasé surprisingly quickly.

    A more interesting question is: what the hell does a faultline actually look like?

    Well, my folks have moved since I was a kid, so I’m now living much farther away. About 50 metres farther.

    To get there I have to cross this most excellent bridge:

    Awesome bridge

    I do like well considered architecture (and blues skies).

    I also have to pass this rather interesting (non earthquake related) tree:

    Because we’re on the other side of the world, the sun goes in circles, confusing plant growth patterns

    Definitely an odd tree – there’s only one of them.. ahh!

    Anyway, just past that, you get to this rather innocuous looking bank:

    Innocuous Bank

    Just like any old golf course really. Except for those weird blue poles. What’s up with them?

    Well, if you sight along them, they look like this:

    Two poles. Perfectly aligned

    Notice how they’re perpendicular to the bank. That’s not an accident.

    These poles were put in by the government white coats to track plate movement.

    That innocent looking bank above? It keeps going in both directions… and there’s an identical looking bank on the other side of the river. That’s the faultline. Twenty years ago that ground was bulldozed flat.

    So why do the poles line up, if there’s been all that movement?

    Because we’re standing too close. Here are three poles:

    Uh oh, someone stuck one of those poles in the wrong place. Yeah, that’s it.

    Notice how the two on the other side of the fault are angled off to the right of the viewer (ie, the most distant pole is to the left of the central pole).

    That is very, very much out of alignment.

    When they were put in, they all lined up perfectly. It would have been done with one of these. Theodolites are great, love me a theodolite. If you’ve never used one, I highly recommend it.

    So let’s step even farther back:

    Oh dear.

    Remember how the most distant one is slightly to the left?

    So you can see that drawing a straight line between the two most distant poles goes off to our right. A straight line between the two poles on this side of the fault goes screaming off to the left of the furthest two.

    Not only has there been significant vertical movement, but a ton of lateral motion too.

    So here’s the odd thing: There’s been no major earthquakes here, certainly nothing like Christchurch.

    What’s happening is something that scientists have only really been able to track since about 2002 – slow earthquakes. These are tricky to spot, since they occur over hours or months, and don’t typically register on seismographs (the scientists use GPS to track them instead).

    Many of these slow earthquakes are huge though (R7-9) and they’re radically altering New Zealand’s shape. This isn’t a terrible thing though, NZ’s a weird shape to start with, a bit of a haircut might do us some good.

    Why can’t we be an elegant, tastefully shaped country, like Italy’s boot?


    I found this brilliant overhead view which shows the faultline perfectly:

    the overhead view

    The middle arrow is about where I was standing when I took the last four pics above.

    The view is stolen from this thoroughly informative page on the subject. Kudos to them!


      Nice Night For a Walk

      It’s just turned New Year, 2012.

      Generally for New Year’s Eve I prefer to do something contemplative. Meditate on the past year (or years). Feel my way to a better direction for the coming year. Assess and makes choices that will guide me positively forward.

      With that in mind, around 10pm I took off up a nearby hill (it’s only 345m high at the peak). It was a 45 minute hike in the dark to the lookout point I was aiming for. I chose to use no lights, partly as a more interesting challenge and partly so I could see the glow-worms on the way up.

      Oh boy, they didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, photos just don’t do those bright little bundles any justice.

      I was right about it being an interesting walk. For a start, it’s been raining like crazy the last few days, so everything in the bush is soaking wet. Combine heavy cloud cover with only a quarter new moon, and it wasn’t exactly clear where I was supposed to be walking either. The path was (theoretically) fairly light, except so were the ferns on either side, oh, and the rocks… and the puddles… and the grass. Also, that light coloured path? It was covered in various dark coloured flora, tree branches, grass, leaves, stiles, animals, dead bodies, burning cars, zombies*.

      * some of these items may be a complete lie.

      Mostly it wasn’t too bad though. My eyes adjusted pretty quick and I only slipped over a couple of times.

      I got to the top around 11, but had wildly underestimated how warm it would be trekking up the hill, so promptly stripped down to let my shirt dry out a little. If there were any ghosts up there, I’m sure I scared them off with my stunning whiteness (it’s a sight to behold, I assure you).

      I then spent the next hour meditating, absorbing the essence of the previous year and sipping the delicious coffee I’d taken up with me.

      I also got treated to lightning on the far off ridges and fireworks up and down the valley. Theoretically fireworks are illegal in New Zealand outside of Guy Fawkes‘ week (the week before Nov 5) but people still store them up for New Year’s. I’m happy they do, it makes New Year’s a lot more festive than just a bunch of yahoos yahooing.

      Surprisingly, the march back down the hill was significantly more dangerous than up. My eyes had adjusted so I could see better, but even with that I hit a lot of unexpected drops in terrain. I ended up walking most of the way down in a half crouch. Imagine you’re sitting in an upright chair. Now take the chair away. Yeah, like that. An odd posture, but effective and a lot safer than walking normally (which had left me unharmed but on my arse a couple of times). When I got back closer to civilization, I also had to shield my eyes from the street lights just to see where I was going. It’s hard to comprehend just how much light pollution there is until you’re walking back into it from the pitch black.

      I did end up soaked to the skin up to my knees – it’s hard to see invisible wet grass – but it was totally worth it. Walking down in the dark, brooks burbling by the track, the glow of the worms, giant trees majestic against the skyline, it was an utterly beautiful experience.

      And proof you can take the boy out of Scouts, but never take the Scout out of the boy; other than what I wore, I also took with me and used:

      • hat
      • gloves
      • scarf
      • camera
      • blanket (my Grandma gave it to me over 20 years ago; it’s the only thing I have left connected to her)
      • thermos of coffee

      but took and didn’t use:

      • three torches
      • phone
      • bottle of water
      • fabric tape
      • plastic bag
      • leatherman

      I figured if I accidentally walked off a bank & broke a leg (a reasonable risk) I might as well take enough to be comfortable & safe until morning.

      Turns out I didn’t need most of it, but it was worth it without the added excitement. Partly for the peace & calmness that comes from occasionally detaching completely from the world. Partly for this:

      Here’s to a gorgeous 2012.



        Today I woke up and there was honest to god, real life snow, just lying everywhere, being all lazy.

        Even though it’s winter, around these parts there hasn’t been snow since 1995.

        So, what better way to spend a Monday morning than to go for a walk up a local hill? (rhetorical question)

        Yes. A hill. With actual snow.

        This hill, unsurprisingly.

        Muppet gloves

        Mum brought her gloves, made from 100% genuine Muppet, and we were away!

        We passed a couple of ducks. One looked like this:

        Duck. One. Not to scale.

        The other looked different. Grumpier (I think).

        There were also some wild quail. They hopped away in that bizarre quailly manner, which can’t really be explained. They weren’t particularly scared of us, so I’m guessing there aren’t a whole lot of quail hunters in this suburb. As a side note, guns are rather damn difficult to get your hands on in New Zealand, so that probably helps. I’m not sure, exactly, how quail keep up with current gun legislation, but they did seem to have a   handle on it.

        New Zealand is also very green (you may have heard).

        Here's one of the green bits

        There’s plenty of green to go round. Lots of other bits look like this too.

        Mum got very excited by the first bit of snow we found (I did mention it’s rare here, right?)

        There was (spoiler alert!) more snow to come, but compared to zero snow, this was LOTS

        It was also crunchy under foot (always a nice sound).

        The first of many snowball fights

        I told Mum I was going to take a photo of myself throwing a snowball at her. Thus, this is blurry – as I’m frantically clicking with one hand & biffing with the other. However, note, just left of her left shoulder – voila! Snowball! In the air! I claim victory! (even if this one did miss her, dammit)

        We also saw lots of crazy gorse. Flowering (in winter), in the snow:

        Pesky Gorse

        Gorse is something of a huge pest here in NZ. This is similar to many innovative & brilliant ideas we gained from the British, who brought gorse over to use as hedges. They didn’t allow for the fact that NZ is on the other side of the planet (surprise!), thus has a completely different climate.. and voila! Gorse The (now) Noxious Pest took  over the country. See also: rabbits, and possums. Thanks England! (I’m signalling my disapproval with two thumbs up!)

        Gorse is, however, rather pretty (aww).

        We’re also pretty good at growing ferns over here:

        Mum loves ferns. Doubly so when covered in snow.

        Mum insisted I get this pic. The framing is crazy coz the ferns were so giant, and the track so small, the only way I could get the pic was by holding my camera over my head (ie, I really had no idea where it was pointing).

        When we got to the top, there were a ton of gums & pines (it’s forestry area, sorta), all looking as pretty as a picture:

        Ooh look, trees!

        So, you know, here’s a picture.

        I also made a snow man (I said I would!). Well, a snow alien:

        Snow Alien (I like his antenna the best)

        He was tiny but cute (kinda like me – at least some of the time).

        Mum reckoned he was starting to look like a rabbit, but No! He’s An Alien!

        Mum did her best to look like an alien too

        Mum did try to twizzle her hair up into antenna, but since everything was pretty wet by now (snow! it’s wet! who knew?) it didn’t work so well. I reckon she’s got the arms pretty much perfect though.

        Which was good timing, coz about a minute later one of the arms fell off the alien (who obviously didn’t have quite such a strong grasp on the whole arm/body concept).

        The view from the top was pretty spectacular:

        Look! Snow! Also, Wellington off in the distance

        You can just (if you tilt your head and squint) see the blue of the sea, right off in the distance between those two hills. Trick is, the river runs down into it. They do that sometimes, I’m told.

        I also took enough shots to get a panorama of sorts, but I need to figure out how to do that (without wasting hours of my life painstakingly aligning everything & adjusting brightnesses etc).

        Aww, pretty!

        Everything in general was pretty damn pretty.

        Also, we had coffee from a thermos, which made everything more awesome.

        This gum was quite beautiful too:

        Don't leave it stuck to your bedstead overnight

        I’ve always had a soft spot for gum trees, but I think five years in Australia has made me love them more than ever.

        Oh, and proof that the five or six snowball fights weren’t all one sided?

        Covered in snow. Thanks Mum!

        All that snow on me? That was after I’d brushed myself off. I was covered in it! All thanks to my Mum. Sheesh! I used to think she loved me! What a meanie.

        One reason I’m laughing so much was that she’d never used my camera before, so picked it up the wrong way. She was about to take a giant photo of her face – which of course I could see perfectly, since the screen was facing me. Oh Mum!

        On the way back down, we found a giant branch that had fallen onto the road, so we dragged it off to the side so no-one would come round the corner & drive their truck into it.

        We also found the perfect picnic spot:

        The perfect picnic spot!

        And that was in the middle of a snow storm! Now imagine how beautiful that’ll be in the summer!



          A Night Of Bad Dreams

          I had a bunch of bad dreams last night. This is very rare for me. Typically these days I might get a single mildly bad dream maybe once or twice a month, if that.

          But first let me wind back a bit.

          A few days ago I hung out with a friend of mine. This is someone I’ve known for a decade or longer, so there’s a lot of history there. Mostly pretty good, but some very dark times too. This guy has very strong energy. Historically, he’s affected me enormously.

          Now, he’s going through some shit at the moment (aren’t we all?) The catch is, within about 15 minutes of hanging out with him, I could feel his energy making me feel, quite literally, physically ill.

          Ok, so that’s not good. What to do, what to do?

          I tried putting up separation roses, to energetically divide us. They didn’t stick. Maybe we just have too much history, we’re too strongly connected. Maybe he’s just too energetically grasping. I don’t know.

          I could feel giant clumps of dark energy coming off him and coming towards me, as he was describing the various troubles in his life. Nothing I tried was helping, and things were quickly spiralling downwards.

          Interesting situation.

          Then I settled on the simplest possible solution.

          I focused on the clump of darkness, and simply said “I love you.”

          Yep, just that.

          The super cool thing was, the darkness immediately dissipated. My feeling of sickness left, and (very interesting) he perked up and started talking about something else altogether.

          For the rest of our time together, every time I felt negatively affected, or could sense dark globs of whatever appearing, I’d just address them, say “I love you” and watch them disappear again.

          Very. Interesting.

          Now, in Ho’oponopono (A Hawaiian healing technique), you cycle through four phrases:

          1. I love you
          2. I’m sorry
          3. Please forgive me
          4. Thank you

          But I’m starting to suspect, if there was one single prayer to say for the rest of your life, it should be “I love you.” The single most powerful thing you can say in any situation.

          Since then I have (of course, you know me!) been doing the exact same thing to anything that’s appeared – in myself, or those around me. Said “I love you” to it (in my mind) and let it go.

          So, to last night.

          pic by Cesar T Sanchez

          Ever since I started tapping out nightmares, the frequency with which I’ve experienced bad dreams has dropped precipitously. They’ve just stopped happening.

          So last night was pretty interesting. I had 10, maybe 15 distinct bad dreams in a row.

          Why? Who knows (and really, who cares?) Maybe I just unblocked something big enough that it was time to wash a bunch of related remnants out of me. It really doesn’t matter too much.

          Anyway, in each of these dreams, I settled back, said “I love you” to whatever was happening, and the dream disappeared. Sometimes I needed to repeat it a few times, but every single time the dream would dissolve, along with whatever it was that had been bothering me.

          Best of all? I woke up feeling like a million bucks. Now that is a first after a night of bad dreams.

          “I love you” – said calmly and with intention – it’s continuing to amaze me just how powerful that phrase really is.