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How tidily sometimes things click together.

I started writing this in the DOC camp at Peel Forest in Canterbury, with bellbird song loud around us. There’s no comms here and I’m in holiday mode, so who knows when I’ll post whatever this turns out to be, but… here’s the conjunction.

Kapiti Island. Peel Forest. Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens.

The book first. It’s an extraordinary scan over the last 70 millennia and into the near future. One of the themes is how fast our species has been able to change its culture (way of organising, belief systems, way of relating etc) over recent history.    Click.

Dry feet landings are always appreciated

Dry feet landings are always appreciated

Then Kapiti Island. With it right on our doorstep at Paraparaumu, and its birds and reputation spreading, it really needed to be seen again.

Many years back we had our Navigate family work picnic over there.   I remember that trip most for the return from the top of the hill. We’d taken the gentler track up, which left the steep one down. We ‘navigated’ that, as I recall, mainly by bum-slide, as the Duignan boys sprang past on young legs that held no fear of tree-roots, rocks or wash-outs.

I am totally converted to walking with sticks - thank you Helen!

I am totally converted to walking with sticks – thank you Helen!

This time, Helen and I opted for the tour to the North End. The trek to the top of the much smaller hill was quite enough for a late January super-hot Sunday – and we timed it perfectly for a return to the Lodge for lunch.

The thing that has stuck in my mind this time, thanks to the great info-sharing by our hosts and guides, is the timescale of the change there.

It was way back in 1870 when the need for, and potential of, Kapiti Island as a conservation site was seen – and it was reserved as a bird sanctuary in 1897.

Slowly and steadily in campaigns over the nearly 120 years since, pests have been removed and the land allowed to regenerate.

Our guide was talking about what they expect to see in the next 40-50 years, as if that time-scale is was more like weeks. So – click! At the same time as land was being relentlessly cleared, and the last huia shot, some of our farther-seeing forebears were starting the culture-change we take for granted today.

Back from the brink - this Takahe is one of a pair having a second crack at nesting this season. Obviously they know we're counting on them....!

Back from the brink – this Takahe is one of a pair having a second crack at nesting this season. Obviously they know we’re counting on them….!

So thence to Peel Forest.   From about 1855, hectares of forest were milled there. Huge kahikatea, totara and matai were ripped out.    But – we’ve just been touching trees estimated to be maybe 1000 years old.

The blip on the side of the trunk is Mani's head!  This totara is almost 3m across.

The blip on the side of the trunk is Mani’s head! This totara is almost 3m across.

Thank you, Arthur Mills. He was a British MP, visiting his brother-in-law who was one of the early settlers/landclearers, and he was so horrified at the destruction he bought 16 hectare of uncut forest, and deeded it on his death. Saved by foresight. Click!

And about touching trees… there’s a nice DOC “touch” in Peel Forest. A sign in one place encourages you to feel the bark of a totara, and consider what you’re experiencing. The texture, the temperature…

Another further along urges you to do the same with the kaihaktea. And yes, it’s cooler to the touch, scalier, quite a different energy sensation. A tactile surprise.

I’ve always touched trees… but now I’m doing it more thoughtfully, expecting different sensations.

Back to Sapiens and how little it takes for us strange creatures to add something new to our thinking. Click!

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