Being in Auckland has been an excellent entry point for orientation to New Zealand. Today, we got outside the city, journeying to the "lungs of Auckland," the temperate rainforest of Waitakere Regional Park. Waitakere is a massive, now-protected area west of Auckland, a mere half-hour's drive from the city. It was not always protected. I had a chance to meet a handful of Kauri trees, including one that was a few hundred years old. We also passed a few young Kauris along the trail. "This one is 60 years old. Just a baby," said our tour guide.
Most Kauri trees were felled in the nineteenth century for their straight, hard wood. It boggles the mind that a being that can live for more than two thousand years could be seen as nothing but potential timber. What possessed the mind of the Englishman with the saw? What derangement overtook the shipbuilder who wanted masts? What paroxysm of madness dwelt within the gentlemen merchant sipping his tea halfway around the world? What made these trees things and not ancient forest keepers worthy of deference? A familiar story—closer to home, the white pine of the Northwoods decimated and fed into Chicago's fiery furnace. On the west coast, the giant Sequoias, sprouted before Jesus was born, clearcut and plundered. In an irony of globalization, after the Sequoias received protection, in 1906 San Francisco burned. Trees were shipped in to rebuild a city that valued its remaining Sequoias too much. Which trees? Kauri trees from New Zealand.
Cool breezes whisper through palm fronds and ferns as we walk through a canopy of green leafy tunnels, whisked back to the Cretaceous.
The highlights of the day came courtesy of the stunning views of the Tasman Sea, Australia lying somewhere beyond the blue. I dug my feet into a glittering black sand beach at Piha. Flecks of titanium sparkled in the sunlight, remnants of volcanic ash; long lines of white waves swept the shore, murmuring incantations. I noticed a woman in our group with hands together, facing the ocean. It seemed the only proper response.