Our ancient Kauri trees are dying. And despite some people’s best efforts to prevent the spread of disease, visitors continue to trample the earth with their dirty boots and make no effort to wipe them before (or after) entering this sacred realm of taonga.
Always leave your shoes at the door.
I’m blessed to have grown up below the Waitākere Ranges, in West Auckland. Now (forty-something-years-later) a human-spread virus is killing the magnificent Auntie Agatha—a one-thousand-year-old Kauri.
I’m glad my parents were hippies. Looking back I can see that my father was forward thinking in how he replanted the scraped-back-to-clay whenua, by nurturing native seedlings along fence lines, replenishing the soil with compost, and planting fruit trees. Behind our whare the native bush was untouched and we roamed freely amongst it—all the way up into the Waitākere Ranges. My grandparents did similar things with their garden, whatever was grown had an interconnected relationship with one another.
We coped some flack as kids, for our homemade clothes, brown bread sandwiches and my bare feet. Shoes and I have always had an ambivalent relationship. I loved wandering around in the bush, listening to birds, and planting my toes in the earth. Much more interesting than playing with other girls’ Barbie dolls. Nature soothed me back then, much as it does now.
When I read about Auntie Agatha dying, I felt incredibly sad. I remember the last time my son and I went to see her. How we took off our shoes and greeted her—we were very quiet that day, and spoke in whispers I recall. A tree this old and majestic nurtures everything beneath her, including us.
It never ceases to astound me how selfish humans can be in their relationship to Papatūānuku, our Mother Earth. Without her we are nothing, and yet we continue to rape, pillage and colonise, without a second thought. Was it too much to ask the visitors to wipe their goddam feet? No. But it seems that most didn’t bother, taking the avoidant path of, ‘it’s not going to happen in my lifetime, bloody eco-hippie-scaremongers, my boots look fine, ah don’t worry about it, it doesn’t matter’ as they tromped past the boot cleaning stations.
Now it’s too late, and while some people argue about the best way forward, the Waitākere Ranges remain open, exposing these taonga to even more disease. I know that if it were commercially important, there would’ve been restrictions long ago. Commercial versus indigenous. You get my drift I’m sure.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter to me how much money you have in the bank, if you own your own home, or wear fancy shoes. What really matters is that we can pass on to our mokopuna the sacred experience of standing beneath an ancient Kauri and be sheltered by her.
Ka mua, ka muri (we are the future, the present and the past)