Gathan Beaga

open country song

Something inside is singing.

The southerly is cold on my face here at 2,000 feet, but the sun, when it appears, is hot on my neck and head. I’m looking down and away across a broad valley that cuts through the farm.

Seagulls bicker in the shadow of the broken dam the Chinese gold miners made. A hawk does lazy spirals, just a dark speck visible against a far ridge. Somewhere unseen, a falcon stoops, its ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki drifting up from from the rocky bluffs by the creek far below.

Further away, a shower of rain crosses the distant ranges and the sun illuminates the rain clouds like some Turner painting.

Under my feet, the grass, sown by my father and brother where once the snow tussocks were taller than men. (The previous paddock over was partly mine, just a little: I harrowed it on an old Case crawler tractor, slow and dusty, one Varsity holiday.) Ryegrass and clover, now making fat lambs. They’ve scattered from the farm truck, but will return from the dark gullies after we leave.

Across the creek, my brother is breaking in more ground, greenery spreading up the hill but only to a certain altitude. Flat ridges end in deep narrow gullies full of scrub, concealing the occasional pig and deer. Beyond that, many thousands of acres of wide open tussock country, where the only sounds are the skylarks and the gentle sussurration of the tussocks themselves.

Moments like this bring me to appreciate the idea (if I may appropriate it) of tūrangawaewae: a place to belong to; a place where the land owns you rather than you own the land. This is how I feel. I remain a farmer’s son, sometimes.

I hope I always have this place to come to.

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