Dinner with Ra

Dinner with Ra, Maori elder, was a multi-dimensional gift. Ra’s mother named him for the sun (and his sister for the moon) and the name fit on multiple levels. Ra is round like the sun and warm like the sun, and much kinder than the sub-tropical New Zealand sun, which is more blank and pitiless in mid-day than anywhere I’ve been.

First, Gaye and Michael, our lovely hosts, and Ra’s good friends, fired up the bbq with lamb chops and lamb sausages, grown on the farm- unnamed critters, because, once named, those lambs aren’t served at table- Michael’s rule. Here’s a close-up of Adora, the lovely jersey cow that sensed my phone tasted delicious, who can expect longevity.

Ra, excellent listener, asked us about our art + science residency with great interest and sincerity. Among shared many fascinating details of his hitchhiking trip to the US in 1987, and that half of his rides in the evenings would invite him to spend the night at their homes- this made me feel patriotic.

Ra spoke compellingly about the whagungatanga concept, loosely translated as ‘interconnectedness’ and community, perhaps really not fully translatable to us Pākehā (white people). He described some of the mechanics of the the long speechifying that is Maori custom. Last week, in Wellington, we happened into the ceremony that opened the biannual New Zealand Festival of the Arts. This hour long Maori language cultural event was spectacular. Having Ra’s expertise to interpret our rich experience was super useful. The festival posted a short vid of the long event, which I will share in another post.

note: long white cloud

New Zealand has stunning landscape- this image is not representative of the drop dead gorgeousness here. I share this image to illustrate how perfect the Maori place name- land of the long white cloud- Aotearoa. It is so the land of the long white cloud; I pledge to do better capturing the long white cloud look. There is so much natural beauty, and, yet, I find, the more I learn about the parts of the whole (ecosystem) – the interconnected creatures and botany of the place, the more staggeringly beautiful the natural world here becomes.
Also, on a more personal note- New Zealand bedding technology is very advanced! Every morning I wake up feeling like I am floating in a long white cloud, especially at our right now cottage, in residency at Te Ao O Nga Pukeko, ‘I am of the people of the mountains’.
Ciao for now- we’re due at dinner with a Maori environmental activist named Ra.
Tomorrow, I look forward to introducing you to Frank, the resident elder (native) longfin eel, who lives under the bridge in the stream behind the house and will eat from your hand.

Travels with jess + aaron

Here we are on our second day of our first artist residency, in the Wairarapa region, near Wellington, NZ, staying in a splendid olive grove – native plant food forest with visionary owners Gaye and Michael. Our two-fold project includes creating portals in the landscape and an art+science study of eels. The Maori name for NZ is ‘world of the long clouds’, Aotearoa, more on that tomorrow. Note in the image: native cabbage tree, flax plant and in the stream, eels.