Things have been a little quiet around these ways, since summer. And now it's nearly April, and I feel like I have been putting the building blocks in place after a busy time launching Hau Botanicals and a big rush before Christmas. Plus juggling a full time job and general life! I can’t tell you how incredibly humbled I have been, with all your support and stories of healing. Thank you, every single one of you. Amongst other things, the last few months have been a really important time for me to slow it right down and tune in. Tune into myself, and our taiao. It can be so easy to get caught up in the momentum, and lose sight of things a bit. One of the key things I wanted to maintain during this journey with Hau Botanicals, was to prioritise creating space. Space allows me to maintain creative flow, observe and integrate what I’m learning on the daily. So I thought I would share some of my musings and observations...
It’s been a really dry summer this year. A full-on drought really. We didn’t have rain (aside from the odd sprinkle) for about 3 months here in the Waikato. And the ngahere has really been hit hard. I observed drooping leaves and cracked soil, and streams had been replaced with trickles. A “productive year” was predicted back in June 2018, when Matariki rose clear and bright. We had a lunchtime seminar at Manaaki Whenua, with scholar and Māori astronomy expert Hēmi Whaanga who came in to talk to us about Matariki. He told us that based on their observations of Matariki, productivity was predicted to be high. And it sure has been! I have never seen our native plants flower so prolifically. The tree branches were groaning under the weight of all the flowers, and then fruit. The manu (birds) and ngangara (insects) were feasting on nectar, and pollen. And I got to see and hear large groups of tūī and piwaiwaka on my walks throughout the spring, and even some kākā made their way to Whāingaroa. I saw lots of juvenille birds in early summer, because well-fed birds successfully produce more chicks. In the late summer months, once the fruit had formed, I saw large numbers of fruit eating birds such as kererū. With a successful nesting season for our manu, and lots of fruit on the trees, there seemed to be an explosion of rats, mice and probably stoats.
So what has Matariki and productivity got to do with weather and drought? Well, they are intimately linked. And if you put this in the context of our atua and their relationships with each other, that makes a lot of sense. Plants often flower and fruit prolifically in preparation for drought. It's a way of getting as many seeds out there as possible, in case they don’t survive the dry period. I had to have a chuckle when I saw the Department of Conservation put out a video in January saying that there was going to be a “mega mast year” (ie all our native trees would fruit like never before), and a subsequent infestation of pests. I thought “Yeah, our Matariki experts predicted this back in June last year!”. Which really just goes to show that our people know our taiao the best of all.
One of the challenges has been the inability to collect rongoā in nearly 3 months. I have been walking through the ngahere, seeing the wilted leaves for months. And you should never take, when the rākau are stressed or tohu (signs) tell you “no”. I have had to use up the last of my steeping jars, and leave a number of products on the website as “sold out”. Some people have said to me “That’s no good for business!”. But I actually think it is the opposite. For me, what's not good for business is not sticking to my values, becoming another drain on our taiao, and putting the needs of others, myself and business over the needs of our rākau and all the creatures that rely on them. I have had to write many emails back to people explaining why I haven’t restocked for ages. But it has actually made me stronger in my resolve, more connected to myself and the world around me. And taught me some great lessons about integrity, letting go of control and trusting the process. I needed to create space, and there it was!
Only when you get out into the ngahere, the moana, the awa, the repo, can you tune in and observe what is around you, and often yourself. Over time, you see patterns or changes between weeks, months and years! And you can link those observations to other bodies of knowledge like matariki and maramataka, your own felt senses, your kaumātua, your tupuna, atua and beyond. This period of reflection, learning and integration has helped me reset my compass and ensure that I continue to follow internal and external tohu, tikanga and my values. I’d love to hear your whakaaro (thoughts) on this, and what tohu you look for.
Images taken by my talented brother Te Kawa Robb