#07   The Boundary Line

Clare Noonan

25 januari, 2014

Otautahi-Christchurch, Aotearoa-New Zealand

Summer, January 2014

Dear Myra,

It’s summer here. The grass on our side of the fence is still green, but the expanse of old river catchment land is looking pretty dry, usual for this time of year.

I wanted to respond with an image while I’m here, and share my account of the kōwhai tree that stands just over our boundary line.

My storytelling will arrive ahead of time to an immediate winter. Come September or so, when kōwhai trees bloom their iconic yellow flowers, we’ll approach a sort of opposite syncing, a shared lens, of day and night skies common in length.

All my best,

There’s a drop at the end of our property. It marks our border, and where an expanse of land belonging to the Catchment Board begins—an expanse of non-privatised floodplain land, owned by the government.

Comparative to our shorter and greener grass, over there it was brown and long, kept at bay by a flock of sheep, which, strangely, we hardly saw. Crossing our fence, the Catchment Board land was a familiar source of entertainment and escape for us as children during the dry summer months.

The drop just at the end of our property, that’s where the old kōwhai tree is. With its iconic yellow flowers regarded as our national flower, I remember it most for its hanging stature with its rough beaded pods and smooth yellow seeds enclosed. On the flat plains cleared of native low-lying bush more than one hundred years ago, it always stood separate from the introduced pines, with a sense of age.

I always thought of the kōwhai tree, often dispersed by and found beside rivers, as our native version of a weeping willow.

The wandering river braids of the Waimakariri River crossed these plains once. You only have to go one yard down to cross a strata of soil, then clay, then sand, and strike proof of the old river bed. Now the river is four miles away from where the bank drops away beside the old kōwhai.

Extensive braided river systems are found in only a few regions worldwide: Alaska, Canada, New Zealand's South Island, and the Himalayas.

So yes. We were lucky.