I remember sitting at the dinner table as a young girl during mid-September; a steaming roast lamb before me and my father angling the carving knife just right to get the perfect slice of meat.
I would try to drone out the calls of the lambs that surrounded our home, and look away from the orphaned lamb that we took in as our own whose face was pressed to the ranch slider glass wanting to come inside – his tail wagging profusely and his small little legs stomping repeatedly on the front deck.
My father would give a speech on the cycle of life whilst I heaped my plate with peas and roasted kumara, leaving no room for a slice of meat. My mother didn’t mind my sudden love for vegetables.
A country childhood
I remember throwing my red bands on and jumping the fence with a horse body brush in hand that I begged my mother to buy for me during a trip to Cambridge.
I didn’t own a horse, but our neighbour over the hill, David Blackley did.
I would walk five steps towards Opal, and she, five steps away from me. The half wild Kaimanawa pony would keep me in her sights, the girl with the grazed knobbly knees and the hair that almost definitely needed a brush. For weeks I would go out in search for Opal through the large paddocks that lay amongst the Papamoa Hills.
Sometimes I would get to stroke her – no more than once. Other times she would give a brisk warning kick into the air as I approached, causing me to watch from afar; a sketch book in one hand, my journal in the other.
I won’t mention that the body brush was also bought with a halter, lead rope and a hoof pic, which I would use on my little sister.
When I say use on my little sister, I mean that I would literally tack her up and make her run around in circles whilst I would try and whack her with an old piece of flax.
I definitely won’t mention how old I was at the time, or whether my little sister was happy with this game.
I got to experience this place in a way that the public did not. Summerhill was my home, and when keen mountain bikers, walkers or people who just wanted to look at the view would go home, I would stay.
I got to see the early mornings where the land below would be covered in a dense layer of fog, the orange light of the rising sun turning it a pale pink colour.
I spent my evenings listening to the quiet, or, I guess you could say
; the noise. The occasional murmur from sheep, the constant drone of crickets and morepork in the trees. My father would call it ‘nature’s silence’.