I had just slipped my feet into my gumboots after looking through old photos with my father-in-law when I caught sight of his magnolia tree. I stood, stunned, as the dark grey backdrop of clouds drifted away to reveal a bright blue winter’s sky framing the masses of pink flowers.
After two decades in New Zealand you’d think I’d get used to plants flowering year round. In the depths of winter in Northland each month continues to bring on splashes of colour. Port Wine magnolias are particularly stunning in that the flowers appear before the leaves and are varying degrees of fuchsia, white or a combination of the two.
Daffodils and jonquils are also in flower. I consider it a gift that my favourite flower blooms in time for my birthday. As an August baby, my birthdays normally involved pool parties to combat the heat and humidity that defined peak northern hemisphere summers. Even in the ‘Winterless North’ of Kerikeri swimming is not an option unless it’s in the spa pool set at a steaming 38C.
It might be winter but we have blood oranges just finishing their season and navels and tangerines are keeping us dosed up in vitamin C. Kereru, or NZ wood pigeons, and tui are everywhere, gorging themselves on winter blooms and berries.
Friends here ask if I miss anything about living in Alaska and I do. I miss the northern lights, moose walking through town, spotting bears (from a distance!), and ravens and eagles soaring overhead. While the flora and fauna might be different there is one thing both places have in common: a shared joy in noticing these seasonal gifts of nature. In Alaska when you stepped outside wrapped in a blanket to watch the northern lights you were joining neighbours doing the same. Phones would ring and the local radio station would announce a moose and calf strolling along 4th Avenue.
Here we notice and comment on the proliferation of flowers and fruit at work, on our daily walks, over the supermarket trolley or in gifts of bagged citrus from trees too laden for one family to use. I love having a garden, orchard and free range chickens that provide for us year round. We have seasonal changes but it’s hard to beat five months of summer and very short winters.
Now if only we could sort out the mosquitoes…