"As it appeared, through an afternoon stroll with new friends, my most sentimental object is the very land that holds me… the ten acres of family land here in Whangamatā which I live on. This land has been a catalysing immersion which has led to a deeper communication with the natural world. Its sentimentality lies in the non-human connections and relationships it has strengthened for me. Humbling to say the least. I’ve sat, I’ve walked and I’ve observed closely. Everyday. A full immersion school in the language of this meandering coastal block.
Little did I expect that within the whisperings of the old pines, the budding of the spring flowers, the rise and fall of annual weeds, the shifting of perennial plant states, would I find a sensitivity to listen to this dynamism. To so intimately observe a slice of the living world, over time, is in some ways a dedication to an understanding it’s animacy and its seat at the table – beside us.
The sentimentality of this land to me feels infinite, but simply put, it lies in its teachings. The relationship I’ve nurtured with this land is responsible for the questioning of the dominant euro-centric worldview and clumsy science this generation has inherited. I feel we have grown up with an intellectual depiction which falls short, in painting a holistic picture of nature and life. This land has challenged a merging of dissonant ideas; the roles and expression of nature I have historically been shown, and that which is being shown to me currently.
Valuable questions on community and belonging have arisen, only to expand a contextual understanding of my humanness within the essential diversity of the world we know. Who are the plant friends that live in your backyard? Which birds sing and how does the wind share its voice and cleanse the gaps between branches of tree-neighbours? To get to know it, in its edibility, in its catching of the hourly sun rays and seasonal light, and in its post-agricultural dormancy and quietude.
To know the seasonality of the soil itself – after rainfall, in the summer heat. Which parts of the environment are causing necessary resistance to promote the inevitable regeneration? Where can we observe birth, death and destruction ? How can we map the necessity of this and then better understand the make-up of human community too.
The sensitivity to listen to nature leaves us in good company. The turbulent cries of our stormy inner worlds are often reflected in the dirt, the water, the scrambling desperate brambles protecting disturbed land. We see the land being its own medicine. Slowly recovering from interference – the native seedlings begin to re-emerge with safety. Upon the shifting of dirt we see the blackberry rear head. We disregard a trickling stream and it causes havoc down the line.
Questions flow: How does this natural environment show us grief, health, splendour, parchedness? Just as we need resistance and adversity to grow, I have faith in the uncertain but hopeful future of this precious land, that life itself knows the way forward. The most perpetual of all forces, ever alive in its dormancy and regenerative resilience.
The significance of this land for me lives sentimentally in my body, a harbour for understanding life. In the language of this country’s Indiegnous people, the tangata whenua, one could only assume that this relationship shares a kinship with kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and an obligation to care, protect and nurture. A Māori whakataukī which sings of the significance I feel, says: Toitū te whenua, toitū te tangata – Prosperous land, Prosperous people. To recognise this ten acres of family land as my most sentimental object, is to recognise that community lives not in perfection but in a dedication to seek harmony."
What defines sentimentalism for you?
"Sentimentality feels like a physical emotional remembrance. For me, It can only be described as being totally compelled, outside of our own logical deciding. There’s a purity in that. It’s a response from a deeper wisdom which lies within these intelligent bodies we occupy. A somatic stirring maybe." – Karenza, Whangamatā