Rebecca and Ray of Rakiura

Only have an hour to get this blog from my brian, to the laptop, edited, posted and shared.  Damon is working this morning, facilitating some meetings.  Soon he will arrive with a rented trailer to haul the furniture from the garage at our rented house in Pt. Chev to deliver to the glamping tent.  We also scored outdoor bamboo set we picked up for a cool couple hundy at habitat for humanity Re:store down in Mangere.  That will go on the huge deck at the treehouse, which is our main source of income while we’ve both dedicated ourselves full time to this new farming/ecotourism venture.

Part of the plan was and is to connect with people who care about nature and find ways to actively engage in Tiaki.  

How do we do this?

We travel.  We chat.  We listen.  We learn.

Today I am going to tell you about two wonderful wahine we met last week while we were in Rakiura.  

Ray and Rebecca are long time Rakiura residents and both feisty and fabulous human beings.  Ray has had her beautiful home on the motu (island) since 1986.  She moved permanently in the 90’s to the island with her Scottish husband Roddy, who was clearly the Love of her life.  Rebecca moved from the mainland when she was 7 years old.  She’s got a young son and a couple of stepkids growing up in the grandeur and isolation only gifted to children lucky enough to exist in such a pristine, safe, and wild environment.  

I’ve been thinking about them both since we left a few days ago and have been struggling to package in my brain how to share just how magical they both are and how profoundly impressed I am by both of them.

Let me start with Ray.

Ray is a healthy, feisty, funny and fabulous septuagenarian who manages a bed and breakfast overlooking golden bay on Rakiura.  Her large home has hosted hundreds, perhaps thousands of travelers from all over the world.  Since the pandemic hit, her guest demographic has changed from almost only foreign folks to adventurous kiwis exploring their own back yard.  A completely different situation according to Ray.  The last two years it has been like hosting family.  Foreigners will gingerly ask if they can use the laundry, while kiwis figure it out for themselves and make themselves at home.  Both kinds of visitors are okay by Ray, but she is ready to welcome foreign visitors again.

What struck us most about Ray was her intelligence and humility concerning that intellect.  She was incredibly well read and well-travelled.  Our second night with her we sat on her sheltered second story verandah and raised a glass to her late husband and chatted openly about a vast variety of subjects, from Isreal and Palestine, to the war in Ukraine, conservation, vaccinations, tourism, agriculture… just to name a few of the topics we skimmed that evening.

The next morning at breakfast our chats continued.  She asked if we engaged with our guests to the degree we had chatted, and of course we do not.  She manages her BnB as a host and we are a seamlessly contactless set up where our guests arrive and leave and generally never cross paths with us in person.  I suspect that’s the only way for us to operate as I am a woman of deeply felt and held convictions with no shortage of opinions.  As I said to Ray (and was rewarded with a huge belly laugh from her) “Nobody is ever going to die wondering what I think!”  And that probably wouldn’t be the most relaxing way for most people to enjoy their digital detox or vacation on our beloved farm.  So Ray will host in her way and we will stick to ours.  I will say getting to know her and learning from her nearly four decades of working in tourism (after a career as a latin and classical studies teacher) was in itself worth the trip we took to the deep South.

We also met an amazing woman named Rebecca at her hilltop home and studio in Oban.  We’d just finished a dream day in Ulva island where we ran into our mutual friend and fellow sustainability advocate Tracy.  Damon and I both knew her from different channels in our sustainability careers.  I’ve been wanting to catch up with her for years and years, and she just lived around the corner from me on Auckland’s North Shore, yet we met waiting for a water taxi to Ulva Island in the deepest southern tip of the South Island.  How cool is that? Awesome actually.

So after this epic day of content capturing and canoodling with my fiancé on deserted beaches with not a soul in sight we walked through the golden bay coastal track and wended our way back to the tiny township.

The sun was blazing down that day, and we were tired and thirsty after finishing off the last of the water from our ecotanker vessels.  Damon was done at this point.  I was still buzzing from the birdsong and ease of the day chatting with a wahine toa I had long since respected and got to see in person that day.  We stumbled across Rebecca’s gallery and so we walked in.

We put on our masks and proceeded to snoop around her tidy and beautiful workspace.  Rebecca makes prints of seaweed she collects from around the island.  We bought three small prints that day, and learned about two of her mentors, and I have forgotten both of their names but will ask her on dm later because I am keen to connect with them both.  She called one the “queen of seaweed” and the other “and absolute marine biology legend” and both women have helped her to start her business and flex her creative muscles to further conservation conversations.  

We totally vibed Rebecca and I.  She’s epic cool.  She talked about the joy of childhood on the island where nobody locks their doors and everyone is supportive and the community is connected and safe.  Isolation and the pace of life, where people live withing the tempo of the rythms of nature, is idyllic when told by her.  Her partner is a fisherman and their family enjoy an annual hunt to gather mutton bird (titi) which she said is best boiled twice then roasted.  We will be back to try this delicacy with her or our other friends across the Foveaux strait in Bluff.  

You can meet this amazing woman and her family yourselves soon as they will be on Hyundai Country Calendar in April.  I believe she said they will be airing this episode on April 10th.  At any rate, she impressed me with her talent, her grace and her intelligence.  We agreed together that mycology and seaweed were poised to save us all, and if not humanity at least these two powerful natural forces would clean up the mess humanity has made if we destroy ourselves through war or climate change.  

Yeah, I do not do small talk.  

So, that’s it.

That’s my blog about two beautiful forces of fabulousness I was honoured to connect with.

Many more adventures ahead, and it is such a magical thing to connect with inspiration as we continue our career change and carve out a new path as famers and hosts.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

Mā te wā


Just a screenshot from a couple of days ago

Dear Reader,

I do not know, nor do I particularly care what your stance on the 23 day “anti-mandate protest” outside Parliament is or was or will be.  

What I cannot help but genuinely care about is you.  Whoever you are,  whatever side of this you were/are on, my concern is for you.  How you are feeling?  How are you coping with the barrage of bad news and divisiveness here and abroad.  I care that you are able to find a space and place to be safe and serene and practice good mental hygiene and find joy amidst such turmoil.  

Of course I still care and am saddened by the situation that swelled.  It started in Alberta, the province where I was born.  My heart hurts and I’ve blocked, muted and removed hundreds of connections for spreading misinformation.  Not because I do or don’t agree with some or much of what anyone says online.  And I certainly do not suddenly hate any of them.  I choose distance because I need to protect my own mental health and need boundaries and borders that keep me safe and firmly and securely rooted and surrounded by reason, science, kindness and tolerance.  

Whoever and whatever those protests were about, there was inarguably far right and even Nazi rhetoric, violence, intimidation and even shit (by that I mean real actual human feces) flinging.  Any of these individually, let alone combined would be reason enough to distance and protect myself from such chaos and so many triggers. 

Don’t think for a moment I don’t appreciate and even relish a good, safe and peaceful protest.  

A 20 year protest from The Greenham women was documented to be what convinced Gorbachev to engage with the West and sign a nuclear disarmament agreement.  Civil rights activism changed the trajectory of countless communities and lives, and is so frustratingly still necessary as divisiveness and hate seems to be gaining steam everywhere these days.  I have definitely lost count of the number of climate change Friday Marches the kids and I attended.  The right to stand up and say “this is important to me!” is something I cherish and will uphold for myself and even for people who disagree with me.  Anti-abortion protestors have as much right to peacefully protest as I (a vehemently pro-choice advocate) do.  

There was no point during these anti-mandate marches that I was even mildly moved to want to support the sentiments being strewn about the place, and more to the point, I really do not now, nor did I ever actually understand what these people were protesting for or against.  Truly.  

The fact that they happened at all is a clear and concerning sign that there is something deeply broken in our society here and at large.  So many people feeling fearful and disenfranchised meant they were drawn to the sense of community and desire to be heard that was organised and administrated by a rabble of conspiracy theorists and scientifically illiterate community leaders.  These leaders actually convinced some in the straggling crowds that tin foil hats were a necessary and reasonable weapon in the their arsenal against “the man”.  There’s clearly something wrong in our world when a situation like that is allowed to erupt.

My fears for humanity and my trepidation toward our government, are far more deeply embedded in my concerns for the state of play of mental health in Aotearoa.  Many of the people left at the tail end of these protests are genuinely unwell and unstable and need/deserve/require tenderness and therapy.  

Now that it is coming to an end, I am left feeling concerned and saddened by the whole messy and emotionally charged situation.

I do not support the protests as I am compliant to the mandates to keep my vulnerable friends and relatives safe as the Pandemic evolves to and Endemic disease.  

I do not want to hate on the protestors, and feel that there is still room for a useful dialogue with some of the more reaonable people from any point on the scale between anti-mandate protestors and those deeply disgusted by the protests.  Maybe?

Or maybe we need to look deeper into the fringes of our society and find ways to reach and teach kindness, tolerance and empower people and communities to avoid rising up and/or voting against their own best interests.  But then, who am I or who is anyone else to say what is in their own or anyone else’s best interest?  

But maybe if we talk about what happened without anger or shame we can reach the people who are hurting.  Maybe the root of the problem is and always was standard of living and the rights we all have to seek and find physical safety and comfort, and to be able to pursue something to do, something to Love and something to hope for.  These are the things that gives us each a sense of purpose and connection in any society.

Maybe it had less to do with freedom and much more to do with fear and frustration?

Maybe we can do better.