Being Mindful at Ivan Wilson Park

Under the guidance of a yoga instructor named Tammy and a couple of DOC* resource guides, a handful of seekers gathered on a perfect summer afternoon to experience mindfulness on a walk through this little jewel on the southern edge of TeAnau in New Zealand’s Southland.  I think we were successful.  Enjoy.

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*Department of Conservation

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Cairns and the Elusive Starfish of Monkey Island

“Monkey Island?” WHAT is Monkey Island?!

monkey-islandThere’s a beach way down on the west coast of Southland – almost to the end of the South Island of New Zealand.  Just beyond the southern reach of Fiordland.  And at low tide you can walk out to a little bump, reaching maybe 30 feet above sea level and a bit more than that around.
The island is surrounded by rocks: big rocks, little rocks, medium size rocks, egg shaped rocks, flat rocks, rocks in transition, in shades and textures of green, mustard, brilliant yellow, brown, black and any number of striation patterns (speckled my favorite, and the Tide-pools-monkey-islandgreen ones with a fine yellow line running through) –  tossed by tides and glaciers, forming tide pools teaming with the life of the seashore. The bigger rocks, I guess the ones that don’t move around much,  sport patchy coats of seaweeds, from short soft curly bits to long rubbery strands of wide flat opalescent green.

My young friend, a budding marine biologist readying Starfish-Hunter, Monkey Islandherself for “uni” (kiwi slang for university), walks barefoot and confident through the boulders, nimbly squatting to peer at the lower edges of the largest rocks, the ones still wet, their bases submerged in swirls of sea water that gently wash the area.  She has found any number of starfish on past visits to Monkey Island. But alas, today we come up empty handed, spotting “merely” a small sea cucumber, a few orange anemones, and heeps of snails and hermit crabs.

I am more tentative. Unfamiliar with balancing myself from one rock to the next, with their uneven pitches and the wind blowing mightily, trying to knock me to my tender knees.  The water is cold but not too cold to step into it, ankle deep, to walk on soft sand and smooth rocks to explore the collections of smaller rocks that shine with color when wet but grow dull as they dry. My pockets grow heavy and pull at my pants, threatening to pull them down so that I have to stop and hitch them up every few steps. I know I can’t take all these rocks, especially the larger ones, home in my bags. What to do? Build a few cairns of course!

Here’s a cool blogpost I found about Monkey Island.

Auld Lang Syne

Queenstown-New-ZealandThe time to say good-bye to 2015 is drawing down here in New Zealand.  Summertime.  Queenstown: gave birth to bungi jumping, playground of the Southern Alps.  A perfect day with sunshine, shorts, ice cream, everywhere green save the blue water of Lake Wakatipu and the sky.  Mountain peaks bare of their winter snowcover, deep shadows where glaciers have carved deep gashes over tens of thousands years.

Central-Otago-New-ZealandI began today’s celebration of the passing year lunching with a dear friend at a quaint winery in the Gibbston Valley, in the South Island’s Central Otago region.  We stopped here 12 years ago, on the first day of my first visit to this splendid country, soon after she had moved here to raise her family in the small town of TeAnau.

Waitiri-Creek-WineryWaitiri Creek Winery.  On our first visit it had only just begun to bottle wine from its small vineyards.  They set up a small tasting room and kitchen in an old church building and a few tables in the yard under a huge cottonwood, with a grand view of the valley floor and surrounding hillsides.  Today not much has changed.  Their wines have matured and they remain a small operation with, I suspect, a growing reputation.

waitiri-creek-pinot-grisWe were lucky to grab one a handfull of reservations for lunch, and blessed with a picture perfect day.  We enjoyed a lovely Pinot Gris, perfect with the entres we chose: me a delicately grilled salmon with a beautiful whipped horseradish sauce, and she a melt-in-your-mouth grilled eggplant with a miso whipped butter and crunchy cous cous.  We took our time, enjoying each bite, the laid back atmosphere with wee ones playing on the open lawn, and especially, each other’s company.  Nothing much has changed in that department either.

Later tonight we will join the celebration in town; toast the new year with perhaps some fresh oysters and green lipped mussels.  No doubt topped off with the traditional glass of bubbly and a few fireworks as we look to 2016 and wonder where it will lead us.

Happy New Year my friends! May the coming year be filled with old friends, fine wine, and wondrous adventure.

I invite you to stick around a few moments longer to share some of my favorites from 2015, and check back as I add more in the coming days:

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