Virginia St. Claire
Liquid Light Blog
As we drove north from Auckland into Maori country, Victoria asked me if I’d like to visit Tane Mahuta, the 2000+ year old kauri tree that is protected in the bush along our route. I ask about the kauris. She points to several along the way, tall absolutely straight light gray trunks rising here and there on either side of the road. She tells me from Captain Cook onward, the kauris were cut down to make masts for the tall ships that sailed the seas. Tane Mahuta has been protected; others are hidden in the bush.
I wonder, “Is Tane Mahuta big enough that the three of us”—Victoria’s teenage daughter, Charlotte, sits in the back seat—“can circle it with our arms?”
“I don’t know, “ she says. “Maybe not.”
We arrive at the parking lot, clean our shoes in the prescribed manner, begin our walk on the boardwalk through the bush that protects Tane Mahuta’s roots from visitors. I still chat a bit; then quiet takes me over. We round a bend and there is Tane Mahuta. I burst into tears. And don’t stop crying. A Maori gentleman recites a poem about the tree in Maori to a small group of visitors. I keep crying. We move to a more remote viewing spot. I keep crying. Finally, we walk back to the car and go on our way to spend several days with friends.
On the way back, Victoria again asks if I’d like to visit Tane Mahuta. Of course. Again, I burst into tears on seeing the magnificent tree. It is protected by a guard rail so I can look but not approach. It is enough. A young Maori woman sings to the tree while visitors look on. Then she says that every Maori child knows this poem: “I am only a tiny seed, but one day I will be great.” Like the kauri tree, the child will grow in strength and beauty.
Why the tears? I ask myself. Tane Mahuta means “lord of the forest.” The tree has been standing since the time Jesus walked on the Earth. It welcomes me and thousands of visitors through the years. It has been watched over by the Maori people who are also its ambassadors.
What touches me? The steadfastness of the tree and of its caregivers. It stands. Reaching down into the earth, rising to the sky, it stands. Like any living being that has been around for a long time, it has scars, it’s easy to see that it has had a rich life. I think that makes it wise. I trust that is so.