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The Silent Wisdom of Trees



Kia ora, This is Suitauloa Simon Young and you're watching One Ancestor at a Time.


I'm going to take a little side detour this time, because I'm including in my definition of ancestors, the places organizations, and belief systems that have nurtured us and affected the way we think and see the world.


Today I'm going to speak about West Auckland as one of my ancestors, because it is where I was born, it’s where I live now, and where I have lived most of my nearly 50 years of life. 


I grew up in Titirangi, which means the fringe of heaven. As I said in the making of my pepeha, the description is accurate. It is a stunningly beautiful place with native forest that is regenerating after having been largely culled in the early 1900s for farmland.


Why they were trying to make farmland on steep clay hills, I do not know, but thankfully around 100 years ago, common sense prevailed and people saw that there was a need to protect native species such as the giant kauri tree, which now proliferates throughout West Auckland despite being under threat from plant diseases.


So I was very privileged to grow up on a section with 17 of these giants of the forest, protecting and surrounding me alongside other precious native trees. They do what trees do, which is just stand there really. Sometimes those trees were cause for distress because their roots started to grow into the house and the roof and the branches would fall off, sometimes loudly. You couldn't really keep a car outdoors in that place because leaves would fill up all the crevices and cracks and make it a very dangerous place for the long term life of a vehicle.


Trees always win.

Trees always win because they last.

They endure.

Trees always win because they know that no matter what is happening right now, other things will come and go.


Just because the weather is hot right now it doesn't mean that winter is not coming. Just because the weather is cold right now doesn't mean that spring is not coming.


Trees are also collective. One branch may fall - even one tree may fall, but underground through their roots, they are connected.


Trees protect. We used to worry that the trees may fall on our house because they're pretty tall. There were some amazingly tall trees. However, the more we learn about trees, we realize that as far up as they go, they go perhaps the same amount of distance underground with very powerful root systems where they draw their sustenance from. 


So those trees from the time of my early childhood up until we left the house in 2022 were constant teachers to me, not particularly saying much, but speaking in their silence, and their patience and their forbearance. And just speaking about life.


Trees take a long-term view on life. They're not particularly concerned by concrete or cement. They just grow around it. They do what they want.


I look at indigenous cultures in much the same way, particularly Te Ao Maori - and I do this as a learner, not an expert by any means. I can see the resilience of the kauri trees, despite the terrible disease that has afflicted them recently. And I see the resilience of Maori culture, despite suppression and assimilation that took place for over a century, and still continues today. 


In the Maori view of the world, nature is our relative.

Trees are indeed our ancestors, and deserve the same respect that we would offer to our human ancestors. Contrast this with the pakeha view, that natural resources are given to us to use. I think somehow, my mother caught the love of nature, despite never being trained in Te Ao Maori. She just knew. And I knew too. I feel that no matter where I go in this world, I have been adopted by this land.


I am not tangata whenua, but I am privileged to call this area home. 


In my younger days, my mother used to take us kids on bush walks all throughout West Auckland. Huia, Mount Donald MacLean, Te Henga Bethells Beach, Karekare, Muriwai … we roamed those hills with respect and reverence for the nature around us. I was spoiled because I didn't realize that the whole world is not like this. And so that's why I think West Auckland is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. 


Even today, I'm blessed. I'm not surrounded as I was by native trees, but within five minutes’ walk, I'm able to rediscover that connection with our native flora and fauna and just dwell. Just be in it. It is amazing. 


So this is just my way of paying tribute to the landscape that gave me life and sustained me - Spiritually, emotionally, I gained such sustenance from nature through times in my life when I've faced much trouble or anguish or just searching for a new chapter in life. The nature of West Auckland has been an amazing companion for reflection and an amazing setting for listening and learning, when words aren’t enough.


There’s more to this story, but I haven’t done the ground work yet. That is, to discover the story of the iwi whose land this is, Te Kawerau a Maki. I have begun the conversation, and I hope that one day, I will be able to share their story on this channel. But it is not my story to tell, so that’s all I’ll say about it for now. 


This land, as if an ancestor, has given me support and nurture and it is the least I can do to learn more about it and to walk lightly upon it and to do what I can to maintain it and protect it. So that is my tribute to my ancestor, West Auckland. Thank you


If you enjoyed this video please subscribe to One Ancestor at a Time on YouTube, so you get updated with every new video that comes out. You may also want to check out my pepeha, and the explanation of how I made it, or my tribute to my parents, Annette and Graeme, as I continue to learn the history of the world in which I live, One Ancestor at a Time

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