Huia lies on the southern side of the Waitakeres. It is named after a bird, which is now extinct.
How to care for this beautiful earth of ours was a subject very much on the minds of the seventy people, including families with young children, who gathered to camp, sleep in bunk rooms, hear some inspiring talks, and share our wisdom.
Susan Murphy, Zen roshi and Australian author, was one of our speakers, having left behind the bush fires that raged a few ridges away from our home.
Birds were everywhere in this green place, flitting amongst the tree tops, or calling out across the spaces between,
as we sat under the trees to listen to one another
or walked along the bush tracks nearby
or did yoga in the morning before breakfast.
I gave a ride to a local vet, who works at the zoo and is dedicated to conservation. He put a huge chart on the wall, listing all the birds that could be seen in the vicinity, and making a space for us to record what we saw.
As I walked down to the beach one morning, a kingfisher flew across a clearing, dazzling me with its brilliant blue and green colours. I counted 50 oyster catchers at the edge of the sea, and then stopped counting. Two blue herons swooped lazily across the bay. Black-backed gulls stood staunchly, and unperturbed. Walking back through the bush at night after hearing a talk, I heard a morepork (ruru, the native owl) pick up the theme and speak its own story.
No wonder I ended up thinking I was a bird, when I made my mask for the masked ball.
By living so close to the land, trees and wildlife (including mosquitoes and spiders), and far away from cellphones and internet connections, I had become more deeply immersed in the web of life.