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Community is the only Hero

Often when I go for an adventure alone, I like to imagine that I’m a hero in a story. Traditional Western hero stories are normally about a male who overcomes a number of challenges on his own. I love fantasising, but I know this kind of story is deeply problematic as it puts men at the centre of human narrative and glorifies individual achievement. Our stories form the basis of our very perception and social norms. In Aotearoa NZ we often glorify men for their achievements of overcoming physical challenges as individuals, like Sir Edmund Hillary or the average rural man. We too easily forget the unsung heroes who are instrumental to the achievement of the glorified individuals.

To become a resilient and truly egalitarian society we need to start telling stories of a diversity of people, cooperating to create and achieve things that no individual could do alone. Contrary to this, I’m going to tell a story of going for a walk on my own (quite the achievement!) — but was I really alone?

Before I set out I had been contemplating going for a walk, but was feeling reluctant because I had stuff to do. It wasn’t until a friend mentioned that she was considering going for a walk that I felt motivated enough to commit. I filled up my trusty drink bottle, which I remember my friend Cam from Waiheke gave to me, and I set off, forgetting the wisdom of that same friend who urged wearing a long sleeve shirt in the bush. I got to the gate at the orchard and picked an apple, thinking fondly of all the work Murray and Lindy had done to nurture the trees into their present state. As I walked through the gate, I felt like I had crossed the threshold into another world.

All was well in this world as I picked blackberries and mixed them in my mouth with the apple. I followed Murray’s instructions to find the path, and after some searching I discovered the entrance. It was easy at the start as the path was wide and clear, but as I wound upwards I met the dreaded gorse! I thought of my friends who have given me confidence in the bush through their careful guidance and instruction. These memories gave me strength and I pushed on. I was soon on my hands and knees, using my drink bottle to rest my weight on so as to protect my hands from the layers of dried gorse spikes on the ground (wishing I was wearing a long sleeve shirt). I got glimpses of Dave and Kat working on compost by the hothouse and I paused to appreciate them for their mahi. They are facilitating an abundance of life that will feed us in the winter to come. I knew they would benefit from my help at that time, but I also knew that they would be happy I was doing something for my well-being.

I eventually emerged out of the bush to gaze at the beautiful wetland and was brought swiftly into the moment by the presence of the raupo swaying gently in the breeze. I made my way around the wetland, collecting a raupo seed head as a treasure to take back with me. I then decided to climb a hill to sit above the wetland and meditate. As I sat in silence I saw a young male deer emerge from the forest. At that moment, I didn’t feel alone at all, I remembered that I was sharing this place with a diversity of life — the other animals, insects, plants, and countless microorganisms. We were all experiencing life together.

I walked down the hill on the neighbour’s farm, lamenting the grassy hills and degrading landscape so desperately in need of regeneration. I wandered past the willows, eying up a beautiful spot where I want to go read a book sometime, and then met Kat and Dave still working on compost. I felt like I had returned to the ordinary world, ready to do my part to contribute to the farm. It’s possible to see me as an individual, but the way I see it, I’m deeply connected to the land, people, and all life who share our home. I would be nothing without them.

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