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A love letter to Piwakawaka

Written by Cleo Johnson, summer intern from The United States.

It wasn’t until my last day in New Zealand that I realized how important and impactful this place was for me within the last four months. I wanted to visit the farm on my last day to get in my bittersweet goodbyes and walk through the landscapes that transformed me throughout my time here one last time before I headed back home to the States.

It is difficult to pick just one memory or experience to completely encapsulate my time as an intern at the Learning Environment. There are so many precious memories that I will cherish from my short but impactful time here.

I was standing above a large section of land that I had helped release native trees in when all of the memories came back to me; the moments spent in the rain, in the sun, refreshing the land and the plants, learning the names of the trees and figuring out how to differentiate them at such an early stage of growth - coloration, shape, leaf pattern maybe? Soon the differences became more obvious.


"I remembered all the times when I and a fellow intern, Jonny, would take breaks lying amidst the piles of weeds, listening to the sweet songs of the native environment surrounding us, in complete awe of where we were and what we were doing."


The laughter, stories, and moments brought so much life to the landscape in front of me, my memories were playing out vividly like a movie clip, Showing me the time spent enjoying moments with familiar faces that ranged from new friends made at the farm. I grew to have a strong connection to the native plants as if we were becoming one, I was able to share the ways of the land and all the knowledge that I and Jonny had learned with the other interns in our program.

I loved all of the simple moments, the time spent in māra, harvesting kai, smelling the sweet flowers, or enjoying some of the fresh veggies we harvested during lunch, it gave me a sense of peace.

I was in a trance of memories when two Piwakawaka flew in front of me; sitting on top of the sticks we used to mark where the trees had been planted. When I moved, ever so slightly, basking in the glory of the farm, the Piwakawaka seemed to follow me, singing their beautiful song and dancing in the air. In my mind, these two Piwakawaka represented mine and Jonny’s time at the farm, our impact on the land and the people would be reminded of in the form of the Piwakawaka bird; it was the perfect way to say goodbye.

One memory or story could simply not do my experience and time at the Learning Environment any justice, the land was full of rich memories and stories that I will always hold near and dear to my heart.

"I never knew I could love a chunk of land and a group of strangers so much. "


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