Ancestory

 

In a fit of Bashō, I am moved to wax lyrical and philosophical on our lives in which each day is a journey and the journey itself home. Being so moved, my heart lead me from cemetery to cemetery within sight of Mt Taranaki to find the final resting places of my many Polish ancestors and the the sound of my origins.

journey's end
epitaphs teem with my blood
in fertile decay

Back in my 24th year, I purchased a small rural holding on the southern slopes of Mt Taranaki near Fantham's Peak. A long abandoned cottage was sited on the land amid regenerating native rain forest. With my earth-mother partner and our wild-child autistic daughter, I found time to clear some areas of the land to grow vegetables and flowers, make the cottage habitable again, set up a water-driven ram pump to bring water up the gully from a cold mountain stream to the house, and supply the house with electric power.

in the wild
less pioneering
day by day

Forty-five years later I returned to the life-teeming hills formed by Taranaki's last eruptions to revisit the old homestead and find those of my ancestors further around the mountain. One family settled near Midhirst and the other near Inglewood.

In a desire to practice their religion, maintain their cultural identity, and to escape the German juggernaut of the 1870s, the families became assisted immigrants from Poland to New Zealand. From New Plymouth port they were transported by ballast train to the areas in which they were to settle. The roads towards the mountain were little more than bush tracks and progress was made by climbing over old logs, supplejack vines and lawyer bushes on the way. The farms were in standing rain forest save for clearings where the homesteads were to be built. These first houses were originally built out of ponga trees.

Great great grandfather Johann grew fruit trees and kept a few bees. He lived to see his children married and was known as Lul to his grandchildren who remembered him as a deeply religious man, reciting his rosary outside while attending to his trees. His wife lived for 96 years.

tangata whenua . . .
we recite the mysteries
bead by bead