The President of the ACNZ for Life Mr Rat and Whitebait visit Easter Island
No one who reads this is going to believe any of it, unless they have actually met the Rat. The Rat exists in 3-D. He was born in Cobden, South Island, New Zealand about 40 years ago, in McBrearty Annex, Grey Hospital. His father was a jockey and his uncles were two of the greatest jockeys that ever rode a horse, indeed ever lived. They had thousands of wins to prove it.
The Rat gave me my nickname Whitebait. Why? Because at that time I drank like a fish. Whenever I visited him he would line up two full-bar refrigerators with the latest fad beers. He was the ultimate corporate cannibal who fed voraciously on the unwary.
A moment in the Rat's company was a treasure, as long as you knew that the Rat was President for Life of the Animal Club New Zealand. The wily Kiore of Maungakiore near Haast had always walked with the Songsingers but at the first sign of trouble they ran:
THE KETE OF TAMATEA POKAI WHENUA
"THE GREAT FORESTS FELL TO THE FLAME
KIORE IS WISE. Kiore, our small companion of the Long Tides, survived the challenge of the land. And we survived by learning their ways. Kiore cares for kiore. When danger cries out rats gather and flee, and we quickly follow, for they hear warnings of the tides of doom long before we do.
On this dread day they emerged swiftly from the grass to join as one and run to shelter. They ignored us, but we did not ignore them, for while none knew the reason for their flight, all hastened to the protection of the caves. Later we were to understand. Kiore knew in some special way that the fire had left the depths of Space and Time and was plunging towards earth.
When the terror of the Star Fires exploded over the land, some were safe, but many were not. Among those who lived through the flames was Tamatea Pokai Whenua, and deep within the Kete of Knowledge are his songs of sadness.
'We are of Io, we are of Tane mahuta and kin of the forests'
We weep for the trees. And our tears join with those our ancestors shed on the blackened earth where the great forests fell. We weep for the birds that are no more. And our tears flow for the Earth Mother and the scars carved across mountain and plain. And for children lost, and parents gone, and families that are no more. Sad is the song of Tamatea Pokai Whenua that brings us the story of the flames...
'Deep was the winter snow. And cold were the ancestors who called to the Gods for warmth for the children and old ones. And their plea reached the Guardians of Fire. And out of the sky came the black and orange flames of Pere, and by her side was the white hot flame of mahuika, the terrible Uirawhati Tiri.
Then the stars fell. 'Nga Au ahi turoa... long showers of flame' rained down, and a fiery waka swept out of the heavens. Lightning and thunder raged. Burning rocks crashed to earth. And a frightful humming was heard. And a great burning ball plunged down. And within the flame was another waka. And the forest burned, and the land burned, and the spirit of Hine Po Kohu Rangi covered all with smoke and dust.
Many birds were lost; beautiful birds that are no longer with us. Some were of the day, and some were of the night, and they were gone forever. We are happy we once shared their song.
Some birds returned, as it was winter, and they had flown across the sea before the fires came. Even though the land was changed they came back to sing in the early morning.'
'Beware of the wild rivers, the dust storms and the shifting sands'
While Te Whatanui o Rakaihautu escaped the destruction, most of the eastern lands between there and the prow of Aotea Roa were devastated. So we gave new names to old places. The beautiful forests of Kapua Ariki became Nga Pakihi Whaka Teka Teka o Waitaha... 'the plains of Waitaha ravaged by the showers of darts'. Nga Wai o Te Hukarere later became Waimangariri, 'the river that twists and turns in anger and frustration'. With the forest gone the mighty rivers of the east wandered at will, breaking their banks to scour and ravage the plains. The hunting lagoons near the sea were lost to silt and sand. And dust storms hid the Sun.
The forests of the lakelands of Tu Takapo fell to the flames. And the tallest mountains changed their fine white cloaks for the black of mourning.
After many seasons the clean white snows returned and we planted trees to cover the wounds. And we planted in vain. The winds came and destroyed the land; the rains came and washed it away; the floods came and stayed.
'And the three sisters went to clothe the nakedness of Papatuanuku'
Sadness filled our world. The beautiful body of Papatuanuku was bared to the havoc of the seasons. Gone were the trees that shaded the streams to hide the shy tuna. Gone were the morning mists that rose gently from the forests. Gone was the birdsong that once filled the dawn with greetings of joy.
When our seed trees died in the swirling dust we called on the three sisters of the foothills to cover the Earth Mother. You know them as the three golden tussocks How freely their flowing hair moves in the gentle winds and how strongly it withstands the wildest storms. Where others die with lack of water they reach out to draw it from the cool night air and carry it down each fine blade.
Over many generations we carried round baskets filled with tussock to the desolated lands. Taking one plant we split it into five using a ko fitted with a sharp stone blade. And we sowed each piece twenty paces apart in a pattern founded in the wisdom of the old ones.
'Take grasses to the ravaged lands and birds to the grasses'
We knew our work was not in vain for the three sisters go strongly to the soil in any season. When they were tall enough to give shelter, we brought potato, kumara, raupo and harakeke to grow between and heal and bind. Kowhai and karaka were planted to hold our mana.
And we brought birds to live with them and tend their needs. In time many weka, kiwi and pukeko found food and warmth in the grasslands and thanked us by caring for the sisters. With probing beaks they opened the tight core of the tussock to the Sun and wind and brought new life to tired tresses.
Those who lived closely with the three sisters, discovered their deepest secrets. They learned to read the message of their colours; the darkening that called the eel hunters to the streams; the shades that spoke of fine weather or nights of storm.
In these ways we gave succour to our Earth Mother, but the fires still came. We now speak of flame born of thunder in the long seasons when the rain failed. Touched by lightning the dry grasslands blackened in the blaze. And these fires sometimes lingered deep within the earth to find new life in later days. We walked in fear of fire. And we ensured the ancient lore, that gave gift of the flame to only one within each family was remembered and honoured.
We weep for a world that is no more. For the trees that are gone, for the bones of families lost amidst the ash, for the birds that fell forever, and for the rains of old that left this land. And we rejoice in the birds that returned, and give thanks to the Gods."
"Song of Waitaha: The Histories of a Nation", being the teachings of Iharairate Meihana, Wiremu Ruka Te Korako, Taare Reweti Te Maiharoa, Perenara Hone Hare, Heremia Te Wake and Renata Kauere
So back to our President Mr Rat. He has done a runner, and his mobile number 021-362636 (supposedly Marilyn Monroe's measurements) used by a number of the animals of the ACNZ is no longer. In which cave will we find the 3-D Mr Rat? What do you know that we don't?
collage of Easter Island paintings centred in some other paintings; reminders of time on the road with President Mr Rat
courtesy of Picasa 3, SmugMug, Google and Mozilla Firefox 2009