american flora

The Vampire Vine is an alleged plant that has the ability “to drain the blood of any living thing which comes within its death-dealing touch”. It is said to be found in Nicaragua and is called the Devil’s Snare by the locals. 

The story goes that a naturalist by the name of Mr Dunstan was studying the plant-life nearby Nicaraguan lakes when he suddenly heard his dog cry out, as if in pain. He quickly ran to aid his beloved pet, only to find it tangled in a mess of very fine vines and roots. The natives that were with Mr Dunstan cried out in horror at the plant and urged him not to go near it. They told stories of the deadly plant and that if touched, the only way to be free of it meant the loss of flesh. Upon a closer look, he could see there were small suction cups on the plant. Mr Dunstan was able to learn very little about the plant. But what he now knew was that if the victim is animal, the plant sucked out all the blood and let the body fall to the ground. 


I know everything is on fire right now except for the bits that are shit, but I need a moment to talk about Moana. I only just saw it because, ironically, I was busy sailing around the Pacific when it came out in NZ and once I got back everybody I knew had already seen it and raved about how I had to see it, so I had motivation but not a lot of opportunity.

The TL;DR version is “I sobbed through the entire movie but in the Good Way, not the Rogue One way” (which is not a bad way but is a very different way). 

The longer version is: I mean, yeah, there are some issues with this movie, especially regarding what they did with Māui and his backstory (like, how can he be Māui-pōtiki if - but I’m gonna leave that for Māori and Pasifika voices to discuss). But it was a big Disney princess musical about the place I am from, and so I cried. A lot. At everything. 

Because here is the thing, when you are mostly into genre fiction and from a tiny country at the back end of nowhere, like NZ, once you get away from children’s and YA fiction, where there are a lot of NZ authors doing a stand-up job, genre fiction is never about where you’re from. Even the plants and animals are strange*. Snakes and badgers and foxes are almost as exotic as dragons - at least animals like lions you can see at the zoo. (I read a lot of Redwall books as a kid and you’re never really going to convince me badgers don’t wear armour.) If you’re Pākehā then people in books and movies will look like you (and I don’t discount the importance of that at all), but they don’t sound like you or think like you. They’re never from where you’re from. Their myths are certainly not the myths you grow up hearing. 

But this was a movie where the grass looked like my grass, the ocean looked like my ocean, the stars looked like my stars, the people spoke like my people, and they looked like the Māori and Pasifika people I went to school with and work with and see around me every day, the ones who are never there normally. It looked and sounded like home. And if it was like that for me then I can only imagine how powerful it was for Māori and Pasifika to see. 

I don’t know. I was born in Te Ūpoko o te Ika a Māui, the head of Māui’s fish, the one he hooked up with his grandmother’s jawbone. IT WAS A LOT. 

*side-note: this unfamiliarity with European/American architecture and flora and fauna on a day-to-day basis, with some exceptions, also leads to things like me, age twenty-one, in France freaking out because I just saw a BEAVER and it was REAL and it’s JUST LIKE NARNIA while the French people around me and my family were like “????it’s a beaver?????”

Spent the day in the redwood forest.

California is so perfectly spiritual. The Giant Sequoias are thousands of years old, and they are so tall, you can’t see the top of the tree by a long shot. They loom over you and your human, ephemeral nature with their cones, moss, and lichen. It’s otherworldly to be amongst what is the apex of American flora.

There were fleeting, delicate beams of sunlight reaching through the canopy and just barely draping over the forest floor. You could see the edges of every ray of light cutting through the subtle, lingering summer fog. In that moment, I felt the serenity of all those trees that have witnessed the silence and sunshine for millennia.

On the way home, my partner and I agreed to move out to the country, build our own house, and start our own homestead. I bought a Giant Sequoia sapling and it will be a part of my urban garden until I plant it just outside the greenhouse I’m going to build.

It was a good day of clarity inspired by nature and the life force it gives us all.