My sources of inspiration as a writer come from every moment, every aspect of my daily life - from the movies I watch to the songs I hear - to the smell of food cooking and to the conversations I have.
The Coromandel Peninsula
Everybody needs a place to call home, I believe. The New Zealand Maori have a word for where you feel your roots, your turangawaewae. Although I live in the house my father built in the city and nowhere is more home for me in the physical sense, the Coromandel is my turangawaewae. It's to my spiritual home that I must needs retreat at intervals in order to feel inspired.
‘The three greatest decisions I ever made,’ my dad is fond of saying, ‘were to marry your mother, to come to New Zealand and to buy our section in the Coromandel.’
Dad likes to tell the story of when he sold his bread run business, the man who bought it could only afford to pay ‘twenty quid’ a week. Dad said to mum, the money would either burn a hole in their back pocket or could be put towards an investment like a piece of land. At first they looked at the Whangapoaroa peninsula - half an hour drive from Auckland. But before they could buy the section they’d settled on, mum and dad went along to a Christian fellowship meeting at their church. In discussion with the others of their plans, another member said, "You should look at the Coromandel, they’re selling sections down there and it’s beautiful."
So they made the trip. With four children in a small car, mum and dad travelled the four hour drive from Auckland, the last part of which was over unsealed, endlessly winding roads. Someone said once that New Zealanders are creative because there are so few straight roads and 'we never know what's around the next corner'. Nowhere is that more true than on the Coromandel Peninsula!
But when the car came over the crest of that last hill and the picturesque valley spread out before them, mum said, "Now this is more like it." They knew they’d found gold.
It was 1963. The mountain or winged guardian, as the local Maori call it dominated the town. It was on the mountain that sections had opened for sale only one week before . When mum and dad drove up to look at the land for sale only five other sections had sold. Dad, being an ex-navigator for the navy, went over the sections on sale with a fine-toothed comb and made calculations. He and mum finally decided on a plot for the best section there. For this quarter acre, they paid ‘the grand sum of 950 quid or the equivalent of a year's salary'.
From then on, our family was tied to this little seaside town and to our land. We made the arduous four hour trip there on every school break and every long weekend, towing our little caravan.
The section was covered in gorse and bracken. The bracken was a menace. Though it could be mowed it would grow straight back up again in deadly little bitten-off woody spikes. The only way to get rid of it was to pull it out stem by stem. Dad made it a game, the 100-stem game. We each had to pull out a hundred stems of bracken upon arrival.
We loved it. We were on holiday in the best place in the world. The beaches were empty of people but teeming with sea-life. We ate around a campfire, slept on stretchers under the awning that attached to the caravan, went fishing and swimming. We explored our paradise to our hearts’ content. I remember careering down the slopes on bits of cardboard, making tunnels on the next-door sections of long grass and dashing through them at a crouch in our green subterranean world. I remember running and jumping into the paddocks of grass and tussock so thick and lush we never touched the ground. It was heaven.
As the family grew, the single-berth caravan eventually gave way to a tin shed which dad built out of scrap wood and sheets of tin. The tin shed in time became a brick basement. In turn, this became the lower half of a log home in 1984 which dad built with the help of the family.
In 2000, Mum and dad retired there. Dad calls it 'living in paradise'.
For me, the Coromandel is a touchstone. Whenever I’ve found my creative spark waning over the years then it’s time to go home and return to my roots. All I need do is travel down there and walk up the mountain. I look out over that unparalleled 360 degree view, out to the Pacific Ocean, and to the Coromandel ranges marching into the distance beyond and somehow I get my spark back again.
I come home renewed. I come home with ideas. Mojo restored. Everyone needs a creative well-spring - to make contact with the place they most feel their roots - and to put their feet down barefoot there. Everyone needs to make contact with that place they feel is the most like home, their turangawaewae in order to be a fully alive and a fully functioning artist. That’s what I believe. At least I know I couldn’t last a year without mine.
The whole world seemed imbued with life to the primitive agriculturist. The Iriquois and their kindred tribes knew of the spirit forces which drove rivers, danced with the rain clouds, swept through the trees, and changed the face of the land in spring and autumn. -Cottie Burland, North American Indian Mythology.
Writing helps us make art out of everyday, ordinary moments. We write not just to change the world, but to create a new world. -Joe Bunting
Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time. ~ Leonard Bernstein
If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. -Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth