Last weekend I flew to my parents home in the North Island of New Zealand and spent some time here on this secluded beach. The sandhills are strewn with masses of oddly formal little flowers that seem to have been carved from bars of soap. When the tide is just right and the moon looking kindly upon you one can wriggle one's toes in the wet sand at the water's edge and find shellfish we call pipis hiding just below the surface. These delicacies are delicious when cooked in a bucket of boiling water over a fire on the beach. (Though now and then one of these shellfish will take its revenge by filling your mouth unexpectedly with sand!) The island just offshore is a nature reserve where rare and endangered birds are offered protection and sanctuary.
When I am in America I am constantly astonished at the variety of small animals which share our woodland home with us. In New Zealand, above all else, it is the bird song I notice. Here we have no squirrels or groundhogs or wild turkey or bears or chipmunks or skunks. No bambi on the deck just beyond my window and no otters or beavers in the lake across the road. During my childhood here in New Zealand I found these creatures only on the pages of my story books and for a time suspected they were merely a figment of Walt Disney's colourful imagination!