My land


I have a title deed to our property to say that we are the owners: this land is “ours”. Property maps show the area being neatly divided up into an intricate, interlocking patchwork of ownerships, large and small. Similarly, global maps show the same patchwork of territorial claims, overlaid over older, smaller tribal claims. In the world of human law, there can only be one owner (one title) or claimant of land. In our anthropocentric view that is the end of the story.

But in reality “my” land is covered in many overlapping territories, some large, some tiny. The creatures all exist easily together, though some are meals for others. The tūī will aggressively drive off other tūī but co-exist with korimako (bellbird), sparrows and many other birds. The song thrush perches high on a prominent tree singing “This is mine, all you (other male thrushes) keep out”. The sparrow claims part of our house under the rafters, while pukeko stake out the garden with many a squawking argument over boundaries, and a garrulous group of quail drift through from next door. A kāhu or hawk quarters up the stream ranging over its widely spread domain.


Spiders are equally happy spinning their webs over our windows or on nearby trees, each tree divided into many smaller territories. On the earth, there is teeming insect life, and every species has its own well-travelled routes to food or shelter from predators. A large old tuna or eel patrols up and down “our” stream staking out its section of water, passing by many burrows of kōura or freshwater crayfish. And so on . . .

I have no more “rights” here than they do. In fact, in human terms of prior possession, I have less. We are all transient and I respect their existence here, even though they are utterly indifferent to me and my “respect” means nothing to them. I try to leave them alone and avoid killing them needlessly unless, like mosquitoes, they sorely bother me.


We exist together for our brief moments in “our” territories. The air that we share equally flows freely over us all. Today it comes from the north bringing moist tropical warmness. Last week a south wind bustled in carrying cold from the frozen south. The rain which we all need falls without favour. That is life: it all goes round and round knowing no boundaries.


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