Out the window there are puka, horoeka, ngaio, harakeke, which we planted when we built here eight years ago. Tim gathered seeds on his 5am walks with our newborn son, and propagated them in the carport of our dodgy rental. Friends gifted us harakeke cuttings, or told us when there were piles of them left on the pavement, free to a good home.
Now some are more than a storey tall, they could almost be called ngahere, a pocket forest. They’ve made an outdoor room, around the bath, salvaged from a renovation project into our deck. They’ve changed the microclimate, catching the wind before it gets to us, buffering Tāwhirimātea’s exuberance on the way across Te Motu Kairangi. They filter the beam from the streetlights, in steam from the hot water, reminding me of an Anthony McCall installation, drawing with light.
We built this house for ourselves to live in, after we had taken a year off to build a house just for fun in Whanganui. There too we planted trees and watched them grow. There our oldest child made his way into the world. There we turned the drawing learned at university, at work, into a house. Over time, the trees changed that house on a scrap of hill, to a house in a canopy of tī kōuka, a gifted apple tree, hebe.
We returned to Te Whanganui-a-Tara, into a one-bedroom attached railway house. Practising our architecting skills from an office set up in that one bedroom, rolling a bed out in the living room to sleep at night, we realised rent there was the same amount as a mortgage payment could be on a new little house. We bought another scrap of hill (going halvsies with our mates). We drew another house. We grew another child.
When we moved into this house, I thought I was hallucinating, living in my imagination. All the things in the right places. Sometimes I still feel like that for brief moments – though everyday, the trees are more grown up, with tūī bobbing about in them, and this house is for real.