On the Difference Between You and a Tui

05 Jan On the Difference Between You and a Tui

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 17.1.22


In these wild times, we look for certainty where we can find it. Here’s one thing I am reasonably sure of – out there in our vast native bushlands, there are no wild animals proposing a toast to welcome in the New Year.

This isn’t because they know something we don’t (though they may know some things we don’t). It is because there are at least two things that separate the wild things from us humans.

First, there’s their lack of opposable thumbs and consequently an inability to hold a wine glass to make a toast. And secondly, while they’re good with general seasons, they don’t appear to keep a day-by-day calendar, lacking that (solely?) human need to construct a narrative to give their life shape and meaning. Tūī and wētā don’t keep a diary, and have no use for a New Year, nor a party to mark it.

We do, though. We humans need narrative, and we search everywhere for stories, for their beginnings and endings which help us muddle through the middles.

This is why we invented calendars with weeks and months and years, and whipped up weekends, an entirely artificial construct which lets us trick ourselves into thinking something is finished so we can take a breath and reset, and then again trick ourselves into believing something new has started. You run, you stop, you catch your breath and then, more or less refreshed, jog off again into the future.

We especially like to farewell one year and welcome the next, as though they are a living, breathing thing with their own personality. It was a good year, we say, or one we’re glad to see the back of. See you later. Next.

One of the tricky things about this pandemic is we know when it started but have no idea where it ends, that we are “in the midst” of it, but possibly nowhere near the middle even yet. “Nailed it!” we’ve been tempted to think a few times, until the virus reinvents itself and we feel closer to the beginning again, with the end so much further off.

So being certain that tūī and wētā don’t join us in counting down to midnight on New Year’s Eve is one of the few things l will state with any confidence. And I am doing you a favour by not making any predictions for 2022 – whenever I feel sure about something, the universe appears to find it amusing to whip that rug of certainty out from under my feet.

I’ve had a look back at my hopes and dreams for 2021 – it boiled down to wanting to make the diary in my NZ Covid Tracer app look like something I’d be proud to have Dr Ashley Bloomfield read out to the nation at a 1pm briefing.

I pictured local excursions, shows, galleries, restaurants! And certainly, there was some glorious tootling about in those first months, and it warms me to remember them.

Then in August, life became entirely tootle-free. Even Dr Bloomfield would be hard pressed to read with any verve my record of, “Supermarket, supermarket, supermarket…”

So I will have nothing to say about this last year as it leaves, or to the next as it arrives except, “Fate, I will not tempt you”. I will try to be more like a tūī or a wētā. Though I’m still grateful for opposable thumbs which I will wrap around a wine glass, and I’ll look the world firmly in the eye and say, “Let’s give that another crack”.