Friday, October 3, 2014

Fifty Shades of Green


In the last week, I have been down in Southland for the NZPF Principals Conference. I will blog more about some of the fantastic speakers (in particular Patti Dobrowolski and Richard Gerver) we had and the workshops I attended, in posts to come.  This post is simply dedicated to the fifty shades of green that is Southland.

The Deep South

The small plane we flew in on
from Christchurch 
Southland is often refereed to as ‘The Deep South', a provincial nickname the rest of the country uses to describe Southlanders and the ‘metropolis’ that is its capital, Invercargill.  I use the term ‘metropolis’ loosely; large rural hub is more accurate.    

Before we go much further, I would like clarify something that bugs me somewhat, and that is to point out that the term ‘Deep South’ is not one that the inhabitants, or those of us who used to live there, generally use to describe Southland.  At best, we will say we are heading down South.  A quick survey of friends and family from the South, and we are in agreeance that to refer to it as the ‘Deep South’ is a bit of a ‘piss take’ that implies sub Antarctic temperatures and perpetual rain.  

Ironically, the day I flew in, it lived up to its reputation, and without a word of a lie, we flew in sideways.  To say my companions and I were grateful we landed in one piece (especially as the plane we were in was a glorified skateboard with wings) is an understatement. 

Southern Hospitality

The southern hospitality began the moment our plane touched the tarmac.  Our group was met and chauffeured by Peter, a friendly and affable local principal.  To not have to worry about transport to our accommodation was a big relief and one less thing for us to worry about.   The generosity of spirit, amazing food, and commitment to ensure all had a fabulous time was a constant through out the conference.   Hats off to the organising committee - this has to have been on my list of the top conferences I have been to.  Not only have I come away having overindulged in fine southern cuisine, but inspired by the outstanding speakers.  

Southern Hospitality was not confined to just those who were running the conference.  Every taxi driver, cafe owner and shop assistant we met were polite, friendly and showed great restraint in failing to tease us about being a JAFA.  

I was fortunate to spend several days after the conference with family, and what continued to strike me as I traversed through Southland (and later through Otago) was the beauty of my surroundings.  

It wasn’t however, the exceptional hospitality and amazing food that took my attention, as I had expected that would be the case, but the landscape.   

The Landscape

It is true what they say about taking things for granted when you grow up with them.  As a child, Southland was green, grassy and to my eyes, normal and unremarkable.  As an adult who has been away for a prolonged period, the greens are bright, vibrant, and simply stunning.  I am sure my Mum thought I was mad, as I continually waxed lyrical about the beauty of the countryside.  Technoman was, I expect, as equally over my remarks of how beautiful everything was - especially as we traversed our way back to Christchurch via rental car.  

In Southland there’s a depth and texture to the grasses and trees, that the southern light reflects off.  Perhaps it is the Souths proximity to Antarctica that produces such a clear, and distilled light.  

Not content to be described simply as ‘green’, the landscape is a symphony of emeralds, olives, limes and at least 50 shades of various greens.  It is spectacular - a veritable candy store for the eyes.  Even inclement weather fails to diminish the beauty that is Southland.  Wind simply enhances the shades of emerald as the blades of grasses, as they bend backwards to accommodate, flash with a tinge of sliver.  In exposed places, trees, whilst bent to the prevailing direction of the wind, remain resolute, steadfast and determined.  

Add rolling hills lush with foliage, rivers that rumble their way through towns, serene creeks that traverse the landscape,  and content sheep nibbling grass beside ambling dairy cows, and the visitor to Southland is spoilt for visual choice.  Although the weather was less than ideal when I was down, including a wind chill factor that cut to the bone, when the sun shone - and it did - the beauty that is Southland was amplified.

It was only on this trip South that I understood what others who have visited Southland have been telling me for years.  My usual response is 'yeah, its alright' when they tell me how stunning it is.  Having now viewed the place I grew up in with new eyes, I will be in total sync with their appraisals of beauty, and will enthusiastically agree, because Southland really is fifty shades of green.

My only regret is that I couldn't capture what I saw to share with you all.  Instead, I would urge you to go and visit Southland (and Otago) for yourself.  You won't regret it, and I can assure you, it really is fifty shades of green!

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