As a much younger man, I yearned for the excitement of the big city with its hustle and bustle, its many attractions and distractions, its noise and anonymity and the opportunity for experiment and exploration.

I lived in several of them in different countries and enjoyed my experience, but now, when I wake up in this city, I'm grateful for its beauty, its relative peace and quiet in an otherwise turbulent world. I'm happy for the chance events that brought me here. It's good to be lucky — it's even better to know and appreciate your luck.

The physical beauty of this city and its surrounding landscape are an unexpected gift whenever I look out and experience them anew.

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From mountain to sea flows the beating heart of the river that sustains us, and enhances all our lives. With its newly-recognised personhood significance, our responsibility for its health and maintenance is assured.

With so much of the world already experiencing the effects of global warming, we are lucky to live in a temperate climate within the lea of the Taranaki Bight that seems to protect us from the worst of wind and weather.

The best features of any city are its institutions and, ultimately, the people who make it what it is.

What struck me when I first came here 23 years ago was the extent of volunteerism that underpinned the workings of the place.

From education to service clubs to entertainment, the willingness to pull together for common goals makes for vitality of community. Opera Week is a good example with its international significance, its direction by Donald Trott — it owes much of its continuing success to the efforts of volunteers headed by Bev Kirkwood.

It's the people of this city who capture my attention. My personal bias favours those who pursue their craft with dedication and heart, increasing their skill as their practice grows. Meeting them here has been a source of pleasure I'd like to share.

Tyrell Roscoe was an artist/cabinet maker whose curiosity and sense of humour combined with the discipline of his work was nothing short of inspiring. He's gone now but, over the course of time, I've come to meet and appreciate the skills and dedication of several people — men and women — who deeply care about what it is they do.

Nevana Turner, who runs the Ambrosia Delicatessen, works hard to bring to the community food that is both delicious and adventurous, outside the usual range of what's available, but respectful of local custom.

When it looked like our old wall oven had packed it in we were faced with huge costs for replacement until the skilled eyes of John Orpin, of Appliance Repair Care, found the defect and the needed small part that let us keep it working.

It was Mike O'Donnell who carefully sussed out and straightened our copper phone and alarm lines after Vodafone made a mess of them, and Murray Springer whose persistence made that alarm system work.

What keeps astonishing me is that these are but a few of the dedicated, competent people I've been lucky to meet here. Space permits me to list only a few more: Barry Leahy, whose dark humour I enjoy almost as much as his computer knowledge; Mere Whanarere, who capably manages the Inspire Fitness Centre; and Allen Toms whose knowledge of anatomy and exercise is keeping me fit and alive.

This is by way of a valentine to this city and its people. Happy Valentine's Day.

Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.