The beach does great things to one's disposition.

For the most part the exact reasons for this are a mystery. But if you look long enough, there are palpable explanations.

Most notable of these is the sky; the coast does beautifully crazy things to it. I guess it has something to do with the moon's sway over the tides. The two lovers are 384,400km apart, but their courtship is an exquisite thing - and witnessed only outside suburbia.

For those of us town-dwellers who at night see very little of the celestial aesthetic due to blinding streetlights, a vertical environment and other industrial disease, what unravels when we spend a night on the beach tends to knock our socks off.


And so it was last weekend on duckshooting's opening evening, where I spent a night with my brother and sons at a Central Hawke's Bay beach. We were witness to yet another novel set of upper-atmosphere phenomena from about 4pm onwards.

First it was the peach-coloured clouds, which highlighted a flock of geese flying too fast to point a shotgun at. Then there's the magical phase where the sun has all but set, where only the fowl soaring higher than us at dam altitude get lit-up with the remaining rays.

Then it was an unbelievably early star, which we debated was in fact a satellite. Over the next hour the stars materialised like silent popcorn, and as darkness encroached the wakening stars popped and peppered across the black firmament. Think happy place.

Maybe that's why the word "stellar", (from Latin stella, meaning star) has come to mean all things good.

Anyway, I regret to inform that's where the pastoral wholesomeness ended. After assuring my wife and daughters Dad (the hunter gatherer) would return with a few ducks for the pot, we instead headed home with an empty bag. Consequently, we detoured into McDonald's drive-thru to bring home breakfast for Mother's Day. 'Twas an emasculating moment, conceding the husband and father's provider role had changed so dramatically. With my head in the stars I'd taken my eyes off the quarry. Ah well, not every stellar story has a happy ending.