Days come and famously go. And what do they leave behind? What do you remember, for example, of last Friday? I remember a bird.
Birds are the signature creatures of this country, the beasts we've got. We should have more of them, of course, but what's done is done and there's no point crying over spilt huia.
Few native birds come to town. At a bird table outside my kitchen window I get starlings, sparrows, blackbirds, greenfinches, chaffinches and waxeyes, none of which grew up here. Waxeyes blew over from Aussie just a few decades back. The rest took the slow boat from Europe.
Some native species are prepared to live in our vicinity - fantails, weka, tui, bellbirds, pigeons and the green-blue arrowhead of the kingfisher - but most prefer the bush that we've largely destroyed.
I don't know what sort of bush covered the hills round here but it doesn't any longer. Now it's just gorse, broom and rank grass. The gorse and broom are imports, the grass too I suspect. It smothers the few remaining clumps of tussock.
The European settlers forged a track over the hills behind my house, the Bridle Path, named for the mammals they brought with them to lug their stuff. You won't see a horse on it today, only mountain bikers battling up it, standing on the pedals and grimacing like the damned, or whooping back down in thrall to gravity.
But most of us go up it on foot and we go for three reasons. One is the exercise. The climb is steep and unlike the early settlers we live sedentary lives. Another is the Hillary reason: we like to get to the top of something, to reach the ridge, to look down on the rest of the world. The third is therapeutic. We evolved to fit a natural world and it does us good to return to one, however debased. It calms us, lends perspective.
So there are always people trudging up the Bridle Path in search of something or other and last Friday I was one for them, lugging my flesh, leaning on a stick and wheezing. Then just to my right on a stony bank something moved.
For all that we are urban beasts, for all that we have forged some sort of civilisation, our senses remain primitive. Our eye is still attuned to spot movement. In the world we sprang from movement meant food or danger.
This was a bird, scampering over a mossy rock, cocking an eye, sinking its beak into a scrabble of loose stuff and pulling out a grub of some sort that writhed in slow desperation.
The bird was less than five feet from me and yet seemed unconcerned. We are so used to scaring everything, to creating a bubble of lifelessness around us, that it felt odd.
I can identify nearly all the birds around here. It would seem strange not to, to be so incurious about the world as not to want to know them. But I was unsure about this one. It was small and slight, a sparrow-brown back, speckled chest, creamy underparts, like a thrush, but smaller, slimmer, with a stripe above its eye and a flicking tail that seemed too long for the body and that flicked as the bird moved.
I thought it might be a skylark. But skylarks have little crests and besides they're timid creatures erupting from the grasslands and climbing the sky to hover and trill. Was it perhaps a pipit, a bird I've only knowingly seen once before, near Haast?
"Do you know your birds?" I said to a large middle-aged man coming down the track a few yards ahead of a large middle-aged woman, and pointed at the creature still unconcernedly scouting about the rocks, but the man just shrugged.
The woman caught up and stopped and looked and asked if the bird was tame and I said I doubted it and they moved on. I stayed. The bird knew I was there. It cocked a tiny black eye at me from time to time, but carried on fossicking among the moss and stone. I watched it extract and swallow another grub. I don't know how long I stood so close to it. It felt like a privilege.
Back home that evening I looked it up and yes it was a native pipit. And now, just five days later it is the one thing I recall of last Friday. And I'll remember it for years.