My darling wife finds it culturally satisfying to drag the bleeding severed carcass of a Californian into the lounge as part of our cultural responsibility to worship an Israeli political activist. Most people call that putting up a Christmas tree – and those trees come at a cost. Nurturing then dumping Christmas trees is one example of how we've altered our landscape to look and feel satisfying to us. Crops, ornamental gardens, shade trees, riparian planting and weeds have all played their part in bending the islands we live on into looking like the islands we came from. If Pakeha could dump snow on the summer streets to remind us of the northern hemisphere, I'm sure we would.
Whether you're English, Welsh or Scottish and you have roses, daffodils or thistles on your property, you've probably introduced something to your environment you to scratch a cultural itch. If not you, then the people who came before you likely took care of that job, whether you asked them to or not.
It's about spiritual comfort. People estranged from their cultural needs are worse-off in terms of spiritual health. Pretty much everyone who has ever arrived in NZ has altered the country a little bit so it reminds them of spiritually significant places. This is why on the street not far from my home a church is bedecked with images of date palm trees, oases and head scarves. Not exactly Kiwiana, but that stuff all seems normal if you worship a man from Mesopotamia.
The first people who settled NZ brought taro, yams, kumara and gourds as well as animals from their homeland. Later waves of people like Captain Cook dropped off pigs and chickens. After that, acclimatisation societies introduced birds, bugs and bunnies. All the comings and goings brought weeds, too, unfortunately – not that any plant considers itself a weed. As my botanist friend Dr Nicola Day informs me, the definition of a weed is simply any plant existing in a terrain outside its natural habitat. The more competitive seeds thrive when humans give them an opportunity to thrive by disturbing the land, especially as a result of farming.
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I did try to convince my darling wife to buy a native NZ tree for our lounge this Christmas, to no avail. The disposable tree in the lounge makes my wife feel culturally satisfied.
I'm off to mow the lawn, which is a mixture of Kentucky Bluegrass (a species originating in Europe and Asia) and "Bermuda grass" (Mediterranean.) I'll be watching out for the prickles of Onehunga weed – introduced from everywhere except Onehunga.
I'll wish my lawn was made of an NZ native grass species, but that wouldn't look "normal" in Kiwi culture. There's something wrong about that.