If there's an architectural feature that speaks of Northland, it would have to be the deck. Especially in summer, when decking timber goes a smooth glistening grey, and you can lounge outside in a chair
or lie directly on the deck itself. Bliss.
To say a deck is an architectural feature may raise eyebrows. It's not like we're talking about classical columns of Doric, Ionic or Corinthian design, which have graced centuries upon centuries of European architecture.
But the deck is what we have — a simple, unadorned, often unplanned, addition to a dwelling.
At heart, a deck is an outside floor. Even on the flashest house or bach, it's usually made from basic materials: treated timber posts, nails and screws, the ubiquitous decking timber. They're not that hard to build yourself.
Yet the deck, however simple in appearance, is an enabler of so much. It's like a theatre stage. Wooden boards on which we strut our life's dramas.
On a deck, babies crawl, and the old can enjoy their final days.
A deck is a place for young kids to leave their plastic toys.
The deck is where you play fetch with the dog, throwing a ball to the far edge of your section to give yourself time to sip your drink or rejoin the conversation.
The deck is where we party in summer. Our laughter and music turned up a little too loud.
And is there any better place to have a coffee than sitting on a deck? Preferably with a view, even if it's just of the lemon tree and letterbox.
The pleasure we get from sitting and looking out on the world must go back to our distant ancestors and the rocky outcrops they called home. To see a wide expanse of savannah stretching in front of you, free of sabre-toothed tigers, must have been comforting.
Sucking the marrow from an antelope's femur is more enjoyable when you're not worried about getting eaten yourself.
When I eat my ham, lettuce, cheese and tomato sandwich on the deck, it's not just the taste I'm enjoying but my spot in the sun and a view across the road.
Decks are great places to engage in contemplation, read poetry, meditate or practise Tai Chi.
It's from a deck that you can fully appreciate the sun rising or setting. Stay long enough, and you notice the subtle changes in light.
Sit still and silent on a deck, and nature, even in the most built-up urban environment, will make its appearance, a wood pigeon, a monarch butterfly, a hedgehog perhaps.
The best decks, I think, are those that are low enough not to need a fence or barrier.
A deck that's high-up is more like a balcony, or a captain's deck on a ship, balustraded for safety and protection from the crew.
They still work, they still have the essential characteristics and opportunity for us to pursue deck behaviours.
But the kind of deck I most associate with the word are low to the ground, they sprawl out into the lawn, with only a step or two, or a small jump for the dog.
Up high is aristocratic, down low is democratic. A low deck says "come join me". A balcony says "stay where you are, you're not coming up here".
High or low, a deck will always be comparable to a theatre stage, because while being somewhere you can look out from, the more of a view you have, the more other people can see you.
A deck overlooking a beach or your neighbourhood is a deck where the watcher is also seen.
It might come down to your personality type, your taste for acting on a stage, as to whether you enjoy a deck that's in public view or one that's more concealed and private.
Some people are happy enough to air, not just the dirty laundry on their deck, but their less than fully dressed selves.
They're happy for their conversation to drift onto nearby properties. For others, that would be the height of rudeness.
For some, a deck is a hushed space, where one forgoes a view for privacy behind well-placed trees.
Whatever your personality, there's a deck out there for all of us. You just might not have built it yet.
To borrow from Shakespeare, who knew something about stages, and would have surely appreciated a flat, solid Northland deck, an outside floor is where we can play many parts.