No more at home herethan the lambs, though noless soamong the Banks Peninsulaâs steep,grassy, and almost pathlessdeclivities, the paired-off stalks can growto the height of a house cat; they slouch,almost as much at easeas a cat would be, amid the taller foxglove blooms, whose buttered-popcorn and flame-orange bells emerge so early in the Southern summerâs game,as if to ring in the new year.
Too soft to be called teeth,too thick, exceptin direct sunlight, to see through,the diminutive lobes on their immaturealuminum-gray or Statue-of-Liberty-green leavesâ edge look faded even when brand-new.
Their paler fur will catcha drop from a hikerâs water bottle if it spatters,if that hiker happens to slidedown the unexpectedly paraboliccurve of a given hillside.Though dwarfed by nearby sheavesof bladed flax, or harakeke, the woolly stemscan hold their ground like hooves;the individual petioles tryto overtake one another, competingharmlessly, like teamsin the fairest of sports.
Each puffed leaf-ridge seems to invite a childâs finger and thumb.No thicker than the skinof a tuned kettledrum,they might have comehere in search of a world without force, or at least without force of arms.
If they could speakthey would not; they would waitfor a durable peace,for people taking one another on faithacross the continents,as well as in this not-quite-wildernesswith its traced-in, bush-sheltered not-quite-farms,where no human being or sheepis likely to get entirely lost,given the tree-bark hash marks, dry plankshelters, twine-bordered streambeds, and occasional hand-carvedfenceposts with their hand-mountedscarlet or cherry-red fire alarms.