Here on the outer side of the wall surrounding the place, we see a sign on a drainpipe that clarifies what's important to life outside the magic garden
They call the lilies flax, which makes no sense. In the northern hemisphere, flax is the name of a field crop, a bushy, weedy looking plant grown for linen fiber and linseed oil. In New Zealand, flax is the name for a group of native lilies that grow wild all over the countryside, around mountain lakes and seaside marshes, in suburban yards and rural hedgerows and the far-flung edges of uninhabited woodlands.
New Zealand flax got its name as a marketing gimmick. The Maori called these lilies harakeke, and they used their fibrous leaves for weaving baskets, fishing nets, ropes, cords, mats, and all sorts of clothing, from rough raincloaks to fine gowns decorated with feathers. By the mid-nineteenth century, the strength and durability of the fiber was known around the world, particularly for ropes, fishnets, and cordage; the Maori began cultivating the lilies in huge plantations, sometimes using slave labor to tend the lilies and strip the leaves for fiber to sell to Europeans. The Europeans, smelling money, promoted New Zealand "flax" as a high-quality version of that Old World lineny stuff.
Meanwhile, Maori continued to weave their flax into goods for their own use, including baskets, as depicted below in a 1903 painting by the Czech artist Gottfried Bohumir Lindauer; the flax baskets in the painting are being woven by women who are wearing garments also woven from New Zealand flax fiber. Lindauer, trained as an artist in Vienna, fled to New Zealand to avoid military service in the Austrian army and discovered he could make a living painting scenes of Maori life.
Below the painting here are additional views of New Zealand flax in bloom.
When we returned from New Zealand late last year, we were particularly eager to share pictures of the really interesting, stretch-of-the-imagination stuff we'd encountered there: car-eating parrots, cardboard cathedrals, a parkour professor, and of course an awesome ukelele wedding.
We'd set out for New Zealand hoping for this sort of serendipity but knowing for sure we'd see scenery: mountains, waterfalls, forests of hobbity vegetation, cities with flowers, beaches and cliffs, and, of course of course, sheep. We lucked out with all of that as well.
And needless to say, we got pictures.
So for the next little while, we'll share some shots of the real New Zealand, beginning tomorrow with The Silver Fern
As today's contribution to the occasional series "Places We've Not Been and Have No Business Trying to Write Anything About," please consider this roofscape scene taken in Lijiang village, a UNESCO World Heritage site high in the hills of southwest China, near the border with Myanmar.
Human habitation in Lijiang has been continuous since before there was such a thing as a roofscape, or even a roof; paleolithic cave-dwellers were here. The ancient Silk Road passed through here. Townspeople grew wealthy through trade and tribute, and they began to rebuild their town in more elaborate, decorative styles.
Civilization was flourishing here in the thirteenth century. And fortunately for some, within about eight hundred years, give or take, the tourists showed up.
He seems to have gotten the hang of it, even though this Malaysian spider obviously has locked its gaze dead straight on Jimmy and his camera.
We suggest you click on the photo to appreciate it at its most embiggened.
Friday was a leapin' good snow day for dogs in Durham, North Carolina.