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toroa & the wild west wind

Once Maui, the wind-controller, had every wind, except for one.  So he shut the others in a cave, to keep them from blowing, and went searching.  His plan was to imprison them all together, and to block up the entrance with stones.

But he never, ever, caught the wild west wind.

Yet it is on this wind, never tamed, that toroa glide. Soaring above the raging seas of the sub-Antarctic ocean,  making only slight movements at elbow and wrist.

One of the largest flying birds, one of the greatest wingspans, one of the longest lived.

The royal albatross. Returning to us from now on.

Landing on the rocks of Tairoa Heads (off Dunedin), they come here to their only mainland breeding colony, and to some small islands in the deep south.

All things draw the same breathe. I align myself with the bird – open my chest and shoulders, right down to my wing-tips – and draw in life.

In return for their visit to the mainland, something is asked of us.  Since 1937 – when Richdale camped beside the nesting birds – we have guarded their nests both day & night.

It’s our responsibility.  We have to, if they are to visit us on the mainland. Unwittingly, we introduced invasive alien species – ones that would wipe their colony.

It’s a long job.  It takes longer for that one white egg to hatch than any other seabird-egg in the world, and then the chick won’t soar for another eight months.

The first time it flies, it steps off the edge and soars.  The only thing those webbed feet will touch, for the next three years, is sea.

Toroa will be back in the air, back on the west wind, back up in the place of their belonging.

Story from: Reed Book of Maori Mythology

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