04 August 2011


First Tussock above the Bushline

I love tussock;  its position in the scheme of things, usually above the bush line, the presence you always welcome because after pushing through hours of sub alpine scrub the first tussock indicates the arrival of glades between stunted shrubs leading to open country.  This will be the end of your struggle and soon you will be climbing free.  Your view will enlarge and you will look back to your valley floor where you camped last night. You’ll see ahead to the skyline you are seeking.  The tussock will brush past your legs, soft and almost sensuous.

Tussdock Country - Kaimanawas
There are many tussocks ranging from the short straight ones at the highest or driest levels to the tall giant ones you usually find in western valleys.  Here you might step between the clumps and it towers above your head.  But it is always welcome.  I think it is the gentle nature of the plant.  The best is the one about thigh high with gentle curves, easy on the eye.  It has colour too, a mixture of green, yellow and gold.  And in summer the seed heads emerge above it, all drooping and adding to the grace of its being.
In the right light tussock creates shadows.  Whole hillsides soften and the scenery is at its best.  And after snowfall whorls of snow add to the contours of heaven and close-up you marvel at the packing of snow at the base of each tussock.

And tussock provides you with a view of the wind on certain days.  You sit in the shelter of some rocky outcrop and gaze over the tussock fields and sigh at the patterns of wind and the beauty of it all as everything sways and whispers in unison.  Your heart is happy and calm. 

Camp in the Tussock - Kaimanawas

I’ve experienced painful tussock too, usually in early morning, just light enough to see your knees, and you stumble up-valley on rocks slippery with ice and the tussocks, festooned with solid ice rub against your bare legs.  For a short while this is OK but it soon takes on the nature of  torture as the ice turns to fire.  Never mind, the day will warm and the mountains and glaciers will appear in the blue, through the tussock and mist.

I've planted tussock about our patio at home and on most days I can take my cuppa outside and sit tranquilised by the gentle curves and the movement of it.  On the clearest days when there is hardly any wind, the little movement is magnified by the shadows of my tussock seed heads on the concrete.  Even on the windier days the seed heads brush the concrete leaving patterns of leaves, seeds and dust for the eye to enjoy.   As I write this it is dusk.  I look outside at my tussock.  It is perfectly still but still curved.  I hanker for the hills.

Tussock Dance

I have been known to stare
mesmerised while the wind
from the last of a sou-wester
comes about the corners
of our house
from either side
catching the tussock tresses
drifting them from one side
swaying them to the other
catching the last rays
of the reclining sun
in different ways
a sensuous dance.

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