Popping up like weeds: thinking about growth in the city

Close up shot of Bunny tails (Lagurus ovatus). Pretty, but considered a weed in New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Bunny tails (Lagurus ovatus). Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Schools are back after the long summer break. So long that I’ve become accustomed to holiday traffic patterns and, yesterday, foolishly ventured out in my car before nine o’clock. Big mistake!

Not only are there multiple schools in my area — all with car-driving parents disgorging their offspring — but now the holidays are over, more people are also driving to work.

8.15 am: traffic chaos.

I’m breaking the first rule of good writing; meandering around my actual subject with the back-story. I apologise. Think of it as the literary equivalent of my journey yesterday.

So, cutting to the chase.

I gave up sitting in traffic and went to the beach. Because I could. Because my deadlines were self-imposed and flexible. Because the route to the beach was quite probably the only one not gridlocked. And because fresh air, quiet and the presence of water are infinitely soothing.

Sad isn’t it. The weather is warm, the ocean welcoming. Yet so many people are indoors, working the jobs that allow them to (just about) afford to live in a city sandwiched between two beautiful harbours. Harbours they hardly get to enjoy because they’re indoors, working the jobs that ….

I’m not gloating; I’m sad. And angry. Auckland’s growth is at the expense of other regions of New Zealand. While our government changes laws to allow large-scale housing developments on greenfield sites around this city, small towns are struggling to survive. And Auckland becomes a much less livable, much less likable place. I think it’s called lose-lose.

Close up shot of bunny tails grass head (Lagurus ovatus). An environmental weed that proliferates along New Zealand's coastline. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Bunny tails (Lagurus ovatus). Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

This is the bit where I try to tie together grumpy words with peaceful images.

Bunny tails (Lagurus ovatus) grow prolifically around much of New Zealand’s coastline. They are pretty to look at, and wonderfully soft to touch. But they are an environmental weed, dominating and altering the habitat of other species.

It’s easy to walk along the foreshore and enjoy the masses of cottony white heads. Easy to become accustomed to their presence. And because they exist and can be seen, it is easy to focus on their attractions and ignore the value of the species that have been crowded out — the things we can’t see.

But if we don’t look –consciously, and with consideration of the bigger picture –all too soon, it will be too late. We will have lost forever what we once valued.

Maybe our politicians should take some time to walk on the beach.

Close up shot of bunny tails grass head (Lagurus ovatus). Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Bunny tails grass head (Lagurus ovatus). Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

This post was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge, at Lens and Pens by Sally. This week’s theme is macro.


31 thoughts on “Popping up like weeds: thinking about growth in the city

    • Thank’s for this. Of all the over-spending, self-serving bureaucracies, health and education are the two that anger me the most. Schools are literally rotting and falling apart; kids hawking bars of chocolate as a school fundraiser seems to have become the norm, special needs ed is a disgrace … but you know all of that. My school days weren’t particularly happy, but the fabric of the system was sound nevertheless, and the quality of teaching was high. The NZ my parents migrated to has well and truly disappeared.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, it’s a different and not very satisfactory world. I respect the right of people to have a good working environment and a decent wage but we seem to have lost the ethos of public service. I love the old tradition of public servants signing their letters, Your Humble Servant. A practice that should be put back in use for politicians and public servants.

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  1. Aahh, thank you; I’ve always wondered what these were called. I hadn’t realised they were a weed! I like using them to tickle my chin. And I have a couple of closeup shots in my library here for posting. (See how I’ve avoided your activist talk…) πŸ˜‰ Of course, the beaches here have this also and I’ve known of them since my childhood. Yet, they don’t seem to have taken over from the native plants, from what I can recall and can see now. We tend to have conservationist groups that look after our oceanside areas, with lots of native plantings anyway. So, maybe, that kinda keeps it in check, although not eradicated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are definitely a kid’s delight. We have a lot of coastal conservation work done here too. I guess the thing about invasive species is that it’s hard to know what areas would naturally look like without them. Some indigenous species will survive, others won’t and we can’t see what is no longer there. Some of the loveliest plants here are considered weeds; like agapanthus, and I’d hate it if they weren’t around any more. Gorse; not to much πŸ˜€ Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


        • I think wattle is regarded as a problem here, but that could be more about how many people (including me) have allergies to it. I hope Pittosporum aren’t considered a weed. I’ve planted a whole bunch of them over the years.


  2. Thanks for the introduction to the Bunny Tails. They are delicate and dream me into their charms. The beaches here also have swaths of dune grasses that entice and keep the dunes in situ. Wonderful that you escaped and found solace at the beach–a place to see what is truly meaningful. Happy Photo Challenge.

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  3. Pingback: Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge: Macro (and White Lily at Longwood Gardens) | Lens and Pens by Sally

  4. Life is too fast, and too expensive in terms of what we miss whilst chasing a wage packet. Living a more simpler life would help the balance but the ever growing populations across the world are a real problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. I feel sometimes like there are all these huge interconnected issues that seem impossible to solve and all I want to do is escape to where I can have a measure of self-sufficiency and live life the best I can. I do worry about my son and future generations though.

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  5. Wow, I don’t think you broke any writing rules with meandering. Everything fit perfectly and interlocked beautifully as if the story was supposed to interlayer like the many intricacies of the topic. I also love the introduction of the literal description and vision along with the lovely photos of the Bunny tails. What a great contrast.

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  6. First of all, I like the name of the bunny tails. It’s cute and apt. Sometimes invasive species are so pretty! Second, I’m glad you were able to take the time to go to the beach… and took it. All too often, we have time to take off and regain our senses/perspective/center, but don’t do it. Third, I agree that the state of things in the world can be overwhelming. I think we get a jaundiced view from coverage of mostly bad events. Good news doesn’t make the news. In this election year here in the US, I feel even more overwhelmed, as all too much disagreement is very nasty. I’m fine with people disagreeing, with me or others, but there’s so little civility any more and that builds more walls than are already there.

    However, I see many, many small gains: more people taking care of their bit of the earth, people helping each other, etc. In those lie hope.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Janet. I feel much the same. When I look at “the world” there is much to be sad/depressed/worried about; but as I go about day to day life I mostly encounter good, kind hard-working people who do care and do try hard to make their little part of the world a better place. The mainstream media has a lot to answer for, as you say; we are fed a diet of bad news stories and it’s so easy to see the world as scary and out of our control. I’ve taken a long time to realise that I do have control — at least over my own life and choices, and I have to exercise it. I don’t envy you your election; it seems much more toxic and unpleasant than any other US election I’ve been aware of. Apart from that, I hope you and your family are all well. Su


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