Snippets from our day at the beach, and a recipe for Ika Mata



“Have you been to Rawene to see all the lively changes that are happening there?”
asked our friend and neighbor.

“Not yet,” I admitted, “I haven’t been to the other side during this trip at all.”

“You should really take the ferry to the other side and see all the renovated buildings, and the art galleries that have opened there.”

Following her advice, we took the vehicle ferry from our little village of Kohukohu, to the somewhat bigger, but still little village of Rawane.

Our time in NZ is soon coming to an end, and so, in just a short time, we will fly to Colorado.
It has been a dry summer for us.
We are almost out of water in our water tanks.

We had to empty our big concrete water tank in order to repair it.
After many phone calls and email exchanges, we finally got a man to come and fix the leaks in our tank.

The man came, looked at our steep terrain, and said that it would be impossible.
His helper and worker is unavailable these days, having taken a full-time job, and the work is impossibly hard for one man to do.

Jules said: “I will be your worker. I will do everything you tell me. Please fix it.”

And so Jules mixed cement by hand for hours.
They couldn’t bring the cement mixer up the hill.
The man could hardly drive his truck up our hill, and he was afraid to try driving his trailer up.

Jules mixed the correct ratio of cement, sand, and water in a wheelbarrow, using a shovel.

The man took off his shirt, exposing his bony chest, and climbed inside our water tank.
Jules mixed cement silently and carried three full buckets at a time up the hill.

Jules climbed up the ladder to the top of the tank, and lowered the buckets into the tank, using a rope with a hook at its end.
The man methodically troweled the mixture on the interior walls of our tank.

I thought Jules would be dead tired by the end of that day, but the work seemed to energize him.

We sat under the shade of a tree and drank fruit smoothies that I had prepared for us.
The man loved my fruit smoothie.
His wife passed away a few years back.
He missed her cooking.
Christmas time is especially hard…. All those memories….

When I handed him his check, I gave him a box of homemade chocolates that I made using nuts and dates mixed with raw cocoa powder and honey.
He loved it.

This week, on a sunny day, I put aside my brushes and our garden tools, donned on bathing suits, and headed out to spend a lazy day at the beach.

We took our beach tent to shield us form the strong sun, books to read, towels, a bag full of fruit, some sparkling water and a thermos of tea.

Opononi and Omapere are less than thirty minutes’ drive from us.
They have a crescent of white sandy beaches, and are my favorite beaches in the area.
The color of the sea there is a beautiful azure blue.

On the ferry,
A friendly man taking tickets said to us:
“Well, well, well, if it ain’t the two famous world travelers! Welcome ‘home!'”

To the word “home,” he mimicked quotes marks with his fingers, as if he knew quite well that we only live here for a few short months of the year.

Jules and I looked at each other quizzically….
Who was this friendly man….
Neither of us recognized him and we were too shy to ask him who he was….although he looked vaguely familiar to me….

The man turned to Jules and said:
“My, my, my, you are looking much more brown these days!”

In our part of New Zealand, which is a Maori stronghold, this is a HUGE compliment, and it was not wasted on Jules.

Jules grinned with joy and mumbled a joke about doing so much gardening, that if he were to do any more gardening in the sun, he would become Maori.

“Hey,” said the man, “Why are you in bathing suits?”

“We are going to spend the day at the beach in Opononi.” I answered.

The man stooped his shoulders and knees, making a gesture of looking smaller.
Just in case we did not get it, he added:

“This is me being jealous. Hey, you two have a fabulous day at the beach!”

The ferry dropped us in Rawene.
We had brunch at the local favorite, the BoatShed Cafe, overlooking the quiet harbor.

We shared a Kumara (yam) and coconut milk soup and a toasted bagel with smoked salmon and avocado.
Both were delicious.

We also bought a beautiful greeting card to mail to our friends in Sapporo, Japan.
We had just received the charming Christmas card they had sent us from snowy Sapporo.

The Rawene fish and chips takeaway shop was bustling with people.
A sign said:
“Our fresh fish today is Cardinal, and yes, it is a beautiful fish with a sweet, mild flavor.”

We bought a small container of “Ika Mata,” a famous and most delicious Maori delicacy of raw fish.
We fell in love with this dish while visiting the Cook Islands.
I am adding the simple recipe at the bottom of this post.

We marveled at the lovely galleries that have opened in Rawene recently.
I am so delighted that more artists are moving into our unique part of the world.

We have people who have come here from all walks of life, people who made Herculean strides in life and somehow ended up here in the Hokianga,
weeding gardens, raising horses, writing, meditating, painting, baking ceramics and fixing old houses.

At the Opononi beach, there are now many more beach houses facing the sea than there used to be years ago.
More and more people are recognizing how wonderful it is to live here.
It is so nice to lie on the sandy beach.

We bought fresh fish and chips that came wrapped in waxed paper, which we ate with vinegar and sauce.
“Sauce” is the Kiwi term for Ketchup.
It felt like a picnic fit for kings.
Simple things feel like paradise when you are in the right frame of mind.

Eating fish…
It is one of my vices.
I used to be vegan for many years.
But these days, I enjoy seafood as well.

Once, while hiking a mountain leading to a meditation retreat in Mongolia, I came upon a Buddhist sign that seemed to have been placed there especially for me.

It said:
“The fact that you still eat fish after all of your spiritual understanding, shows that you do not understand at all the concept of reincarnation.
The fish you eat might have been your sister in another life!”

It felt so symbolic to me because my one and only sister in this lifetime was born under the Pisces astrological  sign….

“But I love eating fish….”
I mumbled, senselessly arguing with the sign.

A poem by Ikkyu (born in 1394 in Japan) came to my mind.
It is called:

“A Meal of Fresh Octopus:”

“Lots of arms, just like the Goddess Kannon
Sacrificed just for me,
Garnished with citron,
I revere it so!
The taste of the sea,
Just divine!
Sorry, Buddha,
This is another precept,
I just cannot keep.”

At the beach, I wanted to swim very much, but the water was soooo cold.
A father played with his boy.
He tossed the boy into the water, and the boy wanted to jump again and again.

I felt flooded with love that was not directed towards anyone in particular.
It was just there, sitting in my chest….

An obese man played with his young girl in the water.
His wife was sitting at the shore, taking pictures of them.

The girl obviously loves her father so very much.
She looked to be about eight years young.
For her, he is not an obese man, but her beloved and cherished Daddy.

He looked like a gentle soul, a gentle giant.
She was lovingly clinging to his huge frame, burying her long curls in his enormous chest and arms.

He wore a t-shirt that said:
“Thank you for noticing how AWESOME I am!”

It was late by the time we got back to Kohukohu.
I was still dry, but I yearned to swim, so we went to the jetty at the Kohukohu Greens.

Two Scandinavian tourists were cooking a meal at the wooden table in the park.
A young man and his wife played with their cute baby girl who had sunburnt curls.

I jumped into the water.
It was warm and refreshing.
When I got out, the young couple asked me questions.

They were visiting from Auckland.
They said I still sounded like an American, even after being here for many years.
They said I have not adopted a Kiwi accent yet.
I laughed.

They said it was a pleasure to meet us and that if they did not see us again, they wished us a Happy New Year.
I loved them.

That young Maori couple looked and sounded like royalty to me, so beautiful, so noble, so polite and so well spoken…

I thought about the Maori living in our region.

They are beautiful, with such perfection in their strong bodies, chiseled bones, glorious faces….
Many have such elegant souls, great humor and wisdom that runs through their veins.

Yet many of them somehow feel as if they are less advantaged, less than the white people whom they imagine rule this land….
Whom they imagine sit and filter who enters the gates to better opportunities.

The Maori writer Witi Ihimaera wrote about life on these islands before the arrival of the white man, who came not to explore distant shores in search of wisdom,
unity and enlightenment, but to rape the land:

“… We  constructed river fords over the Waipaoa river.
We lived in small houses thatched with reeds
And nobody questioned that this land was ours.

This is how we began,
In that time before the coming of the man we call ‘Pakeha.’

He was without tattoos,

He had eyes that were blue,
A skin that was white
And he changed the world.”

If you have read any of Witi Ihimaera’s books, you would know that this statement encompasses far more than a land ownership dispute.

You can see the ravages of colonialism all over the earth.

Missionaries and adventurers from greed-based societies, hungry for power and thirsty for resources, have reached every corner of the earth, imposing their ethics, sensibilities and sense of superiority on distant lands, making the locals into slaves, servants, or promoting in them a sense of helplessness and inferiority.

Cultures that were based on communal living, in which official roles included being the “story teller,” “the dream interpreter,” “the healer,” “the future seer” or the “recorders of hopes, prayers and songs,” were suddenly faced with the fact that they needed to learn skills that were useful only in the white man’s world.

Jobs like lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, insurance brokers, analysts, strategic planning…

Those indigenous cultures were never based on individualism and were foreign to the concepts of careers, degrees and accumulation solely for personal gain.

They were introduced to those concepts for the very first time.
And they were not naturally good at them.
They did not play this game as well as the white people, because they were raised to be part of a tribe, a culture, a collective…. A culture that in the larger picture, made sense….

They were not suspicious of land theft, because the whole concept of land ownership was completely foreign to them.

Desmond Tutu once wrote:
“When the missionaries first came to Africa, they had the bible and we had the land.
They said: “Let’s pray.”
And we closed our eyes.
When we opened our eyes again, why, we held the bible and they held the land.”

The European settlers who came here had no tattoos, no sacredness and they treated this magical, miraculous reality as ordinary and common.

They saw no magic twinkling in the sky, no spirits in the forests….
In other words, they had no respect, no reverence for the sacredness of life, they had no God….

Of course when I refer to the “white man,” I do not allude to the color of the skin, but to people who has no reverence to the sacredness of life.

Nowadays, the white people here often have more tattoos than the Maori, but many still have no sacredness… No God…

Bob Dylan has a song that says:
“You’re gonna have to serve SOMEBODY
It may be the devil,
Or it may be the Lord,
but you’re gonna have to serve SOMEBODY…”

My hope and prayer for those all around the world, who live without meaning, without belief, without holiness, is that they find the sacredness within their own hearts.

That they will not let the miraculous days slip by them unnoticed…

That they will not let the years pass them by without growing in Self realization and recognizing the holiness and the sacredness of everyone and everything….

Please let it be the God of Life you serve……
Let it be the God of the forest… The God of the sea… The God of joy… The God of eternal life…
Please do NOT render all things common…..

Recipe for IKA MATA


-Fresh fish (white flesh fish is best)
-Onions- chopped into tiny slivers or cubes
-Tomatoes- chopped into small cubes
-Lemon and salt to your taste
-Unsweetened coconut cream

Slice the fish into small cubes
Place in a bowl and marinate with the juice from the lemons, (the juice must just cover the fish cubes)
Once the lemon juice has soaked into the fish, the fish will turn a white color.
Add the finely chopped onions and tomatoes, mix well and add the coconut cream.
Refrigerate but do not let the mixture get too cold, as the coconut cream can become too hard.


By the time I published this, the universe gave me a gift, two days of heavy rain to fill our water tanks. Hurray!


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