The Long Green Mantle
National Film Unit, 1964
New Zealand's forests spreads like a mantle around the shoulders of the mountain ranges, where the peaks reflect their splendour in the shining lakes.
New Zealand once was a country of forests and to the great stands of trees that stretched from seashore to mountain lake the early settlers gave the name of the bush.
By day the light is leaf filtered and soft, by night trunk and branch take weird shapes, shadow is linked to shadow and the unknown seems to lurk in the darkness. Yet, there is nothing to fear for there are no dangerous animals. The sigh of the wind in the branches or the call of the Morepork is all that disturbs the silence of the night.
Daybreak and the cold light rustles in the tree tops, mist rolls away to reveal a gleam of ice on the mountain heads. All around, in lofty majesty, are the trees. Forever dying and forever being born, there are those that were here as saplings, bending to the winds that drove Abel Tasman's sails along our unknown shores.
The bush is alive again with the activities of the gentle, the harmless, and the beautiful. Sheltered by these shaggy-headed giants are the small dwellers of the bush floor, a secret population growing to all shapes and colours. Some anchored to the soil, others scurrying around in search of food.
In the quiet of the bush, the birds find seclusion. The Yellowheads and the Rifleman, the Tomtits and the Fantails, and a host of others, each busy with his own affairs. Intent on rearing a perpetually hungry family.
There would be no bush without water, for water is life to the bush. To each tree, each bird, and plant, and insect. New Zealand's bush is blessed with heavy rainfall and there is usually plenty for everyone, from all this life-giving fluid there springs an urgency to grow. A thrusting and bursting of intricate life, evident in every form. But all this abundant life cannot absorb the even more abundant waters. Stream joins with stream to flow unopposed to form a multitude of lakes. Lakes that are set like gems in the long green mantle. Many with liquid names like Manapouri and Mapourika, Waikareiti and Te Anau.
It was the challenge of the bush that forged the ruggedness of our pioneers. They are among the countless trees that barred the way. In the thick evergreen bush where nothing dies except to feed new life, sturdy, robust life. Where the eager, young shoots rise again, all nature in their thrust. Upward, toward the sky, toward the sun.
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