Christchurch’s “Garden of Tranquility”

rocks in the Recovery Garden
“Tomorrow is a new day”: A rock in the Recovery Garden

Christchurch, and especially its Red Zone, it a veritable hotbed of nature and wellbeing projects – the topic of my latest book. A vast area in the eastern parts of Christchurch as well as a number of inner city sites were deemed too risky to reoccupy following the February 2011 earthquake. While this has had tragic consequences for those many people who had to say goodbye to their homes, gardens and neighbourhoods forever, it has created a unique opportunity – unique not only within the context of New Zealand and its history, but also a rare opportunity anywhere in the world. I explored this in my 2016 book New Zealand’s Rivers. Continue reading

Bush kindy: getting kids into nature

Last week, I had the privilege of visiting a forest school session in Waituna West (not far from the Manawatu town of Feilding). This is part of my research for my latest book, exploring nature and wellbeing in New Zealand (see also: The connection between nature & wellbeing).

Children from Waituna West and Hunterville kindergartens participated in the session. For many of them this was a new experience, and it was a joy to watch them slowly ‘acclimatise’ to the new, and rather unfamiliar, bush environment, becoming more exploratory and experimental as the session progressed.

In the photos, they can be seen washing their hands at the bush ablution facility, listening intently to Lucy’s reading of ‘Room on the broom’ by Julia Donaldson (which was followed by a practical exercise of making a witches’ broom from forest materials), doing some bush ‘wood work’, and taking a walk.

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Seeking quiet inspiration in the forest

On another of these sweltering hot days, what better thing to do than seek respite in the coolness of the forest. (Well, apart from finding a shady spot beside a large body of water, that is.) Caitlyn and I chose to go for a forest wander this afternoon, followed – it has to be said – by a river dip.

We enjoyed looking at the natural mosaics on the forest floor, and while we were examining one, Caitlyn spotted this tail-less skink! On our way back from the walk the skink was still there, so we sat down on a rock nearby and ‘watched his stillness’, as Caitlyn put it. He didn’t seem to mind our company, either.

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Biophilia in language – can you help?

walking in autumnal woodland.jpg
Photo courtesy Dom Brenton https://dombrenton.com/

I am on the hunt for words or expressions – in any language – which describe a particular sensation or feeling people get from being in nature, especially forests, but it could be any kind of nature.

A few weeks ago I posted about ‘komorebi’ – the Japanese word for sunlight filtering through leaves, and Dr James Braund (University of Auckland) alerted to me to the wonderful German word, ‘Waldeinsamkeit’, meaning ‘being alone in the woods and experiencing the surrounding natural world on a profoundly sensory, if not spiritual level’.

I also found an interesting blog about the Norwegian term ‘friluftsliv‘, first coined by the Norwegian playwright and poet, Henrik Ibsen, to describe the value of spending time in nature for spiritual and physical wellbeing.

But I would be very interested to hear about any other words or phrased used in other languages (including any in English – I am struggling to think of any).

‘New Zealand’s Rivers’ is impressive for its scope, clarity, poignancy and power

Rivers coverIt is a daunting to have your work reviewed by someone as well respected in the field of environmental history as Graeme Wynn, Professor Emeritus in Geography, University of British Columbia. A relief to find it is a positive review, and an very nice indeed to read his assessment that “Catherine Knight is set fair to take her place among the country’s leading environmental historians”. Continue reading

‘Komorebi’ – sunlight filtering through leaves

skyward-view-of-kohekohe-grove
Light through the leaves of a kohekohe grove in Waikanae, Kapiti Coast. C. Knight

As part of my literature review for my book exploring the connection between nature and wellbeing in New Zealand, I have been reading Shinrin-yoku: The art and science of forest-bathing, by Dr Qing Li, who has researched the subject extensively in Japan.

Shinrinyoku LiIn describing the Japanese experience of spending time in a forested environment, he draws the reader’s attention to the Japanese word ‘komorebi’, 木漏れ日 in Japanese characters, meaning ‘sunlight filtering through leaves’ (木 = tree, 漏れ = leak through, 日 = sun). Continue reading

“Beyond Manapouri is an important, highly readable and hard-hitting book”

Beyond Manapouri cover webI am thrilled with Shaun Barnett’s review of “Beyond Manapouri: 50 years of environmental politics” in this month’s Backcountry Magazine, particularly given that Shaun himself is such a talented and well-respected writer of NZ non-fiction.

His review concludes:

“Knight writes succinctly, clearly and convincingly. Continue reading