By Stan Stewart.
When I was a kid, one of the most awesome, jaw dropping, sights I ever saw was my Dad with his singlet off. He worked on the Melbourne wharves, and he usually wore a wharfie’s dark singlet. Under the singlet his skin was lily white. Around his back, small droplets on tiny stems were growing out of his skin. Secretly, I wanted to get scissors and cut them off. I never did, nor did anyone else.
As I moved into my own dotage, I saw the same type of appendages growing out of my skin. It didn’t look right, and I decided they must come off. That was the start of my search for skin cancer. As it worked out, it was a quick and painless procedure. “While we are at it”, my doc said, “We might as well take a look at these”. She pointed to small pimple-like things on my chest and arms. They were quickly removed, and all these pieces were sent off to the lab for examination.
Much to my surprise, the examination of spectacular nasties revealed they were harmless. But one tiny pimple-like thing that I couldn’t even see was cancerous. I could hardly believe it. “You will need a specialist to deal with this,” my Doc said. Two visits later, after some deep specialist incisions I was proclaimed skin cancer free.
It made me think that some things that look dreadfully frightening are of no threat at all. On the other hand, some phenomena which seem harmless can have in them the seeds of disaster. The trick is to know which is which. We visited Auckland for an overnight this last week. I had forgotten how many cars there are in Auckland. Crawling along on a street near where I used to live, I asked, “Are roadworks blocking main streets?” “No,” I was told. “What you are seeing is normal”. How quickly living in Whitianga has turned me into a ‘card-carrying Country Bumpkin.’
And there was more. As happens on such trips, we had a couple of restaurant meals at posh venues – Mission Bay for one. The prices were Whitianga prices, but the food and the service did not measure up to what we had grown used to. This raised for me another question. Was eating out on the Coromandel turning me into a ‘Foodie Snob’? I worry, we worry what will happen to Whitianga, now the major road is broken? Suddenly, without any warning, the time needed to drive to our community has doubled. Politicians and engineers talk about the time it will take to fix the main access road to our town and district. I listen with a degree of skepticism. My guess is that the washouts will happen again, and time is elastic.
Add to this the negative effects of global warming. Sea levels will rise, and the only question is by how much and how quickly. Scientists who work in this field predict that major storms will hit our region with increasing frequency. Roads broken by disruptive subsidence and slips will continue to be part of our future. Hmm! Where to from here?
Back to what I’ve learnt from skin cancer. In the future, the elements which seem most threatening may not be our greatest enemy. One way or another we can cope with these.
I think back to the recent Easter and school holidays. Access to our town and district was difficult – driving time had doubled. Still the people came. I almost cried with joy when I saw the footpaths crowded.
Here’s my skin-cancer learning. Despite appearances our enemy – our threat may not be the roads or the weather. But it could be a loss of spirit and that’s not going to happen. As a newbie, what I sense in Whitianga is powered by a positive, can-do, make-do, spirit. Not a bad threatening spirit but a positive life-giving spirit. At its core it is an attitude that won’t be cowered by wind or weather, storms or slips. I may be wrong, but after a couple of months, I sense it. Our visitors who come here for the weekend sense it. This could be our best and biggest contribution to the New Zealand psyche. We have left hurts, disappointments, our successes and triumphs behind. Here in this short-and -jandels’ world, we offer a welcome and a sense of new beginning. This welcome is to day trippers, weekend visitors or new residents. It doesn’t matter where they come from, or their race, or religion, they are welcome here.
Now that’s a spirit worth bottling, and it is broken road and storm proof. I hope time does not prove me wrong. This spirit is of more lasting value than scenery, beaches and fishing, as wonderful as they are. They are just the fantastic backdrop to the main show.
Caption: Auckland Traffic.