The Summer Home
This summer we cleared out the old family cabin. No multi-roomed holiday house, this, but rather a tiny wood and metal box nestled amongst long grass and native trees.
Inside, it’s standing room only for parents, my brothers and me. Hard to believe such a small space can hold so many memories.
As we sort each item into boxes, recollections and stories began to flow.
The store of mismatched linen, shared out each night between children in tents and my parents in the cabin, all falling asleep to the murmurs of wild turkeys in the big pine tree.
The two burner gas stove, starting the day early with the scent of porridge cooking, the fields still blanketed with mist outside. A trip to the long drop toilet was a journey into the unknown, wading barefoot through the long wet grass as birdsong echoed out of the whiteness.
The small treasures - lumps of golden kauri gum, birds nests and feathers - collected during long sunny days exploring the paddocks and thickets of our farmland kingdom, borne proudly home to mum.
The chunky raincoats for days filled with interminable drizzle, holding staples for dad to hammer into fence posts, followed by a welcome return to the warmth and dryness of the cabin.The big torch used flounder fish spearing at dusk, filling a sack full of silver for dinner as the light leaked out of the world.The matches kept high up out of reach of little fingers, a small red box with the power to set huge bonfires of cleared wood alight. Us children dancing like demons around the flames under the night sky.
All this in four walls, a door and a single window. Funny how little – and how much – it takes to make a home.
Our humble cabin saw four children grow and ten years pass before it came time to sell the land. Luckily our bohemian neighbours loved the idea of rehoming it in a quiet corner of their property.
Over the next ten years, children turned into teenagers and started making their own pilgrimages to the cabin, friends - and later partners - in tow.
Another ten years and we are all adults now, living busy, separate lives. Largely left to its own devices, the cabin is overshadowed by branches and starting to crumble at the edges, slowly being reclaimed by the land.
But come summer, we still pack up our cars or get on an aeroplane, and meet here together to make more memories.
This is the last trip to the cabin. Our big-hearted host has passed away, and the land has been sold. We finish packing the boxes, piling the cars up high and sweeping the shelves and floor of debris.
Then we bump slowly down the gravel road to the beach, for one final swim. The ocean is flat grey today, melding into a bruised purple horizon as the rain moves in.
But despite the rain, it’s summer, and there’s still a family holiday to be had. This time, we head further north to Whangerei Heads. We’ve booked a Department of Conservation Hut for a few nights, perched above a remote beach accessible only by boat or foot.
My brothers catch fresh fish for dinner. Dad helps them clean it, while I explore the rocky shore. Mum cooks the fish with coconut milk and spices, assisted by my husband. Just as we sit down to eat, my youngest brother arrives with a friend, flushed from the hike in. (We all try to avoid doing the dishes!)
The treetops glow gold in the last light of the day before the sun sinks into the sea. Night is ushered in on a Morepork owl’s wings, mournful calls echoing through the branches.
Our time at the cabin might be over, but its legacy remains. Coming together, family and friends, in the outdoors. Separate and united, the land giving us space as well as connection.
A gift that lives on in each of us, from which we can form new traditions, whatever they might be.
As for the cabin itself, it will make one last journey, finding a final resting place on my aunt’s block in the Coromandel, a home for visiting travellers and family.
Photography by Ben Cirulis