Life’s a beech

Beech forest, Lewis Pass

New Zealand’s beech forests have a smell all their own – a damp earthy aroma that is like inhaling the very essence of life.

Soft and spongy underfoot, the forest floor adds a spring to steps that fall almost soundlessly on leaf litter and muffling moss.



You can walk swiftly, quietly, treading over tree roots through the play of light and shade;


past streams trickling their music over stone and stump; around trunks like sculptures swathed in veils of rich green;

and rocks softened by dense falls of verdant growth.

Sound, like light, is muted into an expectant stillness. In it, you can hear the trees breathing, follow motes of sunlight dancing their bright rays across a thousand shades of green.


Stop, and the detail leaps into engaging focus.

The white steps of fungi jutting from tree trunks, drifting ribbons of lichen, water pooling in a pink-edged mushroom plate;  bulbous heads of brown, grey or purple sprouting like magic from the shaded earth.



And when you stop, the robins come.

Inquisitive, apparently fearless, heads cocked, sharp eyes watching – they flit between nearby trees, hopping closer, darting away, fluttering in to peck at a shoelace, even landing briefly on shoulder or leg.

Received wisdom is that they’re primarily after the insect life that humans disturb – but it feels like friendly curiosity. I’ve watched as they tap swiftly against a water bottle, investigate a walking stick, pick at someone’s shoe.

I’ve also seen them peck persistently at ground recently trampled to haul out a wriggling worm so long that eating it looks like an impossible feat. But picked, pecked, sliced into smaller pieces, it all goes down.

You’d think all this closeness would make them easy to photograph – but they’re often inside the parameters of focus my telephoto can manage and move so quickly that they outpace the shutter fall.

I love watching their cheeky antics.

They are a sweet engaging counterpoint to the eternal stillness. Like laughter in a cathedral. Chubby-chested fairies in a fey land.

About vjayne

I'm a writer / photographer usually based on Waiheke Island in New Zealand but currently traveling the country in "snail" - my mobile home and office. Along the way, I'm telling stories about the places I see or people I meet and building up a beautiful library of photos - of New Zealand's coastline and mountains, its walking tracks and wildlife. I'm happy to supply illustrated stories to New Zealand and offshore publications. My work background includes editing business and lifestyle magazines, crafting features on topics ranging from management and marketing to frogs and fashion, creating organisational narratives and promotional literature. Please visit my website for more information.
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1 Response to Life’s a beech

  1. Rachael says:

    Stunning photos, sounds like a wonderful adventure. Happy and safe travels.

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