It’s just after 10.30 pm in early May. Our six month drought is finally broken. I’ve just returned from a walk on the beach, warmly dressed, a rain coat fending off the fine mist. After so many dry months it feels positively glorious to have the moisture back, the moisture that is an integral feature of Far North weather.
The tide is low; thick cloud hangs just over the water, suspended by an unseen force. Only a few lights at Whatuwhiwhi (pronounced ‘Faatu Fee Fee’, not the way you may be thinking!) are visible through the mist. The storm of the last few days has seen the surging sea suck up to 40 cm (16 inches) of sand out from the beach, leaving a distinct step I need to safely negotiate in the dark to reach the firm, flat sand below it. Despite the low tide the sea is noisy, growling almost. The surf is bigger than usual, a pale off-white band undulating like a snake caught between the velvety blackness above and the charcoal of the sand below.
Walking is easy and visibility is quite good despite the cloud cover. The moon, waxing gibbous, is only a soft glow over the western horizon. Fine rain caresses my face like cold steam, nature’s moisturizer, cheaper and probably more effective than any over-the-counter replacement. As always a walk on the beach in the dark is a meditative experience, giving space for reflection on the current state of affairs.
Our eldest daughter, Amira, has recently landed her first-ever full time job in Dunedin after just over a year of searching. The hunt for a job has been a challenge for her. It’s not easy for any of us to face repeated rejection. Imagine what it must be like for a nineteen-year-old. Lucia and I have admired her tenacity and her optimism during the search. It’s not an easy time in the employment world with many facing redundancies they’d never anticipated.
We lived in The Netherlands from late 2002 until early 2004, in a town just over an hour north of Amsterdam, not far from Enkhuizen. The girls attended a small primary school within walking distance of our rental home. They each had two teachers, job-sharing. All four of these teachers, two men and two women, were experienced and approaching retirement. Each teacher taught roughly two-and-a-half days a week. Such a setup required skilled communication and empathetic teamwork between the two teachers sharing a class. It worked. The teachers were far less stressed than the full-time ones more commonly seen in schools in the countries we’ve lived in. Less stress equates to greater patience, something a teacher needs when dealing with unruly, uncooperative, or tired and stressed children.
In the last few years New Zealanders have watched with a cupful of nostalgia and a barrelful of grief as two iconic New Zealand brands, Macpac and Fisher and Paykel, have shifted their manufacturing offshore. These are only two in a long series of factory closings around the country. It’s a worldwide trend that has seen a lion’s share of manufacturing shift from the first to the second and third world.
Maybe this is a good thing, an equalizer of East and West, of rich nations and poorer ones. I hope so. In the meantime, I wonder about employment, or lack thereof in this fair land. Maybe in the decade to come we in New Zealand will have the courage to begin sharing jobs. It will likely mean a reduction in income for some. Its compensation: more time, a priceless but sometimes rare commodity in our busy world. It may mean a reduction in purchasing power but think of the benefits:
1 Less stress equates to improved health and lower health care costs.
2 More quality time between parents and their children.
3.More time available to pursue hobbies and passions, leading in some cases to supplemental income.
4. Time to grow more food in home gardens where possible.
5. Happier adults. Happier children. A happier society.
Sounds like a great future to me. Perhaps less money and less stuff; but improved health and real fulfilment.
I turn back towards the boat ramp, my way now lit by the glow of lighting at the San Marino Lodge. The fine mist caresses my face like a lover’s touch. The moon still tries valiantly to burst forth from the dark swirling cloud. Perhaps a new world of sharing of jobs and resources is not far off, ready to burst forth like the moon on this warm, damp autumn night.
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Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.