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My home is green and gold

Rural idyll, Far North New Zealand

Whenever I’m home I am fundamentally different from the way I am in my other home in Brisbane. I feel it as soon as I get off the plane and walk through the tomokanga (carved gateway) at the international terminal. Dammit, that thing makes me cry a little every single time. If I go through Customs and the agent happens to say “welcome home” (which they do, most of the time) then dammit if I don’t cry just a little more.

Being with our family and friends accounts for much of the feeling of home – that goes without saying – but it’s also, very strongly, the landscape. The differences have become quite stark. New Zealand is green and damp in a way that Australia isn’t. Australia has its own stunning natural beauty, but it’s drier here, the vegetation is more sparse and the green is simply a different kind of green.

The light is different too. Queensland is blue skies and sun and vibrant, tropical colours. In New Zealand the light is softer, the colours more muted and earthy. I wore black all the time when I lived in New Zealand but here in Brisbane, I wear dresses in every colour of the rainbow. Even my hair is dyed a brighter shade of red.

Whenever I’m home I have to drink up the landscapes, bottle the smell of the night, and try to capture something essential to take away. These photos are of green and gold, the colours of New Zealand in autumn. The landscape photos were taken within metres of my parents home in the Far North. I grew up with these views every single day, but to be honest, I had to leave in order to see them for what they are. The other photos were taken in my sister’s leafy suburban garden in Auckland on a rainy Saturday afternoon – the kind of afternoon you get sick of after months of winter dampness, which we instead experienced nostalgically.

Of course, green and gold are also the national colours of Australia, so the title of this post has a double meaning: I love the life that I’ve built here, but New Zealand still holds my heart with a tight, tight squeeze.

Autumn leaves in the late afternoon, Far North New Zealand

Green and damp, Auckland New Zealand

Misty morning, rural Far North New Zealand

Morning with gold and mist 2, Far North New Zealand

Rising sun, Far North New Zealand

Kitchen windowsill and with green view

Morning with gold and mist, Far North, New Zealand

Green ferns, New Zealand

Urban herb garden in Auckland, New Zealand


  1. New Zealand is not where I grew up but I know exactly what you mean when each time you arrive at the airport, experience the light and the dampness. New Zealand has had a firm grip since 2004. Over the years I split my life between Leigh and London. Leigh was home, London was work. I tried to relocate to New Zealand three times. I can now say I live in New Zealand and visit London:)
    Interested in your double life. I grew up in Greece so it’s strange how New Zealand feels more of a spiritual home than Greece. What’s that all about?:)

    • That is interesting, that you feel more at home in another place. But then again, home has so much to do with how you see yourself, the people and the experiences you have in a place…NZ must have been like a formative experience in some way! Such lovely, complex stuff, thanks for commenting 😊

  2. Pingback: The year that was: 2015 | Chez Moi

  3. Urlys

    I couldn’t have said it better Chez! Llove it and miss it, thank you!

  4. Lovely sentiments and beautiful pics. I wish I felt that intimate and comforted by my homeland, but I come from the US, originally, and it is not a warm and comforting place. I’m afraid I don’t feel that way about Australia, either, although we have been here (off and on) for eight years. There are too many characteristics of Australians that remind me of things I don’t like about Americans. But we are in Melbourne, a city that seems to think it is the centre of the Universe. Thanks for this post and for your comments on mine.

    Watch those sunspots….one of the risks of using zoom lenses.

    • I knew it, NZ is the best place in the world! No, seriously, I’m sorry that you don’t feel the same about your homeland or adopted home. NZ is kind of like an anchor for me and I can’t imagine being without that (although I would find it in other ways I’m sure, as I expect that you do). And the sunspots – I know it’s technically incorrect, but I actually love the sunspots and consciously try to catch them!

  5. Oh yes. I feel exactly the same way about going home to New Zealand. I feel different there. Like the “real me”, as if I don’t have to explain myself to anyone, they just instinctively understand me and who I am (even strangers). There’s such a feeling of belonging. Maybe every expatriate feels like that about their native land…? Thanks for the glimpses of home for me too.

    • That’s so true about strangers – and people are rarely strangers for long in NZ. Whether it’s a bank teller or a busker in the street, they not only instantly get you but they’re your old mate 2 minutes later! This must be at least partly true for other expats but I can’t help feeling like this casual mateship is particularly kiwi. I like to think so, anyway!

      • You’ve so beautifully captured also my sentiments about NZ, both in the post (the airport scenario is a perfect example!) and the comments above. I consider myself very lucky that I feel so incredibly welcome here. It no doubt contributes to my strong sense of belonging even though my country of origin is on the other side of the world. Being brutally (perhaps even rudely) honest, I can’t say I ever felt anything like it in my few years in Australia.
        Subtle and not-so-subtle differences, eh?!

      • I meet so many New Zealanders here who say that they will never go back – they’ve either been here long enough to really put down roots, or their extended family is here as well, or they were originally escaping from something back home – some bad memories. I totally get that. We came here with a no strings attitude of staying for a while and enjoying the ride, so maybe that colours my experiences. It’s complicated!!

  6. Gorgeous photographs Chez! I love the soft light and yet the greens are still sharp. New Zealand is definitely on my list for a visit. Life finds us in many homes, doesn’t it?

    • It sure does…I spent several years researching homelessness so I am very aware that my experience of home (even as multiple homes) is privileged. I had a happy childhood therefore my childhood home will always be beautiful to me! It’s not always the case, sadly.

  7. Ella Clement

    Love this one Chez. Really got me thinking. Very inspirational writing xoxoxoo Ella

      • We’re in the Haute Savoie, near Lake Geneva. Neatly sandwiched between the Alps and the Jura mountains. So probably not all that surprising, and also explains why we feel attracted to visit your lovely land!

      • I had to google Haute Savoie and wow, it is stunning! We don’t have mountains in the far north of New Zealand, but further south we do. I’ve actually only seen snow once in my life in the south island of NZ! I hope I get a chance to visit the Haute Savoie one day.

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