Summer has arrived in November. I’ve just been down to the beach for a dip. Families are clustered in little groups under pohutukawa trees laden with buds. The water is February warm, refreshing now, not bracing as it was just two weeks ago. I return with handfuls of kelp for the garden.

I’m sitting outside, tearing up with gratitude for the privilege of being alive, here in this place, engulfed in a symphony of birdsong—tui, blackbirds, fantails, the chitter of sparrows, the screech of the neighbours’ parakeets. Papa quail stands guard on a sawn-off stump below me, his mate and their brood of ten of the tiniest, cutest chicks scratching in the grass for food. Butterflies floatingly cavort, gulls race determinedly by, in search of I know not what.

Australian Frangipani Hymenosporum flavum

Australian Frangipani Hymenosporum flavum

The sea is calm, rhythmically and soothingly audible. Waves break on distant Fairway Reef, white plumes shooting skyward. The Karikari Peninsula frames the bay in slim silhouette.

Petals of Australian Frangipani float down onto the table on which I write, by hand, by the way. As much as the computer is a necessary tool, I cherish this opportunity to write by hand, caressed by the melodies and balmy breezes of nature.

One of the joys of working in a library are the numerous fleeting, yet often meaningful interactions with the public. The other day the principal of a small rural Far North school sought me out to report that his nine-year-old son had tested in the top 4% nationally for reading in his age group. The proud father felt that a significant contribution to the success of his son was the many trips the family made to the public library. So, with school holidays rapidly approaching, why not make regular forays to the library with your young whanau for stashes of books. Reading is like every other skill. Practice makes perfect.

untitledI have before me a beautiful little book titled Tui: a nest in the bush. Photographer Meg Lipscombe has managed to chronicle the 37-day development of a pair of tui from eggs to fledglings. It’s a life-affirming glimpse into the lives of one of our favourite feathered friends.

I’d like to close with a few words based on another recent conversation in the library. A couple spoke of a new rule at a school in London. Students now must take at least a twenty minute break in every four hour period and they must go outside. I find it amazing we even need such a rule. But it would seem our youth are so hooked on technology that we need to legislate them back to the natural world. And this school borders beautiful Hyde Park. When I mentioned this to a tramping friend they suggested a third rule: Students must leave your electronic devices indoors. What do you think?

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See