“Good at doing something is not the same
as doing something good.”
When it comes to playing coinage, Tahara is the best there is, amongst her friends in her home town of Orewa that is, as she's never been anywhere else except up north with her family on summer holidays when she was too young to party.
The purpose of the game is to bounce a coin on the table into a glass full of beer. If you do you get to choose who has to drink the beer. If it misses, you have to drink but Tahara rarely misses.
Ever since she saw her older brother playing coinage with his friends a few years back, whenever she was alone and bored in her room she would play with an old fifty cent coin she found down the back of an old couch that was under the house when she was a kid.
She practised for no real reason other than it was something to do when she was thinking things through and she liked to be good at whatever she does.
Tahara doesn't feel like partying tonight, however there's reason to celebrate, it's Aroha's 21st birthday. Tahara, Brian, Hemi, Tane and Aroha are at Hemi's place having a few of his home brews before going out and hitting the town. Hemi is really proud of his home brew. He's only new to brewing and reckons this one, a dark ale is his best yet. Tahara thinks that might be true but that doesn't mean it's any good. She's glad she's good at playing coinage.
Tahara really wants to have a good night out, for her friend Aroha and also for herself because she hasn't gone out in ages, not for more than six months and 'Time Out' are playing and tomorrow is a day off work, so there's no excuses she tells herself.
'Anyone for more beer?' said Hemi.
'No, it's almost nine and 'Time Out' start at ten, we really should get going,' said Aroha.
They all finish their drinks in a single gulp and head out the back door. It's a warm night so there's no need to take a coat or anything else with them as money and ID haven't been in use for almost one hundred years. Everything is free and being a small town everyone knows who's old enough to drink alcohol.
They grab their bikes and walk the ten metres or so to the cycleway. Fortunately their bikes clip on to the cycleway's rail so it won't matter if they're a bit too tipsy on the way home.
'Time Out' are awesome. They're from Waiwera, a town a few k's up the coast. They're so good they're in demand to play every weekend in all the towns around the region, so Tahara and her friends only get to see them play here a few times a year.
People are free to do what is best for them. This has led to a dramatic increase in the number of people who excel in the arts. Everything now is a work of art. Every town has world class fashion designers and architects and even the village food crops are designed to please the senses.
'Time Out' are a world class band but will never be famous, as every town has world class bands so standing out internationally just isn't going to happen. That doesn't mean they're not in demand, because entertainment and enjoyment is a right for everyone.
Tahara and Aroha love to dance and head straight for the dance floor. The club is busy with about one hundred and fifty young adults. It's busy every night of the week, except the crowd is different.
Tomorrow night there's a band that plays music for older people, and the night after is for really old people with hits from the '60's.
“Mistakes are only deadly
when we're doing what we shouldn't be.”
Six months earlier, Tahara went to pick up her younger brother from his friend's place. When she got there her brother and his friend were missing.
'They should be at your place by now,' said Sonya, her brother's friend's mother. 'They said they were going to the beach swimming and then to your place. Maybe they're still at the beach.'
Tahara can see the worry on Sonya's face. It's getting late and it's difficult to navigate through the mangroves once it gets dark.
'I'll go find them,' said Tahara as she rushes off.
She runs along the path that winds its way through the orchards and crops that feed and clothe her village, then into the forest that is a buffer zone that protects the village from coastal erosion and storms that pound the coast.
By the time she's running down the narrow path through the mangroves the sun is low on the horizon. She finds them walking along Orewa beach heading for the mangroves. Tahara's brother rushes up to her to tell her of their adventure.
'We got trapped by the tide,' he said. 'And I had to swim the little kids one at a time across the mouths of the caves. They were really scared, but I wasn't. The waves were pretty big, too big for the little kids, but not for me, even swimming with them in the rescue stroke. We were on our way back from Red Beach when we got trapped, we were already past halfway or we would have gone back, we had to walk on the rocks and climb the cliffs too.'
'That's OK, we better get a move on.' said Tahara just as the sun is starting to set.
Getting caught by the tide is a harmless enough mistake to make as the coast here is sheltered and relatively safe. All the children from her village, being on the coast, are good swimmers.
Tahara's brother and his friends are nine years old. One of his friends had to bring his little brother and two of his mates with them who are only five. The older boys are fine but the young ones are very tired.
Tahara knows it's dangerous to go through the mangroves after dark but the alternative is to follow the beach all the way to the end and then inland before turning back home. A two hour walk or ten minutes through the mangroves. She chooses to go through the mangroves, a mistake that would change her forever.
Most of what are mangroves today used to be reclaimed land. The old storm-water drains are now under water and have collapsed in parts. It was a collapsed section that one of the five year olds fell in that night.
Tahara dove in to save him but he was gone into the drain where the water, due to heavy rain the day before, flows faster than on the surface. She knew right away that he was gone and couldn't be saved. She gathered the children and rushed to the nearest house to raise the alarm.
Every town has a rapid response unit, responsible for search and rescue, putting out fires and civil defence. In Orewa it is also the local Rugby teams. Tahara waited for them while the other kids were taken home. They searched all night without success.
The next day after a complete search of the coast, they were sure he must still be in the drain. It would be another four days before they were able to retrieve his body. It was too dangerous to send in divers. They had to smash the drains in from the surface.
“This past of ours had to be tough,
to think where we came from.”
Trillions of years ago, well nobody really knows, we were particles of light or bits of dark matter or blasted out of a black hole in a big bang. Whatever we were, we were different from today and one thing for sure, we've come a long way.
Billions of years ago, well nobody really knows, we were blasted out of a supernova or dust and gas and ice hurtling through space. Whatever we were, we were different from today and one thing for sure, we've come a long way.
Millions of years ago, well nobody really knows, we were single cell organisms swimming in seas or rivers or streams or we were flying through the air or crawling on our bellies or leaping from tree to tree. We were different from today and one thing for sure, we've come a long way.
Thousands of years ago we were living in caves for protection from being eaten and hunting and gathering. We were different from today, we've come a long way.
Hundreds of years ago we were fighting in wars and it was dangerous to travel. Some people were slaves that were treated like cowboys treat cattle. We were different from today, we've come a long way.
To think where we came from, it's amazing we came together to live in villages and towns and cities and nations and empires.
To think where we came from, it's amazing the world came together to solve the problems of competition, pollution and centralisation that couldn't be solved by competing nations.
To think where we came from, we can only imagine what we will become in hundreds and thousands and millions and billions and trillions of years to come.
The danger of the drains was known to everyone, no one blamed Tahara. The whole village felt responsible. Teams of people came out to help in breaking up the drains. This is a big job and dangerous, which is the excuse that was used to have not done it already.
Every precaution was taken to make sure no lives were put at risk. Right from the start, safety first was the motto. This kind of thinking comes naturally as there are no financial or time restraints.
It's possible that the people of the village had grown complacent as the last so called accidental death had been many years ago. Death is now a reason to celebrate a life well lived. It's always a big party the whole village participates in. Not this death however. The people of the village didn't know what to do, and how to behave towards the boy's family. It was a sad time for everyone. No one blamed Tahara except for Tahara herself.
Dying before your time is very rare and the death of a child rarer still. Sickness is rarely fatal and diseases caused by poor living standards are unheard of, and as there are no wars or cars or dangerous industries, almost everyone lives until old age takes them.
Living dangerously is no longer seen as necessary. All the mountains have been climbed and all the oceans crossed. That doesn't mean people have gone soft. Health and exercise is a big part of daily life, people are in better shape now than ever before.
The biggest change to health came from eradicating stress from the environment. Equality enabled change to happen but it was the hard work securing the future that actually changed who we are right down to our genes. Living in a pollution free, stress free environment has after just a few generations started to mend genetic disease.