mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Sport 28: Autumn 2002

A Piece of Middle Earth

A Piece of Middle Earth

Having made our way into the cinema, we found small black cardboard boxes awaiting us on our seats. Printed in black lettering on the black boxes was the inscription ‘A Piece of Middle Earth’. Inside was a chunk of stone extracted from the Southern Alps (which, for the purposes of the film project, had been redesignated ‘Middle Earth’). A small booklet accompanying the stone clarified its precise point of origin in a Meridean Energy tunnel some where between Lake Manapouri and Doubtful Sound: This piece of gneiss rock is one of the oldest in New Zealand. Originally part of the sea floor sediment, it was metamorphosed into rock by great temperature and pressure during the Paleozoic Age 300 to 400 million years ago, long before dinosaurs roamed on the earth. Over the ages, through the process that formed the Southern Alps, the rock was uplifted towards the surface of the land. I have written elsewhere about a piece of rock which already sits on my writing desk, sometimes holding down pieces of paper, at other times obscured for long periods by those same sheets of paper. A few years ago Bill Manhire excavated a few such stones from the Matukituki Valley and bestowed them upon friends. This reddish grey stone soon page 98 became known about our household as the James K. Baxter Memorial Paperweight on account of Baxter's ‘Poem in the Matukituki Valley’ (1949), with its very Tolkien-esque exhortation to go beyond ‘the human daydream’, reaching for gothic heights:

the altar cloth of snow
On deathly summits laid; or avalanche
That shakes the rough moraine with giant laughter…

Just as, on the night in question, James K. Baxter and J.R.R. Tolkien shared the honours in the town of Wellington, amidst great revelry, celebration and the kind of atrocious weather which, in traditional Maori lore, is an omen of great things to come, I decided at once that my newly acquired piece of Middle Earth would soon be installed on my desktop beside the Baxter-stone.