While visiting dear old friends in Nelson, I bummed my mate’s car and took a drive to The Jester House Cafe near Mapua where they have countless tame longfins in their creek and let visitors feed them by hand (with the help of wooden coffee stir-sticks). I spent hours with these eels who were so eager to visit (well, feed) that they were snaking themselves out of the water and crossing over a meter of dry rocks to meet me at my toes.
As I tried to get pictures of their heads many of them would actually rise up cobra-like to check out the shiny lens of my camera! It was such a treat.
I met and talked eely talk with several other visitors including Becky and Dale. Becky is intent on pursuing work in which she can be an active environmental steward and Dale was brave enough to let an eel bite HIM before me. Yes, I did it! No, I still have all my fingers and even skin. The eel seemed to know I was not food and spit me out. Dale got a small scrape, perhaps due to pulling his finger out a bit soon.
I explained to the Jester House owners, Judy and Steve Richards, that they have longfins, rather than short fins as they thought. The simplest way to tell the difference is by the longfin’s beautiful dark WRINKLES where they bend.
Judy and Steve already had copies of the petition to ban commercial longfin fishing for guests to sign out on the table, and are excited to join in on the tapestry with one or more sections. They have a celebration at the Jester House every September to welcome back the eels after a winter of stillness and hiding, and plan to make the tapestry a big part of the festival this year with the sewn-together tapestry there for display…. perhaps so long it will have to snake (or “eel”) itself around their lush, organic grounds. Be sure to give these eel-loving and healthy-food-providing people a visit: http://jesterhouse.co.nz/cafe.html
Finally, it was quite a time of reflection for the Eel Woman in Nelson: the place where I first began to pursue my spiritual calling (OK… sounds hokey… but that’s what it felt like) to help the eels and freshwater and get myself on a path of working FOR the environment and trying to make some difference in something I believe in. My thoughts were brought back to my fearful-but-trying-to-leap state of mind when last in Nelson working on the eel book almost two years ago now. My friend Jimmy has proved to be such a true friend. He’s stuck by me even when he’s seen me mess up, and has not been afraid to get me to ask myself some tough questions in order to prompt real and beautiful change.
I also had another friend to visit who has since gone through a tough divorce (are there any other types of divorce, really?) and has just found herself in a new, sweet little apartment by the river in Nelson. As we discussed all our mutual uncertainties, we went out onto her back porch to peek at the ducks in the creek and found, to our great joy, longfin eels living right under her window! We sipped wine and laughed together as we cracked half a dozen eggs and them lobbed them into the water for the eels! It felt so good to see her smile……… and share in the wild way she has suddenly found herself to be an eel kaitiaki (caretaker)! Here’s part of an e-mail she shared with all her local friends later that evening:
“I realize that there are a lot of things/people/animals to help save and donate to, but this is will benefit more than just the eels in the NZ rivers; it will have a huge impact on all the other animals that live in and off the rivers… including humans. Did you know that the larger of the longfin eels is usually a female, which are the ones that people want to catch to eat… which means that there are mostly only males left… which means they turn gay… !! no it means no more eels! They are essential to the ecosystem of the rivers!I’ve just spent 10 minutes feeding the 8 or more resident eels in the river by my flat and it was such a thrill to see them – feel free to come and share with me…they don’t bite 😉 “