'Ao' is a word that means many things – it can be the cloud which resides in the name 'Aotearoa', or it can mean 'mist'; it can mean 'earth', or this whole world, and it can mean 'dawn', or 'shining'. Even the name 'Aotearoa' has been translated in many ways: 'land of abiding day'; 'long daylight'; 'long white world'; 'continuously clear light'.
Our southern sun does seem somehow starker, sharper, than should be, so midday's light is a welter of oversaturated brightness battling the omnipresent, stark, dark shadow. When the overbright noonlight shines the strongest, the vivid shadows turn the scene blacker and stranger than broad daylight should be. And then again, when this incandescent sun is sinking and failing in softening airs, and the shadows swell in size and plentitude, the sunlight seems to inhabit the very air; so, the midday battle of shade and shine sublimates into a glowing gloaming, where true stark darkness seems not to exist at all.
'Ao', a word that could mean all that is so true of this land of the long white cloud, land of the mists and brightness, land of rain and rainbows, land of sun and stars; this shining land.