I’m off back to the states in about 4 days, just after the weekend, so this may be my last post from The Land of the Long White Cloud. It’s a long trip back, about 27 hours in total. For as much as I don’t like the airport or being trapped on a plane for that long, it is absolutely time away from everything else going on in your world. Drama unfolding in your life? Not on that 13 hour flight it isn’t. Just get comfy, put on your headphones, pop a Dramamine, and let it all melt away.
But it’s not yet that day, and I’m still here, presently in New Zealand. Yesterday I woke up, ate some food, and hung out with my roommate Sinead for a while. Sinead, I believe, was brought into my life by the universe. She’s a petite, intuitive person with a beautiful warmth about her. A Kiwi from the far north, a place called Kerikeri, she uses phrases like “crack up” and “daggy.” A sensitive soul, you can find her playing guitar, writing in her journal, making food, or meditating out in the garden. We clicked straight away and have become quite good friends over the last month. I know I’m leaving with the right intentions, but I am definitely going to miss her something serious.
Yesterday, we read on the couch, ate lunch, and on her way to work, she popped her head back in the door and said “Go take a walk.” Pouty at first, not wanting to budge from my cozy reading spot on the couch, I conceded that I probably should get out of the house.
I put on my Docs, threw my water bottle and notebook in my purse, and off I went up the hill. I walked over to a sign that said “Southern Walkway” and a little trail leading up into a flurry of trees. Sinead had told me that it was a walking path that ends at the coast. I didn’t really want to walk all the way to the coast, but a walking path seemed like a good idea.
It’s occurred to me on quite a few occasions that I have never really taken walks alone before. Being raised as a girl, you’re basically told from day one that your entire existence is dangerous. That, at any moment, if left alone, you could be attacked, raped, maimed, murdered. I’ve made an effort in recent years to try to unpack this deeply embedded fear and the paralyzing suspicion that comes along with it. If I can travel to the other end of the earth alone, surely I can take a walk by myself, and live to tell the tale dammit.
Off I went, up into the foliage, and it wasn’t even a few steps in when I looked at this verdant tunnel in front of me. I’ve grown up in San Diego and Phoenix, so basically, either the beach or the desert. It’s not like I’ve never seen trees before, or green places, but the intensity of the green here feels like it actually weighs on you. I looked straight ahead into this little tunnel of trees and leaves and paused to observe, breathe it in, and then carry on.
The path started to taper off, and then I was standing on a residential street. There was a trail marker pointing left, so I decided to follow it down the road. No trail in sight, I continued to walk through the little neighbourhood anyway. I looked at all of the homes, covered in trees and vines, dotted with unusual looking plants that I had never seen before. A hobby of mine is to peer into people’s parked cars and see what’s in them. Just like looking at someone’s bookshelves, it’s a little glimpse into the life of a total stranger. The usual coffee cups, crumbs, crumpled receipts, and all of the other kind of rubbish you leave in your car are spotted, but sometimes there are other things: work boots, bike helmets, jewellery, etc, that give you a bird’s eye view into another human’s life. I looked around at the houses, many quite old, but all so bursting with life, with kid’s toys and colourful wind chimes strewn all over. Walking past their ivy-covered gates and fences, I was overcome with an urge to knock on their doors and say hello. I was filled with a strange sense of longing, quite like what I used to feel as a kid when I dreamed of living in Europe. Of this truly Beautiful place, where you could look around and realise you were standing in the middle of something really fantastic. I wondered if the people in these homes ever thought about that.
I found another trail marker, and off I went up a hill. The path was confusing, as it went through a paved switchback that led to different homes on a hill. Again, I stopped halfway up and looked out, seeing part of the city from above. Partially shaded by trees, I could still feel the warm winter sun caressing me.
When I got to the top of the hill, I was met by a small forest of pine trees, though they were tall and thin with bushy tops, unlike any pine tree I’d seen before. There were a few different directions to follow, but I took a small path and found myself surrounded by dark green leaves dripping from the last rain. One of the things I love most about being in the outdoors is the silence. Maybe you’ll hear a bird or two, perhaps the sound of a cricket, but mostly it is just the air, the leaves leaning on each other, and the sound of your own feet. Again, I’m reminded of the unnecessary fear bred into women from a young age. If you listened to what everyone in your life told you about how dangerous it is for women to be anywhere alone, you’d be missing out on moments like these. Standing in the forest, with literally only you around, and nothing to fear at all.
On my way back, I stopped at the top of the hill to overlook this part of the city. From up there, I could hear the sound of kids playing down below, and the occasional sound of construction work. It was a blue, absolutely cloudless day. There was a firm breeze, which lifted the sounds from below and carried them off elsewhere. Looking down at the city really makes you realise that life is happening all around you, and it doesn’t stop, not even for a moment. I started to cry a little at that thought. For a second I was missing Chris, but more than that, I was feeling strangely at peace with it all. Very grateful. Very grateful to be alive, to be in this place. Grateful for New Zealand.
I’m a bit sad to be leaving, I’ll be honest, but I know I’m making the right choice for this moment in my life. I’m happy I can appreciate the moment, because I will never have it again. That’s a bittersweet reality, but I think it makes stopping to appreciate these moments, and that you’re even having them to begin with, something really special. I’m pretty nostalgic, so I may look back with a sense of longing, but as long as I’m moving forward, I can’t be sad for too much.
Had I not done this trip, I’m not sure I’d be in this headspace now. Reaching out for help, taking steps towards the future, a future that I want to be in rather than fear, I’m not sure that would have happened had I not come here. So even though it wasn’t a full year, and things didn’t go “as planned,” it’s still had the intended effect. For that, New Zealand will always have a special place in my heart. I’d like to come back, very much.
And ultimately, I’ll always be a bit of a tramp, in my way. A tramp who likes nice things, who asks instead of begs, who enjoys her skincare and pampering, but a tramp all the same. I may find myself back here down the road. Life does a lot of funny things, so I can only wait and see what the universe has in store for me.
Ka kite anō