You can’t let life in in half measures, so I am discovering. Where change is concerned, open the door a crack and the flood tide will rush in. It can stir up the deep waters of the past, and the debris clinging barnacle-like to the bottom of your psyche.
I’ve been in New Zealand nineteen days now. This is the fourth time I’ve hopped across the Tasman. My second and third visits I spent going on long walks (‘tramping’ in kiwi) – the Queen Charlotte Track in 2014, and the Routeburn and the Abel Tasman tracks last December. My first steps in this country though were in Christchurch, in 2012. I’m back in Christchurch now and it’s great being close to both the mountains and the sea. I’m falling in love with this city, whose graceful lines and beautiful gardens are still evident beneath the scaffolding and the traffic cones, and the potholed roads that were ripped apart in the earthquakes.
Living a new place, my sensory impressions become sharper. Turning a corner, I’m surprised by a glimpse of mountains in the distance, capped with new snow like freshly iced buns. Without sunglasses, my eyes squint through the low winter sunlight. The sky is a different shade; cooler than Melbourne’s fine-weather blue. A moment ago, before stepping into a cafe for a coffee (with cinnamon on top, not chocolate – a kiwi special), a few flakes of snow landed on my sleeve. The sensation was as gentle as the touch of a special dog – my new friend Millie, a gorgeously scruffy canine – nosing my arm.
There’s so much to learn, so much of interest. But the simplest things can be challenging too. Where do I get the bus into town and how much change do I need? Why isn’t my new bankcard working? And will the way I pronounce ‘six’ (ocker Aussie-style) sound hilarious to locals?
Then there are the bigger questions. What work should I apply for? Will I fit in here? What rugby team should I support? Which way is north?
I am staying in a house in New Brighton through Airbnb, with the lovely Simon and Sarah, two laid-back people who have made me feel at home in their home, offering me a taste of their vegan parmesan cheese (not as disgusting as it sounds) at dinner time, and free use of Simon’s beautiful old writing desk when I want it. The desk is an antique that belonged to Simon’s father, who wrote twelve novels at it. ‘It’s got good writing vibes,’ Simon tells me.
A quote from the Dalai Lama on the back of the bathroom door reminds me that kindness is always possible. Another says to embrace the imperfections of the ones we love.
I’ve met someone who loves in whole, not half, measures. Kindness is in the bedrock of his nature, as is a wicked sense of humour. He’s helping me to settle in here; I’m no longer in it alone. A local Canterbury lad, he’s shown me the routes round the city and has helped me decipher the game of rugby (not an easy task!)
Having a friend and a partner in this crazy adventure is amazing, and I’ve found myself doing things that I never thought I’d have the courage to do. I’ve gathered up the confidence to drive again, and I’ve even gotten behind the wheel of a van. Turns out that’s not so tricky after all; it’s actually great to be able to see the road from up high. (‘That’s because you’re short,’ my partner’s father told me. Apparently being teased here means you’re liked and accepted. Or so I’m assured!! ). I’ve had a go at golf too, and it turns out that I’m good at putting. Must be all those childhood mini-golf lessons with my own lovely Dad and my sister, Alexis.
Last Friday evening I ran along New Brighton beach as the tide rushed in. I had the beach to myself apart from a lone brave surfer. The clouds gathered behind me in a threatening grey horseshoe shape reminiscent of the Nothing in The Neverending Story. I looked forward, concentrating on the feeling of sand under my soles and watching the pearlescent sheen on water. I was reminded of why I’d wanted to come here in the first place: the amazing nature, the open spaces, and the trust I felt that everything would be okay. By the time I’d turned around to run back, the clouds had dispersed and the weather blown out over the sea.
‘Being okay’ is a fine goal to have, I’ve realised; but it is only the start. The time’s come to open myself up to the possibility of more.
I’m dedicating this to my Canterbury man :-). It’s a joy and a blast getting to know you, more and more every day.