I can’t see too far outside today.
Beyond my rain-laced window a semi-circular bay smiles as a golden sandy arm embraces it. Flat calm duck-egg sea. A still sky a few blue tones lighter. And framed in gentle slopes of soft-shaped rocks and green islands.
I need to be still. To travel inside where waves of emotion are surging and crashing. I don’t know why. Why, suddenly, are tears burning my eyelids?
I am tired I know. Over-awed by so many landscapes in such short distance.
I gaze in wide-eyed bliss at gentle tissue-paper rain-haze, at peaceful sea undisturbed. I can’t see too far outside today.
Yesterday we travelled far.
From Hokitika on the wild, wet, west coast through failed gold towns, old coal mines and up beside the fierce ocean edge of South Island into sunshine, blue sky, and new rock. Leaving fault-line gorges, pounded black volcanic beaches, grey stones and pounama – greenstone jade – for sandstone and limestone. For warm tones, blowholes and pancake stacked rocks that give in to the sea’s carving, and let it shape. Swell crashes and shatters, roars, hisses, roams rocks, claws clefts. Pummels, punches, grinds. And this without a wind to urge.
Softer outlines now as we turned inland. Familiar shapes, wide river valleys, clear shallow water, lichen and river weed as rain forest thins and the last palms bless us. Hills rounded now, no sharp angles or volcanic triangles. Old sea beds forced to surface as strata, hillsides quaked into rubble. Rivers unscarred by glacial chaos.
This morning we drove down a broadening pastoral valley, moving through sheep and cattle to orchards, vines and veg plots. Then into raspberry and blueberry canes, kiwi and hop vines, nectarines, peaches, plums, lemon trees signing ripeness in citrine gems. Small farms, smaller fields. No logging. A town and through, a coastal wiggle and here we are. In gentle land.
As we park by the sea John exclaims, ‘Look. No waves. Not one wave. No breakers. It’s just so still.’
And I am overwhelmed. I had not thought the violence of the landscape in the last few weeks had so affected me.
Snarling breakers, rock chewing, tree-limb spewing, ship-wrecking, rip-tiding, silt-shifting.
Constant cloudburst, raindrops beating, drumming, drenching, flooding, hill slicing, boulder shoving, cascade-scissoring.
The land itself, plate grinding, heat venting, strata skewing, lava lumping, shivering, shaking, shattering, quaking. Unbalanced and unbalancing.
Now I sit here, level. Withstanding nothing.
Is my response to landscape so strong? Or is it baggage travelling with me that rattles?
I have felt over awed, yes. Yet, I have felt. Down to my own molten core.
This land has challenged me to regain fitness and balance. A six mile hike in hot sun and cooled air through the Hooker Valley towards Mt Cook Aoraki. Watching a glacier calving in sacrifice at Aoraki – Cloud Piercer’s base. Six weeks ago I could not have done that. Four months ago I couldn’t balance to walk. Concussion. In German, ‘Gehirnerschuetterung’, brain shattering.
Hot, soft, lava brain. Cold, hard, rocky skull.
Perhaps that’s why my strong response here. A landscape of concussion is what I see in South Island. A landscape of shaking, shattering, shuddering, tremors, surges, falls, slips, crashes. Land out of balance. A land of creation and erasure.
Perhaps that’s why the level grey haze of sky and the calm, duck-egg sheet of sea, the embracing, gentle arm of golden sand stir me.
A new flag from nature, striped with three balanced even bands – it marks my pilgrimage through unstable land and mind.
I can’t see too far outside today. And inside? Inside I see a long, bright future clearly…