I can’t see too far outside today.
Beyond my rain-lace window a bay smiles as a golden sandy arm embraces it, sea calm as a blue egg. A still sky shimmers a few blue tones lighter. And all framed in slopes of soft-shaped rocks and green islands.
It is quiet. It is tranquil. Now, I need to be still. To travel inside where waves of emotion surge and crash. 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 time.
I gaze in bliss at tissue-paper rain-haze, at peaceful sea undisturbed. Today, I can’t see too far outside.
Yesterday, we travelled far.
From Hokitika on the wild, stormy-wet, west coast through failed gold towns, old coal mines, up and up along 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 pancaked rocks giving in to sea’s carving. Swell crashes and shatters, roars, hisses, roams rocks, claws clefts. Pummels, punches, grinds. And this without a wind to urge.
Now as we turn inland, softer outlines, familiar shapes. Wide river valleys, clear shallow water, lichen and river weed as rain forest thins and the last palms bless us. Rounded hills, no sharp angles or volcanic triangles. No old sea beds forced to surface as strata, hillsides quaked to rubble. Rivers unscarred by glacial chaos.
And this morning, driving down a broadening pastoral valley, through sheep and cattle to orchards, vines and veg plots, into raspberry and blueberry canes, kiwi and hop vines, nectarines, peaches, plums, with 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 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.
I sit here, now, 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 calve in sacrifice at Aoraki-Cloud Piercer’s base. Six weeks ago I couldn’t have done that. Four months ago I couldn’t balance to walk. Concussion. In German, it’s ‘Gehirnerschuetterung’, brain shattering.
Hot, soft, lava brain. Cold, hard, rocky skull.
Perhaps that’s why my strong response. 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 duck-egg sheet of sea, the gentle arm of golden sand stir me.
A new flag from nature, striped with three balanced even bands, marking my pilgrimage through unstable mind and land.
I can’t see too far outside today. And inside? I see a long, bright future clearly…