Of Smoothies and Sisterhood


Rich beyond my wildest dreams. That’s the best way I can think of to describe my life in Russell. When people asked me why I was moving there, the best I could say was, “Because the water is magnetic blue, and because……avocados.” There was a feeling, that was all I knew. I haven’t been worried about what that means. I’m finally learning, at least for now, to let my heart guide me. Perhaps even more than that, my gut. My gut likes oranges and avocados. My heart likes writing by the sea and kayaking to islands in the morning before work. I found more than I was looking for in Russell. I found a kind of love that grows on trees and is everywhere you look.


My job at the Omata Vineyard was enriching. I got to be with plants, to learn and grow in a way that was an absolute honour. The crew I worked with was beautiful. Therefor, we got close quickly, as we often do around good wine. I felt like I fit in, which is something I don’t generally feel in restaurant jobs. I attribute that one to the local loud plant life and beautiful ocean around us. It made us all want to be healthy more than most things. Our greeting chats in the morning were centered around topics of the ingredients in our smoothies and the bread we made. I had never kneaded dough before, but it felt like I’d always been doing it. For much of that, I give credit to a very special teacher, Reiko.


Reiko and I lived together, worked together, and still came home excited to cook meals or perhaps more, to share them. I knew we were on a similar journey in my first ten minutes with her. Co-workers called us “Team Pizza” for the first week of work, but then naturally began to call us the “Pizza Sisters” soon after. She helped me find quality. She helped me hone peace. She protected me from the fire. She really did feel like a sister. Surface level, we traded smoothies for bread. Underneath the obvious, we traded wisdom for compassion. Self reflection found a safe place to be seen. I have gratitude like rain for Reiko


Our other roommate made life even more beautiful. His gifts as a Swiss-Italian were that of generosity, passion, and a table full of beautiful food, shared often with travelers. The first time I sat down to family dinner in that house there was a couple from France, a woman from Oregon, a man from Germany, a woman and her son from Bay of Islands, then the three of us, Japanese, American, and Swiss/Italian. It was a beautiful blend of learning about the differences in our cultures, but finding ourselves to be quite the same in many ways. The hodgepodge of us, sharing wine and stories and feeling at home.

My last weekend in that house was the first time the three of us cooked together. At the climax of our concocting, Reiko was stirring two pots at once over the stove top while I chopped and blended and added ingredients around her and Chris threw seasonings into the Roux with the air of a fairy tale creature sprinkling magic dust. Disorderly, but skillfully intended. We watched him with our mouths just hanging wide open. Our hearts the same.

In those six weeks, I reveled and I said thank you as often as I could. To the sailboats scattered among the sparkly water, which provided my morning coffee view.


To the Tui and the Morepork. Sounds I will deeply miss. To the vines I got to help grow, and the culture that helped to cultivate me. To the incredible people I shared meals with. To wild, mute laughter. Moon cycles and bonfires on the beach. To the family who shared their story with me and invited me to their table. To the dirt between my toes.


Rich beyond my wildest dreams, and I’ve had some pretty wild ones. Thank you Russell.


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