Equinox

It’s Spring Equinox. Full Moon. Today I’m thinking mostly about the moon, while it’s on everyone’s lips and cheeks that we embrace the sun. How interesting that yesterday was the last day of darkness and I ran so joyfully with the sun. Today is the first day of light and I’m with the moon.

I have a different sort of appreciation for the full moon today, for I have recently discovered the power of the new moon. The voice of what’s missing has become louder than when it’s lit up center stage. An empty chair at the table. Romantic silence. Moonlight returns.

In your absence, we notice the stars more.

Aotearoa, you are in my heart tonight. I’m thinking about peace and the tide. On the night of the news I lit candles with good friends and grieved for your people. For the flightless birds that evolved without a need to defend. For the hearts so beautifully open. On that night, it felt like a dream died.

Then I remembered the courage my home has seen. The light in the darkness. The strength I never dreamed possible shown time and time again. I believe we’ll hold on together. I believe in us.reinga tree

To Travel

When you travel blog, you spend time sorting out the parts of it that you hope to share with the folks back home. It isn’t always honest, though it’s meant to be kind. I want my friends and family to gain some of this too. I find myself in this strange space of trying to translate myself backwards. For I am a critter that changes a lot, while I am even more a critter who stays much the same.

To travel has become a gift of forgetting that I’m traveling. Realising my home’s inside my head. So, when I sit down to write or listen to the trees, I feel like here is where I’ve always been.

To travel used to be to collect for me. Now I’m learning about my greed, or at least starting to. Now, to travel is to experience. For there is no photo for later, there is only now.

No longer is it to compare. New Zealand is not America, the Alps are not the Rockies. Why am I even thinking about the phrases and prices of where I was once. I am here now.

To travel well is to notice. The calls of the birds. The changes in the night sky. The smells.

The people. The way friends meet up. The pet names mothers and fathers use for their children. It’s taking notice of how Grandma’s face always lights up when her granddaughter walks in the room. Or how John at the pub is always grumpy about the head of his porter. How same-siders sit close in restaurant booths and take in the view.

Space. Who keeps it and who doesn’t.

Power. What that word actually means to anyone. If anything.

Nature. Are we part of it or aren’t we? Are we trying to be less so? Is that the truth about us?

I hope we all can appreciate the misunderstandings. Like the time I realised I was mistaking the word “fear” for “fair” when listening to my friends talk. Or, a more fun one, the time I couldn’t tell if we were talking about beer or a bear. Which for many, would be a big difference, but for me, produces a similar smile. I hope we all can give ourselves a chance to laugh in our own faces. To realise that the soil that grew us has given us certain flavours. Which is just information. No need to call it right or wrong.

I tell you what, friends and family, I am bringing home some changes. Just in myself. I’ve learned a bit about quality, and kindness, and slowing my shit down. I’m learning to make less assumptions. Not to be in a hurry. Right now I find my recent weight gain to be lovely. For it came from a lot of good drinks with a lot of gorgeous people. It came from love. The love of bread and olives and the knowledge that I might not want to have unlimited access to those things too often. For the first time ever, I don’t mind. I’m glad for that.

My conversations with the beautiful people of Adelaide have been generous and present. We offer up the things we’re learning about ourselves. I’ve learned that Americans are really hard on themselves.

That first hit me on the Te Araroa walk. It was in a hut with three lovely Germans. They marveled at my need to drop joy out of it. As though every step was owed to some ever-present viewer. Other cultures don’t see why we can’t miss the road walks. We feel like if we miss any steps, then we haven’t done it.

“According to whom?” One of them asked.

“Touche” I had to admit. It’s time to examine yourself when even the Germans are telling you that you could stand to ease up a bit.

Spending time with these ideas, I feel free. It’s no wonder its taken me 31 years to be ok with a bit of belly fat.

I sit now, in an American coffee shop and say thank you to my travels. It’s not an ending, but it’s a chapter I hope to honour.

Always Coming Home

Lots of people walk away, together and apart. I sit alone and watch. Feeling glad, as a combination of grateful and sad. Rivers make valleys. Valleys make mountains even higher, creating space from them.

This is a good moment, saying hello to the shell my new family has made. It’s an empty shell now, but emptiness is full in it’s own way. I call my empty shells gratitude. They are beautiful.

The gift now is this. It doesn’t have to be anything. It already is.

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Of Smoothies and Sisterhood

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

Leaving Nelson

I walked out of the Styx at the end of my last shift and I noticed the silence. From the goodbyes and best wishes of many people I’ve come to love, to just the sound of the sea rolling in. Loud silence. A slap in the face with silence.

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Is being alone really as good as I think it is?

I remind myself that it’s time to go, because I’ve got words to put on paper and melodies to string together, plants to smell and an ocean to talk to. Because I’m not ready to fall in love, and I better get out while I still can.

I laugh about it too. Telling my closest friends and my mom that I care too much, and I came here not to. Then, to no one’s surprise, I suck at it. I amped myself up to walk out on a short-term job the other day. Something I have never done. It was going to be good too, for I had nothing to lose, and they deserved it. Or so I thought. Then in my first bit of eye contact, the man apologised and instantly, a grudge was just too slippery to hold on to. At the end of the night he gave me a great compliment, a bottle of wine, and a hug. I walked out smiling and thought, “Ok self, you’re the same.”

I’m just going to keep going on the way I came in; walking, singing, and feeling too much. No place has ever noticed it more than Nelson.

I’ve been seasonal for 10 years now. I’ve left a lot of jobs, but there was something very special about the mix of characters in this team. An air of getting through something together, like a crew on a ship. Each of us carrying our story with us, our families, and our homes, and somehow that messy table full of all of our junk looked beautiful. We were lucky for it. Still are.

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My friends Jeff and Brittney were talking to me on the phone the other day. They asked what I was up to and I said. “I just left Nelson.”

Jeff jokingly said, “Who’s Nelson?”

I laughed, but it made me think a bit. I use to think of it as a where. It was a killer farmers market, an ocean next to the Richmond Ranges, a good vegan scene, fantastic hikes up the Grampians and the Centre of New Zealand. A few months later, I realise Nelson has become a who. Nelson is Anne and Tom making me smile during their morning coffee. It’s the tea lady and the mug guy at the market. It’s Ryan, my guitar dad, and my two guitar brothers Vinny and Ben. It’s getting to know an old friend all over again. It’s connecting and relating to women who inspire me. It’s the compassionate company of good hearts. Its writing dates and 3 am Harry Potter talks. It’s Pru and Jess and Dana and Sharon and Fawn and Katie and Tom and Robert. It’s love.

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I thank my lucky stars for leading me to it, and I walk on with a grateful smile.

Long may you shine, Nelson.

To Ashes

She exists in a container now. Although she sort of doesn’t. That’s what makes it all so interesting to navigate.

There are many feelings. You’re left wondering which one to choose.

There’s sentimentality, the most presumed. Take a little part of it with you everywhere you go.

There’s the reality slam. Holding it and thinking about what it means. You knew it would come to this, but it would have been impossible to truly imagine.

Plus there’s all the stuff in between, that got us here. Those which have been shut out purposely, in hopes not to lose sanity. It’s not erasable and it’s taken a lot to steer our brains away. Just try.

There’s wondering how to treat it. Is it sacred or is it nothing? Is it both or neither? Do I touch it with my fingers, do I scoop it with a plastic spoon? Should I pray in some way, at least to her?

Then deciding what to do with it. All boiled down to one big question…..

Can I keep you?

Though I already know that I can’t. Then again, what do I know?

I can hear her voice saying that I can. I see her boisterous nod. I know she wouldn’t mind any of this. “I’ll walk with you.” she’d say. Or, “Just toss me in the garden. Put me in a coffee mug.”

God it’s hard to let you go. You deserve to be free. You deserve to be flung joyfully.

Still, I know that you don’t mind if I hold on, for now.

There’s humour and there’s lightheartedness, mixed with ache and gratitude. Desire to keep you alive the way that’s left for me.

Here we sit, with ashes.

Sunset

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So here it is, at last. The end.

From this point looking south there is no mass of land again until Cape Horn, the tip of South America.

The sunset was brilliant and all around as. An orange glow painted our eyes and skin and even, it seemed, the air between us. I thought of this as a very significant metaphor. Now we’ve walked New Zealand. Now we’re something different than when we started. Together and separate. Now I am alone.

Now I stand with loss.

In the last couple of years, I feel like I’ve lost a lot. Understanding loss has been difficult. For what would it be without gain, it couldn’t exist. What would I be to dwell when I have so much. To say that I have lost would imply that I once had. I don’t know about that. It was more that I got to be with Lu and Max and Sperry and this partnership with Craig. It was always a fortunate togetherness, of a non-possessive nature. I suppose we had each other, but it was more that we saw and  loved each other with our choices day by day. I don’t know if we ever really have anything.  I feel like it could be a dishonor to all of them not to feel lucky. I’m so grateful of these things. I can still hear them and smell them. I can see them when I close my eyes. They are parts of me.

This sunset was so vivid and so alive in it’s moment. Also, symbolic. May the Earth rest now, may my bones rest too. May it be the beginning of something else. May the vast expansive ocean hold its mystery and may the edge of me bow to the edge of it.

I come to Nelson now to celebrate grateful sadness. I know the ocean will understand.

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I find that now, as I write this in a coffee shop, that I can go back to that sunset when I close my eyes. That it, too, has become a part of me.

Long may we walk.

All About Attitude

P1010715So we walked on. Still. After all that walking. We had our sleep, we boarded our ferry, we narrowly avoided tossing our cookies, and we arrived on Stewart Island in a hurry to get tramping.

Looking back now, I can see how foolish that is. It’s sacrilegious to be in a hurry on Stewart Island. I was just stuck in that frame of mind; get your food, make your plan, and go.

About 3 hours later, I found myself wondering how I could have been so thick-headed. The trail turned into a treacherous mud pit, which is nothing new. We’ve been knee-deep in mud several times, just this week even. What was new, was our inability to cope. I heard Craig let out a grumble or a sigh with every third step, while, internally I found myself behaving in the likes of a small child. ‘Stupid mud, stupid roots, stupid trail!’ It’s really quite comical. Just the day before I’d been light-heartedly walking along a busy highway in the gales of relentless wind spraying hard rain in my eyes, and I didn’t mind it. Honestly, I don’t think I had a single negative thought the entire day. This was considerably more pleasant, a gorgeous forest too, but something in me felt deserving of being through with this bullshit, and that little brat in my head was speaking rather loudly.

Our plan was to hike to Mason Bay along this track, get there early the second day, then hike out the next. We were averaging less than 2 km per hour, which made that 38k day out of the woods seem rather impossible. So on day two, still grumpy, I had the idea to call a water Taxi to take us back to town. I was able to get calls through, just barely, from the top of the hill and found out that our option out of Mason Bay was a small airplane for 170 dollars a person. I said I would think about it. It was a lot more than I imagined spending. Yet, I never really doubted for a second that it was worth it. So there I was, after walking 3000km willingly, finding that it’s worth it to me to pay $170 so as not to have to walk 30km. My how the tides had turned. An excellent example of relativity, if you ask me. I found myself saying, “Hell yeah! I will pay 170 not to hike tomorrow.”

So we did. Soon it occurred to us just how ideal that was. This would be the true end of our walk across New Zealand. What a special end it turned out to be, too. We made it to Mason Bay that evening and finally sank in. Knowing we had no more to walk. We stayed for about 24 hours before the plane came to get us. We met nice people from the North Island and took in this marvelous place. The star gazing was some of the most amazing I’d ever seen. The beach was wonderful. Craig and I walked it up and down looking for Kiwis and watching the waves crash. P1010748

When our plane came that evening, we felt like royalty. We also feared for our lives as we hopped and bobbed around in that little 10-seater. I wouldn’t change it for anything though. P1010749

 

From Cape to Bluff

At 6:30pm on Thursday, April 12th we found ourselves here……P1010729

To the hour, we had started this journey 4 months ago exactly. We stood there trying to take it in, but it’s always difficult. You want there to be some magic moment, and big emotions with the symbolism of this place. Yet, it tends to just feel like a place. In this case, we didn’t get to gaze out in to the ocean and fathom our achievement much at all, as it was soon overtaken by two RVs full or tourists. All taking their photos with the sign. We stepped aside and laughed about it. I guess this spot is famous for being the start of hwy 1. It’s interesting how the same things can have such different significance to many of us.

We had been with our friend, Brian, from Atlanta. It was fun to walk with him all day, as it was a tough one. The weather was a raging. Windy with spits of sideways rain, and that made things extra interesting as 20+ km of that were right next to a busy highway with little to no shoulder. Thank goodness we had each other. We had a few others too, and comradery went a long way. P1010710

We had a bit of a photo shoot with Brian, popped open a bottle of champagne, and then hurriedly drank it to get our shivering bums inside. Other than signing a guest book at the local oyster house, we all just dispersed. Going separate directions for good now, after walking the same journey for months. Craig and I stayed in town at the local lodge, which felt comfy in the rain and had Chinese Takeaway for our victory dinner.

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Craig the thru-hiker in our hostel beds that felt a lot like an orphanage.

So now what do we do? Hike more, actually. The real end of this journey for us will be at Mason Bay on Stewart Island. Which means we still have some walking to do:)

Changes

For the last 6 days, I’ve been kind of a shit-head. Emotional and irritable at the things I know I can’t change. Things like this……

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Our first “view” of the Bluff

This……

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This was merely unpleasant for the smells, the animals are quite nice.

 

This……P1010682

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Sad Feet

Still, I laugh at myself. Knowing, all too well, that it doesn’t matter nearly as much as it seems to in the moment. The sun will dry my pack before long, my feet will get me to safety, it won’t storm forever, the path will end.  I know it’s time to get out of the woods. It’s the time of year for human beings do more of their living in from the out now. I appreciate the changes. Even now, when I’m stuck in them. Seasons have always been good for me. They teach me what to savor and what to avoid.

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You can tell the ocean is getting nearer as the tree species change

The walk from Te Anau has been the perfect recipe for an ideal sampling of the Te Araroa. We’ve had tall grasses (Tussock) that you can’t see your path through, pole to pole navigation on mountain tops made difficult with clouds all around, swallow-your-leg mud, a few rounds of a game I like to call “keep moving or die,” wind (naturally), rain, sleet, trenches to jump across, cow pies to try to avoid, giant trees to climb over, rivers to walk through, the whole gamut, really.

Making it more difficult on ourselves, we committed to doing it extra fast. We wanted to make it to the bar on Colac Bay last night, which meant a couple of 45k days in those conditions. It was worth it too, reading my book under a blanket last night with a cup of hot tea beside me, I think to myself, ‘I’ve been dreaming of this.’ It’s true. My dreams are simpler these days. I dream of naps in the sunshine on summer afternoons, fresh picked vegetables, my family, a warm cup of coffee in my hands, a walk through the trees for fun and not because I said I would, my guitar….. I think all this adds up to explain that I’m ready for this quest to be over. Not because I grew to dislike it for what it is, but because it’s changing. That’s life, and that’s yes. I am ready.

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