For the first time ever, I think, I feel good right where I am. I have a sneaky suspicion I've written that before, but this time I mean it. REALLY, I do. Working with both the men and women's teams, I often feel torn between two locations and two groups, yearning to experience everything...usually making it difficult to experience anything fully at all. Stuck between two worlds without the ability to live or immerse myself into the moment. Slowly, but surely, I'm learning the arts of patience and being present. It's not easy for me. But I'm trying. And that's really all we can do, right? The best we can do.
There's something about New Zealand that's...different for me. Everywhere I look, I'm in awe. The landscape is unlike anything I've ever seen before. Canterbury Plains reminds me of my Wisconsin home - vibrant green, rolling hills and a lot of dairy farms. The first three bus drivers I had on this trip each became my buddy and all spoke of the "sophisticated irrigation systems derived from the United States" among other fascinating (or so they thought) farming tidbits. Other fun facts they taught me: New Zealand's population of humans is 4 million versus their population of 35 million sheep. Don't for a moment think you'll find Merino wool cheaper here. That shit's expensive. There's an absolutely DIVINE black merino wool jacket in Tarras that is flirting with me hard. It's 575 NZ dollars, so I'm playing hard to get like never before.
I've often stumbled upon places that have inspired me, but then there are the few magic places that touch my soul and affect me in a deeper, more meaningful way. Valencia, Spain. Lahinch, Ireland. Cuzco, Peru. Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic. Gryon, Switzerland. And now, New Zealand. The spots that cause your soul to stir and make you think twice about how you fit into this world. The ones that you walk away from, changed...wondering when you'll go back. Or even move there.
Honestly, I might move here. I'm not kidding.
Life is simple here. Wifi is hard to come by. I like it. Let me be clear: it makes getting anything done near-impossible and more than slightly frustrating, but at the same time it's a gentle reminder to appreciate the moment and the magic surrounding you. Here we are. Here + now. That’s all there is. Patience is a virtue.
In one day of driving around the South Island you go from green rolling hills and farmland to a scene from The Chronicles of Narnia where everything is covered in white and ice crystals, sparkling in the sunshine and beyond to the coast, where the foliage is entirely different and sometimes absurd to my eye. Of course, I ought to mention some sort of Lord of the Rings reference here, though I never actually saw any of the films, so I am not sure I’d do it justice. Let me just say that, in this land, you kind of feel like you’re endlessly looking for the Ring. Whatever that even means.
Oh the places you’ll go…
Hanmer Springs, north of Christchurch. Go there. It’s worth it. A small village with hot springs that’ll lift your spirits. Arrowtown and I fell fast and hard in love…yeah, I could move to that spot and start a little bed and breakfast/café/hostel in a heartbeat. Queenstown is rad too, but Arrowtown – DAYUM! Your sleepy little disposition…your cafes, wine bars, The Blue Door. Yep. I like you. The little fishing village of Moeraki introduced a character named “Fleur” of the famous “Fleur’s Place” and I: she shared her wisdom with me along with some Maori phrases. "KIA KAHA," she told me. Keep the strength. “It’s hard to do what you want in life. Our society doesn’t support it and make it easy. So I encourage you to fill your life with people that inspire you. Don’t let them take your soul.” As she told me these things, her eyes filled with tears that clung on to the edge of her eyelids, never spilling over. A storied soul hers was. The sweet sounds of waves crashing against rock at Tunnel Beach and the two German boys in their van with their surfboards strapped to the top and boardshorts drying out the window. Cromwell and all of its sweet fruit...behold Mt. Difficulty Winery and "Roaring Meg" pinot noir. Could this place be any more forward about how we're meant for each other? Ohau's sparkle. Ohau I love everything about that place. A liftie named "SHINE" who reminded each and every one of us that we're all brothers and sisters. "Blissed and blessed," he'd say as he calmly welcomed us onto the chairlift like each lift ride was a spiritual journey to Shangri La with Shine as our travel guide. "Moondust" he said in fascination when he asked me "What do you like to be called?" Now, Tekapo, where the lake is turquoise and I hope the hot springs heal me. Every spot tells a story and I don't want the story to end.
For a moment, I need to tell you about the people here. I feel compelled to share that if I could concoct a place that's the polar opposite of India it would be New Zealand. When I was waiting for my bus at the bus station, I left my bags sitting outside to go get a coffee and I didn't even worry about it. New Zealand is untouched. Authentic. Raw. Safe. If there's one place to hitchhike, it's here. I haven't done it yet, but I plan to before I leave. Everyone is so nice.
As we're getting chai in Tarras, a well-dressed, sophisticated elderly couple was staring at my Teeki moon cycle leggings...normally I'd think they were judging me, but no...they caught me catching them looking at me and they said, "Is that your skin or the fabric? Those leggings are very cool...they suit you." Seriously, New Zealand?! Your people are like Iceland meets England...your style classic and practical. Merino wool, cozy sweaters, leggings, legwarmers...simple colorblocking timeless beauty. And your babies...your babies are so rad. All the children are so behaved and so well-dressed. I've made friends with the kids everywhere I've gone. Classic...put me at the kid's table!
Though I've seen and experienced a lot, and love this country, a bug acquired in Ohau that was traveling around the lodge has slowed me down the last several days. Undoubtedly it has to do with the 11-hour on-hill watering day at Ohau (left at 6am and arrived back in Arrowtown at midnight), but I don't mind...it was well worth it and the surface was supreme for the athletes. It also gave me even more of an incredible appreciation for the work the coaches do and the labor of love they deliver daily. It's hard for me to be sick, though. I'm not used to it and I'm incredibly stubborn and impatient. It started with a migraine that turned into a sore throat and cough. I haven't been on the mountain in four days and I'm getting antsy. Yet another reminder to move slowly. I feel like I'm constantly learning. I've been meditating consistently for the last two months now (Headspace App - I highly recommend it) and it's made a considerable difference in my life. Ironically, right now I'm going through the Patience series. Fitting.
It's easy for my mind to wander to people, places and experiences, but I'm learning to accept my wandering mind and spirit and be where I am. I read this somewhere, and it resonated with me:
I don't know who said it, but I might as well have. Everywhere I look I see spectacular spectacles I want to share with certain souls in my life. The near-full moon rising over Lake Tekapo as I soak in the hot pools. The sparkle of the ice crystals near a little abandoned hut in Hooker Valley. The feeling of the sunshine on my face as I hike up to the ridgeline at Ohau for the view and the turns. The warmth that envelops you when you walk through The Blue Door. The stars...there are SO many and they are so bright. There are only a few that can appreciate this beauty as much as I do, but I am the only one that will appreciate this beauty like I do. So, I'm learning to quiet my mind, find simplicity and appreciate the sights for myself first, as they are gifts for me before anyone else. This is a good lesson to learn, and to share with others.
Here we are. Here + now. That's all there is.