Tag Archives: new zealand

Spring (AKA the day the sun came back)

Sun

Today was shaping up to be a dozen things. It began with a long walk in the morning frost, steps towards removing the hibernation band that’s appeared around my waist over winter. Then it was time spent on another short story. This one’s about the descent of a man, about the stretching of time and the perspective that offers as he falls twenty-four storeys to the earth. And after crafting a fiction about the plummeting of a fragile soul, I had to shift head-space and finish writing an application for a grown-up job in the big city.

All the while the sun beckoned. It stroked my cheek as I hung washing on the clothes line. It slipped between the tilted blinds behind the computer, casting venetian shadows on the teal wall behind me. And it played along the drift of incense smoke that drifted from the mantlepiece, charming the strands of burnt sandalwood, teasing the wisps of charred Dragon’s Blood.

The call of outside was too loud. I clicked a “Send” button, then lifted my speakers on my way out to the car. I lowered all the windows, tapped a playlist, and drove towards the steeply stacked shoreline and wooden boneyards that define Turakina Beach. As Katchafire replaced Coldplay (don’t dare judge me…) I grinned out the window to the blue skies and suckling lambs of almost-spring.

The neighbouring west coast beaches tend towards dark sands and isolation. As I wound between low sand dunes I slipped my shoes from my feet and slowed, letting the earth’s warmth ease my long-stowed toes. There was a single vehicle parked high on the sand, abandoned and empty. The low tide exposed long walking options north and south. I chose to head northward, clambering over bridges built of china-white logs and mammoth’s tusks, to where the green paddocks of ocean-side farmlets crumble like shortcake, into the blue-green sea.

I slipped headphones over ears and set a soundtrack to my meander. I let the beat run through me, I dropped my jersey and hat in a dry-beach stack. I danced in the shifting line between states of liquid and solid. I leapt from logs, pirouetted with my shadow, and let the narratives of past and future slip away. And as I span in gentle circles, there was no one to judge, no whispers, no giggles that weren’t my own.

At the moment I spend the majority of my week alone, installed in my 88 days of thoughts and words. But within this oasis my head is rarely resting within a moment. Rather it’s shuttling back and forth, between past and future. The one exception is when I’m inside the head of a character. A man bound to himself with cable-ties and determination, a girl trying to interpret dinosaur footprints, an oak tree trying to interpret a young boy’s pain. Then I’m inside their moment.

But I need to remember to make time to spend with myself. With a tune, in the sun, with my shade and my light. My heartbeat is a rhythm, and while it beats I have to remember to make time to dance.

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On returning home (and what that means)

Speyside

My hopscotch journey towards New Zealand began with a flight from Inverness to Belfast. After six months on so many different roads I’m wondering what I’m heading back to. Where and what is my ‘home’? Here in my sister’s Derry backpackers around forty people a day enter our lives, tread about within our communal home, and then head out to their next port of call. Some of them bind themselves to us for brief periods, sharing pints, songs and stories. I ask these ones about their homes, about what makes their bungalow in Washington State, their apartment in Genova, or their farm outside Kabul the place they want to return to. And in their stories I hunt for meaning, because I’m about to return to a country in which I hope to build a new life.

It was the three months in the USA that opened my mind to new ways to envision my future in New Zealand. That bold country has enabled generations of people a great deal of control in deciding what sort of home they want to create for themselves. The enormous and varied landscape provided opportunities for millions of people to create something new, unrestricted hundreds of generations of tradition. And for some time their government left them enough freedom to determine their own paths. And though these freedoms may be disappearing, I still found plenty of people who had tried two or three different lives on for size, and found one that fit. Not the one their parents dictated to them, nor their laws, nor their peers. And their experiences helped me understand how I might be able to combine freedom of thought and movement, with a permanent base, a real home in my country.

Many of the Americans I met also helped me understand that I shouldn’t be afraid to walk with conviction towards the things I want. It’s not just the lifestyles that Americans have been free to create, they’ve also been encouraged to chase ideas. My own hopes and dreams were usually bolstered when I shared them with people. My enthusiasm for the outlandish wasn’t as open to negativity and cynicism as it might have been in other environments. I realised the importance of ensuring I spent time amongst ideas people, creative people, intelligent free thinkers. They drive me onward, rather than slowing my progress.

The third thing I decided to take home from the States was the utilisation of the honest compliment. My first response (I shudder to recall) to these positive critiques was cynicism. I hunted for subtext, for an end-goal in these happy comments on another person’s character, hair style or youthful vigour. And when I couldn’t find it, I began to realise it was simply a good and kind act. I was smitten. I was even the recipient from time to time, which no doubt made me doubly suspicious. But then I grew to understand its simple power to bring happiness. So I’m taking this home, and I’ll aim to fill a few half empty glasses.

The transition to Europe helped add new ideas to those I harvested from the Americans. I did two months of volunteer work between Ireland and Scotland, and the time spent in old homes in old parts of old countries was useful in corralling my thoughts on what I need from life. Wandering and cycling through the countryside on the occasional days that the sun spilt between clouds on the horizon was blissful. But being so far from civilisation tended to make my head itch. The humble quarters within the castle walls (ironically) taught me how little space I needed to relax in. The caravan in Scotland shrank this space significantly, but the views I took in from the narrow lounge windows became my environment as much as the thin aluminium walls that shook like barley in the exhausting cross winds. So small house, in big country. Tick. The lack of people though, that was the itch. I need my cafe interviews with artists and musicians, my wander through the markets picking out beetroot to roast, my Wednesday evening gigs at character packed pubs and bars.

Now I’m back in Derry, the heart of my travelling experiences. Six weeks ago I was here briefly, licking fresh wounds, and working through my thoughts and hopes. This time I’ve returned with a peaceful energy, a head full of ideas, and a focus. My Halloween evening here was spent dancing on the edge of a life I knew in my thirties. I told ghost stories to gladiators, twirled with witches, and faced down demons. And I’ve made peace with the things I’ve seen and done. I’m consolidating I’ve learnt, and begun planning for what comes next.

New Zealand is still a place where we can build our dreams. I’m returning to Aotearoa with new ideas from other places, aiming to build a home between town and country. A place I can share with people who fight to obtain their dreams, and with my family. I’m returning to spend time with my young niece, the newest member of that family. Her Uncle Regan’s returning a little less cynical, a little more focused, and just as happy as when he last saw her. He’s looking forward to telling her tales of far off lands, encouraging her imagination, and supporting her ideas and hopes.

I’d like to thank all those people who I have met along this most recent journey. You mad, wonderful, inspirational girls and boys with whom I shared a few beers, a trailer, a Castle or a laugh with. You’re all forever welcome to visit me in my home, wherever that will be. I’ll make sure there’s a comfy couch.