My significant other and I bought a caravan when he retired and we set off in January of last year on our three month tour of the South Island without a plan of where or when or what. I learnt a lot on that journey.
We had sunny days, cold mornings and blue skies, hot afternoons and long, long twilights, damp days and grey skies, strong winds and heavy rain that challenged the caravan awning, and everything in between. I wore a singlet top and shorts and my jeans and down-filled long-line coat (sometimes on the same day) and loved every minute.
We saw blue skies I’d almost forgotten existed and sunsets to die for. I waited for the light to change just a tiny bit, looking for that perfect photograph to add to my album, and was often grateful for the comfort of our fully insulated, comfy home on wheels. And because of that, because of everything we saw, the places we visited and the things we did, I didn’t write a word for weeks – except maybe in my head and heart.
One day, in particular, I began to notice things I hadn’t had time to notice before. I’d slowed down enough to listen. We went to Stewart Island, somewhere I’d never been before, and visited New Zealand as it once was a long time ago (but updated with technology). I heard bird-calls and saw our beautiful tui, the gorgeous plump kereru and the cheeky kea and kaka at close quarters, sitting in the trees, the flax or on fence railings within metres of where I walked – and I mean along streets, not in the bush.
I saw water that was so clear you could pick out every single stone, shell and piece of seaweed. I sat and listened to the sounds of nature: the call of the seagulls and so many other birds, the rustle of leaves in the breeze, the buzz of the bees, the lapping of waves and so much more.
I listened to silence. As I sat, I let my senses take over and realised how important it is to use the senses in our words when we are telling a story. I saw colours subtle and strong. I watched the clouds slide away from grey to white to fluffy whisps making patterns in the sky. I ate the island delicacy, blue cod (there weren’t any oysters or crayfish that day), and tasted fish so fresh it still carried the essence of the sea.
Experiences that are everyday, inherent and surround us all the time but so often we fail to notice them even though we know they are there. Things like how soft the southern and rural accent is compared to the city, how they use different words for similar things and roll their ‘r’s in a way we, from the North, do not.
Since then, I’ve noticed the sounds of silence much more. I can now hear the bird call even when a plane flies overhead. I stop to watch the bee collect pollen from the flower and have learnt to appreciate the beauty and variety this country has to offer.
This summer we are heading off for another three month jaunt – this time around the North Island. I’m looking forward to finding new sights and new sounds.
I’d love some recommendations of places to visit. Let me know your secret North Island places to visit.