A million years ago, before the last Ice Age, we visited Nelson. I do endeavor to provide timely accounts of Where We Went and What We Ate, but time is nothing if not elastic when you're traveling, and is probably not best spent in youth-hostel Internet caves, especially when you're in New Zealand.
To this preface, however, I will add its epilogue, the account of precisely how we made our way to Nelson, which is to say that we nearly did not. The night before our Monday-morning flight, we decided to program the alarm on my new watch, a reward for 10 years of service at the day job. It was titanium and Danish, so no complaints there, but we did discover at this late hour, after perusing the instruction booklet we had so thoughtfully packed, that its "crown" could not, indeed, be extended to the third position, let alone the second. I would need to acquire an alarm clock if were were to awake in time for the flight.
And so I ventured across the oceanic breadth of Wakefield Street to the New World, which by New Zealand standards is a pretty good-sized supermarket. That I did this without any navigational devices, and possessing scanty star lore, without being struck by an automobile was a significant accomplishment. In the end, however, it would take three such sojourns to acquire the sought-after device and the 1.5V aka AA battery that powers it.
The "Abstract Art Swivel Alarm Clock" is a masterwork of Chinese design. You can tell its worth right from the box alone, which features the following instructions in no less than eight (8) different languages:
1. Removing the Battery Cover.
2. Inserting the Battery.
3. Setting the Time.
4. Setting the Alarm Time.
5. Using the Gerund.
Step 2 was my particular favorite, as the battery found its final resting place not because the slot was consciously designed to house it, but by a considerable application of will on my part. I won, but this meant the onset of a peculiar "click-clack" that would haunt me the rest of the night. Despite my lack of faith, the instrument performed its function, and early the next morning we were on our way back to Nelson.
The flight from Wellington to Nelson, across the Cook Strait, comprises probably the best 25 minutes in the air you will find anywhere in the world. We were treated to a glowing sunrise over snow-capped mountains, oceans of cloud, and that distinctive gemlike water. We had traveled once the other direction, taking the ferry from Picton; this mode of travel is equally majestic if rougher on those who haven't yet gained their sea legs.
When you land in Nelson's little airport, you are greeted by a flat plain encompassed by a far, long ridge of mountains whose distant strength is hard to capture on film. Once in the town itself, you find yourself enclosed by steep, verdant hills, long intersecting triangles of folded green in dappled golden light. The land here is reassuring, and you feel you have a solid place on the earth, as if you are given definition by its otherness.
We met with Kimberly and Cathy at the former's retreat in the section of Nelson called the Maitai Valley. The meeting was to be a yoga workshop of sorts, a reunion of those Jenifer had taught two years ago, but it was the Queen's Birthday, after all, and short notice meant a more intimate gathering would be had. After lunch in town, at the Morrison Street Cafe, we returned to the valley, and I stepped out to take some photographs and take in the view. It seemed I had stepped onto the set of The Last Samurai
, even if that film was shot on the North Island. Just behind the retreat center was a small, sloped pasture, and I counted myself lucky to meet the likes of Zoe the goat and two horses, one brown, one white. How could you not grow as wise as they, living on the side of such a mountain?
Not all talk was yoga-talk, however; Jenifer, Hawk, and I also spent our share of time enjoying the view from Kimberly's spectacular and surprising Art Deco house. From the so-called Centre of New Zealand, which we had hike to last time, the house appeared an orange rectangle lodged squarely in the middle of a mountain. Up close, its color was terra cotta, its design boldly and aerodynamically Art Deco. It fit its environment quite suitably, and though Kimberly and her husband, both Americans, couldn't be more grounded, such a dwelling might well be considered "flash" even in avant-garde Nelson, home of healers and seekers. The architecture of New Zealand offers up some surprising secrets about the culture; I'll try to comment on these next post.
Jenifer and I also connected with Elayne, a massage therapist, and her husband Mark, a woodworker who specializes in Native American flutes
. We had gone to Elayne for treatments on the recommendation of a mutual friend, and, as so often seems to be the case here, soon found ourselves invited over for dinner.
The flight "home" to Wellington the next morning was just as terrific as its predecessor, and it seemed we even brought a bit of Nelson's golden weather back with us . . .