Thursday, July 07, 2011

New Digs 2.0

One way to draw a woman's ire, if you're interested in that kind of thing, is to move house and then, when asked if you have doubts about the move, to answer honestly that you do. This approach is particularly effective - and I'm speaking philosophically here - if your woman has been the principal architect of such a move, has supported the "direction" you provided, followed the project brief, as it were, to the letter.

In this way we rather suddenly found ourselves living in a beach cottage in the neighborhood of Seatoun, on Worser Bay, on the peninsula of Miramar, Wellington, New Zealand, the World. And if any doubts were expressed and any ire drawn, they were resolved after only a couple days; for living in a beach cottage on the water and across from mountains is pretty damn awesome.

It's not like things weren't already pretty spiffy. The routines, the ways and means, we had them all down to a science. A seven-minute walk to work, another five to the harbor. A Victorian house tucked away in a lush park. A split schedule where Jenifer and I each worked half a day in the office, half a day in the field with Hawk.

A great big abundant life.

We first became acquainted with Seatoun during our first visit to New Zealand. Our tour guide Jack drove our party through the seaside suburb to show us the grounds where Orlando and the Hobbits had trained for The Lord of the Rings. Over the past year, as we contemplated which neighborhood to settle in, Seatoun kept coming back to us. Okay, mostly to me, as such a move would require a wholesale lifestyle change and put us about as far away as possible from the Steiner school we were investigating for our son. But Jenifer plugged away on Trade Me, scouring the listings for houses here, there, and everywhere; and ones we really liked popped up time and again in Seatoun; and we suddenly started making lots of new friends who lived in Seatoun. Eventually Jenifer's logic centers had no choice but to acknowledge the fundamental correctness of my intuition. (Boy, I'm gonna get it.)

Our place is small but cozy and full of what the Danes call hygge, that warm feeling of contentment and well-being that comes from sitting by a warm fire at the end of a long day out of doors. This time around we have a mud room ("the airlock"), a wee back yard, and even a greenhouse, which Hawk already refers to as "the playroom" and which will soon feature a sandbox. The house faces northeast, which means more sunlight. The key feature, though, is the view. Our windows look out on wind-carved rocks (crawling with hermit crabs the size of peppercorns), brilliant green water, the endless passing of ferries and frigates, and an active, welcoming community: walkers, dogs, triathletes, the odd blue penguin. Everyone here seems to keep their curtains open most of the time, and you often can't help but look in (or out) because of the view.

Where Te Aro was wooded, dark, dense, Seatoun is open, bright, airy. As a new friend observed, our move quite literally affords us a broader perspective. Our walking world is now circumscribed not by office buildings and bus lanes but by Scorching Bay to the North and Dorset Point to the South. At the latter Hawk and I now routinely "go an an adventure," a nature hike along the rocky shore that wraps around to Breaker Bay or up the Pass of Branda through the "poky" pine trees of the Beacon Hill Reserve. From here you see the flat blue line of Cook Strait, which separates the North and South Islands. Massive shipping vessels crest what looks like the edge of the world. Here if feels like we are at the edge of the world.

This is our neighborhood now. This is where Hawk will grow up, where he will clamber through the bush with his goblins-in-arms, where he will mount spy missions on unsuspecting hikers and investigate long-abandoned military bunkers and sit in the tall grass of the old Maori pa and listen to the wind.

Shortly after we moved I had occasion to walk by the old place. Passing through the park beneath it, I suddenly felt very clear: our energy had moved on. I had grieved the place, our ways and means, the morning after our move. Now, I smiled in gratitude for our entry into a new world. Our old house protected us, held us during a year that was at times very difficult: one way to make enemies, if you're interested in that kind of thing, is to take over an existing business. Fortunately, it's also a way to make friends.

No, the move was necessary, and if any doubts arose, they did so only because, as is ever the case with leaps in the dark, we are called to make them before we think we are ready. Or maybe that's just how it is with grownups. As Hawk would yell every time before sprinting down the path to our old house: "Two, three, go!"

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Blogger Eric D. Lehman said...

Wonderful photos, wonderful essay, wonderful new place!

I love the concept of hygge. Notice that it is only available after a hard day's work. You can't get hygge sitting in front of the fire/television all day long. It only comes after being outside and coming inside.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

Thanks, Eric! We were introduced to the concept of hygge during our first trip to Denmark, but then somehow forgot about it until we saw a Rick Steves show! Now it seems the perfect word to describe our experience of coming in from wet, windy New Zealand winters.

4:37 PM  

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