A few weeks ago we went to the South Island. I felt a physical transformation when we drove off the ferry. I never get that when I fly down, but this time, I felt euphoric. I felt my breath slow. I felt myself relax into the architecture of the place. I knew myself to be utterly different to my North Island self. It was unexpected but lovely.
We drove down to Christchurch, my home town. It took us, me, Joe, Alex and Maggie hours and hours. The whole late afternoon, a lot of the night. I loved that trip. We stopped for seals, and saw some suckling. We stopped for food. We stopped for toilets. We saw horses, who grazing, took on the shape of horseshoes.
It was an unbelievably warm evening, and we drove into the dark with the windows rolled down and the South Island rolling in. The sea lit by the low sun. Joe turned to me and said, it's the best time to kayak, I've had evenings when it's like you're floating on liquid gold.
I loved it when it was properly dark and we were driving over hills, and it was quiet, and Alex fell asleep and Maggie fell into that alert quiet state of night time driving. I fell into the ritual of watching for cars coming towards me. How first a patch of the dark sky is lit up, and you dip your lights, and the car or the truck comes in and out of view as you both turn corners, until finally you pass each other, silently, and drive away and undip your lights.
I remembered trips up to Waihopai with my friend Kim driving. Back then I didn't drive but I'd watch for cars for her, and roll her cigarettes, loose terrible affairs she couldn't smoke. Kim driving out of flat old Christchurch and saying how thirsty her eyes were for the trees and the hills. It's funny, I could hardly turn the wheel without thinking and thinking of 17 and 18 and 19 year old versions of myself. Giddy with getting out of town, with not having to ask. Friendships of my own choosing.
Driving closer to Christchurch, where the road straightens I even loved the corners, all illuminated like space stations, huge signs with arrows and numbers and dazzling street lamps. Noisy parties on those wide quiet roads. And then in Christchurch, on the outskirts, realising the whole trip down I'd forgotten. I'd been so full of myself, my decades old self, and my girls, and Joe, I'd forgotten.
We drove smoothly on into wonky Christchurch.
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