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Hitting the Road in New Zealand

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I promised blog posts from New Zealand and pictured myself snuggled into my camper van each night, tapping away on my laptop. I mean, what else is there to do during those long, lonely evenings? Yet by the time I’ve found a campsite, made dinner, and tried to get a grip on the chaos in the back of my van, I have little energy for words. The crosswords, playing cards, and coloring book I packed against the solitude sit untouched at the bottom of my suitcase. By 8:30, I’ve put up my curtains and am searching for my toothpaste and floss.

Driving on the left takes it out of me, but even worse is having the driver’s seat on the right. I’m just not used to having all that car over on my left and have nearly side-swiped cars or lost the side mirror several times. Tunnels and one-lane bridges are especially nerve wracking. I’m also swerving off to the shoulder every few minutes because I just have to have one more picture of sheep.

Cute sheep

Sheep with landscape

 

Cutest sheep

These stops are a constant surprise to the drivers behind me because although I dutifully switch on the windshield wipers every time I pull over, a turn signal would no doubt be more helpful. But the wipers and signals are also reversed from U.S. cars, so other drivers will just have to watch for my wipers.

Plus my brain is exhausted from the constant input. Non-stop, with nary a “routine” moment when my brain can relax: the lush vegetation, the huge birds, the wild Maori place names like Whanganui, Whakarewarewa, and Waimamaku. And of course the occasional volcano or waterfall.

A volcano near Whakapapa

Huka Falls, Waikato River

In the States, I just switch on cruise control, lean my seat back, put my left foot up on the dashboard (which drove my dear brother to distraction), and cruise for an entire day without any fuss. Not so here in NZ. Two or three hours  on the narrow, curvy roads is plenty, and then I have to stop for a tea or a walk. Fortunately, there is an abundance of both here. Around every bend is a scenic area, an overlook, or a public garden. My Fitbit probably thinks it’s been stolen and is being worn by someone new. 

There’s just so much to tell you! But as I say, the evenings have been short, plus the wi-fi costs are nuts.

I drafted this blog on the ferry ride from Wellington to Picton, between the North and South islands. I camped outside Picton last night and am now at a place recommended by campers on my Campermate app — a must-have if you’re traveling in NZ. Lots of people gave a thumbs-up to Kina Beach Reserve, so I decided to give it a try. For the grand total of about $2.75 per night, here are my digs for a few days . . .

Kina Beach in Tasman, a little slice of heaven

Wrong Turns: Hold the Map Loosely

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One of the nice things about getting older, at least for me, is that I don’t get lost anymore. I may occasionally feel lost, but I know I’m not truly lost. 

This weekend, I was driving the winding roads of western North Carolina with two friends in my car, returning from four days at the Wild Goose Music Festival in Hot Springs. Nothing looked familiar, and I realized Suzanne was taking us home a different way than we had come. 

There was a lot of map rustling and Siri debating as we approached a crossroads, and I felt tense because I sensed my friends were getting tense. We might get lost! We might BE lost and not even know it!

“Is that going to be a slow and winding road?” 

“That’s not the way we came!” 

“Does that get us to the interstate faster?”

“Make a U-turn; let’s ask at that gas station!”

Thing is, I knew that both roads would get us where we needed to be. I wasn’t sure which was most direct, or whether people might laugh at me for choosing a silly route, but I knew that technically, I wasn’t lost. 

Spiritual Navigation 

My circuitous spiritual journey has taught me a bit about navigation. Mostly, not to panic.

Wandering Path

Wandering Path

Here are some things I’ve learned about getting literally and metaphorically “lost” in life.

  • You can see beautiful things and meet interesting people on the side roads of life, the roads you didn’t plan to take. The unplanned vistas and visits are often the most memorable.
  • Sometimes the slower roads are the better ones. You can absorb your surroundings and appreciate the present moment when you eschew the interstate and tootle along with your foot propped up on the dashboard (yes, I drive like that) and a Starbucks soy chai latte in your hand. You see real people sitting on their porches, not shadowy heads behind a windshield.
  • When you’re off-course, ask for assistance. This allows other people to help you, which makes them feel good and boosts your belief in ultimate goodness. We’re all on this trip together.
  • Choose your traveling companions and the soundtrack of your trip carefully. Choose people who laugh easily and don’t take themselves or the journey too seriously. Choose to listen to the positive and the upbeat in the universe, not to the critical voices in your head or to the negativity and nonsense polluting our culture.
  • Hold the map loosely. There is more than one way to get where you need to be. Someone else’s route might not be best for you. As long as you’re facing the right direction (when all else fails, look for the sun; look to the light), you are going to arrive at your destination.
  • Rest assured that things will work out in the end. You’ll get where you need to be if you pay attention. Even at the ultimate end of the journey — the one we usually deny and try to avoid at all costs — it’s all going to be OK. We are safe. There’s a cosmic navigator driving this space ship. Relax.

 You Can’t Get There From Here

When I read the WordPress Daily Post writing challenge asking us to write about the last time we got lost, the first thing that popped into my head was a riff from Firesign Theatre. Unless you are of a certain age, you won’t remember this hysterical stream-of-consciousness comedy group from the late sixties/early seventies. Some of us had their albums memorized. If you like Monty Python, try to dig up some Firesign.

Firesign Theatre

Firesign Theatre

I share this because I think it enhances my points above, but also because it’s ridiculous and I couldn’t help it:

NICK DANGER: Hey, pop!

POP: All right, hold your horses.

NICK: Where am I?

POP: (pause) You can’t get there from here.

NICK: But I’m looking for the Same Old Place.

POP: Ohhh! You must mean the old Same place! It’s right out back, sonny. Here’s the key.

— From the album, How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All?

Shift Your Perspective: The Best Laid Plans…

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The car is packed, and I’m ready to go. Depressed, but ready. I just have to suck it up, and get on the road. I always feel this way when I close up my little New England house for the winter.

This was a good trip. I did a lot of writing, although it wasn’t necessarily what I had planned to write. But as they say, the best laid plans…

With a ten-hour drive ahead, I don’t have much time for journaling. I’m making good time with my to-do lists, and it’s only 7:30 a.m. All that’s left is to turn off the water and catch the cats. They’re usually behind the sofa bed. Peace out-

You’re walking funny this morning. Faster, like something’s up. Plus, you are talking out loud and we creatures of fur are not in the same space with you. You do not have the shiny black noise-maker in your paw, either. Who are you talking to? Something is different.

A zipper! I’d better make myself scarce. Last time you found me behind the sleeping place; where to go?

I’m back, ticked off because I only had thirty minutes scheduled to catch the cats, and I can’t find Eliza Bean. Maya was behind the sofa bed, but Eliza seems to have vanished. She’s too big to fit behind the stove where she used to go when she was a kitten, and I know she’s not behind the laundry hamper because I can always see her tail.

Weird. Well, it will only delay me more if I write – I was just frustrated and decided to vent.

Eliza Bean

Eliza Bean

I can’t fit behind the big box that gets hot anymore. Besides, you know that place. And the place you put the stinky skins you shed is too small; my tail sticks out.

 I am not letting you put me in that Mover. I feel sick in there, and there’s no room to stretch and no sunshine to nap in. You know we don’t like it, you know it. I hear you coming – where shall I go?

Hey! What’s in here? Brmmpp?

CRASH!

I cannot believe this. Eliza has managed to pull down a panel the plumber left leaning against the upstairs bathroom wall, and she’s gotten inside the wall and underneath the bathtub. I can’t see her, but I know she’s in there. Shit. What am I going to do?

Perfect…. It’s nice and dark. Mew. Spider webs.

Ouch! What’s that awful noise? My ears hurt. Are you doing that? You are hurting my ears! Ouch, my foot! I’d better go farther back here. Stop! Oh, you are going to be very sorry for this.

I’ve tried blasting rock music, banging on the bathtub, thrashing around with a broom. She’s not budging. This is crazy. It’s noon already. I’m going to kill her. I ought to board her up in there and leave her.

Oh now you have your sweet voice. The one when you want me on your lap. No, I don’t want treats. No, I don’t want food. I am not coming out. This puffy stuff in the walls is soft, and it’s still a little warm over the place of fire. I will have a nap. We will all just stay here for the afternoon until I am ready. I know you won’t leave me.

The old house has seen a lot in 225 years. Some of its favorite dramas involve this family and its felines.

Quiet Hills

Quiet Hills

In the 1950s, Grandmother’s white cat, Feather, played the hiding game and spent a whole day tucked behind the books on the living room shelf.

Then there was the one called Aunt Valerie, whose cat hid out in the woodshed and got sprayed by a skunk. Thirty years later, the house can still sense the smell.

And there was this one’s mother with her orange tabby, Triscuit, who slipped into the basement crawl space and delayed their trip home for two days.

Orange Tabby sleeping

The house thinks this one wouldn’t be so angry if she would only remember that these escapades turn into favorite family stories.

 

Yawn. It’s getting dark and chilly in here. I think I’ll go down now. I wonder if you’ve got any Trout Feast. I think I’d like the kind with gravy.

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This post is in response to the WordPress weekly writing challenge: Shift Your Perspective, encouraging bloggers to write from different points of view. It’s first person, second cat, and third house.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Shift Your Perspective | The Daily Post.

Microjourneys

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I’m still avoiding the fact that I must hit the road tomorrow, locking up my lovely mountain home until next Spring. I don’t have time to do another whole post of procrastinating, as in:

An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse: A Little Ditty on Denial « melanielynngriffin.

Instead, I will share with you two nonfiction microjourneys I had published in the last issue of Outside In Literary journal:

Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine.

Turns out they are both water-themed, but I’m too beat to try to do anything clever with that. So – I’ll talk to you after the road trip. Blessings as we enter December!

Last Road Trip of 2012

Microjourney One: On surviving hurricane Sandy

Once in a great while, I wish that I did not live alone. I expected one of those great whiles, the night that Sandy roared in. I lit the candles and scooted over on the futon to make room for Fear. Instead, old friends settled in: Louise Erdrich, Annie Dillard, Robertson Davies, and Leo Tolstoy. When Hayden and Handel arrived, I knew there would be no fear, only wind and rain.

Microjourney Two: On Puddles and Tears

I saw her through the dusty window as our bus bounced along a rutted Ugandan road, headed back to Kampala. She was crouched over a muddy waterhole, rinsing clothes in the brown water. Her hair was covered with an orange head wrap, and she wore a long print skirt which was hoisted up to her knees, revealing bare feet.

I had witnessed so much, after three weeks in Africa, that I barely registered the image at the time. I’d like to say that our eyes met, but I don’t think they actually did. She just slipped inside my head and made me cry when I got back to the States and started a load of laundry.

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