Golden Days, Golden Bay

Since the last time I wrote I have taken an eight hour bus trip, cried my little eyes out during Once while eating an entire bag of gummy worms, spent a lot of time feeling sad and lonely in Nelson, been to the Warehouse no less than three times in three days, seen baby seals frolicking in a tidepool on Wharariki Beach, been to guided meditation gatherings twice, learned to use a bio-toilet (hint: don’t skimp on the wood chips), learned to make toast with a gas-ring toaster (hint: learn to like the charred taste), ridden a horse for the first time in twenty years and managed not to fall off during a beachside canter, and learned the German for “make out.” It’s been an relaxedly eventful week.

I’m staying at this crazy eco-Buddhist-backpackers between Takaka and Collingwood, for all you Golden Bay aficionados, and I think I am finally appreciating the solitary shape this trip has taken. I was fairly miserable in Nelson, feeling really isolated at the hostel I was staying at and sort of wandering around town by myself trying to figure out what to do. I decided for the second or third time in the past month, that if I was going to be alone then I would be alone, preferably somewhere beautiful and also, ideally, accessible by bus. After a spectacularly ridiculous day of travel eff-ups, I finally made it to this beautiful place, where everyone gets up for morning meditation together and then has a cuppa and then maybe goes to the beach or sits in the outdoor teahouse or does a little outoor yoga or reads thirty year old National Geographics (“In ten years,” says the Shah of Iran in January 1975, “this country will be another France or Germany,”) or goes through a glowworm path to the local inn and drinks homemade feijoa cider or knits by the fire. I don’t feel out of sorts anymore, I’m not trying too hard anymore. Being alone here feels full, ample, enough. I plan to stay until Alice gets to Nelson for our kayak trip next week, doing as much nothing as I can fit in the day.

Yesterday after meditation–which, by the way, I can’t really do so I just try to count my breaths and not think too much about how much I like cheese–I went down the mosaic paths to the rocky beach and walked and walked and walked, wearing my favorite blue dress I got in Rarotonga that is, for some reason, very attractive to the gardens’ Chihuahua-sized bumble bees. I was still feeling twisty-turny in my heart, as I have basically since I moved out of the flat in Wellington, and I could hardly breathe for worrying and freaking out about what will happen when I get back to Welly, what will happen when I leave New Zealand, what will happen when I get back to the States. I had to watch my footing on the smooth slippy rocks though so after a wee while I started looking a little bit around me in the flat tidepools, seeing who else was out and about on such a beautiful day.

I saw three delicate and neurotic oystercatchers skittering along, reminding me of Miss Bates from Emma and looking so funny that I almost said out loud “Girl, you got some BIG ORANGE FEET there to match your BIG ORANGE NOSE.” I saw workmanlike silvery-pinky-browny sea snails, industriously churning little paths through the sands. I saw a heron. I saw limpets and chitons and some thing I think were amphipods but I’m not sure because they didn’t react very well to my trying to scoop them up. I saw elegant indigo mussels and larger, wilder, greeny-backers ones with the byssal threads still attached. I saw snails so tiny that I first thought my hands were just covered in chunky black sand, but no: each one a living creature, speckling my skin with shells. I saw what I think were tube worms and anemones that looked like seaweed and seaweed that looked like anemones. I saw a small but pugilistic thumb-sized crab that hid under a piece of driftwood but waved its claws threateningly at me. The sun was shining its autumnal best and the sea washed over my feet and calves as I crouched to look at the little worlds.

And so I forgot, for not the first but perhaps the most thorough time on this trip, about my worries and plans and heartaches. I thought they would be waiting up the hill for me when I got back from the beach, and they were, I guess, but I wasn’t too bothered and instead had a cup of tea and an apple-banana muffin before settling down with a 1963 magazine (“Travel Europe for a month by cruise ship–staterooms with hi-fi included and efficient American service and cuisine–starting at $1800”). Tonight I will make a big pasta for my German roommates (the ones who taught me ‘rummachen’ and so kindly drove me into town today) and sit in front of the fire in my pajamas until its time for another ten-hour sleep before morning meditation tomorrow.

I haven’t learned, I may never learn, I have to keep learning this lesson, over and over again: let go, let go, let go, let go.


  1. Oh, this is lovely.

  2. I so love the way you write. Everything you’ve write affects my heart and emotions in one way or another. I’m always wishing you happiness and peace.

  3. Saw a quote this morning and thought of you:
    “To be idle requires a strong sense of personal identity.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

  4. Ohhhh, Once. Wasn’t it hearbreakingly lovely? I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack, and I don’t generally DO music.

  5. That is the *essence* of meditation. Right there.

  6. It is a lesson I need to keep learning too.
    One step, one day at a time. :)

  7. This entry reads so much better than the entirety of Eat Pray Love, probably because I care about you – you’re a sympathetic, lovely character in my blogo-world and a kindred spirit in my soul-world.