Out on the wild west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, there’s a wee place at the edge called Okarito. It is beautiful, mostly beach and bush, and it hides the Holy Grail – its own species of brown kiwi (smaller than a unicorn but larger than a dragon’s egg), along with a guide who’s actually sanctioned by DOC to help people catch sight of the elusive critter. I was there only a couple of magic days and mysterious nights, but it pretty much summed up the year for me: I was on a mission.
The guided tour to see the country’s most famous resident was fully booked, but never one to say never, I took myself out into the bush in the middle of the night to find one for myself. The maiden voyage saw me venturing out with an elite team of highly-trained explorers (a pair of likeminded souls who fancied the thrill of the mythical chase, highly skilled in the art of Googling a kiwi’s call before braving the dark). The second night, I went solo. It was same, same, but different. Same – in that the kiwi avoided me, not even so much as calling out to tease at it had on the first expedition. Different – in that I’d forgotten I was terrified of possums and had no one to giggle with nervously in the pitch black when they swooped out of the forest to eat me alive (wait, that was the sandflies; the possums stood there and tried to put the evil eye on me. Sneakier than direct attack.)
I’d driven past the sign to Okarito more than once, distracted by the monumental glaciers to its right. But I was so glad I finally found it and its beautiful beach house. During the days, I filled the wait for kiwi O’clock with other things. Like cycling Enid along the empty roads, visiting Andris Apse’s home to see his beautiful gallery and learn his incredible story, climbing the Trig, walking on the beach to watch the sun set behind the headland, and sailing the lagoon.
There were other things to see. Life went on. Life turned up. In the dark, I didn’t just dodge the perilous possums, I saw glowworms blinking in the black, and I could only see them because the lights were out. On the lagoon, I saw the kind of mirrored reflections I thought could only exist in paintings. I took a boat tour with Franz Josef Glacier, Mt Cook and Mt Tasman as a backdrop, and though I didn’t see a kiwi in Okarito, a startling array of other birdlife popped by to say hello, including tui, oyster catchers, black swans & their cygnets, a great white heron and a bunch of bar-tailed godwits. These guys fly about ten days straight from Alaska without stopping or eating just to hang out there – the least I could do was be happy to see them.
And, while I didn’t sight the Holy Grail of mythical creatures, hearing the kiwi call gave me hope. They are out there – fighting outrageous odds, given the invasion of their lands by forces of evil committed to their extinction (that’d be those possums again). Now I know where the sign is. And the guide (whose services I’d recommend, having cornered him in his own home to demand photographic evidence, ending up discussing my quest at length while his cup of tea got cold). I’ll be back.
This time last year, I was down. But I wasn’t out. I’d lost something precious. But I was on a mission. A mission to hunt happiness – that elusive Holy Grail that life’s possums are always trying to do away with. So I didn’t indulge too far my sorrow for that which was gone. I didn’t turn my face only backward to mourn or only forward to search for a distant date when I would feel better and could begin to have a ball again (it was something like May 7th). I turned my face from side to side and looked all around. And even though Happiness didn’t magically, immediately appear, I saw beauty in the moments I did so. Life went on. I went out and lapped it up. I laughed. I faked it for a time, sure. But this year just gone, I fell in love again. I fell in love with the life all around me – and my own life just as it is, looking to no one else to make it amazing except myself. (It helped that the mountains saw snow the likes of which hadn’t been boarded in several seasons.)
This year I have seen lambs genuinely frolicking – hopping and skipping like bizarre ballet dancers. Fish jumping, like funny jack-in-the-boxes. Baby seals paddling, a waterfall their playpen. I have heard tui warbling and kiwi calling, waves lapping and wind howling. I’ve smelt the smoke of campfires and courageous cooking. I’ve tasted salt in the sea breeze and touched sand and snow, rock and rain.
Are you a new year’s resolutions kind of person? I am. And I usually win at them. But last year, I had to start below scratch and resolve just to find some resolve. It’s there if you want to hunt it down – just dig deep.
It’s a new year. A lot of us are looking at fresh starts (whether we wanted them or not). Find your resolve. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. And don’t just look back or forward – look around you. Appreciate what you see. And see the signs. Take the turns. Hope will be there. And magic might happen.
Yay the kiwi! Eagles may soar, but kiwis don’t get sucked into jet engines 🙂
Glad you’ve got some love back in your life – romantic love is, after all, only one of many loves.
Haha absolutely :p I love the kiwi – resilient wee beastie!! And I couldn’t agree more…
New picture! Very glamourous (does glamourous really need all those vowels?). A very confident image 🙂
Thank you 🙂 I’m doing some revamping!
Beautiful words, and even though you didn’t find the Holy Grail. I have a feeling that stacked against all the moments of beauty you found whilst looking from side to side, that grail would seem a lot smaller.
That’s what I’m hoping for – beauty in small moments and love in unexpected ways, for Now, rather than forever. But I hope we both get what we want out of the year ahead…whichever way we look 🙂
Thanks lovely Lizzi… Absolutely – it’s important not to wear blinkers and find joy in the little as well as the ultimate… You’re going to have an incredible year 🙂 Have a happy, happy, happy one!
I hope so. I hope we both do, somehow, making it work. You’re quite the inspiration, yaknow 🙂
We will! And that means so much, coming from you – you light up the Internet 🙂
Awwwh that’s the sweetest thing! You just made yourself *checks clock* favourite before lunchtime 🙂 THANK YOU! I hope I shall continue to provide a catalyst for people to come together and share glitter and thankfuls, and to develop ever deeper and more meaningful connections with the people they meet in this World Between the Wires.
I love that I got to meet you, and truly, your thoughts on how you’ve lived your past year really struck a chord with me as I look at the year I have to come. I feel far more confident in achieving it, somehow, now knowing more of your story.
Hehe, brilliant :p I’m so glad I met you for reals! I got myself a ukelele by the way – more chords to be struck 🙂 I love the path you’re on – it’s exciting and fulfilling and it’s going to be brilliant – just believe 🙂
Oh BRILLIANT! I’m so glad you got it 🙂 And yes – I’m committed to believing. Nows and nexts, my friend (and no swimming in the sea in winter).
I’m so glad the year yielded what you needed, that resolve opened those eyes and allowed you to see what was truly there and awaiting your appreciation. Though we’d never choose it for ourselves, it’s sometimes the case that we must swoop before we soar. You swooped early, but you also found a piece of what you needed and now the climb is before you. Soar, you will.
Last year was a poor one for my health, a frustrating struggle too often yielding setbacks, but when I ceased struggling and turned to rest my thoughts found the energy to dream. And dream they did, for I rediscovered my love for writing and that was invaluable. All my best to you this coming year!
Ah I’m sorry about the frustrations – but so glad you found a way to dream and reignite the writing passion!
That’s a beautiful way of putting it – I’m excited to soar – this is the year! All the best for yours 🙂
You never cease to be inspiring, Sara. I loved reading this – but even more, I’m thrilled you’re in a much better place now than you were at this time last year. 🙂
I have a similar post coming out tomorrow (Wednesday my time) on my blog… but for me, 2015 was a year of growth. It was a year where I learned a few different kinds of bravery, stepped out of my comfort zone more than usual, and remembered that it’s more important to let things happen naturally instead of forcing them. Oh, and lots of writing. Judging what I can see for 2016 so far, it’s going to be a year of balance and flexibility – and more writing, revising, etc., of course. 😉
Me too 🙂 Definitely popping over to see yours! I like the end of year / beginning of a new one ‘pause & reviews’ that we take at this time of season. You definitely achieved some exciting things in 2015 – I want to try and cultivate more balance in 2016 as well, and definitely more writing 🙂
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