New Zealand: Day 6 Rest day on the Tasman Sea coast

Hard to talk about beginnings without reflecting back on everything that has come before, but the Maori tell us not to rush, for we are already exactly where we need to be. I spoke at length with Stan on one of our getting lost rambles about this idea. Why is it that so many cultures consider enlightenment getting out of the timelinemaunganui beach and into the moment? There must be a biological benefit to this way of thinking, I said. All of our notions of culture and our drive to communicate once stemmed from a need to predict outcomes (where game might be found next winter; what plant was good to eat last spring, what plant wasn't; when to expect the rains—and when to worry when they are late). Stan replied, because we are simply biological creatures? What happens when you die, then? They don't waste time here, except when there's a benefit to it, like driving around chatting.

Later, he said the Maori (which Stan says the way a Brit would say “moldy”) believe that you carry all of your ancestors with you wherever you go. (“Or do they carry you?”) Are we the passenger or the pack mule?

I think we are the mule. We carry so much. This is why there needs to be a day when the old year can be shed and room for the new year made. This is not a science, but I like the idea of starting the year the way I'd like to spend it. (This means NOT hungover all day, shlepping around in my pajamas—there are plenty of other Sundays for that.) Instead, I started with a purposeful walk for an hour along a logging road. I was going quickly enough to break a sweat but not too quickly that I couldn't take a moment to look at a giant orange insect that was still kicking in the road, despite the fact that it was only a thorax and head—must have had a juicy abdomen. Or gaze out over the exotic ginger and daisies at the clear cuts of pine (another invasive, originally brought over to replace the Kauri as a timber source, which is a little like stocking the house with Little Debbie cakes to replace your mother's pies-from-scratch).

The cicadas sound the same here. But they don't stop buzzing when you pass them. As I write this, there are owls and kiwis calling in the night; one mourns, the other shrieks.

DAY 6 Photo set

The rest of the day was spent on a beach on the Tasman Sea. The water was perfectly pale blue-green—like the bottom of an old coke bottle or certain serpentines. And the foam and surf was perfectly white. Bobbing in the wake of a particularly large swell was like floating in azure champagne. The water was cold, but comfortably so, while the sun was hot. I got a ridiculous sunburn despite multiple applications of sunscreen (because see also the call of the water). There was a fearsome riptide, and to withstand it was life-affirming. I only stumbled once and the adrenaline rush of being pulled as if by a black hole and overcome was breathtaking. The tide was so strong that even lying on a towel later, up on the hot, dry sand, I could feel it pushing me back and forth for several minutes. A tactile after-image: like one of those optical illusions where you look at a black and green American flag for 30 seconds and then look at the back of your hand and see red white and blue. I had to look down at my legs in the sand once, to make sure they weren't rocking.

I also knit a sock and ate a good home-cooked dinner. Which is also what I'd like to see continue in 2013.

How much ocean is in my future year? I miss it. A fellow traveler said, “It just keeps coming.” And she meant more than just the waves but also, exactly that. No matter what, the waves will hit the shore, over and over and over. You can fight them or run away from them or bob on top of them in an inner tube or jump heart first into them laughing like an idiot: it doesn't matter to the waves at all.