The Sunday before last, we got kidnapped. It was perfection. Emily, or Aunty Emily as she is known to the four Hobbit children is here in Auckland for work from Christchurch. It’s been months since we have seen her, and she called me a few days ago and suggested the abduction without actually telling me anything about what would be involved, just that: “we are going for a walk.”
Yes, it was a walk. According to my Apple step counter, it was about 7km worth of walking through pristine New Zealand bush. Our tour guide was a calm, cheeky, kind millennial named… wait for it… Zuess. Not even kidding. He kept a close eye on us without ever giving away shortcuts and allowing us to function as a team and figure our own path through the forest. He’d done this Tawharanui scavenger hunt in summer and winter and several times before. He was the actual best.
I feel it prudent to mention that Emily had a severe case of sunstroke and was crispy after her shoulders were exposed while on the water the day before. Did she complain? No. Did I worry? Absolutely. The next day she was in at our local doctor and a few weeks later her burn and herself are healing. But what a trooper. Silly trooper, but trooper none the less.
Back to the walk!
We had our eldest and youngest kids with us. Daniel is nearly 14 and is, at times, an emo archetype of this harrowing stage in human development. He deals with his angst through humour, and suffers no fools as he bashes through puberty, trying to find his place, and heavily ensconced in memes, VR, and self-discovery. He amused, and perhaps slightly scared us with his razor sharp and often dark humor.
The other Hobbit child to join the convoy is James West. James is so full of joy and enthusiasm it is nearly impossible not to be in a great mood in his tiny but formidable presence. James was given the role of leader, which he relished and, despite only being four years old and unable to read, actually took on with staggering success. His diplomacy and enthusiasm throughout the day made his parents and the rest of the group very proud and kept us entertained.
Without going into too much detail, let me explain the premise of the day:
We stopped at the DOC station at the park entrance and collected pamphlets to guide us on a scavenger hunt through the Tawharanui bush reserve. The object was to find checkpoints of native bird pictures along the walk. Clear and easy to understand directions were given for each checkpoint, and Zuess let the team take total control of the process, and, despite knowing where everything was, and completing the walk several times in various conditions, did not rescue or steer the team at any point through the day. He did, however, offer encouragement and some fairly impressive jokes along the journey.
It is well known that my soulmate (ex partner and still best friend) Phteven and I adore Aotearoa. This is a paradise beyond measure in our eyes, and the opportunity to walk through pristine bush with dappled light and beautiful birdsong to sooth our busy minds was medicine for our souls and our friendship. Seeing our kids and our friends work together, bond, laugh and successfully find all the suggested checkpoints remains a highlight of the summer for our family. Good, wholesome Kiwi communing with nature. There’s nothing quite like it in the world, and I would suggest to anyone to get out amongst it when they have the time.
I might leave today’s post there for now, and share some of the pictures from the day and a few links. Living in the country is a blessing I treasure and ponder multiple times every day. Our summer is in full swing, and we are a week away from the children returning to school. This weekend I am nipping across the ditch to Melbourne for a quiet and rejuvenating weekend, while most of the Kiwis (especially in Auckland) will be preparing for some record high temperatures this Auckland anniversary weekend. So, consider packing a lot of cold water and heading into the bush where it is a little cooler and less crowded than the beach. I know I had a perfect day in dappled light with some of my favourite people on the planet.
Thanks for reading!
To say it is nice to be in bed with my beautiful boys (eldest and youngest) watching the Watership Down reboot with the four year old tattooed to me, his head on my chest so he can hear me breathing and his tiny hand resting on my neck as he has done since he was a baby, feeling my pulse as he drifts in and out of sleepy morning dreams, well happy is an understatement. I am blessed. Too blessed to feel stressed. I wish we could bottle these feels.
I arrived home to an immaculate house, clean sheets, and one of my favourite women on earth (my mother in law) filling me in on the drama I missed. James was in a pool with his second family over in Birkenhead, so I got to scoop him soggy into my arms in the early afternoon yesterday with Daniel and Steph in the car listening to Pink Guy and Pat Benatar as we cruised silently around the shore in our electric space ship (Model X) on our way to get some fresh strawberries and ice cream before the season for these sweet succulent treats closes until the end of 2019.
The kids are full of jokes and stories. Vying for my attention and talking over eachother. The four year old frequently winning the floor and then not actually having anything to say when everyone stops to listen to him.
These feisty, funny, fabulous human beings came out of my body with minds, souls, hearts, journeys, and adventures of their very own. They are as different as people could be on so many levels, and we are all tied together with dark humour, deep insight, and shared pain and magic that comes from hours of road trips, tabled talks, therapy, mistakes, magic and shared memories. We are family. Our numbers and dynamics change, but we are family, and we fall softly into hugs and hope in our chaos filled home, when the world around us feels scary and unsafe.
We made it to Pak’n’Save in Westgate after collecting James from his water baby antics and our trip to the fruit and vegetable stand. We are ALWAYS the loudest family at the supermarket. We dance to the easy listening earworms that waft over the speakers, the kids enact inside jokes with epic comedic timing and grace. We had a nightmare exchange student many years ago, and she’d point at EVERYTHING, wag her finger, and say the only English words we think she learned which were: “Me, no like…” while wagging her finger and sternly staring back at me on shopping trips. She lived on Oreo cookies. She also moved out after inviting strange men to her room at all hours of the morning and me flagging safety concerns with the school. She bounced on to a evangelical Christian family and out of our lives forever, and while she may not have made a very good impression on any of us, or I suppose us on her, that “me no like” gag is a timeless winner in our family.
I re-wrote the words to Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” in the drinks isle as we stocked up on sugar free ginger beer. The “we are young, heartache to heartache we stand” became “I am MOM, best one that YOU’LL ever have… I break promises, make demands, both of us knowing… you’re stuck with Dee. WHOOoaoaoaoaoaoaoaoa I AM MOM!”
Then we arrived at the feminine product section where I loudly asked my teenage (well, nearly teenage) daughter: “Do you need any feminine products Steph? Oh wait, of course you don’t as you are a conscientious environmentalist and you have reusable stuff, made ethically and I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!” Unflappably funny she equaled my volume and stated “Yes mother, you gave me no choice but to be a smug sustainability advocate, remember taking me all the way to Scotland and boycotting Nestle products my entire life?” Eye roll, then hug, followed by more eye roll and me saying how proud, but slightly terrifying it is that all my children are so unflappable and impossible to embarrass.
And then we came home. We had sweetcorn and oven chips and hot dogs for dinner. I read extra books to James and had him in bed by 7pm and Daniel and I watched Kubo and The Two Strings (excellent stop motion anime movie) and I posted a blog.
There is a happiness and calm in my heart that I could not find or force no matter what I tried. I am appreciating every moment of the happiness and gratitude that flows my way, and I am blocking all the bullshit I possibly can (some will inevitably get through, as it is prone to do).
In a couple of hours we are heading into the bush for a family hike with one of my favourite pathological overachievers on earth, my darling Emily. She’s family too, and we haven’t had face to face time in far too long.
Life doesn’t have to be an epic overseas adventure to be fantastic. Just learning to live in the moment, whatever that moment may be is proving to be the best medicine and most powerful magic for soothing my worried mind.
Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!