Thursday, February 13, 2014

Windy Wonderful Wellington!!!

 I trained it to Wellington and listened to my favorite metal band Wolvserpent as the scenery floated by.    I was glad to have my music collection at my fingertips, and resonating sweet nothings in my ears again. Thank you to my sister for shipping me my iPod. What was I thinking by trying to go without it!? I listen to music when I sculpt generally and was feeling its absence harder and harder these days.
  I would spend the next week in Wellington. This is the longest stretch of time I have stayed in one place since setting foot in New Zealand.  It wasn't the original plan, but what was anymore?  Since my arrival to this country I have been harassing foundries as I worked my way south, to try and get a tour. However, if they responded at all, it was with a polite decline.  I understand their decision, because foundries are quite dangerous, but I was hopeful.  Wellington's foundries were no different. However, I did email an artist whose work I admire and whose work i am sure you are all familiar with regardless of consciously knowing it.  Greg Broadmore is an illustrator, comic book artist, and concept designer who works for Weta in Wellington.  Weta is a film production studio where special effects, miniatures, costumes, concept design, and you name what else, is made for movies.  King Kong, District 9, Lord of the Rings, Meet the Feebles, Dead Alive, the list could go on for days, were all in part fabricated here.  So I embraced my new mantra for the year, "Why not!?" and sent Greg an email telling him I was a fan of his work and asked if he could spare some time to meet me.
  It took him two days to respond because he was busy out of the country, but he said he could meet me the upcoming Thursday after he got back into the country and had finished setting up his next gallery show in Christchurch.  If you could have seen me. Picture a star struck nerd in a candy shop. I read the email three times to make sure my wishful thinking hadn't played tricks on my eyes. I would stay a full week for the opportunity to meet someone so dedicated to the art world. Absolutely!!!
  In the meantime there was a beautiful city to see.  And now begins the inundation of images.

Someone who likes fun put bubbles in the fountain.

The phonebooth

  There were so many wonderful art pieces to enjoy, not to mention the Te Papa art museum which housed New Zealand's popular World of Wearable Art exhibit, that I could easily get carried away with posting photos, but I suppose I should save something for the book.
  One of the days in Wellington I finished the Te Araroa trail on the north island with Celine, one of the  french women I had met on my very first day on the trail at Twilight Beach.  We had sunshine and clear skies, but as is mentioned in the title Wellington is a windy city! We fought 70+km winds that day and had our faces thoroughly exfoliated by the sand on the beach where we finished the trail.

Keep a wide stance for balance in those winds!!

Wind, providing the hairstyles of the future!!
  Let's see, what else happened that week? Oh ya, there was kind of a huge earthquake!!  During an afternoon I had gone to my dorm room for a nap. It had been a while since I had a solid night's rest, and I thought perhaps I could calm my mind enough to sleep a bit.  It's hard to convince yourself to slow down and rest when you know there is a new country outside the door to explore.
  I had just roused from a restless slumber, still in that half asleep state where the world still exists, but the boundaries of possibilities have faded and imagination  runs wild.  The bed moved slightly and I though to myself "Oh man, they (meaning a dormmate) were quiet when they came in."  I thought someone had come into the room while I was sleeping and took their position on the top bunk.  It took absolutely no time for me to understand what was really happening.  It's funny how never having heard it before, that I recognized the rumble of the earth beneath me as a quake. Nothing else, but Mother Earth herself could create such a sound that you feel it in your soul.
  I jumped from the bed thinking "Is this really happening or am I still dreaming?"  I have been known to sleep walk and talk.  It's a blurred line to reality.  Now, when I should have been doing something sensible like getting to a door frame instead I found myself frozen, which isn't generally my reaction during times of emergency, usually I am cool as a cucumber. Now please know i was absolutely terrified and you can be damn sure my heart rate went through the roof, but I was stuck in an internal  conversation.  As I stood there I grabbed the bunk bed for support and quickly let go, as if I had touched something hot.  There was zero solace in holding onto that metal pole because it was shaking back and forth more than I was on my own. So I widened my stance and surfed the floor in its smooth  fluid waves of terror as I mulled over my situation.
  During the ten seconds of floor surfing my discussion with myself went a little like this:
"Is this happening?
Is this for real?
This cannot be happening.
I don't die like this.
Not me.
This is not where my story ends.
I suppose in case I do die I should take a moment to be thankful.
I have been so blessed.
But I don't die here.
I would be okay with dying in Wellington, on the trip, in an earthquake...
but NOT here! I DO NOT die in a HOSTEL!!!"
  It was at this point my body began to respond to my situation. I sat down, strapped my boots onto my feet so fast I swear I saw smoke rising out of them, grabbed my coat,  my backpack, and made way for the stairs. By now the rumble and the shaking had subsided and I began to question once again if what just happened had been a dream until I met a woman in the hall who asked if I "felt that."  Felt it? It owned me!  I speedily went down 4 flights of stairs, made my way to the wharf, passing by calm demeanored, un-phased faces and spent the rest of the day outside.  A 6.2 earthquake.  I slept very little in Wellington after that. Every time my dorm mate above on the top bunk so much as rolled over, slightly jarring the bed, I was readily planning my escape.
  I later joked that if I were in fact to die at some point in Wellington, and my final moment was spent being crushed between beds that I would appreciate it if my tombstone would please read "Death by bunk smash." Which incidentally would be a great name for a band.
  Wednesday of this week was a day to be remembered.  Ami, one of the trampers, had coordinated a party in Wellington, inviting all the trampers on the Facebook page to join in if they happened to be in the area. A celebration of completing the north island, and for several people a celebration of the end of the trek. Some were injured, and others just simply didn't have the time allotted to finalize the trail.  And I used it as an excuse to buy a dress, and feel like a lady for a night.  $8 thrift store score, tights and some hiking boots!!!  That's as close to a lady as I could get at the moment, but it was enough. Let the fun begin!!
Merry Trampers Unite!
  We spent the evening trading stories, getting the low-down from Pat Beath, (the bearded man in the front who had already finished the whole trail for the season as a fundraiser for local children), drinking and then getting down low on the dance floor!
  You didn't actually think I would post those photos did you!? Ha!! I will keep those for myself thank you :)
  The next day I took the bus to the Weta Workshop and met Greg Broadmore, who is utterly awesome!!!  We talked for about an hour, then when he had to return to work he walked me back to the Weta Cave.  I asked for a photo with him, and he did so much better than just that.  He took the display vintage ray guns which he designed and published into a book titled Doctor Grordbort's Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory, (later to be sculpted out of solid cast metal and put on display for sale), out of their cases and let me hold one of them while we took a photo. Heavy buggers!

"Why not!?"
  Many many thanks to Greg for taking the time to meet a stranger, and a big fan.
Also at the Weta...
I narrowly escaped the clutches of trolls.
   And just like that, it was over...

Stonehenge Aotearoa

After my time in Palmerston North I collected myself and headed for my first adventure off trail since my realizations of having to alter the plan.  I bussed to Carterton with plans to see the Stonehenge Aotearoa.
  Stonehenge Aotearoa is a modern, and fully functioning solar circle.  It is not a replica of the Stonehenge ruins of the Salisbury Plain of England, but rather a modern adaptation designed to demonstrate how the ancient people of the world, (because solar circles are in fact found world wide), understood astronomy by the movement and seasons of the sun.
  I asked a woman after getting off the bus if she could point me in the direction of cheap lodging, because even though there was a holiday park in town, they charged more to pitch my tent on a piece of grass, than most hostels do, so I was trying to optimize my options.  She suggested we pop into the local pub, which is where she was heading anyway to ask the bartender, and the next thing I know, after going over all the options, she offered for me to stay in the spare room at her house.  She made sure to ask me first if I was an axe murderer.  I said no, and asked her the same. She also said no. Yay! We were off to a great start!
  She introduced me to the locals at the bar, a scene reminiscent of the opening scene in Cheers, but this town is so small everyone knows everyone's name.  I answered a lot of questions of my travels, intentions, and Idaho.  Shockingly many of them already knew Idaho was famous for potatoes and the Rockies.  Nothing will make you want to bone up on your geography like traveling.  Or increase the desire to learn more languages for that matter.  I have a lot of homework when I get home!
  I spent the evening in wonderful company. Michelle and her partner Jamie were fantastic hosts and I have been instructed to inform you all that the best of Kiwi hospitality is found in Carterton, and I must say after the next 24 hours, it's hard to argue.  The house sat amidst well loved and tended flower, herb, and food gardens.  I had a tour of the town, and they cooked an amazingly beautiful seafood dinner for me.  They were ever so gracious in unecessarily tending to my diet.  They gave me a beer!!! And over dinner, while they entertained guests who had also come to their home from the pub, they all took part in explaining to me the game of cricket, which I now can safely say I have a vague understanding for.
  The following morning the spoiling continued as Jamie took a break from work to give me a ride out to the Stonehenge. It was far out in the middle of typical New Zealand rolling hillsides, and would for sure have taken me a majority of the day to get to by foot.  I waited around for about 15 minutes for a tour to start.  It was by far the best tour I have had in years!  Worth every penny! So if you find yourself out Carterton way, take the 90 minutes to be inundated and amazed by science, Greek, Roman, and Maori legends as only the stars can tell them.
 The henge contains 24 pillars capped with lintels making the structure 4 meters high. It is 30 meters in diameter and has a 5 meter tall obelisk marking the center and also turning the henge into a Polynesian star compass.

Maori legends tells a story with the two pillars in the forefront, representing the two wives of the god in the sky. He is the sun and moves from one to the next as the seasons change.

At high noon, the tip of the obelisk's shadow falls on the tiled platform, marking by its position on the figure 8, the date and zodiac sign in power.

When standing on this center marking, the acoustics are unbelievable.  Sounds from everywhere within the circle resonate in your ear as if they are all up close. So mind the gossip!

The angle of the hole in this obelisk points toward  the south celestial pole when lined up to reveal a full circle.

The seven sisters

Now to top the wonderful day off, I saw a ghost house atop the adjacent hill!

Not scared!!

Then I was given a ride back to town by the published astronomer himself, who had given such a wonderful tour.  I sat, ate lunch, walked tot he train station, took a small nap under a few trees at the station, and boarded a train to Wellington.

Palmerston North, Round 2! A resurrection.

 After Whanganui I ventured back to Palmerston North, where if you remember, I had spent an unexpected Christmas in a hostel rather than house sitting for a friend.  The key was at the post this time, and even better, a few of my friends would roll through town throughout the series of days I would spend there.
  The injuries persisted, but I was still up in the air about what to do.  I realize that certain things are beyond our control, and as I told a good friend of mine recently, our reaction to life is the only thing we truly have control over. What is that saying? "Life is what happens while we are busy making plans?"  There is truth in this.  I had been fighting injuries consistently since the first full week of the trail.  I am aware I am quite stubborn, and often to a detrimental point, so the debates in my head were raging. At what point do I give into the physical ailments?  And even worse, how could I possibly break the news to everyone?
  I was feeling like I had failed. I had set out to accomplish this goal and was terrified of the thought of it going unfinished. More so, I was afraid of letting someone down.  So many people have put their faith in my abilities and idea, for whatever myriad of reasons, and I find it difficult to believe that even if I told them every day for the rest of their lives the magnanimous effect it had on me, they couldn't possibly understand. And more so, they would probably get annoyed by my broken record of thank yous.
  The Tongariro Crossing was my last test.  If I could manage to pass through unscathed I could probably go on to finish the rest of the trail.  This would be an easy reintroduction test... again.  It was only 19km and I had the advantage of being able to leave my backpack at the hostel in National Park, "slack packing" with just a day pack of food, water and sunscreen.  What I didn't mention in the Tongariro blog is that I did in fact have issues in my feet and various leg joints and found myself once again limping after only 11km.  I won't go too far into details, but the pain was obvious and the trail was too much for me to handle.  I have officially been bested. There you go, I said it.  
  Te Araroa you kicked my ass like I did not see coming and I humbly bow down to you, a respected adversary and friend.  I find disappointment in the unrelenting set backs of my physical abilities holding me torturously just out of reach from my aspirations.  After taking the last couple of weeks to face this straight-on I offer reluctant acceptance, and I think I have finally found the level of grace I needed to say "thank you."
  Don't you think for one second that this means I am finished!!  I am still producing art and have hiked a substantial amount since then, though at slower speeds and smaller more manageable intervals.  The limits in my physical abilities have expanded the depths of my heart and mind. I am not the same as when I started, and so begins the healing.
  I stayed with a friend for 5 days in Palmerston North catching up on the last blogs and deciphering my next motives.  I found his house and company an oasis of insight in the deserts of my struggles.  When we are children our minds are like sponges soaking up knowledge and the wonderment of all the possibilities this world has to offer, but as we grow we are taught limits.  We meander through blockades of "no's" and "good luck with that's," hidden behind a veil of fear and pessimism.  We are taught to question, but with limits. We are taught to wonder, but within the confines of our cultures. We are taught to wander, but not too far.  Change is scary.  In Palmerston North I found a gem disguised as a man who still questions, wonders, and wanders through life in a state of awe, disguising his observations in clever cynical word play, (a living Monty Python character), bending the walls in this maze through life and allowing himself to be marveled by it.  To say anything further of what was discussed would be to put a stain on the sanctity of the flow and destinations of the conversations held.  Some things you must be present for.  But the lessons learned, and the new tilt of the angle through which I see the world will hopefully subtly translate itself through the next series of writings.  At best, I can give you what was passed along to me in the form of a poem by the Bulgarian poet Blaga Dimitrova (1922-present).


I was born for love
to give and to receive it
yet my life has passed
almost without loving

  So I've learned forgiving

Even the deserts I have crossed
I feel no scorn for
I just ask them with astonishing eyes
What gardens were you born for?

Countless thanks to you Grant.

Carnivorous Snails