Winter has set over Wellington. While nowhere near as cold as the UK, icy winds and dreary rain set a gloomy atmosphere over the city. Six hours north in Napier, it’s still ice-cream-on-the-beach weather, making a mockery of my coat and scarf as I stagger off the bus in the middle of the night. Sentinel palm trees line the street, and I’m reminded of how much I liked this town the first time I was here.
People are leaving. Travellers arrived in early Spring and are departing now that Winter has settled. Many of the friends I’ve made have already left New Zealand to return home, or to travel onwards to warmer climes. Just a few weeks ago, my good friend Mikaela set off for Australia, and now I’m in Napier to say goodbye to someone else.
Molly and I met in Paihia a lifetime ago. Now in Napier, we visit the National Aquarium, where we watch little blue penguins and both finally see a kiwi for the first time (the bird, not the fruit). We spend a sleepy autumnal-seeming day by Lake Tutira, half-an-hour north of Napier, amidst golden leaves and sun. The winding mountain road tells us to Beware goats for next 70km, which is hilarious but completely useless as an instruction. It’s one of those warm, sunny days where all you want to do is lie on the grass and maybe play football and cards. So we do. Molly hits the ball harder than anyone I know and almost breaks the car in the process. In the distance, a man stands in the water up to his knees, a long fishing rod arcing above his head. The trees are pencil line fractals and the strewn leaves are baked to a perfect crisp. Early in the late afternoon, the sun sets over the lake and the bugs turn out and the air turns cold. We retreat to a Thai restaurant and it’s pretty much a perfect, weird, mid-Winter day.
On Monday, when I’m supposed to be sitting on reception 300km away at the Civil Aviation Authority, instead I’m standing on the top of the famous Te Mata hill, looking out over the rolling greenery of Hawkes Bay: Napier, Hastings, Havelock North. I’m thinking about my decision to move back to the UK. Oh, I may not have mentioned this. I’m moving back to the UK at the end of September.
Wales has scenery like this, right? I ask Molly. She assures me that it does.
Scotland does too, as my friend Kitty always reminds me.
And England, I guess. Maybe I’ve never really taken the time to appreciate it.
Later we’re eating ice-creams on the beach and marvelling at the fact that all the kids are wearing shorts. It’s an ending, and it makes me consider the larger ending on my horizon. I’ve still got close to three months in New Zealand, but part of my attention is already pivoting to my life beyond. I need a plan, I need a job, I need a home.
We want to look beyond endings. We say things like: When one door closes, another one opens (which makes no sense). If you search online for quotations on endings, almost every single one of them also includes the word beginning.
We want to move past endings as quickly as possible, to speak of them only as the start of something else. Yet we should mark endings, celebrate endings, mourn endings. We should acknowledge the significance they already hold, regardless of what comes next.
I’m reminded of this, first under a wintery sun, then on a meandering, rocking bus journey back to Wellington as the world reverts to dark and blustery and wet. Endings are important, not because they lead to something, but because something led to them.
Snapshots of NZ