It is winter here now. One of the warmest winters on record. The daffodils have been in flower for weeks now, and the first blossom has already been and gone . We've had our cold days, when I've sworn it is colder here than Vermont in winter. But really, it's been the mildest season.
We've been back in NZ now for almost exactly 6 months. It's taken some time to be reconciled to being home. I'd be driving out to work over the Manawatu Bridge and suddenly be filled with a longing to be driving along route 7, looking out for the guard camel. I miss the little things: daikon farm sausages, the normality of wearing a hat in the cold, chipmunks and squirrels, and the people, of course, the people. I've missed walking over to the lake - and in my imagination, I've watched the lake at Long Point change from deep ice, to slush, and now I imagine it, in high summer, with all the boats brought out of storage, and people all around.
Don't get me wrong: life has been full and satisfying. We bought ourselves a little taste of something we met in Vermont: an Italian spinone named Salvo, who has been a joy and a delight. The girls are settled back into school and happy: Em has lost her New England accent. Work is - well, it's a well worn path, and not without its pleasures. I've enjoyed writing, enjoyed my church communities, and being back among friends and family. I can't yet quite believe that my friend Anne has moved from Darwin to within easily travelling distance of Palmerston North - I haven't stopped marvelling when she walks in the door. Our friend, Sue, has found us a small cottage to move to the farm, and we are full of eager plans for it.
But I've missed the beauty of Vermont, the small pleasure of looking out of the window at the lake, feeding the birds, the quietness of Long Point. Recently, however, I was reminded of the beauty - the wild, remote beauty of New Zealand.
It was always going to be a busy day. I was preaching at the two morning services at Central Baptist, and then leading evensong at All Saints in the late afternoon. When I came home from church in the morning, I had a list of jobs to do. But I looked at the girls, still in their pjs, and at the dogs breaking out in badness because they were aching for a walk, and then out at the sky, and declared I had to go to the beach.
One of the odd things about where we live is that we believe we live a long way from the seas. By New Zealand standards we do: I read recently that nowhere in NZ is more than an hour away from the sea (see http://www.buzzfeed.com/jemimaskelley/things-you-did-not-know-about-new-zealand). In fact the trip is about 25 minutes on an easy road. so, we packed dogs and girls and water bottles and snacks into the car, and set off.
It was one of those days when time and all the responsibilities of daily life seem to fall away. The beach was almost empty - after all, it is mid-winter, and it had been threatening rain when we left the house.
The dogs had the time of their lives.
We played in the sand dunes.
And ran in the sea (Harris is teaching Salvo to chase seagulls).
And came home again, happy and relaxed.
We live in a beautiful country, Aotearoa New Zealand - and all I needed, to remind me, was sea, sand, dogs and my girls, and the clear, sharp winter air.