Friday, November 6, 2015

Traveling light

It is 18 months since I last wrote. These have not been uneventful months. My book manuscript was completed and delivered to the publisher ahead of the deadline, and is back with the reviewers (please like my book!). Onto the next one (or two!).

 We have moved a large, chapel-like shed (called the Tokomaru Tardis by Emily) onto the farm (courtesy of my friend Sue), which we have plans to develop into a tiny house that we can stay in on weekends.

Two summers ago I was out at the farm and suddenly felt this intense longing to wake up there one morning. Soon we will be able to. We also bought a tiny cottage (called the Untardis, because it's smaller on the inside than you could possibly expect), to accompany the Tokomaru Tardis.

Bruce has planted - or extended - the orchard. And I have bought my first beehive and next week a friend of mine (who is also the family dentist - Emily objects strongly to the way the dentist and I discuss bees all the time he is adjusting her braces) will settle its new queen and small nuke. 

Emily has thrived through almost a year at High School, where she is blissfully happy; Lizzy has survived  almost a year at intermediate.

Bruce's business has flourished despite some frustrations. Salvo has grown.

Harris has continued to consider life to be a matter of suffering.

I have in some ways lost heart at work - though research, my students, a few good colleagues, and my own team buoy me up, and these are all good reasons to get up in the morning and put on heels and a jacket. And - it may sound odd - but the beautiful campus is also an antidote to a sense of loss. Even if I spend the morning drive angsting over the intentional disembowelling of higher education, my heart calms when I drive through the plane trees or count the tuis squabbling over the nectar of a blossom tree. 

But this a good time to be putting aside the joys and responsibilities of home. This trip has not been one of unalloyed pleasure so far (delayed flights, a 3 hour stop at border security which meant we missed our connecting flight, lost two suitcases and ended up in a grotty motel in San Francisco), but today we flew in a cloudless sky across the U.S., and watched the landscape change from desert to swampland, and now we are settled for two days in a glorious hotel in balmy Florida, where it is so warm that Lizzy has been persuaded to take her jersey off. What is it with teenagers? She packed 10 tshirts for a winter in Vermont and then wears a jersey in 29 degrees ? 

I love traveling for the way it confronts the limitations of my imagination. At home I often ponder the lives of other people I glimpse - but even for the teenager pulling up in a modified car beside me at a red light, or the tiny Maori lady crossing the road with a heavy bag, people so different to me, I can at least imagine aspects of their lives. But the man with wide cheekbones at border security who said nothing for three whole hours and appeared to be entirely engrossed in doing purposeful nothing - what does he say as he walks through the door of his home to the person who says "how was your day?" Where does he shop, what are his routines, what and who makes that immobile face break into a laugh? And the people who live in the tiny dot of a house in the desert we just flew over - how do their children get to school? What do they eat? What are the pleasures of their everyday lives? I have no idea. I love the unfamiliar words - I heard the man next to me at the deli this morning say "I'll just take the snapple, thank you". Snapple?? 

I love the way I cannot effortlessly step into the normal. I simply don't have the cultural know-how to work out how much money I should give to the man who unloads our bags at the hotel. I don't even know how to give it to him - I have to watch how the men in the shuttle appear almost to casually shake hands with him as they slip over the folded notes, and then try to imitate them. I have to be intentional about walking on the right-hand-side of the pavement-footpath-sidewalk.  I love the way my normal is met with incomprehension: last night at the diner, the puzzled waiter when asked for milk to put in my tea brought me a whole teapotful (about two cups, I guessed).

But it is impossible, right now, to travel without thinking of all the families fleeing their homes, carrying heartbreak and loss, enduring not one bad day but day after difficult day, with no promise of a place to call home which is safe and welcoming and beautiful and known. So I am traveling light, knowing that any hardship I face is nothing in a life so graced, filled with peace and purpose.  As I travel, I pray for those who, merely through accident of history and the savagery of men, are carrying such a weight of undeserved sorrow on their journey. I am traveling light. And here we are.


  1. What a beautifully expressed, thoughtful, meaningful, compassionate post - thank you for sharing thoughts, Lisa.

  2. A beautifully told story, Lisa. So glad you've arrived at such a beautiful place.

    I'm not as surprised as you at Lizzy's choice of attire: the overriding concern, after all, must be how it looks ;-)

  3. Lovely Lisa!
    I look forward to many more tales :-)