Paul is collecting fallen twigs from beech trees, the dense dwellers of the Tarurua Range. He is building a morning fire in between a pile of rocks on one of the islets of the Atiwhakatu River we are lingering on. It’s not a necessary fire. The sun is strong today and we are sheltered from the winter wind in this deep valley. He is building the fire for the pleasure it brings, for the act of doing and being in itself. Perched on top of a grey boulder stone, I watch him in quiet.
Yesterday, we drove an hour and a half out of Wellington and hiked three hours into the forest or, as New Zealanders call it, into the bush. This is my first overnight tramp into the back country and in a place that is best known for its outdoor beauty, it’s taken me two and half years to get here. Why? I ask myself now.
Life is simpler out here and, at the same time, more complex than I have ever known it. This moment is nothing more and nothing less than the doing of things, the being of here and now in a world that isn’t about me in it. It is unfolding the same way it will tomorrow, the same way it did yesterday, the same way it has done for millions of years before this early morning fire and us and our doing of things.
I notice. Notice in ways that are almost impossible back beyond the track that brought me here. Notice everything. How the black skeletons of the crown ferns look like the fossilized rib cages of strange creatures that must die in order to come back to life again. I notice the sun, how it hits my face and leaves streaks of pink across my cheeks, how it has penetrated through my layers of wool to make me feel like I am stealing a stray summer morning. The smell of smoke and wet wood on fire. The running river that is so translucent it almost disappears into the rocky bed below it. The songs of the winged natives. I notice and notice more and notice more. And I wonder, is there anything out there that notices me back?