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all is full of love

I just finished checking my email for the first time in a few days, and I feel all giddy and happy and so in love with all of my friends.  I've said it before, but I'll say it again – THANK YOU for the emails and the updates and the comments.  You all are the very best, and you make me smile.

Since my last post…all kinds of excitement!  Rosemary (B&B lady) and her boyfriend, Trevor came home Sunday night.  Trev is a riot.  He's about 65, a big guy, with a face that's permanently and deeply creased with laugh lines.  Huge tease.  Trying to follow the banter between him and Rosemary was like trying to keep track of a tennis match in which the ball not only goes back and forth over the net but also off the arena walls and into the stands for the spectators to have a go at it.  They, like everyone else that I've met here, seemed to take it for granted that they would show me around, and pulled me right in to their little unit like they'd known me for years.  The trust, good will, and generosity of the NZers I've met so far is to be admired and emulated.  Trev drove Rosemary, Tanya and I up to Rangikapiti Pa, this huge, manmade dome of land that sits on the edge of Doubtless Bay.  The four of us hiked up to the top with a bottle of red wine, and sat with our backs to the wind, looking out over Cooper's Beach (the area where the B&B is) and Manganoui (small, neighboring town).  Trevor acted as tour guide, pointing out the Maori lands across the bay, identifying mountains in the distance (we could see for miles), and telling me about the history of the bay.  As the sky got darker, the lights of the town started to come on, lighting up the shoreline, but little else.  I forget how few people live here.  4 million people in the whole country – 3 million on the North Island alone, and 1 million of them in Auckland.  I say the lights came on, but really all that happened was a few little pinpricks of light (we were up really high) flickered into being, and the rest of the countryside continued to fall into obscurity.

In the morning, Trev drove me back to Maureen's, but not until he'd given me a breakneck driving tour of some of the important Northland sights that the tour buses generally miss.  There are no highways here.  The main roads are more like Rt. 109 in Wolfeboro, maybe Rt. 28 in some of the better spots.  Yet the speed limit is 100kph – about 55mph – and they drive it, if not faster.  And these people know how to drive.  The only reason that I wasn't nervous with Trevor, as opposed to Katharin or Andreas (the Germans), was that I trust that these people at least know the roads, and are accustomed to driving on the left.  But jeez – curves, dirt roads, narrow stretches in which a tractor-trailer is coming in the opposite direction – doesn't phaze them.  Trevor threw his car up mountains, over dirt and grass alike, and out onto various bluffs so that I could see different parts of the Northern coastline.  If you look at a map, I'm up on the Northern peninsula, about 200km north of Auckland.  In some spots you can look right and see the Pacific, and look left and see the Tasman Sea.  And if you're really good, or cross-eyed or something, you could probably see both at once.  The best spot we stopped was Matai Beach.  Oh, oh, wow.  A steep, narrow spit of land divides the beach into two perfect crescents of pristine white sand and wet black rock, onto which the waves crash in geometrically perfect curls.  We stood on the tip and stared out into the Pacific through the gnarled trees, and listened to the steady beat of the waves.  I do mean steady – you could probably keep time by these things, that's how perfect they are.

Back home at the ranch, I'm turning into a true Kiwi farm girl!  Tuesday, I learned to drive the tractor!  It's this huge old Japanese diesel thing, with a truly frightening mowing contraption on the back that can saw through tree branches the size of my leg.  Maureen has about 17 acres worth of orchards and fields, and none of them have been mowed in about a month.  Standing, the grass comes up to my armpits.  Sitting on the tractor, it's sometimes hard to see where I'm going because one of the varieties of weed is flowering, and not only are the flowers very tall, but when I mow them down they explode, creating a cloud of white fluff for me to choke on.  The grass smells amazing, though, when it's cut.  I think there must be some mint growing down towards the ground, because in certain sections of the field, the smell is overpowering.  There are probably some other herbs in there, too, because I keep getting whiffs of Syreena-tea like smells.

I had my MP3 player out with me yesterday, and the song by Tom Petty, “Runnin' Down a Dream” came on.  If any of you have it, please, please, pull it out and listen to it while picturing me on a big orange tractor that moves at about 3mph.  I must have looked like a lunatic, because as I was listening to the song, I started laughing.  It was all just too perfect. The song's about driving, cruising, just pointing the eyes forward and trusting that something good is waiting up ahead, that there is a dream to be had.  I've been listening to Tom Petty since sixth grade – this is one of those songs that I know by heart; it's more like a part of me, and I don't even have to think about it to sing along.  I just kept wondering, how did I get here?  How did I go from listening to this song on the bus in sixth grade to listening to it on a tractor in a field in NZ?  And I realized, this is my dream.  This very moment is the dream that I've been running down since I was twelve.  I didn't know that this is what I was heading towards, but somehow I've arrived here, and it is perfect.  This is where I am supposed to be.  And the fact that I can recognize the truth of this while I am here, instead of later, looking back, well, it's just too good, too lucky.

Hope that's not too philosophical or mystical for any of y'all.  Basically I'm just happy to be here.  Though, I miss you all a ridiculous amount.  I'm still not fully comprehending the fact that I'm here for a year, that this is going to be the norm – NZ, without you people, driving tractors, sight-seeing…anyway.  I also drove on the left side of the road the other day, in a car with the steering wheel on the right side!!  Maureen had me drive into town with a delivery of oranges.  It was only a three minute drive, and I didn't have to go through any intersections or anything, but it was still soooo weird.  The wheel, the mirrors, the directional stick, the gear stick – all backwards and so awkward.  Still, something to cross off the list.  Today, Maureen's at work (she's a nurse practitioner), so I'm going to have some breakfast and try to take a picture of the two Rosella parrots that hang out on the banana tree out back before heading out to the orchards to do some clearing and some mowing.  Ciao :)

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