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country roads, take me home

Graham, my one-time supervisor and long-time friend, shouts at me from across the hall where he’s having a Sunday-morning sleep-in. It’s early, around seven, and I’ll be on a plane in less than twelve hours. “Your plane’s been canceled, darling. All planes to Boston have been grounded until further notice. Guess you’ll just have to stay!” I banter back at him while his wife Sharyn giggles in the kitchen. John Denver’s playing on the radio in the lounge, eerily apropos. They don’t want me to leave. Having me and my belongings scattered across their guest room (packing is a messy job) reminds them of having their own children (now grown) back at home. It’s a gray sort of day, but then again, this is Auckland, land of the permanent rain cloud, so I’ll try not to assume that the weather is a manifestation of my own gray sort of mood. Gray. I don’t mean miserable or under the weather; rather I use the word gray to emphasize my lack of definitive, black and white emotions. I’m happy and sad, excited and nervous, hot and cold. Leaving NZ is leaving home. Driving around with Graham and Sharyn yesterday, I struggled to recapture the feeling of when I first arrived, when everything was strange and the adventure was only beginning. I couldn’t do it. Life is still an adventure, but NZ is no longer foreign. It’s comfortable and familiar; it’s the place I belong. It is when I think of returning “home” to the states that I am once more concerned with life becoming strange and different. Having to readjust to driving on the right side of the road will be only the beginning.

Dr. Gonzo’s been sold – handed over to a Kiwi girl about my age. Her boyfriend collects and rebuilds 1980s cars, and already has two cars almost identical to the Doc. After five days of stress and worry, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. I watched him float off, out of the car park and down Quay St. in central Auckland – it happened too quickly to hurt, and the relief of finally having it done has been salve enough. In many ways, I feel as though my trip has been over since I left the South Island at the end of April. The intervening three weeks have been a long, drawn out leave-taking. Like saying goodbye at a bus station, when the tears have been shed and the hugs passed around, the traveler sits in the window and the friends stand on the curb, both waiting self-consciously for the bus to pull away and make the cut clean. Three weeks ago, the Doc and I had one last night of quiet, beautiful solitude on the shores of Lake Onslow in Central Otago. The stars, and then the sunrise reflected on the purplish water as I looked back on the flowing river of my own memories. I said goodbye. I boarded the bus that night, and tonight, finally, it will leave the station and I, the traveler, will be able to turn away from the window where my friends still mime gestures of love, and can point my eyes to the road ahead.

So long, New Zealand…until we meet again.

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