I shut the door gently, I did not leave a note to say "Sorry gallery closed today". I just slipped out and felt a lift to my spirits that was heightened by a definite sense of rebellion. I had been at my desk peering at accounts for 6 or 7 days in a row, and now the job was finished, all our business stuff away to the IRD, and I was out seeking air. Overhead the sky was a deep blue that you would tumble away into if you looked at it too long. The breath of winter was chilly on the skin, but the weak sunshine eased some of the cold away.
It was one of those afternoons where the land seemed particularly empty of animal life, human or otherwise. I did see a horse looking over a gate, a hand full of sheep, and a Hawk slow circling above a marsh, but there was a quality to the afternoon that was like an intake of breath. A stillness.
I walked passed the farm where a while ago I used to buy fresh vegetables. The land which had once been cabbages, carrots, berries, and beetroot, was now rough grass, and there were no sheep or lambs. I was invaded by sadness.
Mick that used to work the land there through summer heat and drought and winter cold, died some months ago, and I miss the chats that I had with him about the farm, and the sight of his woolly hat, his honest face and working hands. Sad, but good to think of him though.
I made my way to the beach. It is a journey of about 2 kilometers from here, maybe slightly more. I chose a route that went beside the golf course. Funny places golf courses. All that mowed grass, those sand traps, dainty trees, neither too big nor to small, and little clusters of people walking and stopping like remnants of an army on maneuvers. All that pacing, plotting, and practicing to hit a tiny hard ball a long way down green paths, past dangerous traps, and into a little hole, not just once, but eighteen times! I have never "got" golf. We did get shown how to strike a golf ball once. I could make contact with it before the lesson, but afterward I could either swoosh at air, or dig bone jarring craters in the green. Golf seems a very up tight sort of a game, and most of the golf players I know have bad backs! Walking down one fairway were a pair of Paradise ducks that seemed to be imitating a more distant group of golfers. They had the golfers' gait and the air of concentration. I got a laugh out of that!
The thing that I liked about my walk past the golf course was that this is where you get the first real glimpse of the sea. It is at the road's end, and is framed by the double line of blond trunked leafless trees that mark the road's progress through the landscape. The colour of the water, a strong purple blue, was so robust that it was almost shocking. It was a colour that lodged in my chest.
I stood on a sand dune and listened to the waves as they lifted above the mirror of the sea and galloped forward to their destruction below me.
The tide was nearly full, with just a narrow ribbon of sand above it, that was regularly swept by the advancing waves.
Beaches have their own sounds. There are pebble strewn beaches where the rocks grind against each other as the water stirs them, and waves can sound like a truck load of stones being dumped onto a hard surface. There are beaches where waves whisper, hiss, and sigh.
Our beach has long waves that tear like Velcro as the crest starts to topple, then the final collapse on the beach is accompanied by a growl that changes to a steam-like hiss as the water starts to suck back again.
The sand was white with two day old frost where it was in shade and untroubled by sea.
A man that I did not know stopped, and we talked about the difficulty, impossibility, of making a living as a fisherman. He had spent much of his life at sea and was from a family of seafarers, and now he worked on the wharf loading ships with a crane. Pale grey-violet with distance a cargo ship waited just off the narrow entrance to the Otago Harbour. "Loading that with logs is my job tomorrow", my companion said.
I returned by a path that took me through a grove of old pine trees, there the low sun cut shadows with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel and scattered them on the ground. You could trip on shadows like that.