Winter in New Zealand. Sometimes it rains. Well, actually, it may be fairer to say sometimes it doesn’t rain. It will pour for a few minutes. Then the sun will break through and drench everything with light. Of course, the rain will not be outdone by the sun and so it will rain while the sun shines. Then it will cloud over and, living in Auckland, it will pour some more. It’s not raining, you say? Wait five minutes.
The ground turns mucky. Your shoes look horrible and track mud everywhere you go – into the car, the classroom, your home. For some reason I can’t quite fathom, Kikuyu grass is the great grassy nemesis to most Kiwis – they far prefer fine fescue – and clover – which turn to mud the minute you step onto the lawn in winter. Oh, for the spongy layer of Kikuyu to keep mud and feet apart. So, I find myself tippy-toeing over the lawn. Or eying my sheepskin slippers a little dolefully, knowing that it will cause far too much hassle to go get to the rosemary, next to the raised planter box which sits across a small section of clover and fescue lawn. The rosemary can wait. I need new gumboots. In fact, the clever thing to do may be to get a pair to place at each door – that way I can happily go collect mandarins (naartjies) from the trees behind the house – yep, they sit on the other side of the wintery quagmire – definitely not to be attempted in aforementioned slippers.
Now it may seem that I am skating very close to complaining. I am not. You see as a kid growing up in South Africa, I spent many happy hours wallowing in thick Kei River mud. The kind of stuff that you sink to your thighs in and then have to wriggle and slurp out of very slowly, all the while ensuring every other part of your body is thoroughly covered in the goo. Bliss. But somehow, this cold, wet sludge doesn’t bring about the same satisfaction. It squelches through your toes, or seeps into your trainers and sticks to the bottom of gumboots so that every time you go out you gain another layer – which dries a little and creates the perfect place to acquire yet more mud. After a couple of days your find yourself walking on a veritable platform.
The thing is this. I can look at my mud speckled toes, the mud smears all over my kids clothing, the filthy entrance hall to our home and sigh. But I could also look up. If I take my eyes off the mud and look up… I’ll see the green rolling hills that I my eyes can’t get enough of. Leaves sparkling like the finest diamonds ever cut as rain drops quiver and glisten. The clouds are like no clouds I’ve ever seen in Africa. While the land here may be tame, the skies are wild. The clouds shunt sometimes with hard stormy edges, others soft and wispy. Sometimes dark and ominous looking. Other times, especially at the beginning or the end of the day, coloured in every shade of gold and silver imaginable. And if all I could see was the mud between my toes or glued to the sorry soles of my shoes, I would miss out on the fiery clouds. The sparkling webs. The glistening leaves. I look down and sigh. I look up and my heart feels light and alive and full of possibility… Perspective… New Zealand, you are a fine place indeed…