Bright white light shines between the window blind and the wall. I don’t know what time it is but the light means it’s ok for me to be awake. Crisp dry leaves crackle along the concrete drive. Wind billows through the trees pushing them one way, then the other, rattling like a rainstick being turned upside down. I think about getting up, then about all of the things I could do instead. There’s no rush. A car starts, the growl of the engine rolls away. Andrea is leaving for work. I suppose it would be helpful to get up. I ran my hand over my head, through my definitely too long hair. I decided it was time for a trim. The only mirrors I planned on having while I was on the road were those on the van. The intention to avoid all unnecessary meetings with my reflection. The sun was shining and I didn’t fancy a massive clean up. The decision was easy, make the cut as I had planned to as if I were travelling. Keep the dream alive! I’ve been doing my own hair for at least a year so this wasn’t an isolation-induced panic cut. This was always the plan. Back inside I’m asked “Do you know you’ve missed a bit at the back?” Having finished, showered and dressed for the day I did not know I had missed a bit at the back. The closest thing I could get to being sure was running my hands over my head again. Judging by feel. This hadn’t served me well. I had left myself a long, square patch of untouched hair. At least I had time to practice and someone to check me over before I’m out on my own.
Beyond cutting my hair I didn’t have much of a plan so I can’t really say things haven’t gone to plan. One of the many reasons I decided to come to New Zealand was because I needed a break, a change. Like it or not, I’ve got one. The hard reset is happening. The distance between where I was and where I am growing further each day. There are little differences, I no longer wake to the ugly purple orchid print of my former landlord’s curtains. I can’t walk to the local shops without checking a map. There are bigger ones too, I’m free from employment, free from almost all responsibilities. I have so much time. So much that my concept of time has blurred. No longer a line, more a stack of the same day on repeat. I’ve been on the Kapiti Coast for six weeks. There are days when it doesn’t feel longer than one. Most days I’m just going through the motions. Filling another day. Passing the time. Waiting for changes. This is true. There are some days when I feel like I’m stuck. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. Stuck in my own head, rather than stuck indoors. I built myself into a routine to stay busy, to stay occupied. A comfort zone, a safe space, a new cage. In these moments I start to think about what might have been, if I hadn’t driven to Otaihanga. If I hadn’t bought the van. If I had jumped on the first flight home. To what? No job remember. This isn’t actually a holiday. I quit. Left it all. There is no home for me to go back to. I remind myself, this was the best I could do and it has been good. Better than I could have imagined. I have been so well looked after.
I stopped thinking for a minute and tuned in to the radio. Leaning on the kitchen counter. Listening to Jacinda Arden give a speech. I wonder if this will be one of those moments that people talk about long after this pandemic ends. Do you remember where you were when New Zealand confirmed they had covid-19 under control? “Yes,” I will say, “I was in New Zealand.” There has been increasing talk around lifting restrictions, allowing businesses to open, people to go back to work. Physical distancing remains in place. Communal facilities remain closed. Domestic travel remains on the list of thing which are not allowed. This will have almost no impact on me. I can’t move back in to the van, on to the road. The country moves away from the strictest conditions, progress has been made. Reasons to be cheerful. It will take time. There are good days and bad days ahead. I don’t know how long it will take but I’m optimistic regarding my chances of starting again. The van is waiting, the country is still there to be explored. For now I have to remember that I don’t know what’s beyond my own doorstep and the adventure starts here.
From the dining room table I watched the dying light of the day paint the clouds and colour in the sky. Sometimes I ventured as far as the garden, to check how much further I could see. I told myself one day I’d go down to the beach for sunset. On my third solo walk in four weeks I headed out for the evening. The brilliant blue sky of the day was already fading. The clouds glowing yellow. Swifts thrust over the surface of the Waikanae River, snatching at insects. Behind me the sky slips from blue to pink, darkening as the sun drops behind Kapiti Island. As autumn drifts towards winter the sun will sink further south. Each night will be different. Ideal conditions would be a little cloudier. Those streaks of once-white smudged across the horizon burn pink. The river remain calm. The show above reflected, distorted in the gentle ripples. I cross the dunes and walk down to the sea. The sky blazes purple. Docile waves lap against the shore. For a moment I feel nothing, the overwhelming sense of calm rendering me helpless. The world beyond my current view disappears, temporarily forgotten. The clouds shift back to grey. The colours of the sky descend into the dark of night. Blue to purple, purple to black. I don’t wait for the stars to emerge, saving myself a treat for another night. I turn back to land and start walking home. That’s what is is for now, my home. As I head up the road I have a text. “Hi, are you ok?” it reads. Then my phone rings, it’s Andrea, making sure I’m safe and will I be home in time for tea?