My sister and her husband are staying with us. Val and Mike live in Nelson, have just bought a caravan in Christchurch, so are towing it home via Dunedin, as you do. Mike is a master mariner and for years has been responsible for keeping the pointy bit of various large ships moving in the right direction. Val has done numerous things. She left school at 15 to become a hairdresser and owned her own salon at 18. She's had various successful businesses over the years and spent 7 years, with Mike, sailing around the world on a yacht. She's one of the smartest, most resourceful and wisest people I know. Last night she cleaned and repaired the mitre she made for me 7 years ago and over dinner we talked about our shared past. The conversation led off into some, for me, profound directions and today, after duties were done, I felt the need of a walk.
So Clemency and I set out from Waihola along the Taieri Millenium track. while Val and Mike set out on the same track from the opposite end, from Taieri Mouth. At the top of a hill we met and swapped car keys, ate some sandwiches and admired the view of the Taieri river far below us
Then we continued on our way. The track is 9.3km long and rises maybe 500 metres, most of that in one quite sapping ascent. At the end of the little climb I knew that both of my possible retirement jaunts (Te Araroa or La Via De La Plata) are going to need CONSIDERABLE preparation between now and then.
I drove home in the Navarra Ute which tows the caravan, or sometimes, Mike's fishing boat. I have been so aware, this weekend of family; of this crucible in which I have been formed and made and the remarkable people I was blessed to grow amongst. And returning home, there was, on my phone, a lovely message from my niece, who I haven't seen in some time. Who could have wished for a better day?
The last time my family of origin was together: 9 years ago at my mother's 80th birthday. My father died soon afterwards. My siblings are all standing: Alistair, Guhyavajra, Valerie, Stuart; and I am seated.