Friday, July 29, 2011

Walking on Ice

Wednesday, May 11 (still)
Fox Glacier
South Island

We arrived into the township of Fox Glacier with thirty minutes to spare before our glacier hike began. Once things got rolling, everyone was suited up against the elements, with thick, red socks (keep an eye out for these in the pictures), hiking boots, water-proof pants and jackets, should the need arise, and boot cleats to strap on our feet once we reached the ice. We picked up our walking sticks with metal picks at the end just before we stepped onto the glacier. A small bus took us the base of Fox Glacier, where we gathered around to listen to our guide, Andrew, give us some background information on this amazing glacier before we met her for ourselves. For instance, Fox is one of the few glaciers that has grown in size over recent years, although she shrunk back from the coast significantly before that. Perhaps the fact that she ends in lush rainforest plays a hand in her strange behavior.

From the start of the trail we could see part of the face of the glacier.  Mind the rocks - my second fall of the trip happened on the way up the side of the ice. Luckily it wasn't too bad of a twist and I laughed it off and continued on, though not without some ankle pain for the next couple of days.

Look - ice!

Andrew was a superb guide, ever-patient with our group as we ambled at varying speeds along behind, and stopping to educate us on the different parts of the glacier, giving us all the STATS of Fox we could handle. He had his trusty pick ax to freshen up steps in the ice, steps these guys carve daily so it's easier to walk the glacier. Always a few steps ahead, he checked out the ever-changing formations created in the ice by the elements, giving us the thumbs-up when an area was secure enough for us to venture closer for a better look.

This narrow waterfall wasn't there the day before. Rain water and melting ice is always creating new holes in the ice, which makes for some cool shots when you can actually climb down into it.

We spent about 2 hours on the ice, and then it was time to head back the way we came, over the ice, down the center of an ice ravine, and onto the rocky terrain left behind in the glacier field where Fox once stretched.

After a day full of driving and hiking, we were ready for some much needed Kiwi grub, and opted for the restaurant (out of 3 in town) that had a venison burger on the menu - mmm! I may be addicted.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

On the Road to Fox

Wednesday, May 11
South Island

One of the best parts of this trip was that even while we were on the road between scheduled stops there was always something gorgeous to see. Wednesday morning we woke up in Queenstown, thanked her for her hospitality, and hit the road.
Bye, Queenstown.  We had a blast.

Although the day's destination was Fox Glacier, we took the opportunity to stop for plenty of photos. Leaving the lush, green farmland that stretched between mountains and lakes to cruise through actual rainforest was something new for the both of us.  It's pretty amazing when the drive is just as spectacular as where you're headed.

Good morning, mountains.

These cows win for having the best view ever.

Between the lakes nestled into valleys between mountains, and unassuming streams that seemed to follow the road, we stopped often.
It looked like someone just dragged their finger through the land and between the mountains and hills to draw a life line at the bottom.  Just beautiful, with no sound except the sigh of water smoothing the rocks.

Seeing a sign for some falls not far from the road, we stopped to take a short hike and see them.

 Thunder Creek Falls

and the view up and down river from the falls.

I was so excited when the road finally made its way along the west coast, and I got my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. The beach was empty of people, populated only by exhausted looking driftwood and us, traversing this intimate stretch of paradise beneath a heavy sky.

There was a small pond of some sort back by the road, and if you ignored the roaring sea nearby, it really looked like more of a swamp. The water from that calm place wound its way around and out to the ocean, cutting a sharp little river through the sand, its ripples growing into small waves in an attempt to match those of the water it rushed to join.

It's really wonderful when you have the chance to pretend a small piece of the world belongs to you, if only for a short while. Standing before such an awesome expanse of beauty, crashing and rushing toward my feet, threatening to take me with it back out to sea, was peaceful in its way. You could just open your mouth and let the sea air rush into your lungs and breathe for you.  

Yeah...the water got me.
Chris taking a keepsake from the day.
Digging the whole windblown look :)

Then it was time to say goodbye to our beach, which would no longer be ours the moment we stepped back into the world where the car was parked.  On to Fox Glacier.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A little brag time

If I can't shamelessly use my blog to brag about the good things in life, what good is it?

Last night I experienced a minor emotional melt down over feeling disorganized and incapable when it came to things like LIFE.  What was likely a combination of being tired, stressed, and a little hormonal turned into me unable to reel in the tears, and Chris was a champ while I unloaded before going to sleep.

But today was really productive.  I got a good amount of editing done to a short novel I'm working on getting ready to push out into the world, did some housework AND cooked a healthy dinner - woo!

When Chris got home today from work he handed me a card.  On the front of this card were two items in check-list style, already checked off, reading

1. Kicking Ass

2. Taking Names

On the inside of the card, along with a sweet message about believing I've got it in me, he'd written his own checklist, to include:

1. music for inspiration
2. organization
3. taking a break now and then
4. my undying support
5. publication

and in the bag were these items to check off items #1-3 on his list:
           * 2 CDs, Joss Stone's newest and a Women of Jazz compilation
             - for inspiration
           * dry erase markers & eraser to go with the wipe-off board hidden in the other
              room - for organization
           * and a Snicker's bar - for when I need a break

The only item not already checked off was 'publication,' but of course that's the goal he's trying to help me reach.  No matter how irritated I get at this man from time to time, how can I ever hold it against him when he comes home with this kind of incredible (and creative) support?  I'm so ridiculously lucky, sometimes it's just silly.

That's all.  Just wanted to throw some gratitude out into the universe and give some props to the man in my life.


The Lakes

Tuesday, May 10 (still)
South Island

Let's get back to it, shall we?

So after leaping off the Kawarau Bridge at a height of 43 meters, it was time to slowly come back to Earth to enjoy some of the South Island's countryside on our way to see Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo a few hours away.

The day was overcast and the drive felt longer than it probably was, but the scenery was nonetheless amazing and worth stopping to shoot as we went.

What are you looking at?

Along the way, rocky hills rippling the landscape,

     quiet streams cutting across fields,

and still lakes reflecting the beautiful rusted yellow of fall.

Lake Pukaki

Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak rests mightily beyond the lake, peaking out from behind thick wisps of cloud.

Lake Tekapo

I loved seeing glimpses of color on kind of a dreary day,
especially the pines here that actually change color, though they never lose their needles, but slowly shed them as new ones grow beneath.

Lake Anonymous
Not really its name, but we couldn't find a sign to tell us which lake this was.  I think it was my favorite, the rocks at its edge so smooth and white.  We'd gone down a random road away from the GPS's instruction to see what we'd find, and this was it, a beautiful, pale blue lake surrounded by forest.

It was a day that began with adrenaline-pumping impulsiveness, and ended with the quiet and beauty of our surroundings.  It would be our last night in Queenstown, which we would spend at Kristin and Matt's over some delicious homemade cottage pie and beer, talking about moves and travels to come.  With plans to meet up again in Auckland in a week and a half's time, we went to sleep that night dreaming of glaciers.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Today has been a quiet day. I dropped Mom and Dad at the airport yesterday morning and came home to an empty house, though the post-travel grocery shopping and mound of laundry was a good distraction.

They were here for 3 weeks, and it was a good visit. Having gone two years without seeing each other, it was a much needed visit, too. My parents spent the first half of their European vacation on a Mediterranean cruise, and then a week and a half split between Rome and Florence with friends. The second half, they spent with Chris and I mostly in Germany, the last week taking all of us to Prague, Krakow, and then Boleslawiec for some Polish pottery shopping. My mom teared up as we hugged at the airport, and when I drove away, I did, too.

Today I keep finding myself staring off, my mind wandering back to the things I haven't really had the chance to think about lately at any length. Since the beginning of May it's been all go-go-go. Honestly, since a few months before then, when the real planning for New Zealand and Hong Kong picked up, there's been a steady hum of psychological noise. Planning, then the big trip, which was amazing (and still hardly blogged). Then we came home to a quieted house, but the kind of quiet that breaks your heart because somebody's missing. Dealing with that loss and readjusting to normal life, while preparing to say goodbye to more friends on the move did well to keep me busy, and then as soon as that began to quiet back down it was time to pick up my parents for a much anticipated visit. It's all been wonderful and I miss them already, my parents. We had a great time and it was just nice to see them every day for a stretch. I'm missing my friends, too. And today in the quiet, I'm itching to write.

The little writing I got done between getting home from the NZ/HK trip and welcoming Mom and Dad was less therapeutic and more pressured, as I knew it'd take me a while to get through the whole trip and once I lose focus, there's no real guarantee it'll return in a timely fashion, if ever. I participated in a couple of writing sessions with my fellow writers in the area during their visit, and although those were productive and fantastic, they were also structured and in the company of others. Today it's just me in an empty house, watching the sun slip behind the heavy, grey clouds and then peak out again from time to time through the windows. My parents have gone back home. Several good friends suddenly don't live here anymore. For the first time in 16 years, there's no one wagging her tail to greet me when I come home. Today is just quiet, and my heart is really feeling the weight of it.

When Heidi passed away I was in a hurry to deal with it and move on. Maybe that was just me not wanting to hurt. I didn't know what to expect, but at first I thought I'd done a fairly good job of accepting the inevitable, honoring her life and memory, and getting on to life without her. Maybe my subconscience knew I couldn't deal with it all at once, but for whatever reason, I went a little dead emotionally. I felt nothing, which was an entirely new phenomenon for me as no one has ever accused me of lacking sensitivity or emotion. Quite the opposite. What was most strange was knowing how I would naturally react to certain things and situations, catching myself acting it out, but not feeling it inside. I was pretending, but not entirely because if I had a functioning emotional heart that's how I would be reacting. Does that make sense? It's like once I stopped crying at the drop of Heidi's name, I was kind of stopped up inside. My closest friend in Europe moves away, I actually help her and her family onto their train with their luggage and everything, and I shed not one tear. I could feel that somewhere deep down I was crying, just not where anyone could see. It should be said that I expected nothing short of a disgusting and snotty sob fest when this day came, so I startled myself when all I could give was a smile and a wave as they pulled out of the train station. What's wrong with me?! They call it grief, I suppose. And whereas I thought I was taking Heidi's death very well and rolling on, it seems the deeper part of me had other plans. I said goodbye to two more friends after Diane left on the train that day, and nothing. But something happened when my parents were here the first week. We were talking about Heidi (my parents loved her nearly as much as I did), and in mid-sentence my voice cracked and I actually had to take a minute to reel it back in. Maybe I'm not doomed to apathy, after all. After that, I found myself looking at Heidi's pictures at night, the one on the bookshelf of her in her Gators jersey, or the one of her big smile that sits on my night stand, her ashes inside the box of the frame. I'm not back to bursts of tears, but I'm feeling it again, and that's something. How does something so small leave such a gaping hole? I can actually feel it aching inside, this void of space loving her and taking care of her filled so well. But I suppose this is good, another step in the process. There have been days already when I've felt completely ready to adopt a new family member of the furry kind, anxious to have that kind of presence in our lives and our home again. But today in the quiet, I don't think I'm ready, because I don't think I'm done with whatever I have to get through to really say goodbye to her. I could accept from the beginning that her life had run its course, her body well-worn and tired, but emotionally accepting is something different. I miss her. I know there are far worse things in the world to hang onto, people who have lost more than I could ever imagine, but for right now, she deserves my grief and my broken heart because she is worth at least that much.

I hope to one day stop trying to rationalize my own feelings, but one thing at a time.