Whenever I visit Central Otago, I always make time to go to the Boundary Road crossroads.
Made famous in the painting by Grahame Sydney, 'Boundary Road', this to me is one of the most stunningly beautiful places in Central. True, there are no lakes or rivers around that you can see, and the mountains and hills are distant, but this place intrigues and humbles me.
Usually when we go there, the road is quiet. The occasional car goes by, but mostly it is silent, just the crackling of the grasses and trees in summer heat, or crisp cold winter air that you can swallow by the mouthful like clear mountain snow melt in a bustling river.
I like to stand right out in the middle of the road, at the heart of the cross. You can hear a car coming miles off so plenty of time to get out of the way.
We often find ourselves at a crossroads, not only in life but also in our writing, where we must choose which way to go, not always knowing how that decision is going to turn out but understanding that the road will take us somewhere and the journey will probably be well worth it.
One particular dilemma for a writer is: 'Should I begin this project? Which way should I go, how should I begin?' There are choices and decisions to be made at these creative crossroads.
Sometimes we'll choose a path that doesn't work out. It's a dead end, a cul de sac where we have to make a u-turn and head back to the intersection, take another road. 'OK, let's try this one and see where it takes us.'
As disheartening as choosing the wrong road can be, I always remember a poem I was given very early on when I started writing. It's Ithaka by Greek poet C.P Cavafy and in it, he describes the journey one takes towards a destination. He begins,
'As you set out for Ithaka
Hope your road is a long one ...'
I think about this poem when I'm at Boundary Road, standing right in the middle of those four, dead straight roads heading off into four different directions. Which shall I choose?
Make the decision, take a chance, your choice, your writing destination.
Even if it turns out that the destination disappoints you, or is that dead end we dread, you will have taken the journey, seen and learned so much along the way. Choose your Ithaka.
'Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.'
My last post was written when we were facing another major lock down here in Auckland. We had a community outbreak so it was pronto-quick into Level Three while the rest of New Zealand stayed at Level Two. Level Three contained us within the city limits unless there was a rock-solid reason to be let out. Indeed the queues of cars at roadblocks attested to the hundreds of folks trying to leave with special exemptions in hand. Many were turned back. The feeling that we we could not leave Auckland without good reason made for anxious times.
Now we are at Level 2.5, in that twilight zone of uncertainty between Levels 2 and 3. The way forward is unclear, the future foggy, the outlook tinged with the grey that reflects flagging spirits, worried brows, financial cliffhangers and the spectre of this ghastly virus that has settled in for the long haul.
We can now travel outside of Auckland but I think the rest of the country views us with some trepidation. We have had a community outbreak and while it appears to be under control, every day brings fresh information and none of it is exactly hands-in-the-air-hip-rah.
The government isn't doing Aucklanders any favours by saying if we do travel, take our Level 2.5 restrictions with us into the rest of New Zealand's Level Two. They can have gatherings of up to 100 people. We can only have groups of ten and the Minister of Health says, with a smile, Aucklanders should perhaps think twice about attending gatherings of up to 100. Our usual twilight zone 2.5 number of ten is better. Is it little wonder the rest of the country is skittish when we say, "We're allowed out now and we're coming for a visit! Isn't that great?"
A common denominator for everyone is the compulsory wearing of face coverings on public transport. Most people in Auckland are wearing them everywhere now. I have disposable ones that fog up my glasses. Visiting the supermarket last week was traumatic because I couldn't see, didn't know what I was buying, ended up purchasing all manner of weird stuff because I just grabbed things off the shelves hoping it was what I wanted (it wasn't), and I got odd looks as I peered closely at vegetables, feeling them up to be sure I was buying broccoli instead of cauliflower. I am investing in a mask that does not make my glasses steam up.
Level 2.5 has seen the libraries re-open and you can believe I was there right away, perusing the shelves with other masked book marauders, making off with stacks of reading material in case we get locked away again.
The only person who doesn't seem at all bothered by this rigmarole is Miss Betsy-cat. In fact, the advent of Spring (and we have had some lovely days recently) has seen her galloping up her ramp and onto the roof where she sits most all day, untroubled by viruses, delightedly leaving her face covering at home so she can breathe the fresh, flower-scented air and feel the sharp, sea-salt breeze tickle her nostrils.
Ah, the delight of it. Will we be able to do that again soon?