Last night was Sean’s last night of guiding. His last supper if you will. He was the lone wolf in the guides quarters and when I took the laundry down, I found him, listening to an epic playlist, smoking and drinking whiskey in the dark. I joined him on the porch where we overlooked a night sky where it was impossible to distinguish between earth and stars save for the milky way, effervescent and sparkling.
I’ve been asked to be a nanny for my managers children which means an entire year at Poronui. An entire year spent 56 kilometers away from the nearest city, surrounded by 1500 deer, 2500 cattle, 50 fat lams and 7 humans.
When it comes time to choose a life, to choose where to go next, I often struggle. I think about who I am vs. who I should be. I am a person who craves solitude but I am also a person who craves closeness with humans, few, but deep. Right now these humans I care deeply for are scattered world wide—London, North Carolina, Alaska, New York. There aren’t any present people I truly love. I also have an annoying need to overanalyze everything. Why is it that I haven’t found love in New Zealand? Don’t mistake me—I don’t mean romantic love at all, I mean true love, the kind that transcends sex and family and animates friendships. The type of love that I have with my penpals, that gives me a rush of connection and belonging when I open my mailbox to a letter from Kaisa or Frankie. I mean the love that comes between people within a community.
Sean, one of my closest friends at Poronui, is 52 with a daughter about my age, a wife he calls his princess who he can’t wait to see every night he can get away from the lodge. It took me a long time to open up and talk about my real life with him but he’s not someone who presses you for your story. In return, he doles out pieces of his in revelatory chunks. A story that is long and more varied than Odyesseus’ with his fair share of Cyclops', Circe's and Charybdis' (p.s. I am horrible with apostrophes. E.B Strunk and White can’t even help me).
The conclusion we came to? It's hard to forgive. Period. But it’s hardest to forgive yourself. For better or for worse I suffer from a Holden Caulfield affliction of needing to dissect and decipher my every movement. I’m stuck in an immature ideology that I need to be pure of intention. Purists don’t live long. They give themselves ulcers. This life is like the Mohaka river—occasionally crystalline—leaving you a direct line of sight to everything it contains, and occasionally, after a great rain—so murky it conceals your own feet within its current.
Maybe I want to stay at Pornui because forgiving yourself for being wrong takes time. Maybe it’s because, while I’ve not found that true human love, I have found something else. It’s transcendent and has filled this hollow within, like a soft, tender creature has curled within the recess of my chest. Love of a place. Love of a home. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way about a place. Uncomplicated, unadulterated, unconditional love for this valley, its sunsets, its mornings of fluid mist like running through water.
Maybe I am hiding. Maybe I am scared. Not of others, but of myself. Because I’ve discovered I have the power to be completely and grotesquely wrong. And once you betray yourself, it’s hard to allow yourself to trust once more.
Or maybe I am just going to do what feels right. Go where where nothing but my intuition has directed me.
Just as you crave the nourishment your body lacks, this is how the heart of me needs this valley. It has become part of something bigger within.