Day fifteen of lockdown and it has been a day of stresses and antagonisms, a reminder of how things were in a past existence, and how good it feels to be escaping all that, but not quite yet, unfortunately. Why do some men think that in the course of doing business they are entitled to be downright rude and obnoxious towards the very people who are trying to assist them. The day wore on and the vexatious missives flew and the business matter failed to settle and I got a headache when I realised that tomorrow is Good Friday and now I’ll have to wait until after Easter to resolve things. The problem with lockdown is that the days blur and you lose track of where you are. I thought we had another whole business day up our sleeve.
Feeling thoroughly jangled I rushed out into the drizzle and made my way, quickly, along two streets and up a steep flight of stairs onto Takarunga/Mt Victoria. The top step gives onto a flat path that spirals around the lower reaches of the maunga. These wide tracks were created by Maori in the fourteenth century to provide fortification platforms for warriors to survey the land, in every direction -north, south, east and west - looking out for approaching marauders, ever at the ready to defend their pa.
Today I wanted to be at the next level, to circle even higher above the city and its waterways, like a hot air balloon floating. And so I left the track and scrambled straight up the steep grassy slope, following the tiny and informal earthen steps, propelling my body forward against the sharp incline. As I went, I relished the sheer physicality of the effort, the concentration required to scale the vertical wall. In the process all my cares dropped away and I began to feel freer and lighter.
It is such a special place. When you’re on Takarunga - the Maori name for Mt Victoria, meaning ‘the hill standing above’ - you get a bird’s eye view of all the other cones that were miraculously created in a burst of volcanic activity 600 years and more ago. I think it was last year, perhaps it was earlier, that the tangata whenua closed them to vehicles - a brilliant move protecting the sacred sites from degradation, reducing the noise and fumes and creating a walking paradise for all.
Reaching the top I gazed with deep, deep pleasure on the scenes below. I spied one boat on the water, the Waiheke ferry, making its way slowly over a wide expanse of silvery green, the surface of the sea burnished like brushed steel. Turning 360 degrees I noticed how the weather was behaving differently in all directions. On the western horizon the setting sun was piercing through vapourous clouds in places and turning them chalky pink. This dusky light reached all the way to the city and projected onto the sea, creating blocks of copper amongst the green. Meanwhile a fine drizzle fell like a layer of gauze over the buildings, blurring the shapes of sky tower and apartment blocks. When I looked east to Rangitoto, its mass of volcanic rock stood out grey-green on a vivid blue-green surface, that looked more pounamu than sea. The feeling as I witnessed all this beauty was one of rapture, of being all filled up with joy and gladness and hope.
On the way back to my refuge I gathered flowers and greenery and grasses to grace my desk, taking only those plants that were hanging over front fences and hedges to appreciate them at my leisure over the Easter period. There was a smell of smoke from indoor fires burning in the historic cottages and villas that lined my walk, another reminder of the turning of the season...