For some unknown, and slightly disturbing, reasons, I decided to walk home after last nights mash of noise, colour and violent tones that constitute a "typical" Kiwi New Years Eve get-together.
Unknown because I'm still trying to understand my decision. So are my cruciate ligaments.
Disturbing when you think that it's not a normal thing to do. A person normally stays the night so one can drink and remain with friends as long as possible. All the better to amortise the collective good will that the season carefully grafts from the days leading to Christmas and that finishes with New Year over as long a period as possible. And there's a good chance someone will be doing a cooked breakfast in the morning.
Disturbing also because it is a long way to walk. Like....... really long.
One of the problems with living in the country is that you are quickly inured to distance. That is, when you say that you are just going to pop down to the dairy for some milk, it's not like the dairy is just at the end of the road. And if it is, the road is 20 kilometres long! You think nothing of the fact that when you "pop" over to see a mate, the "popping" part might mean a 25 minute drive.
And that is how far it is to Sid's place by car while mostly doing a hundred "kays" an hour. This was where we had New Years.
Regardless of how it happened, the decision was made and about 1 am, it seemed to be a good time to say "Bye" and slip away. The sun was just getting out of bed four and a bit hours later , putting its slippers on and thinking about coffee by the time I made it home and collapsed on the bed. While I was sleeping, my leg muscles put the downtime to good use to think of the many and various insults that rushed to my brain when I woke and tried to move. All day I've been able to maintain the impression of a ninety year old, double hip replaced pensioner who has lost his zimmer.
Then I tipped to a couple of articles - one by local writer Claire Browning - that made the groanings of my body slide to the background. These articles, Claire's and another, dealt with something I had had during my epic trek - simplicity and quiet.
Two am in Canterbury during a cool, summer night is an amazing time and place. There is no moon but the sky is so clear even the stars are enough to cast a shadow. Thank goodness I chose white shoes tonight so I match my footsteps to the centreline of the road. Wind caresses hedgerows of gum trees, occasionally shaking just to keep the possums on their toes. The only pollution is some bugger with a hole in his muffler miles away beating the police cordon home and a sometimes glimpse of the dirty orange haze that means a substantial city.
And a cacophony in my head.
I have a year of experience, of memory and richness rolling on my mind like storms upon plains. It washes over me after the events of the evening - music, food and conversation. Shared reflections and far away looks are the common theme as memory is revisited or emotion re-worn. And for the first hour of my walk this riot occupies me as well. It's a stereo turned all the way up to 11. I pace the remembered path home as landmarks are so much different at night having no depth and only outline. I don't really hear my own footsteps as my inner monologue hounds me in Dolby quality.
Gradually, however, I realize that as I walk, I'm listening less to myself and more to the outside. For the first time I trouble to look up and am rewarded for the effort as a line of light is lit across the sky. Somewhere, some celestial event has happened, some stupendous moment in time and size that makes the trials in my head seem trivial in comparison. I wonder why, in fact, stars do seem to twinkle. Intellectually I know that there is no on/off switch being constantly played so what makes them twinkle? And why haven't I noticed before?
A movement to my right, a gum tree creaks and the leaves on the branch thrash a little as the possum moves to get a better view of the crackpot human walking past at this un-natural hour. As if by signal, other leaves and branches sympathetically shake and soon I realize the bloody night is full of the furry bastards - all secretly giggling to themselves at the near-blind bugger walking past.
So for the next three hours its just me, the possums, the road and the stars. My ears hear only the regular "crump, crump" of my rubber soles confronting asphalt and the occasional sigh of wind. I see three more shooting stars - I don't remember seeing that many ever in my life! - and so many stars that I can almost see into the tonsils of the cosmos.
And "upstairs" in my head there is blessed quiet. Peace. There is purpose, in that I know where I want to go but at the same time, serenity in knowing that I'll get there. I realise that I haven't allowed myself this break all year - a sanctuary of self. No noise or clutter. No constant narration to life and moments. No analysis of events and contingencies planned. Just me and the world. Just like it ought to be, I guess.
New Years resolution: save yourself some trouble, give your self a break and turn off the noise in your head. It's the best present I've ever had.
That, and the number of a good physio.