About six or so years ago Mariellen and I went to Poland. We had a wonderful time there that Spring. The weather was delightful, the people friendly, welcoming and utterly courteous and helpful. We stayed with a number of people we had never met before and traveled with then as our eyes and ears through the country from Warsaw, down to Krakow, back to Warsaw and up to Gdansk before returning to Warsaw and leaving, at last, for home.
The only problem with that trip is that it was supposed to have been a trip to New Zealand. You could say that we have a really fouled up sense of direction if we set out for New Zealand one fine morning and wind up in Poland, and you would be quite correct in so saying if that was all there was to the matter. But, I will not get involved in the details, here. They are of no account, though the story is a good one, and we have told it several times. You may even have heard it from one or both of us.
What is of account is the tale I will tell over the next few weeks, the tale of this, our latest trip which was, finally, a trip to New Zealand; where we went, whom we saw, what we did, and what happened. It is quite an ordinary tale for all of that, but ordinary tales are the things our lives are made of, aren’t they?
After we wound up in Poland those few years ago we still determined to go to New Zealand, eventually. To that end, Mariellen, who is the organized one in the family, began to watch fairs and stuff, when she was not watching me, to keep me from forgetting where I was from day to day.
Then not too long ago, her brother Joseph got married to a lovely lady from Denmark. Joseph and Mette live in Northern California very close to Mt. Shasta. As a matter of fact you can see Mt. Shasta from their porch. “Well, big beans,” you may be thinking. “There are places in Northern California where Mt. Shasta can be seen from about a hundred miles away.” This is true. There are such places. But, Joe and Mette are closer.
They invited everyone out to visit them after they got married, and that figures into how we did not go to Poland again, but to New Zealand. Another of Mariellen’s brothers, she has six of them, wanted to accept Joe’s offer, but he has some issues with flying. So, we said that we’d go along with Jay. I suppose that was all God needed to arrange it with the air fare people for a very nice break in price on a round trip ride to New Zealand just about the time we had planned to go to California with Jay.
So at about the same time we were working out a trip to San Francisco , we began to mix into the pudding a big chunk of New Zealand. I remember the morning Mariellen told me about the fare. We thought about it for a few minutes and then she hit the “book it” button. The next step was exchanging a week on one of our time shares for a week in New Zealand.
The primary reason we had for going there in the first place was to meet someone we had been in contact with through the internet for several years, a very lovely lady named Alys, who is an Anglican priest, a poet, a very prayerful woman and, well, just plain interesting.
Worth a trip to New Zealand? We thought so, everything else being equal. And equal in matters like this, of course, is what we decide it is. Isn’t it always that way?
The time share deal was no big problem to accomplish. We chose a place up in Paihia, about a hundred or so miles north of Auckland where Alys lives and let her know we were coming. Just like that, more or less. I don’t know how it’s done over there, but it felt natural to me. After all, she’d known for quite a number of years that this might happen. It wasn’t as if we were showing up on her doorstep unannounced.
Besides, no one is getting younger. When we first planned to go and wound up in Poland instead there were two very nice ladies we wanted to see. One of them got tired of waiting, sort of, and moved on to a better place. That was on our minds, I can tell you. Alys would spend a few days with us in Paihia. We were on our way.
The words at the top of this page contain one with which you may not be unfamiliar. It is “Aotearoa”, the Maori name for New Zealand. It is part of the official name for the country. I think that’s a good thing. It means “The Land of the Long White Cloud”. A long white cloud hung over the land which the first Maori voyagers discovered after their long sea journey.
When Mariellen and I left the terminal at the Auckland airport that morning not too long ago, it had just stopped raining, bright sunlight shining through ranks of clouds running south along the horizon after the rain. The first thought I had as I looked up at them was, “The Land of the Running White Clouds”. For what it is worth, this the story of our voyage of discovery, sort of, in that land. I wish I knew how to render the phrase in Maori.